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Before School

     Aldis walked up to the door of the yellow broken down two-story house. A duffel bag hung over his shoulder. His eyes traveled over the porch before stepping cautiously and knocking. Even from outside he could smell the stale beer, drugs and mold. He could hear the people inside, their thoughts loud in his head.

     I don’t want to be sick anymore. I wish Kaelin was down here.

     Die Die Zombies Die Die.

     I hate the fucking attic. Shit, it’s dark up here. Fuck, is that a spider? No. Not a spider. Just a…creepy mothball with…little legs…that’s moving…Get off, get off! Ow…fucking spiders.

     His eyes narrowed. Had he been here for any other reason he’d be making sure the “guardian” inside was punished for her actions. But this wasn’t one of those visits, though he knew now to keep watch over this situation. He waited a few moments before knocking again, louder. When no one answered still, he tried the door. Finding it unlocked, he let himself in. The living room was filled with junk. Piles of clothes, bottles and plates. The woman, Mrs. Fowler, was passed out on the couch, a bottle on the ground by her. His eyes narrowed. It wouldn’t be hard for him to end her “suffering”. He turned, making note to keep watch on that too. He could always come back. He sniffed, eyeing the stairs. Who he wanted was up there. He headed up, moving toward the bedrooms. He came across the first door. The seven-year-old inside was huddled under the comforter of the bed. Fever ridden. Aldis tipped his head a moment, Kiana. He stepped in, shutting the door behind him.

     Kiana jerked up, shifting back against the wall, eyes wide with fear. He could hear the rattling of the pneumonia in her lungs. Aldis stopped at the foot of the bed and knelt so as not to tower over her. “Hello, Kiana.” He kept his voice soft a smile playing on his lips. “My name is Aldis.” He slid the bag onto the floor at his feet. He reached for her thoughts. If she was scared she was less likely to speak with him.

     Why is he in my room? Is he here for Kaelin?

     She stared at him as she pulled the blanket higher, her tiny fingers waving.

     “You are worried about Kaelin.” Aldis said.

     Kiana nodded. Always. I don’t like it when Kaelin gets scared.

     “I’m sorry. He’ll be back in a little bit.” After talking to the kids he was going up to the attic for Kaelin.

     Kiana smiled. Good, he’s normally up there for days and days. The young girl thought. Aldis frowned.

     “Not this time. I want to talk to him about Monday, then I’ll make sure he’s allowed back with you.” Aldis reassured.

     “Thank you.” Kiana whispered. I’m glad he can hear my thoughts. I don’t like talking.

     “It’s a lot easier, huh?” Aldis chuckled. She was a bright girl. Kiana nodded her agreement. “I brought you a gift.” He would give her a better medicine for her illness if he didn’t think it’d bring up a bunch of questions.

     I wonder what I can give him. People don’t give you gifts unless they want something.

     “Nothing in return. Just to be brave when your brother goes to the new school on Monday. That’s gift enough.” Aldis said.

     “New school?” Kiana frowned. Is Kaelin going to a new school because he got in trouble?

     “Nope.” Aldis shook his head. “He’s not in trouble. As a matter of fact, him going to this new school is going to be very good for him and for you. He is going across the border to Sidrea. Do you know where that is?”

     Kiana gave a small nod, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip. Was he leaving me? I’m going to miss him.

     “No. He’s not leaving. He’ll live here with you and my cousin will come pick him up and bring him back. He’s going to get a lot of money so he can take you out of here when he’s eighteen.” Aldis reassured.

     “Really?” Kiana dropped the blanket. “Sam too?”

     Aldis frowned. “I’m not sure yet about Sam. I’m going to talk to him and see what we can do. Okay? But you don’t need to worry. He’ll be perfectly safe over there.” Nothing bad will happen to him in Sidrea. Endymion would make sure of that.

     “Good.” Kiana answered. His swirly says he always keeps his promises. So Kaelin will be safe.

     Aldis smiled. Swirly must be the aura she was reading. “You want to see what I brought?” He pulled the bag forward.

     “Chocolate. Sandwich. I don’t know if I like chocolate.” Kiana whispered.

     “Chocolate is good.” Aldis pulled out a ham and turkey sandwich wrapped in silver paper and a box of chocolate wrapped in gold. He held both to her. “Try one, see what you think?” Most kids liked chocolate, except his cousin, but that was different. Endymion was insane.

     Kiana took both and set the sandwich in her lap to unwrap the chocolate. She picked out a dark one and took a nibble of it. Her eyes grew wide. “ ’s good.” She finished the piece in another bite.

     “See.” Aldis chuckled. “Don’t eat them too fast you’ll get a bellyache.” He didn’t get her many, knowing she’d likely be unable to stop herself. Kiana took out another brown one and took a little. This one she ate a little slower.

     “I like chocolate.” Kiana said.

     “I’m glad. Eat your sandwich too, okay? It’s healthier than chocolate.” He lowered his voice and leaned in a bit. “Though it doesn’t taste nearly as good.”

     “Okay.” Kiana sat the chocolate aside and picked up the sandwich. It’s so big, maybe I can save some for Kaelin.

     “You can save him some if you’d like.” Aldis smiled. “But I brought him one too.”

     “He’ll like that.” Kiana smiled. Kaelin doesn’t eat often.

     “I brought one for Sam too.” He knew she was concerned about the older boy down the hall.

     “Sam loves food too.” Kiana nodded.

     “Good.” He sat back and watched as Kiana took little bites of the sandwich. “I’m going to take Kaelin to Sidrea with me for a few months, but he’ll still live here and I bet he’ll still take you to the bus sometimes. My cousin, Dimmy, is going to pick him up in the morning and bring him home after school, so he’ll get back soon after you get home.”

     “Dimmy’s going to be late.” Kiana wrapped the rest of the sandwich and put it aside.

     “That sounds like him.” Aldis laughed. “I think he’ll get better though.”

     “Yeah.” Kiana agreed.

*          *          *

            The nine-year-old boy was playing on a game system that was probably older than him… in human years…


            “Are you one of Garret’s friends?” The boy didn’t look up from the screen, “He’s not here.”

            This zombie needs to hold still so I can smash his head in.

            “No,” He walked over, unzipping the bag and laying another wrapped sandwich and box of chocolates on the bed near the boy. “A future friend of Kaelin’s.”

            Kaelin doesn’t have friends.

            Sam glanced up. “Kaelin doesn’t have friends.”

            “Not yet.” Aldis smiled, motioning to the food. “That’s for you.”

            Awesome, food.

“Awesome, food.” Sam grabbed the sandwich and unwrapped it. Taking a bite into it. This kid’s thoughts were almost identical, or… were identical to his words. He probably didn’t need to worry too much about him. Aldis headed out.

            “Thanks,” Sam called.

*          *          *

     Aldis wasn’t sure why he wanted to see Kaelin before school started on Monday. He still wasn’t sure why this was the one picked for the experiment. There were a couple others in the files who seemed… better… yet he kept returning to Kaelin. Now he wanted to know if the file was going to hold weight at the school. If putting him with Endymion was going to be a huge problem. He pulled down the ladder and started up the darkened stairs. If he could help it though he’d stay out of Kaelin’s mind. There had to be some privacy if possible.

     Kaelin got to his feet as Aldis stopped at the top of the stairs. A flash of anger, and fear crossed the boy’s eyes. Before turning into resignation. He pulled himself to his feet.

     “You got the wrong room. Garret’s is downstairs. Just pass the gateway of stupidity and take a right.” Kaelin said, voice holding only a small amount of the fear he was projecting. Aldis raised an eyebrow. He liked the boy already… though, Endymion would hate him.

     “Garret’s not here. And I came to see you, Kaelin.” Aldis used the same tone he had with Kiana downstairs. Both needed it given the lack of trust they had for others.

     “Yeah. Just like your last friend. Well, I’m not in the mood, so get lost.” Kaelin snapped, the rhythm of his heart stuttering.

     “I’m not one of them.” Aldis answered. He wasn’t someone who was going to beat up on Kaelin or pick on him for being gay. “I’m not here to make out with you, or trick you. I’m engaged. I just wanted to meet you before Monday.”

     “Monday?” Kaelin frowned. Aldis gave him a moment to process the information and catch up. From what Devon said, he wasn’t going into this with as much excitement as he was hoping for. “Oh.” Kaelin relaxed as he figured it out. “Well, I’m still going so you don’t have to worry.”

    “I’m not concerned. We just have a few things to talk about, but don’t worry, you won’t remember anyway.” He’d be sure of that.

    Kaelin moved away. “Seems like it’d be awfully hard to forget.”

    “You’d be surprised what people are willing to forget.” Pulling memories weren’t hard if the person didn’t want them, and even taking memories that were wanted was only a little bit of a strain.

    “And what makes you think I’d be willing to forget anything?” Kaelin’s gaze traveled the attic. Probably for a weapon, humans were predictable.

     “It’s not something you need to worry about now. I’m Prince Aldis. It was my idea for the Coexistence Project. You attending the school was my idea.”

     “No. I really think it is something I want to worry about.” Kaelin hung on to the first part, which wasn’t going to help him.

     Aldis frowned. “Ok.” He sighed. “What about it has you worried?”

     “I don’t particularly like the idea of someone fucking with my head. And besides, I can’t think of any good reasons you don’t want me remembering this conversation.”

     “I’d rather it not get back to my cousin, Endymion, he’ll be the one showing you around.” Aldis gave the honest answer. Or part of it.

     “Why? What does it matter to him?” Kaelin asked.

     “He’s the one showing you around.” Aldis explained. “And he is as excited about this as you are.” Which was none. Endymion was excited about the car that Aldis didn’t sign off on. Kaelin was probably excited about leaving his foster mother for a few hours but Aldis heard about the near blackmail. And he could see the concern from Kiana that Kaelin wasn’t going to be pleased about leaving her.

     “I’m absolutely thrilled I just love being told if I don’t risk getting sucked dry every day that I’ll be-” Kaelin bit back the rest of his thought.

     “They shouldn’t have forced you to do it.” Aldis frowned. “You won’t be in any danger there though. You’ll be safe.” There would be a meeting with the students about Kaelin’s arrival. One that would make it clear the punishment for harming Kaelin during this experience.

     “Yeah, well, they shouldn’t have offered the bitch money then.” Kaelin snapped.

     “I’m sorry. We weren’t aware doing so would cause issues. Our intent was to make this a positive experience for everyone involved.” Except for Endymion, Aldis wasn’t willing to offer up the one thing he wanted most in order for him to do it. It meant the possibility of him leaving.

     “School’s school. I guess it doesn’t matter one way or the other where I go.” Kaelin shrugged.

      “Even if it doesn’t work out I will assure you and Kiana are taken care of.” Aldis promised.

     Kaelin’s eyes narrowed. “In exchange for… what? Because if it doesn’t work out, that probably means I ended up someone’s lunch.”

     “Most of us have good control. You won’t be lunch. And there is no exchange. Should you decide not to participate at any time you will still get the money, and the account information for Kiana will be given to you as well.” Aldis explained. The point of the experiment was to show peace, but also to help Kaelin out of the situation he was in. Aldis frowned. Was that the reason as well? He wasn’t sure when that became part of the agreement, but it was now.

     “Most of you have good control?” Kaelin raised a brow. “That’s reassuring. It doesn’t matter. Mrs. Fowler’s going to take the money anyway, and if I drop out, she’ll send me away.”

     “The ones that don’t will be handled by Endymion, which is why he’ll be around. But about…” Aldis thought for a moment. “Eighty percent of the school has good control. As for Mrs. Fowler, if you decided you don’t want to continue, I will have you and Kiana removed within twenty-four hours.”

     “Why can’t you have us removed now, then?” Kaelin asked.

     Aldis considered. “I can find Kiana a placement and get you into the dorms in Sidrea.” It would mean he could take away Endymion’s car as well since there would be no reason for it. He was alright with that.

     “No.” Kaelin said. “Nevermind.”

     There was a wave of sadness in Kaelin’s response, not only from him, but from Aldis at the thought of Endymion keeping the car.

     “Let me know if you change your mind.” Aldis shifted the duffle bag off his shoulder. “I brought you something.” He pulled out the sandwich and box of chocolate and held them out.

     “And… what do I have to do for those?” Kaelin inched closer.

     “Nothing.” Aldis shook his head. “You are already doing me a huge favor by agreeing to go to school.”

     Kaelin hesitated before taking the offerings.

     “Those are yours.” Aldis explained. “I gave Kiana and Sam theirs already.” Aldis ignored the hiss, as the response was normal. He watched Kaelin move toward the stairs, concern written all over his face. “They are fine.” Aldis reassured. “Kiana is worried about you and Sam didn’t even look up from his game.”

     “I don’t like strangers in their rooms.” Kaelin paused before reaching the stairs.

     “I can imagine. I promise I’d never harm them.” Aldis said.

     “I don’t know you well enough for your promises to mean anything.” Kaelin sighed.

     "You will with time. I keep my word.” Aldis smiled a bit. “We need to talk about Monday though, and about my cousin.”

     “Why, if I’m not going to remember anything?” Kaelin sat on the edge of a box.

     “Because I need to know the answers for myself. My cousin… is my everything.”

     Kaelin snickered. “Not creepy at all. Are you kissing cousins?”

     “I’m engaged, remember?” Aldis considered. “And it may be a little creepy.”

     “You’re engaged to your cousin?”

     “I’m engaged to a beautiful woman. We’re getting off topic.” Aldis smiled.

     “Beautiful women are always off topic for me.” Kaelin shrugged.

     “Then it’s good we’re switching.”

     “So, if you’re engaged, why are you bringing my chocolate and wanting to talk about your cousin? If this is like some weird matchmaking service, I’m pretty sure she’s not my type.”

     “He. And I’m not sure Endymion’s…” Aldis tipped his head to consider his cousin. Endymion was far from perfect. He was just looking for a reason to leave. Aldis frowned, “anyone’s type.” He wanted to give Endymion a purpose. A reason that would make him want to stay in school and be happy. Hell… Aldis would say he just wanted Endymion happy… but he didn’t. He was selfish. He wanted Endymion there. Near him… if he was happy that’d be better… if he wasn’t… he could deal with an angry cousin.

     “Ouch. Harsh. I won’t tell him you said that.” Kaelin grinned. “Since I won’t remember, supposedly.”

     Aldis laughed. “Thank you, though I’d tell him to his face.” There weren’t many secrets between them.

     “So, why did you want to talk about him?”

     “My cousin is looking to leave.” Aldis paused. “He’s not happy with his life and he wants out… I want him to see he doesn’t have it as bad as he thinks.” His eyes traveled the room. The space was cramped filled with boxes that were falling apart and magazines scattered around. This space looked more like the downstairs than he’d like to have seen.

     “So I’m going to be a nice teaching moment. Great. Look at the poor little human.” Kaelin rolled his eyes. He winced as he shifted. Aldis frowned. He could hear the broken bones rub against each other, the struggle Kaelin was having in breathing.

     “No.” Aldis walked over and knelt in front of Kaelin. Aldis traced the material over the bruise he knew would be on the skin. “I can get my sister here to heal that.”

     “I’ve had worse.” Kaelin shrugged. “If she thinks it got better, she’ll just do it again anyway.”

     Aldis’ eyes grew dark. He let out a snarl, his fingers curling into fists. His finger brushed the blade at his side. Kaelin flinched. “Sorry.” Aldis forced himself to take a breath. He leaned against the wall. “I can help you if you ask. This is more than just showing that we can attend school together. It’s not only about getting you through the day in one piece. I want to show that we can help the humans. You are coming to my land. To my home. That makes you part of my family now.” The boards sagged as Aldis put his weight against it. Creaking and moaning as if about to cave in. “My cousin, Endymion, is going to watch you and he won’t let anyone hurt you.” Aldis paused, “Shouldn’t… let them, and if he can’t, I will assure that you are not harmed in the school.”

     “I believe that you believe that.” Kaelin muttered. “What if it’s your cousin I need protecting from? I’m not great at making friends.”

     Aldis laughed. He liked Kaelin. He was sure Kaelin would be good for Endymion. Sure they’d annoy the hell out of each other, but the human was enough like Endymion he’d be able to find some connection and Endymion would stay. “That’s not one of his strong skills either…” Aldis smiled, “But I will protect you from him if needed.”

     “That is super comforting.” Kaelin smirked. “I’ll try to keep my sarcasm in check, then.”

     “I can keep my cousin in line.” Aldis answered. “I’ll kick his ass if that’s what it takes.” Which it might, at least one good ass kicking.

     “I’d hate for you to break your perfect nose.” Kaelin snickered. “Have you ever been in a fight?”

“I have been in more fights then you would be able to count. I learned to fight at the age of two. Got my first sword soon after I learned to walk.”

     “Must have sucked going through all that training to use a sword just to have the gun be invented.” Kaelin mused.

     “I know how to use those too, I prefer the knife.” Aldis chuckled. “I’ve got several styles of fighting under my belt. Along with twenty weapons on me, about twenty in my car and at least seven in my bag.”

     “Now I understand the whole no bodyguard thing. Why so many weapons? Pretty sure you’ve implied your kingdom is safe.” Kaelin paused. “Although I guess it makes sense to bring them across the border…”

     “I’m paranoid.” Aldis frowned. “Just because I want peace and I am working toward it doesn’t mean everyone has the same goals. There are plenty of people, human and… other species alike who will stop at nothing to shut this whole thing down. I’d rather be over prepared and know I have the means to handle myself, then to be left unable to protect myself or others.”

     “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get you.” Kaelin said. “Where on earth do you hide twenty weapons anyway?”

     “Agreed.” Aldis smiled. “And as to where…” He put out his leg, and pulled up the material, showing off two knives strapped to his lower leg, along with a small pouch. “Matching on the other leg.” He put it back into place and rolled up his sleeve to show a blade strapped to the inside of his arm. Before flipping it over to show the one on the other side. “Same with the other arm.” Aldis stood, pulling a blade from the top of his sleeve. He tapped the other arm with it, before replacing it back.

     He lifted his shirt partway, showing the two strapped across his chest. He turned, shirt still up, reveling two sheaths, crossed on his back. Aldis dropped the shirt and turned back to Kaelin. “How many more do you want to see?” He smirked, “The rest involved removing clothes.”

     “I don’t need to see that weapon. No offense, I’m sure it’s nice and all.” Kaelin smirked.

     “Oh.” Aldis sat down with a grin. “I didn’t even count that one.”

     “I feel like that one’s important.” Kaelin said.

     “And the deadliest.” Aldis chuckled.

     "Why? Do you have an STI?” Kaelin lifted a brow.

     “No.” Aldis shook his head. “Vampires don’t get STI or… most illnesses for that matter.”

     “Well, I doubt I’ll ever need to know that information, but… thanks, I think.”

      Aldis nodded. “Welcome.” He laid his head back. “I think this will go well. To be honest…” Aldis frowned, “I believe I need you there for more selfish reasons then just to show peace… and I’m happy to say, I think you will be able to fulfill those reasons.” Aldis shut his eyes. “My cousin wants to leave. And I…” Aldis considered a moment how to word what he wanted to say. He knew it wouldn’t matter. “I don’t want him to go. He acts like he doesn’t care but I know my cousin, and he is going to stay because he is going to want to help you, and I’m fine with that because as much as I want my cousin happy… I can’t be without him. I can’t do this, without him. So, he has to stay even if he’s unhappy.” He paused. “I am hoping… you give him a reason to stay.”

     “I’m not sleeping with him just so he doesn’t leave you. Putting that out there right now…” Kaelin replied.

     “That’s good.” Aldis laughed. “He’s straight. I don’t think he’s going to fall for that even if I tried it.” Not that he wouldn’t try it if that’s what it took. “I love my cousin. We grew up together. He’s like a brother. I would rather him be happy.” Aldis nodded, “I would.” He wished he could give Endymion everything he wanted. Wished he could return his mother and father to him. He knew he couldn’t. He knew he could only do what was within his powers.

     “But he is all I have. My father has…” Aldis shook his head, there was too much to go into there. “My sisters are both too young to be involved. He is my best friend and I couldn’t function without him. It’s selfish of me to put myself above his needs… but if I don’t function then the kingdom doesn’t function.”

     “Sometimes people need to be selfish.” Kaelin said.

     Not him. He was Prince he wasn’t allowed to be selfish, but… in this one area, he couldn’t help it. “I hope if he has a purpose then he will have a reason to stay.” Aldis nodded, getting to his feet. “I will make it better here for you.” Aldis grabbed his bag and put it over his shoulder.

     “Sure.” Kaelin said, but Aldis hear the lack of faith in the word. “So…” Kaelin waved his hand. “I no longer remember this conversation… supposedly.” He lifted his brow.

     “Right.” Aldis chuckled. “Just like that.” He moved to the stairs. “Bye Kaelin. It was nice to meet you. I look forward to getting to know you better.”

     He reached for Kaelin’s mind as he started down the stairs. Relax. Your first day will be fine, but sad to say, you won’t remember this conversation at all. You’re going to forget I was here and forget what we talked about. Just know that everything is going to work out fine. Deep down… you will remember that everything is going to be alright.

     Aldis pushed the command, making sure Kaelin believed it and making sure to wipe out any trace of the conversation. He paused before leaving. His gaze locking on the woman. Stalking over, Aldis kicked her in the side.

     Wake up. He snapped, pushing the command and making it clear he meant business. He also pushed the alcohol and cocaine from her system, sobering her up.

     The woman blinked, stumbling to her feet, “What’s the problem? The beer’s in the fridge.”

     Garrett’s friends should know better than to bother me.     

     “I’m not here for the beer.” Aldis snarled. “I’m here to speak with you, and you’re going to listen.”

     The woman tried to get around him. Aldis shifted to block her.

     Shit, my buzz is gone. Daniel sold me some lame ass shit.

     She narrowed her eyes, “Get out of my way.”

     Shut. Up. He pushed the command. Or I will just tear out your throat now.

     The woman complied, though she glared as if wanting to speak. The smell coming from her was strong, stale booze and smoke.

     “You are going to ease up on Kaelin, and Kiana has pneumonia,”

     Catatonic little shit. Like I care.

     Aldis growled, slamming her head into the wall. “I don’t remember telling you to think either. Just listen. You’re going to make sure she gets better medicine. Something that will help her. If she gets worse, then you are going to lose some fingers. Should she die, you will be losing a ton more. Nod if you understand what I’m telling you.”

     Mrs. Fowler nodded. Why the fuck does this kid care so much about this stupid little girl?

     “Because she is worth a shit ton more than you are. Both of them are. And should something happen to them, you won’t have a life to speak of.” Aldis pushed images of all of the things that would happen to her should she not do what he ordered. The torture she would endure, the pain she would feel.

     "Go get the medicine.” Aldis snarled, shoving her away “And let Kaelin out of the attic.” Kiana needed Kaelin. They needed each other. Mrs. Fowler glared.

     Altering her memories were easier. Aldis left the commands, but not how she got the thoughts or him being there.

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