Wow. So much feedback, you guys! You're great! :) Glad you're enjoying the story...I tried to get this up earlier just because you guys are awesome, but I've been caught up with schoolwork recently ;; Thanks to those who provided reassurance, it helped a lot.
Anyway, here's chapter 6! Again, ideologies expressed in this fic are not my own.
"So, he just gave you your job back, eh?" Matthew snorted, a teasing but jubilant grin prominent on his face. He removed his focus from the road in front of them to look upon his duplicate with mocking, playful eyes. It was an 'I told you so' moment, and the petulant pout that graced Alfred's face made it obvious that the older twin was aware of it.
Matthew chuckled giddily, shifting the small, cardboard box he was carrying so that it was nestled against his side. The two were making their weekly run. Every Saturday, the twins would set off to deliver the packages of goods Matthew had made during the week to their customers. When the younger twin had first started his knitting business, he had insisted that he deliver the goods by himself, being a capable teenager and all. However, ever the protector, Alfred refused to let his "baby brother" run off into the dangerous world all alone. Matthew had come to endure and enjoy his brother's assistance...the trips were sometimes long and Alfred provided him with entertainment and companionship.
When Alfred didn't reply to his rhetorical question, Matthew's lips morphed into a cheeky grin and a giggle caught in his throat. The peevish look on the older twin's face was just too rich to ignore. He decided to rub it in. Sure, it was a bit immature...but what the hell. "Knew you were making a big deal out of nothin'. You should really listen to me more often."
Alfred didn't rebuke the statement. Instead, he poignantly stared at the stone-speckled road that laid before them, ignoring his younger brother's sudden adoption of childishness. It may have been all in good nature, but he didn't want to hear it. Not after what actually happened. Not after how it had caused all the perturbing thoughts that had been plaguing his restless mind for the past couple of days.
When he had walked into Mr. Braginsky's office the day after the odd incident, Alfred had been greeted with a chilling welcoming of animosity and indifference. There was no eye contact. There was no verbal exchange. The Russian hadn't even given him the courtesy of acknowledging his existence. He had spent the day inhaling the tense, awkward atmosphere, completely and utterly silent, left with nothing but his anxious, curious thoughts. And what horrible thoughts they had been.
The same scene had just been playing in his mind. Over. And over. And over. And over again. Another man had kissed him. On the lips. With passion. He hadn't even felt that kind of physical contact from a woman, and yet here he was, receiving such attention from a man, committing the sinful, forbidden act. The part that haunted him the most wasn't the fact that he had simply kissed another male; it was the fact that it had felt absolutely normal.
That didn't make him queer, did it? It shouldn't feel normal. It was abominable, how could it feel normal? Homosexuality was unnatural...the concept of two men participating in a reproductive ritual when they clearly couldn't produce an offspring, that was not natural. So, if he wasn't queer, why did it feel...fine?
Maybe it didn't feel normal. He'd never kissed a girl before in his life; maybe that felt extremely different. Maybe kissing a girl felt better: maybe it felt like something out of this world, and he just couldn't comprehend it. That was it. That had to be it. Alfred F. Jones was not a homosexual.
So why did that reasoning sound so wrong?
"Alfred! Where are you going? We're here..."
The blond abruptly stopped in his tracks and swerved around to meet the voice of his brother. Matthew, with a slight look of concern adorning his features, was posed right in front of a murky grey apartment building. Waving his arms and gesturing somewhat dramatically for his brother to join him at the entrance, the younger twin called, "Don't just stand there! C'mon!"
Alfred shook his golden locks, attempting to rid himself of his slightly obsessive thoughts. He needed to snap out of it: his focus had been slowly draining over the past couple of days. It wasn't that big of a deal. So what if Mr. Braginsky was a homosexual? And just happened to have the urge to express his sexuality by...making physical contact with their lips? It wasn't...that...disgust-
Goddammit, why was this bothering him so much-
"R-Right! I'm coming! Just..hold...on.."
Alfred scampered up the uneven steps that led to the front entrance of the tenement, meeting his somewhat exasperated twin. After shooting his brother a worried glare, Matthew proceeded to shove the weathered door open, the scraping noise it emanated grating on their ears like nails on a chalkboard. They pushed forward down the dark hallway, searching for the room that read "142."
And what would Mr. Braginsky want with him anyway? Of all people, why kiss him? Was he always this open with his sexuality? That he'd give away his secret to a potential and probable enemy? How many people knew of the Russian's affection for other men?
Did the kiss mean anything? Did Mr. Braginsky actually suspect romantic relations to come of it? Did Mr. Braginsky suspect that he was...like him? Why would he suspect that? Did he act homosexual? Oh god, he wasn't emitting some weird, queer vibe was he? Oh god, oh-
Dammit, why him?
A faint brush of warmth on his sleeve rescued Alfred from his overly-active conscience's brutal harassment. Finicky sky blue eyes darted to similar violet ones, the irises speckled with worry. The reassuring touch caused Alfred's panicky facade to melt away, as his rapid breathing (which he hadn't been aware of until now) evened out. As Matthew rubbed his forearm in the most gentle of ways, his velveteen voice spoke out softly, "Are you alright? You've been so...distant lately. Is everything okay at work? You're not coming down with anything, are you?"
Guilt knotted in his gut. His distracted behavior had become so obvious and intense that even Mattie was commenting on it. Not that Matthew didn't typically attempt to comfort his brother whenever he acted strangely, but Alfred wasn't pleased with the fact that his frantic, guilt-ridden thoughts were starting to bubble up to the surface, leaving an ugly, apparent scar for his brother to see. His troubles were his own; Alfred had no wish to burden his brother with his petty predicaments.
Looking up and down the quiet, narrow hallway, Alfred decided that this wasn't the best time to discuss this. They had a package to deliver: a goal to accomplish. The corridor of a tenement building was not the place to dispute the supposed degradation of his mental welfare. "Mattie, I'm fine. Just...tired. Now where is room 142..."
The golden blond was only allowed to anxiously search for the mentioned door number for a second or two before Matthew earnestly latched onto his forearm once more. He gestured towards the door they were standing in front of. "It's right here, Al..."
The rusted metal numbers stood out boldly amongst the peeling paint of the wooden door in front of them. Red slightly tinging his cheeks, the older twin nodded his head meekly and mumbled a humble "right." Alfred avoided his brother's ever-caring gaze, hoping he'd catch on to the overwhelming sentiment that he had no wish to share his inner chaos.
Matthew's eyes adopted an agitated glint as he sighed heavily. Why did he have to be stuck with the most difficult, obstinate brother on the planet? Bringing much relief to Alfred, the younger twin ignored his brother's obvious display of mental burden, and rapped on the splintered, white door, signalling the digression of the topic at hand. Scuffling, rustling sounds of movement were heard before the tapping of footsteps rose in volume as the being drew nearer and nearer. Finally, the wooden barrier was ripped open, and the twins were met with a man with hair as white as snow and eyes as red as the vital fluid that runs through every man's veins. His face was poised, but comical, holding something of a whimsical vibe. He looked of something wicked, but not in the manner that Mr. Braginsky did. Mr. Braginsky's wickedness was perceived due to the man's affinity for cruelty and apathy; this man's wickedness appeared to be epidermal, like a naughty child with an inclination for immaturity.
The twins stood silent, slightly intimidated by the confused glare the albino was shooting them. However, recognition suddenly lit up those confused, red eyes, and his lips twisted into a (somewhat) friendly grin. "Oh, hey. You're the guy I ordered the sweater from, ja?" His accent was thick, and he cackled in a rather irritating fashion, laughing for a reason the twins couldn't comprehend.
Matthew thrust the cardboard box that contained the delivery out towards the man, shakily murmuring a "here" under his breath. The younger twin had a tendency to become rather nervous and timid whilst around unfamiliar people. Alfred was the only person he could truly unleash his inner thoughts upon; the only one allowed to see the sweet, somewhat cynical character that lied beneath the surface.
"Is this the sweater?" It was hardly a question, for the man stole the box from Matthew's frail fingers and hastily ripped the top off, retrieving the prize that lied within it's four walls. It was like watching a child open his first gift on Christmas. Alfred was uncertain whether they should leave or not, though his leaden feet seemed to be cemented to the flooring. Either way, he held his tongue and stood his ground.
The albino pulled the beige, beautifully knit sweater from out of its confines, holding it casually up to his being. He dug his nails into the soft fabric, a smirk growing on his lips. Flashing the boys his devilish grin, he exclaimed boldly,"Ah, Wunderbar! Danke."
Just as Matthew was about to respond with his own gratuity, a low, deep voice resounded about the vicinity, "Gilbert, quiet down. What are you doing that is taking up so much of our time?"
A tall, familiar fair-haired man appeared from behind the albino, his blue eyes scrutinizing and his lips pulled into a straight, tight line. It was when those piercing blue eyes landed on Alfred that a glimpse of recognition seared the older blond to the core. His face remained as blank as it ever was, though the older twin could definitely detect a hint of annoyance enter his voice as he spoke, "Ah. Mr. Jones. How coincidental, seeing you here like this."
It was strange, seeing the German outside of the workplace. And it seemed that he was just as frigid and composed as he typically conducted himself. The unfriendly addition made the air even more tense and awkward as it had been with just the albino (Gilbert?), and the feisty golden-blond wanted none of it. Something about the icy, suspicious glint in his blue eyes made Alfred's insides coil in...guilt. Unsure of how else to respond to the odd situation, Alfred merely muttered the most forgetful of courtesies, "Mr. Beilschmidt. It was a pleasure to see you as well, but now that our work here is done, I believe that we shall be going." No sooner than the words had spilled from his mouth did Alfred grab onto his brother's sleeve and begin to strut towards the exit. Or, he tried to strut towards the exit, before Mr. Beilschmidt stuck his arm out to both gain his attention and block his path.
"Ah, not so fast. I actually had something I've been wanting to...talk to you about."
The phrasing sent a chill up Alfred's spine. "Okay, shoot."
"In private, if you will. I sincerely suggest you accept this...offer."
The older twin winced. What on Earth would Mr. Beilschmidt want to talk to him about, of all people? In private, nonetheless. The room suddenly felt about 10 degrees warmer. Alfred suspected the worst.
He nodded his head in compliance, and Gilbert, suddenly solemn, waved for Matthew to enter the room while their brothers had their discussion. As the albino foolhardily proposed that they play a round or two of cards, attempting to lighten the mood of the concerned younger twin, Matthew shot Alfred a worried glower, his eyes demanding explanation. That he no doubt would be getting later. Lest the troublesome twin pay dearly. Matthew didn't like his brother keeping secrets from him, since Alfred was never one to keep a secret in the first place. He always wore his heart on his sleeve, and the fact that he wouldn't share...whatever was going on with him...it made Matthew rather nervous.
The eerie echo of the slamming door brought Alfred back to reality. It snapped him back into the pessimistic, haunting thoughts he had been enduring just ten minutes earlier, and suddenly he felt ill to his stomach. The nervous, aching dread that accompanied the thoughts of the other day caused his gut to shrivel in fear. Mr. Beilschmidt didn't know of the forbidden act, did he? He hadn't even been in the same room, how could he? But what else would he want to talk about? He'd hardly spoken a word throughout his time knowing him (with the exception of a scolding here and there), why would he have something to say now?
Guilt, along with the persistent, suddenly nerve-wracking glare of the taller male, rid Alfred's mind useless. In a wild moment of panic and remorse and dread, he blurted out, "If this was about the other day, I didn't mean to, honest! He just came up to me, and it just sorta happened, and I-"
"Ah, are you referring to the...ah-physical experience you had with Mr. Braginsky the other day?" A barely-there tinge of red tainted the typically-composed German's face.
And that terminology just made it all sound worse. Physical experience. Sounds almost like...
Alfred would not allow his thoughts to wander in that realm. He would surely go insane if he ever even began to think of that.
His clouded mind cleared a bit as awareness of his situation kicked in. Mr. Beilschmidt knew what happened. He knew of Mr. Braginsky's sexual preference. Confusion adorned Alfred's features as he glanced up at the man, a determined expression fitting his face.
There were always five security guards on duty. So, how many of the others knew?
Mr. Beilschmidt misinterpreted Alfred's confused expression, "The walls to Mr. Braginsky's office are not as thick as one would like to believe. It's quite easy to...overhear things."
Alfred was going to get to the bottom of this. He had a plan. "Did the others hear as well?"
"The other security guards."
"...Ja." Mr. Beilschmidt quirked an eyebrow, unsure of where the younger was going with this.
A hint of a smirk began to creep upon Alfred's lips. This might work. "And they knew of Mr. Braginsky's sexuality?"
The taller blond was growing weary of these questions. "Yes. Why?"
Giddiness swelled in Alfred's stomach. Yes. He had him. "Because that means that five people have witnessed Mr. Braginsky in the act! I mean, singularly, being who I am, I couldn't convince the public that Mr. Braginsky's a fucking homosexual. But together...we could finally get rid of him! It's perfect!"
There was a still moment. A brief pause in Alfred's rant that condoned a silent, heavy, chilling moment of absolute reticence. The more his rampant words filtered through his head, and the longer Mr. Beilschmidt simply stared at him, the more uneasy Alfred felt. Why was he being so quiet? Shouldn't he be rejoicing?
Eventually, the tranquil man released a single sigh. He murmured in a solemn tone, "This is actually what I wished to speak to you about."
Alfred lit up. Maybe he had taken the German's dreadful silence rather pessimistically. "So you agree?"
The younger blond knew he had been mistaken when Mr. Beilschmidt shot him a dirty look. "Nein. Rather, you are not to tell anyone of Mr. Braginsky's sexual preference."
Alfred didn't know what to say. The plan...was good, wasn't it? Why would this man care about some...cruel asshole's well-being? And to top it off, he was queer! Sinful! Why would Mr. Beilschmidt want to protect him?
Anger began to bubble up in his veins. Dammit. So close. So fucking close to getting rid of that...that...
He swallowed his ire; however, his voice adopted a quiver, "Why not? This...horrible man can finally get what he deserves...and you're just going to leave him be?"
"Mr. Jones, have you ever considered what might happen if Mr. Braginsky just...vanished? What you're suggesting will happen to him if we announce his predicament to the public will not be conducted under legal terms. They won't throw you in prison for being gay. What you're suggesting is something much more...morbid." Mr. Beilschmidt's voice was low, solemn, and sincere. The heavy, accusing words weighed on Alfred's conscience for a moment, but he remained hushed. After a pause, to allow his statements to sink in, Mr. Beilschmidt continued. "And what if he vanishes? How will this help you in any way? Your employer, the man who pays you, the man who pays thousands of people...how will his disappearance be of advantage to you? Nein, it is better if you continue with your striking business, Mr. Jones. Then the government can step in and halt his...'inhumane actions', as you proclaim. It's the preferred alternative to the chaos your idea will inevitably end in."
Alfred released a sigh, and whispered a quiet "fuck" under his breath. He knew the truth the German's words held. He was so sure he had him. So sure he had finally come to a solution to finally get that bastard out of his life. That bastard...that fucking bastard who seemed to be the focus of his meditation recently. The bastard whose peculiar actions and seductive words remained ingrained in his mind, plaguing his mentality relentlessly. The Russian had become an obsession at this point; a permanent fixture in his life that he'd do anything to rid himself of. But he couldn't. Not physically, not mentally, no. No, he was stuck there. And it seemed like he would always be there. And it was driving Alfred insane.
A firm hand grasped at his shoulder, abruptly tearing the younger blond from his thoughts. Lighter blue eyes pierced into his own, though they held a subtle sincerity that Alfred was quite sure he'd never seen there before. "Mr. Jones, we all feel rather strongly against him. He isn't the best of men. But I'm no murderer. And even if I was, his life isn't worth the livelihoods of his many, many workers."
Alfred nodded his head soberly. "Yes. I understand. Sorry for wasting your time."
"There's no need for apologies. Your opposition...while somewhat irrational, is quite understandable as well."
At this point Mr. Beilschmidt quickly removed his grasp on Alfred's shoulder and promptly opened his room door, shouting something out in German. Although Alfred had no idea what he was saying, the albino responded just as fervently, causing Mr. Beilschmidt to pinch the bridge of his nose in exasperation. Eventually Matthew appeared, holding the edge of his shirt for the lack of anything better to do with his hands.
A bright smile instantly emerged on Alfred's face at the sight of his baby brother. "Mattie! My my, it's been a while since I've seen you!"
Matthew didn't buy into the joke, and instead chose roll his eyes at his brother's bullshit. "Yeah, yeah, come on. I wanna go home. We have some things to discuss."
Alfred pouted petulantly (and intentionally), "Ahhh. You're no fun, Matt."
Matthew huffed, "Well you're not being exactly thrilling yourself."
The two said their goodbyes to Mr. Beilschmidt and Gilbert, and started on their walk home, Matthew tugging Alfred along. And this time, for now at least, the plaguing questions that had disturbed Alfred previously were kept bottled up, never released from their confines during the duration of their trip home. Matthew's determined (and increasingly irritated) questions made sure of that. Alfred didn't let a word about his burdens or his discussion with Beilschmidt slip, but instead just smiled at his brother's curious antics (for that's all they were at this point. No longer worries, just curiosities. Alfred's improved mood was hard to ignore). Mattie could be so cute sometimes, and his childish investigation provided a distraction that allowed the older twin's mind to be put at ease. And, for the first time in a long while, Alfred was not thinking of Mr. Braginsky.
Thanks for reading! Your feedback encourages me to continue. Seriously, It makes my day.
Next Chapter: Alfred and Mr. Braginsky...have a discussion. About homosexuality.
So basically I'm thinking this will be a pretty long fic. At least 20 chapters or so. Probably more.
Unexciting chapter? Yeah, a bit. Alfred needed time for thoughts to ferment, so..yes. Filler. Kinda. It was necessary for the overall plot, I believe. I was originally going to throw some Ivan at you in the end, but it was growing long and it would have been kinda abrupt. And cliff-hanger-ish.
And I won't be updating until...at least after the 16th. I have testing going on for the next couple of weeks, so I need to be studying :/
I don't think there are any history notes for this one.