The Hellewell’s Campus, Granite Falls, 2028
"You're making no sense, Henry!" growled Lauren. "How is defeating the king not a good idea?"
"Because," said Henry, "we...uh...what if we...uhm...get arrested? The police would obviously turn to us if a bunch of Evil Geniuses are dead..."
"And?" said Lauren. "One, we're not going to get caught because we have the Vampire Master on our side, and two, this is worth a thousand years in jail! So grow up, Henry!"
"It's just..." Henry quivered, "are you sure your nieces are willing to die for this... cause? In fact, I don't think they're willing to kill their classmates at all!"
"Classmates?" cried Lauren. "They're enemies, Henry, not classmates! You disgust me. Every single word you have just said this evening confirms your disloyalty to me and your family. Get out! You're sleeping outside tonight. Tomorrow you shall return to this house at five in the morning, you hear me? And I want you to choose your next words wisely."
Henry said nothing and escaped the house as quickly as he could.
He spotted Alex not too far away stargazing. Should I risk running up to him? Henry thought. Why not? Lauren's in the kitchen; she won't see. She's going to bed soon anyway.
"Henry," acknowledged Alex, somewhat reticent and thoughtful.
"Alex.. wha...!" Henry found himself laughing, not because anything about his situation was funny, but because everything about his situation, his family and his friends fighting to the death, was not funny at all, and to be caught in the middle was just about the worst thing that could happen.
Alex turned around! "Henry, I'm so sorry about what I said yesterday. I want you to know that I would never, ever, enslave you! You understand? What I said yesterday about killing or enslaving you all... I wasn't talking about you Henry. You will always be my equal... I would never..."
"It's okay, Alex," said Henry, "I know what you meant." Henry lowered his head so his eyes looked huge.
Alex narrowed his eyes, a smile creeping across his face as he processed Henry's words. "I think we need to talk..." He looked around briefly, "in secret. Follow me."
Henry followed Alex into the forest, where there was a large square tent, an out-door horse-shoes game kit, a picnic table and an outdoor bin.
"This is where I sleep, Henry!"
"No, in the tent. I have another room inside the cabin, but I wanted a second place away from other people, in case I needed..." He smiled, somewhat coyly at Henry, "some space."
Is he flirting with me? Henry blushed. "Uhm, shall we talk at the picnic table?"
"Alright!" Alex's mouth curved into a provocative smile.
Ugh, I feel like a child again, thought Henry, as he reluctantly resisted Alex's gaze and walked over to the picnic table.
When both were seated, Henry awkwardly tried to plan out everything he wanted to say, which was a lot because he had no idea if this was going to be the last night he would spend with Alex. Oh please please please do not let this be the case!
"What are you thinking?" Alex asked.
"Uhh me?" said Henry, blushing. "Uhm," he scratched his cheek, "not a lot."
Alex nudged his shoulder. "Come on! Spill Henry! Although, I can imagine you might be right there, because sometimes I have no idea what's going on with you - like the time in Junior School, on the basketball team. We were on opposite sides and you had the ball and I was trying to block you, so you asked me if I wanted the ball and I said 'yes' - obviously - and then, inexplicably, you shoved the ball into my hands and ran off."
"Oh please don't remind me of that, Alex, I got into so much trouble with my team - and don't get me started on dad. He called me a 'shrinking violet', 'pathetic' and a 'Dreglord rather than Sweglord.'"
Alex stopped laughing. "He didn't! You never told me that!"
A bashful smile escaped Henry's lips and he sidled closer to Alex.
"Do you...uhm... want to know what else I didn't tell you?" he said. Henry leaned into Alex's ear.
"I'm confident you're going to win this fight."
"You are?" said Alex.
"If you say so, Henry, I think I will too."
"It's just..." Henry continued. "Lauren never listens to anyone - particularly when someone's presenting her with logic! Furthermore, she thinks throwing us at the enemy and forcing us to use extreme violence or whatever means necessary will somehow overpower careful tactics from your side. I've told her she should just accept your offer and give up trying to fight you, but she won't listen."
Alex patted Henry on the shoulder. "Listening is a virtue I've found only in you, so far!"
Henry raised an eyebrow. He's so 'gushy' sometimes. "I'm sure I'm not the only one who listens."
Alex nodded his head. Yep, 'gushy' and 'stubborn,' thought Henry.
Alex sidled away from Henry and checked his phone. "A quarter to five," he said. "Luka wants to discuss my battle strategy - he has some questions."
"Have fun," said Henry. "I'm sure he's going to pick everything apart!"
"No, that will be Adrian."
"Well, at least you don't have to listen to Lauren tell us all how useless and disgraceful we are to the 'Sweglord race.'"
The two got up off the seats.
"Alex..." said Henry, with an undertone of dread and awkwardness. "You know, when I said I didn't want you to die..."
"How could I forget?"
"Uhm... yeah..." Henry paused, "anyway, I...uh...meant it with every brea.."
Silence fell between the two. Say something Alex, please... He internally begged.
"I know," Alex smiled and Henry relaxed, "but you needn't worry about me, Henry. At the moment, I'm Achilles."
"Oh but you'll die then," moaned Henry. "Your ankles will be your downfall - it's from all that running, Alex. I knew running would ruin you someday!"
Alex frowned. "I was actually alluding to my 'invincibility;' my inability to lose at anything, other than chess against Luka."
"Ugh I knew Luka was a bad influence," Henry 'humphed', although his eyes twinkled.
"Oh come here, Henry," said Alex, pulling Henry into a tight embrace. Actually 'pulling' was unnecessary as Henry appeared to dive into Alex's arms as soon as there was a hint of possible intimacy.
"Mm...Henry?" Alex murmured.
"Yeah?" said Henry
"Do you want to know what Achilles and Alexander the Great had in common?"
"Oh... but come on, Henry... please guess!"
"There's a reason why I don't take Ancient History, Alex, because dead people are boring."
"Henry," sighed Alex, "I take Classics, not Ancient History and you should know that because Achilles is not an historical figure."
"Whatever," said Henry. "They're still both dead. Maybe that's what they have in common... What's your fascination with Alexander the Great, anyway, other than he shares the same name as you?"
"Uhm..." said Alex... "I think you may have hit the nail on the head there, Henry... but you still haven't answered my question."
"They both start with the letter 'A'?"
"Yes Henry, but moreover... "
"They had a best friend who died early..."
"Ahh, Henry," smiled Alex, "so you have been listening to my rambles?"
Henry blushed. "No I haven't," he insisted. "All I know is that Patroclus, Achilles' best friend died in bat..." Henry didn't finish the sentence, as his thoughts turned to the battle that coming evening. "And Hephaestion, Alexander's best friend died of...." Henry's mind trailed off to the memory of the radio that was playing in the cabin's kitchen yesterday morning about the outbreak of Sweaty Shivers. "Please don't jinks me, Alex. And please for the love of... voodoo dolls... be careful tomorrow!"
Henry broke away from the embrace. "See you this evening," he said and ran off to the Hellewell's cabin.
Alex watched him curiously. I was actually going to say both Alexander and Achilles loved their best friends more than life... literally to be honest, which strangely made them feel invincible. Oh the irony, Henry.