23

So, yes—the phone was most certainly ringing, right now. Leo wasn't so much as startled as he was painfully curious, and it showed in his more than blatant reaction upon seeing it vibrant against the ringer. He'd jolted up almost instantly from Garon and the others, catapulting to a destination where he was amazingly unsure as to whether or not the bill collectors ( read: mafia ) had finally returned a few days earlier to reprimand his father on not paying his dues.

The perfectly normal ( for once ) scenery of a father ruffling his son's hair was cut short by the way Leo had sprinted—picking up the phone almost instantly ( while he was too much of a crippling simpleton to actually check the name first ), holding it up to his ear in order to discern what unholy spirit lie on the other end. If he hadn't picked it up so quick, he could've easily done a background check.,.

But, thankfully, it wasn't another one of the those automated messages from the telephone marketing chain, who would also waste their time in calling whilst Garon watched his soap operas rather religiously. Normally, they liked to bother the absolute harmony within a middle class family home with their nonsense, and never ceased to ruin perfectly good moments that Leo would've most likely never witnessed again.

"Hello," he quips, more of a statement than a question, as though he really knew what he was doing. "This is the second eldest DuBois of the DuBois family—state your name, profession, and your reason for calling here."

Actively, the other three roll their eyes into oblivion, wondering if Leo had really spent the last thirty seconds of his life giving off an introduction worthy of being put in some obscure period drama—aside from the thrill of soap operas, Garon and Camilla had also spent their time together watching them, from time to time.

In Leo's eyes, he must've seemed like the haughty elder prince whose serious undertones cast him off as a brooding sort of fellow—his tone proper and elitist, despite being the one walking around in the most unflattering pajamas ever since Elise wore an inflatable tutu to bed ( don't ask ), holding the phone in such a way that he could pull out a million dollars from his pocket alone.

Camilla hummed lightly under her breath, partially amused. "He must've bumped his head in some silly dream, after all..." Looking upon her father, she's curious about his own input as well—

But if anyone knew Garon as well as her, a lot of his internal dialogue seemed to appear within his face—wrinkles included. Right now, he'd seemed unimpressed; and for very honest intentions.

The person on the end, however, let out a hearty sort of laughter that startled this 'prince' mid-reply, the briskness of his voice over the phone beginning to sound...painfully familiar. There wasn't much he could say about it for the time being, except for the fact that the feeling it bore within the blonde was equivalent to that of warmth.

"I'm talking to the second eldest, am I?" Clearly, a man's voice, as that masculinity could never be mistaken. "Well, Camilla...I'd say your voice has gotten rather low for my liking, hasn't it?"

A pause assumes the conversation in its early stages, at first, with Leo's eyes blinking faster than the headlights of a dingy old car, vaguely aware of what the other had said. Something about his sister, and—

Wait. That was the problem. No one talked about his sister over the blue over the phone, unless it was one of her high school suitors looking to get Garon's blessing to date her, or requesting her presence to confirm the latest new order of Elise's new toys ( courtesy of Orbeez TV ads )—other than that, no one else should've known...

Unless he really WAS talking to a high school suitor of her's, who was now a bill collector! Was he working for them too, fixated on winning her heart by exposing her family? For what reason did he have of going so far, besides the obvious obsession of having her for his own?

He doubled over in a rather striking blush, lips sputtering out nonsense ( while Camilla instinctively rose up in case he'd been threatened...or something ) while his hands gripped the counter top. On what godforsaken planet bore this horrifying of a coincidence? Were the bill collectors bringing hit men into this, too? Were they already marking his home down on the little map hanging on a bulletin board ( like all the crime shows did ), awaiting for the next fool to pick up the phone and give away their location?

Obvious delusions aside, Leo really didn't know how to react to anything the man had said at all, even if it was just a few sentences. He'd failed his family, and now they'd be killed!

Eyes widening, the younger boy's voice reached a rather unsteady octave, visibly blanching with every moment spent on the line. "W-Who're you talking about? A-And how do you know my sister's name?" He was trembling with every word, really, unable to form any other sort of order within his speech.

Garon rolled his eyes entirely, and escaped to the living room to turn on the TV. Watching crappy actors attempt at making an even crappier plot more entertaining was much more thrilling than whatever his son had gotten into.

"Are they talking about me?" A natural at being noticed ( and mentioned ) all the time, Elise beamed in the corner at her spot nearest to the table. The little ray of sunshine kept on smiling, even when the other ared at her to quiet. Of course they're not talking about you, he wanted to say, but disclosing Elise's name would've made this reality all the more worse. A normal human being would've put the phone down by now, and spend the next few hours convincing their family to build a shelter underground, but—

Leo kept the phone intact against his ear: almost too terrified to even let the call end. What an idiot.

Nonetheless, the man continued—seemingly too amused to end this conversation now, even if he'd wanted to. It'd been a while since he'd heard Leo's voice ( and even Elise's in the background, the little sweetheart ), so he'd expected it to be flustered, at some point.

"I have siblings myself, you know. The second eldest just happens to be named Camilla, as well. I also have a younger sister, named Elise...and the middle child, of course..." He left off on an suspenseful note, for very obvious reasons.

"...The middle child...?" Voice dropping to a whisper, Leo had soon been planning out his options in his head. Hiding underground was horrifying, so perhaps escaping to Europe was the best idea. He may not have been a suitor, but this was still creepy.

"Yes," A satisfied hum filled the phone again. "The middle child. He's a very intelligent boy, but his shyness often deters him from being very active in society—in the few times I've called him this year, he always seems to give me the same, flustered reaction. I doubt he'll ever get over that, but I love him all the same."

"What is his name, then? If you say it's mine, which will not be disclosed, I will be forced to not believe you! State your name now, stranger, or...I'll call the police!" Yes! Because the police were sure to take this man out, and leave his family alone...

Even more laughter erupted over the phone by the time Leo was done with his 'threat', and it'd been clear by the way that he'd nearly died from guffawing that the man's polite resilience towards the other's hostility was going down slowly. How silly had this boy gotten over the years, and without him to witness it? It was almost adorable...

"...Leo," He began, wiping a momentary tear from his eye. Composing himself was the best way he could talk, without throwing himself into another fit of chuckling. "It's Xander, you silly boy."

...

Cue incoherent screaming.


Alexander DuBois was the eldest child of the DuBois family; the precious gem of a faithful lineage spanning thousands of years, before having only been represented by his father. As a child, he was an absolute mama's boy, fawning over Katerina at every chance he got ( even while making a temporary enemy of his father, who always fought for his wife's affections ). He was popular in school, with more than enough friends at his side.

Charismatic and kind, his looks and personality combined made anyone fall for the stereotypical nice guy trope, which was what he had been up until his high school graduation. Along the way, of course, he'd been blessed with three other siblings, and three different mothers, treating them as his aunts, rather than stepmothers. ...If were the latter, things would get too complicated.

Going to college at one of the most prestigious ( both in a literal and self-proclaimed sense ) universities to date, Xander's school life had began to get too wild to function—most of his time being begrudgingly spent on his studies, rather than calling in on his family and asking how they were. It started to take a toll on his state of mind, and how he'd gone about his paperwork later on. Ranting on his assignments rather than doing to work assigned got him in trouble a couple of times ( after accidentally submitting it, of course ), and he'd been late to a class for the first time in two years. The reprimanding he received was horrific, and he'd cried in a bathroom for the rest of the day...

But his family thought he was the god of the family, and therefore had no actual ability of crying in the bathroom—to his family, Xander's assignments were always done on time ( a lie, for some ), he was a stellar cook who could make his own food ( if you considered microwave lasagna a five star meal ), and had absolutely no reason whatsoever to not be a success.

Oh, how wrong his family had been, pinning expectation after expectation, tale after tale, to the point where he felt like some old fable about a gracious prince, who bore naught a single flaw.

Playful at heart, Xander never really understood why the others thought so highly of him. After all, he was in college; going to the occasional party and engaging conversation with the passing woman who became brave enough to talk to him. He talked with his mouth full all the time when eating a bag of chips ( even if Garon said he was so very proper ), and found an interest in seeing how many times he could throw a water bottle in the air and get it to stand up perfectly without fail.

He wasn't the prestigious son everyone had been talking about like a household name, and he was that much of a slacker, either.

He was just...Xander. And his call to Leo had let that side of him show, no matter how bewildered and terrified the other had been.

"Yes, yes, it's me," he'd said, still chuckling over his younger brother's gasping for air. Camilla had shouted hello, too—and Elise merely spazzed out in glee, as she usually did. He wished he called sooner, but English essays were unrelenting...

"How are you, Leo? I must say I missed hearing your voice after all this time..."

The boy's sputtering seemed to escalate on the other side, which wasn't unwelcome, in the slightest. Hearing how excited he'd been of him calling was enough satisfaction within itself, up to the point of bringing tears to well in his eyes.

It's hard to say whether or not it was an exaggeration, but he was close.

"You haven't called in ages, Xander. I was almost worried that college had killed you, and buried you without our knowledge..."

"I thought Father just kept blocking your calls." This was Camilla's voice, but it was hard to catch at first.

"I thought Xander forgot about us! You didn't forget about us, did you, Xander?"

The elder laughed at Elise's remark, knowing all too well that he had a harder time forgetting them than all the other myriad assignments he had left to do.

"I would never forget you, Elise. Hearing your lovely little voice again is music to my ears, after all."

He could hear the youngest squeal at that, avid footsteps being made to a place farther out from the phone's range, calling Garon's name to tell him 'the good news'.

Leo, meanwhile, kept the heartfelt conversation going, delving into a topic more or less relevant to the call itself.

"What have you even been up to, Xander? With your kind of silence, it's hard to ever keep track of what you're doing..."

That was a funny thing to mention, really, since he didn't actually know himself, at this rate. Throughout school, he'd been doing the same things he'd told Garon, working mindlessly like a robot in his classes in order to get the grades he'd needed to satisfy the old coot. Was what he was doing now even something he could be proud of himself? ...Or was it all just a lie, like his reputation?

"...I've been...up to many things, brother. It'd be much too frivolous to get into detail."

A pause of unease, and then, continuation. "...Understandable. You are the prodigy, after all." Leo had spoke as though this were entirely nothing new for his brother, even if he'd secretly wished for some of his luck to be brought onto him, too.

Hearing it made Xander a little sad, though—unknowingly making it worse by hiding the fact that he had been swamped up with work he wasn't even sure he wanted to go through anymore. In this way, he was ultimately lying to his brother, and everyone else listening in on the conversation.

"Well, I wouldn't say that, Leo. I've just been busy, is all."

"Again, understandable. You could've at least left a text, though."

"I've strayed from texting too often, actually. I tend to get distracted a bit too easily by it." And by distracted, he'd meant being swayed to download every possible version of Candy Crush ever, and play it till 3am.

A bad, bad thing.

"That's a silly way of putting it, but...I suppose that's alright, Xander." Truthfully, Leo was confused, but it didn't matter. As long as he were talking to his elder brother, it was fine.

Now, if he could've filled him in on the recent happenings as of late ( and still leave room to hear what his reaction would entail ), that would've been grand...

Xander had about all day before he went to his next class later on at noon, and was openly pleased to know Leo had something to tell him after all this time. Had he been involved in any summer programs, as of late? Had he made friends? Gotten a job? Received good marks on his report card in the mail? Oh, he'd hoped it was all good news!

...What he ended up hearing, though...was an entirely different story.


I may be a day late, but shhhhhh—

I got a little sickly since Thursday, so my overall production was a taaad slower than I intended it to. But, thankfully, I got it out in time before it was too late. Super sorry for getting it delayed!

I'm still in the process of rewriting things, as well as getting more into the groove of writing these characters again, since it's been a while, and I feel somewhat rusty at writing fanfiction these days XD Even now, I'm amazingly nervous...

Either way, thank you for reading, and I hope to see you soon for the next update! Those will be weekly, at the latest.