Hauling mountains of luggage, plus the sleeping child, Arthur plodded up the path to the log cabin. He knocked at the door. And waited. And waited. Arthur looked back over his shoulder. The driver had already left, meaning Arthur was alone. At least, he felt alone. The sleeping child was more a responsibility than a companion, and Arthur felt more weighed down and tired than he had felt in ages. At long last, the door creaked open.
There he was, just as Arthur remembered. Tall, long haired, and with something of a miniature beard. Francis’ eyes sparkled just as they had on the day he and Arthur had met. All at once, Arthur felt the bittersweetness of lost love and the angry rush of bloody battle. There were a million words he wanted to say. He started with one.
“Welcome to my home,” Francis replied. “Please, come in.”
Without asking, Francis grasped the handle on one of Arthur’s cases and helped him carry it inside. Without protest, Arthur followed. Inside the log cabin, it was cool and shady and smelled faintly of pine. It reminded Arthur a little bit of his own house; the one in which he was raising Alfred. This house, of course, was a bit too ostentatious for his liking. Something about the bevelled framing around the windows and the excess of furniture annoyed Arthur. It suited Francis perfectly.
“I hope this will do,” said Francis, showing Arthur to a private corner of the cabin. The cabin was short on rooms to begin with, and this one was further divided with a curtain. Inside this area was a bed large enough for Arthur and Alfred to sleep in together. There was little else in the area, save for an empty space in which for them to put their luggage. It was a small space, although Arthur had to admit, it was a generous fraction of the entire area of the cabin. For a moment, Arthur wondered what would happen if he would ask for a nicer space - not that he needed it, but that it might be fun to make Francis’ life difficult. Then again, his pride put him above such childish things.
“Of course,” said Arthur. “Thank you.”
A heavy squirming under his arm drew his attention.
“Are we... there yet?” Alfred mumbled. Wriggling from Arthur’s grip, Alfred jumped to the floor. He looked up and stared at Francis.
“Hi,” said Alfred. “Are you the perverted old frog that Arthur told me about?”
“What the - !” Arthur shouted, diving toward Alfred and clapping his hand over his mouth. “I have said no such thing, young man.”
Francis smiled, perhaps enjoying Alfred’s cuteness, but in all likelihood, he was enjoying Arthur’s discomfort much more.
“Such a sweet boy,” Francis said. “When you get a little older, I’ve got something you might enjoy.”
Fuming like wildfire, Arthur flew to stand face to face with Francis. He glared at him with all the rage of a thousand dragons.
“This!” said Arthur. “This is a big part of why we’re not together anymore.”
“Calm down, Arthur,” Francis said. “I was merely referring to Louisiana. It appears all that time you spend in your horrible rainy climate is putting a damper on your worldview.”
He put his hand over his own mouth, feigning to stroke his beard. In a quiet voice, he added, “And that is another reason we cannot be together.”
While the two adults glared at each other, Alfred toddled off to explore. The layout of the cabin was neat and square; there was disappointingly little to climb on. Everything was either too fancy or too boring or too high off the ground for him to reach. That’s when he noticed a little bed. Child-sized. It was made of wood and the headboard was carved to depict a decorative maple leaf.
“Yippee!” Alfred cheered. “There must be another kid around here.”
“There is,” said a quiet voice. Alfred turned around. He couldn’t believe it. Standing in front of him was a little boy who looked just like him. The differences were slight; this boy’s hair was longer and styled differently, and his eyes were a soft shade of lavender while Alfred’s were ocean blue. Other than that, it was the same face, the same body, the same vocal timbre.
“Wow, you’re interesting!” said Alfred. “I’m going to show you to my dad.” Before Matthew could so much as step back, Alfred grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him to where Arthur and Francis stood talking. He pulled Matthew in front of the adults and put his arm around him.
“Hey, look!” Alfred said, beaming with pride as he presented his discovery to his fathers. Matthew shot a pleading glance up at Francis.
“Alfred, Matthew,” Francis said, “I see you have met one another.” Arthur knelt to be eye-level with the children.
“You two have actually met one another before,” he said. “Only, it was so long ago, I’m sure you wouldn’t remember.”
Alfred looked at Matthew for a moment, then back at Arthur. He shrugged.
“How did we know each other?”
A pause. Arthur wasn’t exactly sure how to answer that. He decided it was best to be honest with them as early as possible.
“You’re brothers,” he said, and watched for their response. Alfred simply nodded, perhaps not fully grasping what that meant. After all, he either had many brothers or no other brothers at all, depending on how one counts them. Matthew, on the other hand, understood it exactly how Arthur had meant it. His lavender eyes went wide.
“Oui,” Arthur replied. “Tu est... les frères. Vous êtes? Vous. Both of vous. Er, vous avez...?” He looked up at Francis, who raised an eyebrow.
“You are out of practice,” Francis said. “Old friend.”
“I don’t waste my time staying in practice.”
“Oh, is bilingualism too complicated for you? Can’t tell avoir from être?”
“I’ll avoir YOUR être,” Arthur mumbled, climbing to a standing position once more. Any resentment he felt quickly faded, though, as he saw Matthew take Alfred’s hands in his own. Matthew stared at Alfred in wonder, and after a moment, brought him into a tight embrace.
“Je suis tres, tres heureux,” Matthew said, pulling Alfred closer. Alfred looked up over Matthew’s shoulder, showing Arthur a quizzical look. Matthew didn’t seem to notice.
“Bienvenue a ma pays.”
Alfred gave Matthew a hearty pat on the back as he pulled out of the hug.
“Boy, you sure talk funny,” he said. “Wanna be my friend?”
“Oui, bien sûr!”
Matthew felt Francis’ hand tap gently on his shoulder.
“Matthew? Seulement anglais, pour Alfred.”
“Do you want to play outside?” Matthew asked his newfound brother. Alfred nodded with enthusiasm. The two boys ran out to play in the forest. As their happy laughter faded away in the distance, an uncomfortable silence flooded the cabin. After so many years of bitter separation, Arthur and Francis were alone together.