Title: On The Bound
Rated: T (for weapons, violence, language, homosexual content); will be changed to M at a later date for sexual scenes.
Synopsis: AU Matthew Williams doesn't know what to expect when his brother contacts him for the first time in years. But he quickly finds himself drawn into a plot to steal seventy million dollars worth of artefacts from a very rich Frenchman. Unfortunately, no one told Matt about how...persuasive the Frenchman could be. Eventual Matthew/Francis.
Pairings: main; Matthew/Francis. secondary; Alfred/Arthur, one-sided Ivan/Matthew, Roderich/Elizaveta, one-sided Gilbert/Roderich, Sweden/Finland, Ludwig/Feliciano; other pairings mentioned/shown briefly.
Author's Notes: So, last week I went to a writing camp, which actually turned out to be so much fun! On the way to the camp, me and my friends watched Ocean's Eleven, and it made me want to write a heist fic. This isn't really the same as Ocean's Eleven, but it does involve Hetalia characters sneaking around and plotting to rob someone. Also, while I was at camp I saw a girl wearing a Canada and England button and realized that I had met my first IRL Hetalia fan and became ecstatic to no end. We talked about gay countries and everyone around us came into our conversations at the wrong time. So that helped me write this too. Anyways, I had tons of fun writing this, I hope you have as much fun reading!
"All my life is on me now/hail the pages turning/And the future on the bound/Hell don't know my fury/You're all I need..." – On the Bound by Fiona Apple
Matthew Williams supposed he should have been wary when he received a call from his older brother, Alfred, stemming from a long history of grudging favours and annoying wheedling. At the moment, however, he was just glad to hear the voice of a man he hadn't seen in five years.
"Al!" he greeted after picking up the phone in his Ottawa apartment. "How are you? Where are you? I haven't heard from you in ages, eh!"
There was a chuckle on the other end of the line. "It's nice to talk to you too, Matty."
Matt smiled. "What are you doing nowadays, Al?"
"I, uh – I'm actually in London right now." Alfred began.
"Oh! Wow!" Matt leaned back in his chair – his big, shaggy, bear-like dog Kumajirou padded up to him and impatiently nuzzled Matt's hand with his big head. Matt patted him idly, continuing, "Do you live there now or are you there for business? Just a vacation?"
"Ah. Temporarily living for business, actually." Matt missed the hesitant tone in his brother's voice. "That was actually kind of why I called you. You still do that computer thing?"
Matt rolled his eyes. By "that computer thing" Alfred meant the university course Matt had been taking the last time the brothers had seen each other. Matt had been training for a degree in computer programming.
"Yes." He replied, and Alfred gave a crow of laughter.
"Hey, good for you Matty!" he exclaimed. "Listen, you want to come to London with me for a while?"
Matt laughed before he realized Alfred wasn't joking. Then he spluttered a bit and asked, "What, you're serious? When?"
"I was thinking tomorrow." Was Alfred's easy reply.
"Alfred." Matt sighed. His brother had always been spontaneous and unrealistic when thinking of ideas, always leaving Matt to run along after him. Things really hadn't changed a bit. "I can't just get up and go to London."
There was a pause. "...Why not?" Alfred asked.
"Because..." Matt took of his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I don't really have enough money to buy a plane ticket right now." Truthfully, Matthew didn't have enough money to buy anything, really, but Alfred didn't need to know that.
He was surprised when Alfred readily countered, "I'll pay for you to fly down here."
Matt slid his eyes to the left and watched Kumajirou chew happily on a chair leg, so he forgot to find it strange that Alfred didn't mention anything about a return trip. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and hissed, "Kuma! Cut it out, eh?"
Kumajirou didn't even blink, carrying on chewing. Matt groaned.
"It's like I don't even exist to you!" he grumbled before returning to the phone.
"What's so important that you want me to come to London tomorrow, eh?" he asked Alfred.
"Can't I just want to see my favourite little brother after years of being apart?" came Alfred's innocent reply.
"Al..." Matt tried (and failed) to sound firm. Alfred sighed noisily into the phone.
"I'll tell you when you get here!" he insisted. "C'mon! Just for a little while, it'll be fun! I'll take you sightseeing, you can meet some of my friends!"
When Matt hesitated, Alfred's voice started to become a bit higher pitched. "M-a-a-a-tty..." he whined. "Please?"
Finally, Matt relented. "Fine." He ground out, and continued over the sound of his brother's loud cheering. "But I can't leave right away, okay? I need to take time off work, I need to find someone to take care of Kumajirou – "
"My dog, Alfred, I've had him since I was little!"
"Oh right! Kuma!" Alfred sounded sheepish. "Yeah, sure bro, whatever you need to do! How long do you think it's going to take you to get out here?"
Matt had to think a moment, going over all the things needed to be done in his mind.
"...A week?" he finally guessed. "If my boss is willing to be lenient, that is."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll have no problem with that!" Alfred laughed cheerfully. Matt rolled his eyes. Easy for him to say...
"I'll get you a plane ticket," Alfred continued. "Oh, and I'll give you my new number, too – you call me when you're ready to leave, okay?"
"Okay." Matt agreed, and after a few more pleasantries the brothers said goodbye and Matt hung up the phone. He looked over at Kumajirou, who cocked his head as if in question.
"Well, I guess we'd better find someone to look after you for a while, eh?" Matt finally sighed. Kumajirou barked.
Within the week, Matt was stepping off a plane at Heathrow Airport in the late afternoon sunshine of London. Everything had gone suspiciously smoothly for him in Ottawa – Matthew's boss had practically anticipated his request for time off with the ease it had been given to him. Kumajirou was in the capable (if not frightening) hands of Sanchez, the tough talking Cuban guy in the apartment next to Matt's. Matt had called Alfred, who assured him he would see him soon.
Matt couldn't see his brother anywhere among the crowd gathered at "Arrivals" – instead, his eyes were drawn to a fair-headed man who stood at least a head and a half taller than everyone else. He was dressed in a thick-looking coat (though the weather was only a little cloudy) with a scarf wrapped around his neck. People seemed to be giving him a wide berth, which could be attributed to the rather menacing aura about him despite the wide smile on his face. Matt's heart sank when he saw the paper in the man's hands. It read: "MATTHEW WILLIAMS".
Matt took a deep breath and switched hands on his carry on. Obviously, Alfred had sent someone to fetch him from the airport. Which was fine, of course, although Matt couldn't help but feel disappointed. It was because of Alfred that Matt had packed a suitcase, left his apartment and dog in the care of a chain-smoking Cuban and flown halfway around the world on a ridiculously long flight at equally ridiculous short notice. The least Alfred could do was meet him at the airport!
Matt grimaced as he approached the big man, hand raised hesitantly in greeting.
"E-excuse me?" he called. The man turned around, then looked down, violet eyes lighting up.
"Ah!" he boomed, crumpling the paper sign up easily and shoving it in his coat pocket. His voice was thick with a Russian accent. "Matthew!"
At Matt's taken aback facial expression, the man explained, "I could tell it was you. You look just like your brother! A little bit prettier, yes, but otherwise the same!"
Before Matt could react, the man stuck out a large hand. "I am Ivan Braginski. It is very nice to meet Matthew."
Matt took his hand. Ivan's skin was cool to the touch and he kept Matt's hand for five seconds longer than was comfortable, all the while smiling pleasantly.
"Uhm." Said Matt, finally yanking his hand back. "I'll – I'll go get my luggage..."
"Oh! Yes, your brother said he would wait for us at the carousel." Ivan turned and began leading the way. Matt couldn't stop a smile from spreading across his face as he hurried to catch up.
"For a second, I thought Alfred hadn't come with you." He offered conversationally, and Ivan glanced down at him.
"I told him I could find you myself, but he insisted on coming along to pick you up," the Russian man explained. "He's very excited to see you."
Matt didn't need to be told twice - a blonde in a familiar bomber jacket was waving enthusiastically from the luggage carousel. He had a half-wrapped burger in his hand from one of the nearby food courts, and Matt had to laugh at the fact that his brother had not outgrown his fondness for fast food.
Alfred all but ran at Matt and threw himself on him - Matt stumbled back a few steps and felt Ivan take his carry on from him. After a few seconds Matt slung his arms around his brother.
"Al." he murmured into his older brother's shoulder. "It's good to see you. I missed you."
Alfred pulled back so he could see Matt's face - Matt took a moment to examine him in return, noting the familiar blue eyes from behind framed glasses and the collar of the bomber jacket he wore, so worn and frayed with age and constant use. Alfred had received that very same bomber jacket for a birthday present when he was fifteen; it was incredible that his brother, who had such a short attention span, could wear something so lovingly for so long.
"You've grown!" Alfred finally said, ruffling Matt's hair. Then he frowned. "Your hair, too."
Matt defensively tucked a bit of his curly blond hair behind his ear. "I like my hair." he grumbled. Alfred snorted and brushed a hand through his own short, straight hair.
"At least someone does." he joked, then clapped Matt on the shoulder. "It's good to see you too, bro! Let's get your suitcase..."
The brothers turned to discover that Ivan had taken half a dozen suitcases off the conveyor belt and was waiting for them.
"I - I only brought one suitcase." Matt said worriedly. Ivan blinked and looked down at the mass of luggage.
"They all had Canadian flags on them," he explained. "So I took them all in case one of them was Matthew's!"
Matt was glad that his feeling of bewilderment was mirrored on Alfred's face as well.
"My suitcase doesn't have a Canadian flag on it!" Matt protested.
"Seriously, Ivan." Alfred sent the taller man an exasperated look. "Put those back, Matt's perfectly capable of getting his own luggage."
Matt could have sworn he saw Ivan's smile flicker - then the big man shrugged and began easily lifting suitcases back onto the belt. Matt caught sight of his lone red suitcase trundling along around the other side of the carousel and excused himself to chase after it.
When he retrieved it and glanced back at Alfred, his brother was talking sternly to Ivan, who was simply nodding along, still smiling.
"If you keep freaking him out," Alfred was muttering as Matt approached them again, "He's not even going to listen to us when - "
"Matthew!" Ivan trilled, interrupting Alfred mid-sentence. "What a cute suitcase you have, I should have known it was yours. Come, I will take it to the car!"
"No, that's okay - " Matt began, but Ivan had already taken it from his hands. The Russian strode ahead as the two brothers fell into step behind him.
Matt glanced sideways at Alfred and asked, "So are you ever going to tell me what's going on?"
"Nothing's going on!" Alfred protested, but Matt gave an exasperated sigh.
"I'm not a little kid anymore, Alfred!" he chastised. "I can tell when you're lying and when something's wrong. I wouldn't fly all the way to England on such short notice if it wasn't really important."
"Just..don't worry about it, Matt. I'll tell you later. Hey!" Alfred's sombre expression gave way to a falsely bright smile. "Have I told you about Ivan's car? It's a sweet deal - real professional-looking. That reminds me..." he grabbed Matt's sleeve and tugged him to catch up with the lumbering Russian.
"Hey, Ivan!" Alfred beamed. "You think I could drive home?"
He got an icy chuckle in response. Smile never changing, Ivan turned to the blonde and murmured, "Why, Alfred, you know I make a point of never letting Americans dirty up my driver's seat."
Alfred's own smile grew tight. "Just asking." he replied coolly, adding, "But I get shotgun, then."
"And we have a guest, too!" Ivan's eyes flickered to Matt, and he clicked his tongue. "Alfred, your manners fail you."
Matt was terrified of the venom underlying their words and, fearing it would get nastier, blurted out, "I don't mind sitting in the back!"
Ivan almost looked disappointed, before they walked out of the airport and were met with a light rain.
Matt was just about to turn up the hood of his jacket when Ivan announced, "I will get the car" and set off into the parking garage, shoulders hunched against the rain, still carrying Matt's suitcase and carry on.
"That was nice of him." Matt noted absently. Alfred made a noncommittal noise and they both stood in silence for a few minutes, listening to the rain on the sidewalk.
"So how do you know Ivan?" Matt finally asked, searching for conversation.
"We're acquaintances." was Alfred's response. "I know him from work."
"And what exactly is it that you do?" Matt pressed on, irritated at his brother's short answer.
"Contracts. For different businesses."
"Oh, like...buildings? Construction?" Matt attempted to expand on the ambiguity.
Alfred took on the look of a freed rat when he saw a dark, sleek car with tinted windows pull up in front of them. "Something like that. Hey, here's the car, hop in the back."
When it came to avoiding something, Alfred was a master at it. Matt obediently opened the door and slid into a plush, dark interior with leather seats.
Alfred opened what on the other side of the Atlantic was the passenger side door, but in England was quite the opposite. As such, Alfred nearly sat on Ivan's lap. The latter arched an eyebrow.
"Four months and you still can't tell right from left." he commented. Alfred flushed and slammed the door, walking around the car. Matt's eyes met Ivan's in the rearview mirror and the Canadian looked away as Alfred got in the proper door and they pulled away from the curb.
"So you've been here four months?" Matt asked his brother, who nodded.
"About that long."
"What about you Ivan? Do you live in the city?" Matt addressed the hulking driver, then balked as the man turned away from the road to answer him.
"No, I am the same. I have been here for four months and I am only living here for business. I come from Moscow originally - it is so different here."
"Th-that's great!" Matt squeaked, and was relieved when Ivan turned back to the road.
Matt entertained himself throughout the drive by asking the two men questions. Both were vague about work ("Yes," Ivan agreed, eyes flitting briefly to Alfred. "I work with your brother...with contracts") but they readily answered most of Matt's other questions (Ivan had two sisters; Alfred happily chattered on about the places he'd visited in the five years Matt hadn't seen him).
They drove into London, past several familiar landmarks - the London Eye, Big Ben - slogged their way through London traffic, and traversed along the Thames. As Matt's jet lag caught up with him, his eyes grew heavy and he leaned his head back on the head rest. Alfred glanced back at him, grinning.
"Jet lag?" he asked, and when Matt nodded sleepily, he laughed. "Just try to stay awake a few more hours, until bed. It'll be easier to get your inner clock adjusted."
"I'll try..." Matt interrupted himself with a jaw-cracking yawn.
"I'll make you some coffee when we get home." Alfred added as they turned off into one of the more affluent London neighborhoods.
Matt rubbed his eyes sleepily and tried not to look at the rearview mirror - Ivan was staring again and his attitude made the Canadian uneasy.
"Here we are!" Alfred announced as they pulled past a gate up a gravel driveway, and parked in front of a jaw-droppingly large house. It was a picturesque old Victorian brick mansion, half-swathed in climbing vines.
"Th-this is your house?" Matt asked Alfred incredulously. Both Ivan and Alfred laughed.
"No, no." Alfred corrected. "This is my boss's house. The Kirkland Manor." he said the last bit in a horribly fake British accent.
Alfred tumbled out of the car and Ivan popped the trunk so the American could pull the luggage out. As Matt was getting out, the front doors of the house opened and a man in a dark suit, brown hair hanging straight past his ears, came out. His eyes were soft and green. He walked up to Alfred and took Matt's bags.
"Thank you." Matt muttered, and the servant looked over at him with a smile.
"You're welcome, sir." he replied, and set off back into the house. Ivan watched him go, leaning on the hood of the car.
"That's Toris." he told the Canadian. "He's a servant in the house. I like him. He is nice and quiet, like you Matthew."
He turned to grin at Matt as Alfred slammed the trunk a bit harder than necessary - this caused the tall man to pull a sour face.
"Right!" the American announced, dusting his hands off and slinging an arm around Matt, steering him towards the house. "C'mon, we'll get you settled, and then you can meet Arthur!"
"Arthur?" Matt repeated, casting a glance back at Ivan, who was staring at his trunk.
"Yeah, my boss. He's a bit prickly, but you'll like him. Hey, you hungry?" Alfred pulled him into the house, into a grand marble foyer with sweeping staircase. Matt gawked while Alfred cupped a hand around his mouth and hollered, "Hello! Anyone home?"
His voice echoed in the immense space. Ivan gave a grunt as he shuffled past them and disappeared down a hallway. Alfred shrugged easily when no one answered, and turned back to Matt.
Matt took a moment to realize that Alfred had asked a question before he started yelling. Startled, he stammered, "S-sure, uh...if you have something I could snack on, that would be great!"
"No problem!" Alfred began pulling him into the house.
Taking a quick glance around to make sure the coast was clear, Matt asked his brother, "Is Ivan always this..." he paused, searching for a word.
"Weird? Creepy?" Alfred finished for him. "Yeah, he is. Be careful around him, okay? He tends to get strange sometimes."
"...Strange like how?" Matt was getting dizzy as they turned corners and thundered down stairs. On the lower floor, the hallways were less elaborate, more plain. Alfred waved his hand flippantly.
"Just...he can freak people out sometimes. I'm just looking out for you bro!" he finished, and pushed his way through a plain, white-washed door. Matt followed.
They were in the kitchen, an immaculate jumble of high-tech machines and devices and staff walking in and out in an organized rush. At the stove, hand on her hip, stirring something in a saucepan, was a short, slight, blonde girl, humming to herself. She was wearing an impossibly short schoolgirl skirt covered in a white apron. A white chef's hat was perched jauntily on her head.
"Hey, Feliks!" Alfred greeted, and when the girl turned around Matt realized with a start that she was a he.
"Like, Alfred." Feliks's voice carried a tinge of annoyance. "I am totally behind on dinner, so whatever you want..."
"My brother just arrived," Alfred explained hurriedly as Feliks raised the wooden spoon, "And I was wondering if you had anything he could eat."
"Before dinner?" Feliks pursed his lips and gave Matt a once over. "Well, okay, but only because he's like, really cute." he finally said, and waved towards a pantry along the wall. "There's some crackers in there."
"Thanks, Feliks!" Alfred waltzed over to the door. Matt was left to stare at Feliks, trying hard not to notice how high the chequered school girl skirt fell, and what looked like a generous smudge of pink gloss on the boy's lips. Feliks caught him looking and sent him a sly look.
"You like my outfit?" the cook twirled for effect, smirking.
"Uh." said Matt.
Alfred came back at this moment with a packet of crackers, already shoving a few in his mouth. "Thanks again, Feliks." he said in a muffled voice.
Feliks was about to say something, but one of the light-bulbs above their heads burnt out just as the saucepan's contents began to bubble. The blonde turned back to the stove with a little cry.
"Can you, like, do me a favor?" he asked as he began turning the heat down on the element. "If you see Toris, tell him to come down and see me! And tell him the sauce is, like, totally skimming, and the vegetables haven't even gone in yet!"
"We'll tell him." Matt promised, as Alfred's mouth was full of crumbs. Alfred tried to agree and ended up spewing crumbs on the clean kitchen floor.
Feliks looked unimpressed, and Matt shot him an uneasy smile as he herded his older brother out of the kitchen.
"The cook's a cross-dresser?" he hissed at Alfred when they left the kitchen. Alfred nodded and handed Matt the cracker packet.
"Yeah, that's Feliks. He and Toris are tight, so he's an all right guy. Eat some crackers, okay? Or I'll be tempted to eat them all myself."
Matt let himself be dragged around the house again, munching carefully at some crackers. As they walked past various room, Alfred would stop to poke his head into them.
"No one's here!" Matt's elder brother complained, pouting and towing Matt along. "I guess you'll see everyone at dinner..."
Toris was walking down the hallways towards them, and he dipped his head in greeting.
"Mister Williams." he murmured. "I put your things in the third bedroom at the end of the hallway. If there are any problems, please let me know."
"Thank you." Matt replied, a bit bewildered. He was not used to this sort of subservient environment, but luckily Alfred cut in before Matt felt forced to say more out of politeness.
"Hey, I almost forgot. Toris, Feliks was looking for you."
The docile expression on the brunette's face was briefly replaced by one of worry. "Did he say why?" he questioned, and gave a tired smile when the brothers shook their heads.
"Thank you for delivering the message. If there's nothing else, I should go see what he wants."
"By all means." Alfred allowed grandly, and with another bob of the head Toris walked smartly off down the hallway.
Alfred turned back to Matt, and excited look on his face.
"Come on," he said cheerfully. "I'll take you to see Arthur."
END CHAPTER ONE
Author's Note: Thanks for reading the first chapter of On The Bound! Feedback in any shape or form is always, always appreciated! This is my first time writing a multi-chaptered Hetalia story and I could really use the critique.
EDIT (31/03/11): Fixed some grammar and spelling errors.