[APH] - Al and Artie do Blackpool Ch8 of 8 COMPLETE

5.02pm, "Top of the Tower"

"The view's good from here," Alfred said, leaning forward. He held onto the wiring that enclosed the top of the tower and squinted down at the miniaturised town laid out below them. On the beach, tiny donkeys with lengthening shadows were walking well worn paths, the sands tingeing a pink grey as evening and rainclouds settled across the sky; cars slithered down the streets as though programmed to take certain routes. Arthur rejoined his side.

"Time for the magic then."

"Um, sure," Alfred pointed a finger at Arthur's Circus-bought wand, which the man was tapping against his side, "I don't think that works, just so you know."

"No? Close your eyes."

Alfred did so.

"You're peeking."

He closed them tighter and dragged one foot uncertainly about on the floor until he heard Arthur's voice, a little further away than before.

"Open them."

He followed Arthur's flourish of a gesture and looked back out and down onto the town once again. The change didn't register straight away, but, when it did, he let his baffled and amused smile take over his features unrestrainedly. Below them, the dusky town had been flooded with light: thousands of coloured lights, the Illuminations, had turned on. Many were fixed, but others flashed, danced, bathing the streets in a multi-coloured, heady glow. Leaning against the netting, he made out the shapes of angels and devils, lamps and party poppers. Looking even more closely he saw how the small figures of tourists on the Mile had paused to point and stare up at the lights.

"You said we wouldn't seem them turned on at this time of year. Why the change?"

Arthur put an arm about Alfred's waist and leant his weight against him. He shrugged with his other shoulder, "An apology for dragging you on a rubbish holiday? It's the pirate in me I think - I have a bit of a mean streak when it comes to getting punished. Also, I suppose I wanted to put a wider margin between this holiday and the 1992 World Conference on your list of crap holidays."

Alfred hooked his other arm over Arthur's far shoulder and pulled him up against him in what was almost a high-speed repetition of their earlier dancing. He kissed the Englishman with enough force to make him overbalance and reach out blindly to hook his fingers into the safety netting.

Arthur did something that came close to nuzzling Alfred's jaw after they pulled apart.

"I don't know about you," Alfred smiled, resting his forehead against Arthur's almost conspiratorially, "But it just moved a little higher up my list."

"I'm inclined to agree. Now let's get back to that B&B."

6.16pm, B&B

When they opened up their room again they found their suitcases, and the tiger, stacked onto the single bed, rather than in the B&B hallway where they had left them. Apparently, another holiday maker staying in the house had found it quite perilous, navigating their luggage in the cramped hallway, so the owner had placed them back in their empty room until they were ready to pack them into the Mini and head home.

Alfred had noticed the pensive look Arthur had initially shot their bags and suitcases upon unlocking their room; he imagined the man had had the same thought as himself, namely that it was almost as though they were at the beginning of their holiday again, ready to repeat the week blow by blow.

In an effort to distract either himself or the Englishman from the idea he locked the door behind them, dropped the keys onto a bedside table and led Arthur by the hand to the double bed.

"Come on then," Arthur said, "Show me what this "making out" business is all about."

Alfred shucked his jacket onto the floor and leant across the man with a smile, "Sure," a surprisingly strong, steadying hand held onto to his side to keep him from overbalancing on the lumpy mattress as he kissed Arthur, a smile still firmly on his lips as he did so.

Arthur was the one to pull back, his expression yet more puzzled.

"What's up?"

"I've always wondered," the man said, continuing to hold onto Alfred's side as the man hovered over him, "What all that "first base", "second base", "third base", "fourth base" business is about. I mean, I know it's a baseball analogy, but I've never quite-"

Alfred couldn't help a laugh, ducking his head as he got pinched on the arm for it, "Sorry! It's just, I don't know, I never thought I'd hear you say that."

"Well?"

Alfred knew what the prompt meant and answered with touch instead; he kissed Arthur's mouth, teasing his lips open, then pulled away and murmured, "First base."

"I see," The Englishman said, as though he had made a compelling point in a debate.

His hand strayed to cup Arthur's crotch; he could feel the beginnings of his arousal through the fabric of his trousers. Arthur's hand on his side gripped a little tighter.

"Kinda second base."

"Fair enough. Look, I'm sure you're a good baseball player – say you hit a good... whatever you call it – run? You run past third and slide into fourth," Arthur said, pulling a face in his effort to use the terminology correctly, "What's fourth base?"

"Well."

6.22pm, B&B

Oh er! What's happened here then?

Well, put simply this section is rather naughty and NC-17y and so it's not very FF friendly. Here's the link if you'd like to have a look at it:

.#cutid1

If not, simply know this: a great time was had by all, confessions of love were made and Arthur topped.

6.37pm, B&B

"Do you know what you said back then?"

"Yes," Arthur said simply. He stroked his fingers over the smooth skin of Alfred's bare stomach, "I said I love you. Should I take it back?"

"Only if it's not true."

"Are you taking the passenger seat or is the tiger, by the way?"

Alfred punched him in the arm, fairly firmly, "I'm being goddamn serious here."

"I know – but you said only to take it back if I didn't mean it; so, I didn't take it back. What more can I do?"

"Say it again," said Alfred, studying him hard, as though daring him. Arthur did the same in return. The American began to feel a little less loose limbed and sated as he sized up to the other man.

"You say it. I think you'll find you said it too," Arthur pointed out.

"You first."

"No, you. Or I throw you in the boot of the car and I play ABBA all the way back to London."

"Fine!" Alfred practically yelled, "I love you! Alright? I LOVE YOU, YOU ASSHOLE."

"AND I LOVE YOU TOO, YOU ARSEHOLE!" Arthur shouted back at him; the Englishman caught his mouth in a hard, joyous sort of kiss that was interrupted by a bubble of childish laughter from both men. Midway through the kiss, a timid knock sounded and voice called through the door:

"That's very lovely, but I do wish you'd keep your voices down."

Both turned, horror-struck, and stared sheepishly at the locked door. "Sorry," they mumbled in unison.

After footsteps had padded away back down the staircase, Alfred and Arthur turned to each other with amused but embarrassed looks etched on their faces.

"How long was she there?" Alfred whispered.

"Oh God, don't think about that. Don't ruin some perfectly good sex memories for me," Arthur said sadly. Alfred wrapped his arm about Arthur's waist and pulled him closer.

"Fine," as drowsiness overtook him again, he murmured to the Englishman, "Come back to my place."

Arthur looked up, frowning.

"What?"

"For another vacation. Come to my place; you said you're broke, so, come over to mine. We could get another ticket for my flight, easy."

The man's mood seemed to falter. He patted Alfred's shoulder almost apologetically.

"I love you," Arthur said, his tone that of utter certainty, "But I can't. I can't let myself rely on you. I just don't have it in me," his voice grew softer but no less assured, "We can't talk about this yet; I'm not sure if I ever can. I will come 'round to yours, I promise. But I'll do it with my cash, and I'll bring myugly PJs that I wish you wouldn't scowl at so much, and I'll do it because I can. I'm sorry-"

"It's okay. I kind of get it," Alfred said, forcing a smile, "So long as you don't go and get all angry and drunk and wind up at Francis' place again. Things need to change. Just slowly, maybe."

"Agreed," Arthur looked, happily and lazily, up at the ceiling, ""Just the place to bury a crock of gold. I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.""

The Englishman seemed to sense, as opposed to see, Alfred's questioning look.

"Oh, I'm quoting. Waugh. I don't suppose a pot of gold buried in Blackpool would remain untouched or unstolen for more than ten minutes, though. I do have another crime-proof idea, however" he gave Alfred one last delicate kiss on the mouth, "But it requires clothing."

7.04pm, B&B

"Well, I hope you have a smooth run down to London. Is it back to America for you, as well?" the owner of the B&B asked pleasantly.

"Yeah, it is."

"Then I hope your flight is alright. The weather's been quite nice this week, hasn't it? You certainly picked the right week. Now, is it this button? The big black one?"

"Yeah," Alfred said again, "Just press and hold that one."

"Say "cheese" then."

There was really no chance of shocking the woman, after what she must have heard going on, or at least gathered was going on earlier. Alfred had made his peace with that. That being so, he saw no reason to sidestep the arm Arthur placed about his waist as she aimed the camera. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the man giving the camera a genuine, affectionate, slightly lopsided smile. It made his own grin that much wider.

"Cheese."

The flash blinked, the "snap" of the camera taking the shot sounded and the bright dancing light of the flash remained, twinkling in his vision afterwards like the glare of the Illuminations.

"There," said Sue, "It's a lovely shot."

7.16pm, B&B

"Let me drive back to London."

"No."

"C'mon."

"No."

"After everything I've done for you."

"After everything you've-what, sorry, run that by me again?" Arthur raised an eyebrow at the American.

"Okay: after everything I did to you," Alfred said, leaning his elbows on the roof of the car and looking across at Arthur sweetly. The man looked as though he was tempted to duck his head down in his hands. Instead, his mouth merely gave an embarrassed twitch.

"Fine! Fine, if you really must," he threw the keys over the roof to Alfred, and they both circled the car to the opposite door. Alfred unlocked the driver's door then reached across the car interior to let Arthur in. The man sat down and watched Alfred pull his longer limbs inside the tiny car with difficulty, adjusting the seat, "But lord help us all. We drive on the left, remember."

"Thanks, I hadn't noticed," Alfred turned the key in the ignition and checked his mirrors (the back mirror view slightly obscured by the tiger's fluffy eyebrows). He was stopped from pulling away by Arthur's hand on top of his on the brake.

"What? Have we forgotten something?"

"No," Arthur shook his head, "I just wanted to say - I plan on digging under the sofa cushions for loose change and selling a few first editions on eBay when I get back to London."

"Um, okay?" Alfred gave him an uneasy look: it was hardly the best or sanest mood in which to start a four hour journey, he felt.

"I mean, so I can get the money together for a trip to yours."

His worry eased into a contented grin, "Yeah? Good. Though we should wait for fall. If you came over now you'd spend the whole time saying it's too hot, I know you."

Arthur seemed pleased by the latter half of his sentence, "I suppose. You do seem to live about five miles from the surface of the sun. Perhaps... Well, not to overdo it or anything, but if you're at a loose end-"

"Just get to the point," he smirked.

Arthur scowled, "Very well. You might like Whitby. It's on the opposite coast, and nothing like Blackpool," he added. At Alfred's thoughtful look, he said, "It sounds vaguely familiar because it's "Dracula Country". Where his ship docks in the book... or the movies. Right up your street."

"Cool. Yeah, we should do that. Check under the refrigerator too – for small change I mean. Stuff always winds up falling behind there."

He let the hand brake down and pulled out into the road, trying his best to ignore Arthur's gripping the handle of the passenger door as though he were back on "the Big One".

10.21pm, Heathrow Airport, London

That thing that Arthur has said, about the seaside making tensions rise seemed to apply to the man himself. Alfred was sure he was more relaxed back in his "front garden", as it were. He stood more at ease, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trousers and studying Alfred more openly, more (Alfred felt sure) lovingly, here in the cosmopolitan capital.

"So."

"Yeah," he hefted his rucksack a little better on his shoulder and gave the man a grin, "It was-"

"No it wasn't."

"No, really, it kind of was okay."

"Which bits?" Arthur's smile curled wryly at the edges, "Aside from the obvious."

"I don't know. I think it was more the whole effect, you know? Apart it's all kind of horrifying to think about but it worked, sticking all that stuff together in one place."

"Yes. Blackpool is a bit overwhelming. People seem to like it though."

"Las Vegas is the same: overwhelming, I mean. But it is not my Blackpool. You seriously lied when you invited me over."

"I can't bring myself to feel bad though," Arthur looked up at one of the airport lounge computer screens, "You'll need to go, you want to get to your gate good and early."

"It'll be fine," Alfred put down the rucksack so as to be able to properly wrap his arms about Arthur. The man seemed to rise up on his tiptoes, as though the American were squeezing him like a tube of toothpaste. A moment later and he settled himself, placing his own hands on the American's waistband, fingers toying with the belt loops of his jeans.

"They're calling your flight-"

"Yeah, I can read," Alfred cut off any knee-jerk slight the Englishman might feel inclined to come out with by catching his mouth in a kiss, opening his mouth to it and almost breathing out into Arthur, stealing a little of the man's breath when he inhaled again. Looking out from under his eyelashes, Alfred saw how firmly Arthur had his eyes clamped shut.

He found one of Arthur's hands, blindly, and gave it strong, firm grasp before pulling back, grabbing his rucksack and beginning to jog down the long lounge area near diagonally so he could look back and gave one final wave to the man.

"Later."

"Later."

As the man rounded a corner and disappeared from view, Arthur looked down at the crumpled cardboard Alfred had pushed into his hand. It was, he realised, a postcard of the Blackpool Tower, folded into quarters.

He unfolded it and studied the miniscule, sloping and rounded handwriting, crammed onto every bit of blank space on the back.

"Hey.

I don't know how to start this, so I thought I'd just get down to facts. I guess I am kind of like you in some ways. I really don't like talking about how I feel sometimes, or even writing about it. I don't know why. I guess it's like you leave yourself defenceless that way? If you never say anything, you can never be truly misunderstood, or understood. You're safe because no one will know what you really think about anything.

I can't see me (or you either) being like one of the Romance nations (I won't name the most obvious one because you'll just spit on this postcard and the ink will probably run so you can't read any further). We're never going to go around serenading people or weeping at how beautiful a sunset looks or whatever it is they do. But I don't want to look back and think "why didn't I say? I'm an idiot".

So here goes: I'm writing this in the bathroom. This morning (it's Thursday, fyi), I was awake when you were reading your book (sorry if your arm went totally dead btw). I woke up when you grabbed it, then I couldn't sleep again, so I pretended. And I just thought, really clearly (even though you called me a plonker) "I don't want to be anywhere else right now". I've run out of room to explain. I hope this makes sense. "

In a lighter shade of ink, in an even smaller hand, another line had been added along with an arrow indicating the text above it.

"I wrote this before the ballroom. I still kind of like it though.
One last thing Arthur: promise not to pull away and I won't. I'll see you later.

P.S. Turn this over and look, properly."

He did so, and this time he spotted two small stick figures scribbled onto the street in front of the Tower, holding hands.

"Guess who?" the card dared him.

9.55pm, Monday, London

The following evening, Arthur heard a tinny little noise sounding out in his study. After some effort, involving pressing his ear to the room's various clocks and kicking the skirting board with his shoe to listen for the scurry of a mouse, he located the source of the noise: his slightly dusty computer.

Apparently, he was being "nudged" by "Alfred F." on some or other messenger software he typically ignored owning altogether. Alfred F., his computer told him, wanted to share webcams with Arthur Kirkland. Puzzled, Arthur accepted the request.

In the small square of picture, a crisp miniature Alfred, visible from the waist upward, was smiling, albeit it sleepily at him, in bright sunlight. He gave a wave.

From within a smaller, gloomier square under the picture, Arthur saw himself looking puzzled. Uncertainly, he gave his own screen a wave in return.

After a "hang on" hand gesture, Alfred disappeared off screen; he reappeared a moment later, one arm wrapped about the giant toy tiger which looked for some reason subtly different. As he held it up to the camera, Arthur recognised why: Alfred, presumably, had coloured in the shaggy white fur eyebrows with a marker pen. Now, the toy wore thick black brows that altered its expression from dazed to rather self-possessed, Arthur felt.

He couldn't help a little snort of laughter. Nor the blush that mantled his cheek when he saw Alfred give the toy a warm, loving hug for his benefit.

The End

A/N for the confused or curious

"Oh, I'm quoting. Waugh." – Arthur is quoting from the 1940s novel "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh. The novel centres upon the relationships protagonist Charles Ryder forms with members of the wealthy Marchmain family between the two World Wars. In particular, the novel looks at his relationships with the daughter Julia, and son, the doomed Sebastian. Arthur is quoting Sebastian who is arguably implied as secretly harbouring romantic feelings for Charles.