Hi Fingersfallingupwards here!
*Hiss* Who the fuck is this person?
*Whisper* I've got no clue.
*Hiss* Because they're never here.
Sorry! Right well, here's the next chapter. By the way, there is a part here that references the Michael and Charlie arc quite heavily. (I think it was like chapter 5 and 6? ((Lol, my own story?)
Discalimer: I don't own Hetalia, White Collar, The Flash theme song, Star Wars, the Flash, Ghost Whisperer nor do I own Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Thank you for reviewing!
"America is a country that doesn't know where it is going but is determined to set a speed record getting there."
~Laurence J. Peter
The car ride was quiet and lazy as the sun set behind the arching skyscrapers. Glimmers of the golden rays peeked out, reflecting in ostensible flashes across the glass and metal landscape. One last bright burst before nighttime swept the light away like golden dust.
All-in-all, the day in New York was laying down for sleep as the night creatures were just now stirring.
The relaxed air seeped into the tinted-car and the inhabitants inside, in fact, the three countries found themselves nearly dozing. All was peaceful.
"I have always liked New York," France spoke softly. The city was ambitious and vibrant, always pulling and tugging on the rest of the world. "It's some of your better work."
America snorted derisively as if to say he thought all of his work was brilliant. That being said, the big apple did possess a special place in things for some reason . . . Perhaps because of his identity and the mixed cultures, religions and people that created it. Ellis Island had played such an essential part in what he grew to be. The quest for the American dream . . . People still flocked to the city searching for it. Looking for Life, Liberty: the pursuit of—
"Stop the car!" America shouted suddenly.
Marceau slammed on the brakes, causing much swearing and honking from the other cars. The French man paid no mind as he quickly whipped out a handgun. "Get down!"
In response, America swung the car door open.
"Get back in the car sir!" The bodyguard urged fervently.
"Nah, I think I'll walk back," He said casually, letting them know that there had never been any danger. " 'America's kids got talent' is gonna be on the TV in a while and I dun wanna miss it." The other three resisted facepalming.
"Really America, that was childish of you. Simply ask to be let out next time," France said with an exasperated sigh. In reply, he received a stuck-out tongue, which in turn made him scoff.
"America! You shouldn't go out like this," Canada protested, brow furrowing in deep concern. "You're supposed to be under watch."
"Don't worry; I'll meet you back at the house quicker than The Flash." America grinned.
Canada wanted to argue, he really did, but knowing Alfred for as long as he did taught him the inner workings of the other blonde's mind. So instead, he sighed. "Please take care . . . Neal and Peter will be very worried, you know."
"Stop worrying bro! I'll get back before you do, AND I'll get you some candy to on the way." Before he left, he gave them a wide smile, "You know, if you sing the theme song for The Flash, it'll make me go faster." Without another word he started speeding down the street full-speed while loudly singing the theme song. "Flash- DUN . . . A—OH, protector of the universe!"
"A—Alfred!" Canada called after his disappearing twin, his arm half outstretched.
"Leave him be, mon petite chou," France said uncaringly.
"But he really shouldn't be alone like this," The North American country bit his lip with worry.
"You know as well as I that he isn't in any real danger," the older man said flippantly, "Besides, he can look after himself. He isn't a colony anymore."
"Ah, you're right," Mathieu agreed finally, sitting in the car.
"Of course I'm right, now let's hurry before my flight leaves! As much as I like New York, sharing it with America here detracts from the experience," France sniffed. "There is no doubt in my mind, it has to do with his wine and terrible manners. And don't get me started on the clothes! I know he looks like a teenager, but where is his pride in his country? At least you turned out well," The European country spoke pityingly for Alfred, "No doubt England's poor habits rubbed off on him. I'm afraid he's too late to save!" France cried, tearing at a pink hanky with his teeth.
Canada gave a small smile and shut the door. His former caretaker always said America was a hopeless case every time he spent time with his twin. And every time, the next they met, France would be attempting once more to culture Alfred. After seeing decades of this behavior, all Mathieu could feel was a warm fondness at the comforting habit of it. The feeling was tainted somewhat by the faint threads of worry he felt.
"If he isn't there when I get back though, I'll call Alex." Mathieu thought decisively. Though with how the traffic was looking, Alfred's chances of getting back before them were looking fairly high . . .
America slowed his pace after a couple blocks, winding down to a jaunty walk. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, and the theme still played on his lips in the form of a light cheerful whistle.
He looked towards the sky and took a deep breath. For the first time in what seemed like, ever, he was alone in his own city. Finally he was free to stretch out his being into the life thriving about him. While he would have liked nothing more than to simply exist in this place for a few hours, just observing his own citizens closely, he was working in a time frame. There was still about an hour left of the golden sunlight, so Alfred would have to make the most of it. Not only that, but he needed to make it back to Neal's loft before Mathieu did.
A grin spread over his lips. He could feel the flow of the traffic, and he knew he had plenty of time in that regard. Though he needed to remember to pay Canada back for his taxi fare, Marceau would be leaving with France, along with a ride. For now though, there was work to be done.
Picking up his pace into a moderately quick swagger, America continued to pick his way through the streets. While he was walking though, it wouldn't hurt to mingle just a bit.
—Janice Volmer's green heels that had been a Christmas present two years ago from her great aunt Cathy Bench, stumbled inelegantly over the Steve Hart's, guitar case. The twenty-three-year-old musician had picked up the instrument to avoid piano lessons as a child, and stuck with it ever since. One day he hoped to make it big in a rock group, but today was about making rent. A quick hand saved Janice's fall, delivered by Harold Kings, and ex-lawyer with a drinking problem, but a strict code or moral. Candice Marx stepped past them without a glance, her eyes glued to her ipone. Her boyfriend was trying to convince her that they would make the long distance-relationship work, but she had already broken down and steeled her resolve. She couldn't handle it anymore. The stress of worrying about whether he was cheating or not was ruining her mind. She just wasn't cut out for this kind of relationship. Behind her, Tony and Ward DeLong stepped carefully, muttering to each other all the way. "Just wait for—"
America's eyes snapped open, and he saw the real physical situation playing out around him. Checking his position, he slowed his pace a bit, so he would be astride with Candice.
"I think you're doing the right thing," Alfred spoke to her casually. The girl jumped visually and whipped to him.
"You know what you can and can't do, and it's a good thing you're realizing this now instead of later," The country spoke with a shrug.
"Wh—what are you talking about?!"
"Trent Richards," The teen spoke plainly as though he thought it was obvious.
"How do you know who that is?" Her mind was racing. It set off alarms in her head and warned her not to come close to the stranger. But within her spirit, an immense sense of calm sat there, and tempered her thoughts down to a gentle sense of curiosity. The strangeness of the sensation left her in a daze.
"He's struggling with it too, ya know? But he's all worried that he's gonna lose your friendship if you break up," Alfred scratched his head.
"That's ridiculous! We've always been friends first!" She blurted.
"Then why don't you tell him that? See what he does."
Her head nodded slowly.
"Thank you," Candice said simply. She didn't really know why she felt such a need to tell him she was grateful, but she did, and she was. She only hoped he could feel it.
"Skedaddle, it's getting dark already." He gave her a light grin and a wink. For whatever reason, Candice got the feeling that perhaps he did understand. She gave him another nod and a smile before she hurried down the street to skype Trent. For whatever reason, she knew that their friendship would survive this. It was probably that bright smile. She could still feel the warmth of it, like the morning sun on her face.
America watched her go with a spring in her step. When he noticed sharp movement behind him aimed in Candice's direction, he started, making his Star Wars wallet fall out of his pocket. The bills and cards lay scattered over the sidewalk, and he was overjoyed by how many people helped him pick his things up, (and how many complimented him on his choice of wallet décor.) Many eyes were on him now. The interest that had once been on Candice had been diverted. America smiled ignorantly and took a turn down an alley.
When he was about halfway down, he heard the distinctive cocking of a handgun.
"Here's how this is gonna work," A voice sneered from the entrance. Turning his head slightly, America could make out two shadows, blocking the light from the entrance of the alley way. Tony and Ward DeLong. They'd been thieves since they were fifteen and twelve respectively. Now in their thirties, they did all they knew how to do. "You're gonna put your wallet on the ground real quietlike, and stand against a wall. You'd better not scream if you know what's good for you or else we're going to—"
"Ohmigod please don't kill me! I don't want to be a ghost!" The two muggers stared blankly at the blubbering hysterical teen. "Ghosts are so awful, they haunt things and places and it's just horrible! All the charms I bought don't seem to work and I've seen 'Ghost Whisperer' enough to know that even Jennifer Love Hewitt can't make everything better. And she's like Jennifer Love Hewitt! If she can't make ghosts better than who can? The ghostbusters made me take their number off of my phone 'cause I kept calling them, but that isn't my fault! Ghosts follow me around everywhere and no one believes me, but it's true, cause like I'll feel these chills and the voices and, and, and, what the hell are movies talking about then, you know?! Ghosts happen all the time in movies and movies are real! I'm so scared they're gonna get me! Have you seen that new movie about the possession of that little girl?! That'll be the kind of creepy nasty ghost I'll be, and I don't want to be a creepy nasty ghost that possesses little girls and sings Victorian nursery rhymes! American nursery rhymes are better anywa—"
"Shut the fuck up or I'll shoot ya right in your fucking head!" Ward DeLong shouted irritably. "You're really startin' to get on my nerves! Who the fuck watches Ghost Whisperer anymore anyways?"
The aghast look on the teen's face informed them that clearly he still watched that show.
"I'm tired of this!" Tony shouted, his eyes were flickering to the entrance as though he expected a cop to appear out of thin air. "Put the wallet on the ground and get the fuck on the wall!"
"Okay! Okay! Just don't make me a ghost!" The blonde quickly dropped his Star Wars wallet to the ground and practically slammed himself into the wall.
The two brothers exchanged looks before they finally descended onto the wallet like vultures, seeking the prizes they knew were inside.
"Shit this kid's loaded!" Greedy and happy eyes lit up. The creaking of metal and the sudden shadow that fell over their hands made the two turn around. Their eyes flew up and almost popped right out of their skulls when they found America holding an industrial-sized dumpster over their heads.
A loud and shocked scream ripped through the two thugs' throats as they stared death in the face. Like an avenging angel, the blonde teen stood above them, outlined by the golden light of the fading sun. The inhuman power and presence that manifested around him stole the breath away from the other men. In one hand he held the dumpster, and by extension, the two brothers' fates. The other he slowly extended towards Tony.
"Can I have my wallet back?"
The muggers choked on his spit at the dumb question. The blonde could have anything he wanted as far as the two were concerned. Tony's hand trembled and he held the wallet up like an offering. "S—s—sure."
"Thanks!" The teen smiled brightly and absently placed the dumpster to the side once more as he began to check through the many pockets to make sure everything was in its proper place.
The other two men still sat hunched together, visibly shaking by the superhuman stranger. Their minds shouted to move, to run, to escape, to get away! But their legs were frozen, immobilized by the impossible event they had just witnessed.
"You know, stealing is definitely a crime," America spoke calmly as he counted his bills. "So is possession of a firearm without a permit, especially a stolen firearm," He gave Ward a level look. "Pointing said firearm at someone with malicious intent comes up as attempted manslaughter in the court system."
The DeLong's shivered at his causal attitude.
"None of these are all that good for you two," America gave a tiny smile when everything was present and accounted for in his Star Wars wallet. "I know for a fact you're both on probation." Alfred then pulled out his iphone and rapidly began to tap out a text message.
The hair prickled on the brothers' necks. "Y—you . . . what are you?"
Alfred turned away from his Iphone long enough to send them a light glare.
"I'm the hero. Duh."
And with that said, he continued texting.
The teen and walked quickly to the edge of the alleyway as he shoved his iphone into his pocket.
"Hey, Kyle Languet, can you help me for a sec?!" A bald man with a leather jacket in the crowd jumped ten feet in the air with shock. Quickly he darted to where he heard someone say his name.
"I know you're still like undercover and stuff, but do you think you could walk these guys to the police station? I got somewhere I need to be," Alfred asked with a smile.
If possible Kyle's —the now revealed under-cover cop— eyes widened. "How did you know that kid?"
Alfred bypassed the question. "I just sent a copy of the incident to your phone and the district attorney's. Can you take them there pretty, pretty please? Big Rio is in Manhattan right now anyways with most of the guys, so you're cover won't get blown or whatever. No one'll notice anything if you take the west entrance to the central police station. C'mon, pleeeaaassseeee?!"
The officer's hand went to his phone and a sharp exhale confirmed to the two DeLong's that that kid wasn't lying in the slightest. The officer was stunned by the technical delivery and the level of details included. It was like reading a seasoned police-report. The kid had even included bios for god's sake.
Firth things first though. "How did you know my phone number?" His voice was serious and threatening, driven by immense fear.
Alfred blinked at him, as though that was a stupid question to ask. "Of course I know your phone number. Now are you going to help me or not?"
The cop ran a hand over his bald head before nodding slightly. "Alright, but you're coming with us kid— Kid?!"
It was too late, because Alfred was already booking it to the other end of the alley with ridiculous speed. "Hey, don't break the law guys!" He shouted over his shoulder before vanishing into the streets. The trailing sound of singing faded as he grew farther and farther away.
"Flash- DUN . . . A—OH, protector of the universe!"
The two brothers gave the cop a sympathetic look. Frankly put, they more than understood.
Ward cleared his throat, gathering the bemused cop's attention.
"Er, oh yeah. You have the right to remain silent—"
The two brothers listened to the familiar words mostly unbothered. After a day like this, the cells in the station didn't seem too horrible.
The halls of the behavioral health center were nearly empty. Alfred flitted in with a smile that made him seem like everyone's brother, cousin and son at the same time. No one stopped him as he made his way closer to the living quarters. Their visiting hours were in the early morning and around dinner time. The blonde had made it in record time. His appearance didn't draw too much attention, each person was fairly wrapped up in their own thoughts, and visitors— save one person. Her eyes widened visibly. Alfred waved his hand energetically.
She watched him as he spoke to one of the aids. With a sweet smile and a convincing tearful breakdown, she found herself being ushered into one of the fishbowls for privacy by an empathetic nurse.
"Heya!" He greeted her as he rocked back on the heels of his converse.
"Wh—why are you here?" She demanded, making the teen scrunch his nose.
"To visit you." The 'obviously, duh,' went unsaid but was fully implied.
"After what I . . . Why?" The woman settled on finally.
"I wanted to see how you were doing." He scratched his cheek. "I know some people think these places are pretty bad, so I decided to check up on ya. Let's have a seat, yeah?"
She stiffly followed his behavior and took a seat. He continued.
"I don't believe none of that crap though. They have art time and pet therapy and life-skills classes and—"
Her blank expression and self-imposed silence ended Alfred's mundane chatter.
"Why are you here?" She asked harshly again.
"Mmm, well, in all honesty, I came here for myself."
She watched him carefully.
"You see, I just can't get a good night's sleep anymore, and it's really beginning to mess with my schedule." He let out a mournful sigh. "I have this niggling feeling in the back of my head. I can't shake the feeling that you need to talk to me."
The stunned look on her face brought a small smile to his face.
"So would you please talk to me so I can sleep?"
Her body was trembling with repressed feeling. "Even after what I did to you, you came here so that I could talk to you?! I drugged you and tried to burn you and everyone else to the ground!" she screeched. "Why would you still care? Why?! Why! Why didn't you just let me burn?!" The last sentence revealed the heart of the matter, and she trembled with fury.
"Because I love you, Charlie Lewis," He said simply with a grin.
The words died in her throat. Because in her heart, she knew he did. Like a parent to a child, he still cared so much, despite all the wrongs she'd done. It seemed unreal that anyone could be that forgiving. Too unreal to accept.
The teen shrugged. "I couldn't stop if I tried. You're precious to me."
"Stop that! Just . . . stop that." She averted his eyes. "You just can't."
"No you don't."
"I do, I do."
"You don't! I know you don't! What if I had succeeded in killing your friends and M—" The rest of her sentence fell away, but she began again with renewed vigor. "What if I had killed all those people?! What would you have done?! Would you still feel that love with Peter and Neal dead?!"
Alfred's expression was a pained one. "What do you do when your kids kill each other?" He asked her, and he ran a shaky hand through his hair. "I deal with that reality every day, Charlie."
He gave a weak smile at her perplexed expression.
"It's so much easier to stop caring." He let out a long breath and tilted his head to the unseen sky. "But in the end, it's not fulfilling, nor rewarding. It took a long time to figure that one out."
He grasped his head, showing for the first time some frustration. "Even I don't really understand where I stand on these kinds of things, where that line is for unforgivable. Who crosses it and what happens— I don't know." He lifted his head and eyes to her once more though. "But for what I do know, I try and help. There are so many programs, Charlie, to help people repent and rebuild their lives."
She gave a light scoff. Charlie had seen how the system worked.
"Don't get me wrong, the system is flawed as hell, but it's always growing and trying to improve, and we're all trying to make it better. I'm sorry it's not perfect, I really, really am."
The honesty in his eyes made her turn her own irises away.
"But you gotta understand Charlie; you need to seek help on your own."
She struggled to voice her thoughts, something strange for a normally eloquent lawyer. "I get enough of that here, thank you very much."
"Well someone must be getting something right then."
"It's not like I don't want to get out of here—"
"But you don't want to get out of here Charlie," He said knowingly.
The silence echoed for a few moments.
Alfred finally chuckled a little. "It's kinda funny, you know. Michael had agoraphobia, and he's trying to get better. You're pretty much nurturing that phobia, but it's a fear of the future that's outside not the outside, outside."
Tears started to build up in her eyes. She avoided the topic fervently, but confronted with the fearful reality of things, she knew it to be true. He was right when he said she didn't want to get out of here. She'd been making zero progress as of late, and her apathy to everything was growing frighteningly fast. His words from earlier came echoing back.
"It's so easy to stop caring."
"I don't know what to do," She uttered finally.
Alfred looked at his citizen for a long time.
"Let Michael in, Charlie."
Tears filled her eyes and she began to cry.
"He wants to help you. He's fighting against his nature to get to a better place so he can help you get to a better place." Alfred smiled at the circle of things. "It's okay to rely on him, I promise. He isn't going to crumble. He's tougher than you give him credit for."
"Do you really think he'll be okay if I'm there?" It was childlike, and it made a fond smile grow over Alfred's face. It was always about Michael, always for Michael.
"I think he'll be better with you there." Alfred spoke honestly. "It'll be tough at first, but I think in the long-run, things can only get better between the two of you."
His words only made her cry more as they lifted off the self-imposed weight that had been sitting on her shoulders. Alfred just smiled and let her tears roll over him, refreshing faith with his people. Finally, he'd had enough tears, and she'd shed enough. He finally broke the silence.
"D'you think they'd let me stay and eat with you?" He gave her a bursting grin. "They're having Navajo tacos tonight, and I know how much you like Navajo Tacos."
She didn't ask how he knew that. Charlie had begun to understand that he was simply special. Yes, just as before, if ever she had kids, she wanted them to be able to smile like that.
She wanted to smile like that. With Alfred's grin on her, she had a feeling it wasn't beyond her reach.
"And guess what?" Alfred asked her.
"You like Navajo Tacos too?" She answered the rhetorical question.
"Right on! Let's get some then!"
She suddenly, for the first time since he'd arrived, felt older than the teen. "Dinner is served at seven Alfred; it isn't time to eat yet,"
The horrified look on his face made her smile.
"There's only one thing to do. You have to sing the Flash theme song with me to make dinner come faster." He spoke with all seriousness. Before she could make another sound, Alfred had already sucked in a deep breath and begun to belt.
"Flash- DUN . . . A—OH, protector of the universe!"
And she laughed.
She laughed like she hadn't laughed in months, which really felt like years to her. Worry-lines fell from her face, and unexpectedly the future didn't seem so harrowing, and the residential facility didn't seem so bleak. Her laughter painted the colors back onto the vacant walls, and she glowed with shimmers of the emotion, which she barely dared to feel, hope.
An aid opened the door. "Charlie, it's din—"
"YES! I knew it would work!" The teen fist-pumped and eagerly began to walk towards the door without even looking to see if Charlie was following behind him.
He already knew she was.
Alfred managed to make it home far before Mathieu. Traffic in Ney York was notoriously awful. He hummed lightly as he entered the penthouse, chewing on a chocolate bar. He bought gummy bears for his fellow country, knowing he had some strnage fixation with bears.
The moment he stepped into the house, his mind froze as he sensed the atmosphere in the room. It was tense and frustrated. He reached out with his mind, and what he found made him freeze. With slow steps he walked up the stairs. After dropping the plastic bag on the counter, he slowly approached his room and opened his door.
He wasn't surprised to see Neal and Peter seated on his bed, both with heavy expressions on their faces. Peter looked up as he entered and jumped to his feet, though Neal remained sitting, looking lost.
"Alfred!" Peter managed, looking awkward and frazzled, "We didn't hear you come in. Ah, we were just hoping to borrow one of your books and then we got caught up reading—"
"What are you?" Neal asked softly, cutting cleanly through his partner's babbling.
"Neal—" Peter began, trying to assuage his friend.
"No Peter! This time I want the truth, I don't want any more of your lies!" Neal stood up. The frustration was clear to see in his gaze and it begun to overflow. "So your family apparently are the keepers of all these secrets of American art, but no one knows about you because you've been protected by the secret service all the time? That makes no sense! And you say you're the president's assistant, and Elle believes you, but somehow no one has ever heard of you before. A high ranking position like that, and you've never even been to college before!" the more he spoke, the more things flooded out as the dam frustration that had been building for months finally broke. "And you don't even know your geography and yet you're some kind of math genius, and this picture! It's impossible, the dates don't match, and Mathieu and all your friends from different countries, and you read trashy magazines and cannery row and listen to pop and Elle Fitzgerald and— and— God, just . . . Please, tell me. All these lies, I can't handle them, it's driving me up the wall!"
Alfred stared at him for a long time. Before him there were two roads. He had a choice right now, between whether to tell them, or keep up his facade. The truth was so tempting, to be done with the games and the pretenses, to relish and bask in the glow of who he was. To be honest, to be frank . . . But he knew he couldn't.
His eyes flickered to the floor, and Neal had all the answers he needed.
Without another word, Neal brushed past Alfred and walked out the door. The click of the door closing made the sudden silence all the more suffocating.
Alfred sucked in a harsh breath, feeling his own frustration and sadness well up.
They didn't understand who he was—couldn't. If they knew the knowledge of who he was, the country could be at risk. All members of any kind of governmental organization risked being tortured for information. If any agent was captured by an enemy of the country, they would be interrogated. If the terrorists knew what questions to ask, the secret of the personification of the countries, what then? If they found America, then all would be lost . . . It had nearly happened before. Greg Smith, the kind pilot who'd flew him around the country. The bloodied prisoner who'd let loose that America would be in Hawaii for that infamous day that would go down in history.
He exhaled sharply.
Civilians were fine, and safe. One in every ten thousand knew him. That was okay, he was safe. And more importantly . . .
They were safe.
He thought about Alex and the cyanide pills he stored in one of his back molars . . .
No, he didn't want that for Peter or Neal. Hell, he didn't want that for anyone! But America did what was necessary for his people . . .
Peter eyed the teenager. He understood Neal's feelings. He understood the frustration, but when be looked at Alfred, all he could see was a kid who was dealing with things that were too important for him to handle.
"Hey, Al, don't worry about Neal," Peter said, walking up and patting the teen on his back. "He's just been having a hard day."
"Yeah," Alfred mumbled. He seemed to jolt out of his mood. A wide smile spread over his face. "Yeah, I know that! Geez, you'd have to be blind not to notice. We should buy him a masseuse. He looks really tense. "
The brimming smile he saw on the teens face had the opposite effect of assuring Peter. Because he couldn't tell it was fake. He knew it was, and yet it looked the same as Alfred's other smiles. What else was he hiding? What other pain . . . ?
Alfred wasn't paying attention to Peter's thoughts and he carried on. "I'd offer, but the last time I tried to give someone a massage I broke a rib." Alfred punctuated the statement with a laugh.
That startled Peter out of his thoughts. "What?!"
"Yeah, Arthur cursed a lot." Alfred grinned truthfully now, enjoying his inside joke, knowing Peter would misinterpret. It was really bad though . . . he hadn't been able to talk for a week, and every hamburger he tried to eat tasted like scones. He shuddered at the thought.
Peter shook his head at yet another mention of Alfred's questionable guardian. That guy really sounded like he was quite a character. Peter supposed Arthur would have to be to create a person like Alfred. He said as much and that just made Alfred laugh even more, though it quelled after a moment, and a petulant look settled across his face.
"Arthur is nothing like me. He's just plain weird. And British!" Alfred was quick to include.
Peter laughed lightly. "Of course, because you're the farthest thing from weird and British."
"Of course!" Alfred exclaimed.
Peter smiled, enjoying teasing the teen, "Though you do seem to enjoy those Harry Potter books a lot . . ."
Alfred looked utterly aghast. "No I don't!" He lied, "I hate those books even if they are clever and magical they're still sucky and British and like non-American!" The teen threw himself to the bookshelf and gathered his American books in his arms. "They'll never replace my babies!"
Peter stared at the spectacle the blonde was making of himself. He remembered feeling the same way earlier today when they'd stumbled across the fort Alfred had built in the living room. Peter smiled faintly when he remembered how Neal had forced the teen to clean it up and Alfred's complaints.
As Alfred coddled his books and whispered sweet things to them, Peter left the room. That was how it should be. Peter tried to banish the depressed image of the teen he'd seen for a moment. He wouldn't let it happen again. He'd keep the kid silly and book-coddling as best he could.
He closed the door quietly so as to not disturb Alfred. He shook his head lightly and wondered when he'd started feeling so paternal. Elle had always said he'd make a good father. When they'd first started working together, he felt a bit like a father figure to Neal, at least morally. Still, the fond and protective feeling had caught him by surprise as he'd never thought he'd feel it towards Alfred. He remembered the first case he and Neal had handled after getting possession of Alfred. He remembered the charade they put on as father and son. At the time, he had been furious and embarrassed. But when Alfred had stopped Charlie from killing herself and burning all of them to the ground, when he'd carried her out of the burning building, when he spoke about his mother, and when he spoke to his wife, Elizabeth . . .
He knew that the kid was intrinsically good. Flawed in more ways than Peter could count, but in every way that mattered, he was good, kind and earnest.
Peter admired that and had grown fond of the boy.
Which was why he would do what he could to help him. Starting with Neal.
Peter spotted his partner sitting in the kitchen with a glass of wine, swirling it idly.
"What unpronounceable wine is that?" Peter asked, settling in the next stool.
"Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge." Neal answered taking a sip. "It's French."
"I got that." Peter spoke wryly. "I may not be able to speak French, but I can tell it apart from German and Italian."
There was silence.
"So, Neal," Peter began, scratching his head. "I know—"
"Look Peter, I don't really want to hear it," Neal said, uncharacteristically curt.
"Well you're going to have to." Peter wasn't letting him off the hook that easy.
"I don't know what to tell, you, he's lying and won't tell the truth," Neal said bitterly, "Whatever he does, whatever is going on— clearly we aren't fit to hear it."
"Neal, it's his business what he shares or doesn't share," Peter said, "Besides, you can't expect him to just spill thing that might be national secrets."
"Mozzie knows." Neal said, taking a large gulp of the red liquid.
Peter furrowed his brow. "What?"
"Mozzie," Neal said again, "He knows." He laughed lightly, "There was something that bothered me when they first met. The way they looked at each other, it was like they knew each other. And the way Mozzie looked and Alfred— It was different. Like he knew Alfred was different."
Peter frowned. That explained it then. He wondered how long Neal had been sitting on that knowledge. It must have been eating him up inside. Mozzie wouldn't tell him, and Alfred played ignorant. It made sense to Peter now, especially considering that Neal and Mozzie were no longer talking.
He sighed. For someone with so many secrets of his own, Neal hated other people keeping things from him.
"Neal, I think you're forgetting something." He said at length.
"Right," Neal said, tone edged with sarcasm, "He has secrets to protect, he's involved with the president, yadda yadda—"
"No," Peter cut him off with a no-nonsense attitude, "You're forgetting that Alfred is still just a teenager."
Neal stopped swirling the wine.
"You can't put all that pressure on a kid like that. They can't handle it like an adult can," Peter said sagely, "The more you push 'em the more they resist."
Neal gave a weak, though genuine smile, "When did you get so wise about teenagers."
"I've had a lot of practice these last few months," Peter returned the smile.
"And besides," Peter continued, "When the times right, he'll tell us. We just have to wait." The fed let the words sink in before he stood and collected his suit jacket. "I'm going to visit Elle. I'll be back before ten."
As he approached the door, he jumped as it opened inward. Mathieu stood in the doorway blinking blankly at the appearance of the fed.
"Hello Peter," He greeted mildly.
"Er, Hello Mathieu," Peter awkwardly muscled out. He's forgotten about the Canadian boy. Why was he so easy to forget about?
"Is Alfred back?" Mathieu spoke and seemed a little nervous.
"Yes, he's here, why?" Peter asked quizzically. Then his mind put things together. "Wait, why wasn't he with you and Francis?!"
"Uhm, he was!" Mathieu was quick to assure, "I just uhh went out for a walk."
He was blatantly lying, and Peter sighed. He wanted to give Neal and Alfred a little time on their own, so he placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder and began shepherding him out the door he'd barely come in through.
"Why don't you come with me to see Elle?"
"W— well we already saw her earlier today."
"I know, you can say hello again," Peter said steering the younger man away.
"Well I suppose so."
"Right, we'll be back later Neal," Peter called. The fed groaned inwardly in his head. He had plans for Elle and himself tonight. But giving Alfred and Neal the space they needed to work things out was more important. He had faith in Neal to see some logic in what he'd said. His plans with Elle could be put on hold . . . though he should probably text her just so she would know not to greet them in the lingerie and leather—
Peter smiled. Though the look on the Mathieu's face would be priceless. He shook away the evil thoughts.
As his partner ushered the one twin out the door, Neal ruminated on the other. He mulled over his partner's words in his head.
It was so easy to forget that Alfred was only nineteen. He behaved as though he was much older. Neal sighed and lay his head on the counter.
It seemed likely that he was forced to behave that way. Neal couldn't imagine what it would be like to be nineteen and have to work at the White House and deal with paperwork like he'd seen in the blonde's room. It didn't seem like Alfred would have the time to behave like the teenager he was with all that responsibility.
Alfred might sing songs in the office and car and play hide-and-seek and build forts in the living room, but there was another level below that, deep in his eyes that was old. And when he argued and talked to Alfred, it didn't seem as though he was talking to someone younger than him.
Funnily enough, Alfred spent all his time pretending to be young and childish . . . and Neal thought that perhaps now he knew why.
It was funny, but Neal didn't much feel like laughing.
He sighed aloud and was about to pour himself some more wine when the door from Alfred's room opened. Neal tried to look over at the blonde casually. Alfred didn't make eye-contact. Instead, the teen walked over to the cupboard and pulled out another wine glass. He moved to the wine rack and scanned the rows. His eyes lit up in recognition and he drew one of the bottle out with a wide smile.
Ignoring Neal's piercing gaze, he popped the cork and poured himself a glass.
Neal tried to quell the irritation he felt. When he had said, "Make yourself at home," all those months ago, he regretted in the very next day. He still did. Especially now.
"Did you want some wine, Alfred?' Neal asked sardonically.
"Yeah," he said calmly, taking a deep drink of the red wine.
"Couldn't use the bottle that was already open?"
Alfred made a face. "No, it's French."
Neal deadpanned. "Of course, why didn't I realize that?"
"I've had enough of him to last me decades," Alfred muttered into his glass. Neal ignored what nonsense the teen was mumbling.
He thought about maybe telling Alfred he wasn't allowed to drink, but thought better of it. Instead, Neal grabbed the bottle to see what 'American' wine Alfred had chosen.
"Oh," he said with mild surprise, "Columbia Valley Merlot."
"Yeah, it's one of my favorites." The teen grinned.
"I'm surprised," Neal said frankly, "You have good taste in wine."
"I know." Alfred gave him a cheeky smile, "Better than you right now."
Neal didn't dignify that with an answer.
Here was the schism again. A teenager with great wine taste who's favorite 'restaurant' is McDonalds. Neal never thought he'd understand.
The two said together for a while, simply sipping wine and enjoying the evening view.
Alfred, who claimed, (and displayed,) that he could never sit still, was entirely at rest. He swirled his glass lazily.
Neal stared at the strange teenager who'd managed to flip everything around. He looked at the bright golden hair and that annoying cowlick. The blue eyes beneath the thin frames that never left his face, were normally so piercing. Right now, they were sedate, calm and gentle.
If Alfred knew Neal was staring at him, he paid it no mind. It looked as though his thoughts were miles away, in a different place and time.
"Alfred," Neal began clearing his throat. He was so unused to being awkward. He'd been the cool smooth one for years. And then Alfred came along and all bets were off.
"Hmm?" The teen asked, drawing his eyes back to the present.
"I—" How did this work again? "I'm sorry for prying about things. I know you're allowed to have secrets, and you of course have more than most people . . ." Neal scratched his head. "What I mean, is that I'm sorry for being so troublesome and I won't do it again."
Alfred watched him for a moment. The lack of response made Neal hold his breath. In all honesty, the thought of not being forgiven had never crossed his mind. Alfred was too . . . Well . . .
"You shouldn't make promises you can't keep." Alfred spoke quietly, startling Neal.
The ex-con's mouth fell open. He scrambled to assemble some kind of reply, but the words weren't coming to him. It turned out, he didn't have to, because Alfred smiled suddenly.
"Hey, but it's the thought that counts, right?" That cheesy over-the-top grin made Neal relax, although he still felt perturbed by Alfred's reply.
As of knowing what Neal was thinking, Alfred's smile softened lightly.
"It's not your fault though," the teen said, "You're an investigator! You solve crimes and stop bombs from exploding and stuff! It's natural to be curious."
The forgiving tone still made Neal guilty. Neal knew he wasn't going to stop prying, he had just planned to be more subtle about it. He hadn't expected to be called out on it. Maybe by Peter, because the man knew him so well, but not by Alfred.
"It's all cool," Alfred exclaimed, "You're like Scooby Doo and the gang!"
"What?" Neal remembered watching that as a kid, but the sudden topic change threw him for a loop.
"Yeah!" The blonde looked excited. "I'm like Fred, and Peter could be Shaggy, and Elle could be Daphne— Oh and Peter and Elle have a dog! So Satchmo could be Scooby!"
Neal did some mental work. "That would make me Velma . . ." He said unhappily.
Alfred also paused. "Hmmm maybe you should be Shaggy. Your hair's kinda like his. Peter could be Velma."
As funny as the thought of Peter being Velma was, there was still no way Neal was going to be Shaggy in this hypothetical situation. "I'm not really a Shaggy."
Alfred threw up his hands in frustration. "Fine then! You can be Daphne!"
Neal choked on his wine. "What? Why Daphne? Why not Fred?" That was the obvious choice to him
"Well, you do your hair and stuff," Alfred started, "And I know you have ascots in your closet somewhere."
"When were you in my closet?" Neal asked, "And besides that! Fred wears ascots too!"
"Yeah, but Fred has blonde hair and blue eyes." Alfred said logically.
"And I have red hair?" Neal asked rhetorically.
"That isn't important," Alfred waved away, "You're resourceful like Daphne is! You can break out of handcuffs with anything! Like McGyver."
All the references were beginning to make Neal's head spin. "Alfred, the only time Daphne is resourceful is when she uses her compact mirror to do— something!" He failed to think of an example. "I don't even carry one of those."
Neal stared at Alfred, deadpanned. "So I'm not Daphne."
Alfred frowned and scratched his head. "I still don't get why not . . . but if it really bother you, then you could be McGyver."
"I don't' remember him being on the show."
"No I mean as a special guest!" Alfred said excitedly. "It's that or the Harlem Globetrotters, but you don't like basketball."
That drew a wry smile out of Neal. "They stopped making those episodes Alfred. I'm surprised you even know about those. They're kind of before your time –" Neal stopped, and smiled lightly again, "Hell, they're before my time."
Neal remembered watching it with his father after he'd get home from his patrol. It was one of the few memories he had of his father that weren't tainted by the knowledge his dad was a dirty cop. Thinking about his dad reminded him of the gun tucked away in one of his suit jackets. He forced his mind away from the topic and instead focused on the bright white of Alfred's wide smile.
"It wasn't that long ago." Alfred retorted, "Only a few decades," he waved it away with his hands.
Neal laughed, "Yeah of course, only fifty years, no big deal. I doubt your parents were even alive then."
Alfred tried to smother his laughter, and he blamed it on the wine, but it burst forth, louder than he'd meant it to be. At Neal's wide-eyed look, he smothered his giggles.
"Maybe you've had enough to drink," Neal moved the wine glass away from the teen. And the bottle as well, as a precautionary measure. "I guess you can't hold your alcohol."
"Can too!" Alfred sent him a dirty look. "The last time someone out-drank me was . . . . . . ." Alfred trailed off as he tried to recall the time racking his brain through the years and decades he'd been alive for until he reached his conclusion.
. . . . . . . . Several months ago at the last countries meeting. Alfred sighed inwardly. Goddamn Russia.
Nevermind. Alfred frowned petulantly.
He supposed he'd never finish that sentence.
Neal was smiling again, so Alfred figured he could let it slide and allow Neal to be Fred.
Even if Fred was a hero with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Sooo yeah. There we go. More than a little bit of a filler chapter, but stuff happens next time, sooo . . .
Oh and I was thinking of doing and Angel/Bones crossover . . . Any takers? Lol, project number . . . *Runs out of fingers* Hehe . . . nevermind. Does anyone know any Angel/Bones stories? I need . . .
Anyways, I've got a shit ton of finals to take, so you should thank my teachers and my procrastination for this chapter . . .