A/N: I-I'm so late… orz Well, here is the final chapter, regardless of its utter lateness
A thought occurred to me. I've used the word "braies" once before, but I've never defined it. It's a type of undergarment men wore back then. It's like boxers, except a bit longer
With that in mind, I hope you all enjoy this final chapter~
Arthur was dragged into a stone chamber. The empty, cold air chilled him to the bone. His feet were bare as he was forcibly hauled into the room, and the freezing, uneven stones under his feet made him shiver fiercely. Arthur was without his corset or any type of clothing for that matter with the exception of the braies covering the parts that would be exposed soon.
The two men plopped him down on a table. It was made of flat stone and felt as if it was frozen, making Arthur very uncomfortable as he lied atop it. The bony knobs of his spine sat uncomfortably on its hard surface. He felt both of his hands being secured by manacles at the edges of the table. He tried to pull his hands free, but it was no use.
His legs were being wrestled with one of the guards who was trying to pry them open as best he could. The entire time, Arthur was begging and screaming for them to stop. The other guard was off in the corner, preparing the proper materials.
Arthur only felt the rush of adrenaline course through his body. He was in a complete panic. He had expected death, not…not this. His heart was racing, beating against his ribs sporadically as he continued to try to break free. The guard who wasn't struggling with his feet, the one in the corner, was laughing as he continued to beg and plead that they stop. He had a grimy look to him. His teeth were rotted, yellow and chipped, and his face was covered in a layer of sweat. His eyes were wild, feral even, eager to perform the task at command.
The other man finally managed to pry his legs apart. He held them down with brute force which caused Arthur's ankles to rub painfully against the stone's edge. "Got 'is legs apart, John," he said to the man preparing the tools. Soon, a red hot iron was placed on the left of Arthur's head on another table. Arthur's lips quivered when he saw it. "W-what the bloody hell is that for?" he asked, voice shaking as his eyes stared at instrument before him.
The man with the yellow teeth, John, laughed. "It's what we're gonna seal yer wound up with after we're done choppin' it off," he said with a sadistic smile on his face. Arthur grew more panicked as he struggled mercilessly with the chains.
"P-please, let me out of here, don't do this to me!" he shouted. "I swear, I'll do anything!" The man cackled. He looked Arthur in the eye, their faces close enough for Arthur to smell his foul breath.
"No can do, ma'am."
The man soon brought out a small ax and pounded it onto a wooden desk, the blade sharp after he had run it on the wheel. He turned to Arthur and took out a blade, shredding the last of his clothes off to leave him completely exposed and at their mercy. Arthur shouted at the top of his lungs, begging for them to stop. His legs were pried further apart to allow better access for the man with yellow teeth to chop everything off.
The man lifted the ax off the table, smiled right in his face, and raised the weapon in the air. Arthur closed his eyes and prepared himself for the worst.
The sound of another voice in the room startled him. Lifting his head, Arthur saw another man bound forward. "Get away from my son!" he shouted, grabbing the ax and tugging it out of the other person's grasp. He pushed the two men away, raising the ax and threatening them with the weapon. "Sir Jones has suspended his previous order! Leave at once!"
The two men scurried out of the room, leaving Arthur shaking on the table with his father breathing heavily and staring down at him. Arthur, in total shock, felt tears stream down his cheeks, with relief or fear, he couldn't tell.
Sir Kirkland merely glared at him in the eye. "You look pathetic," he said, making his way around the table and unlocking his son's hands from the cuffs. "Get up, boy!" he ordered, pushing Arthur up into a sitting position rather forcefully. Arthur's entire body was trembling severely and he felt very sick.
A thick silence permeated the room between both father and son. Arthur honestly didn't know what to say, much less gather coherent thoughts. His father just continued to glare and scratch his beard, as if he were thinking of the right thing to say at the moment. Finally, Arthur swallowed the lump in his throat and asked, "Why?"
His father caught on the meaning immediately. "You have got to be…" he started, "the most pathetic excuse for a son I have ever had…" Arthur winced at the insult, but took it with what little pride he could muster. His father had always seen him this way, and he had always seen his father as a cruel, heartless bastard. Mutual hate. Nothing new in their relationship.
Sir Kirkland continued. "You're pitiful…stubborn…disobedient," he said as he counted off the different words with his fingers. "You had brothers before you…they died before you and Isla were born…" he recalled, a slight glimmer of pride for his sons in his eyes. "They were strong…dutiful. They always listened to what I said, and with enthusiasm," he mentioned, eyeing Arthur with distaste.
Arthur was aware that there were sons before him. His mother had mentioned it before on several occasions, but never had his father brought the subject up. It was something Sir Kirkland avoided with all his might, and to hear his father speaking about his brothers he never knew…it was utterly nerve-wracking.
"When they died and you were born, I thought I had another chance at a son I could be proud of. But I was wrong." Arthur averted his eyes and looked down, truly feeling the sting of his father's words. What did this have to do with his current situation?
"But…this is the one time you actually obeyed," his father said, his voice the tiniest bit softer than before. "And yet you managed to screw up the whole fucking thing," he added just as quietly, but with a deep malice surrounding his tone. "We made you dress like a girl, act like a girl, and heck, it even turns out you're a fag!"
Arthur almost wished the two men who were about to castrate him were back so he wouldn't have to face his father. He continued to look down, feeling ashamed because this was the only part of his father's speech he actually felt was true.
"But for Sir Jones to think he can castrate you…I couldn't let that happen." Arthur looked up at this point, an eyebrow arched in confusion.
"That was the only proof that you were a man…and if they took that away…" he muttered, shaking his head. "I could care less if you suffered, boy," he added so Arthur would know his position on the situation. "If they took that away…they'd be taking away my last son."
Sir Kirkland walked closer to the table, grabbing Arthur's face and forcing him to look up at him. "I only have one daughter." And with that, his father let go and strode to the door before stopping and looking over his shoulder. "By the way, if you're wondering how I got Sir Jones to buckle, I told him that the kingdom of England wouldn't give any funds to the kingdom of America. Should've seen the look on the bastard's face," he said with a nasty chuckle. And with that, he left the room.
Arthur remained on the table, trying to take in the situation. His body had calmed down from the adrenaline rush he had earlier, but his brain was frantically trying to sort out his thoughts. His father had never loved him, that was for sure. He probably never loved Isla either. But he had loved his elder sons…and the only thing connecting Arthur to his brothers was his masculinity. Arthur had thought for sure that once he had been given this task that his father would never look at him as a man again, but apparently, Sir Jones had tried to take it one step too far and broke the camel's back. Arthur didn't know what emotion he should feel. He felt relief…but also dejection. Anger. And loneliness.
He hated his father like no son ever should, and yet…his father had been there for him. Grudgingly, but at least he was there. It was even for the wrong reasons that his father rescued him! But, at the very least, Arthur was safe…for now.
The heated arguments that took place during the course of the day were extremely intense. Both sets of parents were shooting insults at each other one after another. Nobles in other parts of the manor found it very hard to ignore the shouting, but they were not allowed to be in the same room, so no one, besides a select few, even knew what the situation was about. However, it was very hard to just keep them all ignorant.
Alfred and Matthew were locked in their rooms, but they could still make out some of the arguments that went back and forth between their parents. The insults would often blend until nothing could be heard except for a single mesh of shouts. Katya was locked up in the servants' quarters. Matthew, teary-eyed after hearing this, was also grateful that they had decided not to lock her up in the dungeons.
Arthur, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky.
He had been dragged from the torture chamber to the dungeon, where they threw him into a cell and took away the key, bars confining him to his small enclosure. He was given a single candle for light, and all around him was nothing except hay on the floor and a few shackles hanging from the walls here or there. Arthur was still unclothed, and he felt himself becoming sick with having to endure the freezing temperatures of the room. In a matter of weeks, he had gone from prince of the kingdom of England to a lowly prisoner in a cell.
Alfred's window was barred, meaning he couldn't just slip outside if he wanted to. His front door was locked, but as Alfred soon found out, it wasn't being guarded by anyone. His parents actually felt as if this would confine him to his room. However, after years of sneaking out, this was nothing.
But did he honestly want to escape at this point? What was out there for him? He could run away all he wanted, but just how likely would an actual escape be? His parents would find him, surely, in the village or the lake or…anywhere the guards could travel, basically. And who would go with him? His brother didn't seem all that enthusiastic about leaving without Katya, and as much as Alfred didn't want to admit it, Katya had a very good chance of being sentenced to death. Would the same happen to his brother? Would he himself be executed as well? And then there was Arthur… Would they continue to live as a couple now that he had been castrated? Or would Arthur be sentenced to death?
All of these questions swirled around in Alfred's mind, making his head throb. It was too much stress for one person to handle, and in such a short amount of time too. He had overheard that Arthur was now locked away in a cell, mostly likely in the small dungeon they had underneath the castle. Alfred looked towards his dresser and wondered how long it had been since Arthur had worn real clothes…how long it had been since Arthur had first put on a corset and wig, giving everyone the impression he was a girl.
He wasn't used to thinking of Isla as Arthur now. The name felt foreign on his tongue, and to continue to associate Isla with being a man was just…mind-boggling. Everything they had been through before had felt so…so real. He had actually been happy in Isla's company, happier than he had been in a long time. But…now that Arthur was here, the world seemed so fake. Untrustworthy. It almost felt like an illusion, as if Alfred would wake up from this nightmare to find Isla sleeping by his side. He even felt he could wake up and find himself still at the altar, looking on as the real Isla approached his side…
But none of this was a dream, an illusion, some sort of frightening fantasy he had somehow managed to envision. It was real.
Alfred looked out his barred window. The sky was bleak and the grounds surrounding the castle were gray. For once, Alfred didn't feel like going outside…the outdoors looked just like the inside of his room. Arthur's probably in complete darkness… he thought to himself. Alfred shook his head. The last thing he wanted to think about was how that guy had managed to trick and lie to him this entire time. But still…did the man honestly deserve to be locked up for something his parents forced him to do?
Again with the questions…Alfred honestly wished they would stop coming to mind. Well, if he wanted any of his questions answered, then he would just have to go to the man himself, right? He looked towards his dresser again before deciding to grab some extra clothes for Arthur while taking out his treasured skeleton key from its usual hiding place.
Alfred needed some answers.
Arthur stared at his candle. There was barely any wax left. In just a minute more, the flame would extinguish. Arthur sighed to himself. He didn't know how long he'd been in here. He was starving, thirsty, cold… No doubt he would die from an illness if he wasn't sentenced to death. He had the feeling his father would not attempt to stop his execution.
He blew out a shaky breath. He could nearly see the fog expelled from his mouth. The flame started to flicker. In just five more seconds… Arthur thought to himself. Five…four…three…two…
The flame went out perfectly to Arthur's timing. But there was still light in the room. Eyes widening, Arthur looked around to see a much bigger ball of light begin to approach him. Upon further inspection, it looked to be the light of a lantern.
The brightness burned his eyes and Arthur shielded his face with his arm while still trying to peer out from behind the bars of the cell. Someone was approaching. A heavy feeling lingered in his stomach. These could possibly be his final moments alive…
"Arthur?" the person holding the lantern asked. The man sat down outside of the cell. Arthur couldn't see his face all too clearly as he squinted. The voice sounded very familiar…
"Alfred?!" he asked, shocked that Alfred was here next to him.
The lantern was set off to the side, but its glow illuminated the small space between the two men. Arthur's eyes became used to the brightness and he was finally able to see Alfred clearly.
Alfred looked at Arthur's body and realized that the man was naked. "Here…" he said, offering the spare clothes he had brought with him. "You must be freezing." And Alfred was right in that assumption, for Arthur immediately grabbed the garments with shivering hands. He put them on hastily, attempting to cover himself in front of the other man and retain some form of dignity…not that he had any left. It was a loose shirt and some slacks. He gave a small thank you in response and looked towards Alfred to say something.
Both men were silent as they sat there, an awkward stillness permeating the room. Arthur didn't know what to say, and it was Alfred who had come to see him. He coughed slightly to try to get Alfred to speak. The silence was suffocating him.
"You know…" Alfred began while eyeing Arthur, "I've never actually seen you dressed like a guy." He gave a small, empty smile. Arthur, who normally would have responded with a huff at Alfred's attempt at teasing, instead looked down in embarrassment. "Oh, uh, h-hey, no, I was just making a joke, don't take it so seriously!" Alfred said as he tried to get Arthur to look back up. He always managed to say the wrong things…
"No, it's fine," Arthur said as he stared back at Alfred. "I am happy I get to wear clothes like this again…much more comfortable." His voice was devoid of emotion as he said this. Alfred could see an emptiness in his eyes. Looking down, Alfred began to fiddle with the ring on his left hand…his wedding band. He noticed that Arthur was still wearing his wedding ring as well.
"So…" he began, the awkwardness of the situation growing thicker. His voice got stuck in his throat. This was not how he imagined the conversation would be. Alfred had one question in mind, and if he couldn't ask it now, he would never get his answer. Clearing his throat, Alfred began once more, "You know…when we were married, and you were still Isla and all…" Arthur lifted his head to view Alfred's face more clearly. Alfred was now staring at the wall behind Arthur, as if he were too scared to look him in the eye. "I was…really happy." Alfred finally turned around to take in Arthur's expression, gauging his reaction. "And, like…I just want to know if everything that happened between us was fake or…or real."
Alfred was done speaking and awaited Arthur's response. But Arthur was once again battling his inner demons, one part of him telling him to speak the truth, and the other part telling him to lie…to let Alfred think everything was fake and let him move on with his life. Sighing, Arthur decided on the truth. "If you want to know whether or not I was happy…" he began, "then I'll just tell you… being outdoors with you, with the village people…enjoying ourselves… it was probably the happiest I've been in a long time." Arthur said this with sadness laced in his voice. His entire life was so bleak that actually admitting something like this was downright humiliating. Arthur began to speak again.
"And I know that I've…scorned your affections before, but…there's no denying that everything I've felt for you has been…real." He turned his head away while rubbing his hand on his forehead. At least he had gotten this over with. Alfred was probably disgusted by this answer and would call for his execution immediately, but Arthur didn't care at this point. He hardly cared what happened to him at all. What could life possibly offer him other than more scorn?
Arthur looked up, expecting to see Alfred's face contorted in anger or disgust. Alfred was probably horrified that he had been happy with Arthur was he was Isla. But when Arthur looked at Alfred's expression, he saw the man's blue eyes glisten with…well, Arthur didn't know what it was.
"Did you…did you really mean that?" Alfred asked almost immediately. Arthur nearly stuttered. That man's face…it always looked so damn innocent, like a child's. Alfred looked at him in wonder for a moment before they heard the creak of a door not too far away.
Both men were startled and looked towards the source of the noise in apprehension. Quickly, Alfred leaned towards the bars and whispered frantically, "I'm getting you out of here…the both of us. Tomorrow night, I'll come and we'll escape, got it?" Arthur could only nod numbly in response. He continued. "I'm actually not supposed to be down here, so if anyone asks, I wasn't here, ok?" And with that, Alfred picked up the lantern without delay and left the dungeon.
A guard walked across Arthur's prison not a moment later. Arthur receded to the shadows of his cell so the guard wouldn't notice his new clothes. He held his breath as the guard walked past his cell and out of sight.
A few hours later, Arthur was still trapped in his small prison. The room was completely dark, and no matter what, his eyes couldn't become used to it. If he waved his hand right in front of his face, he wouldn't be able to see it.
Arthur had decided to rest after his little meeting with Alfred. His mind was too boggled to try and think too much about it. The conversation had wracked his brain, but there was no use in thinking very hard about anything at this point, especially when he was still starving like mad.
All that he could hear was his nose breathing in an out as he lied down on the hay underneath him. Closing his eyes did nothing as he rested. He felt blind being unable to see anything before him. His fingers toyed with the strands of hay. Being in utter silence and darkness for so long…he just had to do something with his hands, if only to let him know that he wasn't dreaming, that he was awake and alive. Anything to remind him he was still in the physical world and not hallucinating about the stillness before him.
Alfred's earlier question…Did you really mean that? It caused Arthur to suffer just thinking about it. That naïve man…he had looked so eager when he asked that. It was almost as if…as if Alfred felt the same way….felt the same way despite Arthur being a man, being a fraud.
It made Arthur sick to his stomach.
Everything about what had happened was wrong. Any lingering feelings they may have had for one another shouldn't be there, they were sinful emotions and the obvious work of demons or witchcraft or something…
He thought he really ought to be killed.
He should have lied…he shouldn't have let someone so…so damn innocent actually think he felt any sort of affection for him. Why the hell did he have to go and run off like that after his parents confronted him? Why hadn't he just decided to stay in their room and let Alfred swim in peace? Why had he let Alfred kiss him? Why did he kiss Alfred back?
All of this could have been avoided! Every feeling, every happy moment could have been prevented, if only Arthur had been smarter! He had to be the biggest idiot out there to think that any…any romantic relationship was possible with Alfred…to continue anything of the sort was immoral, sinful… The guilt Arthur felt towards the situation made him want to vomit.
He fisted the hay in his hand in anger. His hand trembled with the force of his clutch, but eventually, he loosened his hold. He ought to be killed…
Arthur, startled out of his thoughts, immediately sat up and looked around. "I-Isla?" he asked into the darkness, so sure he had just heard her voice…
Arthur turned around and saw the faint glow of a candle. Sitting next to it on a small box was Isla.
"Isla?" he asked, shaking his head. No…no, it couldn't be. "K-katya, isn't it?" he asked. It had to be Katya. He had never seen the servant before, but Katya had been in as much trouble as he had, and it would only make sense if she was locked here in the cell with him.
"Have…have you been here this entire time?" he asked, nearly angry that she hadn't made her presence known before.
Katya smiled and looked at him. "Don't you recognize your own sister, Arthur?"
No words were able to surface from Arthur's mouth. He continued to shake his head. "No…" he kept muttering to himself. He was just dreaming, that was all. He was dreaming and would wake up and this haunting nightmare would be behind him.
That couldn't be Isla…no, Isla was dead, Isla wasn't sitting right here before him. "Y-you aren't real," he said, continuing to shake his head.
"No!" he screamed, backing up against a stone wall while he continued to sit on the floor of hay. "You aren't real, Isla isn't here, Isla is gone, don't you dare trick me!"
"Shut up!" he screamed at the woman, thing, whatever it was. It was an illusion, a figment of his imagination, Isla was gone…
This had to be some sort of dirty trick. A cruel, nasty trick. Someone was trying to play with his emotions. Didn't anyone realize how much Isla had meant to him?! Why the hell would someone try to do this?!
Arthur stopped shouting. His mouth quivered and his eyes widened. Did…did this person just call him…?
"Iggy, it's me…" the woman said forlornly.
Iggy…an old nickname Isla had for Arthur when they were small children. Their father had been insulting him again, saying he'd be cast down in "ignominy" for the rest of his life…Isla, just a small child of three, couldn't pronounce the word and said "iggy" instead. It had been a name she used for him ever since…turning something hateful into something loving…
But…but only Isla new of that nickname. They hadn't told anyone. But Isla was gone, how the hell did this person know…?
No…it couldn't be. It couldn't be her, his mind was playing tricks, it couldn't be her…
"I-I'm dreaming…" Arthur said with a nervous chuckle. "I'm dreaming, o-or I've just gone crazy, that's all…" His breathing was shaky as he said this, staring at the woman before him.
The woman- Isla?- gave a sad smile. "Perhaps you have gone crazy…" she said. Isla bit her bottom lip softly before continuing. "But…it really is me, Arthur. And yes, I've died…" Isla got up from the small wooden box and approached him. Arthur backed up into the wall even further, looking completely frightened. Isla lowered the top of her dress slightly to show the scar from where she was stabbed. Arthur brought up a shaky hand and traced the scar lightly.
"Y-you can't be real…" he said, but with less conviction in his voice.
"Arthur…" she said again, taking her brother's hand into the two of her own, "it's me."
Arthur felt tears pool at the edges of his eyes. He was staring right at his sister.
"But…y-you're dead," he said, feeling a tear stream down his cheek. "You're gone…"
"Yes," Isla answered. "But I wanted to see you again…" she said softly.
Arthur let out a shaky breath as a few more tears made their way down his cheeks. Isla began to speak again. "You were very brave Arthur…I know what our parents made you do…" Arthur's cheeks burned in shame. "You've suffered…we both have…" She took away her hands and placed them in her lap as she sat down in front of him.
"Tell me about Alfred…about America…" she said, a genuine curiosity in her eyes.
Arthur sniffled and stared at her. "Y-you want me to…?" She nodded. Arthur stared at her for a moment before speaking. "Alfred is…he's not…he was perfect for you, Isla…" he said, knowing in his heart that nothing was truer. "You would have loved him…he…he is kind, a-and a little idiotic, but in a good way…" Isla gave a soft smile to tell him to continue. "And America…here…the skies are blue…" he said, thinking about the castle grounds, the small village beyond its gates…even Alfred's eyes. "Yes…you…you would have found it…quite beautiful…" he said softly.
Isla's smile grew, her cheekbones high on her face, causing the edges her eyes to scrunch the slightest bit. "Were you happy here?" she asked, but a knowing expression on her face.
"I was…for a short while…" he said, the tears finally stopping. He looked into her face as if she held the answers to something, anything. Isla had to be here for a reason…
"Arthur…you deny yourself that very happiness…" Isla said with a sorrowful look on her face.
Arthur was taken aback. "What…what do you mean?"
Isla spoke again. "I think…that if you really care for Alfred…and if you're happy with him, then you should be with him."
Arthur stared at her for a moment before shaking his head. "No…no, you it's wrong, it's wrong, Isla, I can't-"
"Arthur," she interrupted him. She looked at him with sad eyes before continuing. "You were my only friend growing up…we were all each other had, and… I know that you can be happy with him…" She stood up and began to walk towards the candle by the wooden box. "I am at rest now… I can't be here anymore to make you happy…but…Alfred can." She sat back down on the box. Isla gave him a soft smile. "I have to go now Arthur. I love you, brother."
And with that, she vanished.
"How dare you disgrace my family in such a way!" Sir Jones shouted at Arthur's parents. "Do you realize just how humiliating this is?!"
"It's not our fault Isla was killed, you bloody bastard!" Sir Kirkland shouted right back. "My son just dressed like a woman! I find that to be much more embarrassing than you could ever imagine!"
"My own son engaged in sodomy, and-"
"I did not, dad!" Alfred screamed at his father for the hundredth time. He was sitting at the table between the feuding parents, trying to explain how he hadn't actually had sex with Arthur…if only they would just listen to him.
"At least your son wasn't the one getting it up the ass!"
"Stop it!" Alfred shouted, slamming his hands onto the table. But nothing was working. The two fathers continued to argue, the uproar causing Alfred's head to ache. He fisted his hands into his hair. There was no negotiating, no compromising, just, "your son" this and "my son" that. The mothers' comments were a bit more biting, using their sarcasm and wit to try and outdo one another. Alfred had never seen his mom so angry before. Lady Jones had been in absolute tears at first after she found out the truth, but then she became hard and resolute, a fire in her eyes as she scorned Alfred and Matthew's very existence.
This argument was so stupid. No one was coming to an agreement on anything. Debates between Arthur being put to death were discussed, but then what would Alfred do for a wife? How could the kingdoms unite themselves without a marriage?
Alfred's parents claimed that since the marriage had taken place, they should be given the power of the two kingdoms, especially since their son was to eventually take over regardless if he had actually married Isla. But Arthur's parents didn't like this idea at all, claiming that the power ought to be theirs instead, for the kingdom of America was poor and needed their help in the first place.
Alfred's mother began to shriek in rage. "I knew it! I knew we should have watched them consummate, but no, we had to go and give them their damn privacy! Other kingdoms require the nobles to watch a newly wedded couple, but 'the hell to that', you said!" she shouted at her husband.
"I didn't realize Isla was a man!" he replied angrily.
"Our sons have lost all their innocence!" she screamed. "We should have watched Alfred, and we should have kept both sons confined to the castle and guarded everyday! Matthew slept with a servant, for goodness sake!"
This comment made Alfred snap. "Confine us to the castle even more? Are you crazy?!" he asked, infuriated. "We were locked in our rooms all the damn time! And now you're telling me we should have been imprisoned in this fucking castle with guards watching us all the time?!" His mother glared at him dangerously. "You know, the reason we're so 'disobedient' all the time is because you don't give us any damn freedom! You never have!"
Alfred seethed with rage. He was breathing heavily and staring at his mother. She didn't feel they were watched over enough…she felt that he needed a fucking guard to stare at him all day long to make sure he behaved. He didn't want the bleak walls of this stupid castle, he wanted the outdoors! And yet, this had all somehow "corrupted" him, the fact that he wasn't being watched all the time…his mother honestly felt like he had too much freedom, and the thought made Alfred sick to his stomach.
Alfred's father coughed into his hand. Collecting himself, he turned to Arthur's parents. "The past is the past…we need to look towards the future, as in, what we do for an heir?"
For this, Arthur's parents had no answer. Lady Kirkland spoke up. "Just take a damn peasant babe and claim it's yours…" she said icily. Sir Jones huffed in rage.
"I ought to strangle you," he said, staring right at her. Turning so his back faced them all, he announced, "I'm going to have you and your damn family executed! The kingdom belongs to America now! The marriage ensures this!"
Sir Kirkland fumed. "You will do no such thing…"
The other man smirked and turned around. "And I'll start with your son, Arthur…castrated and then hung, this evening!" he said with finality.
Alfred immediately stood from his chair. "No, you can't do that!" Alfred was scared stiff now. They couldn't do that to Arthur, they just couldn't…
"Sit your ass down, boy!" his father ordered.
"No, I won't let you do that to Arthur, you can't, you-"
But Alfred never finished his statement, for at that moment, he felt the cool touch of a blade against his throat. Sir Kirkland had grabbed him from behind and was holding a dagger to this neck. "If you even try to kill us, I'll kill your son…"
Sir Jones looked at his son for a moment, before saying, "Doesn't matter…he'll be executed as well for sleeping with Arthur…" Alfred's eyes widened even more. He was going to be sentenced to death as well?!
Lady Jones was enraged. "You are not killing our son!" she screamed, anger and disbelief marring her features.
The doors swung open as Matthew ran into the room. "W-wait!" he screamed, having overheard everything. It wasn't as if he didn't know how to sneak out of his room as well. "Don't kill Alfred or Arthur, please!" he begged, running up to the feet of his father and dropping to his knees. He looked up. "Father…"
"Get out of here, Matthew…" his father told him.
"Please!" Matthew said as he grabbed the fabric of his father's clothing. "I-I'll do anything…" he began as he choked back sobs. "I'll marry anyone you want, their cousins or another noble or anyone, just please, don't kill them!"
"I ought to have Katya killed as well, Matthew…" his father said, eyeing his son with disgust. Matthew sobbed harder.
Sir Kirkland, with the dagger still placed on Alfred's neck, spoke up. "It doesn't matter…our family has no more females on either side…"
An angry silence laced the room, with the exception of Matthew's crying. Matthew's father spoke again. "Halt your tears, or I'll kill her myself."
Matthew shoved his hand into his mouth and bit down to stop himself from making any more noise.
"Bring that damn servant in!" Sir Jones shouted at the guards. He would kill her, and he would teach Matthew to behave…He had always been the obedient twin, but for him to do something like this, to plan to elope…he needed to be taught a lesson.
"F-father, no, please don't…" Matthew begged.
But as soon as he said this, Katya was brought into the room. Her eyes were red as she had been crying earlier. His father took one look at her before bringing out a dagger of his own. He approached her and turned towards his son. "This is what happens to children who don't behave."
And Sir Jones did. He stopped not because it was Matthew who had just screamed not to kill her, but Lady Kirkland.
Arthur's mother had her head tilted slightly as she observed Katya. She circled the servant girl, finally halting in front of her face. "She looks just like Isla…" she said, turning to her husband to confirm.
Sir Kirkland released his grip on Alfred and walked towards his wife's side. "She's practically an exact replicate…" he said, almost in awe. Lady Kirkland turned to Alfred's father.
"I have an offer to make," she said as she walked towards the table. Turning so that she faced everyone in the room, she began to speak. "Who is going to know the difference between Katya and Isla?" she asked them. "We can pretend Katya is Isla and say she is married to Alfred, and no one will know."
Everyone in the room was silent, thoughts racing through their minds. Alfred stared at Arthur's mother, his eyebrows furrowed. He would…be married to Katya? Is that was she was suggesting? Alfred decided to speak up. "No…" he said, an idea striking him. "No, we can pretend that Matthew is me…so he can be married to Katya…I mean," he said as he moved towards the table. "We can say Katya is Isla, and that Matthew is me…Matt and I are twins, no one will know the difference…"
The parents considered this thought for a moment. Sir Jones looked to his wife. "Well…what do you think?" Lady Jones looked a bit lost.
"I…" she began, but sighed. "I suppose…I suppose that is what we shall have to do."
Matthew's father released his grip from Katya, who ran to Matthew in a hurry. They embraced each other, both with tears streaking their faces.
Arthur was released from his cell that afternoon. Katya would pretend to be Isla and Matthew would pretend to be Alfred… Everything had worked out for those two, and Arthur was glad. For those that knew the truth, they were forced to take a vow of silence. This story was never to leave the castle.
But where did that leave Arthur? Both sets of parents seemed eager to ignore his very existence. And yet, Arthur didn't mind this. All he knew was that he wanted to leave everything that had happened behind him. He wasn't going to be sentenced to death. It would put blood on their hands, and Alfred's parents wanted the kingdom quite badly.
Matthew had looked quite elated. He was so happy that he was marrying the woman he loved, and Arthur couldn't help but envy what he, no, they had.
Arthur was in the bedroom, staring out the window at the grounds below. The sky was a clear blue and the grass was rich and green. He was packing some things, ready to leave this castle and perhaps travel on his own somewhere…somewhere very far away.
When Arthur had been told he was no longer their prisoner, that he wouldn't be sentenced to death, he didn't know what to feel. He couldn't, or rather, wouldn't believe it at first… But they spoke the truth, and with that, Arthur had pretty much been left to his own devices.
Arthur wasn't sure what to feel now, actually. Should he be happy? In some ways, he was. He was no longer dressed like a girl, and he no longer had to stay here… But in other ways, he felt everything had happened too quickly, like he was being let off much too easily…as if some other conflict should arise and trouble him any moment now.
He breathed in deeply. The sun was beautiful out today, and he was finally glad he could see the outdoors rather than the pitch black of his cell.
"Arthur…?" someone asked from behind. Arthur turned his head slowly to see Alfred peaking into the room.
"Hello, Alfred," he said, his voice just a bit too formal and…empty.
Alfred was wringing his hands nervously. "So, um…" he began, staring straight at Arthur. "Are we still, you know…married?" he asked him, honestly wondering if they were both going to pretend the marriage didn't exist. He knew his parents were already doing so.
Arthur's eyes widened a bit. "W-well…I don't know…do you want to be?" he asked, unsure of what Alfred wanted his answer to be. If Arthur answered truthfully, he would have said he didn't mind being married to Alfred. He fingered the ring on his left hand. It was still tight, but it was still his. Katya and Matthew had been given new rings, so he and Alfred still had theirs.
"Uh, well…" Alfred's cheeks colored slightly. "I mean, I wouldn't mind, but if you do, then…" he said, his voice trailing off as he averted his eyes. Arthur coughed slightly.
"N-no, I don't mind…" he answered honestly, averting his eyes as well.
Alfred looked up. "O-ok then…" he said. They were both quiet after that, lapsing into yet another one of their frequent silences. Arthur turned around and continued to stare out the window, allowing his mind to wander. Alfred walked towards the window and looked out as well. "Do you miss her?" he asked suddenly, waking Arthur from his small reverie.
"What?" he asked, unsure if he had heard the question correctly.
"I said, do you miss her? Isla…" he asked again, genuine curiosity in his voice. Arthur's eyes were downcast.
"Of course I miss her…" he said. "She was my twin sister and…all I ever had…" Arthur spoke this last statement quietly, recalling their lives together. She really had been his only friend in life, and for that, he was grateful. A small smile tugged the corners of his lips.
"What was she like?" Alfred asked, noticing the smile and wanting to see it grow, if only a little more.
"She was wonderful…" Arthur said as her face came to mind. "She was always trying to make the best of situations…always trying to look for beauty in things…" His smile grew. "You know, she asked me before we left if the sky was blue here…it was the one thing she looked forward to coming to the kingdom of America…"
Alfred took a quick glance out the window. "The sky usually is always blue…isn't it blue in England?" Arthur gave a sarcastic chuckle.
"When it's not raining, I suppose…" he said. Alfred could only give a small "oh" in response. Arthur was once again lost in his memories before he decided to speak again. "You know…" he began. "You two would have been perfect for each other, had you met," he said, staring straight into Alfred's eyes, where the sky was always blue, despite the conditions outdoors.
"But I didn't meet Isla, Arthur…" Alfred said. "I met you."
Arthur's smile fell for a moment, and instead he looked at Alfred with surprise. Alfred took a few steps closer.
"Look…" he said, becoming nervous again. But this was no time to be nervous. He would be straight to the point. "Arthur…if what you said down there was true…that…that everything we experienced together was real…" His voice trailed off. But he had to do this. "Then I think…I just…I really do like you, Arthur," he finally said, the weight off of his shoulders.
Arthur's eyes were wide before he said, "But you don't know anything about me…"
"T-that's not true!" Alfred said suddenly. "I know that you're stubborn, a-and that you roll your eyes whenever you think I'm being stupid, and that you're kind of cranky all the time…"
Arthur began to sputter slightly hearing these insults.
Alfred continued with a smile. "Yeah, and you do that blushing and sputtering thing whenever you're angry!" Arthur began to sputter even more.
But suddenly, Alfred's face became more serious. "I also know that you've been through a lot…but that doesn't stop you… You're really strong, and resilient…" Arthur stared at Alfred, trying to see just where he was going with all of this. "I guess what I'm trying to say is…I think I do know you, and, well…Can I…can I try something?" he asked Arthur, his eyes earnest. Arthur nodded his head, unsure of Alfred's intentions.
Alfred placed his hands on either side of Arthur's face and bent down slightly. Closing his eyes, Alfred touched his lips to Arthur's, giving him a small kiss. Arthur allowed his eyes to close as well press forward the slightest bit. Alfred released Arthur after a few seconds and stared right at him. Arthur was too stunned to move and gazed right back. Alfred spoke again.
"It feels the same, Arthur…" he said. Alfred had just kissed a man, and it didn't feel any different from when he thought Arthur was a woman. It felt the same…the exact same feeling, the same emotions he had when they had both been outdoors together…
Arthur brought a hand up to his lips as he continued to stare at Alfred. He brought it down and took a few steps closer to Alfred. At the same time, both men leaned their faces in towards one another and kissed, softly and surely.
And it did feel the same. Arthur let his hands grasp Alfred's head as Alfred tangled one of his hands in his hair. Their lips moved in perfect unison, and Arthur could honestly say that everything about this moment felt right. There was no longer any guilt lingering in his body. Alfred cared for him, and he cared for Alfred.
The kiss lasted a few seconds longer before Alfred decided to pull away, a bright smile warming his face. He held Arthur's hands in his own. "I was wondering…well, my parents don't really need me around the castle anymore, and since you were going, I kind of figured…well, maybe you'd like to travel the countryside with me?" he asked, his voice eager for Arthur's response.
"I think…I think that would be nice…" Arthur said, smiling right back.
And so, Alfred and I toured the kingdom of America. There was much more to it than I had originally thought. Everything about the land is beautiful… I wish Isla could have seen it.
But I shouldn't burden myself with any negative thoughts. I know that she is at peace, at rest, and that is all that matters. And I'm…I'm actually happy now. Sure, Alfred can be…well, a pain and an idiot, but it's quite endearing…
I don't think I've ever seen him smile so much now that I think about it. I don't think I've ever smiled so much. Alfred says I should do it more often.
But ah, where are my manners? I was telling you a story, yes? Well, although my life is no fairytale, I'll end it on this note.
We lived happily ever after, as sappy as that sounds. I'm just glad to be me again, and glad that I no longer have to keep secrets. Now if you'll excuse me, Alfred's running through the fields, so I have an idiot to chase.
A/N: Thank you all so much for all of your reviews, comments, favorites, alerts, etc. It really meant a lot to me, and this is my favorite fic that I've written so far. I really put a lot of thought and effort into it, and I hope it shows :)
You have noooo idea just how many comments I received, "NO, DON'T CASTRATE ARTHUR!! DDD:" It. was. hilarious. xDDD I never originally intended to castrate him, but after all those comments, I was like, "hm…maybe I should" xD But I couldn't, not to poor Arthur (although I had my friend encouraging me to change my style and write an angsty ending for once XD)
A few historical notes and things I want to bring up!
I did a lot of research, and I really tried to focus on Arthur's plight as Isla through the marriage. Back in those days, women were married for land and power. There was no love or anything like that. And yes, the guests of the wedding really were supposed to watch the new couple consummate…perverts
A marriage could be annulled if there was no consummation, however, which is something both Alfred and Arthur struggle with at the end. They could pretend the marriage never existed if they really wanted to. But they don't want to, so they'll continue on as a married couple.
And about Arthur's dad, Sir Kirkland. I want to explain his actions (I just want to, ok?! D:) He has a sort of pride thing going on for him. He lost all of his sons before Isla and Arthur were born, so he had a lot of expectations, and although Arthur didn't meet those expectations, he was still a son. Sir Kirkland was proud to be the father of so many boys, so when it was just down to Arthur and Isla, he took pride in the fact that at least one of the twins was born male. He's always been concerned with Arthur being what he deemed "feminine", and having Arthur dress like a girl was not high on his "Things I'd Really Like to do to Mess with my Son" list. It was his wife's idea from the very beginning, and he handled the situation nervously and angrily, taking most of the anger he held for his wife's decision out on Arthur.
Also, Arthur was the only child he had left. Most people died during the castration process. I researched it a bit and this is what I found: on African American slave trade ships, men were sometimes castrated. Everything was cut off and the wound was sealed with a hot iron. They would be fed nothing, and instead they were given water for days until enough liquid built up to pierce a hole through the skin so they could urinate. Roughly 90% of people died from this brutal process. Now, I know this story is not about slave trade in any way, but it was a method used back then and one I thought would be more dramatic in the story. Therefore, Arthur had a high chance of not surviving the process, and that would leave Sir Kirkland without any child whatsoever, and that did not go well with him at all.
That was…longer than expected :'D Oh well.
If you have any questions about the story, or any helpful critiques, that would be wonderful :)
Thank you for reading