Guilt of Christmas Past

An England/America APH Fic By Diane Long

Fat flakes of snow tumbled lazily through the grey ending of a December day in Virginia as Arthur payed his taxi fare. Hefting his small travel tote over his shoulder, he slammed the car door smartly and turned to observe Alfred's home as it stood against the the dark clouds of an impending ice storm.

Thousands of primary coloured lights framed the lines, angles, windows, and doors of the historic three storied frame and timber home. Each of the many windows sported a cheerful candle and a green pine wreath with glorious red bows and trailing ribbons. The grand old trees about the property were strung with with white lights all the way to the tops of their branches. Had the decorating stopped there, the home would have been post card perfect.

Of course, Alfred being the tasteless idiot he was, it didn't stop there.

An illuminated plastic sleigh and reindeer were launching from the roof on a seeming collision course with a large evening star with shooting rays of light strings. A grouping of similarly glowing angels seemed to be singing karaoke around the chimney.

Down on the lawn were illuminated snowmen, carolers, and animatronic wicker deer that endlessly raised and lowered their heads to feast on the snow covered lawn. An inflated santa on a harley seemed to have just missed turning the deer into twinkle-light road kill.

Dear lord- was that an inflated snow globe with a santa train running circles around a track while fake snow whirled about inside? Dreadful.

England shuddered. It got worse every year.

But still, this was the second year he had come to help decorate as a lover, to participate in the madness. Things were going so well, so much had been rebuilt between them. The tackiest of decorations couldn't detract from the happiness he felt.

The sound of a staple gun drew his attention to a tall ladder propped up against the house. Stepping gingerly onto the icy driveway, England approached.

"Oi Alfred, maximizing your carbon foot print, are you?" he called up to the roof.

A happy woop sounded from the opposite side of the roof and soon America's beaming face popped over the top of the roof.

"Arthur!" he called, all smiles and rosy cheeks. "Dude, you made it!"

"Yes," Arthur retuned, head tilted back. " Luckily my flight just beat the ice storms. Logan was shutting down to incoming flights just as I got my luggage."

"Cool – for you that is, " the younger nation cheered, clambering over the peak of the roof. "So... whaddaya think?" he asked with an expansive swing of his arms.

Arthur smiled at the familiar jeans and bomber jacket combination with the addition of the long, striped Doctor-Who-style muffler England himself had knitted for Alfred's Christmas present last year. Its fringe was dangling at the tips of America's trainers.

"Do be careful," England chided, moving to brace the ladder with one hand. "We don't want a repeat of last year."

America laughed sheepishly as he wrapped the muffler around his neck a few more times to lessen the tripping hazard. "We were only in ER so long because heart attacks get seen faster than broken wrists," he protested.

"Don't get me started on your sodding healthcare system," England grumbled as he rattled the ladder. "Now get down here; the weather will worsen shortly."

"Okay, okay," America laughed scrambling down the ladder like a gangly squirrel. "But, really, did you see my awesome snow globe?"

"I dare say I couldn't miss it," England drawled, soaking up America's continuous laughter. It washed through him and warmed against the cold. He had missed him so.

"Awww man," Alfred complained, his feet hitting the ground. He turned and mock punched England in the shoulder. "You are so boring!" Alfred rubbed his nose against England's.

"That's all the greeting a man gets after a nine hour flight?" England asked with an arched brow.

"Eskimo kisses are romantic!" America protested, taking charge of England's bag. "Besides, if I kiss-you, kiss-you out here, our lips will freeze together."

"That is utter rot and you know it." Arthur's lips twitched. It was hard to tell if Alfred really believed in these things or not. "And besides, Eskimo is a pejorative term. You should say 'Inuit'."

"Nah," Alfred said heading up the walk to the front door. "Alaska's got both Yupik and Inuit peoples. Eskimo covers 'em both. They don't mind so much."

Appreciating the traction provided by the rock salt on the pavers Arthur followed. "It means 'eater of raw meat'," England protested. "You really ought not say it."

America groaned. "Stop talking to Canada."

"And Greenland," England added.

"Whatever. Everyone thinks its so cool that Japan eats raw fish. What's the big deal?" America opened the door and ushered England into the warm house.

"This is precisely why you still have so many problems with prejudice and institutionalized racism, Alfred," England's voice took on a note of urgency. "Language matters, you should set an example."

America set the travel bag on a cherry credenza and wrapped his arms around England. His eyes flicked up stairs, then focused on England. "It makes me hot and bothered when you lecture me," he teased not at all looking repentant. "Welcome home, Babe." He brushed his lips against England's.

Arthur suddenly felt breathless at the sweet touch paired with the claiming of this of all places as his home. "You should listen to me more often," he whispered before dragging his lips against Alfred's chin and chewing at his bottom lip. "Much," he licked lightly at Alfred's inner lip. "More," he pulled away and puffed warm air in the space between them. "Often," he joined their mouths fully in an opened mouth exploration.

"Mmmmm," Alfred agreed. "Never said I didn't," he chuckled as he pulled away and unwound his scarf, flinging it on the banister of the staircase. His leather jacket soon followed, landing at an odd angle and sliding halfway to the floor.

England licked his lips, already missing the contact. "Where are you going?"

Alfred grinned. "At least take your coat off before you jump me, " he chided. "I'll go make us some hot chocolate." He edged away, his jeans hugging him like a glove, a perfect counter point to his oversized red sweatshirt that sagged down past his ass.

England was frustrated, but did enjoy the view. He removed his black pea coat and carefully hung it in the hall closet after stuffing his gloves in the pocket and winding his yellow scarf around the hanger. If Alfred was in his typical uniform, so was he in his slacks, white oxford and green sweater. He had passed on the tie this evening, however. Alfred tended to half choke him while trying to get it off.

"Do you ever use this closet for yourself?" He eased of of his wet shoes and lined them up neatly on the door mat, shaking his head at the trail of snow and salt Alfred had tracked down the hallway.

"What?" America called from the kitchen.

"Never mind," England called back. "I'll just go up and get settled." He paused, then added, "And I want tea!"

"Hurry back!"

Arthur shook his head. What a tease- hot then cold then hot. Bag in hand, Arthur went up the stairs, the thick carpet of the runner feeling nice against his argyle socks.

He entered the bedroom amazed as always at its neatness. The lad must have a secret service cleaning crew. Or maybe Brownies. The queen sized oak sleigh bed dominated the room as it had for centuries and was made up neatly with a cream coloured down duvet and a multitude of pillows. Arthur smiled fondly at the old stuffed rabbit propped among the pillows.

"Hullo Velveteen," he greeted it as he set his bag on the bed and unzipped it. "Has Alfred been behaving?" he asked as he quickly sorted his clothing into the chest of drawers.

There was a whisper of sound as Arthur was sliding his tote under the bed. He looked up and saw that the paw of the rabbit had shifted to point at the head of the bed and its button eyes seemed to regard him with purpose.

"What is it?" he whispered. Arthur's affiliation with the secondary realms often offered him connection to spirits and a few of Alfred's much loved possessions had taken on enough sentience that he could communicate with them on the most basic of levels. They had only begun reaching out during his last short visit, and this was the clearest communication yet.

He looked to where the paw was pointing and saw a bundle of holly, its glossy green leaves and red berries tied with twine and tucked into the scroll work at the head of the bed.

Protection from evil.

Arthur frowned. He had used holly when Alfred was a child to ward off the ghosts and evil spirits that were attracted to the young boy's innocence and power. He had never acknowledged that the ghosts the boy saw were real as it would only have further terrified the child. But it had been quite a vexing problem. The spirits had always thronged to the boy, driving him to fits.

And obviously the lad had figured out the purpose of the holly (always too smart for his own good). Was there a problem? Arthur extended his senses to scan the room and didn't really pick up on anything. Maybe a trace of something sour, but he couldn't be sure.

"Thank you," Arthur said gravely to the rabbit. "I will be on guard."

With a last look around the bedroom, Arthur padded out and down the stairs, at the bottom he carefully avoided treading on the melting snow Alfred had tracked through the house.

Paying attention as he entered the family room he noticed sprigs of holly tucked into the frames of old photographs, tied to the catches of the window sills, and displayed decoratively on low tables and on the mantel of the fire place. As he warmed his hands over the flames, he noticed a ball of mistletoe -another protective herb- over the door leading to the back deck and if memory served he had been kissed already under the mistletoe above the front door.

The clattering of crockery came in from the other room and he allowed himself to leave the warmth of the flames and wander into the large farm-style kitchen. As expected, over the back door was more mistletoe toe and holly sprigs were scattered about this room as well.

How unusual. It was like a druid had taken up residence. This wasn't like Alfred at all.

Speaking of whom, Alfred was frowning over a tea timer as the last few seconds ticked away. The timer bleated the tinny signal and the tall young man flicked it off with his thumb. Brow furrowed, he took the tea ball out of the pot, managing to drip it all over the counter and his pants. "Shit!" He tossed the whole mess into the sink. The small container of milk wobbled as it was knocked aside in the rush.

What a lovely surprise. Alfred was actually making him tea. When was the last time that had happened?

Alfred continued to swear under his breath as he replaced the lid of the tea pot and and made sure the quilted cozy was pulled up the sides. He stuck a burned finger into his mouth and sucked while he snagged a pottery mug out of the cupboard.

Arthur eased up behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist, and burying his nose in his lover's neck. He took a deep breath enjoying the smell had missed for months. It was getting easier to be unguarded.

Alfred jumped a little. "Oh! Heh, heh. Tea's ready. I tried to make it like you like it, but I make no promises."

"Thank you, luv. I'm impressed." And he was- that Alfred was being open abut this. Of course Alfred knew exactly how to make a perfect cuppa, he had been raised by the British Empire after all. Normally Alfred would rather die than admit he could do it. Perhaps some old issues were smoothing themselves out for him.

"Aw, don't be. I don't know how you can stand that bitter stuff anyway," Alfred deflected.

"Mmmm." Arthur decided not to go there, and reached his hands out while still pressed against America's back to make the tea, peering over Alfred's shoulder to guide his movements. He tipped some milk into a mug and followed it with a good pour from the pot. He stirred it with an old silver spoon Alfred had left lying on the counter. "Sugar?"

Wordlessly Alfred handed him a pack of Splenda from a drawer.

"Sugar," Arthur repeated firmly, waving the little yellow packet away.

Grunting a little, Arthur reached across the counter, dragging Arthur with him, and edged the sugar bowl within Arthur's reach.

"Thank you," Arthur murmured scooping a teaspoon into his mug and stirring, the clacking of the metal spoon against the clay filling the silent kitchen. He set the spoon down and observed the steam rising form the tea, then flicked his eyes to the mistletoe over the door.

Alfred was being strangely quiet, and the tension in his muscles spoke of alert vigilance.

Arthur wrapped his arms back around Alfred's middle and stretched up to align his lips to Alfred's ear. "What are you so afraid of?" he asked in a soft breath.

Predictably, Alfred's back went ramrod straight. "What are you talking about? Ha ha ha. Afraid of what?"

Arthur hadn't missed the back door's reflection of Alfred's chagrin before the boy put on his usual cheery mask.

Alfred twisted in England's grip and the older nation let him go.

"You are losing it old man," America scoffed. "This is Christmas not Halloween!" He took a long swallow of his Swiss Miss.

Raising his own cup to his lips, England took a delicate sip, his eyes narrow as they contemplated his companion over the rim. Like he hadn't been the one to teach America about deflection through rude behavior.

"What?" Alfred asked, rubbing the back of his neck self consciously. "Is the tea that bad? Sorry man, you know I can't do it right."

"What is the purpose of the holly and the mistletoe?" Arthur edged a firm note into his voice. Maybe he shouldn't push, but if there was a problem, he needed to know about it.

"Oh that green stuff? Just Christmas decorations I got at the farmer's market." Alfred shrugged. "I thought you would like them."

England felt an eyebrow rising. So it just happened they were all strategically placed to guard entrances and sleeping places? Right.

"I mean, geeze, you used to put the stuff up all over the place when I was a kid," America prevaricated looking deeply discomfited.

"So I did," England said not budging one inch. "Why do you think that was?" he lead, trying to make it easier on the boy.

"Right. So, um, let's get started on the tree. I saved it just for you." America hurried out of the kitchen and into the living room. Christmas music started up shortly thereafter.

Arthur glanced around the kitchen. All was quiet and nothing was there that shouldn't be. Taking his tea with him, Arthur meandered into the family room.

America was on his knees in front of a seven foot white pine, digging through several boxes of ornaments. "Wow – some of these are so old," he said holding a hand blown and silvered glass ball to the light. He carefully hooked it over a branch and admired his work.

Elvis was crooning on about a blue Christmas, but Arthur didn't mind. Alfred was more considerate than he let on. There would be a decent mix of celtic, jazz, and classical tunes peppered amongst the rock.

"Indeed, so they are," England said, willing to be distracted for now. He clipped a pre-WWI hand blown glass bird to a branch. "Polish, isn't it?"

Alfred looked up from his modern plastic Tigger and Pooh ornament. "Yeah, that one has survived a lot." He straightened the bent skate blade on Tigger's foot before finding the ornament a home on the perfect branch. A soft, quiet smile graced his lips.

Arthur watched Alfred closely. Outside he had been his usual joyful, if annoying, self. Ever since entering the house he seemed more subdued. Even the kiss had been abbreviated – they hadn't seen each other in months and here they were decorating the tree instead of mussing up that perfectly made bed. Alfred wasn't even singing along with Elvis. In fact, he was hiding it well, but he kept sneaking looks down the hall.

"Alfred, come now. You must tell me about the holly and the mistletoe."

Alfred's jaw set in the stubborn lines Arthur knew all too well. "Like I said, it came from the farmers market." He hid his face in the box under the pretense of rooting around for more ornaments.

"Why..." Arthur started.

"Why didn't you ever bring me a Christmas tree when I was little?" Alfred was quick to cut him off, baiting him. "Wasn't I your favorite colony?"

"You're off your trolley. That's because you were my colony, not Ludwig's. I didn't even get my first Christmas tree until Victoria married Albert. That was around 1840 – you were far removed from being my colony at that point," Arthur said, frowning a little. Clearly Alfred didn't want to talk about it if he was willing to drag out the topic of British America.

As a nice dulcimer rendition of Carol of the Bells chimed through the speakers, England hung up an origami crane. It looked a fragile as this moment felt.

America selected a clear glass ice sickle and placed it on the tree. "Huh. At least I was into Christmas again by that time. I didn't like it very much for a while after 1776. It, uh, you know, reminded me of you too much." His hair shadowed his eyes from view.

Goodness. Arthur let his bangs hide his own eyes. Alfred really did not want to discuss his protections if he was willing to push this hard. As always, mention of the American revolution sent a pang of sadness through him.

Before a pained silence could settle about them too heavily, Arthur snorted. " Are you joking? I barely got to celebrate 10 Christ's Masses with you before the Puritans turned you off on the whole idea." He flicked a hanging bulb with a finger nail. "Though it's hard to imagine it given how you bloody carry on these days."

America whined with gusto. "Hey, its not just me. Cromwell banned Christmas celebrations in England!"

"For 13 years. It was banned for 20 here," Arthur retorted, wondering why he was helping America change the subject, to cover up their pain.

"Only in Boston!" America corrected. "We could still celebrate it here in Virginia."

"Could but didn't," England sighed. "You were terrified your townsfolk would disapprove and put you in the stocks."

"They were scary. I never ever wanted to be at their mercy." There was something terribly hollow and raw in Alfred's eyes for just a moment.

"Oh, quite," England agreed. A nation could always escape humans, but it wasn't always in their best interest to do so, which could lead to painful complications. "And then you were older and I didn't get to come around as often. It never quite worked out."

"And then..." America whispered. "It was too late." he stared moodily into the fire.

"Yes, but I do have some grand memories of our first years together." England hung up a pair of silver bells connected with a blue bow. "You were so tiny, in a wee smock, and you would lean out of the very door of this house and shout "'Come in, come in, Father Christmas'!"

"Yeah?" America asked with a small smile. "Tell me more. I don't really remember."

England quickly warmed to his topic. "Oh yes. Of course, you were never all that patient. You went to the door multiple time a day, always letting the heat out. Which was a bigger problem in those days when the only warmth came from the fire place." Arthur shivered with the memory.

He continued. "The only way I could get you to lay off was to make a deal with you. We put out carrots for Father Christmas' reindeer where you could watch from the window. You had to promise to only open the door once the carrots were gone."

"Did it work?" Alfred asked with a yearning smile.

"Just barely. Your rabbit friends came out and ate all the carrots, but I was able to distract you by having you hang your stocking and getting ready for bed."

"And with a warm mince pie," Alfred added in.

"Ah, so you do remember," England chuckled.

"A little... and then on boxing day we would go into town and give gifts to the people in town, right?"

"Correct!" Arthur sighed. "Ah, I did enjoy those times my lad. I'm sorry there were so few."

For a moment, there was endless pain in Alfred's gaze, and suddenly it was replaced by a fond smile that glowed into his eyes. "Well, you did send me my first Christmas card after the Jay's Treaty. I had never seen anything like it. It was beautiful. I still have it around here some where."

England wanted to ask America why he hadn't sent a card back in return, but decided against it. He was about to suggest a whiskey to distract them when the hair at the back of his neck stood up. Something had decided to join them. His eyes slid over to Alfred to gauge his reaction.

He was staring down hall leading to the staircase, exactly in the direction of the strong supernatural presence that Alfred himself had only just detected.

That boy was just as clairvoyant as he had been as a child.

England could also feel something staring back at them now. It wasn't a happy stare. It was hatred and malice and death. Something like this should not have gotten past the holly and mistletoe defenses.

The wind rattled the windows and ice began to hiss against the window panes, only slightly countered by the pop and crackle of the fire place. It was like being back in the unsettled wilderness again.

The feeling of being watched abated, but didn't go away completely. It was as if whatever it was had moved to another area of the house. Had gone upstairs perhaps.

Time to test a theory. Arthur turned towards the hall. "I'll be right back. I left something for you in my suitcase.

"No! Wait," Alfred protested going pale. "Do-Don't go upstairs." His hands clutched at Arthur's.

"Why not?"

"Because I rather you stayed down here with me."

"Why?"

"Because, uh, we aren't done decorating the tree and if you, uh, go up there, uh, you might fall asleep."

Arthur scowled and crossed his arms, deciding to go for the truth, "Alfred, what ever has you so bothered is up there, not down here. You'll be fine."

Alfred stared at back t him with an answering scowl. "I am so not bothered."

"Then there is no problem with me going up there, is there?"

"Just stay with me. Please," Alfred ground out.

"Alfred, this is ridiculous. You can't hide this from me." England crossed hos arms and looked expectant.

"You are not going up there by yourself. Not you. This is my house and I'm not going to let that happen," Alfred's closed off expression gave way to one of fierce protection.

"So you admit that there is a ghost up there?" Arthur tilted his head towards the door.

"Maybe." The guarded look was back.

Arthur took a holly sprig from the end table and twirled it between his fingers. "And maybe this bit of evergreen will help?"

Alfred looked to the side and puffed out an annoyed sigh. "Not really. You used to do it for me all the time. It doesn't work so good for me."

"I would imagine it's is because you don't really believe it will," England said. "That's a problem with these things."

England settled onto the plaid couch. "How long have you had this problem? Why didn't you ask me for help?"

Sitting Indian style on the floor near Arthur's feet, Alfred let out a ragged sigh- sounding as if he had just given up his last hope.

"Look, we have become closer. I mean super close, and we can talk about things-" he broke off looked away, but looked right back with a determination that drilled into Arthur, "- even the details of me breaking your heart and turning my back on you."

He gulped.

"And I guess that means that I can tell you about... about these things that I see. Have always seen," America forced out.

Arthur was silent, stunned. He mouth open in a small 'o' that reflected the shape of his eyes. He had thought that the grown up Alfred was beyond the possibility of admitting ANY belief in the supernatural.

Alfred correctly interpreted the look. "Yeah, shocking right? I can't believe I am actually saying any of this out loud. You knew of course. You protected me. When I left, that protection went away."

The tall young man swallowed bitterly, his adam's apple jerking own. "Without you, I was so screwed. I couldn't just seem 'em any more, I could hear them and they could touch me too."

Arthur reached down laid a hand on his America's shoulder. "Oh no."

"I haven't really had much peace in this house since then," Alfred rubbed a hand over tired eyes.

"You mean to tell me you have been haunted all of this time, you stupid imbecile?" Arthur all but shouted. "What the hell were you thinking?"

The ghost up stairs chose that moment to make sounds of projectile vomiting.

Arthur held up a hand. "Shall we pause this conversation and take care of that?"

Alfred shook his head. "No need. It's waiting for me to go to bed. It will stay up there."

"And you were planning on me sleeping up there with a remnant! Thanks so much," Arthur snarled.

"I was counting on the holly working with you here," Alfred defended lamely.

"won't work - not when you have all but invited it in!" Arthur whacked Alfred on the head. " Now let's pick up where we left off. What the hell where you thinking?"

Alfred cast him a resigned look. "The puritans, they believed in devils and torments, right? In fact they loved them. What they liked best was dishing out terrible justice to people they thought deserved it. You've read Hawthorne, right? You know how fucked up these people were?"

"Yes, but I don't see why you didn't ask me for help. I understand these things. I would have never allowed this to go on. Even – even during our worst times." England dug his fingers into Alfred's shoulder, unable to stomach the knowledge of this boy's suffering.

Alfred's eyes were wild. "How could I? Those people – they were ME. I was them. I knew I deserved to suffer. I missed you so much. I don't regret what I did, my people needed to be free, but I betrayed you to do it. I was the worst, most irredeemable of sinners. An Oath breaker."

Arthur choked. That wasn't true. His sweet Alfred, he wasn't perfect, he had a dark side, but he wasn't lost to the darkness. He was a force of the light.

"Even so," Alfred continued, "I was weak, man. I remembered you tying holly to my bed posts to keep the ghosts away when I was little. I tired it, and it didn't work. Every damned dead red coat that came to taunt me looked like you."

Arthur groaned, imagining what that would be like to be tormented for over two centuries. "How did you hide this suffering from all of us?"

America shrugged. "Visine and pretending I believed in those crazy sleep deprived ideas I came up with. Things did get better better in the 1940s, when I started to see you regularly again. I guess I allowed my self to hope. That seemed to help a little."

Alfred scratched his nose. "But Virginia's old, there is always something not so nice passing through here."

A sheepish look crossed the young nation's face. "Right now, something particularly awful is hanging around, so I thought I would try the holly and mistletoe. It still didn't help me. I guess I still need punished."

"They don't work because you don't believe you deserve it," Arthur paled as realization set in.

Alfred's eyes dropped and he shrugged a little.

"That's ridiculous!" Arthur exploded. "I forgave you a long time ago!"

Tears welled up in the corners of those deep blue eyes. "How could you forgive me? How could you, really?" Alfred's voice was hollow. He screwed his eyes shut and scrubbed away at the tears.

"Because I love you, because you being free was your destiny, because you had no choice," Arthur ranted, slapping the couch cushion with each phrase.

Alfred shrank in on himself. "It's not that easy, it can't be, Arthur. You were my everything and I destroyed you, I know I did."

Arthur launched himself at Alfred, knees hitting the floor and arms going around him like he was holding him back from a precipice . "Enough, enough. I love you, even at my worst, at your worst, I have always loved you."

Alfred's words changed into a pitiful wheeze. "Before you, I was so lonely, so scared, and you took care of me, and I – I just spit in your face."

A twisting pain in his gut made Arthur wince. Such anguish and for so long, and he had been blind to it. He needed to help his boy, but at same time he needed to keep a weather eye out for the ghost he was certain was still upstairs.

A wet chuckle drifted down the stairs as if to confirm Arthur's thoughts.

"I said ENOUGH, Alfred," England said in a tone he had not used for over two hundred years. "You don't think I'm guilty too?"

"No!"

"Shut it!" England grabbed two fist fulls of America's shirt. "Listen to me. Forgive ME! I was your doting father when it suited me to be such. I made you expect to be sovereign because that was how I raised you!" He shook Alfred, willing the information to penetrate his thick brain.

"Then what did I do as soon as you were old enough to ask troublesome questions? I kick you down and subjugate you. I taxed the shit out of you because I was angry." Arthur released a hand and covered his eyes as his voice began to shake.

'I broke all of the promises I gave you as a young boy and laughed at the pain in your eyes and then sailed away to put an ocean between us so I could ignore what I'd done."

Alfred's mouth worked without sound for about five seconds. "Oh," was all he could squeak out in the end.

"Yes, we both were damaged by your growing pains and my responses to them. But we healed. Think of the last two years... of us back together at last."

"I'm forgiven?" Alfred asked in wonder, finally looking st England again.

"My dear, dear lad. There is enough guilt to go around and no need for punishment," Arthur smiled into his eyes. "Let it go."

"I love you Arthur," Alfred sniffed, sounding for all the world like a little colony from long ago.

"And I you." Alfred pressed his lips to the crown of that precious head. "We both were wrong, and God help me, it was worth it."

Alfred had the grace to only look mildly disbelieving, despite all that had been said.

"Because love, I don't want to be your father."

"Right," Alfred agreed. "Right." A stripe of red flushed across his cheeks. "You are so right."

Upstairs there was a loud thump and sound of breaking glass.

Alfred winced. "It doesn't seem to like mirrors very much."

"It's strong," Arthur conceded thoughtfully. "You must have a terrible amount of guilt for her to draw from."

"You mean I am at the root of all of this?"

"You usually are."

"But you just said...!" Alfred protested.

"So I did. Let's face it, all of that guilt isn't purged by one haunted conversation." Alfred would need some help working through this ...maybe China?

"So now what? I want to get rid of that thing!"

"Well, the mistletoe and the Ivy won't work till your further along, but maybe we can try something else. Let's go get that sugar bowl shall we?"

"Are you going to scare it away with your cooking?" America winced, obviously fearing for his Caphalon cookware.

"Cute," England sniffed. "Person's not wanting to sleep with ghosts should belt up."

England's brained whirled. He would lure the ghost out into the upstairs hall, and then spill some sugar across the bedroom door's threshold. If American ghosts were as stupid as European ones – and they were likely even more stupid- then the ghost would be compelled to count the granules of sugar over and over, constantly losing count until they became so frustrated they fled the domicile. Perfect.

Alfred cocked his head. "Okay, we give it diabetes. Then what?"

"You can find a suitable way to thank me for exorcising your ghosts."

Fin.

AN: Okay- whew! Done! Yipee! My first APH fic, and the longest Fic I have written years. (Epic Daria (of all things) and Tenchi Muyo fics are drifting in scraps across defunct message boards. A decade of fan fic I don't even have on m hard drive. (I keep threatening to go find it all and post on my LJ, but, ugh, so much work! In recent times I have one a few TRC and Xholic dabbles. It feel great to flex the writing muscles into something a little longer.

This fic came from the kink Meme request: "I want America missing Christmas he had spent with England in the past, and trying to somehow 'recreate' it again as he grew up. Bonus if there's snugglings and fluff with England later."

I wrote it for this even if it didn't quite end up to specs. Shrugs

But here is the deal. I'm old – I was an IRC user in the day for goodness sakes. I can barely use LJ and the kink meme intimidates me. I don't know how to post anonymously – is it just logging off? I don't know how to link and I don;t know what I am supposed to do to archive the fill so people can find it. *Cries at being outdated*. What is an OP? Anyway I hope the requestor finds this story I wrote for them.

Happy Holidays all, hope you liked my offering a bit.