A Patreon exclusive story by Meraki P. Lyhne
Aaron and Matadon went home to change into their dance clothes right after the meeting. It had been a strange meeting, and Matadon’s eyes had sometimes glowed a bit. Aaron already knew of Sire Esdon, yet he also understood Heimli. He’d had a boss who’d pushed his dancers like how Heimli had described Esdon pushing him. Some cracked. Those who didn’t and tried harder to earn the man’s respect had earned more money from the crowd by bringing more value to the stage as he called it.
That didn’t mean the guy wasn’t a prick—just that he was a prick who knew what he was talking about. Aaron guessed the same could be possible for Esdon. The team that had been collected seemed professional, and Aaron was proud to be picked for a mission like that. Nervous, sure, but not about the dance part. Not about being on stage. He was mostly worried about being sent off if what Heimli had said about it being rigged that much was true. It pissed him off that he didn’t even find it surprising. Mainly, he felt pissed off at a TV show then praying on talent and not delivering on what they promised. Well, what they alluded to promising, anyway.
Something else kept pushing at him, though. The competence of the team was one thing. Freydon? Aaron loved Freydon as a good friend, and he certainly had potential as a dancer, but…
They entered the apartment, and Aaron unzipped and pull off his stiletto boots.
“Man, I’ve never seen Freydon this nervous, and he was a slight wreck before the belly dancing with Daniel in the Great Entry Hall.”
“What we saw today? That’s not just nerves.” Matadon pulled his stilettoes off, too. “I seriously don’t think he’s cut out for it.”
“No. Some people just aren’t.” Aaron sighed, feeling better from other competent eyes seeing the same as he did. “Let’s see tomorrow. I hope the recital tomorrow will help a bit. It’s why we keep it.”
Matadon merely nodded, but he seemed to think it was useless. Even Aaron feared that it would be.
They split up at Matadon’s room, and Aaron went to his own to change. Ten minutes later, they’d packed the water bottles for training and left.
The recital would be the next day, so they danced the choreography twice. Freydon missed his step at least once in both rehearsals, and his eyes seemed a bit…glazed over. Aaron had only seen that from beginner stage fright and once in a stripper whose private life had gone down the drain from not being able to make a payment on something. He didn’t remember what—he just knew he’d never seen that person again.
He seriously feared that Freydon had been pushed that far.
After practice, Guard Lady Crodin arrived with an Incubus and introduced him to Bao as her assistant. That helped Aaron to find peace of mind in that it would be done, and they could expect the first track the next day to dance to.
Aaron and Matadon spent an hour, lying on the floor with the notebook, structuring the remaining weeks. Freydon’s nerves kept teasing him, though.
“Do you…do you think I should call Daniel and tell him about Freydon? I mean, I’m his trainer.”
“I think any wise person would listen to insight from someone so close to Freydon, but since it regards a Royal’s decision, you should approach our King as the King.”
“Meaning…teach me how.”
Matadon chuckled. “Okay.” He stood and waved Aaron up. “We go home and call from the screen because I’ve seen that it’s interactive or whatever it’s called.”
“It has a webcam, yes. Video calls.”
Matadon grinned. “Imagine that mirror is the screen. No matter the eye-color of your friend tuning onto it, we kneel and bow our heads until he recognizes our gift and trust.”
Aaron nodded. “We kneel to show him and remind him of his power and thus responsibility to us.”
“Exactly. Let’s try that.”
“I have, many times in public. Why are we practicing it?”
Matadon grinned. “Because we like looking competent as a synced dance couple?”
Aaron looked off. That made so much sense on a professional pride level and as a teaser for what they were working on. “Let’s do that. Cue?”
“I also think you should mention it to Grand Lady Geodin first.”
“Why not the whole Council?”
“This is her table. The Council always work together, but one runs a project. She’s the one talking, so she’s the one running it.”
Aaron nodded. “Would you call her?”
Matadon smiled. “Sure.” He went to their stuff, fished out his phone, and did.
Aaron knelt a few times in front of the mirror. One thing was merely crashing to a knee. They were dancers. Graceful beings. They could totally flaunt that and make it their own to earn their King’s respect and favor. That was a very Matadon way of thinking, anyway.
“That looks good.” Matadon returned and found his position next to him. “Very graceful.”
“I figured we’d make it ours.”
The grin on Matadon’s face indicated that Aaron had understood something right.
“Have you noticed that when Royals present themselves to their people, they turn their hands to show their palms?” Matadon asked.
“It indicates openness, honesty, and offering us something.”
There were so many nuances to be learned.
They kept kneeling, sometimes changing a bit and talking about how until they’d managed to do it the same five times in a row and found the cue. Which was simply to stand so close together that their hands touched. No beat in music would help them now, so Matadon would tap Aaron’s hand, and they’d kneel on the whole beat of a four four after that.
The door opened, and Geodin entered just as they were getting up.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Official business means we bow our heads in respect to her station and responsibility to us, marked by the crest,” Matadon whispered.
They were a bit out of sync there.
“I see,” Geodin said. “How may I help?”
“I want to call Daniel—”
“Nol-Beaudon,” Matadon whispered.
“Nol-Beaudon and give him the insight I, as Freydon’s trainer, has about his readiness for this.”
Geodin looked relieved. “You would be the right one to do that, and I’ll support that. At least if it’s to tell our King that the boy is not ready.”
“It is, Grand Lady.”
“We’ll call from the Grand Council, then.”
“Yes, Grand Lady,” Aaron and Matadon said.
Geodin smiled at Matadon. “You’re a good teacher, I hear.”
“It’s not only me, I see that, because Aaron even referred to me as Lord during the meeting.”
“Dawdon and his dad kindly correct me.” At first, everything had seemed so rigid and weird, yet insight into the history of the hierarchy and how it had secured the different levels from sticking to brutal times, he kinda got it. Knowing now that it also helped strengthen Cu’Boka and higher energy levels from abusing power against humans and Cubi alike, it made all the sense in the world. It wasn’t anyone’s power being acknowledged—it was the responsibilities that came with said power. The first Queen had raised the gift of Cu’Boke. Her dose had been what united them as a people on a genetic level. Nil-Kardin had meant their survival. In one year, the Cubi would celebrate her rise and first gift of Cu’Boke being exactly twenty-four hundred years ago.
“When you’re ready, then,” Geodin said.
Aaron looked down himself. They were in dance clothes and sneakers. He kicked those off and pulled off his socks. “Right after training seems the best time to make such a call, right?”
“It does.” Matadon kicked off his shoes and socks, too.
Geodin nodded and showed the way.
The Grand Council members were seated and talking, yet all turned the papers on their table when they entered, and the room fell silent.
“We need to call Nol-Beaudon.”
Aaron checked the time. It would be early in Denmark. “What if he’s not up?”
“Then we call his Ilkil-Nol and so on until we get him on the screen. Or, we respect Ilkil-Nol in his stead.”
First call didn’t go through. Second call did, and they were asked to wait five minutes. The Grand Council and Lokil-Nol Lady Surodin came to stand behind Aaron and Matadon, except for Geodin, who stood next to Aaron.
The screen came alive and showed Daniel’s face, his eyes golden.
Matadon tapped Aaron’s hand and they knelt, while the Grand Council bowed.
They all stood.
“My King. Aaron has asked for this video conference call to give you needed insight into the team you’ve made for the mission.”
Daniel looked at Aaron, and his eyes remained golden.
“As both a friend and trainer of Freydon, I’ve noticed he’s really not doing well. He’s not cut out for the pressure of this dance.”
“How bad is it?”
“He just botched both dress rehearsals of the recital, which we carried on with to not only help him with his stage fright but to…gauge where to support him. He had that choreography down to a T, and his eyes are growing hopeless.”
Daniel nodded, looking sad. “I picked him to make sure you weren’t alone and that you had a friend with you. One thing is him not being cut out for a stage like that—I wouldn’t be. Wrong people watching. Do you want him along as a friend?”
Aaron looked at Matadon, then smiled at Daniel. He truly appreciated Daniel’s thoughtfulness, yet Aaron felt mostly happy that he’d grown so comfortable with Matadon. It was still mainly as a good friend and maybe a sibling. He also had Dawdon and Geradon. “No, My King. I feel well supported, and our resources need to be focused. I won’t have a lot of time to hang out, anyway, if it’s not about dancing or the mission.”
Daniel smiled. “I’ll call Freydon and have a chat.”
“Green eyes. If I may suggest that. Nol.”
Daniel chuckled. “I think it’s normal for an uncle to call and ask how a recital went.”
“I’m not sure his nerves will let him go through with it if he still has this hanging over his head.”
Daniel nodded, gnawing his lip. “Okay. I’ll call now and ask if he’s excited.”
“We could have dinner with them tonight so that you can pick up on it,” Matadon suggested to Aaron.
Aaron nodded. “Good idea.”
“Thank you, Aaron,” Daniel said. “This level of responsibility for your team puts me further at ease. I’ve been worried about you, too.” Aaron didn’t know whether he felt insulted. “Whether I ask too much of you while springing so much on you, I mean. I did recently kidnap you from the human world, and now I’m sending you back there with a bunch of strangers.”
Aaron smiled. “Not strangers. My dad, my lover, and a friend. Just—I really want to kidnap my mom.”
Daniel laughed loudly. “A Guard Lord or Lady on this mission will have the final say.”
“Guard Lord Bowdon?” Aaron asked.
“Because…” Aaron looked at Matadon.
“Guard Lord Bowdon has the needed personal insight to balance needs,” Geodin said.
Daniel studied Aaron for a beat, then nodded his head.
“Yes, My King,” Bowdon answered.
Daniel’s eyes turned green. “Call me after the recital. Which we’ll be watching.”
Aaron grinned. “You got it.”
Daniel’s eyes turned golden again. “I need my Council alone now. I look forward to hearing more, and don’t hesitate to call. As a friend, too.”
“Yes, My King.”
Daniel’s smile widened.
“Bow,” Matadon whispered.
Dammit, they hadn’t practiced that a lot.
“Oh, damn! I didn’t see that until now!” Daniel exclaimed. “Now I’m even more excited about seeing you two dance together.”
“Thank you, My King,” Matadon said.
Aaron and Matadon left the Grand Council, and Geodin winked at them.
“What didn’t our King see?” Bowdon asked as they walked back to the studio.
“Lack of synchronicity in our bow, only in our kneeling,” Aaron pulled out his phone and tried to schedule dinner with Freydon, but he did it via his mom, Dame Apdin.
“So, pole dance until we get our tracks?” Matadon asked.
Aaron nodded sharply. “Let’s test your fluidity.”
“No peeking, or I can’t focus,” Matadon told Bowdon.
“It’ll seriously cramp our style if my Guard schedule has to be worked around our relationship. Because my private life will always come second to my duties.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I know. In this case, when you’re alone in the studio, it’s possible. I can stand outside.”
Aaron felt kinda sorry for them, recognizing they had as much to figure out as Aaron did in certain areas. How to balance life in court wasn’t easy. It came with perks, though. Like being able to call a King and question decisions.
Dinner with Freydon and his family had left no doubt that Aaron had made the right decision. Sire Grydon had even hugged Aaron as he followed them out, thanking him for being so attentive to Freydon and taken it up with Daniel, since not even Daniel’s sister had dared.
The recital the following day proved it because Freydon danced with new vigor and confidence, not botching a single step.
Aaron and Matadon almost lived in the studio the next many weeks and worked almost non-stop, taking only a single day off a week to recharge. A meet-the-kids date with Bowdon and a relaxing evening watching movies with Geodin and her companion, Jade. Aaron and Matadon also had a day full of fun on the playground with cubs. The dance recital had done its job of raising hopes for cub classes, so they’d roped Ramudon into helping them build a miniature stage for the youngsters to keep the steam going while they were away on the mission. Freydon would help teach the cubs in the meantime, proud to be trusted with the assignment.
The cup fest had been the final thing on Aaron’s program before they left for the human world, and it had given him a moment in his zone. On a stage. In a spotlight.
Getting to let lose like that had given Aaron massive self-insight. How disciplined he could work stood out. The feeling of finally being able to show off his hard work, however, was what put full confidence into his abilities.
But the rigged game shit? It still pissed him off. No matter his and Matadon’s talents and abilities to dance, rigging the game could cost them their in and access to save Halflings.
This was where they had to trust that the others on the team were as skilled and confident in their areas as Aaron currently felt in what he and Matadon brought to the table.
The feud between Matadon and Esdon, though?
Aaron could easily leave that for the Guards to figure out, but Aaron had to help his dad balance it. Not just because they were growing closer as family but because he needed his dance partner’s head in the game. Luckily, Aaron had apparently inherited that level of discipline from Matadon, and he’d grown a lot since the first tryout to take Daniel’s spot in the recital.
He’d grown so much that Aaron could easily see that Matadon hadn’t focused on dancing since the great escape from the House of Dahlidin. But he sure wasn’t rusty anymore.
Standing outside the big cave, waiting for the helicopters, Aaron’s nerves set in in earnest. He’d slept poorly that night, and he attested what sleep he’d managed to Dawdon’s ability to make him relax when holding him.
Matadon had stayed the night with Grand Lady Geodin to be dosed before a long trip. She’d apparently been his primary doser since she’d been weaned from her King uncle’s powerful doses, and they were best friends, too.
All of the Grand Council was there to see them off, along with Freydon, his parents, and little sister, Beldin.
Daniel’s dad, Lord Roardon, was there, too. His mom, Susan, wasn’t. She was heavily pregnant and didn’t feel well in the summer heat, but she’d hugged Aaron that morning and wished him luck. Wow, and Aaron had kinda asked permission to kidnap his own mom.
Dawdon and Geradon’s parents and siblings were there, too, and Aaron stood with them, looking around at the chaos the Guards directed and made look easy.
“Hi, Gamdin,” Dawdon said.
Aaron turned to find a young Succubus behind him.
“Hi!” She held up a cardboard envelope. “I was asked to bring this to Aaron.”
Aaron turned. “I’m Aaron.”
She grinned and extracted something from the envelope, then turned it. “I know.”
Dawdon snickered, while Aaron stared at a picture from the cup fest of him writhing on a pole in mainly glitter and silk, sporting a hardon.
“Wow!” Aaron was at a loss for words. Heimli had proved his skills and eye, that was for sure. But this was for Aaron’s fangirls. He’d asked for a printout of the best photo to sign and frame and be delivered to them in three days, once they got out of bed again.
Gamdin held up a gold marker. Aaron took it, grinning as he stepped closer to where Gamdin placed the photo on the ground and the hard envelope. He crouched and signed the big photo. Something to help them remember the special night that they’d made Aaron such a huge part of. He felt very honored and included that in the message above the stage-signature he’d been practicing since Halloween and finally somewhat settled on.
“And no other prints have been made, right?”
“None. The file was deleted as requested by Sir Heimli. It’s a unique gift.”
“I wish it wasn’t. You have a beautiful cock.”
Aaron almost managed to suppress a surprised snort, and he was sure that praise made him blush a bit. “Thank you.”
Aaron looked up at Heimli, who crouched next to him and held out his hand. Aaron handed over the marker, and Heimli wrote in the bottom righthand corner. Unica photo by Heimli. His signature looked very artistic and way more professional than Aaron’s. “Thank you for helping me with this, Sir Heimli.”
“You’re welcome. I love how art can work together to create memories. I started out wanting to capture everything that moved. Taking pictures of dancers is difficult.” He smiled at Aaron. “Yours is a worthy challenges every time.”
Aaron smiled, looking at the picture. Even he wished he could have had a copy to hang on his wall if not for the hardon. It seemed too weird, yet…well, he was an Incubus, and it would hang in an Incubus King’s apartment, so he didn’t see how that would really matter.
“You have more to see you off,” Dawdon said.
Aaron looked up, then stood to be able to see anything. Ramudon and Natalie had joined Matadon, so Aaron crouched and helped support the photo going back into the envelope.
“I’ll get it framed and deliver it personally in three days.”
“Thank you, Gamdin.”
She smiled at him. “You’re welcome. And thank you for what you’re about to go do.” Her smile changed. “I’ll support you from this side of the screen.”
Aaron squeezed her shoulder. She left, and Aaron took Dawdon’s hand, pulling him to join Ramudon. Dawdon and Ramudon had met at the meet-the-kids dinner for Bowdon, where Aaron had also met his nephew. Who was older than him. Age was weird around a people who lived for so long.
Ramudon hugged Aaron tightly. “Are you nervous?”
“I am now that you reminded me.”
Ramudon chuckled. “Sorry. I’m really proud of you. Of both you and Dad.”
Aaron tightened his grip around his older brother. They then stepped back to chat with the others.
“Jade will come along and be our makeup artist,” Matadon said.
Aaron looked at the human holding Geodin’s hand. “Cool.”
“I’m wildly nervous,” Jade said.
“Why?” Aaron asked. She wasn’t the one dancing.
“I’ve never been in the human world.” She smiled at Geodin. “And I’ll miss you.”
Geodin smiled and stepped closer, putting her arm around Jade’s waist.
“You’ll be alright,” Aaron said. “I’ll help you like you helped me here.”
Jade smiled, then looked at Geodin. Matadon, Ramudon, and Dawdon led Natalie and Aaron away, sensing way before them that there was a need for an intimate moment between the two.
The sound of the choppers made it to them, and they all looked into the sky.
Bowdon came over. “Three minutes.”
“Thank you, Guard Lord,” Matadon said.
That gave them three minutes to finish up saying goodbye to the ones seeing them off. It suddenly felt like too little time, except they’d had half an hour at least.
Three minutes, and they’d be on their way back to the human world.
The choppers came close enough to be able to make out as twin propellered.
Two minutes, and their hard work and preparation would be set into action.
The choppers hovered above their respective helipads.
One minute, and they’d be Cubi on a mission. To dance.
The choppers set down.
Aaron took a deep breath and squeezed Dawdon’s hand.
I was born to be on a stage. Piece of cake.
But that was only half the mission.
To be continued in the next novel of the Dancer series