Did you know your brother has nightmares?
He first noticed a few weeks back.
Alfred nearly fell down the stairs. That was a perfectly normal reaction to have to a sudden shout. He had never heard that sound before. It certainly was not Yong Soo and it was not a girl's voice – so not Xiu either.
"What are you doing up, aru?"
Alfred turned around to look at Yao, standing at the top of the stairs. He could have motioned to the glass of water in his hand, but he really was not thinking about Yao's question. "What was that?" Alfred asked, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.
"Go back to bed," Yao told him before going into Maddox's room.
Alfred, not one to do as he was told right off the bat, tiptoed after him and stuck his head into the room. Which was when he saw something he had never seen before: Maddox clinging to Yao, sobbing into his chest.
Just like that, Alfred decided to go back to bed.
By morning he could almost convince himself he probably had not seen what he thought he had seen. Especially as Maddox acted the same as ever – deadpan and physically distant from other people (except for Xiu, sometimes, or when he was trying to bother someone). What Alfred had seen just did not seem like it could have happened. Plus, there was no reason for it, right?
He was effectively able to forget about it for a bit before, one night, Alfred suddenly started wondering about it again. Slipping out of Kiku's room, Alfred went over to Maddox's room.
What was contained in this room was a mystery. Alfred had only seen inside it a few times and it always looked more innocent than it possibly could be. He was sure Maddox was hiding a lot more in it than it appeared. Not that it was as clean as Yao was always asking it be. Not even Xiu seemed immune to Yao asking for more tidying up.
Alfred looked in.
Then he went to get Yao.
By the time Maddox was clinging to Yao again, face buried into his older brother's nightshirt, Alfred was absolutely certain Maddox was still asleep. He had not woken up. Shuffling about near the door, he finally asked what he wanted to ask. "What's wrong with him?"
"Nothing is wrong with him, aru," Yao chided, rocking Maddox in his arms.
Alfred frowned, looking down at his feet.
"Don't let him know you have seen him like this," Yao went on to say, voice gentle.
That thought had never crossed Alfred's mind, but he nodded. What did someone say about a thing like this anyway? "Yeah, of course. He... he going to be okay?"
If that's the case, why isn't this the first time? Alfred was not sure what else to say, he was just confused now. And feeling really awkward. He excused himself to go back to bed, saying goodnight to Yao and leaving the room. Just another thing that made him really wish he was home right now.
"It's okay, Maddox. I'm here, aru. I'm here."
It was suddenly really depressing how Maddox treated his brother. Which suddenly reminded him of Arthur.
Okay, maybe he was a bit glad he was not at home right now.
"We are watching. This. All of us. Watching."
"We are watching what?" Vash asked, voice tinged in exasperation.
Maddox showed them the movie he had in hand. He had to have planned to show this to them after school, because there was no other reason to have brought it. Alfred recognized it as some really crappy martial arts movie that he had never bothered to watch. Yong Soo elbowed him.
"He loves these things."
"I've noticed," Alfred replied, his own Mandarin a bit sceptical. "But why? They really suck."
"That is the point."
"Not in a million years," Vash vetoed it. Which of course meant, a little while later, that they were sitting in front of the television watching a really stupid movie.
"This is hilarious!" Alfred exclaimed, only thirty minutes in. "And I thought these things were bad with the English dubs!"
"They are," Yong Soo agreed. "Change it to English, da ze! That's better."
Maddox got up and did so, causing another shuffle of the couch. Vash protested indignantly when Maddox nearly sat on him and then protested even more when he was squished between Maddox and Alfred. Alfred tried to give him more room, but Yong Soo already had no concept of personal space and Alfred was almost as uncomfortable as Vash.
Almost. It took effort to be as uncomfortable as Vash.
Alfred enjoyed it more than he thought he would. He probably would have enjoyed it more if he did not have to explain to Vash (whose English was rather limited) in Mandarin what was so funny about the English translation of Mandarin. Maddox took to sniping at the movie in English and was no help at all.
The irony of the situation failed to escape him.
It was a good distraction though, probably for Vash as well. Neither of them had mentioned what Uncle Spain was going through since they both realized they knew him. Though it was difficult to find a time to ask more about his uncle Gilbert, because it just did not seem like a thing to bring up around Yong Soo or Maddox. Just their little secret.
After they finished watching it and Maddox went to put the disc away, Alfred noticed something underneath the bottom shelf of the bookcase near the television.
"Is that a..." Damn. Don't know the word for baseball bat.
"It's Kiku's," Yong Soo shrugged.
Maddox rolled it out with a foot and kicked it over. It did not roll in the right direction very well, but Alfred could reach it if he leaned forward on the couch. "He likes baseball?" he asked in English. Sorry Vash.
Alfred had to remember to write that down, ask Kiku more about it. "Let's play," he stated. Then he repeated it in Mandarin, for Vash's sake.
"What?" Maddox asked.
"I watched your movie," Alfred pointed out. "Now we get to do what I want."
"Sounds good, da ze!"
Maddox herded Vash along and Alfred suddenly wondered whether he should have let Vash escape the premises first before bringing it up. It was not like they could really play baseball with four people (or three), but the more people the more fun the game they played with a baseball and baseball bat would be.
"He only drags you around because he likes you," Alfred whispered to Vash.
Instead of denying it, Vash said something Alfred had not expected. "Everyone chooses who they want to be for a reason."
Chooses? Like it's always a choice? Alfred considered it. He did not believe it at all, but it sure as hell gave an insight into Vash's mind. "Maddox doesn't bother you as much as you say he does, does he?"
Vash took the baseball and walked away. His throw was not bad at all. Not as violent as Yong Soo's and actually thrown in the right direction, unlike Maddox (who absolutely refused to be the batter).
It started raining, but they continued nevertheless. At least, they did until Xiu rushed out back.
"Alfred! You left the futon out!"
And it was one of the first things Kiku told him not to do too.
People are people, no matter where they are.