Here, looking out at the horizon, Lady Liberty, standing so high and proud, Alfred almost wanted to cry. He had stood there for almost two hours now, the statue had just been mounted on the coastline, and never had New York looked so beautiful. The bright burning light that she held warmed his heart so deeply, and he was lost in the copper folds of her dress.
He had only vaguely noticed when Francis had joined him; it was the smell of heavy cologne that had tipped him off to his presence. Alfred didn't mind, in fact he enjoyed the company, even if he did remain silent. That was fine. Silence was fine. She said every word that needed to be said. Alfred truly believed that.
"The others will be coming up to join us soon," Francis' accent was thick, and for a moment Alfred didn't catch what he was saying, so entranced with the setting sun against the ocean.
"You know," he paused.
"Hm?" Francis turned his back to the sight and leaned against the railing, weaving his arms into the bar to keep his balance.
"I like the idea of liberty being a woman." Francis chuckled at the blonde's statement. "I mean it. Kind of like… someone you'll always come home to. Or a mother that comforts you, you know? That's exactly what I want myself to become."
"I believe you have already reached that goal, Alfred." Francis said contemplatively as he tilted his head up to look toward the now slightly-orange sky.
"Well then I want to make myself even better." Alfred said with his toothy grin, and with so much hope it made the Frenchman want to smile. He stopped himself, "I haveta' say, this was really great of you, Francis."
Alfred felt Francis' hand grasp his shoulder as he turned around to face the same direction as the American.
"Alfred, I slept with Mathieu."
Matthew couldn't quite wrap his head around it. His stomach wasn't settling either. He had thought that the feeling in his stomach had been butterflies… maybe a warm sensation that burned passionately every time that man had walked into his line of sight. He had thought it to be a pleasant sensation.
Now it was just making him nauseas.
Matthew looked at the clock on the wall. 4:00 AM. The last time he had checked it had been 3:45. He had woken up sometime around 2:00. He sighed, resigning that he would never get any sleep, nor would he be able to clear his head in this sort of environment.
Carefully, so as not to wake the soundly sleeping man, Matthew carefully slid his legs off the lush bed, found his clothes, and dressed himself. He ignored the growing sensation in his stomach, and the slight welling of his eyes as he looked back to see that the Frenchman had not even stirred in his sleep. And as quietly as he could, shut the door behind him.
"Do you like them, Al?" Alfred clenched and unclenched his hand, trying on the new fit for the sturdy leather gloves.
"These are fantastic! Thank you, Matty!" Alfred's radiant child-like excitement made Matthew laugh, pleased, and made Arthur's lips curve up slightly as he rolled his eyes. Alfred went on examining his hands, liking the way the leather sounded when stretched over his tight fist.
"I have to say, Alfred, I'm surprised you chose to have such a small party this year." Arthur said, reluctantly sipping some lemonade.
"I don't think this really counts as a party, Arthur." Matthew laughed as he took in the close company on Alfred's porch.
"Ah. I spoke too soon." Arthur said smirking as he crossed his legs on the chair.
"Hey don't look at me, I didn't invite anyone else." Alfred said, finally realizing that wearing leather gloves in July was probably a bad idea.
"Here, I'll get it."
"And could you get me some water while you're up?" Arthur added, raising his voice as Matthew left the room.
"Yes, yes, I'm coming. Hang on." The Canadian said to himself, speeding up his steps to stop the door's persistent buzzer. The cooler air inside the house felt good to Matthew, and for a second he wanted to keep the door shut so as not to let in anymore heat. He debated which was worse, America in July, or the annoying buzzing coming from the door. Finally, Matthew decided on turning the knob to open the large door to Alfred's private home. "Yes, can I help… Francis?" Matthew's grip on the door handle clenched tighter, and his hands became clammy at the action.
"Mathieu…" By the looks of it, Francis was definitely not expecting to see the Canadian boy, much less have him open the door. There was a moment where the two just stared at each other before Matthew shook his head to regain his composure.
"Francis, h-how have you been? I haven't seen you much lately." He smiled, nervously, and Francis responded in much the same way.
"I have been well, thank you for asking, Mathieu." The blonde boy loved the way that Francis said his name. It sounded like the most beautiful word in the world when it rolled off the tongue of Francis' native language. "Is your brother here? There is something I wish to discuss with him."
"Oh, yeah. Of course come on in."
The four men gathered around Alfred's large dining table, as Francis removed the center pieces, placemats, and silverware that was set up for the three-man dinner.
"As you all know, Alfred will be turning one hundred in a year." Francis said as he took a large piece of rolled up paper from the bag he had been carrying when he entered the house.
"Yes… and?" Arthur's mood was already soiled at the sight of the Frenchman, and the cryptic speech from him only proved to make his mood worse.
"My, my, aren't we touchy today, Angleterre."
"Really though, Francis, why are you here?" Alfred said leaning against the wall by the table in a confused and guarded stance.
"Well, I at first had gone to Washington, but to my surprise your boss told me you would be spending your birthday at home this year. Amusing, considering there's quite the party going on over there." Francis finally cleared all offending objects from the table and took the band off the rolled-up paper, but didn't lay it out yet. "I left my superiors back in Washington with the more detailed plans, so you'll have to excuse the crude presentation."
"Yes, my dear Mathieu. A presentation! A proposal, if you will, for your one hundredth birthday, Alfred. As I said earlier my superiors should be presenting this same plan to your boss, but I thought it would be better if I were to introduce this to you as well. After all it is your birthday, non?" Alfred nodded slowly, his interest peaking a bit.
The three brothers observed as Francis finally unraveled the plans, almost as long as the dining room table, and quickly grabbed a few cups to try and hold it down. Alfred's eyes widened as he stared at the poster lying casually on his table.
Arthur and Matthew looked at each other for a moment that seemed to share the same level of confusion.
"Francis… are you serious?" Alfred asked, touching the edge of the upturned paper.
"We talked about such a thing ten years ago, you remember?" Francis smiled at Alfred, observing his reaction.
"Well I mean, sure, but… I never really thought it was something you guys would follow up with. No offense, Francis, but your guys can really slam those wines down."
"Wait a second, you want to build that thing here?" Arthur said, perplexed and suspicious by such an action from the Frenchman.
"Yes, I would like to build her here. Or I would at least like to mount her here. I would build her in my own home, of course. But she would preside on the New York coastline, greeting all those who come from afar." Francis smiled at Alfred. "Your own Lady Liberty, Alfred. Would that be all right with you?"
Arthur crossed his arms. Matthew couldn't stop staring at his feet.
"Lady Liberty… I like it."
"This is really a great thing you're doing for Al." Matthew tried to sound happy, he really did. But there was this aching pain that filled his chest. A pain filled with jealousy, and anger for being jealous of his brother in the first place. But those smiling violet eyes… he wanted those to be smiling at him. It was unfair and he knew it, unfair to his brother, and unfair to Francis, but that didn't make his chest hurt any less.
"I suppose." Francis checked over his shoulder to make sure Arthur or Alfred weren't peering out the curtain.
The dirt path that led out of Alfred's home ended and Matthew shuffled his feet slightly as he finally forced himself to face Francis.
"Well… I'll see you at the next meeting, I guess. Um, goodbye." Matthew had turned to leave but something had caught his elbow. The sensation in his chest smeared itself all over his body now and Matthew didn't know whether to turn around or to shake him off and run back inside. Back to his brothers. Back where he knew it was safe.
"I'm sorry I didn't come to see you on your birthday." Matthew jumped. When did he get so close to his ear?
"It's no problem, Al wanted to spend the whole day with me anyway, so don't worry about it."
"Would you turn to face me, Mathieu?" It was barely a whisper but the Canadian's entire body felt like jelly, he was afraid his knees would give out at any second. Slowly he turned his head to face Francis.
They hadn't been this close in so long, it was unnerving. Matthew felt his heart race impossibly fast as those violet eyes seem to make their way even closer.
"I had planned on sending this to you, but I did not expect to see you tonight." Francis slid his fingers down Matthew's arm from his elbow to his hand, grasping the back of it so that it would open, and using his other hand to reach into his pocket and place a simple white envelope into the blonde boy's hands. "Happy Birthday, Mathieu."
Francis leaned in even closer and placed a soft, gentle kiss on Matthew's lips. It took all of the boy's will and then some to not lose himself in the action, but before he even had the chance to Francis had stepped away.
And then he was gone. Matthew didn't open the envelope until he got home.
Alfred woke to the sound of sharp knocks against his door. At first they were light enough to make him stir in his bed. When they came again, Alfred kicked the sheets off his legs but didn't move. Then they came persistently and non-stop, so Alfred sighed and finally relented.
Slowly his feet dragged to the door where the source of the endless knocking was coming from. It sounded like Arthur, or maybe Ivan—those two never really had much patience when it came to him.
So when Alfred had braced himself for a firm scolding, his eyes went wide when he saw his brother before him, hands wringing together, breathing hard, and face flushed from running.
"Matty? What's up? What're you doing here?" The American rubbed his eyes with the backs of his fingers and yawned while keeping his attention on the man before him.
"I, um, I just…" Matthew swallowed the big lump in his throat, trying desperately to make his face obey him, "I just… I felt like I-I really needed to see you for a bit." His voice and his face betrayed him, because no matter how many times he had told them not to, his tears had fallen from his violet eyes mid-sentence.
"Matty? What's wrong, come in, man. What happened?" Alfred ushered his brother in the house, shutting the door behind him, and plopping him on the couch. The Canadian sniffled for a bit as Alfred disappeared into the kitchen, only to return with a couple cups of coffee. Alfred set both cups on the table and scooted the lighter of the two liquids toward his brother, who was still sniffling, trying to calm his tears. Alfred watched his brother slowly sip at his drink as he gulped his down, waiting until he had finished the entire beverage to break the silence.
"Matty." His voice was calm and smooth. "Matty, what happened?" Alfred watched as Matthew set his drink back on the table as well.
"Al… Have you ever… erm," he exhaled, trying not to tread on too much dangerous ground. "Okay, did you think, when you got your independence that maybe… I don't know… certain things would be different?" Matthew looked over to Alfred to see his head tipped slightly to the right and a confused look knitted onto his features.
"How do you mean?"
"For instance, did you think certain things you couldn't change before would be different once you became your own country? That maybe you'd have more control?" Alfred laughed.
"Psh, yeah, that's why I fought so hard." Matthew watched Alfred's features intensify a bit and he smiled slightly.
"What I mean is… did you find you still couldn't change them after you became independent?" That had done it. That had hit a nerve. He knew because his brother's face became serious, and his bright blue eyes became vast pools of liquefied ache. "Um, sorry. That was insensitive of me. I didn't mean to—"
"Listen," he did. "There are certain lessons that you have to learn the hard way. Willing things to be different isn't enough. Not even for us." Alfred leaned back onto the couch, letting his head lay back on the back so he could stare at the ceiling. "If I've learned anything these past few years it's that my power is limited. Whether I'm a country or not, most of the time it barely changes anything." He saw Matthew out of the corner of his eye to see his brother's nervousness. "It just means I have a prettier face for a longer amount of time." He smiled; Matthew did as well, though much more hesitantly. "But you know that's fine. It just proves how much my kids are in control. All 38 million of them, which just makes me want to work harder for them."
Alfred smiled again, much wider this time. Matthew couldn't help but chuckle at his brother's child-like expressions.
"I think I get it." Matthew said on a sigh.
"Good. You crying pisses me off." He smiled. "You're welcome to stay here for the night if you want."
"Yeah, no problem. I'll get you a pillow." Alfred turned on his heel only to turn back around to face his brother on the couch. "Matty one more thing." Matthew turned his head to face his smiling brother. "You have no idea how proud I was when you became independent." Matty blinked a couple of times up at his brother and Alfred smiled, yawning despite the cup of coffee he downed and headed out the room while stretching his arm.
"Al." Matthew called out. Alfred peeked his head back into the room. "…thanks."
"I'm late!" Alfred jumped down four stairs, promptly waking up his snoozing brother on the couch. "Holy Mother of God, I am so late!" Alfred cried, trying to lace his shoes and eat his breakfast at the same time.
"Al?" Matthew yawned, using his arms to push himself up.
"I have a meeting in Washington in fifteen minutes! I can't believe I slept in so much, I have to go go go go go…" Alfred disappeared out of the room trying to gather his things.
"I got it Matty, no worries!" Alfred's voice faded back in as he walked quickly across the room, shoving papers in his briefcase as he went. Alfred opened the door to reveal Francis, with his hair tied back, fidgeting outside the door.
"Francis, what an unpleasant surprise. Can this wait? I have to go." Alfred's speech was rushed as he finished stuffing the papers in his case.
"Believe me, the displeasure is all mine. I just wanted to know if Mathieu was taking refuge here. I would like to speak to him." Alfred's face clenched into a scrutinizing glance.
"And you think I'm going to leave you alone with my brother because…?"
"Al, it's okay. You're late anyway. I'll lock up behind me when I leave." Alfred looked over at Matthew, back to Francis, to the clock, and then back to Matthew.
"Fine. But don't take any of my food." That was directed more towards Francis, who rolled his eyes and almost gagged at the statement. "I'll see you later, Matty!" And with that Alfred ran out the door towards Washington.
For a moment Francis just stood in the doorway staring at the blonde boy before him, who continued to sit on the couch, facing the wall as he blinked several times in an attempt to wake up.
Matthew could hear Francis finally decide to step inside the house and close the door behind him. He clenched his fists and tried to make the knot in his stomach untangle. The Canadian closed his eyes, hoping that maybe if they stayed closed long enough he wouldn't have to see him, that maybe everything would go away, and that this burning feeling in his stomach would at least dull.
But Matthew knew that wouldn't be the case when he could feel Francis kneel in front of him, and take his hand, gently coaxing the Canadian's eyes open. And immediately Matthew wished he hadn't.
Staring at Francis' bright violet eyes made his breath hitch as he could feel the way that he had touched him, kissed him, and felt him not even twenty four hours ago. He remembered the way he had whispered in his ear, and embraced him. He exhaled shakily as those feelings of comfort, arousal, confusion, and guilt consumed him. Matthew could feel his eyes water slightly from being so overwhelmed.
"Mathieu…" his voice was soft and calm as he stroked the back of Matthew's hand with his thumb. "Why did you leave last night?" Matthew's heart stopped.
"I-I…" Matthew closed his eyes again but the feeling was still just as intense. "I just… wanted to talk to my brother for a bit."
"About us?" Matthew opened his eyes again, staring at Francis as bravely as he could.
"No. Not about us." The hopeful look in Francis' eyes died slightly, and the Frenchmen hardened his face. Matthew focused on the carpet next to him.
"…Why not?" His voice was even quieter now, searching for something in each of Matthew's replies. Matthew's stomach tightened and it felt as though he might throw up.
"Because… last night… that was a mistake."
There was silence and Matthew could feel his words weigh down in his chest, making his breathing more rapid and his hands shake a little bit. He wished Francis would say something, anything. Matthew squeezed his eyes shut only to have the hand around his tighten.
"Look at me, Mathieu." Reluctantly, he followed that man's orders. "I thought I had made it clear last night that it had been anything but a mistake." Francis' eyes were narrowed as he stared at the panicked boy. "When I found you had fled this morning it broke my heart, my sweet Mathieu." He was lost in the Frenchmen's voice, concentrating on each accent-drenched syllable, and subconsciously he leaned into the hand that brushed away a few strands of hair off his face. When he looked back to see that Francis was truly distraught, he finally let his tears flow off his face.
"Francis… we can't. I'm sorry but we can't, I can't."
"But you do not say why, why is it that you cannot lose yourself for once."
"Because… because I can't… Al will…" Matthew let his eyes flutter around the room, trying desperately to find the right words.
"Is that it? Is this about your brother? Mon cher, please do not let such a trivial thing get in the way—"
"It's not trivial, Francis!" Matthew finally settled his eyes on his, taking a few deep breaths before continuing. "My brother and I… we grew up together, when you and Arthur both had to leave for Europe when we were colonies we didn't have any one else. I can't have him… lose his trust in me over this."
"Lose trust… why would a relationship with me cause your brother to—"
"Because I know, Al knows, Arthur knows, about all the people you bring back home with you!" Matthew, if he had it his way, would never have said it aloud. But cryptic messages wouldn't work on Francis anymore. As much as he hated to be, he had to be direct. "I can't… I can't be just another fling, Francis. It would hurt too much. And for my brother to see me like that…" Matthew exhaled audibly. "I wouldn't be able to stand it."
Francis, in response, slowly took his hand back from Matthew's and cupped the boy's face, collecting tears as he did so, and looked him straight in the eye.
"Mathieu… I love you, I could never betray you in such a way." Matthew broke. He broke because the amount of want to give into those words was overwhelming. He broke because it took every fiber in his body to resist leaning forward those last few centimeters and taste the Frenchmen just as he did last night.
He broke because he knew he wasn't the first person he had said this to.
"I love you too." Matthew placed his hands over the Frenchmen's and squeezed before pushing them away. "But that's not enough."
"Kick his ass good, lad!" Arthur laughed at seeing Francis pinned under Alfred, the Frenchmen's arm stretched painfully behind his back with the American's foot positioned so that it was keeping Francis' head down.
"Al! Cut it out, come on!" Matthew cried as Francis let out a painful screech. Alfred quickly turned his head to pin a slight glare-pout on Matthew, whose stomach dropped at the expression.
"You two go on to dinner, I need to talk to Francis for a bit." Alfred put more pressure on the foot that was on Francis' head only to have Francis cry out in discomfort once again.
"Come on, my boy. It's best not to get involved." Arthur said turning Matthew around and heading toward the door on the roof and in a matter of seconds they had shuffled out the door toward the restaurant.
Alfred stretched Francis' arm back even further.
"Ahh! Ugh, are you satisfied yet?" Alfred took in a few breaths before letting go of Francis' arm and standing up off the Frenchmen.
Francis raised himself on all fours before slowly letting himself up by holding onto the railing on the side of the roof.
"You're lucky I didn't throw you off the side of the building." Alfred mumbled to himself.
"I'm surprised you didn't." Francis said brushing off the dust on his suit. "I did not tell you to spite you, Alfred."
"…Then why did you tell me?" Alfred said facing him, his glare serious and hurt. He stared back at the figure across the water, his eyes narrowing even more. "Is that why you gave me that thing? Did you think I'd somehow be okay with this if you gave me her?"
Francis cringed, avoiding the American's gaze. Alfred frowned, exhaling sharply at realizing he was not far off from the truth.
"Is that what this is? Compensation?" Alfred's voice was stirring with anger he had never witnessed from the boy before. His voice was low and his fists were clenched and barely restrained.
"Non, non! Of course not, Alfred!"
"Let me set this straight for you, Francis. You could build me the most beautiful, and the highest tower in the world and I would never be okay with you playing my brother."
"I do not wish to play your brother!" Francis shouted back. "I only wish to love him freely! I gave you Ms. Liberty because…" Francis trailed off, running his hand through his hair, looking away from the American whose gaze had still not calmed. "I gave you her as a way of asking permission to enter in a relationship with your brother."
"…Enter a relationship? If you've been sleeping with him—"
"You misunderstand. I slept with him once, he would never allow me to get close to him again after. He was too worried about what you would think of him." Francis leaned back on the railing of the roof, breathing out the weight he had been carrying since August of 1867.
"…Why should I trust you?" Alfred shook his head. "No, why should I trust you with my brother?"
"He is a big boy, Alfred. He can look out for himself."
"That doesn't mean I can't look out for him, too." Alfred stated sharply. Francis sighed.
"…Ever since that night I had with Mathieu, I couldn't bring myself to be with any other." Francis peered over at Alfred. "I have been in pursuit of your brother for the past eighteen years. And yet all he wants is your blessing more so then anything else." Francis could see Alfred shift a bit out of the corner of his eye. "He can't bring himself to be with me otherwise."
"…And that's why you built her? Is this supposed to be some form of bribery?" Alfred's tone was still not convinced, and Francis could tell. His heart sunk at the thought that all of this effort would be for naught.
"Again, you misunderstand. I do not hold any ill intentions. I do not wish to buy you over. I simply wish to prove myself worthy for your brother."
Alfred stared back over the horizon toward a figure that, not even ten minutes ago, brought tears to his eyes. He looked at her now with contemplation and an emotion Francis couldn't quite read before Alfred sighed.
"Let's go to dinner."
Matthew sat in front of the fireplace, watching the flames spark up and crack as if he were hypnotized. Kumajiro was set firmly in his lap, sleeping through the snowstorm that raged outside the walls of the house, stealing heat from the fire and his owner.
Matthew sighed deeply as he unclenched his fist to reveal a crumpled piece of paper, worn from years of crumpling, tears, and time.
He wanted to scream, he was so frustrated with his own emotions. He longed for his presence, wanted to be near him every opportunity he was given, and yet when he was he could only feel bubbling guilt and dissatisfaction.
And then he would remember that kiss, something that resonated with him even more then the night they had been together.
The day after they had fought so many years ago he had gone to a meeting and Francis had acted as if nothing had happened. He acted as if he hadn't remembered at all what he had said to him, about the promise he had made to him.
Matthew shook his head, trying to focus once more on the flames before him. He hated having his thoughts wander in such a way; it made him unsure of what to do with himself and caused him to go into a slump for however long his mind tormented him.
He didn't want to think about Francis right now. He didn't want to think about his brothers, or even himself. He didn't want to drive himself crazy with the letter that had accompanied the kiss six years ago. He didn't want to drive himself crazy like this.
He just wanted to enjoy the fire and sleep. Matthew sighed before smoothing out the paper as best as he could to its original form. He read the words over and over, hating himself for being so weak. But there was something about the words that were scrambled onto the paper that comforted him in some sort of sick way.
"I haven't forgotten. I still love you."
He knew he needed to move on, that dwelling on such a thing was hazardous to his health, and yet he couldn't help but wait. Wait to see what happened. Wait to see if maybe it was okay to go on loving him for just a little while longer.
Francis felt his heart stop beating at the words that Matthew had so harshly dealt him. He stared at him, hopeful that this was some sort of sick joke, that maybe he would take a moment and decide to give in, instead of throwing this all away.
That couldn't happen. He couldn't let that happen. He wouldn't let Matthew slip through his fingers like this.
So instead he glared at him out of desperation and took his hands back from the Canadian as he stood up.
"Is that it then, Mathieu? Am I just supposed to leave? Are you expecting me to just walk away so simply?"
"Honestly, yes!" Matthew retaliated as he stood up as well to face him, his eyes filled with frustration and pain. Francis ran a hand through his hair and paced to the other side of the room only to turn to face him once again.
"I know what sort of reputation I hold, mon cher! But I will not allow such a thing to keep me from you." Francis stormed over to Matthew and grabbed both his shoulders, causing him to let out a slight gasp. "I will find a way to be with you, I promise you." Francis' eyes were narrowed darkly, and Matthew could only stare in shock at the Frenchman's declaration.
"I do not wish to let you get away." It was whispered, but the impact it had on the blonde boy before him was immense, clawing at his heart even as Francis turned on his heel and left the house with a huff.
When Alfred got home, Matthew was still there.
"So what was that all about?" Matthew had finally asked as he and Alfred were taking a walk through some of the old places they used to as kids.
It had been a week since Matthew had caught his brother trying to break off Francis' arm and he still hadn't had the courage to ask what had happened.
Alfred had been acting strange ever since that dinner. He couldn't be in the same room as Francis, and he could barely look him in the eye. It caused his stomach to twist, and he was honestly too scared to face that Alfred might finally know what had happened after so many years.
Alfred looked over at his brother's worrying face.
"So I talked to Francis."
"I saw that much." Matthew rolled his eyes. Alfred laughed.
"You know what he asked me?"
Matthew didn't respond.
"He asked if he could have permission to 'enter a relationship' with you." Alfred mimicked the French accent, but it was lost on Matthew who had stopped walking to face his brother. Alfred realized this and finally turned around and gave him a serious glance.
The wind blew between the two brothers instead of silence and it made Matthew fidget.
"He um, also said you guys kinda…" Alfred rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "…A few years back." Matthew filled in the blanks.
"Holy Mother of—" Matthew flushed completely before burying his face in his hands trying to not process that fact that his brother knew about his sex life eighteen years ago. "Al, I am so sorry I didn't tell you about it." His voice was muffled from his hands still, and Alfred let his expression soften.
"No! Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm sorry! I wanted to really but…" Matthew sighed. "I just… I thought I could handle it."
"He told me you ended it." Alfred continued to walk, Matthew followed behind him by a few steps down the path.
"I don't think 'ended it' is appropriate when nothing ever started." Matthew laughed bitterly and Alfred looked over his shoulder. "I didn't tell you because I thought it could all blow over. I mean we were…" Alfred cringed, Matthew blushed. "together once. But after that it was over. I didn't want you to beat up Francis over that."
"I wouldn't have beaten—"
"Well at least not horribly." Alfred rolled his eyes, and despite walking behind him, Matthew could tell. He smiled. "Now, it may be none of my business. And don't get me wrong I'm not exactly a fan of that French frog but… why did you break it off?"
Matthew sighed and looked up toward the blue autumn sky before setting his gaze back onto the path. After a few minutes Alfred realized he wasn't responding and took a deep breath.
"He said it had something to do with me." Matthew tensed.
"Y-yeah." Alfred finally stopped walking again to turn to face him. "I mean… I know how you feel about Francis and… I had just become independent I didn't want you to… to lose faith in me for any reason."
"I couldn't believe him when he said he loved me." He wiped his eyes before continuing. "And if I couldn't even look at myself, I didn't expect you to either." Matthew wiped his eyes again, trying not to let in any opening for his tears. "The moment I got my independence I become just another body for Francis. Most people don't take me seriously as it is!" Matthew finally fought back his tears and they dissolved with his frustration.
"…Do you still not believe that he loves you?"
"Don't look at me, I'm not the middle man here." Matthew rolled his eyes.
"…I don't know. Sometimes he acts like nothing happened but then there are other times…" Matthew lost himself in thought. Thinking back to when he had kissed him on Alfred's birthday. He thought to all the times he had read and reread that note he had given him. And he thought about the promise he had made to be with him one day.
And now this? Going to his brother? Asking him like this? Telling him everything?
"I don't know what to think, I just…" Matthew sighed. "I know I still love him." It was barely a whisper but Alfred heard it clear as day.
"Well I'll be honest. Your taste in guys is a bit bizarre." Matthew smiled at Alfred's cheered up tone of voice. "But… if you love him you love him. That's just how these things go." Alfred put an arm around his brother.
"Matty, I want you to be happy. If that comes before my comfort so be it." Alfred tightened his embrace when he felt his brother tense slightly. "You're way more important, okay?"
"Thank you, Al." He was crying, that much he could tell. Matthew's tears were soaking into his voice and a bubble of discomfort settled into Alfred's stomach. He would never get used to his brother crying. "Thank you."
"…all he wants is your blessing more than anything else."
"…No problem, Matty. It never is."
Francis stared at his beautiful sculpture, his lovely lady across the water. Her posture was so majestic, and every detail about her was absolutely perfect. Nothing less.
And here he was, surrounded by a crowd of bustling people, all talking about his creation. It made him proud, and it made him feel safe.
He felt proud because in the end, it was his creation, despite his motives, there she was standing proud and tall. And he felt safe because he doubted Alfred would hit him in front of so many people.
It had been the same place that he had conversed with Alfred a week prior, right at the grand revealing of the beautiful statue. Now the spot had been discovered by people trying to take in the full view of Lady Liberty. He was lucky he found a spot by the railing where he could get a clear view and rest his arms. He waited for Alfred as patiently as he could with all the voices stirring around him.
"Look how beau—"
"Be careful not to trip—"
"I went to see it three days ago it was stunning—"
"Don't listen to him he's such a fool—"
"I found the best recipe—"
"I love you."
And then everything else was silent. He couldn't hear footsteps, he couldn't hear voices. At first he thought his mind was playing tricks on him, but slowly he turned his head and time seemed to stop completely as Matthew stood before him, a bright blush on his cheeks, but his eyes narrowed with determination and want.
"What?" He didn't know if he had heard it. He didn't know if it came from Matthew's sweet voice or from the endless chatter that wrapped around him like a delicate sheet.
"Francis… I love you." And the feeling of warmth spread through his body. He found it hard to breathe the longer he stared at the smaller boy. Slowly he reached out to brush some of the Canadian's hair to the side, but noticed Matthew's distinctly uncomfortable stance.
Suddenly he came back to reality, where they were not the only two people atop this building, that any sort of physical movement toward this boy would cause a certain uproar. So instead Francis grabbed Matthew's wrist and quickly pulled him behind him, off the roof, down the stairs, and as far away from the statue as possible.
The further they went, the less people there were, until finally they had reached a portion of the cold East Coast beach, too far from any sort of action to have any appeal. Matthew stopped for a moment to catch his breath.
"That was…" Matthew gasped. "A bit uncalled for, don't you think." He laughed lightly from the Frenchman's reaction, but noticed that he said nothing. "Francis?"
And just like that there was an arm around his waist, and a hand lightly caressing his cheek. And his face… it was so close. When was the last time they had been this close?
Matthew couldn't remember anything for a moment.
"I told you I wouldn't forget." Francis whispered. "I told you I would find a way." Matthew nodded because he didn't know what else to do, his eyes were wide and expectant and he let himself lean into the hug without taking his eyes of Francis'. "Thank you for waiting."
And that was when it hit him. He had been waiting for so long and now he didn't have to anymore. He didn't have to hide anything, not from Francis, not from his brother, and not from himself. It felt surreal after so many years of being denied, and denying.
"I love you." Matthew said it once more. He had to, for his sanity.
"I love you too."
This time, he believed him.
And when he closed his eyes this time, he felt lips on his own that fit so well he wondered why he had waited so long in the first place.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to The United States to commerate the friendship they had formed during the War for Independence. Talk about the statue first started in 1865 and in 1876 France began building the statue and it wasn't completed until 1884 in France. From there it was shipped to the US in 1885, and the grand revealing of the statue wasn't until 1886. It was supposed to be a late 100th birthday present, basically.
Canada gained independence on July 1st 1867.
It's sad but true, I love North American Bromance just as much as any of my other OTPs. Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed!