Of all the places Arthur thought he'd be when he was twenty-three, sitting outside a small café in downtown London with an American was not one of them. A very energetic American, might he add. It wasn't his company in question nor the fact he was at a café with said man. It was the fact that recently he had begun having feelings for his companion. Ones that made him uncomfortable.
Since their last outing together, Arthur had come to the morbid realization that he wasn't just attracted to Alfred, but he was also developing feelings that were certainly not ones a straight male should have for another man. It was his fault he had agreed to go with Alfred to the pub where he met his brother (Oh God, they look alike. Two Alfreds in the world?), thus speeding up their friendship even more. Now Alfred was a constant at his cubicle by day and a friend to hang out with by evening.
Arthur, terrified by his new revelation, put distance between himself and Alfred almost immediately. He turned down any offers to hang out with the man after hours and wasn't nearly as active in his texting as he had been before. Lunch times, though, were something still special to him; if only because there were others that followed them along to the break room to eat.
Hoping to deter Arthur, the man worked on his feelings in private. Sometimes he would stay up late watching straight porn and staring only at the woman's breasts in hopes that he would feel everything for Alfred melt away. True, he didn't stare at any other men and certainly wasn't turned on by the naked men in his porn that were having sex with the women. It was only Alfred he seemed attracted to.
After a few weeks, he chalked it all up to the fact that Alfred was just a close friend. One he hadn't truly had in quite some time. His emotions, unused to such an attached individual, probably became confused and mistook it for a crush. Satisfied with his reasoning of jumping the gun, Arthur returned to being the semi-friendly guy he had been before. Only "semi-friendly" because he was only nice to Alfred; the rest of the world he would only acknowledge if wanted to.
Coming out of his recollections, Arthur then noticed Alfred was missing. This wasn't unusual. He had come upon the suggestion of taking Alfred sightseeing in London. The poor boy had moved to the outskirts of the city, but had yet to take in the tourist areas that he so loved to chatter about seeing someday. The American had been living in the country for less than four months now and eagerly agreed to spend the day with Arthur.
Too eagerly, Arthur thought.
All day, Alfred had run off to look at some store or some historic building, leaving Arthur to hurry after him in case he lost the younger man. Not that he couldn't find him. Alfred was a rather tall and loud man, acting more like a child than an adult. However, he wasn't even twenty yet, so that might have something to do with it. Alfred only came to a stop when he grew hungry and the boys settled on a café where they took a rest for awhile.
Well, long enough for Arthur to have his tea time. It seemed Alfred couldn't sit still long enough. Arthur sighed and called for the check when Alfred suddenly rushed the table, practically knocking it over in his enthusiasm. Arthur managed to snatch his tea cup and saucer from the table before it rocked violently where it probably would have crashed to the ground. The loud clatter of utensils hitting the plates alarmed some of the other customers who looked over in disdain at Alfred. But the American paid them no mind. His bright blue eyes were focused on Arthur.
"ARTHUR! ARTHUR! OH MY GOD! I FOUND BIG BEN!" Alfred exclaimed as if he were the first to discover the clock tower.
Arthur raised an eyebrow at the boy. "Yes. It's rather large. I wager it's hard to miss."
"Dude! Come on! I've been waiting FOREVER to see this!" Without waiting for an answer, Alfred grabbed Arthur's wrist and yanked him from his seat. "I want you to see it with me! Come on!"
Arthur hastily put his cup and saucer back on the table, threw some pounds on top of the check, and followed Alfred. Well, more like dragged, but he couldn't help the secretive twitch from his lips of a smile despite the scowl more prominent on his face. They turned a few corners before Alfred stumbled to a stop. Arthur had seen the clock tower many times before so he paid the structure no attention. However, he was amused by Alfred's reaction.
The man had walked slowly up to the gate, his head all the way back, as he stared wide-eyed up at the hundred year old tower. He turned to Arthur with all of the exuberance of a child at Disneyland.
"How old is this thing?" Alfred cried.
Arthur rubbed his chin as he thought for a moment. "A little over 150 years."
"Can I get inside?" Alfred asked, jumping up and down while pointing up at the top. "I totally want to look out from the top and see the entire city!"
"Ah, no," Arthur started. "Unfortunately, only citizens can enter the clock tower."
Alfred's face fell. "What?"
"If I recall, you're not a citizen yet, right?" Arthur asked. Alfred shook his head, a pout beginning to form. "Then I don't think I can get you inside."
"What? What's all that about?" Alfred flung his hands around and stomped his foot once. Arthur bit his lip to not snort at the childish actions. "What a snooty ass clock tower! Big Ben is perfect for you Brits."
Arthur shook his head as he started walking down the sidewalk. A slight chill from a breeze made him put his hands in his pockets. "Alfred, Big Ben is only the name of the bell. The clock and the tower are different things, but people just associate it with the entire clock tower."
Alfred followed, his own hands in his own jacket. He seemed genuinely interested with a small smile. "Really? Wow. I didn't know that."
"Most people don't," Arthur replied with a shrug.
"Well, a lot of people don't know a ton of information about the Statue of Liberty either." Alfred was looking at the Palace of Westminster, but with a much more subdued amount of enthusiasm. "Maybe one day, I can take you there."
Arthur felt his face heating up, so he snuggled his face down into his green scarf. "I…I would like it very much. I've never been to America."
"Well fear not! You WILL go because you're my buddy!" Alfred put his arm around Arthur's shoulder, giving him a tight hug. "I haven't given up my citizenship and I plan on going back, so I'm taking you with me."
Arthur shook his head, stopping at the zebra crossing to wait for the light to change. "I would very much like that."
"Great! So where are we going now?" Alfred asked. He zipped up his wind breaker, feeling slightly unfashionable standing next to Arthur who sported a long brown coat with black leather gloves. "Are you taking me somewhere really old to spout out more history stuff? You're like a walking textbook."
Arthur blushed again, but this time out of embarrassment. "W-well…I was a double major in Business and in European History…"
"Really? That's so cool!" The light changed and the two men walked side by side across the street. "Seriously, though, where are we going?"
Arthur merely smiled and nodded his head towards the River Thames. Alfred looked over too, easily spotting the London Eye. He gasped and started jumping up and down.
"OH MY GOD ARTHUR I LOVE YOU!" Alfred blurted out. He was too wrapped up in pure excitement to notice Arthur sputtering beside him. "Are we really gonna go on it?"
Arthur ignored some of the stares he was receiving to just walking faster than Alfred. He gave a curt, "Yes."
The two boys continued their walk with Alfred talking far faster than normal and Arthur leading the way in mute silence. He kept his eyes on the ground, refusing to see all of Alfred's passionate gesticulations. Around them, many families and couples were heading the same way as the men. Arthur chose to ignore this fact as well. He was just like any other chap, out with his mate on the weekend to take in the tourist sites. Yes, that's all.
"Hey," Alfred's hand clapped on Arthur's shoulder, startling the man from his thoughts. "What's that old place over there?"
Arthur looked to where Arthur was pointing. A long, luxurious white building sat alongside the River Thames. Arthur smiled slightly, pulling out more information from his reserves.
"That's the County Hall," Arthur started. "You might like it. There's an arcade and aquarium inside."
"Seriously?" Alfred pumped a fist in the air. "This city gets cooler and cooler, man!"
Arthur barked out a laugh, putting his hand over his mouth quickly. "I'm sorry. I don't hear that often…"
"Wha?" Alfred looked at Arthur surprised. "But it's your city, your hometown, right? How could you not hear that or even think that about such an awesome place?"
The two boys had finally entered the Jubilee Gardens and Arthur lead the way to the Ferris wheel. Alfred was momentarily distracted by the Eye, tilting his head back the closer they got to the structure. Arthur couldn't help but smile unabashedly at just how openly happy the American was. For a moment, Arthur felt a streak of patriotism go down his back. He wouldn't say he was particularly proud of his country for various anarchistic reasons, but seeing a foreigner become so pumped up for something as silly as a tourist attraction as a Ferris wheel.
Alfred smiled brightly at Arthur. "So you were saying about not thinking this place is awesome?"
Scoffing, Arthur shelled out the eighteen pounds for himself and waited while Alfred paid. They waited in the queue, Alfred doing most of the talking until he prodded Arthur to break out with more history nonsense about the city. All the while, Alfred listened with rapt attention. Arthur couldn't help the bubbly feeling in his stomach as he and Alfred boarded the giant capsule. Unfortunately, since it was the middle of the day on a Saturday, it was rather crowded.
Just like a child, Alfred rushed to the window and pressed his face against the glass. Arthur took a seat behind him on the long bench, observing as they began their climb up into the air. The skyline showed more and more sky, increasing Alfred's excitement. He pulled Arthur by the wrist to stand next to him.
"Dude, this is the best day ever!" Alfred sat back on his heels, sighing in obvious bliss. "I'm really impressed by your city."
Arthur chuckled. "It's not mine. It's not like I built it."
"Well no, but I call NYC my city." Alfred smiled at Arthur in a way that the man felt compelled to continue staring. Although, he wouldn't call it staring. No, not at all. "Besides, you have enough information stored away that it's enough to fill a library. I'm sure your girlfriend thinks you're a hoot."
Arthur's good mood evaporated instantly. He turned and walked away from Alfred, an obvious look of discomfort on his face. Alfred scooted over, unsure of what to do. He knew something he had said had set Arthur off, but he was terrible at cheering people up. Then, he thought of something.
"Oh, unless, you know, you have a boyfriend."
Arthur prayed that no one else in the capsule had just heard what Alfred said. He flustered, his face red, as he scampered away. "H-How dare you! How could you think such a thing of me?"
Alfred shrugged. "You're so damn girly sometimes, it makes me wonder just how manly you really are. I mean, when I got here I had to tell myself that you guys were European so of course you'd act girly than back home, but with you, well… I mean, it's ok. I'm bi."
"You're…you're what?" Arthur could feel his heart speeding up, but for reasons he truly didn't want to explore.
"Bisexual." Alfred gave another casual shrug and Arthur could feel his eye twitch. This boy was taking things far too nonchalantly for something that was awfully serious. "It's the same with music. There are no limits on love either. I just don't see limits on life."
Arthur took a steadying breath. If he even tried to comprehend such a lackadaisical way of thinking, his head might explode. Even just the thought of trying to think of it and understand what he said gave him a headache.
"I just can't understand your way of thinking on such a thing...," Arthur sighed. He looked out at the sky, barely noticing the buildings were all below him now. Somehow his heart pounded louder than his head, but while his head hurt with pain, his heart felt light and fluttery.
"Sorry," Alfred. For a time he was silent, then he glanced over at Arthur. "You know... You have a rainbow above your head."
"What?" Arthur looked at him incredulously. "What an absurd thing to say."
Alfred chuckled, turning to face Arthur. "No really. It's right above you, but you can't see it. I just wanna shoot it through your veins because your heart has a lack of color."
Before Arthur could protest Alfred's words, the American moved forward. He put his fingers at the corner of Arthur's scowling lips, pulling them up so they made an awkward smile.
"There it is. A ghost of a good mood," Alfred smiled slightly. "I can see it in you. You're a great guy. You should let it show more often."
Finally, Arthur pushed Alfred away. He demanded that his blush vanish from his cheeks and for his heart to stop feeling so elated by those words. Alfred simple smiled, pulling back. Arthur didn't speak to him the remainder of the rotation, but if Alfred minded, he said nothing. Slowly, Arthur began to relax as he enjoyed the remainder of the ride.
Once down, Alfred began chattering away again much to Arthur's relief. He had worried things were different now that the boy had come out to him. Honestly, after hearing so many stories of how homophobic Americans were, he was surprised the man had easily opened up to him on such a topic. Especially since Alfred knew Arthur was particularly religious. But, seeing as how Alfred saw no limits to much in life, he probably didn't take Arthur's feelings into consideration. This annoyed Arthur a great deal and he remained quiet until after the two finished their journey in the County Hall.
"Ok, this area is officially my favorite place in London. This and Big Ben." Alfred looked out towards the sunset with a satisfying sigh. "Wow, dude, we went everywhere today! Probably more than those tour buses, huh?"
Arthur only nodded. He then noticed Alfred had stopped. He joined him by his side, asking if he was okay.
Alfred gave a nervous smile as he looked at Thames. "Say... You want me to be honest, yeah? I mean we're pals and you're totally becoming like my best friend."
Arthur flushed, looking away. He hadn't heard such kind words in so long. But somehow it saddened him to hear the confirmation that he and Alfred were merely friends. Best friends, he reminded himself.
"But..." Arthur looked over in slight alarm. Was he leaving him? "Well... I'm gonna be honest. You're... You're more than that to me... I mean... I-I like you."
Three words. They pulled everything from Arthur in that instant. While Alfred cursed himself for stuttering and sounding uncool, Arthur fell into a deep pit of emotions. One he had no idea how long he'd be down in.
Seeing his distress, Alfred quickly reassured Arthur. "But I mean! I know you're straight! I won't do anything! I promise. I'm gonna be the totally cool best friend. I just... You know. Wanted to be honest. And besides, now that you know I'm bi, I didn't want you worrying everything I do is to hit on you. I want you to know you're just my friend."
Arthur gathered himself and nodded weakly. Slowly he opened his mouth to give a squeaky "thank you" before turning his back on Alfred. Not from anger. No. For fear.
This American had come into his life with his new ideas and was so open and friendly with such a repressed and battered guy like Arthur. He didn't know why. Most people paid him no attention; the same amount he gave to everyone else. But now he had friends, a best mate, and went out on the weekends and after work; a social life. Yes, that's all it was. Nothing more. Alfred could see Arthur as something more, but not Arthur. He wasn't a sinner.
"Ah, I'm afraid I have to go." Arthur said. "I'm tired and I have church in the morning..."
Alfred nodded. "No problem. Um, we're still friends though, right?"
Arthur hid his nervous expression as best he could behind his scarf as he looked at Alfred. "Yes. It's okay."
The man looked very relieved. The moment caught up with him and he just had to hug Arthur. The Englishman squawked in surprise, but made no movement to get away. He made no movement at all, actually. He just let his body stay in the tight, but brief hug, his arms dangling from the side. Alfred pulled away with a bright smile and a telltale sign of fading blush. Arthur had caused that to appear on the man's face. He looked away as his own face heated up. Why did he hate it, but secretly take such delight in it?
"Well , see ya Monday! I'll text ya tomorrow!"
Arthur nodded before turning towards the train station. He had ridden in to meet Alfred whereas the boy had relied on his brother to drop him off. Now he was calling for another ride. Arthur felt bad he didn't at least stay to keep his friend company whilst he waited, but he honestly felt ill. All he wanted to do was go home, watch porn to calm down, and feed his cat. Yes, the way a normal Saturday should be. Not spent with a very attractive man that confessed his sinful feelings to him.
No way in Hell.
Hoshiko2's cents: Hello and welcome to my new series. For returning readers, thanks so much for your input on the last series. It went over far better than I thought anything ever would. I hope you like this one as well. For new readers, it's nice to meet you! Feel free to leave any comments, such as mistakes or something you want to point out or even just an opinion. I love them.
And yes, this series is based off of the song "Rainbow Veins" by Owl City and is where I get most, if not all, of my inspiration for the series.
The first spark of this series can be seen in "Business and Pleasure" and will be treated as a prequel. Also, I went back and changed it. Francis does not work at this branch of the company. However, he will become a very vital character in the future. One last thing, this series will not update nearly as fast as "And All That Jazz" did, but I will do my best to get updates up in a nice and timely fashion.
Thanks and I hope you enjoy!
Edit: This story actually started back here (/s/6736274/1/Business_and_Pleasure) if you'd like to see the prologue.