Title: Into the Face of the Beguiled (Chapter Six)
Author:
tatterdemalion
Characters:
in this chapter - Prussia, Canada, America, France, Netherlands, Seychelles, Lithuania, Spain, South Italy
Rating:
M just to be safe because there's some almost-but-not-quite stuff in here D:
Summary:
AU. Alfred and Matthew Jones, expert runaways and orphans, arrive in Amsterdam to make their fortune. There, they find themselves caught up in the world of cabaret, prostitution, money, and murder, and it may be too late to get out.

Author's Note: Sorry for all those who reviewed and I didn't get back to you! Anyways, here's the next chapter, I hope you enjoy!



Matthew and Gilbert parted ways before they reached the foyer of the theatre - the older man didn't seem too keen on being seen with Matthew, and sent him off up to Francis's office to find his brother.

Alfred threw the door open with a relieved look on his face. "Great, you're here, let's go." he urged, grabbing his brother's wrist and dragging him away. Francis leaned against the door frame and waved his fingers at them.

There were less patrons downstairs than last night, when the show attracted them in expectant droves. The majority of these customers looked a little shadier, a little less confident than the ones last night. They stayed near the edges of the lobby or near the entrance, nervous and antsy, as if one loud sound would send them running out the door. Somehow, their nervousness made Matthew feel a little more at ease - it was easier to be confident when the people you were scared of were just as wary.

Gilbert was already talking to one of them, an older gentleman with a rather cruel face. Matthew observed the way Gilbert stood with one side tilted towards him. It almost looked intimate. Could someone be believably intimate like that with a stranger? Matthew didn't think he ever could. Their eyes met briefly and Gilbert gave him a curt nod before his eyes flicked back to the other man. Matthew felt slighted.

Alfred eased him once again into nervous conversation as they waited to see if anyone would approach them. Matthew, irritated that he had to keep being babied by his brother like that, tried to take control of the conversation, and was so into it he didn't even notice the man a couple feet away from them until Alfred nudged him with his elbow, eyes guarded.

The man was standing casually by one of the lobby's pillars, cupping his hand around his cigarette to light it. As Matthew watched, he waved the match out, exhaled smoke and looked over at them with a consumer's eye.

As the man surveyed them, Matthew took the chance to survey him. He wasn't a bad looking man, he decided, a little round in the gut, greying temples, but with a strong nose, pronounced jaw and thin lips. He had that "every man" air about him that made him look like he could be someone's husband, or father.

Not like Matthew would know anything about fathers.

His clothes did not reveal much about his profession or his class - decent trousers, well worn shoes, clean shirt and overcoat. He looked entirely normal and this relaxed Matthew somewhat, enough to bravely hold his gaze for a few seconds before turning his eyes to the floor.

The man said nothing; didn't greet him, didn't make conversation. Simply examined him. Like he was a product, like he was nothing to bother conversing with. This detached interest made Matthew wary and skittish of the person in front of him.

Finally, the man looked pleased. "Where is the owner?" he wanted to know (Matthew didn't want to think about how much it sounded like "Your owner"). He spoke in a low, gruff voice, rough from smoking or maybe from just general disuse.

Francis appeared at the man's elbow - something behind the Frenchman's eyes had shifted, though his smile remained the same.

"Welcome back, sir." he murmured softly. His eyes traveled over Alfred and Matthew. "Have you decided?"

The man nodded. "Yeah." he grunted. "How much are they?"

"Ah, Monsieur, it is rather distasteful to discuss money in public." Francis was wearing his crocodile smile - Matthew was starting to get nervous. "Come up to my office, and we will talk there."

He motioned for Matthew and Alfred to follow them - the brothers, like last time, stayed outside the office while the two negotiated.

When the man came out again he looked a little happier. "Your boss wants to see you." he jerked a thumb behind him. "I'll be waiting at your room."

Exchanging glances, Matthew and Alfred entered the office, closing the door behind them.

"Is something wrong?" Alfred asked as Francis moved around the office, restlessly fiddling with things.

"Ah, no." Francis straightened up. "Just, that man. He is a regular here, and he has a reputation of being quite...forceful at times. You understand? I made sure to be quite clear about how much you are allowed to do, but if he pushes you, you must be firm with him."

That was comforting. Nevertheless, the brothers nodded, and Francis's face relaxed.

"Good." he smiled. "Now, my dears, go out and make your Madam some money!"

The man was waiting for them in front of their apartment, fixing his cuff links as Alfred fumbled for the key. They let him in - Matthew tried to make awkward small talk as he closed the door and took the man's coat. The window in their bedroom was still covered with a sheet.

"I'm Alfred." Matthew's brother began. "And this is Matthew. What do we call you, mister?"

"You can call me "sir"," the man grunted, rolling up his sleeves. Matthew glanced nervously at his brother. Alfred gave him a smile - is this guy for real? his eyes seemed to say.

"Strip." Sir commanded, settling down into the chaise in the corner of their bedroom. Taken aback by his curtness, the brothers only hesitated before simultaneously pulling off their shirts.

"Slower!" the man snapped - he was watching them intently, eyes hooded and dark. Matthew couldn't look at him, dropping his shirt on the floor, fingers clumsily undoing his belt. As Sir watched them, he undid the front of his own trousers, unbuttoned his shirt, leaned back on the chaise like some dangerous cat in repose.

Once Matthew was down to his underpants, he looked questioningly at the man. Sir considered them a moment.

"Touch each other." was his next command. Matthew's palms grew cold and he furrowed his brow.

"B-but - " We're brothers...

"I told you to do something, so do it." the man's voice was cold, and Matthew flinched.

"Hey, it's okay." Alfred settled his hand on his brother's shoulder. "C'mon, Mattie, just like that."

Matthew reached out, fingers brushing across the dip of Alfred's collarbone, and his brother smiled encouragingly.

"That's good. Good work." he praised softly, running his hand over Matthew's shoulder. Face burning with embarrassment, Matthew mirrored his brother's movements, moving when he moved, hands uncertain as they flitted over Alfred's torso.

Alfred's hand skimmed down the length of Matthew's arm and pulled him close, tilting their bodies so Matthew was partially hidden from the man watching them. Sir's breathing was heavy - out of the corner of his eye Matthew could see the man's hand moving languidly up and down, jerking himself off in a steady rhythm.

"You two are brothers?" Sir asked casually, breaking the heavy silence. At Alfred's nod, he continued, "Then why don't you give your brother a kiss, Alfred?"

Matthew froze. "S-sir, no..." he said weakly. His brother's expression mirrored what he felt - shocked, a little repulsed. Sir looked indifferent.

"You will do what I tell you. I paid for you, after all." he pointed out. Matthew shook his head.

"I can't, I can't..." he mumbled, averting his eyes. This was Alfred, this was his brother - he loved his brother, but...

Alfred's lips were drawn into a thin line, and he looked over at Sir. When he met Matthew's eyes, the younger brother blinked in surprise.

"Al...?"

"Sorry, Matt." he whispered, before they were kissing, actually kissing, and Matthew pushed his hands flat against his brother's chest in instant repulsion, trying to shove him away.

"No!" he bit out against his brother's mouth - Alfred grabbed his upper arms, lips unmoving. He was just as upset about it as Matthew was, and though the kiss was incredibly awkward and wrong, it was unwanted on both sides, which made it a little easier to deal with. The brothers remained standing with their mouths pressed up against each other's, wondering if Sir was falling for it at all.

When they parted, the man was flushed red all over, even on the top of his beefy hand that kept moving up and down over his arousal. Matthew felt sick looking at him.

"You," Sir pointed with his free hand at Matthew. "Take off your brother's underpants and touch him."

Matthew made a strangled sound in the back of his throat. Alfred, who had been willing to put up with the kiss, shook his head.

"No, no way...he's my brother, sir, that's..."

Sir stood up, a dark frown pulling his lips down. Matthew felt panicked - how long had it been since they took this man up to their room? How much had he paid for?

Alfred jumped as his hips were roughly seized - the man had come up behind him and pushed him against Matthew. He grabbed the younger boy through his underpants and tried to get him to touch Alfred. Matthew wrenched his arm away, letting out an exclamation. The brothers stumbled, as one, and Matthew fell so he was bent backwards over the couch. Alfred, with no way to balance himself, landed on top of his brother. Both of them were caught off guard with the wind knocked out of them, so it was very easy for Sir, with his larger frame, to fondle Alfred with one hand, using the other to pull down the waistband of his underpants.

"W-w-wait!" Matthew begged. "H-hold on, let me - !"

"Be quiet!" Sir snarled, pressing against Alfred so his pelvic bone jutted into Matthew's abdomen. Matthew wheezed. He could feel Alfred pressing heavily into his leg, and it made him seize up.

Alfred was thrashing above him, pressing Matthew painfully into the couch with each movement.

"What are you doing?!" he demanded. "Let go of me!"

Matthew couldn't see what was going on, but when he heard the sound of a zipper, and Alfred's frozen facial expression, he got a pretty good idea.

"Stop!" he started flailing under his brother. "Stop, you aren't allowed to do that! Madam said no - "

Sir gave a grunt, and pressed forward. Alfred shouted, and Matthew could see painful tears pricking in his eyes.

"Stop!" Matthew repeated. "Please, someone..."

He has a reputation of being quite...forceful at times.

Fuck Madam and fuck this brothel and fuck everything that led Matthew and Alfred to this situation. Hopeless and out of breath, Matthew could only squirm under his brother as this stranger began to press against Alfred's, with no means of preparation or patience. Alfred was grimacing now, little yips of pain slipping through his teeth, and his muscles were taut with pain and resistance. When Matthew tried to push up, Sir would push down, trapping the two boys against each other.

Matthew lashed out, aiming for the man's face, knuckles barely hitting skin (too far, he was too far away...) before he was slapped so hard his head spun.

"Keep your hands off me, you little whore." Sir snarled, and Alfred gave a louder exclamation as the man's fingers dug into his hips with the effort.

Matthew was barely aware of the door flying open - he was too busy trying to hit the man again despite the ringing in his ears.

"What, if I may ask, are you doing to my boys?" Matthew had never been so happy to hear Francis' voice, which right now was laced with menacing undertones. The man said something that he didn't catch and the pressure lifted off the two brothers, allowing them to scramble away, onto the floor. Alfred pressed himself against the chaise, shivering, while Matthew curled his body around his older brother. When he looked up the man was on the floor, swearing, one side of his face dark with blood. Francis, in all his corseted glory, had gripped in his right hand a baseball bat from which protruded several nails.

How unglamorous, Matthew thought sarcastically.

"You can't do that to me!" Sir was bellowing, though he quieted when Francis lifted the bat again.

"The moment you tried to force your horrific filth upon my employees, I was entitled to do whatever I want. Now get out of my theatre. You are no longer welcome."

The man was reaching for his wallet. "I'll pay you." he said simply. "Whatever you want. I want those two - "

"I do not want your money." Francis sneered, features twisted.

Well, that was a change. Matthew could still feel his brother shuddering slightly under his arms, though Alfred was quickly pulling himself together.

"You have insulted both me and my boys." Francis said. "Your money is no good here anymore. Get out, or I will force you out."

He hefted the bat on his shoulder and the man was quick to scramble to his feet and out the door without looking back.

Matthew let out a breath and pressed his head against Alfred's. "Did he hurt you? Are you okay?" he whispered. Alfred shuddered, exhaled.

Then Francis was kneeling next to them, bat by his feet. "Alfred, stand up." his voice was firm and level - when Alfred shook his head stubbornly, Francis repeated. "Alfred, my dear, stand up. I need to see what has happened to you."

Alfred made a sound that could have been a whimper. Francis cast a look over at Matthew and together they helped prod Alfred to his feet. Matthew held his brother's hands as Francis gently examined him, acutely aware of the embarrassment of the situation.

The Frenchman breathed a sigh of relief. "You are fine. He was a brute, no? But he is not good at the, how would you say it...aiming."

Then he turned his attentions to Matthew, face bizarrely gentle as he asked, "Did he harm you at all?"

"N-no." Matthew said, adding after a moment, "Ah, wait, he hit me."

Francis touched Matthew's face. "Mm. I will get you some ice. Hopefully it will not bruise. Come." Francis took their elbows. "I will let you both sleep here for the night, all right? I am so sorry that you had to experience that. That man is known for his temper, yes, but he has never gotten so violent." Francis snorted. "These people, they think that just because they can wave money under our noses, they think we do not have limits. This is the problem, they do not think of us as people. Scum."

Matthew's head was spinning. Beside him Alfred was uncomfortably silent. Without his brother's usual chatter Matthew was distinctly aware of the silence and tried his best to fill it.

"Do..." he swallowed, throat dry. "Do you get a lot of customers like that?"

Francis' expression was one of pity. "You learn to take the good with the bad." he said simply. "Now, get some rest."

He urged them gently towards the bed - Alfred lay down complacently, still looking a little dazed. Matthew followed, tucking himself around his brother.

"Thank you." he said quietly. Francis' eyes softened and Matthew let the Frenchman run a quick hand through his hair.

"I do not like when my employees are tired," he said with a smile. "I will be around to check on the two of you tomorrow. If you or your brother need anything...you know where my office is, yes?"

Matthew nodded, eyes still fixed on Alfred. His older brother seemed to sense his gaze and their eyes met before Alfred gave him a strained smile.

"Night, Matt." he said.

Francis had left before Matthew had even realized it and the younger one gripped his brother's hand.

"Night, Al." he echoed.

It's my turn to protect you, now.


"Rise and shine, princess! Up we go!"

That was the first thing Matthew heard, loudly in his ear, accompanied by someone giving him a hard shake.

"Umf." was all he managed to get out before he was prodded again. Beside him, Alfred rolled onto his stomach, throwing a heavy arm over his younger brother's back.

"Ah, cute." came the voice. "The brotherly love almost makes me want to vomit. Oi, Dutchie, help me out here."

"Do you have to call me that?" the covers were pulled off the bed and the brothers let out twin exclamations of displeasure.

"Fuck off~f." Alfred drawled into his pillow. Matthew let his eyes flutter open against the brightness of the room.

"I don't recall ever getting to sleep in when I first started working here." Gilbert said disparagingly, standing over Matthew's side of the bed, covers in hand. Beside him stood the tall Dutchman, Lars. Matthew made a half-hearted grab for the elusive blankets. Gilbert held them above his head. Well, damn.

"Five more minutes?" Matthew pleaded. Alfred made a snorting noise and curled sideways, pressing into his little brother's hip.

"What is this, a hotel?" Gilbert sneered. "C'mon, get up! And don't give me any bullshit about you having a rough night, kid, I can tell you stories that'll make your night seem like a walk in the park - "

"All right, macho man, you've had your fun." Lars butted in, annoyance audible in his voice. "Give him some space. If you're nattering in his ear how's he supposed to wake up?"

Gilbert grumbled and walked out of Matthew's vision. Moments later, banging started up in another part of the apartment. Matthew feared for their kitchen.

Lars crouched down beside the bed, running a hand through his spiked up hair.

"How are you feeling?" he asked. "Ignore that idiot, he's been here so long he's forgotten what it feels like to be new. Madam didn't tell us everything but most of us are smart enough to guess. Did that man do anything to you?"

Tiredly, Matthew raised himself up on his elbows and shook his head.

"Luckily Madam was there to help us." he confessed. "I was scared, though. I couldn't do anything, it was awful..."

Lars worriedly reached out to rub his shoulder. "Hey, it's okay." he soothed. "You're getting that panicky look in your eyes."

Matthew flushed and apologized, pulling himself up into a sitting position. Alfred grumbled something unintelligible. Matthew shook him with an exasperated sigh.

"Come on Al, seriously. If Gilbert comes back and you're not up he's going to hassle us again."

"I feel like shi~it." Alfred groaned. "Tell him to come back later."

Matthew rolled his eyes. "Okay yeah, sure, I'll tell him that."

Lars was still looking at him as if he was afraid Matthew was going to have a breakdown - irritated, Matthew stood up, tangled his feet in the discarded blanket on the floor, and toppled into the Dutchman's arms.

"Whoa, you okay?" Lars fussed over him as Gilbert stepped back into the bedroom with a fistful of clothing.

The look on the older man's face was curious - sort of a mixture between irritation and another emotion Matthew didn't want to place. Bracing himself against Lars's arms and muttering an apology, he let out an exclamation as Gilbert threw his clothes at him.

"Get dressed." the pale haired man bit out. "I'm not waiting around for you two anymore."

Lars let go of Matthew's arms with a grimace twisting the corner of his mouth. Matthew was sufficiently confused, stooping to pick up his clothes from the floor. When he straightened up, Gilbert had left and Lars was staring at the doorway, arms crossed.

"...What's going on?" he asked. Lars's smile was strained.

"I'll stay here and wait for your brother to wake up," the Dutchman motioned to the bed, where Alfred was evidentially out cold again, snoring gently into his pillow. "You get dressed and go after Gilbert. He'll be in the theatre, you'll find him."

Reluctantly (he didn't want to go after Gilbert if the man was angry!), Matthew agreed. He changed quickly, made a fresh pot of coffee for Alfred when he woke up, and was out the door.

He found Gilbert backstage, painting a canvas backdrop with sharp, angry strokes. Matthew nervously cleared his throat, wincing when Gilbert shoved a paintbrush at him and instructed him to help him with the undercoat.

"We're doing a fucking Greek tragedy this time," he informed the younger boy. "Bonnefoy wants some sort of graveyard or something. I don't know."

"A - all right." there was silence, before Matthew asked, "Is everything okay? Are you mad?"

Gilbert ground the bristles of his brush into the canvas, working his jaw. "No." he said finally. "I'm tired."

"Oh." Matthew worked on covering the canvas evenly. "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize, kid!" Gilbert snapped. "It's not...really your fault. Okay? Now paint."

Chewing the inside of his cheek, Matthew complied.


Alfred had woken up to find an irritable Dutchman in his kitchen - Lars had told him to get dressed and hustled him out of the apartment with a sympathetic look. He stopped by Francis' office, where the Frenchman asked after his health in a bizarrely caring way.

"I'm fine." Alfred told him stiffly, "As long as that son of a bitch doesn't come anywhere near me ever again."

With a casual look behind his chair, where the bat full of nails rested, Francis sighed, "I don't think he will be a problem anymore. Now, mon cher, I still need you to go to work, all right? But if you have any problems, let me know. d'accord?"

Alfred nodded obediently and Francis smiled. "How nice you have been lately!" he gushed. "If you would go help Michelle outside? I will let you know if I find anymore jobs for you to do. Don't forget tonight we have a rehearsal!"

Alfred (much to his brother's annoyance), prided himself on carrying on despite everything. When he crossed across the lobby, cool and a little shadowy in the early morning, it took effort not to wrap his arms around himself. By the time he saw Michelle loitering by the entrance with a sunny smile, it was easy for Alfred to manipulate his grin to match hers. Bright, cheerful. Strong. For his brother, for himself.

Ten minutes later Alfred found himself outside the theatre, broom in hand. "I've gotta go do paperwork!" Michelle had told him with an apologetic giggle, which Alfred knew meant she would be sitting on the catwalk with Xiu Mei, talking and sharing a snack until someone noticed they were missing. She had left him all alone to sweep the steps and the surrounding sidewalk, dodging people as he went.

The only warning Alfred got was a soft inhalation before he found his broom sweeping over someone's shoes. With an apology on his tongue, he looked up into the apprehensive face of Toris, the brunet from a few days ago.

Alfred couldn't help it. Something about seeing the man again, despite his circumstances, made him break out into a grin that was anything but forced.

"Hey, Toris! How are you?"

Toris' face blanched. "Fine!" he exclaimed, startled by Alfred's sudden enthusiasm. "I'm, I'm fine. How are you, Alfred?"

Alfred shrugged, leaning on his broom. "I've been better." he said simply.

Toris shifted nervously from foot to foot. He had promised himself, after the fiasco with Alfred, that he would never come back to Enj├┤ler, and initially it was a very easy promise to keep - work, his brothers, the upkeep of their house, all kept him very busy. But then the idleness of nighttime would set in and Toris would catch a glimpse in the mirror of the fading marks on his back and feel an itch to go back.

At first it had been his daily walks that steadily led him closer to the theatre - he had finally decided that there was no harm in walking past the building itself, at least in the daytime. Toris furrowed his brow. He was wrong.

"So what are you doing here?" Alfred asked, adding, "We're closed now, but I guess you knew that...?"

"I know." Toris blurted out before he could stop himself. "I was just...in the neighbourhood."

"In the neighbourhood?" Alfred repeated incredulously with a quick glance around the street. "Toris, no offence, but if you live around here, you should really consider a move..."

Toris flushed red. "I don't live around here." he replied quickly. "I, uhm - I go for walks to clear my head and I guess since I know this area well, I - n-not that I come here all the time, I'm not that sort of person, but - !"

Alfred laughed. "Yeah, I know, it's okay. I was teasing you, Toris. Sorry."

"Oh." Awkwardly, Toris fiddled with a few strands of hair that fell over his ear.

Alfred cleared his throat, looked down at the broom he was leaning on. "So..." he said around the same time as Toris said, "Uh..."

They apologized at the same time as well. Cheeks burning, Toris took a hesitant step backwards. "Well I guess I'd better get going." he said in a rush. "I promised my brothers I'd be home for dinner."

Alfred's face looked almost sad. "Okay." he said, then hesitated. "Hey, Toris...if you're ever in the neighbourhood again...you should stop by and say hello."

Toris couldn't help but smile. "I will." he promised. "Goodbye, Alfred."

"Bye, Toris." Alfred lifted his hand and waved as the brunet continued on down the street, colour in his face, clutching the elbows of his suit nervously. Alfred felt a warm affection towards the brunet, who remained the only customer of this theatre Alfred actually didn't mind.

He turned back towards the theatre in time to see an unfamiliar man stepping up to the front doors, humming to himself.

"Uh...'scuse me!" Alfred called - the man turned to look at him. He had a thick head of curly brown hair and bright green eyes, and was dressed in a way that suggested he was of more upper class status.

"Hello!" he exclaimed.

"Hey." Warily, Alfred dragged his broom after him. "Mm, we're closed right now, so..."

"Ah, are you new?" the man asked, looking him over in a bright, cheerful way that did not seem at all lecherous - only enthusiastic. "You are so cute! Such lovely hair - Francis hasn't had new employees in so long!" the man had dissolved into a gushing speech, actually reaching forward to touch Alfred's hair. Alfred could only stand there open mouthed.

"Uh." he said. "What?"

Pressing a hand to his cheek, the brunet chirped, "I'm Antonio! I'm a patron here. I haven't seen you around before so I guess you don't know, but I'm here to visit Lovino!"

Tucked under Antonio's arm was a parcel, wrapped in brown paper. Alfred eyed him curiously. "Are you allowed to see him in the daytime?" he asked. "I don't think anyone's allowed in when we're closed..."

Antonio nodded. "I have a present for him." he said with a happy sigh. His voice carried the breezy lilt of a Spanish accent. "He always looks so cute in all the clothes I get him that I always wind up bringing him more!"

Alfred, who had only seen Lovino wearing elaborate dresses, wondered if that was the cause of the Italian's surliness.

"Uh, sure. Okay. If you're sure you're allowed in." he said finally.

Antonio thanked him and moved with ease past the front doors - after a moment, Alfred propped his broom up against the side of the theatre and followed. He had seen Lovino treat everyone employed under Bonnefoy - and even the Frenchman himself! - with an attitude ranging from mild displeasure to full frontal irritation. He couldn't imagine anyone, especially such a well-dressed, pleasant looking man, coming to see Lovino of their own free will.

Lovino was in the theatre somewhere - Alfred could tell because when the two men entered the large hall they could hear the Italian's voice bouncing around up in the rafters. Lovino was shouting quite rudely about his petticoats being tangled while several people milled hesitantly around on stage, looking up to where Alfred assumed the Italian was traversing the catwalk. When Alfred glanced over at Antonio in time to see the Spaniard's face softened into an endearing expression.

"Lovino~!" Antonio called in the stillness of the theatre and Lovino instantly stopped talking.

"Oh fuck, is that bastard here?" Lovino asked, sounding angry and bitter but also sort of nervous. "Antonio, I'm working, go away!"

"Come down, I have something for you!" Antonio persisted, paying no mind to the Italian's authoritative tone.

There was silence, then: "You better be quick about it, bastard." Lovino shouted down sulkily. Amazed, Alfred could only stand with the cheerful Antonio as Lovino laboriously started down the ladder from the catwalk.

"...Is he always like that?" Alfred asked. Maybe he had just missed another side of Lovino, one that was...nicer.

"Pretty much." Antonio said. "Sometimes he's in a bad mood."

Alfred didn't really want to know what that looked like.

Lovino was red-faced from more than just the climb down as he approached Antonio. The Spaniard held his arms open, then ducked laughingly as Lovino took a swing at him.

"You always come when I'm the busiest." the Italian complained. "What do you want?"

Antonio held the parcel up in front of him, proudly. "I brought you a gift." he said cheerfully. Lovino's face drained of colour before rapidly heating up.

"Y - " Lovino's hands curled into fists by his side as he eyed the package. "It better be a nice colour!" he reluctantly grumbled, snatching it from Antonio's hands. Antonio nodded enthusiastically, one hand reaching forward to ruffle the younger man's hair. Lovino slapped him away in frustration, undoing the twine with nimble fingers. Alfred simply watched in the background.

Lovino pulled from the package a beautifully ruffled green dress with peaked sleeves and delicate neckline. Antonio waited expectantly with a stupid grin on his face.

"....Whatever." Lovino snapped, pulling the dress close to him. "Thanks, I guess. It's a nice colour."

"I know!" Antonio exclaimed, moving to embraced Lovino before the Italian hurriedly dodged. "That's what I thought, when I saw it in the store!"

Antonio didn't stay long, though he was undeterred by Lovino's brusque reactions to him. Finally he said he had to go do some errands and, somehow managing to wrap an arm around Lovino and kiss him on the cheek, said goodbye to Alfred and left the theatre.

When Alfred turned back, the Italian was holding the dress at arm's length, usually harsh face relaxed into some semblance of fondness.

"Who was that?" Alfred asked, and Lovino's face twisted up again.

"None of your business!" he snapped, adding after a few seconds, "That was my patron, Antonio. Some rich businessman."

"Oh..." Alfred trailed off, recalling Francis's words. "Is he the one who reserved you?"

"Yeah." Lovino answered, busy folding the dress. "That's him. He's an idiot, isn't he? Must not get many girls, which is probably why he hangs around here all the time."

"So you really like wearing dresses, huh?" Alfred joked, to which Lovino turned and snapped, "Don't be stupid, I hate it."

"Then why - "

Lovino coloured. "Bonnefoy made me wear one once and I never wanted to again. But Antonio saw me in it and liked it and he'd always buy me one when he went away. W-which is stupid because I never asked him to!"

"Then why don't you tell him you don't want them?" Alfred wanted to know. Lovino fumed.

"B-because he always says I look cute in them," he blurted out, "and I'm supposed to make him happy, right?! Why should I even care, dammit!"

Lovino whirled around in a cloud of skirts and stalked off before Alfred even had time to respond. The blond was left standing there, bewildered, until Matthew found him.

"Hey, Al, let's go, we have work to do!" his brother urged him. Fixing his glasses, Alfred peered at him, mulling over his recent conversation.

"Hey Matt, if someone thought you looked nice in a dress and wanted you to wear one all the time, would you?"

Matthew, who had long since gotten used to his brother's random and often asinine questions, considered this.

"Only if I really liked them, I guess." he said.

"That's what I thought." Alfred shrugged, and wouldn't answer any of Matthew's subsequent questions.


END CHAPTER SIX


Author's Note: I accidentally wrote "Author's Boat" and felt I had to share that with you D: I wish I had a boat.