It’s been several rain-soaked, blood-tainted weeks since he was last heard from the boy and, while Arthur knows he should be concerned - knows deep down that something is wrong - for some reason he is not surprised at all when a pale-faced, shit-baked private shows up at his tent door at three in the morning, sweating through his greens and his knees audibly knocking together. He knows the news headed his way will be bad, will be downright awful, but he’s not sure what’s making him think this way. For all he knows, the kid might be bearing good news - the war’s over, morons, Hitler popped off during the night, so you can all piss off home out of it.
A man can dream, he thinks, stifling a bitter smile and masking a groan as he stands, so why can’t a nation?
Arthur gives the twig of a boy a critical once-over and then ushers him in out of the icy rain that does not wish to relent.
“Out with it,” he grunts, dropping back down in his wooden chair, legs stretched out in front of him and locked at the ankles. “I haven’t got all da—” He pauses, checks his pocket watch and frowns at the cracked glass face. Jesus, he thinks. “I haven’t got all morning.”
“I’ve recieved word, Sir,” he says, voice a wavering accent that might be a mixture of French and English, and Arthur realizes that the kid is from Canada. It’s the accent, of course, the peculiarity of it. Acadian or Quebecois, he’s not entirely sure. “One of the Captains, Matthew Williams, Sir. He’d been reported M.I.A some time ago, after our foray into enemy territory, Sir.”
He feels like someone has thrust their hand into his gut and is twisting his organs, wringing the blood and purpose from them.
The private licks his lips. They’re white as bone, while his eyes are bloodshot. A jarring reversal, and Arthur wonders if part of the reason as to why he’s shaking so much has to deal more with exhaustion, exposure to amphetamines, or an awful combination of both, than standing in a poorly-protected room on a battle field that just previously saw more blood shed than either side wanted to think about. “They found him, Sir.”
Arthur says nothing, The hand in his gut clenches, tugs, rakes its nails down through his innards, and then repeats the process several times. He’s certain he hears a bomb go off somewhere, but that might just be in his head.
“He’s … he’s dead, Sir.”
After a moment of sitting there, staring at the impossibly young private before him - Isn’t there an age restriction on this shit? a voice at the back of his mind babbles. Why isn’t anyone enforcing the damn thing? - Arthur moves to stand. Then, not moving right away but still staring around him as though seeing things for the first time in a long time, he dismisses the Canadian soldier with a sharp wave of the hand. He can’t bring himself to speak, not right away, but the gesture and the look on his face that accompanies it speaks volumes and, without another word, the private bolts.
When the boy scurries out of the tent as though Hell is rolling up in a panzer tank behind him, Arthur runs a hand down over his face and wonders how long it’s going to be before his sees Williams again.
And, a perverse smile curling his lips upward, Arthur wonders who’s gong to pay.
It’s not for another few weeks that Arthur finds out who, precisely, is going to pay.
And it’s from the mouth of the Devil himself that he hears it.
It’s just past one in the morning, the skies have been quiet, the waters still, and for the first time in days gunfire doesn’t puncture the night, bombs don’t chime the hour, and shrapnel doesn’t go whistlin’ Dixie at the oddest hours. No Jeeps or tanks or trucks roaring down into their camp, bearing news, either good or bad or a mixture of both.
The world is silent. It is stifling.
Arthur can’t quite say he’s relaxed, but it’s peaceful enough around him so that he can lie on his cot and stare at the sloping, leaking ceiling of his tent. You’d think, given his stature, his rank, he’d be outfitted with better accommodations but, then again, this probably was the best of the tents their division had. He feels almost guilty for having it, really, compared to what some of the other officers have.
The smell is what catches Arthur’s fleeting attention first, as the stench of a rotting, bloated corpse is wont to do.
Sitting up so fast it was a wonder he doesn’t fracture anything in his back, Arthur stares across the tent at the door way. There is the silhouette of a man there, scantly illuminated by the dying light of Arthur’s lantern, and, when the man inhales on the cigarette he clenches between his teeth, the embers cause a slight glow to illuminate the lower half of his face. Disconcertingly enough, the man is missing a chunk of his left cheek as well as small portion of his nose.
"Evening, Matthew, how’s the weather on your side of the world these days?"
idk when the last time I wrote for this was but when we left off Alfred had found Matthew washed up on the shore, again, but this time with ~~~~human legs~~~~ (and naked very naked. There was much hugging and reuniting.) That’s what you missed on Mers of Our Lives
When Alfred gets Matthew back to the lab, everyone is at a loss for words, even Alfred. Matthew refuses to explain himself, instead he draws his legs up and hugs his knees and Francis finds a blanket to cover him with. Matthew hadn’t even realized he’d started shivering, the cold had never really bothered him before.
For a while, they all just stand there around Matthew, who picks at a loose thread and refuses to look at them. None of them exchange looks, but they all look thoughtful. Alfred wonders if the other two marine biologists are just as lost as he is with all this. When they first found Matthew, they thought it a miracle, but now…
It’s Arthur who, rubbing the bridge of his nose between his middle finger and thumb, speaks up.
"We’ll figure this out in the morning It’s late and I was up early. Matthew can stay in Alfred’s room for the time being, since they are already so well acquainted. You can lend him some clothes, too.”
Alfred flushes and turns red, but he nods.
It’s difficult to get Matthew to stand, but the moment he moves to take a step he wobbles and almost falls to one side— into Francis. Francis thinks it’s adorable, the merman isn’t used to his land legs, and he offers to help Alfred get Matthew to his room. Arthur grabs his things and leaves, muttering under his breath.
One step after another, they head down the hall, and Matthew still refuses to answer any of Francis’ questions.
"Such a beautiful thing like you, losing your tail, unable to return home. I hope our interference didn’t have anything to do with it."
Alfred frowns a bit at that, to himself. He wishes Francis goodnight and assures him he can take care of Matthew from here on out. He scoots the door open with a foot and enters the room, leads Matthew to his bed and sits him down. The merman stares up at him, and their eyes meet, and he has to shake his head to clear his thoughts. Right away he sets to digging out something for Matthew to sleep in— a loose teeshirt and a pair of PJ pants.
"I gave it up."
A pause, and Alfred turns to face Matthew with a frown. He watches Matthew, expectantly, as the merman plays with his toes.
"I gave up my tail. I missed you."
Matthew’s attention turns to him, and he eyes Alfred up and down. His expression is unreadable, and Alfred presses his lips into a thin line.
"I missed you too."
He has to take a deep breath and close his eyes for a moment to calm himself down.
He does it wrong the first two times.
When Matt sees Arthur the first time, he stops thrashing in the middle of the pit and stares. He feels like he is a puppet and his strings have been cut loose. Freedom. That is what he feels tingling from the crown of his head and flitting down toward his feet like stardust, that is the feeling that overcomes him when he first lays eyes on Arthur. Matt only realizes he shouldn’t be staring a second before the fist collides with his mouth.
The second time they see each other Matt’s mouth is nearly healed, leaving him looking less like he has a wound where a mouth belongs and more like he’s been kissed too much for his own good. Arthur tells him as much when he spots him at the bar, smirking like the upturned curve of his lips is a knife’s edge. Matt returned to the awful club just to see him again, and there he was —angry and sharp and wound so tight he shook. He looks like an explosion of light waiting to happen, and when Matt simply stares at him again, Arthur scoffs and walks away.
Matt can’t help but set his jaw and frown that second time, sure of his embarrassment and sure of the fact that he would never have the nerve to seek Arthur out again.
Matt doesn’t count on there being a third chance for him, but there is. It takes life in the form of an accidental meeting at a poorly run farmer’s market when Matt and Arthur hear each other jingling and look around find a friend, only to find each other instead. They aren’t quite friends, really. Not then. But Arthur walks over to the booth that Matt stands at anyway, takes a look at the produce.
"I’m Matt." he blurts out before he could swallow his tongue and choke himself into another embarrassing death. His body is turned toward Arthur’s but he makes it a point to not stare at him.
"Arthur." the smaller man replies vaguely, eyeing some vegetables and exchanging a twenty dollar bill for a big brown bag of greens.
Matt catches Arthur blushing for the first time that day, and they have a long conversation while they wait for Matt’s brother to meet him at a friendly little coffee shop that plays friendly little pop punk tunes over the speaker system. They both feel uncomfortable —out of place in such a clean space with such clean people and such high prices for basic goods— but they talk through it, and Arthur eventually calms down enough to stop shaking and offer Matt his phone number on a ripped bit of brown paper bag.
"If you don’t call me I’ll have your head." Arthur warns before he leaves, and Matt swears that it is the most backwards flirting he has ever been on the receiving end of.
They’re only barely leaving their adolescence when they meet, entering their twenties and dreading their thirties and all of the responsibilities that lie ahead. It’s easy to fall into each other’s arms, to support each other, to brood together about all of the injustices they see on a daily basis and how terrible it is that music is in such a tragic state for their generation. Arthur says he wants to make a difference through music and Matt supports him.
"And you?" Arthur asks him, bouncing his leg under the table as if to keep track of time. They’re in Matt’s kitchen, at the little round table that sits four comfortably. Arthur is drinking strong tea, Matt is drinking black coffee.
"Lawyer." Matt replies quietly, and Arthur looks at him then as if he’s never known his friend before.
Matt promises himself to never forget that Thursday afternoon.
Arthur wears his flannel shirts when they move in together. Matt owns more flannel than is strictly necessary, certainly, but Arthur claims the oversized shirts as if they are his own. Over the course of the first two years of Matt’s education, Arthur steadily steals away his roommate’s surplus of plaid until he finally takes notice.
"Arthur, where’s my shirt?" Matt’s voice is coming from their shared room, confused and above a grumble of indifference for once.
Arthur tenses like a cat in the face of danger, ready to jump and scramble for safety. Instead, when Matt finds Arthur wearing his shirt, he gives his friend a fond look and shakes his head.
"So tiny." Matt says in a low voice much like the one Arthur knows him best for, maybe more familiar and warm than he has ever known before. Arthur looks absolutely outraged, horrified that they’ve somehow managed to become so close that Matt no longer feels the need to be tense and scared around him.
When Arthur wrestles him to the ground and kisses his laughing mouth, he realizes that Matt is much kinder than he ever really gave him credit for.
Matt’s mouth starts to resemble a wound again, and he slumps when he’s home. If Arthur slips into his lap, he sighs. But mostly he is sad. Arthur won’t say it. He won’t say a word. He grinds his teeth in his sleep, curls in on himself like a collapsing star. All Matt has ever known was quiet, but he fills up the spaces for Arthur, gives him something to preoccupy his mind that isn’t the sound of his own out-of-tune self-loathing.
Matt mouths the words ‘I love you’ into the skin of Arthur’s neck when he holds him in his sleep. He hopes it’s enough for him, and he hopes that he is enough for him too.
Arthur’s first big show with his new band is incredible.
He wears one of Matt’s oversized shirts tied around his hips, looks bright and determined on the stage. Matt stays along the edges of the crowd to watch, but the energy of the room is absolutely electric, and he can feel the buzzing under his skin that he sees shaking Arthur’s thin limbs. He understands then, remembers the anger and the ravishing allure of the music and the community. He’d almost forgotten in a wave of grey suits and polite whispers, but Arthur reminded him.
When they go home together that night, Arthur feels like he is ripe with love, ready to split open from it.
"I love you," he breathes into Matt’s mouth when they make it to their bed, both half-dressed and half-hard. He’s holding Matt’s head in place by grabbing a handful of hair. "I love you and you’re mine."
Matt simply covers his scarred body with kisses and undresses him, ready to cry in relief when the words continue to fall out of Arthur’s mouth. It’s like he’s overflowing with affection suddenly, and they touch so tenderly that they’re both crying by the time they come to their senses.
"I love you, too." Matt finally says afterward, when they’re laying together and drifting off to sleep. It feels like the words have been lodged in his throat his whole life, and when Arthur kisses his bruised mouth he feels free all over again.
Summary: Matthew has a habit of disappearing often, but this time it is different. Arthur goes to get him.
Yet another Id!fic. I don’t know. Basically, I read a really awesome wendigo fic where Canada and America have to hunt wendigos. And there was this line about old monsters not sleeping, just waiting. So the entire time I wrote this, I was thinking, “old monsters don’t sleep. they wait.” And, yeah. idk. yeah.
Matthew disappears on a Wednesday, and Arthur feels the pain lances through him, right under his heart. He gasps, reaches out to steady himself on his kitchen counter.
I told you I’d write you another thING to make up for the bad quality of the first thing there are reasons I don’t write when I’m tired and cranky
It takes a little over a month, but Matthew steadily gets better. Arthur has him moved to a shallow tank once they’re sure he’s stable enough. Matthew is overjoyed— he dashes around the tank and smiles broadly and Arthur can’t help but smile back. Alfred argues that it’s still not a big enough tank and Arthur reminds him they still need to be able to easily monitor his health.
There is no doubt between them that Matthew needs to be kept secret.
Silently, though, it’s decided he makes great company. He always watches what they’re all doing with great curiousity as they wander around their lab. Francis worries about leaving him alone, especially for hours on end, but Matthew always springs up like an eager puppy when they come back.
Out of the three of them, Alfred spends the most time with him. Arthur takes an interest in him scientifically, and learns a lot from him. He also worries about his health and watches his diet. Francis will often take breaks from doing his work to sit by the tank, and read to Matthew. None of them are completely sure that he understands, but he’s always enthralled when Francis reads to him.
But Alfred, he’s the one who actually gets into the tank with him.
Matthew instantly swims and curls around him and nudges his way into getting Alfred to wrap an arm around him. He’s insanely affectionate, but Alfred doesn’t mind. He finds it adorable, really, especially when Matthew starts playing with his toes, or legs, or fingers. Even when he runs his fingers through Alfred’s hair and pulls at his cheeks and feels down his neck. He seems almost concerned about the fact Alfred doesn’t have gills and despite the fact Alfred wears a snorkel or rebreather when he goes under, he’ll drag him to the surface to breath.
Sometimes they’ll just sit at the surface of the tank— Alfred dipping his legs into the water and Matthew’s upper half curled up into his lap.
It’s one night while they’re alone, after Francis and Arthur leave to sleep, that Alfred gets a shocking surprise.
Very slowly, Matthew cups his cheeks and stares deep into Alfred’s eyes. It’s only now that Alfred can see how deep and dark his merman’s eyes are, like a storm out at sea. He’s very careful not to move too much, because clearly Matthew is curious about something. Matthew’s thumbs brush over Alfred’s cheekbones, and his lips part just as Alfred’s eyes slip shut.
Alfred’s eyes are open in an instant, and he gawks at Matthew. The merman watches him carefully, analysing his reaction. He wants to say something but it catches on his tongue and his lips flutter and Matthew’s lips quirk up slightly and he says it again.
Alfred watches the merman, sleeping so peacefully in the shallow metal tub. He watches the steady rise and fall of his chest under those bandages, and he can’t help but wonder what happened before he found Matthew washed up on the shore by the lab. He can’t help but be relieved that his vitals seem normal, too. His fingers gently trace the pattern of his magnificent purple scales and he smiles.
True to his routine, Arthur comes in before Francis. He’s almost shocked to see Alfred is still there, but that subsides quickly as he realizes that’s not surprising at all. He checks on the patient and goes to make himself some coffee.
When his mermaid finally wakes up, Alfred is excited, enthralled beyond belief. His mermaid is not as happy.
He twists and thrashes and it takes both Alfred and Arthur to hold him down until he’s calm again. Neither of them look happy when he almost gets his teeth into Alfred’s arm, in a final weak protest to his current condition.
The creature sinks back into the tub— miserable, and tired. That is when Francis makes his arrival. Their merman glares at him weakly, in warning, and his comrades warn him not to get too close because the thing might tear his throat out. That doesn’t sit well with Francis, and he scoffs at them. He scoffs and kneels down beside the metal tub. A low growl starts in the back of Matthews throat, but when Arthur goes to pull Francis back he simply bats him away.
"He is a person, just like you. He’s just scared. Isn’t that right, dear?"
Alfred is the most curious, and watches closely as Francis runs his fingers through the merman’s hair with the utmost care. He can’t help the smile on his face when Matthew nudges his head up against Francis’ hand and turns his face to nuzzle his palm. Arthur just rolls his eyes and mutters something under his breath.
"And he’s going to need a name," Francis pauses for a moment, and looks over to Alfred who is almost kneeling right beside him by now, "You know, you can touch him."
The merman’s eyes flicker over to Alfred and he lets out a bit of a huff, which isn’t really all that encouraging to Alfred. But after some gentle prompting he reaches a hand out and gently caresses his cheek, and runs his fingers through his hair. Francis removes his hand and their merman is quick to turn to the new source of attention— showing Alfred this must trust. Ever so slowly he lifts one of his own webbed hands and lays it over Alfred’s, and Alfred smiles.
"Why not Matthew?"
Arthur scoffs and says they’re both getting too attached.
i’m just going to type it here because i really want to draw this one day maybe
Arthur owns this quaint little antique shop that doesn’t get a lot of customers, but Arthur also has a thumbelina-sized Matthew. I don’t know if I wanted him to be a fairy (that Arthur raises or finds a lost fairy babu matthew??? hmm) with wings or just a thumbelina Matthew, but anyway.
The image I have in my head is that you know those dress maker mannequins?
Arthur has a bunch of these dollsized mannequins, so since nobody really visits the shop that often, he makes dresses for Matthew. After a while, Arthur starts to actually sell those dresses (Matthew keeping his favourite ones) on dolls and i just want mini matthew wearing pretty dresses arthur makes him yesyes
maybe Francis one day comes in and likes the doll dresses so much he commissions Arthur to make some of his own designs idk idk
“I’m really sorry you had to see him like that, Arthur.” Alfred says quietly, shotgun lying across his lap. He shifts, and the gun shifts with him against the wool of the blanket that then Alfred pulls higher up to his waist. “I know Matt wouldn’t have wanted it, either. He’s going to be so embarrassed.”
Arthur remains silent, closes his eyes.
Between them, the silence rages on, deep and prickling, blanketing them. The lake gleams like glass under the stars, casting moonlight into the shadowed recesses of the forest.
His name echoes in the wind, soft and gentle against his cheek. Arthur trembles, thinks of Matthew’s honey-sweet voice calling him, coaxing him into the dense forest that looms just at their shoulders.
He thinks of Matthew’s bloodied mouth, and the carcasses of the family of five just across the lake.
Arthur tastes bile at the back of his throat.
He realizes Alfred has been calling his name.
“Just remember: this isn’t Matthew.” Alfred murmurs, certain, nodding to himself. “Keep saying that.”
“How long have you known?” He asks, hoarsely. His name in the trees gets louder as the wind picks up. It gets colder even before he starts speaking again. “I thought you couldn’t see magical creatures.”
“Usually I don’t.” Alfred replies, frowning. “But…this isn’t exactly a creature. And this isn’t really magic. At least, not like your faeries or unicorns. This isn’t even…” He pauses, staring hard at the campfire between them. “This is something older, uglier. Meaner.” He looks at Arthur, mouth in a thin line. “It was here before us. It’ll be here after us.”
The embers across the lake still smolder.
Arthur tries to sleep.
(He thinks of gleaming eyes in the darkness, his voice whispered over and over while the leaves rustling turns to thunder.)
He wakes up when the sky is still grey and the air is cold. He breathes out, his breath freezing in the early morning air.
Alfred is awake, watching him, like he never fell asleep.
“I’m going to go after him in a little bit.” Alfred says quietly. “I’m going to kill him, okay?”
He says it like a question, but the hard look in his eyes make Arthur believe that it really isn’t up for debate.
“I’m going to shoot him, hack him apart, and then set him on fire.” Alfred continues, carefully, voice even. “I want you to stay in this circle. No matter what, Arthur, stay here.”
“What if you need—“
“The first time I did this, Matthew and I were kids. I don’t need help.”
Arthur hears Alfred screaming and staying still is the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
Alfred comes back a few hours later, a bag dragging behind him. He smells like rot and wet dirt and blood. His expression is grim.
“Come on.” He sighs, not even pausing. “Maybe we can make it to McDonalds before they stop serving breakfast.”
“I think he ate my liver once.” Alfred begins, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. “I woke up, covered in my blood. My side hurt something awful, like a chunk of it was missing. Turns out, a few pounds of flesh were just ripped away.” He laughs, but it lacks humor.
Arthur puts down his cold cup of tea.
“You picked one hell of a time to remember him.” Alfred continues, like Arthur hasn’t pushed away his food, his bitter tea. Alfred’s already finished his McMuffins, his hashbrowns, and three cups of coffee. He’s even popped a button on his jeans for comfort while driving. “You shouldn’t have come with me.”
Arthur murmurs, “I missed him. I hadn’t seen him in months.”
“You probably shouldn’t tell him you were with me.” His face is serious, something soft in the curve of his mouth when he looks at the backseat where the bag of Matthew’s limbs sits. “He thinks the world of you.”
“He’s done it before.”
“There were children—“
Alfred gives him a sharp look, pressing harder on the brakes than necessary. He stares for a long time. At length, he says, “It wasn’t him. You have to remember it wasn’t him. You have to keep telling yourself that or else you’ll go crazy, too.”
There’s something like pity in his gaze, and Arthur just nods.
They return to the motel on the edge of town. The forest looms just behind it, trees like specters in the dense fog. Arthur remembers how Matthew had disappeared into those woods, like he had never been there, and how Alfred had later followed, melting into the shadows between the tree trunks.
These woods are nothing like the ones he remembers in his land. These ones seem older, hiding something primeval, long-forgotten things in the shadow of their trunks, under their flushed canopies.
Arthur trembles and hurries into their shared room.
There is nothing safe about these woods.
Alfred’s already spread out Matthew’s limbs. He’s got one of Matthew’s slender, skeletal hands in his, and it’s pressed to Alfred’s cheek. It’s a little macabre, but almost sweet when Alfred kisses Matthew’s knuckles with a sigh before he drops the hand back on the bed.
“You brought your sewing kit, right?”
Together, with care, they put back the charred bits and pieces of Matthew, stopping, lingering over his emaciated limbs.
It must be wrong, must be obscene, but it turns into a labor of love, an act of worship, as they piece together Matthew’s body parts, sewing him back with neat, even stitches.
Alfred catches sight of his face as he’s threading a needle, and he raises an eyebrow.
“I can take it from here, Artie.”
“Yeah? Then could you stop caressing his lower jaw? I need to somehow fit that next.”
“You said the first time this happened, you and Matthew were children.”
Alfred looks up, still puzzling with some of Matthew’s organs. He’s holding a spleen.
“Yeah.” He looks down at the spleen. “I don’t really know. I just woke up one night and Matthew…was gone. I was afraid. I couldn’t find him. I remember hearing my name and I remember…I remember knowing I shouldn’t have gone outside.” His eyes go distant, head tilting. “So many people had warned me, warned us both. But there was a blizzard, Matthew told me, and someone gave him stew and…” Alfred trails off, catching himself. He frowns. “Anyway, I went even though I shouldn’t have. And I remember something was following me. It came from the bushes. I ran.”
“It was faster. I managed to grab a rock. I bashed it in the head, over and over. It was small. And I was always stronger. When it stopped moving, I realized it had Matthew’s eyes.”
He doesn’t know what’s on his face, but it makes Alfred flinch and look away. “And then when Matthew came back, I asked him. And he told me.”
“You don’t transform into a human flesh-eating monster every few years, terrorize hunters, and just not remember.”
“Why did neither of you—“
“Our monsters aren’t your monsters. You wouldn’t have believed us.” Alfred interrupts, tone bitter. “You tried so hard…we tried so hard to forget, to erase. But it didn’t work. Monsters might be born from people, but they don’t die with them. They just wait.”
Matthew wakes up the next evening, pale and shivering. Alfred presses up against him under the sheets, and Matthew cries into his shoulder.
Arthur remains silent because he knows if Matthew sees him, so much as hears him, well those sobs might not stay so quiet.
Matthew falls asleep, uneasily to be sure, but he sleeps.
Alfred hasn’t sleep in days, Arthur is certain, but he keeps vigil, one hand in Matthew’s hair, the other up on the pillow.
Arthur watches them both from his own bed.
He doesn’t sleep, either.
awhile ago Rechive wrote a wonderful little fic for me in the mercuddles!AU we chitchat about and I thought I would finally share it with you. If you look up betta fish breeding, you’ll understand the bubble nest.
(rewrite of this. hopefully its better/more complete.)
Matthew drives too fast, reckless, taking each corner like a promise. He isn’t even fully seated, poised on his knees as though he might vault over the steering wheel and off the bridge.
His hat is lost, wind throwing his short hair back.
He laughs, uncertain, until it builds and then, unbidden, there is a cheer and Alfred reaches over to clasp his shoulder.
With his other hand, Alfred holds onto his hat.
Behind them is a train of blue and red cars, following the monstrous garish yellow length of Alfred’s Duesenberg. In the distance, there is a pop of champagne and laughter and the sounds chase them, drowning out the creak of the bridge and shiver of the motor.
“I missed you, Matthew.” Alfred shouts, his hand coming up to cradle the back of Matthew’s neck. He squeezes, just briefly, before pulling away.
“What?” Matthew shouts, more attracted to the endless blue ringing around the city. “Gosh, Al. This is…this is just…”
“Don’t hurt yourself, Mattie.” He laughs. “This is nothing. Just wait.” Then, louder, he repeats, “I missed you, old sport.”
Matthew gives him a brilliant smile, eyes crinkled at the edges and all.