Solemn blue eyes watched them warily, "oui, I am Francis Bonnefoy. What business do you have with me?"
And just like that, Matthew could feel his mind blank out. He was so close…but before either of the brothers could get a word in, they were seized from behind.
"Gotcha! Hey, hold my axe, would you? Wouldn't want to accidentally lop this kid's arms off, remember what happened last time?"
The one with the hairclip took the axe with a frown, "how annoying, bror."
"S'rry for th'distub'nce h'rr Bonn'foy."
"Berwald, Mathias, try not to be too rough with them, they're only children!"
The tallest guard looked down at the one with the white beret and nodded, "…I'll tr'm'best…"
Alfred began struggling against his captor, "don't just stand there, Mattie!"
The tall blond glared at the boy, "Oi, stop flailing around! What are you? A fish? You're gonna hurt yourself like this!"
"The only person I'm going to hurt is you- and it's 'going to', you stupid Viking!"
"Vikings aren't stupid!"
"Yes they are!"
"The person who calls another an idiot is an idiot himself!"
"…I know you are but what am I!"
"…I can't believe I'm seeing this. It seems like bror has met his match in this battle of wits…"
"Shouldn't we stop them?"
"Jus leav'em, Tino. S'only Matthias."
His mind whirled. They were going to get dragged away and he'd never get to ask the man who was sitting there-right there, only a few meters away, and he'd never find out whether or not he was papa. No. He could hear voices in his head yelling for him to do something, anything. Alfred made an opportunity for him and he couldn't just waste it! He wasn't going to let another chance pass by him!
Ignoring the ruckus around him as the Danish man and his brother continued their argument, he opened his mouth and the words spilled out before he could think about it. It wasn't very loud but everyone heard it, "ê-êtes-vous mon papa?"
For a moment, everything went silent as everyone stared at him in shock and confusion. Grinning, Alfred quickly took the opportunity to break free from his captor and instinctively pulled his brother with him as he ran across the room but not before grabbing a stack of paper from the man's desk. He gave the younger blond an approving pat on the back, "good job Mattie, I didn't think you had it in you to raise your voice like that! Just wait, let's find something with his writing, then we can compare, do you have your letter?"
Matthew stared at his brother in disbelief, "n-no, I left everything in my suitcase. What are you doing, we're going to get arrested like this, Alfred!"
Flipping through the papers, the older boy gave a groan, "I can't believe you left it behind. Oh well, no matter, you're just going to have to distract them while I go through this stuff. Worst comes to worst, see the window behind us? Is it high? It can't be, we're still on the main floor, aren't we?" He glanced back, "…okay, it's higher than I expected, but whatever. So here's the plan: if they get any closer, we'll throw ourselves out, hope we don't die, and then file a lawsuit or something against them if we're injured!"
The younger boy paled slightly, "I strongly disagree with this plan, Al. There's got to be a different, less life-threatening way to go about this…"
Looking around the room, he found the guards were slowly approaching them until the Frenchman, who'd rose from his seat raised a hand and shook his head. Although he expected the man to be angry, upon second glance, he realized that the man simply looked worn out. Straightening himself up, Francis Bonnefoy pushed his chair back though he made no move to approach them, "it's alright, there's no need for you to do anything reckless. Just tell me what you want…Alfred et Mathieu, non? Brothers, I recall Sesel saying …I thought you were American journalists."
"But I'm Canadian…" Matthew muttered quietly.
Meanwhile, Alfred paused in what he was doing to look up with a sheepish grin, "yea…no we're not. We're brothers but not journalists, that was actually a lie to get in here to talk to you, but that didn't work so we went with an improvised plan B instead."
Running a hand through his hair, Francis pursed his lips, "I'm afraid I don't understand what you're looking for here, I called off that search years ago, there shouldn't be a reason for people to bring that up again. If you're in need of financial aid, I'd be more than happy to lend a hand but there's no need for you to go this far."
The younger boy shook his head frantically, "b-but it's not about the money, really!"
A sigh, "well then, please enlighten me because if you're just bringing up this subject for fun, I'm afraid I'll have to ask my security to escort you boys out."
Alfred frowned as he watched the other massage the bridge of his nose, "How do you know Mattie isn't your Mattie? At least look at him!"
The French man shook his head and leaned against his desk, "Listen, I don't know how you found out about my Mathieu, but for one thing, he did not have a brother. And another thing, I'm tired of having people come claiming they found my Mathieu, some have even come with excellent, nearly identical copies but they weren't him and I'm tired of people getting my hopes up for nothing, so please, just leave me in peace."
There was another pause as Matthew watched the man, the hurt obvious in his eyes. He wanted to reach out to the blond, but what if he wasn't papa? What if he brought up painful memories for the man for no valid reason? He watched as Alfred argued with the man and pursed his lips, tugging at the other boy's jacket, he spoke quietly, "Al…maybe we should leave…"
The American stared at him in disbelief, "what? What do you mean we should just leave? We risked getting shot, nearly had to scale a fence, and got attacked by Vikings just to get here and now you want to leave? The only way I'll leave is through the window!"
"B-but I really just wanted to see if papa was alright, so even if he's papa, he's clearly doing well…so let's stop bothering him…"
Alfred shook his head fervently, "no way, there's no way I'm letting you walk out of here without knowing the truth! I know you, you're just too nice! I swear, if you ever get mugged, you'd apologize to the mugger for not having the money ready and for making him wait for you while you get your wallet out, hell, then you'd probably tell him to have a nice day after he's done! You never want to bother people, but you know what? Last night, I watched you crying while you asked me why your 'papa' left you! It's not just about you anymore! The second you start crying, as your official hero, it becomes my business too!"
Staring at his brother, he was stuck between crying and laughing, but eventually settled for the latter, "thank you Al…I mean, I'm sorry…I mean…"
"Stop apologizing to me! You didn't do anything wrong!"
"Sorry-but I can't help it, I'm sorry!"
"You're doing it again!"
At the sound of laughter, he snapped out of his daze and turned towards the boys. He watched with widened eyes as the two bickered, one apologizing while the other telling him to stop, both laughing and yelling as though he and his security group weren't there.
The boy's smile looked just like his Mathieu's. It was the same as the smile he received whenever he made crepes, whenever he bought the boy a new toy, whenever they read books together, and when he received his last 'bonne nuit, papa' from the child…the same smile as the little boy who made him feel like every day would be better than the last…
But it couldn't be.
Not after all those fakes and imposters. What were the chances that the real one suddenly come breaking into his office after all these years? Sure, he'd always dreamt of the day where that little boy would come running back into his arms, but the pair in front of him weren't children, they were nearly adults, just like Mathieu would be if he were here now…
Suddenly, he felt all the time that'd passed him veer around and hit him.
It'd already been fourteen years.
Fourteen years of restless nights, nightmares of a little boy lost in the cold, crying for his papa…all those fruitless wishes and endless regrets. He ended up drowning himself in work in order to distract himself from everything. He'd tried opening a restaurant, but his menu only consisted of things Mathieu had liked…breakfast, lunch and dinner, he'd promised to cook for the boy everyday and he'd tried his best to fulfill it. He'd tried going into the fashion industry but his designs were all modeled on what he thought the boy would've looked good in.
He wanted to tell the boy he tried his best, wanted to beg for forgiveness, tell him that there were so many things he'd wanted to teach him…how to cook, how to identify scones and make excuses for not eating them, how to feed Pierre, all of them… He'd wanted to be able to watch the boy grow up, ask him how his day went, listen about his first crushes and friends and perhaps get jealous over them for stealing his son away.
He'd tried so hard to find the boy and yet there he was…standing right in front of him…
"Mathieu…?" The boys turned to see the man standing there, eyes wide, "I'd recognize that smile anywhere…but it can't be really be…" taking a hesitant step towards them, he frowned, "o dieu, please tell me it's really you…ah-where are you from, boy?"
Matthew felt his heart speed up. For the first time, the man was looking directly at him, it made him stutter, "I-I was at an English orphanage but then I was taken away to Paris for awhile… then I was left in Montreal…it was just me and Kuma…Kuma…" he furled his brows as he tried to recall the bear's name.
"Kumajiro," the man supplied, relief evident in his voice, "his name's Kumajiro, Mathieu."
"Yea-" his head snapped up as his eyes widened, he could feel tears welling up, "p-papa? Is it really you?"
Francis hugged the boy tightly, "Oui, Mathieu, c'est moi! I'm sorry for doubting you, it's just that there've been so many…I can't believe it's really you! I'm so sorry, …there were so many things I still wanted to tell you, to teach you…you were so young, time's gone by so quickly… I'm sorry, mon cher, just look at you! You're so tall now! And you have glasses! You're so grown up already! Mon cher, please believe me, there hasn't been a day where I haven't thought of you. I've missed you so much…"
He quickly hugged the man back, "I've missed you too, papa."
"D'aww, now isn't that cute?"
"…the moment's touching but the security guard's annoying, stupid bror."
"Ja, yo'r ru'nin t'moment, Mathias."
"What was that, Berwald? You want to take it outside?"
"Berwald, Mathias, please calm down!"
Alfred watched as the two hugged and though he wasn't sure what he was feeling at the moment, he couldn't help but sigh in relief to himself as he saw the expression on his brother's face. Looking down at the pieces of paper in his hand, he noticed he'd dropped one and picked it up. On the back of it, he found a child's drawing with the words 'Mathieu et papa et Kumajiro! Je t'aime papa!' written at the top.
A moment later, he found his breath squeezed out of him by his brother, "you did it Al! You found papa for me! You really did it! Thank you! You're the best brother in the world! I love you so much! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
He grinned proudly, "of course I did! I'm a hero, remember?"
After dismissing the guards and getting the room back in order, the two, mostly Alfred, ended up explaining everything that'd happened before and after Montreal to the Frenchman. Giving an understanding nod, Francis set his glass of wine down, "I honestly had no idea you had a brother, mon cher."
He gave a small smile, cup of tea in his hands since it helped with the migraine, "actually, I didn't really know either, it all just kind of happened…"
"So, are you two still living with this 'Artie' person?"
Alfred shook his head and took a bite of the burger that the man had ordered to be delivered for him, "Amoghd oo aeuhiha und Ma'ee en oo…hat aihn amough aeuhiha."
"It's called Canada, Al…" looking at the Frenchman, he gave a soft laugh, "we don't live in London anymore, Al moved to America and I moved to Canada."
Francis merely furled his brows, neither disgusted nor completely appalled. Instead, he mused to himself, "strange…somehow he reminds me of someone I know…or at least he was like that until he was bound to a chair and violently threatened…god bless that woman…"
Matthew sighed, "Sorry, Al's just like that, there's no changing him."
The blond smiled, "ah, I remember when you used to cry for your 'Alf', you'd run all over the house looking for him. I've only ever known him as the sleeping boy you said goodbye to in the orphanage, who would've thought he'd end up breaking into my office with my Mathieu in tow…"
Finishing his burger, Alfred frowned, "wait a minute, we told you our side of the story, now tell us yours." As the younger boy opened his mouth, his brother cut him off, "no way Mattie, this is practically the main reason we came to France in the first place! It's only fair that you get to know why it happened!"
The man shook his head, "non mon cher, it's alright, your brother's right about this. There isn't much to tell, really, but before I start, please know that I never meant for any of this to happen, the last thing I ever wanted to do was leave you."
The boy nodded and swallowed in anticipation.
"As you know, during and after the war, France was in utter chaos. I had to relocate to England for several years during the war which probably saved my life as my house-more specifically, my parents' house had been reduced to rubble. And when they finally had it rebuilt and I was allowed to move back, on the way, my driver got lost and that's how I stumbled onto that orphanage you were in.
"Then I took you with me to Paris and everything was wonderful. My parents had moved to Lyon somewhere, they'd always moved around spontaneously so I didn't think anything strange of it until I found out what they did. Apparently, due to the war, like many other families, we'd lost most of our assets and money. And in order to fund the reconstruction of this house and our manner of lifestyle, they'd gone to loan sharks for the money, and when it came time to repay their debt, they called to tell me what they'd done before pretty much disappearing.
"At that time, I was about your age, perhaps a little older, and having lived in a wealthy family all my life, I'd originally planned on living off my inheritance so I had no job, no experience, nothing. And I wasn't the only one who'd suffered from the war, my closest friends too, had become close to bankrupt so they weren't any help. The only immediate thing I could do was sell the house and even then it wasn't enough to pay back the debt."
Alfred frowned, "wait, even if your friends were broke, couldn't you have asked them for help? Like, couldn't they have taken care of Mattie for you?"
"Mon cher, you have no idea how much money my parents borrowed, the loan sharks themselves were probably on the brink of poverty. It'd gotten to the point where several of the workers from my house were abducted, tortured, and some were even killed. How could I have put my friends and son at such risk?"
The American's brows furled, "So you left Mattie in a hotel lobby?"
"Would you have risked a child's life? Even if it wasn't his life, would you have risked his education and future?"
Alfred shook his head disapprovingly, "Heroes don't do that."
"Well," he folded his hands in his lap, "I wasn't aiming to be a hero, I just wanted to do the right thing as a father… When I adopted Mathieu, he didn't even have shoes on his feet, how could I put him through that again? At least in the lobby of a five star hotel, the chances of him being taken in by a capable person who'd take proper care for him were higher as opposed to orphanages and whatnot. It pained me to leave him. But I can't say I regret it since I can see that I made the right choice regardless of what you may say.
"After the house was sold, I was literally homeless, at least until I managed to find a job at a restaurant that was owned by a kindly old owner who lost his own son in the war. He gave me a small apartment to stay at, and after he retired, sold the restaurant to me. Even though everything went smoothly from there, it took awhile to pay off the rest of the debt and once I did that, I began looking for you."
Matthew nodded, "but I wasn't in Canada anymore."
A sad smile, "non, you weren't, were you? Believe me, mon cher, I never stopped looking for you. I would've given anything to find you. You have no idea how afraid I was for you, but that matters very little now. Words can't possibly express how relieved I am that a good man took you in, even though he's English. And you," he looked at the older boy, "how can I ever repay you for bringing my Mathieu back?"
The American gave a loud laugh, "Repay moi? Don't sweat it! What'd I do for you anyways? Everything I did, I did it all for Mattie! Have to take care of my baby brother, you know?"
The French man smiled, "merci beaucoup, I'm relieved to know that he's in such capable hands." He turned to his adopted son, "Mathieu, you must tell me, why did you decide to come to Paris to look for me?"
The younger blond looked down at his feet, "w-well the thing is…I wanted to see if you were alright. Arthur told me that you might've had difficult circumstances so I wanted to make sure you were okay. …and I wanted to find out why I was left behind. Even though I'm really grateful to Arthur for taking care of me and Al, I still wanted to know why, because unlike Al who's always had Arthur, I've been left behind twice now and I just wanted to know if there was a reason why…"
The man's eyes softened, "I'm sorry I've caused you so much pain, mon cher, but you must know that none of it was ever your fault. You were the sweetest and most undemanding child I've ever seen, an absolute ange. If there'd been any other way, I would've thrown away everything possible to keep you by my side."
Alfred slung a reassuring arm around his brother, "he's right, Mattie, I can't believe you blamed yourself for something like that. How could you possibly have done anything wrong? And don't apologize."
Matthew reddened, "sorry, I don't know-sorry…I just…"
The elder pair laughed, "Don't worry about it, Mattie."
Francis picked up his wineglass with a smile, "so I suppose you'll be going back to London first before returning to Canada and America?"
He nodded, "Yes, that's basically the plan."
Alfred shot up, "oh right! I completely forgot about our luggage, I'll be right back, Mattie! Hopefully nothing's been stolen!"
Watching the older boy run out of the room, Francis laughed, "So that's really your brother, you two are practically opposites. Ah oui," he pulled out a hero figurine from his pocket, "I believe you'd wanted to give this to 'Alf' before but we never got around to sending it."
Memory flashing through his mind, he smiled nostalgically, "I forgot to remind you…"
"That's alright, you can give it to him now, non? I think it's a very fitting gift for a boy like him. I'm glad you have such a caring brother who's willing to go this far for you."
Nodding, Matthew beamed, "yea, it's great, I've got a hero for a brother!"
As they got ready to leave, Alfred happily shook the Frenchman's hand, "so you'll come up to London to visit us and Artie some time next week, right?"
"Oui, I never thought there'd be a day where I'd have to set foot into Angleterre again, but it's only right that I extend my gratitude to this man for taking such good care of my Mathieu."
"I-I guess we'll see you next week then…papa…"
"It's been fourteen years already but somehow, you're still as adorable as when I first laid eyes on you," Francis couldn't help but coo, giving the boy a kiss on the head. Then, he waved them goodbye, "au revoir, bon voyage, mon cher. Don't forget to run away from nude English men who have nothing but butler costumes on! And remember to run even faster if they offer you their 'scones'!"
The American laughed, waving cheekily at the Swiss guard as they passed the gates, "The French and English really have something against each other, don't they? He gives the same advice as Artie!"
Matthew smiled, "oh yea, here," he handed the toy over to his brother, "it was from a long time ago but I thought you might like it."
Looking at the figurine curiously for a moment, Alfred grinned in delight, "whoa, this is awesome! Thanks Mattie!" Slinging an arm around his brother, the two walked towards the train station, "Let's hurry up and catch the next train to Dieppe! It's weird, after listening to you catch up with your papa, I think I actually miss Artie."
The younger boy nodded, "yea, me too."
"You know, I've actually been thinking, when we get back, I'm going to make more an effort to get along with Artie. I mean, he did take us in and raise us. I wonder how long this resolution will last…?"
The Canadian shot him a happy look, "it's alright, Al. I'm sure that as long as the thought's there, you'll be able to see it through."
He ruffled the other boy's hair, "you're right! Thanks Mattie! Allons-y!"
At the booth, the American ran up and ordered, "Bonjour monsieur, deux tickets pour Dieppe, s'il vous plaît!" Proudly, he spun around, "How's that for amazing improvement, Mattie?"
"Is that all the French you picked up these past few weeks?"
"Yep! Is it awesome or what?"
Matthew laughed as the officer handed them their tickets, "awesome, Al, it's absolutely awesome. Come on, let's go home."
What do you know? I finished! And I'm leaving Saturday so I'm ahead of schedule, I even read the third volume yesterday! Pffffttt it's soooo adorable! I hope this ending was passable to all of you readers (all of whom I love mucho). Don't ever mess around with loan sharks, the stories are real (according to the internet)! And now for all the thank you's! Thank you for putting up for my random injections of non-English words/phrases! Thank you for reading! Thank you very much for the reviews! I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! Please continue supporting me! Much love! Thank you!
Herr - Mr. (Swe)
Hold kæft! - Shut up! (Dan)
O dieu - Oh god (Fr)
Je suis vraiment désolé - I'm very sorry (Fr)
J'y crois pas! - I can't believe it! (Fr)
Mon pauvre petit - My poor baby (Fr)
And here's the epilogue! Enjoy!
The doorbell rang.
Almost immediately, the older boy shot up from his seat and ran for the door, "hey Mattie, it's probably your papa!"
Matthew looked over at Arthur wringing his hands and straightening his suit, "there's no need for you to be nervous, he just wanted to come thank you."
"I know, lad, it's just that I'm not sure I'm going to know what to say. I mean, I should thank this man, for taking care of you before then get angry at him for leaving you, then thank him again because ever since you two came back, Alfred's matured quite a bit and we've been able to get along better ever since…ugh, I don't know how to react anymore."
"It's alright, Arthur, I'm sure you'll be fine."
"Mathieu, mon cher, have you gotten taller again?"
The younger boy laughed as he accepted the hug and kiss, "there's no way I could've grown any taller, it's barely been a week!"
"Oui, of course, you're right. Now where is this man who's taken such great care of you?"
Meekly, Arthur raised his hand, "y-yes…hello, you must be Matthew's pa-"
There was a long pause as the two stared at each other. Suddenly, Matthew had the life squeezed out of him by the French man, who, for the first time, had tears in his eyes, "o dieu, je suis vraiment désolé, mon cher! J'y crois pas! Je suis vraiment désolé! Mon pauvre petit! How could I have done this to you? Please forgive me! I sent you back to the very thing I wanted to save you from!"
Matthew blinked, "w-what's wrong?"
The words continued pouring out of the man's mouth, "I didn't mean to make you live like this! How terrible it must've been for you to have to live off 'scones' and 'burnt stuff' for fourteen years! I have no right to call myself your papa! Oh my poor Mathieu, I don't deserve you!"
Alfred looked over at his brother and shrugged, "at least his apologies are sincere, just look at those tears…"
"Oi, what on earth are you going on about, bloody wine bastard! Matthew's just fine-as you can see! My cooking's improved immensely," Arthur snapped.
Francis paused and looked at the other man before hugging the boy again, "I'm so sorry! Please don't hate me! This has probably ruined your life and taste buds for good! Mathieu, my poor, sweet Mathieu, why has life been so cruel to you?"
Matthew blinked, "Ça va, papa…"
"It's not alright! But don't worry, mon cher, papa will take good care of you from now on! I'll cook for you three times a day, then perhaps your poor taste buds will be able to recover one day…"
"What are you talking about, you frog? I ought to kick you out of my house right now, but I won't since you're Matthew's papa… Honestly, lad, out of all people to bring back to London…"
The French man looked over and straightened himself, "non, you're right, for once…this is not the time to be arguing. We should be celebrating because after all these years, I finally found mon Mathieu…even though you've destroyed his sense of taste in every way possible… Anyways, tonight, we celebrate! I even brought the wine!"
Later that night, the brothers stared incredulously as the men, both drunk and laughing, danced happily together in the kitchen, wineglasses raised. And within moments, the pair began stripping down. Matthew quickly glanced over, "Al, what do we do? They've just become the very people we were taught to run away from…"
Alfred wrinkled his nose in distaste, "when did Artie get that butler outfit? Gross…" he shook his head and began heading up the stairs, "come on, we'll do as we were taught and run. Let's go upstairs, it's getting late anyways." Glancing back at his brother, he sighed, "it's alright, Mattie, they're adults, I'm sure they'll be able to handle themselves and their hangovers tomorrow."
Nodding, he poked his head into the kitchen and called out to the two, "goodnight Arthur, bonne nuit papa."
"Mattie, what's taking you so long? Come on!"
Smiling, he turned around and ran up the stairs after his brother, "coming!"