It was weird coming home after school. It had slowly been ingrained into Matt’s mind to walk to Ethan’s which had already become a strange thing to do since Ethan didn’t have a specific out time at his ‘school’. That little apartment was still more like home than his uncle’s house, scratch that, Varick Jaeger owned a small mansion, but only because of the number of staff the ancient divine race required made using a smaller building suspicious. Well, more suspicious.
Today, Ethan was going with the Reinhardts to check out his birthplace. Between there and back again Matt had no idea when Ethan would return and it just seemed a bit obnoxious to be waiting for him when he got home, particularly when he wasn’t answering any calls or texts.
Who knew, maybe they were going to stay up there all weekend. For for the first time in years Matt was being forced to entertain himself. This involved getting dinner by himself and seeing a movie he’d be required to see again with Ethan at some point. He was okay with this as the movie hadn’t sucked, in fact it might have been passibly good. He never made that declaration without Ethan’s input.
The worst part was returning to his Varick’s mansion (headquarters? secret base? bunker?) while his uncle was in residence and, more importantly, not busy with the workings of his, possibly evil, empire.
Armed guards stood at the entrance and nodded their heads in respect to him. He knew one of them was a true believer and if they hadn’t been in public he’d have bowed completely to him. Varick had forbade that, convinced it would draw attention to them. Still, as soon as Matt entered the outer wall, he had to ignore the ten year old kowtowing to him as he crossed the yard.
No one here would be insulted he didn’t pay them any heed. They’d probably have a heart attack if he reacted to their prostration.
He barely walked through the door before Jacob was on him, taking his jacket and bag from him. Sometimes he swore the guy just stood at the door waiting for him, which made him feel guilty for all the nights he didn’t return home.
“Would you like anything or have you already eaten, sir?” the sixteen year old asked, politely. After growing up being called ‘Master’ Matt had finally trained him to be more informal, but if he was informal in the foyer someone might take offense. It was more for their protection then Jacob’s – at least if they said anything in Matt’s presence, but usually they punished Jacob in secret.
“I ate earlier, but I could use a drink.” Matt replied starting up the stairs.
“I’ll bring them straight away.” Jacob called after him.
He almost missed a step. While he resented Jacob constantly looking after him, it was Jacob’s sole purpose in life to serve Matt’s every need.
At four years old the valet had been brought before Matt, who was still struggling to walk at the time, and was informed that his entire reason for existing was to serve the infant. You tell someone for almost thirteen years that they serve a deity it rubs off. Not only was he serving a deity, he was the gatekeeper for those who wished to speak to Matt and the barrier between Matt and Varick, to whatever slight degree he could bar Varick from doing anything. He kept the secrets, realizing quickly that Matt may be a god, his family almost universally was not.
He’d asked for a drink but Jacob would bring multiple? There was someone in his room, someone that wasn’t supposed to be there.
Matt hurried faster, screeching to a halt as he nearly ran into his uncle.
“You’re home,” He said, a acidic note to the words, “I missed the fanfare.”
“The fanfare is why I avoid coming home.” Matt returned, trying to slip past him.
His uncle turned and watched him calmly continue his way down the hall as if nothing was amiss.
“Alaric, we need to speak about your responsibilities. You are the model of everything we are working towards.” he called after him.
Matt flinched at the the mention of his first name, “Of course. Just not now. I’m tried from school and have homework.”
He glanced around, noting the number of guards and servants who’d heard. The best part of being the chosen one, your guardian couldn’t really force you to do anything.
He finally got to his room and walked in like he wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.
His room reflected who he was intended to be, not necessarily who he was. It was large, as befitted a lord, and was circular, taking up a large turret of the house, as he thought of it. All of his furniture was curved to take advantage of the curve, or more likely, to not waste space any more than necessary. There was enough room for a desk with a computer, a breakfast table and a massive bed compared to the one he slept in at Ethan’s.
As he suspected, Ethan was curled up in the bed. He was fully dressed and had dug out the Mjölnir plushie a girl had given Matt a few years back right when he first met Ethan. He’d had to hide it from his uncle, who frowned upon making light of his heritage. For the same reason, Matt’s room at Ethan’s apartment had a collection of action figures and every official Thor poster made to date, while this ‘real’ room had none of that, but it did have functional viking era weaponry on a rack.
He crossed the room and hesitated, Ethan wasn’t sleeping much these days, maybe he should let him continue to rest.
Jacob quietly entered with a tray bearing milk and cookies. He set it on the table and walked over to Matt.
“How long has he been here?” Matt asked quietly.
“I discovered him about an hour ago.” Jacob replied, frowning, “I think we need to speak to his Lordship about security. No one should be able to get into your bedroom so easily.”
“You called it easy?” Ethan mumbled, snuggling closer to the hammer.
Matt smiled, “So, you’re awake.”
“You talk too loudly.” Ethan opened a bloodshot eye to glare him him, “was that supposed to be a whisper?”
Matt chuckled, “Come on, we have cookies. Jacob, you may go.”
Jacob didn’t leave immediately, “How did you get in?”
Ethan clumsily sat up and stretched, “Roof. Window. Honestly, you should have locks on them.”
Jacob wasn’t satisfied with that answer, but it was clear Ethan wasn’t about to give a better explanation while he was in the room, so he reluctantly left.
Matt helped himself to a cookie and poured himself a glass of milk.
“How did you get to the roof?” he asked absently as concentrated on dunking a cookie.
“With these.” Ethan answered. Matt turned around to see that Ethan had felt the need to remove his shirt and he had wings. Big furry wings, which spread out barely fit inside the room.
Matt stared for several seconds before he remembered the cookie. He pulled out a tiny segment of it.
“Dammit, Ethan. You made me lose my cookie.” he said as he tried to dive for it, getting milk all over his hand and spilling some of it on the rug, “When did you grow those?”
“Rob says I’ve probably had them my entire life just never knew how to extend them.” Ethan replied as the wings vanished into his back and grabbed a cookie of his own.
“The same Rob who promised you there would be no wings in your future?” Matt asked sarcastically.
“He reminded me he was full of shit.” Ethan said glumly.
“So what happened to cause you to suddenly sprout your wings after thirteen years?” Matt asked, downing the milk to reveal the cookie within.
“My brother.” Ethan replied.
Matt’s expression tightened with annoyance as he picked pieces of cookie out of the cup and refilled it, “You can only make be ruin one cookie a night.”
Ethan shrugged, a faint smile on his lips, “Worth a shot.”
“You look like shit.” Matt said, noticing how much Ethan was wobbling, “Does Josh know you’re here?”
“When does Josh ever know where I am?” Ethan replied absently.
Matt dunked another cookie, “Maybe you should sit down. You look like you’re about to collapse.”
Ethan grimaced, “It’s the wings. It’s really tiring to fly.”
Matt pulled out a chair and sat down, hoping Ethan would follow his lead. He didn’t. He remained standing and began to pace.
“So,” Matt prompted, “Tell me about this supposed brother.”
“He was up in the cabin.” Ethan said, “He was why The Preservationist killed Max and everyone else. He had others up there killing for him, they just didn’t have the psychosis The Preservationist did, or at least that’s what Josh said.”
Ethan fell silent as he approached the window. Something was in his head ticking away.
“Why was he killing people or having them killed?” Matt asked, trying to follow the vague mumblings Ethan was spilling out.
Ethan returning into reality “To eat.” he said turning back, “He had a whole pile of half eaten corpses laying around. He only wanted the insides.”
“Why do I get the feeling you don’t care about the bodies?”
“He looked like me!” Ethan said, fear tinging his words, “He had wings because I have wings and I saw his wings and knew how to use my wings and and…” he stumbled back to he bed and grabbed the hammer, crying into it.
Matt walked over and made him sit down on the bed, “If he really was your brother, it would make sense he’d look like you.
“It’s not like that. Rob said he must have sensed I was coming so he made a body to look like mine.” Ethan said into Mjölnir.
Realization struck him, “He didn’t look anything like you did he?”
Silently, Ethan shook his head.
“Well of course he didn’t. What did he have to base if off of other than dead bodies and your own twisted sense of self.” Matt said, mostly to himself, “Look, I have an axe over there. I’ll send Jacob to go get some plastic and we can take care of those wings right now.”
“No!” Ethan choked out, “I tore his off and there was so much blood.”
“Okay,” Matt considered, “What if I get a healer on standby? One of my worshipers is pretty good. He has an M.D. and everything.”
Ethan shook his head before burying it in his shoulder.
Matt sighed. Laying down on the bed, he let Ethan curl up and snuggle closer as he slowly cried himself to sleep.
Eric tried to remember all the methods he’d learned to calm himself down back when Sorcery had been on the air. Breathing exercises. Forgetting the camera was around – couldn’t do that, there was no camera and there wouldn’t be a camera. Pretend to be someone else… he couldn’t do that to Rob again. If he was going to be someone else he had to choose someone other than Rob.
He heard the doorbell ring, but Angela was in today so she could answer it. She planned to clean the entire house since Eric was going to be out of it for most of the afternoon.
He straightened his tie and decided to leave his room. He turned towards the door and Helena was standing there. She looked him over appraisingly, nodded until she got to his shoes.
“Sneakers? With a suit?” she asked.
He smiled slightly at her ignorance, “Converse. Converse are cool.”
She arched her eyebrows but didn’t say anything, instead glanced around his room. That wasn’t much better.
“Are you drawing on your walls?”
“Yes,’ he admitted, “Sometimes I need to keep track of things and it’s the easiest way.”
She looked over the wall, filled with random scribblings, diagrams and a large crooked family tree.
“I didn’t even notice the other morning. Too distracted I guess.” she said.
He frowned, “Yes, speaking of the other morning, It’s getting to the point I’m going to have to tell him.”
“Today?” She grimaced, “That seems to be in bad taste.”
“Why? Because I screwed his girlfriend while he was busy setting this up? Yeah, entirely bad taste.”
She rolled her eyes following him out of the bedroom, “We were drunk.”
“At the time yes,” he mused, “And yet you continue to flirt with me.”
“I’m not flirting, I’m talking.” She returned.
He turned back with a knowing smile, “Helena, I used to eat young women for a living. I can tell when one is flirting with me.”
A thud shook the house, followed by raised voices.
“What the hell is that?” Eric asked.
Helena walked pass glaring at him, “Rob’s home. And I take it Matt’s having his, how did he put it, ‘few words’ with him.”
Eric followed her down the hall and they could now hear the conversation.
“Do you have any idea how fragile he is right now?” Matt was saying, “I don’t want to lead him on, but you’re not making any easier! You don’t need to tell him every stray thought that pops into your head!”
“If you don’t want to lead him on, you need to put your foot down and stop sharing a bed with him. He might not admitting it yet, but you know. Stop it now and maybe you haven’t done any permanent damage to your friendship.” Rob replied, “You are right, I shouldn’t explain my half-formed ideas to him. It makes it worse in the long run. I’m just sick of keeping things secret. It’s always the source of conflict in stories. Someone just refuses to tell someone something and it all goes to hell.”
“Well if you want to tell us where you’ve been…” Matt offered.
“I’ve told people who need to know,” Rob replied, “Worse were the secrets I kept while gone.”
“What secrets?” Matt asked,
“Who I was. What I was.” his voice was getting more bitter by the second. “and in the end I got so little out of the experience.”
Rob sighed, “This was a good chat. We should do it more often, though without the broken ribs.”
That was enough for Eric to decide to pop out into the room, “Broken ribs?” he asked, seeing Rob sitting on the sofa with his hand rubbing his abdomen.
“I did not hit a rib.” Matt said defensively, “I aimed below them.”
“Ah, then this is my kidney that you broke.” Rob said, “Much relieved. Totally didn’t need that.” He glanced at Eric and did a double take, stifled a laugh, “I take it you’re ready?”
Eric gestured towards the door, “Allons-y. Unless the pint-sized viking broke you beyond repair.”
Rob struggled to stand, “He caught me by surprise. That’s all.”
“Where are you headed anyway?” Matt asked, looking suspicious of their suits. Well, Eric’s suit, Rob’s style wasn’t what most people would call professional, though it was hard to put your finger on just why. Probably the color, which was mostly burgundy.
“Investment meeting.” Eric answered tersely, his nerves already returning in full force.
Matt looked incredulous, “You’re looking to invest?”
Rob got up and straightened his jacket in a mirror, “No, we’re looking for investors.”