The firm voice of Darrin Stephens echoed through the kitchen and he directed his angry gaze between the other two figures in the room.
One, his wife Samantha, was leaning against the refrigerator for support, her usually pleasant face lined with worry. The other inhabitant, however, refused to be put off by his son-in-law's declaration and stood near the table looking every bit as defiant as he had when he popped in several minutes ago.
The fight had been going on since a quarter past three and, so far, there did not seem to be an end in sight. Darren and Maurice were both incredibly stubborn, and both felt very strongly about the issue hand.
"You are being ridiculous." Maurice declared with a flourish, slamming his hand down on the table and starring the younger man down in the most threatening manner he could. "You need to listen to reason! To accept reality, for a change!"
Darren scoffed, still refusing to relent. "Reality. That's rich, coming from you." He retorted. "That is exactly the issue here, isn't it? I am the only one in touch with reality- the only one able to recognize how silly this all is. And..." He paused for a moment, squaring his shoulders and looking his father in law straight in the eye. "I want my children to remain in touch with reality as well. This is where they were born, and this is where they will stay!"
There was a tense pause.
"Of course I agree that the children should live in this world, darling." Samantha began reluctantly, attempting to give her husband what she hoped was a comforting look. "But, in fairness, you did allow Tabitha to take her test when she turned eighteen."
"That was different." Darrin snapped.
"How?" Maurice demanded.
The mortal's glare faltered and he directed his gaze down at the table. For the first time since the fight had begun it appeared that he was at a loss for words but, before Maurice could declare victory, the young man managed to reply.
"Because." He began, his voice quieter before. "There was no mistaking the fact that Tabitha inherited her mother's powers. But Adam is different. He doesn't use magic and, therefore, there is absolutely no point in taking him to the Witches Council to be tested."
Maurice gave a sigh of exasperation and Samantha looked uncomfortably down at the floor.
"First of all, there is an important difference between not having powers and not using ones powers." The warlock responded. "And secondly, we all know that the boy has magic- he was tested as a child and the results were very conclusive. Don't tell me that you have forgotten."
Darrin frowned. "I remember." He muttered, his tone suggesting that he wished he didn't. "He may possess a few...gifts...but he never developed them. He was nothing like Tabitha as a child- there were no magical mishaps whatsoever."
There was another pause and Darrin looked towards his wife for support. Unfortunately for him, Samantha did not look ready to back him up- instead, she was biting her lip and looking even more uncomfortable then before.
After another moment, she finally spoke. "There were magical mishaps." She admitted, avoiding her husband's eyes. "I...I just thought you'd be happier not knowing."
Maurice looked smug. "Indeed. I remember having to help that time he conjured a dra-"
"My son is NOT a warlock."
Darrin's loud proclamation cut his father-in-law off in mid sentence, and both Maurice and Sam looked taken aback by the forcefulness of his remark.
The mortal could see the pained expression in his wife's eyes and, for a moment, he regretted his words...but the smug expression on Maurice's face quickly reaffirmed his determination. He avoided looking at Sam and instead directed his anger at the one who had come bursting in with such unhappy news that afternoon.
"Well, he is my grandson, and he most definitely is." Maurice retorted, a hint of finality in his voice. "Now." He began again, his tone lighter than before. "Where is the boy? We need to get going before the Witches Council decides to push his test to a later date."
"You stubborn old..."
"Watch what you say." Maurice cut in, starring the younger man down. "You know that I will not hesitate to turn you into a toad if I must."
Darrin's fists clenched and he would have lunged forward if Sam had not chosen that moment to place a gentle hand on his shoulder. Surprised, he jerked around to find himself face to face with his wife, and he could not help but let some of his anger subside. She had always had the amazing ability to calm him down and the regret etched across her face filled him with an unexpected guilt.
He hadn't meant to, but he knew that his words had hurt her.
"Darrin, please." She said evenly, locking her eyes with his. "I hate to take sides, but in this case daddy is right."
Darrin opened his mouth to respond, but she continued before he could. "Adam may not be as open about magic as his sister, but I have seen enough to know that he is every bit as powerful as she is." She sighed softly and placed a soft hand on his cheek. "I know you don't want to hear this, and I am sorry that it is my fault, but Adam is a warlock and, since he is now eighteen, he needs to be taken to the Council so that his status can be confirmed."
"Samantha, you should not apologize for being a witch, or for passing your magic on to your children!" Maurice cut in angrily. "I always knew that this was a bad..."
"No, he's right." Darrin relented, placing his hand on top of his wife's. "About everything."
Maurice gave another smug smile. "I'm always right." He muttered.
Darrin shot him a pointed gaze before continuing. "You shouldn't apologize- you can't help it, and neither can the children...I just...even after all this time, it is hard for me to accept...my little boy..."
He trailed off, surprised by the emotion that was causing his voice to shake.
Things had been changing so fast lately- and he supposed that that was the reason why he had reacted so strongly to Maurice's news. Tabitha was off at college now, already in her third year, and Adam only had a month of high school left before he too would be leaving the nest. He too was undergoing change- almost all of his hair was grey now, and he could no longer deny that the bulk of his life was behind him. Samantha, of course, had changed her appearance to correspond with his mortal aging process but, every time she let down the facade, he was struck by how different they were...and how quickly time was passing him by.
One day, much sooner then he wanted, he would be gone- he would have to leave them behind.
He supposed a part of him had hoped, however selfishly, that his son would be more like him. Would be able to relate, and to understand what it meant to be completely human. Deep down, he had always know that this was not the case- but Adam's tendency to live life in the most mortal way possible had given him some reason to hope.
Forgetfulness...denial...whatever you called it, until today, Darrin Stephens had never allowed himself to view his son as anything more than a blissfully normal mortal boy.
But, it seemed, the charade was now up.
And there was nothing that he could do about it.
"What is with all the shouting?"
The arrival of a forth figure in the kitchen snapped Darrin out of his thoughts, and he turned to see his son standing near the doorway.
"It was nothing darling." Samantha replied, smiling warmly at her youngest child.
He was so tall now, two inches taller than his father, and had grown into a fine young man. His dark hair and brown eyes came from Darrin, but his face showed clear traces of his mother.
Most importantly, perhaps, he had inherited her nose.
"Ah, there is the man of the hour!" Maurice declared jovially, striding across the kitchen and giving his grandson a hearty pat on the back.
"Errr, okay." Adam said, clearly unconvinced that the shouting had been 'nothing.'
"It is hard to believe how big you've gotten." the older Warlock continued happily. "You take after me, I can tell already- I can just imagine how many young witches will be hoping that you ask them to the cosmic ball this summer!"
The boy shifted uncomfortably and shot his mother a pleading look.
"Daddy," Samantha cut in. "I don't think..."
"I am terribly sorry that I wasn't able to pop in for your birthday last weekend. Ran into a spot of trouble on Jupiter." Maurice continued, failing to take his daughter's hint. "But here-"
With a wave of his hand and a puff of smoke, a large blue box appeared in his hands. He proudly adjusted the bow, and passed it on to his grandson with a wide smile. "Happy Birthday. I figure this will come in handy today."
Reluctantly, Adam placed the package down on the table and undid the large red bow. Opening the box, his first thought was that it was simply a piece of black fabric, but as he pulled the item out of its packaging, it became apparent that it was not quite that simple.
"A cloak?" He asked, raising an eyebrow at his grandfather. The item was almost exactly like the one the older man was notorious for wearing. "Um, thanks." Adam forced a smile, but both of his parents could tell that the gift had made him more than a little uncomfortable.
As he watched the exchange, Darrin clenched and unclenched his fists several times- only Sam's steady hand on his shoulder kept him from losing his cool. He knew he had to stay calm- no matter how much he may have despised his father in law (who now seemed to be rubbing his victory in Darrin's face) he had to remain composed for the sake of his wife and son.
"Well, put it on then!" Maurice explained happily, clearly not perceiving his grandson's discomfort. "We've got to get going!"
"Daddy, I don't think that is quite necessary." Samantha stated, taking a step towards him. "We haven't even explained yet..."
"Explained what?"Adam asked, giving his mother a perplexed look. "And where are we going?"
Darrin gave a heavy sigh and lowered himself into the nearest chair. He could not fight the annoying sinking feeling in his stomach and his strength was quickly being depleted.
This was it, he thought darkly, he could no longer deny that he was the lone family outcast.
"Well," Samantha began slowly, giving her father a pointed look. "Do you remember when Tabitha turned eighteen? And Grandmama and I took her to the Witches Council to get her magical status confirmed?"
A look of realization dawned on the young man's face. "Yes..."
Samantha drew a deep breath and, with a quick glance back towards her husband, continued to explain. "Now that you're eighteen the Council has called you as well. Your Grandfather was informed this morning- you've been summoned attend a testing and confirmation today."
There was a pause.
"Oh." Adam's voice was quiet and he hesitantly looked over at his father, suddenly realizing why the man looked so defeated and feeling terrible that he had been the cause of such disarray. "But..." He began hopefully. "I don't really practice much. Honestly, I don't. I figured that would mean that..."
"It does not matter how out of practice you may be. Believe me- you have more than enough natural ability." Maurice declared proudly. "The council is quite convinced that you possess full Warlock powers- and how could you not, with a mother like yours?"
Samantha gave a weak smile and Adam tried in vain to return it.
"Is dad okay-" He began reluctantly, chancing another quick glance at his father.
There was another long pause and, for a fleeting moment, Darrin considered taking up his protest once again.
But, he realized, there really was no fighting it. He could not change his family- nor did he truly want to. He wouldn't trade Sam or Tabitha or Adam for the world, or dream of condemning them for what they were...he just wished that it didn't hurt so much to see them go down a path he could never understand.
No matter how much he tried, he could not deny the feelings of defeat and pain.
"I'm fine, son." He replied in what he hoped was a convincing manner. "You go- do what you have to do and don't worry about me."
Adam looked unconvinced, but a reassuring nod from his mother made him feel a bit better. "Alright, I guess."
"Excellent! Let's not keep them waiting then." Maurice declared, excitement twinkling in his eyes. Grabbing the cloak, he threw it over his grandson's shoulders and smiled in satisfaction. "A fine warlock indeed."
Darrin tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore the twinge in his stomach that this proclamation caused. If one ignored the surprised and uncomfortable look on Adam's face he did, indeed, seem to fit the part well.
He was, and always would be, his mother's son.
"Adam, I assume you will be able to pop there yourself?" The older warlock questioned, grabbing his hat off of the table and preparing himself to depart.
Sam gave the boy another reassuring smile and he nodded. "Yes, I can do it."
"Splendid! I shall see you two on the other side!" And with a pop Maurice was gone.
"Ready?" Samantha asked, glancing at her son.
He nodded again and watched as, seconds later, his mother disappeared.
The boy seemed to hesitate- he glanced up, reluctantly meeting his father's eyes.
For a moment, Darrin's heart leapt. But there was to be no denying the inevitable.
"I'm sorry." Adam said softly.
And, with a sympathetic smile, he too disappeared from the kitchen with a magical pop.
The room was empty now.
Darrin was alone.
Please Review and tell me what you thought! I may write more similar one-shots if it is wanted.
I have been watching too many Bewitched reruns in the past few days and have become fascinated with Adam- this plot bunny would not leave me alone and had to be written down. Hope you enjoyed it!