Author's Note: WOW an update. Hope you enjoy! This fic is kicking into the long haul. I would imagine about six more chapters? Thank you for over 300 reviews.
By Everything is Magic
Arthur had done something wonderful for him the week before, and Alfred had rewarded him with giddiness and big sloppy kisses (a few of them even underwater). He'd learned to scuba dive so he could spend time with Alfred under the water and Alfred could show him… so many of the things he'd been longing to show him. That was what the whales had been for, and Arthur had scolded him later on upon realizing that swimming that close to whales was illegal. "Well not illegal for you of course, but for humans. I just… I swear to god Alfred if we get caught I will-" a huff, "you'd better make this worth it, you git."
Alfred thought, at least, that he had made it worth it. Arthur was breathless afterward, and there was an irrepressible smile on his face, a gleam of amazement in his green eyes.
It wasn't ideal. Arthur couldn't speak underwater, and he was still slow, and his mouth was covered so when he tried to kiss him he ended up kissing plastic, but it was pretty damn great. And they'd gone diving a few times since then, Alfred showing him some favorite areas in the sound. Arthur had also taken the yacht out to watch fireworks with him on Independence Day, a holiday that, he explained, was created to celebrate the country's victory in a war for independence from England (which Alfred found funny considering Arthur's home country). He'd seen the fireworks in the sound before during previous years, but with Arthur by his side, they were so much more beautiful.
To Alfred at least, everything was going perfectly. He couldn't imagine a better summer, a better thing to be happening to him.
He was in love with Arthur. There was no use denying it at this point. He'd known him for half a summer, and he'd spent nearly every single day with him. That was enough time to be sure of things, and really he had no reason not to be sure of it. He'd been drawn to Arthur since he first saw him… or well Arthur first saw him. And maybe Toris was right that he'd been infatuated at first because Arthur was a human his own age who wanted to be his friend, but that was totally not the case now.
Alfred knew that this, Arthur was what he wanted. In the same way that Matthew had wanted to be with Katyusha, in the same way that his adoptive parents had wanted each other so badly that they'd left their own pods behind for it. And maybe it was the realization that this was something real, something that he honestly wanted to pursue in that manner, that led Alfred to realize… that he had no idea what was going to happen. At the end of the summer Arthur would go back to his university and then what? He would see Arthur again, he would make sure of it, but would it not be until the next summer? Or maybe he could go with Arthur, but that was- he shouldn't have been thinking about something that drastic yet, right?
He had to make sure that Arthur knew how serious he was. If he were a merman Alfred would have probably up and proposed to him already, but he knew that things didn't always work that way with humans, so it was important to… be careful and think things through.
Arthur would have laughed and told him that "you're hardly one to think things through." And okay, maybe he was right. Maybe most of the time Alfred did just kind of charge head on into things, but… that's not what he was going to do here.
A hero had to adapt themselves appropriately for the situation after all, and that's exactly what he was going to do. He had a plan. And that plan began with Arthur's mother. Alfred had finally mastered the masking spell, and just in time, because she had arrived the previous day, and he was going to meet her that afternoon.
Arthur was nervous. He was nervous and anxious and his stomach felt like a twisting pit of... something. He was feeling rather ineloquent at the moment. His mother had arrived via taxi the evening before, and they'd eaten dinner at a local seafood restaurant. Unsurprisingly Alfred had been the subject of most of the conversation between the two. They'd talked on the phone several times since he'd first told his mother about the merman, but he'd actually attempted to skirt the conversation away from Alfred most of those times, finding it embarrassing to talk about his relationship with his mother. It was a bit more difficult to do that when they were talking face to face (even if that just made it more humiliating). His mother was not a particularly nosy person, but the sheer strangeness had overridden that and she simply could not know enough. She at least had the decency to not ask many questions about their actual relationship, instead gearing her queries more toward Alfred himself.
Alfred, who she was about to meet. Should he have been so nervous? Alfred was friendly, if a bit overbearing. He could be obnoxious, but not to the point that his mother would be turned off. There was nothing to be ashamed of so why couldn't he calm down?
Oh right, because it was Alfred, and as much as he didn't want to admit it, this was… important. Over the past several weeks, everything related to Alfred had become important.
His mum was already important to him of course, but then when he combined it with Alfred his fretfulness was growing by the moment, and he had found himself chain drinking tea all day (even more so than usual). At the very least Francis was out of town. He'd gone, on Arthur's insistence, on a New England road trip with Gilbert and Antonio. He'd be back in a week and a half, because "I have to see your charming and extremely tolerant mother for at least a few days," but for most of her visit he would be gone.
Arthur took a deep breath and gulped, walking down the wooden planked dock with his mother by his side. At the end of it, in the water, Alfred was waiting. And he hoped he'd mastered that damn spell, because the last thing he wanted to do was introduce his mother to a dolphin. But he'd spoken to Alfred a minute before, and he'd assured him that he was doing it correctly.
"Mum," he said once they'd reached the end of the dock. "Th-this is Alfred."
Alfred had his head and shoulders bobbing above the water, and he was smiling.
"And this is my mother, Irene," Arthur continued.
Irene nodded, staring at the water as if expecting something. Arthur realized that from what his mother could see at the moment, there was nothing distinguishing Alfred from a normal human.
That changed quickly. "Hi!" Alfred said, his smile growing. He swam closer to the dock and held out his hand. "It's really great to meet you."
Irene's eyes grew large as she noticed the blue fin on his forearm. Arthur nudged her in the side. "Shake his hand."
"O-oh right, of course." She reached down and offered her hand, which he shook. "It's nice to meet you as well Alfred. I've heard so much about you."
Arthur blushed at this, and Alfred noticed, which resulted in his cheeks pinking as well.
"R-really? That's… great. Uh… Irene or… Arthur's mother?"
"Miss Kirkland is fine," Irene corrected.
Alfred scratched the back of his head. "Yeah that's right. The last name thing. Arthur told me about that…"
Arthur, his throat feeling a little less dry than it had minutes before (he knew the spell had worked at least), cleared his throat. "Alfred's people don't have last names, Mum. There aren't enough of them for it to really be an issue."
Irene looked slightly bewildered by this, but nodded. "I see."
"Look it's… this is a bit awkward so if you want to-"
Irene chuckled. "It's not awkward dear. It's just strange. It's not that I didn't believe you, because I did. But it's one thing to believe something, and another to see it with your own eyes." She shook her head. "And I apologize Alfred. Here we are talking about you as if you're some curio."
Alfred shrugged. "Nah it's no big deal. I can't believe I'm talking to another human!" Arthur felt a smile quirk at his lips at that. "I'm guessing you don't want me to come out of the water right now then? I mean if just seeing my arm weirded you out that much…"
"No, please do," she interrupted.
Arthur threw the towel he had hanging over one of his arms toward Alfred, who caught it and dipped it in the water, tossing it on the deck once he'd done so.
"Okay Miss Kirkland." He gave her a friendly wink and pushed himself out of the water and onto the edge of the deck.
Irene's breath caught, and Arthur felt his heart speed up. Alfred shot her a goofy, nervous smile and twitched his fin, just a bit. It glistened in the late afternoon sunlight.
"Blimey," she finally managed. "He's beautiful, Arthur."
"I know," Arthur said, the words slipping out before he could even register them.
Irene chuckled, and Arthur's face turned crimson upon realizing what he'd just said. Alfred's did as well. "I-I-I just mean that obviously I'd never seen someone like him before so it was striking, not that…" He spared a glance at Alfred, who was smiling at him, despite being flustered. "Oh bollocks."
"I don't suppose that this one can read Old English, can he?" she asked, and Arthur felt the mood lighten. His mother was good at that.
"What's Old English?" Alfred asked.
"You'd best answer him, Mum," Arthur said with a laugh. "He'll ask you until you tell him."
Alfred gestured next to him, patting the deck with his hand. Arthur took the hint and sat down next to him. "Arthur's been teaching me how to read," he explained. "It would be a lot easier if you were younger, he told me. But I've learned a lot, so it surprised me that there was a version of English I haven't heard of."
"You don't know how to read?" Irene's eyebrows shot up.
"There's no written form of his language," Arthur said.
"Yep. But Arthur kept talking about how he liked to read, and he told me about… all kinds of stories." Alfred's eyes brightened. "We tell each other stories a lot, and he told me there were more stories than he could ever tell me, so I wanted to learn."
Irene's expression softened and she kneeled down and sat next to Arthur. "Did Arthur ever mention to you that I'm a librarian…?"
"What's that?" Alfred asked.
And Irene cleared her throat, her posture proud. "I work in a place that stores millions of books. You could call me sort of a… keeper of knowledge?"
"Yes of course."
Arthur was about to say something, but Alfred grabbed his shoulder and he was practically bouncing in excitement. "Arthur, your mom is SO awesome!" Irene chuckled at this, and Arthur felt the last of his anxiety melt away.
"Toris, how can you tell if people like you?" Alfred asked.
Toris halted swimming and shot his friend a confused look. "Alfred, don't you think that everyone likes you? Save Russia, that is."
Alfred pouted and crossed his arms, floating downward toward the sand. "Well yeah, but I mean if they really like you."
Joining Alfred on the sand, Toris sighed. "Is this about Arthur again?"
"No, I'm… sure that Arthur likes me a lot," Alfred said, a blush crossing his cheeks. He dug his fluke into the sand idly, swishing it back and forth. "It's actually his mother. She's been here for seven days, and we really get along well. She's cool, but it's very important that she likes me a lot."
Toris's eyes widened, and he frowned. "You're not—er well, I think that if she likes you and you get along, that's enough. You've told me a lot about Arthur, and if she's anything like him, she doesn't really pretend to like people unless she has to."
Alfred let out a short laugh. "That's true."
"Alfred are you going to-"
"I'm going to ask permission," he interrupted, and his voice was soft, nervous and a bit tense. "I don't know if it's important like it is down here, but it's… something I need to do."
Toris gestured with his hands in front of him, his expression frantic. "But Alfred you… can't. There's so much that could go wrong and… he isn't even a merman and… oh gosh Alfred…"
Alfred quirked a smile. "You worry too much Toris. You always have. I don't know what I'm going to do. I mean I have ideas and sort of a plan, but I don't know how it's going to end up. But I do know that Arthur leaves at the end of the summer, and I have to do something before then. I also know that…" he leveled his friend a look, "I'm really serious about this."
"Will you change if you have to?" Toris asked, and he sounded breathless. Alfred froze for a moment, but then nodded. "What if things don't work out?"
"I won't do it unless I know they will," Alfred replied. "Hero's promise."
Toris smiled at that, in spite of himself. But then he shook his head. "I'll never see you again," his voice cracked.
"Of course you will. And maybe it will work out another way!" he continued. "There are lots of things we could do, right?"
But Toris, try as he might, wasn't as idealistic as Alfred. He couldn't think of many other options.
He'd begged Arthur to go get McDonald's to get him to leave, and leave he had, and now Alfred was… alone with Irene, Miss Kirkland, the woman that he had been preparing to talk to alone for days.
Irene was sitting on the end of the dock with him, chatting amiably about primary sources. It was what Arthur called one of her librarian rambles, and although Alfred found it mildly interesting at first, his eyes were starting to glaze over as she got more and more technical. He really had no idea what she was talking about by now. It didn't help that his mind was completely elsewhere. He stared at the sun slipping below the ocean line to distract himself.
Just breathe, he told himself. You can do this.
Alfred cleared his throat. "Miss Kirkland?"
She darted up. "Yes Alfred?"
"I have…" his throat felt dry, "something important to talk to you about."
His face was already red and he knew it. He could feel the heat seeping up from his neck.
"It's about me and Arthur…" He sucked in a breath. "I-it's not bad or anything! Y-your son is great and awesome and uhh-"
"Alfred, what's wrong?" She turned to face him. "Did something happen between you two?"
Alfred could hear his heartbeat hammering in his ears, and idly, he began twisting his fingers in his lap. "No. I just… I don't know if you'll think this is weird or whatever, but it's something we—my people- do, and I thought it was only… heroic of me to go about this properly."
"Heroic?" She cocked an eyebrow.
"Yeah," he let out a nervous laugh, "being heroic is important, you know? A-anyway. I… really like your son, and I-I-" his throat felt tight and constricted, and his ears were burning, "I want to be with him," he rushed out.
"But I need to ask you permission," he continued, turning to look Irene in the eyes. "Can I propose to Arthur?"
Irene's mouth dropped open, and her eyebrows shot up into her forehead. "I'm glad you care so much about my son Alfred, but you've only just met each other."
Alfred shook his head vehemently. "N-no. I know, but I'm really serious about this. I've spent almost every single day with Arthur since the beginning of the summer, Miss Kirkland. I know him and he knows me, and I-" he felt the words flowing, finally, "I think that there's a reason that we met. The sight is so rare that my uncle hasn't heard of anyone having it in his entire lifetime, and Arthur says that even his has been gone since he was really young!" He smiled, not wide, but small and genuine. "But then he saw me. Just me! After all of those years without seeing anything. And Miss Kirkland… I think that we're meant to be."
A very quiet, barely there sniffle from Irene followed his statement. "Bloody hell," she said. "You're crazy." Alfred frowned and was about to retort, but she chuckled. "But sweet, and besides, my boy could use a little bit of crazy in his rigid life to be honest."
Alfred cracked a smile, huge and beaming. "You mean…"
"How in the world, if my son does say yes, do you plan on making this work out?" she asked. "No offense, but these circumstances are… more than a bit unusual."
"We'll figure it out," Alfred said. "I mean we've already met each other, and that's the craziest part isn't it?"
It was then that Alfred's ears picked up the sound of footsteps, and he turned around to see Arthur padding down the dock, McDonald's bags in hand.
"I suppose that's true," Irene replied. "Well it's nice of you to ask permission. Very gentlemanly of you, although no, you didn't have to." She lowered her voice as Arthur was approaching. "If you can make it work, I'd be glad for both of you. You're a lovely young man, Alfred."
"Yes, yes you have my permission, dear," she clarified.
Alfred raised his arms to pump his fists in joy, but Arthur coming up behind him halted his action. "Alfred?" he asked, as he, caught in the act, slowly lowered his arms and let out a nervous laugh.
"Ahhaha, was just yawning," he lied. Arthur quirked an eyebrow but sat down.
"You tired then?"
"Not really. I think I'm just hungry." Alfred snatched the bag Arthur was holding out for him.
"Aren't you always?" Arthur snorted. "Anyway Mum if you don't mind-"
"I'll go in now, Arthur. I need to send out some emails for work anyway." Irene stood up and brushed off her shorts, waving backward as she left.
Arthur sighed once she was gone, and he leaned slightly into Alfred's shoulder as he opened up his own food. "Sorry to leave you with my Mum."
"No, no it's really great," Alfred said. "We had a… good time."
"That's nice. Still I—"
But he was interrupted by Alfred reaching under his chin and pulling him up into a kiss, one that was a bit more assertive than his normal initiations. Arthur closed his eyes and smiled, enjoying the fact that Alfred had prioritized kissing him over eating a hamburger. Once they pulled away, both of them flushed pink, Arthur coughed. "Wh-what was that for?"
"Do I need a reason?"
Alfred grinned, wrapping an arm around Arthur's shoulder. "Nothing then. I was just happy."
Part one of his plan was complete, and it had gone off without a hitch.