C H A P T E R O N E

• AMERICA }} alfred

"I'll see you next winter," he said, with a curt dip of his hat. His hand slipped out of mine as he turned to leave.

I watched his retreating figure getting smaller as he walked towards his train. I half expected him to run back to me, arms open, ready to stay with me forever.

He always did tell me that I was full to the brim with 'that crazy imagination' of mine.

I stood there for a long time, just watching the empty tracks where the train had pulled out from. My steamy breath against my glasses was the only things that let me know that I was still alive. New people brushed past me, all absorbed in their own goodbyes and their own hellos. They all had a place to go. They were going forward. Where was I going?

A few people cast me dirty looks as I stood in the entrance hall. I assumed I was in the way, so I stuck my hands in my jean loops and sauntered back towards my car.

Once inside, I sat staring at my clenched hands on the steering wheel. The gears made a click as I shifted into reverse before adjusting my rear-view mirror. A somber-looking man looked back at me. He offered me a smile which I return a thousand times brighter.

I don't have to ask to know what he's going to say, so I interrupt him as he opens his mouth.

"Yes, Matthew, we can go to McDonalds." I said, like it's a big hassle. I gave him the thumbs-up sign as I pull out of my parking space.

"That wasn't what I was going to say at all." He responded in a withering tone. "Alfred, I-ah!" There was a loud noise from outside. "I think you just ran over another small child!"
"Yeah, right." I scoff, pulling away from the train station. "It was probably just a pop can."

Matthew looked dubiously at me from the back seat. "Pop cans don't scream out in pain…" He said, but left it at that, and I can understand why. We didn't have extra money to be giving away to angry soccer moms whose kids I ran over. Not that I did. Run over them, that is.

Matt doesn't climb over the seat while I'm driving, or even at the stoplights like he would normally if he was forced to sit in the back. I'm thankful for this. I don't want the memory of him to be crushed so quickly.

Matt also stays quiet. Or maybe he talks. I don't hear him if he does. I take a peek in the mirror to make sure he's not talking, but I don't have any worries. He's leaning on his hand, staring out the window at the Vermont scenery as it passes by. He has a wistful expression on his face. I think it reminds him of home.

Home. That's where people take cars to. They take planes, buses, bikes, or boats to go home. They take trains to go home. But my car is taking me nothing but away from it. It might be going to my house later; it's not going home. And I can't make it. I knew from experience that trains go faster than cars, which, unless Italian or under certain circumstances, cannot catch up to a train that took your home from you twenty minutes ago.

I feel Mattie poking me from the back, and I realize that we're at the McDonalds.
"Oh, sorry." I said. I don't have to explain.

We stepped out of the car and into the chilly eastern air, before scrambling inside and ordering. I settled down at a booth and start on one of the several hamburgers I ordered. Matthew gave me a worried look, one I get quite often, and starts picking at his own.

The conversation starts before I realized I didn't want it to.

"You know it's for the better, right, Alfred?" He said softly. I noticed that he had only taken a few bites out of his meal.

"Not hungry today?" I asked.

He gave me a look and ignored my question, just like I figured he would. That's what he usually does when you try to avoid him; sometimes, though, you can catch him off guard and make him forget for the rest of the day. "It's for the better," He repeated himself. "It's dangerous enough with the two of us living together."

It was hard; it took me a good minute to answer him, but the seconds droned on like hours.

"Right." I said between bites of burger.

Matthew was fingering his jacket sleeves. He was nervous. "You'll see him again…"

"Chyea." I unwrapped the second burger.

"Francis will check up on him. And he'll write!" He sounded determined to cheer me up. I looked up and met his gaze, a light indigo under a sheet of glass. He looked like he really wanted to help, too. I almost cheered up just so I could make him happy.

"Are you going to finish that?" I deadpanned.

Matthew gave me a long look before shaking his head and leaning back in his chair, a disappointed frown grazing his face. When I was done we just sat there, listening to the muffled sounds around us, avoiding each other's gazes like the plague. Finally, he got to his feet and walked out, leaving me with no choice but to follow.

The breeze tugged at my hair, numbed my cheeks, and bit my nose as we exited my car, jogging up the steps to our tiny townhouse.

It wasn't the prettiest to look at: that was for sure. The façade was brick, something usually associated with beautiful old homes, but I think our house was only a couple years old, and it reminded me of my grandmother. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

The paint was cracked on the windowpanes, and one of the shutters was missing. Just one. Ivy climbed up the side of it and choked the color from the beige siding. Sometimes it looked like it was part of the forest behind it, but it creeped me out a bit – like somehow, the forest mutated, and out popped a house.
It rained a lot by us, and snowed even more. Sometimes in the winter the house would be so covered in snow it'd be almost impossible to make out. A few years ago that actually happened, and Mattie and I got so lost we had to spend the night in our car while the snow thawed a bit. After that, we set out a bright-red mailbox.

The neighbors were kind of unfriendly; the only time I remember talking to one of them included some variation of the following:

Them: "So. Moving in, huh?"

Me: "Yep. Came in from D.C."

Them: "Not so different here."

Me: "So I've heard."

Them: "Try to keep it quiet. The walls are thin."

I remember the neighbor having given me and Matthew a pointed look. I had nightmares that night.

We probably would have sold the house a long time ago. Like said before, it is tiny. Very small, not enough space, and just like the neighbor predicted, the walls are barely thicker than a cracker. And just as easy to break! - I found out a month after we moved in.

Arthur loved it. So I told Matthew I loved it too, even though any worthy mother would have washed my mouth out with soap when she heard the words I used to describe it.

I draped my jacket up on the posts we kept on the side of the wall and slid into the kitchen, Matthew following. I sat down at the worn-down kitchen table while he set about making coffee, wooden floorboards protesting under his footsteps. I stared out the naked window to the decaying leaves aflutter in the neighborhood. The snow had melted and the leaves from last autumn were dancing around.

If I were a thoughtful person, I might have compared the leaves to something poetic. A child leaving home. Salmon from their birth place. A snowflake from a cloud. I know that they will, or should, always come back. Say they don't, though?
I'm not a thoughtful person, though, so I just fiddle with my fingers.

"Sugar?"

I looked up, a bit confused by the question before I remember Matt's making coffee. "Uh, yeah."

He set it down in front of me, but didn't take a seat at the table. He held a steaming cup of coffee himself, and if I looked behind him I could see the half-full maple syrup bottle, imported from Canada straight to his mug.

"Alfred." He said. "This is getting harder to do every day. England has a hard time getting over here. You should be grateful you get to see him at all, besides world meetings."

"I know." I'm surprised by voice is steady, because I feel like every wall I've ever built is crumbling right now. I feel miserable.

Matthew continued, always the median. When bad things happened, he smoothed things over. He was a peaceful person, patron of a peaceful country. Well, except for hockey. There was always the hockey.

"You're visiting him next winter. London! You get to see London! What time were you planning to go?" He fakes enthusiasm, going on in his quiet voice of his.

"October." I groaned. There was no point in trying to be cheerful now. He had me backed up against a corner.

"October! That's only eight months away." Matthew faltered, seeming to realize just how much time Arthur and I spent together. Four months out of all twelve? If I were lucky.

We sat in silence for a few hours. Or so it felt like. When I took a sip of my coffee, it was still warm, so maybe only a few minutes.

Matthew stood up abruptly, almost spilling coffee onto the table. He fixed me with a gaze so stern I almost felt like laughing; so un-Matthew-like!

"We have business to attend to tomorrow, Alfred. I'm getting some sleep. Make sure you clean up from your pity-party before our guests arrive." He snapped coldly, before dumping his coffee in the kitchen sink and stomping upstairs.


{AUTHOR'}

OOC characters are OOC? sorry about that! ;L

If you didn't already know, this is an Axis Powers Hetalia - The Wolves of Mercy Falls crossover. Two of my favorite things have been merged into one. :D I hope you enjoyed the first chapter, though it is pretty short. The others will be longer.

READ + REVIEW! :D