|This is the Way the World Ends
Author: IlluminatedShadow PM
And this is the beginning of the best and worst thing that has ever happened to either Arthur or Matthew. AU, Arthur/Matthw, Alfred/Matthew, Francis/Alfred/Matthew/Arthur brieflyRated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Angst - Canada & England/Britain - Words: 5,202 - Reviews: 44 - Favs: 100 - Follows: 15 - Published: 06-12-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7077253
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Pairing: FACE, America/Canada, England/Canada
Warnings: AU, OOCness, drama, angst, slash, mentions of a foursome, sexual situations, general fucked-up-ness
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia. Seriously, be grateful I don't.
"Oh fuck…you're really good at that." Alfred laughed breathlessly, blue eyes staring down at Francis who seemed to smirk around the cock in his mouth, swollen lips sliding up the length and pursing to suck at the tip before pulling off completely.
"Thank you." He said smugly, tongue languidly slipping out to wipe away any remaining fluid on his lips.
Matthew, who was straddling Arthur, gave the Frenchman a sidelong glare, eyes narrowed. The hand he had tangled in Arthur's short, sandy hair tightened and the man gave him a curious look and slid a hand down the curve of his backside.
"I'm sorry." Matthew said quietly, turning back to Arthur, his violet eyes subdued. "I need some air."
Before Arthur could say anything, Matthew slid off his thighs and moved towards the door.
"Matt!" Alfred called out, leaning out around Francis, one tanned hand slightly pushing the blond out of his way. His boyish features seemed worried by his boyfriend's sudden departure. "Babe?"
Matthew gave him a soft smile. "I'll be right—"
"Can't you see the poor darling is flushed?" Francis cooed, trailing a slender finger down Alfred's chest. "He must need a moment."
Matthew's smile tightened at the corners and he stiffly nodded, blond bangs falling to cover his eyes. Then he left, shutting the door not so softly behind him before padding lightly down the hall towards the kitchen.
It wasn't until he was standing at the stove, the cheery yellow teapot in hand, that he realized he had been followed.
"Oh, Arthur." Matthew blinked and held up the teapot. "I was just about to make myself a cup of tea." He paused, wetting his lips and suddenly feeling like a bad host. "Would you like one?"
The sandy haired man gave him a slight grin, his hair tousled and dressed in only boxers. "If its not too much trouble."
The two are uncomfortably silent and, really, Matthew almost wanted it to stay that way. What should he even say? Why aren't you back in the room fucking my boyfriend or your boyfriend? What was the proper protocol for this sort of situation?
He almost wished he had said no when Alfred had whispered the idea to him a few weeks ago. But Alfred had been so hesitant, the words wavering on his lips as he confessed his desire to Matthew, holding the other blond close and tight, and he had sounded almost ashamed but Matthew, love seeping from his being, had nodded and gave in easily.
The silence goes on until Matthew begins to pour the boiling water from the kettle into two mugs and Arthur says, watching the blond's motions with a sharp eye, "Finally. Someone who knows how to make a proper cup of tea."
The younger boy's shoulders stiffen and he ducked his head, hiding a shy smile. "My grandma used to insist that if you could make a good cup of tea, you could do anything."
"What a brilliant woman." Arthur gave him a pleased smile as Matthew handed the warm mug to him and took a seat adjacent to him at the table.
The silence is less tense, less awkward as the two sip their tea in peace, the quiet occasionally interrupted by the ticking of the clock on the wall.
"I'm sorry." Matthew said suddenly, fingers curled around the warm porcelain, cheeks pink and feeling utterly self-conscious. He's sitting next to the man who he had been necking while his boyfriend fucked his boyfriend. It was weird and his mother probably wouldn't approve. "I've never done this before."
"What? Had tea with the man whom you gave a hand job?"
Matthew flushed, even though Arthur hadn't meant to be unkind. "Alfred doesn't drink tea. But…I mean…I've had foursomes before…before Al…and you probably find that hard to believe but I did lose my virginity before him but it's just that, this is weird for me." He paused, knowing that he's in committed relationship. "I usually don't do this."
"Neither do I." Arthur said dryly, attempting to give him a consoling smile and failing. "But that bastard wouldn't stop complaining or give me a moment's peace."
When Matthew gave him a disbelieving look, the man clarified, "We're in a very open relationship. Its so open, in fact, we're not even really together. No one else can stand either of us for very long and since we only think the other is good for sex, we have this arrangement in place."
All Matthew says is, "Well I've known Alfred since we were children and he even proposed to me in the third grade…I'm in love with him."
"Then you're already better off than most people." The other said, taking a long sip of his tea.
Matthew ends up spending the next few hours talking to Arthur, unable to go back to his bedroom and find someone else being intimate with Alfred.
He's not a jealous person by nature. He's quiet and doesn't seek trouble (because Alfred finds enough for the both of them), but he's desperately, painfully in love and he thought he could bear with this night, but he can't.
He consoles himself by reminding himself that its only one night and that Alfred is the type to stay and give himself entirely to another person and that Alfred has loved him for years and years and that he waited even when Matthew pretended that his love was a lie.
Matthew doesn't feel better but Arthur talks to him about growing up in London and when he met Sting in a bar and listens when Matthew vents about being a graduate student and having to teach wet-behind-the-ear college students about Modernism and how the student cafes charge a ridiculous amount of money for a cappuccino. And as they talk, Matthew feels a little bit better and together they go back to the room and Alfred has Francis on his knees and is fucking him with abandon but when his blue eyes lock on Matthew, Alfred stops and pulls out, ignoring the other man's complaint, and welcomes the Canadian into his arms, brushes the curls out of his face and kisses his cheek, sandwiching him between his chest and Arthur's.
And with Arthur kissing him between the shoulder blades and Alfred's smile against his lips and Francis pouting a little, Matthew lets his head tilt back and basks in the moment.
"You're going out?" Matthew asked rubbing his sleep sensitive eyes and giving his boyfriend a good morning peck on the cheek.
Alfred gives him a brilliant smile, hands him a glass of orange juice, and says, "Yeah, Francis said he knows a guy in the mayor's office and if I can just get a foot in, I can make them stop ignoring my calls. Honestly, I just want to talk about the allegations of corruption."
The orange juice suddenly tasted very bitter. "Oh?" Matthew said lightly, fingertips pressing harder against the glass. "So you're meeting Francis then?"
Alfred nodded energetically. "This could be my break, babe."
Matthew could only smile, his lips pulled taut in some resemblance of cheer for his excited lover. He managed to refrain from asking exactly when Francis suggested this. Was it somewhere between the time he was sucking off Alfred and Arthur? Or was it when he had Matthew moaning like a whore and too out of sorts to realize that there was a full conversation occurring above him? When Alfred finally left, Matthew took a deep breath.
And then he finished his juice and went back to grading papers, pushing down any irritation he felt. He trusted Alfred.
He trusted Alfred up until the moment he didn't.
"I'm just going out with the guys." Alfred gave him an apologetic smile, adjusting the collar of his polo. He leaned down to give Matthew a quick kiss, but the other merely turned his head, letting the other's lips press against his cheek.
"Have fun." He said curtly, his attention focused on the student's defense of James Joyce rather than his boyfriend.
Alfred seemed unsure, wavering in place, his bright smile slipping. "Matthew. If you want me to stay, just say the word." He joked a little, hand reaching down to cradle the blond's cheek and turn his face towards him.
Matthew, jaw clenched, resisted and made a particularly sharp slash with his pen through the poorly written introduction. It was shit, to be honest. "Just go. I have plans anyways."
Matthew didn't have plans. And, as he sat in the silent apartment, feet on the coffee table and arms crossed sullenly, he kicked himself for not asking Alfred to stay in.
But Alfred wasn't the type to stay in. He was gregarious, vivacious. He burned like the sun and shone like the stars and sometimes he was so beautiful, it hurt. And Matthew was the boring one, the one who liked to stay in, who enjoyed quiet, and peace and long hikes surrounded by the pervasive silence of wilderness. Alfred thrived on fun, trilled when in company, and got along with everyone. Matthew couldn't, wouldn't, ever force him to do something against his nature.
With a sigh, Matthew let himself fall over, cheeks pressed against the cool leather of the couch, his legs curling upwards so his knees touched his chest.
Maybe he should go out.
A new coffee shop had opened two blocks over and one street down so Matthew decided to check it out. It was a tiny, hole-in-the-wall sort of establishment that smelled like chocolate and rich coffee. It had secluded booths along one side and a small display of pastries and shelves of tattered books, all old and well loved and strange. Matthew chose one book, ordered tea with honey and a slice of spice cake and sat in a corner booth and decided to melt into the background.
So it was very strange when Arthur found him.
"May I join you?" The man asked, green eyes intent on his face, as he held a notebook under his arm and a cup of tea in his other hand.
Matthew blinked at him, bemused, and mentally trying to decide, on a scale of one to ten, just how weird it was and how awkward it would be and that, honestly, he had never thought he'd see Arthur again but if Alfred was with Francis, then why not?
"Of course." He said quickly, remembering his manners as he shut the book and watched as the other slid into the seat opposite of him. "How are you?"
"Miserable." Arthur said promptly, thick eyebrows knitted together. "I need to write a book and everything I write is shite."
"You could write about—"
"If you say rabbits, I will gouge out your eyes with this spoon." Arthur said calmly, holding up the delicate little spoon menacingly. "I never even planned to write about them in the first place."
Arthur, perhaps I should explain, was a novelist. His first book was three years ago and it was a hit with young adults. It involved rabbits but it was actually a scathing social commentary on the hyper sexuality of society. He was still teased about the rabbits that would prompt him to go into a long rant about symbolism and such, but, in the end, it was about rabbits.
He did win a Best New Novelist Award. And he wrote very well.
Matthew laughed lightly, his spirits lifting a little. It helped that Arthur was abrasive in the nicest way and, thus, provided an excellent distraction. Also, the spice cake was marvelous.
And Matthew said as much.
"I'll have to try some then." Arthur replied, giving him a wry smile. "I'll be here until closing, pretending that I am putting to word some amazing new book idea."
Francis gets a job at Alfred's paper and Matthew has to suffer through another awkward dinner with the Frenchman and Arthur.
Hopefully, this time, they won't all end up in bed together.
Matthew gives Alfred a nervous look over the rim of his wine glass. The blond is regaling a bored Arthur and politely interested Francis with a story about the time he almost ran over a Senator's child and if it wasn't for the fact he had gone to high school with the district attorney, he'd probably be in prison.
Francis laughed and Arthur snorted. Matthew downed his wine in the least sexy way possible and proceeded to pour himself more.
Hopefully they won't end up in bed together. But if they did, he wanted to be very, very drunk.
And that's why, when that bottle of wine ran dry, he quickly offered to fetch another from the kitchen
It wasn't until he entered the kitchen and was holding the wine bottle in one hand and the corkscrew in another and his gaze alternating between both, he realized that he has no idea how to open the bottle and that it was rather pathetic that he actually entertained the idea of cracking it on the edge of the countertop.
"Need a hand?" Arthur offered, stepping into the kitchen.
Matthew looked up, his expression rather lost. "I am a doctoral candidate and I don't know how to go about this."
Arthur chuckled and took the bottle and opener from his limp hands, before easily uncorking the bottle and handing it back to Matthew. "If it makes you feel better, I can't swim and I'm a best selling writer."
It becomes a weekly thing, meeting Arthur at the cozy coffee shop. The first time had been an accident, the second a coincidence, and by the third time Matthew was ready to admit that he was feeling lonely and Arthur was one of the few people with whom he felt comfortable. The sandy-haired man was rough around the edges, harsh without meaning to be but gentlemanly in a way that was archaic. He held some strong beliefs and had only a few loves. He was dismissive of most things and fully contemptuous of others. Matthew felt very young and foolish in his presence, even though the other was perhaps in his early 30s.
"I met Francis in school." Arthur explained, poised to eat a forkful of spice cake. "I broke his nose and he has never really forgiven me for that."
"What is he to you?" Matthew couldn't help but ask. Because the claims of an open relationship, while seemingly true, did not really explain why Arthur seemed to be Francis's default choice when the two seemed to not particularly like each other.
"He's a smarmy bastard and the worst friend and best enemy." Green eyes regarded him with amusement. "I could never love him, really, but he makes this life more interesting."
Yes, Arthur had a way of making Matthew feel very young. Francis had a way of making Matthew seem too innocent and the student hated it because he always felt inadequate in the other's azure gaze. But Arthur was steady, giving him something to hold on to. Alfred was fire, always flickering, moving, burning and enveloping. He was constant in the least constant way, but Arthur gave him some stability in their meetings, centering him and pulling him out of his tendency to self-deprecate and keeping him from lapsing into a mess whenever Alfred was working late or meeting with friends and Francis happened to be doing the same.
Arthur was a very nice distraction.
Matthew is coming out of the library when he sees a familiar shock of sandy hair and a dark blue sweater vest. Doing a double take, the blond is pleasantly surprised to see Arthur standing in the center of the quadrangle, looking rather put out (well, he's not pleasantly surprised about that because the man tends to look putout most of the time, but it's the fact that Arthur is there that he finds pleasing).
"What are you doing here?" He asks as he jogs up to the cross looking Englishman.
"Guest lecturer." Arthur explains, his annoyed expression smoothing out. "I can't find Goodman Hall."
"My office is there." Matthew said brightly. "I have office hours now so I'm heading in that direction. Just follow me."
And this is the beginning of the best and worst thing that has ever happened to either Arthur or Matthew.
Arthur spends most of his time in Matthew's office. Matthew's office is a tiny, cramped space on the fourth floor of the building. A big oak desk takes up the most of one wall and the only other chair is an overstuffed armchair that Arthur claims. The rest of the room is filled with papers and books for Matthew's dissertation. Its warm and the sunlight is always drifting into the room, highlighting dust motes and making it difficult for Matthew to focus. Lethargic afternoons discussing Eliot and Pound became one of his favorite parts of the day and Matthew wonders if he should feel guiltier about how close he feels to Arthur, about how much he confides in the other man.
When Matthew comes home, one day, he walks into the apartment and the first thing he hears is Alfred in a heated discussion with Francis. They're discussing liberty and happiness and love and Matthew pauses in the doorway, letting hurt and anger burn white hot in his chest.
Francis has this way of speaking, elegant and persuasive and its almost unfair because he's just a photographer and Alfred has never sounded so interested in his work. In fact, Alfred may write for a living but he doesn't really care for the finer parts of language, a clever turn of phrase, or the symbolism rife in a passage. He wants the headlines, the truth and he doggedly pursues it. He finds Matthew's love of literature adorable and wholeheartedly supports Matthew's career choice.
"Oh, Professor." Alfred teases him, his lips drifting along Matthew's pale neck. His broad palms curl around Matthew's hips. "I might need some extra help."
And Matthew loves it, regardless, but Arthur. Arthur talks back, he doesn't nod and smile, he challenges and Matthew always feels a little breathless after Arthur has taken him through the metaphorical wringer and has soothed him with a gentler topic of conversation.
Matthew slams the door behind him, relishing the way it snaps shut and how it silences the conversation. Then he smiles and asks Francis if he'd care for anything to drink.
He doesn't look at Alfred and when the blond asks him what's wrong later that night, in bed, Matthew pretends to be asleep.
"I've decided what I'm going to write about." Arthur said suddenly one day.
Matthew looks up from a dusty text, his violet eyes curious. "Oh?"
Arthur gave him an unreadable smile. "Yes. I will write about a great and terrible beauty."
And the atmosphere seems to still then twist and morph but neither man pays it any mind.
Matthew is furious. It's not a pleasant feeling. When he gets mad, he doesn't snap or lash out. He compartmentalizes, picks apart his rage and locks it away and pushes it out of sight. He might forgive, but he never forgets. He moves on, but the hurt always bubbles up at the worst time.
Though, this time, he's justified.
It's their anniversary.
The candles have melted down to stubs. The steak is ruined. The wine is flat. And Matthew's world has narrowed down to the cold white plate in front of him.
When Alfred stumbles in, even later, reeking of booze and slurs, "I got the promotion, Matt. I did it!" Matthew gives him an icy smile and the other man seems to withdraw at the withering look.
"That's wonderful." Matthew says, slowly standing up. "I'm so happy for you." His voice sounds tinny and tight in his ears and his eyes are burning and Matthew's chest hurts.
"I'm sorry." Alfred says suddenly, sobering up enough to realize his boyfriend is hurt and mad and dangerously close to cutlery. "I was out and I meant to call and I would've been here sooner but Gilbert was about to be arrested and Francis had to seduce—"
"Its fine." Matthew said stiffly and his breath is coming a little quicker now. "You should probably go to bed now."
Alfred hesitated, blue eyes sliding in and out of focus and he looked like he wanted to say something else. "I'm sorry." He repeated again and then again. He looked ashamed, childish and Matthew hated the way his heart softened at the contrite expression.
"Just…lets go to bed, Al." He said softly, walking towards Alfred and gathering him in his arms and helping him hobble to bed, ignoring the set table behind them and the newest season of 30 Rock wrapped on the table.
The next morning, Alfred is hung-over with no recollection of last night. The remnants of the failed dinner are gone, the steak is in the trash and the wine has been dumped down the sink. If Alfred notices the newest addition to his DVD collection, he says nothing. Matthew smiles like nothing is wrong, takes his good morning peck on the cheek, and lets Alfred rest his head in his lap as the two watch Planet Earth. Alfred idly kisses his knuckles and Matthew breathes out slowly and they make love on the couch, with Alfred whispering apologies against his heated skin and with Matthew drowning in the other's promises of eternity and everything and he forgives.
Matthew loves his work, adores his students, and finds solace in the endless collage of sticky notes on his desk as he drafts his dissertation. Arthur teases him because he has a wall of sticky notes and who does research like that? But Matthew stubbornly refuses anything else and tells Arthur to be quiet.
"And how's your book coming along?" Matthew asks airily, smirking when he receives a harrumph in return.
Arthur's guest lecturer spot is actually long over, but the Englishman comes by, still, claiming that he works better with company and that his apartment is too quiet for him to focus.
Matthew doesn't turn him away because he likes the company. The gentle scratch of pen against paper is soothing and sometimes Arthur reads to him bits and pieces of his work and Matthew sometimes complains about the lack of literary criticism on a certain poet. And the two of them pass many long hours like this.
Alfred, now promoted, spends long hours at work.
Matthew is lonely.
Alfred goes on long assignments, with Francis as his main photographer.
Matthew sees the way Francis eyes Alfred and then he looks in the mirror and wonders why wouldn't Alfred want him?
"I don't trust him."
"I've never trusted him." Arthur said dryly, giving Matthew a bland look. "But you trust Alfred."
When Matthew is quiet for a moment too long, the Englishman's brow furrows and he leans forward. "Matthew?"
Matthew just smiles, a little bitterly. "I just know that he loves me."
It feels as though Alfred is drifting further from him. Matthew wants to be selfish, he wants to rant and rage and throw himself onto the bed and sob and force Alfred to keep looking at him. For the longest time, only Alfred paid him any mind. Only Alfred cared about the bits and pieces of Matthew.
Matthew is not used to being selfish. His fingertips itch to trace the sharp angle of Alfred's jaw, to rest his head on the other's strong chest, to hold Alfred tight and give him a reason to come back to him because Matthew wouldn't even come back to Matthew if he had a choice.
So he is understandably surprised when Arthur calls him at 2 am, breathless and exhausted and says, "I'm in the most beautiful place in the world, watching the sunset."
Matthew asks him, quiet and haltingly, "Why are you calling me?"
Alfred is asleep next to him, snoring softly, his limbs askew.
Arthur is silent, only his breathing audible. Then, finally, he whispers, "It reminded me of you."
Warmth spreads under his skin, sparking in his fingers and sifting uncomfortably across his being.
He hangs up quickly and the next time he sees Arthur, neither of them pretends the phone call happened.
"What are you writing?" Matthew asked, shifting in his seat and stretching his arms above his head and working out the kinks in his back. His fingers ache from turning pages and his wrists hurt from typing.
"I'm working on my novel." Arthur replied, a little distracted when he looked up at Matthew, green eyes unnaturally bright in the natural light.
"What have you written so far?"
Arthur seemed to pause, his pen poised over his paper. He gathered his self and then began to read, "It is terrible to notice these things. I am terrible. But I cannot help myself. His eyes, at the risk of sounding pathetic, are like the aurora, distant and untouchable. I want to touch the curve of his cheek and feel his heartbeat under my fingertips. I see the sunlight caught in his hair and I want to bury my face in its warmth. I see him sitting there, illuminated by the light and sometimes I do not know if it is possible for the naked eye to catch something so ethereal. Sometimes I doubt and sometimes I shudder. He is terrible and yet…"
Matthew's mouth feels dry and his tongue is heavy and he wants to speak but he can't because Arthur is looking at him, green eyes staring right at him, searing his core, and then he says, "And yet…he is the most beautiful thing I have ever known."
And Matthew, voice hoarse and terrified, stammers, "R-really?"
Arthur, suddenly looking very sheepish, laughs faintly and says, "Well, I haven't put it to paper yet, but yes. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever known."
Matthew suddenly feels very cold.
Matthew manages to avoid Arthur for a week until the Englishman finally corners him in their favorite coffee shop.
"Leave me alone." Matthew hissed, his shoulders tensed as Arthur slid next to him into the booth. "It's not right. It's not okay. I'm with Alfred. I love Alfred." When the other merely gives him an impassive look, the blond continues, voice catching with a note of hysteria, "And how dare you write about me."
"I wrote about myself." Arthur said quietly, brow knitted. "I can't help it if you've managed to become such an irrevocable part of my life." Then, eyes glinting a little maliciously, he added, "And if you're so keen to avoid me, perhaps you shouldn't have come here on the same day and place we usually meet."
When Alfred comes home that night, Matthew pushes him against the door, spindly fingers scrambling for his belt.
"Matt—" Alfred started, surprise coloring his words, before Matthew pressed his lips hard against Alfred's.
"Shut up." The blond whispered, snapping off Alfred's belt, his eyes half-mast and focused on the freckles on his boyfriend's nose. "You've been gone for a week and I need you."
He begs Alfred to take him right there, against the wall, his shoulder knocking into the coat stand and his legs wrapped around Alfred's waist.
It's not enough.
"You should leave that boy alone." Arthur said coldly, fingers flying over the keyboard of his laptop as he weaved his newest tale. "You're tearing them apart."
Francis, a cigarette loose between his fingers, merely raised a golden eyebrow. "I have not the faintest idea of what you mean, my dear Englishman."
"Jones is taken. Just because Matthew wasn't to your liking, doesn't mean you need to be so shameless."
"You always think the worst of me."
"Well, you are a vile and despicable piece of human excrement."
Francis merely smirked, far too used to Arthur's insults to feel truly offended. "I cannot help it that Alfred amuses me. But our dealings are purely innocent."
"The very blood that runs through your veins is filth. Nothing you do is innocent."
"And yet I have never gone after a taken man." The man said calmly, taking a long drag of his cigarette and letting the smoke pool from the corner of his lips. "Give my regards to Matthew."
"You've ruined me." is the first thing Matthew says when he arrives on Arthur's doorstep, blond hair windswept and cheeks ruddy.
"Well…nothing gold can stay." Arthur retorts, eyes dark.
Matthew gives him a hateful glare and opens his mouth to speak but Arthur grabs his wrist and tugs him in and Matthew melts because this time, the spirit is just as weak as the flesh and when Arthur drags his nails down the soft flesh of Matthew's lower back, the blond arches and swears, desire and want sparking under his skin.
It's, unforgivably, perfect.
Alfred is sitting quietly at the kitchen table when Matthew returns the next morning, his hair damp and wearing yesterday's clothes.
Matthew pauses in the doorway and Alfred looks up at him, blue eyes dull and his kind mouth downturned. Matthew, violet eyes downcast, waits with bated breath, guilt and disgust and self-hatred vying for attention in his gut.
Alfred looks away and says, quietly, "I'm sorry."
Matthew's throat closes up and he flees to the safety of the bathroom.
This was going to be longer but I couldn't bear to write any more. And it was only going to get worse. I also rushed to post this because I would've chickened out had I waited. This must be, without a doubt, the worst thing I've ever written.
This was my attempt to tackle a subject outside my comfort zone: cheating. I swear, I'll try to whip up something fluffy and sweet next. But, until then, I'd really like some feedback on this story.
And special thanks to Stella Solaris who is kind enough to preview this nonsense and give me her input. You're the best, darlin'!
-inches towards her new Cave of Shame-