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His fingers trembled like the newness to a baby hummingbird's wings, gently quivering with a cauldron of feelings and thoughts. Though he was elated and nervous for never having done this, of course, England kept his casual pleasantness and masked his body with the composure he knew suited him so well. England eased himself into the seat across from an equally happy individual - well, perhaps Alfred was a bit more on the cheerful side than he, but nevertheless.
"Awfully empty place," England commented in a lame attempt at relieving the awkwardness from this new situation.
Alfred didn't seem to mind this comment, merely shrugging and concentrating on unfolding his napkin and tucking it into the collar of his shirt. He grinned and glanced around the maroon room, walls decorated with floral paintings and photographs from the mid twentieth century. Round tables, about as small as a school desk, were scattered about the ebony carpet, tabletops gracing the surface with nothing but a soft flutter about their ruffled edges.
A small, casual restaurant, but still resting a little too dangerously to the border of family and friend-oriented to something different altogether.
England pursed his lips tightly but refused to comment on it.
"It's usually busier, swear," Alfred reassured in good humor. England nodded and folded his own cloth napkin against his lap and began to run his eyes over the menu.
Yes, I'm sure it is... The images of dinner patrons all dressed in semi-formal clothing coming in here when candles could be put to their best use flooded his mind and dried out his mouth. If he concentrated hard enough he could even manage to smell the faintest hint of perfumes and potpourri.
"Do you come here often?" England asked, peering over the top of his menu at Alfred who, as disturbing as it was, was sitting with his hands folded against the tabletop with his head tilted and eyes shining with pure, unabashed interest. He faltered and lost eye-contact in his surprise.
Alfred laughed, the sound disturbing the waiters.
"Only when people are treating me. The food's to die for, and the prices are reasonable. Don't you agree, Arthur?"
England nodded distractedly, not even bothering to look at the prices when Alfred said his name like it was part of some source of his happiness (he knew it not to be true, though). Who really cares about the prices? It's not like a 'politician' like I would have any trouble with finances.
A waiter approached the table gathering Alfred and England's attention as the young man, no younger than Alfred, England supposed, smiled timidly at them. He glanced between the two of them with an air of hesitance before propping his notepad up and holding his pen taut. "My name's Justin. I'll be taking care of you today. Can I start you two off with anything to drink?"
England watched the waiter carefully as Alfred ordered some sort of soda. The boy nodded and smiled as he jotted down the order, stopping only to look a little taken aback when glancing to England who was unaware of his stony stare. "A-and for you, sir?"
England snapped out of his stupor and darted his eyes back down at the menu. "Oh, yes. Let's see– Just an iced tea and what have you."
The boy scribbled it down and left not a nick too soon.
Alfred slowly turned his head back to England in one smooth motion, his face nearly tearing from his teasing smile. England raised an impressive eyebrow. "Did you see that?" Alfred asked.
England chose to play the fool and feigned confusion. "See what?"
Alfred suppressed a chuckle and put his menu back up, shaking his head and saying in a sing-song voice, "Noothing."
England did believe that it most certainly was not nothing. But after seeing that Alfred wasn't going to look at him again, he decided to ignore that curious statement and go about finding what he would eat for this meal. At least the food seemed to be on a friendly and less high class basis.
After the drinks were set down and Alfred began to place his order, England kept getting a tap under the table. At first he thought it was a fluke; like Alfred had rustled around and accidentally stepped on his shoe. But after a few more incessant taps England knew the blonde was trying to convey some sloppy morse code or something.
And judging by that stupid grin on Alfred's face, it probably had something to do with Alfred's previous question. Just to be sure, England ran his eyes over their waiter.
It was obvious now. England could see it.
The thing wrong with this situation was that…
… Alfred was an utter moron.
There was nothing wrong with the waiter, or with this situation for that matter. So all England could do was try to spew out some name on the menu as the waiter looked just as hesitant as he had the first time when coming to take their drink orders. The tapping occurred at an even more alarming rate.
"What the devil are you doing?" England hissed quietly as he leaned over his edge of the table. Alfred couldn't help any giggles that escaped that time and chose to hide them behind his fist.
"Oh, was that your foot there? Sorry, Arthur."
England regarded him in an unimpressed manner. "Yes, that was my foot. Why are you trying to squish it like a bug on the carpet?"
Alfred shrugged. "No reason." When England frowned with furrowed eyebrows Alfred grinned again and looked around, making sure no one was in earshot. He motioned for England to scoot in, which the Englishman did reluctantly. He paused at how close their faces were, his mind going blank before the gears hit full throttle. Alfred waited a ridiculous amount of time to build up the drama before he snickered and blew out a breath that carried a whisper against the Briton's ear.
"He likes you."
England shot back, flabbergasted. "Excuse me?"
Alfred laughed loudly this time. "You're excused."
Leaning in with his face feeling a little warmer than it needed to, England protested quietly, but firmly. "I think you've had one too many energy drinks, or whatever it is that you Americans have been putting in your system. That is a completely crass and ludicrous accusation to make."
"What? You got a thing against man crushes?" Alfred asked.
The words choked and cluttered at the back of his mouth. England felt his fingers curl slightly against the tablecloth as he looked anywhere but at Alfred's amused face. "Wh- N-no, that's not what I'm saying. You haven't been – Are you even listening to yourself, boy?"
"He totally digs you, bro. Be flattered. It's not like that's weird… Ok, it could be weird, actually. But in this case it ain't. You two make a darling couple, don't you think?" Alfred joked and twirled his silverware against the table. All the while England sat looking like a trapped animal. This was not funny in the slightest. Those words did not sound well coming out of Alfred's mouth, either.
The last thing he wanted was for Alfred to play matchmaker for him. Unless. Well…
He coughed awkwardly and pulled at his collar despondently. Alfred was quiet a minute when his bait wasn't taken, pursing his lips and watching England for a moment. He tapped his foot again after a moment for good measure, gaining the Briton's attention.
"But I think I made him angry."
Another large eyebrow was raised, not knowing what Alfred was speaking.
"Because he thinks I'm on a date."
England sat up in his chair, eyes widening a fraction of an inch. He glanced about the small eatery with surprise. What what what? He didn't know whether to take this as the truth or another little joke, for Alfred looked about ready to bust a gut.
"You're not serious, are you?" he breathed, unable to put a label on what was churning inside him at this very moment.
Alfred shrugged again. "Hey, I'm not sayin' I have the best gaydar in the world, but that's the vibe I'm gettin' from this dude. You feel it too?"
England took a moment to twist a bit in his chair and look at their waiter from across the room chatting with the hostess. He peered up briefly before giving a look of curiosity. England turned back around in his chair, perplexed. "I have absolutely no idea." How did Alfred get a gaydar anyway, and where was he hiding it? That was not a convenient thing to put on the market.
Alfred shushed him and waved his hands, composing himself. "Quiet, quiet. Don't offend him."
England blinked and tilted his head to see their waiter come back into view, possibly because of all the staring at him in the past ten minutes. "Do you guys need anything else? Any problems?" he asked politely.
Alfred shook his head and watched England expectantly. "I'm good. Are you good, Arthur?"
There was something in the way Alfred spoke to him that just made England feel uncomfortable and on edge. He sunk down in his chair for good measure. "Marvelous."
The young boy looked between the two uncertainly for another moment before giving another suppressed smile and walked away. England sighed and ran his fingers over his forehead, shaking his head while Alfred sipped from his soda. "Do you find this amusing?"
"A little," he admitted honestly.
England mentally groaned, wanting to stab himself with his fork for being drawn in by someone so utterly childish. And yet Alfred still was appealing, even at the end of the day if he embarrassed him to no end. England paused at that.
That wasn't a good thing, he concluded.
But by that time Alfred was already turning those bright eyes towards him, another string of words falling from his lips that sent his heart a flutter.
"But I thought I already told you that's why I like you."
That fork was looking more and more appealing as the minutes piled on.
England knew before the outing was over that he wanted to see Alfred again. There wasn't enough time to quench his curiosity and interest in this strange human being.
Alfred loved sweets, but hated vanilla. He played sports, but never played on a team before. He was allergic to peanuts and had no mother and loved art but hated art museums and so much more. It was a pile of ironic and hypocritical rubbish that made very little sense…
But England wanted to hear more. Alfred certainly was an odd fellow.
"I'm stuuuuffed!" Alfred moaned, stretching his arms over his head as he moved for the exit. England smiled to himself as Alfred turned to look at him. "Thanks for the meal, man. It was fun. Almost makes me feel bad for having seconds..." He stopped to grin and raise both eyebrows. "Almost."
"It was my treat so I don't mind," England said truthfully as he watched Alfred push open the door, following shortly after him.
"Next time I'll pay then, too make up for that," Alfred commented, flipping on his phone to appear distracted as England missed his step. Or perhaps England just perceived Alfred's sudden silence as wishful thinking that maybe a comment like that wasn't thrown around so easily by Alfred. It surely wasn't by England.
"I'll remember that."
And even as the two men walked down the sidewalk chatting casually, they both failed to notice a pair of concerned eyes watching from across the busy streets.
The smells of the meal could still be found wafting out of the kitchen when the restaurant doors swung open. A blonde walked in with a cheerful greeting to the hostess and quickly slipped out of her coat, ready to start her shift. She walked into the restaurant and meandered over to the young waiter boy collecting his tip and cleaning up a table in the back of the room.
She stuck her hand up as she called out, "Hey! Slow day?"
The boy looked up and smiled when seeing the familiar face. He stuffed the spare receipt into the pouch on the side of his vest. "Hello, Cindy. You're late. I've been covering your shift for the last half hour."
Cindy tugged awkwardly at a stray curl that she missed when putting her hair up. "Sorry… I was stuck at home doing something with my dad. Time got away from me a little. You can go now."
The boy nodded and walked around her, ready to take his leave as well, before he stopped and snapped his fingers. "Oh, hey," he said, craning his neck to look at her. She stopped her cleaning up the table and blinked. "I forgot. I just waited on that guy, what's his name… Alfred. Yeah, that's him. He was just here. That's his table."
Cindy looked mildly surprised. "Alfred was here?"
"Yeah, you just missed him. He was here with some guy. I think they were makin' fun of me or something…"
Cindy snorted, but seemed a little distracted. "That's because he tells people you're gay."
The boy looked appalled. "What!"
She laughed and waved him off. "Go home already." She didn't give her coworker another thought as she turned her attention back to the table, fingers tapping against the cloth.
Cindy picked up the receipt and looked down at the signature.
She frowned uneasily. "Alfred… This better not be what I think this is…"