(alt history where matthew attempts revolution before alfred)
(i hope this is ok)
It storms, and the thunder sounds like canon fire.
When the rain finally comes, Arthur comes into the parlor. Alfred, from next to the fire, looks up, mouth pinched together. Arthur just looks back at him, his hair falling into his eyes.
He opens his mouth to speak, his throat working, but Arthur just sighs and looks at the rough hewn floor. Alfred just stares, something hot flaring in his belly the longer Arthur refuses to look at him.
"He’ll need you." Arthur says at length, his voice a whisper. Gone is the rage, gone is the threat. Arthur’s shoulders slope and Alfred almost doesn’t recognize the man who dragged Matthew by his hair just that morning.
"It’s my fault, I know." Matthew says softly. He’s out of his uniform, the homespun grey sack he had been so proud of. Alfred touches his hand but Matthew curls away, his thin hands going up to his face, passing his skin to touch the jagged ends of his hair.
Matthew’s mouth trembles, his fingertips slip through what’s left of his hair and then behind his ears until he’s touching his neck. Alfred’s seen him do this before, except Matthew’s always knotted his fingers in his hair and Alfred would always pull him away, because he has beautiful hair, hair that Alfred doesn’t have. And Matthew’s not vain, but he speaks better French than him or Arthur, and he’s got more faith than anyone Alfred can imagine, but his cross was dangling from Arthur’s lax fingers when he left.
Matthew whispers, “I did this. I did this.” He repeats himself, but his voice fades.
Alfred stays. Arthur stays.
They have dinner together, but Matthew starts sobbing when the stew is served, and he cries heaving sobs into his hands as the servant jumps away, hands trembling.
Alfred reaches for Matthew but Matthew slaps his hands away and starts to move. When he finally leaves, Alfred turns to Arthur.
Arthur’s a hard man, and Matthew’s been punished. All the leaders have been executed, their blood still staining the ground where Matthew can see it every day. Taxes are like a stranglehold and there’s talk of a hard winter. The wrecked crops haven’t even stopped smoldering yet.
But there’s Arthur, looking remorseful and pained, right down to the lines around his mouth. Like it kills him to see Matthew so upset, like it kills him that his people are starving and Crown soldiers are parading down the street, standing on every corner.
Like it isn’t his fault.
Alfred thinks he hates Arthur.
Matthew cries himself to sleep every night. The fifth night Alfred hears, he comes into Matthew’s room, presses himself against Matthew’s side. He touches the shorn edges of Matthew’s hair, wipes away the wetness from his cheeks.
He means to kiss Matthew’s cheek, but Matthew tips his head back, gasping and Alfred kisses the hollow of his throat.
And then he just doesn’t move.
"I’ll make this right." Alfred murmurs. "I’ll make sure he hurts for what he’s done to you."
"He had to." Matthew replies slowly, gaze on his clasped hands. He leans into Alfred, though. "You know he had to."
Alfred thinks of the ache in Arthur’s tone. He thinks of Matthew’s curls on the floor of the cabin.
He thinks of Matthew’s tears, the way he screamed when Arthur’s bullet tore through him.
Alfred knows. And he hates Arthur.