IMPORTANT AUTHORS NOTE IS SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT

Hello internet. You may remember me. It has been such a long time, I do not blame you if you do not.

I have two announcements to make. The first announcement: this update will be my last for the next two to three weeks. I am going on a big family holiday in three days, and will not have time to update before then. I am so sorry, to those of you waiting for the next IGYUMS. I will try to upload two chapters next time, okay? (that's try, not a promise, but goddamn will I try)

The second announcement if that I have invented a plot for this tory now. About time. Fuck knows how a person can write fourteen chapters of something and npt have a plot. But whatever. I have one.

Finally, I would just like to apologise for my recent inactivity. Unfortunately, I have a real life that demmnads my full attention more and more often lately… mostly for uni and scholarship work, plus my diploma. Would you believe im trying to do all three at once? What the fuck was I thinking. I don't even what is this…

ANYWAY. I am sorry. I do love you guys, and I feel like satan for keeping you all waiting for so long. T^T im sorry too is this chapter is unsatifcatory, or shit, or anything. I always feel preassure when wroting long fics, because I think that the audience has set expectations for the next update and they might get upset if I dnt meet those expectations… :/ ugh… jsdjhavjjdsvbadb

LONG AUTHORS NOTE IS LONG. LET STORY COMMENCEMENT COMMENCE.


FOURTEEN

"They are up here, I think." Francesca bent down to avoid cobwebs, hands splayed before her, hunting in the dusty dim for the chest with the heavy latch she knew was around somewhere. The grey light filtering thorough the dusty attic window heated the place satisfyingly, but was poor if one wanted to actually look for anything in the space. Finally, her hands knocked a large chest, buried beneath ancient board games and piles of her old dresses, and her scrabbling fingers found the heavy metal ring latch by which she could pull it out.

"Matty dear, a hand please?" she wasn't a strong woman, and made no effort to pretend she was. Graciously, her son assisted, and the two of them dragged the chest out from the bottom of the heap into the centre of the small attic toward the stairs. The pile of dresses and games clattered to the floor, a monopoly box opened, spilling hotels and cards everywhere, but neither noticed of cared.

"Right." Francesca clapped her hands together and soothed her skirt. Lets have a look the shall we?"

She knelt down, Matthew beside her biting his tongue in anticipation, and undid the sliding latches on the chest. They opened smoothly, and Matt swallowed his heart beating nervously in his throat.

The confines of the chest smelled like mothballs. It was a strong and unpleasant smell, but Matt stomached it, white knuckled hands gripping the sides as he leant forward to peer in. Why he was so nervous, he didn't quite know. After all, he didn't even expect he would like the man. They would never become remotely close, he predicted, and so why seeing his past in a little box like this was making him so nervous was a grandiose mystery. Matthew didn't care about the guy at all.

Maybe he was just nosey.

He squinted into the murk in the chest, trying to make something out.

"I can't see mama,"

"Mm- me neither. Want to try taking some stuff out and downstairs instead?" fearlessly, Francesca thrust her arms in the chest, and to her surprise found that the contents appeared to be organised in neat plastic bags. That certainly made things easier then. "It's in bags, so just grab a couple of bags and follow me."

Matthew was nowhere to be seen.

Ten minutes into his last class, when Alfred realized that he wasn't about to walk through the door and fill that seat next to an unusually silent and sulk looking Gilbert, he stopped what he was doing altogether and collapsed hopelessly into his computer chair. The students, who had been making notes about Rosa Parks in their graffitied 1B5 exercised books, gazed at him expectantly and a little bemused. He had cut off halfway through a sentence, they had all, with the exception of Gilbert, been following with mild interest, and after about a minute during which Alfred was to busy contemplating the sour taste flooding his mouth and the aching shudder of his heart, everyone had began to whisper to their neighbour, a few cautious hands raised to question the dull eyed, flush faced man supposed to be teaching them as opposed to staring grimly at the surface of his desk.

"Um, Mr Jones?"

"Mmm?" Alfred grunted and glanced up briefly, before lowering his gaze one more.

"Uh... never mind."

It was after about five more minutes the class realised they were to learn no more today, and Alfred slumped face down on his desk, berating himself and trying not to sink into that familiar funk once again.

The babble of students gossiping, a heated debate in relation to a 'property of Ivan' post it (again. That teenager was probably the key customer keeping post-it notes in business) and a loud explosion of laughter filled the droning forty minutes until the end of class bell, but Alfred didn't raise his head again until everyone had filed out of the class and he was left in grey silence.

When he did sit up, it was only to pull his rucksack across the desk and withdraw the crumpled, soft denim jeans. The light blue fabric retained a pleasant warmth, as if body heat had been woven into the dense cloth and left to smoulder there against the skin. The thin worn knees and crotch, the tag at the back read something foreign and expensive looking, silver thread on black, washing instructions: hand wash and warm sundry.

Still feeling faintly ill, Alfred slid his thumbs along the waist opening and pulled taught, shaking out the jeans and folding them surprisingly neatly. They were placed carefully in the top drawer of his desk with fearful reverence and a slightly embarrassed wiggle in his seat. Alfred thought calming thoughts, about how he would see Matthew on Monday, for sure, and give them back then.

With that, he slid the drawer shut and stood. He needed to go home and change before dinner, and it was too late to bake a cake or something. Maybe he would buy something on the way.

It was only when he went to grab his bomber jacket off the back of his chair that Alfred realised he had left it at his students flat, on the counter in the bathroom beside a bottle of anti-pimple cleanser and silver barrelled hair dryer.

Matt and his mother sat in the lounge room, contents of the first bag spilt all across the lush red carpet, flicking nosily as they could through hundreds of old papers and Polaroid's.

"Mon dieu mama! Look at the size of him!" Matthew gazed in astonishment at the photos he held in his hands, all of them featuring one of the fattest babies he had ever seen in his life.

"Indeed, and look at the size of her." Francesca dropped her guard for a moment and a small fugitive frown line appeared on her face. She didn't realise, and flipped over the photo she herself was studying: A portrait of a woman with large and smiling blue eyes and chin length ringlets of steel grey hair, though she would have only been twenty-something. "She's tiny. How on earth could she have squeezed a kid that big out of her?"

Indeed, in the next photo, a family Christmas portrait dated some years before Matthew's birth, the difference in size between the one-maybe-two year old child cradled in a youthful Arthurs hands and the short, frail lady beside him was bordering on comical.

"I know! The kids about the size of her upper half." Matthew dropped his pile of baby pictures and reached for an album of wedding photos by his mother's foot.

"And she's not very pretty." Francesca threw the photo aside dismissively. Matthew frowned and opened the wedding album. He wouldn't say that. Sure, his fathers ex-wife had been littler than his mother, and she had a strangely square jaw for a woman, but truthfully in her cornflower blue sundress and reading glasses, cradling the big fat kid in her arms, she could almost have been beautiful. Especially her eyes. Matt clicked his tongue and began flicking through wedding pictures (the woman in the wedding photos had blue-black hair, just starting to thread with grey. She must have only be eighteen or so then.)

"Mama, you know she is." There were no photos of his brother in that album. Just some really embarrassing pictures of his father with bootlegs and a bow-tie, and so it was of no interest to him. "You just don't want to admit it because your jealous."

Francesca sniffed indignantly. "Why would I be jealous? Your father left her for me, remember."

That's right, he had.

Eyes rolling a little, Matthew opened the second plastic bag of albums and uncovered the jackpot. A scrapbook of what looked like 'first-day-of-school' photos and a tatty old rag with GI Joe on it and a suspicious stain in the corner.

"Oh hey look!" he held up the rag, which was really a small blanket, and his mother crinkled her nose in disgust.

"Ew Matthieu don't touch that. It smells terrible."

Matthew snickered and dropped the blanket/rag thing on the wedding album by his foot. His attention turned to the school photos and his hand flew to cover his mouth, the giggle threatening to spill from his lips was cruel and very, very Francesca.

What had been a chubby baby had apparently grown into a hugely fat little five year old wearing a old pair of round, violet framed glasses and a incredibly slow witted expression. He was actually somewhat disturbing to look at, Matthew knew if he saw a kid that size in the street he would have no other option but to stare in disgust at the mother for allowing her son to get so fat. The kid had intensely blue eyes, like his mum, but they were squinty and lost in the fat cheeks and thick, Arthur-esque eyebrows that matt sincerely hoped his fully grown counterpart plucked. His hair was dark blonde and shorn short into a ridiculous crew cut, which did nothing to flatter the rolls of flab on his jowls and neck. His shirt was white and buttoned proudly, a pair of red suspenders keeping a too-small pair of grey knickerbockers shorts going southwards (as if they would anyway) and the spit polish shine of his black shoes was enough to make Matthew gag.

"This kid will never get laid." He assured his mother, passing her the photo and tucking his hair into a slightly neater pony. "God... he's obese."

Francesca's eyes almost popped out. "I had no idea he was fat!" she whispered, as if the word 'fat' was a particularly nasty swear. Face it, for Francesca, it was. "Absolutely no idea!" her wide and delicately make-upped eyes were lifted from the image and fixed worryingly on her sons face. "No wonder Arthur asked me to make so much food."

Matt nodded solemnly and he checked some more school related pics, each of them featuring the same huge kid in various school related situations, one of which looked to be 'daddy day at Devon primary'. Deciding he didn't like to see such a gross snotty little kid clinging adoringly to his fathers leg, Matt hunted through the photos for something more recent. Something closer to what he could expect to meet tonight.

"Looking for this?" his mother answered his thoughts and ended his quest, handing him a photo with a paragraph of scraggly writing on the back.

Dad, Matt read the writing first. Mum said I should send you one of my middle-school dance photos, even though I didn't want to. Here it is anyway. No-one wanted to go with me, so that's why I'm alone. Put it on your mantle or something. Maybe. I don't care. I didn't even want to send it.

There was no name, and the ink it was written in must have been cheep because it was faded with almost ten years worth of must and darkness. There was a faint film of dust on the front of the photo. Matt wiped it away and grimaced. His brother hadn't grown into his looks. Not at all.

"Wow." He placed the photo down, disturbed. "Just... wow."

It was nipped up by Francesca, who glanced at the text and raised her eyebrows at the portrait on the other side.

"Yeesh. No-wonder he never put it on the mantel."

But they couldn't find any more photos, regarding this so called 'Albert' beyond the age of fourteen.

Arthur checked his watch nervously. It was quarter to six, soon he would be seeing his eldest boy for the first time. Or what felt like the first time, anyway. Truth was, he couldn't even remember what the kid looked like. Just that he was unhealthily overweight and he wore glasses.

A guilty pang, Arthur wondered if maybe he had been wrong to isolate himself so completely from Alfred. If maybe, just maybe, he should have taken a little interest a bit earlier on. It was hard to tell. Arthur had never been very good with emotion and things. He had been called cold before, and withdrawn. But that didn't mean he didn't care. Really.

Frankie was better at all those sorts of things, he thought. And besides, tonight at the dinner he was sure he would be able to apologise to his eldest properly. Maybe tomorrow the four of them could all go out for ice cream.

Yes, he decided, straightening his tie and glancing at the clock again. That sounded good. That sounded positively delightful.

Alfred showered. He shaved. He sprayed himself liberally with Jean Paul Ga-whatever, and he stared at his reflection for at least ten minutes, feeling almost exactly like the dorky kid again. The one with acne, flab, and no father.

He didn't like this feeling.

So used to being handsome, and loved, and having all the girls and friends, this retrospective pang was almost too much. As if he hadn't been through enough in the past several months, now this was happening and he would still have to go to school on Monday despite it all, pretending that he still believed he was a good man, that he was worth something, and that he was half as smart as everyone gave him credit for. He hated that even as an adult, he still let childish insecurities get to him. He hated that even seeing himself, knowing he was handsome and a fully grown man, he still felt like an abandoned four year old inside, wanting to cry and tantrum and hide away forever, because he wasn't satisfactory and he was looking at another ten years of emotional scarring ahead. No amount of weight loss, or braces, or Hard Acne medication could fix that.

Anxiously he ran his fingers over the pitted scars on his cheeks and tried to hold thought of something positive. This was easier said than done. The entire 'Matty' situation still lingered over his head like a dark cloud, and even he knew he may have crossed a line here and now. It hadn't seemed so clear at the time but now he felt like he was facing the loss of his job again, the unravelling of his life again, and he hadn't even managed to pull this new one together yet.

Swallowing his fear, forcing his mouth into a smile that looked dashing but was as fake as the Rolex watch on his wrist, he decided that the suit was too stuck up, and maybe he would be much more comfortable in just trousers and a shirt. He missed his jacket sincerely, having always found it to be of deep comfort to him, and thought that there was something very ominous about the fact he had left it behind at Matthews flat. Very ominous indeed.

It was a funny story, that jacket. When he was fifteen, he had gone on a class trip to a US air force base. Like always, much of the ride there had been spent taking cruel words and listening to nasty jibes, and when he arrived he wanted nothing more but to go back home. It had been terrible at first, but then came lunch in the cafeteria and while he had been sitting alone, munching his way through three plates of food and a Pepsi from the vending machine, a young man had approached him, sat beside him, and smiled.

"Hey kiddo." The man smiled, looking dead handsome about it. He too had blonde hair, blue eyes, and glasses, but they looked well on him. The Name on the pocket of his jacket read 'ALFRED F. JONES' and Alfred had nearly fallen off his seat. "what's up?"

"Is your name Alfred Jones?" he had blurted. "Because that's my name too!"

Alfred Jones the Air Force cadet had stared at him in surprise, and then a small smile of amusement flattered him.

"It's a pretty common name…"

"Yes but how can you be Alfred Jones? You don't look anything like an Alfred Jones! You look…" Alfred stared at him, unable to put it into words.

The man looked fit. He looked like everyone's friend, like he was in charge. He looked like he had a good sense of humour and a good lifestyle, like he was the sort of man who went out there to help others. The sort of hero he had only ever read about in comic books. His eyes glittered with the hero spark, and his jaw had that definite heroic line to it. All that was missing on him was a cape. A cape, and a big old fashioned quiff, like superman.

"You look like a hero."

Alfred the Cadet grinned and started laughing. Not unkindly, but still.

"Wow, really? I wish my captain could hear you say that, maybe I would get promoted."

"How old are you?" Alfred asked rather rudely.

"Nineteen," came the reply. "I've only been here for a while. Haven't had the opportunity to be a hero yet, but I'm going to try." He winked and dug eagerly into his tray lunch. Fifteen year old Alfred watched him in numb shock. This boy, who shared his name, was going to be a hero. This boy, who had his very own name, was handsome and happy and healthy. Alfred felt a sudden longing to be like this boy, and to see the world like this boy. He expressed this thought, in an eloquent "?" and the older Alfred frowned, brow creasing in thought.

"What do you mean?"

Alfred flushed.

"It's stupid. Never mind…"

But older air cadet Alfred had looked at him thoughtfully, not missing the fact he was sitting far away from the other kids, looking more than simply 'teenage-depressed', and almost fading away into the background. It was strange, usually by fifteen kids began to take on their own identities, and their own lives. But this boy… it was like he had no framework on which to build it. No aspirations, no hopes…

"Hey, Alfred." He nudged the other with his elbow, and smiled when he looked up trough unflattering glasses lenses. "You know, I didn't reckon I would make a very good hero. How can I be a hero when all I do is stay here every day and clean airplanes? Kind of lame right?"

Young Al knotted his lips together, hesitant to agree but not entirely disagreeing either. The other carried on.

"Do you know who I reckon are the real heros? The real heros are the people who can stand up for themselves and for others, and who can show the big meanies in their life that its not okay to be nasty. The real heros are the people who teach other people what it means to be your own hero, in your own way. Do you know what I mean? Like a teacher teaches children math, a hero teaches people that they themselves can be brave and so can everyone else. Pretty cool eh?"

Shy, sort of following but not really, younger Alfred nodded. Older Alfred chuckled, knowing that he probably didn't quite understand just yet.

"Here," he said, pulling off the jacket he wore which had the name ALFRED on the breast. "Take this. It's a heros jacket, and its so that when you wear it you will feel braver from now on, okay? Don't let those nasty mean old buggers irritate you any more."

Al gasped at the dirty word, and then giggled nervously.

"You swore."

"Yea, heros swear sometimes." He winked and passed the folded jacket over. It hadn't cost him much to buy, and it didn't cost him much to give, but in awe Alfred had taken it and worn it, though it was easily far too small. When Air Force cadet Alfred F. Jones watched him leave that afternoon, he had felt quite content, like he had accomplished something important in his life, but the present Alfred F. Jones standing in front of his mirror looking pale and trying to still his shaking hands had no way of knowing this, and no way of believing it. Without the jacket, he had no reminder that such an exchange had ever happened, and without such a thing ever having happened, he was that same old kid again, on the buss and dodging spitwads, feeling like he had no point in existing.

It was lucky then, that he was unaware the Alfred F. Jones who gave him the jacket was certainly no hero, committing suicide no more than seven months later. It was easier for him to simply walk out that door toward his fathers house with a fake smile plastered on his face, than it was to know the reason his air force counterpart had done so was because he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant, and her father forced her to have the child aborted.

Because that note struck far too close to home.

A knock on the door.

Matthew looked up from his novel and pulled a face, sliding off the sofa and stretching.

"Where are you going dear?" Francesca in her best party frock was already on her way to answer. She couldn't wait to see the whale-man, her stepson, for the first time.

"Upstairs… I don't want to meet him straight off. Call me down when dad gets home."

"Shy?"

"Pfft… no."

Okay, maybe Matt was a little bit. But that was genuinely just because he was a shy person. That, and he could really go for a cigarette…

"Hello." Alfred smiled tightly at the woman who answered his knock. She was slender, with heavy assets and a classical, timeless face. If he had to put an age on her, Alfred would say about twenty, although he knew she must be at least forty by now. he didn't doubt she would continue looking twenty until she turned seventy-five either, upon which she would immediately sink into graceful seniority with clear sapphire eyes and thick white hair tumbling across delicate shoulders. Her hair curly blonde hair was pulled into a neat pair of braids, the dress she wore was powder blue and laced with silk ribbons. He had never seen quite such a pretty woman in his life, and yet, she looked strangely familiar.

"…Hello, you must be… Albert." After a ten second period in which Francesca ogled with a rather unbecoming loose jaw, she managed a gracious smile. "I'm Francesca. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Alfred took the hand offered. It was slender, and once again, puzzlingly familiar.

"It's Alfred, and pleasure to meet you too." He lied. "I was going to make a cake to bring, but ran out of time." He released her hand and dug around in his carry bag for that box. He found it, and whipped it out. "I brought pop-tarts."

"Oh." Francesca's eyebrows arched. "How… delightful."

"Yeah…" receding into that awkward turtle state, Alfred stopped brandishing his low-in-fat-high-in-deliciousness gift and nudged his glasses anxiously. "They uh… go in the toaster."

Difficult silence scraped its nails enthusiastically over the comfort of the pair. Francesca cleared her throat, a good hostess until the end.

"Well," she asked. "Would you like a seat?"

"Uh, yah. Yah, that would be great." Alfred pulled out a chair and flopped down, gut twisting unpleasantly with anxiety. "I… Yeah… like to… sit." He winced, and stared rather pointedly at the table. "Oh God, I'm sorry. I'm just… really nervous,"

Startlingly, Francesca found herself thinking he was kind of cute. Clumsy, a little bit stupid she suspected, but very sweet and little and she wanted to pat his little head. It made her want to giggle ridiculously and clap her hands, maybe skip upstairs to her sons room and drag him down.

He's nothing like that photos at all! She would exclaim. He's actually quite gorgeous!

"It's okay dear, as soon as your father gets back we can eat and oh! Hey, I know. I have someone for you to meet." She smiled widely at the thought, handling it as smoothly as possible without doing a little dance.

Francesca loved beautiful people, and she loved rubbing them in each others face. She was a little bit like a mad scientist in that way, or perhaps a crazed god, taking two beautiful people and shoving them together until they exploded and multiplied and became a hundred beautiful people. Or so one would think she hoped.

"Oh. Yeah." Alfred's stomach dropped in dread, waiting for it. The kid with the padlock in his ear plug and the sid-viscious tee shirt. The tantrum throwing screamy little brat he hated with every bitter fibre of his being.

Well, he decided, raising his head. Time to look upon the face of the spoiled, father usurping enemy.

"Go on then."

"Darling!" Francesca raised her voice, calling her son down from upstairs. "he's here now! Put out your fag and come say hello!"

Matthew hadn't even lit a cigarette yet. He had been sitting on the edge of his old bed, digging around in his drawers for one he hadn't smoked, and fingering the hem of Alfred's jacket absent mindedly. The feel of the fabric was reassuring. Distracting. It reminded him that no matter how bad this meeting with a stranger will go, no matter how much they dislike each other and compete for their dads affections, he will still be able to go to school on Monday and lay eyes on the most friendly and clever and bright man in the world.

That was a good feeling.

He sighed, brows creasing because he had specifically told his mother he didn't want to meet him yet, and pulled himself off his bed. A quick stretch, Matthew straightened the coat on his frame and swept his hair aside carelessly. It was the moment of truth.

He licked his lips quickly, took a deep breath, and descended the stairs.

Alfred looked up at the clack of what may have been tap-shoes on the mahogany wood. The stairs were not visible from the kitchen, but he could hear every step as clear as glass as the faceless stranger descended the staircase and approached the kitchen door. His hand was the fist thing visible, white and petite like his mothers. His feet, clad in disturbingly familiar shoes and smooth legs (shaved so his shin guards wouldn't wax him) disappearing into the leg-holes of boardwashed cut off jeans. There was no black, no studded belt, and as the stranger stepped fully into the room, a thin, graceful creature with an enchanting face and wavy, sunshine golden hair, Alfred was hit with a wave of disbelief and horror so intense it struck him dumb.

Just, dumb.

The boy blinked in surprise too, glancing around the otherwise unoccupied room for the brother. His brother, where was he? And why was Mister Jones in his kitchen wearing a neat shirt and pressed black trousers?

Oh god! Mister Jones. Matthew was wearing the jacket!

A wild red blush, Matthew was almost dizzified with sudden, horrifying humiliation. Maybe he hadn't noticed. Maybe…

"Ta-da!" Francesca smiled brightly, oblivious to the atmosphere thick and glutinous with embarrassment and disbelief. "Alfred, meet Matthew. Matthew, meet Alfred! Come sit down Matty dear, join us, and you two can get to know each other."

Matt thought he was going to be sick.


Fanslewfantasy does not own hetalia. but they are perverted and have no life outside of schoolwork and gay sex. yay me! :D :D :D :D