America was still so gorgeous. Canada smiled in spite of himself as he realized he hadn't forgotten all the small details of the other man's face. His right eyebrow still curved higher than the left, his cheeks still had that extra bit of chub on them, his bottom lip still jutted out slightly, and his eyelashes were still long. Canada had always teased America about having long eyelashes, saying they made him look girly. America had always teased Canada back for looking like a girl everywhere else. That was another thing Canada remembered perfectly about America.
Even though America cracked jokes almost constantly and tossed insults into the wind without much care, the ones he aimed towards Canada were never malicious. They never held any bitterness or harm, only a sarcastic laugh, but a gentle promise that he still cared about his feelings.
Canada smiled as he realized the previous night was proof of that, was proof that America still cared about what he felt. He wouldn't have stayed if he didn't right? Why else would he have come over and cleaned his arms? Canada couldn't, and didn't want to, find another explanation. He raised a hand and stroked the other's chiseled jaw, choosing to divulge into happier memories than think of the negative times between then and now.
Sinking back into the embers of sweet nothing memories, Canada picked out a time when he hadn't been able to sleep and chose to read in the living room for a while. It must have been three or four in the morning, he was sitting in the chair with his knees up under a blanket, a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in his hands. Looking back now, Canada should have known better than to read that so early in the morning. He must have read the novel at least ten times, but the ending almost made him tear up.
"It's the idea that there's good in the world in the darkest corners, the monsters are the helpless ones" he had tried to explain so many times. Despite his reasoning, that night in the chair he found himself once again, crying his eyes out silently as he finished the last few pages of the book. He must have woken America since the blonde had poked his head into the room and started laughing quietly.
No harm or hurt in his laughter, just a sense of knowing. The knowledge that Canada was a sap and had cried over this same book at this same part so many times, and the permission that it was okay to do so. Canada remembered America's words being something along the lines of "don't tell me, the glass slipper didn't fit Boo's foot and Atticus isn't prince charming?". Sarcastic, taunting, but underneath that, caring. A special tone of voice he reserved only for the Canadian. A voice that got him to smile through tears and laugh at himself, be more comfortable with life.
And here he was again. Right in front of him, as if he had never left. The same body sleeping in the same position - one arm folded underneath his head and one leg bent up - in the same spot on the bed breathing the same air as Canada. The same face fitting in Canada's hand, the apple of a cheek cradled into a palm. Things becoming mended again, patched up to fill in the holes, they could make it work.
America stirred. Canada withdrew his hand, worried he'd woken him. America raised a hand and rubbed it across his face with a soft sigh. In a sleepy voice he asked, "Hmm... what time is it...?"
America let out another soft "hmm" and squinted, his eyes adjusting to the sunlight coming in from the partially open curtains. "You sure? Your clock looks it says..." More squinting "Zero, zero, eighty-two..."
"Still blind as a bat I see." Canada smiled softly, handing America his glasses off the night stand. America nodded a thanks. After sliding them onto his face he let out a small snort.
"You're worse. These are yours." Canada smiled softly and uttered an apology before reaching over and grabbing the other pair of glasses. That was another fond memory Canada had, the numerous times they had mistaken the other's glasses for their own. It was nice to be like this again, to fall back into these small routines and habits, however silly they were. Maybe he was predicting things were going to be okay early and maybe he was too eager, but this, America rubbing his eyes naked in bed next to him, had to mean something. This was hope, this was the shy promise that things were going to get better and that all the holes were going to get patched up.
"Do you want breakfast? I don't really have much, but I could make something. Uhm I know you don't like fruit all too much, but I can probably find enough to make waffles...or pancakes, I'm-"
"Matty calm down." America smiled. "I'm not hungry right now. Besides, I'd eat your kitchen if I was."
Canada giggled, but felt a tension of sorts coming off the other man. His eyes were slowly moving around, taking in the room without really seeing it. Canada knew that meant America was staring down thoughts instead of looking at the scenery. The blonde bit a corner of his bottom lip and sighed - almost nervously - before speaking again.
"Look uhm, last night I don't know why I did it." Canada's smile started to die, slowly fading away from his face and disappearing into the shadows of the partially lit room.
"I was worried about you. Seeing you with... with those on you." The cuts, he could already feel new ones forming. "I didn't want to leave you alone."
Then please don't leave me, not again, please don't tear yourself away from me again.
"I... I still don't want to leave you alone, but..."
I can't take it. Don't leave, not again.
"I need to get some fresh clothes and grab a few things. You know...if you want me to stay here."
Canada braced for the hurt. He waited for the river of pins to come sailing through his veins, for the sharp burn to pump from his heart and fill him to the brim with an icy agony. He waited for the impalement of a glacier through his chest but felt... a sense of floating surround him. Gentle hands caressing him and shushing him, winding gently through his hair and whispering "it's alright, he's staying here, he's not leaving".
His blue eyes turned up from his own blanketed lap to the clear, questioning eyes of the other. Slowly a smile found its way on his face and he nodded. Words tumbled out clumsily, trying not to sound needy and eager, but also giving an air of needing. "Y-Yeah I understand! Take your time!"
"You sure...? You seemed kind of quiet. I thought you were going to kick me out. I didn't want to just invite myself here. I mean I know you said your door is always open but..."
"It is." Canada ran his fingers through his bangs as he sat up, facing away from the American. "I thought you were telling me you were going to leave again."
They both fell silent for a long moment. The sunlight coming in was growing in a wider bar on the wood floor as the sun rose higher in the sky. The curtains hung dormant alongside the window's panes, a few leaves bustling around making shadows. Canada almost jumped when he felt America's fingers run down his spine, pausing minutely at each bump. "I'm not leaving. I'm gonna stay here, okay? You don't need to worry."
The Canadian tried to keep his sigh of relief soft and silent, not too obvious. He smiled again as America rose to sit next to him. America looked over and smiled too for a moment before ruffling his hair.
"So I'm gonna grab some shit, shouldn't take too long. Do you want to come with me?"
"You're not much better at keeping house than you were before are you?" Canada called as he took a seat on the American's couch with a smile. It was no surprise to any that America did not do a fantastic job of keeping his house clean and tidy. It was by no means a complete mess but it most certainly wasn't with some clutter. After the blonde had let him in, Canada had seen a few dishes stacked up in the kitchen, neglected and containing about half of the cup boards. It was typical for the other man but he had always found it cute. The floor in the living room had been vacuumed and the furniture without harshly noticeable spots, but a pile of half folded laundry sat to his right. A few white shirts were neatly folded and the rest was a now wrinkled mess.
"Cleaning isn't my thing! A clean house is a sign of a lazy person who isn't willing to look for anything!" the other answered from upstairs in a raised tone, his voice reverberating off the walls. "Make yourself at home, I'll be a few minutes!"
Canada assumed that America was back to packing as he heard a thumping around in the upstairs closet, most likely trying to retrieve a suit case. He smiled softly to himself and decided to take a look around. The house hadn't changed much, the same couch with the same dips in the cushions was perched in the living room. The same banister had the same crack in the very end of it, barely noticeable but it would pinch your hand horribly if you pressed on it the right way. Deciding there was more to see upstairs than down, he crept up the wooden stair case and let his palm glide along and press in the identical spots they had so many times. As he reached the top, the blonde remembered back to the time his counterpart had taken a wrong twist of the ankle and went tumbling down the case. America of course said the pain from the fall wasn't bad, but how bad Canada was destroying his ear drums with screaming and yelling was pretty bad.
The Canadian couldn't help but chuckle as he wondered if the slap to the shoulder hurt worse.
Turning his head to the right as he crossed down the hallway he observed that the same pictures hung from the walls and displayed the same smiles that shone from the frames. A bottled happiness that lived on and hung against a white, shining through to the rest of the room. America only had a few hanging but they had been there for ages. One was of America and his father England, smiling from a black and white photo. It was not hard to see this picture was old, the edges were fraying and some spots were peeling away to white. The other was of America himself, a portrait of him in uniform saluting in front of a flag. Ever the prideful one.
Though...the third one was new. Canada footsteps ceased suddenly as he sucked in his bottom lip and chewed. An instantaneous wave of guilt flooded over him as his eyes fell on green orbs that smiled from a pale face full of gentleness and kindness. How could he have forgotten...
"Hey Matty, do I need to bring more than one jacket or-" America saw the other standing in front of the dark wooden frame, eyes staring sadly at the portrait hanging there. They both had forgotten apparently.
"Alfred I can't...I can't do this to Toris." Canada hung his head in shame and looked at the floor. He felt the Lithuanian's eyes on him, getting more and more broken by the second. This wasn't fair to him, to either of them. Suddenly he felt ashamed, he felt like running back home, and hiding in his bedroom for a long time. No, the bedroom held too much shame now, that's where this started. He had done this, he was responsible for this, this was his fault. He should have felt ashamed. This was wrong. "You should stay here."
The American stood quiet, unable to form words for the other. He could see the pain in his eyes and could only imagine the sorts of self loathing comments running through his head. With the knowledge of Canada's tendency to always take the blame, he was also perfectly aware the other was blaming himself entirely for what had happened the night before. He opened his mouth a few times, words of solace floating in the back of his throat but swallowing them all, realizing they probably wouldn't have made a difference. America knew what the other was saying was true, this was wrong. He should stay here. He should let Canada go home by himself. He should go buy flowers for Lithuania and tell him what happened.
Canada was thinking the same, but other thoughts found their way into his head as well. Thoughts that were telling him he had no right to feel sad or hurt about being left alone. This is what he did when he got attention? This was the kind of action he took to reach out to another human being? Throwing a tantrum and coming near tears to guilt trip another into staying? How dare he feel in pain for being alone, he deserved it, he deserved every second of his solitude. He deserved every side glance that was doubled with a grimace. He deserved every unanswered phone call and email. He deserved the lack of company.
"I deserve to hurt." Canada's voice was quiet as he crossed his arms over stomach, shielding his bandaged forearms with his hands. They burned and stung upon contact which only made him want to squeeze tighter. Make them bleed, pay his penance for doing such awful things. "I hurt you and I hurt Toris... I deserve this, I deserve these-"
"No you don't." The American spoke up, surprised by the words coming from Canada's mouth. "Don't say that, no one deserves that. I know-...I know what we did wasn't the best choice, but it happens we're human."
"That's no excuse I should have known better."
"And I should have too. I don't want you blaming yourself for this though...I don't want to see more of those." He took a step closer to the blonde, feeling a blooming pain in chest, one filled with guilt and sorrow, a hopelessness and desperation he wasn't partial to. Something only this man could make him feel. The only one who could make America feel powerless with just a look or a few words. Could make him feel so low and yet so high, he had forgotten this so long ago...shoved it away along with the picture of Canada that used to hang where Lithuania's picture now did. "I never thought I would ever catch you doing something like that. I never thought you'd want to... I had no ideas things were that bad for you."
Canada started to protest. "No, please, I did something horrible with you- to you. I made you feel like you had to take care of me. You're probably hurting too, I should worry about you! I was being selfish. I just wanted some attention, I'm sorry-"
"And what's wrong with wanting a little attention from someone?" America closed the gap between the two of them and pulled Canada gently into his arms. Fitting his chin over the smaller man's head, he held the mutilated arms to his chest. He kept his voice in a soft, soothing tone as he spoke into the shell of Canada's ear. "I'm fine Matty, I want to be here for you. It's high time someone did. Things have been bad for you...haven't they?"
The Canadian was still for a long moment, allowing the words to fully soak into his chest before reacting. His mind - the lines between rational and irrational blurred - was telling him that he should do what was right. But what was right? Either way someone was getting hurt. But wasn't that selfish? Didn't America just state that he was allowed to be selfish...? Had the long years of hurting given him the right to divulge into the comfort or did he still deserve the pain? Why had everyone been ignoring him, why hadn't they responded? Did he deserve it or were they ignorant? Did he really, honestly deserve to bare these wounds?
All he could manage in response was a soft nod.
"I don't want to lose you." Canada leaned his head forward into the comforting shoulder and curled against the warm, familiar torso tightly. He didn't want to think about repercussions right now. His mind was too muddled and his heart was in too much pain to consider anything anymore. The pain was too loud, to fierce, too agonizing, and he was so tired. He didn't want to hurt right now. He just wanted it to stop, he wanted to sleep, wanted everything to go away. Wanted America to make it all better again. Love him like he used to. Come back into his life and stop the tears. Fill the gaping void he left behind. Say he was sorry for ever leaving and promise never to do it again. Promise the pain would never, ever come back.
"Let's get you home."
That was a good start.
For those of you still with me, thank you! I know I haven't updated this in far too long and I feel awful for doing so! I lost the interest in writing for a long while and left a lot of work undone. I had forgotten about this story until a few reviews popped up and caused me to go back and reread what I had put up. And here we are with chapter four. Finally.
You all have full permission to kick me and beat me senseless for taking so horribly long.
I don't feel all too happy with this chapter but I'm hoping that's just me. I must have wrote and rewrote this about five times and this was the best I could do. I'm sorry. I hope it's somewhat of a good read! I promise chapter five will come much quicker!