AN: This was written for the most part on my phone, so I'm sorry if the format is kinda wonky. Also, I didn't have a lot of time to do a final proofread, so there's a good chance that at least one of my beta's comments is in there. Other than that, I hope you enjoy! I'm not sure how much I like this, but I wanted to get something up to make up for the fact that I can't update either of my multi-chaptered fics for a long time because my computer is broken
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia or any of the characters.
Alfred was gone.
"You idiot!" Arthur called out to the ceiling, his voice cracking. "You bloody idiot!" He was screeching at that point, not caring that the strain would cause him to lose his voice. That was nothing compared to the emotional turmoil he was in. Nothing would ever be the same - could ever be the same.
Of course, had he been asked when something had changed, he wouldn't have been able to give a definite answer. They'd been together a long time, nearing 8 months, and the best he could guess would be around the 2 month mark.
It might have been when Alfred had come over to Arthur's house with a dozen red roses, blushing madly, but placing a wide smile on his face nonetheless.
It could have been a few days before that, when Alfred had visited his boyfriend at work, then insisted on treating the shorter blonde to lunch as soon as he had break.
It might have even been the week before that, when Alfred had given him a watch. A nice pocket watch, golden plated and brilliant.
The very same one that Arthur was throwing to the ground at that moment in anger.
"I'll never forgive you, not for as long as I live,"The British man murmured, already feeling the effects his earlier volume had on his throat. He stood there for a while, just staring at the watch. Their relationship was just taking a turn for the better, or at least, Arthur thought so. Alfred had calmed down tremendously since the time they had gotten together, more relaxed and less likely to get into things than his previous hyper self. He'd stopped eating McDonald's as if it were the greatest thing in the world (in fact, he seemed mildly repulsed if the notion of going there was introduced), and as a result, had lost a bit of weight, even though he wouldn't have been considered 'fat' originally. While these changes had been odd at first, he was still Alfred, still got scared watching lame ghost movies, still smiled that 10,000 watt smile in public, but saved his crooked, charming grin for Arthur. And yet, obviously, things were not going as wonderfully as he thought they were.
Arthur just didn't understand what was happening. Yesterday, Alfred was the perfect boyfriend. He was loving, listened attentively to the British man's rants, no matter what the subject matter was, and even complimented his cooking, for God sakes! But today, he was distant, giving vaguely cold looks and even once a small sneer when Arthur tried to smile at him.
"What's wrong with you today?" He finally snapped at dinner time. Alfred looked at him with cool disinterest.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean by that."
"Yes you do, you're doing it right now! Have I offended you somehow?"
"You want the truth?" Arthur nodded. "I was going to wait until the weekend to break it to you, but I guess now works just as well. I've been seeing someone else." Arthur's mouth went dry.
"Nearing three months now. I'm sor-" He was cut off by a strong punch to the face that knocked his glasses clean off.
"How dare you lead me on like that? I loved you! I loved you so much, and you've taken our relationship and-" this time it was Arthur's turn to be interrupted.
"There was never any relationship between us, okay?" Alfred flinched slightly, almost as if he were expecting another punch, or for Arthur to start yelling again. Instead, dead silence followed his words, prompting him to continue. "I made a bet with one of the guys that I could make any one fall for me, and he picked you as my challenge. I won the bet, so now I'm done pretending to care for you. Simple as that."
"You're a sick bastard, and I want you out of my house!" He screamed, picking up a ceramic plate and hurling it at the retreating American's head, just missing him by inches and hitting the wall.
As he replayed the memory in his mind, still fresh, as it had occurred only a little more than a week ago, Arthur found a few tears sliding down his cheeks. 'No, I will not waste any more tears on him. He's not worth it.' Suddenly, he was brought out of his thoughts by a timid knock on his door. Confused, he went to answer it, and nearly slammed it shut when he opened it and saw Alfred's face. However, a moment later, he realized that the hair was too long to be Alfred's, the skin too pale.
"Matthew," He supplied helpfully.
"Right. Um...can I help you?" Matthew looked nervous.
"It might be better if you let me inside."
"Right, of course, come in." Arthur stepped out of the doorway and gestured inside. Matthew complied, going into the living room and sitting on the couch, back perfectly straight like he was uncomfortable.
"I have something for you - from Alfred," He said, pulling a small white envelope from his back pocket.
"And what makes him think that I'll accept anything from him? The nerve of that foul little beast, I ought to-" Arthur was getting riled up, but Matthew quickly stopped his train of thought.
"He doesn't know I'm here. And if he had his way, I wouldn't be. But you have a right to have this." He held out the envelope, and Arthur noted that it looked like it had been sealed, then opened, then sealed again many times. It was opened at this point, implying Matthew had already seen the contents. Opening it tentatively, Arthur pulled out a few pieces of regular notebook paper. Some looked like they had been used recently, while others appeared older. He picked up the one on top and saw it was dated several months ago, the day before Alfred had given him the now dented watch.
I went to the doctor's today. I haven't really been feeling at the top of my game lately, so I figured a checkup couldn't hurt, right? Well...wrong, I guess. The doctor says I have an advanced state of cancer in my kidney, caused by a malignant tumor, and that while usually they could go into surgery to remove it, I'm a special case. The cancerous cells have started spread to the rest of my body, according to him. Surgery would be costly and dangerous, and I have a low chance of success at this point. Chemotherapy would be painful and useless. The doctor says I'll be lucky if I have five months to live. I want to tell you so bad, so you can tell me everything's going to be okay. But things are serious now, and everything we do matters. If I tell you, everything changes. You'll spend the rest of my life treating me like I'm delicate, and I don't think I can handle that. Not from you. So I'm writing this, knowing I'll never send it, so that I get these thoughts out of my head for a while. Knowing me, I'll probably blurt this out the second I see you anyway, making the whole process of writing this letter useless.
Love you so much,
"W-what?" Arthur asked. "Is this true?" he waved the letter in Matthew's face, who in turn nodded solemnly. "Five months...but...this is dated for six!"
"He's an everyday medical miracle," Matthew explained, and Arthur looked back down at the other letters. One was dated a couple months after the first one.
It hurts so badly. I have this constant pain in my side, and it won't go away. Worse, I decided not to tell anyone about the cancer, so I can't even complain. I think Mattie knows something's wrong, but he hasn't called me on it yet. And you, you're noticing things. It makes me worried. You keep commenting on how I look tired, or I've been losing weight lately, and every time I think that you know, somehow, and that you're trying to give me a chance to tell you myself, but I...I can't bring myself to do it. And I am so sorry. The worst part isn't even the physical pain, or the pissing blood (though that IS really nasty), it's the fact that now that I know I'm going to die, I think I'm becoming a better person than when I was clueless. It hit me when I visited you at work and you were genuinely shocked. You even asked if I was there because I needed money. What kind of boyfriend am I, that a small gesture is as rare as... I can't even finish that sentence. Partially because I'm upset, and partially because I don't know what to compare that to. You're right; I need to work on my vocabulary.
Oh shit. You're here. I guess I'll put this with the other letter, and hope that no one finds it later.
Love you so much,
Arthur read through the rest of the letters, which all had similar content. The doctor had given him some painkillers to help him out, but he kept having to up the dosage to keep his pain under control. 'I feel so unheroic, relying on drugs to get me through the day. It was never supposed to be like this.' He had taken to wearing baggy clothes, so that Arthur wouldn't notice how unbearably thin he was.'Your facial expression when you saw, I nearly busted out laughing at the sight. You must have thought I was so ridiculous.' More recently, Matthew had finally confronted Alfred, though he was under the impression that, as leftover insecurity from his chubby childhood, his younger-by-minutes brother had an eating disorder. 'I was so tempted to let him keep thinking that, you don't even know. There's at least chance of recovery from those. But I couldn't do it.' And he had cut his hair differently, because malnutrition was causing it to fall out.'Balding at 26, I nearly died right then! I'm glad you didn't know about THAT part, I'd never hear the end of it.' Every letter ended the same way. 'Love you so much, Alfred.' Finally, Arthur had reached the final letter. He flinched when he recognized the date - just a few days ago, the night Alfred had admitted to cheating.
'Arthur.' The man noticed eraser marks there, and saw Alfred had originally addressed it with his pet-name for the shorter blonde. 'I am so very very sorry. You have to know that none of what I said is true. But you need to understand that I'm way past the maximum time Doc Richards gave me to live, and I'm getting worse. I'm going to be hospitalized soon, and once that happens, it's not much longer until I kick the bucket. Over the past several months, I've realized just how much you mean to me, and if I mean just half as much to you, then it would devastate you when I died. And as much as it hurt me, as much as I wanted my last memories of you to be joyful ones, I realize something now. These last six months, they've been for me. I've become the man I've always wanted to be, and even though that man is dead or dying, I still like him better than the guy I used to be. This man is in love. He's reconnected with his brother, and he has closure with his friends. But tonight...tonight was for you. I lied because I wanted to make you hate me. I wanted you to curse my name and spit at the ground at the thought of me, because if you did, then when I die, you won't be in pain. So even though it hurts worse than anything to know the last thing you'll get from me is lies, I feel like I've done what a good boyfriend should do - protect their love.' That had been a big theme in the letters as well, Alfred's strange compulsion to 'be the heroic guy his Artie deserved'. 'I thought a lot about giving you these letters, or having Mattie give them to you after - well, you know. But that would defeat the purpose. So I suppose that these letters will collect dust, at least until Mattie pulls himself together enough to sort through my things - I always had the feeling he didn't like me, even by family terms, but it turns out, he actually cares a lot. He cried when he found out about the cancer, did you know?
I have to go now - I'm so tired all the time. I can barely keep my eyes open to finish writing.
Take care of my heart, as I've left it with you,
Arthur stared at the paper with disbelief. Of course, he wasn't crying, mind you. That would be a ridiclous thing to imply, and his vision was simply blurring because he hadn't blinked in a while…having a staring contest with the paper, you see… yeah he was crying. He quickly brushed the tears from his eyes, refusing to make eye contact with Matthew.
"This is - this is some sort of joke, right?" He didn't wait for a response. "It's terrible of you to do this, you know." He swiped at his wet cheeks angrily.
"Arthur, everything in those letters is true. I would never play such a horrible joke, and neither would he, you know that."
"Do I? It seems I didn't know him as well as I thought, if he kept something this big from me!"
"Not if you think about it Arthur, just try it! If he had told you, you would have constantly worried over him, and tried to keep him as comfortable as possibly by practically chaining him to his bed! That's not him though! He needs his freedom, needs to be able to be himself. Had he told you, would you have known Alfred, or his cancer?" Matthew said this like he had rehearsed it in his head a thousand times, and perhaps he had. It didn't matter, as he was right. So many thoughts and questions were swimming through Arthur's head, and he didn't know which one should take precedent over the others.
"Where is he?" He finally decided to ask. Matthew looked at his lap nervously.
"After he left you, his health took a turn for the worse. Four days ago, he was taken to the hospital to be put under constant care and supervision. He's...so unhappy, Arthur. He honestly believes you were the last person who cared about him in the world. Tonight, when visiting hours ended, he told me to go home and get some rest, and if I come back tomorrow - if, he says, like I might not go and support my brother when he needs me-" Matthew was looking very defeated when he said this "-he asked me if I would stop by his place and find a picture of you - any picture he said, he just wanted something to think of you - and bring it to him. So I went, and this was on his desk." After Matthew finished, it was silent for a long time.
"I - I don't know what you think bringing these to me will do." Arthur said shakily.
"I want you to come with me tomorrow. See him, talk to him, let him know that he's not going to die alone. He may be an obnoxious, annoying tub of lard, but he's our obnoxious, annoying tub of lard. And we are not going to let him go out miserable." Arthur only had one more question he had to ask.
"What time do I need to be ready to leave tomorrow morning?" Matthew smiled.
"Visiting hours start at eight. Be ready by 7:30, and I'll get you there."
True to his word, Matthew was on Arthur's front porch at 7:30 sharp, ringing the doorbell. Arthur practically ran to answer it, not wasting any time on formalities and walking straight to the car, hopping in the passenger seat and waiting for Matthew to drive. At 7:58, they'd reached the hospital and rushed into the reception area.
"Brother and significant other of Alfred F. Jones, here to visit." Matthew said in a clipped tone Arthur had never heard from the younger man, not even waiting for the clerk to respond before he dashed off, leaving Arthur to scribble their names on a check-in clipboard then stumble after him. Soon, Matthew skidded to a stop in front of a seemingly random room and paused momentarily to catch his breath. "This is his room, I'm going to go in first, then I'll come get you in a moment." Then he disappeared into the room.
"Mattie! Hi!" A voice that was too tired to be Alfred's said softly.
"Hey Al, I brought you the picture like you wanted." Matthew murmured.
"Thanks, bro." The words alone would have sounded unmeaningful, but the tone of absolute gratitude and...wistfulness? in Alfred's voice seemed to add sincerity.
"And, someone came to see you." Matthew said, his voice falsely cheery as if talking to a child. He stuck his head out the door and motioned for Arthur to come in.
If Arthur had thought that Alfred sounded tired, he was completely floored by how he looked. Upon making eye contact with the American, he could see many things. Shock, fear, a bit of desperate hope, but mostly pain. So much pain Arthur couldn't believe that the last time they'd seen each other Alfred had been up and walking around. He had tubes and wires running everywhere, and there was the cliched beep of a heart monitor coming from one of the many machines in the room.
"A - Arthur, what are you doing here?" He asked. The blonde in question didn't know just how much he loved the nickname 'Artie' until Alfred refused to say it.
"I read the letters." Arthur said, not willing to break eye contact longer than absolutely necessary to ensure he didn't trip over something as he made his way to a chair near the bed. "Did you really think that you had to hide this from me? That I would treat you differently because you were sick?" Alfred let out a sigh that lasted far too long.
"If I had told you, you would have insisted…I slow down. That I relax a bit, and I not strain myself, and… 'for godsakes Alfred, would you stop being an ass and accept you need help?' And maybe it was my pride, maybe it was stupidity, but I wasn't prepared to be someone you had to help, you know? So I hid it. And I created a new philosophy for myself while I was at it. You know how people say to live like you're dying? Well, trust me, once you're actually dying… that thought becomes a whole lot less endearing. So instead, I decided to live like I'd live forever. Don't give me that look Arthur..." Alfred seemed to have to pause every so often to catch his breath, even if it was in the middle of a sentence. It made him seem so much older, like an elderly man instead of the student straight out of college he really was. "If you live forever, what's the point of doing anything? You know it'll be there tomorrow, right? But people who live forever… time must be skewed for them. A normal human's lifespan must seem like the blink of an eye. So everything is around for a precious little time before it's gone forever, and you have to grasp the opportunity before…before it leaves. Plus, what's there to do in an endless life but things worth remembering?" Arthur mulled it over for a moment.
"I suppose that does make sense..." Alfred smiled, but it was still tired, still muchmuchtootired.
"I'm glad. I've been thinking on that speech for two days. Not much to do in here but think on things." Arthur's heart cracked a little at that. "Why did you lie, Alfred? Why couldn't you have told me that you needed to go to the hospital, instead of telling me you cheated?"
"You read the letters, you know. I wanted you to hate me. The death of a love is…more of a loss than the death of an enemy. Obviously, the purpose has been defeated there, thank you Mattie..." Matthew coughed awkwardly from his corner of the room. "But the intent was good, right?"
"The intent was wonderful, Alfred, but love is worth the pain of death. If you had cared enough to read the literature, or 'sissy romance crap' as you call it, I keep around my house, you would know that, as it's the premise of pretty much all of it…" Alfred chuckled softly.
"You're always right in the end…aren't you?" He asked, though it was obvious he didn't need a reply. "Hey, will you two promise me something?" He asked, straightening in his position as much as he possibly could, turning to look Matthew in the eyes.
"Of course, whatever you want, I'll do it." Alfred turned his gaze to Arthur.
"And you? I understand if you're furious with me…I did a pretty stupid thing, and if-"
"Do you honestly think that I would be here if I hadn't wanted to come be with you? I'll promise whatever you'd like me to, you git."
"When I'm gone, I want you to look out for eachother. I won't be around to be your hero anymore, so I need you to fill my shoes. It won't be easy to…live up to such great expectations I know," His lips quirked upward in a ghost of his old smile. "But try for me?" He lifted up the hand not plugged up with tubes and held out his pinky. Matthew linked his immediately while Arthur rolled his eyes yet smiled fondly.
"Really Alfred, a pinky promise?" He asked as he linked his as well.
"It's the strongest bond anyone can make. Well, other than blood bonds…but those are gross." Alfred said seriously, prompting a second eye roll from Arthur. Matthew unhooked his pinky, and Alfred maneuvered his and Arthur's so that they were holding hands. "God Artie…" He briefly gauged Arthur for a reaction to the nickname, and when it wasn't negative he continued, still so softly it unnerved Arthur. "I love you so much, you know? I was so stupid lying to you like that…look where it got me, too. Serves me right, huh?"
"What do you mean by that?" Arthur asked. "Oh right, I never did mention that in the letters, did I? Meant to…just didn't get around to it. In the first letter, I said I had less than five months to live, right? But I've made it six. You're the reason why…I've hung on for so long. I've made peace with everyone in my life, even Mattie, though it still hurts to be leaving him. In the end, I was only hanging on for you." Arthur felt his eyes cloud with tears for what felt like the hundredth time in the last couple days. Alfred slowly brought the Brit's hand to his face, and even though his mouth was covered with…something that had a tube and was keeping him alive, he brought the hand to his cheek and let it rest there. "Don't cry on my…" Alfred sucked in a deep breath. "On my account, Artie. You're too pretty to cry." Arthur couldn't even dredge up enough indignance to object to being called 'pretty.' Alfred turned to Matthew. "Mattie, you're really the…best brother I coulda asked for…even though we were separated all those years in adoption…I love you bro…let that Ukranian chick you're dating know that if she fucks with you…She's gonna have a ghost on her ass…but she seems nice…so don't you fuck with her either…or I'll haunt you." Matthew smiled slightly and nodded, though he looked worried. Alfred's speech was slowing even more, and he was taking breaths more frequently.
"I love you too, Al." "Artie…I love you so much…you know that…right? Don't ever doubt that…please." The last word was a desperate whisper, eyes so pleading that Arthur couldn't imagine saying anything but…
"Never. Never again. I love you too, too much for words." Alfred smiled again.
"Thank you…" his breath caught, and he looked like he wanted to say something else, but all that came out was a little choking sound. He squeezed Arthur's hand weakly against his cheek, before closing his eyes, giving what seemed to be a very long sigh. His hand fell off of Arthur's, and he was still. The heart monitor sputtered for a moment, then let out a continuous beep.
"Alfred? Alfred!" Arthur cried, grabbing the still hand and gripping it tightly. It was still warm. Matthew was dead silent, staring at the ground, but his shoulders were shaking.
"The doctor told me that the cancer was spreading to his lungs when he was checked in. That's why it was hard for him to breathe." His voice was shaking, but Arthur caught every word. Suddennly, something caught his eye. In the hand that Arthur wasn't clutching, there was a slightly dented photo. Reaching out and plucking it out of Alfred's hand, he saw it was a picture of the both of them when they had just gotten together. When Alfred didn't know he was sick, and Arthur was still hesitant to fall in love. It seemed so long ago.
Seconds after he grabbed it, a nurse came in, and everything after that was a blur. One thing was for sure though.
Alfred was gone.
I hope you liked it! I won't tell you that you have to review, but I would really appreciate it if you did, as long as any criticism you give is constructive instead of straight flames.
Have a good day, and a happy new year!