Rating/Warnings: U, no real warnings, just a bit of fluff and angst.
Summary: Alfred can't keep up his usual cheerful front. Lucky for him, Arthur's there to make him feel better.
Partial credit goes to amael_elen for her awesome characterisation of Alfred~ All credit for Alfred's speech and most of his actions goes to her :3
Arthur glanced up from the file in his arms, his gaze falling on the grinning face of the young American. He paused in the doorway, looking momentarily like a startled rabbit, then he shook it off and smiled, walking in as Alfred leaned forwards in his chair and spoke again.
“If I told you that you had a sexy body, would you hold it against me?” he drawled. Snorting softly, the Englishman closed his file and put it down, leaning on the back of the couch and regarding his lover for a long, silent moment before he laughed, clearing his throat.
“That’s a terrible pick-up line,” he pointed out, smiling fondly as the younger man wrinkled his nose and grinned.
“Psh,” he scoffed. “Not like I need one anyway.”
“That’s true,” Arthur admitted, moving around the couch and dropping down onto it with a contented smile. He wasn’t give much time to relax, however, as an enthusiastic American jumped on him with a joyous battle cry of ‘surprise attack!’, effectively winding the smaller man who could do little more than let out a half strangled sound in response. Struggling weakly, Arthur fought for breath while the younger man hugged him tightly, small hands pushing against the American’s chest.
“Too... heavy...” he wheezed. “Can’t... breathe...”
“I’m not that heavy,” Alfred grumbled, but he moved away, and Arthur gasped before falling limp. Blinking, and then suddenly looking worried, Alfred lightly shook the other man. “Artie? I’m not really that heavy, am I? You okay?” When there was no response, the American shook him again, then lowered his head to press one ear to the smaller blonde’s chest, sighing in relief when he heard the man’s heartbeat. “Come on, old man, something like that’s not going to take you down, right?” Still nothing. Alfred swallowed nervously. “Right?”
Cracking one eye open, Arthur grinned, and Alfred pouted, scowling.
“You were pulling my leg, right?” he said. Arthur didn’t say a word, but he sat up and put his arms around the younger man, cuddling him and drawing a blush that tinged Alfred’s cheeks pink. “You’re mean.”
The Englishman nuzzled his lover’s neck. “I love you.”
“Aw, I love you too, Artie,” Alfred cooed, then he grinned. “Even if you’re a grumpy old man.”
“Mm...” Arthur couldn’t say that he didn’t enjoy not arguing with the American. This kind of thing was far better. “And I love you, even if you’re a sodding brat.”
“Yeah, right!” The American’s voice was incredulous, though his grip on Arthur tightened a fraction and the smaller man leaned against him happily. “I’m a total sweetheart! Romantic and charming, well-mannered, considerate...”
Arthur had to hold back his laughter, settling for a faintly amused smile. “You’re still a brat,” he stated, and Alfred pouted again.
“Whatever...” he mumbled, resting his head on top of Arthur’s. Arthur chuckled, and slipped one hand up the front of Alfred’s t-shirt, brushing his fingertips over the American’s stomach.
“You’re so cute, Columbia,” he said, and felt Alfred shiver.
“That’s a hecka old name, Britannia,” he replied, only half teasing as he matched the Englishman’s use of a childhood poetic name. His voice turned concerned then, and he shifted a little to look the smaller man in the eye. “Have you been thinking again?” It worried Alfred when Arthur thought too much, because he had too much to be sad about, and sad thoughts often ended in the Englishman getting very drunk.
“Er, yeah. About... uh, you know, back then?”
“Mm, a little.”
He didn’t sound upset. If anything he sounded contented, even happy, not a bit of tension in his body as he rested against Alfred’s side. Alfred liked seeing Arthur like this, often finding himself concerned that the Englishman fretted too much over things that he could do nothing about. He smiled, nosing Arthur’s soft hair. Arthur always smelled of tea and scones and something else that Alfred had always just thought of as ‘England’.
“All good things I hope, right..?” he asked, smiling a little as Arthur made a small sound of agreement. Slim fingers slid into his hair and toyed with it, and he ‘hmm’ed contentedly. “Like picking flowers in springtime,” he said. “Or telling me stories before bed.”
“Mmhm.” Arthur kissed the American’s cheek and then lay back on the couch, making himself comfortable and drawing Alfred up to lie between his knees, his blonde head resting on the Englishman’s stomach as Arthur continued to play with his hair, stroking the bright strands and curling the younger man’s cowlick around one finger. Alfred made soft sounds as he did that, shutting his eyes as he allowed himself to relax. He’d needed a moment like this all day.
“Hey, Artie?” he murmured.
“You wanna tell me a story..?” Alfred said quietly after a moment’s hesitation.
“What kind of story?”
“You remember that one you made up for me? Uh... about that great warrior Alfred who came and saved you from danger?” His voice was quiet, and he turned his face into Arthur’s stomach. Arthur smiled softly, resting his hand on top of Alfred’s head. He did remember that story, and how much Alfred had enjoyed it, even if Arthur’s storytelling had been a little rusty and he often contradicted himself. Still, it was unusual for Alfred to ask something like that, and even more so for him to be so quiet and suddenly so subdued. Arthur moved, tilting his head to try and see the American’s face.
“Hey, Al?” he said. Alfred opened his eyes, but didn’t move, and the Englishman reached down to gently brush his fringe out of his eyes. “Are you okay?”
Looking up at him, Alfred was silent for a long moment, and Arthur heard the lie in his voice when he finally spoke. “... Huh? Oh, uh, yeah. Why?” He kept his eyes on Arthur as the Englishman carefully shifted, sitting up to press a soft kiss to Alfred’s forehead. The American closed his eyes, sighed, and smiled faintly. “You know me too well...”
“Mm, I know...” Arthur responded. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing...” The Englishman lay back again as Alfred wrapped his arms around his lover’s stomach, his head a little higher now, resting on Arthur’s chest. “I mean, nothing bad happened, not really... it’s just been one of those days, I guess.”
“Tell me about it.” Alfred didn’t have ‘those days’. He was always so cheerful, not letting anything bother him. Arthur was the one who was supposed to have ‘those days’ (and he did, far more often than he would have liked). Unsure, Alfred took in a few breaths, his lips parting several times before he finally began.
“... Mkay...” he said. “You know those days when you get up, and you tell yourself ‘it's going to be a good day’, but a half-hour later you don't know why you bothered..?” Arthur nodded silently, and Alfred sighed, fiddling with the fabric of Arthur’s shirt. “I dunno... I mean, it was sunny out, and I had an egg sandwich from MickyD's for breakfast... so I should have been feeling great!”
“What happened?” Stroking his fingers idly up and down Alfred’s forearm, Arthur went back to toying with the younger man’s sunny blonde hair. “It isn’t like you to be like this.”
“Er, yeah, well... I am the Hero. Not supposed to have weaknesses, are we?” He shifted a little, and Arthur was sure that he detected a tone of bitterness in his voice. “Anyway... I... I try to write letters to all the families, you know, if a soldier dies... There was a funeral going on at some church, and my flag was there, over the coffin... and I sorta... I dunno...”
Arthur gave a small nod, knowing that sting all too well. It wasn’t the kind of thing that ever got any easier. “I understand...” he said softly. “I didn’t know that it bothered you so much.”
“Every once in a while, it hits me...” He shrugged, a little awkwardly. “You know, that my boys are out there, while I'm just sitting here... feeling like I can't do anything for them...”
It wasn’t how it used to be. At one time, people like Arthur and Alfred would be out there with their people, fighting alongside them, sharing in the ups and downs of battle. No longer, though... in the modern world the governments were far too worried about the safety of their nations to simply allow their representatives to go to war, and what could they do to protest? They could be locked up as easily as any human, and as much as Arthur hated the thought, it simply wasn’t worth the risk. After all, they at least had some say in what went on if they weren’t behind bars for the sake of their own safety.
“Sit up,” Arthur said, blinking as Alfred simply wrapped his arms tighter around him.
“But I’m comfy,” he mumbled unhappily. Arthur hesitated, then wrapped his arms around the younger man and held him tightly, burying one hand in his hair.
“I’m so proud of you,” he murmured.
“Yeah?” Alfred tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage it. “For what?”
“Everything,” was the soft reply.
Taking a deep, shaky breath, Alfred clung to Arthur, his voice wavering. “... love you, so much...”
Arthur had to wonder how long Alfred had been holding this in, how long he’d been letting it eat away at him. When Arthur was stressed he more often than not turned to the bottle, and while that wasn’t a good thing, it was at least an outlet. What did Alfred do..?
“It’s not wrong to cry, Alfred...” he told him, rubbing his back gently. Alfred took a breath, about to protest, but Arthur was just being so caring... He bit his lip, and cried, burying his head in the older man’s chest while Arthur cuddled him and hushed him gently. “Ssh...”
“B-but...” Alfred stammered through hiccups, unused to crying and the comfort that it brought in response. “Y-you j-just... sa-said it was al-alright to c-cry...”
“It is,” Arthur said, kissing the top of Alfred’s head and taking his hand, squeezing reassuringly. Trying to thank him, Alfred found that he couldn’t speak, and instead just let himself vent, returning the light pressure on his hand by squeezing back hard. Eventually, he calmed and quieted, and he remained silent for a while as Arthur hugged him and murmured soft, soothing words.
“Thank you, Arthur...” he mumbled eventually. “I don’t really... I mean... It’s been a while...” He sounded awkward, and Arthur smiled, squeezing his hand again. With his free hand Alfred scrubbed the tear-tracks from his cheeks and then he kissed Arthur’s fingers, looking up and smiling, almost back to his old self. “So, how was your day?”
“Oh, it was fine. I’m still a little jetlagged.” Arthur knew better than to draw attention to the younger man’s crying, though he couldn’t help but hope that in the future, Alfred wouldn’t hold things in for quite so long. Shifting, Alfred looked up at him, still glassy-eyed and a little flushed and Arthur was struck with just how cute he really was.
“You got a headache?” he asked. “Need Advil or something? I mean, it’s late for you, right? Maybe you should sleep.”
“I’m okay,” the Englishman replied, hugging Alfred again. “I’d rather be with you, anyway.”
Alfred sniffed, and curled up to Arthur while the Englishman continued rubbing his back. “I’m glad you’re here, Artie,” he murmured. Arthur smiled, and toyed with Alfred’s cowlick.
“I’m glad I’m here too.”