"Heaven has decreed he will die."
"W-what do you mean? But the, the bible says that…"
Another disappointed look from his father and Matthew abandoned his attempts at defence.
"Obviously it means Heaven, God, has decided that he is fated to die! Do not question me Matthew!" The air was palpable with tension; a challenge rang unspoken in the echo. 'Would you be like Alfred and turn away from me?' The meek blonde blinked rapidly, trying to stave off the familiar burning sensation of tears threatening to leak. It would always come to this wouldn't it? He would always be a replacement for Alfred, judged every time he did anything father considered slightly heretical.
Oh god why was he so weak? Crying because of a scolding... he wasn't a little child anymore, he wasn't a girl either. He had to be strong. Clammy tendrils tightened at his throat and he swallowed the feeling away. And he wondered briefly, what it would be like to yell and scream, and vent every thought, injustice and fear that had been steaming away for years. How his father's face would contort as he told him that he didn't give about any of his crap and that he couldn't tell him what to do. Because it wouldn't matter how messed up his life would become after that if they were all going to die anyway. But of course he wouldn't do that. Because in his father, in this argument even, there was the safety of familiarity. He knew how the drill went, Matthew only had to concede his wrong doing, and then he would be forgiven. And in the end, that was what it always came to.
"I'm sorry." His voice was barely a whisper and the attempt was half hearted at best and yet immediately, the atmosphere diffused itself. The sharp shadows the candlelight cast on his father's face suddenly softened and it was safe again.
"I apologise for the outburst, I was a little carried away," his father's voice lowered when he realised that he had scared his precious angel. But to Matthew it was another part of his father that was a little thorn of hate; how he always says sorry at the end and somehow makes him feel guilty.
"I suppose I will have to explain more about demons, you need to understand the threat that they pose. Come." He beckoned for his son to close the distance, the wary gap between them so far. Matthew wordlessly followed, still not meeting his father's eyes. Instead he glanced about the frescos that adorned the chapel walls with paintings of heaven and hell. There was a strange sort of thrill in this forbidden talk. From the ceiling the haloed angels watched with disapproving eyes.
"Demons are fallen angels." His father's voice was deep and powerful, delivering its message easily and echoing in the enclosed space. Matthew truly loved it when he recited prayers; as a child he would listen and learn them.
"Lucifer, an archangel, was jealous and spiteful. He dared to try challenge the power of God, he dared to try rule over the heavens. And for this sin he was cast down into hell! But with him, a multitude of corrupted angels fell as well." His father turned to gesture to the wall behind him. Painted onto the entirety of the wall were the pure white and gold of heaven and the fiery colours of hell. The colours were muted from the overcast day outside and had an orange hue from the light of the flames but it was not difficult imagining what they could have been like on a sun-lit day with the beautiful stain-glass windows. From amongst the gate of clouds figures were falling, they had lost their wings and the lower they had fallen the more grotesque and distorted they had become.
"Now they are all demons, never being able to reconcile with God." He paused, swallowing to wet his dry throat before continuing, but also for effect.
"Now as demons, they attempt to lead us, the creation of God, away from the right path. They test your faith in God, try to induce you to sin… that's why Matthew, don't touch it, don't talk to it." His voice had dropped low, but the warning was clear. As if to reiterate his point his father gripped his shoulder with a heavy hand.
"Good. Beware that they can create fabrications of your greatest fears and desires. They can possess you with a single touch. They can take any form they wish in order to seduce victims. Their voices may whisper unwanted in your mind. With physical capabilities way beyond humans they can destroy any substance on earth. But God is always above them, all their power can be rendered useless by the almighty God. Items blessed by God can restrain them. That is why the prisons are soaked with holy water once a week."
Greatest fears and desires…
Why did all of father's warnings bring his mind to the prisoner? Was the demon already playing his tricks?
"Father, does that mean we cannot kill them?" The level tone in which he said 'kill' in confused him a little, usually he would be stuttering over such strong words. His father also looked surprised but quickly covered it and answered without any comment.
"Yes, we can banish them. Burning them will send them back to the flames of hell! For possessed people, the only way is to exorcise the demon from them so that at least their souls are saved and can reach the gates of heaven. Either way, they will burn."
"What if they weren't demons? What if a demon used someone as a scapegoat?"
The silence that invaded the conversation was tinged with shock and outrage from both sides. Matthew took a shaky step backwards, looking for escape even though he knew his father wouldn't do any physical harm to him.
What was he saying?
He was Matthew, timid and obedient, though he always questioned if the people his father imprisoned were really demons, he didn't go around blatantly challenging the ideas of the church. He was not going to be like his brother, he was not going to commit heresy. He chanced a quick look at his father and hesitated at what he saw. That heavy sigh, the re-adjusting of his glasses with a finger, his lips clenched in a flat line; his father was quickly losing all patience. Matthew waited silently, for it to all blow over without aggravating things further.
"How many times must I say this to make myself clear? Even if the demon is using them, they are still tainted by the demon, controlled by the demon into doing whatever crimes they have committed, and the only way to save their souls is to exorcise them! THEY WILL BURN! THAT DEMON WILL BURN!"
Matthew whimpered quietly, still not daring to say anything. Father was very patient, but when you pushed him too far, his anger was… not something you would like to experience. He looked to the ceiling for solace but the angels only seemed to taunt him more. Heretic, they sang, over and over again like a hymn with their beautiful voices.
"I have more important matters to attend to."
When Matthew finally deemed it safe enough to look at his father, all he saw was his receding back, taking long strides and deliberately heavy footfalls that rang out in the usual calm of the church.
"Demon! Worshipper of Satan!" Gilbert hissed, though the boy's voice was muffled he could hear every word clearly in his mind. Illuminated in the dim moonlight the boy's purple eyes glared at him in disdain, disgust and pity. Not even fear. Well the boy should fear him; he dug his knife into flesh, through the fabric and drawing a preliminary line of blood. Gilbert smirked at how the boy's eyes widened with surprise, pain and fear. Lazily he traced the tip of the knife in irregular circles as if considering where to stab. Perhaps something of a plea was forming on the boy's lips but Gilbert clamped them tighter and plunged the knife in. He let go of the boy's mouth, instead gripping him by the neck, pressed against the wall so that the body wouldn't slump down and he watched the boy die slowly.
"De… mon… wor…sa…an…" Even now the boy attempted to curse him with those words, even as his life gurgled out of his mouth in pretty crimson drops. As the hate finally faded from those violet eyes Gilbert dropped the body with limp arms. His strength seemed to have seeped away with that boy's life and he sank to the ground in shock. Shit. Fuck. Why did he-he do that?
"Demon! Murderer! Worshipper of Satan!" He froze at a familiar gruff and deep voice, it couldn't be? The albino whipped his head around to see his brother with the same hateful eyes, but a sharp piercing blue.
"Nein! Bruder!" Not Ludwig as well. Beside his brother other figures were appearing, his damned father with the usual dirty accusations, his beautiful mother with betrayal marring her face- stop it! He clutched his hands to his ears but he could still hear them, the chant steadily rising in volume. The voices high and low were mixing, distorting until they were a single entity. Underneath all of that was a new voice, soft, clear, angelic, unmistakable. He watched horrified as Birdie took steps towards him, his violet eyes clouded with the same disgust as the other boy.
"Nein. Nein! NEIN!" This was not real. This is a dream. And he would destroy those hateful eyes. Gilbert lunged with the ferocity and desperation of a cornered beast, he couldn't stand those eyes, he just needed to get out of this nightmare, he-
He woke to the shock of the cold night gasping a lungful of air. He pressed a hand to his head, fuck that felt so real. His heart still pounded painfully and his breathing was finally beginning to even out. He ran his hand through his hair, feeling the cold sweat and shivered at the cold he was starting to feel. Gilbert huddled his legs to his body, his arms keeping them in place as he tried to stop thinking about it and get back to sleep. The nightmare never completed itself but he knew what he would have done, as much as he wanted to deny it he knew he would have gouged those purple eyes out. He sighed, shutting his eyes and tilting his head back so that it inadvertently hit the hard wall but he ignored the throb.
God, even if the world has forsaken me, please forgive me.
Sleep never came but without the sun he had no idea what time of day it was. He had lay propped up in the corner of his cell for hours; his limbs were stiff and heavy. The hard and lumpy cobblestone floor didn't help matters or his sore arse. He sighed and shifted a little, trying to get more comfortable but it didn't make any difference. Giving up on that front he searched the prison for something interesting, something to distract himself with. His eyes had long grown used to the darkness, even with the light of the flickering candle that was threatening to blow out. Scratched onto the walls, he could see marks made by former prisoners; tallies, pictures, sometimes even words. He idly wondered when he would resort to passing his days like that. Oddly it also reminded him of the journal he used to keep, filled with his ugly handwriting and misspelled words, he wrote in it methodically every day. Now it would be a pile of ashes. A dejected whine from his stomach reminded him of the hunger gnawing away at him and the food Birdie had brought. Reaching for the bowl, he grabbed the cold ceramic and started slurping the soup down. It had lost all warmth and a layer of frozen oil floated on the surface, he couldn't place what it tasted of and the meat was probably generously 'donated' leftovers from the butcher. But food was food; he'd eaten much worse while living out on the streets. And that Birdie, was he stupid or something, or just that naïve? He didn't know anything, tucked away in a stupid little village and learning everything from the bible. He's never seen the real world. Yet somehow the boy's hope spurred on his own will for survival. But that nightmare, if Birdie became like the Ivan boy, if his usually kind eyes change then he might lose himself again and the thought of losing control hung as an ever present threat.
"Hey, that boy was so adorable wasn't he? Cute as a button I'd say."
Gilbert turned his attention to the voice, glad of a distraction and curious as to who would be flinging out comments about Birdie as if they were at a ball, or at least not in prison. Probably one of those eternally cheerful idiots.
"Are you dead? Say something."
The voice was back; it was the usual lilt and clipped tones of the English but with a curious foreign accent. And suddenly a wet projectile hit him in the head, oil oozed down the side of his face and he realised it was from the soup. Disgusting. He scowled, whoever this person was, he was going to make them regret it.
"Verdamnt! You DO NOT throw food at the awesome me!"
It would have been much more impressive if he'd jumped to his feet, but as he struggled to get up his body protested with pain. His tattered shirt appeared to have been glued to his back with dried blood and every move tugged on the scabs. He cursed at his fucked up captors; did they really have to have so much fun beating him?
Gilbert groped around his half-finished soup for a chunk of meat, they were positively clogging up the soup before and now he couldn't find a thing. Then his fingers brushed against that familiar barky texture and he had his sweet revenge. His target had moved into the flickering light cast by the candles and was spluttering in disgust as well. Surprisingly it was a girl with short blonde shoulder length hair and green eyes, and she was still giggling at him, though her voice had sounded somewhat manly. Gilbert still retained a slight sense of chivalry and it made him uncomfortable that he was attacking a girl, though it was pretty much justified since she started it. He decided to ignore his nagging conscience.
"Kesese, how do you like that?"
"Urgh, my dress is now even more ruined! Really, I was just trying to get your attention! So, let's talk."
What was with all the pauses in her sentences? The girl sure spoke weirdly. But nevertheless she seemed friendly enough and why would she be here in prison? The dress she wore was covered in frills and bows indicated some sort of wealth or high class upbringing. It seems he was imprisoned with a bunch of strange morons.
"So," He drawled, "who are you?" He supposed basic introductions would come first. "Why're you stuck-"
"I'm Feliks, shameless cross-dressing homosexual~ Nice to meet you!" The reply came in rapid fire, cutting off the end of his other question. He scowled at her nerve but decided to overlook that.
"Well nice to meet you-wait." Did he hear correctly?
"Cross-dressing homosexual?" Gilbert stared at Feliks again. Now that he knew what he was looking for, he could see the flat chest and wider than usual shoulders that would give away the fact that he was indeed a man. Homosexual? Hnn that certainly explained things a lot.
The albino snorted, "no wonder you're wallowing in prison with me."
"I was just being myself!" Feliks retorted indignantly. It wasn't much of an argument, more of some statement made by a guy with hands on hips and a childish pout that made it difficult to take seriously.
Being yourself... Gilbert laughed; a short harsh bark. He wasn't sure why he was laughing, the notion was just hilarious. The confused but slightly afraid look on Felik's face told him that the guy was wondering if he was sane. What scared Gilbert was that he wasn't sure if he was either.
"Idealistic fools like you aren't going to survive in this world. Being yourself is just going to get you killed."
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long.
Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Saviour am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
The words and what they suggested left Matthew with an uneasy feel. Submission, every time he sang the word it was if he grew a little smaller and was nothing but a pawn in the grand scheme of things. Somehow they reminded him of Father, if he just followed along everything would be at peace. Perfect submission, he stumbled over the words, almost forgetting where he was but managed to pull his thoughts together for the final line. Filled with His goodness, lost in His love, the last note was held by the choir and organ, Matthew's voice rising above everyone else's. There they were suspended in the end before fading to silence. Enthusiastic applaud and some standing ovations greeted their performance, seeming a little out of place in the holy setting of the church. Matthew smiled breathless, face rosy from exertion, his qualms forgotten.
John Williams smiled proudly at his son, stifling an impolite yawn at the same time. He had spent the night staring sleepless at their family portrait; him, Matthew, Jeanne and Alfred. He had wondered if he had been too harsh on Matthew, if he might have run away like Alfred. But before dinner Matthew had arrived same as usual and started preparing. He didn't say a thing and neither did his son. Perhaps it was a matter of pride. If Jeanne was still here she would know what to do, she would probably smack him over the head and smile with her beautiful blue eyes, the eyes that Alfred now had…
And if Jeanne was here Alfred wouldn't have fallen, wouldn't have been corrupted by that witch Arthur. Village healer? The poisons that wretch fed Jeanne probably hastened her passing instead. How dare Alfred be enraptured by the devil servant's charms? At the very least he would make sure Matthew is safe, because Matthew was good and pure and sweet not like Alfred the damned fool. If he has to hasten the demon's execution date so be it. And in the end they would be all together again in Heaven, and if he redeems himself, perhaps Alfred would be there too.
He concluded the service with a prayer, the words reverberating around the church without a thought on his behalf. The habits were ingrained and humans were creature of habit were they not?
Ave Maria, gratia plena.
Dominus cum te.
Benedicta tu inter mulieres,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
He prayed to the Holy Mary and to Jeanne as well. As the final few trickled out the door he was left utterly alone in the gold and grandeur of his chapel. I miss you Jeanne.
Matthew shut his eyes as the bright contrast of the sunlight outside dazzled his sight into dizzy black spots, opening them cautiously as they slowly adjusted. The weather was fine and their cupboards were empty so he supposed he would have to go down into town again and buy some food and then he had his prison duties after to attend to. He would see the prisoner again. His face flushed with twisted excitement, he would be disobeying father; he would be speaking to a demon.
"You are Matthew I am assuming?"
"Y-yes?" He almost died from shame but remembered that humans couldn't possibly mind read and that surely he didn't say anything aloud. But never in a thousand years would he have imagined that the two people standing around would be waiting for him. The man stood ram rod straight and managed to look at Matthew with his chin tilted up even though he seemed shorter in stature. Even the woman beside the stranger seemed as tall as him whilst being precariously balanced on heels. His dark hair was slicked back even though quite a few strands defied this style and he pushed his glasses up to its proper place in a gesture that was so familiar to Matthew yet so foreign with the stranger's slender pianist fingers. They were clean and cut and obviously had never touched dirt or a peasant's tools. The woman was dressed with too much frills and unnecessary bows and she tugged at them with gloved hands, occasionally, in annoyance. She didn't quite seem belong in it. Either way the couple was of higher status than he.
"G-good morning." Again he cursed himself for that damned stutter. The upper classes would rarely have anything to do with people like him so what were these people doing here? He didn't know if he should look away like proper etiquette or face them as it would be rude not to pay attention if one was speaking but then they were from the higher classes so surely it would be safer to- oh but he didn't know and-
"There's no need to be afraid dear!" Matthew was engulfed in a disconcerting sea of colourful fabric and he couldn't breathe considering where his face was being shoved against. Soft perfumed flesh and the metal ribs of her corset, he could not think clearly at all. It was so very warm and was like mother and oh god it was the strange lady. He blanched at the reality and attempted to break away but her grip was surprisingly tight and it was so much easier-and nicer, to stay. His salvation came in the form of her husband who was watching horrified, only to dart his eyes around and make sure they were alone. Why if anyone saw this unladylike display of affection they would be the laughing stock of any further social gatherings until their peers found a more amusing source of entertainment beside their mockery.
"Elizabeta, please, just stop this nonsense, you are embarrassing the poor boy." The man tapped his cane impatiently, the only visible form of his annoyance in his barely noticeable eyebrow twitches. The woman, Elizabeta, was slow to let go and playfully batted at her husband.
"Aw come on Roderich, there's no need to be so stuffy, Matthew enjoyed it just fine and there's no one around watching." She hooked an arm underneath Roderich's but he only huffed and looked away. "Don't tell me you are still bemoaning your marriage to a merchant's daughter, I can act perfectly ladylike if I want to be." She flicked out a fan with deadly precision and proceeded to fan herself in a haughty manner, green eyes serious beneath their banter.
"Erzi! Don't be like that; you know I don't regret anything."
On and on their loving bickering went and Matthew had blended into the scenery. Why did it always end like this? Even if they had come specifically to speak to him they always forget him.
"U-um excuse me?" No reaction of course.
"Excuse me?" He attempted a little louder.
He tried even though he knew they would not hear; it surprised him how he still bothered. Before only Alfred or Father would hear him under the rest of the noises and sometimes they couldn't either. They say there is no harm in trying, but every time he fails a little bit of hope is hacked away and surely he would run out some day. Today he had given up. Matthew started walking towards the small town in the distance, his shoes scuffing the ground and the noises so painfully loud and obvious. He stumbled, not watching his steps but never falling, he just wanted to get away from them, the likes of those people. He was halfway down the hill before they noticed and when they called out he pretended not to hear or care and he did neither. When liquid dripped down his face and grew splotchy stains on his shirt he pretended.
Why did I end on such a depressing tone? And is there an abnormally large amount of line breaks?
Anyway, sorry for about four month's lack of update…? I really wanted to post it yesterday but by the time I was done the other comp was already off and it takes so long for it to start up again… I really need a new comp.
And I'm really really sorry! I wrote up the third chapter about right after the second chapter was posted and sent it over to Nyx for her to add stuff. But she was really busy and after a few weeks of being unable to edit it she handed over authorship of the fic to me. Before I sort of wrote the bones and she fleshed it out and after switching it around the second chapter we thought it would work better this way… except I think I'm really bad at fleshing things out and so I've been putting things off and editing and rewriting chunks till I'm finally happy with it (though tomorrow when I read it I'll probably be dissatisfied again) but I hope you do not notice an obvious drop in quality from the previous chapters T^T. I also get distracted really easily so when I was researching I ended up with twenty something tabs about hetalia or the Victorian era OTL and hours of time gone… And sorry about the long author's note, I felt inclined to explain our lateness…so, please read and enjoy! And hopefully review?
* I know the prayers are supposed to be in Latin and all but I supposed a hymn might be okay in English and I kind of needed you guys to know what it meant and the second one is Hail Mary.