A/N: I usually don't write fanfiction, but I got really inspired after watching Real Steel (for the second, third, fourth time...) to write this. Starts kinda slow at first, but it'll pick up. I promise :P
Anyways, like I said, I'm not much of a writer (unless it's about King Lear and for school-let's not go there) so anything you have to offer would be wonderfully appreciated.
And anyways, GO REAL STEEL FANDOM! Yee-uh!
He saw Tallet's Gym on the other side of the windshield, but for once, they didn't stop there. Although the gym was newly renovated-new windows, a new light-up sign, posters of the 'People's Champion' hanging in the window-Bailey and her new husband, Charlie, had moved twenty minutes away, to a cozy and safe Texas suburb with a small-town feel. To a little two-bedroom house with a full kitchen and a lawn; to a town with a park and swings for their eight-month-old to play on, someday, when she was old enough.
From the passenger seat, Max twitched as he watched Tallet's Gym disappear from the rear-view mirror. It wasn't that he wasn't excited to spend the summer with his dad, Bailey, and their new kid-Corrine, who he'd only seen in photographs-in the new house that he'd helped them move into the summer before. But somehow, it didn't feel right. He'd called Charlie from the airport that night, while Aunt Debra and Marvin waited in line for a rental car, but Charlie hadn't yet told them what he had planned for their summer. Max purposefully hadn't asked all year: he'd wanted it to be a surprise. Since the crazy, memorable summer two years ago-when he was eleven, when he slept in the shelf of Charlie's truck and found Atom after a near-death experience in a junkyard-Charlie come into good money through sponsorships. He'd bought new robots, each one more powerful and awe-inspiring than the last, with Bailey by his side to help him haggle the prices. Since the famed Zeus-Atom fight, though, he hadn't put Atom in a match-an unspoken agreement between himself and Max. Atom was Max's, and Max was in New York attending school. The previous summer, Charlie talked about staging a comeback tour, him and Max and Atom and the truck just as they had the summer before that. The plans had ended with the discovery that Bailey was pregnant, and the resulting scramble to find another place to live, somewhere more suitable to raise a child. Max spent much of that summer at the gym, examining his father's new robots while Charlie and Bailey visited house after house after house. Shortly after he helped them move in, it was time for him to go back to school, feeling slightly disappointed with the way he'd spent his two-and-a-half months of break.
"Okay, Max. Max? Buddy? We're here." The rental car lurched to a stop-Marvin wasn't used to driving such a touchy, cheap car-in front of a small suburban home with a small patch of green lawn, and a little cement path leading to the front door. A man stood on the little porch, smiling and carrying something in his arms.
"Charlie!" Without thinking to thank Marvin for the ride, or say anything to Aunt Debra in the backseat, Max sprung out of the car and rushed towards his father. Despite Aunt Debra's insistence that it was rude, Max still called his dad Charlie, and it didn't seem to bother anyone else.
"Hey, kid! Hey, whoa, whoa." Charlie took a few steps back as Max skidded to a halt in front of him, arms stretched out to tackle-hug him. "I've got the baby with me-hey, hey, look." Awkwardly, Charlie shifted the cotton-swathed thing in his arms, showing Max a small, sleeping baby with wispy brown hair that lay in short curls around its' face. "This is Corrine."
Max peered down at his half-sister, and couldn't help but smile. He was still at the age in which small children were irrelevant and unimportant to him, but he'd always wanted a sibling. After a few moments, he looked up at his father, unsure of what to say. Charlie smiled reassuringly, and Max reached out hesitantly to touch the baby's forehead. Little Corrine's cheek twitched, but her eyes stayed closed.
"So we're going to be renting a condo in Los Angeles this summer-here's our contact information. We won't be too far away." Aunt Debra's voice sounded suddenly behind Max, and he turned to see his Aunt approaching from behind, retrieving a slip of paper from her purse. Seeing that his father's hands were occupied, Max took the sheet of paper and slipped it into the front pocket of his jeans. "Congradulations. I-we read the letter about your daughter." Another brief pause, and Debra rifled through her purse, pulling out a gift card to Kids' Mart. "For you and Bailey," she explained, adjusting her hair uncomfortably. "I thought you might need it." After a nod from Charlie, Max took the gift card and slipped it into his pocket with the contact information.
Charlie nodded, squinting against the sun. Although he'd salvaged his relationship with Max, things were still tense between him and Debra. It made sense, after all-he'd left Debra's little sister with a young child, cut off all connections, never sent anything to her for her birthday-or Max's, for that matter. Debra resented him, less now than before, but nonetheless resented him, and Charlie seemed resigned to accept that as the way things were. "That's great. Bailey-yeah, I'll let her know." Corrine whimpered softly, and he stopped talking for a moment, bouncing her up and down. "She's at the store right now-getting ready, you know. For-for Max being here." Debra nodded, then Max nodded, then Charlie, and there was an awkward moment of silence.
"Well, okay, Max. We're going to be in Los Angeles. Call me, okay? Let us know how things are going." Debra placed her hand on Max's shoulder, and he nodded enthusiastically.
"Bye, Aunt Debra."
She pulled him in for a quick hug before turning and disappearing into the car. The engine rumbled to life, and she and Marvin were gone.
"So-so, uh." Charlie swung open the door, motioning for Max to come indoors. "I'll put Corrine back in her crib, and we can talk, okay? Make yourself at home."
Max slipped inside, and flopped into the small floral couch in the living room, watching Charlie disappear into the hallway and then reappear, shaking out his arms and sitting next to Max. This was how it should be, Max felt, him and his father this summer and nothing else, forget that Bailey was only at the grocery store and the new baby was asleep only a hallway away. He scooted closer to his father and leaned gently against his arm.
"I got us a gig," Charlie said, reaching around his son and placing his hand on Max's shoulder. With Debra gone, and the awkward meeting out of the way, Charlie seemed more relaxed. "San Francisco. We'll be in California-you never been, right? Go to the beach, maybe. It's a long drive. You're up for it, right?"
"Yeah-yeah, of course! What robot are we fighting?" Barely daring to ask, Max added, "And we're going to bring Atom, right?" He closed his eyes, nervous to hear his father's reply. In the almost-two years since Atom's last fight, boxing robots had gotten even larger, more powerful. Still, he felt that Atom was up to the task.
Charlie grinned. "I think so, yeah. We'll go down to the gym tomorrow-we'll tune him up. We'll leave on Friday, okay? How do you feel about that?"
"In the truck?"
"It's parked out by Tallet's-you saw it, right? How else would we travel?" Charlie looked down at Max, who smiled broadly, too cheered up to express in words. Charlie sighed, sinking deeper into the couch cushion, and they sat in silence for a moment.
"So why don't we put your stuff in your room? You're going to stay in Corrine's room, okay? Just for a couple days, we leave for San Francisco in three days. We've got an air mattress."
Max followed his father into the nursery, furnished with a small crib, a mostly-empty bookshelf, and an inflatable air mattress in the center of the room. Charlie dropped his son's duffel bag in the corner, and whispered, so as to not wake the baby, "How about you take a nap?"
He was thirteen, sure, but he'd been awake since four in the morning to catch the flight to Dallas, and he was exhausted. Nodding blearily, Max flopped onto the air mattress and pulled the lightweight comforter around him. Light streamed in from the window above him, and he closed his eyes.
The perfect summer, he thought contentedly, rolling over and already close to sleep. With his father and with Atom and even the truck again. As he drifted off to sleep, his last thought was that he couldn't wait for it all to begin.