Chapter 3

"Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends." –Shirley MacLaine


"Alfred! Can we play tag? PLEEAAASSSSEEEEE?" A child quite far from leaving her youth tugged on the teenager's jean cuff.

Alfred sighed inwardly. "Not now, Emily…" he complained, groaning in lassitude.

"Why not?" Emily whined, her eyebrows sagging indisapproval. She jutted her lower lip, attempting a puppy dog face, but Alfred merely rolled his eyes, not impressed.

Emily grimaced and crossed her arms. "Well, you're no fun!" she pouted, turning her back to him.

A smirk crawled onto Alfred's countenance. Swiftly, he leaned his body forward and tapped Emily on the shoulder, yelling "Emily's it, everyone! Run away!"

The other assembled youngsters ceased their activities to observe Alfred sprinting from a seething Emily and followed suit, scampering in all directions like a throng of startled pigeons taking flight.

Emily kept up her pursue of Alfred as he ran in a circuitous pattern, but soon noticing how Alfred's stride significantly overpowered her miniscule steps, she scanned the other inhabitants of the alley for worthier prey. With Emily's attention focused on someone else, Alfred could reward himself with a brief respite from running, but still kept his cerulean eyes on "It" in case she decided to perpetuate the pursuance. However, his gaze shifted to a pair of men unlatching the chain-link fence that blocked the entrance to the alley, a heated argument fermenting between them.

"If you weren't so insistent on being a peeper, we might've actually found her, but nooooo. Your fucking fan service means more than Elizaveta's life." Gilbert's voice came out in waves of fury, but he couldn't mask the undertones betraying his ultimate melancholy.

"Gilbert…I want to find Veta as much as you do, but there weren't as many threats in that area. Besides, we weren't even assigned to be searching fo-"

"Look, just shut up, okay? It's obvious you don't give a fuck! I'm tired this shit." Footsteps sounded the albino's retreat from the alley.

"But Vash said-"

"I don't give a damn what Vash told us to do. I'm doing whatever the fuck I want to."

Antonio could only frown as Gilbert stomped his way out of the alley, the fence clanging sharply against the pole as he violently swung it closed.

Alfred, figuring the children could keep themselves entertained for the time being, walked briskly over to his friend. "Jeez, I've never seen Gilbo so distraught before…" Alfred commented after a moment of tacitly watching Antonio properly latch the fence.

The Spaniard heaved a sigh, weaving his fingers into the diamond-shaped holes of the fence. "I know, hombre…It's really tough on him, even if he doesn't want to admit it."

"It's been tough on all of us," Alfred replied, "which is why cussing at you and thinking that you don't care is complete shit."

Antonio gazed at the straw-blond, his eyes unveiling some sort of restored happiness, and beamed, "It's alright, Al. He just needs to cool off. You know how Gil is."

"Yeah…but still. Just because he's upset doesn't mean he can take it out on others," he stated, casting a glance back to see if the children were behaving. With the scene clear of any squabbles, he returned his attention to Antonio. "Did anything interesting happen while you were patrolling?"

Antonio opened his mouth to explain, but was cut off as Alfred's walkie –talkie crackled to life.

"Jones?"

In a flash, Alfred's mouth was at the speaker. "Yes?"

"Go to Room 172. You're needed."

"Understood." he replied, returning the device to his side. He shared a confused glance with Antonio, before he opened the fence and strode right to the tenement entrance.

After a rather lengthy stroll down a hallway, the decrepit wood creaking under his step, he came to a moldy door, the off-white paint peeling and swung it open. Within its cracked walls sat Vash, whose expressionless stare wavered only to acknowledge Alfred's arrival , and another teenager he had never seen before.

He seemed to be around Alfred's age, with wavy blonde hair that ceased its growth from his scalp at the very beginnings of his jaw line. He had shining violet eyes that gazed cautiously back at Alfred behind circular-rimmed glasses. For a moment, they blankly stared at one another, until Vash called Alfred's attention to him with a slight cough. "Alfred, I want you to be his-" here, he tilted his head in the other boy's direction, "-guard. Just keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't try anything...Though I don't think he'll cause much trouble."

Vash got to his boots and strode away, vacating the room. He's most likely going to check up on the returning patrol, Alfred thought absently as he helped himself to the chair Vash had occupied and maintained eye contact with his charge. The other teen appeared determined to avoid this contact, his irises flitting around the room. Wanting to subdue the awkward aura engulfing the room, Alfred decided to introduce himself and act as cordial as possible.

"Well, I get it's kinda obvious, but my name is Alfred. What's yours?" he flashed the teen a brilliant smile.

"Matthew," the teen responded brusquely. He pulled his knees to his sweater-covered chest, and narrowed his focus to the moth-bitten blanket draped over the cot he sat upon.

"Matthew, huh? ... Nice ta meetcha!" Alfred exclaimed, extending a hand in a formal greeting, but Matthew merely glared in apprehension at the appendage.

"I'm not going to bite you, if that's what you think," he reassured him, hoping his humorous tone would make the tense atmosphere a bit lighter, but Matthew still refused to accept the handshake. Instead, he unfolded himself and got to his knees, an enraged expression on his countenance.

"Look, I'm not making friends with someone who plans to keep watch on me like I'm a criminal, okay? I did nothing wrong! I had no idea the border was there nor am I some stupid spy. Hell, I just though city gangs were urban legends." Alfred could see the rage transmute into a sort of mild hysteria, which was an obvious result of fear. The straw-blonde's eyes watered in sympathy, as Matthew fell silent. Alfred normally lacked any skill of deciphering emotions, but the strength in Matthew's claims were potent enough for Alfred to be questioning his boss's decision to keep the poor fellow prisoner.

"Y'know, now that I think about it, you being a prisoner is kinda weird."

Matthew's eyebrows perked up, an obvious sign of increased interest. "Really?"

"Yeah. If all you did was cross the border, then Vash wouldn't have wasted any time with you,"

Without warning, Matthew's cheeks dusted themselves in a light pink shade. "Well….um…I was also kinda chasing two of your members…"

Alfred raised an eyebrow, "Oh? Which ones?"

Matthew became pensive, shutting his eyes as he searched his memory. "uh, Gilbert and Antonio?" Violet eyes were unveiled, gazing intently at Alfred, examining his face for a reaction.

At the mention of the men's names, Alfred found himself smirking, a solid prediction of what had transpired. "Lemme guess. Antonio was being a peeping tom."

Matthew was taken aback at how spot-on Alfred's conjecture was. "Yeah. He was watching one of my friends and Yong Soo chased after him when he tried to escape."

"Wait. Young Who?"

Matthew paused, realizing he had neglected to provide background information about his friend. "He's my roommate at the orphanage. He was insistent upon going after Gilbert and Antonio, so I followed. I didn't want him to get hurt. Before I knew it, I was here. I think I lost Yong Soo somewhere in the chase."

Alfred's eyes were fastened on Matthew. "Did you tell Vash this?" When Matthew verified the fact, Alfred still felt rather confused. "That still doesn't tell me why you are here. He obviously isn't completely suspicious of you being a spy; otherwise he would personally watch you and not let you leave the room."

Matthew's face seemed to illuminate in the hope that he may be released back to the orphanage today, but Alfred's next sentence shattered any such hope. "I'm sure you will be allowed out in a week or so."

"Oh…" Matthew's visage was renewed with a glum expression as his eyes returned their focus to the sheets.

The straw-blond entangled his fingers together, cerebral devoid of any words with which to assuage Matthew's disappointment. As much as Alfred desired to allow Matthew to sneak away back to his home, he knew that Vash was right to at least hold a miniscule suspicion against the teen.

As if summoned by Alfred's thoughts, the tell-tale static hiss of his radio.

"Alfred. Change of plans. I need someone on the evening patrol who hasn't been working their butt off. Ludwig should be heading over to watch the Matthew kid now. Meet me by the fence. Over and out."

Alfred couldn't help but give a scowl of consternation. He had an intense desire to stay with the hostage and learn more about his past, but Vash was naturally the one to butt it. His gaze flicked to Matthew, who didn't attempt to voice any reply to the change in charge.

Alfred, being the type to loathe silence, remarked. "Guess I'll be going. I'll be seeing you around, then…"

"Yeah…" Alfred could tell the blonde's cranium floated through another dimension, his violet eyes distant and clouded with pensiveness.

As Ludwig took his new post, (while taking the time to remind Alfred of where he needed to report to –as if he needed to be informed of his duties five million times) the gang member couldn't push the lever to shift the tracks on his train of thought.

1

She was used to musty quarters, with only a lone cot within its four walls. She was acclimated to the scratchy wool, the cardboard-like pillow that failed to do its job.

She wasn't accustomed to every exit being locked, leaving her with no way out.

She had tried, oh how she'd tried, to free herself from her confinements. Picking locks, chucking sharp objects at windows until the glass shattered and a hole her size formed.

She had been so close, but no - he had to come by, be at the right place at the right time - to stop her from escaping his clutches. It was almost as if he possesses a sixth sense that enabled him to detect any disturbance within his domain.

That sense was an anathema to her. She hated how he boarded her only road to freedom, loathed that slab of plywood that further mocked her imprisonment, abhorred the flitting darkness that threatened to fill her very being.

Sometimes he would stand over her and flout at her predicament and the gang she hailed from.

"You'll never be rescued. Never," he'd say, brilliant teeth gleaming luridly against his tanned skin.

Her helplessness was intolerable; she wanted to be scrounged for listening to his cavernous words.

You'll never be rescued

Never be rescued

Never be rescued.

Could it be true? Could she be stuck forever?

That awful word. Forever. Eternity. She hated it (what a surprise)

No. She knew she'd be rescued. She knew she'd have the strength and smarts to overcome her enemy

She could be lying; she loved that lie anyway. Loved it, was enamored with it, wanted to marry that gorgeous lie.

I will be free.

2

"So, you're name's Sam?

Silence.

"Yeah. What's your name?"

More silence.

"John."


Author's Note: Here we are with the third chapter. I don't think this is as good as it could be, but it's much better than the first draft. That you can count on. Thanks for reading!

~AnimeOtakuFreak1029