"Did you mean it?"
"Did I mean what, love?"
"When you said you weren't going to die?"
A long, tense silence follows the question as Arthur looks over at his brother carefully, brows furrowing slightly as he quickly ponders where on earth the question had come from. It must be the result of his sibling's silence for the past ten minutes, assuming the younger had been thinking during that time and not merely been half-asleep, although what may have planted a seed of doubt in the child's mind currently eludes Arthur. He analyses Peter's face carefully, although his expression is rather difficult to read at present; he doesn't look sad, despite his enquiry, but he still seems void of any of the positive energy he usually radiates so much. There's a small glimmer of curiosity in his eyes, if anything, and Arthur wonders how long it will remain there, depending on his response. The answer to the question isn't something the elder Kirkland particularly wants to give, and is uncertain of himself, so he responds with a question of his own.
"Why do you ask?" A frown creases Peter's brow as he crosses his arms on the side of Arthur's hospital bed, obviously displeased with the answer, and rests his cheek on his left arm, his right moving to allow his hand to trace slight patterns into the bedspread as he replies.
"I overheard Scott talking to one of your doctors; he said you were getting worse." The curiosity, although still there, has faded slightly from Peter's gaze, distress becoming far more prominent as he goes from tracing to picking at a loose piece of thread on the sheet. Arthur makes a mental note to hit Scott later for having such a conversation without making sure Peter wasn't in earshot, and racks his brain for a response that will comfort the child without him having to actually lie.
"The doctors are doing everything they can to make me better. The conversation Scott was having was merely suggesting the worst-case scenario. I'm sure I'll be fine." The younger boy is silent for a moment following Arthur's response, his eyes fixed on the thread he'd been playing with before he shifts his gaze to his brother, brow knit in a deep frown.
"What if you're not fine? What if you do die? What'll happen then?" Peter's eyes have begun to glisten with unshed tears as he voices his fear, and almost strictly out of instinctive habit Arthur grasps his hand tightly to try and comfort him. He wants to assure Peter that everything will be fine, that he'll be walking out of the hospital within a few weeks, right as rain, but he can't. Can't, because if it turns out that's a lie he doesn't want to add the blow of his dishonesty to Peter's pain. So he settles for rubbing his thumb soothingly over the back of Peter's hand, and offering the best assurance he can within the truth."
"If the worst should happen, and I do die, then you will have to be a good boy, grow up strong and healthy, make Scott's life as difficult as possible, and know that I'll always be with you."The response brings a small, poignant smile to the boy's face, although it's almost immediately accompanied by tears as Peter begins to cry. Arthur's heart wrenches slightly at the sight, and he makes no complaint as Peter clambers up onto the bed with him, tiny arms wrapping around his torso as his younger sibling sobs against his chest. Arthur wraps an arm around the trembling form in an attempt to be comforting, his free hand stroking Peter's head gently until the sobs die down to soft hiccups.
"I... I don't want you to die..." Peter's voice is a strained whisper when he's finally calm enough to speak again, and he hugs his sibling tighter, almost unconsciously, as though hoping it will be enough to keep him there with him. "I don't care if you're a jerk, it'll be horrible if you die. I bet even Scott will cry if you die, and he said the world would end if that ever happened." A small laugh escapes Arthur, despite the atmosphere, at Peter's last remark, because Scott would say something daft like that, though he quickly stifles it behind a small smile when Peter looks up at him like he's grown a second head, brow furrowing in confusion.
"Well then, I will do everything in my power to make sure the doctors fix me up, all right?" Peter seems uncertain for a moment, his eyes boring in Arthur's, analysing him for any possible sign he might be lying before he nods slowly and nuzzles against his sibling's side, keeping his arms wrapped firmly around the elder boy.
"I want to sleep with you until the doctors take you away again." Arthur smiles softly, threading his fingers through the child's hair gently as he slowly nods his consent, tightening his own hold ever so slightly around Peter. The younger is quiet for a while, his breathing slow and deep, and Arthur's nearly asleep when his quiet voice speaks up again. "Hey, Arthur... Come home soon, okay?" Arthur glances down at Peter, whose eyes are now tightly shut, and presses a gentle kiss to the boy's forehead.
"I will, love."
"Arthur, hurry up!"
"Oh, hush, I'm coming."
"Not fast enough! Jeez, you must be getting old; you're so slow!"
"What did you just call me, brat?!"
"Old and slow! Come on, everyone wants to see you!"
"Shush. If they wanted to see me that badly they would have come to pick me up. They can wait a couple more seconds."
"No they can't! They weren't allowed to come along, anyway, they had to stay here to make sure everything was fine. Now come on! Oh, wait, let me get the door."
"Peter, I'm not- Oh good lord, what's burning?"
"Welcome home, Arthur!"