Try It...You'll Like It

A/N: This fic has truly been a labor of love. It's taken months to get to a point where I feel good about putting it out there. Trying to keep these bozos in character during a first date was much harder than I thought it would be. I'd like to dedicate this fic to two of my all time favorite US/UK relationship writers: Stardropdream and Liete. You two have put such care and effort into your quite prolific works and I appreciate it so much. Thank you for inspiring me!

Even though America had missed the Montreal meeting's second morning conference with no explanation, England hoped he would still show for their lunch appointment in the hotel restaurant. The Auberge Du Vieux Port's eatery promised an authentic British gastro-pub experience, something Arthur was always interested in when traveling away from home.

Arthur peered past the hostess' podium, and with relief, spotted America sitting at a table for two in the back corner, showcased against the exposed stone masonry and weathered timber supports of the historic Quebecois building. Unaware of his observation, Alfred fiddled with the silverware and chewed at his bottom lip; an unusual show of nerves for the self-proclaimed hero.

England smiled, feeling better about the butterflies in his stomach. That this possible step forward was mutually nerve wracking went miles towards bolstering his confidence. Throughout the last fifty years he had fallen in and out of love with this idiot. Always he had misread the signs and suffered in silence when it ended up that the boy had only been treating him kindly, but not specially. Alfred gave his smiles and consideration away all too equally. It was so very easy to read too much into a winsome grin, or a gallantly held open door. Arthur pursed his lips, hoping he wasn't making the same mistake yet again. He thought back to the awkward invitation for todays's lunch date...

It was the end of another long day of boring presentations and worse than usual passive aggressive behaviors for the assembled nations- everyone's mood had been particularly foul. It seemed that the location of the sessions in Vieux Montreal had stirred up the bile and humors of the past-empires, as if the scent of the St. Lawrence reminded them all of their conquests- and losses- in the once New World.

Arthur skimmed down his notes making sure he could adequately decode them later. If he had to put up with these imbeciles for days, while also suffering the ache of his diminishment deep in his bones, he was damned sure he would carry away every useful speck of information.

"England."

Arthur looked over at America where he slouched on the other side of the horseshoe configuration of tables, surrounded by loose sheets of papers, empty Starbucks cups, and take-out wrappers. "Yes?" he responded, glancing back down to his notes. You would think no one had taught that boy any concept of neatness.

America looked carefully around the room that was vacant besides himself and England, his eyes lingering on the empty doorway. "What're you doing for lunch tomorrow?"

"Eating whatever Canada has planned to have catered in at the break, as I suspect you will also be doing," was his absent reply as England straightened his papers and slid them into his briefcase. He needed some Paracetamol and gin.

"I hear this hotel has a really good lunch."

"Really?" England replied without thinking and flipped the brass clasps of his case closed and scanned the table for anything he might have left behind.

"England."

"Hmmm?" He capped his fountain pen and slipped it into his pocket.

"Would you look at me? Please?"

England's head jerked up at the hint of worry that flavored America's words.

America was flushed as he pawed through his mess without any discernible purpose. "I'm trying to ask you out for lunch," he said with a weak smile, cramming cheeseburger wrappers into his empty cardboard coffee cup.

England's heart stuttered in its beats. "You..." He couldn't help but stare incredulously.

"Yeah," America nodded, running a hand through his hair. "You. Me. Lunch."

"No one else?" England had to be sure he wasn't jumping to the wrong conclusion. He had long given up any hope of catching America's eye and didn't want to embarrass them both by being blinded by his heart.

"Um, no. Just us. There's something I want to talk to you about." If America's face turned any redder he would match Antonio's tomatoes.

"I suppose Matthew won't be too offended if we dine privately just this once," Arthur said carefully, still unsure if lunch was to be business or pleasure. He tried not to get his hopes up; he was tired of disappointment.

"That's...that's great!" The red creeped down America's neck and up to the tips of his ears. He looked down and drew a circle on the table top with an index finger. His words seemed to have fled him.

"So tomorrow then?" England prompted. "The hotel restaurant? At the break for luncheon?"

America's eyes flicked up, startlingly blue, even behind the lenses of his glasses. "Yes. Exactly." A shy smile, so unusual from his typical grins, bowed his lips. "Awesome."

England felt a similar expression creep upon his countenance. "May I ask..." he began.

"No!" America cut him off and pushed himself up from his seat. "Tomorrow!" He jogged around the table and was out the door before Arthur could blink.

"But, you left your mess," Arthur complained to the empty room...

…."Table for one?" asked the hostess, bringing Arthur back to the present.

He blinked at her sudden appearance. "I see my appointment is already here. May I walk on back?"

"Please do, sir."

Arthur smiled politely and then worked his way back to Alfred's corner steeling his nerves in case he was mistaken and this turned out to be business rather than something more intimate.

Then he noticed it. Alfred had dressed up. For him? Could he dare hope that this time it was true?

He slowed his approach, taking his time so he could drink in the sight of the lad when he had put some actual effort into his appearance. His golden hair was darkened a few shades by the pomade that slicked it back, taming even Nantucket for the moment. His double breasted slate suit's lines were crisp and hugged his frame almost indecently close. The starched edges of a snowy collar curled around a crimson silk tie in a snug and perfectly tight Windsor knot. This was a far cry from America's usual rumpled navy sports jackets, oxfords with at least the first three buttons undone, and a tie so loose it might be called a lariat.

Arthur was simultaneously attracted and impressed. Swallowing, he approached the table. "Hullo, Alfred. We missed you this morning."

Startled, America looked up with wide eyes from polishing his spoon.

"I hope you were not feeling ill?" It was obvious that the lad had spent the entire morning primping, but Arthur was so touched by the gesture, so full of hope, that he decided to go easy on him.

Arthur put a hand on the empty chair and and started to pull it out.

"Wait." Alfred scooted his chair back and got to his feet, his highly polished shoes gleaming. He moved around to Arthur's side of the table and held his chair out for him. "Please allow me."

"Thank you," Arthur said, sitting and letting Alfred scoot him closer to the table, fighting the blush that wanted to rise to his cheeks. This... this had to be something more than work. He had never seen Alfred pull out a chair for anyone before.

Alfred took his own seat and smiled shyly into Arthur's eyes. "You look very nice today."

Well, the boy was certainly trying his hardest to remember those manners that England has spent years hammering into his head. "As do you," England returned the compliment meaning it sincerely.

"Oh, this?" Alfred ran a hand down his lapel. Yesterday's flush was returning, for now limiting itself to the bridge of America's nose.

"You didn't answer my question. Are you quite well?" Arthur peered intently at America, trying to discern if the flush was from illness or something more interesting. Wouldn't it be just his luck for some common virus to ruin everything?

"Never better!" Alfred flashed a thumbs up and a cocky smile of pearly whites.

"Good. Yes, very good. Now what did you want to discuss so privately?" Arthur noted with interest that the red was moving down to Alfred's cheeks.

Before Alfred could choke out an answer, a waitress came by and placed a full martini glass in front of each of them. At Arthur's curious glance, Alfred grinned and tugged at his tie, loosening it a little. "I wanted this to be really special, so I ordered you all of your favorites."

Alfred knew his favorites? "What is 'this' exactly?" England braved, taking a sip of his drink, pleased to find it was a classic gin and vermouth martini, not one of those horrid vodka concoctions so popular these days. At least he had a decent remedy in front of him if he had been incorrect about the purpose of this meeting.

Alfred hid behind the rim of his own highball glass for a moment. He removed the cocktail pick and pulled an olive off with his teeth.

Arthur watched avidly as Alfred chewed and swallowed. "Well?" he prompted, half sick with anticipation.

America squared his shoulders and took what appeared to be a steadying breath. "It's our first date."

Arthur's heart sped up. It was real. This time he was right. It was happening. "Is it?" he whispered, barely able to breath.

"I hope so," Alfred said stoutly.

"What makes you think I would want to date a wanker like you?" No! Horrified at his words, Arthur grasped the edge of the table hard. He couldn't help it; insulting Alfred was always the easiest and best first defense against his nerves.

Alfred's expression fell and he fumbled his napkin onto his lap. "I...I hope you will give me a chance."

"A chance to what? Perhaps break my heart again?" More harsh words flew from his mouth to Arthur's dismay. He hadn't meant to voice that fear aloud. He ground his teeth together to stop any more harmful articulations. He needed to get himself under control.

"No way!" Alfred looked stricken as he raked a hand through his slicked back hair. "Please, I thought we were past all of that. I know I hurt you..."

"Devastated me," Arthur said quietly, not looking him in the eyes.

Alfred licked his lips. "I know and I'm sorry. I want to make it right. I want to make you happy, Arthur." His cufflinks glinted as he folded his hands onto the table cloth and stared earnestly at Arthur.

"I see," Arthur replied still looking slightly away. He was a terrible person to be cruel when Alfred was trying so hard. He had wanted this too, but now the moment was upon him he was terrified.

The waitress came by again and dropped off a small green salad for each of them. Alfred's was covered in ranch and Arthur's was plain but had been accompanied by a bottle of malt vinegar.

Malt vinegar was Arthur's preferred salad dressing. "How did you know?" He looked up, braving America's glance while he folded his cloth napkin over his lap.

Alfred released a wary smile. "That's how you always have your salads when we meet in London."

Arthur uncapped the bottle and shook the vinegar over his salad, the sharp smell tickling his nose. "Perhaps you are more observant than I give you credit for being." The fear was receding, releasing its rule over his mouth. The drink, the salad; it was clear Alfred had been watching him closely for some time. He breathed in slowly, a feeling of fondness rising to the front of his emotions.

Alfred shrugged and started in on his own salad after Arthur had taken his first bite. "Maybe you should give me a chance then."

England goggled, realizing that Alfred had held back from starting before Arthur. He had never seen that kind of restraint in him before, particularly with food. Somehow that small gesture cleared the away the last of his doubts. "You're serious."

"Of course I am," Alfred said after swallowing.

Arthur took anther bite of salad, savoring the perfect tang of the vinegar. "Do you really have feelings for me? Romantic feelings?" he asked after primly patting his mouth with his napkin. He had to know for certain.

"Yes." Alfred's answer was full of earnest sincerity. He leaned forward and whispered, "Please, Arthur, let me show you." Nantucket was working its way free, adding an air of awkwardness to Alfred's pleading face.

Arthur fought the urge to either flip the hair up all the way or smooth it back down. "How long has this been going on?"

"Sir?"

They both started as the intimate bubble around them popped. As one, they turned to see one of Canada's governmental interns hovering beside the table, a young lady whose off the rack navy suit was so new that it still sported hanger creases.

"Yes?" America flashed her a friendly smile. "Do you need something from me?"

"I'm sorry to disturb your lunch sir, but Mr. Williams needs you to sign these documents before he meets with the Prime Minister." She nodded to England politely and handed a manilla folder and a pen to Alfred.

England watched Alfred open the folder and begin reading the documents inside. He was struck by America's serious expression and focus. He looked even handsomer working. America flipped between to pages as if to confirm something. Nodding to himself, he signed the documents with a flourish and handed the lot back to the intern.

"Thank you, sirs. Enjoy your lunch." She scurried away before either of them could comment.

"Sorry about that. You know how it is," America said with a chuckle. "We are never really off the clock are we?"

"Indeed." Seeing America acting so mature, made something in England's stomach ache pleasantly. They truly had come a long way from their beginnings. Despite it all, America had turned out quite well.

Arthur turned back to his salad and enjoyed the taste even more, knowing it had been selected for him with loving attention to detail. Watching an usually pink Alfred eat so carefully and neatly was an added attraction. They finished their greens and cocktails in companionable silence, each deep in their own thoughts, though Arthur suspected Alfred was avoiding his question.

"So, how long?" Arthur asked as a bus boy cleared away their plates and glasses.

"A long time. Can we leave it at that?" Alfred pulled a phone from his pocket and pretended to check for text messages.

I think not," Arthur said with a wry grin. "If we are going to try this, we need to be open and honest with each other."

Alfred shifted his neck uncomfortably and looked away. "Decades."

Arthur closed his eyes. Decades? He didn't know how to respond to that. He had thought years, maybe a single decade. Could it be that he hadn't misunderstood Alfred's flirting throughout the years after all? Before he could articulate a reply, a self-satisfied Gallic laugh announced a most unwelcome visitor. England's eyes snapped open already in a full-on glare.

"O- ho! Here they are!" Francis chortled, not-quite-sashaying his way to their table. "Hiding away in a romantic little corner." He paused way too close, hands on his hips, and looking fit to burst.

"Sod off," Arthur said clearly so as not to be mistaken as an invitation to linger . They had just been getting down to business and this utter fool had to show up and pollute the moment. Arthur considered the bluntness of his butter knife. A rather pathetic weapon, really, but enough force would get it into the bastard's heart.

"My, so touchy. I haven't interrupted anything have I?" France rubbed both hands down his hips, to smooth over his thighs. His conservative tan suit sapped away the suggestiveness of the movement.

Alfred smiled tightly, not the beaming public smile Arthur had come to expect. "Francis. Can I help you with something?"

France wrung his hands in mock dismay. "Matthew came to me in tears and told me you had made alternate plans and would not be eating the meal he had made especially for you... oh how you have hurt him, you selfish, selfish brother."

"Mattie said he was okay with it when I asked him. Maybe I should go check on him," Alfred said with genuine concern, starting to slide his chair out from under the table.

"Stay seated America," Arthur said with calm authority and was pleased to see the lad reflexively comply. "You can be certain France is only trying to get a rise out of you, or spy on us. Likely both."

"How you wound me, Arthur." France's eyes raked over every detail of Alfred's couture. "I merely came to investigate what could be more important than our networking lunch."

"Spying then," Arthur sighed, twisting the napkin in his lap. "Now, get the hell out of here."

"Excuse me, sir." The waitress deftly maneuvered around France as if circumventing unwanted third wheels was a normal part of her work day. She placed delicate crystal goblets filled to their globe's inflection point with a pale yellow wine in front of her seated guests.

France clucked his tongue. "How unusual. Arthur doesn't enjoy white wines." His eyes narrowed. "Unless..." He captured Arthur's wine glass and sniffed.

"If you put your lips to that I will murder you." Arthur held a hand out for the glass.

"No need," France said returning the glass to the table, ignoring Arthur's hand. "Gewurztraminer. The only white you will drink." His gleeful eyes slid back to America. "You drink it to celebrate."

"Francis!" Matthew called hurrying across the restaurant, his looping curl bouncing. "You told me you wouldn't do this!"

France cast a nervous glance over his shoulder, then swung back towards the table with a full on leer. "And just what are you and this most impeccably dressed Alfred celebrating? Hmm?"

Alfred put an elbow on the table and hid his face in his hand.

Matthew briskly approached them and slung an arm around France. "Time to go. Sorry, Al."

Head still in hand, Alfred grunted and motioned vaguely with his free hand that they should just leave.

"But this is big news," Francis protested as he was lead away. "I had to see for myself if Hell had truly frozen over. Look – they are but two snow balls!"

Matthew pleaded for him to please just be quiet, and soon the pair was out of earshot.

"That's encouraging," Alfred muttered into his palm.

"Chin up, old boy," England said kindly. "Pay that idiot no mind." Somehow, seeing Alfred in distress, and being able to help him provided Arthur with the steadiness he had been lacking earlier. He would not let that snail destroy this precious moment.

America looked up warily as England took a long drink from his goblet. "How did he know about the wine?"

England smiled gently. The poor boy's crestfallen features really shouldn't look so adorable. "That's not too difficult. He and I have known each other for most of our existences. How could he not know my wine preferences? I dare say he introduced me to the vile potion."

Alfred's expression closed off. "Oh." He pushed his own glass away and sat in silence.

England blinked at him, not liking the shift in mood. A quiet Alfred usually meant an ill wind blowing.

Unconsciously, America tugged Nantucket all the way free from its hair gel prison. "You guys do have a long history, huh?" he asked bleakly. "I guess you two have dated longer than I have even been alive."

"You could say that," England answered with care. "But off and on... not all at the same time." Surely America couldn't believe he wanted Francis? He was long done with that goose.

"I never can tell if the two of you are fighting or getting it on," Alfred muttered, shame jaundicing his features. "Figures that I'd mess it up." He loosened his tie in resignation.

"Now, look here," England sputtered, desperate to get the story straight.

Alfred pulled his napkin from his lap and placed it on the table. "I'm sorry if I misunderstood. You don't have to stay if this is making you uncomfortable." He scooted his chair back with a jerk. "In fact, why don't you stay and enjoy lunch and I'll leave."

Arthur reached out and took Alfred's hand in his to keep him from leaving the table. He squeezed it bracingly. "Come now, you are delusional if you think that I have had one jot of attraction for that fop in the last two hundred years."

Alfred hunched his shoulders sheepishly and looked at his shoes.

"What's all this about?" England tried again. "It can't be news to you that I have had the misfortune to know France for so terribly long."

"I wanted to impress you, I guess," America complained, voice so soft Arthur had to strain to hear it. "Show you how special you are to me by paying attention to all of the details. But it looks like I'm not the only one who knows you best."

Charmed by the flash of his selfish little lad from so long ago, England found his romantic footing getting even firmer. "He knows far too much about me actually, and I don't like it. He learned most of it by spying and blackmail," he soothed.

Alfred huffed, not seeming at all convinced. "But I want to learn more about you. Isn't that the same?" He raised sad eyes to search Arthur's face.

"No. You are going about it the proper way... like a gentleman. That is why people go courting- to discover more about each other. " Arthur rubbed his thumb along the back of Alfred's hand. "That is quite different from peering into your neighbor's windows at night."

"I guess so," Alfred groused. "Did he really look into your windows?" He cautiously squeezed Arthur's hand back.

"Don't miss the point. Do you want to know more about me? Things I freely share?" Arthur leaned forward earnestly. "Wasn't that the point of all of this?"

Alfred's grin fizzed and started to spark back to life. "Yes."

"I'd like to know more about you too. Particularly about these decades of romantic feelings. Do throw me a bone here." He released Alfred's hand so the boy could scoot back up to the table.

Alfred's demeanor brightened as he slipped his napkin back onto his lap. "I have been looking forward to this for a very long time," he admitted. "I'm glad I wasn't wrong to ask."

England knew the look he was giving Alfred was openly fond. He hoped that would help him feel more secure. He was afraid to sooth with more words less he say the wrong thing again.

The waitress whispered back into their space unobtrusively and carefully set plates of poutine with smoked meat in front of them and was gone again.

Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Interesting choice." He didn't reveal how the rich scent was making his mouth water in order to maintain some decorum. He might be willing to share with Alfred, but he was going to start slowly and selectively.

Alfred dug in with gusto, the arrival of the main course bringing his excitement back. "I know you love it. Don't hold back." He waved a sopping forkful of crisps at the Englishman.

This meal was indeed one of Arthur's favorites. "Mind the table cloth. How did you know? I have never eaten this in front of you." He took a proper bite, being careful not to drip.

Alfred's smile grew steadier. "It was a calculated guess," he said through his gravy.

"How so?" England said after swallowing. Alfred certainly had not learned to talk with his mouth full from him.

"I grew up eating your food remember? There is no way you didn't create this when you were in control here! I was sure from the first time I had it."

Arthur regarded his most brilliant culinary creation yet – chips, gravy, and cheese curds. (The smoked meat addition had been Matthew's handiwork.) "Clever boy," he acknowledged. "See? You know more about me than many. So you were saying about these feelings of yours?"

Alfred sucked the gravy off of his lips, thinking. "They started at the end of WWII, when we became real friends." He lifted his wine glass and swirled it. "That was when you finally started seeing me as a man, not as a boy. " His expression dared England to deny it.

"So you are an adult now?" England couldn't help but tease.

"Yes, I am," Alfred said, his voice dropping an octave and the thick muscles of his neck flexing beneath his oxford's collar.

Arthur swallowed as that deep voice sent a thrill down his spine. "So you are."

Alfred's gaze was momentarily solemn. "As I got to know you again, I allowed myself to acknowledge how important you once were to me. I mean, damn, you made me who I was. To be strong and free. I owed you my respect and gratitude."

Arthur could only stare. How often had he overheard the whispers of others, heard them saying the apple didn't fall from the tree? That Alfred's stubbornness was only second to his own? That the Alfred sitting across the table from him him was created from England's designs?

"Then you became my best friend and at first that was enough. I was so happy to be close to you." The hint of wetness in America's eyes reflected his honest love. "I had missed you so much, but I had no choice but to lock it away so I could move forward and become my own person. I was so happy that you were by my side again."

"You surely didn't act as such," England objected gently. "Your arrogance was legendary."

America took another swallow of wine. "How could I behave any other way? So much had changed between us... our pain, our parting, I had to honor it by acting strong." He shrugged and played a fork through his food. "It seemed disrespectful somehow, to just act like everything was normal again. Like nothing bad had happened."

An old ache eased in England's heart. Damn, if that didn't make sense. He likely would have done the same. "So you paraded around like a boastful idiot to spare my feelings?" he asked dryly.

"My feelings too," Alfred clarified. "It was easier for both of us I think."

"I will grant you your story so far, but friendship is not romance," England reminded, pulling a crisp through some gravy.

America puffed out his cheeks. "Ok. If this embarrasses you, remember that you asked for it." He drained his wine and squared his shoulders. "In the 1970's I came over to London with my boss. I went to see the Clash preform in Camden Town the night before we were scheduled to meet with you and your Prime Minister. Imagine my surprise when I saw you kicking up shit in the mosh pit."

England remembered that trip. "You were supposed to have tea with me, and you prat, you stood me up!" He could still remember how much that no-show had hurt.

America chuckled ruefully. "I couldn't get the sight of your body inked in tattoos and painted into leather out of my mind. You looked so rebellious, so unhinged– I'd never seen you like that." Alfred paused and rubbed a hand over his mouth. "I wanted you...I wanted to take to your piercings out with my teeth and... and... do unspeakable things to you right there on the floor," Alfred admitted hoarsely. "I couldn't handle having a tea party with our bosses and pretending that I wasn't craving you. So I instead of meeting up with you like we had planned, I slipped out of the embassy that night and caught a flight home."

"You liked that?" Arthur asked feeling unspeakably happy. "That was one of the most undignified periods in my life!" He had loved that era, sneaking away from the establishment to revel in post modern anarchy. He had never realized that anyone would ever approve of, let alone become aroused by him in such a state.

"It made me think it was a little bit like what you might have been like as a pirate," Alfred admitted looking wistful. "I always loved those stories about you."

"But..." Arthur frowned as he gestured towards his conservative clothing. "Surely, you realize that most of me is not like that." Could be he be more of bad boy for Alfred? His heart just wasn't in it these days. What if Alfred only liked that part of him?

"I said that was the start," Alfred corrected. "I like every part of you, from your needle point pillows to your Doc Martens." He reached over the table to rub a knuckle against England's cheek. "Remember that I said you were my best friend first?"

"I see," England said quietly. "Thank you."

America took back his hand and picked up a fork. "Eat, so your food doesn't get cold."

England counted the years in his head. "Alfred... your saying you have felt this way for over 30 years. Why didn't you say anything?"

Alfred swallowed his bite. "Well, I tried to show you before, but you never seemed to notice." He took off his glasses and cleaned the lenses on the tablecloth. "I wasn't sure how you would react, so I was afraid to come on too strong." He slid his glasses back on and smiled bashfully. "I didn't want to loose my friend."

England shivered straight down to his toes. He had been right in the past! Just not brave enough, it seemed. "You never were this direct," he admitted. "Why now?"

America ducked his head. "Mattie got sick of listening to me complain and told me that I was stupid for expecting you to read my mind." He licked his lips. "Am I being clear enough now?

"Crystal," England said dryly, his eyes tracking that tongue like a predator. All of this talk of leather and teeth was making him a little bothered.

"Do you... feel the same way?" Alfred whispered, reaching out and taking England's hand. "Please say yes."

England stiffened. He was never very good at talking about his feelings and he felt tears of frustration prick at his eyes as he struggled to find the right words to tell this wonderful boy how very special he was. "My darling, I can't tell you... you are... please understand that I was..." he was cut off mid-sentence by an awkward cough.

"Ah, there you are America and England. I have been looking for you."

Both America and England turned unhappy faces to the next unwanted guest, quickly releasing their hands to lay innocently on the table top.

Back straight, and obviously focused on the business at hand rather than the secret rendezvous, Germany rested the tips of his fingers on their table. "I was hoping to change the agenda a bit. I know it is very last minute, but America, would you mind if we put England on in your place today and move your talk to the opening slot in the morning session tomorrow?"

"Sure," America said faintly, darting a nervous glance to England. "Whatever."

Germany snapped his head into a crisp nod. "I suggest you use this extra time to use spell check on your slides, if you will take a small suggestion from me. England, this is acceptable to you?"

England watched America wilt. The poor man had bared his heart and was languishing while waiting for an answer and Germany seemed in no particular hurry. Intolerable. "Ludwig, get the hell out of here," England snapped. "Else I will twist off all of your fingers and eat them."

Germany cocked a calm eyebrow over steely blue eyes. "You seem tense today, Arthur. Are you sure you can present effectively?" He brushed imaginary lint from his jacket's sleeve.

England let out a low growl and clenched his fists. "Leave now or I will end you."

"Yes, yes. We have heard that many times, but I must know if you can keep to the agenda." Germany's brow furrowed and he cast a glance back over his shoulder as if listening. "Ah- but I must go. Italy seems desperate about something in the lobby. I am counting on you England." He pivoted neatly and marched towards his anxiously gesticulating lover in the adjoining chamber.

England craned his head to watch him go, then groaned. "Oh for God's sake, here comes Prussia!"

"I see Antonio and Lovino reconnoitering around the salad bar," America noted glumly, shoulders sagging. "Maybe we should have left the building for this."

"Drat that France and is big mouth. The lot of them must know what we are up to and we will never get any peace now." England rubbed his fingers over America's hand where it rested on the table. "This was a lovely effort. I'm sorry it was spoiled. I'd say more but the hoards are descending."

America's dim expression flickered then broke into a brave smile as he heard the unspoken message. "Do you trust me?"

Even though the answer was a deeply felt affirmative, the best England could do was, "Er, somewhat."

America twined his fingers around England's and pulled him to his feet. "That's a good start. Follow me and stay light on your toes." He edged them around the table and flashed his gaze around the dinning room, his expression cunning.

Arthur drew in a rush of breath as Alfred dashed off abruptly and dragged him through the dining room, pushing through the swinging double kitchen doors with an outstretched palm.

There was hardly any acknowledgement from the busy staff, who were used to all sorts of mad scurrying about during the lunch crush.

" 'Scuse us!" Alfred shouted cheerfully, towing Arthur around the sous chef station and past the deep sinks for dishwashing towards a red illuminated exit sign.

"Don't go that way, that door is alarmed!" Arthur shouted even as Alfred was pushing down the crash bar and shouldering the emergency door open.

"We need a distraction!" Alfred called over the wailing siren. "Come on!" He tugged on Arthur's arm again and set them running down a dim alley towards the light at the end, smoothly guiding them around waste bins and other obstacles.

They emerged on a sunny street in Vieux Montreal, and were soon running down the incline of the Place Jacques-Cartier toward the St. Lawrence river, kicking up clouds of pigeons as they went.

"Alfred- what?" Arthur panted, trying not to stumble on the cobblestones as they dashed past brightly costumed street performers and artisan kiosks.

The American whooped as he tugged Arthur towards towards the King Edward's Pier. "We are making our get away, Artie!" The pure joy in his voice was absolutely infectious. Alfred cast an eye to his partner. "Getting tired? Need me to carry you?"

"Not hardly, you brat," Arthur found himself laughing back. "I think of the two of us, you are more likely to drop on the spot from a heart attack."

America chuckled and slowed his pace to a walk, still holding firmly to Arthur's hand. "Good thing we made it here alive then!"

"Here" was the King Edward Pier where sleek, glass-roofed sight seeing boats were moored, ready for periodic river tours of Vieux Montreal and the Port. Arthur watched America plunge a hand into a pocket and pull out two tickets for such a tour. What a lovely and romantic thought, and private too, if they could get aboard without any of their fellow nations catching sight of them.

A deep breath of the familiar scents of the waterway and England was overcome with a strong sense of nostalgia. He had stood on a long ago pier on this very spot when he had come to claim Matthew from France. Indeed, he imagined this modern pier was set into the original a fleet he had commanded down this river – so proud and strong. He had been invincible. Just thinking about it made some of his old vigor and sass flow through his veins again. He looked down at his hand held so carefully by Alfred and felt his eyes and mouth twist into a devilish grin from bygone days. He had truly waited far too long for this moment, hadn't he?

What had happened to him to make him sit and pine quietly for what he wanted? Particularly when it was all but begging to be taken?

England yanked on America's hand so the poor lamb came crashing against his chest with an endearingly shocked expression on his face. "Quick escapes do it for me," he said lowly cupping Alfred's cheek with his free hand.

"R- really?" Alfred all but squeaked, eyes wide and breath rapid from more than just their earlier exertions. His once smoothed back hair was a riot of run-away cowlicks.

"Oh yes." Arthur licked his lips and swaggered up into the kiss he had been wanting for too many years. He pressed his thumbs to the hinges of Alfred's jaw while he used his open mouth to push Alfred's lips wide. He thrust decades of released denial into the strong swathes of his tongue as his hands held Alfred's face in place.

Alfred gave a surprised yelp accompanied by flailing arms as the suddenness and power of the demonstration caught him off guard. His hands flapped for a moment, sending the tickets flying, before settling to grip his fingers tightly around Arthur's wrists. He nostrils flared with deep breathes as he moved his head for a better angle.

England was deeply pleased by Alfred's clinging and his pliable lips. The boy was letting him have his way, but at the same time was actively participating in the kiss that was driving thunder through his heart. He sucked hard, pulling all of Alfred's air into his mouth, chuckling when Alfred immediately sucked it back along with England's own breath. With a final nip to the lad's bottom lip, he let him go, twisting his wrists to capture Alfred's hands.

Alfred was ravishingly flushed and drawing deep breaths as he looked helplessly into Arthur's eyes. "Does than mean that you have feelings for me too? Are we are dating now?" he whispered, fingers twining with England's.

England turned his face into the breeze, smelling water and the oil from the ships. He was a pirate once more and he had captured the most rare treasure yet. He looked back and smiled into those dear, hopeful eyes. "My darling, as I was trying to tell you earlier, I can't tell you how long I was waiting for you to ask."

~Fini~

A/N: For those of you who have never been there, Vieux Montreal, which is old Montreal in English, is steeped in history and an undeniable old European flavor. It is one of my favorite places to visit. The St. Lawrence is a mighty body of water and suffuses the area with a maritime atmosphere. I was lucky enough to stay at the Pierre du Calvet, built in 1725.