hey guys! I've been writing on this obsessively over the past few days and I hope you like it. I never worked at McDonalds but I worked fast food during a lot of high school, so hopefully I'm not too off-base here!
((also sorry for any typos. no beta.))
much love, doze
Alfred first met Arthur at McDonald's. It was his first day on the job. The manager had slammed the drive through headset over his ears and he was fumbling to figure out what to do with it. Just as he was beginning to completely lose his shit at the line of backed up cars, he was grabbed by the collar of his shirt, a takeout bag shoved into his chest.
The headset was ripped away and he turned in surprise to face his unlikely savior. The guy was short, a wild tuft of blonde hair flying out under his hat's rim. His ears glittered with rings and he had one at the corner of his thick dark eyebrows. A tattoo peaked out of his shirt on the back of his neck and he smelled strongly of cigarettes. His eyes, though, were his most noticeable feature. A fluorescent green rimmed in black liner.
"Bag," the boy reminded him impatiently, waving at the screen with all the orders on it. When he spoke, Alfred noticed he had a wad of white gum in his left cheek.
Alfred fumbled to shove a Big Mac into the bag. "Th-thanks man," he said gratefully. "It's my first day."
"I noticed," the other boy said coolly, not even really looking out the window as he handed food off. His fingers tapped a jarring rhythm against the counter, before he would squeeze his hand into a fist and repeat the process.
"So, I'm Alfred," Alfred plunged on, but the boy seemed to be doing his best to not pay attention. His erratic tapping grew more insistent as he all but shoved bags into customers' faces. When the silence continued, Alfred stuttered. "What's your name?"
"What's it to you?" The boy spat, actually spat, leaning out the window between cars to do it.
"Nothing, I guess." Alfred sighed, shoving another order his way. He couldn't help but scowl. "It is common decency to exchange pleasantries, so far as I've noticed."
The boy snorted. "Then I don't have common decency. Sounds about bloody right." At the last car, he turned to face Alfred with his arms crossed. "Arthur. My name's Arthur."
Alfred nodded suddenly not sure what to do with his hands. Arthur continued to tap his against the counter, faster and almost feverish.
"Are you okay?" He finally asked when Arthur pulled his phone out to look at the time again.
"No," Arthur growled, folding napkins viciously into a bag. "I need a cigarette. This stuff doesn't do shit. Have you tried it?"
Alfred blinked in surprise when Arthur pulled out a smashed pack of nicotine gum from his pocket, scowling. "I- I don't-"
"Smoke, of course," Arthur interrupted, popping out another two tabs of gum and adding them to the wad in his mouth. "I don't know why I asked. Kid like you."
Alfred tilted his head curiously, taking in Arthur's appearance more clearly now that the rush was over. Arthur's shirt was sloppily untucked in places. The hair at the nape of his neck had a streak of black through it. His bottom lip was pierced too, and there was another tattoo that peeked out from under his shirt sleeve. Arthur's nails were black and he wore rings on most of his fingers.
"I've vaped before," He said cautiously, noticing what look suspiciously like needle tracks on Arthur's arm.
"Let me guess: vanilla creamsicle flavor?" Arthur asked derisively.
"Cherry, actually," Alfred corrected him with a chuckle. "Hey, it smelt better than you do." He flinched after he said it, certain he'd just offended the one worker who'd helped him out in a tight spot.
Arthur wrinkled his nose oddly. "Fuck off. I hardly smell anything anymore."
"Desensitization. Tragic." Alfred quipped, bagging a medium fry and handing it to him.
"If it means I don't have to withstand higher doses of your man perfume, then it's all right with me," Arthur shot back, returning to tapping on the counter and squeezing his hands into fists.
"It's cologne!" Alfred's voice squeaked indignantly.
"I don't care what it is. It's nauseating." Arthur smirked now. "You smell like a thirteen year old boy's gym locker."
"Ha." Alfred grumbled, beginning to get irritated. His brother had bought him this cologne. "At least, I don't smell like a hookah bar or a strip club."
He jumped when Arthur actually laughed, short and fast. It was over so quickly that he wondered if he'd imagined. That sort of permanent goading expression Arthur wore returned in full force.
Alfred cocked his head curiously. "When's your lunch break?"
"Five minutes." Arthur didn't have to check his phone again.
"Mind if I join you?"
The question was innocent enough. It was his first day on the job. He didn't know anybody else. Arthur had really helped him out back there. Nonetheless, he could tell by Arthur's expression and the fact that the cashier was eavesdropping on them, that'd he'd just done something unorthodox.
"With me?" Arthur repeated like Alfred must be pranking them. The cashier chortled as well.
"Sure?" Alfred shifted uneasily as Arthur's brows came down and his eyes hardened. "You helped me out," He continued quickly. "Why wouldn't I want to have lunch with someone like that?" He flinched backwards a little bit, certain he was about to get his ass kicked with so many words.
But it seemed he'd derailed Arthur's train and certainly convinced him that he wasn't joking. Arthur just looked confused now. "With me," he repeated almost to himself. Then he cleared his throat and continued loudly like he was trying to save face. "I wasn't doing it out of the goodness of my heart, you imbecile. You were holding up the line. We all would have been brought to task for it. And I don't eat lunch, so if you really wanna you can stand behind the dumpster and watch me smoke." He clocked out with a swift zing of his card and walked away without another word.
Alfred stared after him dumbly. After a minute in which he felt most of the restaurant was watching him, he paid for a humble McDouble and medium fry, filling himself a cherry coke. He wandered carefully through the back of the grease trap kitchens towards the swinging door that led out to the dumpster. Working at McDonalds had admittedly not been his first choice, but he'd started to get desperate. It was his senior year in high school and if he didn't get a little cash for next year, he'd be screwed.
The least he could do now was make this as small of a living hell as possible.
He found Arthur behind the dumpsters, surrounded in a cloud of cigarette smoke. The boy pretended not to see him so he sank to sit on the curb, balancing his food in his lap. The August weather was hotter than usual and he wondered how Arthur could stand all that smoke in his face. His pale skin was growing visibly shinier and his eyeliner looked wet beneath the shadow of his cap. Nonetheless, he breathed deeply and for the first time wasn't fidgety at all.
"Drink?" Alfred asked, holding up his cherry coke as sweat spots started to appear through Arthur's shirt. He wiped his face unceremoniously with the back of his hand, fixing Alfred with an appraising sneer.
"You can eat inside, where it's cool."
"Yeah, I know that." Alfred started to set down his coke, but Arthur took a quick step forward holding out his hand. Alfred worked to keep himself from smiling as he handed it over.
"Where do you go to school?" Arthur asked him, switching off between smoking and sipping.
"Francis Howell Central," Alfred took his hat off to fan himself. "I'm a senior. You?"
"St. Charles community college. My first year." He answered. "But I used to go to Francis Howell."
"Did you?" Alfred laughed. "So you can agree with me that it's a piece of shit."
Arthur's lips actually quirked. "I've never been so happy to leave a place in my entire life."
"God, don't I know it." Alfred muttered, kicking his shoe against the pavement. "What's the college like?"
"The same," Arthur rolled his eyes, smashing out his spent cigarette and reaching for another one. "A shitty piece of trash. Not even worth going to."
"Hmmm." Alfred examined his McDouble in silence. "What are you going for?" So many people have already asked him this question, he's beginning to hate it. What college did he want to go to? What job did he want? What major? But for some reason, he couldn't imagine what Arthur might want to do.
"I don't know," Arthur answered dismissively after a moment. "It's not like it really matters for a person like me."
Alfred looked up at him in astonishment as Arthur shoved the coke into his fingers.
"It's a wonder I even got into community college." Arthur added, trading his final cigarette for a handful of nicotine gum. "I'm a no-good fucker. But don't worry yourself kid, if you want to start a fight, you'll have to throw the first punch." He kicked Alfred's shoe as he headed back towards the door. "Chances are you won't be working here as long as I have."
0 0 0
"So how was your first day?" His mother asked him as soon as he walked through the door. Alfred took off his hat and only frowned at her wearily.
"No kidding," She pinched her nose. "Alfie, you stink." Her eyes narrowed. "Have you been smoking?"
"What? No, mom." Alfred groaned, pushing past her for the stairs. All he wanted was a long bath and a ten hour nap. "There's a guy at work who smokes a lot. I guess he rubbed off on me."
That was certainly one way of putting it. As Alfred sank into the bath, his thoughts were preoccupied with "that punk" Arthur. His manager didn't seem to know Arthur's real name and had resorted to calling him that. Whatever its faults, Arthur always answered to it. He just thought it was strange. Sure, Arthur had a rough look and a sharp tongue and maybe he seemed like he wasn't very nice. But he'd helped Alfred out when he was floundering, when everyone was ignoring him. And for what reason? Arthur couldn't be all bad.
He was turning Arthur's words over in his mind. Wondering. It was true that community college around here had a stigma. The only kids that attended there were the ones that couldn't get into anywhere else, in other words, the dregs, the losers. Arthur had seemed resigned to this idea more so than most. After all, Alfred had been considering the community college because it was affordable, to hell with other people's standards.
The next day he showed up to work after school, sporting a whirlwind hairstyle because he hadn't had time for a shower after gym class. Arthur was standing at the cash register, staring off into space, his fingernails clicking against the counter.
"Hey!" Alfred greeted him brightly. "When do you get off?"
Arthur blinked like he was coming out of a trance. He stared at Alfred blankly. "What do you want?" His words lacked yesterday's bite. They almost sounded dead.
Alfred would have teased him for being rude, but something about Arthur's slouched shoulders kept the remark at bay. "You look like you need a smoke," He commented perceptively because he knew it would get Arthur to keep talking to him. Truthfully, it looked like Arthur could use a goodnight's sleep.
"Thank you, Captain Obvious." Arthur said, but nonetheless seemed to become more aware. "Have you been shown how to work the cash register?"
Alfred shook his head, smiling eagerly. "No, you wanna show me?"
Arthur's brows mashed together. "It's just the damn register. Soon you'll know how everything works and you'll see why they call the job soul-sucking."
"Maybe," Alfred agreed, not to be brought down from his good mood. "I don't really give a damn about the register, but I like talking to you, so." He shrugged, smiling.
Arthur's expression faltered into confusion, a lot like yesterday's. "It's no use sucking up to me," he said finally. "I'm the same minimum wage as you. It won't get you anywhere."
Alfred snorted. "If I was going to suck up to you, I'd do it a lot better than that."
Arthur's thick eyebrows disappeared into his hair. "Would you?"
Alfred grinned. "Yeah totally. I'd let you have my break, buy you a pack of cigarettes and a coke. Cover for you when the manager comes around. But if it floats your boat I'd tell you how much I like talking to you, too." Alfred shrugged. "I was just being honest."
Arthur didn't seem to know what to say, finally gesturing ineloquently towards the register. Each food item had a picture, so it didn't take long to figure out how to ring things up. It was three in the afternoon and relatively slow. Arthur watched over him as he took the few customers that meandered in.
"What classes are you in?" Arthur asked out of the blue, shifting back and forth on the balls of his feet uncomfortably. It was strange that he had asked, given that he had no problem standing in silence with the rest of the workers.
"Bio, Calc 2, Spanish, Economics, Gym, British Lit, and Chem," Alfred ticked them off on his fingers.
"Who do you have?" Arthur asked him after another couple minutes of silence. Keeping up the conversation seemed to be causing him a lot of pain, but he was trying for some reason.
"Uh, for Bio: Sanders. Calc: Johnson. Spanish: Gomez... Uh." Alfred trailed trying to remember his other classes.
"Who do you have for Lit?" Arthur asked. "Derrickson?"
Alfred grinned. "The D man. Yeah, he's my favorite. How could I forget. Did you have him?"
Arthur nodded, scratching his cheek and shifting. "Yeah, he wasn't as bad as the rest of them."
"What were your favorite classes?"Alfred asked, absently mopping down the counter with a rag.
Arthur snorted. "I couldn't tell you. I hardly ever went."
"Why?" Alfred asked blankly. "Didn't you care?" He realized his question was a bit intrusive, but he was curious for the answer.
Arthur scowled at him, picking at the chipping paint on his nails. "Not a bit. It's not like school has ever helped me in life."
"Hmmm." Alfred said, thinking about the kids in his grade that skipped classes often. Some of them were just being idiots, but some of them, the regular absentees... A girl had gotten pregnant this year, and there was a rumor that one of the boys' dads had been arrested for a drunken brawl. Another kid had gotten busted for marijuana, and when his mother came to pick him up she had laughed.
"But didn't it ever interest you?" He asked. "Everybody has some subject they like."
"Like I said," Arthur ground out, beginning to seem mad. "I couldn't tell you. I wasn't there enough to know."
"Well," Alfred frowned down at his hands. When he put it that way, it seemed like there was something keeping him from being there besides his own rebel constitution. "I'm sorry about that."
"About what?" Arthur snapped challengingly. His green eyes had grown harder over the course of the conversation, and now they were impenetrable as granite. His stance had shifted too, becoming tighter and more aggressive. Alfred realized that this was a sensitive topic. He searched for a way to diffuse the situation.
"Well, you're not stupid," Alfred muttered, shrugging. "It shouldn't have been so hard for you. Life fucks some people."
Arthur's teeth ground together and he suddenly stalked towards the kitchen door. "You don't what you're talking about."
Alfred watched him go, frowning. The next time he saw Arthur was in street clothes, carrying a tattered bag with a hole in the bottom. Apparently, he was off work. An unlit cigarette dangled from his lips as he weaved his way through workers towards the front entrance. He looked scary.
Perhaps Alfred hadn't realized it when Arthur was dressed in the McDonalds uniform before, but this was the type of kid he had actively avoided in high school for four years. He wore a black hoodie with what looked like an occult band symbol splashed across the front. His jeans were holey enough and tight enough to almost be considered nonexistent. Numerous chains jingled at his knees. His boots were black except for a streak of red spray paint across the toes.
He expected Arthur to still be angry about their previous conversation, so it surprised him when Arthur stopped beside him. Correcting a customer's order with nimble fingers on the register. Alfred gave him a relieved smile. He'd been about to call over the manager. His heart stutter-stepped strangely when Arthur looked embarrassed for the gratitude.
The moment didn't last.
"I know they hire any old riffraff at this godforsaken establishment, but I didn't know they let fucking delinquents walk around and just play with the registers. Mind if I come around the counter and have a look myself?" The middle-aged man crossed his arms, giving Arthur a dirty look.
Alfred saw Arthur crush the end of the cigarette between his teeth. His eye twitched, and just like that, Alfred understood that Arthur could be dangerous.
"Listen, you asshole," Arthur lowered his voice so that only the two of them heard. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that. I haven't got the time to deal with ignorant shitheads and their opinions, today." He leaned back just as suddenly and Alfred saw him deftly tap the register screen, messing up the order again.
Instead of storming away though, he looked oddly at Alfred. "G-goodbye, Alfred." He stumbled over the words a little, his green eyes uncertain.
Alfred grinned. "See you later Arthur!"
"Hold up. I'm not finished with you!" The man raised his voice. The other customers were beginning to get antsy and Alfred feared the manager would materialize any minute. "Do you even work here?"
Arthur threw his ruined cigarette in the trash, shoving through people towards the door. He was pretending he couldn't hear.
The man rounded on Alfred. "You're the reason America's going to hell these days."
"Me?" Alfred asked numbly.
"Such displays of blatant homosexuality and thievery, you'd think we'd descended into the viking era. Next, you'll be raping our children!"
Alfred's eyes bulged. He opened his mouth to call for the manager, because things were quickly descending into places that he didn't want to travel. Homosexuality? What the hell was he even talking about? Arthur? Him and Arthur? Thievery? Arthur wasn't stealing anything.
"Hey, leave him alone!" Arthur's angry voice cut through the crowd like a knife. They parted for him out of fear, and Alfred took one look at him and agreed. They should be afraid. Arthur's hands were curled into tight fists at his sides. He wasn't very tall up against their middle aged accuser, but he had a face that could make children cry.
"Arthur!" Alfred tried to stop him when he realized what was about to happen. Arthur didn't hear him or couldn't hear him. He grabbed the man by the collar of his polo and held him taut.
"I've had enough of you," Arthur snapped. "I've had enough of people like you with your stupid agendas. Go on attack me! But leave Alfred out of it. He's your golden boy, and you'll be sorry if you crush him now. He's all the hope this godforsaken country's got. So fuck off!" Arthur shoved the man, hard.
The guy stumbled backwards, knocking over people until he fell against one of the tabletops. Someone shouted to call the cops. Everyone backed away from Arthur when he advanced though. Alfred's eyes grew wide when he realized Arthur planned to finish the job.
"Hey, hey, hey," He said over and over again, jumping over the counter. He grabbed Arthur by the shoulders. "I'm okay, Arthur. He's just a dickhead. It's not worth it. Hey, are you listening?" Alfred tugged Arthur to a halt by sheer brute force. He didn't seem to notice Alfred at all. His eyes were locked unerringly on the man, who had stayed on the floor. Prudently, in Alfred's opinion.
"Arthur, Arthur," He repeated his name, until a semblance of recognition crossed Arthur's face.
Arthur shoved at him angrily. "Fuck off. Let me go."
"No," Alfred said calmly, still holding Arthur by the shoulders. "You need to calm down. He said some stupidass things, but they're only words. It's-
"Let. Go. Of. Me." Arthur's voice was livid and Alfred actually felt a shiver of something run down his spine. He wasn't in control of himself right now. Outside Alfred could hear the whirr of police sirens, and his heart beat faster.
"I can't do that, Arthur. You need to calm down. Now."
Abruptly, Arthur lost patience with him and began to struggle against his grip.
"It's not worth it!" Alfred shouted. "For god's sake you're not an idiot!"
"Get the fuck off of me!" Arthur struggled viciously, scratching and clawing. Alfred had to grab him around the waist to keep his hold. It happened suddenly. The only warning he got was a shriek from a lady two tables down. He looked up at Arthur and Arthur's fist connected with his face.
The blow shocked him. He stopped moving, but he didn't let go. The world spun around him in a blur of colors and sound. He heard a shout of "Somebody stop him!" Before another blow connected with his head, and suddenly he wasn't holding onto anything. The room went dark.
0 0 0
"Alfred, Alfred sweetie, can you hear me?"
Alfred woke with a bang of pain that lanced from the top of his head all the way down to his collar bone. He blinked away the haze in a brightly lit room. His mother and brother stood above him, frowning worriedly.
"Oh, he's alive," Matthew pronounced, rolling his eyes.
"Are you okay, Alfred? The doctors think you'll have a nasty concussion, but everything else checks out alright."
Alfred scowled, rubbing his eyes. "What... what happened?"
"A guy beat the shit out of you at work," Matthew said, looking interested. "The police say he was going for another guy but you held him back. How's it feel to be the hero?" The question was asked somewhat ironically and Matthew smirked as he said it.
Alfred groaned, reaching up to tentatively feel the top of his head. "It feels awful. That's what it feels like."
"I knew working at that restaurant was a bad idea," his mom chimed in. "There has to be another job you can get, Alfred. I don't want you around people like that. I'm just thankful you're okay."
"Arthur was provoked, ma." Alfred muttered, trying to sort through his muddled thoughts. Apparently, Arthur had quite the anger problem. "Where is he?"
Matthew and his mom exchanged looks.
"Well, Al, the police came in right after you'd been punched out." Matthew said. "And they arrested him. He's probably down at the station."
"What?" Alfred sat up right. "But ma, we're not pressing charges." He scowled and said more insistently. "We're not."
"Alfred..." She stared at him. "He assaulted you. The police are expecting your testimony."
"I'm not!" Alfred shouted angrily. "He wasn't in his right mind. He was provoked."
"That's still assault," Matthew chimed in and shrugged. "But it doesn't even matter if you want to press charges or not. The police have him, and that other guy sure looked like he couldn't wait to press charges."
Alfred's face paled, carefully he pushed his brother out of the way. He swung his feet out of the bed and his mother began to immediately squawk at him. The room spun with such force that he nearly threw up, but he needed to get down to the police station.
"Listen," he said through gritted teeth. "You can take me down to the police station right now, or I'll walk there myself. Don't doubt my tenacity."
Matthew and his mom exchanged glances, knowing very well what Alfred could be like when he was being stubborn.
When they got there, his mother insisted on holding his hand. He was too wiped to complain about it. Damn, his head hurt. Arthur had really decked him, the giant turd. Alfred grinned tiredly to himself. She ended up doing most of the talking, explaining what Alfred was there for. He was having trouble seeing now. The room's fluorescent lighting made him feel like he was walking on the sun.
"I want to see Arthur," he interrupted their conversation. "I'll give my testimony if you let me see Arthur."
The officer appeared to be looking at him. He couldn't tell. "Alright," he said after a moment. "This way."
Alfred went without his family this time, following the officer into the basement of the station. As soon as they got there, he was able to open his eyes a little bit more. The painful lighting had been replaced by the soft glow of strange lamps attached to concrete walls. Several empty barred cells lined either side of them. The officer led him down the middle.
Even though his head was spinning, he was able to spot Arthur down at the end. The chains had been removed from his jeans, and he wasn't wearing any shoes. He sat on the small pull out cot with his head on his knees, his arms thrown over his head. Like he was bracing himself for some kind of catastrophe.
Alfred's heart beat faster, a strange blurry tint eclipsing his vision. Life really wasn't fair sometimes.
"Kirkland, you've got fifteen minutes with him." The officer rattled the bars like you would rattle a zoo animal's cage. Arthur didn't even look up. The officer inserted the key and opened the door for Alfred. He entered, using the bars to steady himself, and then the officer locked them in.
"Arthur?" Alfred finally found his voice. He didn't trust himself not to fall over. "You alright?"
Arthur flinched, looking up in shock. "What are you doing here?" He sounded like he had swallowed a handful of gravel. His eyes were rimmed in red and his makeup was smeared horribly. He looked like a raccoon with a head cold.
"I wanted to make sure you were okay," Alfred said sincerely. His brows furrowed worriedly. "You don't look okay."
"Well, I fucking decked you in the face. You don't see anything un-okay with that?" Arthur snarled loudly, but his voice went up at the end verging on hysteria.
"Yeah," Alfred agreed quietly. "You didn't seem in control back there."
"I wasn't." Arthur muttered bitterly, looking away. "All I could think was that... you were holding me back. I didn't think anything else."
"I figured." Alfred grinned, stumbling forward to sit beside him. "I mean if you really wanted to knock me out, you should have done it the other day at the drive through. You could have dumped me out the window. No one would have been the wiser."
Arthur dropped his face in his hands with a groan. "There's something wrong with you."
"I know," Alfred nodded seriously. "I'm why America's going to hell. Hide your kids. Hide your wives. Alfred F. Jones is on the scene."
"Fucking shut up, would you?" Arthur grumbled, glancing up at him uncertainly. "What is wrong with you?"
"Well, right now, I've got a teensy concussion, so you'll have to excuse me."
"I..." Arthur swallowed heavily, fixing his eyes on the ground. "I am sorry. After I did it, everyone was shouting. I realized what happened." His hands clenched into fists. "I tried to run away."
"Well, that didn't work out for ya, did it?" Alfred chuckled, nudging Arthur who stared at him. "What? Come on. I saw that look in your eyes. You didn't even know who I was when you punched me. You just need some help reigning in that temper of yours. You're not an awful person."
"That's what's wrong with you." Arthur said as if just realizing it. "You don't see what everyone else sees."
Alfred snorted. "What's wrong? How about what's right? That jackass said a lot of stupid things about you, but I'll say a few more. You're not an idiot. You're not an awful person. And frankly Arthur, if you don't want to, you won't work at McDonalds for the rest of your life. I know a fighter when I see one."
Arthur's mouth opened and closed like he well and truly didn't know what to say to that.
"Look," Alfred said, reaching into his pocket to pull out a piece of paper and a pen. "I'm not pressing charges. I'm sure jackass McGee will. From what I remember, assault is a misdemeanor with a maximum six months jail time and a maximum six months probation. You literally gave the guy a little push. Gravity did the rest. It wasn't premeditated. It wasn't overly violent. With a decent attorney, I could see you easily getting off with only probation and a fine of maybe 300 dollars. This isn't the end of the world."
Arthur blinked as Alfred handed the paper over with a number scrawled on it. "This is my cell number. Text me when your court date is or if you have any questions about the legal system. I can Google them." He smiled then. "No worries."
Arthur stared at him, blinking rapidly, and then looked away. "Why are... why are you doing this for me?"
Alfred hesitated, before reaching out and laying his hand on Arthur's shoulder. "You helped me out when I needed it. I guess... I know you're not who you pretend to be."
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