Author's Notes: Phew. I was so scared for a moment that this chapter was deleted and I would have to re-write it. But I was just stupid and labeled it under a different name without reminding myself. Lol Well, yes. Here you go. The second chapter to this series hopefully if people seem to like it. It's not as long as the prologue (which was ungodly long), but lots of stuff still goes on.
There's more Alfred/Arthur interaction in this chapter. See if you can figure it out. ; )
"It is nice to see you again, Mister Alfred. Please, would you follow me?"
Alfred frowned indignantly, glancing around the small waiting room, feeling paranoid that the other patient's eyes were on him (which they weren't). It was only his second session, so it was normal to feel embarrassed for being here, right? Alfred sighed heavily and stubbornly ignored his parents as they patted his back encouragingly, his feet trudging down the hall until he was closed in that neat little room down the hall, Dr. Braginsky sitting across the desk from him.
Ivan merrily went through the process of writing something down against a clipboard, not even taking notice as Alfred hunched over with an angry pout in his chair, gaze fixed to the floor. After a moment, Ivan placed his pen down and folded his hands atop his desk, violet eyes watching Alfred earnestly.
"So you are still coming to see me," Ivan announced, as if he were somewhat surprised by this himself.
Alfred shot him a pointed, unamused stare.
"Not that I am unhappy with this discovery. You are a very interesting child, Mister Alfred Filbert Jones."
"My middle name isn't Fil–"
"One of whom I am sure will become a favorite visitor of mine if you keep this up regularly," Ivan giggled, eyes squinting in a charmed smile. Alfred wasn't sure how to handle such a look (accompanied with those weird statements), so he just frowned deeper, eyes narrowing in annoyance.
With that, Ivan sat up abruptly, tapping his pen against the desk. "Now then, shall we continue with where you left off last week? I believe you were rambling on about something of your accident. Is your head still bothering you? Aside from your imagination running wild, of course."
Oh, this Ivan fellow was a real hoot! Alfred wanted to roll his eyes. "No. I'm fine. Are we done here?"
"But we have barely skimmed the tip of the iceberg!" Ivan declared, smiling at Alfred's overall hatred of therapy.
"Yeah. Iceberg. Right. Hey, here's an idea. How about we just sit here till my folks get me? Sound cool? You know, since we basically discussed everything. The head injury, the ambulance, the daydream–"
"The Arthur," Ivan cut in, leisurely twirling his pen between his fingers.
Alfred tensed, gulping. He didn't like the way Ivan was watching him when he squirmed awkwardly in his seat at the mention of his apparently imaginary British companion. He didn't like it at all. Movement to Alfred's left caught his attention before his eyes darted back to Ivan quickly, the Russian quirking an eyebrow curiously. Ivan glanced over to the desk with the aquarium, seeing nothing, before looking back at Alfred.
"What is it?"
Alfred shook his head quickly, feeling his palms sweating a little bit. Why the fuck did Arthur decide to follow him here of all places? The blonde forcefully ignored the Briton leaning against the desk, arms folded and green eyes watching thoughtfully as Alfred pulled at his collar with a smile. "N-nothing. Just– I just love your fish. Is that a barracuda?"
Ivan glanced back at the aquarium again, eyes unperceiving of the Englishman watching him. "I believe they are ordinary goldfish."
"Oh, yeah? Sorry, I always get the two mixed up. What was it we were talking about?" laughed Alfred loudly, scratching at his head.
"We were about to discuss your imaginary friend."
Alfred faltered. "Oh, right. Right…"
Alfred perked up with a frown, refusing to look at Arthur as the Briton spoke. "Imaginary friend? Is he referring to me, Alfred?"
"Yes." Alfred cleared his throat, smiling tensely at Ivan. "Yes, Arthur. I remember. We were talking about Arthur, right?"
Arthur frowned at this, raising an impressive eyebrow at the blonde American. "Ah, I see. You're going to go along with this rubbish? Why am I not surprised." Arthur sighed under his breath, pushing off the desk and waltzing across the room to stand by Alfred's chair, the boy pursing his lips together tightly. "Though you and I both know I'm neither imaginary," he paused, smiling a bit pleased as he ran his fingers gently over Alfred's hair, voice dropping a bit implicatively, "nor am I just your friend."
Alfred shied away, nearly falling out of his chair. He smoothed down his hair quickly and wanted to hide under a rock at the confused stare Ivan gave him.
"Of course! Arthur's my imaginary friend," Alfred accentuated, voice sounding strained and annoyed. Arthur merely smiled in amusement at Alfred. "My imaginary friend with caterpillar eyebrows and no sense of humor."
Arthur scowled immediately, glaring at the nervous boy beside him.
"Eyebrows?" echoed Ivan, writing something down in front of him. He paused, narrowing his eyes somewhat at the strange way Alfred was squirming around in his seat. It was as if he were trying to get away from something to his left. "Please, tell me more about your friend Arthur."
"Yes, tell him more about me," Arthur insisted, sitting on the corner of Ivan's desk and watching Alfred bite at his lip with a frown. "What have you already disclosed to this man, Alfred? Last I was aware, you spoke nothing of psychoanalysis. Are you ill?"
"No," Alfred coughed roughly into his hand. "Um, I mean, no I don't think that's a good idea."
"Oh? And why not?" Ivan asked, leaning forward and placing his chin in his palm.
"A-ah… I mean, I don't think that's a good idea right nooow. You know, with all the- the…" He glanced briefly at Arthur. "I just don't wanna talk about this. Aren't ya gonna ask me my favorite colors or how I grew up or some shit like that first? I thought you loony doctors liked to delve into the background of their patients first."
"So you're a lunatic, is that right?" Arthur murmured, watching Alfred with skepticism.
"Shut up," Alfred ordered under his breath, glaring at the wall.
"Pardon?" Ivan asked.
"I said I'm still all torn up from that accident that talking about this is hard for me. Oh, how tragic my life must be. For I have to dream up fake people to keep myself entertained to deal with my head trauma," Alfred admitted dramatically, placing his wrist over his forehead.
Arthur scoffed at Alfred's horrid acting. "You didn't think I was so fake when you were twisting without your trousers under my–"
"Euurghhshutup!" Alfred coughed harshly into his hand, cheeks blooming an unwanted shade of red as he, this time, looked up towards Arthur to glare at him. He glared challengingly at the unphased Briton, blue eyes screaming: That doesn't count. I was dreaming and you know it. Lots of boys have those sorts of dreams so just zip your fat gob you limey.
At this Ivan blinked curiously, eyes widening slightly in wonder as he sat up abruptly, the puzzle pieces fitting into place. He glanced between where Alfred was looking, and at Alfred himself. "Oh! He is here? You are seeing your chum Arthur, are you not? What is he saying to you?" The pen and clipboard went up once again much to Alfred's chagrin, the teenager looking thoroughly unhappy and embarrassed under the watchful eyes of his therapist and stupid stupid Arthur.
"Well? Do not keep the man waiting on my account," Arthur replied smoothly, resuming his casual posture with his arms crossed, casting a glance at Ivan beside him. Alfred choked on his air.
"I never said Arthur was here," Alfred defended. "What makes you think he's here?"
Ivan chuckled to himself, eyes squinting in merriment as he slowly eased his arm across the table to tap at Alfred's chin, moving it toward him to make eye-contact. "I am over here, dear patient of mine."
Alfred pursed his lips indignantly, face heating up in mortification. Was he staring at where Arthur was the whole time? Well, at least he knew now that this Ivan guy had some grasp on what he was doing. Alfred shivered uncomfortably at the calculating look in Ivan's eyes as he smiled at him. He was waaay too perceptive for Alfred's tastes.
All he could do was grumble in response, having no real retort when being caught so quickly. It wasn't helping either that Arthur was smiling at him from the corner of his eye.
"Do not look so distraught!" Ivan announced, though it didn't make Alfred feel any less crazy. Ivan twisted in his chair to look at the empty spot Alfred continued to stare at. He stuck his hand out, Arthur sliding off the desk quickly to avoid being hit. Could he be hit? It didn't seem like people touched Arthur before much to Alfred's knowledge. "Good afternoon, Mister Arthur. It is a pleasure to meet you. I am your friend Alfred's counselor, Ivan Braginsky."
Alfred glanced wearily at Arthur to see the Briton eyeing Ivan's hand skeptically from a distance. "Charmed," he muttered.
Alfred sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "You don't have to humor me."
"Humor? Whatever do you mean? I am simply greeting a guest," Ivan said, swirling in his chair to focus his attention back on Alfred.
"You're being a dic- I mean…" Alfred coughed and looked away, catching himself. It probably wasn't a good thing to call someone of Ivan's size and mental instability (as Alfred deemed it) a dick. "You're being rude. Trying to play along and acknowledge someone who isn't even in here is just… cruel."
Ivan remained silent, eyes watching Alfred hunker down in his chair, eyes glaring at his lap. Hm. Perhaps that was a bad move on his part.
From across the room, Arthur frowned in slight concern when seeing Alfred wrinkle his nose in an expression of hurt. Arthur looked at Ivan when hearing clothing rustle, the Russian shifting in his seat and leaning back with his hands folded on his desk, pen and paper cast aside.
"Please continue with your story."
Alfred peeked up from the hem of his bangs to look at Ivan curiously. The Russian didn't even bat an eyelash as he smiled politely at Alfred, looking as unperturbed as possible.
"What happened after you were sent to the hospital?"
Alfred paused, huffing and running a hand down his face. He nodded and reluctantly threw in the towel. Temporarily, of course. He wouldn't let Ivan have his way the next time. Alfred paused before mentally ripping out his hair. Did he just admit that there would be a next time? Fuckkkk.
"So I woke up in a hospital bed and shit. And boy, was my head screaming at me."
Twenty-seven days previous:
"Are you sure you should be sitting up and moving around?" Matthew asked totally uncool-like with a nervous frown on his lips, a lilting dip in his voice. "You just had a really bad accident…"
Alfred scoffed and continued scarfing down his pudding cup, smacking his lips loudly as he turned to look at his worried brother at the side of his bed in a plastic chair. He snorted, grinning at his quieter twin with a twinkle in his eyes. "I already told you guys, like, a million times already. I'm fine! Stop freaking out, bro." With that, he turned back to eating his gross hospital dinner noisily.
Matthew didn't look so convinced, eyes running over the heavy bandage wrapping and gauze wrapped tightly around Alfred's head, his blonde hair sticking up and out and everywhere from the bandages. It was sort of hard to look at his brother the same with scrapes and bruises lining his jaw and arms from the fall he took. Surely Alfred wasn't taking this as serious as he needed to.
"But you almost died."
Alfred made a loud 'pfft' noise and laughed, a sound that made Matthew frown. "I so did not!"
"You had a severe concussion and almost broke your neck–"
"That doesn't mean I almost died! Mattie," Alfred continued laughing, wiping his mouth with his wrist and shaking his head at his brother, "I'm perfectly cool, okay? Do almost dead people look as totally lively and vibrant as I do right now?" Matthew started to open his mouth to say something when Alfred shut his eyes and waved him away. "Of course not," he answered for his brother. "They lay on the ground and moan and bleed and cry while bargaining with their soul's landlord, God, to give them an extension on their soul's rent before he evicts them from their body. And I'm doing none of those things."
"Still…" was the only retort Matthew could offer before his voice died off lamely.
Matthew watched as his twin finished his meal and took his pain medication before fiddling with his hands in his lap. "Mom and dad are going to pick you up tomorrow morning bright and early… So you should get a lot of sleep tonight so you're not a zombie tomorrow. They probably won't appreciate it."
Alfred flopped back against his pillow with a long sigh. "Yeah, yeah. You don't have to keep telling me."
"I'm just making sure, Alfred."
Ugghh. When would people stop fretting over him like he was going to die any second? He just hit his head and fell from a mountain of rubbish. It wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be. Sure, fifteen stitches, a spinal fracture, and a lump the size of a softball on the side of his head sounded bad, but it felt only somewhat horribly painful. Not like a knife in the back or something.
"Visiting hours are almost over, so I should get going." Matthew blew a breath from his lips and stood from his chair, pausing to regard his brother in the hospital gown under the covers watching him in boredom. He looked away slowly and patted at his knee under the blanket before moving towards the door. "Get some sleep."
Alfred pursed his lips and tilted his head as Matthew left his sight. After a long moment Alfred shut his eyes with a huff and snuggled into his pillow. "What a worrywart. It's not like anything horrible happened to me. I'm still the same ol' handsome, loveable boy I was before this." Alfred slowly narrowed his eyes and peeked under his blankets with a disturbed grimace. "Well, except I didn't wear gowns…"
As the sun went down and Alfred drifted off into a heavy sleep, everything seemed to be getting back to normal with the thought of leaving the hospital tomorrow. And that he could totally pull off a dress, no matter where he was.
"Is he alright?"
"Goodness, what a nasty bruise… And he was hit by an automobile, you say?"
"Yes, sir. I saw it with my very eyes."
Someone made a 'tsk' noise, sounding somewhat distraught over this answer. "Dreadful. This incident should be reported to the authorities. Oh, hold him still. He's regaining some of his consciousness."
Alfred winced with a hitch in his breath. What in the holy hell…? Why did his head hurt like a mother fucker? He groaned, lolling his head and opening his eyes, bleary vision blinking up at a small group of people looking down at him. One guy looked like Colonel Sanders, while the other Alfred remembered faintly.
"Good afternoon, sport. Are you feeling any better?"
His whole body felt like he was in a swimming pool. What happened? And why did he still ache all over? This wasn't normal. Where was his nurse with the morphine? "Stingy hag," he tried to say, but ended up sounding like 'stllngll hglll.'
Hands gripped gently under his elbows, assisting him up like a rag doll. Alfred groaned when feeling drool pool down his jaw. What did they give him? Was he pumped full of muscle relaxers or something?
Feeling very much like an exhibit in front of all these people in what looked like a candy store, all of which were dressed as strangely in the monkey suits he had seen somewhere before, Alfred attempted to sit up on his own, though he couldn't shake away one of Arthur's hands that rested on his lower back for support.
"You took quite a spill, I hear," remarked Colonel Sanders, leaning back up and smiling under his white mustache. "It was a good thing that this man was here to save you in time." At this, Alfred peered up lazily from the corner of his eye to see Arthur crane his neck to look down at Alfred with a serious expression on his face. Alfred snorted.
"If he saved me, then why do I feel like a bad guy in Die Hard?" he laughed. But judging by the confused expressions he was given, it probably didn't come out sounding like he thought it did. Just a drooly, messy mess with a pounding head and an audience. Maybe he was a marionette and Arthur was the ventriloquist. Alfred chuckled to himself again as he was lifted to his feet carefully. "You're doing a sucky job, dude. I'm not even saying words!"
Arthur raised a fatty-ass eyebrow before looking back over at the Colonel. "Don't worry," cut in the mustachio man, as if sensing Arthur's question before it was asked, "It will wear off in a few hours or so. In the meantime, does he have anywhere to stay? His injuries aren't serious enough for a hospital visit."
Arthur stumbled trying to keep the giggling American up and balanced. "I have no idea, honestly."
"No listing of residence? No identification?"
Arthur frowned and stared at Alfred for a long while. "I don't even know his name," he deadpanned.
"No name?" Sanders asked, astounded as the tiny crowd dispersed. "Why, then who is he?"
Both men suddenly bent down to get at Alfred's eyelevel, the old man putting his fingers beneath his chin to hold his pounding head up. "What's your name, son?"
Alfred laughed, the top of his head brushing Arthur's cheek. "Alfred," he said, loud and clear. Well… At least, it was clear in his mind. Arthur and Sanders glanced between each other, obviously having heard something else.
"I heard Aldridge," Arthur commented, looking for guidance or approval from Sanders. Alfred smiled and leaned heavily against Arthur who let out of a curse under his breath, one of his buttons pinching him.
"… Well," Arthur stood up straight, ignoring the American looming over him and breathing down his neck. "The name doesn't matter, I suppose. If he has nowhere else to stay this evening, I can take him with me."
"You would do that, boy?" asked the white-haired man as he stood to his full height. Alfred tried his best to follow this conversation and watched with droopy eyes when Arthur tugged at Alfred, tightening his grip against his side. "I suppose you don't need to. I could keep an eye on him for a few hours. There's no need for you to do anymore. You've done plenty already."
Arthur smiled at the man. "It's no trouble at all. I should be the one saying that to you. He was lucky I could find a doctor so close to the accident site."
Again with the accident. Alfred knew he would've remembered being hit by a car. For goodness sake, cars were really big and loud! Plus, didn't he just fall out of a tree house or something?
Before Alfred could put his juicy brain to work on this difficult puzzle, he realized by the ding of the bell on the door that he was being steered in the direction of this Arthur guy. Alfred lolled his head against Arthur's shoulder, rubbing his face against his shirt sleeve to relieve himself of the constant drool coming out of his mouth. He felt like a Saint Bernard! Arthur merely cringed but allowed it.
"Where are we going?" Alfred asked and looked up at Arthur, their faces so close that he could see every imperfection, every pore. When Arthur didn't say anything, Alfred snorted. Ass. What happened to the whole polite Arthur that 'saved' him? Did he imagine that, too?
"Please watch your step. I don't need you to trip again," Arthur muttered, pulling Alfred tighter to him when his body started to sag. He really didn't feel like walking, especially not when the world looked like a kaleidoscope. "I'm going to get you a nice, warm bath and a hot meal. Hopefully by then you're not a danger to yourself."
"I'm not a danger!" Alfred laughed.
But judging from the annoyed grimace as spit flew from Alfred's mouth onto Arthur's cheek, he knew that maybe his statement wasn't entirely true.
Alfred sat up and snapped his fingers excitedly. Well… They didn't make a snapping noise, but he still made the motion. Arthur, sitting across from him by a small fire going in a very old looking fireplace, appeared a little more interested as he stirred some sort of soup over it. He noted the thrilled look gracing Alfred's face as he sat on his couch with a blanket around his shoulders and bandages on his head. Close, so close!
Arthur pursed his lips before giving a wide, confident smile. "Almond."
Alfred immediately fisted his fingers in his hair in frustration, instantly regretting it when his head sent a violent pound throughout his skull. With an irritated scowl, he slumped back in his seat and moved his jaw around. He was getting more coherent, and his body was starting to get almost all feeling back in it. Whatever they had given him for the pain was now wearing off. That was a plus and a negative, because now his head hurt more and more and it was starting to become bothersome and these bandages itched and where was his food already he was starving–
"That's a fucking nut. I'm not named after food," Alfred grumbled, massaging his head absentmindedly.
Arthur sighed in exasperation, fishing a ladle out of his soup bowl and poured it into a nice glass bowl, much smaller. He sat up from his kneeling position by the fire and turned to take a seat next to Alfred, glowing with reds and oranges in the darkened room. He handed the bowl out to him. "Be careful. It's hot."
You know that curiosity, much like a child's, when being told a plate or a bowl is hot, yet, despite knowing that, you still have to reach out and touch it to see how hot it really was? Yes, well, that was the same curiosity that prompted Alfred to yelp and stick his fingers in his mouth when he grabbed the bowl with both hands. Arthur snatched the bowl back, looking worried and yet, at the same time, irritated.
"I said it was hot!"
"Fuck you," Alfred said with a glare, the sound coming out indiscernible over the fingers stuffed in his mouth.
After a long moment, Arthur reached down and wrapped a small cloth around the steaming bowl, placing it gently into his lap as he dipped a spoon into it. Alfred blinked curiously, guarded at Arthur as the spoon was raised up to his face. Green eyes watched as Alfred stared at the spoon like it was a severed finger.
"Open your mouth. Say 'ahh'," Arthur coaxed.
What am I, a baby? Alfred thought. He would've pushed it away and said some super cool quip had it not been for the grumbling of his neglected stomach. With an embarrassed, uncomfortable huff, Alfred puffed out his reddened cheeks and reluctantly took a bite. It was a very demeaning feeling.
Remind him not to get hit by any more cars.
Arthur smiled and scooped another spoonful of his stew. "There you go. That's not so bad, is it?" he smirked, Alfred's unhappy expression looking somewhat humorous.
Alfred stuck his chin up stubbornly. "Tastes like a jockstrap." He didn't know if Arthur understood him or not, but a second later a hot spoonful was shoved into his mouth making him choke briefly, a look of frustration on Arthur's face.
Rolling his burnt tongue around his mouth, Alfred kept his silence as Arthur quietly fed him in this ancient looking apartment. The confusion and pain in his head were overwhelming. That, accompanied with how tight his brown pants were as they gave him a wedgie from the suspenders keeping them up, made this situation even worse.
"You know, I used to do this for my brother Peter back when I lived in England," Arthur commented after a long pause, watching Alfred chew his food with a sense of fondness. "He hated it just as much as you seem to be." Alfred glowered when Arthur laughed. "But then again, it can't really be helped. You'll be able to do this in the morning by yourself, so don't look at me like that anymore."
Alfred kept silently chewing, glancing away at the fire when Arthur kept that stupid, nostalgic smile on his face. What a fruit cake.
After a while the spoon clanked against the now empty bowl as Arthur rose from his seat and headed for his sink. He hummed this weird little tune as he washed the dish and proceeded to dry it. All the while Alfred was stuck sitting hunched over on a couch in a house he didn't like with a person he didn't know in clothes that were really old with an injury from an accident he didn't know had happened.
It was all very confusing.
"I know this is probably very confusing for you," Arthur voiced, as if hearing Alfred's very thoughts. Alfred looked over at him on the couch when Arthur was done washing his dishes. "It's just as confusing for me. I've never seen anyone willingly walk out into the street like that… And I don't even know how you got there. One second the sidewalk was empty, the next you were stumbling out of nowhere into traffic."
Alfred frowned when Arthur furrowed his eyebrows at him. The air was thick with awkward staring for a long while as the fire cracked and flickered in the fireplace.
Arthur slapped his hands down against his counter for a brief moment before maneuvering around the couch and kneeling back in front of Alfred. Alfred twitched and wanted to recoil at how close Arthur was. He could smell the cigarettes and herbs on him, a smell so peculiarly familiar.
Arthur narrowed his eyes as he ran them over Alfred's face, staring intently enough to make the teenager gulp. Fingers hesitantly raised from Arthur's side, slowly reaching forward, so close, enough so that Alfred felt his breath hit and nerves flare and stomach fill to the brim with a spike of fear and nervousness and whatever else that could make it squeeze and flop like that, before they barely grazed the peach fuzz on his cheek.
Alfred shut his eyes and shied away. What the hell was this guy doing?
… But then nothing happened.
Alfred hesitantly opened his eyes, blinking back the blurry vision that consumed his world, before calmly focusing his eyes enough to see the outline of Arthur in front of him, his glasses in his hands.
"These are bent," Arthur stated, as if it was totally normal to take that off Alfred's face out of the clear blue sky. "I'll fix these." With that, he stood up and sauntered out of the room, leaving Alfred left to feel nothing but the warmth of the fire on his surprised face frozen in shock, heartbeat pumping an unnecessary amount of blood up to his head wound.
With an exasperated breath, Alfred fell back against the couch with an angry groan and his mouth pooling with drool again.
"Whrt zah fullk wzz zatt?"
Alfred opened his eyes with a wince as some horrible chirping noise pulled him from his slumber. He hated birds. They were only good when dipped in bbq sauce. But it wasn't just the birds that woke him up. It was also the bright streams of sunlight pouring in from the curtains. With a tired moan, he sat up carefully, joints still sore, as he reached over to the night stand and took his glasses off it.
He blinked, eyes adjusting to the sunlight, and just looked about the stale, sterile looking room.
He was in a bed.
Alfred glanced over to see another person's outline through a curtain that divided the room.
He was in a hospital.
With tired, narrowed eyes, Alfred skeptically pulled up his blankets, met with the tanned skin of his legs in a hospital issued gown.
He was wearing a dress.
Alfred flopped back against his pillow, feeling an unfamiliar rise of anxiety hovering below the surface as he observed his temporary bedroom. His fingers touched the bandages still on his head, and felt down the straight frames of his glasses he was wearing. No doubt he was in the hospital and his parents were coming to get him today. Of course that's where he was. He knew that.
He knew it, and yet it still didn't make him any less concerned about the burnt feeling left at the tip of his tongue and the faintest smell of cigarettes and mint by his bedside, all accompanied with the illuminated face of a blonde man he had seen for a second time now.