Title: Last Wishes
Disclaimer: APHetalia is property of Hidekaz Himaruya.
Summary: Semi-Steampunk AU. After his father was lost at sea and proven deceased, Alfred Jones comes into full inheritance of his family fortune, debts, overseas business, and a twin brother.
Note: The setting is semi-steampunk but the fic will probably not be technology heavy. It's mostly because I don't want to have to fiddle with a complete fantasy world and have oil lamps and things like that so I cheat and have 'unexplained easy tech'. It's roughly set in a Victorian-esque era though.
A/Ns: It was bothering me so I wrote it. Someone strangle me if this turns into a sad sap-fest. Do it. Please.
Prologue – Inheritance
Alfred Jones rose reluctantly from the comfy armchair where he had fallen asleep by the unlit fireplace, clutching at his aching head. An empty bottle fell from his hand and rolled across the expensive Persian carpet, hitting a couple others of different shape with a clink.
The extensive hallway echoed with his footsteps as he drifted through like a sluggish ghost to the front entrance. The double doors were made from a sturdy polished mahogany, flanked by two wilting potted plants that had not seen water for days. Fiddling with the unfamiliar locks (usually the butler took care of it and whenever he snuck out on his own it was by the window or the servant's exit), he managed to unlock them and pulled one door open.
Three men stood on the front step. Two were unfamiliar but the third brought the relief of familiarity the likes of which he hasn't seen for the last few days.
"Roderich! You're back from your visit? Boy, am I glad to see you. Have you heard-?"
"Yes, young master, I have. My greatest condolences," the Austrian bowed his head solemnly; he was dressed from head to toe in black. "I boarded the earliest train I could catch the moment I heard the news-have you been drinking?"
"Was, I was drinking. Never mind that. Do you know who these guys are?" he asked, jerking his head in the direction of the two unknowns, running a hand through his disheveled hair. The shorter of the two blond men blanched at his informal gesture.
"Arthur Kirkland, Attorney-at-Law," the man said curtly with a distinct British accent, shaking Alfred's hand with the firm grip. "I have come to speak in regards of the will left by-"
"Look, man. I'm done with all that stuff. The lawyer guys came over two days ago and went over it already, blah, blah, estates, blah, business, blah, legal issues, blah, so you're too late to grab your share, okay?"
Arthur sputtered at his insinuations; his face grew an unhealthy red. The other blond man chuckled at his companion's reaction behind a raised hand.
"No, young man, you listen here. The will in question was left by your deceased mother Madeleine Jones. More importantly though in relations with your father's will-"
"Mom's will? But…she's been dead for years!"
Five years into an arranged marriage, his mother passed away shortly after giving birth to him. In the nineteen years of his life, he had never once heard about a will left by her.
"-I have a copy of it here-" The paper was snatched from his fingers barely a moment after he had pulled it out from his satchel. Alfred's blue eyes immediately zoned in on the end of the document for the signature.
Madeleine Lisette Jones née Williams—
A shuddering breath escaped him. The swirling, graceful cursive was identical to the script inside the small leather-bound diary he had found in the vanity desk drawer that one night many years ago. He remembered how he laid there, a curious little boy, on the silk sheets of the canopy bed that although out of use was well-kept and tended to, thumbing through the aging pages and committing the writing style to memory. He wasn't able to read it as it was written in French (he wasn't a very good student in the language admittedly, his tutor Roderich could attest to that) but he treasured the little book all the same.
It was the real deal.
He tried to read the contents of the will but was saddened to see that it too was written in his mother's native language. Gingerly he returned the paper to Arthur who accepted it stony-faced and respectful of his silence.
"So, um, what's it say?"
"We will be getting to that later," Arthur said, fixing his black silk tie absentmindedly. "There is a more pressing issue at hand. I believe Mr. Edelstein will shed some light on it for us."
"Roderich…?" He looked to his tutor inquiringly.
"Perhaps it will be better if I showed you, young master. If we may head inside, please." Roderich smiled grimly, nodding to the other two. They filed into the foyer, wiping down their shoes on the rug.
"And what are you here for?"
The second blond man looked away from his cool observation of the mansion's interior and, smiling, offering his hand.
"Francis Bonnefoy. I am what you might call a specialist. All will be clear soon." Alfred withdrew his hand sharply when he realized the Frenchman was going to kiss it, eliciting another bell-like chuckle from the man.
They wound their way through the large mansion to the servants' quarters where Roderich picked up a peculiar shaped key from a locked compartment in his writing desk. From there they set off to the library.
Although Alfred had never seen his father read a book, the library was spacious (he estimated it to be roughly the same size as a small ballroom) and far from being in short supply of reading material. It was packed from floor to ceiling with volumes of moulding old tomes with numerous bookcases that created a sort of miniature labyrinth, a scholar's envy it might if one had known. The fact was that the library's more frequent visitor was probably Roderich himself, given explicit permission to use the library's resources for private endeavours (of which Alfred knew not) and not one for reading himself, Alfred rarely placed even a foot into the threshold.
Now that they were here however, he was curious, pushing aside the dreary week he had. What could it be that his tutor wanted to show them?
Winding a path through the maze of shelves and past several unstable-looking ladders on wheels, they came to a stop halfway to a dead end. The dust here was almost suffocating and all members of the party took care not to disturb anything. Roderich pulled out a thick almanac several decades out of date from a series on one of the shelves and wedged the hand holding the key inside.
There was a barely audible click and after the book was replaced (the dusty grime on the spine miraculously, or perhaps not, perfectly preserved despite being touched), the shelves swung inwards about the size of an average door, opening to a dark and dank passageway.
"Wow," was all he could say. This was getting a little too contemporary fairy tale for his tastes, but it stirred the old desire for fantastic adventures he had as a child.
Roderich led the way through the dark and the rest followed after, guiding by the echoing clack of thick soles on stone. They almost ran into him when the Austrian stopped unseen. A sliver of golden light was leaking out from the ill-fitting fitting door, helping them gain partial night vision.
"I would advise that you be especially...careful. No sudden movements or loud noises as it can be...upsetting." The peculiar key was turned around and inserted into an invisible lock.
The room beyond it was styled similar to the general theme of the mansion with its striped wallpaper, matching carpet, fancy glass light fixtures, and a rich throw rug. The only difference was its smaller size; the extra book shelves, storage compartments and meticulously organized file holders gave an overall sense of crampedness. The only illumination in the room was from the far corner of the room, emitting from a portable electric lamp sitting on a work desk.
A figure was seated there, bent over an enormous book; a thin finger tracing the spidery print. Arthur bumped into a box of files with his elbow, sending it crashing to the floor. The figure looked up startled; facing them now, he looked reasonably masculine and faintly familiar.
"Oh, Roderich. You've returned early. I-," his voice was quiet and gentle, cutting off when he sighted the newcomers. Hiding behind the Austrian, his soft "Who...?" was almost unheard.
"Do not be alarmed. They will not harm you," Roderich muttered, patting the boy's hand.
"What...what is going on?" Alfred asked. "Who is this? Why is...he in here?"
France answered this for him, flourishing the copy of the will.
"Well, Monsieur Jones, according to your mother's will, this would be your younger twin brother Matthieu, with whom you are to divide your inheritance in the event that both parents become deceased."
His head snapped towards the cowering figure.
Hidden from view, he could only see wide eyes staring back at him. None of his other features were visible in the dim lighting.
A crisp sheet of paper crinkled as Arthur pulled another more recent document.
"And, according to your father's will,' he said, indicating the appropriate section, 'he is Matthew Williams."
"And what is the problem here?" Alfred said, not really listening. The boy (or man since he would be the same age) seemed to shrink further out of sight under his scrutiny.
He had a brother all this time?
"In all legality,' the disgruntled lawyer continued, 'Matthew Williams is property of the Jones family and therefore, with your father's death, you, Mr. Jones, own him."
A/Ns: Oh boy, where am I going to go with this…
What do you think? Thanks for reading.