Chapter 4 - Till The End

"A long time ago, in a certain place
Were the major countries of the world
And ruling over all at the throne
Was my dear brother."

The cell was cold and quiet as Matthew sat and awaited the time when he would be led out in front of the firing squad. He had been tried by a jury of his peers and was found guilty beyond appeal. Exactly as he had expected. Actually, he had honestly expected them to just kill him on the spot when they found him, but… Well, at least the other representatives were maintaining some civility. That was all he could ask for. But this why, he would die in front of hundreds, no, thousands of people, shamed and looked down upon.

Sighing heavily, Matthew tried to draw his mind away from such thoughts. The more he thought about the fact that he was going to be dying, the tighter the knot in his stomach wound. And the tighter it wound, the more he wanted to just scream that he wasn't Alfred! That he was Matthew and that they had gotten the wrong man! Only his steel resolve to save his brother kept him from doing so. Though it was a slim thing.

The sun was high in the sky and the cell was fairly well lit. Matthew's scheduled time of death was three o'clock. But he had no idea what time it was now. What was the point? It would come soon enough. Or, rather, too soon.

And come it did. In the form of Arthur Kirkland approaching his cell door and opening it with a key from his belt. The look that Arthur was giving Matthew tore at his heart. The older man looked torn between doing what was right and saving the boy he had raised. Swallowing, Matthew walked past Arthur with his nose upturned, not even looking at the man. It ached to do this to the man and he could see the hurt on Arthur's face, but Matthew couldn't allow Arthur the opportunity to try and save him. This was his only chance to save Alfred.

The light blinded Matthew as he stepped out into the courtyard where the execution was to take place. Already, there was a large crowd gathered, all of them cheering or jeering, but just generally making a ruckus. Matthew forced the bile down from his throat and the tears from his eyes. He had to be strong. He had to be!

His resolve gave way completely when he saw his brother in the crowd. He was near the front, still dressed in Matthew's clothing, his eyes wide with fear and devastation. His vision blurring, Matthew looked away from Alfred, trying to maintain his calm. But he hadn't known that Alfred would be here. God, it would be so hard to leave him…

"Even if all the world becomes your enemy
Then I will protect you
Please keep laughing somewhere."

The firing squad stepped forward. There were seven of them, each holding a rifle, and Matthew felt as if they had already pelted the lead into him. His legs were close to giving out on him as he stood in front of a wall, facing them head-on, his hands cuffed behind his back.

Some man that Matthew didn't know was reading something aloud, but Matthew barely heard him.

"Alfred F. Jones, you have been tried by a jury…"

Matthew's heart was beating so hard that he could only hear its pleas for life in his ears. Time slowed for a moment, and Matthew was able to see each of the other representatives, all leering at him as if he were something dirty. The tears he had been fighting back began to fall and he wept for himself - something he had never done in his life. Even when he had been ignored, tread upon, and forced into situations he hated being in, Matthew had never cried for his misfortune, because he would always be with someone he loved.

But now he was leaving the only person left in this world that he cared about. And that cut him to the core, more than any bullet would. He couldn't see properly as the tears clung to his eyelashes and from there stuck to his brother's glasses. All this he did for the person he loved most. His eyes locked with Alfred's in the crowd and he saw the same tears streaming down his twin's face. In that one moment, he let all of his love and loyalty to his other half flow through him and could only sincerely hope that Alfred was able to read it in his eyes.

"…will be executed by firing squad at 1500 hours." The person speaking finally stopped and looked to Matthew. "Do you have any last words?"

Matthew had a thousand words he wanted to say, none of which mattered anymore. Suddenly, he wished he could talk about all of the pointless things in his life, and hold the inevitable at bay. And more than anything, he simply wanted to tell Alfred how much he loved him.

But that was a weakness Matthew would not allow himself to succumb to. Rather than speak, he shook his head mutely and straightened his back. Stiffly, he nodded to the men who were readying their rifles.

"Ready."

Matthew's heart fluttered and he prayed that he wouldn't pass out now. He had to stay strong, until the very last. No matter what happened, he would die with honor.

"Aim."

Arthur suddenly stood from where he had been sitting, watching the proceedings, and let out a strangled cry. Only now, he had realized it. The man standing by the wall wasn't Alfred at all. Arthur should have seen it sooner, he raised the boys! Both of them! But it had always been so very difficult to tell them apart, and he hadn't expected something like this from Matthew!

"Fire!"

In the brief moment between the speaking of that final word and when the firing squad finally pulled the triggers, Matthew looked out at the crowd. He saw his brother, horrified, and smiled softly. His face lit up with all of his love and affection and his lips parted as he whispered.

"I lo--"

As the bullets tore through him, his body jerked erratically and moments later, he slumped to the ground as the crowd cheered for the demise of the tyrant that had haunted them for so long. No one noticed the two other men who had collapsed as Matthew did, both consumed with grief…

"If we are ever reborn
Then play with me again at that time."