A/N – Hello my dear readers! I am (unexpectedly) back with yet a new Hetalia story, for a previously unexplored pairing – namely USUK. I must confess that the whole idea did not just pop into my head now, it's from an original fiction (non-fanfiction) story I've written a few years ago. It wasn't particularly good, because I was at the beginning of my literary pursuits back then and it took a lot of work to 'bring it to surface. It won't be a very long one either, two-three chapters at most, but you know what they say – short but intense ;) Like almost all of my stories, it contains some magic. I don't know if this is because I'm technically part of the 'Magic Trio', but long story short I can barely do without it ;) That being said, enjoy and let me know what you think of it!
P.S. Both Alfred and Arthur are a bit OOC in this story, but it's all for the plot's sake. Written from Alfred's perspective.
Getting this job as a temporary break from his studies had been an excellent idea, Alfred thought as he sat on a bench scribbling some random observations in his notebook. The back garden was relatively small and quite poorly kept, yet here, under the thick trees still laden with the last golden leaves of autumn time seemed to stand still, it was incredibly peaceful. This place was so quiet and he felt he could even hear his own thoughts more clearly.
The bespectacled blond sighed, leaning on the backrest as he took a deep breath. Actually the time spent in the Kirkland asylum, where he also got to live as an intern, had proved unexpectedly productive. He had finally managed to catch up with coursework and deepen his knowledge with practice. He'd been allowed to study actual patient files and a few doctors had allowed him to assist at their consultations. But that wasn't everything – in the past few weeks Alfred himself had actually felt better – his nightmares had gradually subsided and for the first time he entertained some hope that one day he would be able to leave his multiple phobias behind. All these unexpected and wonderful changes were owed entirely to Dr. Braginski, the head doctor was simply a wonderful person. He was a man in his early forties, still looking youthful despite the random grey hairs which dotted his ashen blond hair, always calm and soft spoken, inspiring profound trust.
It was almost 9:00 A.M. when Alfred stood up from his favorite spot, collecting his stuff and headed towards Dr. Braginski's office. As usual, he softly knocked at the door and patiently waited to hear his mentor's voice before walking in. He found the doctor fumbling with some papers, in the company of a weird looking Chinese man. He wore some ancient worn assistant robe and his long, black hair was tied back in a messy ponytail.
"Oh hello, Alfred! Come in, I was expecting you," Dr. Braginski began in his usual good-humored tone as he stood up from his chair.
For some unknown reason – for he greatly respected and liked the doctor – Ivan Braginski's tall, massive frame, always clad in a pristine white robe managed to sort of intimidate Alfred every single time. There was something, like a hidden fear in the back of his mind, but he would usually attribute it to his screwed-up nerves.
"You wanted to see me, sir?" he murmured in a low voice, adjusting his spectacles.
"Indeed, indeed, da. I was thinking, since you have been with us some three months now and doing such a great job… well, I've concluded that it wouldn't be such a bad idea if we gave you a more important assignment."
The assistant clutched his notebook to his chest as he inwardly processed what he'd just heard with a mixture of excitement and fear. A more important assignment clearly meant an opportunity to learn new stuff, but it also involved (he guessed) more responsibility and challenge. Well, better hear what the doctor had thought of before voicing any concerns.
Dr. Braginski smiled kindly, reassuringly, handing him a thin file. "Starting tomorrow you will do routine checks on the patients in the underground level."
The Kirkland asylum was a fairly old building, with two levels above the ground and an underground one. The first level patients weren't mad per say, but rather suffered from various mildly deviant behaviors. The top level held the administrative offices and the doctors' individual offices. The underground level however was reserved for severe cases, which usually did not respond to treatment. Not much was said about the patients kept in there and it seemed that even doctors rarely went down to visit them.
Alfred had heard from the other assistants that they could not be brought to the doctors' offices because they were too dangerous. There was also a legend which said that they weren't even people, but some sort of monsters. Alfred for one had never paid much attention to the rumors – he thought that all old establishments of this kind must be more or less subject to such absurd stories – all the more since his tasks were only related to the first level. The patients he usually attended to were gentle people, most of them very quiet, perhaps too absorbed by their own issues, but otherwise no trouble at all.
"Undergr-…" he stuttered nervously, a bit worried now that he was being faced with the actual thing.
"I know all the stories you must have heard about that place, da… can't really cut people's appetite for these things," Dr. Braginski stated with a smile, waving his hand dismissively. "But of course they're not true. Those people are not so bad really, they are just… too lost inside their nightmares, so to speak. After all, what is madness but a nightmare gone beyond control? Unfortunately, they don't respond to treatment, that's the worst problem."
Alfred flinched at the word 'nightmare', it was still a sensitive issue he would have rather avoided, despite the fact that the doctor always insisted that he should make an effort and face his fears.
"Yao will go with you on your rounds, he'll be with you at all times, da," Dr. Braginski assured pointing to the Chinese man. He's worked there for a very long time. He knows all of them, and they know him. There's nothing to worry about. And all you'll have to do is a brief check: pulse, eyes, tongue. We just want to make sure they're in good physical health at least. And the usual form filling."
Alfred sighed, realising he'd been very nearly holding his breath the entire time. "Oh, okay. It doesn't sound like a big deal," he said, not very convinced, but still curious.
"It isn't. Well, good. See you tonight then."
A sudden tension came over Alfred as the elevator took them down to the underground level. He had to admit to himself he was more than a bit worried as to what he was about to see, and for some reason he didn't like Yao Wang at all. The guy had a permanent slight grin on the corner of his mouth and had an overall unpleasant air.
The underground level consisted of a very long hallway, which started from the elevator and ended with a supplies closet. On the right side, near the elevator, there was a small office which belonged to Yao and a broom closet a bit further away. The twenty rooms - in fact cells - were all on the left side, with fair distance between them and had thick glass doors, allowing the assistant to observe the inhabitants at all times, just by walking up and down the hallway.
Yao stepped inside his office and grabbed a set of small access cards held together by a metal ring, which he handed to Alfred with a wry smile.
"This will be your set, aru. It's the keys to the cells, each with the room number. Keep it safe. Now, let's get started… I got them ready for you, as much as I could," he mumbled in a heavily accented voice.
The new assignment didn't prove a simple one for the young assistant. Even if they did not appear to be neglected, most of the patients looked fairly frightening and their stares alone sent shudders across his spine. Even if quiet and calm around Yao, they were still somehow horrible to the touch and their gaze examining him from head to toe made the blond uneasy. He was under the impression that some of them even tried to smell him, animal like. On top of it all, Yao was also observing him and smirked all the time. He sighed in relief when at last there were only two cells left.
"No… we won't get in this one," the Chinese said pushing away Alfred's hand as he had reached to open the door. "This guy's bad business. But he'll come close and you can see him, aru. He's pretty much alive and kicking."
From the dark side of the cell a solid man stood and walked to the door with steady, determined steps. He was even taller than Alfred and his muscles were visible from the tight gown he wore. His short hair was pale blonde and his eyes a steel blue. He got close to the glass and threw them a narrow gaze.
"Who the hell is this guy?" the assistant whispered, adjusting his spectacles with a shaky hand.
"Ludwig. He's German… don't know much about him aru."
"Was he a wrestler or something?"
"Um… I guess something like that and…"
Yao was suddenly interrupted when Ludwig raised his fist and slammed it into the door with extreme violence. The glass shook and small crumbles of mortar fell on the floor. Alfred jumped and dropped his notebook.
"Shit…" grumbled Yao. "He kind of always does that… He'll chill eventually. Doesn't like to be stared at."
He then hurried Alfred to the last cell. "You'll go in here alone, aru. Don't need me with this one. I got him ready and stuff…" Yao mumbled. "Just call me when you're done, I'll be at my desk."
Alfred cautiously opened the door and stepped in. A boy sat on a chair in the middle of the room, staring blankly at the floor and giving no sign of having noticed him. The assistant walked towards him carefully, watching out for any reaction.
"Hi…" he tried, but the boy remained still, staring in the same point, somewhere on one of the empty walls. Alfred couldn't help examining him curiously - he was probably in his early twenties and strikingly good looking. His porcelain-white skin was smooth and flawless, his hair - although badly tousled and spiky - had a pleasant golden shade and his eyes, large and of a light, bright green like the first buds of spring were marked by thick, defined eyebrows. His body was somewhat petite and lithe, with thin, delicate bones, like a cat's. He wore a simple, white, knee long gown, directly on his skin and his feet were bare.
"I will not hurt you, it's just a routine check…" Alfred said softly, but the odd patient had no reaction whatsoever.
He gently took one of the boy's hands - which rested limply on his lap - and checked his pulse. It was normal, but his skin was ice cold. Suddenly, Alfred realized that the room had no heating. In fact, none of rooms in the underground level had. Observing the patient's outfit, he thought that the boy should probably be frozen. He glanced at the bed, in a dark corner, but saw nothing but a very thin sheet over the mattress.
"Hold on, I'll get you a blanket," the bespectacled blond said and jogged out of the room, to the supplies closet. Upon his return, he placed the blanket on the bed and turned to the odd boy.
"Okay, this will only take a minute, and then we'll get you warm." He checked the patient's eyes and then gently parted his lips to take a look at his tongue. He was completely numb. Alfred was suddenly surprised to feel his breath on his fingers. It was literally hot, in complete contrast with the rest of his body. Now that was really weird and for a moment he thought that the boy had fever. He quickly, worriedly placed his palm on his forehead and neck. They were warm, but nothing unusual.
"Okay, we're done. Let's get you to bed now." As the boy did not move, Alfred gently lifted him up and carried him to bed. His eyelids fell shut tiredly as he was laid down. The other blond pulled the blanket up to his chin and gently tucked it around him, then picked up his notebook and left the room.
"Hey, Yao, I'm done here!" the assistant called as he walked down the hallway towards the elevator.
"Freshhhhh meeeeaaat…" Alfred suddenly heard a bloodcurdling hiss behind him and he turned around startled, blinking somewhat in sync with the flickering light bulbs. He could swear he had even felt someone's breath on the back of his neck and a cold shudder ran down his spine. But there was no one. The hall was empty.
The checks went smoothly for the next week, two times a day, yet Alfred could still not get used to doing it. There was something foul and suffocating about the underground level, something he could not quite put his finger on, but it ate at him nevertheless. It was a gut feeling, something beyond his usual issues and he found that he couldn't talk about it, not even with Dr. Braginski. Besides, the blond wouldn't have liked the doctor to think that he wasn't able to handle this otherwise simple assignment.
It was about 8:30 P.M. when Alfred stepped out of the elevator and popped his head in Yao Wang's office. "Hey, Yao. Are you ready?"
"Sure, aru. Let's go."
They had done the first three cells and were headed to the next one when the two of them suddenly heard a terrible noise of broken glass. The alarm system went on and the all lights went out, except for the emergency bulbs.
"Shit! Someone's out! They are locking us down here, aru!" Yao Wang screamed as they saw the elevator lights changing color. "We cannot get out of here!"
A wave of terror washed over the younger assistant, as he threw frantic glances around, trying to process what he'd been told and to figure out what the hell was going on. "Wait! Who- who's out? How can someone get out?" he yelled back at Yao, grabbing his arm. His heart was pounding wildly and he struggled to control his breathing.
"It must be Ludwig! He fucking broke the door, aru! Fuckin' shit!"
"But he can't! He can't!"
"Seems he fuckin' can! Lose the white robe, aru, he hates hospital staff! I've got to go try to make a phone call. God help us!" Yao shouted and ran towards his office.
Alfred was in utter shock and found impossible to get his own feet moving. He could almost feel his blood running wildly into his veins, one with the adrenaline rush and there was a horrible tightness in his chest. This was worse than any nightmare he could remember having in a very long time. Just when he eventually snapped out of it, tossed the white robe away and was about to follow Yao, a hand grabbed him and he felt fingers closing around his neck as he was lifted off the floor and pinned to the wall. Ludwig's eyes were sparking in the dim light of the emergency bulbs. Alfred let out a scream, only causing the German's fingers to squeeze harder. He ran out of air and his mind went blank, panic completely blocking his thoughts. Struggling blindly, frantically, the blond eventually managed to kick Ludwig in the stomach with his boot with all his strength, causing the giant to stagger and let go of him. Alfred dropped to his knees, confused and scared out of his mind, but quickly stood up and distanced.
"Yao!" he shouted desperately, but there was no answer. The blasted Yao Wang was nowhere in sight. Alfred ran down the hallway and entered the last cell, closing the door. It locked automatically and he was instantly engulfed by the darkness inside, the only pale light coming from the bulb in the hallway. It suddenly crossed his mind that if he wanted to get out it would take him quite some time to find the card which opened it. He also remembered the odd boy residing in there and quickly wheeled around, gripped by new panic.
And indeed, there he stood in the semi-obscurity of the cell, leaning on the back wall, watching him intently. He wasn't numb anymore and this time Alfred knew that the patient was positively looking at him. He winced when the green-eyed boy eventually moved and drew closer to him. His lost stare was gone, replaced by somewhat of an ironic gaze and an almost imperceptible smirk curved the corner of his lips. Terror seized Alfred's throat like an invisible claw at the sight, constricting and making it impossible to breathe once more. A cold shudder ran down his spine as the boy crept closer and closer and eventually he felt his hot breath on his cheek. But the bespectacled blond found himself even more terrified to hear him speak, the strange voice but a husky whisper with thick British accent.
"Alfred… you were good to me… You are not like the others… You were the only one who didn't try to beat me… or abuse me…you even brought me a blanket…" The strange boy paused and smiled faintly. "Now… I will be good to you… I won't kill you."
To be continued