Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Fluff
Rating/Warnings: G. Hurt/Vulnerable!America. A result of musing on the effect that a civil war would have on the embodiment of a nation. Possible mangling of American history. We don't learn it in England D=
Summary: It is 1863. Arthur is stubbornly ignoring the disputes that his one-time charge is having on his side of the pond. That is, until said charge appears at his garden gate.
Written as a request for yuukishida . Once again I was liberal with the interpretation of 'hurt' X3 (requests are still open 8D)
He’d been hearing about it for the past three years but had done nothing, silently standing aside. Alfred had, after all, wanted to strike out alone and Arthur was far too stubborn. Several times, his nation had almost been drawn into the dispute on behalf of the Confederacy and Arthur’s boss had seen it fit to sell several warships, but Arthur himself refused. He couldn’t go against public opinion, after all...
It was a warm evening in mid 1863 when Arthur sat in the garden, watching the shadows lengthen and sipping a cup of sweet tea. Tea, in relation to the length of Arthur’s life was a relatively new import, but he had found that he took an instant liking to it. Leaning back in his chair he let out a long, soft sigh. It was difficult not to worry about Alfred, but for a change he and Francis had agreed on one thing – he had to do this on his own.
“So we are in accord, mon petit frère?”
The last words that Francis had said to him before he had boarded ship came back to his mind. He had simply nodded, and the Frenchman had placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled, very slightly, before he turned and walked away.
He dropped his cup with a start, cursing as the tea scalded his thigh through the fabric of his trousers. The cup smashed over the flagstones, but he wasn’t focused on that. At the gate, looking rather the worse for wear, stood Alfred, holding tightly to the bars of the gate as if it were the only thing holding him up. Arthur started to his feet and ran to the gate, clasping his hands over Alfred’s far too thin fingers only for the younger nation to collapse to his knees.
“America!” Arthur pulled the gate open, and Alfred fell forwards, narrowly missing his head hitting the ground as Arthur dropped down and caught him. “What are you doing here?”
Alfred didn’t speak, and Arthur felt himself go cold. Was he dead? No... no, he was still breathing. The Englishman shook his shoulder gently, and heard Alfred gasp.
“America... Alfred what’s wrong?” Never mind why he was here. The fact was that he was here, and how he’d got here without anyone noticing was anybody’s guess.
“It... it feels like it’s tearing me apart,” Alfred whispered, his voice cracking. Arthur took his hand and Alfred clung to it like a lifeline. “A-Arthur... h-how do you do it..?” The older nation stroked his free hand through Alfred’s hair, smoothing the wild strands. Civil war always hurt. The discomfort of a civil disagreement was usually enough, but war was painful, and Arthur had seen enough of them to know just what Alfred was going through. Although... nothing could compare to the nation that you represented trying to split itself in half.
“Can you stand?” he murmured. Now was not the time to be throwing the boy out. What kind of an older brother would he be if he did that? Alfred shuddered, but nodded, and clung to Arthur as he was helped to his feet. He could barely hold himself up, his legs weak as Arthur took him inside and sat him down. As soon as he was seated he curled over, pressing his hands to his head. The older nation found himself at a loss. He had been forced to deal with this kind of thing alone, so what kind of advice could he give?
“I didn’t know where else to turn,” he heard Alfred murmur, wincing at the pain in his voice and kneeling in front of him, resting a hand on his arm. Alfred was shaking. His normally bright eyes held a dim and distant look and his face was much too pale for Arthur’s liking. “I... I didn’t plan to come here... I just...”
“It’s alright.” Arthur sighed and stood up, his gaze cast down as he wondered just what to do. That Alfred would flee his own nation just to get some comfort from Arthur, when that comfort wasn’t guaranteed... He pinched the bridge of his nose. What could he do? If he couldn’t kick him out, then his other option was to give him the reassurance that he needed. He sat beside the younger nation and Alfred leaned against him. Arthur rubbed his back, humming softly, and slowly the younger male’s trembling lessened.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“I’m sorry,” Alfred whispered, moving away from Arthur and looking at the floor, gripping his knees tightly. He drew himself up, his blue eyes proud as he gazed at the opposite wall. “I’m sorry I bothered you. It won’t happen again.”
The taller nation held up one hand to silence Arthur, and gingerly got to his feet, staggering a little and gasping in pain. Arthur stood with him, hovering near, almost-but-not-quite-touching him. His heart ached for his former charge, wanting to find some way to make things better, to help him, but he couldn’t afford to go back on his deal with Francis. Besides... how could he explain this to his boss?
“America, please. Sit down.”
“You said it yourself, England,” Alfred replied through gritted teeth. “I’m not supposed to be here. You’re right. I’ll go.”
“Alfred.” God, it killed him to see how tired the young nation looked, and he met no resistance as he placed a hand on each of his shoulders and eased him back down. “It’s not like that... I’m just surprised.” He sat down beside Alfred again, though he kept his hands to himself this time, watching the other man intently. “... Can I get you a cup of tea?”
Alfred hesitated, and Arthur could practically hear the request for coffee on his lips, but to the elder’s surprise he simply shut his eyes and nodded, muttering something about not making it too strong or too sweet. When Arthur returned with a tray, placing it carefully on the low table in front of the couch he made up two cups and handed one to Alfred. The young nation sighed, resting the cup on his knee and running his thumb up and down the handle. Arthur watched him with concern, noticing each small spasm that ran through Alfred’s body.
“Arthur?” Alfred murmured, pausing to sip the tea. When the man beside him made a quiet sound of acknowledgement he bit his lip briefly. “Can... that is... do you think I could stay here tonight?” As soon as the words left his lips his gaze flew up and fixed to Arthur’s. “I-I mean, because it’s so late, and it took me a while to get he-”
“That’s fine, Alfred,” was the soft-voiced reply. Alfred looked down and nodded. “I still have your old room free.”
0 – 0 – 0 – 0
Arthur found that he couldn’t get to sleep that night. He and Alfred had bid each other good-night in a manner that would belie the fact that they had ever been close at all. They had been in contact very little since the Revolution, and when they were together the atmosphere was so entirely awkward that they often didn’t spend long in each other’s company.
He lay on his back, his head propped up on one hand, gazing at the drapes and the shadows flickering in the low light from the gas lamp beside his bed. When he had first found Alfred he had told himself that the little nation would face many trials, but he had always thought that he would be there to stand behind him, to give him a helping hand when he needed it. He could have never predicted how quickly America would flourish, and that he would eventually want to pull away. Arthur sighed and shut his eyes, only to have them open moments later when a loud crash and a yell that he immediately recognised echoed down the corridor. The blonde nation was out of bed in seconds, grabbing the lamp and running from the room, down the dark hallway to Alfred’s room. Knocking briskly on the door he strained to hear any sound from inside, and upon getting no response he opened the door, lifting the lamp higher and casting a dim glow into the room.
“Alfred?” He spoke tentatively into the darkness, stepping forwards, the shadows falling back and revealing what he had feared. The table beside Alfred’s bed was overturned, the lamp smashed, and beside it, curled up in a shivering ball, was Alfred.
“Alfred!” The distance between them was covered quickly, and he dropped to his knees, touching Alfred’s shoulder and flinching back at the soft sob that reached his ears. He bit his lip, unsure, and then let out a quiet sigh, setting his lamp to one side and drawing Alfred close to him, stroking his hair and hushing him.
“W-why can’t they stop, Arthur?” Alfred asked him through gasps. “W-what h-happened t-to respect for y-your f-fellow man? W-why do they d-do it?”
“They’re just human,” Arthur murmured, keeping his tone gentle and comforting as Alfred clung to the front of his nightshirt. “They don’t know what it’s doing to you. Come on... get up, it’s no good for you to be lying on the floor like this.” When Alfred appeared to be unable to move, Arthur sighed and scooped the younger nation up, setting him on the edge of the bed and lying him down. Standing, he righted the table and set his own lamp on it, careful not to step on the glass shattered over the floor as he perched beside Alfred, quietly humming the tune of The Anacreontic Song under his breath as he lightly chafed the other’s shoulder. Listening to the familiar melody Alfred managed to calm himself, and his fingers closed over Arthur’s hand.
“Thank you, Arthur...” he mumbled, his eyes closed. “You didn’t have to take me in like this. I... I’m grateful.”
“Of course,” Arthur replied, his gaze softening. “How could I turn you away? You still mean the world to me, Alfred. My little hero.”
Alfred chuckled at that, and though it was quiet and weak there was true amusement in it. “I remember that story,” he said. “Even though you lied about the name.”
“You seemed to love the idea at the time.” He squeezed the young male’s shoulder, and a faint smile flickered over Alfred’s face. It would be a long time before he’d forget the bright look in the young boy’s eyes as he was told about the heroic ‘King Alfred’ and his knights.
“You’re right, I did...”
“It wasn’t so bad, living with me, was it?”
Alfred cracked one eye open and looked at Arthur. The older nation was gazing at the wall, his green eyes slightly glassed over. Feeling the other watching him he glanced down, and smiled a faint, reassuring smile, which Alfred managed to return with a slight shake of his head. With Alfred settled and Arthur no longer sure what more he could do he stood, but Alfred didn’t let go of his hand. Arthur looked down, and in the lamp-light he could swear that he saw a faint blush darkening Alfred’s cheeks. They stayed like that for a long moment, suspended in that single second until, wordlessly, Arthur moved onto the bed. Curling up as small as he could beneath the sheets, Alfred only let go of the other male’s hand when Arthur was comfortably curled around him, and the hand that he released instantly slipped around his stomach.
It was strange yet familiar, and Alfred finally seemed calm. Arthur listened to his breathing slow into a regular rhythm, and felt Alfred’s heart beating beneath his fingers. He shut his eyes, drawing the scent of coffee and open air deep into his lungs. Moments like this were precious, and he couldn’t say when he would get another. He didn’t know if he would ever be able to hold Alfred like this again.
0 – 0 – 0 – 0
The morning found Arthur waking up alone, and he sat up with a start as one hand reached for the cool spot on the bed beside him. He sighed softly, slipping from the bed and narrowly avoiding the forgotten glass scattered across the carpet. The house was empty. He didn’t need to call out Alfred’s name to know that the young nation wasn’t there anymore.
Pushing one hand through his messy hair he walked down to the kitchen, the scent of coffee hitting him as soon as he opened the door. Immediately he noticed a white envelope propped up against the airtight glass jar that Arthur kept his tea inside. Frowning he crossed the room, picking it up and finding his name scrawled messily across the front. He smiled, opening the envelope and drawing out the note that was tucked inside.
Alfred had always had scruffy handwriting. It was a habit that Arthur had never been able to scold him out of. The blonde nation’s expression turned warm as he read the words, and he chuckled, closing his eyes and holding the paper to his chest.
I know what I have to do now. Don’t worry about me, old man.