Author's Notes: It has been. So long. 2 1/2 years I think. Whoops. Well, I am not so present in the Hetalia fandom anymore. I do my own comics moreso than writing anymore. However, I still love Hetalia, and USUK, and I never intended ever giving up on this story because Breathless and Static are near and dear to me. I believe there will only be 2 more chapters after this.
I can't run to you, father.
I need love.
I can't talk to you, mother.
I know it's got you caught up.
-Matt Maeson, Grave Digger
As I approached the Jones residence I could see quite clearly the cold feet Alfred was starting to experience.
He stood outside of his front door, his hands shoved deep inside his pockets. The nod he gave me as I approached him could've been better interpreted as a flinch, to be honest.
"You're much too tense for this, Alfred," I chastised, ignoring the uncomfortable rolling of my stomach in favor of being the supportive friend. Alfred was flustered enough as it is; the last thing he needed was for me to pile on to the many different scenarios no doubt spiraling around his mind.
Alfred scowled at me but turned to open the door regardless.
"Dude, I'm telling my parents I'm gay. Kinda comes with the package."
"You're gay?" I asked, letting the word hang heavy between us.
Alfred shut the door and twisted towards me, his face pensive while his eyebrows furrowed. He ran his hand over his face in frustration.
"OK, not gay. But – you know. Dating a . . . guy."
"Alfred, my friend," I said, patting his shoulder, letting my hand linger as I gave him a smile. "You say that like it's a bad word."
With that said, I maneuvered around him into the kitchen, where Mrs. Jones was pulling something out of the oven. She smiled brightly when she noticed my presence.
"Arthur! What a nice surprise. Would you like something to drink?"
"Thank you, please."
I took a seat just in time to notice Alfred slinking into the archway. I shot him a curious look and he shrugged one shoulder before glancing away from me.
So, he hadn't even told his parents that I'd be here today for this? What exactly had he said was going to happen today?
Mrs. Jones placed a glass of juice on the table and smiled politely, as oblivious as ever. She excused herself to resume her baking and left me and Alfred to our thoughts.
I stared at him until he could no longer ignore me while his mother hummed, blissfully unaware of what conversation awaited her. Alfred glared at me and I raised my eyebrows, gesturing to the woman with her back turned to us. He made a show of how obnoxious I was being to him with wide arm motions before clearing his throat.
"H-hey, Ma. When does Dad get home?"
"There's some traffic today so I'd guess in the next thirty minutes. Why?"
Alfred grinned, completely convincing when she faced him in her inquiry.
"No reason. Just wanted to talk to you guys before dinner, is all."
"Oh?" Mrs. Jones responded, her voice going soft and, dare I say, wary. She placed another tray in the oven, not meeting Alfred's eyes. "What about?"
I watched as Alfred shifted his feet, rubbing at the back of his neck with restless fingers. "Nothing serious. I just have some big," he cleared his throat, "big news to tell you."
Mrs. Jones stood up, cocking her head between the two of us. I found myself catching some of Alfred's nerves and shifted in my seat.
"News? Like with school?"
"Kinda. Well, no. Ma, don't worry about it. It's nothing bad," Alfred reassured, trying to get that guarded look off of his mother's face. He laughed, though it sounded strained to me, and I could see Mrs. Jones' shoulders relax under the effect.
"Don't scare me like that, Alfred." She returned his smile, swatting at him with a dish towel.
"Sorry," was all Alfred could conjure up as a reply to the sudden tension seeping into the room.
"Arthur, are you staying over again tonight?" Alfred's mother glanced at me before refocusing her attention back onto her baking. I put my poker face back on and took a sip from my glass.
Alfred peeked at me.
"Actually, the reverse. If you're alright with it. Alfred offered to help me and my father finish painting my room." A lie, but as good an excuse as any to get Alfred out of the house if this conversation went sour. I didn't have to look at my friend to know he appreciated it.
"Of course. I don't mind it. Although I'm not sure how much help Alfred will be. He's never had the attention span for do it yourself projects like that."
Permission to leave: granted.
"Any help is better than no help," I said, smiling at her when she laughed.
"Well let me know when your father gets home so you can tell us this mysterious big news."
"Will do. C'mon, Arthur," Alfred agreed, quickly tugging at my arm and pulling me out of the room. We walked into the sitting room where he immediately proceeded to flop against the couch and put his head between his knees.
"Jesus, are you sure you're alright?" I asked in a hushed tone, gently touching his back. Alfred was silent a moment before shaking his head. Of course coming out wasn't anything to laugh at, but I had no idea that Alfred would wither under the pressure of it like a flower in a snowstorm.
"I feel like I'm going to throw up, dude. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," he moaned softly. I could tell even under his jacket that he was tense.
"I know it's unpleasant, but I doubt this is a conversation you could put off forever. They'll have to learn of it sometime," I reminded.
Alfred grew silent again, the quiet thick and heavy, looming over us like a physical force. I bit my lip before maneuvering around the sofa and sitting beside him.
"If it is too much of a worry for you, perhaps now isn't the best time. We can always –"
Alfred's head shot up abruptly, causing me to nearly fall off the couch in my surprise. He shook his head vehemently.
"No. No, I want to do this now. Before I go back to school. I just – I just need to get my head on straight, alright? Then I'll be fine. Just gimme a minute, Arthur."
I waited supportively as Alfred took a few calming breaths, running his palms against this jean clad thighs.
After a beat, I nudged him with my knee. "You know," I started, seeking out his attention. "I doubt your head will ever be straight again, so the point you made was moot."
He blinked slowly, realization coming slowly like the gears in his head had rusted over. He smiled at me, and even though it still looked uncertain, it was a refreshing thing to see.
He craned his neck and glanced behind me to where his mother still busied herself in the kitchen. When he was assured that we were alone, even momentarily, Alfred leaned in and gave me a kiss.
I resisted the urge to go rigid in my surprise, as I'd always done previously, and leaned in as well with a sigh.
This concept of touching this way – it was still new to me; frightening, even. But this was Alfred, and kissing him was the furthest thing from terrible. This whole relationship process was just something we both needed to adjust to.
"Don't be a smartass," Alfred chided in good nature when he pulled away, pushing at my shoulder.
"One of us has to be the smart one."
Alfred grinned, his nose doing that crinkle thing that I loved so much. He opened his mouth to retort when the door behind us opened. Immediately, we were both on the opposite ends of the sofa, looking up at the blank expression of Calvin Jones.
His eyes glanced between us before settling on Alfred.
"Hey, Dad," Alfred greeted. I mentally slapped him for looking so unnecessarily skittish. If his father noticed, he didn't show it. He simply folded his jacket over the bend of his elbow and locked the door.
"I didn't know we were having company tonight."
It was my turn to fidget. For Alfred's sake, however, I willed myself to meet his gaze with a calm disposition.
"I apologize. I thought I'd left something in Alfred's room and came over to retrieve it. I won't be here long."
"How come you're home so soon?" Alfred blurted when the silence dragged on. Mr. Jones hung up his coat by the door and loosened his tie, wandering into the kitchen.
"Left a little earlier today because of the weather."
As Alfred and I were left alone in the room once more, we had no way around acknowledging that this was going to be a very unpleasant night.
"I can see why you're nervous," I admitted. Alfred snorted without humor and ran both hands through his hair.
Of course I had known what was going to transpire tonight. I had known it even as I'd left my home; however, the situation hadn't seemed real quite then. With the naivety his mother spoke in from the kitchen, coupled with the stony rigidity of Mr. Jones' greeting, the reality of the conversation ahead was almost enough to choke someone.
As I glanced to Alfred, his eyes wild and his pallor ghostly, I felt the weariness radiating off of his body in waves.
With a nod, I could see that he knew it was going to be now today, or not till another.
Alfred rose from the couch, meandering towards the kitchen where his parents were conversing, his movements almost robotic and unnatural.
From where I remained sitting, I could hear Alfred's voice cut between the murmurs of his parents. They exchanged a few words before Alfred wandered back into the room, his Adam's apple bobbing, the gaze of his eyes transfixed to the carpet.
Not a moment later did two figures join him, with Mrs. Jones taking a seat across the coffee table at the loveseat. Mr. Jones remained standing, somehow managing to make the tension feel worse hovering over his family.
When Alfred sat down, he made sure to put a cushion distance between us.
The room stayed silent as everyone glanced around, waiting for someone to speak up. I peered at Alfred, his hands shoved across his chest, stuffed tightly in the armpits of his jacket. His lips were pursed together and I could see his bangs starting to stick to his skin from perspiration. He may have just offered to bring his parents into a discussion, however, nothing about his posture or presence indicated a willingness to talk.
Mr. Jones cleared his throat, and when I looked at him I could see some impatience bleeding through.
"What did you want to tell us, Alfred?" Mrs. Jones asked, trying not to look pensive, keeping her tone aloof. Alfred glanced up at his mother's smile, but when he couldn't muster his own this time, her encouraging charade fell a few notches.
"You- You ever, um, have something happen, and you didn't expect it to happen like that, but it just kinda did?" Alfred started, a feeble smile trying to form on his lips but failing miserably. The slight tremble to his voice made my palms sweat.
"Are you OK?" Mrs. Jones blurted out, her eyes darting around Alfred's body now, alert. "Did you get hurt again-"
"No, no! Nothing like that!" Alfred denied, his arms going up like a wall between him and the panic starting to bubble up in his mother.
"Did something happen to your school?" Mr. Jones cut in, his eyebrows furrowing. "Money?"
Alfred sputtered, slack jawed for a moment until he shook his head vehemently.
"Then, what?" Mr. Jones spoke, never surrendering his position by the wall, nor raising his voice. The look on his face, however, spoke volumes of his rising concern.
"Go on. You can tell us, Alfred," his mother assuaged, leaning forward when she saw Alfred flinching, attempting to draw his troubled gaze away from his intimidating father. When Alfred did focus on her, she continued, softer, "What is this big news?"
Had I not known Mr. Jones would've found out about this anyway, I would've never recommended Alfred to come out to both of his parents at the same time. His mother was more understanding, but I could see under the glassiness of her eyes that she was hanging by a wire. She always had been, since I'd first met her.
But his father . . .
I couldn't, in this very moment, tell which one Alfred feared a response from the most.
The strain bled out of Alfred in an instant, so abruptly, and only for a blink, almost like he zoned out long enough to let his lips do what his mind was too frazzled to.
"I met someone."
Mrs. Jones paused, clearly not expecting her son to have said those particular words in that order. She pulled herself up from leaning against her knees, and that's when Alfred chose to come back to himself, suddenly aware of what he'd just said.
I shifted beside him, looking to his father for a reaction. Nothing about his face had changed from what I gathered.
"You met someone? Like a girlfriend?" She asked. It was likely she hadn't expected that, either, but she didn't appear to be alarmed.
"No . . . Not like a girlfriend."
"Not like a girlfriend?" his mother parroted, clearly confused now. A crease was forming between Mr. Jones' eyebrows, his gaze flicking away from Alfred to me. My tongue felt dry and heavy in my mouth as they put the puzzle pieces together.
Just like that the air in the room changed, no longer that of weary tension, but buzzing and electric. Frighteningly unpredictable.
Mr. Jones stopped leaning on the wall, his posture stiff and towering.
"L-like a boyfriend," Alfred admitted, a breathy chuckle wheezing out from his lungs when he noticed his father's scowl.
To say that I expected either of Alfred's parents to take this information with ease would've been a lie; regardless, I had never seen two people look more affronted and alarmed to the degree they were over three words. Their expressions of whiplash and ire would've been comical had it not been for the severity of the conversation.
"A . . . boyfriend. You have a boyfriend? But," Mrs. Jones muttered to herself, raising her hand to toy at the collar around her neck, glancing between the two of us. She smiled. "But Alfred, honey, you're not gay."
"I-I know," Alfred agreed, grimacing at the brief flash of relief on his mother's face. "But I like Arthur. I like him a lot."
"You were doing that in my house?" Mr. Jones interjected, and I flinched when I saw that this was directed towards me. I could see his irritation with me bubbling over the edge, to where tolerating my presence anymore wouldn't be possible for him. He looked me up and down with a sneer, as if I had just walked up and personally spit in his face.
I took little solace in the fact that Mr. Jones seemed more put off by me as a whole rather than his son liking boys.
"We weren't doing anything like that here," Alfred quickly interjected when I couldn't conjure up a response fast enough. "I wouldn't do that, I swear. We've only kissed a couple of times. I just like hanging out with-"
"Don't tell me the details," Mr. Jones snapped, his expression souring. Alfred's jaw shut so fast I heard his teeth click.
"Alfred . . . I've only seen you with girls," his mother spoke softly. Alfred frowned, hating the way she sounded like she were talking someone out of a bad decision. "And you and Arthur, you're- You're such good friends."
"What else have you been keeping from us?"
Alfred's head spun back to his father, trying his best to keep up with the conversation that now felt suddenly like an interrogation. Each moment blurred together, my heart racing at how quickly this had started to spiral.
Mr Jones folded his arms across his chest, no longer trying to hide behind the staunch neutrality he always exuded. "This is just like your secrecy the other year. Never telling a soul and making your family walk in on that . . . scene."
Alfred jolted beside me, his hand subconsciously seeking out his wrist.
"And now this? So, I ask you, what else is there? Because you keep dropping bombshells on this family like it's some sort of game to you, Alfred."
"I didn't tell you last time because that was more complicated than this," Alfred continued. I instinctively leaned towards him with a frown when his voice cracked at the mention of his suicide attempt in such a derisive statement. "I'm telling you now so you know. So we don't have to hide from you guys. Do you not get that? Do you not get how hard this was for me? I'm not used to talking about this kinda stuff."
"Alfred," Mrs. Jones muttered, faltering at the desperation coating her son's words. She hesitated when she saw my hand settle reassuringly between his shoulder blades.
She took a calming breath, side eyeing her husband. "That life, the life you're wanting to pick, it's so much harder. Children, and a family - the stigma some people have," she huffed, running a trembling hand through her hair. "I just don't want to see you hurt. You and Arthur are such good friends. Why fix what's not broken?"
"You're not serious, are you?" Alfred breathed in disbelief, looking between his two parents like they're walls closing in on him. "I'm not talking about marriage and kids. I'm talking about here and now. I'm just trying to figure out day by day," Alfred continued, his voice rising an octave in his desperation.
His mother, possibly feeling attacked, turned her head away with a sharp breath. "What do you want from me?"
"I just wanted you to know. I felt like a jackass just pretending otherwise."
"I just don't see why you have to be with Arthur that way."
"Because I like him!" Alfred exclaimed his voice so raw and painted with emotion that his body surged forward. Mr. Jones winced at the sound, narrowing his eyes at the wide eyed stare seeking him out. Mrs. Jones turned horrified eyes to the spot beside her son's head, unwilling to look at him.
"He needs to leave," Mr. Jones was the first to speak after a long beat of silence. As an afterthought, he pointed to Alfred as well. "Both of you. You're upsetting your mother. I will not have you hurt this family a second time. Grab some things and go so I can think," he instructed, refusing to look at the dumbstruck face of his son.
"Dad, c'mon," Alfred breathed. When he was met with silence, he turned his attention to his mother. Mrs. Jones kept her eyes affixed to the floor. "Mom."
"Alfred, I just- this is too much at once. I need to- to gather my thoughts."
As Alfred found it in himself to stand up from the sofa, stumbling into me momentarily on legs like a newborn foal, he swallowed around the lump in his throat as he grabbed his backpack.
"Do you guys hate me now or something?" he asked, hesitant in the doorway leading outside. I could see Alfred's knuckles turning white while he gripped the wood of the door, trying to ask this as a joke, but only succeeding in looking terrified.
"Oh, honey, no," Mrs. Jones said, rising from her seat and approaching the two of us. She moved like a phantom, swift and trembling, halting just by her husband when Alfred turned his head back.
"We could never hate you. I'm just," Mrs. Jones ducked her glossy eyes and winced. "I'm just so tired. I can't keep . . . Please, Alfred. Give your mother a break, just this once."
Alfred's jaw clenched, glancing away quickly with a reluctant nod.
And just like that, as if it had all been one foggy dream, we were alone in the silence of the cold.
Alfred didn't budge from his porch for a long duration, stiff and quiet. I allowed him this, my own mind spinning from the onslaught of emotions that had transpired mere minutes ago.
A car horn was going off in the distance. There was a slight whistling of a breeze, the barren trees nearly unresponsive in their corpse like state. Alfred kept his head tilted away from me, but every now and then he'd sniff once or twice, whether from frustration or just the frigid icy air bothering his nose.
I could not tell how long we'd been standing there, but when Alfred's fingers touched mine, feeling frostbitten from the cold, I jumped. His fingers wove together with mine, the gesture as natural as breathing at this point.
He was grinning at me with a wet smile that had my heart thundering in my chest.