A/N: Suggested listening: Lights by Ellie Goulding
In the smothering heat of an August night in southern Virgina, Alfred lies awake, gazing out into the darkness beyond his bedroom window. In this muggy weather, it is too exhausting to move, and the world seems suspended as if in a painting. The fireflies over the lake hang lazily in the air, and the crickets are too hot to chirp. The outdoors is oddly silent.
Alfred hears a light knock on his door, and relectantly slides off the bed to answer it. In the doorway stands Arthur, slightly flushed from the heat. His blonde hair hangs limply, and sticks to the back of his neck, but his glowing green eyes are ablaze.
"Arthur?" Alfred looks up at his brother as he strides eagerly into the room. "What's going on?"
"Pull on some clothes, lad," he says, throwing a shirt to Alfred. "We have adventuring to do."
Outside, Arthur hoits Alfred piggyback-style and scans the area, then consults the stars overhead.
"Right then, this way," he says, panting already from the heat, and starts in the direction of the woods.
Alfred looks around him at the stilled world in wonder, then back to his brother, bemused. It wasn't unusual for Arthur to take him on suprise expeditions through the countryside, but they were usually during the day. And his clothes...completely illogically, Arthur wore a short, but heavy, dark green cloak over a shapeless, tunic-like shirt and long pants: clothing more suited to a British winter rather than a colonial heat wave. But even in the dark, Arthur's eyes sparkled in excitement, unaware of the heat of his cloak or Alfred on his shoulders.
"Where are we going, Arthur?"
Arthur reaches up to squeeze Alfred's hand. "I'm taking you to meet some old friends of mine. This is exactly the kind of weather they love-there should be plently of them out tonight."
Their silent journey continues, and Alfred imagines that they are the only two creatures alive in the forest, though he can feel the rabbits curled in their holes and the birds roosted in the trees. The land around him hums and shimmmers in the heat, and the pit of his stomach trembles in reply. Eventually, Arthur sets him on the ground to walk, and he follows his lead, gripping one of Arthur's fingers in his much-smaller fist.
The adventurers cross a narrow brook, hop over a mossy fallen tree, and reach a small clearing surrounded by ancient trees. On the ground, concentric circles of mushrooms form intricate designs, and Arthur gasps in wonder.
"Aren't they beautiful..." he murmurs appreciatively. "We must be very cautious not to startle them," he whispers to Alfred, and Alfred nods, confused. Was his brother concerned about bothering the mushrooms?
"Look, lad! What do you see?"
Alfred steps gingerly into the clearing, taking care not to crush any of the mushrooms, and turns in a slow circle. From the corners of his eyes, he suddenly sees tiny flashes of light that weren't there before. He would have thought they were fireflies, except when he turns, they dissapear. The space in front of his eyes is hazy and out-of-focus, and he feels dizzy.
"I don't know...lights. Little lights."
Arthur frowns slightly. With one hand he reaches into the air above Alfred's head, then brings his hand down to show Alfred, one finger out as if it is a perch for an imaginary bird.
Alfred stares at his brother's hand. The space on top of his finger looks like a blurry patch when he looks through a window at home, bending the light around it and leaving a murky blur behind. Arthur doesn't appear to be holding anything. Alfred looks up at Arthur in confusion, then closes his eyes, the strange, distorted quality of the air starting to make his head hurt. Arthur cups his face gently in one hand.
"Alfred? What's wrong?"
"I can't see anything," Alfred whispers, peeking open one eye to see Arthur's reaction.
Arthur seems to struggle with his expression, turning first to shock, then dissapointment, and finally sadness.
"I see," he says after a moment. "I had hoped, well, for...but it doesn't matter."
Alfred rests his head on Arthur's shoulder, blocking out the strange sights around him. Arthur gently picks him up, salutes the unknown beings in the clearing, and turns back towards home.
"Arthur? Are you dissapointed in me?"
Arthur, who had been starting ahead of him, lost in his own world, focuses him attention back on Alfred.
"What? No, Al, no..." A comforting hand strokes Alfred's back. "It was just an experiment...yes, just a fairytale...forget about it, Alfred." Arthur's voice drops, until it seems he is whispering to himself. "After all, the world holds much more magic than that. You'll have your day, lad, someday...you'll find your own fairytale."
A/N: R&R please.