UsUk, Arthur's POV. It gets happier at the end, I promise!
Anna, mentioned toward the end, is the British and American Virgin Islands, created by a friend of mine. She's found and adopted by Al and Arthur as their daughter.
This morning I woke up being held tightly in the arms of my boyfriend, our legs tangled together, the blanket wrapped around both of us, and tears running uncontrollably from my eyes. My heart was racing and I could hear it beating loudly in my ears as the sound of gunshot echoed through my head.
I'd had another nightmare. They always come to me around this time of year, though I don't actually know if you'd call them nightmares or not. They really memories, but some of them were exaggerated, things that never happened. But they were all in the same place; that gray, muddy field in the middle of ice cold rain, my hand gripping tightly to my gun, my eyes filling with tears. I'd have my nightmares and wake up, sometimes screaming.
But this morning I'd managed to just wake up crying and in a state of panic. My aforementioned boyfriend was still fast asleep, a light smile on his lips as he continued to be lost in a world of dreams. I tried to calm myself down, while detangling myself from Alfred without waking him up. I pulled on the jeans I wore the previous day and one of Alfred's shirts that lay discarded on the ground. I walked out of the room silently, making my way downstairs. I wiped my eyes, trying to stop the tears, and only succeeded in stumbling down the last three steps. I stood still, taking deep breaths, calming myself down. I choked back my tears, deciding I could live with the uncomfortable lump in my throat for a day.
I walked to the kitchen and glanced at the calendar. Circled in a messy red circle with blue stars around it was today's date; July 4th, 1992. Alfred's birthday.
Alfred and I have been together for a long time now, and we just recently got over an argument during America's struggle with the former Soviet Union. Alfred had showed up at my door, crying and soaking wet from the rain, apologizing over and over again. It's been about a year since then. Ever since that day back in 1776, I couldn't help but cry whenever the fourth of July rolled around.
I walked over to the fridge, deciding that I'd make Alfred breakfast. Years of being with me and he's grown to like my cooking. And besides, it's his birthday, I should be happy. I should be happy for him.
Alfred came down, acting like the goofy idiot he is. He ate his breakfast and accepted my gift happily, laughing and smiling all the while. I'd bought him a specially made flag that was mine and his together, and when he saw that he smiled and hugged me and told me that he loved me. After that he went to get changed whilst I started preparing for his birthday party.
The guests arrived at various times and they all piled their gifts up, all of them more impressive and probably a lot nicer than mine. Alfred told me later that my gift was his favourite. I smiled, I laughed, I pretended to enjoy myself. I talked and laughed, despite the tightening in my chest and the lump in my throat. That strange feeling in the back of my throat, telling me that I needed to cry. My eyes strung every now and then, but I held it all back. And so it was for the party, going on well past nightfall. Eventually the fireworks began, light, showy and loud, and I felt Alfred's hand on mine, tugging, leading me somewhere.
I followed him, allowing myself to be dragged. He pulled me away from the party, to the beach right by his house. Alfred was talking about the party and the fireworks, but I wasn't really listening. I was still wearing his shirt, and it felt warm, just like him. That was all I was concentrating on; the warmth of the shirt and of his hand holding mine. Eventually we stopped on the beach, right near the water.
I glanced over at Alfred when I registered that he'd stopped talking. He was staring up at the full moon and the stars, mostly blocked off by the fireworks. They weren't as loud from where we were standing, but just as bright and impressive. After a few seconds, Alfred turned to me. He wasn't smiling anymore.
"Arthur…If you want to cry…you can,"
The tightness in my chest got painful and the lump in my throat disappeared. It was replaced instead by tears. I threw myself into Alfred's arms and clung to him tightly; letting the tears I'd hidden for the entire day just fall freely. Alfred had his arms around me, comforting me as he whispered to me that it's okay, that he was right there. He told me that he was never going to leave me again.
He pulled away from me and held my hands in his, smiling at me. I was calming down, but tears still fell own my cheeks as I tried to bring my breathing back to normal.
"Hey, Iggy…," Alfred said, wiping one of my tears away. "…Arthur, you know I love you, right?" I nodded, finding my voice suppressed by my tears. "I love you so much, Arthur. The only reason I left you back then was because there would've been no way you'd see me as anything more than just a little brother. I loved you even back then. Trust me; it broke me to see you cry like that, it breaks me to see you cry right now…,"
I stayed silent; watching Alfred as he mentally prepared the rest of his speech. The fireworks were still going on behind us, and I'd stopped crying. I was trying to figure out where this was going.
"Even though I abandoned you in 1918, and my nation didn't come to help you in 1940 when you really needed it…I still worried about you. That's why I came to you during the Blitz with the other American volunteers; I wanted to help you, Arthur. Because I love you. I love you so unbelievably much; I can't stand to see you so upset,"
He paused again, half observing my reaction and half sorting out the rest of his words. I still wasn't sure where this was going, but I didn't really care. Because for this moment, this exact moment, it was just him and I. Just Alfred and me, just us two, together.
"Even after I abandoned you and made you cry and hurt you, you still keep taking me back. When I came to help in World War II, despite how I'd abandoned you, you welcomed my help. Even after…after everything I put you and everyone else through during the Cold War…You still took me back…You always take me back, even though I don't deserve it. I don't deserve you, Arthur, but I wouldn't give you up for the world,"
Alfred let go of my hands and put one into his jacket pocket. "I never want to lose you again, Arthur. I love you too much—if I lost you, I'd die. You're my life, you're my everything, you're my Arthur. My Arthur. I know that this day has such bad memories for both of us, and I'm sorry you've had to suffer for so long. But I'm going to change all that,"
Suddenly, Alfred kneeled down on one leg in front of me. "I want to give you something good to remember. Something happy to remember whenever this day comes around,"
He pulled out a small, velvet box and placed it in my hands. I lifted it up to look at it, before opening it. Inside was a beautiful ruby and diamond ring, sparkling perfectly in the fireworks and the moonlight. I could feel my eyes widen as I looked at Alfred, who was still kneeling in front of me. He reached up and took the box from my hands, pulling the ring out and holding it up to me.
"Arthur Kirkland, will you marry me?"
I swear to God I stopped breathing right then and there. The love of my life, the only person I have ever loved, was kneeling in front of me, holding a ring and proposing to me. Alfred was promising to spend the rest of his life with me. Alfred wanted to spend the rest of eternity with me.
I could feel tears in my eyes again, but this time for a completely different reason. I smiled, wider and brighter than I have done in a long, long time.
"Yes," I managed to choke out around my tears. "Yes, Alfred,"
Alfred lit up at that point, his eyes sparkling and a wide grin breaking out of his face—almost as if he'd expected me to say no, and now the nervousness was evaporating. He looked about to pounce me, but remembered he was holding the ring.
He slipped the ring onto my finger before standing up, brushing sand off his pants. As I looked at the ring on my finger, excitement bubbled up and exploded in my chest. Next thing I knew, I'd thrown my arms around Alfred's neck, effectively tackling him to the ground. We fell to the sand, laughing and hugging each other. Nothing in the world mattered, just me and him, together.
Alfred turned over so he was leaning over me and I was laid on the sand. He smiled at me, so many emotions in his eyes. Happiness, love, excitement…
He leaned down and captured my lips in a soft, loving kiss. My arms wrapped themselves around his neck, my fingers tangling in his hair. I pulled his head closer as he tilted his head to deepen the kiss, putting more passion into it.
We continued our little make out session on the beach until the fireworks ended, deciding that the others were probably wondering where the birthday boy had wandered off to.
As we walked back, his hand holding mine tightly, I smiled brightly, feeling as giddy as a young school girl.
And he was right. Even now, in 2010, eighteen years later, I never cried on his birthday. The nightmares still bothered me but if I woke up next to my loving and wonderful husband, then I could smile and cuddle next to him and sleep peacefully.
I'm no longer filled with sadness on the fourth of July. This was the day that Alfred promised his love and his life to me, this was the day that I knew I could finally be happy again.
And I've never been happier; cuddled up, next to my Alfred, while our daughter was sitting next to him on the other side, listening intently as her father read her a story of magick, heroes and princesses. I had my eyes closed, listening, with a smile on my face, as Alfred did different voices for the characters, and Anna giggled when he sounded like an idiot.
Eventually Anna fell asleep, curled up under a blanket on the sofa. I smiled and brushed some hair out of her face, kissing her forehead. I stood up when I noticed Alfred behind me.
"Happy birthday, honey," I said, kissing him lightly. He wrapped his arms around my waist, nuzzling my neck.
"I love you, Iggy,"
I rolled my eyes at the nickname but let it slide.
"I love you too, Alfred,"