Chapter 2

Arthur pulled his sobbing son upstairs to the bathroom. He shut the door and sat Alfred down on the toilet seat.

He went to the tub and turned the faucet and held his shaking hand under the stream of water until it was warm.

"Alright, Alfred," he said in a quivering voice that clearly said that everything was certainly not alright. He helped Alfred up and began to undress him, as it was clear that he wasn't gong to move on his own. He moved to pull off the ruined shirt, but Alfred recoiled from his touch.

"It's okay, Alfred. It's only me," Arthur told him with tears in his eyes. Alfred looked up at him, his eyes widening as though he had only just realized who he was with. Arthur moved towards him again, and this time Alfred stayed put and allowed his father to undress him like a baby.

Arthur noticed a red stain on the seat of Alfred's jeans and he felt his throat tighten. Once Alfred was entirely nude he pulled the boy over to the bathtub and helped him climb in. The water splashed up onto Arthur's green shirt, darkening the fabric. He didn't notice.

Alfred remained as limp as a doll in the hands of a child. His father cared for him gently, and dampened a washcloth. He pressed it to Alfred's face clearing away the tears and mucus.

"I'm sorry, Dad…" he murmured between sobs.

"Shh… enough of that now. We'll get you cleaned up and then we'll figure all this out." Arthur looked down at his boy, usually a bright ball of sunlight, but now a cracked plate. He noticed the way the boy's shoulders slumped, the scratches and bruises marring his tan skin. He couldn't imagine worse circumstances to be in.

Alfred reached up to hug his daddy and Arthur held him close, the water soaking through his clothes.

"I have you. You're alright now," Arthur whispered, holding him tight.

Arthur dressed Alfred in pajamas and brought him into the master bedroom to sleep. He worked on automatic, going step-by-step to keep Alfred from entirely breaking down. He pulled him under the covers and Alfred snuggled up to him, weeping gently into his chest like he did as a child when he had a nightmare.

They stayed there for a little while, until Alfred had calmed a bit.

"We're staying home tomorrow," Arthur told him, his voice sounding like a giant's in the quiet room. "I'll call the police, and they'll find the person who did this. Are you okay with that?"

Alfred nodded into his chest. They continued to lie together like that even after Alfred cried himself to sleep.

Arthur didn't sleep. He felt angry, guilty, distraught, and worried all at once. How long would it take for Alfred to get over this? Would he get over this?

Those thoughts continued to plague him until sunlight shone through his window, signaling that he had to prepare for the day.

He rose from the bed, detangling himself from Alfred. He pulled the quilt up to the boy's chin and kissed his forehead tenderly before exiting the room to make some calls.

He called the police first, and they explained that they would need a written statement from Alfred, and that it was unlikely that they would find the culprit. Arthur had expected as much, and hoped Alfred would be up to it. He then dialed the tailor shop he owned, and explained to Yao that he wouldn't be there today because he was sick.

He hung up the phone and sighed.

He heard footsteps and found Alfred standing in the kitchen doorway behind him. He was still in his superman pajamas. Sometimes Arthur couldn't believe the boy was a teenager.

"How are you doing, honey?" he asked softly.

"I'm going to have to talk about what happened, aren't I?" Alfred held his gaze, his blue eyes filled with anxiety.

"Yes," he admitted. "You will. But not now. Let's just get through the day, okay? I'll make us some breakfast. You go get dressed."

Alfred nodded slightly and walked up the stairs, his hand dragging on the wooden banister.

He reached his room and stumbled over the scattered clothes on the floor of his bedroom. "Shit," he swore and viciously kicked a random t-shirt out of his way. He held his head in his hands and sucked in the air to try and keep from crying. He would take a quick shower, dress, and walk down those stairs like a hero.

He stepped into the bathroom and shed his shirt. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and saw all the little reminders on the skin of what had happened the night before.

Bile rose in his throat and he moved towards the toilet. Only half the vomit reached his target, the other half splattered onto the floor. He continued to heave until there was nothing left, and then he sat back against the toilet and attempted to pull himself together.

"I can do this," he muttered and climbed over to the bathtub and turned the shower on. He tried not to look down at his body as he finished undressing. He didn't bother to wait for the water to warm up before climbing in.

Unlike how his father had washed him the night before, he was not gentle. He took the cloth and the soap and scrubbed himself raw.

Half an hour later Arthur wandered upstairs. Alfred didn't usually take this long in the shower, and he was concerned.

He knocked on the bathroom door and received no answer from under the roar of the water. He turned the knob and found it unlocked. He stepped inside the steamy room

He noticed the pool of vomit around the toilet, and nearly wretched himself at the smell. Instead he turned towards the shower curtain.

"Alfred? He called. He pulled open the curtain and found Alfred sitting on the floor of the tub rubbing his skin raw with a cloth. His back and chest was cherry colored from the scrubbing.

"O, honey," he said and turned off the shower. "You're clean. Don't worry."

"I don't feel clean," Alfred bit back. Arthur stood there for a moment, trying to think of a reply. When nothing came to him, he pulled Alfred up and said, "Come now. Breakfast is ready."

Once Alfred was dressed they sat at the kitchen table, nudging the burnt bacon and eggs around on their plates, neither very hungry.

"Do you want to talk?" asked Arthur tentatively.

"No," was the straight reply. There was silence for a moment before Alfred changed his mind. "I feel sick."

Arthur immediately got up and moved towards Alfred. He placed a hand on his forehead. He felt a little warm, but that was more likely from the shower.

"Why don't you go lie down again?" he told him anyways.

Alfred nodded, and waited a moment before asking in a whisper, "Come with me?"

"Of course."

He brought Alfred to his room. He didn't make a remark concerning the sorry condition of the room.

He lay down with his son once again and Alfred snuggled up to him. I spite of feeling so gross Alfred felt better in his father's embrace. As Arthur ran his hand in a circular motion on the boy's back, Alfred knew his father didn't think any less of him and still loved him.

A while later Alfred had drifted off to sleep and the doorbell rang. Arthur jerked, not expecting the sudden noise intrusion. He stepped out of the bed and moved downstairs and wrenched the front door open.

Standing on the threshold with a Tupperware in hand was Francis Bonnefoy. Arthur stood there a moment, unsure if he was seeing right.

"Bonjour, Arthur! I was told you were ill and I thought I'd come by and see how you were," he said with a bright smile, before it turned to a frown. "You certainly don't look well."

Arthur shook his head. Francis was a visitor of his shop; a steady customer and a constant nuisance. He would find the smallest excuses to return to the shop and flirt with Arthur. He would insist a button that was there was missing, and demand a new fitting upon each return, in spite of the store having his measurements on record. What was he doing at his house, of all places?

He continued. "The petit Asian man at the store said you were unwell after I inquired as to why you weren't there for my fitting."

"As he stated, I am ill. Now why are you at my house?" Arthur's eyebrows pulled down into the shape of a bold V.

"I thought I would bring you some chicken noodle soup from my restaurant. I made it myself. I have heard rumors about the quality of British cuisine, so I thought I would be a Good Samaritan and bring some over to help a sick friend."

Arthur rubbed his head and looked over his shoulder back into the house. "There are so many things I want to retort that I don't know where to begin."

"Why don't you invite me in and we'll- "

Arthur blocked his movement into the house. "You are not coming in. I don't know what kind of manners they teach you in France, but it is certainly not polite to show up at someone's home unannounced, even if you do come bearing soup. How did you even find my address anyways? It's unlisted."

Francis smirked. "Oh, you know. A little prodding does the trick," he stated cryptically.

Arthur ran his hand through his hair. "I cannot do this today. Please go, Francis."

Francis sighed dramatically before thrusting the Tupperware into Arthur's arms. "At least take the soup! You will feel better in no time." With that, he sauntered off back to his car.

Arthur looked down at the soup in his hands. There was a sticky note on the lid with an address. He pulled it off and stuck it in his pocket. Francis knew that it was the gentlemanly thing to do to return the Tupperware. He could be clever sometimes.

He brought it back into the house with a shrug. As much as he detested the frog, he heard excellent reviews about his restaurant. He never dared to set foot in the establishment himself for fear that Francis would see him. Anyways, Alfred loved chicken noodle soup, and he needed to eat something.

He heated it and went up the stairs to wake Alfred.

He shook the boy's shoulder. "Wake up, Alfred. We have chicken soup."

Alfred made a face and turned back over. "I'm not hungry."

"You haven't eaten since lunch yesterday. Now up." As depressed as the boy was, Arthur would not allow him to stop eating.

Once again they sat at the table. This time Alfred ate. He was reluctant at first, but then hunger got to him. He was surprised by how good it was. There was no way his father made it, but he decided not to say anything.

Once he was finished he took a deep breath. "I'm going to school tomorrow."

Arthur glanced up from his bowl surprised. Usually Alfred did everything to get out of school. However the fact that he was willing to face it made Arthur smile. His boy was strong.

"Alright then. I'm proud of you Alfred. I know this is hard."

Alfred put on a brave face. "Nothing I can't handle. But…"

"Yes?"

Alfred fiddled with his spoon. "Can I sleep in your bed again tonight?"

Arthur nodded, unable to deny him anything at this point in time.