Second post for the day. This chapter took me for a loop, much different than I originally imagined, but oh well...
Alfred startled from his slumber at the loud shout, his eyes shooting wide open to reveal the back of a couch. Taking a large breath to calm his nerves, pumped full of adrenaline from the suddenness of the noise, he blinked several times to clear the fog from his vision.
The voices had gone down from their original volume, to more of a whisper, which, if Alfred tried really hard, he could ignore completely. As it stood now, he didn't give them much attention anyway, choosing instead to brood over his disrupted sleep.
And he was having such a good dream too…
"Please…think this through. You know this isn't right." The voice peeked back up, clearer now, stronger than the hisses before. Alfred, confused, tilted his head to better understand what was being said. If he didn't know any better, that was…his brother's voice…?
A reluctant British tenor floated up in response, his impassible tone one which the listening boy vaguely registered as Arthur's. It seemed he was adamant about something, something he wasn't willing to bend on.
"Matthew…Come now, don't be difficult. This is for the best. No amount of arguing on your part will change that."
That took Alfred off-guard, stirring him into wakefulness. What was so important that Mattie would willingly go against Arthur on? He rarely stood up to anyone, preferring a conflict-free resolution than to cause a scene with his opinion…Alfred was confused.
Turning just the slightest on the couch (carefully to prevent teetering off the tiny thing), Alfred squinted towards the others convened in the center of the room.
He could see both Matthew and Arthur, as well as Francis, who stood quietly behind the latter, rocking nervously on his heels. His hands fidgeted as well, while his gaze remained on the boy isolated from the three. Matthew held something in his hands, something thin and long which held his own eyes. As he spoke, his voice much quieter than before, the Canadian twisted it tensely between his fingertips.
"You don't understand. I don't want…I can't do it, Arthur. I can't…not again. Please…"
Alfred's heart ached at his twin's words, his mind desperately searching for whatever could possibly make him so visibly upset. His gaze fell on the object in his brother's hands, identifying it as a rope.
A rope? Why would rope make him—
The conclusion barreled through Alfred's thoughts, dispersing any disparaging evidence to the contraire. Obviously Matthew was afraid of being tied up again. But why would he need to be? Slenderman couldn't get to him now, right? That was the only reason before, and now that he was in control of himself again, there was no point.
…And yet Arthur had said it was 'for the best'. That nothing the Canadian said or did would change that. That despite his brother's observable terror at being bound again, and whatever had led to him being untied in the first place, it was unimportant and was to be disregarded.
Alfred could see his brother trembling from the couch, his slight flinch as the Briton reached out towards him, most likely to begin restraining the poor frightened boy. Alfred felt protective ire filter through his veins, and forced himself up from his seat despite the deep throb beating up his leg. He wasn't sure why Arthur was doing this, but it wasn't good for Mattie, and the last thing his brother needed right now was to feel more upset, more alienated, more alone. No. Matthew didn't need any of that.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Everyone turned to face him, startled silence encasing the room as his presence was discovered. Alfred rested a level glare on the Briton, stumbling forward when no response was offered, his voice low.
"I asked you a question, Arthur. What. Is going. On." The Englishman stumbled over himself for a moment, trying to regain his composure from the other child's sudden entrance. Alfred took this opportunity to move between Arthur and his brother, who skittered back unnoticed in response.
His resting had done little to aid the stiffness in his leg, and Alfred leaned heavily on his right one to balance himself. He tried his very best to look intimidating.
Arthur had resigned himself to silence, no doubt feeling guilty caught in the act. The American grew impatient.
"Well? Are you going to explain or not? Or will I have to spell it out for you? I heard enough to know what's going on. And I'm with Mattie on this one."
The Englishman's face filled with confusion, than shame. Francis, who probably was a part of this as well, considering where he stood, noticeably gawked at Alfred, brow furrowed in bewilderment at the other's words.
"Surely, Alfred, you do not mean to agree with Mattieu—"
"I do. And I think it's wrong of you to do anything otherwise." After all, Matt was fine now. There was no reason he should have to suffer anymore than the rest of them. So long as someone kept an eye out and the blinds were closed, they all should be safe for the time being. Right?
Arthur, silently returning the American's stare, finally spoke. "Lad…Are you certain this is how you feel the situation should be…handled?" The Briton's unsteady voice did little to hinder the boy's stiff response, issuing a curt nod as he answered.
Glancing to the roof as if he would regret his decision, Arthur released a heavy sigh, closing his eyes. "Fine. So be it. Matthew, come here. I'll do as you requested."
Alfred felt his pride swell as his brother stepped around and towards the other summoning him. He clapped Matt gently on the shoulder as he passed, and while his twin stiffened at the movement, he returned a bittersweet smile, no doubt thanking Alfred for ending this stupid argument once and for all.
The American turned back to the couch, to claim his portion before the others could take the best spot (yes, maybe each one looked the same, but one of the cushions were better than the rest, he knew it). Flopping down, he was given no time to revel in his success before bounding back to his aching feet again.
Arthur had begun wrapping the thick rope around Matthew, seated in the chair he was before, his gaze resting in his lap. Francis stood out of the way, casting a remorseful look towards the boy as the rope coiled around the child's body. Alfred couldn't help his fury return, and he hobbled forward to stop the Englishman's actions personally.
Perhaps it was shock at his sudden reappearance, or his strength was still a match for the old man despite Alfred's fatigue, but as soon as the American grasped Arthur's wrist, wrenching it away from the task, it fell still, no struggle beneath it.
"What the hell? I turn around for half a second and you're doing just what I told you not to!" The Briton stared back, utterly confused. He glanced away from the American's furious gaze to meet Francis' eyes for a moment, seeking reassurance in his actions before turning back, speaking his defense.
"Um…I'm doing precisely as you asked me to. I don't get what you're all riled up over, bu—"
"You know exactly what I'm talking about! I tell you two to stop with all this 'tying up' crap because it's obviously scaring Matt, and then you go and do it anyway? Are you ignoring me? Or were you just gonna try and tie Mattie up behind my back and hope I wouldn't notice?" The Briton sputtered defiantly at this, wrenching his hand from Alfred's grip and attempting (in vain) to cover his obvious intentions.
"I was doing no such thing! You're the one who told me to tie Matthew up! Francis and I are completely against any of this."
That was the worst excuse Alfred had ever heard from the Englishman. Did he honestly think the American would buy something like that? Let alone that he was the one who told Arthur to do it? Ridiculous.
"Oh don't you try and blame this on me! I wake up to you arguing with Matt and him nearly in tears because you won't let him be. Can't you see he is obviously terrified to be in that chair? I don't understand why you'd want to stick him back in there, there's no point anymore. He's fine now."
The Briton blinked at the fuming child, confusion settled over his contemplative features. After a moment they relaxed, and the older man rolled his eyes, huffing loudly.
"You dolt, you didn't even listen to our conversation at all, did you? Here you are pronouncing that you know everything, go agreeing with something you don't even know anything about, and I'm stuck getting hollered at for actually believing you."
It was Alfred's turn to look confused. "What? Of course I know what you're talking abou—"
"No you don't. Or else you would have realized what you were approving of. Now go sit down and stay out of this, you have no idea what you're going on about." Dismissively, Arthur waved his hand towards the sofa, turning to unwrap Matthew heatedly. Alfred, on the other hand, was not finished with the conversation and limped around the other side to catch the Englishman's wavering attention.
"What? No way. I'm not gonna let you tie Mattie up just because—"
"That was never my intention." The Briton swung around, gesturing widely with the loose rope, "That is what Matthew asked for. What you agreed to. Imbecile." Returning to his task with a grumble, he cast a level stare Matthew's way. The boy tucked his head guiltily in response.
"What?" Alfred asked, bewildered. Now this didn't make any sense. Why would Matt want to be tied up if he was so scared of it in the first place?
It was Francis who turned to him now, his tone soft, almost apologetic.
"It is true. Mattieu…'E asked us to restrain 'im earlier, so 'e would not injure you again."
The American grimaced, bending low to catch his twin's eye.
"Wait. Matt, is what they're saying true? You want to by tied up?"
Matthew cast a guilty eye at Alfred before shifting his attention back to Arthur. He ignored his brother's hurt stare as he spoke in a frantic tone, avoiding his gaze as if he weren't even there.
"Wait, Arthur, just hear me out. I think you're making a mistake." The older man shook his head, brushing the child off as he hurried to finish unknotting him.
"It's already been decided, Lad, don't argue. I'm nearly finished."
"But don't I get a say in this? I don't trust myse—" Sighing loudly, Arthur cut him off, turning curtly to face Alfred. Looking up through his lashes, the Briton heavily announced his inquiry, droning as if he were rehearsing a boring skit.
"Alfred, do you feel yourself physically threatened in any way if Matthew remains untied? Keep in mind Francis and myself will be here to protect you if he does snap and decide to go on a murderous rampage." Matthew felt his stomach twist at the query, nervously glancing back to see his brother's reaction.
The boy gawked indignantly, disbelief that the Englishman would ever pose such an insulting question.
"I can protect myself just fine, thank you very much."
"There, see? Three against one, Matthew. The discussion is over." Wrenching off the remaining binds, Arthur slung the coil back on the desk top with an irritated breath. Matthew began to respond, but was cut off by his brother, a sly smirk wired across his twin's face as he continued his thoughts, disregarding Arthur.
"Besides, like you two would be able to do anything against an evil Mattie. You could probably hide behind Francis for a short time, you're small enough, Artie, but once you ran out of scones to bludgeon him with you'd totally be screwed." Matthew looked up at the American horrorstruck, unable to comprehend what his brother was suggesting.
"You're not taking this seriously!" he hissed to him, quiet incredulity in his tone. Alfred turned back to regard his twin with a 'lighten up' grin plastered across his face, before a fairly irate Englishman cut him off, reclaiming his attention.
"I beg your pardon! You and your brother loved my scones when you were growing up!" Without missing a beat, Alfred continued, quirking an eyebrow.
"Yeah, that was before we realized there was such a thing as 'food'." Francis laughed at this, drawing an angry glare from the pouting Englishman and a horrified one from Matthew. Tilting his head apologetically, the Frenchman attempted to console the shorter man.
"'E 'as a point, Angleterre. Anything edible that crosses your boarders bursts into flames instantaneously." Matthew was in disbelief. How could they all laugh about this like nothing was happening? How could they act like everything was fine when it was so obviously not?
His frustration getting the best of him, the Canadian pulled himself from his seat forcefully, startling the others. He glowered at them, his sharp words stinging the sudden quiet.
"What the hell is wrong with you? How can you just joke about something like this? Something is wrong with me! I keep blacking out and doing things and I don't know why and you can sit there and make jokes?" As the other's looked away shamefully, Arthur met his level stare with one of contriteness.
"Matthew, that's not—"
"Then what is it? Am I going crazy? You all avoid the subject like the plague and then act like nothing's wrong, even though we're obviously trapped here, without food, hiding from something outside. Meanwhile I'm going insane and Alfred is missing a fucking eye. Because of something I did that I can't even remember. And now, after all this, you think its fine and dandy to let the psycho roam the house free. Beautiful." The Briton backed off, a pained expression taunt against his face. Matthew was much too upset to give a damn, though. His brother stumbled forward, trying to calm him down.
"Mattie, come on. Things look bad now, but there's no reason—"
"No reason? Jesus, Alfred, stop being so goddamn naïve for once in your life!" A frown flickered across the American's face for a moment, a mask of reassurance plastering up in attempts to persuade his angry twin.
"It's not naïve! We're okay—"
"Nothing is okay anymore, don't you get it? Nothing will ever be okay again! I took your eye from you, Alfred. I took it and it's never coming back. How the hell is that gonna be okay? How the fuck are you gonna be okay because of this?" Alfred stared opposite his brother for a quiet moment, his gaze hard and level. Finally conceding, he bent his head.
"You're right. I won't be getting my eye back. It's gone for good, and even when this is over it'll still be missing. I know that." Matthew's anger drained as his twin spoke, his quiet voice echoing the room. He felt ill, seeing his brother so…broken…
"Alfred…I didn't mean—"
"Yes you did. And it's true. I won't be getting my eye back." His gaze flickered back up to meet Matthew's guilty eyes, resolve filling them once again. "But you're wrong about the rest."
Hobbling closer to stand next to his brother, Alfred clasp both hands on his twin's shoulders, forcing his focus to him before he began again.
"Things will be okay. I will be okay, and so will you. We'll get out of this, understand me? All of us."
The determination burning in Alfred's stare blazed through Matthew, and despite his doubts, despite his guilt, despite his fears, he found himself nodding in ascension.
"Good." Alfred's voice grew commanding again, a nonnegotiable tone filling it as he continued. The true voice of a leader. "And Mattie. You mark me when I say none of this was your fault. It was that thing outside. You didn't do anything wrong, okay? And I don't want to ever hear you thinking anything to the contrary again. Understand?"
"No. Listen to me. I saw what happened, and you weren't involved in any of it. And I don't want you thinking you were. I'm setting the record straight now. That creature did this, not you." Seeing the sliver of fear still behind his brother's eyes, Alfred continued, firmer. "I promise you I won't let that thing get you again, Mattie. I swear it."
Matthew stared painfully at his brother's sincere, determined features for a long moment. Maybe Alfred was right. Maybe concerning himself over the actions of this fiend was not his business. He knew he'd never intentionally harm any of them, especially his twin. How could he? This thing, whatever it was lurking outside, it was the monster, it was the beast who took Alfred's sight. Not him. He was innocent.
It was a sweet dream, but despite his brother's affirmation of it being true, Matthew could not allow himself to live in it. No matter what Alfred said, no matter how adamant he was that the Canadian was blameless, that he quite possibly was a victim as well, Matthew couldn't let it clean his conscious. His hands were the ones that took his brother's vision from him. No amount of kind lies could change that.
And yet Alfred had asked him to not blame himself. He had said he would 'protect him'. Laughable considering his position.
Matthew's gaze lit on the white blemish concealing his twin's face. Guilt seized him again, but another reason twisted his heart.
Maybe his brother needed this. Needed him to accept that everything would be okay. Needed that piece of normality to spare his sanity.
Dropping his gaze, Matthew silently gave into his brother's testimonial. He would do this for him, push the guilt away if only to help Alfred.
The Canadian tried his very best to tell himself that this was not him just being selfish.
He wasn't completely convinced it wasn't.
Yeah, it changed perspectives halfway through. GAH, I thought I was done with that, but I guess not.
Alright, this is it for tonight. I'll try and get another chapter up soon. ^^