The 'Hug'

Chapter 8

The three of them ate their food in relative quiet save for the small talk Francis was carrying through their meal. Mostly complaining about the lack of anything with any flavor anywhere in Arthur's homeland, he'd been saying the usual things to at least get a rise out of the other.

"Alright you two, what am I missing?" Francis finally asked as he leaned back in the chair. But looking at the way Arthur kept his usual faux calm expression throughout the meal and reluctance to glance at Matthew, the other nation had been able to pick up on something being wrong. "Mathieu?" He tried again, poking the other in the shoulder a few times to try and prompt a response. He huffed in frustration at the stubbornness of the two of them, wondering if perhaps Britain was just being his usual self towards him. "Are those eyebrows of yours hindering your hearing now, Britain, or are you just lost in one of your hallucinations again?" He tried again, knowing that would rile up his longtime frenemy.

"You Frog! I do not hallucinate and my eyebrows have no part in this discussion whatsoever." Arthur snapped to Francis, the other looking smug that he'd finally gotten some sort of a response.

"That is funny since it seems that have a rather large part on your face." Francis goaded the other, unable to help himself from provoking the other's ire. As predicted, Arthur looked ready to start fuming to Francis about something. "Listen you git, my sense of style is…

"Sense of style? Unkempt is not a style. And you wonder why I call you the black sheep of Europe. Compared to me…" Francis began, the two easily slipping into another argument involving the two manhandling the other in their scrapple, knocking away the chairs to their table.

"Maple!" Shouted Matthew as they knocked the table particularly hard. He had thought that at a time like this, their focus on him would have kept up, but not even Alfred's typical intrusive behavior however well-intentioned could cut through those two and their perpetual need to provoke the other. "Stop it! Stop it…or…or…I'll give you a 'what for'! And I mean it…." Matthew said as threateningly as he could, succeeding in gaining at least Francis' attention before Arthur got in a nasty tug on the other's long hair, resulting in another squabble.

Matthew sighed, feeling as though completely invisible again and missing the company of his twin or at least his polar bear, whatever his true name might be. Getting up from the now ruined attempt at a calm dinner before returning back to Alfred's room, Matthew left the European nations to figure out on their own that he had left them. He wandered back to Alfred's room, feeling a little bold at his returned inconspicuousness; he quietly bypassed the nurse that had been keeping the three nations out of the room. Matthew sighed as he thought that there might be some logic in limiting visits, even if Alfred's condition had improved any. With the way Arthur and Francis acted, he figured the staff had over time anticipated those eventual fights and wanted to keep that at arm's length if they could.

He walked into Alfred's room to see that he was still completely out, the rise and fall of his chest the only movement from the nation in the bed. Taking a seat, he watched his brother sleep for a minute before remembering that he should ask the hotel staff to look in on his bear, or to have one of the other nations check on Kumakiki with an employee. He called and made the arrangements, hoping simultaneously that his voice wouldn't- yet would- wake Alfred. As the other continued to sleep, Matthew couldn't help but think of the first time he could think of when his brother had actively put in the effort to be a hero, and just for him.


"Now Canada, I know your brother may be a bit rough, but he means well. You just have to hold his attention." Arthur had told him as the two of them made their way to the house built for the other colony under his supervision. It was shortly after he'd been removed from Francis' care and while Matthew hadn't had much experience with his twin brother, he did remember that Alfred did match Arthur's description. He was anxious to reunite again with his brother for a visit to try and grasp onto some sort of family after Francis' abrupt departure, something that the older nation had seemed to pick up on.

"America! America, I'm back." Arthur announced as they approached the house, knowing that eight times out of ten, the rambunctious colony of his would be wandering around outside rather than waiting inside at the specified time of day like Arthur had instructed him. "I've brought someone to see you!" he called out again, he and Matthew looking around the immediate grounds. Seeing no response, Arthur turned to look down at Matthew as he held tightly to his polar bear in fear and nervousness. "I'm sure he must be inside then. Come along lad…" Arthur was saying, about to direct Matthew to the house when there was a sudden drop from above the branch they were standing under, a very loud exclamation of "Bwitain!" accompanying it as Alfred grasped onto his caretaker's shoulders.

"Yay! You're back, you're back! And I gots lots of stuff planned-ed for your visit this time." Alfred was saying as he maneuvered himself, Arthur sputtering for Alfred to remain still so he could get a better hold of him. "I did just like you said and went explowin'. Found none of that yellow rock awound here but there's lots of fun animals that I met and I went to the villages to see what's been goin' on. I talked-ed with some of the nice old ladies –Oh! One of dem's a Germmy lady and she said I could have an apple pie she made if I did some work for her and it's still dere in de house but I already had some – only a little - but I dunno if you wanna…." Alfred was rambling, Arthur finally getting a hold of the tiny colony with a huff of frustration and exhaustion from his colony's surprise attack. The older nation briefly wondered what might make the loud-mouthed boy pause long enough for him to get a word in greeting, reminded of the additional reason for his visit when he bumped into an equally startled Matthew. Seeing Alfred looking curiously at the other boy as though possibly remembering some familiarity with him, Arthur placed Alfred back on the ground and gently pushed Matthew out from behind him to reintroduce the two.

"America, this is Canada. He's your brother." Arthur said as Alfred leaned into Matthew's personal space as he looked over the other boy. Matthew thought about what to say, his previous ideas of any grand and warming greetings forgotten in his uncomfortableness. His mumbled hello was returned by Alfred, who then promptly ran inside the house talking about food. Matthew felt heartbroken at how easily the other had brushed him aside as not worth as much attention as the food waiting inside or playing with their older brother. Arthur sighed as he looked down to Matthew, smiling encouragingly as he scooped him up in his arms and walked inside with him.

"America, that's not a very polite way of introducing oneself. Especially to one's family." Arthur was saying as he shut and locked the door, having learned that although Alfred was plenty strong enough to simply barge straight through the thick wooden barrier, keeping it locked while inside did act as a reminder to at least ask for permission to go back outside. "Whatever happened to your English while I was away? It's atrocious – I know you can say your 'r's. I thought we were making such progress…." He started to say before his eyes widened at the sight of Alfred with a large knife in his hand, red goo stuck to the sides of it.

"Come on Bwitain! I made a surpwise!" Alfred said with an incredibly pleased look on his innocent face as he said that in a cheery, melodic way so as to get his big brother interested. Still, Matthew buried his face into Arthur's neck in fear at what his brother had done or may to do him, not remembering any traces of this kind of behavior in his brother. Arthur fidgeted as he looked over to the tiny knife-wielding colony, tightening his hold on Matthew to be both comforting and protective if need be.

"A-and what, pray tell, have you concocted in my absence, America?" Arthur said, voice wavering only a little, but Alfred didn't seem to pick up on it.

"It took me forever to hunt 'em down in time for you." Alfred said, motioning with the knife for Arthur to follow him into the kitchen. "They wouldn't stop squirming either while I worked. Kept jumpin' around…" Alfred said, a growing look of apprehension on Arthur's face. "But I got 'em all! None left and I made you somethin' to eat. It'll be good. You'll like 'em. I just had to finish with the last ones to add to the jar." He said, Matthew's grip on Arthur's neck beginning to make it difficult for the island nation to breathe.

"America, w-who are you talking about love?" Arthur asked, trying to sound chipper and relaxed as usual. "Why don't you just put the knife down and tell me all about your discoveries, hmm?" Arthur suggested, but Alfred didn't look like he was listening all the much.

"Who? Oh, Bwitian, 'member you told me to keep a watch out for any more Frenchies so you could take care of 'em? Well, don't worry 'bout that – there were a couple of guys at the harbor and I …." Alfred was saying, only to be cut off by a loud, frightened wail from Matthew as he clung even tighter to Arthur and mumbled in French to his new caretaker to take him away from his apparently extremely Francophobic brother. Based on what it looked like, Matthew could only assume that Alfred wouldn't react well to having his twin have French heritage that would bleed through, and the knife in his hand only terrified him further.

"Matthew, Matthew, calm down…." Arthur said, switching to their human names. "Alfred isn't about to hurt you. Most certainly not while I am here as well. English, Matthew, English dear boy." Arthur said, unable to properly follow the little boy's pleas to get away, his French not as flawless as it could be for him in his tendency to try and push his rival nation's influence away. Alfred watched his brother panic in their older brother's arms in confusion, head cocked to the side in a way that made his cowlick even more prominent.

"Wha's wrong?" Alfred asked, finally putting the knife down as made to approach the two other people in the room. But Arthur's gesture to stop had him pausing long enough for the older nation to get Matthew to withdraw his face long enough to glance at his brother with a whimper. Arthur also looked a little worried, considering that he may have gone overboard with instilling a healthy amount of wariness around Francis into Alfred that might have caused a bit of a problem. Alfred huffed and crossed his arms before speaking again. "If he don't wanna have any of the berries he don't have to." He mumbled, sounding a little disappointed. "But when I talked to the guys to make sure they were leavin', they told me all about this berry spread that's supposed ta' be yummy when ya' put it in the, uh, creeps, and I thought it might be as good as the stuff you bring over with the teas." Alfred said, a look of realization dawning on Arthur's face at Alfred's words.

"It's crêpe, America, and why did you use a knife?" Arthur asked, Matthew still reluctant to let go of the older man's shirt. Alfred shrugged as though such a question was ridiculous to ask. " 'Cuz I broked the big wooden spoon when I started to mash the berries I found. Oh! Don't touch the ones in the basket still – those ones give you a tummy ache if you eat them." He said, making a face as he warned the others, probably having experienced that discomfort himself. With that said, Alfred picked up the knife again and turned to run back to the kitchen to get the spread that he was complaining was no longer a surprise, but Arthur grabbed the back of his shirt with his free hand.

"You should not be running around with knives like that America. You could hurt yourself." Arthur said as he held back his colony from taking off again, Alfred sighing but handing over the knife to his caretaker. "You know not to touch these knives unless someone is helping you. You should not keep disregarding what I tell you." Arthur said as they all entered the kitchen, greeted with the sight of a large mess that had been made as part of the process Alfred had been talking about to them. He could see where the boy had set up a spot on the table to mash the berries in a bowl, the comment about them squirming and jumping away making more sense now that he realized that Alfred had tried to create the spread using the large knife.

"Well I had ta use somethin' and I didn't have no more moneys to buy the other stuff I was supposed ta use either." Alfred said as he grabbed the jar with the berries he'd turned into a spread of sorts. Arthur sighed at the mention that Alfred hadn't managed his allowance.

"What happened this time?" Arthur asked, setting Matthew down on the counter. "And you did a lovely job with this spread Alfred, thank you for thinking of me." He said as he found his irritation abated at the look of adoration that asked for acceptance of his hard-worked gift. He ruffled the boy's hair as Alfred's grin widened at the praise, taking the offered jar and setting it next to Matthew.

"You're welcome Bwitian!" Alfred exclaimed, hugging the man's legs together tightly so that Arthur was forced to hold onto the counter to keep his balance. Matthew grabbed onto Arthur's shoulder to help pull him back to the counter, receiving a grateful look from his new caretaker. "But it wasn't me this time! You didn't leave me more than enough to buy a container of stuff to make some biscuits. And everybody's been talkin' about how much more everything's been gettin' lately – but I don't think they minded too much." Alfred said, unaware of the wince that Arthur gave at the mention of the increased prices and taxes that his boss thought would be a good idea to start rebuilding from his fight with France over America and Canada.

"Wait….did you hear about that while you were in town? When did you speak with those Frenchmen and from where were they coming Alfred?" Arthur asked as he was released from Alfred's hold, beginning to tidy the disaster area that was the kitchen.

"I dunno. They just said they was leavin' and you only told me to make sure that no more Frenchies try and take anything." Alfred said with a shrug, picking up a rag that had fallen to the floor and was covered in some of the berries' juices. Matthew watched as the two of them continued to clean up and talk, feeling a little glum that it seemed like he'd been completely forgotten to the point of invisibility. Instead, he just snuggled his face into his bear, stroking it behind the ears to earn a lick in appreciation for the attention from his owner. Matthew had to keep a firm hold on his bear though when he saw his nose start to pick up a scent that intrigued him, following his bear's focus on the jar of mashed berries. "No Kuma…that's not for us." Matthew said, but his bear reached out with one of his paws, forcing Matthew to move the jar a little further away.

"But Arthur, I can too do all that stuff! Just 'cuz you say I have to get only your kinda stuff don't mean my way of making the berry thing isn't any good. Maybe we should just do it my way since your stuff's more money." Alfred said, sounding as though he really was trying to make an alternative possible for the older nation.

"No America…just listen to me, alright?" Arthur said with exasperation. "I know you've plenty of free-spirited ideas, but there is a reason for what I do and I'd appreciate you remember and act like a proper gentleman." He concluded, sighing when his words seemed to hurt Alfred's feelings. "Come here, love. I didn't mean to yell." He said, Alfred walking into Arthur's waiting arms for a hug. "But I do want you to start listening more. What if those Frenchmen were to try and do something to you while I wasn't here?"

"But they said they were goin' to live with family across the ocean…" Alfred said in a small voice. "And I only talked with them about food. They do have good food too…." He trailed off, igniting Arthur's temper again, although this time it was about Francis' again.

"Bah! They have no sense of taste. They probably gave you a bad recipe." Arthur said, Alfred looking offended that Arthur would think he'd mess things up with his food. But Arthur's comment piqued Matthew's curiosity, always interested in the food that Francis would gush to him about. Seeing his bear still sniffing for the jar, he whispered to his bear before sliding the jar a little closer and dipping his finger into the mix. "Just a little taste, right?" He asked, getting a little onto the bear's paw for him to lick. Licking his finger, he couldn't help but screw his face up at the bitterness from the berries. "Oooh, yuck…." He said, earning the others' attention finally. "Too bitter, too bitter." He said, Alfred looking disappointed that his efforts were for nothing. "You should add some sugar, or honey, or better yet….maple syrup to sweeten it up." Matthew suggested, his bear still licking his paw to get the remaining portion of the stuff off of him, apparently not minding the bitterness.

"Oh, oh….I got somma that sugar cane still. But I didn't get to the maple trees…." Alfred said. "Hey, if we do it together, we could get 'nuff of the sap to boil outside and make more syrup to add to the berries. C'mon, c'mon…." Alfred said in excitement, motioning for his brother to follow him, but Arthur held him by the back of his shirt again.

"What are you supposed to do first?" Arthur asked gently to remind Alfred he was supposed to ask for permission to go back outside.

"First we tap the trees and collect the sap so we can boil it in the big pot outside. Then we…" Alfred answered with pride at knowing what he believed was the correct answer. But Arthur interrupted him before he explained the whole process of making maple syrup.

"No America, that is not what I meant. I know how to make maple syrup." Arthur said with a bit of amusement in his voice. "But you didn't ask me first. And you've hardly paid any attention to your brother or apologized for scaring him earlier." Arthur said as Matthew climbed down from the counter with the jar of berries to keep them away from his polar bear.

"That's why we gotta go outside. We'll talk then." Alfred said to his caretaker as though that was the most obvious thing in the world. "Right, Canadia?" he said, turning to his brother.

"It's Canada." Matthew said with a sigh, but he looked to Arthur imploringly to go back outside. Seeing the two boys with their large, blue eyes staring at him, he crumpled and reluctantly agreed to let them play together outside.

"Alright boys. Go ahead, but be careful. Shout if you need me to help." Arthur said, Alfred shouting gleefully before he had finished talking. "I'll be making something for you while you're working and if you're successful, then maybe we'll all have some of that pie with the berry spread." He said, Matthew licking his lips at the suggestion before being pulled along by his brother. Arthur watched them go with a fond smile on his face before a loud thud from behind him had him jumping in yet another surprise as Kumajirou jumped down from the counter to follow after his owner.

Matthew stood by the front door with an impatient Alfred as his bear caught up with them, waiting for Arthur to unlock the door. Seeing as Arthur was taking too long with some last minute adjustments in the kitchen, Alfred poked his brother in the shoulder to get his attention. "Hey, if I give you a boost, think you can slide the bolt and let us out?" He asked.

"I don't think that such a good idea eh?" Matthew said, hesitant to get on Arthur's bad side so soon after becoming a part of his household. But Alfred giggled at that suggestion.

"You talk funny, eh?" Alfred said, mimicking his brother's words. "I like you. But come on." He urged again, gesturing to the other that he was ready to give him a boost as he positioned himself against the door. While still hesitant, Matthew couldn't help but feel giddy at the short pronouncement that his brother at the very least liked him and wanted to do something to keep that attitude. Scrunching up his face in thought, he gave in and put his foot into his brother's folded hands, Alfred giving a short, triumphant laugh as he easily lifted his brother up high enough for Matthew to unlock the door. Sliding the bolt, he had turned the doorknob and pushed on the door just as Arthur walked back into the room.

"What are you two up to?" Arthur exclaimed in surprise, causing Alfred to drop Matthew back to the ground. Rubbing his sore bottom from the landing, Matthew looked guilty up to the older man and was about to politely apologize but Alfred shouted out a quick goodbye and had dragged his brother out the door. The two of them ran until they'd reached the maple trees Alfred had already tapped, their buckets waiting to be filled. Alfred got right to work, prompting Matthew to feel obligated to just start in on their task too, although he was comfortable with the familiarity of this activity.

"So Canadia…" Alfred said, only to look sheepish when his brother glared at him. "Canada, wight….sowy. But, what's your human name? Bwitain has me call him Bwitain a lot when we're out doin' stuff or 'cuz that's how he wants me to gweet him so it's a habit. But when it's just us, he says I can call him Arthur –or England, but I like to call him Iggy 'cuz it's easier to say." He said, Matthew's eyes widening as he thought about what his brother said and wondering if perhaps being a part of Britain's house wouldn't be too bad. He would have to remember to ask to call Britain by his human name if he was allowed.

"Oh, well, Francis….um…it sounds a little different in French but Britain said in English, my name is Matthew." He said, extending a hand to be polite, hoping that this might be the sort of introduction he'd been hoping for earlier. Alfred looked curiously at his brother, answering, "I'm Alfred", before shaking his brother's hand briefly until he decided to forgo that and glomp onto his brother. Not expecting it, the two fell to the ground, Alfred giggling. "We're supposed to be twin brothers. We shouldn't say hi with a stuffy ol' handshake. I like hugs and I like you, so I like to hug you." He said, Matthew's face flushing in embarrassment and gratitude that his brother didn't hate him. Getting up, the two returned to their task, spending the rest of the afternoon talking while they made the maple syrup. Although Alfred was the one doing the majority of the talking, the afternoon passed quickly and Arthur called them inside for dinner, halting their activity.

"I think you have plenty for the berries boys." Arthur had said to ease their concern over the little amount they'd procured, but the two boys were appeased with the prospect of food and eagerly ran inside. Alfred began to devour the meal Arthur had made, although Matthew wasn't as pleased with the cooking. They ate while Arthur took the maple syrup to add to the berries, Matthew watching him to comment on what he might want to do. Finishing up, Alfred was practically bounding in his seat as Arthur served them a small portion of the remaining pie with a side of the berries, digging in with gusto.

"Oh, that's so much better. You were right Mattie!" Alfred said as he shoveled more into his mouth, unaware of the surprise on the other two's faces.

"What did you call me?" Matthew asked, his curl bouncing as he tilted his head to the side. Alfred shrugged, making to respond but a reminder from Arthur to wait until he didn't have food in his mouth to speak delayed his answer.

"I called-ed ya' Mattie. It's a nickname." Alfred said with a smile. "It's 'cuz it's easier and 'cuz we're brothers." He said, Matthew's mouth quirking up a little at the corners as he yet again was assaulted by how easily his brother could welcome him.

"America, that's highly informal of a name to address your brother by." Arthur said, taking a napkin to wipe the food out of Alfred's hair. "Honestly, how do you manage to get pie crust in your hair?" He said as he fussed with his colony, Matthew laughing as Alfred fought off the assault on his hair.

"So what if it's infernal?" Alfred said, Arthur chuckling. "Informal, America, not infernal. That's France." He said, satisfied with his efforts on Alfred's hair.

"I don't mind. I can call him Alfie…or just Al." Matthew said, finishing up some of the berries on his plate. "And it's just the three of us right now….can we….I mean…." He began to ask, but seeing Arthur sigh, he refrained from going any further with his question.

"I…sure, Matthew. It's alright between us and when the situation is actually casual." Arthur said, earning a small smile from Matthew. "But your brother tends to make everything casual. Alfred, you shouldn't be so familiar all the time."

"Aww…but that's just how I am. There're so many different kinds of people who come to live here, I can't help but want to get to know them all – like the Germmy lady that gave me the pie." Alfred said, Arthur reminding him that it was 'German' not Germmy. Alfred continued to talk about the people he'd most recently met, including the Frenchmen from whom he'd gotten the idea for the berry spread.

"Wait, you said those men were talking about a few specific things I recognize. I think I know where they were coming from…I'll need to see to some things as soon as I can. And to monitor myself the mood towards my goods that people seem to be having some issue with recently." Arthur said, rubbing a hand across his face.

"You're leaving me here?" Matthew asked, wide-eyed at the thought of finding his own way back to his house. As much as he was enjoying spending the day with his brother, he found that there were some things that distinguished the two of them enough that made his own, quieter home more appealing to him. The thought that now that he belonged to Britain's house he wouldn't be able to keep his own home had his eyes watering and his bottom lip quivering, his stomach churning again as it had been doing the whole day. Hearing the despair in Matthew's voice at the prospect of another looming abandonment, Arthur reached across the table to grab a hold of Matthew's tiny hand.

"Only for a few days at most. Alfred will keep you company and be a gracious host, won't you Alfred?" Arthur said, his tone changing to a more stern voice to emphasize to Alfred to not run off on his own without his brother. Alfred nodded, but he too looked close to tears, earning another sigh from Arthur at how much his American colony loved to be with him when he'd visit. "I'll leave after dinner so I should be back late tomorrow or early morning the next day. I promise I'll make the trip with the utmost haste so as to return to you both as soon as possible." He said with a comforting smile, Alfred launching himself into a hug that Matthew was quick to follow with one of his own. Arthur laughed as he fondly gazed down at his little brothers, stroking their hair as they clung to him for a few more seconds before breaking away.

After dinner was cleared away and the remaining berry spread was stored away properly, Arthur reminded the two boys to bathe and then head to bed. Another forceful reminder to keep the door locked and to not enter his study, directed more to Alfred, was the last thing Arthur said before his goodbye.

Shortly afterward, it was clear to Matthew that Alfred had no intention of cleaning up if he could avoid it, so he resolved himself to trying to persuade his brother to clean up a little. His attempt to convince him only resulted in him facing the awkward situation of bathing with his brother, Alfred oblivious to his discomfort. The other had been happily chattering on as he showed off his toy boat that Arthur had gotten him for his long soaks in the tub, although Matthew doubted he played with it much since he probably never stayed in the tub too long. But his passive aggressiveness had Alfred doing exactly as Arthur had instructed and Matthew felt himself relieved to be in a bed after feeling so exhausted. He had been coughing since they'd taken their bath together and his head was feeling all stuffy, something that he'd tried to mention to Arthur but it seemed the other hadn't been paying too much attention. He tossed and turned in his bed until falling into a short slumber, awakening to find his brother shaking him awake.

"Oh good. You're up." Alfred said, sitting back on the bed. "You were havin' a nightmare or somethin' and your bear came and got me up…did he have to sit on me? That hurt…." Alfred said as Matthew sat up a little more in bed, coughing and trying to pull the covers up around him.

"S-s-sorry aboot that…" Matthew stuttered out, a chill running down him that made it difficult for him to want to do anything other than curl back up in bed. Alfred giggled again, apparently finding his accent funny, before looking more intensely at Matthew. "Well, thanks for coming to check on me…" he said, leaning back as Alfred crawled over to him, trapped up against the headboard as Alfred leaned in and touched his forehead to his brother's.

"Uh oh…you gots a fever." Alfred said. "Iggy gets 'em when he visits sometimes too. I'll take care of ya'!" He said, flashing his brother a winning smile before jumping off the bed and leaving Matthew to worry over just what his brother's version of 'care' might entail. He didn't have to wait long before Alfred returned, climbing back onto the bed with a few grunts of efforts. Matthew looked curiously at him as he noticed he was holding something in his hand, although it was too dark to actually see what he was carrying to him. But before he could ask, Alfred pushed his brother back into a more comfortable positon before placing something on his head. With a confused look on his face, Matthew reached up to find that Alfred had placed one of the biscuits he'd made onto his head. Unable to help himself, Matthew laughed at his brother's antics long enough that it turned to a small coughing fit.

"Alfred, that's not going to work. Medicine works." Matthew said, putting the biscuit onto the table next to his bed in the guestroom. But Alfred simply smiled back at him as he answered, "But it is medicine." Matthew rolled his eyes at his brother, bunching the blankets up some more around him. "How is that supposed to be medicine, eh?" he asked, Alfred coming to sit beside him and wrapping his arms around him.

" 'Cuz laughter's supposed ta be the best medicine in the world." Alfred said, Matthew smiling at his brother's thoughtfulness and good intentions. "But I don't have the key to Bwitain's office and he was awfully mad the last time I bwoke the door down…" Alfred said, Matthew laughing at the thought after having seen what his brother was capable of during the day.

"I'll be okay." Matthew said. "W-will you stay with me for a little while?" He asked hopefully, receiving an emphatic nod from Alfred. The two of them were drifting off to sleep again when Matthew realized he was going to be sick and hastily squirmed out of his brother's grip to run to the chamber pot in the corner of the room, losing the meal he'd shared with his brother earlier.

"Oooh….ewwww….."Alfred said as he saw his brother get sick. He hopped off the bed to help his brother stand back up, helping him walk back to the bed and hoisting him as gently as he could into the bed again. "I'll go get some water for ya….and I'll just have to deal with buildin' another door or somethin' for Iggy…" He said, not waiting around to listen to the pathetic-sounding protest of not angering Arthur from Matthew as the sick colony curled under the covers. Alfred returned quickly with the promised drink and then was off again after helping his brother take a few sips. Matthew heard a large bang that he knew to be Alfred breaking into their caretaker's office to rummage around for something to tell him what to do for his brother, but he had drifted off again before Alfred returned.

He was awakened again by his brother who had a large book tucked under his arm and another cup with something steaming in it that he'd placed on the nightstand next to the drink of water. "Mattie, I found somethin' for ya'. This book says it's good for ya' if you've got tummy troubles and a fever. But it also says that to get rid of an illness, you should try 'bleeding' the sick person too. Yuck!" Alfred said, making a face as he read from the book in the limited light offered by the moon. Matthew blinked blearily as he tried to follow what his brother was saying, but Alfred had picked up the cup and was encouraging him to drink from it. "It's just tea that Iggy likes to bring special with him. I'm not supposed ta touch it, but I don't have nothing else right now…" he said, Matthew feeling a little relieved and sipping the warm drink eagerly. Alfred left him alone on the bed again once he was satisfied that his brother didn't need help like he had with the water. "I'll be wight back." He said, scurrying off again. Matthew heard some sounds from the kitchen as Alfred moved around, returning with a bowl and a towel draped over his arm. Worried that Alfred was going to do as the book recommended about 'bleeding' a person, Matthew involuntarily let out an 'eep!' that startled Alfred as he was walking slowly into the room. The other boy jumped a little at the sound before recovering his grip. "Geez Mattie, you scared-ed me!" He said, walking over to the nightstand and carefully putting the bowl on it, although he accidentally knocked over the cup of water. "Oops…" Alfred muttered as he heard it hit the floor. "But I brought some cool water and a towel, like Iggy needs when he's gotta fever. It'll help, I think…" Alfred said as he climbed back onto the bed, Matthew getting exhausted just by thinking about all the climbing his brother had been doing. Alfred dipped the towel into the water and wrung it out before placing it on his brother's head, Matthew shivering.

"No, I don't want it." Matthew said, trying to push it away. "It's too cold." He said, Alfred huffing in frustration as he took the cup of tea out of his brother's hands to place on the nightstand. Taking the opportunity of his brother's divided attention, Matthew made to swipe the towel off but somehow Alfred had turned back in time to push the towel back on his head.

"No, no, no…" Alfred said quickly. "It's a good thing. It works." He said, gently dabbing it on his brother's forehead a couple more times before putting it back in the cold water to get it cold again. "I'll go find the stuff tomorrow when it get light out and make you that medicine if you still need it. But don't wowy about being sick – I'll protect you. Just like all the hewoes in all the good stories Iggy tells me all about. Hey, I can wead you one of 'em when the sun's out and I betcha you'd like it." Alfred said, lying down next to his brother. Matthew nodded his head in appreciation at the thought. He turned a little, making sure to keep the towel on his forehead so his brother wouldn't make a fuss about it again, and reached for his brother in the dark. His hands brushed over his brother's head and he pulled on him a little to get him to come closer.

"MMMMPH…." Alfred whined, squirming a little at his brother's touch and making Matthew think he'd tugged too hard on his brother's hair.

"Oh, sorry Alfred. Didn't mean to hurt you." Matthew said as Alfred took a couple of deep breaths. He pulled his hands away with the intention of giving his brother some space, holding back tears at how quickly he'd made a mess of things with being sick and difficult with Alfred.

"No, I'm okay." Alfred said, maneuvering up a little more to where Matthew had wanted him to move, snuggling into his brother's side as he tossed an arm over him. "Just no pullin' on Nantucket. It makes me feel all funny." Alfred said with a yawn. It took Matthew a moment to realize what Alfred meant about 'Nantucket' but figured it had to be his prominent cowlick. He mumbled something to his brother about not doing that again and thanking him for his help before yawning himself. "It's okay…" Alfred repeated. "I'm the hero." He said as the two of them drifted off to sleep.


Francis managed to persuade one of the nurses to allow him to quickly visit with Alfred, using his usual charm that left the nurse blushing as he winked and moved past the nurses' station. He was certain that would be where their missing third party had gone once they noticed that he was no longer with them as they were kicked out of the cafeteria. After getting in a few good shots to the Englishman, he'd effectively taken charge in pushing him to wait by the car while he retrieved Matthew. He smirked, thinking back on the several times throughout their history that he'd been able to so easily push the other nation around, but this time it wasn't for his own gain.

Stepping into the room, he found Matthew with his head leaning back against the wall as he sat in one of the chairs, sound asleep. Cautiously, he walked over to the sleeping Canada, briefly pausing as he looked at the still unconscious twin in the hospital bed. "Mathieu, temps de se réveiller un peu." He whispered as he gently shook Matthew's shoulder to encourage him to wake up. Matthew snapped to attention faster than Francis had expected, although he realized that it probably was due to already being on edge.

"Oh, salut Francis." Matthew said as he rubbed his eyes, Francis biting his cheek to keep from making any noise at how adorable he thought the other looked when still sleepy. It reminded him of the time he'd spent with him as a tiny colony. After a yawn, Matthew glanced hopefully to his brother and back to Francis. "Did he wake up? Did I sleep through him…" He started to ask, but was cut off by a shake of Francis' head, his shoulders slumping a little.

"Je suis désolé Mathieu, pas encore." Francis said with a shake of his head and a sympathetic smile. Matthew nodded, still a little reluctant to get up. But seeing that there was a lack of anyone else and that it was Francis and not Arthur in the room, he looked curiously at Francis for a moment. The other seemed to pick up on what he was thinking, pulling the boy to his feet. "I told fuzzy brows to wait by the car and that I would come and get you. He knows to yield to me when I…" Francis was saying when the two of them paused at seeing a couple of nurses come into the room.

"Oh, excuse us sirs but we need to check on him again." One of the nurses said, walking past them to stand beside the bedside. "We'll have to ask you to leave soon as well. I don't think either of you are permitted to be here after visiting hours." She said with a look to get them to understand that while gentle in tone, she wasn't going to let them linger.

"Can you tell us if the results from the bloodwork came back?" Matthew asked the two of them, hoping that one would have the information since neither girl was the one they'd spoken with earlier. One nurse with short blond hair looked to the other, older woman, Francis realizing that she was likely an intern and could persuade her more easily. "Please miss, he is my brother." Matthew said again, the older woman glancing over to Francis.

"Oh, come now, Mathieu. I am trustworthy; and I helped to make him his own na-um…man when he needed the help." Francis said, catching himself before possibly saying too much to these nurses who may not have the same amount of information the first nurse they'd spoken to had been given about the personifications. Receiving a small nod from Matthew to encourage her to explain some more, the older woman began to talk as the intern took over what she had been doing.

"Well sir, the results suggests that he'd ingested too much of a common medicine available over the counter." She was saying, confirming what the other nurse had told them. "That and what appears to suggest that he must have been taking some diet pills that don't mix well with the type of cold medicine he'd taken. But the doctors estimate that he may wake up sometime tomorrow, so don't worry too much." She said, shooting Matthew a sympathetic smile.

Matthew was grateful that Francis was in the room with him at the time, as the older man placed a hand on his shoulder to support his former colony. "O-okay then." He said softer than usual even for him, giving a small nod.

"Not sure why he thought he'd need those diet pills. He's healthy and doesn't look too bad either…." The intern said with a small blush as she playfully smirked to the men in the room. The older nurse told her to hush and not be insensitive, but Francis smirked back at her as though to start another flirting conversation with the girl before Matthew elbowed him gently.

"We'll have to ask you to leave though." The older nurse said, Francis and Matthew nodding in understanding. Matthew walked back over to his brother to give his hand a quick squeeze as a goodbye before he and Francis left the room.


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