"Alfred, stop fussing about," Arthur ordered, blowing his nose into a tissue. "I've got a cold, that it, and I-"
"You've lived through the plague, yada yada," Alfred said quickly, waving his hands about as they both started down the flight of stairs. The meeting had finished a few minutes ago, and they, along with a good few dozen irate others, had been too slow to get into the ten person lift.
"Don't be so dismissive," Arthur said annoyance clear in his tone.
"You shouldn't be in work when you're sick," Alfred pressed on regardless. "What do you always tell me when I'm sick?"
"Not to get your diseases all over my upholstery when you come over? That you should expect a faulty immune system when all you eat is that junk food?"
"Apart from that stuff," Alfred said easily, waving his hands about as he jumped the last two stairs to the third floor. "You always say to take a break, and then bring round disgusting medicine that's suppose to make me feel better."
"If you'd take it, it would make you better."
"Have you taken any?" Alfred demanded, folding his arms as he waited for Arthur to catch up.
"Yes," replied Arthur exasperatedly. "Alfred, if I couldn't work, I wouldn't be here."
"No, because even when you're practically dying from something you still come in, and then annoy everyone with your sickness and coughing everywhere before somebody makes you go home."
Arthur glared at him, and then quickly fumbled with another tissue to sneeze into.
"Thank you for your sympathy," he said when he'd finished.
"This is sympathy!" Alfred protested. "You're working yourself to hard!"
"Fine, then I appreciate your concern," Arthur said with a sigh, "But you're making a mountain out of a mole hill," he finished as they reached the second floor.
"Gangway!" somebody screamed two floors above them, followed by the sound of running feet and surprised shouts. They both ignored it.
"Just go home for a bit, Arthur, there's only two days left. Or," Alfred brightened. "You could come back to mine!"
Arthur looked at him sceptically. "How would that help? Sitting on a plane with recycled air for eight hours with a cold?"
"Arthu-r," Alfred whined. "You're being difficult!" They reached the second floor, and there was a second shout of, "Move!" that came too late for either of them to get out of the way. Mathias running full tilt down the stairs as if all hells demons were on his tail, crashed into Alfred, who barely swayed out of an armed Vash, who was apparently Mathias' pursuer, who instead hit Arthur. Alfred caught the hand rail, his assailant also managing to keep his balance, but Vash rebounded to the floor as Arthur went flying.
There was a sharp crack, and all hell broke loose.
"So, thirty seven nations walk into A & E…" Arthur said dryly, leg splinted up as he sat on his comfortable sofa, leg in a plaster and propped up on three stacked foot stools.
Alfred sniggered from where he was sprawled across the sofa, just as Francis dramatically flung open the door to Arthur's living room, letting a brief explosion of noise in for a few seconds before he kicked it closed again, balancing a tray and a box of tissues in his hands.
"Oh God," Arthur complained, scowling up at the ceiling.
"What goes around, Arthur," said Francis, irritatingly, throwing the box onto the sofa, just out of Arthur's reach from where he was anchored by his cast.
"You're a bastard." He didn't even try to reach for it.
"I made you food!"
"You didn't," someone else interrupted. It was Matthew, sitting down on the sofa and passing the tissues over; this was why Matthew was the nicest. "That was Romano."
The Canadian picked a chocolate from the box on the table absently, offering one to Arthur. The box was huge, almost two metres long, and had three layers of Swiss chocolate neatly stacked inside. It had been bestowed upon Arthur by a very pleased looking Lilli while he was still in hospital, and had been told that it was from Vash, who was either too embarrassed or too guilty to deliver it in person. They'd split the price, the female nation had said to Arthur excitedly, but in a confidential whisper, and it was the first time that Vash had bought anyone a gift, for whatever reason since the eighteen hundreds.
Arthur picked his favourite chocolate, of which there were many, a rum truffle.
"Romano?" Alfred said blankly as Arthur tilted his head to one side, considering Matthew's words. Certainly out of character for the largely self-serving Italian nation. Arthur felt a little bead of warmth inside his chest as he contemplated the potential motivation.
Francis shushed Matthew, depositing the tray on Arthur's lap. Definitely the work of one Italian or the other; the plate of pasta was freshly cooked, the sauce a delicious looking mix of herbs, tomato, and quite possibly egg. Arthur gave it a cautious look as he swallowed the rest of the chocolate and tried some. Somewhere around his fifteenth mouthful, he paused for breath long enough to comment;
"He cooks better than you, frog."
"Thanks," Lovino said over Francis' indignant response about Arthur not knowing good cooking if leapt down his heathen throat, smirking from the doorway. His brother was on his heels, waving over his shoulder.
"You're so lucky," he whined, smiling like a lunatic. "He never makes anything for me."
"Shut up, idiot," Lovino replied instinctively, elbowing his brother in the gut without turning round. "Enjoy it while it lasts," he said to Arthur, who was smiling ever so slightly. Lovino wheeled around and huffed back into the kitchen, the sound of at least a dozen nations buzzing around in the rest of Arthur's house briefly slipping back through the open door.
"You've got sauce all over your face," Francis said, on Arthur's lap in the three seconds it took the rest of the room's inhabitants to process the statement, wiping the red food stuff from around Arthur's mouth with one of the tissues.
"Geroff," Arthur said around the tissue, pinned to his seat as he ducked his head about, trying to escape.
Holding the saved bowl in one hand, Matthew gently pushed Francis out of Arthur's fiercely protected personal space.
"Dude, you know you're effectively exploiting an invalid, right?" Alfred said with a grin at Francis' answering smirk and Arthur's squawk of protest.
"Er," someone interrupted. All four of them looked round to see a highly awkward looking Ludwig and a rather unimpressed Roderich. Francis, the bastard, sniggered, and for the hundredth time Arthur wondered when the Frenchman had become so in the know of his life. Matthew raised an eyebrow as Ludwig made the motion to walk into the room, and then faltered, sticking in the safety of the doorway, Roderich still hovering behind him, silently scrutinising. Alfred, as ever unobservant of the behaviour of others, was cheerfully oblivious as he restrained Francis long enough to allow Arthur to get a good hit in. He had a broken leg after all, fair is fair.
"Exactly how many of you are there in my house?" Arthur demanded, back handing the Frenchman over the head without even thinking about it.
"About twenty," Alfred said after a considerate pause, letting a whining Francis go.
"Why?" was the exasperated response.
"How are you feeling?" Ludwig interrupted folding his arms as he awkwardly walked a little further forward into the room. Matthew stood up, and then kicked Alfred's leg so he gave up his seat too.
Letting out a derisive noise, Arthur shrugged his shoulders and his lips twisted up into a wry grin. "I'm coming down with a cold," he understated.
"Or you've got the flu," was the answering suggestion.
"…Maybe," Arthur acknowledged reluctantly. "I'm drugged up to my eyeballs though, so when all the medicine kicks in I should be fine-"
"I'm sure we could manage the removal of some of the people here," Roderich offered. "I doubt Gilbert's presence is at all beneficial to your health. You might be able to get some sleep?"
"If you could suggest to them that it might be more convenient for me for them to get out of my house, that'd be much appreciated." Arthur sighed. "I know most of them mean well, but I've got a lot to do if I'm going to be house bound."
"Or you could sleep," Alfred offered, squishing down between him and Francis.
"Sleep is not a waste of time," Ludwig said, accent lifting slightly with the air of someone quoting, smirk audible in his tone.
With a ridiculous amount of effort, Arthur prised one eye open. "Don't even go there," he warned ineffectively.
Ludwig almost grinned.
"I'm being ganged up on," Arthur complained.
"You're an invalid."
"That's not very PC, Alfred-"
"You look dreadful," Roderich interjected.
"Thank you," Arthur said evenly, but with a definite glare that he also wished he hadn't bothered with when his head ache intensified. He let the expression drop after a few stubborn seconds.
"I may have given you my cold," Roderich observed, looking faintly apologetic. Usually his characteristic aloofness didn't allow him to express that sort of consideration to anyone that wasn't Elizabeta.
"Elizabeta gave me some rather effective medication when she visited yesterday," Roderich said, and Arthur was uncannily reminded of Ludwig's embarrassed concern, and the oddly hopeful look that he'd been receiving a lot since he'd fallen down a flight of stairs. The Austrian nation offered a mostly filled bottle of a syrupy liquid that was sure to taste horrible but looked serious enough to do the job.
"You're free to have it," he offered. Arthur looked between both the rather out-of-their depth looking western nations and suppressed a smile that was threatening to creep through his illness-induced misery and experience told him would make the pair even more embarrassed.
"Thank you," he politely said, and then Roderich tossed him the bottle and Arthur moved automatically to catch it. He let out a pained yelp and cursed creatively as the motion tugged his leg off its perch and sending a spasm of pain through him, the rest of his body pulled after the heavy plaster.
Almost as if it was pre-planned, all the other nations in the room sprung into motion. Roderich, who was apologising in a combination of English and German, and Ludwig both moved to ease his leg back up, Francis reflexively caught the medicine in one hand as he steadied Arthur with the other, and Alfred, inexplicitly, took his hand.
Matthew, who been half way through moving forward, was cut off by the door swinging open and almost crashing into him.
"When did my living room become the M25," Arthur demanded, flushed bright red at his display of dependency. He accidently caught Francis' gaze, who smiled at him without connotation as he offered the bottle; Arthur took it automatically and quickly turned his thanks towards Ludwig and Roderich. Francis probably knew though, the sod always did.
The occupants of the room registered Antonio's arrival, followed as it was by an interested looking Gilbert and an especially irate Lovino. The pleased, heavily ignored, feeling of being looked after faded slightly in the wake of a degree of realisation. Arthur grinned as the sensation of a plan reaching its conclusion bloomed, a grin noted by Alfred. The latter felt his own lips twitch up into the gleeful smile of a man who'd just become spectator to an event he hadn't realised he needed to see. Alfred, Arthur thought, did know his delinquent side rather too well.
Antonio, oblivious, practically danced his way over to Roderich- there was a soft, inadvertent and somehow Italian noise of confusion that only Arthur noticed, drowned out as it was by a much louder Austrian yelp as Antonio grabbed Roderich.
"Hi," the Spaniard chirped, giving Arthur a grin that was probably supposed to be conspiratorial, before tipping Roderich backwards with a flourish and kissing him.
There was an almost non-existent pause. Then there was a delighted scream, almost entirely in sync with the wolf whistles and cat calls that erupted from the kitchen. Arthur noted, with amusement, that you could have flown a plane through the open mouths of fifty percent of the observing nations.
Arthur's gaze flicked between Antonio and the apparently comatose Roderich, the resignedly baffled Ludwig and then to Lovino. The Italian was frozen next to his brother, Feliciano grinning and applauding obliviously, an expression of disbelief and panic on his face.
Roderich finally managed to hold of himself enough to shove Antonio away from him and promptly did so, sending the Spaniard stumbling several feet back. He opened his mouth to start shouting, Antonio looking back at him like a particularly cheerful puppy, but was beaten to it.
Screaming something incoherent but probably very rude, Lovino shoved the much abused Matthew out of the way as he stormed towards Antonio. The latter turned away from Roderich, blinking as his grin widened.
Lovino punched him, then grabbed his shirt collar and dragged him out of a comparatively unused door, the one that lead to Arthur's hallway. The cheering abruptly died, replaced with a few seconds of extremely speculative silence before somebody started sniggering.
"That was beautiful," Francis announced, wiping a pretend tear from his cheek.
"Woo!" Gilbert cheered as he raced out of the room after the abducted Spaniard, to rescue or laugh at him who knew, grabbing Francis' arm as he went.
In the next few seconds there was another brief lull as everyone considered what to do next. It was that moment that Arthur sneezed. Loudly.
Glaring at the eyes that all turned to him, Arthur fumbled with a tissue.
"Elizaveta," Ludwig said to the woman currently trying to sneak after Gilbert, "Could you please look after Roderich?"
Elizaveta obviously evaluated her two options, a camera practically flashing in her eyes, and then consented to go over to Roderich. Pulling the hugely ruffled Austrian out of the room, she began talking to him as one would a victim of PTSD.
Ludwig abruptly began clearing everyone out, for which Arthur was immensely grateful. With famed German efficiency, Arthur's house was relatively empty in fifteen minutes.
"You ever think we know a whole damn lot of crazy people?" Alfred observed, having coaxed Arthur into laying across the sofa with his head in the American nation's lap, broken leg positioned on a mountain of cushions.
"Craziness takes lessons from our beloved England," Francis said, in what he probably imagined was a sage way, having ducked away from the other three thirds of the bad touch trio as Ludwig had set about evicting them. Arthur struggled for a moment to pull a cushion out from behind his head and throw it at him; Alfred saved him the effort by taking the pillow and landing a direct hit on Francis' face without sitting up.
"Thank you," Arthur said demurely.
Francis didn't comment, pointedly settling down into the armchair and using the projectile to cushion his head, languidly splayed out over the armrests of the seat. Matthew's head was against the chair's side, facing the fire and occasionally prodding at it with the poker, looking peaceful. Relaxing as he hadn't done while the other nations were around- he'd always been the highly-strung variety of host, and it went against the grain to allow himself to be pandered to in his own house by guests- Arthur closed his eyes and let out a silent sigh.
Neither Francis nor Matthew noticed, but Alfred felt it and started to shift about.
"Are you okay? Sorry? Does your leg hurt?" he whispered, trying not to disturb the calm sleepiness in the air and not quite knowing how.
"Mm," Arthur said, pressing his head down into Alfred's legs without thinking to stop him getting up and keeping his eyes closed.
He felt Alfred still beneath him, and then the younger man's fingers gently start to card through his hair.
"Chocolate?" Alfred offered.
"Yes, but I can't move."
"Mattie?" pleaded Alfred lightly. There was the sound of shuffling, then the box being lifted from the coffee table and changing hands.
"Thank you, Matthew," Arthur murmured, and wasn't surprised a few moments later when the smooth texture of one of the sweets met his mouth. He parted his lips and let the chocolate drop into his mouth. It was a rum truffle.
"Thank you, Alfred."
For the first time in a while, Arthur didn't disguise the pleased smile that spread across his face. He could tell the other three had noticed, heard Francis' soft, sleepy laugh, and honestly didn't mind.
"Thank you very much."