Three tables were overturned, two more were broken beyond repair, and a sizable dent was visible in one of the walls, but Roy had finally been subdued. Owen held his still weakly-struggling son in a headlock from behind, giving him enough air to stay conscious but not so much that he would get ideas of starting back up. While Owen was too resilient to be hurt by anything Roy could do, the bar was not. As it was, Roy’s first assault would cost a fair amount to fix.
“Got that out of your system?” Owen asked calmly.
“Let me go, fucker! I’m leaving!” Roy’s efforts redoubled, his muscular form clawing and swinging wildly at his captor. Not that it mattered; he might as well have been a cloud attacking a statue for all the good it did. Owen let him kick about for a few seconds before tightening his grip and cutting off Roy’s air. He loosened it again once he felt his son’s limbs begin to slacken.
“Sorry, can’t do that,” Owen replied once Roy’s grunting had grown quiet. “I promised Hershel I wouldn’t let you leave.”
“Fuck... Hershel,” Roy wheezed out in ragged gasps. “Fuck...ing... traitor.”
“He thought you might feel that way. To be honest I assumed he was overreacting. I suppose I should have known better.”
This time Roy had no response; he merely hung there sullenly.
“So you think Hershel betrayed you, even though he only did this because you were too proud to admit you were out of options. Even though I saw his car arrive over an hour before he worked up the nerve to come in here, and had to do I can only imagine what to find the gumption to drive out in the first place.”
“Yes, Roy, your brother who came out here on his spring break, risked his relationship with you, and confronted a man he hadn’t seen in over a decade all to help his brother is a stupid asshole.” Owen clicked his tongue against his teeth, and Roy’s mind swirled back to childhood, remembering hearing the sound whenever his father was scolding one of them. “You might be the one who got the enhanced muscles, but Hershel is undoubtedly the stronger of you two.”
“Kiss... my... ass.”
“Fine, smart guy, then tell me one thing. If Hershel is so wrong for coming to see me, if you really don’t need my help, then why are you hanging here helpless? I’m barely using any strength, and those punches you threw at me were worthless. I’m not saying you could take me on, even in the best of scenarios, but you’ve been in the HCP for almost two years now. You should be much stronger than this. So why aren’t you?”
Roy hung there quietly, neither words nor actions able to fully capture the amount of hatred he felt for his father at uttering that damned piece of truth.
“No answer to that one? My my, so it seems Hershel might have had some good reason for doing this after all. I can tell you why you’re weak, Roy. I can tell you why, and I can show you how to get back on the right path. Or, you can keep struggling like a child and wait until you turn back into Hershel, at which point I’ll tell him no luck. Son or not, I will not help a Super who can’t control his emotions get stronger. That just puts other people in danger down the line. So it’s your choice. Stow the violence and listen, or hang here until your best shot at being a Hero swirls down the crapper.”
There was a period of motionlessness from Roy then he slowly lifted his right arm. For an instant Owen thought his son would hurl a waste of a punch, but instead Roy brought it down in two swift taps on Owen’s elbow. It was their signal for giving up, a simple tap-out. Owen released his grip and Roy slid to the floor. He went to rub his throat, but stopped before his hand was halfway there. Instead he walked over to one of the non-damaged tables, sat down roughly, and looked over at his father. “Talk.”
It wasn’t great manners, but it was progress. “You want a beer before we get started?”
Owen filled two mugs with dark ale and joined his son. His eyes flitted to the clock; he’d need to open up pretty soon and Roy wouldn’t want to be here when that happened. Best to get on with this.
“First, a couple of conditions. You two are going to spend the rest of your break here, with me. This will require training, and I have the tools and experience to make sure it’s done right. Hershel is already committed to doing whatever is needed, but can you handle that?”
Roy nodded stiffly and took a deep drink from his mug.
“Good. Second, you don’t have to like me or forgive me; however, you will obey me while here. You might consider me a shitty dad but it doesn’t change the fact that I was a very capable Hero. This is only a week; we don’t have time for arguments and backtalk.”
Roy nodded again.
“Third, you are going to stay at a hotel a few miles up the road, which I will be paying for. We’ll train during the day, the nights are yours, but you should stay away from here. This is a legitimate bar and we don’t allow underage kids in, even if they are the owner’s son.”
Roy snorted into his beer at the word “legitimate,” however he gave a final curt bob of his head to signify acceptance.
Owen took a swig of his own drink and checked the clock again. “Glad we got that out of the way. Have Hershel here at seven in the morning, sharp. Tell him to skip breakfast, too. He’ll be glad he did.”
“That’s it?” Roy said gruffly. “All that talk about answers and you’re just telling me to send Hershel back in the morning? How the hell does that help me?”
Owen stared back at the wild-eyed young man and tried to picture the feisty little boy he’d once been. It wasn’t hard; in many ways Roy had never really grown up. Owen supposed a fair part of that might be his fault. It was time to start remedying that.
“Condition number two, obey my orders,” Owen said. “If you don’t think I’ve lived up to my part by the end of tomorrow then you are free to leave. Until then, our bargain is still valid. Hershel. Here. Seven. Understand?”
“Understand.” Roy spat the word, killed off the rest of his beer, and stormed out the door.
Owen watched him go with a heavy heart. There was so much anger in his sons: one wore it on the outside and the other kept it hidden away, but it was there nonetheless. What’s worse, he was certain that he was the root cause of it for both of them. Some days he wished there was a Super with the power to travel through time, someone who could help him right just a few of the many things he’d done wrong. Sadly, that was still in the realm of the impossible. All he could do now was try his best to fix what had been broken. That process started tomorrow.
Seven in the morning. Sharp.