Matthew carefully opened the front door of their house, pulling out the key from the lock before tiptoeing inside. It was somewhat difficult to move while supporting Al, who was emotionally exhausted after letting everything out, but he managed. Quietly making their way upstairs, the brothers walked into Alfred's room and all but collapsed on the bed. Matt wrapped his arms around Alfred, listening to the faint sound of even breaths in and out. His brother had been through a lot in the past hours, so he deserved a good night's rest enveloped in his lover's hold.

The two slept well that night, and as the week went on, Alfred opened up about the confrontations between him and Ramón in April and on the night of their birthday party. The more Matthew learned, the more it became clear to him that he really didn't know the Cuban as he thought…and that something had to be done. At the same time, the situation was complicated and sensitive, enough so that a part of him wanted to let sleeping dogs lie, but he just couldn't.

That was how he found himself a few days later, flipping pancakes off a greasy griddle and onto a plate with a trembling spatula. Glancing toward the clock every now and then, he tapped his foot on the floor, getting anxious. The garage was open and ready for action, but that didn't mean he was any less nervous.

After setting his plan into place, a plan he would consider a borderline sin in his brother's book, the Canadian was waiting for the chaos to unfold. The only problem was that Al wasn't downstairs yet and it was almost noon. Walking up the stairs, Matthew made his way into his brother's room to find him still in bed. "Wake up, Al," he spoke softly, shaking the sleeping lump. "It's time to get up." Alfred just groaned.

Rolling his eyes, Matt hesitantly leaned over and licked the soft lobe poking out from under the tuft of blonde hair. His lover immediately began squirming in the sheets, giggling until he broke into full-out laughter. "Ha ha, stop! That t-tickles! Ha ha ha, c-cut it out!"

The Canadian continued to nibble and lick the other's ear, breathing in a sing-song voice, "Only if you get up."

"All right, all right," Al conceded, sitting up in bed to get away from his brother's tongue. "I'm up, I'm up."

"Good, now get dressed. I made pancakes."

Stretching his arms above his head, Alfred declined, "Nah, I don't feel like it. Why don't we have breakfast in bed?"

Matthew pouted with his hands on his hips, knowing that if his plan had any chance of working, Al would need clothes on. He always slept naked and no way in hell was that presentable attire. "I-It's already on the table."

"Come on, Mattie, we could try that whipped cream and strawberry thing and eat off each other's body. We could use maple syrup, if you want."


"Come on," the American insisted as he hauled his brother onto the bed, locking down on his waist. "Let's at least have some fun."


"Are our parents home?"

"Well, no, but-"

"Then why not?" Alfred asked as he coated a finger in saliva and snaked it under his lover's shorts, gliding over the curve of his backside until he found his entrance. Smirking, he watched as Mattie moaned from the playful rubbing on his pursed hole. "See? You like that."

Matthew tried to ignore it, but the small stretches and pressure were already turning him on. "Aaah, ah, the p-pancakes are gonna…gonna…haa…g-get cold…"

"The pancakes can wait." Slipping the finger inside, Al let it wander around as he tried to find his boyfriend's prostate. As he brushed over it, Matthew let out a soft mewl, throwing his head back from the pleasure. The electric sparks coursing through his spine were starting to get to him, Al's finger curled up inside of him.

"M-More," he whispered, flicking his tongue against his lover's lips to convince him to hurry up and give him the good stuff quick. The faster he came, the faster they could get downstairs.

Contemplating where to take this, Al suggested, "All right, how about I blow you while I touch your sweet spot?"

"Um, j-just the blow job, but, um, I-I want to see you…you…t-touch yourself," Matt shyly admitted, figuring they'd save time if they came together. Besides, he'd always wanted to see his lover masturbate, although it was embarrassing to tell him that. Just thinking about it was sending tingles down his rock-hard cock.

Alfred shrugged his shoulders with a smile. "Works for me."

Lifting his lower body off the bed, the Canadian undid his zipper, a bit of precum already soaking through his boxers as he shoved them off his needy erection. Al pulled out his finger and hopped onto the floor, letting Mattie situate himself on the edge of the bed. Slinking closer, he grabbed the base of his boyfriend's dick and swept his tongue over the slit to test the waters. When Matthew whimpered, the American felt his own cock twitch in response. Alfred smirked as he took his arousal in his hand, delighted with how he could look up at his lover's face to see every pleasured contortion.

Starting to pump himself, Alfred pursed his lips and enveloped the other's tip. They pushed and pulled over the hard flesh, keeping the pressure nice and tight as his finger traced the pulsing vein up and down his shaft. Matt's body shivered from the slick tongue that played with him on every sucking motion, the puff of air that Al would occasionally blow, the way his brother gasped around his cock from touching himself.

Alfred's mouth loosened its hold as he thumbed the underside of his head, moaning against his boyfriend's. "Ahhh, ah, A-Al…" the Canadian mewled, his hips instinctively bucking at the hot breath mingling with sound waves. Wanting to cum as soon as possible, he led Al's hand to his sack, flinching as the fingertips caressed the loose skin. "Nnh, h-here. T-Touch me here…"

Al nodded, bobbing his lover's cock in his mouth as he carefully rolled the balls between his fingers. He tried to give everything equal attention, which was difficult since he wasn't the best at multitasking, but Mattie was loving every sensual touch. Glancing down through half-lidded eyes, Matthew took in the arousal on Al's face from every stroke, feeling the familiar thrum of contractions set on. Soon he was releasing, his head thrown back in ecstasy.

Swallowing before he took his lips off with a slick pop, the American increased the pace of his hand, his breathing shaky as he knew he was close, but not yet there. "L-Let me help," Matthew offered, sliding off the bed and slipping Al's dick past his lips, applying the same sucking pressure as his brother had done for him. Groaning from the wet warmth engulfing his cock, Alfred thrust up into his mouth, imagining he was pounding into Mattie's tight ass. "A-Ahhh!" Alfred cried, thighs shaking as the semen spurt from his slit.

Riding out the last of his orgasm, Al rolled his hips a few more times before settling down, smiling in the afterglow. Matt downed the other's cum, a shiver running through him as he regarded the taste. The two tried to catch their breath, savoring the serene satisfaction of their climaxes, but for Matthew, it was short-lived. He grabbed his underwear and shorts off the bed and pulled them back on, zipping up with anxious fingers. "C-Can we go eat breakfast now?"

Pouting, his brother wondered why he was so persistent about getting breakfast. "Are you sure?"

"Please, I just- I just want to get breakfast," the Canadian tried to persuade him, but the crack in his voice only proved he was getting worked up.

"Hey, hey, what's wrong? Did I do something wrong?"

"N-No, no, it's just…" Matthew trailed off as he sniffled, ruffling a few locks of his blonde hair before looking his lover in the eye. "You'll always love me, right? No matter what I do?"

Lightly gripping the other's arms, Alfred assured him, "Mattie, of course. Why? What'd you do?"

"N-Nothing," he denied. "I just…I just need to hear that sometimes."

"Come here," the American said, pulling his boyfriend closer in his hold. "Mmm, I'm always gonna love you. No matter what you do. I promise."

That just makes me feel worse for doing this, Matthew thought, taking in the comforting scent of his brother. There was a high chance his idea would crash and burn, only succeeding in wounding Alfred further, but he had to try. Things had to get worse before they got better.

Smiling amiably, Al suggested, "Look, how about you go downstairs and get the food ready while I get dressed, okay? I wouldn't want all your hard work to go to waste."

"O-Okay." Matt stood up from the floor and slipped out the door, daintily making his way down the stairs one step at a time. Turning into the kitchen, he took a plate of buttermilk pancakes and sat at the table, munching away as he tried to calm down despite his anxiety. Within a few minutes, Alfred was sliding down the banister, landing on his own two feet once he met the floor. Clicking his tongue, Matt chastised, "Papa doesn't like it when you do that."

The American chuckled as he strolled into the kitchen, teasing, "Not you too! Next you'll be giving me 'the talk' and cooking snails for dinner." His brother elbowed him in the side, only making him laugh harder. As he picked up a plate of the delicious breakfast, Al pecked his lover on the cheek. "Thanks for cooking, Mattie. I'd do it myself, but you know me. I'd just burn down the house."

"And then we'd still have to pay the mortgage," Matthew spoke wistfully, waving his fork through the air.

"Yep. Hey, can you pass me the maple syrup?"

Mattie stuck out his tongue. "Get it yourself, Captain America. You're a hero and that's what heroes do, after all: get the maple syrup."

Rolling his blue eyes, Al mumbled, "Whatever, you Mountie," as he walked over and stole the maple syrup. He took it back to his place at the table where his pancakes hungrily awaited the amber rain.

When someone knocked on the door leading to the garage, the Canadian nearly jumped, having almost forgotten about the plan. Looking up from his meal, Alfred wondered aloud, "Didn't Dad and Papa go to work? Who could that be?"

"N-No idea," he lied, every step toward the garage prompting his heart to pound faster. There was no turning back as Matthew twisted the knob and yanked it open. The moment Al saw who was waiting behind the door, he almost choked on his food, a helpless anger rising in his chest.

"What are you doing here?" the American demanded to know, his tone furious and accusatory.

Ramón looked to his friend; at least he hoped they were still friends after the Fourth of July incident. After a week without contact, Matt had called him up all of a sudden and invited him over, so he assumed they were, but now he wasn't so sure. "…Matt, you said he wouldn't be here."

Feigning innocence, Matthew remarked, "D-Did I? Well, since you're already here, you wouldn't have a problem staying for a bit, now would you?"

Throwing his fork down on the plate with a violent clatter, Al asserted, "I have a problem with that."

"So do I."

"Great, sit right on down," Matt insisted, dragging the Cuban across the tile and forcing him into a chair opposite his brother. Taking a seat in between the two, Matthew clasped his hands together and looked to both of them. Al was considering fight or flight, his arms crossed tight under his chest as he glared at the pancakes on the table. In a similar condition, Ramón kept his eyes on the door, wondering if he could make a break for the exit. As Matt looked at him, he tried to suppress his own fury, wondering how anyone could be so heartless.

"Matthew," Al addressed his lover in a tone that warned him he was stepping on a very thin line, "what the hell is going on? Why is he here?"

The Canadian exchanged glances with the two before deciding to divulge. "…You guys are here to have a heart-to-heart."

"No," Alfred muttered, not so much a denial but a statement of hurt disbelief. "No, Mattie, you are not doing this to me. You're not."

Ramón shook his head, gripping his dark bicep tighter. "No way, Matt. This isn't an episode of Dr. Phil."

His brow creased, Matt stressed, "That wasn't a suggestion. Look, Ramón, I…I know what happened between you and Al."

"You told him?" the Cuban shouted, sending his seething brown eyes in Al's direction.

"You think I wanted to?" Alfred retorted. "You really think I wanted to tell him that I dated a bastard like you?"

"Really? You liked me at the time."

"That was before you forced my hand."

"I did not-"

"No, you forced my hand!" Alfred yelled, jumping up from his seat as he pointed an accusing finger toward his ex-lover. "I wasn't over Jenna when I went out with you, and instead of waiting for me to be ready, you demanded that I sleep with you!"

Seeing how things were starting to get out of control, Matthew held up his hands defensively. "G-Guys, let's just calm-"

"You could've said 'no'!" Ramón interrupted, slamming his palm on the thick wood of the table as he stood up.

"Oh, do not play that card with me!"

"Alfred, who's playing cards-"

"I said 'no' fifty fucking times and you didn't care!"

"Do not act like you are some rape victim, Al! You agreed to it and if you wanted to stop, you could've pushed me off, you could've screamed for help, but you didn't!"

"You know very well that I couldn't do ANY of that!"



Matthew hid his face in his hands, starting to regret his idea of bringing them together to talk things out. God, this had to be the worst-case scenario, but there was nothing he could do at this point. He had to let the fight burn out on its own.

"…I had sex with you," Alfred admitted in a strained tone, "because you said you would leave if I didn't…and I didn't want to lose someone else. B-But you left anyway. When I woke up, I was all alone. I had to go d-down to the lobby…and- and hand over the k-keys…while they all l-looked at me and they knew, Ramón, they knew. Do you have any idea how- how humiliating that was? Do you?"

Ramón slowly shook his head 'no', choosing to stare down at his sneakers as he sat back down. He grimaced, wondering where that strange high he usually got from seeing the American hurt had gone, replaced by a bit of remorse that viciously gnawed on him.

"I c-come into school on Monday and y-you're laughing it up with your druggie friends! You're acting like n-nothing happened, like it meant nothing t-to you! Y-You didn't even c-care!"

Hysterical at this point, Al tugged at his mop of hair as he cried, "I hate you, o-okay? I fucking h-hate you! I'm mad at myself, I'm f-fucking ashamed of how stupid I was, a-and it's your fault! I told you everything, I trusted you, I fucking slept with you, and you just left! Do you even care? D-Do you even fucking care?"

Distraught and clutching his scalp as he wept, Alfred slumped back into his chair and murmured weakly, "N-No, you d-don't…you d-don't care…you don't…"

Matthew gazed at his brother with pangs of guilt, hating to see him so distressed and to be the one to bring him into this situation, but it had to be done. "…What do you have to say to that?" he asked Ramón.

Looking in his direction, Ramón snapped, "Matt, what do you want from me? He's telling the truth, whether I like it or not."

"Explain yourself," Matthew ordered. "You owe that to him."

"D-Don't even bother, Mattie," Alfred told him. "It's not gonna change a-anything. I hate him and he h-hates me."

"I don't hate you."

"Oh, don't lie-"

"I'm not lying," the Cuban interrupted him, shutting his ex up right away. "I don't hate you, Al, at least not these days. I hate being near you. All you do is remind me of things I'd rather leave in the past, and I hate that."

The words hit close to home as Al sunk lower in his seat, knowing all too well what it was like to hate being near someone because of all the memories it stirred up.

At the same time, his brother was putting the puzzle together, finally getting an idea of what went on in Ramón's mind. Sure, the guy was cool and charming, but he had a sadistic side to him. It seemed that way from the piercing confrontations Al had discussed with him. People were who they were due to a mixture of nature and nurture, and there was someone Ramón hated to talk about; someone that Matthew bet played a large role in the Cuban's upbringing. With what he had learned over the past week, that someone was the final piece, clicking right into place to reveal the entire image to him.

Deciding to give him a taste of his own medicine, Matt casually twiddled his thumbs and pointed out, "…Speaking of things you'd rather leave in the past, how are things with your dad?"

He flinched immediately, a familiar pinch in his chest, one that arose whenever someone brought up his father. "F-Fine."

"Really?" the Canadian asked in a tone that told he knew otherwise. "I don't know, from what Al's told me, I get the feeling you don't really like your father. Why is that?"

Confused by the scene unfolding before him, Alfred glanced over to his lover. Just what he was hoping to accomplish with this line of questioning?

Ramón pulled his crossed arms closer to his body, wondering why this behavior was so familiar and…somewhat sickening. "That's none of your b-business."

"Let me guess: every day growing up, you saw your dad go through woman after woman. He was always at work, and if he wasn't, he was off with a mistress, so he never had any time for you. And if he did, he just took that time to put you down. You swore you'd never be like him, but you couldn't help yourself. You started hooking up with no strings attached. No one cared, so you figured it was okay, but then you started dating. Once they slept with you, you didn't know what to do but leave. After all, that's what your dad did. And you loved it when they fought back, getting all worked up over you dumping them. Having that control over them made you feel strong, but really, you're just a pathetic bully that has to sleep around and hurt others to fill the void in his life."

Ramón's mouth gaped open, the words cutting him right down to the bone, just like his father's. Sure, Matt had always been perceptive, but the way he used his words…they dug down deep and filled him with a burning hatred, but he was helpless to do anything.

"I'm right, aren't I?" Matthew provoked him with a slick smirk. "Hey, you know what they say: like father, like son."

"SHUT UP!" Ramón roared, gripping the edge of the table to stop himself from lunging at the Canadian. "Don't you dare compare me to my father!"

"Oh, did I touch a nerve?" Matthew asked, his tone deceptively innocent. "Huh. Well, maybe you'll know how Al feels now. To have someone see right through him and jab every single nerve like it's a game. Hurts, doesn't it? Hurts more than a slap to the face or a punch to the jaw."

Ramón stared at him in incredulity, finally realizing whose behavior Matt was imitating: his. Revolted that he would mistake his own actions for his father's, he brought a hand to his mouth, as if he might throw up.

"So, should I keep going, or would you like to take it from here? After all, that can't be the only reason why your relationship is so strained. And I've noticed that you've never once talked about your mom."

The Cuban nervously chewed his chapped lips, wishing all his skeletons in the closet would just stay there. God, he really could use a smoke right now, but he didn't have a pack on him and he wasn't even sure if the nicotine gum would cut it. Figuring it was better than nothing, he took the gum out of his pocket with trembling fingers and popped a piece into his mouth. "Matt, don't make me do this. Really, I don't want to talk about this."

"Yeah, well, I didn't want you to up and go," Al argued, glaring into the depths his dark skin, "but we can't all get what we want in this world."

Ramón gripped a few of his black kinks as the guilt set in further, sighing as he gave in. "…Fine. You…you pretty much hit the nail on the head. My parents divorced when I was younger. My dad goes to work from six to nine, so I grew up either alone or in the care of one of his mistresses. Let me tell you, a lot of women have passed through my life thanks to him, so I've never really had a stable mother. I guess you could say I've never had a stable relationship with anyone, for that matter. I either hook up or stay until I get the sex, and then I'm gone. …God, I'm so much like my dad, it sickens me. It never used to bother me. Not until I got involved with you guys."

"Oh, poor baby," the American mocked him. "Never felt a lick of guilt in his life till now. The fucking horror."

"Look, I'm not trying to justify what I did, okay? I don't expect you guys to take pity on me. You wanted a reason for what I did, and I gave it to you. That's all I've got."

"Well, th-that's not enough."

"Al, what more do you want from me?"

"I want to h-hear it," Alfred demanded in a choked voice, his blue eyes fierce but hurting. "I want you t-to say exactly what you d-did. I w-want to hear you apologize and I want it to be s-sincere."

"…Al, you're not serious," the Cuban said, reluctant to comply. To apologize would be to admit his actions were wrong and just like his father's; that was something he just didn't want to face.

However, Alfred wasn't letting him off the hook. "I w-want to hear it. Now."

Ramón sighed, wringing his hands with his brown eyes focused on the table. "…I…I took advantage of you," he admitted, forcing the words out past his gingerbread lips even though he wanted to stuff each one back down. "I…used you. I made you…fork over your virginity and then I left…without a goodbye. I've been a complete bastard, fucker, whore, slut…whatever else you wanted to carve into the paint of my car. What I did…was wrong and…a-and I'm sorry, Al."

"…You remembered the words," Alfred remarked, the slight notion strangely touching to him.

"Yeah, it's pretty easy since you keyed each word three times. Thick letters, too. A real bitch to fix."

"…If you want an apology for that, I'm not giving you one. I don't regret it."

"I know. I don't expect one."

They sat in an awkward silence with folded arms as Matthew observed them, none of them sure what to say next or where to go from there. "…Now, what?" Alfred muttered.

Standing up from his seat, the Cuban pushed the chair in and declared, "I think it's about time I go. It's clear I'm not wanted here. …Look, I'm not going to interfere with your relationship and I won't tell anyone, so don't worry about that."

Al scoffed. "You expect us to believe that? With all the scoring you do, I'd expect stealing boyfriends and girlfriends would be a favorite pastime-"

"My parents divorced because my dad cheated," Ramón cut him off, and for the first time, Alfred heard a twinge of pain in his voice. "They all blamed the cheap slut, but it's his fault. If it hadn't been her, it would've been some other woman. He's the one who promised to love his wife forever and couldn't keep it. I know I'm a player, but there's one thing I won't do, and that's pursuing someone that's already taken. I don't care how much I want them; I'm not going to put someone through that. If nothing else, take my word on that."

He walked away from them before stopping at the garage door, hands stuffed in his pockets as he looked over his shoulder. "…Al, I can't imagine you'd want to, but Matt…if you still want to be friends…"

The Canadian shook his head from side to side. "I-I can't. What you did…no matter what excuse you have, it was cruel. I couldn't."

Nodding morosely, he stated, "I understand."

"Ramón," Alfred addressed him, swallowing his pride. "Before…before any of this happened, I…I really did think of you as my friend."

Ramón's brown eyes grew with surprise, then slowly sunk back into regret. "…Goodbye." With that, the Cuban disappeared out the garage door, the wood falling back into place with a subtle click.

As the receding footsteps disappeared out of the garage, Alfred raised an eyebrow and tapped his finger on his upper arm, giving his lover a look that could only be described as unamused. "Matthew."

Said person flinched at the sound of his full first name, waiting for the wrath that was sure to unfold. For what he'd put Al through that day, he expected words of hatred and a demand that Matthew stay away from him for the rest of his life. "Y-Yeah?"

"That wasn't cool, Mattie. Not cool at all."

Matthew averted his eyes to the floor. "…I-I know. I'm sorry. Are…are you mad at me?" Here it comes…

"Of course I'm mad," the American stressed. "You think I wouldn't be? Mattie, you threw me and my ex into a room with no preparation whatsoever and expected us to have a civil one-on-one. What the hell were you thinking?"

Taking a particular interest in his fingernails, Matt explained, "I-I thought it would help…talking things out…I-It's not like with you and Jenna. You guys never had any r-real closure…so…you know. A-And I know neither of you would've agreed if I told you, s-so…"

Alfred sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "Look, I know you had good intentions, but please, don't ever put me through something like that again. That…that really wasn't cool."

As the Canadian slowly nodded, Al noticed he was being exceptionally timid, as if he could step on a landmine at any moment. "Come on," Alfred encouraged him with arms wide open. "Come here. I'm not that mad."

Matthew eagerly accepted the invitation, gripping the creases of his boyfriend's shirt in their embrace. Hoping to break the tense atmosphere, Al cracked, "And if you do, at least tell me ahead of time." Instead, he got a half-hearted chuckle. "Mattie, what's wrong? I swear I'm really not that mad."

"It's just…" Mattie murmured, pulling away to look his lover in the eye, "d-do you feel any better? Did it help at all?"

Alfred blinked, taking a few seconds to register the question and examine himself, surprised at what he found. "…Yeah, I…I don't know how to explain it."

The sensation running through his body was familiar, but at the same time, foreign. For the first time in a long time, Alfred felt like he could breathe, his rusted airways free from the crushing force of a heavy heart. Taking in a deep breath, he finally realized why his lover's compassion hurt so much more than the bitter slurs of others.

Jenna shot him full of holes with the trigger of her mouth. Ramón had let the bullet holes heal over before slowly slicing through the scars to make his own, striking a nerve with more intensity each time until he finally severed it. But Mattie was a surgeon, one without proper anesthesia, but a surgeon nonetheless. He reopened the wounds and dug through all the scar tissue one layer at a time to extract those bullets, stitch the nerve together, and sew him back up.

Surgeons were heroes.

Alfred laid his head on his lover's shoulder and grasped his hand, intertwining the thin fingers with his own. "You asked me earlier if I'd love you no matter what you did. Mattie, I love you. I still do."

Resting his head atop his brother's, Matthew stroked the soft skin of Al's hand in his. "I love you, too."

"But you've been a naughty boy."

"Oh, really?"

"Yep, so I'm gonna have to punish you," the American teased, pulling his hand away to give his boyfriend a quick slap on the ass. Mattie squeaked, his face flushing as the other hauled him over his shoulder. "So, how about it?" Alfred asked. "Wanna take this to the bedroom?"

Using all the upper body strength he had, Matthew reached for his brother's shoulder and propped himself up so that their heads were side by side. "W-We still haven't cleaned up the pancakes."

"Come on," Alfred pleaded, his blue eyes sultry as he looked back at his boyfriend, "that can wait. I want to make love to you till you melt."

Blushing deeper as a small smile spread across his face, Matthew gave in. More than anything, he was relieved that his lover wasn't too mad at him. And it didn't hurt that they were going to have make-up sex. "All right, all right. Beam me up, Scotty."

"With pleasure, William Shatner."

"Oh, so I'm only Captain Kirk because I'm Canadian?"

"No, because you're the bottom," Al corrected him, patting his brother's fine backside. Fake gasping, Matt punched him in the arm as he was carried up the stairs, Alfred laughing all the while.

"Kirk could top if he wanted to!"

"Like Spock would let him. He'd get bitch-slapped again."

As the brothers entered Alfred's room, Mattie murmured, "Really, Al, you should be Kirk. After all you're the hero."

Gently laying him down on the bed, Al disagreed. "Hm, actually, I think you're the hero."

Matthew was about to suggest that maybe they were both heroes when his lover pressed their lips together, exchanging words with sensual touches. That was okay; he already knew the truth. They were only human, subject to life's spectrum of pain and love, as humans should be.

. . .

Several months passed and the earth came to November, nearing the days of celebration for the harvest. As the school day ended, the Bonnefoy brothers walked out with some of their friends, relieved that the tedious Wednesday was over and the Thanksgiving break could begin.

"Thanksgiving must be amazing at your house," Kateryna remarked, her bust bouncing as they walked down the school's stairs.

"With a chef like Papa? You bet," Alfred boasted, his arm slung over his brother's shoulder. "It's like a feast. Enough food to feed an army and make you fat as hell. Mattie got the cooking genes from him, so whatever he cooks is just as good. Maybe even better."

Matthew grinned sweetly, fighting every urge to hold his hand and cuddle up next to him. After all, they were in public, in front of the school nonetheless. Instead, he opted for some brotherly teasing. "Well, it's easy to make good food if you don't burn everything you touch."

Clutching his heart in mock drama, Al cried, "Oh, Mattie, you wound me!"

"Alfred-san, I am sure there is something you can cook without burning it," Kiku assured him.

Matthew wagged his finger, adding, "Oh no, you don't know about the time he burned pasta."

"Be glad that Feliciano is not here right now, aru. He would start crying if he heard that, aru."

They all laughed until Yao screeched, his flat chest claimed from behind by the hands of a certain Korean. "Your turkey breasts belong to me!" Yong Soo declared, wiggling his fingers over the taut sweater as he imitated the bird's warbles.


"Gobble gobble! Gobble gobble gobble!"

"Th-That's it, aru! You're not coming over tomorrow, aru!"

"What?" Yong Soo shouted, offended and close to tears. "B-But you already said I could spend Thanksgiving with you! Hey, where are you going? Yao? YAO!"

As Yong Soo chased after his love, Kiku calmly shook his head, his black bangs tossing from side to side as he followed them. "You know, those two remind me of your parents," Kateryna said with a smile, wiping a cheerful tear from her eye.

Matthew raised an eyebrow. "Are you serious?"

"Hey, I can see it," Alfred commented, shrugging his shoulders. "It's just like how Papa gropes Dad and Dad acts like he doesn't like it, but he does. He just won't admit it."

"Al, not everyone is like Dad."

"Well, everyone can't be like you either." Leaning in close, the American whispered in his ear, "You like what I do, but you're just too shy to say it."

A large blush erupted on Matthew's face as he elbowed him in the stomach. "Sh-Shut up. Someone might hear you."

"Come on, no one heard me. The only one here is Kat, and even if she did, I bet she already knows we do stuff. Isn't that right, Kat?"

"What?" she asked, clearly confused. "…Oh, when you say 'do stuff', you don't mean-"

A horn honked and Kateryna looked away, her brother pulling up in his black Volga. Matthew sighed in relief, never so glad to see the Russian in his life. "Oh, there's Ivan. I have to go. I'll see you guys next week!"

The brothers waved goodbye to her and Al smiled to himself, deciding to take one last look at the school before they left for break. His hand went limp as he saw Ramón leaning against the wall, cigarette in mouth. Watching him kick his skateboard back and forth across the sidewalk, Alfred felt the flickering flame deep in his chest, but it was faint, as it were dying out with time. It was so strange to see his ex-boyfriend without anger and shame filling him up to the brim. He couldn't believe it himself, but he just didn't feel that intense amount of burning animosity anymore.

In fact, the more he thought about it, he felt pity for the guy. With his parents divorced and his dad rarely home, Ramón was probably going to spend the break alone, unless he went out to hook up. It must've been years since he'd had a real Thanksgiving dinner…and a family to share it with.

For a few seconds, the American considered inviting him over the next day, but he quickly shot that down. That…that was just a bad idea. Nothing good could possibly come from it. Taking a deep breath, Al continued to watch him, thinking of how lonely he would be if his family were never around.

Catching his gaze, Matthew lightly brushed his hand against his brother's. "Hey, you okay?"

Alfred switched his eyes over to his boyfriend, beaming brightly at him. Then again, with his brother as his lover and their parents always by their side, he doubted he'd ever have to feel that. "Yeah. Ready to go home?"

Nodding, the Canadian pulled his helmet and leather jacket out of his otherwise thin backpack and Al followed suit. Coats zipped up and helmets lodged in place, the two threw on their backpacks on and walked down the sidewalk. The motorcycle gleamed in the sunlight and Alfred climbed on first, beckoning his lover with a bend of his finger. Mattie complied, straddling the seat as he wrapped his arms around Al's waist, their lower bodies locking like puzzle pieces. Twisting his wrists as the engine roared to life, Alfred sped them out of the parking space, toward home.

As the wind whipped around them, Matthew let his arms ride up to Alfred's chest, feeling for his heartbeat. His violet eyes grew brighter and he smiled serenely despite the adrenaline pumping through him, his head against his brother's back as the combined pounding of their hearts filled him with love. For them, like the soothing rhythm of identical beats, 'brother' and 'lover' were one and the same.

Nothing could ever feel so right.

. . .

"I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three." - William Blake

. . .

(A/N: I thought that'd be a nice quote to end with since I've come to love it so much. If you don't remember, Mattie quoted it in the sixteenth chapter. Anyway, I want to thank you guys for reading, reviewing, and supporting this story over the past six months. I can't believe half a year has gone by since I started this. I'm really emotional right now and I'm sure it's gonna hit me even harder later, but yeah, Brother Complex has come to its end. I hope you guys have enjoyed the ride as much as I have and I promise to keep writing. In the meantime, I'm taking a little break from multi-chapter fics and I'm gonna bust out some oneshots while I work on some original work I've been putting off. See you guys soon!)