England paused just before he entered his own front doorway at the call of a young woman jumping out of a delivery van.
"Excuse me, sir, are you Mr. Arthur Kirkland?" she asked, reading the name from a clipboard.
"Yes..." England said cautiously, suspicious of the sudden bright smile that lit the girl's face. "I haven't ordered anything, however- I've been overseas- "
"Oh no, sir," The girl interrupted, a tad impolitely. Really, what was with the young people these days, "I don't expect you did, however I do have a delivery for you. Hang on a mo', so I can get it from the van- I would have brought it with me, but it's a bit chilly out for my lovelies."
"I-" Lovelies? England didn't have time to ask what the girl meant before she had flounced to the back of her van and carefully opened the door that was shut against the late January chill. Whatever this delivery was, it wasn't large- in fact- "What is this?"
"Charlotte variety-" The girl answered smartly. "Your dearie knew exactly which one he wanted, an' he was lucky- the first ones bloomed in our greenhouse this morning."
The fragrance of the single red rose filled the nippy air with it's lovely perfume. Velvety petals looked almost warm in the chill-
"Well, go on, an' get it inside, Mr. Kirkland. It's cold as brass monkeys out here, an' it's going to rain in a wee bit- wouldn't want either you or your lovely to get caught up in that. There's a card- an' I have to go. More deliveries." The cheerful goodbye was barely acknowledged- not that the girl seemed to have expected anything, as she was running back to her van with a chipper wave.
Slightly stunned, England did as he had been instructed, stepping back through the open doorway, and shutting it before all of the delicious heat within the house had evaporated into the outdoors. And still, the vase in his hand was solid, and real, and now that he was in the enclosed foyer, the perfume was slightly more intense.
Breathing in the fragrance slowly, England could feel the faint smile crawling onto his face, as he made his way up the staircase to his bedchamber. As tired as he was from his trip across the Atlantic, he knew there was only one place for this 'lovely' as the girl had termed it. Where he could see it, smell it- and revel in the thought that America had thought enough of him to send him such a thing.
He thought of me. The very idea thrilled England, as he'd never thought possible.
There was a card, as well, and as England set the delicate bloom on the table beside the bed, he determined he'd read it before sleeping. Right now he should unpack, and perhaps make himself a cup of tea and relax from the long flight...
Instead, he dropped his bag in a corner, and sat on the edge of the bed, opening the small envelope to see the small card- unsigned, of course, but that meant nothing. There was no way that America would have been able to physically have been there to do it- still, England knew who it was from.
"One red rose means 'An only love'."
Only love. The smile that had been crawling on England's lips turned into a besotted smile, his eyes grew soft. A reminder of the weeks that they had spent together, when America had over and over again made England feel so wonderfully alive, and loved- like he hadn't felt in centuries.
With a final sniff of the wonderful flower, and a pointed avoidance of looking at his lovesick appearance in the mirror, England set both card and gift aside to unpack.
He could take the time to moon over America later.
Five minutes later, he'd only managed to open the valise, because as soon as England had reached into the bag he'd found an envelope that he distinctly did not remember putting into his luggage-
His name was spelled out in a curving, but slightly clumsy script that he immediately recognized as America's- the boy had never taken well to calligraphy- but he'd tried.
Once again, England found himself sitting on his bed, precious paper clutched in his hand.
I know we just parted, and I know that we'll see each other again soon, but... it seems like forever, and you know how I am about seeing you leave. I miss you already.
England did indeed, remembering the tears and wailing when America had been small- and the way that the younger man had clung to him at the Aeroport as though he wasn't going to allow England to leave his sight- America's eyes had been suspiciously watery, but he'd denied it.
I love you. I always have, and always will. You've been an enormous part of my life for so long that you've left an impression that feels like a hollow while you're away- and can only be filled when you're near. I've never been as good with words as you, and I can't put the thoughts together to speak coherently while you're listening, so I have to write it for you.
I'm watching you sleep in my bed, curled up and oh so wonderful, and warm- and I'll be back with you in a moment, just to hold you. I love to hold you and feel your warmth. I know you're not as big into physical affection as you pretend sometimes, and that the prickly nature you push out is only to protect yourself from hurt- but I don't ever want to hurt you again. Watching you be strong for so many years only made me ache to hold you and bring back that smile-
I love to see you smile, Arthur, England.
It won't be long until we meet again at another conference, and I do know that telephones and computers are faster, but I know you, and your old fashioned little quirks and habits- and you know, I share some of them. An email is no substitute for a letter that you've touched with your hand. I want to hear your voice, but the distance gets in the way.
The smile was in place now, England touched the pages, as though he could touch the writer through them.
I don't know how many times I'll need to tell you that you're beautiful before you believe it yourself, and I don't know how many times I need to tell you that I love you- but I'm willing to tell you every day, every hour- just for your smile. Smile for me, England, even if it's raining, remember that the same rain that is touching your face touched mine at one point. An indirect kiss, Japan might say.
I love you, England, you're beautiful. And I can't wait to see you again.
England tried not to frown, or tear up at the letter. America was only a phone call away- he could call right now, and grouse about the fact that this note had been slipped into his bag without his knowledge. But... the love in the clumsy script- and the rose at his bedside-
The soft patter of rain hit his window, pulling England's gaze away from the note cradled in his hands. He hated rain, it brought painful memories, but now-
With a quick glance at the end of the letter, England felt his smile return as he dropped the paper, and moved to open his window.
The rain was icy on his head, but for just a moment, England turned his face upwards to let a few of the drops caress his face, and warm themselves upon his lips before returning to the warmth of his room. For a bare moment, he imagined America, Alfred, touching his face, kissing him softly- then the reality of how foolish this was struck him.
His face was faintly pink, as he glanced at his reflection- dampened and ridiculous.
But happy, all the same.
England laughed, and went downstairs to fix himself a cup of tea, before he called America.
The letter went with him.