Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time
Once upon the tattered, leathery pages of an old, worn-out fairytale book, there lived a lonely young man who lived in his own little Eden in the middle of a fast-paced gray city. He was surrounded by beautiful flowers he grew and cherished himself with love and patience, blooming perfectly amongst beds of green like radiantly-coloured gemstones against their green velvet bed.
The man had sandy blonde hair that glowed in the sunshine like a crown atop the man’s head. The blonde strands would emanate sunlight, giving him a golden halo. His beautiful green eyes, mirroring the colour of the leaves of his rose-bushes, or his tulips’ cup-like leaves, or the large hands of leaves his sunflowers hold out for him to shake, or grass in the wee hours of the morning, glistening with dewdrops, were so vibrant, but they were missing a lustre that gave them full beauty—he was lacking life.
And yet, there he was, surrounded by the simple beauty of life, the last remnant of what was once there before the world turned gray, but he felt very lonely.
So, so very lonely.
Silently, he cries to himself, burying his hands in smooth creamy white skin, tears rolling down like crystal beads down his palms and arms.
“Why,” he would wonder, “Why am I so alone?”
There were no more birds to be his friends—they had all died out or moved away—no more animals to keep him company, save for a small scraggly little kitten, with big green eyes much like his and a bad leg much shorter than the other three.
The poor man had everything, and yet he felt he had nothing.
He needed love.
“And then what happened, Matt?”
The blonde teen yawned and shook his head, closing the storybook he was holding gently. “Sorry, maybe I’ll continue the story tomorrow.” He apologized, stretching in his seat.
“Aww! Are you tired already, Matt?”
“Yeah, I am.” Tired mauve eyes looked at the computer screen and the teen adjusted the headset over his ears. “I’m going to sleep, okay? You better sleep too.”
“Alright~ Good night, Mattie.”
“Good night.” The blonde smiled and kissed the headset’s microphone (his conversational partner blew him a kiss), before pulling the headset off. Before leaving, he unplugged the headset from the laptop, before setting it aside on the beside table, before leaning back into his bed with a sigh.
“Enter sleep mode,” the teen barely uttered, and his laptop beeped.
“System AFJ entering sleep mode. Sleep tight, Mattie!”
”Good night to you too, Alfred...” Matthew uttered, as his eyes slid shut.
The year is 2025.
The city; the Big Apple, New York City.
“It’s Alfred!” the screams of fans was deafening in Times Square, as the busy roads closed and now was clogged up by thousands of screaming fans. All eyes were on the big screen, showing a golden-blonde-haired young man standing on a large stage, lights of pink, blue, yellow, green and other blinding lights flashed.
His golden hair was slightly gelled back—save for a rogue strand, but no one would have it any other way. The smile on the teen’s face could rival the brightness of the lights flashing around him, his summer-sky-blue eyes sparkling like sapphires behind half-framed rectangle glasses.
“Hello, NYC!” the blonde cheered into the microphone attached to his red-white-blue Stars and Stripes headphones, pumping his fist into the air, his open leather jacket fluttering with his movements. “Let me hear some noise!”
The crowd roared beneath him as he stood there, still smiling brightly in his white-leather bomber jacket, lined with blue and yellow lines running up his sleeves and the edges. At the back was a large “50” in blue, and a blue plane graced his left arm. A yellow star within blue circle was on the left side of his open jacket. He wore white denim pants, also lined similarly to his bomber jacket, and red-white-blue sneakers.
“Yeah, that’s right!” he laughed brightly. “I’m home, guys! Let’s rock this joint!”
And there, he began to sing, the thousands under his feet singing along with him.
This is the international teen idol sensation, Alfred Fitzgerald Jones. He is a voice synthesizing program invented by a young programmer and his best friend, coupled with an AI database.
Alfred was no ordinary virtual idol. He was made to have emotions.
“Matt!” the blonde idol smiled brightly up at his creator through the laptop’s screen. “How did I do today at Times Square?” he bounced excitedly on his heels as he stood on the computer’s taskbar, gripping the lapels of his clothes (they were a slightly more revealing version of his usual outfit—the leather jacket was now short-sleeved and shorter (it came down to just above his diaphragm) and closed over his chest. (After his performance, Alfred had unzipped it open.) His shirt underneath had a Stars and Stripes design, and his one leg of his white jeans had an open segment—it was like shorts, but the rest of the pant leg was still attached to the shorts by belts. Instead of his usual sneakers, he was now wearing blue cowboy boots) as he watched the blonde teen appear in front of the monitor through the feed from the laptop’s built-in webcam. “Matt! Mattie! Matt-Matt!” he repeatedly called the blonde impatiently as his creator lifted his glasses to rub his eyes. He kept calling him pet names until the blonde finally put on his headphones.
“Matt! Can you hear me now?” he asked excitedly, and the mauve-eyed blonde nodded, chuckling softly.
“Yes, yes. You’ve been making so much noise I had to stick the headphones in before I put them on.”
“So I noticed,” Alfred snickered, thinking back to the message bubble that had popped up while he was calling for his creator. “So, so, so? What did you think about my performance earlier, huh?”
“It was great,” his creator nodded, “I see Kiku went crazy on the costume design again.” He said, using the mouse to poke the idol standing on his laptop’s taskbar. “Showing more leg more often, eh?” he snickered, poking the section of thigh that was being displayed by the open pant leg.
“I-it’s not my fault,” Alfred stuttered, pushing the mouse away, “If you have issues with it, go talk to Kiku. Personally, though, I don’t really mind this.”
“Wait until you see the fandom,” the blonde muttered, and Alfred gasped.
“What did they do this time?!” he gasped, scandalised, covering his chest.
“You’ve been hanging around Elizabeta too long,” the blonde laughed, but then he looked at his door upon hearing someone knock.
“Matthew-san,” a voice, tinged with a Japanese accent spoke through the door. “May I come in?”
“Sure,” Matthew nodded, and the door opened to reveal a black-haired man wearing an equally jet-black suit. “Hey, Kiku.”
“Hello,” the man bowed slightly, and Alfred jumped up and down from where he was, waving his arms wildly.
“Hi, Kiku!” he squealed, even if he couldn’t be heard. Matthew winced at the loud volume the AI was using and lowered it, making Alfred pout at him.
“Are you talking to Alfred?” Kiku asked, walking up to Matthew’s side to peer at the laptop’s screen. The Japanese man entered Alfred’s line of vision the moment he entered the webcam’s range, and smiling brightly, he waved at the man as Matthew unplugged the headphones and replaced it with a studio microphone lying nearby.
“Hi, Kiku!” he cheered, albeit a little less loudly, thanks to the laptop’s volume being reduced, “Do you have a new game for me to play?” he asked excitedly, bouncing on his heels.
“It is in the works, Alfred.” Kiku smiled down at the AI like he was his own son. “But right now, Matthew-san, have you taken your medicines? Francis-san asked me to check up on you.”
“I have,” the blonde nodded, “What’s gotten Francis so busy he couldn’t come to see me himself?”
“He’s currently fighting off the media trying to have a post-concert press con. They wanted you and Alfred there.”
“A press con?” Alfred asked, tilting his head. “But we’ve already had one of those before the concert…”
“The media are just like that, Alfred.” Kiku smiled apologetically, “Anyway, Francis is telling them to back off since you’re a bit… unavailable.” The man looked down at Matthew’s legs, making the blonde frown at him.
“I thought I told him I was perfectly fine, even if I’m in a wheelchair.” Matthew said, and Kiku chuckled and patted the blonde’s head.
“He’s just worried about you,” Kiku reasoned, “Now, come on. It’s time for you to get some sleep.”
“Aw! But I don’t want Matt to go to sleep yet!” Alfred whined, beating against the laptop’s screen with his fists. “He still has to finish the story about the lonely man!”
“As for you, Alfred,” Kiku continued, ignoring his protests, “You have a live internet interview in about an hour. I trust you get onto the Internet now to prepare.”
“Aww…” the blonde idol pouted, and Matthew chuckled.
“Sorry, bro.” he apologised, “Tomorrow, I promise I’ll continue the story, okay?”
“It’s a promise.” Alfred smiled, nodding, before Kiku pushed Matthew’s wheelchair to his bed and helped him tuck in. After Alfred assured himself his creator will be fine, he opened and Internet browser and let himself in.
Chapter 2: I'm Not An Old Fart!
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Oh, for goodness’ sake, Peter!” the blonde, green-eyed man screamed at his little brother as the little boy, dressed in a white shirt and blue navy shorts, climbed up the tree, laughing down at him. Upon reaching a high branch, the little boy blew a raspberry at the man underneath him.
“Can’t reach me here, you old fart!” he teased, laughing, and his elder brother flushed in annoyance.
“I am not an old fart! I’m 23!” the blonde bit back venomously, and Peter only laughed him off.
“Oldie! Who wears sweaters that colour these days?” Peter teased, swaying back and forth on the tree’s branch. “It’s 2025, Artie! Catch up with times! It’s not WW2, you know!”
“It’s Arthur, thank you very much!” the elder man screeched at the little boy, “Now get down here or I’m going to go back to work and leave your sorry little arse birthday gift-less!”
“Not fair!” Peter whined down at Arthur, “You promised to take the day off just for me!”
“I’m going to take it back if you don’t come down from there, young man!”
“You sound like Father,” Peter scowled, and lowered his feet—but then he froze. “… Um.”
Arthur looked up at his little brother. “… Peter, is there a problem?”
“… I can’t get down.” The little boy replied, fear in his eyes. “H-help!”
Arthur bit his lip, raising his arms, “See? If you hadn’t climbed up the bloody tree, we wouldn’t have this problem, right?” he gestured for Peter to jump down, “Come on, jump, I’ll catch you.”
“You?! Catch me?!” Peter gasped, “You’re so scrawny, what makes you think you can catch me, Artie?”
“Bloody hell, Peter, just jump down already!” Arthur yelled, “You’re already as embarrassing enough as it is!”
“Excuse me,” Arthur turned to find his co-worker at the library smiling at him, and a blush rose to Arthur’s usually pale cheeks. “Little brother problems?”
“Y-yes,” Arthur nodded, lowering his hands as the taller, tan-skinned black-haired man raised his arms, gesturing for Peter to jump down. “S-sorry for bothering you, Raj… It’s my brother, he’s…”
“Hey! It’s Raj!” Peter smiled brightly, “Hey there!” he waved down at the man. “Catch me, okay?”
“Of course,” Raj chuckled, as Arthur pulled a face. “Come on down, Peter.”
The little boy jumped down from the tree and landed snugly in the man’s arms, the taller man laughing as he set the boy down.
“It’s bloody unfair he listens to you, but not me,” Arthur complained to Raj as he dusted himself off, “It’s almost like as if he’s your little brother, not mine.”
“Oh, come now, Arthur,” the taller man chuckled, “I’m sure he loves you anyway.”
“Fat chance,” Peter stuck his tongue out at Arthur and the elder blonde spluttered, “Artie’s a boring old fart, but you’re not! You’re cool and fashionable! Compared to some old tacky sweater vest…”
“I-I’ll have you know I made this myself!” Arthur yelled at Peter, and Raj patted Arthur’s shoulder to calm him down.
“Calm down,” the taller man chuckled, “Well, I took half the day off to help you out with Peter; I know he’s such a handful.” He smiled at Arthur, and the green-eyed blonde’s blush reddened. “It’s his birthday today, isn’t it?”
“Y-yes,” Arthur stuttered, looking aside. Peter noticed this and smirked. “Y-you’ll come with us?”
“Sure,” Raj nodded, “Took the day off for it,” he smiled down at Peter and ruffled the boy’s hair. “So, Arthur and I are going to help you look for your birthday present, alright?”
“Yay!” Peter cheered, jumping up and down. Raj laughed and held the boy’s hand.
“Let’s go, then.” He smiled, before tuning his attention to Arthur, who was still looking at him with a blush on his face. Smiling knowingly, he took Arthur’s hand (and at this the blonde let out a small squeak of surprise, and the cerise shade on his face darkened), before placing it on Peter’s. Arthur looked slightly disappointed, but he held his little brother’s hand, the little boy pulling a face up at Arthur.
“Wh-where do you want to go first, Peter?” his brother stuttered.
“I…” Suddenly Peter fell silent upon hearing the next song being played at the nearby bazaar, the bright smile on his face disappearing as he listened to the music.
“… Peter?” Arthur blinked.
“Hey, isn’t that Alfred Jones’ new song?” Raj asked, and Arthur looked at him blankly.
“… Who?” he blinked, and the taller man laughed.
“Oh, he’s that new virtual idol everyone’s crazy about. He’s—”
“I know what I want for my birthday!” Peter suddenly smiled brightly, jumping up and down as he swayed Arthur’s and Raj’s hands in his. “Come on, come on, come on!”
He began to drag the two elder men towards the nearest music store.
“Wh-what is it you want, Peter?” Arthur asked, “And slow down! Tell us what is it you want first!”
“I want the AFJ program!” the little boy smiled excitedly up at Arthur, “You know, the installer for Alfred Jones’ voice bank!”
Arthur’s look of confusion made Raj laugh.
“Alright,” he spoke up, smiling down at Peter. “Let’s go get that, then! And then we could go to that ice cream parlour down the street!”
“Yeah!” Peter smiled brightly, before dragging Raj and Arthur into the store.
Meet Arthur Kirkland, 23, fourth of a brood of five children from the Kirkland family that migrated from England to America. Currently juggling three jobs to keep him and his brother, Peter, afloat, Arthur works almost the entire day—in the flower shop he had opened at the lower floor of their small city-home during the mornings, in a small library not too far from Central Station in the afternoons, and in a small bar at night.
Peter, 12, is his only companion at home; aside from a small Scottish Fold he and Peter had named Crumpet. It was tiny, scrawny, even, had a bad leg and its eyes were as green as Arthur’s. His other three elder brothers have all gone back to their home in the British Isles, but every so often they send money to their youngest brothers to help them get by.
Being so busy with work, naturally, Arthur couldn’t care less what happens in the entertainment industry, and spends what little of his free time he has either sleeping, or practicing black magic.
Of course magic is real, Arthur believes, he knows it very well, mostly because most of the flowers he sells in his store grew because of magic. It was nigh impossible to grow flowers in the city—and in New York, of all places—but Arthur managed, and it would be safe to say that his small flower shop brought at least a little comfort for the two brothers.
“Bloody hell,” Arthur sighed, slumping in his seat next to Raj, as across them, the little boy tucked into a tall chocolate parfait. “I had no idea that wanker Jones was so bloody expensive,” he looked at Raj, “I’m sorry you had to chip in too,” he apologised, and the black-haired man shook his head.
“It’s alright,” he smiled, “Peter is practically my little brother as well.” he patted Arthur’s knee, and the blonde flushed. “Would you like something as well?” he asked, gesturing at the now halfway-finished parfait Peter was practically inhaling.
“N-no, I’m fine,” Arthur pulled away from Raj’s touch, embarrassed, “S-sorry you had to pay for Peter’s ice cream as well.”
“Stop apologising, Arthur,” Raj chuckled, “You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“S-sorr… Right.” Arthur stuttered, and Peter cleared his throat.
“Done!” he smiled brightly up at the two men, clutching the hard disk drive that held the AFJ voice bank. “Let’s go home! I want to try out using Alfred!”
Arthur sighed, and Raj chuckled. “Let’s go, then.”
Peter immediately rushed upstairs into his room the moment the three of them entered the Kirkland residence, giggling brightly, excited to try out his birthday present. Arthur sighed as he let Raj in, before closing the door behind him.
“Oh, let him be this bouncy,” Raj laughed, patting the seat on the couch next to him for Arthur to sit down. “It’s his birthday, after all.”
“I guess,” Arthur chuckled, “I know it’s a bit rude to ask you of this, but do you think you could make dinner tonight? Peter loved that curry you made before.”
“Of course,” Raj chuckled, patting Arthur’s head. “I don’t mind cooking here.”
“O-of course, it-it’s not like I’m not confident with my own cooking!” Arthur stuttered defensively, “I-I just thought h-he’d might like s-something special!”
Raj laughed, thinking back to the time he ate the charcoal—I mean, scones—Arthur had brought with him to work. “Do you mind if I stay over for the night? Since I’ll be here for dinner, anyway?”
“O-oh, that would be splendid!” Arthur blurted out, and he slapped his mouth. “I-I mean, s-sure, that would be alright,” he looked off to the side, “I-I’ll sleep on the couch, then.”
Raj chuckled, shaking his head.
“Arthur, come here.” He said, gesturing for Arthur to bring his face closer.
“Wh-what is it?” Arthur asked, the blush on his face intensifying as he brought his face closer.
Suddenly, he felt Raj’s hand on his nape, the man’s warm fingers toying with the ends of his hair, and Arthur felt himself being pulled in.
Before he realised it, their lips were touching. The blonde’s green eyes widened, but then he relaxed into the kiss and began to kiss back, wrapping his arms around the back of the man’s neck.
Raj pushed forward until Arthur was lying down on the couch as they parted for air, the both of them panting slightly.
“… That was interesting.” Raj chuckled, and Arthur chuckled awkwardly.
“Indeed,” Arthur nodded, before pulling him down for another kiss—
“Artie!” Peter’s voice floated from above them, and Raj and Arthur scrambled to get back to their previous position of quietly sitting next to each other on the couch. The little boy came down the stairs, a questioning look on his face as he looked at his brother and his co-worker sitting next to each other awkwardly on the couch. “…Huh.”
“Wh-what was it you needed, Peter?” Arthur asked, stuttering.
“… Um, what are we having for dinner? I’m starting to feel a little hungry.”
“O-oh, I’ll be cooking,” Raj spoke up, and Peter glanced at him questioningly, before shaking his head.
“That’s great, but um,” Peter patted his stomach, “Chop, chop. Little boys can’t go hungry.”
“R-right,” Arthur and Raj chorused, before staggering to the kitchen. Peter watched them leave, before shaking his head, going back up the stairs to toy with Alfred’s voice editor.
“Arthur’s a boring old fart!”
“Arthur’s tacky and boring!”
“I want to go back to London!”
“Arthur’s cooking sucks!”
“Arthur’s so girly with his knitting and embroidery!”
“Arthur’s an old man!”
“Shut up that little idol’s mouth full of bollocks or I will toss that blasted iPod of yours out the window!” Arthur yelled, slamming his fist onto the table, alarming both Raj and Peter.
The little boy pouted at him, putting his iPod into his pocket, patting it. “You’re just jealous Alfred’s all famous and you’re not.”
“Oh, for goodness sake, Peter, I don’t even know the bloody wanker!”
“C-calm down, Arthur,” Raj held Arthur’s shoulder. “He’s just a little kid.”
The green-eyed blonde glared at his little brother, before falling silent; taking a furious bite of the curry he had on his spoon.
“Now, you two,” Raj chuckled, “Let’s get dinner over with, so we can get on to the cake.”
Peter cheered brightly, and Arthur let out a sigh of relief.
Really, what is it this man couldn’t do?
“Good night, Peter,” Arthur gently said to his little brother as he shut the lamp on Peter’s bedside table. “Sweet dreams.”
“’Night,” the little boy mumbled, curling up next to the hard disk drive Arthur and Raj had bought for him. The blonde boy fell asleep within moments, and the elder man standing by his bed smiled, gently stroking Peter’s hair before quietly walking out of the room, where outside, Raj was waiting for him, smiling as he closed the door behind him.
“Asleep,” Arthur smiled tiredly up at Raj, and the taller man nodded. “Finally.”
“Shall we continue what we were doing earlier, then?” the man chuckled, wrapping his arms around Arthur’s waist and pulling the shorter man closer.
“Let’s,” Arthur chuckled, and pulled him in for another kiss—
Suddenly Raj’s phone rang and the two immediately broke apart, alarmed.
“O-oh, I’m sorry,” the taller man apologised, taking his phone out, as Arthur laughed, feeling silly for reacting so violently to a simple ringtone. “… Oh.”
Arthur stopped laughing to look at the man reading the mail on his phone. “What is it?” he asked.
“I have to go,” he said, putting his phone back into his pocket. “Apparently, no one’s home to take care of my little sister,” he kissed Arthur’s forehead, “I’m sorry, this will have to wait.”
“S-sure,” Arthur nodded, slightly disappointed, and the taller man smiled down at him.
“I’m not sure I told you this yet, Arthur,” he said, before kissing Arthur again gently, looking into the blonde’s green eyes with his dark brown ones. “I love you.”
“… Wow,” was all Arthur could say, and Raj chuckled.
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow at work,” the taller man nodded, pulling away, going down the stairs, Arthur following suit. The two men reached the front door and Raj stepped outside. “Bye.” He smiled charmingly down at Arthur, and the blonde man nodded, starry-eyed.
“B-bye,” he stuttered, and Raj turned, before walking away. Arthur closed the door, before pressing his back to it; his cheeks flushed red, a fluttering sensation in his chest. An embarrassed feeling washed over him. “Bloody hell, I haven’t felt like this since… since…”
Arthur shook his head, pushing himself off the door. “W-well, I’m sure this relationship will turn out much better than the one I had with…”
The green-eyed man slapped his forehead, trudging into the kitchen and pouring himself a glass of ale. He downed it quickly, leaving the glass in the sink, before leaving to head to his study.
He knew tonight was one of his few free nights, so he figured it would be best if he played around with magic for a while.
He opened the door to his study and was met with the scent of flowers growing by magic, the very same flowers he sells in his little flower shop out front. He quickly made his way past pots of colourful flowers (there was one pot that had a rose seedling, but the flowers were a beautiful deep blue colour, deep like the ocean. They were Arthur’s favourite, he had found the seedling in his ancestral home back in England; it was a miracle it stayed alive the entire time, Arthur had to admit, and so he named them Saphira Roses, for not only was the flower long-lasting, its petals reminded him of sapphires) and reached his desk, where an old-looking leather-bound book sat, locked with a spade-shaped lock.
Arthur picked it up, looking through its pages, humming thoughtfully, as he found the spell he had been practising—one of animation. He headed to the back of his study, where a pentacle drawn in chalk was all ready on the ground, with a circle of candles around it. In the middle of the pentacle was a small, tattered green rabbit. It was Arthur’s favourite toy when he was younger, and he had called it Mint Bunny. He had heard stories that it was his grandmother that had made it by herself, but unfortunately, Arthur had never met his grandmother before.
(In hindsight, Arthur thought, he remembered getting the spade-locked spell book, Mint Bunny and the Saphira Rose seedling from his grandmother’s room in their ancestral house. Maybe his grandmother was a witch?)
“Alright,” he said to himself, taking a deep breath. “Here I go.”
Concentrating on Mint Bunny, he began to sing out the spell—he learnt that that was how the spells really are supposed to be done, they would fail miserably if the spells were chanted—and the pentacle began to glow an unearthly green.
So far, so good, Arthur thought to himself, I think I’ve got this one in the bag.
Suddenly, his thought train on Mint Bunny derailed when for no particular reason, Arthur thought about the new idol Alfred Jones.
Peter really likes the guy, Arthur’s mind said, Even if he’s just some AI program—wait, why am I thinking of such things?!
Arthur blinked, and he had realised that he had finished singing the spell, and the room’s glow disappeared. The blonde man looked at Mint Bunny.
It wasn’t moving.
“Another failure, I see,” Arthur said glumly to himself, “And it’s most likely that bloody Jones’ fault.”
Frowning, he put the spell book back on his desk, and went to bed.
Alfred felt something tugging at him as he surfed on a comment flying through cyberspace. The blonde idol blinked as he looked around him—but nothing was around to tug at him. He paled slightly. He never liked ghosts.
“Th-this is so not cool!” he yelled fearfully, as he felt the tugging on his arm grow stronger. “L-let go!’
Suddenly he was forcefully pulled off the comment he was surfing on, making the idol scream as he fell into the depths underneath him.
Uh, um. The Spades allusion there was something I didn't intend to do. HAHA. ☆
Chapter 3: The Green Eyed Angel
All Alfred knew about the outside world came from stories. Rumours floating all over the Internet, recounts of Matthew’s day, movies he had seen while Matthew watched them on his laptop with him, and from the best place of all—that storybook Matthew regularly reads to him whenever he could. A long time ago, Alfred had asked where the storybook came from, and all Matthew did was smile, and shake his head.
“Francis.” He said simply, before continuing the stories.
It was odd, though, that storybook. For one thing, when Alfred looked for them on the Internet, not one of the stories in the storybook appeared in his search results. It was like as if that book was the only copy of it in the world.
Alfred knew better than to ask Matthew about it, because he knew his brother wouldn’t tell him anything, but when he asked others (mainly, Kiku, because only he, Matthew and Francis were ever allowed near his home laptop), they simply didn’t know about it.
The storybook itself was mysterious, but Alfred loved it very much. There was an obvious pattern to the stories, though—once upon a time, there was a beautiful but lonely green-eyed blonde who had some sort of problem with his heart, but then eventually he would find happiness. There was one particular story that was the apple of Alfred’s eye, the story of the green-eyed angel.
The green-eyed angel used to a lonely young man, living all by himself in a gray city, surrounded by streets and buildings and cars and horrible, horrible noise, the lack of life drove stakes in his heart as around him the world ebbed towards its destruction. In the middle of it all, the young man had his own little paradise—a small garden where small flowers and stunted grass grew around him; an Eden in the sea of gray.
Despite having the beautiful paradise to himself, the young man was alone. He needed love.
It came in the form of a poor man struggling to find happiness. He had everything he could ever need—money, power, fame—but he was lonely. He, too, needed love.
As if driven by fate, the two met and they shared a connection surpassing all odds, even as they were driven from the gray city of opportunity and into the small sanctuary the green-eyed young man had.
There, as they hid from the eyes searching for them, waiting for the inevitable, they professed their love for each other, that bond that bound them to each other like the north and south poles of a magnet.
And then that was where they were forcibly torn apart—by death. The green-eyed man suddenly grew wings—he had become what he was supposed to be, an angel, whereas his lover, his one and only love, was dragged to beneath the ground for all the sins he had done.
Now, lonelier than before, the green-eyed angel wanders the earth, waiting, just waiting, and watching, for the love of his life to return to him, back into his arms, back to where they were still together, back when they loved each other.
Now, none of the characters were ever named in the stories (Matthew had said once it was probably to stimulate the person reading the stories—the mental image would always be different with each person reading the story. That was what made the book beautiful) but Alfred did catch what Francis had said once when Matthew had fallen asleep whilst telling him that story.
Matthew had forgotten to set him to sleep mode, so he was about to do it himself, when he heard Francis enter the room. He watched the elder man smile down softly at the peacefully sleeping Matthew before planting a soft kiss on the young man’s forehead, uttering something in French, but it was too far away from the microphone for Alfred to properly pick up. After Matthew was tucked in, Francis had picked up the storybook—open at the page of the green-eyed angel’s story.
Alfred was about to dismiss the issue, getting ready to enter sleep mode, when he heard it—just barely a whisper, but it was clearly there.
That must have been the angel’s name, but how did Francis know? Did he know who wrote the story?
Imagine the look on Alfred’s face when he felt himself nearing and nearing a clear window—peering out into an unfamiliar room.
“I-I’m going to crash into that monitor—not the monit—ugh!”
Alfred reached out blindly in front of him in a vain attempt to try and stop the force—when he felt a sensation foreign to his senses.
There was a strange sensation on his fingertips. It was cold, and it felt like how he had imagined what air felt like. Was this air he was touching?
Curiosity taking over him, Alfred reached for the edge of the monitor with his other hand, shock taking over him upon discovering his fingers went right through the clear screen. Using both hands, Alfred held onto the edges of the monitor, and pulled himself out. He crawled out of the monitor and face first, he fell into a plush wheeled chair.
Bewildered, Alfred blinked as he struggled to straighten himself up, and he sat up in the chair he was in.
There. It was brushing all over him, all over his skin, and it tingled at the cold sensation—was this air he was feeling? He turned the chair around and squinted to see there was an air con unit behind him. He looked to his left to find a bed, where a little boy, blonde, slept peacefully. He was half-lying on the bed, indications that he never made it to his bed before he fell asleep.
A small smile crossed Alfred’s face, and using the light from the on computer, he managed to tuck the little boy into bed, marvelling at how the cloth of the bed sheets, the boy’s pyjamas, and the comforter brushed against his skin for the first time—something other than simulations Kiku had put him through before. It felt surreal. Alfred briefly wondered if this is what ‘dreams’ are.
The boy shifted slightly, and Alfred held his breath—he was breathing?
He felt the cold air flow through his body, and he shivered slightly. This felt rather strange. He never felt anything like this back in Matthew’s laptop.
The blonde’s eyes twinkled. Everything was so new. So wonderful.
He turned to shut the computer down, and when it did, he unplugged it, before patting the boy’s head gently. Silently, he made his way out of the room, and he found himself at the second floor of a small home, looking down at the dark living room below. He looked to his left and right and saw two other rooms. Feeling lucky, Alfred made his way over to the room on his right.
Silently, just like when he left the little boy’s room, he entered this one to find it was slightly similar to the room he had been in before, except in lieu of a computer table, there was a study desk, and next to it was a shelf filled with books. Alfred looked to the left to find someone lying down in bed. Judging from the even rising and falling of the person’s breathing, they were sleeping. The only light in the room came from the window in the middle of the room, right across the door, where the moonlight pooled in, dimly lighting the room, the sleeping figure casting dark shadows below it.
Blinking, curiosity in his eyes, Alfred carefully approached the bed and peered at the person sleeping in it, bringing his face unintentionally close to the man’s.
Gently, Alfred tangled his fingers in the man’s hair, and sighed softly. It was a sandy blonde colour, he noted, looking at it in the light of the moon. Just how he imagined the green-eyed angel.
Alfred blinked. How odd for him to be even thinking about a story like that at a time like this. He should be figuring out how he got there in the first place, or trying to find a way to contact Matthew or something, but oddly, he felt so tired, Alfred couldn’t hold back a yawn that came out of him.
The virtual idol blinked when he stopped yawning. What was that all about? He had never done such a thing before! How weird… and interesting.
However, he couldn’t look into it further, he was suddenly feeling heavy, and his eyelids began to droop. It was just like how Matthew would do when he was tired. Could that be the case? Was Alfred getting… tired?
Impossible. He was a program. Programs don’t get tired.
Alfred yawned again, and without thinking, he took his glasses off, set them on the bedside table, before he climbed into bed next to the blonde man, curling up right against him under the sheets.
He would worry about that in the morning, he thought to himself, as he hugged the man’s thin arm. For now, he wanted to sleep.
Sleep. What a foreign word. He wondered what it felt like.
As Alfred’s eyes drooped, the blonde next to him stirred slightly, and blurred, unfocused emerald green eyes opened half-mast met with his own half-mast sky blue ones.
“Hi, Peter…” the blonde uttered; his voice so soothing Alfred felt being lulled to sleep. He only nodded, and the blonde he was lying down next to smiled dreamily before falling asleep again.
“He has green eyes…” Alfred muttered as his consciousness began to slip. “Just… like the… green… eyed… angel.”
And for the first time in his life, Alfred Jones experienced sleep.
Arthur awoke the next day at the sound of his alarm clock. Groaning slightly, he shifted under the sheets of his bed to find it warmer than it usually was. There was a pleasant weight on and next to his body, making him smile slightly. He remembered vaguely that last night Peter had climbed into his bed. Maybe it was some form of rare birthday sweetness his little brother decided to bestow upon him last night or something?
He opened his mouth to speak his little brother’s name, a laugh ready to roll off his tongue as his eyes opened—
Only to stare right into a pair of big, bright beautiful blue eyes that looked back at him with such surprise, Arthur found himself doing a double-take.
And then it hit him. The person lying down next to him wasn’t Peter. Heck, he was even taller and bigger than Arthur was! The person had bluer eyes than Peter, brighter, yet just as innocent, and had golden hair, yellower than he had ever seen on someone before. The young man had a handsome face, even features that were even… attractive, but then Arthur’s eyes widened.
There was a complete stranger (handsome, yes, but still a stranger,) in his home. How did he get in? He was also in his bed. His bed, of all the places in his house that this mysterious man could be in.
Oh, and let us not fail to mention Arthur’s recently-acquired boyfriend, his co-worker Raj Singh, who loved him very much, thank you, and would most likely have a row if he sees the rather… compromising situation Arthur had found himself in.
He realised that his legs were entangled with the stranger’s larger ones, and that the blonde man had his arms wrapped around him like he was his life-sized teddy bear. Arthur couldn’t see very much with all the sheets bunched up around them, but he could feel that the mysterious man hadn’t changed from his clothes—the feel of a leather jacket was brushing against Arthur’s bare arms, in contrast to him, who was only wearing a pair of pyjama pants and a loose t-shirt.
“… You’re awake.” The voice was so painfully familiar; Arthur couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You fit the description of the green-eyed angel. Are you my green-eyed angel?”
The innocent question would have sent Arthur reeling—he had zero tolerance for sweet words being spoken to him (after all, the handsome man just called him an angel! Who’d have thought?)—but right now, he was more shocked than anything, so those words he usually would have taken as sweet—maybe borderline flirty—was now doing nothing more than delivering tonnes of panic that overloaded Arthur’s systems.
“Wh-who are you?” he asked, stuttering, his voice a little higher than he would have liked.
“Oh, me? My name is Alfred Fitzgerald Jones.” The blonde smiled at him brightly, brighter than the sunlight streaming from his room’s window. “It’s nice to meet you, green-eyed angel!”
Alfred Jones. Oh, he’s had it. Whatever joke Peter was playing on him now has got to stop.
Arthur sat up abruptly, wrenching himself away from the blonde man’s embrace, causing Alfred to let out a whine of protest, before turning to glare at him.
“U-um… you okay?”
Arthur answered him with a very audible whap as his palm connected with the man’s cheek, before angrily storming out of his room to go tell Peter off.
Alfred held his throbbing cheek and sat up.
“… Was it something I said?”
Chapter 4: Flowers in the City
The uncomfortable silence was deafening to Alfred as he sat quietly on the couch in the living room (he had decided just sitting on the bed wondering what on Earth the slap was about wasn’t the best thing to do; a better option would probably be to get somewhere less intimate to sort things out properly), shuffling around in his seat as he could hear the blonde man yelling at someone upstairs. He winced at the man’s sharp voice, scolding mercilessly like an evil stepmother (Alfred winced, remembering one of the stories Matthew read to him that wasn’t from the usual storybook—this one, he actually found on the Internet. The title of the story was Cinderella). Pouting, Alfred tuned out the man’s yelling, when he heard a little boy’s voice.
“Wait, Alfred?” he heard, the tone one of absolute delight. “Like, Alfred freaking Jones?!”
The man didn’t seem to have replied, seeing as the moment Alfred heard the little boy exclaim his name, a boy darted out of the room Alfred first arrived in. he froze at the top of the stairs as he and Alfred made eye contact. Alfred’s eyes widened. So this must be the Peter the man was talking about.
“… H-hello?” Alfred tried to say, and the little boy let out a squeal of glee, before running down the stairs, the elder man just getting out of the room, feathers very obviously ruffled as the scowl on his face grew more knotted as the man’s brilliant eyebrows knitted together.
The little boy tacked him to the couch, making Alfred cry out in alarm, as he was hugged rather mercilessly by the suddenly hyperactive little boy.
“Wow! You’re really here! It’s amazing!”
“Peter,” the blonde man had finally reached the bottom of the stairs, glowering at the two of them sprawled on the couch. “What bollocks are you pulling this time? What did you pay this man to do this?”
“Absolutely nothing, Artie.” Peter stuck his tongue out at the man as he pulled away from Alfred, allowing him to sit up properly. “I thought this was some kind of birthday present from you.”
“I don’t do follow-ups,” ‘Artie’ (Alfred reasoned it was probably a nickname for the man, seeing as how the scowl on the man’s face grew) crossed his arms. “Especially for birthdays. Who is this man?”
“M-my name’s Alfred Jones,” Alfred spoke up, “U-uh, but I think I’ve already told you that.”
“So, you really are Alfred?” Peter asked, stars in his eyes, and Alfred nodded. “You go to concerts and everything?”
“Online and offline,” Alfred grinned at Peter, “Although, granted, I’ve never actually been out of a computer before,” here, Peter’s eyes widened, and so did the blonde man’s. The brothers looked at each other, “Uh, I take it I said something wrong?”
“… Did you just say you went out of a computer?” the man asked, and Alfred nodded.
“I was on my way to an interview on the Internet when something pulled me to Peter’s computer,” he giggled slightly when he heard Peter hiss, ‘he knows my name!’ “And then I found that I could climb out of his monitor. So I did, and I ended up here.”
The blonde man blinked at him owlishly, and Alfred gestured to the armchair next to the couch, awkward, because he was unsure on what to do.
“… How do you know Peter?” the man asked after taking a seat.
“Um, well,” Alfred shrugged, “I kept hearing you say his name, you even called me that last night, so I just assumed.”
“Last night? What happened last night?” Peter asked.
“You don’t have to know,” the man said, just at the same time as Alfred said, “I went to his room and shared his bed.”
The two blondes looked at each other, and the man pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Ugh. I knew it. This is all my fault.” He groaned, and Peter frowned.
“Arthur…” Oh, so that’s his name, Alfred thought, “What did you do?” He took a look around. “And now that I think about it, where’s Raj?”
“One at a time,” Arthur said, holding up his hand. He turned to address Alfred. “Look, I’m very sorry, but we need to get you back.”
“B-but,” Alfred stuttered, “I don’t know how, it’s not like I can shove myself back into the computer or something.”
Arthur bit his lip, and Alfred found himself finding the sight cute. He kept his mouth shut, however, because Peter had beaten him to talking.
“Aww, can’t he stay a little longer or something?” Peter whined. “I mean, it’s not everyday we get international pop stars living in our house, you know! I mean, ours is even a virtual idol!”
“Peter, you should know as well as I do that virtual idols are virtual for a reason,” Arthur snapped, before turning to face Alfred. “Now, I don’t want you leaving the house or doing something stupid, or, in fact, anything at all! No one should find out that you’re here or I’ll never hear the end of it and my boyfriend—” Arthur stopped himself from talking, pursing his lips together into a fine line.
“… Arthur, you have a new boyfriend?” Peter asked, as Alfred blinked at them owlishly. Boyfriend?
Alfred took a moment to process the word.
Boyfriend (n.) – a male friend with whom a person is romantically or sexually involved; sweetheart or lover.
“… You have a lover?” Alfred finally said after a moment, and Peter and Arthur paused to look at him. A blush crept onto Arthur’s cheeks, dyeing the pale skin pink, before he turned his head to look away from Alfred.
“That’s none of your business,” Arthur snapped at him, “And the same goes for you, Peter!” the little boy frowned.
“Fine, since you’re being so stingy about it.” Peter pouted, before shuffling closer to Alfred.
Arthur took a moment to gather himself together, taking a deep breath before letting it out.
“Well, unfortunately, I have work today, so I can’t be around to watch you.”
“I have school.” Peter spoke up, and Arthur stared at him. “… Art, it’s Monday today.”
“… Bloody hell.” Arthur swore, looking at Alfred. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Can I come to your work with you?” Alfred smiled brightly, excited. “S-since I’m here, might as well see the outside world, right? I mean, it’s never the same as the stuff simulated on the computer, so.”
“Right,” Arthur sighed exasperatedly, before falling silent, debating with himself internally, at a loss on what to do. “… I can’t afford to have you seen in public, though. There’d be a riot.”
“Please!” Peter joined in, and the two of them pouted at Arthur, who reeled, the flush on his face deepening as he looked at the (admittedly cute) sight of Alfred and Peter’s bright blue eyes welling up as the looked at him. “I won’t bother you and stuff! I won’t annoy you until you manage to find out how to send Alfred back!”
“A-and I’ll stay out of trouble!” Alfred added, nodding furiously. “Please, please, pretty please? I’ve never been anywhere else before. This is all so new to me.”
Arthur looked at the two of them for a moment, before letting out a long, tired sigh.
“Oh, alright.” The two younger blondes smiled brightly in delight, “But only if the two of you can keep your hands to yourselves and your mouths firmly shut.”
Alfred grinned down at Peter and the boy grinned back up at him.
“Welcome to our home, Alfred!” Peter smiled brightly, hugging him tightly. “I hope you’ll like it here while you stay!”
“I’m pretty sure of that,” Alfred chuckled, before turning his head to smile at Arthur, who, despite being annoyed at the two of them, managed a small smile for the blonde idol. “Yeah.” He nodded, patting Peter’s head. “I’ll definitely like it here.”
Arthur shook his head fondly, a small smile creeping onto his lips, even though he fought to keep it away. “Arthur Kirkland. He’s Peter, my little brother.” He said, holding his hand out for Alfred to shake. Grinning brightly, Alfred shook it, his grip warm and firm on the blonde man’s hand.
The two of them lingered, their gazes locking, and for a moment, time slowed down for the two of them as they found themselves unable to let go of each other’s hand.
Arthur was the first to pull away, blushing slightly.
“R-right, it’s best we get ready, lest risk running late.” He spluttered, yanking his hand away from Alfred’s like his touch burned his hand.
“Y-yeah.” Alfred stuttered, and Peter shot them a strange look, but said nothing.
Arthur stumbled back upstairs, Peter in tow, and Alfred stood up from the couch, an unfamiliar heat rising to his cheeks.
“… His hand was warm…”
Arthur gave him a hoodie to wear, yanking off his white leather jacket (“Too bloody conspicuous,” he had said with slight disdain, “You stand out with this. No one wears white leather out on the streets unless they’re headed to Tiffany and co.’s.”), and replaced his pants with slightly worn-out jeans that were too big for Arthur, but fit him just fine. When he was ready, Arthur got himself ready for work as Peter got himself ready for school.
Quickly, the three of them ate cereal (Alfred’s eyes twinkling in delight as Peter gave him a bowl of honey-flavoured stars—the little boy had a bowl of chocolate-flavoured chips—the idol ate it all up, delighted at the feeling of having consumed food for the first time ever; out of the corner of his eye, he could see Arthur smiling at him gently against the rim of his teacup. When he had turned his head to look at Arthur properly, the man’s smile disappeared into a scowl) and together they left the house. The moment the door opened, Alfred’s eyes widened in delight as he drank in the sights before him—it was just like what was described to him or what he saw in Kiku’s simulations, only much, much better. A large smile spread across his face as he rushed outside, Peter in tow, with Arthur at the rear, locking the door behind them, chuckling at the two boys he had just let loose out on the street. Next to his feet were a few large buckets with paper bags over them, Alfred had the urge to ask what they were, but he was more preoccupied with the sights before him.
The street itself wasn’t as spectacular as the main streets of New York; it had a few tall buildings—mostly offices—and other houses similar to the Arthur and Peter’s, and at the corner was a small convenience store. Alfred turned in a wide circle, breathing in the cool morning air, enraptured. The blaze of delightful new sensations overloaded his senses, and for a moment, he just stood there, soaking in the sight of the tangible world—the real world, the wonderful dimension outside of what he previously knew inside the laptop of his creator.
Matthew, the name ran through his head like a hot knife through butter, and Alfred paused. In his joy of feeling the world, he had forgotten about him. He turned to talk to the two brothers to find that they had entered a flower shop right next to their home. Curiosity took over him and he followed the brothers inside, where a woman with long brown hair was already inside, getting the shop ready for the morning, the buckets with paper bags on them already inside, next to a fridge that had flowers in it in buckets.
Alfred’s wide blue eyes drank in the sight of the flower shop—he’d never seen one before, they were never in the simulations Kiku gave him—and his gaze lingered on each and every flower that was already in vases for display. Like a curious kitten, Alfred warily approached one bucket that had a single flower—it was pure white, with large petals spread open wide, small stems extending from the middle.
“You’ve never seen a lily before?” he heard Arthur’s amused voice chuckle beside him, and he jolted, before facing him.
“I-I haven’t even seen flowers before,” Alfred confessed, “Only in pictures.” He turned to look back at the lily, gingerly running a finger down its petal. He shivered upon feeling its velvety texture, and soon found himself feeling the flower all over, from the plastic-like stem all the way to the smooth velvet petals. “So this is called a lily, is it?”
“Yes. They have a language, you know.” Arthur spoke up gently, and he stepped up next to Alfred, their bodies close, as his shoulder brushed Alfred’s arm. The blue-eyed blonde looked down at him, surprised at the sudden gentle tone, and blinked at him owlishly. Arthur looked up at him, tearing his eyes away from the flower to look into Alfred’s.
Alfred realised Arthur’s eyes had to be the most vivid green he had even seen, more beautiful and more green than even the stem of the lily they were looking at.
“Flowers can convey messages you can’t tell other people,” Arthur said, looking away from Alfred, a hint of a blush spreading across his cheeks again, “And they mean so much, even with such a small gesture,” he pulled the flower out of the vase it was in, the end of the stem dripping with water. “Like the giving of flowers to someone.” He handed the lily to Alfred, who took it from him, an amazed expression on his face. “This is for you.” He smiled slightly.
“… What’s it mean?” Alfred found himself saying, “Y-you know, the flower?”
“Purity.” Arthur chuckled, “Just like you. Everything’s so new to you, isn’t it?”
Alfred smiled, and nodded, before looking down at the lily, awkward.
“Oh, so this is the new guy?” a woman’s voice spoke up, and Alfred turned to see the brunette woman had walked up to the two of them, a warm smile on her face. Out of the corner of his eye, Alfred saw Peter sitting behind the counter, a lollipop in his mouth, a present from the woman, no doubt. “Hello,” she smiled, taking a step forward to hug Alfred. The blonde awkwardly returned it by wrapping his arms around her waist, before she pulled away. “My name’s Elizabeta. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Alfred Jones.” Alfred replied, and the woman giggled.
“Oh, just like the pop star? What a coincidence!” she cooed, and Alfred looked at Arthur, who was mouthing at him, play along, she mustn’t know. Swallowing, Alfred nodded, and she giggled, patting his shoulder. “Well, you’re a very welcome addition! I could always use an extra hand!”
“E-extra hand? Huh?” Alfred looked at Arthur, who shook his head in mock exasperation, but he couldn’t help the smile spreading across his face.
“You’ll work here for a while,” Arthur told him, “Just do what she tells you, and you’ll be fine.”
“It must be a handful to be staying with the two of them,” Elizabeta chuckled, “Arthur and Peter was never the peaceful duo, you know. Oh, never a boring a day in their home, yes?” she smiled up at Alfred. “Then, of course, you’d know, being their cousin and all.”
“C-cousin. Yeah.” Alfred nodded, and he looked down at the lily in his hand.
“Oh, a lily?” Elizabeta asked.
“Artie—uh,” Arthur glared at him and he faltered, “Arthur gave it to me.”
“You sly dog,” Elizabeta giggled, shaking her head, “Well, why don’t you put it in a small vase for the time being, so it doesn’t dry out, okay?”
Alfred nodded stiffly, before heading to the counter, where Peter had put a small, thin vase, it already had water in it, and he put the flower in there.
“Well, Peter and I have to be off now, Liza,” Arthur spoke up, and Peter got down from the stool he was sitting on. “I trust Alfred will be of great help?”
“You bet.” Alfred spoke up for Elizabeta, winking at Arthur, who, for some reason, turned his head away from Alfred, a blush still painted on his cheeks. For a moment, Elizabeta regarded the two of them with calculating green eyes (Alfred noted her eyes were rather pretty, but they pale in comparison to Arthur’s stunning green orbs) and a smirk crossed her face, but she said nothing.
“Well, then. Off with you two! Peter can’t be late to school!” she smiled, ushering the two Kirklands out of the door.
When they were gone, Elizabeta turned to smile at Alfred.
“Let’s get to work, shall we?” she cocked her head, grinning brightly, and Alfred returned her grin.
“Lead the way.”
Weight was something Alfred was unused to, but it was a welcome sensation (he never, ever felt weight in the computer, everything was weightless, even himself), when he had tried picking up a bucket, he almost fell over when he realised it wasn’t exactly the same as back in Kiku’s simulations.
He got used to it over time, and helped Elizabeta stock up the flowers, her telling him what the names were, until they were down to the last bucket, innocently hidden at the back of all the now-emptied buckets. A fond look crossed Elizabeta’s face when she pulled off the paper bag.
Blue roses pulled free of the paper bag, and a beautiful scent filled the room, overpowering all the other scents of all the other flowers.
“Is this a rose, too?” Alfred asked, looking over at its red, white, yellow and pink counterparts sitting inside the fridge. Elizabeta nodded, gently caressing one like it was made of glass.
“Yes, but this one is special. Only this store has it.”
“Really?” Alfred asked, eyes wide with curiosity. “What’s it called?”
“They’re Saphira Roses.” She said, “Truthfully, though, I don’t know where Arthur got them, but here they are. They’re the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen.”
Alfred blinked at them owlishly, before looking around to find an empty bucket on the shelf. It was for the Saphira Roses, and under it was the price tag. His eyes widened in shock.
“W-wait, 25 bucks?!” Alfred cried out, looking at Elizabeta with shock. “They’re so expensive!”
“Well, yes.” She nodded, taking out a bunch of them and put them in the bucket. The rest she moved to the fridge—with Alfred’s assistance, of course. “They can only be found here. Only here. This shop is the only one who sells them, and they’re unbelievably beautiful, and blue. Naturally blue roses aren’t that common, you know.” She chuckled, stroking the petals of one. “Not to mention they’re very long lasting. They don’t damage easily, either. They can go for days without water.” She smiles up at Alfred, “And, they’re Arthur’s favourite.”
A dumb smile spread across Alfred’s face. “… I want to give one to Arthur.”
“I don’t see why not.” She smiles brightly, a knowing twinkle in her eyes. Alfred suddenly felt uncomfortable, and oddly he couldn’t think of why. “Do you know, Arthur told me they mean everlasting, unbreakable, unfailing? Partnerships, friendships, relationships… love…” she trails off, falling silent.
They stayed like that for a moment, and it hit him.
He’s supposed to be Arthur’s cousin.
Cousins don’t profess things like everlasting, unfailing love.
That would be incest.
Incest (n.) – sexual relations between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry.
Alfred opened his mouth, alarmed, at a loss on what to do.
He’d messed up his cover, and it’s only been a few hours.