The Beauty of Silence - chapter 6
Alfred felt that familiar shakiness inside him as he led the way out of the cafe. Talking about Mattie always made him upset, both externally and internally. It made his chest ache and his mind settle on the worse memories of his brother's sickness and death. This was why he forced a smile as he led the way to a place where he could blank out his mind. He didn't want to go to sleep thinking about his brother, lest he run the risk of a nightmare, and offering to take Arthur to a fun place seemed like the best way to prevent that.
"It's not that far away," he assured Arthur multiple times as they walked, occasionally tearing off a bite of his cinnamon bun. Arthur would only nod, looking half-amused and half-sympathetic. Alfred would bet his whole week's wage that the Deaf man understood exactly why they'd switched gears and was more than willing to help with a distraction.
Finally, they reached their destination. Alfred managed a half-smile as he patted the fence.
"Know what this is?" he asked, gesturing to the cage with an odd machine in it.
Arthur looked at it for a moment, rather puzzled, before enlightenment crossed his face and he made a baseball stance.
"Yup! Batting cages! Have you ever been in one?"
'No, I haven't.'
"I love these! They're really good practice for a game! I don't play all too often, but sometimes I like to join in a community game. Baseball is the true American sport, after all~!"
Arthur tilted his head at that, rather surprised.
'I thought it was your... football?'
"A lot of people like football more, yeah, but baseball came first," he assured. "That makes it more American~! Hehe, when I was a kid I wanted to be on the Yankees, actually~ I kind of still do, but it's hard to go straight from high school baseball to major league..." He shrugged. "I wasn't really good enough at it to get a scholarship, like M... Ah, well let's try it, okay?"
He changed topics quickly, once he realized he was about to mention his brother again. Arthur, catching on, nodded vigorously. However, he then got a bit of a sheepish look as his hands moved again.
'I've never even held a bat, actually...'
"Don't worry, I'll teach you how to swing first!"
He got them each a bat, and set his aside with he helped Arthur with his own. The Brit had a constantly bemused expression on his face as he tried to get the stance right. However, he willingly let Alfred move his limbs and hands however he was supposed to. It took a while, but he finally managed to swing a few times and always get back to the right position. At that point, Alfred brought him into the cage and set the machine on an easy setting.
"Okay, you ready?" he asked cheerfully, jogging back over. "I bet you can hit a few~!"
Arthur looked back at him, rolling his eyes as if to disagree, but nonetheless focused back on the machine. At the first few balls, he swung awkwardly and too late to hit it, and looked a bit frustrated. However, once he got used to it, he managed to get two or three hits. They weren't very powerful, or consistent in direction, but it was a good start.
"Not bad!" Alfred assured once the machine died down, walking over. "It's a really good start~!"
Arthur deadpanned, setting the bad down to respond.
'You mean this is just the start?'
"Yeah~! I'll bring you here more often and soon you'll be good enough for the Yankees themselves~!"
'Fat chance!' A scoff. 'If you're going to force me into baseball, I shall have to force you into soccer.'
"Hmm.... Okay, that sounds like a deal!"
He grinned and shook hands with the Brit, and then took his place.
"Okay, watch me~!"
The American got in his own stance, which was downright perfect, and directed Arthur to start the machine with a higher difficulty. Then he proceeded to hit every ball that flew at him, the loud cracking of the ball hitting the bat a form of music to his ears. Each one flew into the fence powerfully, but he focused more on the next ball than that. The whole time, Arthur kept his gaze on Alfred's intense expression, rather surprised. Once it was over, the usual grin came back, but Arthur still looked rather amazed.
'That was fantastic, Alfred!'
The younger man flushed slightly at that, pleased, and set the bat down.
"Well, I'm certainly not major league material..."
'And who on Earth told you that? I think you could make it!'
"You really think so? No one else has ever really told me so..." He rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment, his expression preening even though his words were humble.
'Well, I'm not an expert, but that looked good to me! You looked like what I've seen on TV.'
"Really? Well... thanks~! Hey, maybe I'll try out next summer~ They certainly do travel a lot, after all, so it would be a good way to cross off some of the things on my list..."
He mused about that as he put everything away and made sure the machine was turned off correctly.
"....Well~! That was fun, wasn't it?"
'Oh, yes.' Arthur nodded immediately, offering a smile. 'Thank you for bringing me here. Next time we meet I'll teach you a little about soccer.'
"It's a deal~! I'll see you soon, yeah?"
'Of course, I'll text you.'
They walked for a while back through the city, comfortable in silence. Alfred never would've thought he'd be entertained walking with someone and not talking, but he was quickly starting to realize it was actually nice. They parted ways when the paths to their respective houses stopped being in the same direction.
It was a few days before they met up again, both being busy with their own personal lives. When they finally did, it was on an empty soccer field. Arthur donned a jersey, the name on the back of it likely some famous player over in England. He had a light smirk on his face, one foot planted on a soccer ball and his arms crossed. He actually looked a bit intimidating like that, like he'd be quite the fierce player, Alfred had to admit. Even so, he was still Alfred.
"Dude, overdo it much~?"
Arthur picked up the ball and chucked it at him in response.
"Ow! I was kidding!"
'Of course you were.' Those emerald eyes rolled as he caught the ball which was thrown back. 'Now then, what do you know about this sport? By the way, this is REAL 'football'-' he spelled out the word for emphasis, rather than using the sign - 'so call it as such.'
"Arthur, I'm sorry man, but it's soccer over-- NO I DON'T NEED TO BE HIT WITH THE BALL AGAIN! Okay, okay, so football... Um, you don't use your hands, right?"
'That's correct. What else?'
"Uh... Well the goalie can use his hands to catch the ball... And everyone else kicks it...?"
"That's about it, right?"
'That is the basic gist of it. Of course, there are also strategies, positions by players, and so on. But with just the two of us, that's enough to go by.'
"Okay, great~ I'm assuming you play often? Or did, back in England?"
'Yes, I played a lot. I was on an all-Deaf team in high school, in fact. My parents were against it since they tried so hard to make me normal, but I fought with everything I had to join the team. Eventually, the coach persuaded them. I helped win quite a few games.'
"And you were SO humble about it- Ow! You know you're kind of mean sometimes..."
'You deserved that smack. And don't be dramatic, I barely put any force into it.'
"Uh-huh... Let's just get this over with, I guess...!"