A/N: I could have listed Matthew as the second character here, since he actually gets more "screen time" than Arthur, but then it wouldn't be romance, and I wanted this to be a USxUK story. So it is.
"I could get in big trouble for being here you know."
Alfred hissed as Matthew cleaned another slash on his shoulder blade.
"You don't have to be then," he answered.
"Don't be silly. I can't leave you alone now of all times. What Arthur doesn't know won't hurt him."
Matthew sighed. He hated seeing Alfred like this. Divided, hurting, new wounds appearing every day. He could tell how the war was going by where the new injuries showed up. A bruise on his ribs meant a hard hit for the Union. A deep gash in his leg and the south had suffered a particularly bloody loss. If this kept up, pretty soon Alfred would be unable to walk.
He'd been avoiding the president as much as possible. He wouldn't see anyone, really, save Matthew. And that's exactly why he did have to be there.
"I can't support you as colony, with supplies or troops, but the least I can do as person is help you this way. You're my brother, Alfred. I'm not going to let you suffer alone."
Alfred smiled weakly at him over his shoulder.
"You have to do something Matthew. We need him, and you're the only person he'll listen to."
"Yes, I'm aware of that, Arthur, but you know as well as I do that he's stubborn and when he sets his mind to something, even I can't change it. I'm doing the best I can." Matthew sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I've tried everything I can think of. I told him exactly what Ludwig is doing over there. I asked him to do it for you, for me; I even played on that hero thing he's had going since last time. He won't budge."
On the other end of the line, Arthur sighed too. "Well, I guess for now I should just be glad he's selling me supplies. Keep trying, please."
"Yeah I w– " he heard a sharp cry of pain from the next room. "Alfred? Alfred!"
"Matthew, what's going on over there?" Arthur asked, voice laced with worry.
"Arthur, I'll call you back," he said into the phone. He vaguely heard Arthur protesting but didn't acknowledge him as he hung up the phone and ran toward the sound.
Matthew rushed into the next room to find Alfred leaning against the wall, looking like he might collapse and clutching his side.
"Alfred!" he wrapped an arm around his brother to guide him into a sitting position on the floor. "Alfred what's wrong?"
Alfred breathed, trying to relax as much as possible. "I-I'm not sure…" he gasped out, "but something's happened…people are dying , and I can feel it…"
Matthew reached over to turn on the radio, and sure enough, the radio announcers were reporting that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Matthew stared.
"Japan…? Has Kiku lost his mind?"
A few days later, Alfred was on the phone with Arthur himself.
"Yes, Arthur, I'm fine. I'll be there to join you as soon as I can."
"Good. I'll have any important information to you right away," he paused. "And…Alfred?"
"I know I was pushing you to join the war effort, but I never wanted this to happen to you."
Alfred released a weary sigh.
"I know, Arthur. I know."
Arthur stood looking out of the kitchen window with his morning tea. It was a bright, beautiful September morning, and Alfred had all kinds of plans for them today.
As he continued contemplating the scene before him, he felt two arms wrap around his waist and a broad, warm chest against his back.
Alfred kissed his cheek and water dripped onto his shoulder. "Alfred!" Arthur chided lightly, "your hair." Alfred grinned and shook his head like a great oversized puppy, splattering Arthur's face and shirt with water.
Arthur tried to glare, but Alfred only continued to grin and kissed him lightly.
"Good morning baby," he said, and Arthur's face relaxed in a warm smile.
"Good morning. I made you some coffee," he nodded toward the coffee maker.
"Ah, thanks, you're the best." Alfred smiled, and, with another kiss to the cheek, went to pour himself a cup.
Arthur sat down at the table and asked, "So, what is the plan for today?"Alfred turned to face him with a smile, coffee in hand.
"Well first I –" he stopped short; the mug slipped from his hand and shattered on the floor, coffee spilling everywhere.
Before Arthur could be out of his seat, Alfred had collapsed, one arm wrapped around his stomach and the other clutching at his chest.
"Alfred!" Arthur cried, kneeling beside him and wrapping his arms around him. "Alfred, what's wrong?"
"TV," Alfred managed. "Turn it on." Arthur grabbed the remote and flipped on the television, and there it was. One of the towers of the World Trade Center, burning. Alfred gave a little cry of shock, and Arthur stared. Who would…? And why…?
He was unable to finish that thought for Alfred cried out in pain again, and on the television a second plane slammed into the other tower.
Arthur wanted to do something, but for now there was nothing he could do but hold Alfred close and watch the towers burn.
That evening he held a still very shaken Alfred as they lay together on the couch and President Bush addressed the nation.
"This changes everything…" Arthur murmured quietly. Alfred nodded against his chest.
"I have to retaliate. I can't let one attack go, let alone four."
Arthur nodded. "You do." They were silent for a few moments, and then Arthur added softly, murmuring into Alfred's hair, "And I'll be right beside you."
Alfred knew this already, but something about hearing Arthur say this now, when he most needed him, caused him to slowly lift his head to look at Arthur, tears in his eyes. He leaned forward and kissed him gently, whispering, "Thank you," against his lips.
A/N: "four"- Counting each tower separately, there were four attacks on September 11, 2001. The towers, the Pentagon, and the plane that went down in a Pennsylvania because the brave passengers took it over and saved our Capitol Building.
Please let me know what you thought of this story and poor Alfred's pain. I'm thinking about another story related to 9/11, but first I'm trying to finish a Christmas story in time for Christmas...I don't think I will.