Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners
Fandom: Netflix’s Castlevania
Pairing(s): Alucard/Adrian Fahrenheit Ţepeş x Hector (they’re just kids here so don’t expect any romantic aspect yet)
Genres: Fanfiction, modern AU (all human, no powers), pre-slash
Characters: Alucard/Adrian Fahrenheit Ţepeş, Hector, Dracula/Vlad Ţepeş, Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Lenore, mention of Lisa Ţepeş and Carmilla
Warning: mention of bullying
When Adrian first met Hector, he decided on the spot that he hated him.
*AU hiện đại, không cần xem Castlevania mới nắm được tình tiết
When Adrian first met Hector, he decided on the spot that he hated him.
He was tugged neatly in the reading nook by the bow window, a light blanket covering his laps and the family photo album laid open on top of it. He had been staring at one particular photo for a while, his eyes straining and getting blurrier by the second, when a knock on the door snapped him out of his trance.
He couldn’t see Hector at first because the boy was completely hidden behind his father’s towering figure.
Adrian shook his unruly mob of blond locks to get rid of the forming tears in his eyes. “Yes, Dad?” he said, setting the album down on a cushion.
His father was standing at the door, nearly blocking it.
“Adrian, I’d like you to meet someone,” he said, stepping aside to reveal a boy with wavy silver-gray hair framing a tanned face with downcast eyes. He looked about Adrian’s age but was shorter and so skinny that his worn-looking, oversized hoodie and baggy jeans only accentuated his stick figure.
“Who’s he?” Adrian asked, a feeling of dread slowly expanding behind his rib cage. He might have already known what his father was going to tell him, and it scared him.
“This is Hector,” his father said, gently nudging Hector forward. “From now on he’s family. Now Hector, why don’t you say hi to your brother?”
Hector craned his neck at his father and only after receiving an encouraging nod did he step forward, tentatively holding out his hand. “Hello, I’m He—”
“No!” Adrian barked. That feeling had taken up his chest and morphed into something ugly. The air was suddenly too tight and the walls seemed to be closing on him.
Hector was taken aback by his harsh tone and looked to his father, who laid a reassuring hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Adrian,” he said, weariness evident in his knitted brows and pleading tone, “your mom and I had talked about it. We had decided to adopt Hector. That’s what your mom would have wanted, the two of you becoming brothers—”
“No, I don’t want a brother!” Adrian yelled, springing to the door, bumping into Hector on his way. Not looking back to see what happened to the boy, he ran and ran on his bare feet. Down the empty corridor, down the spiral staircase and into the garden.
He found the arbor and the white swing where he and his mom used to sit, taking refuge from the summer heat with a glass of iced lemonade in hand.
Adrian climbed into the swing, hugging his knees and resting his head on them. Like a dam that was no longer able to hold the water, the tears which he had tried to hold back earlier streamed down his face, darkening the denim of his pants.
How could he bring a stranger into their house and add another disturbance to their life, already turned upside down after Adrian’s mother untimely death?
How could he call another boy his son and carve out a sizable chunk of his attention for him when it was his own son who should have it all, severely dwindled as it had been due to his pervasive grief?
And how could he make Adrian call Hector his brother when his mother had died on her way to the orphanage where had been the boy’s home for the last eight years?
It had been an unfortunate accident. An ill-timed swerve, a slip of the hand and no one’s fault but a wicked twist of fate. The rational part in Adrian’s head knew it could never have been a twelve-year-old boy’s fault and it would be entirely unfair, cruel even, to pin it on Hector — his loving, kind-hearted late mother would have chastised him for harboring such poisoned thought. Still, it was so much easier to put the blame on someone and let it out in shouts and tears and unkind words than to tightly compress it and bury it in his heart, only to feel its teeth gnawing his softest part day in and day out, because Adrian understood that however big a tantrum he threw, it would not change his stern father’s decision once he had made it final; introducing Hector to Adrian had been as final as final could get.
He felt drained physically and mentally once his sobs died out, leaving his nose stuffed, his throat dry and his eyes puffy. The knees of his pants had been soaked through and his bare feet were cramping so hard he had to message them to help the blood circulate. He was tired and all he wanted when he hobbled back inside was that by some miraculous, mysterious means, Hector had gone and there were just Adrian and his father and Ms. Maria plus a handful of helpers who came and went so fast he barely remembered any of them.
Of course Hector stayed and of course, the three of them would have dinner together.
Like a family.
“Why don’t you sit next to Adrian?” his father instructed as he sat down in his usual tall-backed chair, its companion on the right achingly empty.
Hector chanced a glance at Adrian, who crossed his arms in front of his chest, and took the seat one chair away from him.
His father’s deep baritone voice was the only sound in the dining room beside the metallic clinks of cutlery.
Hector ate like he hadn’t gotten a full meal since forever while Adrian picked at his favorite paella and barely finished half of his portion even though he had had only some light soup at noon. Ms. Maria would probably be disheartened — proud of her cooking skills as she was, and rightfully so — when she cleaned up the table but he couldn’t help it.
When his father suggested that they go to school together and Adrian show Hector around — he had had him enrolled in the same school as Adrian, the blond boy excused himself and stood up, scraping his chair against the floor, and fled the dining room.
He leapt two steps at a time and locked the door behind him once he reached his room. Adrian plopped himself down on his soft bed, hugging Aniki, the stuffed wolf his mother had handmade for him on his fifth birthday, to his chest, and squeezed his eyes shut.
Adrian took the bus to school.
He could have been chauffeured to school and anywhere he wanted to, the fencing club, the swimming pool and even the central park, but his mother had insisted that her son not be too different from other kids; after all he went to a public school, not a private one where kids wore fancy uniforms and pretended they were more mature than their age. It was alright; Adrian preferred the bus anyway, because instead of sitting in a confined box next to a driver with closed-off expression twice a day, he got to chat with the kids from his school, some of whom were really cool and had become his friends. He had met his now best friends, Trevor and Sypha, on a bus.
Adrian noticed Hector as soon as he was out of the gate. No longer in his worn hoodie and faded jeans, the boy was now dressed in a nice cobalt sweater and khaki pants that fitted and didn’t make him look like he was passed down secondhand clothes from his much bigger sibling. He had a brand-new pair of sneakers too and was crouching on the ground to tie his shoelaces when Adrian walked to him. Hearing his footsteps, Hector looked up, blue-green meeting honey-brown, and his lips stretched into a smile. “Hi,” he greeted. “Let’s go—”
Adrian strode past him, his silence and scowl instantly shutting Hector up. His feet were light and quick, and he did not once look behind to check whether his ‘brother’ could keep up with him. If Hector was late for the bus, it was entirely on him; his father never said anything about his so-called responsibility to babysit Hector. Well, he might have, if Adrian hadn’t fled to his room before the meal finished.
Hector wasn’t late for the bus and got in only a few minutes later than Adrian. His eyes scanned the space, searching for a blond head, and his face lit up when he spotted Adrian by a window. Nonetheless, his bright expression immediately dimmed when his gaze fell to the seat next to him, already occupied by Adrian’s backpack. Wordlessly he passed Adrian, heading for the back row. Adrian vacated the seat as soon as he was sure Hector had settled in his seat, putting the backpack on his laps and hugging it.
He did not wait for Hector when the kids got off the bus, running to Sypha and Trevor instead.
“Hey, isn’t that the new kid?” Sypha asked, pointing to a corner of the school cafeteria.
“Where?” Trevor asked, whipping his head around. “Don’t see him.”
He speared a mushroom spring roll from Sypha’s homemade lunchbox, earning a light elbow from her.
“There, at the table near the vending machine.”
“Oh right, the one with silver hair? It’s cool.”
“He’s sitting by himself. It’s kind of lonely,” Sypha commented, stealing a slice of ham from Trevor’s sandwich in retaliation and munching on it.
Adrian looked to the edge of the cafeteria and found Hector easily thanks to his silver hair. He was indeed sitting alone in a table, consuming his lunch, which consisted of a sandwich, a green apple and a carton of orange juice, same as Adrian’s.
“Maybe we should ask him to sit with us,” Sypha suggested.
Adrian’s raised tone had his two friends round their eyes at him. “Why?” Sypha asked, looking bewildered.
He couldn’t tell them Hector was his adopted brother and that he didn’t want to be anywhere near him. Close as they were, he was not ready to explain his feelings to them; he was aware what he had been feeling was irrational and unfair and petty, but he couldn’t help it, and he dreaded his best friends judging him for being so mean to Hector when the boy hadn’t done anything to deserve that cold shoulder.
“I’m sorry but I just remember that I have to go to the library for a while,” Adrian said, standing up. “See you after school.”
“Yeah, sure,” Trevor replied, blinking in confusion.
He glanced at Hector on his way out of the cafeteria. Their eyes didn’t meet because Hector’s were glued to the textbook he laid open on the table. Algebra.
They didn’t go home together. After school, Adrian, Trevor and Sypha all went to Trevor’s house, where they did homework together, ate some ice cream and played video games on the brand-new PS4 console Trevor’s brother had just bought.
When he got home at six thirty, Adrian was hungry (in spite of the ice cream!) and so he went straight to the kitchen. Dinner was in half an hour but may be Ms. Maria could sneaked him a cookie or some other snack; Adrian knew the brunette indulged him even though it sometimes went against her employer’s instructions.
He didn’t expect to see Hector at the small table Maria used when she needed to check her groceries and see if she’d missed anything on the shopping list. He had a textbook open in front of him and was scribbling furiously on a scrap of paper. Adrian glanced at the page. Algebra again.
Hector lifted his head from whatever problem he was solving to look at Adrian. “Uhm… hi,” he greeted with a small smile, his voice uncertain.
“What are you doing here?”
Adrian didn’t mean it to sound interrogative; it just did.
Wide blue-green eyes stared at Adrian as if he didn’t understand the question. “I’m doing my homework,” he replied. “Algebra.”
“Why aren’t you doing it in the living room or your room? It’s hot and noisy in here.”
“I’m used to it. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen back at the orphanage, doing homework while helping with the many kitchen chores.”
“He’s been helping me although I told him he could just sit there and do his math,” Ms. Maria chimed in. “He actually helped prepare tonight’s main dish, potatoes au gratin, by slicing the onions. The most tear-jerking part, obviously.”
Potatoes au gratin had been his mom’s favorite dish and they used to fool around in the kitchen for the whole afternoon making it. The thought misted his eyes and squashed his appetite.
“Are you feeling peckish, Adrian dear?” Ms. Maria asked. “I have some oatmeal cookies you can munch on before dinner starts. Just don’t tell Mr. Ţepeş.”
Adrian politely declined and exited the kitchen.
When his dad asked Hector how his first day at school had been, Adrian expected the boy to complain about Adrian’s abandoning him on the way to the bus stop and braced himself for a scolding. However, all Hector gushed about was how big the school was and everything looked new and pretty and how delicious Ms. Maria’s club sandwich had been.
He looked sort of like an excited puppy and Adrian couldn’t decide whether to be amused or annoyed at such over-enthusiasm, which managed to put a small smile on his father’s face. He settled for silence, shoving food into his mouth as quick as he could so he wouldn’t be there for the part where his father started inquiring about how he’d helped Hector get accustomed to the new academic environment.
The next morning Adrian saw Hector at the gate, meticulously tying his shoelaces. The way he did the knots had Adrian stop on his track out of curiosity: his mom had taught him the same technique when he was old enough to put on his own shoes. “Before you run, you should know how to properly tie your shoelaces,” she had told him, ruffling his mob of wheat-yellow locks. Was it a coincidence or had his mom also taught Hector like she’d done her own son, smiling and patting his head and showering him with encouraging words when he did it right?
Hector raised his head once he was done and the two of them just stood in front of the gate, staring at each other for several moments. Hector didn’t greet him or ask to go to the bus stop with him and Adrian felt inextricably frustrated. With a huff, he turned on his heels and took long strides forward. Though he didn’t look back, he could tell by the close footsteps that Hector was keeping a small distance with him.
When they got on the bus, instead of looking around for Adrian’s blond head, he went straight to the back row.
Adrian told himself there was no reason for his frustration to grow. He failed.
Sypha squinted her eyes while chewing a prawn dumpling — her homemade lunch for today. After swallowing the bite, she said, “Isn’t that the redhead from Carmilla’s gang who’s sitting with the new kid? What’s her name again? Something like Leona or Leone?”
“Lenore,” Trevor corrected, picking a dumpling from Sypha’s lunchbox — with her permission this time — and opening his mouth wide to devour the whole thing. “Yeah, definitely her. There aren’t many redheads in the school.”
Sypha scrunched up her face at his less-than-impeccable manners.
Adrian dropped his half-eaten apple on his tray and turned his head towards the table he knew Hector to occupy during lunch break. He found them sitting pretty close to each other, Hector and the redhead Lenore, who was leaning in and showing him something on her phone that made his eyes shine and his face brighten.
Adrian’s stomach churned for no obvious reason.
“I wonder why she’s hanging with a younger student though,” Sypha wondered out loud, slurping her banana smoothie. “And a boy, no less. Doesn’t Carmilla’s gang, like, despise boys or something?”
“Yeah. They pick on boys all the time, especially those who’re timid and can’t stand up for themselves. I kinda feel sorry for the new kid.”
Now Adrian’s stomach churned with a reason.
“Hey, let’s ask him to sit with us tomorrow,” Sypha suggested. “What do you think, Adrian? You have chemistry and biology classes with him, don’t you?”
Adrian couldn’t answer her because his head was filled with thoughts.
He smelled it in the air when he got close to the arbor and wrinkled his nose.
Of course he knew the smell. His father had been a chain smoker several years ago before his mom made him quit. Although he had never smoked when he was in the same room with his son, Adrian had once caught him out in the balcony, blowing nicotine smoke into funny-looking rings.
Following the smell was a series of coughs.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Adrian nearly yelled at Hector, who was sitting on the ground, one hand covering his mouth and the other having a cigarette tucked between the fingers. There were hints of reflex tears in his red-rimmed eyes, which stared at Adrian in a mixture of surprise, horror and mortification.
He worried his lips but didn’t say a word.
“Who gave you this? Did you buy it yourself?” Adrian asked, attempting to snatch the cigarette from his fingers.
Hector withdrew his hand so fast all Adrian caught was air. “Why do you care?” Hector barked, voice hoarse. “It’s not your concern anyway.”
Hector caught him off-guard for two reasons: one, these were the first longest, full sentences he’d spoken with Adrian — without the blond boy cutting him; two, he had never raised his voice, and Adrian had come to associate him with the soft, timid boy that was too eager to please.
Most importantly, why did he care? Hadn’t he decided to do his best to ignore this brother who had entered his tight-knit family without warning, drawing a line between himself and Hector and never intending to cross it? If so, why did the sight of Hector smoking — or attempting to — disturb him so much Adrian just wanted to yank the cigarette from Hector’s hand and throw it into the nearest trash can?
“Well, Dad does care, doesn’t he?” Adrian rebuked, feeling oddly satisfied with himself because the smoke had slipped from Hector’s fingers.
The feeling of satisfaction didn’t last long when he saw his brother paling visibly. In the afternoon sun the boy looked like he was having a terrible fever, beads of sweats gathering at his brows and his Adam’s apple bobbing. He looked genuinely scared and Adrian suddenly regretted having said that.
“You will tell him?” Hector asked, a light quiver in his voice, suddenly too small.
“If you stop what you were doing, I won’t tell Dad,” Adrian replied, then felt the need to add, “I promise, but you also promise me you won’t try to smoke again.”
Hector nodded, lowering his gaze in the way that was reminiscent of the first time they had met in the family library.
“Did that girl tell you to do it?” Adrian inquired. “Lenore, with long red hair and maroon eyes?”
“She didn’t but she told me everyone else in the group was smoking and it was no big deal and I could try it too. She gave me her pack of cigarette.”
Adrian scoffed. “So you tried to impress her so that you can become a part of her gang? Because hanging out with older girls is so cool, huh?”
There was a sheen of moisture over Hector’s blue-green eyes when he lifted his head. “Lenore was the first one to speak to me,” he said, gazing into Adrian’s eyes.
And that effectively shut the blond boy up.
True to his words, Adrian did not tell his father — their father? — when they sat down for dinner in the evening. Still, he could feel Hector sneaking nervous glances at him throughout the meal as if he expected Adrian to go against his promise any moment and their father would be so furious that he would drive Hector back to the orphanage and disown him. Adrian wouldn’t deny he had never imagined such a scenario, which made his insides twist with guilt and left a bad taste in his mouth as their eyes happened to meet across the table. Hopefully their father didn’t notice the awkwardness between his sons, exhausted after a day’s work and quite used to the boys acting weird around each other.
Adrian didn’t try to eat his meal quickly and flee to his room. Thanks to that, he learned it from their father rather than Ms. Maria that he was going on a business trip for a week.
“What do you think?” Trevor asked, holding up three colorful plastic bottles in his hands. “Vanilla or tropical fruit or brown sugar? Which one does she like?”
Sypha had come down with the flu and taken today off and so, Adrian and Trevor had spent the last half hour in the convenience store adjacent to their school picking up bubble teas and various snacks to cheer her up.
“She likes brown sugar most but let’s take all three to be on the safe side,” Adrian said, holding out the plastic basket for Trevor to drop the bottles in. “I remember she also likes the adzuki bean mochi. I’ll get it.”
Adrian was scanning the store for the shelf where they kept the sweet stuff when he spotted a head of gray-silver hair. Surprised, he went on tiptoe and one look at the boy’s face confirmed that he was indeed Hector. That was a bit strange. He usually went straight home after school, or so Adrian thought; he had never gone home with him, always hanging out at Sypha’s or Trevor’s instead.
He seemed to be nervous about something because his eyes were moving back and forth between the cashier whose fingers were jabbing at his phone screen and the shelf in front of him. Adrian’s gut feeling told him that Hector was about to do something real bad and he didn’t like it one bit. His heart speeding up, just this time he hoped that his intuition was wrong.
It wasn’t wrong, much to his dismay. Munching his lips, Hector darted one last glance at the cashier before snatching a candy bar and shoving both the item and his hand into the pocket of his jacket as though he was afraid the man would see his empty hand and get suspicious. He was about to turn on his heels when his forearm was caught.
Hector whipped his head around and came face to face with Adrian. His blue-green eyes went impossibly big.
“What do you think you are doing?” Adrian asked in hushed voice. He couldn’t raise his volume but the scowl on his face right now should be enough to convey how serious he was.
“I-I…” Hector stammered, unable to say another word.
“First you were smoking and now you’re shoplifting? What’s next, huh?”
Hector squirmed in his grip and chanced a brief look at the sliding door. “Let go off me,” he said, voice barely a whisper.
Adrian lifted Hector’s hand out of the pocket and pried the candy bar from his loose fingers. “Did that girl Lenore tell you to do this?” he asked, anger coiling in his guts. “Today it’s a candy bar and tomorrow? Someone’s wallet or car keys?”
“That’s not true!”
Hector’s volume alerted the cashier, who slipped his phone into his jeans pocket and marched to Adrian and Hector. “What’s goin’ on here?” he asked, his broad, stocky body looming over the two boys. He pushed his horn-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose, squinting his rather small eyes at the plastic-wrapped treat.
“It’s nothing,” Adrian lied. “We’re having a bit of a quarrel, is all.”
Adrian could tell suspicion was rising in him.
“Ya gonna pay for it, ain’t ya?”
“On second thought, I don’t actually want that,” Hector said, surprising Adrian by grabbing the candy bar and putting it back on the shelf. “I hate cashews.”
His casual shrug failed to hide the tremor in his shoulders, at least to Adrian’s eyes.
The cashier pointed two fingers to his spectacled eyes before walking back to his seat behind the counter.
Hector yanked his hand out of Adrian’s grip and ran to the door so fast the blond boy was almost afraid he might be colliding with the glass.
Trevor walked up to him, carrying the basket holding their purchases. “Was that the new kid?” he asked. “You talked to him?”
“His name’s Hector,” Adrian said, his earlier anger deflating like a punctured balloon. “Let’s get the mochi and go to Sypha’s.”
Hector had already eaten dinner when Adrian got home, Ms. Maria told him when she put a steaming bowl of curry rice in front of him and sat down beside him; when his father was away on business, she sat with him through dinner because she believed no kid should eat their food alone in a vast, empty dining room. He’d had his meal in the kitchen and gone straight to his room afterwards. Did something happen at school? she asked, and went on to remark that Hector had looked quite shaken when he went into the kitchen. Adrian feigned ignorance and promised to ask on him.
Adrian stood in front of Hector’s door, opposite from his own, and noticed for the first time how quiet he was. Had he gone to sleep already? No way, it was only eight thirty and no twelve-year-old kid would go to bed at this hour and miss all the fun shows on TV. Adrian didn’t doubt there was a TV set in Hector’s room despite having never entered it because there was one in his own room and his father believed in fair treatment. But if he was watching TV then it shouldn’t be so quiet.
Adrian’s hand hovered above the wood panel for a while before he gave up and went back to his room.
Sypha hadn’t recovered from her flu and took another day off, and so there were just Adrian and Trevor sitting under the tree, eating their sandwiches. Trevor had begun to sorely miss Sypha’s homemade foods and he’d made it known by incessantly whining about how his store-bought lunch was lame compared to her tasteful spring rolls and dumplings and whatever else she usually had. Although Adrian had no complaints about Ms. Maria’s various kinds of sandwiches, maybe he could ask her for something different like pasta or rice. Hector would probably appreciate the change too.
Speaking of Hector…
“Isn’t that the new kid — you said his name was Hector, right? — with Carmilla’s gang?”
Adrian followed the tip of his forefinger and saw Hector, dressed in his P.E. uniform, with Lenore by his side, grabbing his upper arm and dragging him forward. Somehow the sight of her together with Hector always unsettled him. Carmilla’s girl gang had the reputation for being queen bees (alpha bitches in Trevor’s A+ vocabulary) in school and there was no way Lenore, pretty and popular and always having a throng of boys after her, would be genuinely interested in a new, younger kid who sat alone at lunch doing algebra. Adrian had seen her effects on Hector and couldn’t think of anything good to come out of his hanging out with her and the rest of her gang.
“Yes,” Adrian replied, his eyes following the two of them until they disappeared behind the building. “Is that the direction to the old storage room?”
“Yeah, I guess so. He probably has P. E class later. Hey Adrian, is there something between you and that kid Hector because lately you’ve been acting pretty weird when he’s mentioned? You have classes together, right? Did something happen?”
Adrian turned his head to look at Trevor, startled by his friend’s perceptiveness when he almost always acted goofy around Sypha. The truth was on the tip of his tongue, but could he tell his friend and not risk his judgment?
“I…” he trailed off, twiddling with his fingers. “Hector is-he is my adopted brother. My parents had decided to adopt him before my mom, uhm, you know. I’d known beforehand that-that I was going to have a sibling but when I actually met him, I was bitter and angry and frustrated and I’ve been deliberately ignoring him since.”
Trevor listened to him, making no comment as he consumed his sandwich in two big bites (how he could do it Adrian never knew). He slurped his chocolate milk and put the empty carton down at the same time Adrian finished.
“You know,” he began, “I felt exactly like that when Richter was born.”
“You did? But you and your little brother are so close.”
“Before Richter, I was the youngest one in the family and I had my parents’ and Leon’s attention all to myself. Then came Richter and everything suddenly revolved around that pink-faced little bundle. I felt ignored and I sulked and sometimes even cried myself to sleep. Don’t tell Sypha the last bit.”
Adrian chuckled. “She probably knows you’re crybaby already.”
Trevor tsked him. “But Leon noticed it and he sat me down and talked me through it with his typical French accent nobody knows where he acquired. It took a while but eventually I warmed up to Richter. Now I have a playmate.”
“Who beats you at Guilty Gear and just about every other game.”
Adrian burst into laughter, prompting Trevor to laugh with him.
“Point is, it’s cool to have a brother of the same age,” Trevor said, wiping mirthful tears from his eyes, “who you can talk about school and do homework with. Sometimes I wish I had a brother like that. Richter’s too young to help me with homework and Leon’s too busy with his college projects.”
“You have me and Sypha though.”
“Yeah, that’s true.”
“How can I start though? I’ve been giving him cold shoulder since he came.”
“Maybe go home together and talk about school, or video games or comics for a start. And tomorrow ask him to sit with us at lunch instead of the alpha bitches. Seriously nothing good comes out of being around them.”
Adrian couldn’t agree more. “I’ll do that,” he said. “Just don’t call him a nerd though. He does algebra at lunch.”
Trevor gave his shoulder a lighthearted slap. “Dude, Sypha probably joins him and leaves both of us staring at the ceiling!”
Adrian’s feet was starting to go numb from standing.
He rushed out of the classroom when the bell rang and was the first to reach the school gate. Leaning against the brick wall, he waited for Hector to come out and asked the boy to take the bus home with him like he and Trevor had talked about during lunch. There was no other exit and Hector had to pass this gate in order to get out and so, Adrian was confident that he would be able to catch his brother.
Time passed, student after student went by and still, there was no sight of Hector. He even caught sight of Carmilla and her gang — Morana, Striga and Lenore — talking and laughing amongst themselves as they walked to a waiting car. Adrian checked his watch. It had been forty-five minutes since the classes ended and unless Hector had a detention, he should have been here some time ago.
Was he in detention?
“Mr. Howlett,” Adrian called, running to the tall, muscular man who was striding to the parking lot.
Mr. Howlett stopped in his track and turned around, arching an eyebrow at him. “Yes, Adrian? How can I help you?”
“I’ve been waiting for Hector but I haven’t seen him. Is he in detention?”
“Hector huh? Is that the new kid with gray hair?”
“Yes, I think he had P. E. class this afternoon.”
“But he didn’t show up this afternoon,” Mr. Howlett said with a crease between his bushy brows. “A boy, Nathan, said he was sick and went to the infirmary.”
A sense of unease unfurled in Adrian’s stomach at the name. He knew Nathan, knew that the freckled boy practically worshipped Carmilla’s gang, Lenore in particular. “But he was fine earlier. I saw him at lunch.”
The crease between Mr. Howlett’s brows deepened. “Let’s go to the infirmary.”
It turned out Hector had never been to the infirmary.
“That’s very strange,” Mr. Howlett commented, lightly scratching his sideburn. “Do you know what class he had after P.E.?”
“I…” Adrian hesitated, mortified for not knowing the answer. “I don’t know.”
“Now we’re having a case of missing student. Could he have had skipped class?”
Adrian thought about the boy who had spent time during lunch and before dinner working on his algebra homework and shook his head. “No, he wouldn’t skip class without a reason.”
“This is getting serious. I should inform the principal and call his parents.”
Their father was out of the country for business and there was just Ms. Maria at home, who would likely freak out when she knew Hector was missing.
Where could he have gone? When Adrian last saw him, he was with Lenore and they were heading to the old storage room.
“Mr. Howlett, do you know the old storage room?”
“Yes, kid, it’s behind the schoolyard and since the new storage room was built, it’s been abandoned. Wait, you think he could be there?”
Adrian nodded, deciding to trust his gut feeling.
There was a rusty bar slipped through the handles on the door and Adrian knew it was right to have trusted his gut feeling.
“Now that’s something unusual,” Mr. Howlett said, removing the bar. “There’s just old junk in here so usually nobody bothers to lock the door but I’m pretty sure there shouldn’t be a metal bar here.”
He pushed the door and they both winced with the groaning it made.
The last sunlight streamed in, illuminating a head of tousled silver hair. Still dressed in his P.E. uniform, Hector was having his back against a wooden board, his legs pulled up to his chest and his arms wrapping around his knees. He lifted his head at the noises and looked at them with puffy red eyes. It was hot and humid inside the storage room so Adrian could tell his shaking frame wasn’t because of the cold.
Mr. Howlett drove them home in his Chevy, having expressed a small surprise to learn that they lived at the same address. He didn’t press Hector for what had happened but he promised them to report this incident to the principal first thing in the morning.
Adrian sat with Hector in the back seat. Although they didn’t speak a word to each other, lost in their own thoughts and emotions, when Adrian’s hand reached out for Hector’s, the boy didn’t flinch or avoid his touch.
His palm was clammy and dirty with all the sweats and dirt in the storage room but Adrian paid it no mind.
Ms. Maria was on the verge of freaking out when Mr. Howlett rang the bell. After thanking Mr. Howlett and inviting him in for tea, which he politely declined, she nearly squished Adrian and Hector in a bear hug that was unbefitting of her petit frame. She then ushered them into the kitchen, sat them down and made sure each boy finish their portion of bread and clam chowder.
Adrian’s hand was hovering above the door to Hector’s room and this time, he had the courage to knock.
“Can I come in?” he asked when Hector’s head poked out of the opening. The boy appeared somewhat hesitant but after a few moments, he stepped aside for Adrian to enter.
As Adrian had expected, the inside of Hector’s room was similar to his own room, albeit somewhat tidier.
“How did you find me?” Hector asked as soon as they sat down on his bed.
“I was waiting for you to catch the bus home—”
“You? Waiting for me?”
“Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe,” Adrian said, scratching the back of his neck. “I talked to my friend and I realized I’ve been mean to you and, and that’s not how brothers should be, so I’m sorry.”
Hector stared at him with incredulity for a whole fifteen seconds and for the first time, Adrian had experienced discomfort under a kid’s scrutiny. Then Hector’s lips moved and Adrian anticipated him to say something, but all he did was swallow and blink.
“Well,” Adrian began, “this is the part where you say something like ‘Apology accepted’, you know, like in the TV.”
“I don’t watch much TV. Back at the orphanage, we only had an old TV set which occasionally broke down. No cables.”
“The director had a landline in her office but we didn’t.”
“I guess there were no video games as well. What did you do for entertainment?”
“We read and played with the pets. There were two tabby cats and a corgi.”
“You’re missing out on a lot of fun but hopefully we can remedy. So, will you forgive me?”
Adrian held out a hand.
Hector nodded, took his hand and gave it a light shake. “You haven’t said how you found me.”
“I asked Mr. Howlett whether you were having a detention and he said you had skipped the P.E. class. Then I remembered seeing you and Lenore going to that old storage room’s direction. Did she lock you in?”
Hector nodded, his eyes downcast. “She said she wanted to show me something and when we got there, she shoved me in and barred the door, saying that tomorrow someone would find out and let me out, maybe.”
“Why did she do that?”
“Yesterday she told me to grab Ms. Dreyfus’s car keys when I helped her bring the maps to the teacher room.”
“That’s stealing!” Adrian exclaimed, heat rising in his stomach.
“I know,” Hector said. “So I refused because I like Ms. Dreyfus and because it’s just wrong. Lenore got really mad and I almost thought she’d hit me. Then she calmed down and spoke to me like nothing had happened and I thought it was okay. Then today…”
“Mr. Howlett promised he wouldn’t let it slide and I believe him. If he asks you something you have to tell him the truth, alright?”
Nodding slowly, Hector hugged his knees to his chest, resting his chin on them, and Adrian was reminded of the moment he found him in the storage room. Ms. Maria’s delicious foods had put some meat on his bones and he was no longer looking like a malnourished child like when he first stepped foot in this house but now, in this defensive stance, he seemed smaller and younger than his actual age, a little brother that needed Adrian’s care and protection which he had been denying him out of pettiness up until now. His mom would be very disappointed in him if she were here.
If she were here, perhaps she would know how to console Hector.
“Hey,” Adrian said, laying a hand on Hector’s shoulder.
“They’re… scary, those girls,” Hector said. “Especially Carmilla. But Lenore was nice and she spoke to me and often showed me videos of her cute pets at home…”
Adrian resisted the urge to scoff.
“I thought she wanted to be my friend but then…”
“You can have other friends, friends who aren’t bullies and don’t make you do stuff for them.”
Hector perked up a little and looked at him with expectation.
“Like me and my friends Trevor and Sypha. I’ll introduce you to them. Let’s sit together at lunch tomorrow. In fact, let’s go to school together from now on.”
“Yeah, for real.”
Hector beamed at him, and Adrian finally understood the expression of the first sun ray lighting up the gloomy sky.
They had breakfast together for the first time since Hector’s arrival, putting a broad smile on Ms. Maria’s warm, brown face. Adrian also learned that his brother had a heavy sweet tooth by the amount of maple syrup he squirted on his pancake.
“Did Mom teach you to do that?” Adrian asked, watching Hector tie up his shoelaces.
“Yeah, I tripped on my shoelaces once, scraping my knees real bad. She taught me how to tie them after she treated my wounds.”
Adrian nodded. He could totally imagine his mom doing it.
“She was so kind to me, to all the kids actually, the kindest person I’ve seen. I wished I had had a mother like her. When she told me she would like me to be her son, it was the best day in my life.”
Adrian felt the familiar pricks around his eyes and blinked hard to stop the forming tears from falling. “Wish she were here,” he murmured, more to himself than Hector.
“Yes. Wish she were here with us.”
“Come on, let’s go,” Adrian urged. “The bus won’t wait for us.”
Hector took his outstretched hand and they walked side by side to the bus stop.
The difficult thing about writing a kid fic is that you have to constantly ask yourself whether a twelve-year-old kid should speak like this because you can’t remember how you spoke when you were that age; plus, your English was shit back then so you wouldn’t have known anyway.
Since this is a kid fic, the kids are really just friends here; any romantic feelings won’t surface until five or six years later. When they do, the pairings are Trevor/Sypha and Adrian/Hector (let’s hope Mr. Ţepeş is gonna be okay with it).
Anyone caught the X-Men Easter Egg?