Alfred looked at each small swirl in the shining wood, watching as the sheen traveled with his gaze. The surface was cold on his cheek, but he did not care much. It was eight at night and he was just trying a way to garner the unconsciousness he so desired. When he had offered to assist Arthur in his garden, he had not (but most likely should have) predicted that he would do all of the heavy work for the other boy. He picked up his head, his stiff vertebrae cracking in several areas as he turned around to look.
Even little Peter, Arthur's only younger brother, was passed out on the couch of the library.
Alfred had learned the Peter had some deep fascination with the fact that Alfred was from Boston. He also enjoyed pestering the colonist for stories and fairy tales and news, enjoying the fact that Alfred would gladly give them. After dinner, Alfred was so exhausted he retired to the library for the afternoon, little Peter eagerly following after. For a boy of twelve years of age, he still acted like one of seven.
With a sigh, Alfred closed his book and blew some hair out of his forehead. He questioned why he chose reading of all things to help him sleep since it was not something he rather enjoyed nor was entirely skilled at. He simply sat in frustration for a few minutes, looking at the ceiling in his anxious want for sleep.
When the door slammed open to reveal the sound of giggling and laughter, the smell of alcohol, and the sight of Arthur's older brothers, Alfred finally broke his attention from the spider that was crawling on the ceiling.
"Oi, Jones boy, what are you doin' in here?" Alasdair said with a girl hugging his waist.
Alfred sniffed and held up the book. "Peter and me were just readin'."
Alasdair licked his lips and flashed a grin before nodding his head towards the jamb.
"All right then. How 'bout you make yourself scarce and take the wee one with you," he said as he cocked his head in Peter's direction.
Too tired to insist otherwise and not really caring to begin with, Alfred stood up and walked over to Peter awkwardly. It was umcomfortable for the simple fact that both the Kirkland boys and their 'friends' had grown silent as they watched the younger colonist. Alfred heaved up Peter and began walking past the young adults, giving small grins and obeisances to everyone he had to shove past. Peter had muttered something and the several women all made little affectionate noises; the other men including the Kirkland boys just watching and waiting and smirking.
Alfred honestly wondered why on a Saturday night, the Kirkland boys were throwing a small party, and in a library no less, but shrugged it off.
"Alfred, my boy," he heard with a hand on his shoulder. He glanced up and saw the freckled and still slightly boyish face of Liam. Now Liam was probably the most talkative and opinionated of the Kirkland boys, challenged mostly by Arthur in that department, and was second liveliest only to Peter. He was like a more childish version of Alasdair and lacked much to his older brother in the wisdom area. Alfred had found that they both tended to shout out things without thinking and that more than once had been to the disdain to Arthur. The ever-clever and ready to insult Arthur had lumped them together as the 'Tactless Trio', Peter pointing immediately out that there were only two of them. Arthur had then begun to groan and walk off.
Alfred hummed to tell Liam to continue.
"Why've ya been helping Arthur in his garden?" Liam asked with a grin as the girl that had been at his side whispered something to him and walked into the library. Alfred glanced into the room before reestablishing eye contact with the auburn-capped smile.
Alfred sniffed and adjusted Peter, taking the time to let his clouded mind think out a suitable response. Rather, he was just struggling to think of any response.
"I've nothing else to do between lessons and chores, and nobody else helps him," Alfred replied as his grip on Peter began slipping.
"Nobody helps him? Why the little twit barks like an enraged bitch when someone nears his garden."
Alfred shrugged and tightened his hold on Peter.
"You do know why he lets not a soul assist his cynical self?"
Alfred shook his head in complete lack of interest. Liam blinked a few times and then shook his head before leaning in close to Alfred.
"Listen to me, Al. You best be careful when in that garden. I've seen what he does at night in those perfectly kempt hedges. He whispers... strange, arcane words. Like nothin' you or I've ever heard."
"Huh?" Alfred said, his attention slightly activated. He looked down at the frowning Liam with wide eyes but quickly strained due to his poor vision.
"Black Magic, boy!" Liam hissed. "You know, like summoning fairies and the lot."
"Isn't that illegal?" Alfred inquired with worry. Liam's frown flashed as a smirk for a moment.
"It is, 'tis, Al. But we care so much for the little rat that we-"
"Liam!" someone shouted from the library, startling Peter in his sleep.
"Coming!" Liam shouted back, and quickly ran into the room.
Alfred stared with nervousness at the recently closed door to the room. He released a shaky breath and barely noticed the now awake Peter climbing out of his arms.
He was silent for a few seconds, the muffled sound of the laughing and the quiet patter of Peter's feet deterring him not at all.
"...Sorcery?" was all he could ask with a hurting head and shaky voice.
The voice of the preacher was a strangely comforting, yet frightening shout as he gave fervor into his sermon. Alfred tried to pay attention but was slightly distracted by his glancing over at Arthur every few moments. And they were not exactly glances either, but rather frightened stares the were pulled away only by a particularly ardor-filled exclamation. Arthur was flipping through the pages of his Bible, no where near the story of Paul preaching to Corinth; it was somewhere much farther back with one of the prophets.
The two boys were sitting in the last row, nearest to the door where a small breeze granted them relief from the accumulated heat the rest of the congregation was suffering in. The rest of Arthur's family -which was only Peter and his parents- were several rows farther up. Arthur had convinced his Father that Alfred and him were perfectly fine sitting in back, so that is exactly what they managed to do. Alfred however, was progressively inching away from the English boy, his hands firmly tensing within the semi-formal warmth of his lap.
Arthur sniffed and flipped the page before catching Alfred glancing at him through the corner of his eye. Arthur glared as Alfred smiled sheepishly and both looked away soon after. Alfred also shifted slightly farther away from the other boy by about two inconspicuous inches. Arthur rolled his eyes and slipped his fingers into the hind cover of his Bible.
They sat, Alfred trying to focus and Arthur still reading the chapter of Isaiah until Alfred shifted again and Arthur snapped his book shut a little too loudly. Clearing his throat, Arthur calmly stood up, side-stepped, and sat next to Alfred so that their sides were pressed against one another. Alfred swallowed harshly.
"Now tell me..." Arthur whispered with his mouth partially clenched, " why you, of all the twits and annoyances in my life, are avoiding me." Alfred bit his lip before laughing through his nose nervously.
"I am not avoiding you," he said before glancing at the older boy with a soft grin. "Hey, how- I mean, why are you reading Isaiah?"
Arthur deadpanned at him.
"I actually quite enjoy reading the stories of the prophets... They know so much, and tell it to everybody... yet not a single soul listens to them..." Arthur trailed off in a combination of what sounded to be pity, sympathy, and frustration. Alfred blinked.
"How can you... survive sitting in the church for an extended period?"
Arthur glared at him in confusion.
"I simply listen to what the preacher has to say and not drift off like a child that cannot hold his attention."
"Ah," Alfred said, still with his uncomfortable smile. He turned to face the front and twiddled his thumbs in a habit that he was not usually prone too while listening all too attentively to Arthur's breathing next to him. For several moments they just sat in silence. That is, until Arthur sneezed lightly causing Alfred to leap in his seat the slightest.
Arthur sniffed and stared angrily at Alfred, who was chuckling a rather pathetic snicker.
"Did you not get enough sleep last night? I swear, you're like Peter on bath day, what with all that jumping just at me inhaling."
Alfred carefully drew in a breath. "Did you get enough sleep last night?"
"As a matter of fact I did, despite my brothers being complete idiots again," Arthur whispered, slightly softer than before. Alfred chuckled, the tiniest bit more relieved.
"So you didn't... practice last night?"
"Did you hear a viol, Alfred?"
"Then there's your answer."
A woman glared venomously at the two boys, causing Alfred to tuck his chin into his warm collar. "I didn't mean with your instrument," Alfred pouted in the quietest voice he could manage. Arthur rolled his eyes and reopened his Bible, this time to Daniel.
"Pray tell, what did you mean then?" Arthur said, even more quietly. Alfred sighed and shifted away from Arthur, although it was not deliberately.
"Do you ever go into your garden at night?" Alfred asked with his eyes locked on the pastor.
"Sometimes. Not that often though, Mother doesn't really like it when I do so."
Arthur raised an eyebrow and breathed out of his nose in exasperation. "I sometimes like to see how the clouds reflect the light of the moon. Then there is my childhood hope for fanciful creatures that has yet to be fulfilled." He snorted. "And probably never will be..."
"Do you... try to summon the creatures?"
Arthur stared at Alfred as if he had just asked if he was secretly a goat.
"No. Why would I do that? That's technically witchcraft, you know? Although I doubt anybody has engaged in such a thing in almost a century..." Alfred blinked and Arthur in response did as well. "Why in God's name did you ask such a thing?"
Alfred stared in quiet shock for a moment, blinked once more, then silently and nervously chuckled a few times. "Well it's just that Liam said-"
"And there lies your problem... Alfred."
"Promise me you will never believe a thing that lying weasel has to say?"
"Well what if he tells me I have an insect on my face?" Arthur made a face that would have been accompanied by a groan had they not been in church service before pressing his fingertips to his temples. "Speaking of which, why aren't your older brothers here?" Alfred asked with genuine curiosity. Arthur just stared oddly at the boy that seemed to instantaneously recover from thinking his pew-companion was a sorcerer. He glared, not knowing any better way to react.
"My brothers lie to my parents, saying they hold their own prayer group at the house with one another. My parents actually believe them for some unknown reason. Once, I was sick and had to stay at home. When my brothers thought I was asleep, I sneaked downstairs to see that they had taken spirits out of the cellar and were tossing them amongst one another."
"Did you not tell your parents?"
"No, they can become fat drunkards for all I care," Arthur said with a shrug. Alfred laughed softly through his nose.
They sat without words for a few minutes, much to the relief of the elderly woman in front of them. Alfred was smiling (rather stupidly in Arthur's opinion) to himself as he hummed along to the hymn that was being sung. Arthur after a few more notes joined in the singing with a quiet muttering, still trying to appear as if Isaiah interested him the most. He was showing off, and he was almost afraid Alfred could tell. Alfred however, had not the slightest clue and instead just saw this as a rare moment to see a much more light-hearted Arthur.
The words came out, muffled and accented, but Alfred decided to join in in hopes it would encourage the English boy to sing louder. Arthur thought that this was a sign that they were competing and felt the back of his neck warm in the pseudo-competition. So he sang louder. It was still not loud enough to stand out in the slightest amongst the congregation, but it was enough for Alfred to hear and take in.
The colonist grinned so brightly his eyes shut and sang along to the Psalm-tune, hoping that Arthur would edge out just a little bit more so that he could actually hear something besides muffled notes. To his disappointment, the moment he sang louder, Arthur flushed before digging his chin into his cravat and his eyes into the book. Only hums were coming from the smaller boy now.
Alfred simply chose to ignore him and continued to enjoy himself.
Arthur stormed through the main room the moment everyone came through the front door and angrily trotted to the dining room. He caught his three older brothers sitting at the table with Bibles all open to different pages and weeks old notes that he himself had read dozens of times before. Alfred could be heard talking with Peter in the main room, most likely assisting one another in removing their coats, and his parents were rather loudly going upstairs.
"Liam, you damned piece of rotting rodent flesh, why in the name of God did you tell Al I practiced witchcraft?"
All three of the men looked up from one another to Arthur, Alasdair chuckling once or twice. Liam simply shrugged and sniggered.
"I didn't really think the daft boy would confront you about it."
Arthur clenched his teeth and made agitated fists. "You didn't think. I swear, you three would sell me to Egyptians as a slave if you had the opportunity!"
"What's the big fuss over anyway? The twit seems content anyway," Liam said as he leaned in his seat to peer out of the dining room. Arthur followed his gaze so that both saw Alfred carrying Peter on his shoulders, making steed-like sounds as the younger boy shouted orders.
Arthur breathed heavily through his nose once, the deep-thudding of Alfred's feet sloppily running about and Peter's yells drowning out the sounds of acceptance that accompanied the exhale. Arthur relaxed his shoulders and hands, going out of the room so that he could scold the two. When he left, Alasdair glanced at his brothers with raised, questioning brows.
"I think Arthur is fin'lly softening up to someone," he said as he pulled a small stack of cards out of his coat sleeves. He set them face down on the table before reaching back to fix his rebellious red hair.
"Softening up? The little pig probably just pities the fool," Liam said, revealing his cards as well. "Lord knows I pity both those twits..." he muttered bemusedly under his breath. After refastening the thin black ribbon around the excess hair, Alasdair looked up.
"What do you make of it, Islwyn?" Alasdair muttered. The smaller, calmer boy set down his cards and exhaled through his nose.
"I think he is softening up to the lad," Islwyn replied, followed by disappointed swear and thrown down cards.
"Dammit, why're you so good at this game?" Liam complained, not really earning a response from the other two. Alasdair sighed and turned around in his seat to look out the dining room's window. He smiled at the sight of Peter still on Alfred's shoulders, both of them shouting at Arthur. After a few moments, Alfred burst into laughter and began running circles around the older boy with a chuckling Peter bouncing along. Arthur crossed his arms and continued to deprecate the other two. Alasdair's stubbly cheeks folded into a small grin that abandoned his face immediately after.
"Aye... Arthur is softening up, indeed," Alasdair said softly, watching his younger brothers play, with the foolish colonist.
Alfred glanced up from the little patch of earth he was weeding and rubbed at his forehead with his soil caked hands. A strange sound produced from a horse caught his attention. He looked at the stables not too far off where several of the stable hands were talking to a concealed figure that was tightly gripping the reigns to a startled horse.
"Hey, Arthur," he said, slightly worried. Arthur hummed from his patch several feet away. "What's happening over there at the stables."
"Huh?" Arthur glanced over his shoulder with widening eyes. He grunted and stood up, clapping the dirt from his hands quickly. "Come on, Al."
"Ah, all right."
The two trotted over to the area, Alfred soon finding out that the person that was out of view earlier was a tall, dark man with dirty spectacles.
"What is going on?" Arthur said in a voice that was both commanding and curious. The man looked towards them, Alfred flinching in shock slightly when he saw two scars on the side of the man's hair. They were crossed and made a crux, preventing his short curly hair from growing in the area. One of the younger stable hands jumped in surprise and nervously began explaining.
"Ah, master, we found this man and 'is horse sleepin' on your father's land. We asked him to leave and he just stands there not uttering a damn peep."
Arthur frowned and walked up to him.
"Tell me, what is a black man doing here with his horse?"
The much taller man inhaled deeply.
"I am Tavarius. I came to the colonies to work, not sold by any rival people group like so many others here. Unfortunately, after three years of working for the same family in Virginia, my master was killed and without my master's word, some of the people accused me of being a runaway and some others said I was the murderer." Arthur noted how the man was sweating slightly while trying to keep a resolute appearance, probably to avoid showing signs of self-doubt.
Arthur raised an eyebrow in slight astonishment and extreme curiosity. "Continue, Tavarius." Tavarius's eyes widened slightly in pleasant surprise. He continued in his odd accent, his inability to pronounce 'th' annoying Arthur the tiniest.
"Well, I came out of the South, the mistress saying it was for the best."
Alfred grinned as his eyes lit up. "You are like a renegade on the run! Except you actually didn't commit the crime, which is good since I am sure Mr. Kirkland wouldn't like a murderer on his land. Did anything exciting happen on your way up here?" Arthur groaned while Alfred just bounced the tiniest on the heels of his feet.
"Well... I found horse halfway through Pennsylvania."
"Found?" Arthur asked skeptically.
"Oh, I didn't steal it, you see. I ran across a nasty little spar between some Colonial militia and the Redcoats. I did not witness the battle, but there was dead men in a field and this horse sniffing one. It was alone, I was alone; it needed a man to care for it, and I needed a companion."
Arthur laughed once through his nose and crossed his arms. "Excellent logic." Arthur sighed and clapped his hands by his side. "All right, you seem intelligent enough, but I am taking a risk by trusting you so openly." Tavarius's face lightened up a little. "You obviously have no where else, and if you are going to stay on our land you might as well make yourself useful." Tavarius dropped the reigns and quickly set his hands on Arthur's shoulders. "I will go tell my father the situation and put the light in your favor," Arthur muttered uncomfortably before pulling away and walking off. Alfred continued to stare at the dark man with wide eyes.
"What's the South like?" Alfred asked almost immediately. Tavarius stared oddly at the boy as his horse was led away by the other servants.
"Why do you want to know?"
"Well, I heard it's extremely warm and you can walk up to any home and ask for bread in full confidence someone will feed you."
Tavarius laughed softly and then adjusted the satchel hanging over his shoulder. "Do you want to visit it?" Alfred fidgeted before wiping some of the dirt off his forehead.
"I think it would be nice, but I think Arthur would enjoy it more."
"Is that so... Is he the boy that was just here?"
"Yeah... He is always so sad and I don't think he likes Massachusetts that much."
"Are you his brother?"
"No, just a friend. It worries me how sad he becomes at times."
"You care for him greatly."
"I just want him to be happy. Anyone that is sad saddens me... Do you know what I mean?"
Tavarius sighed and nodded as he sat in the shade of the stable. "Happiness requires hard work, boy."
"No it doesn't."
Tavarius looked up at the grinning colonist.
"Happiness comes as easily as you let it. And Arthur... Arthur does not let it come easily," Alfred said with a small laugh at the end. "So I want to show him that it can be found wherever you want to find it."
"That's rather noble..."
"Well, I am somewhat heroic. I could probably get him to smile within the week if I tried really hard."
Tavarius chuckled. "Tell you what, young colonist... You get him to smile, I will give you a prize for your kind and successful heart."
Alfred practically jumped up in excitement. "Just you wait and see, in fact, I will go finish the garden work so I can get to work on this plan," he said excitedly. Immediately afterwards he darted back off in the direction of the garden.
Tavarius chuckled under his breath and rest his head against the stable. "Strange boy..." He shut his eyes for several moments, listening to the few nearby birds. A set of approaching feet caused him to look up.
"Good news, my father has permitted for you to be under our employment for the time being." Arthur was standing over him with his arms crossed, his expression neither negative nor reassuring. Tavarius stood up and dusted the back of his trousers off.
"Is there anything I need to begin on?"
Arthur bit his lip for a moment and then shook his head the slightest. "As of now the only thing I need you to do is tell me which direction Alfred ran off to."
"Tall bloke, blonde hair, the one that ran up here with me."
"Ah, he ran off to some garden to finish his work. Is he a friend of yours?"
"The only friend of mine," Arthur said somewhat shyly, but yet in a way that seemed to say 'he is lucky to be one of the few to be my friends anyway'.
"Ah, you should keep him in high regard."
"Did you two speak?" Arthur asked curiously.
"A tiny bit. It is of no importance, I was just wondering."
"Right, I shall be leaving then," Arthur said, taking a step away.
"Ah, thank you, by the way for letting me stay."
"It was no problem," Arthur said, obviously wanting to return to gardening. Tavarius decided to not utter another word and just watched as the prickly English boy trotted off.
"Good luck with that, Alfred," he uttered under his breath with a faint smile.
AN: I cannot stress how much more I like this version. I felt like I left out many aspects of colonial life that were synonymous with the era; church, fear of witchcraft, and slavery are all examples. I am aiming for historical accuracy here, so I am employing these. If you want an explanation for the title change, I put it into my profile. Sorry for slow updates, school is killing me. -lame excuse is lame- Also I almost done with my first Homestuck fic! I am so excited, it's an EquAra childhood fic. C:
1.)I swear, you three would sell me to Egyptians as a slave if you had the opportunity! Reference to Joseph being sold by his older brothers out of spite and jealousy. No, I don't think the Britannia brothers would really do it, but it was kind of a funny parallel that occurred to me eheh
2.) Rio dos Camarões was the Portuguese name for 'The River of Shrimps', which later became modern day Cameroon. Tavarius is supposed to be Cameroon, a character I do not often see in fanfiction and enjoy greatly when people employ.