The 'Hug'

Chapter 19

Arthur shifted a little as he woke up, briefly wondering what it was that had woken him. Lifting his head up, he saw Francis hovering off to his side as he tried to sit up. But the other personification made a halting gesture and Arthur was reminded of the boy in his arms as Matthew sighed in his sleep. Gently he eased the other boy out of his hold, lovingly pulling the blanket around him to keep him comfortable.

"Mon ami, I have news for you about Alfred." Francis said as soon as Arthur was off the bed. Immediately the other's attention was focused on him.

"Oh no…not while I was…" Arthur said with a fearful expression but Francis shook his head to stop any further comments from the other.

"No. At least, I don't think so. You didn't exactly tell me anything before you kicked me and the others out a couple of hours ago." Francis said. "But you needed sleep as well…and apparently so did I…desole mon lapin, I fell asleep for but a moment." He said, Arthur nodding as he yawned.

"Yes, I understand." Arthur said as he tugged at his clothes that he'd wrinkled from lying in bed with Matthew. "And I do believe the nurses would've come here if there was no one around should Alfred…well, anyway, we're up so what is it you wanted to tell me?" Arthur said, switching to a tone he often employed with Francis. The other man simply rolled his eyes at this before pulling Arthur away from the bed to let Matthew sleep before repeating everything Ludwig had told them. Arthur remained quiet after Francis had finished speaking, prompting the other man to huff in frustration at a lack of a response.

"Well aren't you going to be able to do something now? I know it's Norwegian magic you were messing around with without any care, but surely you can do something now." Francis said, shaking the other man by the shoulders when it seemed Arthur had tuned him out completely.

"What do you expect me to do?" Arthur whisper-shouted to Francis as he swatted the other's hands off of him. "Waving my wand around won't do any good if it's this far along. I don't…" Arthur said, tugging at his hair a little. "I can't get inside his mind, but I can be with him. Can you…" he started to ask but Francis knew what he was implying, shaking his head.

"It is almost morning anyway. Matthew's an early riser and we'll meet you there if he's well enough." Francis said, Arthur shooting him a rare smile. "But the doctors thought he'd be recovered enough by now so all you need to do is finally tell me where Alfred's room is, imbecile." Francis said, the smile dropping into a scowl at the easy transition into their typical bickering. But it was more of a fond look as they both knew it was meant more for the sake of normalcy. Telling the other nation all he needed to know to get access to where Alfred was being treated, Arthur quickly took off back to Alfred's room. The hospital wasn't as busy as during the day, visiting hours for typical visitors having ended hours ago. This made the trip back to Alfred's room somewhat more of a journey though for Arthur, with nothing else to distract from the thoughts running through his mind. But as soon as he reached Alfred's room and stepped inside, those thoughts easily faded as he looked at the nation in the bed.

Alfred's fever and dehydrated state required another IV like his last visit, except that he'd also been given an oxygen mask when it appeared that his breathing had gotten as shallow as when he'd accidentally overdosed. But unlike then, it wasn't as easily remedied and Arthur was left with the unsettling image of the normally boisterous and carefree man looking in that state. Monitors were set up around him like before, but Arthur thought that all the extra attention made Alfred just look even more uncomfortable.

The trip to the hospital had been rough too, as Arthur had to fight to accompany Alfred despite the ambulance arguing that they weren't allowed to take another passenger. But he'd argued his case enough that he'd been relegated to sitting squished up against the doors, but he was able to answer Alfred each time the other had called out for him. And he'd continued to do so even as the medics told him that Alfred wasn't coherent enough to understand any response given to him. When the mask was placed over him to give him a sedative to calm Alfred, Arthur felt the panic rise up again at how still the other man became again. They'd rolled him out more carefully and slowly than Matthew, and Arthur had heard the other North American twin practically scream out for his brother, his voice never reaching much more than the soft-spoken 'shout' they'd heard or the occasional scream such as one Belarus had caused. But Arthur had to leave Francis to deal with consoling the other to get the treatment necessary for him, partly because of his own feeling of failure as his and Alfred's ally in being unable to do anything to help either of them.

But Arthur knew that those feelings of failure also were translated into feeling of failure as a brother, even if both twins had moved on from any idea of family. Arthur sighed heavily as he took the seat he'd held vigil in for hours before building up the courage to face Matthew. "Hello again Alfred. I spoke with your brother and he's doing much better – can't wait to visit with you, just as soon as he's up and well again. People could've confused him again for you with that stubbornness he was showing off to try and get to you." Arthur said, grabbing ahold of one of Alfred's hands and looking to the monitors for a reaction. "He's made himself sick with worry over you. Now I know you don't want to keep him worrying so I'd suggest to put on that hero attitude of yours and wake up soon." He said with a small laugh, trailing off into silence save for the monitors beeping.

Arthur sighed again, leaning forward to rest his arms and head on the bed. "I'm worried too – very worried Alfred. The doctors are talking about dialysis if things don't get better soon and I know how much you're afraid of even the idea of surgery. So prove them wrong and fight through this lad." He said with a yawn, feeling his own exhaustion catching up with him. But he shook it off, hoping that he could do what Ludwig had said simply by talking with Alfred, even if the other man didn't respond. He didn't know how everything worked, but if he could even briefly touch the other's 'hug' as Norway had said, then he might be able to make progress. He'd already assumed that the only reason Alfred was still around to fight was because of the breakdown he'd had in the hotel room. Sighing again, he forced himself to sit up again to get through everything he needed to say without anyone else but Alfred around to hear it.

"You were right, you know. When you asked about me cursing you." Arthur said, attempting to speak to him as though he wasn't in medically-induced coma-like state. "I…it was after you'd gone off at me after that dinner when you thought I'd have Ivan tell you what, like you said, I have no problem pointing out for you. But I don't do it out of spite…" Arthur said, going into defensive mode before deciding to be completely honest, "…well, perhaps a tiny bit. There are times when I have a healthy dislike of you…But you are no better with your jabs to me, you know…"He sighed as he realized he was going off into a tangent. Taking a moment to begin again, he continued, "Listen, what I'm trying to say is that I began a curse to make you mute for a day when Matthew interrupted. I was so confident it didn't do anything, but I'm afraid it's what's given you those nightmares. I don't want to turn you into my enemy Alfred, never really have. But you need to push through those nightmares and think about something good. Focus on that and I will too." Arthur said, resting against the bed again. "And I'll be here. I'll be here for you, just like before when you and I were brothers." He said around another yawn, drifting back to sleep with his hand clutching Alfred's tightly in the closest the other could get to embracing him as fully as he wanted.

Another hour or so had passed before Arthur felt someone's hand running through his hair. Shooting up immediately as he looked to Alfred, he was slightly disappointed to find that although he found himself with the American's face looking back at him, it was with longer hair and a curl. "Sorry aboot that Arthur…I was just…" Matthew said, but Arthur merely patted the other's arm as he gave a tight smile to the other nation.

"It's alright Matthew. I understand." He said, allowing Matthew to sit closer to him until they were pressed up against each other's sides. "I'm glad you woke me. And I'm glad you seem to be doing better." He said, although it seemed more like a question. Matthew nodded in reply to the implied question.

"Yeah. Still a little queasy but Francis said he'd go get me a ginger ale from the vending machine to help." Matthew said in response to the way Arthur had briefly looked around the room for the other nation who'd been with him through their misadventure. Arthur made a noise of acknowledgment as he nodded and reached out for Alfred's hand again. Matthew was warily looking at how his brother was laid out, timidly asking another question of the British man. "Why does he have so many things attached to him this time?" Matthew asked, eying the monitors.

"Hmm? Oh, he needs the mask to help build up the oxygen level in his blood and apparently the doctors and nurses had enough of the way Alfred kept damaging things around here." Arthur said with a small laugh. "Last time, he dented one of the monitors and mangled one of the clips that had been on his finger in addition to the bed getting broken apart." He said, Matthew chuckling humorlessly at the list of things his brother had managed to leave his mark on with his super strength. "So they've strapped him up like this to get the same readings and a few others – figured it be more difficult for him to undo, but I told them he'd find a way." Arthur finished up as he wrapped his other arm around Matthew, the other personification resting his head on the other man's shoulder as best he could despite being taller than Arthur.

"What a cozy morning sight." Francis said as he entered the room, handing a bottle to Matthew which the Canadian eagerly took and began to down. "Bonjour mon ami." Francis said by way of saying good morning to Arthur. "Did you 'ave any luck with…" He began to ask but Arthur looked down and shrugged, silencing anymore conversation for a while as the group sat around Alfred. "Oh, Gilbert and Ludwig will likely show up again with some alcoholic beverage once their hangovers have lessened enough for them to get here." Francis said with a smirk as Arthur rolled his eyes at the thought. He knew Ludwig might not have had enough to be so hungover he couldn't take charge at the meeting, but Gilbert was another story. "The merry group from last night asked to have their regards passed along too. That was nice of them, no?" Francis said, earning a look from Arthur.

"Yes. I suppose it was a very cordial move on their part to…" Arthur began but Matthew suddenly doubled over, earning the British man's full attention. "Matthew?" He asked worriedly, Francis coming over to the other side of the Canadian.

"I'm gonna lose it…" Matthew said as the only warning before he began to gag, slapping a hand over his mouth to try and keep the nausea from getting the best of him.

"Okay, let's get you up." Arthur said, he and Francis quickly but gently easing Matthew out of his chair. The Canadian had only taken a few steps before needing to backtrack to use the bathroom in Alfred's room. "It's alright Matthew, let it out." Arthur said as Matthew was ill once again. "Maybe you should let the doctors set you up in here, hmm? There's another bed after all…" Arthur tried to argue, Francis softly speaking in French and receiving a nod from Matthew.

"I will be right back Arthur. I'll see if that can be arranged for mon petit Mathieu…" Francis said as he left, Arthur holding Matthew's hair as the other man leaned over the toilet. A few minutes later, Francis returned with a couple of nurses who helped guide Matthew over to the vacant bed that had purposely been left open due to Alfred's status as a personification to keep things as private as possible, just like Matthew had been given a room without a roommate. Matthew seemed more compliant than before, although he was only marginally impolite to the doctors and nurses the first time. But getting to room with his brother in his sights obviously put the other man at ease, allowing him to drift off to more much needed sleep.

"At least now they'll be able to keep each other company once they get a little better. Hopefully Mathieu will be over this by the end of the day or early tomorrow." Francis said as he took off his shirt, Arthur not bothering to say anything since the other man had a valid excuse of not wanting to wear vomit. Arthur took off his jacket that had been spared, handing it to Francis to use at least for some sake of decency if a doctor or nurse came in and made a fuss over unhygienic conditions. Francis took it and surprised Arthur by buttoning it closed without having to be asked. "I'm going to head back to the hotel to get some clothes and pick up some food. Matthew will only want his maple syrup like this you know." Francis said, Arthur nodding with a smile on his face. "As usual, I'll have to be in charge of providing suitable food." He continued with a teasing look that Arthur only shook his head at instead of responding.

Arthur opted to only give a dismissive wave as Francis left to go take care of what he said he'd attend to, the British personification feeling grateful that he and Francis unfortunately knew each other well enough to understand what to do for the other when times were particularly tough – even if Arthur would never have complied with any more marriage proposals from the other man. But with Francis gone, Arthur found himself feeling very alone with the two unconscious twins on either side of him. Unable to keep it all in, he covered his face with his hands and let himself silently cry a few tears.

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