Title: You're Awful, I Love You
Summary: In which an irresistible force meets an immovable object, and the world miraculously does not implode. Alfred might, though. Belarus/America.
Rating/Warning(s): K+; none
Notes: Request from Faith Altoire.
Recommended Listening: "Love Me Dead" by Ludo
Disclaimer: This fangirl owns nothing, because if she did, this pairing would be canon.
Alfred F. Jones loved his days off.
Those days were rather rare, you see. Most of the time, he was either working with his boss and other government executives or meeting with one or more of his fellow nations or arguing with said fellow nations about important things or pretending that it was work/meaningful argument when in reality they just did stupid things, mostly for the hell of it. But days like this were when Alfred didn't have any prior obligations to his fellows, when his boss told him to take a break, and when he could do whatsoever he pleased.
Well, he did that anyway. But today he had permission.
Alfred had woken up comfortably late in the morning, feeling absolutely amazing, and he took that as a sign that things were going to be glorious today. However, he'd only just started wondering if he'd be able to catch any last-minute Saturday morning cartoons when the phone, rather ominously, rang.
He gazed at it warily for a moment before answering. Please don't be my boss and oh, please, don't be Artie either, c'mon, it's my day off!
It wasn't either of them, to his momentary relief. It actually turned out to be the last person he would have expected, and that should have clued him in to how completely not-awesome the day was going to be. But alas - he didn't think quite fast enough.
"It is not the easiest thing, asking a favor of you like this, but you have to take her off my hands for at least one day. I cannot get any work done!"
"Whoa, whoa, slow down!" Alfred said. He'd been greeted with an immediate and uncharacteristic tirade of words by a voice that took him a moment to recognize as Ivan's. He'd only managed to register the last half of it, but still... that was probably the most words Alfred had ever heard the frigid nation utter in so few breaths. What the hell was going on? "Say what now?"
Ivan sighed and slowed his words to the pace of speaking to a very small child. "I need you to take Natalia off my hands for today. She has been hanging around my place lately, and I have hardly gotten any work done!"
A chill ran down Alfred's spine at the mere notion. Even Ivan was scared of his sister, which naturally meant she freaked Alfred out more than he cared to admit. "No way, dude! What makes you think she'd come over here anyway?"
"She would if I asked her to."
"Then just ask her to leave!"
"But without someone watching her, she'll come back and watch me!" Ivan sounded truly despairing at the thought.
Alfred almost felt bad for him; Natalia was really scary, and her obsession with her brother was grade-A creepy. He sighed in frustration. "Isn't there anyone else who can watch her?"
"They are all busy. It is your day off, da?"
"Well, yeah, but..." Alfred didn't want that psycho chick lurking around him on his day off! Their governments only had a very uneasy peace, and who knew what would happen if he had to look after her for an entire day!
"Please," Ivan said.
It took Alfred several moments to register that Ivan was actually begging. It wasn't begging in terms of normal people, but it was definitely begging. Alfred wouldn't have believed it if Natalia wasn't concerned. As it was, he kind of understood, and he honestly felt bad for Ivan. His desire to relax warred with his natural instinct to help, even if it meant assisting someone he normally never trusted. Which could actually work in his favor, if Ivan was in debt to him...
That tipped the balance. "You owe me for this," Alfred said grudgingly. "I mean it."
"Of course," Ivan said gratefully, sounding truly relieved. "Thank you. I will bring her momentarily."
And Alfred said goodbye and hung up the phone with a bad feeling in his stomach, wondering just what he'd gotten into and why he insisted on doing such things to himself.
You how he'd said Natalia freaked him out?
Well, correction: she really freaked him out.
Her overall appearance was surprisingly normal today; she was wearing unexpectedly casual clothes and could have almost been considered cute. But her eyes, violet and cold, did away with that notion the moment it entered Alfred's head. She glared at him, and it was easy to see why even Ivan was scared of her.
"Um," Alfred muttered to Ivan on the side, trying to avoid making eye contact with those purple orbs of death, "what are we supposed to do for the whole day?"
"She likes to go out," Ivan replied serenely, looking far more calm than he'd sounded over the phone - maybe it was the prospect of getting away from Natalia for a day. Alfred wasn't sure; he was too concerned with how totally weird the actual statement was.
"What does that even mean?"
"Take her places. Keep her entertained. It's in your best interests." And with those ominous words, Ivan got out of there as fast as was nationly possible, probably before Natalia could change her mind.
An awkward silence descended, and Alfred could literally feel a chill filling his house. There was no need to even attempt to read the atmosphere here - it was being eaten away by ice. And he had to break it. It would drive him nuts otherwise.
"So," he said, "um... where would you like to go, then?"
Natalia, who'd previously only been shooting side glares at him, now gave him the full force of her gaze. He shivered.
"I'm only here to please my big brother," she informed him, blunt and cold.
Well... that was expected and not a little creepy. Alfred didn't relish feeling this awkward, and it didn't help that, before this, he and Natalia's contact outside of diplomatic relations had been scarce. Not to mention the muted conflict between his government and hers... he wondered how things could possibly get more frigid. But he would do the heroic thing and put that aside for today, and he'd just be Alfred F. Jones, American. He only hoped Natalia could do the same... whatever that actually meant.
Now that he thought about it, it was a scary thing to consider.
Perhaps through Alfred's abundance of cheeriness and natural encouraging charm - which could wear down even the coldest walls - he convinced Natalia to go into the city with him. They hit the mall first, strolling through it - or rather, Alfred was strolling, and Natalia trailed behind, studying everything with an unreadable expression. Alfred couldn't tell if she was bored or not, but it made him nervous. What would happen if she did get bored? He had to do something. He had to keep her occupied. Why had he even agreed to this?
His attempts at conversation made no dent in the sullen barrier surrounding her, though he kept it up doggedly, chatting about this and that and oh, look at that shiny over there~! However, his mind soon began to cast about desperately for more topics or a brilliant idea, and all he ended up with was, "Do you wanna go shopping or something?"
Her reaction was startling. She grew visibly angered, once again fixing a dark gaze on him, and she bristled with insult. He panicked a little bit. "Okay! Okay! You don't want to go shopping, I get it! How about food instead?"
She didn't answer, and after a moment, he decided to take that as a positive. Luckily, the strip of the mall they'd ended up in was full of various food kiosks, and he guided Natalia to one. "Ooh, hamburgers! You want one?"
Her face twisted in disgust, and he veered sharply away from that particular vendor. "Okay, definitely not that. Ooh, ice cream!"
He carefully gauged Natalia's reaction and found that she didn't seem as repulsed, so he turned to the vendor with a wide grin. "Two cookies n' cream, please!"
When Alfred handed Natalia's to her, she didn't look as cold. She accepted it without a word, studying it with a frown, and Alfred turned to his with another grin, having a feeling that she wouldn't eat it when he was looking.
They continued through the mall, and Alfred tore into his ice cream with enthusiasm, trying to eat it and keep up a one-sided conversation at the same time. He was so focused on his task that he was oblivious to everything else and so did not see the approaching chaos until it was too late.
He caught sight of it suddenly, out the corner of his eye - an out-of-control shopping cart, only a few feet away, speeding towards him at an impossible rate. His eyes widened, and he unconsciously braced for impact, and that was all he had time to do before a hand slipped into his, pulling him back with great force. He staggered sideways, losing his grip on the ice cream, and the next few moments were a cold, sticky, dizzy blur.
When he recovered, his head was spinning, and there was an unpleasantly chilly and wet sensation on his front. He blinked in shock, slowly righting himself, and looked at Natalia with wide eyes, realizing to whom the cold hand that had saved him belonged. "Thank you," he said in wonder.
She regarded him with an arched eyebrow. "You have ice cream all over you," she informed him coldly.
Alfred looked down at his shirt front, eyeing it ruefully. It was covered in cookies n' cream, and his shirt was effectively ruined for the day. Sigh. He'd liked this shirt, too.
The nearest department store happened to have decent replacements, and Alfred found one in record time, still wary of boring his cold companion. He retreated into the changing rooms as soon as he'd bought it, begging Natalia to wait just a few minutes, and he changed at Superman speed. Man, what a thing to happen; he still couldn't quite believe that Natalia had pulled him out of the way like that. Today was already weird, and he didn't even want to imagine what the rest of the day would be like.
When he emerged from the changing room, fresh shirt in place, he froze in horror.
Natalia was nowhere to be seen.
Oh no. Oh, crap.
Alfred spun this way and that, scanning the area frantically. Would she have wandered somewhere in the store? No - no, she was probably outside. She wouldn't stay in here.
Shit. Stay calm, stay calm. It's not like Ivan will kill me if I lose his sister, right? But... Natalia... loose in the city... oh god.
Alfred exited the store with all haste and suddenly heaved a sigh of relief. He could see a familiar head of silver hair, back turned to him, across the mall strip and in front of a jewelry store window. Oh thank God. That would not have been good.
"Why did you run off like that?" he demanded immediately, upon hurrying up to Natalia. "You scared me!" Well, you always scare me, but whatever...
Natalia didn't look at him when she answered. "You took too long," she told him, her tone suggesting that it was painfully obvious.
Alfred frowned. He'd only been in there for a few minutes! Shaking his head, partly in frustration and partly in sheer wonder, his gaze was drawn to the spot that Natalia's was focused on. She was gazing at one of the pieces of jewelry on display - a cold silver necklace, twisted into an elegant shape with a tiny white jewel set in its center. It reminded Alfred of her, and maybe that was why she looked at it so intently.
"See anything you like?" Alfred asked hesitantly.
Natalia didn't say anything, but neither did her gaze move from the necklace. Alfred bit his lip, torn in hesitation. The most important thing was to keep her happy, particularly after she'd already wandered off, and hopefully she wouldn't try to kill him. Keep her happy, just for today. Since that was the case, then...
"C'mon!" he said cheerfully, tapping her on the elbow. He didn't actually dare to take her arm, but to his relief, she followed him when he lead into the store. When he asked about the price, the clerk gave him a wide smile, accompanied by a highly significant glance at Natalia. Alfred shook his head with a melancholy sigh. "Not like that," he said sadly.
Natalia hesitated when he held the necklace out to her. "I did not ask for a gift," she muttered, looking away.
"People generally don't," Alfred said. "C'mon, you were looking at it, right?"
Natalia scowled and snatched the necklace with a sharp motion, undoing the clasp. "You want some help-?" Alfred began, but her death glare caused him to take a step back.
Wisely, he let her put it on herself.
It was a natural turn of events that Alfred discovered a fair recently arrived in town; he wondered why he hadn't heard about it before. Natalia was reluctant, looking alarmed and hostile at the sheer amounts of people contained within, but like before, there was something about Alfred's overwhelming enthusiasm that could sway anyone. Grudgingly, she followed him into the fair's confines and rolled her eyes at Alfred's childish antics. He was mesmerized by the attractions, hardly able to contain his excitement, and he immediately tried to get Natalia to join him on one of the rollercoasters.
Her refusal was adamant. He was distressed.
"Pleeease," he begged. "They're really fun!"
"Go on one yourself, then," she huffed.
Alfred suddenly started to fidget, casting his eyes to both sides but steadfastly avoiding Natalia's gaze. "Uh, well, you know," he mumbled, "it's... a lot more fun with someone else."
Natalia narrowed her eyes at him. "You are scared to go alone," she noted shrewdly.
The color flooding Alfred's face was impressive. "I am not!" he said vehemently, not fooling anyone.
And to his utmost surprise, Natalia started to laugh.
Okay, so it wasn't the nicest laugh, rather shrill and mocking and quite obviously at his expense. But it was unexpected and almost normal, and Alfred took it as a good sign, even as he wanted to sink into the earth in embarrassment.
When Natalia's laughter faded not long after, she still seemed faintly amused, in a superior sort of way. Alfred didn't notice. He was too busy trying to formulate words, which had failed him in that moment. "So, um," he said awkwardly, hesitantly, "will you go on a ride with me now?"
Natalia's amusement vanished, replaced by a stony expression. "No," she said.
And Alfred sighed, not going to press the issue any farther. Besides, there were tons of other attractions comfortably on the ground and so much to do that he could be pleasantly distracted for hours. "Well, let's try some games, then!" he said, regaining his enthusiasm, and he instinctively grabbed Natalia by the arm, pulling her towards the nearest one. Fortunately for him, she didn't seem too upset by this and didn't try to knife herself out of his hold, instead looking somewhat resigned and irritated as Alfred's cheerfulness soared to new levels.
After running around playing what felt like virtually every game in the area, there was nothing quite so refreshing as a soft drink. Alfred inhaled his thankfully, surreptitiously watching as Natalia occasionally took a sip of hers. She'd told him it was disgusting, and yet she was drinking it anyway. She made no sense, jeez. Shaking his head, Alfred let his eyes fall on all the stuff they'd won. Whatever else she may have been, Natalia was talented. She'd terrified the guy at the dart-throwing game and pretty much owned everyone, Alfred included, at any game that involved throwing. Alfred was in awe.
Natalia could be surprisingly normal when she tried, he thought in some amazement. And she was pretty damn cute when she was. If she was like this all the time, instead of, well... what was considered "normal" for her... then it wouldn't be so bad to hang around her more, maybe even bring her on a date.
Alfred took another sip of cola. Hah. A date. Now that was a terrifying thought fit for nightmares. And scary as it seemed, it was almost like everything they'd done today was a really clichéd date. Hah! Imagine that.
... Wait a second.
Alfred's eyes widened.
Was it a date?
Alfred remembered Ivan's strange words to him at the beginning of the day - she likes to go out- which had struck Alfred as rather odd.
He was filled with horror. Jesus... had Ivan tricked him into going on a date with Natalia?
Oh, God... his sense of self-preservation had led him to even buy her jewelry.
It really was a date.
He choked on his cola, coughing violently and trying to regain a little oxygen, all of which had abandoned him in that moment. And suddenly, there was a hand pounding on his back. It hurt, but it helped. Alfred was able to gasp in enough air that his coughing was reduced to wheezing. His head was spinning for the second time that day, and he blinked blearily up as he was finally able to catch his breath.
Natalia had come to the rescue once again. Her face was uncomfortably close to his, and flustered, he was suddenly aware of just how close it was. "T-thank you," he said. "Um... heh..."
And then she kissed him.
It wasn't the softest or nicest kiss - in fact, it was apparent that she wasn't accustomed to such things - but Alfred was too stunned to notice. He couldn't even think until she'd pulled away, and then he was too busy trying to gather his scattered wits. Natalia... kissing him... it was impossibly out-of-character and frightening... she'd kissed him... what?
He gazed at her in astonishment as she sat back down, looking completely unperturbed by what she'd just done. "I am not quite sure how you manage to survive day to day," she informed him, then looked away pointedly and sipped at her drink.
Alfred excused himself to the "bathroom".
In reality, he hid behind a booth a very far and safe distance away and furiously dialed into his cell. It picked up after several rings, and he began speaking the moment it did. "Is it a set-up, you bastard?" he demanded.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Ivan said, positively cheerful.
"You know it is!"
"Alfred, you are very gullible at times. But thank you for keeping Natalia occupied for a day," Ivan said benignly.
Oh, he'd kept her occupied, alright. Alfred debated telling Ivan that Natalia had kissed him, then decided against it. That wouldn't do well for his health, no sir.
"This demands revenge, commie bastard," he said threateningly and could almost hear the 'He's not communist anymore!' that he always got when he used that insult. Yeah, right.
"In Soviet Russia, revenge gets you, da?"
That took several moments to register. Alfred was silent, slowly beginning to fume. "Don't steal my jokes!" he finally yelled.
Ivan chuckled and hung up without another word, leaving Alfred seething over the phone. Alfred growled in frustration, but as a dawning realizing took root in his mind, chills overtook him.
If Ivan had indeed only been pranking him, then how had he known to call today, Alfred's very rare day off?
Alfred had never been so completely relieved to see one of his houses before. He had a few around the country, positioned ideally to allow him to stay in various regions and keep in touch with his numerous kids and his people, and this one had never looked more inviting. As he and Natalia approached, his arms full of the stuff they'd won at the fair, he kept casting covert glances at her, not knowing what to think.
After she'd kissed him, he'd acted like a damn schoolboy... nervous and surprised and klutzy all rolled into one. And who could blame him? Natalia was so scary! And after kissing him, she was even more unreadable. In fact, Alfred's nerves had gotten so bad that she'd "saved his life" yet again... this time in an incident involving two angry old ladies and pigeons. He shuddered to remember, and the glad feelings of being home were reinforced.
Not for long, however. He'd only just opened the door to find Ivan sitting on his couch, waiting for them.
"How did you get in?" Alfred demanded, dumping the prizes on the floor.
"I'm Russia, da?" Ivan replied serenely.
Alfred warily recalled the stolen joke and the knowledge of his day off and decided not to pursue the issue. He was a bit surprised to find that Natalia had not immediately rushed to Ivan's side; she lurked behind Alfred instead, making him even more nervous.
Ivan stood and approached them, smiling in that way of his. "Well, how was your day?"
Alfred was prepared to offer a falsely cheerful answer, not wanting to give any satisfaction to Ivan and his stupid prank, and then Natalia glided around him. She stepped past Ivan and said, "I kissed him."
Alfred froze yet again in shock. Ivan's smile gradually started to fade as a gleam came into his eyes, and he slowly turned his gaze on Alfred. It was pretty intimidating, but Alfred held his ground.
"Did you really kiss my little sister?" Ivan asked in a low, growling voice.
"So what if I did?" Alfred retorted, drawing himself up fully. The two of them were facing each other, nose to nose, and it was like another Cold War was brewing between them, such was the atmosphere.
Alfred's eyes flickered briefly to Natalia, standing behind Ivan now, and he frowned to see the look of absolute satisfaction on her face. A slow realization entered Alfred's mind - maybe... maybe it wasn't just him who'd gotten played...
He couldn't help it. He giggled.
The tense atmosphere shattered. Ivan's eyes narrowed, and he turned his head. He also noted the look on his sister's face and realized its implications at once, which was compounded when, with an air of great innocence, Natalia asked, "Brother really seems to care about such things, doesn't he?"
Ivan shuddered in despair and turned back to Alfred. "Well... we will be going now. Thank you for your help," he said, forcedly polite. He swept past, heading for the door, and Natalia followed. As she passed Alfred, her shoulder bumped against his, and it wasn't an unfriendly gesture. He smiled slightly as she did so, and he half-imagined that he saw her doing the same.
Alfred didn't look back until the door had closed. Then, with a gigantic sigh, he collapsed onto his sofa, mourning the loss of a peaceful day. Oh, how he was going to miss that golden chance, now long gone. He'd just have to salvage what was left of it as best he could, maybe watch some John Wayne movies and relax.
And then the damned phone rang again.
Alfred groaned aloud, answered, and was immediately greeted by the pleasant sound of Arthur's yelling.
"ALFRED, THIS IS THE LAST TIME I PUT UP WITH THIS SORT OF THING, YOU BLOOD WA-"
Alfred was not in the mood. "SHUT UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!" he interrupted with a louder yell, then hung up the phone with a snort. Imagining the look that would bring to Arthur's face gave him some measure of satisfaction, and he decided that he was far too lazy to get up and find a movie. Better to just rest here for a bit... yeah, rest... that sounded good...
At first, Alfred dreamed of dark blue and cold silver and a pendant that swung from a silver chain.
Then, naturally, the dream morphed into him being chased by a crazy psychopath with a knife. Even locked in dreamland, Alfred shivered.
So much for a relaxing day off, even in his sleep.