"Yes, I think we'll do well together, if you're willing to work with me to solve your problem. So shall we make an appointment for next week?" Jeannie said at the end of the hour.
"Yes, thank you." Arthur took a deep breath. "Just one thing, Mrs Macloud - Jeannie. If I'm going to be working with you, I'm going to need to explain something about who I actually am ..."
Alfred came to meet him later, waving and flashing a dazzling grin at Jeannie, who waved back weakly. Alfred looked at Arthur. "So you explained?"
Arthur smirked. "Yes. I was wondering if I'd have to call a therapist for her, poor woman." His smirk turned into a kinder smile. "She was a bit concerned when I explained our real relationship, but I told her nations don't breed in the conventional manner and she didn't press the issue."
On the way home, Alfred looked sideways at Arthur and said "So, how did it go?"
Arthur looked at his feet and said "Fine. She wants me to go back to the GP and ask about medication, and she made another appointment. But she told me there's technically no cure. I can learn to live with the condition, and it'll likely fade as I develop coping mechanisms, but it'll probably never entirely go away."
Alfred frowned. "But all the research that's been done was on humans, yeah? Maybe humans just don't live long enough for it to fade completely. And we're not really static anyway - you're not a bloodthirsty pirate anymore, are you?"
"... Good point." Arthur perked up a little. "Home, then?"
At home, after dinner (takeout curry; Alfred still wouldn't let Arthur cook), Arthur curled up on the sofa with a cup of hot sweet tea, letting himself unwind. Alfred was bustling about in the kitchen, tidying up at his own insistence, and the TV was showing Simpsons reruns - Alfred and Arthur both loved that show. Arthur felt better than he had in months.
The phone rang, but didn't break his good mood for once.
"England?" Yao's voice came from the other end.
"China! Good to hear from you."
"So are you feeling better? I heard America came over to see how you were."
England sighed. "Okay, just so you don't hear any wild rumours, I had a bit of a breakdown and I'm seeing a therapist. Don't spread it about."
"Ah. I'd recommend my family counsellor, but I don't think this one speaks English."
"This is the fifth one you've had, isn't it? Not surprising, what with your youngest."
"Hey, don't talk like that about my baby sister! She's only sixty, she'll be fine in a few centuries."
"True. Sorry. Tell your family I said hello."
"Good. Have you asked America out yet?" England dropped the phone. He picked it back up and spluttered indignantly into it. "Yes, you were that obvious," China replied smugly. "Can't fool your ex, you know."
"I hate you."
"Do you still do that thing with your tongue you showed me in 1820?"
"You can't see it, but I'm making an obscene gesture in the general direction of China right now. And for the record, there's nothing going on between me and Alfred. Not for lack of interest on either part, though."
"What, really? Why?"
"I told you I'm in therapy. I'm not in a fit state to be seeing anyone romantically."
"Oh. Uh. Sorry?"
"Don't worry, I will be fine soon, I swear. Just keep it quiet."
"Understood. See you next meeting." Yao hung up, and so did Arthur.
Alfred appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Did I hear China on the phone?"
"Yes," Arthur said, rolling his eyes. "Nosy bugger. Well, at least he's not still bitter about our breakup."
"Breakup?" Alfred blinked.
"Yes, we had an on-off thing going through the early 1800s, till that opium business. I told him, I was pretty high through most of that century too."
"Hey, look on the bright side - he's definitely not a kid! More proof you're fine!"
Arthur laughed. "Oh, speaking of which, there was something Jeannie wanted me to do. I'll need the phone for the rest of the evening, and I'd like some support. Do you mind?"
Alfred shook his head and sat beside Arthur. "It's cool, I'm here if you need me."
"Thanks." Arthur took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and dialled.
"Canada - can I call you Matthew for now? Sorry I haven't called for a while. How are things?"