Silence reigned in the car.
The twins looked out through their respective windows, watching the scenery pass them by without really paying attention. The sun shined down on them, filling the lush landscape with its warm raise. The morning dew seemed to glitter in the light, dazzling couples out on leisurely walks through the park. People jogged, walked their dogs, and held their children's hands as they crossed the streets, all the while remaining oblivious to the inner turmoil within the car doors.
"Lovely day for a funeral." Commented the slightly senile man, who felt the atmosphere in the car was much too stuffy. He was silenced by a small jab to his side by his equally aged wife. The twins didn't respond, other than to tighten their hold on each other's hand. They had been holding hands for almost a week now.
They hadn't let go since it happened.
Their little world crumbled during English class one Tuesday morning at school.
At the time, it seemed like a normal school day. Their mother had dropped them off with a smile, reminding Alfred to play nice and for Matthew to speak up. Their father grinned at them from the driver seat, wishing them luck on their math exam before driving away.
The math test was easy, at least for Matthew it was. Multiplication came easily to him while his elder twin seemed to flounder about with his fingers. It didn't matter much; the whole math test would seem a trivial inconvenience by the end of the day.
Alfred was sprawled on the carpeted floor, his legs idly kicking through the air as he read. It was quiet reading time, and for once, he decided to behave more subdued then usually (most likely because of the bad feeling seeping in his stomach about the above mentioned math test). He read quietly about an underpants wearing hero's adventure, only interrupting the silent room with the occasional giggle or snicker.
Matthew laid a ways away, eagerly devouring a much larger book with significantly less pictures than his brother. He sat, huddled in a corner, practically unnoticeable between the wall and the bookcase. He preferred it that way.
It was in this quiet, relaxing, hum drum that their world was ripped apart forever.
There was a frantic knock on the door.
Most of the teachers turned their heads toward the sound, curious of the disturbance. Alfred wondered if they were getting free popsicles again. Ever since that blistering day in September when the school distributed those delicious frozen treats, Alfred had remained hopeful it would happen again. It was with this thought that he closed his book and sat up to pay attention. Matthew simply returned to his book, having come to an exciting part.
An administrator entered, motioning for their English teacher to speak with her outside for a moment. The students seemed perplexed, Alfred held steadfastly to his belief that a sugary treat was in his future, and Matthew looked up. It was in that moment he locked eyes with the administrator. He'd never spoken to her, but he had seen her while walking to his third grade classroom. And yet, in those three seconds of eye contact, he felt a wave of pity hit him. His skin prickled in anxiety and he closed his book, forgetting to save the page.
Something was wrong.
He crawled over to his brother who, oblivious as ever, continued to believe he was getting a frozen dessert at any moment. Matthew nudged him lightly, making him focus his blue eyes on himself.
Matthew knew his brother. Matthew knew his brother could be oblivious, sincerely so. But sometimes…sometimes it was on purpose. Sometimes his brother did read the atmosphere but then refused to accept it.
Matthew could see in those blue eyes that this was one of those times.
The teacher walked back into the room, pale in the face. Matthew's fears were confirmed when she beckoned for them to come outside the room to talk. They stood up in sync and walked forward.
Before they reached the threshold between the classroom and the hallway, Alfred grabbed his brother's hand. Matthew squeezed it back.
They stepped forward, looking up at their teacher.
They didn't get popsicles.
Their parents were dead.
Alfred and Matthew stared incomprehensibly. The world seemed to blur around them. They were confused. They were lost. They were passed around different adults before winding up with their elderly neighbors.
It was only that night, in an unfamiliar bed that Alfred and Matthew cried.
It wouldn't be the last time.
Alfred and Matthew stepped out of the car listlessly, staring at the grass. Their hands held each other's tightly. Their elderly neighbor fussed over their clothing, combing their hair with her fingers.
"Your uncles will be here soon…and you'll be able to go back home. Won't that be nice?" She soothed. The twins didn't respond. She sighed, straightening herself back up, "I still can't see why they couldn't have come sooner…" She commented to her husband.
The ceremony was quiet and went without a hitch. People were leaving around them. The twins barely took notice. They were in their own little world feeling lost and forgotten. Their linked hands were the only things anchoring them to this reality. This reality they wanted to wake from.
A hand landed on Alfred's shoulder, making the pair tense and turn around.
Before them was a tall (in their perspective) young man with messy blond hair and piercing green eyes. He stood with perfect posture, in a perfectly pressed suit that seemed to be carefully laid out. He smiled at them awkwardly, as if he wasn't used to doing so.
"You both have grown so much…"He murmured lamely, removing his hand from the boy's shoulder.
"Who are you?" Alfred asked bluntly, looking at the stranger suspiciously. He instinctively tightened his grip on his brother. Matthew edged closer, not able to hold eye contact with the man.
The blond seemed to flush a little, "Ah…Well, I su-suppose you wouldn't remember…I haven't visited since you were very little." He mumbled awkwardly, scratching the back of his head. He coughed into his hand, straightening himself up and offering his hand, "I'm Arthur Kirkland, your uncle. I'm here to take care of you." He explained, retracting his hand when the children only stared at it. Right. They were children. He patted their heads instead. They shied away from his touch. He pulled away again, "Well…I'm actually Alfred's godfather...but…umm…which one of you is Alfred?"
He was officially the worst uncle ever. He couldn't even tell his nephews apart.
He hadn't meant for it to be this way. Even if he never really got along with his older brother, or any of their siblings really, he had still been excited at the prospect of nephews. He wanted to impart his knowledge on the pair, showing them the wonders of their history, delighting them with fairy tales. He'd always loved children…he'd always wanted children.
However, life had a funny way of keeping him from his dreams. He and his brother had a falling out, he and-and that bastard could no longer be in the same room together and his job had suddenly decided to pile on more work.
The last time he had seen his nephews was a few weeks after their baptism.
"I'm Alfred." The twin with the slightly shorter hair mumbled, glaring up at him. Arthur felt his heart clench at how swollen and red their eyes were…They'd just lost his parents. He'd just lost his brother. It was a sad day.
"Look, boys, I'm…I'm sorry this happened," Arthur murmured softly, kneeling down to their height. They stared at him. "I'll take you both home soon and make you some tea, alright?" He continued, ruffling Alfred's hair. The boy tensed, pulling away. Arthur sighed inwardly. This wasn't going to be easy. "How about we—"
"Salut! Mes petites enfant comme vous avez grandis!" Came an all too familiar (at least for Arthur) French voice. Arthur felts his mouth form into an automatic sneer as he saw the other man come toward them with a small smile. How could he be so happy at his own sisters funeral? Disgusting. (Arthur carefully ignored the redness around the man's blue eyes. He refused to admit that Francis felt human emotions or that he'd cried that day.)
The twins, for their part, simply stared at the new stranger incomprehensibly. He was about the same height as the other man with the same bright blond hair, only longer and nicer looking. For some reason Alfred wanted to touch it. He assumed (correctly he would later discover) that it was soft. The man wore all black, like everyone else, except for a deep purple tie. It stuck out.
"What the bloody hell are you doing here." Arthur ground out, moving a little ways a way. His hands balled into fists at his sides, repulsed by his very presence.
"Very nice to see you too, Arthur." The man responded coldly, not even glancing in his directions, merely focusing on the children. "Alfred, Mathieu! It is, your Uncle Francis." He announced, smiling down at them. He was about to continue with his introduction when he was interrupted.
Matthew's small hand darted out and grabbed the man's purple tie, gripping tightly. Francis blinked, a surprised at the action. Alfred leaned close to his brother, confused. Matthew pressed his mouth close to his twin's ear, explaining quietly.
"That's mommy's favorite color." Alfred said aloud, repeating his brother's words. Francis' eyes softened, looking down at the tie himself. He seemed to lose himself in it, his smile falling if only a little. "Je sais…I know, my sister—your mother—she gave it to me a few years ago." He explained.
Matthew's grip on it tightened.
Arthur coughed awkwardly, "Yes, well what are you doing here?" He repeated, crossing his arms and giving the man a suspicious glare.
Francis straightened up, "It is my sister's funeral, I have just as much the right to be here as you do." He growled out, "I'm here to pick up the children and take them home."
"No. I'm here to pick up the children and take them home." Arthur replied, taking a step forward. Francis narrowed his eyes, taking his own step forward.
"Non. I would never let my sister's children be raised by some uncultured English brute!"
"I would never let my nephews be raised by some perverted French bastard!" Arthur shouted right back, putting a hand on Alfred's shoulder. The boy tensed, but Arthur paid it no mind, too consumed by the growing argument. "I'm Alfred's godfather so I'll be taking care of them!"
"Well, I'm Mathieu's godfather so I'll be taking care of them!" Francis snapped in turn, putting his own hand on Matthew's shoulder. The twins remained rooted to the spot, unsure exactly what was happening but too afraid to ask.
They held each other's hands tighter.
"Fine! Have it your way!" Arthur flared, slipping his hand down to grip the boy's arm firmly. Francis mirrored the action and they both turned their separate ways. "Come on Alfred, we're leaving!" He ordered, dragging the boy behind them while Francis did much the same with Matthew.
Their hands were wrenched apart.
Matthew started to cry, Alfred started struggling against the Englishman's grip. He started screaming and Arthur let go. Alfred ran to his brother, quickly enveloping him in a hug. Francis let go of the younger twin as it happened, and watched as they clung to each other.
Francis and Arthur glanced at each other, both feeling a little sick that they had forced the two boys (the two boys who had suffered enough already) to cry.
"Go away!" Alfred yelled at them, catching their attention. "You can't take Mattie away!"
Arthur felt his heart break, "We won't do that. I promise we won't. We—We just got a little carried away." He assured quickly.
"O-Oui. The man with caterpillars for eyebrows is right! We shall take you two home together. And—And you two will stay together do not worry!" Francis chirped in right after, his own heart clenching at the display.
Arthur let the eyebrow comment go, more focused on the twins, "Let's just take you two home alright?"
It took a bit more convincing but the two men were finally able to get the pair into the car, and then home.
No one spoke.
Silence reigned in the car.
Welp. Clinging's basically done, so here's my new project.
THIS WILL BE A SHORT STORY. Hopefully. Its just a break until the Clinging prequel.
I hope you guys enjoy!