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Beginnings, Chapter SixWhen they returned to the cabin, they found it decorated in a fun, albeit unusual way. Streamers of red, white, and blue hung from the rafters, but only on one side of the cabin. On the other, there was a banner that said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MATTHEW AND ALFRED.” The furniture had been rearranged, although to what end, no one could say.“Welcome home, boys,” Francis said, climbing down from atop a chair. Matthew and Alfred wandered wide-eyed through the cabin.“Wow!” said Alfred. “This is all for my birthday?”“And Matthew’s,” said Francis. Matthew smiled appreciatively as Francis tossed his hair. “Of course, the side I decorated is so much nicer, so please take that as an expression of my parental doting on both of you. Arthur’s side is, well, don’t make him feel too bad about it.”“I heard that, frog!” came a voice from outside. Arthu
Beginnings, Chapter FiveThe cabin’s interior felt humid and stuffy, yet there was an unspoken agreement between Arthur and Francis not to go outside. What they were about to discuss didn’t need to be exposed in daylight. Besides, it was better to attribute the imminent discomfort to the environs. “Matthew is growing up so quickly,” Arthur said. Francis nodded.“Indeed. And he was eager to see you and Alfred. Usually, he is quite shy.”“Shy, is he?” Arthur said. “Very good. That means he’s less likely to grow up to be a philandering, egocentric libertine.”The glare in Francis’ eyes had daggers in it.“Yes, Matthew is rather shy and sensitive. That means he has emotions. You know what emotions are, right, Arthur?”“Of course,” Arthur replied. “They’re those things you blame for your habit of sleeping with half of Europe.”“Bec
Beginnings, Chapter FourHauling 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.“Hello.”Francis nodded. “Welcome to my home,” Francis replied. “Please, come in.”Without aski