England couldn't remember what started the fight.
Not that it mattered anyway- it was over, and America was long gone- even the ice in the soda he'd left on England's table had melted, not that it had had time to create a ring of condensation on the table. It had been hurled at the door the moment the younger man had left.
"Fuck." England said, breaking the painful silence with a curse that sounded to his ears like a weak sob.
It didn't matter who had started it, it didn't matter who had finished it- the verbal barrages that had been exchanged had been pointlessly painful. All the more so, since somewhere in the middle of screaming at one another at the top of their lungs, it had gotten personal.
So personal that England wasn't sure if –
The gains that they'd made in their relationship had been many, since they'd gotten past the initial hesitation and into honesty. For a brief year, they had gotten to know each other again, grown that little spark of attraction into something more wonderful than anything England had ever hoped for- expected-
And now it was more than likely over, all because of something so utterly insignificant that it had vanished along with America.
"Fuck." England repeated, trying distinctly not to notice how much more pitiful his voice sounded. He should never have expected anything good to last- not with America. The few years that they'd had when America had been small had been the best that he could remember, making the years following that revolution seem all the worse.
Maybe that was the problem- maybe he'd been wrong about his feelings, mistaking the lingering memories of that happiness colour his perception of the present. They shouldn't work together- England was old, and full of memories and ancient deeds. America was young, and full of new promise- and deceit.
But England had his fair share of lies, and America was still incredibly naïve.
The lies hurt.
Mechanically, England went to gather something to clean the mess that he'd made of the floor in front of the door.
Even if it hadn't been real, it hurt.
Why did it hurt? Was it because his pride had been dinged? Because for a brief and shining moment, he'd been the center of America's world once again, and without that attention, he was merely a washed up former empire- a lonely island?
Or... was it the look of pain on America's face- the one that had been quickly shifted behind that clown's facade somewhere in the middle of the more hurtful barbs? The fleeting glimpses of … something that had been covered with anger, which England had interpreted as loathing.
Yes, some of the things that had been thrown in England's face had been cutting- but he'd heard most of them before. And America- he'd heard the same insulting things time and time again from everyone around him- especially his brother.
And therein lay part of the problem. Canada had reduced his brother to tears without meaning to several times. England had been witness to it- America might act as though he didn't care to most people, but he had a thin skin. Especially when the person who was finding the faults was one he cared about-
And England had...
England dropped his head against the wooden door he was cleaning with a solid thud.
What did he love about America?
He loved the promise, he loved the bright sunshine of his smile. The way he always tried to look at things with a positive light. The way he was always willing to help, no matter how horrible people's opinions were of him. America had helped rebuild Japan after the war- not just out of a sense of guilt- but out of the sincere desire to see an old friend stand on his own once more.
Then there were the little things- the sense of humor that England had only started to uncover the depths of. The way the freckles had formed across the bridge of his nose. How he chewed the tip of his pencil or pen while in deep thought.
The way America was slightly shy about letting others know that he wasn't reading all of the most popular novels that his people came up with, instead reading some obscure poetry, or scientific journal. How he was struggling to absorb the cultures that came with being a Nation of immigrants- and how some of them were trying to become dominant, but most of them were focused on him.
The way he spoke all the languages of his people, and denied it later- never hinting that he'd understood a word of private conversations that other Nations held within his presence in their own tongues.
With all the struggles going on in his head, there was no real wonder that world geography was not his strong point.
And that had been one of England's repeated jabs in the past- and repeated in the present.
England raised his head and deliberately let it hit the wood again, relishing the solid ache, which felt so much less than the one in his chest, or his burning eyes.
But what could he do now?
America would never talk to him again. England had told him to get out, and there had been so much finality in the way the door had been slammed-
They'd both fucked it up this time.
Without thinking about it, England rose, robotically putting away his cleaning supplies, and sitting with blank eyes in his parlour.
The little hurts that had been thrown at him burned like acid, but words written in clumsy script came back to haunt him.
...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 don't ever want to hurt you again.
"But you did anyway." England murmured, "Despite both our best intentions, we hurt each other again."
The feel of soft leather in his hands drew his attention downwards, where he'd somehow managed to start the finishing work on the thing he'd kept hidden from America for weeks. Valentine's was the day after tomorrow- no. Wait. It was tomorrow- and he'd been thinking of reviving one of his old traditions- a pair of gloves for his sweetheart. Except after today-
"Please, don't cry anymore, Albion," One of the younger fairies flittered about- oh God. There had been witnesses? "Keep working on them."
"You love him still." England could barely see her through the haze of tears he hadn't realized he'd been shedding. There was a tiny hint of a smile on her face. "Don't give up on something that's made you happy, just because of a silly thing like this."
"All right." England said quietly. Despite the things that had been said to him- and he had said- England would find a way to at the least, give this last gift to America.
America knew how the argument had started, but he hadn't meant to-
But he'd said those things, and then England had said those other things- and-
He'd taken the invitation to leave, the anger in his mind only burning slightly less painfully than the ache in his chest. America was so hurt, and angry, and fuck, but England hadn't had to point that out, let alone this mess, and he was running to get away from it all.
And as soon as America had slammed the door behind him, he'd realized exactly how pointless that whole fight had been. How badly he'd fucked things up with his clumsy words, and poor timing.
"He didn't mean to ..." America told the air. "If I hadn't said... but – fuck."
Once he was home, he didn't even glance at the video game console. Instead, America looked at the answering machine.
England hadn't called.
Maybe he was crazy for loving England like he did, but- from the moment he met the older Nation, he'd been in love. He might not have been old enough to really understand the whole sex thing (or wanted to), but America did understand loneliness.
And there had been a whole lot of that in England's haunted eyes.
Just like there would be now. And pain-
America tried unsuccessfully to squash down the guilt.
He'd promised that he'd never hurt England again, and he just had. Granted it had been a two way battle, and neither of them was completely guilt free in their choices of words, but still.
America had hurt England again.
And again, he had just walked away, leaving him-
America threw himself onto the sofa, barely resisting the urge to pound his head on the floor. Or some other solid object. Tossing his glasses onto the coffee table, he pressed the heels of his hands into damp eyes. Damp? Fuck. Crying again.
But England had brought up his weaknesses, and his sore spots, and - fuck. He'd almost started crying right then. Some hero he turned out to be. Getting weepy when someone pointed out all of his flaws, and weaknesses, and then turning around and doing similar to the one he loved-
He was nothing but a bully, just like he'd been told.
The sob that ripped from America was quiet, but still, loud enough to startle him.
"What am I going to do now?" he whispered, trying not to let his mind wander back to the middle of the argument, not to try to think of ways that he could have deflected things, made them turn out – if not perfect- better- "He's never going to want to see me again. He hates me now."
How was he going to get through a meeting again, knowing- and with England now knowing the things he did, it would be twice as miserable for America. And he was such a coward for not wanting to go, not wanting to see England with that impenetrable shell, and achingly lonely look in his eyes.
And knowing he was the cause-
"Fuck." A familiar voice asserted. "Fucking Limey started the fucking waterworks. Should I turn on the atomic dispersal ray?"
"No, Tony," America managed to croak, quickly wiping at his eyes with his sleeve, "Don't even think of it. And I'm not crying."
"Fuck." Tony sounded disappointed, somehow. "I wanted to test it. You are upset. Don't lie."
"Just- we had a fight, and it was my fault, and now-"
"Fucking Earthlings." Grumbled the alien, "Thinking everything is so fucking complicated."
"Tony, I sad some really nasty things to him, and he ended up telling me to leave." America sighed, "I don't think that's complicated. I think it's easy. I fucked up."
"It takes two to argue, fucker." Tony answered, "And don't tell me that the bastard didn't say anything nasty to you. Fucking limey has a fucking temper- denial isn't just a river in Egypt."
"Yeah, but I deserved-"
"Fuck that. You don't deserve someone making you miserable." Tony came around to within visual range, "Why are you this unhappy because the Limey showed his true colors?"
"Fuck off, Tony, that's not what England's like- he gets prickly when he's afraid of getting hurt, and- I.."
"You what?" Tony's black eyes felt like burning coals on his skin. Could an alien do that? Burn with a look- maybe he should ask if there were any that- "America, finish your fucking sentences."
"I hurt him again." America rubbed his hands on his face again. "Because of stupid pride. For both of us. He said things, and I just- let my mouth run. I should … apologize."
"Fuck yeah." Tony almost looked as though he were smiling.
"What happened to wanting to vaporize him?" America watched Tony warily.
"Fucking Limey makes you happy." Tony vocalized, "When he's not making you miserable. You make yourselves vulnerable to each other. That's why it's harder when you fight now than it was before."
"I love him." America said simply, taking a last swipe at his eyes before reaching for his glasses, "I always have. It doesn't matter if he said …. those things. I still- "
"Then tell him it doesn't matter, fucking idiot. Apologize for your fucking mouth, and maybe the fucking Limey will too. And I won't have to use the dispersal ray to take care of another of your problems."
"I- wait. Another?" Tony was already wandering away.
Valentine's day was tomorrow. He had to do something- America would apologize, but he had to show England that it didn't matter if they'd fought, that he still...
An idea, crossed his mind, producing a faint smile. Being a Nation of immigrants did have it's advantages.
If he was lucky, England would speak to him again. If he was very lucky, he'd get an apology. If he was phenomenally lucky...
He would settle for just being lucky right now.
America sprang into action, plan firmly in mind.
February 14th dawned clear and cold in London.
England couldn't sleep, however, hadn't slept but for fitful naps since America had left.
How could he? It was worse than the fucking Revolution and a hundred and seventy years of fourth of Julys all over again, and he was hesitant to call America, for fear that he wouldn't pick up the phone if he knew who was calling. Every time he had picked up the phone, he'd immediately slammed it down, and gone back to the damned gloves, putting a stitch here or there, or redoing a hem that he particularly didn't like.
By the time he'd worked up the courage to call, the line had been busy- and then there had been no answer. America was probably with Canada by now, leaning on his brother's shoulder-
At least England was pretty sure that it was Canada that America would go to. France wasn't exactly... confidant material.
It didn't matter though, because England was here, in his house, staring bleary eyed at a pair of gloves on his table, while he waited for the kettle to boil.
Tea would make everything better, except that which it didn't.
And England wasn't certain if it could make this better.
The doorbell rang before the kettle could start whistling, and when England opened it, he found a familiar face on the other side.
"Mr. Arthur Kirkland!" The chipper youthfulness was almost too much for England this morning. He remembered the girl from just a few short weeks ago, and apparently she'd remembered him. "Good morning, and a happy St Valentine's to you, sir."
"And to you as well," England answered automatically, wondering why she'd be there- and then he realized. She worked as a delivery driver for a- "There can't be a delivery for me again..."
"Haha," The girl laughed, (Lynn, the patch on her jacket said.) "I don't make house calls for no reason, you know- but I'm lucky today. I've only got you on my list- they had to have the other bloke take the rest of the deliveries, and he wasn't happy about it, but it was last minute, and I knew exactly where you lived, so they said I should- so I'm here, making certain you were home before I opened up the back."
"Last minute." England repeated the phrase, "What do you mean-"
"The order came in very early this morning- your young man is extremely lucky that we had them available, and-" Lynn shrugged, and made a gesture towards her van. "Shall I bring them in, then? Do you have the space?"
"I... why not." England was almost afraid to find out what America would have sent to him this time. Cacti perhaps. Or dead flowers-
But Lynn was opening the back of her van and carefully bringing two vases of...
That same variety of perfect red rose that she'd delivered in January. Charlottes.
"Where would you like me to start putting them?" The smile was almost as brilliant as America's. "Sir?"
"The table- wait, start?" England felt his knees get a bit weak. How many?
"I've got seven more vases in the van." Lynn said as she turned back towards the door, "Eleven in each- slightly odd request, my boss said, but my best mate is from Taiwan, and she told me what ninety-nine red roses means on this day."
England's head buzzed as she handed him the card, and began toting in the rest of the flowers.
"What is the meaning of ninety-nine red roses on St Valentine's?" England asked carefully, as she brought in the ninth vase, which made his kitchen table look as though it were an enormous rosebush. Or belonged at a florist's shop.
"It's so romantic, Mr. Kirkland," Lynn's grin turned to a dreamy smile, "One red rose means 'an only love', eleven 'A favored one'.
"Forever." Lynn said, settling the last bunch among the others, "I think the card should explain everything else- and I'm off for the rest of the day to be with my dearie. I hope your day is as wonderful as you deserve, I'll see you next time."
The thought echoed a bit with the sound of the front door closing.
The card should explain everything else-
England looked at the card, and almost felt his heart stop.
He recognized the half printed, half written scrawl of his human name instantly.
"Why-" Tears were starting to form, he must have done this before he left. Before the argument- "Fuck."
The envelope was barely sealed, and the small card on the inside was also infected with the barely legible script. But the first few words made England's eyes widen.
I'm sorry. I apologize for all those horrible things I said- I didn't mean to. I love you, and I always will. I hate fighting with you, and hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and at least be my friend again.
All my love,
After they'd verbally torn each other to shreds, an apology was the last thing he'd expected from America. From Alfred. And England- Arthur owed him one as well- but the inside of his kitchen looked like a greenhouse, and America was too far away to run to and-
The implications of the hand written note hit him at the same time as the girl's mention of the time of the order.
Early this morning. Alfred had placed the order in person.
He was here, in London.
Finding the gloves through a quick grope through the glass and rose jungle, England sprang for the door. If he was here, he was probably leaving, and the aeroport was-
Alfred stood on his doorstep.
The British Empire didn't launch himself at the younger Nation with babbled apologies, and gloves offered without a bit of explanation. Didn't cry on the shoulder of his former colony, his lover, his best friend. Didn't note the reddened eyes of the other, and exhaustion of repeated trips across the Atlantic.
Arthur, however, did all of these, and to his addled mind's surprise, so did Alfred. Well, the crying on his shoulder part, and the babbled apologies bit at any rate.
"Arthur, I'm sorry, England- I didn't mean to start it, I'm just- I was stupid."
"America, Alfred- I shouldn't have gone so far. I'm sorry, and I hope you can forgive-"
"I don't want to fight with you anymore, and I broke my promise-"
"You didn't break a promise, love, we both knew we'd argue."
"But I promised I wouldn't hurt you anymore, and I did."
"You didn't promise that you wouldn't, only that you'd try, and you tried." Arthur found his voice, "Alfred, you weren't the only one to blame for this, we both were out of line."
"I love you." The words were so easily slipping from Alfred's lips. "I love you, and I can't stand it when we're mad at each other-"
"I feel the same." Arthur clung to Alfred for a moment longer, "The kettle's on, and I can make some tea or chocolate."
"And we can talk." Alfred said quietly, "Or whatever you want to do, as long as it doesn't end with us screaming at each other again."
"Not in anger, anyway." Arthur said with a faint smile.
And go inside, they did. And after the chocolate and tea, and explanation of the gloves and the flowers- upstairs, past the guest room, to England's bedroom.
Where they made themselves cozy on the bed, snogged for about twenty minutes, and then fell asleep in each other's arms, because despite Arthur's belief that Alfred hadn't noticed the results of a sleepless night, he had.
And that, England later thought, might just have made up for a little of the hurt of the hours of separation.
But only a little. They'd have to repeat it a few more times to make sure all the tears were gone for now.