Chapter Nine

 A Patreon exclusive story by Meraki P. Lyhne

 

 

Aaron returned home at eight the next morning, finding Matadon looking disappointed at the breakfast bar, where he sat and stared at a spot on the table while nurturing a cup of coffee.

Maybe Aaron should have stayed home? Did Matadon merely try to accommodate Aaron and Dawdon?

It kinda took away from the lovely evening of Aaron, Dawdon, and Geradon having fun and chatting until after midnight. Aaron certainly needed the coffee, so he beelined for the coffee maker.

“Hey!” Matadon sat up. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.” Aaron tried for a smile. Matadon rose quickly and came to him, looking worried. “You okay?”

Aaron wondered about the radical shift. “Yeah, you just…look sad that I left.”

“No, no, Aaron, that has nothing to do with you.” Matadon squeezed his shoulder and smiled more genuinely. “I…had expectations that weren’t fulfilled. But not by you.”

That saved Aaron’s mood. “Cool.” Aaron poured coffee.

“Me, too, please. I didn’t sleep well.” Matadon returned to his seat.

Aaron followed with the carafe. “You okay?”

“I will be.” Matadon smiled, but Aaron wondered. He didn’t ask, though, figuring Matadon would share if he thought it concerned him.

“Any ideas for today?” Aaron asked instead.

Matadon perked up. “Other than dancing?”

Aaron grinned and returned the carafe, then sat next to Matadon. “Yes, other than dancing and training.” He loved that that prospect put joy back in Matadon’s eyes.

“I’m waiting for a call from the Lady in charge of the feeding pads. I have an idea for something I want to make.”

“Something that has to do with the massage bench?”

“Exactly. It’s my hope that my idea can make for a good feeding pad for more Cubi of my pattern and allow humans a safe space to explore pure. I’ll be looking for some of those Cubi, too. With the right qualifications.”

Aaron turned a bit to face Matadon. “Like what? Can I help?” Was this part of the work a Lord would be tasked with? Was Matadon’s new job helping with the feeding pads and raising pure energy?

Matadon smiled. “I’d love your help on this.”

“Cool! So…” Aaron looked around. “I like lists.”

Matadon laughed. “They’re useful.”

Aaron went to the junk corner and returned with a small pad and a pen. He scooted it all to Matadon, who scribbled some stuff down. “Scented candles, massage oil that works on intimate areas. Fluffy robes.”

“What’s the final idea here?”

“A luxury spa called Pure Bliss.”

“Oh!” Aaron nodded, impressed. He could totally see it. He had several mental images and pulled out his phone, logged onto his Pinterest account, and searched luxury spas. “Inspiration.” He scooted the phone to Matadon.

“Oh, wow. You’ve looked at a lot of spas if you know of a site like this.”

Aaron chuckled. His dad’s lack of knowledge about the internet was almost cute. “I’ll teach you.” Aaron took his phone and made a new board for the Pure Bliss Spa inspiration. He liked that name. “So, this is your Cu’Boka work?”

Matadon nodded. “It’s one of them. We can have many. Cu’Boka simply means we follow a passion that can benefit many.”

Aaron tried to count how many his dancing benefitted, but it had to bring more value than entertainment. Getting to work with Matadon on this seemed exciting, though. He could certainly see the value it could bring both Cubi and humans. “Were do you find Cubi with your feeding pattern? And how do you intend on marketing it?”

Matadon smiled at Aaron. “You sound so business savvy. Maybe you should run that side of our spa?”

Aaron liked that idea, and he felt proud from being praised. By a Lord or by his dad? He had no idea. “I don’t know how to find Cubi, though.”

Guard Lord Bowdon entered, and Matadon’s face fell. Bowdon came over and leaned on the breakfast bar. He looked knackered and grumpy. “Our plans got derailed by some Tunra business. I just finished my shift, I’m hangry, and I’m tired. Awful combination. I don’t people well in this state.”

Matadon smiled and put his hand on Bowdon’s shoulder. “I understand. I’ve lived long enough around Guards to know your priorities.”

“Good. Then there’s hope for us.” Bowdon grabbed the back of Matadon’s head, planted a hard kiss on his lips, then walked off.

Aaron looked at the back of the big Guard Lord as he disappeared around the corner, then at Matadon. “You and Bowdon?”

“I have a thing for big and intense Guards.” Matadon smiled. “Lords and Ladies alike. I get very passive.” Aaron grinned. Matadon looked toward the door, then straight ahead with an expression of…having been caught?

“Don’t make plans for evening feedings with others, then.”

“Yes, Guard Lady,” Matadon said. Aaron couldn’t see her, but she’d apparently dropped camouflage long enough for Matadon to notice her. He just recognized the voice as belonging to Guard Lady Artidin “I need human hormones, though. Please don’t dose me. I’m sure I’d get the Cubi cold so soon after Grand Lady Geodin’s doses.”

“I won’t dose you, then,” the Guard Lady said.

“What’s that?” Aaron asked. “Cubi cold, I mean.”

“That happens when we get too high doses or too many. It can feel like the flu, I guess. It’s part of what makes it so difficult being a Fountain. The doses take at least a year to lower, and the harem takes over once the Royal is done. Guards in particular, then regular purple eyes, then green eyes, and so on. I took five months to lower after Geo rose above me, and I had the cold four times. It’s horrible.”

Aaron grew a bit nervous about what Daniel had planned for him. “Any upsides to being a Fountain?”

“While being raised? It’s pretty luxury.”

“And after?”

“You grow insanely strong, and your most important task is to bed a lot of Cubi. Almost like a Royal does. As Nol-Beaudon’s Fountain, you’ll be the trusted keeper of his gift to his people, and you aid him in spreading it and his vision for his Kingdom by being the Fountain the Cubi come to for doses. Like Grand Lords and Ladies do. They’re all Fountains.”

“Cool.” Aaron knew some of that, and he knew power like that wouldn’t be handed to him for hundreds of years, so he didn’t stress about it now, but he did want to prove himself worthy of it. He had a lot to learn in the meantime, but it didn’t seem overwhelming or impossible. Helping to make the spa seemed a good task and opportunity to learn from a Lord. “So how do we find Cubi?”

“We ask Geodin to start the rumor mill. She’s superb at getting information, and that’s partly because she beds so many with responsibility to share the doses and gifts of Nol-Elakdon. She asks them, they ask around and report back to her.” Matadon’s phone beeped, and he pulled it from his back pocket, grinning as he read a text. “We’ve been invited to lunch at one.”

“That’s in the middle of training.”

“What’s our schedule?”

“Can I?” Aaron motioned for Matadon’s phone. He handed it over, and Aaron went into the app he’d finally figured out the calendar stuff of. He put his own phone next to it, added Matadon to the dance class, and sent him the calendar. “You can share today’s schedule with the one asking you out to lunch so they can see when to plan what. You can give different levels of access and insight.”

“I guess it saves time, but…I think tech peaked with text messages.”

Aaron chuckled. “Who needs your schedule today?”

“Our schedule. Your brother, Ramudon.”

“Oh.” Aaron looked through his own, Freydon’s, and Dawdon’s. “At four would fit us best.”

“So, I text him that?”

Matadon’s phone beeped, and they looked at the screen.

“Ramudon did. Look.” Aaron pointed to the calendar. “This is a suggestion.”

“It says so, yes.”

“Where?”

Matadon chuckled. “In Cubi. There.”

The squiggle in the corner. Aaron had to learn that at some point. “And these are yes and no?”

“Yes.” Matadon poked the yes squiggle, and the color changed to being fixed to the calendar at four.

Aaron was liking the new app more and more. “Okay, so it’s nine now. We need to figure out the spa stuff, dance, train, shower, and have—oh, I should let Alex know I won’t be home for dinner, then.” Aaron plotted that information into Alex’s.

“Ramudon doesn’t know it’s you. I didn’t want to tell him that he’ll finally be meeting his Halfling sibling today. They don’t even know you’ve been found.”

“Why not? Because I’m a Halfling?”

“No! It’s because you were born outside the House, and we never knew of you. Other than the fact that you’d been born.”

“It’s a really stupid way of doing it.”

“I totally agree with you, Aaron, but our ways are of necessity, not want.” Matadon studied Aaron for a moment. “I even think our King will do away with it if what I’ve learned so far is any indication of his vision for his people.” Aaron merely nodded. “Oh, and provisions. We need to order that.” He pointed to the list they’d begun.

“Might need some decorations, too.”

“And a room. I still haven’t heard from the Lady.”

“We could go find her.”

“You’re not allowed, Mr. Untouchable.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“I will gather the Guards to ensure you can work.” The Guard Lady left camouflage and left the kitchen.

“I should eat something first.” Aaron dashed to the fridge and opened it. He scooped some leftovers onto a plate, seriously not bothering with more, and was halfway through the plate before Guard Lady Artidin returned with Afdon and Tomdin. “I’ll be finished in a moment.”

“Enjoy your breakfast, Aaron,” Afdon said. “We follow your schedule.”

Aaron still had to remember that sometimes. “Should we start in provisions and get the stuff?”

“Yes, because then I can get started here until we find the room,” Matadon said. “We’ll grow from there.” Aaron shoved more food into his mouth, then wrote bath towels on the note. And eye masks. “Why those?”

“If you want to explore pure, some might need the anonymity that sensory deprivation offers.”

“I shall listen very carefully when you speak.”

“Ask Bao, too. She’s trying to learn to enjoy a man’s touches on more than a physical level.”

Matadon sat back, thinking and tapping his chin. “I actually think I can swing that. Easily.” Aaron hoped so for Bao’s sake. He finished up, put everything in the dishwasher, and washed his hands. “How about we go in stilettoes?” Matadon asked.

Aaron turned theatrically slowly to look at the Lord who’d pretty much scowled at the stilettoes since first introduced to them. Matadon laughed. “Why?”

“Because it’s part of my practice. I’ll never get used to them if I don’t push myself a bit.”

Fantastic. Aaron’s dad was driven and took the training seriously. It put a damper on a few worries he’d had because how to be the leader and teacher at a studio with his Lord father there? How would Matadon have taken it if Aaron rolled out his I’m the teacher, you’re the student, so put in the effort or find the door! He’d seriously feared that.

“I wore them and a bit of makeup when I went to Geo’s last night. I was very popular.”

Aaron chuckled, drying off his hands. “Let’s do that, then.”

 

 

It was different walking with Matadon today. Not just because of the heels but because Matadon had had his sightseeing trip and seemed more focused. He even flirted with at least three women on their way and made a young woman in provision blush profusely.

They got the order in and left with a small bag with four scented candles, two massage oils, and a date for when the massage bench would be expected to arrive. They’d get the white fluffy robe and bath towel that day, too. That gave them eight days to find Cubi, talk to the Lady, and find room. Aaron knew the feeding pad area had maxed out so it would probably have to be elsewhere, but the engineering team was still digging to make room for cubs and families to be moved into the House, meaning maybe there’d soon be room?

He checked on Dawdon and Geradon’s schedule to see if they could find a time to talk about how to spin and market the spa. He wouldn’t expect it to be that day, though, considering he’d be meeting his brother. Which felt weird.

“We should go right now.” Matadon put his arm around Aaron and steered him toward the exit.

“What’s up?”

“Sire Esdon is here, and I fear I’ll punch him soon.”

“Oh.”

“You won’t,” Afdon said.

“I’m usually a patient man, but this prick has apparently made it his lot in life to piss on my shoes every chance he gets out of spite and jealousy.”

“Considering they’re my boots, can I punch him?” Aaron asked.

Matadon chuckled.

“No,” Afdon said.

Aaron snickered at the Guard Lord’s dry humor.

Matadon stopped before they made it to the exit. “Dick. I forgot notebooks. I seriously need notebooks.”

“I can go get them,” Aaron said. “He doesn’t feel inclined to piss on my boots, right?”

“No, but if he sees that crest, he’ll want to be your best friend.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s a leach who thinks it’s how one earns power. Know the right people and you can get anything.”

“That does sound dicky,” Aaron said. “I’ll get the notebooks.”

“Big ones.” Matadon measured out legal pad size.

Aaron and two Guards went back, and Aaron glanced over his shoulder, noticing that Matadon stepped behind Guard Lady Artidin with his back to provision. She seemed comfortable being the shield. Finding the notebooks was easy enough, and Aaron grabbed five and a small one, credited it to his name, and saw that the Sire had apparently found Matadon because the Lord looked slightly sour with his arms crossed as he faced a guy with a great ass. That was all Aaron could see from that angle, anyway.

“I’ll just hide this to make sure he doesn’t see it.” Aaron tried to hold the notebooks across his chest and make it look natural. He couldn’t, so he dropped the attempt.

“Or we could leave and let Guard Lady Artidin hurry Matadon along and away from the Sire,” Afdon suggested.

“Let’s do that.” Aaron glanced at Matadon and winked as they passed behind them, yet the Sire turned his head at the right moment, noticing it. Shit. Aaron changed course and went to Matadon. “Found them.”

“Wow, you found your way to court quickly, huh?” The Sire really did look sour. “Too bad that’s not a bed for you.”

Matadon stepped closer, and his eyes grew brighter.

“Dad, we have an appointment now,” Aaron said, glaring at the Sire.

“Dad?” The Sire looked at Aaron. “I thought you were human.”

“Halfling,” Aaron said.

Sire Esdon looked at Matadon. “Your son grew up with the King?”

“Yes,” Aaron stated. “We need to go now. Nice to meet you.” Aaron looped his arm under Matadon’s, then made to move past Esdon, but the Sire didn’t leave a lot of room.

“Excuse us, Sire,” Guard Lord Afdon growled.

The Guards stepped up on either side of Aaron and Matadon, while Afdon pushed forward to force the Sire back and took point.

Sire Esdon snorted. “Figures.”

Matadon’s eyes glowed brighter. “Thank you for your attempt,” he grumbled to Aaron as they’d escaped provisions.

“I get the dick comment now.”

“I really wanna go dance to something aggressive now.”

Aaron dug into the bag and pulled out the scented candles one by one and smelled them. Cinnamon, lavender, and chamomile. He handed that last one to Matadon, who took it and glanced at him, puzzled. “Isn’t chamomile supposed to calm you down or something?”

Matadon chuckled and smelled the candle while the angry glow in his eyes dimmed a bit. “Yes.” His phone went off, so he handed the candle back and answered, while Aaron grinned at having been able to turn the mood. “Lord Matadon…hi! Yes. That sounds fantastic. Can we meet outside the dosing area? I’m with my teen son. Amazing, thank you, Lady Podin.” Matadon hung up and smiled upbeat at Aaron. His eyes were back to normal. “That was the Lady in charge of the feeding pads. She’ll meet us in the café. I don’t remember where that is, but in fifteen minutes.”

“That’s about the time it takes to walk there.”

“My feet will hate me,” Matadon said, but it didn’t sound like a complaint. More like a tongue-in-cheek comment.

“Good thing we’ll be dancing bboy today then, huh?”

Matadon chuckled. “True.”

“Oh, by the way, Dawdon and Geradon were all over the team needing a logo and a name, so we made a list last night. To humor them. I think we should take some time today after training and talk about that as a group and figure something out. What do you think?”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea, and we could use their suggestions for inspiration if our creativity with words dry up. They’re two different skillsets.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Aaron smiled, feeling lucky to have friends who were so invested in his passion even though it wasn’t one they shared. They merely used their own passions to work with his. And his couldn’t even add to theirs, other than give them something to spend time on. That made the smile drop.

“Any ideas for the name?” Matadon asked.

“None. You might be right that that’s a skill in its own right. It’s not one of mine.”

Matadon chuckled. “That’s okay. That’s the point of Cu’Boka. Others are good at something we aren’t.”

They chatted about ideas on their way, but most sounded dumb in their own ears. At least, neither looked impressed by their own ideas.

They arrived at the café, yet Aaron had no idea what the Lady looked like. He was pretty sure Matadon didn’t, either.

“How do we find her?”

“Well, no Lady is looking around, searching for a Lord and a teenager, so she might not have arrived yet.” Matadon broke into a wide smile. “But that Sire is one we need to talk to.” Matadon pointed. “He’s an old friend, and he has the qualifications and feeding pattern to join our spa.”

Whom the Sire was became evident when a green-eye rose and came to them, smiling. Matadon caught up halfway and the two hugged and chatted.

“I’ll get coffee,” Aaron mumbled and went to the counter. He ordered two cappuccinos and a healthy snack. Matadon pointed to Aaron, looking so happy. Aaron should apparently go say hi. He then noticed a Lady entering, looking around. “Is that Lady Podin?”

“Yes,” Afdon said.

Aaron went to her. “Lady Podin?”

“Yes?” Her gaze dropped to the crest around Aaron’s neck, and she dipped her head.

“I’m Aaron, and that’s my dad, Lord Matadon. I was ordering cappuccino. Would you like a cup.”

She smiled. “Regular black coffee, please. I’ll find us a table.”

Aaron returned to the counter and got a coffee, too. Matadon had finished his conversation and met up with Lady Podin when Aaron arrived with the tray and sat next to his dad.

Podin accepted the coffee that Aaron distributed. “I’m eager to hear an idea.”

Aaron fished out the small notebook and noticed he’d overlooked the need for a pen. Matadon reached into his pocket and pulled out a small thingy that turned out to be a very compactable fountain pen. Aaron wasn’t going to try to write with that, so he scooted the opened notebook to him.

“I just arrived, and I’m learning of the many changes and seeing them unfold,” Matadon said. “I think I bring a feeding pattern and skills that’ll let f—humans”—Podin chuckled—“explore pure in comforting settings.”

“I’m very open to that.”

“A luxury spa environment called Pure Bliss Spa. Massages.”

“Intimate?”

“That, too. But as I understand it from what Aaron’s told me, then Tunra-Nol set the trend of…slow befriending?”

Aaron nodded. “Yeah, sometimes just movie nights. He plays music with one sometimes.”

“I made a mistake when suggesting feeding with Bao, then.”

Aaron wouldn’t disagree with him, but that was because he knew her better, and he was able to see it from both sides.

“Any framework done yet?” Podin asked. “We’re have very limited space to work with.”

“It shouldn’t need much,” Matadon said. “One, maybe two massage benches, and it’ll be for Incubi and Succubi who can massage. I’ll teach that if needed.”

“Can it be paired with active humans giving Cubi massages?”

“Sure,” Matadon said. “Maybe divide up the week or the days?”

Podin looked at Aaron. “Knowing how well you’ve managed to populate your dance studio and market it, will you be part of it?”

“Yes, that’s my department.”

She smiled, and Aaron felt great at the approving look full of confidence that he’d do well at that. Matadon looked proud, too. Aaron could do something good there. “Popular demand will need to win out here, but I see the problem in not having a place to raise the demand.”

“How limited is space?” Matadon asked.

“D—Nol-Beaudon focuses on making room for families to rotate in,” Aaron said.

“Absolutely a priority,” Matadon mumbled.

“Raising pure and better standards for humans is, too, so your initiative is very high on my list for focusing on that, alone.”

“So, popular demand…” Matadon wrote that down. Aaron noticed he had a really gorgeous handwriting that flowed across the page. The scribbles with a ballpoint pen at the breakfast bar hadn’t. How?

Aaron contemplated the question written down. “We build a storyline and get some influencers,” Aaron said. “And once we’ve created some hype, we make a poll.”

Matadon grinned. “Wow. Okay, how is that done?”

Dawdon and Geradon. Aaron smiled, and it grew as his mind connected different aspects like it could with dancing.

“First, we set up at my dance studio, and we film some of it. We merge it with the marketing of the dance recital and my studio because all that dancing means we need some massages. If you’re allowed to massage an Untouchable, then a human is in safe hands, too.”

“Very true,” Matadon said. “Except you’re my son, but no one knows that.”

 “We then get Grand Lady Geodin to come by for a massage because the Grand Council can get a little tense while working hard. Spread the word of magical fingers. Geradon and Dawdon write up an article because you’ve had requests now. In our little storyline that is. You take in a few. Still at the studio. Then comes the poll because you can’t monopolize my studio and haul that massage bench around to keep up with the growing interest. Poll for whether it’s something people will use. And those questions will of course also focus on humans. This is where it’s spun in a way where you, a Lord, shows the way in raising Cu’Boka that focuses on raising the living standards of all of the House of Beaudon.”

Matadon’s brows had climbed his forehead. “Wow.”

“I like it,” Podin said. “That gives me some time, too. How to get the new newspaper to branch into focusing on that, though.”

Matadon grinned at Aaron.

“Well, I just happen to be dating one at the paper.”

Podin blinked, then laughed. “I don’t think I should be surprised at how connected you are. It’s how you raised the dance studio, too?”

An old line someone at a stripper job had said stood out to Aaron. “Bring value first, and the rest will fall into place.” He hadn’t understood it then. Now he did.

“Very true,” Podin said. “Which is why I need to see value before I can prioritize it highly enough. And I’d like a massage, too.”

Matadon smiled. “What’s your feeding pattern?”

“Active pleaser of women,” she said. Matadon grunted. “But…” Her eyes darkened. “You can definitely show me more.”

Well, that was awkward. She was flirting with Aaron’s dad, and he still had no idea how to navigate that.

“I’ll definitely look forward to showing you firsthand what you can help make room for. In fact…” Matadon pulled out his phone. “Uhm, Aaron will help find room in my schedule for you to come to my place.” He scooted the phone to Aaron, who went into the Cubi app. Podin pulled out her phone and accessed her own. They found a time that fit both, and Aaron scheduled it. He booked that timeslot in his own calendar, too, and invited Dawdon, Geradon, and Freydon, hoping they’d help brainstorm more ideas in the meantime.

Poding finished her coffee. “I better get back. Thank you so much for bringing this idea. I’ll see what strings I can pull.” She looked at Aaron. “Is it you I should contact with possibilities?”

“No, I’m helping him.” Aaron pointed at Matadon, who scribbled down two numbers—his own and Aaron’s—then tore that half page from the notebook and handed it over.

“Thank you.” Podin smiled at the note, folded it up, and put it in her phone cover. “I’ll see you soon.”

Matadon stood as she did, and Aaron hurriedly did, too. “My Lady.”

“My Lady,” Aaron said.

“My Lord. Aaron.” Podin left.

Aaron and Matadon sat again.

“That went well,” Matadon said. “You’re so multitalented and world wise.”

Aaron chuckled. “Thanks.” He didn’t agree, but he did see that he certainly knew more than he’d realized. “You didn’t need to look up my number. Do you memorize all your kids’ numbers.”

Matadon chuckled. “I’ve lived many years without this little piece of technology not remembering for me, so I developed that skill.”

“Ah.”

Matadon poked around in the app. “Which candle should I use that day?”

“I dunno. I hate the lavender one, but maybe she loves it.”

Matadon grumbled and looked at Aaron. “When I aired this idea while snacking the hell out of Geodin’s companion, she said she wanted a place like that to make her feel the very center of the world. Like the spa was made just for her. I completely neglected to think about that.”

When stripping, they’d sometimes handed out a list for people to check off what they enjoyed. Type to do the lap dance and stuff. “I can swing that.” Aaron pointed to the notebook. “We make questionnaires they can tick off in. Favorite scent, color, stuff like that. For the towels and robes. But scents might be difficult because burning chamomile and lavender ten minutes later would probably end up a mucky blend.”

“Yeah. And it would totally ruin the scent at the dance studio.”

“No lavender there.”

Matadon chuckled. “Should we go to the studio?”

“Yeah.” They rose and cleared the table, leaving it as pristine as they found it. Aaron liked that part of the public areas. Everybody thought about the ones who were to use the common space afterward.

They arrived almost an hour before the early birds would arrive, giving them a chance to coordinate and play with ideas for their own project. Aaron felt giddy about that, chuckling as Matadon plopped down on the ground, took off a boot, and groaned in relief. Aaron joined him, removed his own boots, then lifted one of Matadon’s feet into his lap and kneaded the ball of the foot.

“Oh, that’s lovely!”

“Foot massages is something I think I do well.”

“I agree. And you learned on yourself from having to work in those?” Matadon nodded to the stilettoes.

“Yeah. Me and another stripper would sit across from each other at the end of a shift and massage each other’s feet. But what with our dance project? The twin project?”

Matadon chuckled and motioned for Aaron’s foot. “You’re teaching me to dance something.”

Aaron adjusted his seat to have a foot massage, too. “We can make two. One where I teach you and one where you teach me?”

“That’ll be a full plate.”

“Yeah.” Aaron sighed. If he could dance all day, he would, but he got what Matadon was saying. He had other responsibilities.

“When was the recital planned for? When our King was still a part of it and knew everything?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m slowing the team down from being so new.”

Aaron smiled. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Give me a deadline, and I can make a schedule.”

“Originally, it would have been in two weeks or so.”

Matadon blinked. “Better get cracking, then.”

“Oh, by the way, Dawdon promised to get a video camera we can borrow. Not sure when he’ll be by with it, but he’d get it.”

“Cool. Maybe I can get that Chinese dance down faster then. It’s the one I worry about the most.”

Aaron motioned for Matadon to switch his feet in Aaron’s lap to give the other one some attention. “We focus on that, then.” They both switched feet. If Matadon’s finger magic on Aaron’s feet were any indication, the spa would do great.

“And the belly dancing.”

“And the rest of us need to focus on your addition.”

Matadon nodded. “Yeah, we got our work cut out for us. But for our project…maybe we should spend a few hours on YouTube and find styles you like? Get ideas?”

“Yeah, all I know is from talent shows.”

“I love those,” Matadon said. “So many different styles and…levels of talent.” Aaron chuckled. Levels of talent, that was for real. “Did you ever contemplate entering into one?”

“Yeah, but I never got around to it because of hours and money and…it wasn’t easy at home.”

“I’m sorry.”

Aaron looked up from his foot project, finding a pained expression on Matadon’s face. And unasked questions. “Mom and dad’s…well, Dan. Their business went belly up, and we had to move. Things went downhill from there, they got divorced, mom works all the time, and I started stripping to help put food on the table. I don’t even think she noticed. I prioritized dancing so much I almost flunked school, which mom then threw fit over because she wanted me to go to college.”

“And you didn’t?”

“She has a college degree in business management, and she deals blackjack and bartends and take extra shifts changing sheets. I’m not a school guy, so yeah, I disagreed that it would be useful to spend time on something that clearly isn’t within my talents.”

“Or passions.”

“Yeah.” Aaron gnawed his lip. “How would you have advised me if I’d grown up here? A Cubus?”

“You’re already living it.” Matadon pointed around in the studio.

Aaron contemplated Cu’Boka again and what had prompted his mother to raise him for corporate America. The safety net. It hadn’t done her a lick of good, which was why Aaron saw no point in a student loan to pay for an education that hadn’t even helped save her from what she feared would be his future if he only focused on dancing and didn’t get a degree.

“What were your aspirations in the human world?”

Aaron looked around the studio. “I dunno. I think I was too young and inexperienced to even think about that. Or put words to it. When Daniel whisked me away, and we drove off with the human military chasing him, I kinda got the idea that the world wasn’t what I thought it was. Until then, we lived paycheck to paycheck. Suddenly being around a King my own age who could balance so much was…well, it was eye-opening.”

“I’ll bet!”

“Truthfully, I feel slightly incompetent around him sometimes.”

“Don’t, it’s genetics. Royals are built differently.”

“I see that now. I even think it’s that influence from we were kids that made dancing so important to me. He inspired me.”

Matadon smiled. “Good. How?”

“He didn’t give a damn what people thought. He’d just stand a bit taller if someone told him he’d never make it big. He could be a jerk about it, though. He once told a girl off for saying he thought too much of himself.” Aaron tried to remember it, but they’d been eleven, and the girl had been a few classes above them. “I’ll make it because I know my worth. You won’t because you don’t.

“He wasn’t wrong,” Matadon said.

“No, but there’s more to it. When someone told him, you can’t, he corrected them. He’d said stuff like, no you can’t. Your lack of talent says nothing about me.

“He’s still not wrong, but I see where you’re going with that tone.”

Aaron had disliked that side of Daniel back them, but when Aaron felt similar words get to him, Daniel would raise him up and boost his ego. Was it ego? Or was that the human way of looking at it? It was very different among the Cubi. He’d heard Freydon’s mom cheer her son on for wanting to wear makeup like Daniel. She’d brought him makeup and helped him explore and be beautiful and turn heads. But that was just the same as when human parents raised their kids to get good grades and a college degree, he guessed. It was what would allow them to survive in the two different worlds.

“I just want to dance and entertain and be watched and—” Admitting to that had gotten him a few scoldings at home. Especially from Dan, telling him to keep his head down and feet on the ground.

“Keep going,” Matadon urged. “You’re with someone who understands the genetics that bring that.”

Aaron smiled. “Lusted after. In the human world, it’s totally creepy, but I liked the idea of being the face in someone’s spank bank.”

Matadon sputtered laughter. “A what?”

“Spank bank.” Aaron grinned. “You know, the fantasy they spank the monkey to.”

“Oh, yeah, okay. I certainly get that part. I love flirting, too. It’s a long game. It’s a different kind of hunting. I want them to come to me. Ache for my touches. Ache for me to fulfill their fantasy.”

“You’re an active pleaser, right?”

“Yeah.”

Aaron wondered whether his attractions would indicate what he’d rise to feed on. He and Matadon shared so much. Including wanting to relinquish their pleasure to a strong lover. “And with Bowdon?”

Matadon’s smile changed. It grew shy and vulnerable. “To feel safe from his strength. Guard Ladies, too. I mean…it’s what I want to be for cubs. Just differently.”

There was something Aaron had missed. “You…you want to help with the cub dance classes?”

Matadon snapped his head up. “Yeah! You have that?”

“Not yet because I kinda need someone like you.”

“Oh, definitely! I’m in!”

Aaron grinned at the enthusiasm. “I’ll start looking at the schedule to make room for it, but we need to focus on the spa first, I think.”

“Running schedules is something I’m good at,” Matadon said. “I was the assistant of a House Lady for years.”

“Cool. You get that gig then because I’m no good at it.”

“Maybe you’re just unpracticed?”

“Let’s go with that.”

Matadon chuckled. “I don’t want you to feel like I try to butt in and take over.”

Aaron looked up. “I don’t! I love that we share this passion. Like you letting me help you with the spa. Everybody on a dance team knows their part. I’m guessing it’s the same when running other stuff, I mean…I see everything like a dance choreography.”

“I like that analogy.” Matadon nodded, thinking. “It works well. Bao’s in charge of music because she’s good at that, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And you do the marketing.”

“That’s because I’m the face and friend to the King who had the connections.”

“No,” Matadon stated. “You’re the talent.” Aaron grinned sheepishly. “What was it you said? Bring value, and the rest falls into place? That value is the talent, Aaron.”

“Value is Cu’Boka, right?” Aaron asked. Matadon nodded. Aaron gnawed his lip, once again trying to count how many the entertainment actually brought value to and how much.

“Come on.” Matadon poked him with the foot still getting an unfocused massage. “Talk to me.”

“Is entertaining people by dancing enough?”

Matadon looked a bit sad. “In the human world, what makes the most money?”

“Drugs and sex and…entertainment.”

“Exactly.”

“But entertainment, like drugs and porn, is escapism at best, while people wait around to have to go back to unfulfilling jobs so they can put food on the table and a roof over their heads.”

Matadon reared his head. “Why do think it’s so important, then?”

“In the human world, yeah, but not here.”

“You’re right. Our societies are very different.” Matadon cocked his head, studying Aaron. “We do the shit jobs, too, because they need to be done, and we have the skillset, and then we kinda expect others to provide other values. Like entertainment.”

“The spa brings value to humans and Cubi in a very real way.”

“So does your dancing. Our dance group? The cubs? The Cubi who shoveled shit and stumbles upon a dance off in the halls on his way home? Trust me, that spreads joy. Even I danced in the hallways sometimes, spreading smiles and laughter. Someone stopped painting the halls long enough to dance along to no music, then went back to finishing the job with a smile on his face. I brought value to the value he brought. That’s Cu’Boka.”

Aaron liked that. “Now I want to go prompt impromptu dancing in the Great Hall.”

Matadon smiled like that was the best idea of the day. “Your art brings more value than you think, Aaron, and many of our skills may not seem important on a grander scale, but you never know when it could make a big difference. Until then, small differences are important, too. And you have many talents. They accumulate and work together. Like all the marketing and branding you’ve ended up learning from finding the best ways to share your passion is now helping us set up a spa that can raise Cu’Boka for humans.”

Aaron nodded slowly, seeing the point. “What’s your greatest talent?”

“Patient stubbornness. I can be really single-mindedly focused when I want something, and I don’t mind working hard for a very long time to get what I want.”

 That sounded familiar.

The door opened, and Miguel stepped inside. The hansom Hispanic man smiled. “Hello!” He sauntered over. “I’m too excited for today’s training to be anywhere else.”

Matadon grinned at Aaron. “How about we just start?”

“Let’s do that.”