It had only been a little over eight weeks since that fateful evening, and America found he had never been happier.

Only eight weeks ago he had been exchanging bitter barbs with his former caretaker, one constantly trying to goad the other into a state of submission and hurt that, really, the two never truly wanted to see. There was a stinted affection that lay beneath the hateful banter that neither wanted to address - or, rather, neither had the courage to address. So the centuries-old resentment and blatant obstinance kept the acts going, spurring another harsh comment ("Your cooking really does suck, England.") with a biting retort in answer ("It's damn-well better than your heart attack in a bun, you ungrateful prat!"). This was their only form of communication and the only interaction that they could bring themselves to exchange.

But after a seemingly innocent slam from England while on the discussion of Hollywood romance after a long G8 meeting ("Your head is so far up your arse you couldn't begin to know how to love another outside of yourself, git."), America found his world abruptly derailed. Instead of giving his typical offhanded dismissal in the form of an insult, he found himself actually considering the acuity of the words. He'd never found himself in a relationship that consisted of more than a quick fuck or a diplomatic agreement. There were no stars that burst behind his eyes in an overwhelming flood of emotion when he thrust into the nation of the day; there was no warmth that bled through his chest that constricted into a tight ball of affection as he shook hands in a meeting.

However, he did remember a gentle roll of his stomach when England would look up at him for a brief moment with unguarded eyes. How he thought of how beautiful they were when they weren't clouded with anger or disdain and how if he'd just tilt his head the slightest bit the emerald would be absolutely breathtaking in the stream of sunlight through the window. He could recall countless times before when he had witnessed a genuine smile grace the small nation's lips as he spoke quietly with Japan in the meeting room and felt a muted tingling of something in his throat. ("What was that, anyway?" he'd grouse on the plane ride home when thinking back to odd sensation.)

So when England tapped on his shoulder and jarred him from his confusing thoughts with a casual query ("What's wrong with you? You've been silent for more than thirty seconds - is the world coming to an end already?") and looked at him with those green eyes that were flooded with what was definitely not concern, America laughed it off ("Nah. Giving a crotchety old man like you an easy out like that would be way too nice of me.") and willed his heart not to clench as he attempted to pull off his usual sauntering gait when he made his way to the door while the not-concerned eyes hovered in the back of his mind.

The following months were painful for America and weren't ones he'd particularly care to dwell on when his day came to a lazy lull and his thoughts were free to wander. They were full of soul-searching (something he would not recommend to the weak at heart, when things came down to it.) and confusing arguments with the reflection in the mirror that always ended in the need for a few band-aids, a broom, and a quick trip to Target. England would try to stir a fire of cajoling from him, but every time he would glance up, that familiar grip that invisible hand had in his chest made the insults weak and the not-concern in those startlingly green eyes start to cause a little bubble in his throat to swell a little more after each exchange.

In the end it took a very concerned ("I was not panicked!") England cornering America and all but begging him (though the nation himself would deny it vehemently.) to explain what was going on. And in seeing those desperate eyes raking over his own in a frantic search for explanation, it took all of three seconds for the bubble in his throat to pop and the vice on his heart to squeeze a profession of love from America in a jumbled, inarticulate mess of word-vomit (England still cringes at that particular terminology.). There was a startled silence, a gasp, and a deep, guttural sob that followed in a flurry of tears, laughter, and limbs clinging so tight, so tight.

Since then a soft, tentative love had enveloped the two. Though they rarely had the opportunity to meet with each other outside the meetings, the occasions they did have to spend together were spent in the solitude of a bedroom exchanging gentle kisses instead of mockery or simply holding each other in an attempt to become more intimate without the use of words or movement. There was an unspoken agreement that though they had little time together, one would not force or pressure the other to visit. They were nations - they didn't have the luxury to run over to each other's houses like their people did. They had duties to uphold. So they would wait and make what they could out of the time allotted.

And hanging on to that thought, America raised his arm and rapped sharply on the elaborate oak door in front of him that early morning, adjusting his glasses and running a hand through his hair with his other hand. It had been a long month since he'd last stepped on this particular doormat and he welcomed the sight of it, along with the delicate vines that managed to curl inconspicuously along the edge of the wall in a way that offered the house more charm than one would think. He smiled at the muffled curses that wafted from behind the closed door, and he leaned against the doorframe as he took in the pleasant sound of the clicking of a lock sliding out of place and the hushed squeak of a doorknob being twisted open.

"Mornin'," he smiled, reaching out to brush an errant blonde lock from emerald eyes.

The smile was wearily returned as a hand ushered him inside. "Good morning."

America made no hesitation to draw the other into his arms once behind the sanctuary of the oak door. He kissed the crown of England's head, his forehead, nose and, lingeringly, lips. An appreciative groan sounded from the older nation as he responded in kind, allowing entrance to the patiently lapping tongue rubbing enticingly at his lower lip and sliding his own out to exchange greetings. Though the two had been strapped for intimate interaction, there was no desperation or hungriness that ran electric currents beneath the kiss; just a lazy happiness that dulled the senses and flowed through each touching appendage. They were content.

"You been alright?" America ventured to ask once separated, keeping a hand on England's waist. The small island felt slightly thinner beneath the layers of clothing (Though how could you tell when he has so many layers?) and had a slight pallor to his skin, but America knew him better than to think he wouldn't be doing anything less than taking care of himself to a meticulous degree. His fingers threaded affectionately through the unruly blonde hair in front of him, twirling idly on the locks with a smile at the mental image of England fussing around the kitchen for his morning cup of tea ("Never fails to keep one in tip-top shape!")

"Quite," England murmured, leaning in ever so slightly into the fingers' touch. How he had missed that sensation. "How was your flight?"

"Eh; same ol', same ol'. Stuffed myself into an economy class flight, dealt with the irritable toddler, and mingled with the Londonders. Pretty good, all in all."

"You do have the authority to manage booking at least a first class seat, America," the older nation reasoned. "Why not take advantage of your status?"

America pulled back and stretched a bit and let out a low groan when a few audible cricks sounded from his spine. He slumped forward to lean languidly across the back of a plush chair to his right. "You know me. I like to mingle with my people. Besides, I feel like I'm getting a little disconnected with them lately. I could use some more personal time with them."

"So it has nothing to do with the penny pinching your president has issued, hm?" England smiled wryly. America opened his mouth to answer, but England simply shook his head. "Don't answer that. Are you hungry? I bought some biscuits that you had mentioned, 'didn't taste like dirt,'" he said with a slight twitch of the brow.

"Mm, maybe later. I'm beat - this whole jetlag thing's not real convenient when trying to get some tender loving from a boyfriend overseas." For emphasis, the younger snaked an arm around the other's waist, dragging him close. A brilliant red bloomed up England's neck, ears, cheeks - "You're adorable, babe."

"I am not adorable," a flustered England affirmed. America nuzzled into his side and tried to brush away the niggling sense of alarm that seemed to crawl under his skin. Was England always this thin? It really was hard to gauge through the incessant amount of clothing (There should be a law against this much clothing.), but something was a bit off. Nonetheless, America pushed the feeling aside in favor of enjoying the hand now petting his head.

"Mnn. Of course you're not," he sighed. "You're terrifying."

"That's right."



"Downright appalling."

England stiffened. "Too far."

There was a slight shuffling beneath him and a soft kiss to his cheek (Slightly hollowed, America's mind whispered.) was the form of apology he received. "You know I love you."

"And I love you, git," England sighed. He hefted America up to his feet with a steadying hand and ushered him to the stairs. "Let's put you to bed, then.