Cale Henituse remembers having an aloof man as his uncle.
His father’s younger blood brother. Someone much, much younger than his father, who stays in Rain City and supports him with some of the family business.
Cale remembers a man speaking leisurely with his parents, remembers hearing disgruntled rebuttals over his parents’ warm laughter. A man who smells like books, who played chess with his father, who drank rose tea along with his mother.
Remembers a warm hand patting his head whenever the man came to visit the Henituse estate, when mother died and father was crying and empty.
A warm hand at his back, grounding him as he was directed towards the carriage to go home and leave his mother’s body under the ground.
Cale remembers his uncle, granted a funny name befitting of the Henituse territory, a Rock within the Kingdom of Boulders.
Long, well kept brown hair reaching over his shoulders. Stoic reddish brown eyes, a near expressionless face.
And a warm, warm hand at the top of Cale’s head.
Uncle Rock lives in a villa in Rain City, bestowed upon him by the grace of Cale’s father. He spends most of his time in that place, only coming out for leisure walks and on official business or casual visits to the Henituse estate.
Yes, he remembers that. Uncle Rock used to visit more often when mother was still alive. Because mother was the one who always invited him, the near-hermit uncle who, in mother’s words, would grow fungus on his own body if he didn’t get invitations to drink tea with mother. Cale remembers laughing while he sat on his mother’s lap, and the funny near-offended look on his uncle’s face. Cale remembers presenting mushrooms to his uncle as a joke, and the loud laughter his mother let out at the time. He remembers how uncle did not get angry, and only looked annoyed and betrayed for a few seconds, before he started talking about whether he should eat mushrooms for dinner or not.
He remembers mother laughed harder because of it.
It has been a long time since uncle last visited.
His uncle stayed for a few weeks after mother died, taking over father’s job for a short while while Cale was busy comforting his own father and dealt with the loss of… of his mother. His uncle sat with him and took him to dinner during the times when father was too upset to get out of his room, a grounding presence that Cale didn’t truly appreciate until it was gone.
After that, uncle was barely seen.
Cale didn’t really pay much attention to it at the time as well, too overjoyed with how father began to show up more, taking over his work once more and having breakfast and dinner with him once again.
Time passed, and Cale-- Cale is, he is… alone.
He’s not alone, but somehow… Cale feels like he’s alone.
Father found a new wife, a sudden decision that Cale didn’t get the option to give his opinions about. Lady Violan is a tall woman with a stoic expression, and with her comes a little boy three years younger than him.
A new mother, and with her, a new brother.
Cale doesn’t really know what to think of it.
He accepted father’s decision fairly easily, a smile and a congratulation given to his father. It was easy for Cale to do so, especially when he saw how happy father was, something he didn’t see on his father’s face ever since mother died…
He remembers attending father’s marriage with Lady Violan (not mother, because Cale doesn’t want to replace his mother, how can he replace his own mother--?), remembers seeing his uncle attending to give his own congratulations to the new couple, only to eat and then leave almost immediately afterwards.
(Remembers a warm hand patting his head, the same hands then sliding a plate of chocolate lava cake to Cale’s hands before the man left).
His other uncles and aunts like to say that Uncle Rock is a “free-spirited man”. Cale thinks it’s the kind of freedom bordering on rude, but it’s not something that his father would complain about, so he’s given leeway to do so.
(Though, his relatives might’ve been complaining about Uncle Rock and how he’s as immovable as a rock. If rock can be lazy and immovable through sheer power of will, that’s his uncle right there. His relatives could be complaining about Uncle Rock. He’s not too sure. He doesn’t really care either).
It’s not like uncle has ever done anything to cause harm to the family, and he does well enough with his own business lines that bring more money to the Henituse family.
That’s the kind of person his uncle is.
Cale Henituse, now eight years old, remembers the presence of an uncle who is almost never here anymore that he’s nearly forgotten. Remembers the family member so close with his parents, he used to always visit whenever mother requested him to do so.
Lady Violan is not close with Uncle Rock, he belatedly realizes, and Lady Violan is not the type to invite uncle on weekly tea time, so Uncle Rock, who used to come when invited, never really visited anymore.
He has an uncle.
An uncle who lives in the same city as him.
An uncle who lives alone and would grow fungus on his body if he’s not dragged outside because of his business duties or his mother.
(An uncle who patted his head and his shoulder, who grounded him with a warm palm on his small back. An uncle who slid plates of sweets to him, who invited him to dinner and accompanied him during those days when father was too sad to come out of his room. An uncle who grumbled when mother teased him, but still dutifully visited whenever mother asked for his presence. An uncle who was there for him when mother died).
(An uncle. A family member).
His family now consists of his father, Lady Violan, Basen and little Lily.
Father said that way, that they’re family now. Cale does not dare refute. If father says so, then it is so. Father is the Count, the lord of the household, and he’s the one who has control over what is right and wrong in the family.
But Basen is stubborn. Basen doesn’t dare to call himself a Henituse, even when Cale had already scolded him for daring to think otherwise, for being too weak to stand up for himself.
Doesn’t he realize the position he is in? Doesn’t he know that if he’s too shy to speak up, he and his mother are the ones who will suffer?
Does he not see the results that will come from failing to protect his mother? Cale’s own mother died because he’s incapable of protecting her… incapable from stopping her when she wanted to go out that fateful day…
Basen is stupid.
He should’ve been able to see it. He should’ve been willing to stand up and declare that he’s a Henituse.
Father said he is, so he is.
It doesn’t matter what Cale thinks about Basen or Basen’s eligibility as the heir, as that is something that his relatives like to talk about. Cale doesn’t care if he’s to become the Count in the future, or if the position is to be given to Basen. It’s father’s choice and father holds all the control in succession matters.
Basen is a Henituse now, and he should be proud of it. He should proudly declare his rights.
Can’t he see that he has more place in the family now, more than Cale?
Cale has seen it, he’s felt it.
Father has gravitated towards Lady Violan like a moth to flame, and Lady Violan manages to fit seamlessly into the duties of a countess, effectively replacing his mother from her seat in the dining hall to the little things mother used to do for the territory, and even more, what with her liking the arts and thus establishing Henituse territory’s cultural business operations.
With her Basen became a part of the family, and then a year ago, little Lily was born.
If all of them are to stand next to each other, the one that stands out the most would not be Basen, who doesn’t have any blood relation with father.
It would be Cale. The only one with red hair in this family. The one person who inherited his mother’s blood red hair.
In a family that now only consists of brown hair, Cale, with his red hair so familiar with his mother, is the outlier.
Sometimes, he’ll feel that he’s the outsider. Especially when father spends quality time with Lady Violan and little Lily, and when Basen inevitably trails behind them to join their outings. The sight is always so picturesque that Cale never dared to enter, for fear of shattering whatever peace and lovely they have going on.
It’s to be expected. Lady Violan and Basen are unbearably awkward and silent around him, and they all avoid each other unless necessary. Little Lily is still too small to do anything but cling to Lady Violan, and he thinks that she, too, will follow in their footsteps, even if she’s his half-sister.
Him joining in quality time like that will just shatter the peaceful mood and turn it unbearably awkward. He has enough tact to realize that.
(He does not belong there).
(This, too, he believes).
(He does not belong there, not in the little family that his father has created for himself).
(That’s why he’s mad. He’s mad at Basen for being stupid. For being dumb when he already has a place in that family. When father has accepted him as his own, and treated him like his own).
(Basen has a place there with father, Lady Violan and little Lily, unlike Cale Henituse who only has his father).
(Cale wants to make Basen realize his place. His position as a Henituse).
(Cale wants Basen to be proud).
(Cale wants Basen to realize that Basen has more people around him than Cale).
(Cale thinks he only has father).
(That’s when he remembers about his uncle).
Cale, an eight year old child, has a half assed plan.
But for his eight year old brain, it’s one of the most brilliant plans he has up to date.
He remembers his uncle lives at the corner of Rain City, in a modestly sized villa (in Henituse family standard anyway) where he collects the mushrooms growing on him and eats it for dinner (a tale used as a running gag between him, his uncle and his mother. Cale knows that there is no way the man grows fungus on his body, but he can’t stop thinking about it, not when it has so many fond memories of--).
It’s easy for him to ask a carriage driver to take him to his uncle’s villa.
It’s easier to gain access into the villa. The servants there obviously know him thanks to his red hair, and they’re all very cheerful and kind, all smiles even as they escort him to his uncle’s bedroom.
Weirdly enough, the servants there seem to feel truly at home, for they simply allow him to open the bedroom door and sneak inside, easily commenting how since he is family (something in him aches at that word--) then his uncle won’t mind even if he barges in.
Cale remembers how his uncle never truly got angry no matter how much Cale and mother teased him in a friendly way, and can’t help but to agree with the servants.
Waving the servants away, he closes the bedroom door with a click before he turns around, facing the lump on the bed. Undeniably, it is his uncle, snoozing away, curled up under a comfy blanket. The room is complete with temperature magic, Cale recognizing the magic tools installed at the corners of the room to bring comfortable cold air in this room.
It’s not hard to imagine how comfortable it must be to sleep in this room.
Cale looks up at the clock. It’s afternoon. Cale looks back at the lump on the bed, and the brown hair he can see peeking out from the blanket.
He remembers hearing from one of the servants who escorted him, that his uncle has yet to eat his first meal of the day.
Wow. His uncle really is a free spirit. It’s the afternoon but he hasn’t gotten out of bed even once yet. He knows the room is comfortable but… wow.
(...If Cale decides to follow his plans and not live by the rules, would he be able to do this comfortably too?)
Shoving away the intrusive negative thoughts in his head, Cale reaches forward to poke the lump on the bed.
Poke, poke, poke.
Harder pokes. Poke, poke, poke.
His uncle shifts under the blanket. He stops moving. No sound or indication that uncle is going to rise awake.
Poke, poke, poke, poke, poke.
“Uncle, wake up.”
Uncle Rock groans, his head finally poking out of the blanket. His reddish brown eyes so similar to Cale’s own blink a few times, eyebrows furrowing when he finally registers who has barged into his room.
The intruder, Cale, smiles widely in response.
“Hi, uncle! I’m going to live here from now on!”
That wakes him up thoroughly alright.
It’s been a few weeks since Cale’s arrival in his villa.
Rock Henituse, the younger brother of Deruth Henituse, wonders how is it that his life has come to this.
His funny name aside, the man nearly in his mid-twenties has been living pretty well. As Kim Rok Soo, he wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the many things he enjoys in this life as Rock. A rich household, annoying relatives aside, Deruth is a good older brother and a fair lord of the territory. He does his job well and Kim Rok Soo--now Rock--is able to simply step aside and enjoy his life as a slacker.
True, Deruth delegates some business towards him and encourages him to make his own business with the family name, and Rock, who follows his orders, treats it more as his way to pay Deruth back for all that his older brother has given him.
Although it is also true that he hasn’t met his brother that often anymore, not since Jour died and there’s no countess to invite him to their house. Rock only comes on official business and when he’s summoned to the estate by Deruth. Or Jour, once upon a time.
Violan has never invited him like Jour used to do, and that’s fair, but if not invited, Rock never really feels that there’s a need for him to go there.
(Even when he was Kim Rok Soo, when he was team leader, he never felt the need to connect much with his younger teammates. For someone who had no family, he felt there was no need to barge into their lives and their family).
(Before, Rock’s family were Deruth, Jour, and little Cale).
(Now, his family has expanded, but it’s a different feel, there is no Jour and without any incentive to mingle, Rock chooses to retreat).
But with the arrival of Cale, things change.
Cale is… the little rascal who, according to the novel Kim Rok Soo read many years ago, before he was born as a Henituse, will grow up into a trashy, alcoholic young master. A minor villain who will end up pissing off the protagonist, Choi Han, and becomes a living punching bag.
That Cale is now crashing in his house, the Villa built at the corner of Rain City for him to live in, granted to him by Deruth himself.
Rock can’t help but to frown.
It’s been a few weeks. Two… or is it three weeks?
Since the day Cale declared he would be living in Rock’s house, Cale sticks by him like a stubborn mule, refusing to go home and declaring loudly on how he wants to “play” with Uncle Rock.
The whining is grating to his ears, so Rock simply gives him a room to stay in, much to his nephew’s joy.
Then the problem with some stuff Cale lacked--like clothing, toothbrush and so on--since he didn’t pack before coming here, is swiftly solved by purchasing some new clothes and necessities.
He’s rich. Buying some things for his nephew is no big deal.
(And watching the light in Cale’s eyes whenever Rock ruffled his hair and bought him the clothes and snacks he wanted may or may not be something Rock enjoyed).
Future minor villain or not, he’s watched this brat grow up, especially so during the early days when Jour was still alive and would invite him to visit often. And Rock can see that Cale is very different from what little things the novel revealed about him.
Oh, he’s a brat, alright, but he’s not exactly the type who will say, with utter conviction, that commoners’ lives are useless.
The Cale that he saw prior to Jour’s death was a very sweet and playful child. Polite to a fault, loving towards his parents, patient and kind towards the servants in the household.
The Cale who came like an imp to his villa is a cheeky brat who hasn’t lost his sweetness just yet, but still jagged around the edges.
Rock is not so blind as to not notice the tension on Cale’s shoulders and the resignation in his eyes, as the days pass by more and more.
...He feels that he knows what’s going on, but he knows that he won’t like it. He won’t like this idea that has formed in his mind, a conclusion made from the few clues he’s seen from his nephew.
As if summoned, said nephew sticks his head into Rock’s room again, grinning toothily when Rock, now very used to Cale’s abrupt entrance to his bedroom, simply gestures for him to come in.
Plopping himself on the couch, Cale’s legs--not long enough to touch the floor just yet--swing as he asks, “Uncle, what are you doing?”
Instead of answering, Rock settles his palm on top of Cale’s red hair. His reddish brown eyes watching as Cale closes his eyes, leaning to the touch like a puppy.
“What do you think about picking up your belongings from the estate?”
Cale flinches, his eyes snapping open.
“You want to stay here for much longer don’t you?” Receiving a nod from his nephew, Rock continues on, “it will be more efficient to bring your belongings to your room in this villa. Not everything, enough for you to live here comfortably. Whenever you want to go back to the estate, it won’t be a problem to bring all of the stuff back there as well.”
Cale’s eyes are shaking. Rock doesn’t stop patting his head.
“I’ll go there to speak with your father about this, so you can just wait if you don’t want to come with.”
“...Will you really do that?”
“If I say I will, then I will,” he answers easily. “You’re my nephew, picking up your stuffs and letting you live with me are no big deal.”
Cale inhales sharply.
There’s an odd expression on his nephew’s face at the time, but Rock continues patting his head. Eventually, the tension on his shoulders disappear and the boy is back to leaning his head to the touch.
Softly, his nephew mumbles out, “okay.”
Immediately that evening, Rock Henituse takes a few of his servants with him to the Henituse estate, while Cale waits for his return in the cozy, cool bedroom.
(Cale likes to nap in his room sometimes. He argues that it’s because Rock’s room is the only one with magic tools to adjust temperature like this. Meanwhile, Rock just misses the air conditioner. It’s an optimal magic tool to have especially during summer).
(They’ll nap and Cale will wake up with him being wrapped by his uncle’s arms).
(It feels warm).
(It’s something Cale hasn’t felt for a long time since mother died).
(He came here for something else, but now that he’s experienced this warmth, Cale can feel himself becoming greedy).
(If he stays longer, if he stays here for much longer--)
(Will he be able to keep that warmth for himself?)
Deruth Henituse feels that he cannot speak.
The words he heard sound damning in his ears.
His brother years younger than him has always been laid back. He has a rude way of talking, but he knows when to be respectful. He was close with his late wife, Jour, and maintains a good relationship with Deruth and his family despite ignoring most of his other relatives, which gained him a reputation as a sloth and the recluse of Henituse family.
But Deruth loves his brother.
And he knows that his brother cherishes him too.
On top of that, he's one of the few who actually sincerely congratulated his remarriage with Violan. He's a good brother Deruth knows he can trust.
At the same time, he also knows that Rock is not someone who likes to beat around the bush. His brother is a blunt person who speaks up when he knows it’s necessary. He doesn’t like arguments, but Deruth knows his brother good enough to know that his brother knows when to communicate his thoughts, even when some of them are laced with insults.
And he knows how Rock looks like, how Rock sounds like, when he's genuinely angry.
"I cherish and respect you, brother. You're my hyung. You're a great lord. But you need to get your shit together."
This time, Deruth knows for sure. His brother is angry.
“What have you been doing, these three weeks, with no effort to even contact your own son? Did you even know that he’s been staying in my place?”
Deruth stammers, “I knew, but I thought it was just a few days of sleepovers, and it’s still in the same city so he can return anytime he wants--”
“He’s never stepped his foot for three weeks in this estate, brother. Three. Weeks. Did you know?”
“...No, I didn’t. I thought…”
Rock sighs heavily, a palm covering his face. “You haven’t seen him for three weeks and didn’t think anything is amiss?”
Deruth avoids his gaze, something heavy pooling at the pit of his stomach.
“I’ve… rarely met with Cale outside of breakfast or dinner together. He tends to ask to eat in his room these days, so I thought…”
“Your servants didn’t say anything at all?”
“...I may have told them that it’s okay if Cale visited your place… So they probably thought it’s permission for Cale to stay as long as he wants. But I didn’t think it would be this long…”
“Well, it’s going to be even longer.”
Deruth’s head snaps back up. “What?”
Rock is staring at him with a deep frown on his face, his usually indifferent eyes filled with scorn that Deruth staggers at the sight of it directed at him. Then the man sighs, shaking his head as if disappointed--and doesn't that hurt too, to feel a pang on your chest, that your younger brother looks more mature than you and is disappointed in you--before walking out of Deruth's study instead of answering.
To the servant waiting right outside the room, his brother speaks. "...Ron, isn't it? Go pack some of Cale's belongings. Especially the things he usually needs for his daily necessities. Pack them all up and bring it to my carriage. Ask other servants for help if it's too hard. Do it quickly."
Ron, ever the dutiful servant, glances at Deruth, asking for confirmation. The count is too gobsmacked to give his affirmation, however.
"Wait... Rock?! What are you--"
Rock doesn’t give him a chance to argue.
"That kid came to my villa with nothing but the clothes on his body. I bought some new clothes for him to wear in these three weeks he lived with me, but if he's going to stay longer he will need his own belongings. And he’s expressed that he does want to stay there much longer," Rock's words bring no space for arguments, and the man's stare softens a bit at the sight of Deruth looking so lost. "Don't worry. I'm not taking everything for when he wants to come back. But right now, he needs his things."
Slowly, Deruth nods. He can only watch, slightly numb, as servants pack up Cale's belongings in quick succession, before placing them in Rock's carriage.
Numbly watching as his brother leaves with his son's belongings, his eyes staring straight at the moving carriage before it becomes too small for him to see.
And just like that, Cale's permanent residence moved to Rock's villa in Rain City, instead of the Henituse estate itself.
“Did father… ask for me?”
“...Would you like me to really answer that, kid?”
“...No. I kinda knew when no one went to look for me.”
“...Haaaa… Listen, your father is being a bit dumb right now, but he does love you.”
“I know that! I know… I know that.”
Pat, pat, pat.
“As long as you know, kid. He did sound worried when he found out you’ve been here for three weeks instead of only visiting to play.”
“I did come here to play.”
“Is that so.”
“Yeah!” A petulant exclamation. “Uncle is the one who made me study.”
Another minor problem Rock faces is Cale refusing to study, even when there should be schedules for his tutoring sessions in the estate. It’s a joint problem with the fact that he refuses to come home, where his tutor would come to teach him his studies.
It reminds Rock that in the novel, it is said that Cale became trash when he was eight years old, and effectively stopped studying as he started to cause problems wherever he went.
It makes him frown.
Trash persona or not, Rock knows the importance of education for children. He’s seen how children in his past life were bereft of education, how some young adults he met wished they could pursue higher education--
It’s fine if Cale doesn’t want to go to the academy. It’s fine if Cale doesn’t want to study heavy things involving territory management.
(And isn’t that a surprise in itself, to listen to Cale and find out that he does not want to be the successor anymore. Doesn’t want to be the heir anymore).
( Basen should be lord, he said. He likes to read more than me, he said)
(It’s a surprise, to learn that Cale had given up this early, and is actively pushing the successor position to Basen through rebelling. By not studying).
(It brings some light about the trash Cale he read about from the novel).
(It brings a bitter taste in his mouth).
But the point is. Cale doesn’t want to study about managing the territory? Fine.
He’ll study basic, general studies instead. Rock will make sure his nephew gets the education he needs, the education he will get, even if he doesn’t become the lord of the territory in the future.
He’ll prepare this child to be able to grow up well.
It’s the least he can do, as this child’s uncle.
“I miss mother,” a child’s sobs. “I miss my mom.”
“I want my mom. I want father. I want mother.”
“But mother isn’t coming back. Mother is--”
“Just because she’s gone doesn’t mean you can’t miss her, kid.”
Sniffles. A pat on the head.
“I miss my parents too. I miss your mother too.”
“Yes. It’s okay to miss them. But you need to walk forward too.” Fingers brushing away the tears, gentle hand ruffling his hair. “Live well. That’s what she would want you to do, too.”
And it passes some more.
“If you really don’t want to become the successor, you have to tell your father.”
“If you tell him straight, he will raise Basen properly as the heir.”
“...If father does that, will Basen and Lady Violan not be bullied by uncles and cousins anymore?”
“There’s a high chance it will stop, yes. If not, I can handle them, you know. It’s your choice, Cale.”
“...I’ll talk to father.”
“Can you accompany me, uncle?”
"Uncle," a child peeking in through the door, his gaze inquisitive. "What are you doing?"
Rock pauses in his actions, glancing up to properly look at Cale. It's one thing Cale really appreciates from his uncle. His uncle always stares straight at him. He doesn't necessarily coddle him or expects grand things from him. He treats Cale as is, and it feels... good. It feels good. He feels free. And the more time he spends in this villa his uncle lives in, the more he starts to feel at home.
(Even though his home should've been--)
"I'm making cookies," Uncle Rock answers easily, the voice cutting off Cale’s thoughts. His hands are moving again, expertly doing his thing in the kitchen that Cale, a noble child who never held a knife in his whole life, does not understand.
"Cookies?" Cale steps into the kitchen, tip toeing a bit to properly look at the bowl of dough his uncle is wrestling with. "Uncle, you can make cookies? You can cook?"
"Sure," his uncle hums, nonchalant. "Is there anything you need?"
Cale shakes his head. "Can I watch?"
"Sure, do whatever you want."
And so Cale watches as his uncle expertly makes batches of cookies
He throws questions at him while he bakes, and Rock answers them all without pause. Just like the times when his uncle dragged him to study and taught him everything he needs, a warm presence near him.
It is through this conversation in the kitchen that he knows that uncle regularly cooks and bakes when he feels like it, that usually servants are sent home around 5 pm because his uncle is unnecessarily proper in that he always urges all of his servants to go home in time and get proper days off and that means all the dinner he's eaten in this villa is either heated up food from the chefs or food his uncle cooks himself and what the fuck is that why dinner are usually more exotic than the usual food, is his uncle experimenting with food and Cale his guinea pig--
His uncle answers all of his questions, patiently and efficiently. It stirs something inside of him, and Cale simply basks in the warmth that he feels, reddish brown eyes taking in the sight of his uncle’s calm, stoic expression even as he shapes the cookies into cute stars.
Eventually, the cookies are put inside the oven, and while they wait for the cookies in the oven to finish, Cale watches in confusion as his uncle cracks open a weird looking fruit he's never seen on any of his fruit platter, pouring the water in it (there's water in it!!!!) to another bowl and craving out its contents. Watches in amazement as his uncle mixes milk, other fruits and syrup and the previous contents into one bowl, added with some ice and--
A huge mug filled with the milky fruity contents placed in his hands.
Cale stares up at his uncle. "Uncle, what is this?"
"Milk, avocado, jackfruit, coconut, coconut milk."
Cale blinks. "Coconut?"
"Commoner's food. It's good."
Cale's face twists. "Uncle, you eat commoner food?"
"Food is food, kid. If you don't want it, you can give it back to me."
Cale twists his body around, shielding the huge mug of sweet milk goodness from his Uncle's grabby hand. No way! It looks so delicious, Cale wants to try it! "This is mine!" He grumbles, watching as his uncle shrugs, his lip twitching as he picks up his own mug.
Then, slowly, Cale picks up the coconut meat with a spoon, as well as some of the milky soup for him to drink.
His head whips up, sparkling eyes directed towards Rock. His uncle only twitches his lips.
"You like it?"
Nod nod nod. "Uncle, this is great!"
"Finish them, then. It's not good if it's no longer cold."
"Uncle, uncle, can you make this everyday?"
"I do what I want, kid."
"That's not a no!" The brat grins. "Uncle, I want to taste all of your cooking!"
"Yeah, yeah. Here, take some cookies to your room."
And time passes some more--
"Ogh," his uncle groans, kicking the blanket open and subjecting the both of them to the cold air of the night, Cale having snuck inside for some cool room temperature for the agonizing summer nights. "What is that smell?"
Cale blinks. When their eyes meet, he can't help but to grin sheepishly. "Ehe, oops?"
Uncle Rock groans, falling back to the bed. "You're not allowed to eat any more sweet potatoes tomorrow."
"The smell can't be much worse than this."
"Uncle, farting is normal, you fart too!"
"Not silently and sneakily like a silent attack," he grumbles, and Cale positively cackles, the damn brat.
"But uncle, Joselyn already said she's going to make me sweet potato balls!" Joselyn, the kitchen maid, is Cale’s favorite maid right now.
His uncle covers his face with his palms, seemingly lamenting his life.
Cale's giggles is unstoppable.
“You know,” his uncle says conversationally during one of their nap times.
(Uncle naps a lot, Cale notices. Cale likes to run around and play, and the servants in this villa are very accommodating about that. But sometimes, naps with uncle are fun, too. Nap times with uncle are always, always warm).
(And Cale… Likes warmth).
“If you fart on me while sitting on me, I can feel my skin tremble along with the sheer force of your gas alone.”
“Pffttfbbhhkk--” Cale sputters. “Ahaha! What does that even mean?!”
“The moral of the story is, don’t fart while you sit on my stomach, brat. I can feel you farting.”
During the night, Cale decides to do just that.
His uncle’s groan of defeat is worth it.
(He pulls Cale into his embrace afterwards, cocooning in his arms and blanket and grumpily orders him to sleep).
(The previous situation is the brand of chaos that Cale likes, but-- Uncle is warm, and Cale likes warmth).
(So he sleeps).
“Uncle, why do you not ever exercise?”
“I do work out sometimes.”
“But not everyday .”
“Kid, I’m Rock Henituse. A true Rock stays still.”
“...That was an awful pun. Not cool, uncle.”
“Can I stay here for much longer?”
Rock Henituse looks up from the novel he’s reading, his gaze directed towards the now twelve year old child.
“You ask this every year,” Rock says as an observation, his tone steady and not revealing any of his emotions.
Cale stares back, as steady and calm as his uncle. “Just for confirmation.”
Rock sighs. “Stay however long you want. This is your home as much as the estate is yours, kid.”
“Really? Can I stay here until I’m an adult, then?”
“Even when I’m in my mid-thirties?”
Cale’s smile is blinding.
“No alcohol, though.”
“No alcohol until you’re at least eighteen years old,” Rock says, his tone not allowing any arguments. He’s frowning, as if remembering something unpleasant. “And even then, no more than a few bottles that you can handle.”
“Uncle, I have no intentions to be an alcoholic drunkard.”
Uncle Rock stares at him as if he knows the secret of the universe.
His uncle is weird sometimes.
(Alcohol, for a child? No way. Rock will never allow that to happen).
(Even if novel Cale Henituse only took to drinking when he was 15, Rock isn’t about to let his nephew become an alcoholic at the age of fifteen. Permissive as he is towards Cale’s own brand of chaos--like the pranks he did to his cousins, the bunch of bullies who deserve what they got--he’s not about to let a minor get drunk everyday).
(He already has a hand in raising his nephew. Cale is his nephew. Cale is his own person. This, Rock realizes).
(Frankly, the novel can go fuck itself).
(And fuck itself it does).
Cale Henituse remembers having an uncle.
An uncle who used to visit the estate at the behest of his mother.
An uncle who would grow fungus if he stayed in his room for too long, unmoving and lazy just like a sloth.
An uncle who patted his head and his shoulder, who grounded him with a warm palm on his small back.
An uncle who slid plates of sweets to him, who invited him to dinner and accompanied him during those days when father was too sad to come out of his room.
An uncle who grumbled when mother teased him, but still dutifully visited whenever mother asked for his presence.
An uncle who was there for him when mother died.
An uncle who was there for him when he “ran away” from home.
An uncle who raised him in his house, who taught Cale everything he needed to know, who patiently guided Cale whenever he felt lost, whenever he drowned in his grief, whenever he needed warmth.
An uncle who Cale really, really loves.
Now eighteen years old, a family member permanently living in Rock Henituse’s villa, Cale Henituse is the son of a noble, stripped off his position as successor thanks to his disinterest in said position.
He’s not the infamous “trash”, though he is a “free spirit”.
He’s not an “alcoholic drunkard”, though he is a brilliant young master disinterested in governing the territory, who is often found helping his uncle with business matters instead.
Although over the years, his relationship with his family has softened and gotten better, Cale still chooses to stay with his uncle.
Even when his uncle randomly picks up a suspicious young man carrying a sword everywhere, when his uncle brings home a pair of Cats, when his uncle follows him to the capital with some bullshit reasons and saves a fucking dragon.
Yes. Even then.
Because Rock Henituse is his uncle, and Cale is the best person to make sure his uncle doesn’t grow fungus on his body thanks to lack of activities.
Or make sure he doesn’t die thanks to too much activities.
...Damn it, uncle. Stop coughing blood all the time!