Ambling madly down the streets, arms around each other's shoulders, smiling like they'd never fought once in their lives, two drunk brothers stumbled down a Canadian street on a hot June night. And the louder one, boisterous and exuberant and everything that brought parties and meetings and people to life took a deep breath of the thick air and smiled before letting out a whooping yell at midnight. And his wallflower twin, giggling stupidly, just smacked him and told him his eyes were pretty. And they took each other's first kisses, in the middle of a street in Ottawa, dogs barking around them and cars squealing by, and neither thought it would get any better than this. And they were Matthew and Alfred, both alike and equal but different. They were North American, and Canadians and Americans were alike in almost every way but unique.

Brothers so alike physically, but so different mentally; except here, the exception to the long-time rule. Here they were just alike, as if the two were looking into a mirror. That same fire smoldered in blue eyes. Both of them smirked with a sense of unwarranted victory when nothing had even happened. And then the boisterous one, in his red and white and black sweater, tackled his brother in blue and red and white. They rolled around for a while, tugging at hair and half-heartedly punching at sides and arms. They laughed their way through another mock fight, and fighting melted into a sweet, forbidden embrace. Lips met and arms entwined and so did legs. And then the blazing scream in their ears told them third period had started, and they stood up, because nothing had happened, and made their way back to the stadium, where the shy, wallflower brother ended up throwing a beer can at his twin for harassing his goalie. And despite the wars and the nuclear missiles and the paranoia, the only thing they thought about was the game. And Alfred and Matthew were alike but different because Canada still liked French things and Alfred still liked playing cowboys and Indians, but wouldn't let Matthew tell a soul.

And in Toronto, the quiet brother was left with too many plane passengers and not enough information and nothing was right. Nobody knew anything, it was chaos and his strangled him, choked him up so he couldn't talk, he could only feel tears brim at his eyes but no words came out. It squeezed at his throat and muddled his brain. Only when he was able to leave, days later, did he see his brother. Boisterous and exuberant were not words he could be described as any more. He sat in the hospital bed, looking out the window, a bemused frown painted on porcelain doll features. He no longer was the epitome of strength and heroism; now his twin only seen fragility and the need for tenderness.

"Matt?" the voice was quiet, full of fear of something neither could see. Something that didn't show its face. He acted like it was in this room right now.

"Alfred?"

"It's quiet…" That was it. It was so much more than he could have asked for. So much of his brother. The need for people, for noise, for action. It made him smile so wide his mouth hurt, made him want to sink to his knees and cry out like it was midnight in Ottawa and he was the loud brother.

"Al," he said, and kissed his brother, soft and feathery, chanting his name like a mantra over and over, planting butterfly kisses all over his face.

"Matt?" Alfred's eyes were quiet and subdued. It made Matt want to cry, but he wouldn't now. Not when he had to be the exuberant one, if only for a little while. And Matthew was more like Alfred every day, and Alfred soon garnered the attention that had previously been given to Matthew, but Matthew reasoned it was only for a short while.

It was hot, and it was dry, and the sun was like a death for them, and his brother was leaning against a weakly-built house in the desert. This was not home for him. Never would this be a home. But Alfred seemed fine, sitting in the heat, cigarette in his mouth, unlit as always. His eyes were focused on his boots, and his hair matched the color of sand. He thought he heard his brother say something, but didn't ask. The silence stretched between them like a huge, red borderline. Matthew had never seen that borderline until now. It seemed like, for the first time, there was only America and Canada, and not Alfred and Matthew.

"Wanna get a drink later?" Canada looked up at the trees, unmoved because there was no breeze and when there was it hurt his eyes because this place was hell.

"No," Alfred said from his boots, and didn't look up. The borderline got thicker, and Canada moved. But America moved first and kissed him. It was harsh and it didn't feel happy, but it felt good and physical. And kisses got deeper and as dirty and unstable as it was, the shack Canada was leaning on was decidedly shadier, and it was there that they did more than kiss, and America was on top and Canada pretended he didn't hear him crying. Because it was all about America and America was an invincible hero.

And finally, they went home and Canada relished winter for the first time in his life so he could play in the snow with Kumajiro and build a snowbear and make hot chocolate. And he had America over and they talked about their youth for a while before America brought up the economy. Canada just frowned at him, looking down.

"You've got a new boss now, let him worry about it. Can't we just forget it for once?"

America stood up, exhaling angrily.

"Of course I can't just 'let him deal with it'! I wouldn't expect you to understand something this important, Matt." He gritted his teeth and stomped his way to the door, grabbing his bomber jacket and was taking it off the coat hook when Canada put a hand over his. And his voice was quiet and steady, but America could see all the hurt and pain written on his face.
"Please, America," he pleaded, holding his hand and nesting his head on America's shoulder.
"You called me America." Blue, warm, heroic eyes had fragmented into pieces and Canada felt like he would never be able to erase the red borderlines, and Canadians and Americans would just be different.
"Maybe you should leave, after all," he said softly, and looked at the door. America felt his breath hitch in his throat and he petted Canada's soft hair.

"Do you want to get a drink?" Canada smiled, but his smile was broken and he dropped his hands. They hung limply at his side, and he stared at his boots.

"No," he said simply, and opened the door. America kissed him goodbye and he was cold, frigid and broken. They were America and Canada, two separate entities. But America was the loud, boisterous one, and Canada was the wallflower.

Spring rolled around quietly, subtly, and Canada was happy enough. He took walks in Ottawa when the weather permitted, and sometimes he would pass a street and dogs would bark and cars would whoosh by and he would think of yelling as loud as he could. But he never did, he just kept walking along, stopping only when he got to his favourite local coffee shop because the newspaper was free and he wanted to cut corners as much as possible. He picked up a newspaper, and was reading the sports section, reminded of a day years ago when he wore a blue and white and red sweater and his twin wore yellow and black, when his cellphone went off. He answered it without hesitation, offering a distant, "Hello?" because he was more interested in the newspaper right now.

"Matt!" He held the phone to his ear as America rattled on about hamburgers and global warming and how good that coffee smelled when Canada pulled the phone back to his ear.

"Wait, what?"

"Look out the window!" And so he looked up to see America, clad in a ratty bomber jacket, waving like a lunatic, his smile a mile wide. He flipped the phone shut and quirked an eyebrow. Joining his brother outside, America flung an arm around his shoulder and inhaled deeply.

"Hey, Matt?" Before Canada could think about it, he made an apathetic noise and replied with an:

"Yeah, Al?"

"Lets go home and watch the game." Matthew smiled and put his arm around Alfred's shoulders.

"If you want, later, we can play cowboys and Indians." Alfred smiled lewdly and gave Matthew the most sinister side-glance ever.

"Only if we can dress up too." Matthew just laughed and kissed his neck. Because they may be Canada and America, and that borderline was still thick, red and an eyesore. But they were also Alfred and Matthew, and that was enough for both of them for now.