Pairing: FACE ... it's complicated XD
Length: 1500 words, chapter 2 (2/5)
Notes: AU; the English Empire consists of three main islands - England, America, Canada
ii. hang onto the past tense tonight
The atmosphere was soft, full of murmuring noblemen and their pretty trophy wives dressed in muted colors. Matthew was standing by himself off in a corner, peering around shyly to attempt to find his father, when a stranger approached.
"Mais comme tu es beau!” The strange man cooed to him, picking him up in his arms. Matthew didn’t resist, reaching out a small hand to tug on silky blonde hair. The man laughed and bounced him up and down, speaking in a language Matthew didn’t understand. “Petit Mathieu, l’Angleterre est si chanceux!”
“Put him down, France!”
Matthew started at the loud voice and buried his face in the stranger’s hair with a muffled wail.
France chuckled lightly and started rocking from side to side. “You startled him, Angleterre.”
“Put him down right now,” England repeated, more forcefully. “He’s not yours!”
“Mais que sais-tu, Angleterre?”
England looked down to see his older son tugging at his trouser leg, one hand still loosely holding his wooden practice sword.
“That stupid bastard stole him,” England replied shortly.
Alfred’s eyes widened in horror. “France stole Matthew?”
England knelt down and placed his scarred hands on Alfred’s shoulders. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get him back quickly, before anything bad can happen to him.”
His son was silent for a few moments before asking tentatively, “Is France going to come take me away too?”
“Of course not, lad,” England said fiercely, “And if he does, I’ll make sure to protect you from him. You can trust me. I’ll always take care of you.”
A small smile spread across Alfred’s face before it blossomed into a confident grin. “That’s okay! I’m nearly as big as you now, and I can protect myself!”
Laughing at how quickly the young boy had gone from scared to cocky, England stood back up and ruffled his son’s hair. “In a few years, I’ll have to worry about you causing all sorts of trouble for me, aren’t I?”
Alfred looked up at him, blue eyes dancing. “I would never do that! You can trust me too! I’ll always protect you!”
The years passed, and Matthew grew up in France’s castle. He was the darling French prince, doted on by all the palace staff, saved from the cruel grasp of the English, raised with French all around him and French seeping into him.
It was Alfred who finally arrived to rescue (kidnap) him. Matthew ran to greet his brother, exclamations pouring from both their lips.
They stopped talking when they realized they could no longer understand each other. Alfred cried and clung to Matthew and mumbled forgotten words that did nothing to breach the barrier between them.
When England saw Matthew, he pulled his son into an embrace as one hand continued to point his sword at the fallen France. Matthew was too afraid to say anything, unable to keep up with the English tumbling from his father’s lips.
Matthew was taken from France, holding tightly onto his brother as they galloped north to where the English ships were waiting to take them home.
When he chanced a look backwards, all he saw was smoke staining the blue sky.
England didn’t understand France’s harsh laughs until they made it home (not home, never home) to London and Alfred had to tell him Matthew couldn’t speak their language anymore. The king’s anger at that time was terrible to behold as he stormed around his chambers, destroying more than a few expensive trinkets as he raged and screamed.
Matthew lived in a near constant fear after that, every sound that crossed his lips heavily screened so that England would not catch him speaking ‘that barbaric language’, every move that he made carefully controlled so that England would not accuse him of picking up bad habits from ‘that damn wine bastard’.
Matthew spent a lot of time with his brother, the two of them working slowly together to overcome the rift from nearly ten years apart. Alfred helped Matthew with his English and whispered funny stories to him when he couldn’t sleep. Matthew clung to Alfred during his first few months back in London whenever England walked past.
Alfred’s eyes lost their shine when Matthew stumbled into his room one day, a dark bruise staining his face, mouth moving in silent, forbidden, French prayers.
Alfred and Matthew knelt before their father. England considered them for a few moments before bidding them rise.
“Alfred, your birthday was two days ago; Matthew, yours is tomorrow.” England stood and descended the steps until he stood on even ground with them. Both his sons were slightly taller than him, but there was no question about who held the most power in the room. “I would like you both to gain some experience in ruling the Empire.”
Alfred’s eyes lit up. “Do we get to be kings for a day?”
England gave Alfred a small smile. “Not really, no. But I’d like the two of you to act as the head of America and Canada – still reporting to me, of course.”
“I call America!” Alfred shouted right away, pulling his brother into an sideways hug. “Isn’t this cool, Mattie?”
“You’ll call him Canada now,” England corrected, though his smile grew as well. “Come on, it’s a time for celebration! I told the chefs to prepare a feast for today.”
America pulled his brother along excitedly, his laughter echoing in the hall.
“Don’t make me regret this!” England shouted after them. “Make me proud!”
“We will! Won’t we, Mat- I mean, Canada?”
“Mattie? Is that you?” America poked his head into the room. “I heard a crash; is everything okay?”
Canada was kneeling on the floor, trying to pick up the broken shards around him. America saw that he was crying when he turned around. “A-America … I bumped into the stand, and it fell, a-and England is going to be so mad! Alfred, q-qu’est-ce que ... w-what am I going to do? He’ll kill me; he loved this vase!”
“Hey, hey, calm down, okay?” America ran to his brother’s side. “First off, stop trying to pick it up, you’re cutting your hands. Come on, you sit down and I’ll clean this up, okay?” America led his brother to a chair and waited for Canada to nod before approaching the mess again. He looked around the room, unsure what to do, until an idea came to him.
He yanked the covers off of the bed and used them to sweep all of the shards together. It was awkward and he nearly tripped several times as he stepped on the fabric that he was trying to pull, but eventually he had made a pile. Canada had quieted down and was watching him with interest.
“See?” He told Canada kindly. “It’s no big deal. I’ll just scoop it all up like this, and then we’ll throw it away somewhere and England won’t even notice! He’s always too busy storming around the castle being grumpy anyway; he won’t pay attention to a vase!”
Canada nodded timidly. America grinned and bundled the sheets up with all the broken shards inside.
“America!” England appeared in the doorway, eyes furious. “What are you doing?”
Canada scrambled off the chair and flitted immediately to his brother’s side. “E-England, it was m-my -”
“I ran into the nightstand and the vase fell,” America cut in, lifting his chin. He met his father’s gaze bravely, even though he was already anticipating the shouting that was about to occur.
England’s eyes narrowed and he spat out, “Canada. Get out.”
With a terrified look at his brother, Canada left the room. Once he was out in the hall, he pressed his ear to the door.
“You’re nothing but a disappointment!” England shouted. Canada heard America murmur something in response, but his answer was drowned out by England’s voice. “Why can’t you be more like your brother? Even if he spent years with that bastard, at least he’s worth more than you!”
Canada fled to his room.
“Hey,” America said softly as he knocked on the door.
Canada paused in his reading and looked over. He immediately got off his bed and rushed over to America, eyes wide with concern.
“Don’t worry about it,” America said bravely as Canada made a few worried sounds. “All he did was shout, and he does that most days anyway.”
“Th-Thank you,” Canada whispered quietly, taking his brother by the hand and leading him further into the room. “You didn’t have to – it was all my fault -”
“Don’t worry about it.” America grinned at him. “I’ll protect you whenever you need it, Mattie. Don’t worry as long as I’m around, okay?”
Canada felt tears welling up again. America grabbed his brother into a hug and Canada squeezed back tightly. “Y-Yeah. I won’t.”
“America, where’s Canada?”
America didn’t stop to answer his father. He pulled out another arrow, notched it in his bow, and let it fly. One after another, they buried themselves deep into the trees at the other end of the range, piercing the bull’s-eye one at a time.
“America! Answer me!”
His concentration slipped for a moment and the bow twitched slightly. America turned around in frustration as the arrow disappeared into the woods. “What is it?”
America gave his father an exasperated look. “How should I know? Isn’t he in Ottawa?”
“Watch your tone. I just visited Ottawa, and he’s not there.”
“Well, I don’t know.”
England narrowed his eyes and glared at his son. America stiffened under the gaze, not daring to meet the king’s eyes.
Finally, England stepped away. As he started along the path back up to Washington, he called over his shoulder, “That last shot was off. You need to practice more! I raised you to be better than that!”
America growled as he went to fetch his arrows. He freed all the visible ones from their targets and went in search of the wayward arrow. When he had them all collected, he headed back to his home with a sigh.
“Mattie.” The first raindrop hit him on the head. “What are you doing now?”
A/N - I've made England seem like such a bad father =/ But I won't say he isn't, just that he has his reasons. All four of them do, for being as angsty and screwed up as they are ><;
Eh, can't think of much so say about this chapter. Just lots of time jumps, Alfred being protective of his brother and feeling guilty about what happened to him, Matthew feeling like unloved and like he should be grateful except he isn't, and Arthur hating himself and taking it out on his kids.
"Mais comme tu es beau!” - Er, this translation is a bit tricky ... something like "Oh, you're so cute!"
“Petit Mathieu, l’Angleterre est si chanceux!” - "Little Matthew, England is so lucky!"
Mais que sais-tu, Angleterre?” - "But what do you know, England?"