{A/N: "Human AU on this premise:

Arthur Kirkland, in his mid-to-late 20s, has it tough: a demanding job, a disastrous sex/love life, and raising an energetic and trouble-making pre-teen brother on the cusp of puberty. For years, he has been paying the pimply, overweight, video-game obsessed American teenager from down the street to babysit and otherwise keep his brother occupied.

One day, Arthur comes home and hello who's this handsome young man in his house...it's that American babysitter, who had grown up without him noticing at all. It doesn't help Arthur's libido that Alfred happens to be gay and a fucking cocktease."

Honestly, people, there was no way I could refuse this prompt. I mean, have you seen my LJ username? It's hotbabysitter.

This will be uploaded in two parts on here, but the full, un-Britpicked thing is on the kink meme. I'll put the link in my profile.

Thanks to gearr over at tumblr for doing said Brit-picking!}

It's one in the morning that sets it off.

Arthur walks in quietly, sneaking around in his own house to try and not wake up his brother or the babysitter (yet). This hasn't happened in a while, but he's been hiring Alfred long enough that he knows that if it's after midnight on a school night, he'll probably be asleep on the couch. Arthur doesn't really mind, since Peter adores him and would never draw on his face or dip his fingers in hot water while he's asleep, but he likes to be courteous.

He tiptoes to the living room door and peers in and sure enough, Alfred is sprawled on his back, mouth slightly open and blanket twisted around his legs. Arthur smiles fondly at the boy, who he forever remembers as the ten year old who kicked a football though their parlour window seven years ago, then walks past the door to the living room back to the kitchen, where he dumps the post and his coat at the kitchen table and checks to make sure they didn't make something in there explode today. Everything seems to be in order (as much as it can be when it's just him and his eleven year old brother living in a house), so he heads back to the living room to wake Alfred up so he can go home and sleep in his own bed.

He enters the living room as quietly as he can, and it's been a very, very long time since he saw Alfred doing anything but moving, so he takes the chance to re-familiarise himself with his face. His hair is half covering his face, half flopped back, and his polo shirt's three buttons are undone, exposing a V of chest with a tan that matches his forearms under the light blond hair that wasn't there last time Arthur could remember seeing him shirtless-

And Arthur can't breathe around the sudden wave of heat flowing through his body.

He stares at his babysitter, his babysitter, the neighbour boy who charmed his demon child brother before their parents died several years ago and helps Arthur keep track of him while he's at work or school or both, and wonders if this is what his life has really come to. Sure, his job sucks, night school sucks, and having to raise his little brother on his own sucks, but he never thought he'd sink so low as fantasising about the kid who plays baseball in his front yard and makes macaroni in his microwave and-

He shakes himself out of it, snap out of it, runs a hand through his hair, then kneels down next to Alfred to shake him awake.

"Alfred, wake up, you can go home now," he says softly, watching Alfred blink awake. He doesn't have his glasses on, and oh, Alfred's eyes are very blue.

Arthur stands and finds them on the end table by Alfred's head, hands them to him. "I trust Peter was good for you?"

"Hmm?" Alfred yawns and sits up, stretching and the blanket slides down and his shirt slides up to show skin. Arthur had never been aware of the intricacies of his movements before. "Oh yeah, o'course, man, no prob." He stands and rubs a hand over his eyes, trying to wake himself up for the walk across two lawns back to his house. "What took you so long today?"

Arthur sighs heavily. "There was a large traffic jam on the motorway right around rush hour, and almost all of the ER had to stay late to cover everything, even after the night shift got there, and on top of the normal sort of thing – it was just a mess." Alfred smiles at him in understanding, and his heart pounds. "Terribly sorry I didn't get a chance to ring and warn you."

Alfred shrugs. "Nah, it's cool, do what you have to do and all that." He finds his jacket draped over an armchair and slings it on, then stuffs his feet into his trainers. "Need me tomorrow?"

"Probably, but I should be home by seven, hopefully." He walks him to the door, holds it open for him. "Go get some sleep, boy."

Alfred laughs as he waves and walks down the front steps. "M'not really a boy anymore, Arthur, but you do the same." He smiles one last time over his shoulder, then pads off into the dark of suburban midnight.

Arthur closes the door carefully, then leans his forehead against the wood.

Oh, Arthur didn't need to be told that to see it now. When he wasn't looking, his babysitter had become something like a man.

The next day, Arthur walks in on Alfred and Peter sitting down to tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Alfred grins at him when he walks into the kitchen and pours him a bowl. It's tinned, of course, but he'd heated it on the stove and made the sandwiches in a frying pan.

"Thought you'd be getting home soon, so I went ahead and made you some," Alfred explains as he put two sandwiches on a plate and sets it by the bowl. Arthur smiles and goes to get a beer from the fridge while Alfred and Peter go back to their conversation – something about the university Alfred's going to in a few months, because he's almost done with sixth form and he's legal now fuck-

Arthur twists off the cap with his palm and drains a third of it in one go, leaning on the island facing away from them and pulling himself together. Although people had accused him of it, he'd never thought of himself as perverse until now, when the bright-eyed boy he'd watched grow up was suddenly making his blood rush just by being alive and present.

He pushes off the island and joins them at the table, listening and watching as Alfred goes on about his future major, smile eternal and Peter is enraptured, completely in love, and Alfred makes a comment for older ears and winks at Arthur in shared humour. Arthur smiles weakly and dips his sandwich in his soup.

After tea is over and Alfred leaves, Arthur shoos his brother to his homework and takes a very, very long shower.

Arthur tries not to make Alfred work on Fridays, but half the time he ends up coming over anyway.

This week, Arthur gives him his weekly eighty quid and a glass of orange juice while they sit on the front steps and referee the neighbourhood kid's football game in his front garden. Arthur is very, very careful not to touch him. Alfred sighs and sits back on his hands when he finishes his juice, setting the glass to the side and promptly forgetting about it.

"Don't you have any friends?" Arthur asks abruptly, and Alfred cocks his head at him. "I mean, why do you want to spend your Friday afternoon with children and me instead of people your own age?"

Alfred laughs. "Don't sell yourself short like that, you're not that much older than me-" Ohgod- "And, well, I do, but a lot of my good friends already graduated, and…" He bites his lip, uneasy. "It's been harder to make new ones since I came out."

Arthur blinks and in the back of his mind, he recognises that this performance could net him an Oscar if it was on film. "Well that's a load of bullshit."

Alfred laughs again, and Arthur hears the relief. "I know, right? People are dumb." He sits forward and leans on his knees, watching the game idly. "But it's nice to be around people who don't care about that."

Arthur swallows. "Well, don't get too down about it now. It gets better." Alfred sends him a sharp look, and Arthur smiles and gives a little nod. Alfred beams.

"Y'know, I'd wondered about that for a while." Arthur huffs, and he doesn't really know what feeling to express. Alfred continues on anyway. "I mean, you're not, like, sassy gay friend gay, but there are just… things about you sometimes."

Arthur raises an eyebrow at him. "Really? Things?"

Alfred laughs a little sheepishly. "Well, first off, you tend to cross your legs when you sit down," he begins, gesturing to Arthur's legs. He flushes and uncrosses them, which makes Alfred giggle. "Plus, you drink solely out of china and Waterford – I mean, seriously, there's, like, one plastic cup in your cupboard, and that's Peter's."

"I see no correlation between my cup preferences and my sexuality-"

"Dude, when you're not married and you have teacups, you're pretty gay." Alfred runs his fingers through his fringe and looks to the side. "And, well, it's not like you wear pink pinstripes and V-necks all the time, but... you just don't dress really straight. I mean, you own pink scrubs."

Arthur can feel himself fluffing up like a startled bird and makes an effort to calm himself down, pet down his feathers. "Hmph. Well, I've noticed things about you as well," he says with as aloof a sniff he can manage. Alfred glances at him with mirth in every feature.

"Oh really? Like what?"

Arthur scrambles for a story. "There was that time you left Twilight on my coffee table. I had to clean it twelve times before I could get the smell out." Alfred sucks in a breath and turns red and slaps Arthur's arm hard enough not to intentionally hurt.

"Don't talk about that, that was a- a wrong step in my life!" Arthur chuckles, and Alfred's scowl melts into a smile.

"You're forgiven. At least I didn't have to burn it." Arthur snaps as it comes to him. "Oh, and there was that photo your lovely mum showed to me once where you were playing with her ma-"

Alfred slaps a hand over his mouth before he can finish. "Arthur, think of the children!" he stage-whispers, flicking his eyes over at the football game, which has flown along unhindered by their conversation.

Arthur pries the hand back away from his mouth with a gasp and a gag to cover up his pulse pounding. "Imbecile. Anyway, there's some of the signs."

Alfred chuckles so his nose wrinkles. "Doesn't sound like you had that much to go on."

Arthur raises his eyebrows at him and comes up with the first thing off the top of his head. "Well, I also distinctly remember you trying to sell handmade charm bracelets at those first lemonade stands you so desperately tried to introduce to us poor Brits-"

"-I did not do that here! That was-" Arthur jerks his head in mild shock and intense humour to see Alfred with his mouth clamped shut and his eyes wide. "You did not need to hear that," he whispers.

"Oh, but I did." He reaches over and pats his knee. "Your secret's safe with me, love."

Alfred's eyes flicker down to the hand, back up, and he jerks it away and stands up. "I'm- I'm going to get something more to drink." He takes Alfred's orange juice glass with him, and wrinkles his nose in distaste to find it's another one of his mother's Waterfords.

For Alfred, it's different. It's gradual and starts early, with hormones, acne, wet dreams about faceless women and awkward classmate cameos.

One day he goes over to the Kirklands' a little early, nothing special, and walks in without knocking (also nothing special, he hasn't knocked in years). "Hey, I'm here!" he calls into the house, leaning off the banister with one hand and looking up the stairs to see if anyone's upstairs.

"Come on up, Alfred!" Arthur's voice calls from far away. Alfred takes the stairs two at a time and goes to the master bedroom, heading towards the noise of a person coming from the attached bathroom.

Arthur is in a towel and unbuttoned shirt, toothbrush in his mouth and combing his hair. Alfred stops in the doorway. "Sorry about this, but I'm in a hurry," Arthur apologizes when he takes the toothbrush out and spits in the sink. "There's some leftovers in the fridge if you want to heat them up, and some frozen dinners in the freezer if you don't. Peter's downstairs in the game room, at least last time I checked." He buttons up his shirt and pushes past Alfred in the doorway to dig in his dresser for underwear, too rushed to notice that he's practically naked in front of his babysitter, even if that babysitter is his same gender. "I've got an exam in my chemistry class today, but I should be home by eight, nine at the latest." Alfred averts his eyes when he lets the towel fall so he can hop into boxers, then jeans.

"Sounds good. Does Peter have homework I should make him do?"

"How should I know? Ask the demon child himself." Arthur hops around again as he puts on his socks, and Alfred decides to help and brings over the trainers that Arthur always wears. "Thanks, lad." Arthur smiles at him, and his heart does a funny flip in his chest.

"Well, good luck on your test!" Alfred says brightly, turning and running from the room to go hide in Peter's video games with him.

"Alfred?" Arthur calls when he's at the bottom of the stairs. Alfred turns to look up at him where he's standing at the top of them.

"Yeah?" Arthur smiles.

"Thanks for doing this. I don't say that enough."

Alfred shrugs and grins. "Hey, you pay me for it." Arthur laughs, and Alfred's heart flips and soars like a roller coaster.

And sometimes, Arthur brings home a friend.

Over time, Alfred meets them all. There's Kiku, the resident intern with the great taste in games, who comes with Arthur for dinner and cooks for him instead. Sometimes it's both Kiku & Heracles, who Alfred never quite got the full story about but they break out the wine then and talk about literature and mythology, and it puts Peter right to sleep.

And sometimes it's Francis, Antonio, and Gilbert, or a combination of the three, Arthur's college buddies, and then the beer and Scotch comes out and Alfred and Peter hide downstairs until they're drunk enough that they can go back up and make fun of them.

All of Arthur's friends are aware of him and the role he plays for the Kirklands, or what's left of them, and tend to take him under their wing a little, giving bad advice and telling bad stories, but they make him laugh and he likes them all to a point.

That's the point when Arthur asks if he can let Peter spend the night in Alfred's house, because really, small children don't need to be awake this time of night, and you should have already gone home, right, boy?

When he's old enough, Alfred starts catching the hands sliding down arms, the falling into each other on purpose, and he starts to understand something about Arthur as he slings a dozing Peter over his shoulder and goes home.

Like everything about the Kirklands, the story of their parents' death is simple at first, then complicated and unintentionally hilarious underneath with more than a hint of sexuality. It happened a year or two after Alfred's dad's job brought them to Europe, when Peter was just entering primary school and Arthur was in university. His older, no-good brothers were scattered elsewhere (the oldest was in jail, the next in Wales, and the other… well, they just didn't talk about him), and he didn't trust his parents with a small child anymore. He loved them, really, but the years of having grown-up children and an increasingly empty house meant they had time to 'rediscover their love'.

Which was why they had a son twelve years younger than their youngest, no doubt.

As it was, Arthur lived at home for his university, already half-raising Peter before his parents' accident.

If you asked him as a stranger what happened to his parents, he would curtly say 'car accident' in a tone that did not welcome further questions. If you asked one of his close friends, though, who had known him since before, they'd gladly tell you the story, because besides the dying part, it was really quite funny, even if it required little telling.

See, since his parents were, to be blunt, fucking like rabbits in the latter years of their lives, many times they'd have to take it out of the house with two of their children living in it. On that fateful night, they'd driven to the pier and parked rather nearer to the edge than safety called for, and in their haste, had forgotten to pull the on the hand break, and… well.

Arthur adamantly refused to let anyone submit them for a Darwin award. He'd never be able to live it down.

"Hey, you alright there, Arthur?"

Arthur looks up from where his face is buried in his hands at Alfred, only twelve, a football propped under his arm and concerned. Arthur sighs.

"I'm just tired, that's all." Alfred sits down next to him anyway, spinning the ball in the air idly.

"Where's Peter?" he asks.

"He fell asleep when he came home from school, thank every god." He holds his head up with palms on temples and stares out over his front lawn. "I'm so tired, Alfred. I wasn't meant to do this."

"What, take care of a bratty brother?" Arthur nods dully. "Yeah, that sucks."

They're quiet for a moment. "It wouldn't be so bad if he was a little older, just enough that I wouldn't have to watch him every waking moment, but now it's like I'm a single parent without any of the fun parts leading up to it." He was too mentally exhausted to censor himself.

Alfred is silent for once in his life, rolling the ball up his arm. "Well, if it could help, I could play with Peter some time and watch him for you."

Arthur blinks, looks at Alfred, smiling but serious, blinks again. "You would do that?"

"Sure! It'd be nice to have someone to play soccer with!"

"Football, Alfred."

"Yeah, whatever. Besides, Mom's been saying we need to help y'all out and stuff for a while, so she'd help, too." Alfred stands and drops the ball to his feet. "I can go ask her now, if you'd like."

And it dawns on Arthur for the first time that maybe, maybe, it isn't so humiliating to ask for help sometimes. He smiles. "Well, if you insist."

Alfred grins. "Okay, be right back!" He runs off, dribbling the ball, and Arthur smiles at nothing for the first time in a while.

"Mom, I'm heading out!" Alfred yells through the house from the front door, backpack over his shoulder and hand on the doorknob.

"Wait a moment, I'm just putting plastic over this casserole!" she calls back. Alfred sighs dramatically and slumps back through the house to the kitchen, where his mum is pressing down the edges of a sheet of Saran wrap over a casserole dish amidst the scattered ingredients and dishes of a kitchen in current use, flour dusting her clothes and the ends of her wavy brown hair. "Don't worry, it's chicken," she answers his unsaid question, which makes him perk up.

"Sweet! Love that stuff."

She smiles as she hands it to him, then frowns pointedly. "Two hands, Alfred." He rolls his eyes, but holds the casserole with both hands. "Don't bother with bringing home-"

"-Bringing home the leftovers, I know, I know." He turns to leave again. "At least it's better than more frozen pizza. Thanks, Mom."

"You're welcome, honey. Say hi to Arthur for me!"

"Always do!" he says with a grin over his shoulder before he turns the corner, tucking the casserole under his arm when he's out of sight.

He gets to the front door again when she yells through the house, "Your father's coming home tonight, by the way!"

"Already? I thought he was supposed to be in Germany until Saturday!"

"He called while you were at school – they finished the meetings early, so he changed his flight!"

"Awesome!" He opens the door and calls one last farewell before he almost skips to the Kirklands', whistling.

Sometimes, when Alfred's parents are gone on a business trip together and Alfred's friends aren't available, he comes over and spends the empty nights in one of the several empty bedrooms in the Kirklands' house, shells of their old family. It's only the least Arthur can do for the Joneses after all they've done for him.

That Saturday, the three of them gather in the den to watch TV films into the night, Alfred and Arthur on either side of Peter. At first they fight over the remote, but Arthur claims seniority and Alfred and Peter have to cringe through his constant channel flipping and volume fiddling.

After not too long, though, Peter nods off, using Alfred's arm as a pillow, which earns Arthur a smug smirk over the top of Peter's head. By the middle of Forrest Gump and the end of a John Wayne film, he's fast asleep, slumped down into his lap, which Alfred had put a pillow over for him. He'd pulled his feet onto the settee at some point, and Arthur is resting a hand on his ankle, rubbing soft circles around the bone with his thumb.

"You think I should put him to bed?" Alfred asks quietly during a joint commercial break. Arthur shrugs and doesn't look at him, doesn't want to see the soft light on one side of his features. Alfred deliberates, then decides he wants his legs' freedom back and carefully sits Peter up, hooking an arm under his shoulders and standing, bending down to lift him up into his arms. Peter groans and mumbles, stirs, but Alfred holds him tight and shushes him, stepping over Arthur's feet and carrying him out of the room and towards the stairs.

Arthur watches Jenny walk away from Forrest for the last time before switching to the silly Western.

When Alfred comes back, he sighs and flops down, sprawling over more than his share of the couch and brushing Arthur's shoulder with his hand. "That kid's gettin' heavy."

"With the way you feed him and yourself, I'm not surprised."

Alfred grins at him, and he looks; a mistake. "Well, he's a growin' boy, so he needs it, yeah?" Arthur grunts and faces the screen to find the Western has ended. He starts channel flipping.

Alfred's leg starts jittering after six channels. After eleven, he says, "Okay, seriously, pick a channel and stay there."

"When I find something worth watching, I will."

Twenty channels. "If you don't pick something I'm gonna make you."

"And how do you propose to accomplish that?" Twenty-two.

Alfred pounces.

Arthur falls back under his weight, breath pushed out of him, but he falls on his hand with the remote and Alfred is wriggling his hand under there, giggling in his ear and squirming, and Arthur bucks under him, trying to get him off, starts laughing, too. "Come on, give it to me," Alfred whines in his ear, tugging on his arms as Arthur rolls a few inches to better protect the remote, cradling it to his stomach.

"Over my dead body!" he pants, breathless. Alfred pokes his side and he jerks, curling in, and Alfred starts tickling his sides, and he dissolves completely, completely helpless, completely. Alfred lays forward to shove his arms under Arthur and snatch the remote, sitting up and cheering in triumph, remembering at the last minute to keep it quiet enough not to wake Peter. He grins down at Arthur as he tries to regain his breath, teary and eyes closed, grinning as well. "You cheat."

"No, I win." Alfred flips the remote over in the air, his other hand resting on Arthur's side for balance, and smirks as Arthur finally is able to open his eyes and look over his shoulder.

Fuck, Alfred is sitting on him and straddling his hips and he's not moving-

He shifts under Alfred's body, and Alfred's grin falls away as he realises everything in a rush. "Oh." They stare at each other over Arthur's shoulder, still and quiet with a blaring commercial in the background. "I should probably move," he breathes, although he doesn't.

"Yes, you probably should." They stare at each other still, a long moment, until Alfred clears his throat and falls back slowly, fingers sliding down Arthur's body with the movement and setting his skin on fire as they touch.

They sit on opposite ends of the couch, quiet and embarrassed and hiding their arousal. Alfred finds the least attractive program on purpose, and Arthur leaves after it ends.

But the trailing hand, the captured breath. It's a start.

"I can't watch Peter on Thursday," Alfred says on Monday. Arthur looks up from the post he'd been sorting through at the kitchen table after coming home to Al, standing in the entrance to the kitchen with his backpack slung over his shoulder. He smiles. "Got prom rehearsal after school!"

"Oh. I guess it is that time." He goes back to the post. "I'll just have Peter stay in the after school program, then."

"Sweet. Just thought I'd let you know beforehand. See ya!" He waves and leaves, and Arthur waits until he can hear the door slamming shut before letting his head fall forward to knock against the table repeatedly.

Alfred's finishing sixth form soon, which meant that equally soon he'll be leaving for university in Scotland and not be nearby, not be a constant taunting presence in his life. He can let it pass, be the better man and let this go like he should. Alfred deserves a better first time than him, almost a decade older and unpleasant (if it would even be his first time, although Arthur would bet it was). He can let this fade into an infrequent dream, a fantasy to never be fulfilled.


In the past few months, he's started trying to pay attention to Alfred in himself whenever they're together, and he's picked up a few signs, just little things here and there. Unnecessary touches on the shoulder for his attention when a simple word would do. A flush when they hold eye contact for too long. Spraying him 'accidentally' with the hose while he and Peter had a water fight in the backyard, then offering to help him dry off.

A hand trailed down his side in the dark, side-lit.

Maybe it wouldn't be so very unwelcomed from the other end.

He stands up quickly enough to almost tip the chair back, snatching the junk part of the post and dumping it in the recycling bin before leaving the bills on the table and heading up to his bed. Next time he had a chance, they were alone, and they had time, he'd bring it up, confront Alfred, and see his reaction. He'd face it like a man and let it play out like it would.

After all, he was the adult in the relationship. He should try and act like it.

Because Arthur feels extraordinarily guilty about monopolising Alfred's weekday afternoon time, he tells him frequently that if he ever wants to bring a friend or two over to keep him company, he's more than welcome to. Alfred doesn't take up that offer often, usually liking the bubble of world far removed from the drama of his friends and school that the Kirklands' house creates. Every now and then, though, some reason comes up and he drags a friend over to play on the Kirklands' surprisingly expansive gaming systems or do homework.

It's usually for the games, though.

Arthur doesn't typically meet his friends, since they leave before it gets dark and he usually gets home much later, but every now and then he comes home early or leaves home a little late and has to bear through the awkward encounters, although they're generally pleasant enough. There's Matthew, who at first meeting Arthur thinks is Alfred's brother, even though he knows he's an only child. They laugh it off, and Matthew is polite about it, but Arthur still feels a little embarrassed about it.

He also meets Toris, the Eastern European boy that seems to always be Alfred's go-to for partner projects. He's even politer than Matthew, which confuses Arthur to no extent, since they're friends with Alfred, after all. The majority of his friends are decent kids, but there is always that one exception to the rule.

His name is Tony, and no one can quite figure out what his problem is.

Alfred brings him over for the first and only time after the UK release of a new video game of some sort that Arthur doesn't bother to ask for the details of. Arthur quickly learns that Tony had a foul disposition and a foul mouth to match in an equally foul manner.

He comes home around sunset one Wednesday and hears the sound of voices and special effects from the game room. He smiles as he takes off his coat and lays it over the back of the parlour armchair on his way there to let them know of his arrival.

"Fucking shit, you little cock, stop fucking killing me!"

He stops dead, feels his anger levels rise, and stomps into the game room, banging the door against the wall. Three boys are sitting around the TV, a gritty atmosphere on the screen in front of them. Alfred and Peter are staring at him in surprise and a little fear, but the other one is still furiously jabbing buttons and cursing up a storm with Arthur's little brother sitting next to him.

"And just what do you think you're doing?" Arthur growls, stepping forward in front of the television screen and forcing the new brat to pay attention to him, as well as get a good look at the kid. His skin is sallow and his hair is greasy and thin, and he's craning to the side to try and see around Arthur's body.

"Goddamn it, fucking limey, move out of the fucking way!" he snaps, too absorbed in the game to notice just how furious Arthur has become. Alfred pulls Peter out of the line of fire slowly in the background.

Arthur bends down and rips the controller cable from the console, effectively ending the game and making the new kid groan and glare at him from behind red-tinted sunglasses. "What gives?"

Steam is almost pouring out of Arthur's ears. "I won't have language like that in my house with a child present! Your parents should be ashamed!"

The brat stands up, just as angry now and gesturing with the controller. "Yeah, well, my parents are dead, so suck my dick, asshole!"

That does it for Arthur. "Mine are too!" he yells back. "Yet I don't go around parading that as an excuse to be a terrible child with an authority problem and a sailor's mouth!" He points out the door for emphasis. "Get out of my house!"

The brat seems a little taken aback, like he's never been scolded in his life, but pulls a frown and throws the controller down, storming out of the room without another word.

Arthur fumes at his shadow for a moment, then swings his attention down to Alfred and Peter, who have cowered against the loveseat by now, twin terrified looks on their faces as Alfred is holding Peter protectively. "And you!" he shouts, pointing at Alfred. "You brought that- that thing into my house, corrupting my little brother! What were you thinking?"

Alfred holds up one hand palm out in defence, the other still holding Peter close, who is trembling a little from prior experience with his brother's temper. "I-I promise, he just got here, and I was about to say something when you came in, and- and he's only like that when he's playing shooter games, I swear-"

Arthur's scowl deepens, and Alfred lets his hand fall with his head. "I'm sorry."

Peter tilts his head in question. "Wait, Tony was saying bad words?" Alfred and Arthur look at him in shock, and he looks back with innocent, curious eyes. Alfred bites his lip, and Arthur feels his anger leave him in a rush with a small smile.

Alfred ruffles his hair as he starts laughing, and Peter struggles against it, giggling as well. Arthur sits down on the old futon and lets his smile grow, then fade as he thinks back on his behaviour.

"I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that." The other two look up from their wrestling match at him, then grin devilishly as they both lunge forward, grabbing an ankle each and pulling a squawking Arthur to the floor with them, where they attack his sides, his neck, the backs of his knees in a vicious tickle fight in revenge. He kicks and flails at them, laughs helplessly, and suddenly everything is right again.

Before Alfred leaves shortly after, though, he makes sure to tell him firmly never to bring that Tony character back. Ever.

One of the first things Alfred does when he gets his driver's license the summer before his upper sixth form year is take Matthew and Peter out for ice cream.

Technically, Matthew is three days older than Alfred and so should be the one driving, but his family only has two cars and both of his parents are using them at the moment. Alfred's family is damnably rich, so he got one for his birthday. He takes Peter with him to go pick up Matthew a neighbourhood away, and then he takes the long way to the ice cream/candy parlour in the middle of town.

They're sitting down at a table, talking about Alfred and Matt's football team and their upcoming season, when three girls from their grade walk in. They see Alfred and wave, one of them coming to sit at the table next to theirs while the other two go to order.

Victoria, a pretty African girl, sits on the chair backwards so she can talk. "Hello, Al. Matt." She smiles at Peter. "Who's this?"

"Oh, this is Peter," Alfred introduces him, ruffling his hair. Peter lets out a 'hey!' and straightens it back. "He's my neighbour, and I babysit him after school."

"Aww, that's so sweet!" Victoria leans forward a little to make eye contact with Peter, who flushes a little. "How old are you, Peter?"

Peter perks up and beams. "I'm nine and a half! I'll be in year five this year!"

"That's cute." She turns her attention to Matthew, who had been picking at his ice cream with his spoon patiently. "And how've you been, Matthew?"

He shrugs. "Can't complain." The other two girls finish buying their ice cream and sit down at Victoria's table, and she gives the boys a little wave before spinning in her chair to face them. Shortly afterwards, they come around the table to kneel beside Peter and coo over him, asking askance questions of the two teenage boys woven into the conversation. He's preening and blushing under the feminine attention, and Alfred and Matt exchange a glance over the table as they both come to the same understanding.

Now they understand why desperate men buy puppies and walk them around the park.

Even with Arthur's hard resolve, he almost runs out of time before he finds his perfect chance to seduce his babysitter.

Alfred graduates, and Peter's school year ends, too. As is the norm for his summers, he spends the daytimes being handed between the neighbourhood mums, who love having an object to pamper that they don't have to discipline. The mothers had decided on this arrangement themselves shortly after their parents' deaths, taking pity on the two boys with nowhere to turn. It helped Arthur more than he would admit, and Peter got the chance to play with the other kids in the area as much as he wanted.

Time passes, and three weeks before Alfred is due to leave for university, Mrs. Jones calls Arthur and asks if he can spend the next few nights with them.

"I don't mean to shove this on you like this, Arthur dear, but Ted had this business trip to Venice sprung up on him today, and I've always wanted to go to Venice, and I know that Alfred probably could stay by himself now, but just this one last time? It would make me feel much better about leaving him behind." Arthur smiles at the table and traces the grain of the wood idly with a finger as she chatters at him.

"Yes, of course I wouldn't mind, Amanda. Alfred's always welcome here."

"Oh, you're such a sweetheart. We'll be leaving early tomorrow and should be back by Friday night."

"Sounds perfect."

"Thank you so much, Arthur. You're a lifesaver."

"Honestly, Amanda, it's the least I can do for you."

She hums and says farewell before hanging up. Arthur puts the phone down and lets himself grin a little before he gets up and changes the sheets on one of his brother's old beds.