Yeah, so, look at that – it's Friday. Haha. I thought this wouldn't take as long but, as usual with me, this got waaaay longer than it was originally supposed to be. At 7000-odd words it's actually longer than a few of the actual chapters. XD

This Epilogue – if it can even be called that at this length – takes place in 2007 and then backs up again to 1993, both set in hotel rooms. I picked 2007 for two reasons. One: I wanted it to be very modern but before the recession/global financial crisis because I didn't want to have to write about that on top of everything else in here; and Two: I liked 2007. With the one exception of that being the year my amazingly-ancient-at-the-time-of-her-demise dog died, I had a lot of fun that year. ^^ The reason for 1993 will become obvious.

The first segment of this chapter continues from Arthur's perspective – for the second (and third very small) segment(s), we return finally to Alfred.

Thanks to: DMFAZINA, MashednotHashed, shake-it-buddy, watchulla, Genki-angel-chan, Croutonic Sarcasm, ilfreitas, Britannia Angel-American Hero, Alphan, Icicle Rhythm, Author and Co, Kunoichi-Shea, Kaimi-Flames, Lady Sango the taijiya, kana-dragongirl, Sylence, OrangeSpiral, LithiumKiss, Veldargone, Plate Captain, Aria DC al Fine, TTRaven4Ever, egoXlockheart, TheWonderBunny, Tamer Lorika, Axxi, akira-chan1, Invader Mizzy, Cheese-kun, hexazebra, cax, OneWithManyNames, Xeniaph, nocco, Narroch (how bleeding kind of you to comment!), ehhfunny, xMelitheKonekox and Anime18Emo!

And now... this is it. The final finale. Savour it! Oh, and have some Elvis – 1954 was too early for him (he actually recorded his first few songs in 1954 but he didn't become a star until 1956) and that's the only reason he was never mentioned throughout the rest of this fic. I love me some Elvis.

A is For: Aftermath

'Let's walk up to the preacher and let us say "I do";

Then you'll know you'll have me

And I'll know that I'll have you'

– Elvis Presley, Don't Be Cruel


Of course Alfred would leave him with the cases.

Arthur spotted him across the hotel lobby as he all but fell out of the revolving glass doors with both cases practically landing on top of him in his wake; he righted himself with an angry hiss, shook the thin layer of snow from his gold hair and stalked across the huge lobby towards the reception desk. It was a beautiful hotel right in downtown New York City, all high carved ceilings and polished marble floors and sparkling chandeliers – but right now the only thing that had Arthur's attention was Alfred's back as the moron leaned over the reception counter. Arthur could hear him from here, contesting something about the name the room was booked under.

"No, no," he was saying, sounding frustrated. "Kirkland-Jones – it's not booked under two names, it's all one name. Double-barrel, right? Like Sarah Michelle Gellar!"

The receptionist looked at Alfred blankly.

"You know, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" Alfred pressed. "It was on in the 90s?"

"Sarah Michelle Gellar is not a double-barrel name, Alfred," Arthur corrected as he came to his side and finally dropped the cases. "Edgar Allan Poe would be... well, still not perfect – but a better example."

"Artie!" Alfred grabbed him, swept him in close and gave him a quick kiss to the cheek before turning pointedly back to the receptionist. "Look, he's Kirkland, I'm Jones – and together we're Kirkland-Jones! Like Batman and Robin only more awesome!"

"Right," the receptionist said uneasily; she went back to her computer and started to type.

"Three things, Alfred," Arthur sighed. "One, don't leave me to try to find out the fare from some immigrant driver who doesn't speak a word of English and haul the cases out of the taxi and drag the things through those infernal revolving doors all by myself; two, stop with the kissing-in-public thing, you know I don't like it; and three, if you would just book under one name instead of the "official" joint name, this wouldn't keep happening to us every time we try to check into a hotel!"

"Aww, but we're married now, baby," Alfred pouted, flashing his ring as though for use as a visual aide – and as though he presumed that answer to be a satisfactory one to all three of Arthur's complaints.

"Four things," Arthur bit out. "Stop calling me "baby', for goodness' sake. This isn't the 1950s. Or the 1960s. I'd always rather hoped you'd grow out of it, to be perfectly honest. And, furthermore, us being married isn't much of a novelty anymore, Alfred, really it isn't – 1993, wasn't it?"

"Yeah," Alfred said wistfully. "Can't believe it only took me forty years of pestering you to get you to say yes—"

"Thirty-nine, actually—"

"Your keys." The receptionist, who was now looking at the pair of them very oddly, pushed their key cards towards them across the desk. "You're in Room 431. Have a wonderful stay."

"Thankyou." Arthur grabbed both keys with a curt nod and ushered Alfred away from the desk, dragging the cases after them. "Come on, let's get to the room before you say something to really land us in it."

"Hey," Alfred replied defensively, "you're the one cracking out the exact dates. Still, don't know why she was looking at you with such surprise – I mean, me, yeah, I don't even look thirty so of course it's weird for me to say it took me forty years to browbeat you into accepting—"

"Alfred," Arthur hummed warningly as they went to the glass lift at the back of the lobby.

"But you, jeez, it's hardly a stretch—"


"Still," Alfred said with a smirk, not perturbed in the slightest, "I've always reckoned Clinton had something to do with you coming to your senses. I mean, 1993 – that's the year he got in and the man just completely radiated—"

"Yes, alright, Alfred – that's enough, please."

Alfred sulked as the lift opened and they stepped in.

"Really?" he sighed as he jabbed the button for their floor. "Shame – I could totally go for some Clinton-era-style international relations right now."

"So that's not just the Empire State Building in your pocket, hmm?" Arthur teased.

Alfred apparently had to check before grinning again and sticking out his tongue.

"Go to Hell, Artie."

"I'm already there," Arthur sighed. "I've heard they're calling it "New York" these days."

"You wound me," Alfred exclaimed, exaggeratedly grabbing at his heart.

"Not nearly enough," Arthur countered as the lift shuddered to a halt. "You're still standing."

They argued all the way down the hall and were still bickering as Arthur wrestled three times with the card key in the magnetic lock before Alfred swiped it through with one neat easy motion and let the door go sailing open; Arthur snatched it off him and went into the room ahead more-or-less with his nose in the air, leaving Alfred with the cases – which served the idiot right, he felt. Alfred didn't seem terribly put-upon, bringing the cases in and kicking the door shut with his heel as Arthur glanced around, assessing the room.

It was massive, of course – hotels in this part of the Big Apple didn't do things by halves, the king-sized bed decked out in crimson and scattered with something like a dozen pillows of red and gold. There was a large window with a spectacular view of the city, dressed either side with dark velvet curtains pulled back with gold braiding and then further ruffles of near-translucent scarlet chiffon trailing almost to the floor; the mirror at the dresser was elaborate with a lavishly-detailed frame, the cream carpet was thick and soft and warm, the light was practically a chandelier, the counter was laden with all sorts of freebies and a state-of-the-art coffeemaker and everything in the bathroom was marble – even the sink.

"Is it to your liking, Your Highness?" Alfred asked sarcastically as he passed him, shrugging out of his suit jacket and whipping off his tie and tossing both onto the bed.

Arthur snorted.

"It'll do, I suppose." He narrowed his eyes at Alfred. "You know, when you were a child, you used to call me "Your Highness" and it wasn't in that smart-aleck tone."

"That's because you told me you were really King Arthur," Alfred pointed out, going to the window. "What an awful person you are, Artie, lying to an impressionable little kid like that."

"It was the only way to get any respect out of you even back then," Arthur muttered. "Now, of course, it's an utter lost cause." He picked up Alfred's jacket. "And don't throw your clothes around like that, for goodness' sake, I've told you and told you to hang them up so that they don't get ruined – you know these new suits are made of cheaper materials and they really don't last very long if you don't look after them..."

Arthur trailed off – Alfred wasn't interrupting him, making fun of him for fussing about proper hanging-up-your-suit etiquette or mimicking him. That meant that something else had his attention.

"Alfred?" Arthur looked up.

"Hmm?" Alfred replied absently; he was over at the hotel room window, leaning on the sill and looking out.


Arthur dropped the jacket back onto the bed and came around it to Alfred's side, joining him at the window.

"We've been to this hotel before, remember?" Alfred said, not looking at him. "1995, I think – or maybe it was 1996. We were only here for a night but I remember looking out the window just like this and... they were right there." He pointed vaguely to a noticeable gap in the skyline. "It was a great view. I wanted to show you but I forgot – it didn't seem like a big deal, though. They just used to be part of the scenery then and I thought... well, there would be another time, they'd just be there forever so it didn't matter."

"I remember." Arthur lifted Alfred's arm and went underneath it, nudging up close to him. "I saw them, Alfred. With a view like that, I couldn't have missed them – or anything. It was like a painting."

Alfred pulled him close.

"And what did you think?"

"I thought it was beautiful." Arthur looked out at the scene below him – early-afternoon New York City awash with the mid-December Christmas rush, silver snow spiralling to the street with the same idleness as it had expressed as it began when they had gotten into their taxi from the airport. From up here, the fifteenth floor of a twenty-one storey high-rise hotel, the bright shoppers bustling about with their bags were little more than tiny flecks of colour on the white pavements, weaving in and out of the firefly-yellow taxi cabs as they stopped and started and screeched down the street – but the sight of the skyline was perfect, the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building glinting in the cold winter light as though bedecked with Christmas illuminations like the trees in Central Park. "And it still is," he added gently.

Alfred was quiet for a moment.

"Yeah," he agreed at length. "Yeah, it is. I'm proud of it."

He turned towards Arthur and kissed him; Arthur recognised it for what it was, gentle and grateful and sort of sad, and leaned into it, reaching up to cup Alfred's face as he felt Alfred's arms go around his back to hold him tight. It lasted for a long moment as though Alfred was trying to lose himself in it, to forget for an instant the pain this city of his had endured and instead take comfort from the mouth that first named it "New York".

"Good thing you wrestled it off that Dutch guy," Alfred finished breathlessly as he leaned back.

"Yes," Arthur replied. "I suppose it was."

Alfred smiled at him, gave him another little kiss on the tip of his nose and then let go of him, moving away from the window and throwing himself face-first across the huge bed, burrowing into the mound of gold-embroidered cushions at the head of it.

"Ah, this is the life!" he trilled, rolling over and sinking further still into the pile of cushions. "I feel like a king, at least!"

Alfred had firmly fixed his impenetrably-cheerful façade back on but he always grieved a little every time he came to New York and Arthur supposed that it was good for him to be able to switch between both. It seemed to him to be acceptance on Alfred's part, that he needed only a few moments to reacquaint himself with the tragedy before feeling the flow of the city in his veins again. Just as with the Blitz, there had been no subjugation of spirit – it was not as though it had never happened but rather that life moved around that empty space in the skyline as though nothing about the pace of that life had changed even in their absence. Arthur understood that, having once watched London being bombed to the ground; making a religion of mourning the loss didn't lend itself to moving on and remembering the past and dwelling on it were two very different things.

Besides, Alfred himself had once said something to him that had always stuck, perhaps because he had honestly been surprised by the wisdom in the words: There is no greater testament to your strength than your scars.

Well, that hole in the skyline out there – the one that hadn't been there in 1995 – was a huge scar and the fact that Alfred could bob up from the nest he'd made for himself on the bed and smile proved that he was strong.

"Hey," Alfred said, smirking mischievously at him, "you wanna christen the sheets?"

Ugh. Arthur rolled his eyes. He might have known that Alfred's sweet, pensive mood would last all of three seconds.

"As delightful as that sounds," he replied curtly, "I will have to pass. We don't have time – it's almost two o' clock and we both need to shower and change and have something to eat before we go down to the pre-conference meeting Ludwig has organised for this evening—"

"Oh, that's plenty of time!" Alfred whined. "Come on, Artie! Just a quickie – that plane ride did a number on my back and I really feel like wrestling with you in all those weird positions you seem to end up in would help!"

Arthur kneaded at his forehead.

"Let me put this another way," he said with an over-exaggerated sigh. "Go to Hell, Alfred."

Alfred merely laughed, flopping back to the bed.

"I'm already there," he sighed. "I've heard they're calling it "stupid World Conference meeting thingy in fancy hotel that I have to attend instead of sitting at home in my underwear watching The Simpsons reruns" these days."

"Oh?" Arthur started to unknot his tie. "And not "unfair, stingy, totally mean love-of-your-life who won't do you the tiny favour of letting you shag him so you can get the kinks out of your back"?"

Alfred snorted and put his arms behind his head.

"That goes without saying."

"Ah, of course."

Alfred rolled over again and buried his face in the pillows.

"Life's so unfair," he moaned, his voice muffled by red silk and gold-thread embroidered roses and feathers sixteen inches high.

Arthur gave a sigh as he went to the wardrobe to begin hanging up his suit; Alfred lay groaning on the bed as though he was dying, mumbling about there not being a Dunkin' Donuts near the hotel and everyone knew that America ran on Dunkin' because it was like the slogan and stuff and they should have picked a hotel in a better location to accommodate his needs and he was going to miss the new episode of Family Guy because of the meeting and Arthur was the meanest meanie that had ever lived and God life just sucked so freaking hard.

"Always, Alfred," Arthur agreed.

He couldn't help but smile.

"Jeez," Alfred sighed as he shut the door behind them, "is this gonna be like that time where you didn't speak to Kiku for six months because he gave us love eggs as a wedding present?"

Arthur seemed to debate ignoring him for a moment before he finally deigned to speak to him:

"To be perfectly honest, I am still rather annoyed at Kiku for that," he replied curtly. "All awkwardness aside, it seems to imply that the marriage might well be on the rocks already and is in need of assistance."

"Oh, don't lie!" Alfred burst out. "You liked those damn things more than I did! Remember you—"

"Don't spout such utter bollocks."

"Or that time I—"

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."

"Or when we—"

"Enough, Alfred!" Arthur glared at him, midway through carefully unknotting his burgundy tie. "Besides, this isn't about Kiku – this is about you still having not learned that there is a time and place for saying certain things."

"Oh, hell, not your acceptable-behaviour-in-polite-company bullcrap again," Alfred moaned, throwing himself across the bed without bothering to take off anything of his neat blue suit that Arthur still hadn't been satisfied with and had actually made him take off again so that he could iron it before they went down to dinner prior to the meeting. "I mean, first of all it's totally hypocritical since you've gotten us kicked out of more places than I can even keep track of—"

(Which, come to think of it, was weird given that Arthur was so obsessed with presentability that he couldn't stand to be seen in Alfred's company if he had a single crease in his suit—)

"This and that are not the same thing so please don't compare them," Arthur snapped, taking off his jacket. "For one thing, you, my friend, are perfectly sober."

"And you, my friend, are splitting hairs," Alfred retorted.

(Okay, so maybe it wasn't so weird – Arthur only tended to get them kicked out of places when he was so drunk he couldn't even say his own name anymore and by that point he didn't give two hoots about whose suit was creased where—)

"Alfred." Arthur appeared to be trying to be patient. "Listen to me. Ludwig organised a Getting-To-Know-You exercise to begin the pre-meeting this evening because, let's face it, a lot of us don't really interact with or know much about each other. I agree – it's a good idea. There was a Before section prior to us being put into random pairs. The fact that I ended up getting put with Antonio is neither here nor there – nor is the fact that, in the Before section, you got me. However... when asked what you know about me just off the top of your head, yelling "He's great in the sack!" at the top of your voice is not an acceptable answer. While we're at it, beginning to detail exactly what things get your seal of approval when Francis asks you to elaborate is also not acceptable – nor is repeating yourself so that Gilbert can take notes for blackmail purposes. Frankly, if I hadn't hit you, I think Ludwig might have done something rather more drastic."

"Well, I figured you wouldn't mind since everyone knows," Alfred huffed, picking at a loose gold thread on one of the cushions. "We're married, for Chrissakes – if I don't know then who does?" He paused, suddenly remembering – somewhat unpleasantly – that Arthur had been around a lot longer than he had. "No, wait, don't answer that—"

"Elizaveta knows because you lied and said the corridor was empty—"

"I didn't lie! I didn't know she was lurking round the corner watching us like a total creeper!"

"Well, that's it – I am never kissing you in public ever again." Arthur made a very final slicing motion in the air with his hands. "See, this is why I don't like to do it, nobody around here can mind their own bleeding business when I kiss my own partner-lover-husband... thing... whatever you are, anyway."

"It was really more like making out—" Alfred started helpfully.

"I said that's it. I'm going to walk ten feet away from you and pretend I don't even know you."

"So I'll just talk louder." Alfred arched an eyebrow. "And hope you don't scream for help when I jump you."

"I will. Very loudly."

Alfred snorted.

"No-one will come," he said carelessly. "Nobody likes you, Artie, remember? Except me – and anyway, everyone knows, like I said. So those things coupled together basically just spell your doom at my hands."

"And how do you know that nobody likes me?" Arthur asked scathingly.

"Hey, you're the one always whining to me that no-one ever votes for your entry in that weird European singing contest you guys hold every year!"

"Oh, the Eurovision Song Contest." Arthur shrugged. "Well, that's a bloody fix anyway..."

"Just because you haven't won for like two decades!"

Arthur rolled his eyes, having apparently given up arguing his European popularity once the topic turned to the ESC, and went to the room's sideboard, beginning to rifle through the freebies presumably in search of a teabag. He switched the coffeemaker on, muttering about there never being a kettle in these infernal American hotel rooms no matter how expensive they were; Alfred lay and watched him in amusement from the bed. He was still comfortably full from dinner but, when he saw Arthur absently opening one of the little complimentary (very fancy) packets of biscuits, he sat bolt upright to demand one merely out of principle.

Arthur scowled at him, apparently not in a sharing mood.

"Don't be such a pig," he said, breaking off half of his real-root-ginger-and-Demerara-sugar gingersnap between his teeth as he spoke. "You absolutely stuffed yourself at dinner."

"So did you!"

"No, I didn't – if I had, I wouldn't be hungry now, would I?"

Alfred merely smirked at him.

"I know you think I didn't see you loosen your belt a notch," he said sweetly, "but I totally did so stop being so mean and give me a cookie."

Arthur hated being called on things and his displeasure was evident in the way his cheeks flushed with a little colour; but he threw Alfred one of the gingersnaps nonetheless, muttering to himself again, this time about not having to take that from a gluttonous brat who had had to loosen his belt three notches and undo the button on his fly.

"You know what would go great with this?" Alfred said, nibbling at his gingersnap appreciatively.

"I am not making you a cup of coffee," Arthur replied flatly.

"Naw," Alfred sighed. "Well, a cup of coffee would go great with this but that's not what I was thinking."

"You weren't thinking wild hotel-room sex, were you?"

"...That's a no?"

"That's a no."

"How come?" Alfred whined. "The meeting's done, it's only nine-ish—"

"Elizaveta is on this floor. I saw her clamped onto Roderich's arm outside their room as he was trying to get it open when I went to get some ice earlier. It wouldn't surprise me if she's lurking outside right now—"

"Tch, she's not that interested in us," Alfred said.

"Oh yes she is," Arthur replied. "She watched me come out of our room in what might only be described as a predatory manner. Besides, this area is a triple-score-zone – Antonio and Lovino are right next door that way and Feliks and Toris are two rooms down the other way. I utterly guarantee you that she's around here somewhere."

"So that's it for the whole three-day conference?" Alfred moodily jammed the rest of his biscuit into his mouth and crunched it up. "Lame."

"Alfred, you fell asleep the last time we did it," Arthur pointed out with a scowl, fussing over his badly-made tea.

"I was tired!" Alfred said defensively. "It wasn't an insult or anything!"

"You were tired because you stayed up the entire previous night playing that ridiculous Halo thing on that infernal game contraption of yours."

"It was Halo 2 on the Xbox360, Artie."

"Whatever," Arthur bit out. "You're just lucky you didn't offend me too much."

"Too much? You went on about it all the next day and you're going on about it now, too!" Alfred propped up a few of the cushions against the headboard and sat up more comfortably, watching Arthur put the finishing touches to his tea-that-would-undoubtedly-taste-like-coffee-anyway. "Still, it's not as bad as that time back in the late Fifties when I called Elvis' name instead and you didn't speak to me for like a week."

"Well," Arthur sighed, eying his tea warily, "I know I hardly match up to Elvis Presley in the looks department but you really didn't have to rub it in, you know."

"I wasn't imagining you were him, honest," Alfred said earnestly. "It was because I'd watched that live show he did on the TV that day and I was thinking about it. All the girls in the crowd used to scream his name like that and it was difficult not to get caught up in it!"

"I know, I know, you've explained this to me many, many times." Arthur glanced at him. "Do you want me to make you some coffee?"

Alfred shook his head and patted the bed next to him.

"Nah," he said. "Just come over here and at least give me a cuddle, babe. A nice, quiet, loving one that even Elizaveta can't detect through the door with her magical gaydar powers."

Arthur rolled his jade eyes again but picked up his cup and brought it over to the bed, kicking off his shoes and carefully climbing aboard to settle next to Alfred.

"Babe, baby, babycakes," he sighed. "I used to rock you to sleep when you were so small you could curl up in my lap. It just makes me feel older still when you call me things like that, you know."

"You are old," Alfred reminded him. "And that's how I like you. Old stuff is awesome – Glenn Miller, right? That's considered ancient history now, kids just want to listen to R'n'B and flash-in-the-pan pop bands and High School Musical but I think Glenn Miller is still pretty damn cool – and he'll always have a special place in my heart. His music was the soundtrack to me finally getting the guts to tell you I loved you."

"I'm quite a bit older than Glenn Miller, all the same," Arthur pointed out.

"Then you're even cooler." Alfred kissed him on the cheek. "Okay, baby?"

Arthur sighed at him but smiled faintly.

"Thankyou, Alfred," he said; he sipped at his tea and then shuddered.

"Jeez, it's gotta be bad if you can't drink it," Alfred commented. "Your tastebuds left you when the Vikings did!"

"Shut up," Arthur replied grouchily, putting the cup down rather heavily on the polished oak nightstand to his left. "It's because it tastes like coffee, idiot."

"You want me to call room service and get them to bring you some hot water so you can make more?"

"Oh, it's alright," Arthur muttered, leaning on Alfred. "I'll survive until tomorrow morning. I'm going to go to sleep soon, anyway – plane journeys never do my body clock any favours."

"But this is NYC!" Alfred protested. "The city that never sleeps! The night is young, Artie!"

"The night may be young but I, as we have just discussed, am most certainly not. The fact is that I remember the Vikings."

"We could still catch a Broadway show. I'm pretty sure The Lion King is around here somewhere... Hey, remember we went to the premiere of that?"

"You always take me to the premiere of every Disney animated film, Alfred," Arthur sighed. "Of course I remember – they're catalogued by year in my memory."

"That's how you remember stuff?" Alfred asked, taking Arthur's left hand and playing with it.

"Mm, well, I have to have some method of organisation – I have a lot to remember these days, you know. I'm starting to feel like I've been around forever."

"But life's only been good the past four hundred years or so, right?"

"Of course. I don't know how I ever lived without you, Alfred – you brighten my life in every way, bringing sunshine and rainbows and a Starbucks on every street."

"You're welcome." Alfred ran his thumb over Arthur's wedding ring – it was a traditional plain gold band, the exact match to the one on his own left hand. "Is our wedding in your little mind-catalogue?"

"Of course it is."

"Tell me about it," Alfred said. "Tell me how you remember it."

"Well..." Arthur looked at his ring himself for a moment. "It was the October of 1993. We got married in Jamestown, Virginia, in one of the old churches. You wanted me to wear a white suit and I wouldn't and we had a fight about it; in the end we both wore completely normal suits, like the one you're creasing now by lolling about on the bed in it, although you said that if it didn't matter what we wore, you wanted to wear your Michael Jackson T-shirt and I said no and then we had another fight about that. We only had four guests – Matthew, Francis, whom neither of us really wanted to invite but had to because we'd invited Matthew, Kiku and Herakles – and Herakles only got to come by default because he and Kiku had just gotten together. Herakles, incidentally, fell asleep during the ceremony but was kind enough to give us a cat as a wedding present – however, we left the cat with Francis when we went on our honeymoon and it allegedly got run over by a milk van. Yao was invited but he couldn't come so he sent us that stuffed panda with the creepy cross-eyed stare that gave you, in your exact words, "the heebie-jeebies" so we shoved it in the boot of the car after we got out of the church. We didn't book a reception venue and you wanted to go to McDonald's so you could get that awful quadruple-bacon-stack promotion thing they were running and I said I wasn't going to McDonald's on our wedding day and then we had a fight literally ten minutes after we'd gotten married. Francis finally did something useful and took us somewhere he knew of and it was actually very nice even though it was sort of awkward because no-one really knew what to say to Herakles and Kiku kept blushing and apologising, probably because he knew that we all knew that Herakles was shagging him and that was really the only reason Herakles was even there. As for you and I on that front... well, we had that lovely honeymoon suite at the hotel we were staying at but we didn't actually have a proper wedding night because I got drunk and passed out and you put me to bed and watched Ghostbusters II on television instead."

"That's very... accurate," Alfred said at length, slightly disappointed by how clinically Arthur had reeled it all off.

"Oh, those are the exact facts," Arthur sighed. "I remember it in more detail than that – fondly, I might add. It was a shambles, of course, but that's fairly typical of us, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Alfred agreed with a grin. "At least you enjoyed our honeymoon when you finally stopped bitching about it."

"Well, a Disney film premiere is one thing – Disneyworld quite another." Arthur actually shuddered. "God, all those awful rides and sugar-loaded snack foods and headbands with Mickey Mouse ears on them—"

"But we were in the hotel," Alfred pointed out. "The proper main fairytale castle hotel – which, despite everything, you loved, even if you won't admit it."

"I have real castles. Besides, the heat made me sick and the food made me even sicker. I had to stay in bed for almost two days and I kept throwing up."

"Yeah, I remember that," Alfred said thoughtfully. "You were completely sober for the whole honeymoon so the only thing I could think of was that I'd gotten you pregnant. I was this close to calling Mattie up to tell him he was gonna be an uncle."

Arthur punched him on the arm.

"You're an idiot, Alfred."

"You always say that."

"That's because you always do idiotic things – or say them or think them."

"It's okay, though – you never stay mad at me even when I screw up really badly."

"Like when you called me Elvis," Arthur said blandly.

"Yeah." Alfred nodded. "Or—hey, remember that time way waaaay back when I was trying to get you to call me 'Alfie' and I made that list of ways to butter you up and you completely flipped out and thought I was like employing top-secret Cold War-style mind manipulation techniques on you?" He gave a low whistle as he remembered it. "Man, I thought you were actually gonna dump me at one point! 'Cause I asked you to marry me for the first time ever and my timing was really bad, I guess, because you went crazy and then you started crying and said I was mocking you or something and I had to sleep in the guest bed that Gilbert broke and I had spasms in my back from it for like a month."

"I am never going to forget that, you moron." Arthur gave a deep sigh. "I was very angry with you."

"Yeah, I noticed. All over that stupid little nickname, too." Alfred nuzzled against Arthur's neck. "Still, I've managed to get you to say it twice since then. Remember when you finally said yes? It was at my birthday party – Fourth of July, 1993 – and I think you'd had a bit to drink, surprise surprise, but, hey, if it loosens your tongue, that's fine by me."

"I know you think I drink too much—"

"You do drink too much – but that's not what I was talking about. Remember we climbed up to the roof to watch the fireworks going off all over the city? You were kind of sulky because you always are on Fourth of July and I guess that's fair enough but I remember thinking that it wasn't just me being free from being a colony – freedom was what we fought for together back in the Forties and it was like... like back when we won, you know? So while we were up there all on-top-of-the-world and stuff, I just thought I'd ask you again for like the millionth time, thinking you'd say no again like how you always did and... well, you didn't. You said "Yes, Alfie" without looking at me and held out your hand for me to put the ring on and that was that."

"Yes, you almost knocked me off the roof in your excitement," Arthur recalled dryly.

Alfred gave a dismissive wave of his hand.

"No big deal, I caught you again, hero-style," he said. "Like Spiderman, right? Anyway, 1993 was a good year – we sorted everything out really quickly and got married within a few months, which was weird because it took you so freaking long to say yes, and you called me 'Alfie' again on our post-wedding-night-morning-thing, remember? So that's twice!"

He felt Arthur shift next to him.

"...Three times, actually," Arthur admitted finally.

Alfred blinked.

"Three...?" He shook his head. "No, it's only been two – I'd have remembered a third time, Artie!"

"You were asleep when I said it. It was after we had that big argument in 1954 – when I came back from the meeting and we patched things up."

"Did you know I was asleep?"

Arthur paused again.


"No fair!" Alfred seized Arthur in a vice-grip. "I wanna hear it three times, meanie! Say it again now so I can have my legit three times!"

"Don't be ridiculous!" Arthur retorted, wrestling with him in an attempt to get him off. "Alfred, let go of me at once!"

"Not until you say it!" Alfred wailed, clinging tighter still as Arthur kicked at him and clawed at his back. "Saaaay iiiit!"

"Alfred—Alfred, stop it, we're going to—!"

They went tumbling off the bed in a tangled heap with a heavy thud; the moment they hit the floor, Lovino pounded furiously against the far wall.

"Will you two shut the fuck up? You're encouraging this bastard!" he screeched through the wall before going off into a stream of even-more-aggressive-sounding Spanish undoubtedly aimed at Antonio – then there was another thud from their side of the wall and an angry wail of Italian.

"Elizaveta is having a rather serious nosebleed somewhere right now – and not because Lovino just spoke three languages in less than ten seconds," Arthur sighed from where they had landed in a heap on the expensive carpet.

Alfred grinned down at him.

"Yeah," he agreed. "And I bet that old boss of yours would be pleased to see this, too."

"Churchill?" Arthur rolled his jade eyes. "Of course he would. He wouldn't stop giving me the approving-eyebrow-raise when you did something as simple as give me a pat on the shoulder when you passed me."

"I bet he would have liked it if you had called me 'Alfie'," Alfred said, wriggling suggestively. "How about you do it right now and we'll wish it up to him?"

"No, Alfred." Arthur grinned at him. "I'm afraid it's just one of those twice-every-forty-years things."

"Thirty-nine," Alfred said, "and lame."

"You can't wait thirty-nine years?"

"Sure I can," Alfred retorted. "I don't wanna but I can. I can wait forever – like how I would have done if that's how long it had taken you to say yes. I asked you to wait for me so I could love you and you did, so... yeah, I can wait, Artie."

Arthur smiled at him.

"Then always hold out hope," he said, "and carry it aloft like Lady Liberty."

"Right," Alfred replied with a smirk, finally beginning to loosen his tie. "Just like in Ghostbusters II."

Alfred woke at 6:47am to the sound of Arthur throwing up; he rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow, watching Arthur through the gap in the ajar bathroom door as he stumbled to the sink to wash out his mouth and brush his teeth. It was raining outside – Alfred could hear the pattering of it hard on the window even through the thick curtains and over the sound of Arthur trying to scrub the taste of acid and alcohol out of his mouth.

When Arthur emerged a few minutes later, he looked a wreck; his gaze met Alfred's and he smiled weakly at him, leaning against the bathroom doorframe.

"How do I look?" he asked, putting one hand on his hip.

Alfred looked him up and down – at his white skin and the dark circles under his eyes and his wild hair and the crumpled shirt from his suit yesterday, Alfred having stripped him down to just that and his underwear before putting him to bed.

"Hungover," Alfred said, squinting at him. He reached for his glasses and put them on so that he could see Arthur more clearly. "Yeah, hungover. Definitely hungover."

"That's how I feel," Arthur agreed, pushing off the doorframe and weaving his way back to the bed. "I suppose it serves me bleeding well right." He got back under the covers and draped himself over Alfred. "I'm sorry about last night. I got carried away. I know it wasn't much of a wedding night."

"Ah, it was okay," Alfred replied, patting Arthur's ring hand. "At least I got to carry you bridal style without you kicking and complaining."

"That's because I was unconscious, I expect."

"Yeah, you were. You went out cold in the elevator after I managed to drag you out of the bar."

"Ugh, I hardly remember a thing," Arthur moaned disgustedly. "I didn't do anything completely stupid, did I? I apologise if I was a royal prick at any point."

"Nah, you were kinda cute, actually. I found you with that other wedding party and when I came over to get you, you started hugging me and telling everyone that we'd gotten married that day too and you showed the bride our rings."

"That doesn't sound like me."

"Well, you were drunk. You know, it's the weirdest thing but you seem to attract ladies when you've had a drink or two; you were cosied up between two chubby single thirty-somethings when I found you. They kept going on about how sexy your accent was and I basically had to pry you away from them. God, the looks on their faces were priceless when you starting hanging off me and going on about how we had gotten married that morning."

Arthur pulled a face.

"That really doesn't sound like me."

Alfred shrugged.

"I guess it's 'cause you're nicer when you're drunk," he suggested. "Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes you're a royal prick." He turned over and pulled Arthur more comfortably against his chest. "Anyway, I got you out of the bar and into the elevator but then you passed out so I had to carry you back to the room. It didn't look like you were going to wake up so I just undressed you and put you to bed and then I watched TV. Ghostbusters II was on."

"Is that that ridiculous film in which the Statue of Liberty walks through New York City with the four idiotic heroes riding in her crown?"

"Yeah. I like that bit – it's awesome." Alfred kissed the top of Arthur's head. "Anyway, you were out for the count but I held your hand while I was watching the movie so... well, I guess it was a pretty lame wedding night but sort of..."

"Fitting?" Arthur gave a weak little laugh. "We never get these romantic things right, do we?"

"Well, no, but to be honest," Alfred said, "if the earth had moved the first time we did it, I'd totally have thought Ludwig was bombing us."

"I'm surprised he didn't – he's always had horrible timing. That and the fact that he's not exactly the most romantic person in the world himself – I remain astounded that attention-span-of-a-gnat Feliciano has stayed with him this long – means that I wouldn't have put it past him to unwittingly completely ruin someone else's romantic moment."

"If you could call it that."

"Mm. That old officer's barrack wasn't the most romantic lovenest in the world, was it?" Arthur glanced around at the beautiful décor of the Honeymoon Suite. "And of course we completely wasted this."

"Well..." Alfred nudged up against him suggestively. "We don't have to be out of here until noon..."

"No," Arthur groaned, burying his face in Alfred's shoulder. "I'm hungover. I have a splitting headache."

"Sex is good for a headache."

"No it isn't. You just made that up."

"No, it really is! All those dolphins that get released make the pain go away!"

Arthur shot him a very odd look.

"...You mean endorphins, don't you?" he corrected after a lengthy pause.

"Yeah, those, whatever." Alfred put his arms around Arthur properly, wrapping him up in his grasp. "Come on, baby," he murmured, nibbling at Arthur's ear. "You kinda owe me a wedding night – and it'll make you feel better, I promise."

Arthur tried to squirm away as Alfred started to kiss down his neck; Alfred clung tight to him, loosening a few buttons on his wrinkled shirt and smiling against his throat as he felt his hostile struggling begin to lose momentum.

"Alright, alright," Arthur grumbled as Alfred licked at his shoulder. "But if I throw up on you... well, I'm not taking responsibility. You were warned."

"It's been noted down."

Alfred rolled over and pinned Arthur to the mattress, kissing him all over – on his forehead and his nose and his neck and his collarbone and his chest, saving his mouth for last so that Arthur wanted it and didn't pull away to be antagonistic. Arthur arched upwards into it and opened his bare legs very wide to give Alfred as much room as he wanted, a silent sign that he wasn't going to fuss anymore; still kissing him, Alfred got the last few of his shirt buttons undone and laid it open, trailing his hand down over Arthur's chest and belly, circling his navel with his forefinger as he finally broke the kiss and smiled at him.

Arthur shot him a crooked smile back, putting his arms up on the pillow either side of his head and twisting a little beneath Alfred, his green eyes very dark – striking a pose a little bit like a model.

"This is our wedding night," he said. "More or less, anyway. You're supposed to tell me how beautiful I look, how radiant and perfect I am, as you carefully unfasten every tiny pearl button and slip off my lacy little garter-belt."

Alfred laughed.

"You're hungover and wearing yesterday's shirt because you slept in it," he said. "You look a complete mess, Artie. To be honest, it's kind of a different look for you."

Arthur laughed too and reached up towards Alfred's face, rubbing his thumb over his chin.

"You need to shave," he replied, "and shower and clean your glasses – but that's hardly anything new."

Alfred smirked.

"Oh yeah? Well, you're a cantankerous old grouch."

"That's fine – you're a spoilt little brat." Arthur held up his other hand to look at his brand new wedding ring. "And we're an awful match."

Alfred took his hand and kissed his ring.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," he said. "I've loved you since... well, since forever – and that's never gonna change, Artie, no matter how much we fight over stupid little things. That's ordinary for us and that's... that's how I like it."

He leaned down for another real kiss – Arthur seemed happy enough to accommodate his desire, encircling his arms around his neck. Alfred felt Arthur's thighs bump against his hips as his legs wrapped around him too and then slipped down through his own, becoming intertwined; and for a long moment it was just them and the warmth of the bridal bed and the hush of the rain at the window.

"Still got a headache?" Alfred whispered teasingly as he pulled away.

"Yes," Arthur murmured with a sigh. "It's also known as the idiot I married yesterday."

"Hey, that's not very nice," Alfred whined, biting at Arthur's bottom lip. "Well, whatever – you love me anyway, right?"

Arthur found his hand and linked his own with it, twisting their fingers together, rings glinting in the cold grey ordinary light of morning – and but for those rings it could have been any morning, any day, any year.

"Always, Alfie."

'As I looked up into those eyes

His vision borrows mine—

And I know he's no stranger

For I feel I've held him for all of time'

– Vanessa Carlton, Ordinary Day

Amaranthine comes from the flower amaranth, known for its long life and associated with immortality and undying love.

So that's that! Not many too historical notes for this chapter given that it's set more-or-less in modern day.

That Dutch guy would be Holland/the Netherlands. This is hardly news but New York was New Amsterdam until the British kicked the Dutch out; in fact, "Yankees" is Dutch. The British and French settlers used to make fun of the Dutch settlers by calling them 'John Cheese' (because that seemed to be all they made) and the Dutch for John Cheese is 'Jan Kees', pronounced 'yankees'. ^^ Poor Holland is referred to as "that Dutch guy" by Alfred because I made a point of having the nations refer to each other by their human names in this fic but Holland doesn't have one and it would have been weird for Alfred to have just randomly called him "Holland" so... instead he just forgot his name. Which is probably even worse but oh well.

The Eurovision Song Contest is not necessarily a fix but we in the UK don't do very well very often. It's a vicious circle where we're sort of snooty and stuck-up and don't really care if we win anyway so we don't put in a lot of effort so our entry sucks so nobody votes for it so we don't win so we say we don't care anyway so we don't put in a lot of effort and so forth. This might be because France invented the ESC back in 1956. You're not allowed to vote for your own country, presumably to stop Russia from winning every year because it has the most citizens – but countries with political ties or alliances are known for forming cliques and voting for each other/not voting for certain countries. France and Britain rarely vote for each other and also the Republic of Ireland never votes for us, surprise surprise. Alfred is exaggerating when he says that Arthur hasn't won for twenty years – we actually came First in 1997 but before that the last time we won was in 1981. It may interest you to know that this year, 2010, we finished in last place. Oh well. We don't care anyway, you cliquey continent bastards. XD

As before, same-sex couples couldn't get married/enter into a civil partnership in 1993. I am aware of this – just not tolerant of it, haha.

According to several recent scientific studies, sex is actually a good cure for a headache. The endorphins (not dolphins!) that are released during the act help to combat the pain, rendering the age-old excuse of "Not tonight, dear, I have a headache" entirely void!

Lastly... why is the United States so advanced with everything, having invented the aeroplane, the home computer system and the iPod/iPhone/iPad/iLives-your-entire-life-for-you-device and yet it hasn't caught up with the idea of electric kettles? It absolutely baffles me that no American that I have ever met, at least, has an electric kettle and, when they want to make tea or boil water, they do it on the hob with a flipping metal kettle that whistles. That is so unbelievably old-fashioned for such an advanced country. o.O This is basically me whining about the fact that I had to make tea using a coffee-maker in an American hotel room because there wasn't an electric kettle but seriously, it's weird. You guys! Get with the programme! Buy electric kettles! They're useful for things other than making tea (like making instant ramen) – I gave mine to my suite-mate when I left the USA and she practically bit my arm off for it...

I believe that is it. Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a delight. Thanks for keeping with me on this and I am very glad to hear that all of you (so far) have very much enjoyed this story! I hope you liked the epilogue just as much! =)

Alfred finally got what he wanted. Points for persistence, hero! Even though Arthur is as grouchy as always – well, as with a lot of the humour in Hetalia, it's funny 'cause it's true. Sometimes Arthur is saddeningly accurate... XP



P.S: How epic is it that double-barrel is a double-barrel word?