"Are you sure about this?"

Alfred stands behind his brother, who sits in the makeshift barber's chair with his head bowed, his hands curling and unfurling with nervous energy in the cradle of lap. In the broken mirror shards set in front of them, Alfred catches Matthew's gaze between the wavy golden locks(Francis') that fall forward and blanket his face like a front stage curtain.

( Yes. )

With a nod and a shrug, Alfred sighs, "Suit yourself."

Twin open mouthed scissor blades caress the strands of hair that touch the tips of Matthew's shoulders, and bite down with a snap.

"Why I'll be darned. Did I just come across a doppelganger, mister?"

It's a centuries old joke, even feels rusty and overused in Alfred's dehydrated mouth, but for once, there's no mock or malice behind those words, no intent to hurt. There's only a strange, unfamiliar pride, warm and welcome in the heart of this winter war. They stand side by side, uniforms identical with their shared insignia, soot and shoe polish caked on their skin and hair. Blackened so the whites of their eyes shine out like beacons in the dark, so their eyes become the only clue as to who is who, which is which.

Matthew elbows him in the ribs, cracks a small smile and snaps a dry retort. T-minus half an hour until the mission starts, and his gentle voice soothes Alfred's adrenaline pumped nerves, calms his pent up anger down to a cool as cold as the gunmetal rifle in his grasps.

"That's the point," Matthew murmurs. "That's what we want them to think."


In Matthew's silent stare, Alfred sees Winter.

Crack!, and Alfred hisses in German, "Why did you do that?"

"S-sorry," but there's no taking back a human life once taken, "I didn't mean to -", but there's no twisting that man's head back into place, no fixing that neck with band-aids and stitches. There's no information to be extracted from the broken corpse at his brother's blood soaked feet.

"It's okay." Alfred reaches for Matthew blindly, squeezes an arm reassuringly. "There will be more. We're not done yet. Just - wait until I'm finished talking. Okay, big boy?"

There's a pause, but the comforting gesture is returned in the form of a punch at his bicep, "You talk too much, Al."

"Cause I got shit to say, you prick."

They share an intimate laugh, then double-time back inside the retreat of the forest. Winter devours the cadaver left behind in a heavy blanket of snow.

As Matthew sleeps, Alfred finds it, folded up and hidden away in the depths of his brother's coat pocket. He meant to bum for an extra cigarette and revealed a handful of something else entirely.

"Shit," mouths Alfred. He's not supposed to see this.

A weather worn black and white photograph, a beautiful girl with braids that shimmered and glowed despite the poor grainy quality of the picture.


He still steals a cancer stick, though.

Next time around, Alfred holds the weapon and Matthew talks. His accent is spotted with French, yet neither of them mind. Francis would have like it that way.

Knees compress the enemy's chest, a knife kisses the swell of the enemy's throat. Alfred takes care that his body encompasses the man's vision, that his body is a towering mass in a nightmare world. He wonders in the back of his mind, if the man thinks he's dreaming. Must be. They've penetrated their enemy's defenses and have made death beds of the places where they've let dreams take them. Places once deemed as safe.

Not anymore.

From the corner of the room, Matthew whispers questions in low, bedtime tones. He sounds almost kind, casual as he tears vital data from the confines of the enemy's mind. Alfred nearly allows himself to relax.

"That's it," Matthew finally announces, "He knows no more."

A simple shrug, and Alfred raises the knife -

but then Matthew presses up behind him, molds like a puzzle piece against his back, and guides his hand to slit the man's throat. Liquid warmth spurts out onto both of their fingers, turns 'em slick; and the enemy gasps his lasts breaths with twin devils staring down upon him.

"We're not done here," coos Matthew, lullaby deep, chin digging comfortably into Alfred's broad shoulder, "We're not done."

"So do you love her?"

In the morning light, Alfred takes a drag from Matthew's cig and glances at his brother, who stands with his head turned towards the forest, his hands clenched around the paper in his pockets. The one with the a single name etched on the back: Yekaterina.

Matthew doesn't look back, just scoffs with a tired sigh and wipes his bruised mouth with his dirty sleeve.

"Das dicke Ende kommt noch," reminds Matthew. The worst is yet to come.

( Yes. )

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