Author: her name was Irrelevant PM
Two summers after the Zeus-Atom fight, Max and Charlie plan to bring Atom back to the boxing scene for the first time. Everything's changed, especially life and boxing-and nothing goes as expected. But when there's a will, you'll find success...Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Family/Drama - Charlie K. & Max K. - Chapters: 8 - Words: 13,510 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 14 - Updated: 05-02-12 - Published: 03-03-12 - id: 7892219
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The makeshift shelf-bed was just as uncomfortable as Max had remembered it. The thin layer of blankets forming his mattress was barely more comfortable than the cold metal of the shelf, and the warm air was stifling; the whirring of the portable fan seemed to only add noise, and not help to circulate the air. Max shifted sleepily, realizing with frustration that he was awake again. Sighing, he opened his eyes.
The door was open, revealing a dazzling night sky framed by the tall, leafy trees of the rest stop at which they were staying. Max glanced over to the place where Charlie would be sleeping. The blankets lay crumpled against the thin mattress, and Charlie was missing.
Curiously, Max slid out of bed, landing as softly as possible and creeping towards the entrance to the truck. A few feet away, lying in a patch of grass next to a picnic table, was Charlie, hands folded behind his head, legs crossed.
"Charlie?" Max yawned softly, hopping out of the truck and onto the parking-lot asphalt. Vaguely, he realized that he was barefoot, and carefully crossed the parking lot, alert for any stray shards of glass or loose stones.
Charlie didn't say anything, but shifted over as Max lay down next to him, copying his father's position and staring up at the stars. Here, the stars gleamed like sequins in the inky-dark sky, unrivaled by city lights. The air was warm, but the grass was pleasantly cool and soft. Max nestled into the grass, elbows lightly touching his fathers'. "I can't sleep," he said finally.
"Can't blame you. Couldn't sleep tonight, either." Max tilted his head slightly to look at Charlie, who was grinning slightly, still staring upwards. "Too much Dr. Pepper?"
Guiltily, Max recalled the huge amount of soda he'd drunk at dinner that night. "Free refills" was almost like a challenge to him, and he'd worked up an appetite from sitting in the hot truck all day. "Maybe," he chuckled, rolling onto his side and pulling at the grass.
There was a moment of silence, and Max almost thought Charlie had fallen asleep. When he finally spoke, Charlie's voice was a deep, soft rumble. "Max?"
"What do you want to do this summer?"
Max considered, digging his toes into the grass. Since the fight, he and Charlie had managed to enjoy themselves without mentioning robot boxing. That didn't mean, however, that the topic wasn't weighing heavily on his mind. Although he fully enjoyed Charlie's little attempts to cheer him up-taking him to the movies after dinner that night, stopping for milkshakes after a few long and monotonous hours of driving, stopping at a quiet rest stop to play a game of catch with a football-Max itched for the thrill of robot boxing. And yet, whenever he thought about it, he was forced to remember that fighting with Atom wasn't a possibility anymore, and he'd feel a twinge of disappointment rise up from his stomach. "I want Atom back," he said finally, stifling a yawn. There: he'd said it, he'd admitted it. Oddly relieved, Max felt the rest-stop scene spin dizzily before him.
"I told you," Charlie said patiently, "Bailey said she can make him good as"-
"You know what I mean," Max interrupted, shaking his head. "It's not the same."
Charlie's sigh seemed heavy enough to be heard from the freeway. "Yeah, yeah," he said. "Look-I'm sorry for what happened."
A few years ago, Max would have accepted his father's apology. But he was older now, and he had understood fully what had really gone on. "It's not your fault," he said simply, chewing on the inside of his lip.
"I just wanted to give you a good summer." Charlie's voice sounded anguished. "I don't get to see you enough." A lump rose in Max's throat as he listened, ripping a handful of grass and scattering the blades into the wind. "I wanted to make sure it was special."
Max gulped, not trusting himself to speak. Charlie's disappointment somehow covered for his own; he felt more clear-headed than he had since before the Bayside Arena spectacle. "Thank you," he murmured. Something about late-night talks made everything more raw and emotional, made it easier to say things they needed to say. Staring at a lone wisp of silver cloud drifting across the sky, Max rubbed at his eyes, willing himself not to cry.
"I love you, Charlie," he said suddenly after a moment of quiet. He felt slightly ashamed; for all of their phone conversations and back-and-forth emails, it was a sentiment neither felt comfortable putting into words. They'd set a precedent after the Zeus match: he loved Charlie, and Charlie loved him, but it went unspoken. Maybe it was too difficult for either of them to say.
"I love you too, Max," Charlie said thickly. Unsure of what to do, Max nodded slowly, then realized that his father probably couldn't see him. "You...okay?" Charlie asked softly.
Max took a deep, shaky breath, feeling suddenly lighter. "Yeah," he said, scooting over to rest his head on Charlie's arm.
He could practically hear the relief in Charlie's voice. "Don't worry, Max," he said. "We'll come up with something."
Max nodded, closing his eyes and letting himself drift off to sleep.
The next thing he knew, Charlie was holding him, gently placing him back into the shelf of the truck. "You're getting too heavy for me to do that," Charlie murmured, half to himself.
Max smiled and pulled the blanket around his ears.
Late morning sunlight streamed through the window, illuminating Bailey as she sat at a work bench, deep into her work. She bit her lower lip, hyper-focused on welding two tiny wires together. The sudden ringing of the phone startled her, and she dropped the welding torch, sighing with frustration and suprise. Exasperated, she picked up the receiver, balancing it between her shoulder and her ear while she retrieved her tool from the floor.
"Tallet's Gym, this is Bailey Tallet. How may I help you?"
"Ms. Kenton." The caller's voice was strangely silky, tinged with a distinct and exotic accent.
Bailey sighed, freeing her hands to hold the phone receiver in a more comfortable manner. Tallet-Kenton, she corrected in her head, though she figured it unnecessary to tell the caller.
"I would like to speak to your husband, Charles Kenton." The voice was oddly slow and deliberate. Bailey frowned, certain she'd heard the voice from somewhere. The voice of an eccentric grade-school teacher, maybe, or a friend's mother.
"He's not here now," Bailey said. "Can I take a message? He'll be back tonight."
There was a short pause. "Tell Mr. Kenton that this is Farra Lemkova," the voice said at last.
Farra Lemkova. So that was why the voice sounded so familiar. It made sense, too, Bailey realized: nobody had heard from Farra Lemkova for awhile now. The Zeus-Atom match was a PR nightmare for the heiress and her bot; between her adamant and increasingly shrill insistence that they had won the match, and Tak's cold and aloof indifference, Zeus nearly overnight plummeted from glory. After nearly a month of bad press for the team, Farra announced at a press conference that the Lemkova Corporation was to retire their robot boxers to focus on other ventures. And just like that, the world's greatest bot-boxing team had disappeared. Several days later, another bot designer, some MIT graduate living in upstate New York, unveiled his new champion robot: essentially, the new Zeus. The fast-growing, ever-changing sport was all too quick to forget about Zeus and the masterminds behind it.
"We are interested in making a comeback into the boxing world." Bailey could practically hear Farra's glossy lips twist into a smug smile. "And we believe there would be no better comeback than to beat, once and for all, the great Charles Kenton and his son." Her voice was slick and practically dripping with condescension.
"I-I'm sure you've heard"-Bailey stammered, uncertain of what how to respond-"Charlie isn't fighting Atom anymore. I don't think-don't know"-
"I know." Farra's voice cut Bailey off mid-stutter. "I am not interested in that junkyard dog. I am interested in a rematch with Charles Kenton.
Tak Mashido and I have been working on a new project," Farra continued. "We are very confident that we can defeat any opponent in our way. And that includes any robot of Mr. Kenton's."
Bailey shook her head. "You want to fight a round against Charlie, your new bot against one of his?"
"And...assuming he agrees...which one?" Bailey asked finally, turning to look at Charlie's new bots lined up against the wall. All of them were bots given to him by sponsors; although he fought every round with ferocity and passion, Bailey knew that the sponsor's agendas in creating the styles of the robots had cramped Charlie's style. For example, Thunder Punch, the robot Charlie was to take on a tour circuit in the fall, was large and clumsy, with huge but heavy lemon-yellow fists, quite the opposite of Charlie's agile boxing style. Nothing that seemed worthy of facing the newest Tak Mashido masterpiece. Briefly, her eyes drifted down to the bot lying on the workbench. Maybe...
"Any robot," Farra clarified. "But I suggest he be prepared."
"I-I'll tell him," Bailey said, still a little bewildered at the sudden turn of events.
"Excellent. I trust that he will return our interest in this battle of wits. Goodbye, Ms. Kenton."
Click. Bailey stared at the phone in her hand, then began to punch in the number to Charlie's cell phone.
A/N: I wrote a couple of beginnings to this chapter, but decided on this one. It was inspired by those strange heart-to-heart talks that tend to happen in the small hours of the night, which I guess explains why it's a bit cheesier than I expected. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, generally. I tend to shy away from being over-the-top cheesy, but it kind of clicked together this time, I guess. Maybe because it was so late when I wrote this.
In the second scene, we get into the heart of the action for this fic. Sorry it took so long, and kudos to you if you're still reading. Thanks for sticking with me on this, seriously :) As always, reviews are much appreciated. I'll try to reply to reviews this time, sorry for being so unresponsive xD