Last chapter! Thank you for all the follows!
Warnings: blood, gore, violence, character death.
After the first meeting with Arthur, Alfred lost track of time. He had no idea how long it had been since then. He supposed he was going to school, and showering, and eating, but there were only three things that registered; fights between his parents, fights between he and his mother, and visits with Arthur.
The number of these visits increased with the number of fights in the house. His mother seemed overly eager to find things to argue about, and would often find completely irrelevant things to complain about. Matthew was the only one who wasn't targeted; he'd always been her favorite.
When Alfred went to visit Arthur, the smaller man would fawn over him, assuring him that it would not last much longer, that he'd take care of it. Alfred didn't know what he meant, and would just lean into Arthur, finding comfort in his arms.
In these moments, Arthur would talk to him, telling stories about the families who'd lived there before him. He spoke with a certain tenderness, and more often than not would gesture to his unnervingly-lifelike dolls as if they were the real people. But that was impossible, Alfred reasoned. Most of them would probably have died of old age by now. Besides that, Arthur had told him how he'd made each one, taking weeks upon weeks to stuff them, making sure they were perfect. Of course he'd want them lifelike, too. He just missed his friends. They still made him nervous, though.
In addition to these stories, Arthur also told him why he was called the Magician. Or rather, he showed him. With a wave of his hand, the room was full of magic. Unicorns trotted around, and faeries flitted about, sometimes landing on his outstretched hand. Then Arthur would chuckle, and they would all vanish as if they'd never existed. He made them appear again if Alfred had a particularly nasty fight.
It was one of these fights that ultimately ended everything. Alfred had been yelling at his mother, and she had the gall to try and bring Matthew into it. He snapped, screaming that he hated her and wanted her to die. Then he ran blindly to the attic, flinging himself into Arthur's arms and sobbing wildly. Arthur rubbed his back soothingly, assuring him that by the end of the night it'd be all over. Something in his voice scared Alfred, but he didn't question it. He did leave earlier than usual that day, though.
Arthur was not sad when Alfred left, like he usually was. In fact, he was glad. It gave him more time to set his plan in action. He stood in front of his dolls, his eyes closed. He was smiling, even as his body trembled with the strain he was putting on it. He'd only performed this magic a handful of times before this, but he was confident he could do it again. He just needed to focus…
Crash. There it was. He got it. Now he just needed to sit back and wait.
Alfred was lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling when a loud crash resounded through the house. He was up in an instant, running to the source. He didn't realize this was the first thing he'd consciously done since gaining access to the attic. He ran to the kitchen and found Matthew hovering anxiously by the door. When Alfred tried to go in, Matthew stopped him.
"Just watch them," he whispered. "They're acting weird."
Alfred peeked around the corner and confirmed that both his parents were in the kitchen and yes, they were acting very weird. His father was wandering aimlessly around the room, clutching a meat tenderizer. His mother sat in a puddle of what looked like brownie batter. The aluminum bowl it had been in, which must have been part of the crash, lay nearby. She was holding a cheese grater in one hand, and a metal spatula in the other.
They could have kept watching, but Matthew – silly, clumsy Matthew – slipped off the doorframe where he'd been leaning. He stumbled into the kitchen, and their parents were on him. As Alfred watched in horror, their father swung out with the tenderizer, striking Matthew's cheek. Blood splashed onto the floor. And yet Matthew remained upright. He saw Alfred move to help him.
"No!" He screamed, fending off a blow from the cheese grater. "Just go! Run!"
One moment of desperate hesitation showed him that nothing could be done for his brother, and he should try to save himself.
"I'm sorry!" he shouted, and ran away with tears running down his face. Poor, sweet Mattie. He didn't deserve to die like that.
As if by instinct, he ran to the attic. Arthur welcomed him with open arms, and he knew nothing would happen to him here.
Slowly, though, realization sank in. He fell to his knees and sobbed, leaning forward so far his forehead nearly touched the floor. Then Arthur was there, holding him and murmuring words of comfort into his ear. He did not hear the sirens, but he did hear the gunshots that followed. He didn't try to go downstairs, even after the police left.
It felt like he was stuck in time. He never felt hungry or thirsty, and he never needed to go to the bathroom. He just sat with Arthur and all the pretty faeries. He never noticed how much weight he lost, or how weak he was getting. He did notice how tired he always was, though, and spent a large portion of his time sleeping. He liked sleeping on Arthur's lap while fingers threaded through his hair. It relaxed him.
Time passed, and Arthur was gazing out the window with Alfred's head on his lap. He was pleased with how long his magic had kept the teenager alive, even if he never said much; he was still grieving for his brother. Arthur felt bad about that, and offered as much consolation as he could. He hadn't meant for Matthew to die, but the shock and grief certainly worked in his favor. Alfred never once tried to leave.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn't notice Alfred's breathing slowing until it completely stopped.
"Oh dear…" he murmured, and felt for a pulse. He didn't find one. "Hm…you were a good friend, Alfred."
He gently set Alfred's head on the floor and went over to where Vladimir sat, picking up his sewing kit. Along with that he brought out a knife, and went back to Alfred. He stroked a sunken cheek lovingly.
"Don't worry, Al," he cooed. "I'll make you pretty again."
He pressed the knife to Alfred's neck, watching the blood well up.
"Oh yes, very pretty…"
About a month after Matthew and his parents were killed – his parents by the police – the city announced the house would not go up for sale again. They gave no reason, but an old woman who lived nearby provided one for the reporters who asked.
"Every family who's lived there has lost their son," she informed them matter-of-factly. "The boys have all been obsessed with the attic. There's something up there that gets into their heads."
If someone had gone to the attic and forced their way in to test this theory, they would have seen nothing strange except for a row of lifelike dolls sitting against one wall. If they were lucky, a mysterious man would introduce each one; Vladimir, Lukas, Antonio, Gilbert, Francis, and Alfred.