Chapter 5

A Patreon exclusive story by Meraki P. Lyhne

Walking the hallways with Matadon, Dawdon, and Geradon felt strange to Aaron. And a Guard Lady, of course. There was so much to focus on. Aaron wanted to get to know his dad, who so far seemed a pretty down to earth kind of guy, but he took in every detail like a child exploring the world, and he asked a bunch of questions that Aaron couldn’t answer.

Dawdon and Geradon could, though. Most of them.

Aaron wanted to be closer to Dawdon, too, and they kept exchanging glances and smiles. Dawdon blushed a few times, which Aaron felt in his own cheeks when noticing.

They’d started in the Grand Hall where the names of the fallen Guards had been etched int the bevel of the ceiling of the cave to forever look over the Cubi people.

Matadon had looked quite affected and bowed to the names. The story of how two axes with blood on them had ended up encased for all to see had brought out a fiery determination in the brightening purple eyes.

It made Aaron realize how much there was to get to know about a person. Like what thoughts had gone through Matadon’s head for enough anger to fill his system to affect the color of his eyes.

To change that, Aaron chose to show off the Cubi recreational addition that had finished not long ago. The bowling alley. That had had the desired effect, and Aaron had quickly nodded yes when challenged to a game one day.

The tour took hours, but Aaron enjoyed the trip, learning new stuff, too.

Geradon was really good as a guide, and he managed details when what had been built or was scheduled for. He also shared news Aaron hadn’t heard, like the fact that another House was being built to the west, and the Great House of Dahlidin would be populated again.

“That’s a lot of Houses,” Matadon said.

“Yeah, but Our King is a visionary,” Geradon said. “I so hope we get to visit the City of Beauty, too.”

“The what now?” Matadon asked.

“The City of Beauty,” Aaron said. “Daniel went there himself on horseback.”

“With the President of the United States,” Dawdon chimed in.

“It’s a project where human and Cubi learn to live together as two people in one society.”

Matadon gaped, then a grin spread. “Wow. That explains the changes to the Cubi structure here.”

“Wait until you see the feeding pads,” Aaron said.

Matadon looked around at them. “Are you three allowed there?”

“Not really, no.”

“Geradon and I have been allowed with Guards present as we documented the project from conception. It’s become really popular.”

“Please stop for a moment.” Guard Lady Artidin pulled out her phone. “I’ll call for additional backup to secure you so you can show your dad.”

They stopped, and she herded them toward a corner, then stood with her back to them and functioned as a wall while making a call, her gaze constantly surveying their surroundings.

“I see you’re used to their routines now,” Matadon whispered to Aaron.

Aaron merely held up the gold crest, marking him as Daniel’s Untouchable. It brought such pride and worry to his dad’s eyes, and Aaron wondered what he was missing about the future Daniel had in store for him. He also felt lucky that he had his dad around to guide him. Someone with insight.

At the moment, though, he didn’t feel trust in the man, which made him sad. Dan hadn’t stuck around, even though he’d promised Aaron it wasn’t because of him he left. But he’d never really called back a lot, and he’d only picked Aaron up for an outing around birthdays and dropped off a gift here and there, which Linda claimed were bribes for not being around like he’d promised.

Did Dan know he wasn’t Aaron’s real dad? Did he feel it?

Dan had been around always, and Aaron had been easy to dump. Would it be as easy for Matadon? Or was it a genetic thing? Would the fact he hadn’t known Aaron make him stick around to get to know him, or would it keep them from growing closer?

The thoughts irritated Aaron, but he hoped at least their shared passion for dancing would help them bond somehow. He just didn’t know how much that passion took up in Matadon’s life. He kinda moved like a dancer. Or maybe it was merely the swagger of the vain and self-secure Incubus, which all of them seemed to move with, whether they could dance or not.

Three Guards joined them not long after, and they led the four of them through to the feeding pads, yet they had to stop because Matadon found a cave painting. It had to be called that, considering they were in a cave, yet it was new. Someone had decorated a huge piece of wall, and it was apparently new enough for Dawdon to take pictures of it and Geradon to write notes on his phone.

They then moved on toward the feeding pads and stopped under the sign that marked that area a potentially heavy dosing area.

“Tell me about this idea of the feeding pads.”

Aaron loved that Matadon looked directly and encouragingly at Aaron to do that, and not any of the others who obviously knew way more.

“Well, Daniel hangs out with feeders as a regular dude, and his eyes are always human with them. It’s kinda wild how that works.” The eagerness in Matadon’s eyes didn’t escape Aaron, but he stuck to the topic of feeding pads. “Anyway, this is an idea that was brought forth by a human. To make them feel like they have a sense of…I dunno, control and say over their own lives, I guess.”

Matadon nodded, his eyes darting back and forth, thinking. “It was never optimal when hiding, no.”

“I got the history one-oh-one. I can kinda see how an evil necessity became a way of life. Doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.”

“We agree. And that’s what Royals do. They disrupt the status quo and lift their people to new heights when the status quo threatens our prosperity.”

Aaron smiled, feeling proud of his friend. The love for Daniel he saw in Matadon’s eyes wasn’t new—he saw that in all Cubi’s eyes.

“Can we try to make feeding fun for us, too?” Aaron recited. “That’s what someone asked. Daniel asked how, and the idea of this area took shape. Mainly while playing pool in the no-Cubi section that leaves humans feel less…hunted, I guess.”

Matadon grunted something that sounded a mixture between a snort, a laugh, and an incredulous outburst.

“I know you guys care, but that’s because I know so many Lords and Ladies high up. Most humans never get to see that because they’re too few and have to focus on keeping up with Minglers, red, blues, and green.”

This time, Matadon merely nodded, looking like it didn’t surprise him. He then looked around. “So, the fe—humans came up with their idea of fun to invite the Cubi here for feeding fun?”

“Yeah, I guess you can say that. The pads are feeding pattern specific.” But something else lurked behind Matadon’s eyes. An idea? Aaron stepped closer and turned his ear. “Let me hear it.”

Matadon snickered, then cupped his hand around Aaron’s ear and leaned in. “I’m really good at giving intimate massages. Maybe I should see if humans would come to me by providing such a service?”

Aaron stepped back, trying to wipe the image of his Cubus dad feeding, or at least force himself to feel disgusted at the knowledge that he was picturing his biological dad feeding, yet he also recognized that as a very humanly conditioned thought pattern. “That’s not bad. It kinda opens up the other side to the conundrum. We can text Daniel with it.”

Matadon looked eagerly excited, then scouted the hall. “Can I look inside one? Like…my feeding pattern down there?”

Guard Lady Artidin looked behind them. Glancing that way, Aaron found four guards joining them—one being the big Lord who’d picked Matadon up.

“Yes,” Guard Lady Artidin said. “Do you need to feed, My Lord?”

“No, not yet. I have a feeding date with a Grand Lady, and she does prefer one show up ravished from hunger.”

The Guard Lady held out her hand to indicate for them to move on. “We all do,” she whispered to Matadon as he passed her, and Aaron suppressed a snicker at the dear caught in headlights look on the Lord’s face.

Aaron then remembered that humans weren’t the only ones expected to simply feed a Cubus. Lower energies were, too. Aaron had neglected thinking about that, yet the realization made him think that the general Cubi understood and accepted the change quickly enough because they also experienced it when a higher level Cubus stepped up and said feed me.

One thing was Daniel doing it. Everybody wanted his attention in the sheets. He was like the treat of a lifetime.

Yet another question to file away for a day when Aaron hopefully connected enough with the Lord to have a…son and dad conversation.

He glanced at Matadon, wondering if he’d ever feel that way. At that moment, he couldn’t picture it, which irritated him.

The other Guards caught up, and they moved through the hallway. Everybody but Matadon stayed there while the Lord went inside a feeding pad.

Dawdon stepped closer, a smile tugging. Aaron bit his lip, which made the smile stretch on Dawdon’s face.

Everybody turned their backs to them, recognizing an intimate moment, so Aaron reached out and took Dawdon’s hand.

“I’m sorry I ran out so fast this morning,” Aaron whispered.

“No, I get it. Big day.” Dawdon glanced at the door to the feeding pad. “He seems kinda cool.” Aaron nodded in thought. He did. Dawdon squeezed Aaron’s hand a bit and stepped closer—close enough for Aaron to feel the heat of his body against his arm, yet just shy of pressing against each other. “Would you like me to come over tonight? Hold you again when you sleep.”

Wow, how could he make that sound so romantic?

Matadon would go feed the Grand Lady, and Aaron didn’t want to be alone. He didn’t want Dawdon to only be an excuse for that, but he wouldn’t be, would he? Aaron wanted to be with him, and Dawdon wanted them to hang out.

Aaron smiled and nodded.

“Do you need me to bring anything?” Dawdon whispered.

Oh, damn, that sounded so sweetly hot.

“Just you,” Aaron whispered back.

Dawdon bit his lip, and Aaron’s stomach fluttered.

Matadon left the feeding pad, saw Aaron and Dawdon standing close, then turned and was about to walk back inside, but he seemed to remember that he wasn’t supposed to stay in there. Cool, so Aaron’s dad could be awkward, too.

Dawdon cleared his throat and stepped back with a devil-may-care grin on his face. His rugged handsomeness just shot up ten notches.

The Guards set them moving again, and Matadon ended up walking next to Aaron again, glancing at him and looking happy about something.

“Did you like that one?” Aaron asked, pointing a thumb back toward the feeding pad.

“I like the idea, but that one was not for me. I’m less vigorous.”

“Ah!”

They stopped at another few feeding pads, yet Matadon spent less time in them than he had the first. Maybe because the novelty quickly wore off or because they didn’t really fit him? How many nuances were there to feeding? Aaron was curious enough to ask.

“Well,” Matadon said. “If chasing pure is the point, then the nuances are very important. The dose brings out what the feeder needs, and we simply cover that, whether it’s in our optimal pattern or not. It’s less fulfilling for us, too. Exploring a human body is something we all want, and then the nuances change because we seek out to heighten the pure pleasure as much as possible. We can feed broader because it raises our primal need, too. Dosed energy is like a…I don’t know how to explain it to someone who hasn’t felt the energy move on his skin yet.”

“If you remember food, then Daniel and I are pretty good at food analogies.”

Matadon chuckled. “Okay, imagine a beef stock. One’s made on the highest quality of bones and meat, the other is flavored water with a bouillon cube.”

“Yeah, that sounds flat.”

“So’s dosed energy. Both taste good, sure, but one is highly nutrient dense compared to the other, and the nuances of all the carefully selected and prepared herbs is the magical nuances in the full experience, i.e., the nuances discovered while exploring every shade of the individual’s pleasures.”  

“So Cubi living on dosed energy only is like us living on salt crackers and bouillon?”

Matadon chuckled. “Good analogy. I remember disliking dill, yet with the right combination of other herbs and a fatty fish, I liked the overall experience of the meal. It’s much like that with pure feeding energy. We can thoroughly enjoy what we might not otherwise feel drawn to. Like very vigorous feeding in my case.”

Aaron felt grateful for the explanation. He liked how Matadon explained things. Catching Matadon’s expression, Aaron got the sense that Matadon enjoyed their conversation, too.

“What’s your favorite food now?”

“Uhm…” Aaron thought for a moment. “I dunno. I’ve always minded what I ate, but I do enjoy pigging out on fast food once in a while. I guess the part of it being rare is part of what makes it appealing.”

Matadon nodded, looking like that apparently also made sense in a Cubi feeding analogy.

Two people got into a fight further ahead, and Matadon pulled Aaron behind himself, while a gruff Guard shouted stop and stalked forward. The other guards banded around the four of them, yet Aaron’s focus remained on the prompt reaction of his dad to protect him.

It made him feel good.

Guard Lord Bowdon returned. “Two humans. I’ll tend to this.”

“My Lord.” the others nodded curtly.

Lord Bowdon walked off with the two humans, who seethed at each other.

“Can we…uhm…” Geradon looked around.

“No, cub, you may not follow, but we’ll have Guard Lord Bowdon call you,” Guard Lady Artidin said.

“Thank you, Guard Lady.”

Dawdon held out his digital camera for Geradon to see the screen, apparently having been quick enough to snap off a photo.

Matadon stepped forward and turned to look at Aaron, but he didn’t ask the question that so clearly burned in his eyes. If Aaron was okay. The fatherly intensity made Aaron quite emotional, yet he didn’t know what to do about it.

“Uhm…what next?” Aaron asked, looking around.

“Please, show me the playground.” Matadon smiled. “I’ve heard so much about a pirate ship.”

“Oh, that reveal was awesome,” Aaron said.

“I’ve seen clips.”

They began walking again and circled back to the huge entry hall, while Aaron shared some of the preparations for the big treasure hunt that he’d helped Daniel with.

The exited the mountain and rounded the bushes of Lord Seldon’s willow bushes. They stood tall and proud, which was a good sign that no one had earned a whooping. It momentarily brought Aaron’s thoughts back to the two humans fighting in the halls, but he left it there, considering it didn’t concern him at all.

“Wow…” Matadon slowed and stared at the ship with cubs climbing all over it. “It’s way bigger than I imagined from the film.”

“In your letters, you said you worked with cubs in the Great House of Dahlidin,” Aaron said.

“Yeah.” Matadon smiled at Aaron. “I like kids.” His smile fell. “Which is why it pained me so that I didn’t get to watch you grow up.”

Just like that, Aaron’s fear of growing estranged from the man, because of those crucial years to bond were missing, returned. He’d heard someone having fathered a kid at age sixteen, and the mother had been whisked away by her parents to have the baby in secrecy, only to be raised as the mother’s sister to hide the shame of a child out of wedlock. The truth had come out, and the father had felt nothing for the young woman who one day turned up at his door and introduced herself as his daughter.

Again, if Dan had been able to skip out on Aaron after having been in his life always, he wondered about biology. The man in the story had biological connection with the daughter he felt nothing for, so how…how did it matter? Did it matter? Looking at Lord Roardon with Daniel, then yeah, it was absolutely possible for a late parent to bond with their child, and Aaron felt hopeful that maybe Matadon was like Roardon in that matter.

“So, you’re a teacher?”

“No, that’s too boring.”

Aaron laughed at the unexpected remark. “Okay.”

“If you’re anything like me, human school was hell for you.”

Aaron blinked. “Yeah, anything but recess, yeah.”

Matadon grinned, then snapped his head around and looked toward the ship.

Aaron hadn’t heard it, but someone apparently shouted Matadon’s name, and a cub ran toward them with arms stretched out.

Matadon’s face lit up and he crouched to intercept the boy and hug him. Then followed a barrage of stories and pointing and Matadon clearly trying to keep up. The boy grabbed Matadon’s hand and trudged off, but there was no moving the Lord, who looked at Aaron. “Wanna play pirate? Or are you too old for that?”

“May I remind you of the mastermind of the treasure hunt? Well, one of them.”

Matadon broke into a grin, and Aaron ran ahead and up the gangway before looking back at Matadon keeping the tempo of the kid’s little legs.

A girl stood on the bridge, looking fierce and scouting, while another acted as helmsman.

“Captain! Permission to board?” Aaron shouted.

The girl looked at him, grinning, then found the scowl fit a pirate captain. “You may! Mind the mast, sailor.”

“Aye, aye, Captain!” Aaron saluted her and ran to the mast. He was quickly joined by Matadon and the kid, and they climbed the rope wall.

 

 

Aaron didn’t know how long had passed, but at some point parents collected their cubs, while others joined, and Aaron and Matadon left with the boy they’d played with to meet up with a Succubus who hugged Matadon.

Watching Matadon in his element and how he was with kids put more thoughts in Aaron’s head, and he didn’t remember Dan playing like that. Well, of course they’d played catch and stuff. A few times, Dan had joined the neighbor kid in street hockey. He’d been kinda cool that way, yet he and Aaron didn’t have enough common interests to really bond. Now Aaron knew why, and he once again hoped that dancing could be what bonded him and Matadon.

Which reminded him that he should reveal his dance studio soon.

What really brought Aaron’s emotions firmly onto the land of optimism was the pride with which Matadon introduced his Halfling son. Watching that pride grow when learning that Aaron was remembered for his great dancing made Aaron’s chest swell.

He kinda figured he understood the pride on an emotional level because he felt proud of how Matadon was received by old friends from the House of Dahlidin. He just didn’t understand it cognitively, as he stood back a bit and observed this side of the man he felt…proud of somehow.

Dawdon held up his camera and leaned in for Aaron to look at the screen, and Dawdon had taken a lot of photos of playtime. There was a bit of everything, but he’d certainly had a focus on catching Aaron and Matadon being…dad and son playing. A few of the images caught something special, and he guessed only a trained eye could.

“Can we look at them on the bigger screen tonight?”

Dawdon looked at Aaron. “Absolutely.”

Man, that look in his eyes. Aaron didn’t catch himself before he kissed him, loving that he got pulled in to deepen it.

Someone cleared their throat, so Aaron and Dawdon broke the kiss and found Geradon standing next to them, looking sneakily awkward.

“What?” Dawdon asked.

“They stopped talking. Moving on. Sorry, fellows.”

Aaron looked at his dad who was watching the playground tower. “Last stop on the tour, then.”

“We’ll leave you to it and go write up a few stories.” Dawdon stole a kiss. “Text me when you want me to come over.”

Aaron smiled and nodded, then went to his dad while the two reporters returned to their job. Aaron still needed to figure that part out, and it became a relevant topic now that he’d be showing his dad the studio. “So…the last surprise for the tour?”

“Yes.” Matadon smiled at him, then glanced at Dawdon and Geradon, moving around the pirate ship. “I see we share taste in men, too.”

“What?”

“Being bi is a Cubi norm. I love women. I also love big men.”

Aaron suppressed a grin and took his dad back into the mountain. Only Guard Lady Artidin was with them now. As they closed in on the studio, nervousness and excitement battled, and the pressing need to have a backup plan/job if…

Dammit. Aaron hated feeling insecure about whether he looked like a dreamer or a slacker in front of a Lord with responsibility.

Still, they arrived, and Aaron cast a glance at his dad, who gaped at the signs. Aaron opened and stalked inside, flipping on the lights.

He still loved walking into that room and be overwhelmed by the light reflecting in the mirrored walls, and the scent of the lacquered hardwood floor and the undertones of sweat and sweet dose because those stuck around and made the place smell authentic.

“Oh, wow,” Matadon whispered, looking around. He finally looked at Aaron. “You didn’t mention in your letters you have your own dance studio.”

Aaron smiled, feeling a bit appeased by the awe he spotted. “I figured maybe you’d read the articles, but…”

“We get very few inhouse relevant articles. I asked why, and it’s to make sure we keep our focus on what we need to out there.”

Aaron nodded, figuring that sounded smart. It had to be if they’d decided on filtering content. Not that Aaron could relate—he knew too little about what went on outside the House of Daniel now. “What’s your favorite music?”

Matadon smiled. “Why? Challenging me to a dance off?” The loud laughter that erupted from Matadon had to mean Aaron hadn’t hidden wild excitement from reaching his features. “You get to guess, then!” Matadon kicked off his shoes and pulled off his socks, and Aaron quickly followed suit, tossing his in a corner, then ran across the room to the tablet and logged onto a playlist.

He had the perfect track. Which would require warmup, so he picked a warmup track to run first and began jumping around.

Matadon grinned and followed his lead, so Aaron went through his regular warmup as if he was teaching a class, making sure all joints got attention before he upped the intensity to get the entire body ready. He enjoyed the fact that Matadon didn’t ask any questions and kept smiling as he followed suit.

“It’s clear that you’ve done this many times,” Matadon said. “You seem so comfortable and dominant of this space.”

“It’s mine,” Aaron said, recognizing pride in his tone. And in Matadon’s eyes.

“Well, let’s dance, then.”

Aaron grinned and dashed to the tablet, switched playlist, and jumped back. “Dance off, you start.”

“Oh, no, boy, you challenged me. Bring what you got…” Matadon jumped around, and Aaron studied him to guess at his style. But he was right. Aaron had challenged him. He knew this playlist pretty well, and it was made for an equal number of participants, giving everybody a trial at something new yet also within the same style as the others, meaning no one got stuck with hip hop or ballet twice.

The onboarding track that mainly kept a beat to get into a flow finally tapered off, and salsa started up.

Aaron had learned a great deal from Miguel, so he dove in, feeling confident in his steps and body posture, while Matadon clapped along and watched, looking as excited as Aaron would expect a dancer to be at the challenge.

The track ended and the beat returned, giving them ten seconds to clear the floor and for the next to take the spot for…

Ballet.  

Matadon snickered, straightened his posture, and found a pretty reasonable and fully supported third position.

Aaron’s knowledge of ballet terminology wasn’t exactly enough to keep up once Matadon set into motion, though, but what he saw was skills honed over…well, centuries, he guessed. Once the beat broke the music, Aaron even noticed he was gaping at his dad as he stepped back, grinning like he knew he’d aced that one.  

He totally had.

The ten second beat ended before Aaron had fully snapped out of it, but it was kind of in line with it, and Aaron had practiced it a lot with Daniel and Freydon, preparing for the show in the Great Hall on Halloween. Belly dancing.

“Oh!” Matadon somewhat managed to suppress that outburst and put his hands over his mouth, watching, yet Aaron suddenly felt a bit self-conscious about it and stopped, face-palming himself. “What?” Matadon came over.

“Well, I usually pull this one out to entice, and you’re…”

“Ah, I see. Yeah. Uhm…” Matadon flicked his lower lip with his tongue, thinking. “You get the next one, too, then, but teach me that.”

Aaron grinned. “Okay.” Yeah, he could totally do that because that was different than writhing erotically in front of his biological dad. “I can tell you that Ela…akdon. Loves it.”

Matadon looked up just as the ten second beat started up. “I’m sure!”

Disco!

Aaron let his best Saturday Night Fever rip, feeling way more secure in that than belly dancing. He’d had enough fun with that style to be able to make it his own and add originality to the iconic dance scene. That might even be why he got an ovation for the two minutes his track lasted.

Aaron felt amazing as the beat took over and he left the dancefloor, feeling like this really did make them connect. The ballet Matadon had started out crushing? Yeah, they definitely shared passion for this artform.

He then remembered the next track. Oh, he was so going to win that one! Hip Hop.

Again, Aaron’s jaw dropped when Matadon took a perfect bboy stance, got his body moving, and busted secure toprock. But he wasn’t done! He went to downrock and busted some power moves Aaron had only watched on YouTube, and when the ten second beat took over, interrupting the spell of what Aaron could have watched for way longer, Matadon held a freeze. “Teach me that!” Aaron exclaimed.

“Okay.”

That arrogance, though? Had to be part of the style because this was the first time Aaron had noticed it.

Next up, line dance. Which was not ideal to dance in bare feet.

Riverdance, the Waltz, and Foxtrot, something Aaron couldn’t pronounce—snuck in there by the Chinese girl—and his and Daniel’s soundtrack from they were kids. That ended their challenge with Matadon bowing out because he knew less about the Chinese dance than Aaron did about how to pronounce it.

Instead, they plopped down on the floor, grinning, and Aaron relaxed, enjoying the strange silence that descended upon the room after a dance ended.

It was part of his headspace. That silence was where he centered himself after having been on like that. It was where he found peace. The fact that he shared that with his dad made him smile. And he still felt in awe that a Lord knew how to break and bust power moves like that.

“Aw, man, this was fun!” Matadon grinned at the ceiling, then looked at Aaron. “Your repertoire is so broad, and you’re extremely skilled.”

“I’m not the bboy with power moves. That was amazing.”

Matadon sent Aaron a challenging look. “That was the kiddy department. Seriously, since the first time I saw that, I’ve…loved it. Power moves in particular.” He held out his right arm. “I’ve managed to break this arm three times from attempting a one-handed airflare.”

Aaron gaped. He’d seen that. He’d also seen it go wrong, and he almost cringed from imagining an elbow bend the wrong way from all weight landing on a too extended joint. “Did you manage?”

“Oh, yeah!” Matadon got up, started a regular flare, then upped the ante and managed two full one-armed flares before he went back to two, dropped to roll one on his shoulders, and rolled into it and used the momentum to get back onto his feet.

“That’s pretty awesome,” Aaron said.

Matadon looked happy as he came to sit close to Aaron again. “What’s your favorite dance moves?”

“Heels. And a pole.”

Matadon did not look like he’d expected that, but then a grin spread. “The Cubi side’s vanity awoke early in you, huh?”

“Well, I did grow up with our King, and it kinda seemed natural around him to just…give into it.” Aaron studied his dad, wondering. “Does the spotlight call to you, too?”

“It can under the right circumstances. I like being watched. To entice.” But the smile didn’t reach Matadon’s eyes as much as Aaron had hoped. “Since the big move, everything’s been so…wild. I haven’t had a lot of time to just…” The smile grew sincere as he looked around. “Just let lose and enjoy the music.” He looked at Aaron. “I hope you want to do this again.”

“Oh, yeah! You need to teach me to break, and I promised to teach you to belly dance.”

“You did, didn’t you.” Matadon grinned.

It reminded Aaron of their busted dance team and choreography needing a person. “You know…Daniel having to leave in a haste has put our exhibition on hold because we need someone with a certain level of skills. You have those. Want the spot?”

Matadon lit up. “Yeah? I’d love to help out.”

“Well…” Aaron’s sense of reality returned. “I guess it depends on your obligations as a Lord. Also, I might…need to find a more productive way to serve the House of Beaudon.”

Matadon cocked his head, studying Aaron. “You don’t think this does?”

“I dunno. Before he left, Daniel said to focus on sharing my art because it was important for the House and for the Natural Beauties. It’s just…it’s not all of them who wants to dance, and…” Aaron shrugged, thinking it stupid to even talk to Matadon about it now, so he shook his head. “What will you be doing?”

Matadin kept looking at him, looking very somber. “Earn my son’s respect to come to me as his father.”

Aaron snorted. “I don’t see that providing Cu’Boka to the House.”

Matadon chuckled. “Of course it will. Raising cubs to be fully confident and skilled individuals mean they can add to Cu’Boka.”

Earn his son’s respect to come ask him for advice? Wow…

“Doesn’t have to be as your father, of course. Let’s start as friends.”

Aaron studied him for a beat, not sure what to think, expect, or hope for. Yeah, friends would be a good place to start. Basic respect, then let people show whether they earn more or less through their actions. That was how Seldon had phrased a rule of life that he’d suggested Aaron adopt in the House. Seemed good advice, so he nodded. “I want to make Daniel proud and see that I…care.”

“He knows that if he’s claimed you to become a Fountain.”

“Sure it’s not just because I’m his friend?”

“Yes, very, because Royals have an instinct about us. They raise those they sense something in. I’m not sure how it works, but I’ve seen Nol-Elakdon once stop in a crowd, follow an instinct through the crowd and zero in on a young Succubus. He claimed her to be Empowered by him right then and there. She was fourteen.”

“Wow.” Aaron gnawed his lip, wondering what Daniel’s Royal instincts found in him. “Dancing just doesn’t bring enough value right now because the House is a mess. Provision is a mess, stuff keeps getting lost or delayed, and hands are tied up with three hundred Natural Beauties that Daniel wants slowly introduced via hooking up with Cubi they’ve come to know as their…friends to then become guides. We need hands, so I should focus on that.”

Matadon smiled, and Aaron felt relieved at finding pride in his eyes.

“Aaron. Instead of looking for work that doesn’t fulfill you or help you share the value you, uniquely, hold, then ask yourself the following. Are you optimizing your dream or is it optimized? If it was, then you’d know exactly what value you bring our people.”

Aaron thought about that for a moment. He didn’t feel like he brought value. Enough, at least. “So…it’s worthless?”

“No!” Matadon shook his head, looking sad. “It’s unfocused. Sometimes, we need to work on other stuff than what we’re passionate about while we grow and hone our skills. Doesn’t make it worthless! But everything we do and learn will become part of the foundation we rise upon to see our dreams through in a way that can then bring the greatest value to others.”

Aaron blinked. “You sound like a self-help book.”

Matadon laughed. “Probably. But I’ve done it enough in praxis to know what I’m talking about.”

Cool, because Aaron didn’t really get it. He couldn’t see how dancing could bring value at the moment.

A phone began making noises.

“That would be yours,” Matadon said.

“Mine doesn’t sound like that.”

“I didn’t bring mine.”

“Not mine,” Guard Lady Artidin simmered into visibility.

“Ugh! The new app.” Aaron got up, hurried to his hoodie, and fished out the phone. Alex’s plan reminded him of dinner. Had most of the day gone already? “Apparently, it’s dinner time.”

Matadon got up and found his shoes while Aaron powered down the tablet and collected his own.

They returned to the apartment, which was about a five-minute walk from the studio.

“How big’s my shower?” Matadon asked. “Do you know?”

“No. Uhm…oh, you haven’t even seen your room yet. I helped prepare it.”

Matadon smiled. “Thank you.”

“Why?”

“Well, if it’s a good size, we could shower together and continue our talk,” Matadon said. Aaron blinked. “Oh, yeah, human raised.”

Aaron grinned at the expression. It was like Matadon mentally face palmed himself. “Do you regularly shower with your kids? I mean, do Cubi?”

“Sure.”

Aaron thought for a moment. Daniel had had it way easier converting his thought pattern to that of the Cubi but that was because of his genetics. Aaron kept getting mentally blocked by the fact that his dad looked a few years older than himself and was hot as hell. Still, it would be a good way to be introduced to regular Cubi ways, he guessed. “I’ll find clothes.”

Matadon stroked his back, smiling. “If you feel uncomfortable with it, don’t do it.”

“I’m kinda new at this, but I guess it’s like…well going to the pool.”

“Exactly.”

Aaron smiled. He kinda enjoyed how approachable Matadon was. “Teach me that, then.”

Matadon grinned. “I look forward to you teaching me to belly dance.”

“You won’t find it odd? I mean, a teacher this young?”

“No! Each age learns something valuable, and when living as long as we do, it’s important to learn from the younger, too. It’s how we grow. Wisdom may come from the old and wise, but ideas and visions come from the young who’re still testing out the world they’re new in. They present so many ways of looking at the world.”

Aaron got a sense that the bboy in his dad was part of having allowed himself to explore the world of new. “I forget how old you are. Around six hundred?”

“Five and change.”

“Wow. Lord Seldon rose at four sixty something because he has to keep up with Daniel.”

“Harem master. I rose fast, too. And that was partly because Nol-Elakdon loves dancers. Artists in general.”

“So, we teach each other stuff? Never thought parents want to learn from their kids.” He’d certainly always been told he was too young.

“Is that a human thing?”

Aaron looked at Matadon, then stopped to think. “Well. I dunno. It was at home.”

“I’m sorry. I think there’s a balance to be found. Some things, sure, age has a say in whether one has the necessary insight or time to have grown into being an expert, and in other instances it’s the opposite. Age can be a hindrance because we then know so much and rely on that being the absolute truth. But the world keeps changing. Age can make us stagnate.”

Aaron blinked. “You understand Daniel’s foundation for change very well, then. You’ll adapt quickly.”

Matadon smiled. “It was why I was sent to aid a House Lady. Geo sent me because I’m good with adapting to new circumstances and find possibilities in them. It’s my strength. It’s my…Cu’Boka.”

Well, Aaron finally knew. He just didn’t understand his own. Learning that made him feel better about having blurted out the idea that Matadon tool over Daniel’s spot in the recital. Now he just needed to ask the others, which reminded him he should then try to use the app. Yet he didn’t want to do it now. He could do it after dinner when they talked more about the recital idea.

They continued back to the apartment, and a Guard Lord simmered into visibility, then opened the door for them.

“Thank you, Guard Lord.” Matadon bowed his head at him.

Aaron never did that. He said thanks and hi and stuff, but he was never this formal around them. Should he be? Another for the Cubus dad list of questions. “I’ll just get a change of clothes, then show you your apartment.”

“I’ll wait…here?”

“No, you can see my room if you want.”

Matadon’s smile indicated he really wanted to, so Aaron led him through to his room and looked around at the…well, it wasn’t messy, but it wasn’t as orderly as Alex kept the rest. Matadon looked like he wanted to explore and snoop, though, and he quickly zeroed in on the vanity desk with pictures on the mirror. It was so teenage cliché, but he and Daniel had had fun with that—especially after Susan had brought a photo album with pics from their childhood.

“Oh, wow…” Matadon reached for one, then stopped short. “May I?”

“Sure.” Aaron watched with curiosity as Matadon took a photo from the mirror and sat on the bench to study it. “You look so happy here.”

Aaron went to look at the picture, too. “It was right after my second dance recital. I was nine or ten, and I…loved it. The goofy looking one in the background is Daniel.”

Matadon chuckled. “What kind of dancing was it?”

“Hip hop. It was all the rage.” Aaron went to his closet to find clothes, yet his collection of stilettoes caught his eye. He grabbed a pair and reached around Matadon to put them in his lap. “Then I learned of these things.”

“Oh, shit! You can dance in these?”

“I glide elegantly.”

“I want to see that.”

Back to the kind of dancing being…weird. “It’s very…”

“Sexually loaded, I get it. But seriously.” Matadon stood and stuck the picture back into the mirror frame, then brushed a finger on Aaron’s face on the photo. That tiny gesture warmed Aaron to no extent. “You kinda guessed that I see dancing as an artform, too, and when you’re dancing it, I don’t see the sexual side of it. I see an Incubus skilled at being self-proficient when it comes to getting feeding energy. I’ve taught your sister to lap dance, and yeah, I was the lap. How else could I gauge her progress and success?”

“You’re right.” But it also reminded Aaron of a whole family he had no idea about and had to get to know, just like Daniel had to get to know his Cubi family. And that wasn’t exactly easy. That was partly due to them feeling weird about their brother being their Royal.

To get things moving, Aaron found a fresh set of clothes, and led his dad to the apartment that he and Oliver had fixed up. “It’s not much, but…”

“It’s big.” Matadon looked around, then at the bags just inside the door. He grabbed them and brought them to the bed, placing them on the foot end. “I don’t need this much space.”

“The hope is that I’ll hang out here with you most of the time.”

Matadon sent him an excited smile. “I’m pretty sure we’ll mainly hang out in the studio, though.”

“So true.” Aaron grinned and leaned against the wall, folding his arms. “That and the Natural Beauty area.”

“You like it there?”

“Yeah. I’m with the King, and I’m still learning all things Cubi, so it’s kinda nice being around others who’re also…”

“Culturally clashing?”

“Let’s go with that.”

Matadon chuckled and opened a bag, picking out a box. He looked around, then brought it to pick out picture frames and place them along the wall on the desk.

Aaron pushed away from the wall and stepped closer.

“Come see,” Matadon said. Aaron did, finding pictures of other Cubi. “These are your siblings. They’re the first unpack. My headspace.”

Aaron smiled and leaned in to study the faces of family. “Wait, I know him.” Aaron pointed to an Incubus caught in what looked like a fun moment. “I just don’t remember from where.”

“Ramudon. He’s really good with his hands.”

Looking at the picture, Aaron could picture that because big beefy hands who seemed to be used a lot were in the frame, too. Knowing that helped, and Aaron shot upright. “He helped build the studio. He put down the floor.”

Matadon looked so proud. “Wow.”

“I don’t think he likes me.” Aaron glanced at Matadon, who snorted. “He looks like he thinks I’m arrogant.”

“Yeah, well, he can be a bit over the top Alpha sometimes. Mainly, he wants people to prove they deserve his respect, and he sets the bar pretty high.”

“Meaning he doesn’t have a lot of friends`”

Matadon laughed. “He was a handful when growing up, that’s for sure. But yeah, he never had a lot of friends. The ones he do, though? Deep friendships. Quality people in his life.” Matadon picked another frame. “Zaidin, on the other hand, is the kind everybody wants to be around. Such an empathetic person. She’s helping in a club in Colorado.”

Aaron handed the frame of the disproving brother back to look at his sister. It felt weird, but she looked like her description. Big open eyes and a toothy smile that could probably warm every part of a human being.

“Would you mind if I ask Dawdon if he has pictures of you for a frame here?”

Aaron smiled and shook his head. “He’s coming over tonight when you leave for Grand Lady Geodin. I can ask him.”

“Thank you. Now…when’s our butler expecting you for dinner?”

“Shit.” Aaron pulled out his phone and checked. “Ten minutes.”

Matadon tool the frame and put it back. “Let’s roll, then.”