IMPORTANT: I would highly recommend you read this AU on LiveJournal instead because the stories are listed in chronological order there as well as being unedited. The username is "secretcurrents" and the list of AU stories is in a sticky post right at the top.
A/N: I have decided that the stories that were already posted individually will stay that way, but from now on all delinquent!AU stories will be posted here, so if you want to Story Alert this, you can go ahead and do so. They'll continue to be separate stories that jump around the timeline, but at least they'll be in one place!
If you're new to this AU, the other stories are in chronological order:
1. In Over His Head
2. As You Were (with As An Old Memory occurring at the same time)
3. Under This Roof
5. As You Are
6. As I Want You to Be
7. Take Your Time, Hurry Up
9. As An Old Enemy
Also, if you're new to this AU, please note that these stories oftentimes contain sex, violence, drug/alcohol usage and language.
This new story takes place after "Wash" so we're back to the present timeline for now.
Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia or any of the characters portrayed.
Arthur has a sickly sense of foreboding as he walks into work that morning, and it's not just because Heracles is predictably asleep behind a stack of milk crates. His morning started off normally enough; Alfred made him the same butter soaked breakfast and kissed him goodbye as usual, but something still seems off.
He briefly contemplates waking up Heracles, but decides it's not worth it. Eventually the stray cats will show up at the loading dock and he'll be awake to sneak them some food. Until then, he's on his own. He's been assigned the duty of restocking the freezers, which is one of the last things he wants to do when the store is open and he'll be at risk of dealing with customers.
But his job is still a source of income, after all, so he pushes his mysterious anxiety to the back of his mind and sets to work. The sooner he loses himself in the same menial work he does everyday, the sooner he can go home.
Predictably he's interrupted by several customers, who want answers to ridiculous questions like where the bathroom is or what time it is, and there's an old woman who wants help reaching something on the opposite end of the store, but for the most part his day is nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to explain why he felt like something was wrong.
It's as he's finishing with the last section that a child's obnoxious laughter breaks his concentration, then some spoiled little brat reaches past him to grab a box of ice cream bars from the bottom of the display, sending the rest tumbling to the floor. Arthur is about to chastise the child for being so careless, but the words die in his throat when he gets a good look at him.
It's like he's staring into the face of his younger self, only this boy's face is clean and full of happiness, rather than dirty and full of contempt. Upon closer examination, his hair is darker, and the features slightly different, but there's really no mistaking those eyebrows. The boy runs off before Arthur can say anything. He doesn't have to, though, because he gets his answer as soon as the boy runs up to the person he came with. Arthur feels the blood draining from his face and the wind getting knocked out of him as he sees that person.
Even though it's been about fifteen years, he's never forgotten that face. He hates that face, curses it with his everything whenever he thinks about it. Detestable woman who abandoned him and his brothers, who should have been dead or dying, but is instead dressed nicely and looking well taken care of. His mother.
"I'm going to get this, okay?" the boy says to her and shoves it into her basket without waiting for a reply.
"Of course, my darling," she says fondly and smiles warmly down at the boy. He can't be more than ten-years-old, which means when Arthur had finally accepted that his life was going to be miserable forever and never get any better, she was having another child. Another child, when she already had four boys she'd abandoned.
Arthur's eyes sting, but he tries to blink away the sensation. No, that woman isn't worth it. Despite his efforts, though, his vision begins to blur and he disappears from the aisle before his mother can notice him. She's not supposed to be able to hurt him anymore, but his chest is tight and there's tears spilling down his cheeks. He finds Heracles still asleep behind the milk crates, and he kicks him awake.
"Get up, you bastard," he snaps and keeps his face as hidden from view as possible as Heracles stirs and stands up. "There's a mess near the freezers, you have to clean it up."
Heracles mumbles something under his breath as he stretches out his stiff muscles and presumably follows through with Arthur's demand. Arthur meanwhile slumps to the ground in the place previously occupied by his coworker. He tears at his hair, as if that will somehow stop his now uncontrollable sobbing. His tears are wasted on her, but he can't help it.
Even more than before he hates her. How could she up and find herself a better life without taking her children with her? How could she just shirk her responsibilities as a mother to her first children and just have another like it was nothing? How would she feel knowing that the son she abandoned was abused at worst, neglected at best? That he grew up hating everyone and everything, closed off his heart because she'd hurt it too badly for him to trust anyone with it, and that he's only just now learning what it means to actually care about someone and be cared about in return thanks to Alfred?
Alfred. Just thinking about him makes Arthur calm somewhat and he manages to pull himself together enough to only occasionally hiccup. His mother doesn't deserve to know Alfred. Even if they're in the same city, even if there's a chance of the two of them crossing paths, Arthur hopes that she never meets Alfred. She doesn't deserve that sunshine in her life.
Not that he deserves it either.
He finally stops his hiccups and haphazardly fixes his appearance, though he manages to spend the rest of the day in the back stocking the refrigerators, because with his frayed nerves he can't handle much more than that.
He's been sober since he and Alfred agreed to be together, but now he needs a drink. He needs to forget the world and his mother and his half brother he never knew about and everything about it that continues to be so fucked up despite his efforts to change. He's too young to buy any alcohol legally, but his box cutter makes for a good weapon to use against a man who is too drunk to notice that he's being threatened with a dull blade. The whiskey burns his throat as it goes down, but it's like a comforting burn that he's missed. There's not enough left in the bottle to get him drunk, but he has a buzz and has no idea how late it is by the time he thinks of Alfred.
He needs Alfred. Needs him. Like air. Alcohol to forget is a poor substitute for that boy who loves him and wants him and wouldn't abandon him without a word just because he didn't like his circumstances. He manages to stumble home, still not taking any notice of how late it is by the time he pushes through their door.
Alfred is in the kitchen and comes bounding out at the sound of the door, his eyes lighting up when he sees Arthur standing there. He's sure he looks a wreck, but if Alfred notices, he doesn't comment.
"Arthur! It's getting late, so I was starting to get worried. Oh, your food is in the microwave, so you just have to reheat it."
The last thing Arthur wants right now is food, but he doesn't say as much. What he wants is to just bend Alfred over the kitchen table or maybe the counter and just fuck him there, but no, he needs a condom at least. He grabs onto the strings of Alfred's hooded sweatshirt and pulls him into a kiss, which Alfred pulls away from after a moment and gives Arthur a confused look.
He doesn't want to talk, so he pulls Alfred back into a kiss and starts walking towards their bedroom, dragging Alfred along the way. Alfred can probably taste the alcohol on his breath, or maybe he sees the tearstains on his cheeks that he hadn't bothered to clean up. Whatever it is, he doesn't fight him off as he's dragged into their bedroom, then momentarily abandoned so Arthur can grab the lube and a condom.
Alfred pulls off his glasses and rests them on the nightstand when he sees what Arthur has in his hands. He smiles slightly and starts to lean back against the bed, but then Arthur grabs him roughly and turns him around to bend him over. Alfred yelps, but Arthur doesn't want his face to be seen. Not tonight.
He forgets all about finesse and consideration of Alfred as he only haphazardly prepares him and slips on the condom before he pushes roughly into him. Alfred makes a pained noise and claws at the duvet. The fact that he's hurting Alfred doesn't occur to Arthur as he immediately takes up a rushed rhythm. At least, he doesn't notice until he realizes what this is like.
He can't see Alfred's face, not when he has it buried in the mattress, but Arthur knows that his eyes are squeezed shut and his eyebrows are furrowed. He can see that his knuckles are white, and he's making those same squeaking sounds from the very first time they ever had sex.
He's letting his frustration cloud his judgment, and he's hurting Alfred. He wanted Alfred's comfort and love to remind him that there's still good things in the world even though people like his mother can start their lives over as if it's nothing, but instead he's hurting him. It's too late to rectify things, though, because he's shuddering his release almost immediately after.
Arthur pulls himself away from Alfred's back and disposes of the condom, then pulls off what's left of his clothes and crawls into bed. Not long after Alfred follows and reaches for him, ready to cuddle him regardless of what just happened, but Arthur shrinks away and rolls over away from Alfred. He's disgusted with himself, and his behavior shouldn't be rewarded with Alfred's gentle actions and words of love. There's silence for a few moments, then he hears Alfred shifting underneath the sheets, as well.
It seems that even now his mother is ruining his life, poisoning his mind so he'll destroy the only good thing in his life. He never thought he could hate her more than he did before, but after that day, he's changed his mind completely.
Alfred acts the same as always the next morning, which only feeds Arthur's guilt over what he did the night before. Rather than be the one to bring it up, however, Arthur too pretends that nothing is out of the ordinary. He picks at his breakfast and accepts Alfred's goodbye kiss without complaint as Alfred leaves for school.
The moment Alfred is out the door, Arthur buries his face in his hands. Alfred's parents were right and he's ruining Alfred's life, after all. He could be with someone else right now. Someone who will give him the love and respect he deserves, who will actually say 'I love you' and not leave it ambiguous.
At the same time, he wants to be with Alfred. He doesn't want to leave him and return to his previous empty existence. He's selfish and wants Alfred to be with him to make life worth living. Even at the expense of Alfred's happiness, it seems.
Heracles is feeding the stray cats when he arrives at work, and he almost asks him about it. What is it with him and those cats? But that would be opening up the floor for friendly interaction between the two of them, which is something he doesn't want. It's hard enough opening up to Alfred without throwing someone else into the mix.
The day is spent in anxiety that he'll see his mother again, and it's the anxiety that makes the day drag on longer than it should have, then it's replaced by the anxiety of having to go home and face Alfred.
He paces while he waits for his bus home, thinking of how he can approach things without making everything fall apart, but his thoughts are interrupted as a group of men he doesn't recognize approaches.
"You're that guy with Jones, right?" one of them asks, prompting Arthur to stop pacing and stare.
"Excuse me?" he asks and narrows his eyes. The man who spoke smirks while the others chuckle.
"You. You're with Jones, aren't you? I saw you at that carwash the other day. Jones acts like you're just friends, but you two were being so fucking obvious chasing each other around like that."
The way they're smirking makes Arthur's blood boil as he realizes what they're talking about. He can't take this right now. He's going to snap if it continues, try as he might to control his temper.
"So which one of you takes it up the ass? Bet it's Jones, right? That guy is such a fucking fairy, it's-"
That's enough to make Arthur lose control completely. He launches himself at the offending man with intentions of beating the smirk off his face and making it so he'll never be able to make any facial expressions ever again. Vaguely he hears one of the others mentioning the police, and someone else tries to pull him off, but he doesn't relent. He's going to kill that bastard and deal with the consequences later.
Finally he's hauled roughly off by someone much stronger than him, and though he struggles, he can't fight him off. It's a police officer, he finally realizes, and he stops struggling. The man he'd been attacking has a bloodied face, but he otherwise seems no worse for the wear. Pity.
He's going to have to spend another night in jail, which makes his anxiety levels shoot up further. Alfred will be at home waiting for him, but he'll never show up.
Arthur puts off going home the next day and goes straight to work instead. He's only exacerbating the problem, he knows, but he doesn't know how he's going to face Alfred after all that has happened. He promised Alfred that next time he'd be gone for an extended period of time that he'd call, but once again he didn't. Alfred doesn't need to know that he'd been arrested.
Eventually he has to go home, though, and it's only after several minutes of hesitation that he finally pushes their door open. Alfred appears instantly, looking terrible like he hasn't eaten or slept, and descends on him, looking distraught, relived, and infuriated all at once.
"Where the fuck were you, Arthur?" he cries, and Arthur cringes internally. This is an opportunity to talk about things, so they move forward instead of back, but once again Arthur can't do it.
"It's not important," he says irritably, batting Alfred out of the way as he walks further into their flat.
"What do you mean it's not important? Of course it is! I mean, you keep disappearing without a word and I don't know where you are and if you might be hurt or worse…"
"I said it's not important, Alfred. Just drop it," he snaps over his shoulder and tries to head for their bedroom, but Alfred runs in front of him and blocks the way.
"You can't keep pulling this shit, Arthur! You were supposed to call. Say something, anything, not just leave me here wondering where you are."
Arthur squares his jaw and stares stubbornly at Alfred for a moment, then he looks away. They stand in silence, but Arthur swears he hears the delicate threads holding them together buckling under the weight of everything that has happened in the space of just a few days.
"Is there someone else?" Alfred finally says. Arthur freezes and whips his head to gape incredulously at Alfred, who is looking away and clenching his fists. "I mean, I'm pretty boring right? I'm no good at kissing or sex, and I know those things are important to you. Maybe you found someone who can satisfy you better than I can."
Alfred thinks he wants someone else? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that Alfred still isn't technically very good at sex yet, but that's irrelevant. He'll get better with time. It's not about the technique, but the emotions behind the actions, and those always come through loud and clear and satisfy Arthur far more than the best damn lay in the world ever could. Fucking someone else will never even hope to begin to hold a candle to how he feels when he and Alfred make love.
Besides that, of course he's not with Alfred just for sex. That's not even what their relationship started off as, no matter what it was for months. Had Gilbert never said anything, Arthur wouldn't have even thought of having sex with Alfred (then, perhaps, would he have ever realized he was in love otherwise?).
He should put Alfred's fears to rest and apologize for worrying him, but rather than remorse, it's anger that wins out over all other emotions. That Alfred thinks so little of him to believe he's cheating doesn't sit well with him. He's trying, he really is.
"Don't take your paranoia out on me, Jones," Arthur snaps, and he immediately regrets it. Alfred looks stricken, and Arthur knows why. It's not just the vitriol in his words, but the way he chose to address Alfred.
No, Alfred hasn't been "Jones" since that day in the alley years ago. He may as well have cut Alfred's heart right out of his chest.
Alfred continues to look dismayed, but then his expression fades into anger and his nostrils flare. They should fight. Alfred should continue to insist that he not give in to whatever Arthur wants. Maybe they'll change that way, if they don't fall apart completely.
Instead, Alfred turns and stomps down the hall into their bedroom, where he slams the door shut. Arthur winces at the sound, but his anger doesn't fade. Alfred is being childish, as always. If he wants to sulk, he can sulk. They really aren't meant to be together anyway. He scoffs at the empty hallway and stalks into the kitchen.
Arthur makes himself dinner, taking care not to ruin the microwave as he heats up a can of condensed soup, then he sees himself to the spare bedroom. He's never slept in there, so everything is neat and tidy. Too neat and tidy. He crawls between the sheets and tries to will himself to sleep without Alfred.
Even though he's never been in one before this, he knows that this is not how relationships are supposed to work. They grow and change, just as the people in them grow and change, but he and Alfred are going nowhere. They're too afraid of each other to meet in the middle, where they can change their relationship into something much more than what it is. If Arthur trusts himself to Alfred, he's leaving himself wide open to getting hurt again. But if he never does, then they'll just continue the way they are now until they finally stop being together. All roads seem to lead to the fact that one day Alfred is going to stop loving him, just as he suspected in the beginning.
He groans and rolls over to glare up at the ceiling. It's no use. He really can't sleep without Alfred next to him. He's too accustomed to his warmth, his weight, the steady sound of his breathing. Even if Alfred doesn't hold him, just his presence is enough.
After a moment's hesitation, Arthur eases out of bed and pads quietly into the hallway. He stares at the door to their bedroom, which is still shut. They're fighting, so they shouldn't sleep together, but if Alfred didn't sleep the night before, he'll likely not get any sleep tonight either. Alfred won't sleep unless he's next to him, too, Arthur knows.
When he tries the doorknob, Arthur realizes that Alfred didn't lock the door, which just serves to make his heart ache. The door is always open, he's just afraid to open it, in more ways than one. He does finally turn the knob and push the door inwards to see the outline of Alfred's back facing away from him on the bed. Tentatively Arthur enters and makes his way over to the bed, where he climbs under the sheets next to Alfred. He can see Alfred stiffen, which only confirms that they indeed can't sleep without each other.
He reaches out into the empty space separating him from Alfred, but his hand drops before he can touch his shoulder. The space between them is far more than just a couple inches of sheets and mattress. There's a chasm there, growing steadily wider day by day. But how can he stop the inevitable from happening? He sighs and rolls over, so his back is to Alfred's. It should be enough, just being near Alfred, for him to get some sleep.
He feels the weight shift on the bed and for a second he panics, wondering if Alfred is going to leave. His mind screams to say something, anything, to stop him, but he doesn't have to. Instead of Alfred's retreating back heading towards the door as he fears, the mattress dips behind him, then an arm wraps around him and a face presses between his shoulder blades. Alfred both asking for and giving forgiveness. Arthur sucks in a breath.
What he wants to do is turn around and bury himself in Alfred and kiss him until they both can't breathe. Reassure Alfred over and over that there's no one else, there could never be anyone else. That he's sorry and he's tired of hurting him.
But all he can do is grasp the arm that's holding him and pull it closer around himself. It seems that it's enough, though, because Alfred's face moves from between his shoulder blades to rest against the junction between his neck and shoulder.
It will have to be enough for now, until they really can meet in the middle, then move forward together from there.