Slight AU, written for paperapple of the USxUK Secret Santa. The prompt: "Anything with a cop Alfred." I can only hope this is what they meant.

Disclaimer: I do not own America, England or anything else to do with Hetalia.

Public Intoxication

'Twas the night before Christmas, and Officer Alfred F. Jones was supposed to be off-duty. That's why he was slow to answer the familiar wailing ringtone of sirens that signaled a call from the office, the dispatch or anyone who worked with him. He scowled at the display, glared at the photo of a dark-haired man munching on that stick-like Japanese candy, and answered just seconds before it could switch to voicemail.

"Kiku," he muttered, sighing through his teeth. "You'd better be asking to borrow a cup of sugar."

"My apologies, Alfred-san," the dispatch said in his usual polite way, and at the very least he sounded sincerely sorry. "I do not wish to trouble you, but you see, we've gotten this call for a public intoxication on Fifth…"

"I don't care." Alfred snapped, more irritable than he probably should have been given that it wasn't really Kiku's fault. "This is my night off, Kiku. My first night off in almost a month, I might add, and it's freaking Christmas Eve. My uniform's in the \wash, my gun's in lockup and my badge is tucked into the drawer of my desk. All I want to do is watch one of those corny Christmas specials over a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of cookies. Now tell me why a public intoxication call is any of my business right now."

"I just thought you might want to take care of this yourself," Kiku said hesitantly. "Given the description of the suspect."

Slowly, Alfred lifted his head from his hand and glared at his own reflection in the mirror. If looks could kill, the glass would have cracked down the center without fail. "What description?"

"Small and blonde," here Kiku paused to draw in a put-upon little sigh, knowing that Alfred would not like what he was about to hear. "With very distinctive eyebrows."

Alfred groaned, drawing a hand across his face. Of course it was him. It was always him.

"I'll be there in ten minutes."

( - )

When Alfred arrived at the Fifth & Bourbon Street Pub, he took one look around and knew that all the carnage was Arthur's work, without a doubt. Tables were overturned, glasses were shattered and there was a large stain on the wall where an entire bottle of brandy had been smashed to pieces.

Seconds later, his conclusion was confirmed by the shout that echoed from the center of the room. "Git your filthy hands off'a me you bloody wankers! You ain't got not right to handle me like this, you hear? No right!"

Alfred sighed. He knew that voice as well as his knew his own name.

Arthur Kirkland was just as Kiku described him, small, blonde and bearing a thick pair of eyebrows that seemed heavy enough to have stunted his growth. He wore very respectable clothes, a v-neck sweater, slacks, dress shirt and tie, all of which were a mess now that he was completely drunk and struggling against his fellow patrons' holds.

"C'mon and fight fair, you bloody bastards!" he raged, the drink slurring his vowels more than his accent. "I ain't gonna back down to a bunch o' blighters like you, you wanna stand in the way of me an' my drink, you ain't got – "

"Actually, they have more than the right; this is a private establishment," Alfred interrupted, stepping into the fray. He put a hand on Arthur's shoulder and flashed his badge at the other combatants to get them to back off.

Arthur twisted around and barely managed to focus on him. "Oh. It's you. Yeh git."

"Good to see you too, Arthur."

"What took you so long?" demanded the barkeep angrily, failing his arms. "Look what that bastard did to my pub! All I said to him was that he'd had enough, and he started up like a bleeding banshee!"

"I know, I know, I heard the dispatch," Alfred said, though he hadn't actually, he just knew the way that Arthur worked. After all, it had not been long ago that he had called the man 'big brother' completely without irony. They were raised in the same foster home, and Arthur, as the elder, had always done what he could to look out for the younger boy. Now, of all things, their situations were reversed.

Resting his elbow on Arthur's shoulder to keep him under control, Alfred dug into his shirt pocket and pulled out the notepad he normally used to take witness testimonies. He turned to a blank page and scribbled the phone number for the station, which he then tossed to the barkeep. "Here. Call this number in the morning if you really want to press charges. Ask for Kiku – at the very least, he'll be able to point you in the direction you need to go."

"Don't bloody tell them that, you git!" Arthur snapped, swinging at Alfred's torso and barely missing his mark. "I don't want to fuck with some stupid court case just 'cause of a couple of cracked glasses and broken chairs!"

"Then you shouldn't have broken them in the first place," Alfred quipped, and earned himself a swat across the head for his trouble. He chuckled, grabbed Arthur's hands and pulled them behind his back. "Okay, that's it. I'm taking you into custody for your own good."

Arthur snorted. "I'd like to see you try."

With a snap and a click, Alfred fastened the handcuffs around his wrists. "There we go. All done. Let's go. I'll read you your rights in the car."

"I already know my mother-fucking rights, you blasted git! Now undo these bloody things!"

"Not a chance. Good evening, gentlemen."

"Officer! My bar!"

"Call dispatch in the morning, sir. That's all I can tell you."

( - )

Arthur woke a few hours later to a pounding headache, brightly-lit bedroom, aching shoulders and the distinctly odd feeling that he was unable to move his hands. A bit of experimenting rendered the conclusion that his hands were currently cuffed behind his back; a little more, that he was lying on his side on a rather familiar couch.

After a bit of a struggle, he managed to sit up and caught sight of Alfred, sitting at the desk on the other side of the room. Arthur groaned at the pressure that sitting up put on his hangover-headache and snarled at Alfred. "Oi, git! When are you going to get the blasted cuffs off me?"

Alfred shrugged, not looking up from his work. "Eventually."

Arthur scowled at him. "Just what the bloody hell are you doing over there?"

"Writing up the incident report. Your incident report. I have to file it tomorrow afternoon, along with the charges."

"On Christmas day? That's bloody fucked up…" Arthur mused on that a moment, the rest of the sentence lost in the murky haze of his post-binge headache. Then it all caught up with him. "Charges?! What the blood hell do you mean charges?"

"Public intoxication and disturbing the peace," Alfred rattled off, leaning back in his chair and tapping his pencil against the side of his nose. "I told you last time I wasn't going to cover for you again, and I meant it. This is the third time in a month, Arthur. I don't know what's gotten into you, but getting you off after these binges of yours is going to put my job on the line."

"You're not even on duty tonight!" Arthur snapped.

"Which is the only reason you're sitting on my couch instead of in lock-up,"

Alfred swiveled the chair around and made his way to the couch, shifting around behind Arthur to unlock the cuffs. His hands were rough against the other man's wrists, but the touch was gentle.

"Look, Arthur, I don't know what's gotten into you recently, but you need to cut it out," Alfred muttered, and the words tasted bitter on his tongue. Scolding Arthur just felt wrong. "I didn't become a police officer to clean up after your pity parties and drunken binges. I want to be a hero, not your babysitter."

"…That was supposed to be my job."


The cuffs fell away. Arthur twisted around and seized Alfred by the shirt, dragging him down completely onto the couch. Arthur buried his face in the warm fleece of the officer's sweater and, though he was still mumbling, his words carried clearer than before.

"Babysitting was supposed to be my job, it's always been my job. I'm supposed to take care of you, me. It's not supposed to be like this." He sniffled miserably. "But who am I kidding? I can't even take care of myself. I'm bloody pathetic."

There was still some drunkenness clinging to him, Alfred concluded. He sighed and rubbed Arthur's back soothingly. They didn't get into these situations often, but he always had to tread carefully. Any little wrong word could set him off on a whole other binge of alcohol, violence and self-loathing before the night was out.

"You're not pathetic," he said. "You're just drunk."

Arhur groaned. "I'm a fucking idiot."

"No, that's me, remember?"

A light chuckle managed to bubble from Arthur's chest. He shifted and looked up with Alfred with half-lidded eyes, heavy with his own depression and regrets. "When did you get so big?" he asked, quiet and rhetorical. "And why? Why did'ja have to go and grow up and leave me alone?"

Something painful lodged in Alfred's throat. He swallowed, but it didn't go down. "I…I didn't leave you alone, Arthur."

"You moved out."

"Well, yeah, I mean, I needed some space for myself, you know?" Alfred bristled. "And it's not like I moved away. I'm right here, aren't I? I can't live with you forever."

"I know," Arthur mumbled miserably, wrapping his arms around the younger man's waist. "But I miss you."

The thing stuck in Alfred's throat suddenly grew in size. Sitting right on his vocal cords, it strangled any sound he tried to make. Arthur held onto him with both arms and kept on, his voice wobbling between his drunken slurs and sobering depression until Alfred began to wonder if his previous conclusion about inebriation was incorrect.

"I miss the way you used to whine when I had to go away, how you'd come crying at night after a bad dream, how you'd eat all the pudding and try to blame it on the dog. And I keep trying to go home and forget about it all and focus on work and whatnot, but the blasted place is just so…so empty."

Alfred closed his eyes then, because he knew that feeling well. Their foster home had been a large one, dedicated to teenagers and siblings and wards of the state who had little to no hope of adoption, either because it was illegal or because they were simply too old. So many of the people they'd shared their food and beds with had gone on to bigger and better things, what with Antonio and Romano running off to Italy together; Francis taking up culinary school, Feliciano's kindergarten class and his own twin Matthew disappearing into the quiet obscurity of his much-beloved job as a ranger in a national park. He and Arthur were the only ones who had remained in this old town all their adult lives and, though friends and family were by no means strangers and often in contact through a million different channels, it was easy to miss the crowded, loving chaos of their childhood home.

"Still," he said quietly, putting his arms around Arthur's shoulders, "you don't have to go and do something stupid like this. You can just come to me."

Arthur snorted at that, but Alfred just grinned. "I'm serious, you know. You always end up here eventually, so you might as well cut out the middle man and the public intoxication charges."

"You're a bloody git," Arthur muttered, and pulled Alfred down by the collar for a quick, sloppy kiss.

As they broke away, the novelty clock in dining room began to squawk with the noise of a wild bird, announcing the top of the hour. Alfred, who could recognize all of the different avian sounds even at a distance, smiled even wider. "Midnight," he said brightly. "Merry Christmas, Arthur."

"Merry Christmas, you git."

When Matthew arrived seven hours later, no one came to answer the front door. He pulled the spare key from beneath the potted plant – because Alfred could be so predictable sometimes – and let himself in. He found Alfred and Arthur asleep on the couch together, wrapped up in each other's arms like a pair of confused octopi, with Alfred's handcuffs sitting on the floor beside them.

Matthew decided that he didn't want to know and went to start up the Christmas turkey.