Author's Notes:

As usual, a huuuuge thanks to everybody who reviewed (AND A BIGGER THANKS TO EVERYBODY WHO CHECKED THE FORUM OUT ^^), so that would be animefangirl55, Pychopathic Robot 9, Briarshade, USUK 8D, Nitengale, XXxxNaRu-ChAnxxXX, sherphy, SpiritoftheMapleLeaf, baconis1priority, OtakuGirl13258, SOSVampire, Teh AWESOME Me, ShadowEntity, Tabbyprincess, Waytomuchadoaboutnothing, ninjakat405, SamuraiSal1, xXxPrettyinPinkxXx, irene n valley and Rainstorm-Mosspath~

And just because I can, I'm gonna advertise mah sexy forum again, because I know you guys love me enough not to mind my shameless plugs.

So it's still the same concept, zombieapocalypse!AU Hetalia RP forum, and right now, we most of all need a Sweden and Finland, Asians, Russia/Ukraine, Australia/NZ, and much more. So come check the forum out at


Okie dokie, I'm done ^^ Onto the story. All the chapter names in this story are connected two by two, but can anybody guess which chapter this chapter is linked to and why? Cookie if you try, three cookies if you get it right! Asides that... last chapter, you guys ;A; Nooo~ But... enjoy~

"So... How are you feeling?"


Alfred blinked in confusion, watching over Arthur's shoulder as the latter looked around the large, decorated gymnasium and then checked boxes on the list in his hands.

"How so?" he asked, looking around and noting that the gym looked close to perfect.

"It's an apprehensive feeling. Like I know something's gonna go wrong. It always does." Arthur muttered, ticking off the 'food' box as he noticed the veggies being put on the buffet table.

"Don't worry so much. You've planned so thoroughly that nothing could possibly go wrong." Alfred ruffled his hair, to which Arthur replied by flipping it back into place.

"It's like the feeling of a movie's dramatic climax approaching, and you don't know what's coming and you're wondering why you're heart's beating so fast." Arthur sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly for a moment.

"Or simply like the feeling a parent has watching their child grow up." Alfred quietly added, trailing his arms around Arthur's waist from behind and putting his forehead against his shoulder.

"That, too." Arthur muttered, rubbing his forehead wearily as he ticked off the last checkbox.

"Well, I'm hungry." Alfred nodded smartly, detaching himself from Arthur to stretch. "And you are, too, judging by the sounds your tummy is making."

"I'm not hungry, Alfred. I still have last-minute sound test to pass and the ticket-gate to get to before opening time." Arthur shook his head.

"What does any of that have to do with not being able to eat?" Alfred frowned.

"I don't have time, Alfred. Guests will be arriving in half an hour, and everything must be perfect for when they arrive." Arthur shook his head, striding towards the stage where Francis and the technical crew were working in unison.

"I could just grab you a sandwich, you can eat it while you-"

"No, Alfred, I don't have time for distractions. If you're hungry, help yourself to some sandwiches on the buffet table, but I can't eat right now."

"B-But what about your tummy? It's rumbling, it must mean-"

"Alfred, my stomach isn't rumbling, perhaps it is simply the sound of yours echoing in your ears." Arthur sighed, flipping the paper on his clipboard to access another checkbox list for the technical inventory.

"Arthur, you haven't eaten, though, and I don't want-"

"I ate this morning at home, Alfred, I'll be fine."

"But Artie-"

"Listen, Alfred, I can't eat right now, so please just stop-" Arthur started, only to be interrupted mid-sentence by Alfred's strong arms drawing him roughly to the other's chest.

"No, you stop! You listen, Arthur!" Alfred all but yelled, holding Arthur close and taking the time to feel his boyfriend's heartbeat pound against his chest.

"Alfred, I-"

"I know you're anxious, I know you want everything to work out, but please." He drew back a bit and gently took him by the upper arms. His eyes glinted with sincerity, and Arthur couldn't help but feel captivated by how utterly blue they were.

Even after all this time, he still couldn't get over how perfect Alfred was.

"Please don't push yourself anymore. You've done amazing, and you still are, but take some time to take care of yourself, too. There isn't just 'everybody else' in this world, there's also you." Alfred muttered, pushing a couple of strands of hair out of Arthur's face.

Arthur had the decency to look guilty and turn his gaze away.

"But... I don't have time, you have to understand..." Arthur was cut off when Alfred gently set a finger over his lips to hush him up, giving him a sad, understanding smile.

"Don't worry, I'll go buy us lunch from outside and be back in a jiffy. Love you!" he then quickly pecked Arthur's cheek and ran off before his boyfriend had the time to retaliate. He left Arthur standing there, marvelling as the pleasant feeling of the quick kiss on his cheek and wondering what the hell a 'jiffy' was.

When Alfred came back with a bag of Indian takeout in his arms, he found Arthur yelling at the microphone, which seemed to be having volume problems. The technical support crew was buzzing around at the DJ's corner, trying to get the volume higher while Arthur stood there, occasionally saying something and looking extremely pale.

"Hello, fair maiden, I am back with food!" Alfred announced as he walked up to Arthur and shook the bag of food he was holding.

"Alfred..." Arthur whispered in the microphone, his heart melting at the sight of the familiar grin.

He suddenly bristled, though, when his eyes went to the clock behind Alfred. Ten minutes.

"GODDAMNIT, ALFRED, YOU'RE LATE! You were supposed to help me with sound check so we could finish earlier and now we're going to be late and it'll be all because you got hungry!" Arthur yelled into the mic, making the newly-fixed contraption amplify his voice and make everybody in the gym wince.

"Volume problem's fixed..." one of the techies in the back muttered once the awkward silence had fallen.

"Oh, come on, Artie, I'm just taking care of you." Alfred smiled, catching up with Arthur as he placed the microphone in its stand and walked off to attend to his last-minute business.

"Much appreciated, Al, but I'd rather if you let me work for a bit. I'm almost done, and we don't have much time left." Arthur replied coldly, walking just as briskly towards the table with all the prizes for the draw at the end.

"Just let Francis work a bit. You have plenty of volunteers to help, too. You'll be fine." Alfred smiled, shaking his paper bag.

"Sorry, Alfred. Can't." Arthur shook his head, rifling through the draw prizes and counting them in his head.

"I'm not taking no for an answer, y'know." Alfred replied and snaked his arms around Arthur's waist, tugging him away.

Arthur gave a sharp cry and started struggling, swearing occasionally under his breath. His elbow hit Alfred in the gut a couple of times, but the taller boy didn't even seem fazed. Instead, he dragged him to a chair and plopped him down, sitting on his lap gently and grinning.

"Food now. Work later." He announced, digging into his paper bag and pulling out a Styrofoam box of what smelled like curry.

"Alfred, you know I can't, I've been telling you this since forever. The doors open in seven minutes, that's hardly enough time to-" Alfred cut him off by shoving a forkful of curry rice into his mouth, making him cough and choke.

"Good, isn't it? It's from my favourite Indian place, not far from here." Alfred smiled, completely ignoring his previous ramblings.

"Alfred, stop trying to kill me and let me go." Arthur muttered half-heartedly, swallowing and savouring the extremely welcome food after having dislodged the rice from his wind pipe.

As if sensing his hesitation in front of the much-needed nourishment, Alfred simply smiled wider.

"Come on, Artie. Eat up as much as you want. Six minutes." He winked, handing him the box and fork and staring expectantly.

Arthur couldn't deny that his hunger, having been brought to his attention, was gnawing uncomfortably at him. Fine. Five minutes.

Alfred watched with enthusiastic adoration as Arthur devoured his meal, grinning when the other blond put his box down and sighed in relief. Bits of rice and splatters of sauce smudged the corners of his lips, and Alfred felt momentarily compelled to lick them off. Then again, Arthur might find that gross and might not appreciate the gesture. Oh well, he'd already found another way of getting his kiss.

"Okay, I ate." Arthur announced, not mentioning him how much better he felt now. "Can you get off? It's almost opening time."

"Yeah, I'll move. Just saying, though, you smell like curry. Badly." Alfred grinned, digging through his pocket and pulling out a chewy mint candy. Arthur blushed madly and eyed him enviously as he unwrapped the candy and froze as Alfred put it in between his lips.

Oh no. He did not just go there. Not in public.

"You smell~" Alfred taunted evilly, leaning forward. His eyes shone expectantly, amused, and Arthur could smell the comforting peppermint scent of the candy from where he was.

Between public embarrassment and bad breath... he'd go for the former.

"You're a git." He announced as if it were something previously unknown and leaned over, kissing Alfred and snatching the candy from him.

Alfred didn't let him pull away, though, and grabbed his upper arms, pulling him closer and pressing them together. Despite the fact that he never once even thought of breaking through Arthur's tightly closed lips, his mind was running around in circles and spontaneously combusting, only to rise anew from the ashes and repeat the process.

Francis whistled in the background and Alfred blindly gave him the finger.

All too soon for his liking, though, he felt Arthur pull away, chest heaving slightly. All he could do was grin dumbly and enjoy the taste of Arthur and peppermint on his lips before the ephemeral sensation was gone.

"Thanks." Arthur muttered unclearly, closing his eyes and momentarily letting a soft smile brighten his face.

"My pleasure. Love you." Alfred returned the warm smile and finally got off of Arthur lap, bending down to peck him on the lips once more before rising up to his full size. "One minute."

Arthur had zoomed out of his seat before Alfred could even remind him to hurry. Watching the thin figure of the boy he adored so much rush towards the gymnasium doors, Alfred was overcome by a wonderful sensation of warmth and satisfaction. He touched his lips once over with his finger and sighed, collapsing into their chair.

When had things become so perfect?


"It's going great, I think!" Alfred yelled, raising a thumbs up at Arthur as he grabbed him past a throng of dancing students.

"WHAT?" Arthur put a hand against his ear to say he couldn't hear what Alfred was telling him above the volume of the thumping music.

"I said the party's great, you did amazing!" Alfred yelled again, right into Arthur's ear this time. Arthur jumped in his place and swore under his breath, rubbing his ear. As if the pounding beats in the air weren't enough, no, now he had to have yelling in his ear as well.

"Thanks, but it would have given me the same feeling of accomplishment if you hadn't yelled it." He crossed his arms, glaring at Alfred. The latter simply shrugged and gave him a dazzling grin in return, practically lighting up the entire room with his cheeriness. As if feeling the sudden boost of energy, another wave of cheers rippled across the dancing crowd.

One of the students around them suddenly bumped into him, making him lose his balance. Stumbling a few steps, he fell right into Alfred's arms, hitting his hard chest with a gasp.

"Hello, glad to see you missed me." Alfred laughed, nuzzling Arthur's cheek with his.

"Come on, let me go, you big baby! Not in public!" Arthur hissed, not even sure if Alfred had heard him (or if he even had CHOSEN to hear him, for he continued his cuddling nonetheless).

"Loosen up, Artie, practically everyone in the school knows about us now. I bet the guy who pushed you didn't even do it by accident." Alfred shrugged innocently.

"I know, but still!" Arthur blushed, blaming the rising heat on the energy of the crowd around them. "I don't... I don't want them to... I don't know, you and I, we're just..." At a loss of words, he simply huffed and put his hands over his eyes. For a moment, the world disappeared and silence rang true in his mind, before a warm, familiar touch brought him back to reality and noise.

"Come on." Alfred smiled, a bit more sober as he scanned Arthur's conflicted gaze. "Say your thank you speech and let's get out of here. I have to talk to you."

Arthur looked at him for a second, but finding no hint as to what there was to discuss, he sighed and nodded.

"Just let me get to the stage first, and then we'll see about that speech."

Alfred wasted no time in using his freakish strength to practically rip a corridor towards the stage for Arthur. Chuckling appreciatively, Arthur tried to contain his embarrassed blush as he stepped up on the low stage and went for the DJ's workspace.

"I need to make an announcement." He yelled over the DJ's loud music.

The student, one he recognized from the school's music club, looked at him dumbly for a second, as if trying to understand what he was saying. Arthur wasn't surprised, considering the volume of the incessant music. What did surprise him, though, was the fact that the students would NOT be deaf by the end of the night. Such peculiar creatures, these teenagers.

"Announcement." He repeated, pointing at the mic laying still on the side of the mixer board.

The DJ took a second again to finally light up and nod. Slowly, he pulled a switch down, making the level of the music go lower and lower.

More and more faces turned to the stage as the music got lower. By the time it had completely faded away, Arthur had undivided attention despite all the chattering of the student crowd.

"So umm, yeah." He started, clearing his throat and awkwardly staring down at the crowd.

Ah, such social skills. He should apply as a spokesperson in an important company. It would totally do them good.

"Uhh, so, I hope you're enjoying yourselves, and everybody knows I'm not made to say speeches..." a few chuckles rose out from the now lowly muttering crowd. "But Alfred made me, so... Thanks for coming, I guess, I hope everything is to your liking, and I do hope you'll enjoy the rest of the night. In a few moment's time, cake will be served at the buffet table, so head over there if you feel like any. And asides that..." he racked his brains for anything else to say, but, finding nothing, he turned back to the crowd and nervously surveyed their reactions.

From mildly annoyed to wondering to appreciative to smiling, all the faces he could see looked to him as he fumbled around for his words. These people were the ones he was working so hard for. They were the ones he was slaving over to please. They were the people he took so much pleasure and pain in helping live their lives to their fullest.

And, seeing their faces looking up to him for a single moment, he found himself not regretting a single minute of missed sleep spent working for them. Especially when his perfect pair of blue eyes glowed adoringly up at him, for him and only him to see and enjoy.

"Yeah, that's it. Just have fun."

And he finally smiled.

The crowd broke into applause as Arthur turned around and set the mic down on the DJ's table, rushing down the stage with a flustered expression on his face. Anonymous hands clapped him on the back as he made a path through the crowd, and he nodded at random until he finally found the pair of arms that were specially moulded for him.

"You did great, for someone who's socially awkward." Alfred chuckled, kissing his forehead tenderly.

"Thank you, I really appreciate being told I'm awkward." Arthur retorted, blushing even harder. Thankfully for him, the heat in his face was left unseen, hidden by the darkness of the dance floor.

"Anything for you, love. Now, come on. Out we go." Alfred took his hand and ushered him out.

It felt like an immense relief as they stepped out of the gymnasium, taking a breath of (relatively) fresh air as they nodded to some random people who had also decided to take a break in the hallways.

Neither spoke as Alfred led him off into the nearest staircase, stopping at the railing and turning around.

"What did you want to talk to me about?" Arthur asked first, refusing to let worry seep into his good mood.

"Well, actually, I'm not really gonna be the one doing the talking." Alfred rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, squeezing Arthur's hand tighter. "It's gonna be you."

"Me?" Arthur asked, raising a brow. He hadn't even been told what the subject at hand was. How could he talk?

"Yeah. Tonight's the winter ball, Artie." Alfred whispered, looking up and looking into Arthur's eyes. Arthur read a mix of worry, apprehension and relief in Alfred's, and mirrored a confused expression in his. "It's been a month." Alfred clarified, smiling encouragingly at him.

And suddenly, Arthur understood what he was supposed to do.

Seeing as he wasn't answering, too busy thinking, Alfred took it upon himself to gently lead Arthur up the stairs, towards the infirmary on the third floor.


Knock, knock.

Elizabeth finished the sentence she was writing and sighed, pulling off her reading glasses and pushing her fringe back behind her ear.

"Come in." She called, turning her attention to the door as it swung open after a moment of hesitation.

She didn't look too surprised when Alfred strode in, practically pulling Arthur along behind him.

"Hello, Nurse Eliza!" Alfred cheerily waved with his free hand, dragging a conflicted-looking Arthur along.

"Hello, Alfred, I trust you are well today?" Eliza gently replied, smiling as she spun around to face them.

"I'm always awesome." Alfred nodded in confirmation.

"Wonderful. How about you, Arthur? Are you feeling alright?"

"Much better, yes, thank you for asking." Arthur nodded, his eyes a bit lost, his gaze a bit empty.

"Great! I'm so happy you two kept your promise to come see me a month from when I saw Arthur last." She clapped enthusiastically.

"Honestly, I wouldn't have remembered had Alfred not reminded me." Arthur blushed, looking down a bit. How could he have forgotten something so important? Alfred must have been so disappointed in him.

"It's cool, I love taking care of you, so it wasn't much of a problem to remind you." Alfred pushed Arthur's fringe up and kissed his forehead gently, making the Brit blush and nervously slap the hand away.

Eliza tried to contain the squee of glee that was threatening to tear out of her throat and felt like she would explode if she didn't let it out. She settled for just whispering a low "aaaaaw~" and putting her hands on her heart.

Too soon, the pair stopped muttering half-hearted threats at each other and turned back to Eliza, brightly blushing.

"Done?" she giggled at their antics, recognizing the many signs of awkward indecision in their relationship. All couples went through that one period of awkwardness once they came together. She'd seen many couples break apart because of the lack of communication, and she hoped, reading the nervousness in their eyes, that the same fate would not befall them.

They looked so happy together.

"Yes Ma'am." Arthur nodded once he and Alfred had stopped.

"Good. Well, I expect you're here for your scheduled check up, am I right?" Eliza got up, heading for Arthur.

"Yeah, it's been a month since... since..." Since what? He couldn't just come out and say 'since I've started living my life' because he'd sound too desperate, too lost, too pitiful, and looking pitiful was the last thing he wanted to do.

"I see." Eliza nodded understandingly, cutting him off to spare him the trouble of finding an appropriate end to his sentence. "Well, if you take your shirt off, we can proceed to the physical examination. The sooner we do this, the better. Then, you can return to whatever you were doing before."

Arthur blushed and wiped the back of his hand self-consciously over his lips.

"Here, I'll help you get out of those clothes." Alfred hummed innocently, tugging on Arthur's shirt.

"Stop it, it's improper." Arthur hissed, throwing a worried in look in Eliza's direction.

"Oh, don't mind me." She waved them off with a suspicious giggle. "You don't have to hide, almost the entire school knows by now."

The teens raised simultaneous brows, but kept going with their task silently. So much for mature adults.

Once Arthur was out of his shirt and sitting on the examination table while Eliza checked him over, Alfred took the time to memorize his appearance.

Arthur looked much better than the last time he'd seen him in this particular position. His skin had gained a bit of colour, despite still being paler than him, and at least now, he wasn't able to count his ribs from far away. They'd have to work on that, though. Arthur was still bony and frail. Perhaps he'd take him to the gym with him during winter vacation.

The physical scars from the accident had disappeared by now, and the mental scars were slowly mending. Despite still having a long way to go, Arthur was making efforts, and they were building a steady relationship, so Alfred was satisfied.

"Alright." Eliza scribbled a few things on her notepad, a gentle smile on her face. "Arthur has done some wonderful progress, but there is more work to be done. He's still a bit under the healthy weight for a teen his age, not too bad, but it would be better if he kept to his '3 full meals a day' diet for a while longer. Also, he might have to consider physical training because he's all skin and bones, and if he eats without doing any physical exercise, he'll accumulate fat. Not that it's very likely, but it's better to start out well." She told Alfred.

"Excuse me, but I love how you're telling all this to Alfred when I'm standing just here." Arthur raised a brow. "May I inquire as to why?"

"Because I'm assuming Alfred's the seme here." Eliza answered innocently. "He's the one taking care of you, so he should know as well."

"I don't need anyone taking care of me!" Arthur huffed, crossing his arms.

"Perhaps not, but... You're gonna need someone if ever you do." The nurse replied a bit more seriously, making Arthur blush.

He didn't need someone to remind him how dependent he was of Alfred.

"Alright, pull your shirt back on and come take a seat. Both of you." Eliza motioned to the two chairs in front of her desk as she went around and sat in her own. "The physical's over, so now, we talk."

Arthur froze in the middle of buttoning his shirt up and bit his lip. What was there left to talk about? What other issues meant to be kept to himself would he have to expose?

The two parties stared at each other for a moment, weighing each other out. You could have heard a fly buzz if there were one in the room. Arthur was starting to get nervous. Alfred was just wondering what the silence was for.

"So Arthur, tell me. How have you been?" Eliza finally asked, clicking her pen.

"Fine." Arthur replied slowly, not sure what was being expected of him.

"Really now? You've been feeling fine?" Eliza asked again.

"Well, you said so yourself, I've healed over, and my vocal cords are back to normal, so I guess-"

"No, your body heals quick, but what about your emotions? How are you coping with everything that's been going on this past month?"

"I'm not made of porcelain. You does everybody keep asking me that?" Arthur huffed, clutching his pants at the knees and blushing.

"You may not think so, but third-party viewers of your life do. You may feel like you're fine, but some signs you just can't pick up on your own." Eliza explained. "So tell me, how have your reactions been?"

"To what?"

"Everything. How do you react to Alfred's family?"

"... I'm... grateful, I guess?" Arthur winced at the word he used. It didn't even start describing how he felt towards them. "And, well, I'm happy because they're so nice and selfless and helped me without asking for anything in return."

"How about your brother? You did only just get to see him after 10 years of separation, and not under the best circumstances, either." The nurse asked, nodding.

"I... I don't know. I'm not too resentful, even if I was at first when he left. At least he's back, and he's the only accessible family I have left, so I guess it's... comforting?" he tried the word out on his tongue, not too sure about it.

"I see. How about your peers, friends, classmates, other acquaintances? Have they reacted to the changes in your life in a way that makes you doubt in your decisions?"

"Not at all!" Arthur quickly answered, because deep down inside, he knew he would never regret anything that had happened in the past month, no matter how bad anyone tried to make him feel about it. "I don't get lots of comments on what happened, anyways. I hope it's not because people think I'm too fragile to relive the memories that come with their inquiries." He crossed his arms and glared at his knees as if it was their fault he was stuck in this slightly uncomfortable conversation.

"No stabs have been made at you recently?" Eliza raised a brow a bit sceptically.

"No..." Alfred nudged him knowingly. "Okay, a few." Arthur discreetly flicked Alfred's thigh, and Alfred barely caught a yelp. "But it's not like I care for general opinion, or anything. And it's not like they're going to tell me how I should feel." He huffed haughtily.

"What a pleasant attitude in the face of criticism." Eliza chuckled pleasantly, noting down a few things. "And... how do you feel about Alfred?"

At the mention of his name, Alfred perked up and smiled innocently, looking at Arthur, expectant. Arthur just blushed and looked away, not daring meet his gaze.

"I... I don't know..." he finally answered in a lower voice than usual. "I'm not sure... I mean, he helped me and took me in when I needed it the most and made me feel... appreciated." His heart flipped at the word. He felt so embarrassed to be talking about something like this.

"Why are you saying all this in the past tense?" Alfred whined childishly, grabbing one of his clenched hands and tangling his fingers with them.

"It's proper grammar, what do you want me to say?" Arthur retorted a bit too highly.

"Speak in the present tense, that's okay grammar too, isn't it?" Alfred pouted, giving Arthur his best kicked puppy look.

"Fine, you're such a big baby." Arthur sighed and shoved his free hand into Alfred's face. Alfred just laughed.

"Okay, so I'm your hero, is that what you're saying?" Alfred grinned brightly.

"Sure, you big-headed git. My hero..." Arthur muttered.

"And what about the relation between you two?" Eliza asked, holding back a squee of glee.

"I love my Artie!" Alfred declared happily, nuzzling his nose into Arthur's cheek affectionately.

"Idiot, stop being so improper!" Arthur hissed, pushing him away a bit half-heartedly.

"At least answer the question, or my heart will break." Alfred threatened with a pout.

"I..." Arthur looked at him for a second, at a loss of words. How could he explain what he felt for Alfred? It was such a complicated feeling. Did it even have a proper term? "I don't know... It's... stirrings. I know how adults make such a big deal out of love and teens just tend to diminish it into some petty temporary interest in someone, but... I hope I love Alfred. I really hope I do." He mumbled fondly, the blush never leaving his cheeks.

"Awwww, you're so sweet, I hope you love me, too!" Alfred cooed, hiding his disappointment. Arthur's words rang true in his heart. He wouldn't admit it out loud, but he really did hope that the affection he had for Arthur was the type of lasting affection that he'd one day come to call 'love'.

"Love, really." Eliza sobered down a bit, chewing on the end of the pencil. "You acted out of love when you broke down at Alfred's last football game?"

Arthur opened his mouth to argue back, but immediately realized he had nothing to say. He looked like a fish, the way he opened his mouth and closed it again, and opened it again, wordless. He didn't know what to answer. Anything he answered at this point would be a lie. Alfred didn't like it when he lied.

"I... Don't know." He finally stuttered out, thinking really hard. What really had made him go crazy when Alfred had gotten hurt? Love? Or just... obsession?

"Arthur, do you think you have developed a psychological dependency on Alfred?"

"No." Arthur quickly replied, tensing. Nothing was wrong with him, nothing was wrong, he'd promised himself that he was normal, nothing was wrong, he was fine, he was normal for sure.

"Not even a little?" Eliza asked again, disbelieving.

"No." Arthur answered again, his throat going dry.

"So... You practically became a vegetable because Alfred got hurt, and you're telling me you aren't psychologically dependent on him?"

"I-I don't understand what you mean." Maybe he was taking this the wrong way. Maybe he just understood things wrong. That had to be it. He wasn't a bad person. He was fine.

"Psychological dependency, Arthur, is when you are so subconsciously tied to a person that you need their presence to regulate your life. If they aren't there, you feel scared and alone and you can't live again until the person you are dependent on comes back." Eliza explained sadly, watching as Arthur's eyes flickered with recognition and silent acceptance.

"No." He still replied, shaking his head and gripping Alfred's hand tighter. "I'm not dependent on Alfred. I can do just fine on my own."

"Alfred was the one who helped you when you were in the most traumatizing situation of your life, so you view him as a saviour that can cure all wounds. When he is not there to protect you, you feel open and vulnerable and your mind decides to take matters into its own hands and shuts down to prevent any harm from coming to you."

"It does not."

"Alfred is like a drug to you. You crave his presence, you think you need it to survive, but you don't. You want him, but you don't need him, and that's a very fine line to cross, right there. Just like any drug, the high isn't worth the down. You'll hurt everyone if you don't get some form of rehabilitation, just like any other drug addict."

"I'm NOT a drug addict! Don't compare me to one! And I'm not addicted to Alfred, either!" Arthur seethed.

"The sooner you face the facts, the sooner you can get better."Eliza frowned a bit.

"I'm not sick!" Arthur all but yelled. "I'm not crazy, I'm not dependent, I'm not fucked up in the head!" his voice was lined with desperation he was trying so hard to contain.

"Arthur, calm down." Alfred whispered, a bit shocked. He was glad he was Arthur's anchor to reality, but...

"Arthur, you have to understand that this is unhealthy. If you're going to go all vegetable on us every time Alfred is threatened, you will not only harm yourself, but you will harm Alfred, too. If he felt threatened for any reason, the last he'd need would be you shutting down. You're not crazy, but if you don't sort this out, you might become." Eliza struck deep with sharp words so that Arthur realized how important it was to get rid of this problem.

"It was just one time! It doesn't count!" Arthur exclaimed, unwilling to admit that what Eliza was saying made sense. He didn't want to be a burden. He didn't want to hurt Alfred. He didn't want to feel so weak. Why was he so deeply struck by something so trivial?

"There was that instance when you were decorating the gym for the dance." Alfred interrupted, throat dry. Eliza's words did, too, make alarming sense to him, and he started thinking that maybe, just maybe, the morbid joy of having Arthur lean on him and him only wasn't worth the repercussions.

"That doesn't count!" Arthur turned to him, looking slightly betrayed.

"Sorry, but it does." Alfred turned his gaze away, feeling slightly guilty for 'betraying' his boyfriend, as said boyfriend so kindly put it.

Eliza, though, seemed to express an interest in what he was about to say, her pencil hovering on the notepad, begging to write down the truth.

"The garland fell across your throat and you just... panicked." Alfred whispered unsurely, at a loss of better words to use. What Arthur had done was beyond panic. It was complete hysteria. "You only came back to reality when I hugged you. And you asked me not to leave." Alfred stared at his knees with wide eyes. Oh god. What had he done? If Arthur was going to rely on him this much to live right, then he would never forgive himself for messing him up in the first place.

"I wasn't... I didn't..." Arthur futilely tried to argue, but he didn't have anything. The truth was in Alfred's words. All that he could do now was plead guilty.

"Arthur, the quicker you accept it, the quicker you can heal." The nurse shook her head with a sigh, scribbling down the last words of her note -ASAP attention to psych. req.- and pulling one of her drawers open.

Arthur tried very hard to not let out a desperate cry of frustration and clenched his hands so hard, Alfred's fingers started going a bit white. The latter made a noise of discomfort and kissed Arthur's cheek in an effort to lessen the pressure.

"I don't know anymore." Arthur just whispered, finally going lax and slumping in his seat after a while.

"I'm not going to let you go on like this." Eliza replied to that, pulling a small card out of her desk and handing it him. "My husband, Roderich, is a teenage psychiatrist and has been for quite some time. If you don't want to go to him, fine, but please." her eyes flashed with some kind of silent plea to help his case. "Please just find a professional who can help you."

Arthur's first impulse was to yell that he didn't need any help, but he contained his childish rage. He wasn't perfect. He was human. And he was weak. And all that was very normal.

But he didn't want to be weak anymore. He didn't want to burden Alfred, or anyone else, for that matter. He had to heal, get back up on his feet, and finally face everyone else at eye-level. Only once he could rise up to equality with everyone could he truly be strong.

It was time he stopped demanding help from others and helped himself.

Slowly, he took the card from Eliza's outstretched hand and gently slipped it into his pocket.

Eliza and Alfred smiled. Maybe, just maybe things could get better now.

"Alright then, we're done." The nurse declared after a small period of silence, getting up. "I'm glad everything's getting better. We've still got a ways to go, but it's a very good start."

"Thanks." Alfred replied, noticing how Arthur looked slightly lost, eyes glazed over. He gently pulled him up as he realized it was time to go out and say hello to the world that had mistreated them for a while now.

"My pleasure. If anything comes up, you're welcome to come tell me about it." Eliza encouraged as she accompanied them to the door.

"We will. Right, Artie?" Alfred nudged Arthur playfully, the latter replying with a soft punch to the shoulder.

"Git, my name's Arthur, and I might just do something drastic if you forget that one more time." He threatened emptily, because both of them knew that he was too happy with Alfred to do anything to compromise their relationship.

"Alright then, run off and enjoy the ball, boys. I daresay you have done a wonderful job on it, Mr President." Eliza winked, opening the door for them.

"Ah, thank you. You're welcome to come down, I mean, there are other teachers there, too." Arthur invited with a slight twitch of his lips.

"I might. Once I get things sorted up here, I'll come down to see the fruits of your endless labour. It better be worth the sleepless nights!" she chided jokingly.

"Yes Ma'am." Arthur chuckled slightly, nodding at her as Alfred all but tugged him out. "Good night. And..." he hesitated. "Thank you. For everything." He added in a lower voice.

Eliza just looked at him for a small while, then patted his head with a gentle smile.

"The pleasure is all mine. Repay me by smiling a bit, will you?" she giggled.

Arthur only had time to utter an embarrassed 'Wha-?' before Alfred drew him out.

Once out in the corridor, Alfred led him a bit further away, and then stopped.

"What's the rush, git?" Arthur huffed, rearranging himself as they finally stopped.

"Kinda felt claustrophobic, y'know? Man, did it get hot in there!" Alfred laughed loudly.

Arthur crossed his arms in disbelief, raising a brow.

"Okay, so maybe I was just eager to start being happy again. Sue me." Alfred huffed childishly.

"Idiot." Arthur rolled his eyes in amusement and stepped over, gently putting his arms around Alfred's neck. Almost on reflex, Alfred loosely circled his waist with his hands, leaning in. "You won't ever be unhappy as long as I'm here to make sure of it." He assured with a half-hearted chuckle.

He knew it would be hard. He knew it would be rough. And he didn't want to make promises he would one day have to break. But for now, he would live every day to its fullest and take challenges as they came because everything would be alright now. He didn't need to worry anymore. Especially since he had Alfred with him.

Beautiful, noble, funny, perfect Alfred. He already adored him so much, so he could imagine the bliss they'd be in once he got over his 'addiction' and got on equal footing with him. If only for that, he had to hurry up and get back on his feet.

He hesitantly leaned in to kiss him. Alfred tasted just as sweet as he did since the last time they'd kissed. Or sweeter. Maybe because of a lightened conscience? Either way, he loved the feeling of being held like he was worth something. It was truly intoxicating. Perhaps Eliza was right. Perhaps he was addicted to the feeling of Alfred's arms around him. Maybe not some variant of heroine, but Alfred was his hero, and he just couldn't get enough.

He kissed him again a few times, feeling his heart flutter with every gentle contact between lips, and sighed in content as he parted.

"I never got to thank you." Arthur whispered as he set his forehead against Alfred's.

"You don't have to. I simply did the right thing, like any hero should do." Alfred grinned brightly.

"Yeah, my hero." Arthur smirked and rolled his eyes sarcastically.

"Love you." Alfred whispered, pecking the tip of Arthur's nose.

Arthur simply smiled fondly and hoped from the bottom of his heart that those words would never stop between them.

"We can be happy now, right?" Alfred asked again, just to be sure.

"We never stopped being." Arthur muttered, ignoring the way Alfred's raised his brow in confusion.

"If you say so." Alfred pouted.

"I know so."

"Why do you think so?"

"Because everything's going to work out now. I'll be 18 in April. I can then move into an apartment and end the British occupation of your basement. We can work out our education together and follow our dreams. And we won't be far at all." Arthur thought out loud.

"If I get cold, then, I'll slip into your bed at night and cuddle you close. I'll make you breakfast in the morning so that we can avoid damage to the kitchen" and indignant squawk and an amused chuckle. "and I'll kiss you before you leave for school, come say hello where you work after classes, look forward to be welcomed home in the evening, grin while you tell me about your day, watch some boring movie with you and fall asleep next to you. Expect to be woken in the middle of the night to be told off into my own bed, but be unable to sleep, and come cuddle in yours. And repeat everything all over again." Alfred grinned again, warmth washing over him at the thought of such a tranquil, happy life.

"That's one routine I can get used to, I guess." Arthur shrugged with a smile and gently kissed Alfred once more. "Thank you, Alfred, for giving me something worth looking forward to. Despite everything that's happened and that will happen, you will always be the light that will guide me home."

Alfred knew better than to reply and bumped his nose lovingly with Arthur's. Actions spoke louder than words, sometimes. He didn't even think that words would be enough to describe the rush of that heart-wrenching, beautiful, practically maddening adoration that went through his system as Arthur softly chuckled, letting wisps of honey-sweet breath escape and ghost over Alfred's face.

On his side of the dreamlike situation, Arthur felt his mind blank out for a second as a rush of pleasure ran up his spine. He finally felt at peace here, safe within the boundaries of their dream. He never wanted this feeling to fade. He felt so breathless, so weak in the knees, so completely head-over-heels for this boy, this man, and he wanted to cry in frustration, for nothing he did or said could ever express how much he loved him. This inexplicable feeling was doomed to confinement in his heart because no matter how much he searched, he couldn't find anything that could come even close to what he felt for Alfred.

Their hearts beat as one for a moment. Reality faded out, and all that was left was the utter mutual passion that escaped their every breath. Arthur gazed fondly into the eyes of the boy he adored so much and realized that here, alone in the hallway, forehead-to-forehead, Alfred and he had created a moment of perfection.

"As long as I have you, I'll be happy, even if I know that life will always be nothing more than a beautiful nightmare."

Author's Notes:

THE END. See that trademark ending? Yeah, if you see a fill on the kink meme in the near future that ends with the title... Chances are it's me.

Who thought the last sentence? I dunno. Both of them could have, either together, or just one of them. Up to you to decide.

About Arthur's condition, yeah, psychological dependence is a serious issue. Your brain thinks you NEED something to survive whilst you only WANT it so badly that you "force" your brain to make it a must. Arthur's 'addiction' to Alfred's presence is quite serious and has to be dealt with if they hope to live a normal life again.

So yeah, what's there to wrap up? Alfred and Arthur will go to college soon, get jobs, Arthur's dad can die in jail for all I care, Alasdair can either return to Pennsylvania or move to their town (and leave Peter with Tino and Berwald. Cause dude, what did you think Peter was doing all this time? He was totally crashing in the SuFin household ;D), and HAPPY ENDING WITH LOTS OF USUK AND CAVITIES, HOORAY :D

I won't promise anything, but I might write an epilogue some other time if I'm in the mood.

So I just want to say: Thank you SO much, all of you, for all your support and comments. They really make me feel so warm inside and draw a smile every time I read them. And when I get gloomy, I go read them again and feel so much better ^^ You guys really know how to make my day. Thank you so SO much, once again. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts about this fic one last time before we say goodbye in this story (hopefully to say "hey, what's up?" on another one, soon :D). So yes, that's all. Thank you all for your wonderful support, I really REALLY hope you enjoyed it, and please, if you have anything to say at any given time, this author will forever accept your reviews with a smile.

Cheers to you all,

~No Pain, No Gain