Hi everyone~ I'm sure by now you're all used to my need to write unnecessarily crazy/twisted things from time to time, right? This will be three chapters altogether. I promise I will update other stuff soon!
This story was inspired by a fanmade video on youtube that I've liked for a long time. You can find it by searching for 'Kagami - RussiaxUSA by Ayama Akuna'. It's also on or linked from Deviantart somewhere.
Warnings: Some violence, mind fuckery, and some things that fall somewhere between dubcon and noncon. This will be a dark story and if that's not your cup of tea you best get yourself some Earl Grey instead.
Disclaimer: As always it is probably a blessing for these characters that I don't own Hetalia.
Act I – Divinity
The forest that stretched along the Eastern border was said to be haunted, filled with thieves and cut throats, and to house cannibals that ate all those who wandered in. There were many rumors whispered about the dark and silent woods, but only one that Arthur claimed to be completely true; that the forest was a home to demons.
As he did his yearly cleansing ritual to ward off evil and bad spirits Arthur told the tale to the amusement of his eldest brother, Francis, who didn't take it seriously in the least, and his two younger brothers, a set of wide eyed twins named Alfred and Matthew.
"Demons are the shadows created by splintered moonbeams. They are infinitely old, lacking both hearts and souls. They are as cold as ice, their wits as sharp as a freshly whetted blade, and in cruelty they are unmatched." As Arthur spoke he shredded white sage onto a plate.
Francis smirked to himself, even more amused by the sudden attentiveness of his two youngest siblings. "Is it that time of year already?"
Arthur ignored him and continued. "Though they all have ill intentions towards humans, their methods differ from demon to demon. Some wish to devour humans whole. Others corrupt their souls by manipulating them to do evil with whispers of power and wealth. Others seduce them with ungodly temptations of the flesh. And there are even those demons that will spirit a human being away, taking the prisoner into its den of sin."
Francis reached over and ruffled Matthew's hair. "Yes, watch yourself! You are nothing more than a delectable snack to them!"
Arthur frowned as Matthew batted his hand away. "Do be quiet. No one asked you."
"Oh please, Arthur! These two are hardly little boys to scare with some bedtime story better told by old wives!" Francis waved his hand dismissively.
"Better they listen to old wives' tales then waste their times in old wives' beds," Arthur hissed.
Before the argument could escalate Alfred cut in. "Finish it! I want to hear the rest."
Matthew nodded, pulling his knees up. "Me, too."
Arthur shot Francis a triumphant look then used the flame in the fireplace to light a small piece of sage. He quickly dropped it onto the plate. Soon it was smoldering, thick smoke curling up into the air. "The woods at the edge of our town are a home to such demons. Most of the misfortunes attributed to that place are surely the work of those fiends. And you never know when they are close. That is why you are not allowed to leave the windows open at night or wander into the forest."
Arthur walked over and gently waved some of the smoke towards each of his siblings in turn. "Guard yourselves fast, lest ye find yourselves at the mercy of a demon."
With that he stood and started to bless each room in the house. The ritual would leave the whole place smelling almost sickeningly sweet. The worst part was he would finish by sundown and they wouldn't be allowed to air the place out until the next day. Even then Arthur was steadfast in keeping the house sealed up until just before evening to keep the blessing in.
Francis chuckled good naturedly. His younger brother was certainly interesting. He should be married and thinking of children of his own right now. Many said the same of him but it was more fun being the most sexually desirable bachelor in town. Perhaps in the next couple of years he'd finally take a wife before he passed his prime but somehow he had a feeling unless some woman pushed him into it, Arthur would remain quite single for the rest of his days. Especially with his longtime interest in what came dangerously close to witchcraft. It was only his intense piety atop it that kept him from a pyre.
"Francis," Matthew started to say timidly. "Why do you think the demons want to hurt humans?"
Francis smiled, thinking for what was not the first time that Matthew was his favorite sibling. Despite his seventeen years of age, he was still quite naïve. It was endearing. "If Arthur is right and they are so very old it is probably because they are also infinitely bored."
Alfred laughed. There was no denying though, that despite his laughter, he believed in the demons just as firmly as his twin. "It's obviously because they're evil. What other reason do they need?"
Francis stroked Matthew's hair. "Do not worry your heart over it. No demon will snatch you from your bed. Even if you do believe it, big brother Arthur has you covered. Speaking of which, I am going to stop him before he 'cleanses' my room. I hate that smell."
Alfred slipped closer to his brother as Francis hurried off, slipping an arm around his shoulders. "Don't worry, Matt. I'll protect you if any demon does try to get in here!"
"Oh? And who will protect you?" Matthew leaned into his brother. "And I'm not worried. Like Francis said, Arthur is very careful about guarding us. I was honestly curious about why they want to do such cruel things."
All Alfred could do was shrug. His earlier answer was the best he could come up with. The two heard shouting, no doubt their brothers arguing over Francis's room. They smiled in unison at one another and stifled their laughter. Those two argued over everything. It was amazing they continued to live together. Mostly because Arthur hadn't married yet, the only reason for him to pay the money it would take to get a house of his own.
There was one thing Francis had been spot on about. Alfred and Matthew certainly weren't children anymore. They both had jobs; Matthew was a bookkeeper and Alfred was finishing up an apprenticeship under a tin craftsman. Neither had serious interest in marriage yet but both had a girl or two they were keeping their eyes on and the women wouldn't wait for proposals forever.
They helped pull one another onto their feet. Matthew went to go start on dinner before Arthur got it in his head to try. That would be misery for everyone. Francis wasn't bad at cooking either but it had really been Matthew that took up the task after the passing of their mother. It had been a horrible illness that had mercilessly swept through the town. The same illness had taken their father not long after. The event had occurred almost four years ago now but the brothers had all clung tightly together and made things work even when they had been at their most difficult.
Mostly they had been lucky. Their father had worked with glass, a rare trade and also quite profitable. There had been enough savings to get them through the worst of it. It was also the only reason both Alfred and Matthew were able to have spectacles despite their usual cost. Francis had been trained in the glass business and had continued it as was expected of him. His work was so fine it was actually starting to get wider recognition.
Overall, despite the grievous and sudden loss of both parents, they were fortunate. Francis thanked the money, Arthur gave credit to his various rituals, and the twins just thanked their lucky stars. At least they had each other.
"You're going out again?" Arthur frowned heavily at Francis. Only crumbs remained on the dinner plate in front of him. "Won't this be the fourth night in a row? Can you really not keep it in your pants for more than a single day?"
"Hmph, can you even use yours? It's not like the shop will even be open tomorrow. We have to wait to keep your 'good vibes' in. I might as well enjoy myself in a place that will not give me a headache. I shall return sometime tomorrow and I doubt you will even note my absence." Francis stood, eyes challenging Arthur to try and stop him. He didn't. "Well then, if that's all settled I will be off! Goodnight my dear brothers! May the big bad demons pass you by."
Arthur scowled as he walked off, still laughing. "He is disgusting. I'm amazed no one has killed him yet. Hmph. Alfred, help Matthew clear the dishes. Make sure to check if the stove is off. I'll be reading in my room."
Once he was out of the room Alfred stood and scowled at the dishes. "What, so even though neither of them did anything to help with dinner they get to just walk off?"
"Well, they are the eldest," Matthew said gently. "And you didn't really help either."
Alfred gave him a wounded look. "I set the table!"
Matthew smiled. "Right, of course. Let's just get it done with and then we can go to bed."
"Nothing interesting ever happens here," Alfred complained. He had a much harder time coping with the tedious aspect of day to day life.
"Sometimes that's a blessing, too," Matthew said decisively. He was just fine with things being peaceful and boring.
Alfred grumbled as they cleaned up and made sure the stove was off, heading upstairs to their room once they were finished. The house was set up with the kitchen and small eating area in the back of their family shop, and a small toilet next to the big bedroom that had once been their parents'. Now Francis stayed in there. Upstairs were two bedrooms and a general living area. Arthur had gotten his own room when Francis moved downstairs, giving the twins more space in the room they shared.
The smell of burnt sage still lingered. Alfred collapsed on his bed and buried his face in his pillow. Even that smelled like sage. He groaned softly as Matthew began to prepare for bed. Finally he sat up and started to undress, changing into a lighter pair of pants. It was too hot to wear anything else, so he thought Matthew was insane for donning a light sleep shirt as well.
The two talked for a while. About their brothers, about their own lives, about the approaching summer festival. They did not speak of worries of the past or future. They were in the heart of youth when life seems infinite and that everything will somehow work out best in the end.
As it got later Matthew finally went to turn off the lantern that lit their room. "Goodnight, Alfred."
"Goodnight, Matthew." Alfred rolled over and tried to fall asleep. It was just so damned hot and stuffy. The sage smell was nice but in this heat it made him slightly ill. He was starting to feel nauseous. He thought about it for a long moment then got up, walking towards the window. Should he?
"Al?" A sleepy voice spoke behind him. "What are you doing?"
Alfred turned to look at Matthew, who was rubbing his eyes. "I was thinking about opening the window."
"No!" Matthew sat up straighter, eyes widening. "Don't open it! Then the demons can get in!"
Alfred sighed. "The demons be damned, it's so hot and this smell is killing me! I just want to air it out a bit."
Matthew shook his head. "No! Please don't, Al. If...if it bothers you so much go sleep in Francis's room. He didn't let Arthur cleanse his room and he won't be coming home anyway."
"Ugh, I bet his bed is gross." Alfred crinkled his nose. It might still be the best option. He thought about it and decided it was probably preferable to feeling sick all night. "Fine. I'm going to go down there, then. See you in the morning."
Matthew watched him walk out of the room then turned his gaze back to the window. He felt bad, as if he had chased Alfred out of the room, but it was better to stay safe after all. The alternative made him shiver to think of.
Alfred quietly made his way downstairs. The light under Arthur's room was out, but he'd still nag him if he caught him sleeping in Francis's room. He was so overbearing sometimes. It was easy to get down the stairs. He had sneaked out enough times to know which stairs creaked or groaned.
As he entered Francis's room, Alfred frowned. It was lacking the sage smell but still had a stifling perfume scent. Of course. His eyes traveled once more to the window, like being drawn to temptation. Only this time there was no Matthew to tell him no. He walked over, hesitated a moment, then opened the window. A warm breeze ruffled his hair and he took a deep breath. For a while he leaned against the windowsill looking out at the night sky. It was rare he got to look at the stars as he was usually cooped up safe and sound in the house. They were so beautiful. It was hard to believe that anything truly horrible was lurking beneath them.
He finally pulled back into the room, leaving the window open. Hopefully he would wake up before anyone caught him. Even though he was still weary of the cleanliness of his brother's bed he finally slipped in and found it rather comfortable. It did not take long for him to fall asleep.
The demon slipped from shadow to shadow. The night sky was filled with stars that flashed like rare jewels and a moon that was almost ripe. It had been too enchanting not to venture out. He had no particular goal other than to wander the lonely streets of the town. Perhaps he would slaughter a drunkard stumbling home if he came across one. Mostly such urges had long ago become more dull than anything. A flash of blood was quite beautiful but so very messy and lasted but a second.
His thoughts were interrupted as he began down a back street, immediately noting a change in his surroundings. He knew this town intimately, all its habits and rituals, and something had changed. At first he could not quite put his finger on it and became very still, eyes carefully scanning his surroundings. Finally they paused, returned to a house. An open window had caught his attention for some reason. What should he care about an open window? Because usually this window was never open. Usually none of the windows were open in this house that always reeked of purification and blessings that stung his eyes and nose.
The demon made his way towards it in perfect silence. For a moment he was deterred by the fresh scent of sage. As he came closer and tested the air he realized that the open room itself had no such scent. The sage irritated his eyes but he hauled himself up, sitting on the windowsill and taking a look.
This room was heavy with the scent of lust. In the bed was a figure, bare back facing him. Was it a body ripe with the taste of sins of the flesh? He crept into the room, going to the bed's side. The demon cocked his head curiously. The closer he came the more of a contradictory scent he picked up. While the room smelled heavily of sex and wasted lust, the body itself did not. It was fairly pure, clean... appetizing. Virgin flesh.
The demon sat lightly on the edge of the bed and touched the figure's shoulder, turning it towards him. There was a soft moan of protest and then the young male turned onto his back, frowned slightly, and flipped onto his side, now facing the demon. His face relaxed again, breath steady and deep.
Violet eyes sparked with interest as the demon brushed aside dark blond hair from the youth's forehead. He was lovely enough, masculine but not quite a full grown man. Still pure. Warm. The demon stroked his cheek lightly. The youth sighed contentedly, the demon's hand undoubtedly cool against his skin.
The demon ran his thumb along the youth's lips and they parted slightly, warm breath brushing against the digit. He leaned in and pressed his face close to the youth's neck, breathing in his smell. Delectable. He mumbled sleepily and the demon pulled away. How the demon wanted a small taste as well, but that would undoubtedly wake the boy.
After watching him thoughtfully for a while more the demon finally stood. He made his way to the window and slipped back outside. Before leaving he pulled out an apple, breathing onto it and clouding the surface. Skin as red as blood, flesh as white as virgin snow.
The demon smirked and placed the apple carefully on the windowsill. Time would tell if he was to see this lovely youth again. All it would take was one bite. With that the demon faded back into the shadows, heading for his home in the depths of the forest.
Rays of summer sunlight awoke Alfred early the next morning. He nuzzled his face deeper into the pillow. It was more comfortable than usual. He frowned slightly then remembered where he was. Sitting up, he listened carefully for sounds of anyone else moving around. It was quiet as far as he could tell. Moving quickly, he made the bed as best as he could.
Just as he was leaving he remembered the window and hurried over to close it. He paused at the sight of the apple, tilting his head. Looking out the window he ducked back in and picked it up. Maybe it was a gift for Francis from one of his many admirers. It was beautiful, not even the slightest bruise or dent in its ruby surface. He brought it to his nose. The fragrance was sweet and his lips almost caressed it.
There was the sudden sound of a door closing and Alfred stiffened, taking the apple away from his mouth. He had to get out of here. After closing the window hastily he hurried from the room, running right into someone. He almost screamed and barely held it in.
Matthew grabbed his arms and took a step back. "Alfred! It's just me. I came to get you out of bed in case you were still sleeping."
Alfred took a deep breath. "You almost scared me to death! Thanks, though."
Matthew released him. "What's that, Al?"
Alfred looked down and noticed that he was still holding the apple. "Oh... Just an apple."
"From Francis's room?" That was sort of strange but he wasn't that surprised if it was Francis. He wasn't sure if he'd trust food from his room.
"Yeah. It uh, seems to be from an admirer. Not like he needs it, so I figured I'd take it. You're not going to rat me out, are you?"
Matthew gave him a disapproving shake of the head. "No. But you shouldn't steal, Alfred. It's not good."
"Oh it's hardly stealing to pick up a piece of fruit!" It's not even like Francis knew it existed. "Do you think we can open the windows yet?"
"We aren't supposed to until later and you know it."
"Oh, fine! I'm going to go get dressed. I have to go soon, anyway." Alfred ducked past his brother and ran up the stairs. He put the apple down on their dresser as he grabbed clothes and quickly changed. It seemed he'd survived a night with the window open. When too much time to punish him for it had passed he might mention it to Arthur. Even if he did believe in demons, sometimes Arthur seemed silly even to him. It was like he had seized on their mother's old rituals and taken them to extremes.
He brushed his fingers through his hair, put his spectacles on, and grabbed the apple. Alfred found himself staring at it. Honestly he'd never seen a more beautiful apple in his entire life. Slowly he brought it to his mouth, lips brushing the surface. His tongue slid along it and a shiver went down his spine.
There was a sharp knock on the door and Alfred jumped. "Wh-what?"
"Alfred, are you decent?"
Alfred rolled his eyes and lowered the apple. "Yes, mother."
Arthur opened the door, scowling. "You think you're so clever, don't you? How late do you think you'll be home tonight?"
"Mm, I suppose it depends. There aren't many orders right now so unless we suddenly get swamped I should be back a bit early."
"Good, I'll be sure to give you an extra blessing once you've come home. And hopefully that idiot Francis will be back in time because if he's not I won't waste the effort to do the same for him."
"Another one? You are so paranoid, Artie! I swear you get worse every year."
Alfred tried to walk past him but Arthur blocked the doorway. "Don't call me Artie! And I'm not being paranoid! I'm just trying to protect you all."
"I don't think demons are stalking us. We're going to be alright, you know. Seriously."
Arthur grabbed Alfred's sleeve as he tried to push past him. Already he had outgrown him by at least two inches. When Arthur gave him 'the look', though, Alfred still felt smaller than him. "Maybe you think I'm being completely ridiculous about all of this but I can't stand to lose anyone else! Weren't mother and father enough?"
Alfred couldn't meet his gaze. "I'm sorry, Arthur. I didn't..." After a moment he took Arthur's hand and squeezed it. "Thank you. For y'know, caring so much and doing all this stuff to keep us safe. I do appreciate it. But all of us...We've done alright for ourselves so far. I don't think any of us plan to go anywhere anytime soon."
It took a moment but Arthur's expression finally softened. He squeezed Alfred's hand back then released it. "Be safe. I'll see you tonight and you'll get that blessing whether you want it or not."
"Am I going to smell like something weird?" Alfred pouted at the thought.
"Mm, of course. I haven't done it right if you aren't permeated with the scent of divine protection." Arthur quirked an eyebrow, trying to fight the small smile tugging at his lips.
Alfred laughed. "Right, right. Fine, see you later!"
As Alfred turned Arthur got a strange feeling and a chill went through him. "A-Alfred!"
Alfred paused at the top of the stairs. "Mm? Something wrong?"
Arthur tried to find the words for the feeling he had, the anxiety, but nothing would come. The feeling was unfounded, he had no grounds to ask Alfred to stay home or at the very least bless him now. He finally spoke in a measured tone. "Please...just be careful. I love you."
An awkward smile came to Alfred's face. His brother was really acting weird this morning. "Ah... sure, love ya too."
Arthur didn't like the feeling that overwhelmed him as Alfred disappeared down the stairs, that it was the last time he would see him. He turned on his heel and hurried to his room to see if he had any books on premonitions.
Alfred swung by the kitchen where his brother was eating breakfast. "You're so lucky you don't have to go in today."
Matthew shrugged. "Get into bookkeeping and maybe you'll get days off too that don't correlate to times when there's simply nothing to do."
"Pft, thanks a lot. Bye, Mattie. Oh and just so you know, Arthur is acting super weird today. He said I love you and everything. Maybe you should spend some time with him."
Matthew's expression became concerned. "Oh? I see... Alright thanks for letting me know. I'll see if I can get him to cheer up. Um... and I love you, too, I guess."
"You guess, what does that mean?" Alfred made a face then walked over and ruffled Matthew's hair. "Same to you, even if you aren't as handsome as I am."
Matthew smacked Alfred's arm hard. "Oh, shut up! Just go."
Alfred laughed as he waved and walked out of the house. It was such a nice day and Alfred loved the feeling of the sun against his skin. He decided to take the long way around to the tinner's shop. It took him by the forest but he had never been afraid of it during the day. It was only at night that it freaked him out. In fact, as he made his way to the edge of town and walked on the overgrown path it looked almost inviting.
Alfred was halfway down the path when he became aware of the apple in his hand again. Strange how he had all but forgotten he was even holding it. He lifted it up. It looked even more lovely in the sun. The color was so rich and deep, as if it went through the entire fruit rather than just being a thin skin. Well, he hadn't gotten a chance to eat anything, maybe he should have it now.
The apple seemed to shiver in Alfred's hand and he paused. No... No, it was just his imagination. Arthur's paranoia getting to him. He brought the apple to his lips, slowly parting them. His tongue brushed along it lightly and the rest of the world felt very far away. His heart seemed to quicken as he gently placed his teeth against the skin then sank slowly into the flesh. It was sweet and wet. Like a kiss.
Alfred sucked softly on the spot he had bitten from and pulled away, chewing the piece of apple. It was the sweetest thing he had ever tasted. The moment he swallowed he became aware of a bitter aftertaste. No, not just bitter. Almost like something rotting. He tried choking but nothing came up. It became difficult to breathe, as if invisible hands had wrapped themselves around his windpipe. He reached up to pull them away but, of course, there was nothing there.
The world began to spin and Alfred stumbled as he gasped for air. The strength left his body and he fell backwards, the apple falling from his hand and rolling off the side of the path and stopping at the roots of a large tree. Alfred twitched, helpless as the world faded into black.
It was well past lunch when Francis finally graced his siblings with his presence. "Hello! Your beloved brother has returned triumphantly! I hope I am not bringing dark forces into the house by merely opening the front door!"
As he went further into the house Matthew came down the stairs to meet him. "Hello Francis. How are you doing?"
"Oh, very well. I had quite the night! I cannot wait until you know the embrace of a woman. Oh the things we shall discuss on that day!" Francis hugged him, pressing Matthew's face against his chest.
"S-stop it!" Matthew pushed him away.
"Your virgin ears are so adorable, Matthew! So where are the other two?"
"Well, Arthur has been locked up in his room all day. He's really upset for some reason. I tried talking to him but he wouldn't let me in. He said he'd had a bad feeling about Alfred earlier and was going to look into extra protection rituals. As for Alfred, he's at the tinner's shop."
Francis wagged a finger. "Oh no he is not! Why, just on my way home I overheard a conversation about how irritated the tinner is because Alfred never showed up. I thought his lazy bones would be lying around the house but apparently he has decided to be a little more sneaky than that."
The words sent a small shiver through Matthew's heart. All day he'd had a bad feeling ever since Alfred left. Before he thought he was simply picking it up from Arthur. Now it only intensified. "Didn't... show up? But Alfred said he was going. If he had intended not to go he would have told me. He always tells me things like that."
"Matthew, you are worrying too much! Soon you will have an ugly wrinkle mark between your eyebrows just like Arthur. Perhaps he changed his mind and is on a passionate rendezvous with a lovely girl."
Matthew shook his head, eyes widening with fear. "No... No, something is wrong! Can you... Can you please tell Arthur? I... I'm going to go look for him. Oh, something is wrong!"
Before Francis could try to persuade him that his fears were ill-spent Matthew ran from the house. He sighed and shrugged, heading upstairs. Two of his brothers were total worrywarts and the third didn't worry nearly enough. Francis liked to think he worried just enough.
When he knocked on Arthur's door there wasn't immediately an answer. "Arthur? Arthur? Our sweetest Matthew seems to think we have a small problem. What are you doing in there? Something inappropriate?"
The door was suddenly thrown open. Arthur looked extremely pensive. "What do you mean Matthew thinks we have a problem?"
"It seems Alfred never got to work. I think he is simply goofing off but Matthew-" Something like panic crossed Arthur's face and he rushed back into his room, throwing boots on. Francis suddenly got the sense that something really was wrong for his siblings to be acting this way. "Arthur, what's the matter? Has something happened I need to know about?"
Arthur just shook his head, frustratedly tugging at his other boot. He jumped to his feet and roughly grabbed Francis's elbow. "Come on, we're going to look for him."
"Wh-what? What is wrong with you?"
Arthur didn't reply. Instead he dragged Francis out of the house with him, dread churning in his stomach like poison.
The three asked all over town for someone who had seen Alfred. Not a soul had all day long. Even Francis was feeling panicked as the sun began to set and they still hadn't found a trace of him. It was as if he had had vanished.
Arthur and Francis were talking to the local guard about Alfred's disappearance when Matthew suddenly thought of a place they hadn't looked. He took off without so much as a reassurance he would be back, sprinting towards the woods. He found the path that followed along its edge. The two of them had often walked this way when they were younger, Alfred bravely taking the lead and assuring Matthew he would protect him from any demon. From anything.
A sob escaped Matthew and he searched desperately for Alfred. A ways in there was a figure lying prone on the ground. The second he saw it, Matthew stopped short. "No... Oh please, no!"
He rushed over and sank to the ground beside it. It was unmistakably Alfred but it didn't look like he was breathing. Swallowing thickly, Matthew pulled him close. His skin was cold. He put a finger beneath Alfred's nose but felt no breath. Another sob escaping him, Matthew pressed his fingers to Alfred's pulse and found none. He began to tremble violently, face twisting into an expression of unspeakable despair. "No! Oh god no!"
The final word became a moan and then he cried out loudly in anguish. How could this have happened? It wasn't possible! Alfred couldn't be dead! He had been fine just that morning. Matthew pressed his face to Alfred's hair, sobbing into it as he rocked back and forth.
It just wasn't fair. Hadn't they lost enough? Why did it have to be Alfred? "Why? Why! I hate you! I hate you s-so, sooo..." He broke down once more into incomprehensible sobbing, not even knowing who he was cursing. "Al...Alfred, please don't die... Please?"
Matthew kissed Alfred's face again and again, silently begging him not to die through his tears. He would do anything... Anything at all if it meant Alfred wasn't gone. "C-come on. We have to...have to go home now, Alfred. Everyone has been so... so worried about you."
He tried to stand and drag Alfred up with him but he was too heavy. Matthew cried out in frustration and tried harder to lift him. "Please... please stand up... won't you ple-" The word caught in his throat and he collapsed back onto the ground, burying his face in Alfred's neck as he embraced his body fiercely. "Don't go! Don't leave m-me, Alfred!"
By the time Matthew finally sat up the sun had disappeared completely. He reached up and wiped at his damp cheeks. With trembling fingers he brushed back the hair from Alfred's forehead. When he spoke his voice was frail, like spun glass. "Alfred, I can't carry you. I'm afraid you're too h-heavy. I just have to go get... get Francis and Arthur. I promise I'll be right back."
He cupped Alfred's cheek and fresh tears welled up in his eyes until he couldn't see. He pushed his glasses up and wiped at them. When he could see again he leaned down and kissed Alfred's forehead tenderly. When he finally stood his legs felt so weak he was amazed he could walk at all. Every few feet he turned and looked back at Alfred. When he was far enough he felt a sudden sense of urgency and began to run back towards the village.
The demon watched him go before emerging from the dark embrace of the forest. That had been lengthier than he would have liked but it permeated the youth with beautiful misery and utter despair. How tasty. He crouched beside the body and stroked his cheek. "How simple you have made things. Eager to join me, were you?"
The demon chuckled and scooped up his body, holding him close. All warmth had left his body but it would be returning soon enough. "Alfred, is it? So very nice to meet your acquaintance."
With a wide smile the demon melted back into the shadows of the forest with his prize.
Meanwhile, Matthew ran, hardly knowing where he was going. He wasn't even aware of the fact that he was screaming for his brothers at the top of his lungs. Francis was the first to get to him. When Matthew saw him he threw himself against him, wrapping his arms around Francis's neck tightly as all the strength seemed to leave him.
Francis stroked his brother's hair, alarmed by the state he was in. "Matthew! Where have you been? What is the matter? Please, tell me!"
"He's dead! Alfred is dead! Oh God, he's dead!" Matthew began to sob violently again, clutching Francis as if his life depended on it.
The words didn't seem to register at first, but as they did it filled Francis with horror. "He can't be... dead. S-surely you are... are mistaken-"
"I saw him! His body was... he was just lying there and he wasn't breathing and..." Matthew's voice became thick with emotion and he had to stop, shaking his head.
Arthur came running over, holding up a lantern. "Thank God, there you are! What's happened?"
Francis looked at Arthur, eyes wide and unseeing with shock. "Matthew says...that Alfred is dead."
The breath caught in Arthur's throat. "What?"
Matthew suddenly pulled away from Francis. He glared at Arthur, tears staining his cheeks. "Y-you said... you had a bad feeling. That you thought something bad w-was going to happen to him. Why didn't you stop him? Why? You should have stopped him!"
Pain flickered in Arthur's eyes and Francis tried to grab his shoulder. "Matthew!"
"No!" Matthew tugged away from him and closed in on Arthur. He shoved him hard enough to send him stumbling back. "If you had just made him stay home... I hate you! I hate you! You let him die, I hate you!"
Francis grabbed Matthew roughly, forcing him into an embrace and trying to calm him. "Stop it, Matthew! You're hysterical!"
"Give him back! Give Alfred back!" Matthew collapsed against Francis again.
Arthur stared on, ashen faced, as Francis calmed Matthew again. He lowered his gaze as guilt seeped through his entire body. "Where was he?"
Matthew stared listlessly into the air as he turned his face to answer in little more than a whisper, "Trail...forest."
Arthur turned to go and Francis called to him. "Wait, you shouldn't go yourself!"
"Get Matthew home. Once he's safe then you can come and bring whoever you want. Whatever you do, though, don't leave him alone for long." Arthur turned back to look at him and Francis didn't even recognize him. Whether it was the sorrow or guilt, it seemed to have transformed him and it made Francis hesitate from arguing further. Without another word Arthur disappeared down the road.
The lantern casted strange shapes before Arthur. They did not bother him. He muttered a charm under his breath, movements purely mechanical. Why hadn't he stopped Alfred? Because he hadn't thought there was enough of a reason. Because Alfred would have laughed and left anyway. Arthur's throat tightened and he leaned over as he got on the trail, dry heaving. Nothing came up and in a moment his stomach settled again.
Arthur continued all the way down the trail, nerves wound too tight, expecting to come across Alfred's lifeless body any moment. He never did. A puzzled look crossed his face as he realized he had reached the end and hadn't come across anything. Another strange feeling came over Arthur and his eyes narrowed. This was all wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong...
Before he made any judgments Arthur walked back down the trail, carefully swinging his lantern back and forth to better investigate. Still he found nothing. Just as he reached the end Francis came running up to him followed by one of the town guards.
Francis searched Arthur's face. "Did you...find him?"
Arthur stared back at the darkened trail. "No."
Francis sighed in relief. "Perhaps he only imagined it. Became hysterical and started to see things that were not there."
"Maybe a wild animal or something got the body and dragged it into the woods," the guard said, then immediately ducked his head sheepishly as he realized how insensitive the words were.
"Or something..." Arthur's brow furrowed. "Francis, we are going back to the house. We don't want to upset Matthew anymore than he already is but I think we'll have to ask him some questions. He's a sensible boy. He must have seen something."
Francis gave the guard a helpless look and the man clasped his arm. "I am hoping for the best to all of you."
Francis nodded at him, clasping his arm in return. "Thank you. I hope so as well."
The man nodded and walked off in the opposite direction. Francis caught up with Arthur. "About what Matthew said...He did not mean it. You know he did not mean it. He was just-"
"I know," Arthur said flatly. He cleared his throat. "I... I should have made Alfred stay home."
"For a feeling? No one could have known that something would actually happen. And perhaps he is still missing. For all we know he may show up tomorrow morning, all smiles and apologies!"
"Wouldn't that be nice?" From the tone of Arthur's voice it was obvious he didn't feel that was very likely.
Francis frowned. Was it so wrong to want to be optimistic? Shouldn't Arthur cling to any hope that their brother was alive? And after seeing how distraught Matthew had been, Francis would give anything for Alfred to show up safe and sound the next day.
Arthur was deep in thought as they walked. Once they got home he would finish setting things up. He still intended to bless both his brothers and himself. In fact he felt it a much more urgent task now. Perhaps he was jumping to conclusions but after the feeling he had gotten that morning he was starting to suspect that whether Alfred was truly alive or dead, something unnatural had been involved.
The demon put Alfred on his bed and settled beside him. For a while he merely gazed at him, brushing a cool hand against his skin. Everything really had worked out more smoothly than usual. He smirked. Very well, time to wake his sleeping prince.
The demon parted Alfred's lips and let his hand hover over his mouth. A look of concentration painted his features as he slowly curled his fingers downward until his fingertips came together, gently brushing against the parted lips, as if grasping something between them. The look of concentration intensified and he mouthed a single word before slowly drawing his fingers upwards. A thin coil of what resembled black smoke was slowly drawn from Alfred. With a single wave of his hand the demon caused it to dissipate. The moment he did Alfred took an involuntary gasp of breath, body heaving. He coughed violently but did not stir as his breathing regulated itself.
The demon smiled and stood. Alfred would undoubtedly sleep off what would not be so different than a particularly bad morning after from a night of too much drinking. It would give him time to prepare some things. How very excited he was to meet his guest properly. He brushed his fingers through Alfred's hair once then left the room.
Alfred's eyelids felt too heavy as he slowly opened them. What had happened? Where...? He blinked a few times, trying to make out what was in front of his face. Everything was slightly fuzzy without his glasses. A look of confusion crossed his features as he finally made out what it was. A single blood red rose, stem thick with thorns, resting beside an apple the looked like the one from that morning. There was a single bite taken from it. Maybe it was the same one. He reached over and touched it. The juice was still sticky and wet. Fresh. A look of dawning horror began to replace the confusion as more cogs began to turn in his mind, and he quickly withdrew his hand as if bitten.
Alfred began to sit up and felt a hand lightly touch his back. He jumped, letting out a sharp gasp as he whirled to see who had touched him. A man smiled sweetly down at him. His skin and hair were pale and his eyes were an unnatural shade of violet. There was something wrong with him. Alfred didn't know what, but something was off. He tried to back away but the man's hand suddenly grabbed the back of his shirt, holding him in place. "Wh-where am I? Who are you?"
The man's arm slid around Alfred's waist, pulling him closer. "My name is Ivan. And you are Alfred."
A small shiver went down Alfred's spine and he tried to keep a distance between them. "How do you know my name?"
The sweet smile suddenly turned into more of a smirk. "I heard your brother screaming it in despair as he wept over what he thought was your corpse. He did lament so prettily."
That's when everything came back full force. Biting into the apple, that feeling of choking... Panic was quickly bubbling up. "Where am I? Tell me what you did to Matthew!"
Ivan grabbed Alfred's chin, leaning in so that his nose brushed against Alfred's cheek. "I would not be worrying about your brother, my dearest Alfred. You may want to worry about yourself from now on."
The next thing Alfred knew he was being tugged into Ivan's lap, and the man was so damned strong. It wasn't normal. Something about Ivan was completely off. "Wh-where am I? What do you want from me?"
"You are in my home. I am sure you are familiar with the forest beside your town. As for what I want from you... I have not decided quite yet. Perhaps I will eat you. You smell delectable."
A shudder went through Alfred as connections were rapidly made in his mind. He breathlessly asked a question he sickeningly thought he already knew the answer to. "What are you?"
Ivan chuckled softly as his nose continued to trace along Alfred's skin. "Is it not obvious? A demon."
It was as if the air had been sucked from Alfred's lungs and he felt weak. He desperately tried to pull away but Ivan held on fast to him, fingers digging harshly into his side and the hand on his chin clamping down painfully.
"You know, I have not been this close to the sun in a very long time." Ivan abruptly pulled him closer. As Alfred opened his mouth to scream Ivan pressed their lips together. It was time for a taste of this little ray of sunshine.
AN: Sort of overemphasized how strong sage smells, but the purification thing is legit.
Edit: So FF DOT net has been weird and I haven't been able to post stuff for almost a week. You should be seeing more from me very soon.