Dro: I need to stop writing disturbing one shots at night. I really do. No, really, totally review this because I seriously love this fic.
Story Summary: Canada burned down the White House in 1814. Then he shot America in the head.
Warnings: Violence, Disturbing Concepts
Disclaimer: Dro has never, does not, and will never own APH. Oh, the humanity!
Fire. Its intentions, he deigned, were usually not in the favor of man. Where water was sustenance and earth was the catalyst of food and trade and shelter, fire was…something else. It could simply warm, but it usually chose not to. Fire, more often than not, chose to destroy. And that is what he watched it do at this exact instant. The glow cast by this particular fire seemed to hang over the entire burgeoning city. It was a bright beacon of utter humiliation and defeat. It was a blow to these arrogant, self-centered, ignorant people that he was coming to loathe more and more and more every single day.
This fire was revenge.
And Matthew basked in it.
Glass popping and crackling and shattering under pressure was sweet music to his ears. Wood charring into blackness, crumbling into dust was a renaissance masterpiece. The smell of thick smoke that clogged the air and choked the lungs of the terrified civilians and soldiers alike was like the aroma of a fine French meal cooked in none other than the fine French capital. The warmth that bounced off the skin of his face was like the caress of the divine. And the fire itself, the shooting flames that screamed a hiss of hyper-excited victory into the air...those were the reflections of his Elysian lights that swirled softly through his sky at home on his favorite nights. Those were perfection.
He adjusted the buttons on his red—red, so very red—coat and nudged his leg against the cold metal of his bayonet, checking that it hadn't fallen away from him in his moment of utter selfish pride. Sucking in another sweet breath of air, teeming with those delicious scents of victory and vengeance, Matthew hoisted his gun back into his arms, saluted the still simmering white house—blackened now, he mused—and about-faced. He'd done his job, and he'd done it well, and he'd be damned if Alfred didn't feel remorse for the same stunt he'd pulled the year before. His brother was a fool, an ignorant, blissful fool hopelessly lost in his fanciful ideologies and grandiose imaginings. Hopefully this would finally ruffle his feathers. Hopefully this would finally drag his foolhardy brother back down to the level on which he belonged.
Matthew had taken a single step away from his victory when he first heard the laugh. At first, he thought, his mind was playing on tricks on him. It was the fire, he believed, that laughed, the fire laughing at Alfred's idiocy. But no, he realized as he listened closer, it was not the fire. Then he thought perhaps it was an ally, chuckling to themselves about the humiliating blow they had just delivered to America. But, he realized as he listened closer, it was not an ally. An ally would not laugh so raucously at this. The laugh was not a laugh of mirth or joy or smugness. It was loud—echoing even beyond the sharp cracks of the fire—and it was high. It was continuous and nonsensical. There was no rhythm or reason to this kind of laugh. It was hysterical anddistinctly lost. Unhinged. It was the laugh of someone whose mind has been lost to a creeping weed of insanity that had finally rooted itself to their inner core.
Matthew turned around.
It was Alfred who was laughing.
At first, Matthew thought his mind had pulled but an illusion from his memories. But Alfred did not vanish. The laughing Alfred stood in front of the burning white house, head upturned toward the churning black smoke, mouth open wide as great heaving bouts of laughter rebounded off the still searing walls and into the night. Matthew stood frozen to the spot, sure that any second the laughing Alfred would stop his nonsensical guffawing and turn to face him in battle. This was a ploy to set him off, to make him think that he hadn't harmed his fool of a brother as much as he had planned. It was a pointless ruse, Matthew assured himself.
Except, he was not so sure.
The dew settling on the ground and dampening his clothing, he watched Alfred laugh and laugh and laugh, eyes scrunched closed from the sheer force of each heaving breath. At that point, Matthew tore his eyes away, repositioning them toward the sky. Surely, he thought, surely this was all a game. It had always been a game. Why would the name of it change now? The rules? The strategies? Alfred was baiting him, provoking him. He knew Matthew was there. Sure he did. Surely.
It was then Matthew felt something seize him. Not physically, no. It was something deep inside his chest that was grasped by an iron fist, crushed and ground to dust before he could act. This fist anchored him to the spot as his head twisted back down to Earth. And then he saw.
Alfred was looking at him.
But it was not with deceit that Alfred looked. It was not with pride or joy or mirth or any single of hint of amusement. Even from his far off position, even with Alfred occasionally cloaked in rolling smoke, Matthew could see the way Alfred was looking at him. He could see right into Alfred's shadowed blue eyes, eyes teaming with something akin to a brutal infection, an infection that seemed to parasitically take control of Alfred's entire demeanor.
That infection was hatred….and something else.
And the moment Matthew realized this, Alfred was already on the move. Matthew would've fled right then and there, but the first that gripped his cracking soul would not release him. He was rooted to the spot. Stuck. He was helpless in the face of the charging Alfred. Because that was what Alfred was now doing: charging, bayonet raised and aimed straight at Matthew's chest. A swirl of smoke blew directly in between them, and Alfred marched right through it, eyes gleaming within the stomach-churning slate powder.
And for a moment, for one single fraction of a second, Matthew thought he saw something else coming for him instead. A thing with horns and charcoal shining eyes, thundering toward him on cleft hooves, blade raised to tear out Matthew's trapped soul and drag it deep within the rings of hell. And it was then that Matthew's arms remembered they could move, and he whipped his own weapon, already loaded and ready to fire at the oncoming satanic monstrosity that barreled toward him, saber-fangs bared to tear his throat out and splatter his life blood on the dewy grass beneath him.
It was when he saw the white of Alfred's eyes that he pulled the trigger. And a moment later, the force of Alfred's pre-propelled body slammed into him and sent him flying through the smoke-filled air and tumbling onto that too damp grass, the combination of fresh and stomach-churning sour sickening him. And in a instant, the pleasantness of that sensation was ruined with the smell of blood, blood that trickled daintily down Alfred's forehead. Matthew's head rested next to that of his fallen brother, and once more, he found himself chained to his place. He could only watch the blood that puddled around that too round wound in the center of Alfred's forehead. He could only watch the light fade form those now light and carefree blue eyes that were quickly dulling into a state that chilled Matthew along with them. He could only feel the coolness of the night seep into his brother's body—because that's what it was now, a body—despite the overwhelming warmth of the air around them.
Matthew had killed his brother.
It must've been a hour before the truth registered in Matthew's mind. He was frigid to the core when he dared to twitch for the first time after it. And that first twitch somehow morphed into immediate panic, and though completely numbed and confused and lost and hysterical, Matthew managed to roll Alfred's body off of him and shake the other man.
But Alfred did not respond to either one. Blank blue eyes, rimmed with thin streams of red turned black in the night, failing to be illuminated even with the raging flames so, so close, did nothing but stare at the equally darkened sky. So it was Matthew that answered for him.
It was long after midnight when Arthur Kirkland heard the knock on his door. Apprehensive, for he was hiding here, hiding in their midst, he readied his pistol. Soft steps were taken toward the door, his gun tucked safely away within a easily and quickly reached pocket. He expected an officer reporting in most of all. Beyond that, he expected he'd been found out by those bloody Americans. Either way, he sauntered to the door with a hidden gun and a half-empty glass of gin and heaved it open amidst another round of sharp ringing.
The glass shattered on the floor.
In the threshold of his doorway stood the nightmare he was sure would be his prime tormenter when he finally reached his own personal level of hell. Matthew stood there, soaked in tears and sweat and blood, doused with ash and soot and God, the redcoat still stood out among it all…and on his back, hanging there limp like a broken doll was Alfred with a bullet hole in his skull. And Matthew's eyes were wild and pleading and begging, and they screamed "Please let this be a dream! Please let this be a nightmare!" And it is, Arthur silently shrieks back. A real, living nightmare that will never end.
When he'd planned to burn that damned white house, he had planned to laugh in Alfred's face. He had wanted to show the boy who was the damned empire and who was the farm boy with a weakly sewn together patchwork half-ass attempt of a country. He had not planned to stand numbly over the body of his son—his Goddamned son—who was now strewn haphazardly on his table with a still weeping hole in his skull. Had he not been so thoroughly lacking in any sensations whatsoever, he would've heaved every speck of bile in his stomach onto the floor and then some. But, as it stood, he could not even register that he had a stomach, much less one that functioned as a viable organ. So he just hovered above Alfred's body—that's all it was now, a body, a bloody body—silently. He had no words.
And Matthew, poor, poor Matthew, was curled in a corner, his nails digging into his scalp as he mumbled high-pitched incoherent ravings to himself, dispersed amongst choked sobs that indicated crack after crack after crack forming in his mind. He would shatter soon, Arthur knew. So he had to do something, right? He couldn't lose them both, surely not. He couldn't lose Alfred. But he already had. The thought wouldn't settle. He stumbled over to the breaking Matthew, hauling the boy off the floor, and dragged him from the room, grabbing his bottle of gin on the way out. Outside, he pressed the bottle into the boy's hands, keeping his grip on it until the boy started chugging because God knew he would rather have had a drunken mess than a broken one. Perhaps when Matthew awoke in the morning—unlike Alfred, the evil, right voice in his mind whispers—he would be able to talk to him rationally.
If he could manage to talk.
They sat outside in the chilly night—too cold, far too cold—for longer than Arthur could coherently count to before the once proud empire staggered to his feet and stumbled, stumbled like the defeated man he'd sworn to stop letting himself become so many centuries before, back into that God-forsaken one room hovel. His nose anticipated the smell of death. His eyes anticipated the assault of his son's cold, unfeeling body on the table. His heart anticipated the final beat before it finally, finally gave out on him and he crumpled to the floor.
None of those met with their chosen ends.
The first thing Arthur's eyes caught as they languidly slid back into the cabin's room was a scrawling—was that via fingernail?—on the shoddy, cracked floor. A jagged, chicken scratch that mimicked so perfectly the hand of a man—a boy, a son—he'd become so used to so many years before.
'The game is never over.'
The game. They game they'd been playing for years now, decades since that boy had first dreamed up ludicrous ideas of freedom and independence. That was their game. It had always been. A contest to see who could outdo the other, Arthur in terms of maintaining and expanding his empire—he was one—and that boy in living out his laughable, far-too-high to succeed ideals. That was their game. And burning that damn white house had just been another part.
And also, as it now seemed, was Alfred's death.
Because from the floor, Arthur's eyes rose to the bloodstained wooden table, on which…oh God, he gagged…sat a single, spent bullet.
And nothing else.
Dro: I can honestly say I have no clue where this story came from.