This one-shot was written after watching Frequency, one of the best movies ever about a man saving his firefighter father over a ham radio during a strange astronomical occurance. I made a slash fic out if it, yay! USUK.
Arthur looked up at the sky, chilled by the night air. He couldn't believe he'd done it. He'd gone and done it.
The anniversary, the memoriam, was being held in the back field in two weeks. It had been held there for forty years. This one was special, though. Forty years. And the government told him that they were finally selling the house, they couldn't keep up its upkeep. Told him he could have two weeks to go through it, all the stuff still there like it were just yesterday, only major fixes having been done for structural integrity and safety of the building. Just as it had always been, and after this last service, the 'For Sale' sign would be in the front yard.
No one ever came here except for the service. Everything was just as it was left. The pillows, the sheets, the photos…there was an unmade bed upstairs, and Arthur, in his forty years coming, had never made it.
The only room that was different was the dining room. They'd cleared the table to put the coffin down. And there was a mound under the lone old apple tree in the backyard, a stone sitting next to the old tree for all to see. He had wanted to stay under that tree forever. Arthur remembered that. No Arlington for him, that was what he'd written in the will. That tree, in the middle of a field, in the rural Virginia terrain. The place that had been his solace, his eternal getaway.
"Artie, don't yah ever just wanna sit and stay here forever? Just watch the world pass on by, while yah twirl a piece a' hay between your teeth?" Alfred had smiled down at him, those loving blue eyes directed down over the old glasses that had adorned Alfred's face for over a hundred years. After running a hand through his golden hair, Alfred had turned his face to the sky. "I could watch those there clouds forever, just laying here under this tree. No wars, no meetings, no obligations. And of course, you'd be right here next t' me, 'nd Mattie'd come and visit, and we'd just sit here."
"Wouldn't that get boring after awhile, Alfred?"
"Never. 's long as you're here, together with me, my life will never be boring. Its for you I get up every day for. Its you I live for. And I'll.."
"I'll always be there for you. Always. Because I..I love you." Arthur fell to his knees in front of the grave. "You told me that, and I never realized until they told me…you knew you'd been entered for the draft, and were so high on the call list…oh god. You only had a month, and you didn't tell me. All you said was that you wanted to stay under this tree with me. Vietnam, Alfred. You could have said no. They wouldn't have made you go." Arthur stood, droplets of rain coming down. "You could have draft dodged, gone to Canada! I would have taken you in!"
Arthur leaned against the old tree, the field around him swaying in the slight breeze, the only thing stretching for miles tall grass. The house was visible from where he was standing. The moon shone down upon Arthur's tearstained face.
"But that isn't you, wasn't you. You fought next to your countrymen. You died for them. It was who you were. But to have your life torn away in a Vietcong ambush…and you saved everyone else…oh Alfred…"
Going into the house, he couldn't believe that he'd gone and agreed to be the one to go through all of Alfred's possessions to pick out what to keep and who to give it to.
He ran a hand through his unruly hair, and looked around him. The kitchen, clean as Alfred had left it, except for a coffee pot on the counter that they used for the services. He reached for the handle of one of the wood cabinets, well aware that Alfred was probably the last person to touch it.
That first year, for the service, Arthur remembered nothing except standing in the doorway of the dining room, staring at the coffin, not believing it to be true. Alfred couldn't be in that. Alfred would never be tamed into a coffin, into death. He was vibrant, full of life, not a corpse.
Then, there had been the funeral service, and all the nations except those on the opposing side of the war had come, and Arthur remembered standing in the place of honor with Matthew, except he had just stood there, no emotion, no feeling, no thought. In shock. Matthew, on the other hand, sobbed off and on quietly, expressing the grief that Arthur just couldn't, and for that, Arthur respected him. He knew how close the two of them had been for ages, although the feelings they had for each other were…much different than between Alfred and himself, but to lose a brother…and to hear about it from the enemy, that truly in itself was a horrible way to learn that you're now one half of a broken matching set, a lone sock in a drawer.
Arthur, at least, had heard it from the front lines. He'd gone on to the command center about a week after the ambush, coming to see how the dominions of the British Commonwealth were doing, visiting the troops of the Australian and New Zealand militaries, when Alfred's group had staggered back without their leader.
Matthew had gotten a letter in the mail, apparently the higher ups on the enemy side had realized who they'd taken down, and thought to send…a picture of Alfred only minutes before they had killed him.
It had taken weeks to get the body. Matthew had gone through hell, and seeing the picture of Alfred…his eyes wild, his hair and face more red than anything else, his hands stretched out to protect himself in vain, well, it wasn't an open casket burial, and after the body was checked, sealed away without really any embalming.
After the burial, everyone by passed the house to the caravan that would take them to D.C., the president welcoming them to stay in officials' homes for the duration, and Matthew and Arthur in the White House.
He looked into the cabinet, seeing old glassware covered in dust, and plates stacked neatly. He'd been the one to organize it, Alfred had always been rather messy. Well, all this could be sold in the Estate auction.
Going through it all, searching every cabinet, the only thing Arthur took was a twin set of wine glasses, the ones Alfred always used when Arthur was on vacation here with him. He placed them in the dining room…on that table.
He moved on, going through the living room, picking up pictures, trying not to look at them. He knew whatever was left behind would be sold if Matthew didn't pick anything up after the service, so he wanted to be sure the important things got out. He'd divide it later.
After hours of work, he finally sat down. He looked around the living room from his seat on the couch, the TV still plugged in, the lamps still tilted to shine right for optimum reading light. He also noticed a door hidden behind the old, outdated 60's wallpaper. Getting up and dusting himself off, he walked over.
Opening the door, he found a closet stuffed with junk. Old uniforms, a duffle bag, a pair of muddy boots, a big box shoved in the back, and tacked to the back of the door, a piece of paper.
Pulling the chain and turning the ancient (yet still working) light, he gasped.
Your date of birth JULY 4 1952 has been selected in a draft lottery. As you are not a student nor in poor health, you have been drafted into the United States Military. Please check the enclosed sheet to find where you are to report.
The draft letter…then these were his uniforms, and his duffle bag, they had been brought back with him and stored here!
Opening the duffle bag with eyes filled with unshed tears, Arthur looked inside. Magazines, a pack of cigarettes, a hat, socks, and…all the letters Arthur had sent him.
Sitting back, the tears streaming down his face, Arthur breathed in raggedly. How? How had he never been told that these were here? Or maybe, they'd told him, and he'd not even responded. That sounds more like him.
The first couple years after Alfred's demise, Arthur stopped showing up for work, stopped eating, stopped living, and started drinking. He ignored phone calls, the piling dirty dishes in the sink, bills, and everyone in general. Eventually Francis stepped in, sobering him up to realize what he was doing was destructive and hurtful. Not what Alfred would want, or would have wanted. So Arthur had picked himself up, dusted himself off, and had gone forward with his life. One thing, though, he'd never date again. No one would fill the gap. No one could fill the spot, no one could become his hero. Not like that idiot had been. Over the years, he guessed he'd started to make Alfred into the perfect image, as what usually happened when someone died. All faults diminished, all transgressions forgiven and forgotten. Only perfection and love and grief left behind.
He eyed the box, and reached out for it. He slid it out, surprised at its weight. Carefully, he undid the straps, and pulled the flaps up. Inside was a gray metal box. No, wait, a HAM radio. He remembered these, this one was the one Alfred used to hook up when he didn't want to go to work, and he'd get assignments and updates through this.
"W4-1776-AL" He read out loud the call number. Really? Had four digits inserted for that year? No wonder Arthur never was allowed to touch it. He saw the cord with a plug, and on impulse, decided to try it out.
He heaved it over to a nearby study, and set it down on the large oak table. Plugging it in, he played with the dials, watching as little lights lit up inside the box.
"Hello? Are people actually still on these things?" He spoke into the microphone, definitely a late sixties model, making him wonder if it worked at all. And in rural Virginia? But these things were supposed to go around the world, right?
No one answered, and he sighed, getting up. He didn't even bother to unplug it. He'd do that sometime later in the week.
"Hello, Matthew, I was wondering if you wanted any of Alfred's clothing?" "Why, yes I have the Jacket, no worries." "His old hockey jersey? I'll look for it."
Arthur paced back and forth down the upstairs hallway, his cell phone tucked between his ear and shoulder, his hands full of clothing. The whole "going through Alfred's stuff" was a lot easier than expected, although there were certain occasions when tears had come, but those were few and far between, and over the past two weeks, he'd done most of what he needed to for the sale the next week, although the thought of giving up the house with its memories caused his heart to seize each time. The government already informed him that he could not buy the property, as a country owning a house in another's land…it just wasn't something they did.
He and Matthew, who was coming down in two days to help with boxing all the stuff up, had had many phone conversations, although many bordered on calls of distraction, as Arthur would dial Matthew up whenever the pain got too overbearing. After forty years, sometimes the pain was just as raw as the minute he was told Alfred was gone forever. There never was a day that passed when Alfred didn't cross his mind; the first thought in the morning, the last before he fell off to sleep.
"Did you know today was the beginning of a little asteroid storm? It's apparently supposed to last for a week, ending on…that day."
"Really?" Their topic shifted, and Arthur went downstairs for a break, sitting down on Alfred's favorite couch.
"Yeah, but the strange thing they're all talking about is the blue moon that supposed to happen on the night before the service. Weird, huh? Almost like…Al's givin' us a sign he's all right and all that, eh?"
Arthur let out a shaky breath. "Yeah. Although I wish he'd give us a clearer sign after all this time."
From the room behind him, there was a loud CRACK! and Arthur spun around, spying the HAM radio on the table. "What was that?"
"Arthur, you ok?"
Arthur got up and walked over to the study, and looked down at the radio, the red light blinking slowly.
Someone was talking!
"Sorry, Matthew, I plugged in his old HAM radio. Someone's talking, and I haven't heard anything on this thing in two weeks. I'll call you back in a mo."
"Okay? Arth—" He didn't even let him finish before hanging up and turning the volume dial.
"Hello? Is someone out there?" Arthur held the microphone very close to his mouth, speaking as clearly as he could.
"Hey, we got a Brit on the line! What's your call number?"
"Well," Arthur huffed, "excuse me for being British! I didn't realize people still used these for conversation, thought it was more of a hobby thing." Arthur recognized that the speaker was obviously American, and annoying at that, even through static.
"Dude, you need a license and a call number. This is a military channel, for the war communication, although no one talks at this hour on this broadband."
"Military? And war? Aren't they more high tech than old HAM radios? And the HAM radio I have here does have a license, I found it in a box and plugged it in. I didn't know there was a military broadband." Arthur pulled the license sheet out, and looked it over.
"So I'm guessing you're in the UK somewheres? London? I got a mate in London. His name's Artie." Arthur's heart clenched. The American accent over the radio said the old nickname just as he remembered it, although, he reminded himself, it couldn't be from the same mouth that used to say it.
"Actually, I'm in the United States. And 'Artie' is a horrible bastardization of Arthur! If King Arthur were still around, well, you wouldn't be calling him 'Artie'! You blasted Americans, always ruining that name!"
"So I'm guessing your name is Artie too, huh. Anyway, what's your call number, I gotta know, protocol."
"Fine, yes, my name's Arthur. W4-1776-AL." Over the radio, there was the sound of a glass being over turned, and a definite SHIT! exclaimed.
"HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT CALL NUMBER?"
"What? That's what it says on the box!" Arthur was confused. Did everyone know the old call number of a man 40 years dead?
"WHOEVER THIS IS, IT ISN'T FUNNY! MARK, JOHNNY, IF YOU'RE THE ONES BEHIND THIS, I SWEAR..!"
The voice sounded vaguely familiar, but all Arthur wanted was to get the man to quiet down!
"PLEASE! My name is Arthur Kirkland, I'm transmitting from rural Virginia, and I plugged this in on a whim! Please stop yelling!" Arthur just wanted to shut the thing off, but he didn't want to have to explain to any military officials on why he was tampering on their US broadbands.
"Artie? Artie, is that you? Oh my god... ARTHUR! When you told me my home radio's call number, I thought someone was searching for Intel or had broken into my house. I've missed the sound of your voice, its kinda lonely here."
"Arthur? You there?"
Arthur, indeed, was there, but he couldn't move. He couldn't speak. He just stared at the box.
When he finally was able to talk, he hesitantly moved closer to the radio.
"Yeah, Iggy?" The breath rushed out of Arthur's lungs. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think, and he squeaked out a question.
"What's the date today?"
"Here in 'Nam, it's June 23rd, 1972. I think its still the 22nd in Virginia, though. Why you at my place?"
Arthur just sat there. 1972. A week before Alfred would be dead.
"Whoa, I just saw a frickin' asteroid or sumtin' shoot across the sky like a falling star!" Arthur's eyes went wide. An asteroid storm…
"Arthur, you there?"
"Yeah…I'm here. I can see them too, if I were to look out…Alfred, I love you. More than anything."
"I love you too, Arthur. You're my world. Always will be."
Arthur broke down, unable to take it any longer.
"Alfred, the date is really June 22nd, 2012."
"Why are you crying? Arthur, it can't be…what are you talking about…Arthur?"
"The war is over, Alfred. Long over."
"Then how can we talk like this? Arthur, please don't cry anymore! Why are you even at my house? Where am I, can I speak with myself? Arthur, please?" Arthur stared at the radio, wishing with all his heart that this truly were Alfred, yet at the same time, wishing this ghost in a box wasn't haunting him.
"I'm cleaning out the house to be sold. You…you are under the apple tree…"
"To be sold? Are you crying because we got into a fight? You know I always sit under that tree for too long afterwards, 'cuze I'm hopin' you'll be the one who comes out to make it better. I can't say sorry for crap…"
"No, Alfred. I'm crying because you've been under that tree for far too long."
What do you me—"
"Forty years too long." Uncontrollable sobs erupted from his mouth. "Don't go on the mission next week! Please, they said that if you'd not gone, they still would have taken the fort the next week! It was an ambush…you didn't have to go…Alfred, DON'T GO!" He grasped the metal box, Alfred's voice fading.
"Art…"Static drowned out his answer, and the Radio then was silent, and no matter how many different broadband channels he tried, he could no longer here Alfred's voice.
He curled into a ball on the wooden floor of the study, and cried himself to sleep.
"And …then it went dead…just like that…"
When Arthur had called him back about three hours later, Matthew had assumed it was because he'd been forgotten. But one word from Arthur, and Matthew boarded a plane.
"And you're sure it was him?"
"'I love you, Arthur' he said. He named names of men I DON'T KNOW! And then…gone."
"Did he listen to you? Could he hear you?" Matthew sat next to Arthur on the couch, the morning light trickling in, his eye occasionally going to the radio.
"I don't know if he listened to me. He could of thought it was a prank, or maybe that I just didn't want him going out there, that I was lying…but Matthew, I can't change the past. Alfred's never coming back. That was just a blessing, I got to talk with him once more."
"But, Arthur, we have to try…he might try to contact us again!"
"No. I don't want to go near that thing."
Matthew sighed. "Arthur, please, if there were a chance to bring Alfred back from the dead, you'd do anything, right?"
Arthur gave Matthew a look which drove a knife into his heart, the sadness and despair and anger very clear in the green eyes Matthew knew so well.
"If you hear anything on the radio, please, answer. I'm going to finish packing up, you just rest here for awhile." And Matthew got up, covering Arthur with a blanket, helping him lay down and try to sleep, as the man had stayed up all night listening for that voice in the dark.
Arthur sat there, staring towards the doorway to the study, his face blank. Matthew was at a nearby hotel asleep, the two of them having finished the packing two hours ago, Matthew heading over to help the other countries into rooms and start to organize the service that would occur in two days, and the truck to take the boxes away afterwards. The stuff they'd insisted on keeping was going to a storage unit, and from there, sorted again, and given out or donated to special collections or kept in case a new country should ever surface, although after forty years, no one expected that a new personification would spring up. This had worried the other countries. What would happen if any of them died while their country lived on?
Arthur sat straight up, and he heard the voice calling him once more. He raced into the study, a quick thought that he should call Mattie up too, but what if he lost Alfred like last time?
"Yes Alfred?" He sat down in the chair, pulling himself close to the old microphone.
"Arthur, they're sending me out tomorrow. There isn't anything I can do. But I have a plan! I do…" And the next day after, to his death…Arthur felt his panic rise.
"What do you mean, you have a plan? Alfred, you…you CAN'T go! I can't handle the fact that you're about to die again!" Arthur began to plead, trying to hold himself together for both their sakes.
"Arthur, I have a plan! It might seem all hope is lost…"
"Are you sure you'll make it out? Alfred, if your future has already happened, then how is any plan supposed to work? The future has already happened! How am I supposed to know if forty years ago, you spoke to me, but ended up dying anyway and that this whole conversation was in vain? That the gravestone will be there tomorrow morning, and that tomorrow night, a blue moon will rise over the house now vacant, waiting for an estate auction to be held the week after?" Arthur clutched the microphone, his knuckles going white.
"Arthur, forty years from where I am now, under that blue moon, I will be there. I will. Promise me you'll be there too? Promise!"
"And will you be on the radio tomorrow at about…9pm East coast time? I want to say goodbye…if this doesn't work out."
"Of course."A tear fell from his eye as Arthur heard the radio click off, and his head hit the table, the world starting to spin around him.
When Arthur woke up once more, it was late morning, and he moved to the couch, falling into another restless slumber. He awoke later than before, the sleepless nights of the past week getting to him. 8:47 pm…
He jumped up and ran to the radio, tuning the dials, waiting for the familiar American accent to come over it. He waited…and waited…and waited. 9:00…9:13…9:29…10:05…10:31…and waited…
Finally, as the old grandfather clock dinged 11:45 pm, Arthur got up, and began to wipe his eyes, his heart breaking all over again. What had happened? Had they been sent earlier? Had he already been captured?
He looked around the room, trying to think up some possible excuse. Not one came to mind. Finally, he sat back down and called out into the microphone, asking if anybody, anyone was out there.
A voice came over, and for a moment, Arthur's heart stopped. "This is Mike, broadcasting from my garage in Michigan, the time… almost 12 am June 30th, 2012, and I.."
The box was clicked off, and Arthur stood up, no longer interested in the radio. He wasn't interested in this house, he wasn't interested at all. He'd lost Alfred all over again. He couldn't stay here any longer.
He ran to the back door, his heart heavy in his chest, tears streaming down his face. Alfred was gone! Gone, gone, gone! He flung open the backdoor, his heart and body racing for only one thing. The tree, the gravestone, the memories.
Under the blue moon he ran, the wind ripping at his clothes, and as the grandfather clock chimed in the old country house behind him, he felt as if he were running in some sort of tunnel, the world around him shifting, changing, but he didn't care. He needed to get to the tree! Alfred had promised he'd be there!
He ran amongst the tall grass, not even bothering to look for the path, the moon making the night as bright as day with its fullness.
Arthur stopped dead about forty paces from the tree, as something unfamiliar was leaning against it. As he neared, he watched as it moved, turning to face him.
Alfred gave him a bright smile and opened his arms, and Arthur sped forward into them, tears now blurring his vision until all he could see were two sky blue orbs looking into his own eyes. "Alfred…"
"I'm here, Artie. I came home."
They stood there under the tree for an endless time, simply content in each other's company. Finally, Arthur shivered, and Alfred took his hand and started to walk them back to the house. The gravestone was gone, and as they neared the house, Arthur gasped at the difference.
There was a fresh coat of paint, patio furniture, and a grill, not to mention the inside was updated and modern as well, the windows allowing him to see in.
"I don't remember any of this…"
"You will." And with that, Alfred kissed him like Arthur had been longing for for forty years, the memories in his mind now having another set parallel to them, of Alfred's arrival at the airport, decorated and honored, of summers under the tree, of picnics, of parties, of nights of passion.
Arthur gave a joyful sob into Alfred's chest.
A hand threaded through his hair. "I'm never leaving your side again. It's you I live for, Arthur, and I'll always be there. I love you."
"I love you too."
When the sun rose up in the sky that morning, Arthur greeted Matthew and the rest of the countries, because today was the 39th anniversary of Alfred's honorable discharge as a hero, for saving his entire squadron that day. Turned out they had left early for the mission, and Alfred had been dragged off before he could get on the radio.
Matthew's face was devoid of sadness, as he'd never experienced his brother's death, Arthur never had become a mess, there was no gravestone, and Arthur had told Alfred that he was kind of pissed that all that packing had gone to waste, seeing as the house was modern on the inside as it never had been. Only Arthur and Alfred ever remembered what had transpired those nights over the frequency.
And homecoming never tasted as sweet.
This was written kinda jauntily (if that is a word). Sorry if it isn't perfect, I just needed to get it out. (sappy much?)
Please REVIEW! It means a lot! Tell me what you think!
Fun Fact : In old 1800's English etiquette books, there is a rule that "One may wipe one's hands on the table cloth, but one should not blow their nose with it." Also, "Soup should be taken with a spoon". Funny, huh?