[Otto Moods]
You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes. ~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

He cut through the herd of humans in a direct line for his son, dodging suitcases and overnight bags. The airport was filled with an incessant chatter of white noise, changing frequency with the occasional multicultural tongue and emotional re-union outburst. Even the announcements contained a muffled edge, blurring words into a monotonous drone, obscuring the English language. Aiden’s mop of blonde hair was lighter than Otto remembered, grown from dark roots to Helios kissed streaks. The overgrown strands hid the boy’s downcast gaze, falling across pale brows and the high rise of cheekbone that had cut free of childhood fat.

Reaching out, Otto touched a hunched, bony shoulder, and slid his hand to the flat blade of his Aiden’s back. “Let’s go.”

“Don’t touch me,” his son hissed through a flash of white teeth, jerking away.

The warmth he’d felt through the cotton of the boy’s polo instantly faded, replaced with the unfamiliar cool of rejection. Flexing his fingers closed, he shoved them into his slacks pockets, and walked after the young teen. He let distance develop between them but not enough to lose sight.

Outside, the chorus of idling engines and impatient horns took over the chatter. The volume rose, reigning chaos on the eardrums. He watched Aiden pause on the fringe of the sidewalk, one hand wrapped around the handle of a suitcase over half his size, and the other palming back the overnight bag that kept swinging forward. The boy watched a cab zoom past, ignoring the pedestrian walkway and flashing lights, and cussed under his breath. Otto caught the tail end of it before a pair of iron eyes stared back at him. He thought twice about reprimanding before deciding that it wasn’t worth the battle over minor infractions.

Although his son had rapidly changed since he last saw him, Otto still knew some of those expressions - notably the similarities between the way the boy struggled with his wolf and the way he grappled with his luggage. He answered before the question was asked, recognising the rise of frustration and eagerness to get out. “The car’s parked on level two, row J.”

Aiden strode ahead and Otto let him, following in a slow stroll that allowed enough time for him to absorb the radical difference that six months can make. To be fair it had really been longer than that. Vacations, a week or a couple of days at a time, and impersonal Skype calls could hardly be considered quality time. Lengthy conversations and heated discussions were still not enough to prepare him to accept his role and the expectations. It was hard to swallow the idea that his first born, who once fit along the entire length of a single forearm, would, within a few short years, if not sooner, become a towering, monstrous beast capable of many great and terrible things.

A father couldn’t be blamed for trying to prolong the inevitable but it still does not make it cease to exist, or any less real. It had, instead, hunted across land and oceans to come tearing down his door, demanding to be heard, acknowledged, and to claim its rightful place.

The drive to the house had started with the announcement of every street and turn, the GPS a well-versed tour guide, until the boy had mumbled, “Please shut it off.” Otto attributed the surprising politeness to the combination of jetlag and the hypnotic sound of a well-oiled engine and cruising tires across asphalt, a sound that is renowned for putting tired children to sleep. From then, they drove in silence and tolerable tension. The boy slept, dozed with his head lolled against the cool of the tinted window pane, and the father watched the unfamiliar roads with frequent glances to the mounted, mute system of changing roadmaps that lead him through the maze to their new home.

He unpacked the car himself and, leaving the overnight bag for Aiden to grab, wheeled the luggage to the front door to let them in. He glanced back once, watching tension leak from the boys upturned face, before he walked inside and left the swaying tree branches, and flora scented air, work its magic.

It was some time before Aiden reappeared to walk the house and discover the whereabouts of his new room. Otto hadn’t sat around waiting, but had left the luggage just inside the boy’s room and went to return a few calls he’d missed while preoccupied at the airport. He listened to the quiet footsteps trudging through the hallways, moving back and forth through a small section of the house, familiarising himself with the notion of sharing his space again. The pitter-patter of small feet was half a lifetime ago, a distant memory renewed, bringing to life a colourful array of flashbacks that rolled, one after another, like some dusty movie reel. Most of the images were faded and grainy, missing little snippets, and leaving the imagination to fill the gaps. It felt like another time, another place, foreign enough that it may as well have happened to someone else.

Farsan?” Aiden stood in the doorway, towel in hand. “I’m having a shower and going to bed.”

Otto nodded, rising from the chair as if he had to take some part in it. Run the bath, fetch a towel, but that was an invading recollection, a displaced delusion. Already the boy had left, disappearing down the hallway, leaving him standing there like some dumbstruck mute. He eased back into the kitchen chair and looked at the opened, filled planner and the vibrating smartphone next to it.

The world around him shifted, ignited in him a sudden need for a stiff drink and the desire to book a flight to some remote place off the grid. He thought about that, fantasised really, while the shower ran well beyond a conservative and environmentally conscience limit, and knew that, no matter how fast o far he could run, they’d always catch up. At the heart, he was well aware of his responsibilities and didn’t want to shirk them, but even he, with all his success and proactive nature, was concerned about how he was going to approach the biggest challenge of his lifetime.

When the shower shut off and, shortly after, a closing door signalled the end of a reunion, Otto reached for his phone and scoured the numbers. He was going to need a contingency plan and, like it or not, it was going to involve getting cosy with the other half of the Silver Fangs. If he wanted to rebuild and maintain a healthy relationship with his first-born heir, and keep some semblance of hierarchy in the family, he was going to have to get back in the game.

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