Weight of the World

. . .

Being the hero was something that Alfred F. Jones thoroughly enjoyed fulfilling the role of. When he was young, he saved damsels in distress(or, saving one of his stuffed animals from Peter), vanquished evil(or, killed the cockroaches that everyone was deathly afraid of), and had many happy endings(or, milk and cookies with Arthur). Now older, he participates in the nasty world of politics; he fights wars; he works for cures to diseases.

Now older, he's a worldwide superpower, with a whole lot more responsibilities to carry.

But eventually his shoulders start to ache, his knees start to weaken a little, and he sometimes finds himself sitting on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands, shoulders slumped and hair askew, the room silent save for his quiet breaths.

Today is one of those days. The curtains are drawn in his room; the exquisite royal blue wallpaper does nothing to help lighten the atmosphere. He's wearing nothing but a sleeveless shirt and boxers(because he's recently realized how stuffy suits are). The door is closed, yet instead of the regular quiet, there are light footsteps gradually becoming louder, approaching his bed room.

The oak door opens, and someone walks in, though Alfred doesn't look up. He doubts if he would be able to recognize the person without his glasses, anyway; his vision really had become terrible.

Two gentle, almost fragile hands land on each of his shoulders. Nimble fingers dig into the skin lightly and move back and forth, easing the tense muscles.

"You work too much," comes the whisper. It's the whisper of someone familiar, the whisper of someone whose name and face Alfred can never place correctly. "Really, Al, you need to learn when to take a break." His brother continues the massage, climbing onto the bed behind the American for easier access.

"Still have twenty more pages of paperwork to go," Alfred mutters sourly. He still hasn't looked up, and is glad, for what would Matthew think if he saw the frustrated tears in his eyes?

Matthew sighs, pausing his hands for a moment to wrap his arms around Alfred. "Even heroes need a break sometime," he murmurs, placing his chin on Alfred's right shoulder.

"Heroes are never taking a break."

"That's a lie."

"But then who's watching the world while he takes a break?" Alfred asks. "Who makes sure the bad guys stay down?"

"That's what I'm here for, Alfred." Matthew moves his hand over Alfred's chest, where he can feel his heart beating. "I can help. Let me help."

Alfred finally lifts his head from his palms, and turns his head a little to look at his brother. "I'm so tired," he whispers weakly, and Matthew doesn't think he's ever seen Alfred like this before, so weary, so vulnerable. It almost frightens him.

"I know," he whispers back. "So let me do some of that paperwork, all right?" He gives a small smile, bits of happiness peaking in his indigo eyes.

Looking down at his lap, Alfred breaks his gaze. "Why do you want to help me?" he says quietly. "You have your own things, don't you, Canadia?" He curses inwardly at the slip he makes. "And see? I don't even remember your name. You should hate me."

Matthew smiles, bittersweet. "I don't hate you," he chides. "I'm helping you because heroes shouldn't have to bear the world's weight alone." Then he stands, walking over to the desk where there sat a rather large pile of papers. He hefts them into his arms with ease. "Because the world's pretty fucking heavy, eh?" He grins. "I'll get these back to you by tomorrow." And he leaves the room.

Alfred is left, still sitting on the edge of the bed, shoulders tingling from where Matthew had been massaging them. A hint of a real smile, the first one in a while, breaks across Alfred's face. "Thank you," he murmurs to the spot where Matthew had been standing.

The next day, he almost doesn't notice the way his shoulders don't hurt anymore.

A/N: I'm pretty sure this is my third submission for today. Um...yay? :D

I wrote this to practice making Alfred not as stupid and Matthew not as weak while keeping them in character. I hope I did okay. ^^