Arthur wasn't going to act like he gave a damn. Or at least, he wasn't going to talk like he gave a damn, it was common sense, wasn't it, he said he was gonna help Francis wash up, so he was gonna do it, not like he cared if the bugger was all beaten and scratched and bruised; in fact, he deserved it, Arthur would have left him there to die if Francis hadn't whined and nagged him so much to help him get back home.

He knew Francis used all kinds of fancy, fruity things to wash his hair, so Arthur deliberately washed him with the plainest things available, and it wasn't easy, because they were at Francis' house, after all, and most of the stuff he had was weird and fruity.

"Sodding frog, haven't you got anything normal,"

Arthur murmured as he poured some shampoo into the palm of his hand, sitting still in his waiter's apron at the edge of the tub, long legs dipped into the water behind Francis as he began to wash his curling long hair, good and rough, as gracelessly as possible, deliberately pulling.

"Ah…! Ah….!"

Francis cringed, large hands reaching back reflexively to grasp at Arthur's wrists, "Gentle, gentle…"

"You want gentle, do you,"

Arthur smirked, only pulling harder, and finally Francis partly turned around, still grasping his wrists, eyes gazing up sarcastically. He knew the guy was doing it on purpose, but he was gonna pretend he didn't, so he could insult him better.

"You clumsy oaf,"

Francis crooned, "as bad in the bath as you are in the kitchen…"

"Why, you…!"

Arthur growled, struggling to get his wrists loose, to no avail and to Francis' vast enjoyment; with a quick tug at his arms, Francis gracelessly pulled Arthur into the bath, the water splashing messily over the side of the tub and onto the walls and the floor, Arthur crying out in shock and squeezing his eyes shut as to avoid the soap suds from going in.

There was a brief struggle that ensued, Francis enjoying it much more than Arthur, despite how much the other boy batted and scratched at him in attempt to get away.

"You've gone and gotten me all wet, you daft bellend…!" Arthur growled, and Francis practically purred in enjoyment at his defensive cries of dismay.

"That's just as well, wouldn't you say, England?"

he asked, "Seeing as you're such a dirty boy."

"I'll show you dirty…!"

Arthur replied, and if he'd thought better of it, he might have refrained from saying anything at all, because showing him dirty was naturally what Francis would want.


There wasn't much exchanged in the means of conversation between Roderich and Vash; for several hours, there was between them the elegant, mutual reserve, unspoken understanding as they played the piano together, duet after duet, Roderich glancing pensively out the corner of his eye at Vash staring nervously at the ivory keys.

There was something in the air between them, something ancient but vivid, a fluttering tension all too familiar to them both but which had at very long last come almost to manifestation in a world outside their minds.


"We can't carry them to bed,"

Arthur whispered softly to Francis as they peered out into the kitchen very late into the night,

"the two of them are huge, Alfred especially…"

While Matthew was actually all skin and bones, he'd nevertheless grown as tall as his brother, and the both of them towered above their parents now.

"Shame on you, England, they're our little boys,"

Francis whispered indignantly back,

"Having them spend the night out on the counter like this…"

Arthur scoffed, glancing at his older counterpart with quiet irritation; Francis had no qualms, after all, and no shame, about treating their little boys not altogether so tenderly, when it came to his own satisfaction.

"You're just out for a feel,"

Arthur said back, his own eyes scanning stealthily over Alfred's naked form in the dim light of the lamps emanating outside the window from the back yard. Francis had washed Arthur's hair lovingly. Deceptively and quite suspiciously gentle, he'd run his hands with careful attention through the other boy's hair, proficient despite all his faults and perversions and taunts.

He can be terribly sweet when he wants to, Arthur might secretly think to himself if he hadn't hated and loathed the wine bastard so much.

When Alfred and Matthew were very little, Arthur and Francis would pick them up while they slept, after the boys had dozed off in the family room in front of the hearth or out on the porch during summertime; they would pick them up carefully without waking either, and then carry them up to their beds—

There's no way, Arthur thought now, inspecting Alfred a little too intently as the boy's enormous arms wrapped all around Matthew's slender back—and he found himself wishing once more that America was a cute little colony, adorably calling out his name as his little arms had come around him, back hundreds of years ago—

"Stupid America,"

he quietly said, but his voice rang with tender affection as then he walked closer, gently laying his palms on both brothers' shoulders.

"Oi, America…Canada…"

He quietly said, as though somehow afraid to wake them up, and Alfred stirred, curling sleepily into Matthew and away from Arthur's hand.

"Five more minutes…" he murmured.

Francis snickered, approaching behind Arthur to get a closer look. With a devious grin, he proceeded to run his hand along the side of Matthew's body, over the place where Alfred's arm wrapped around his naked back and then down to his behind, appreciatively squeezing; Matthew's thighs were still wet from before.

"Ah, this is nice…"

Francis purred in approval, and when Arthur realized what he was doing, he snapped in anger all at once, reaching immediately to slap Francis' hand away and proceeding to yell all too loud,

"Just what are you doing…! This is bad, even for you…!"

Both brothers startled at this, Matthew propping up from within the restraint of Alfred's arm, staring in terror into the dimly-lit kitchen, Alfred appearing sleepily disoriented as his blue eyes came open, clearly confused.

Arthur and Francis already were partly engaged in a fight, each accusing the other of pursuing perverted intent toward their precious twin boys and denying the same all the while, presumably each quite repulsed that the other would say such a thing.

Alfred and Matthew gazed forth at the two for some time, Matthew's hands tightening with absent trepidation around his brother's arm for support.

"Alfred, I'm sleepy,"

he quietly said, and, turning his head to his brother then, Alfred nodded in reply, carefully proceeding to unravel his long legs from Matthew's.

"We fell asleep here…" he said in a moment of revelation, realizing after that that his behind was quite sore from being pressed against the hard counter for so long.

"Come on, Matty, let's go to bed—"

Arthur and Francis finally turned around when then Alfred hopped down, Matthew reaching toward him on impulse as his brother had taken him up in his arms.

"Oh…!" Francis laughed on seeing them then, "Looks like they woke up on their own…!"

Arthur laughed too, hand scratching absently at the nape of his neck.

"Of course they woke up, you complete imbecile…! What with you screaming so loud at all hours of the night…!"

"Me screaming…! Look at you…! You were the one—"

"We're used to the two of you screaming," Alfred sleepily yawned, Matthew clinging warmly in his arms, head already buried in the crook of his neck. "This is just like old times…"

"Just like old…" Arthur murmured with humility and surprise, and then he remembered to scowl, "Cheeky bugger…"

He leaned gently forth, rising on tiptoe to kiss Alfred's forehead goodnight, then Matthew's, and Matthew's slender arms came around Arthur's shoulders as he sleepily kissed him back, only partly awake and moving largely on habit.

"Papa, too,"

he softly said, reaching blindly to hug Francis after that, and Arthur watched warily lest Papa made any further unwanted advances at the boy. Alfred was pensive, as well, ever possessive of his baby brother and rightfully suspicious of France, remember who loves you the most, Matty, remember to whom you belong—

Francis had set aside a bedroom for them upstairs, and Alfred had very gently carried his brother there, carefully closing the door and proceeding to lay Matthew down onto the bed. The younger boy already was mostly asleep, yellow hair scattering like corn silk on the pillow beneath as he waited patiently for Alfred.

They would wash up in the morning, Alfred thought, he'd spring out of bed with vast enthusiasm at the crack of dawn in order to jog five miles and then shower, then fry up some Bacon Explosion or Heart Failure Surprise for breakfast for everyone, then sit down to figure out the next super plan of action for saving the world—

Right now, Matthew was weightless and sweet in his arms, slender limbs again interwoven in his, the soft scent of shampoo, the kind smile at his lips, innocent, tender, Alfred, I love you, he'd say if he still were awake, and Alfred would tease him and torture him, and laugh it all off and pretend he didn't notice that Matt was there at all—

That, also, would be like old times.

Alfred leaned over to the bedside table in order to turn off the lamp, and then lifted the covers over Matthew's naked shoulder, sliding in closer to him in the dark, his large arms coming protectively around him, possessively; now that Matt was asleep, it was okay for America to let on how nice it was indeed that Canada was always, always so close, and that there always had been a deep, fundamental love between them and mutual understanding, that spanned profoundly beyond any trivial complication or juvenile dispute;

In the darkness, Alfred slowly moved closer and kissed Matthew then, affectionately, delicately, you're mine, he silently breathed, you know that

—and, gently—

—very softly—

Matthew grinned when he kissed him back, breath coming tender and warm as he mouthed in reply,

"Alfred, you know you're mine, too."



A/N: I'd like to extend my gratitude to all my wonderful readers who have kept up with this story for so very long, as well as to all the awesome translators who have helped me with the lines in French and German. I must say that writing about Alfred and Matthew has been an absolute pleasure for me, and a definite labor of love. A few months ago, I commissioned the talented TechnoRanma to draw art for this story; because I'm unable to include links here in the text, please go to my profile to view the image, but please note that it is quite profane and absolutely not safe for work.