Definitions


I. Parental

"Do you love me?"

At the sudden sound of his charge's familiar voice, Arthur Kirkland lowers his book and spots the young colony hovering in the doorway to Arthur's study. Alfred rarely ever ventures into the study, even when the empire is inside and invites him in. The little American once claimed that the study was haunted, but upon further investigation, Arthur discovered that the 'ghosts' were actually troublesome sprites scaring off the perceived intruder in Arthur's absence. Although Arthur had cleared things up with the sprites, Alfred did not dare to go back in.

"Arthur?" Alfred looks panicky when the other doesn't answer the question right away. "Do you love me?" he repeats, his voice coming out shaky and his eyes widening to the size of saucers.

Arthur carefully hides his surprise as he sets the book aside so he can lean forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "Of course I love you, whatever gave you the idea that I didn't?" he asks. He is somewhat eye-level with Alfred now, but the colony still refuses to enter the study.

Alfred sniffs a little bit and avoids Arthur's gaze. Arthur frowns; was the boy still upset because Arthur left him behind a couple of weeks ago in order to head south? There had been an increase in border violence between British settlers and Native Americans, and he'd gone down to settle that. He hadn't wanted to bring Alfred with him in case the little colony got hurt in the crossfire. Although as a nation, Alfred couldn't be injured with human weapons, but that never stopped Arthur from worrying about Alfred's welfare.

Clearly something had happened in Arthur's absence, and the colony's caretaker, Mary Redding, had neglected to mention that when Arthur came home last night.

"Did something happen while I was away?" he asks, but Alfred suddenly takes interest in the carpet, blatantly ignoring Arthur. It isn't until he starts to tiptoe away, perhaps hoping to avoid answering the question, that Arthur narrows his eyes. "Alfred, what happened while I was gone?" His tone is still warm, but now carries a slight edge of warning.

Alfred pauses as though deciding whether to obey or not, whether it is worth the trouble that came with disobedience. Arthur prepares for a fight, but Alfred decides after all that the trouble isn't worth it. He shuffles back into full view. "When Miss Mary took me to Boston for the day, while you were gone, I…I got lost. And there was this man and he said he knew you and that I should go with him because he loved me more than you loved me, and…and…" Alfred clamps his mouth shut and his lower lip wobbles.

"What did the man look like?" The only people who know about Arthur and his precious charge is Antonio Carriedo to the south and Francis Bonnefoy to the north.

"His hair was like mine, only longer. He wore a lotta blue, and his English sounded a little funny, different from yours. Oh! He also had a pretty lady friend and he said he had better food than you did…"

Aha. Arthur is going to kill Francis the next time he sees the French nation. He knows that Francis is happily comfortable in the north with his own charge. Is Francis trying to stake claims in Arthur's territory? Arthur doesn't know for sure, all he does know is that he'll deal with Francis properly the next time they are forced to meet. It's another item on Arthur's long list of grievances with France.

Arthur gets out of the study armchair and kneels down to be closer to Alfred's small height. "Alfred," he says softly, catching the colony's attention and interrupting the boy's winded narrative. "Alfred, come here."

Alfred's eyes grow wide. "No! There are ghosts in there!"

Arthur sighs patiently. "There will be no ghosts as long as I am here, I promise."

Alfred hesitates, and then finally caves, running straight into Arthur's arms. The older nation scoops up the little colony and then sits back down in the study armchair. "I promise I will always love you, no matter what happens," he whispers into Alfred's ear as the child buries his head in Arthur's shoulder. Arthur wraps the young colony into a tight hug, and closes his eyes.

I promise


II. Familial

The last time Alfred remembers seeing a cold and calculating England is less than forty years ago, close to the end of the Revolution. He remembers hoping that the last time he'd ever have to see the emotionless empire was after England signed the Treaty of Paris and left the room without another word, leaving his generals to handle the remaining business. Not surprisingly, Alfred heard from Francis later that England had left the country that night. Presumably back to his homeland never to look back on the newly formed United States of America.

As it turns out, Alfred was so, so very wrong.

American and British soldiers appear to subconsciously know to keep their fights away from the two warring nations, giving the two of them a wide berth as both sides fight for possession of Bladensburg. The older nation is even more intimidating than Alfred remembers; there is no spark of warmth or recognition in those green eyes as England comes to a halt several yards away from Alfred. England doesn't appear to react to the near misses that come close to him, but then again, Alfred reasoned, this is the first time the two of them meet face-to-face since the start of the war in 1812. Alfred is evidently a more important threat than the American soldiers.

Come to think of it, Alfred realizes that England hasn't even arrived to North America until a few months ago. Which meant that Francis and Napoleon Bonaparte are sufficiently subdued enough in Europe, freeing England's attention to the matter on North American soil.

"Look out!"

Alfred reacts and barely dodges an injured British soldier. The soldier falls, but Alfred still continues backing away from England; the empire is taking in the battle too calmly, as though he can smell victory already. Alfred is annoyed; England isn't even fazed and Alfred is fighting tooth and nail with his troops to maintain the front lines. It doesn't help that Alfred still hurts from the damage dealt to Baltimore, but he knows that if he loses today, he'll be feeling more than just an ache.

He has no idea what England will do to Washington D.C. if he reaches the city. That is something he would like to avoid at all costs.

"Jones!"

Alfred spares a glance at his commanding officer right as he uses his rifle to trip up and knock out two British soldiers. General William H. Winder rides up close to Alfred, blood streaked across the side of his blue uniform. He looks as tired as Alfred feels. "Hold the lines! We lost contact with General Stansbury, and I'm going to fall back to make sure he hasn't been captured."

Alfred salutes before ducking behind two fallen horses, a volley of bullets soaring overhead. Winder's mount panics, and Alfred watches in grim silence as the general finally thought to leave for their reinforcements. As a nation, Alfred knows that human weapons can't hurt him, but he can't afford any more distractions. Especially since he is hurting already from injuries from the country and his people.

Schtick!

Alfred yelps when the silver and sharp blade comes down from above and rams the soil an inch from his ankle. It takes him a second to recognize it as a bayonet, and it takes another second for him to realize the danger and move right as the bayonet disappears only to come down in the air where his head had been a second ago. Turning around, he scrambles to his feet in time to see England pulling out a knife from somewhere in the distinctive red coat of his uniform.

Alfred knows he's in trouble now; there is a reason England prefers close quarters combat, and it's because he's so damn good at it. He knows it too. He also knows to take advantage of a presented target, and Alfred has just done him a favor.

Sure, England taught Alfred how to use a knife in combat, but even if he remembered those lessons, he doesn't have the same level of experience that England has. Experience that England had gained through years of piracy long before Alfred ever met him.

Alfred just knows to keep the sharp weapon away from his face. And his chest. And his torso.

The fight between the two nations is mercifully short. England says nothing, but remains in constant motion. It doesn't take long for Alfred to realize that England's anger is blinding him; his movements, while quick and agile, are methodical as though learned from a schoolbook. England makes no effort to strike at the obvious gaps in Alfred's defense, instead, he keeps striking Alfred's musket when Alfred moves the weapon to stop the blade's movement. The two circle each other before England attempts a feint, which ultimately ends with the knife flying out of England's hand and into the mud somewhere behind him. Alfred is smug for about thirty seconds when he remembers that the bayonets are removable from the guns. And there are plenty of fallen bayonets lying around for England to choose from.

One kick into Alfred's side nearly sends the younger nation stumbling backwards, which is all England needs in order to snatch a bayonet and release the blade for easier maneuvering. Alfred braces himself for the next volley, but as before, the blade never makes contact with his skin. Instead, England tosses the blade away before getting a firm grip on Alfred's uniform near the collar. Shocked at the sudden contact, Alfred drops the musket in favor of grabbing England's sleeves to keep England from killing him right there with bared hands.

The result leaves the two nations standing there uncertainly in the middle of the slowly winding-down battlefield.

England caves first, bending his arms so that he can regain his balance.

"I…I can't do it." His whisper is almost too faint for Alfred to hear. "After all the hell you put me through, I can't…I can't finish you off…"

Although he has brushed close to death just now, Alfred still feels a pang of the old hurt when England looks at him in the eyes. The green isn't as cold as Alfred initially guessed; there is the anger he expected, but there is also grief, weariness, and pain. Behind all that though, lies the ghost of an old promise.

"Lord Kirkland!"

England's general, Robert Ross, is coming closer. His voice breaks the spell between the two nations.

England releases Alfred's uniform and it occurs to the Americans that his troops are gone, the soldiers either dead or captured. Washington D.C. lies open for the British advance.

Before Alfred can say anything though, England takes off the distinctive red coat and shoves it into Alfred's hands. "Do not take it off until after you have left the camp after nightfall. No one here will stop or arrest you if they think you are one of them. Do not talk to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary." He pauses, and then says, "Your capital is your heart. Do not overexert yourself for the next few days." Then he turns and leaves in search of General Ross.

Alfred stares after him in shock for a few moments. Then, after hearing approaching soldiers, he pulls the red coat on, hiding his distinctive American uniform.

I will always miss you


III. Allies

Arthur leans against a tree, resting for the first time in what feels like years. Despite the toll the Great War is taking on him, he still feels proud of his men for stepping up when duty called. But, in this immediate moment, he knows that the two advance squads he's leading need rest.

Arthur silently counts the soldiers as they make themselves comfortable as possible in the small clearing. The moonlight reaches through the forest trees and touches the humans, making Arthur a little nervous. The Entente may have recaptured the city of Amiens, but Arthur knows that the Germans are waiting for them in the town of Albert. He doesn't want to alert the Germans to the English soldiers' presences. The Germans could easily outnumber them, leaving them as easy prey.

Speaking of numbers…

Arthur nearly scoffs aloud when he remembers that it's been around a whole year since America finally got off his arse to join the war. Despite that however, Arthur has yet to see a single American. Hell, he hasn't seen an American at all in over a hundred years thanks to America's little isolation policies (although the temptation to provoke him unnecessarily over the years had been strong).

Arthur grumbles to himself, scanning the clearing again. He can't wait for the war to be over, it's proving to tax heavily on him as an empire…

Click.

Arthur doesn't hesitate when he hears a rifle hammer pulling back, a sound that carries through the trees and still night air. Without thinking Arthur pulls out a pistol and fires in the direction of the sniper.

All hell breaks loose.

It turns out there were three German patrols probing the woods for any potential enemy troops. Arthur and his men are outnumbered two to three. Not favorable odds, in Arthur's opinion, but he knows there's nothing he can do except finish the patrols off and start making haste for Albert; someone will eventually notice the missing patrols.

The gunfight quickly transforms into a close-quarters battle; neither side wants to attract the attention of the opponent's allies that could be lurking nearby. Arthur is grumpy at first when he realizes that he can't identify the bloody German patrol commander because it's too damn dark to see anything but human-shaped outlines. But he's mollified partway through the fight when he feels a warm back pressed against his; somehow, he knows it's an ally and that he no longer has to worry about a sneak attack from behind. All around him, as the two move in unison, Arthur can hear shouts in German and English. It isn't long before the German steadily dwindles in volume until it disappears completely.

Then it occurs to Arthur that he's hearing accented English as well as his own. And he just knows which country of origin it came from, even though he hasn't heard it in years.

Oh hell no…

Arthur turns around right as his new ally does. It takes him a few seconds to recognize the other man.

America has grown taller, if that is possible, in the last hundred years. He's also wearing glasses now, giving the moon a surface upon which to cast a reflection. But some things haven't changed, such as that stupid piece of hair sticking up and the general less-than-professional appearance. America's eyes have grown older. He is still relatively young, but Arthur can see that America has seen plenty of horrors usually befall a nation.

He's no longer the little child that Arthur remembers raising.

And that knowledge hurts more than anything America could ever say or do to him.

Arthur realizes that America is still staring at him, waiting expectantly for something, looking hopeful even.

Suddenly unsure of what to say, Arthur remembers that they are on a tight schedule. He turns to his squad leader. "Rider, keep going."

"Of course sir."

Arthur and America watch as the men, both the British and the Americans, take the lead. The two nations are soon alone in the clearing.

"Thank you, I suppose. For watching my back." The words sound stiff, even to his ears. He doesn't quite meet America's steady gaze.

"You're welcome." A moment of silence. "It's the most I can do for you, since you watched mine when I was younger."

Too raw, too soon. Arthur squares his shoulders and starts walking after the men. He doesn't look back; he doesn't have to in order to know that America is right behind him. In fact, America easily catches up to him.

When you're not there, and


IV. Friends

Two years into the Second World War and Alfred has yet to see him.

Up close and personal that is. He'd seen England a few times when the Allies gathered for strategy meetings, but the former empire doesn't usually stick around afterwards. He's become visibly withdrawn, quiet, less critical, but Alfred knows why.

It's not a secret that the Royal Air Force is waging a war against the Luftwaffe in a valiant effort to protect London from further air raids. For the most part, the RAF is successful in driving the Luftwaffe back. But that doesn't deter the enemy.

And England feels it all.

But when Alfred arrives to England's London home, it's empty save for the butler who opens the door. The servant had chosen to remain in London despite the level of danger. He gives Alfred a critical once-over, taking in the American's disheveled appearance before stating in a crisp tone, "Master Kirkland, at Churchill's request, has relocated to his country home to recuperate." The butler narrows his eyes. "He is not to be disturbed."

Alfred barely refrains from telling the butler, that he, the great Alfred F. Jones, knows exactly where England's country retreat is. Instead, Alfred politely thanks the man for his time and leaves.

Alfred waits until his back is turned before smirking to himself. No doubt the butler thought he'd won the little sparring match back there.

He hasn't been to the countryside in years; even during the First World War England wouldn't let him leave the ambassadorial residence in London. No, the last time he'd been out here was when he was still a colony under England's watch. It had been his first trip to Old World. The small building however looks the same as it did when Alfred first came, small and surrounded by shrubbery. The walls seem to radiate familiar warmth as Alfred draws closer. But as he approaches the door, he faintly senses the cold grip of Death around this place, slowly squeezing the life out of the land.

This doesn't bode well for Alfred's prediction of England's current mood.

He knocks on the door, half-expecting England's irritable yells to follow the not so gentle knocks on a centuries-old door.

There is nothing but silence.

Alfred reaches for the doorknob to invite himself in, but the person on the other side beats him to it.

A young girl, Alfred estimates her to be a teenager, opens the door. She looks as surprised to see Alfred as Alfred is to see her. She wipes her hands on her apron nervously, blue eyes darting to the interior of the house before back to Alfred. "C…can I help you sir?" she asks, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Uh…yes, yes you can. Is Arthur Kirkland still, uh, living here?" Alfred hopes so, or this visit is about to get extremely awkward.

To his relief, the girl nods. "Master Kirkland isn't receiving visitors today, though. Please come back tomorrow." She starts to shut the door, but Alfred sticks his foot over the threshold, blocking the door.

"Can you please tell him that Alfred Jones is here and wants to talk to him about something important?" Alfred is making this up as he goes now.

The girl glances uneasily back into the house. "Master Kirkland…isn't feeling well right now. Perhaps tomorrow?" She twists the apron ties in her fingers while she waits for a response from him.

Alfred bites back a flash of impatience. A part of him wants to walk right past her, but at the same time he doesn't want to get on Arthur's bad side unnecessarily. "All right then, please tell him I stopped by and wanted to talk. I'll, uh, see him at the next meeting and speak with him then." With that said, Alfred tips his hat slightly before turning away and walking down the path.

He's almost to the car when he hears, "Mister! Master Kirkland will see you!"

Frowning, he turns to see that the girl is looking back at someone in the house. She glances back at Alfred only to jump back in surprise; he'd run up before she could turn around again.

"Just…just please don't raise your voice," the girl says quietly before stepping aside to let Alfred in.

The interior of the house is dark and as dreary as the cloudy weather outside. Alfred can still see his way around though. It feels odd to be here; this is England's private domain and Alfred is an intruder.

"Master Kirkland is in the drawing room. He's been acting a little strange lately. First he'll walk around all grumpy and then he'll be quiet a second later. I think he forgets that I'm here sometimes, because I can hear him talking to himself when he does." She pauses in front of an ajar door, listening.

"Actually, the talking to himself part is normal. I'd be worried if he didn't." Alfred glances at the girl, who finally steps back.

"Go on in. And please don't raise your voice."

England is quietly sipping tea, his back to Alfred as the American walks around the room to cautiously sit down in the chair across from the former empire. A book lies open on England's lap. England doesn't acknowledge Alfred at first, but just keeps staring out across the dreary fields and bleak sky. Just as Alfred starts wondering if he should speak up or not, England says, "I rarely see the fair folk anymore, ever since the Luftwaffe started attacking. The fair folk are attracted to life. Death drives them away."

He doesn't finish the thought, but Alfred gets the unspoken part: England, an empire which is slowly but surely breaking apart, is becoming accustomed to the loneliness of abandonment. Alfred had started the chain, and it was slowly coming to an end.

"I…I'm here now." Alfred holds his breath, unsure of England's reaction.

England pointedly ignores him.

Hesitantly, Alfred reaches out and wraps a hand around one of England's, which is thin enough for Alfred to feel bone. He looks up in time to see England tense at the contact before looking away, expression stoic as ever.

Then Alfred feels it.

Underneath Alfred clasped hand, England's hand twists around to grip the armrest. England's body stiffens, and he tries to pull himself closer as though curling into a ball to protect himself. Alfred stubbornly holds on, even when England tries to take a half-hearted swipe at him.

A few minutes pass before England relaxes again, albeit slowly.

"London?" Alfred asks, recognizing the signs.

A ghost crosses England's face briefly, as though Alfred had recognized something that England hadn't wanted him to know. But the expression disappears almost immediately as England stands up, wincing slightly. "The Luftwaffe will be coming around for another pass, perhaps in a day or two. Or in a couple hours, who knows?" He snorts. "I wonder if it ever occurred to Ludwig that the Royal Air Force trains in this weather. The Luftwaffe stands to gain no advantage attacking in bad weather."

Realization dawns on Alfred's face. "Do you plan Allied meetings around the dates that you suspect these attacks to happen?" he demands, standing to meet England's glare.

"Well, once you too are tuned into your land, people, and foreign affairs simultaneously, you can sense that sort of thing too." England's voice is ice.

Alfred lets the barb go. If there is something else that England's good at, it's diverting the conversation off topic. "If I'd known, I could help you."

"By doing what? Shooting Luftwaffe out of the sky?" England's laugh is sharp and bitter. "America, you are doing enough just by being out here on the front lines. Anything else and you're simply getting in the way." He starts to leave.

Alfred tightens his grip on England's wrist, stopping the man in his tracks. "No! I'm not! I could have helped by staying with you even if it's the only thing I can do."

"Stop being foolish." England yanks his hand away and starts to leave.

"England…"

"America, if you have come here solely to annoy me, Miss Redding will show you to the door." England begins a swift retreat.

Alfred grits his teeth before reaching for England's hand again and gently pulls England back so that they are standing in front of each other. The effect works in Alfred's favor since he's looking down at the annoyed Englishman.

"Fine. If you don't want me around, then feel free to kick me out. But hear me out first."

England's green eyes narrow but he doesn't say anything.

Alfred hesitates, and then just begins. He has nothing to lose if he fails. "It's been almost thirty years since we started talking to each other again. Even that has been tense because it's always through diplomatic channels." He manages to remember not to let England's hand go in order to run his own through his hair in frustration. Squaring his shoulders, he continues. "What I am trying to say is that I'd like to talk to you again. Not as countries…but as Arthur and Alfred."

Hesitant blue eyes meet expressionless green.

The green looks away first, and his arm relaxes. "Ame…Alfred, I…" he begins, but falls quiet with a grimace.

Alfred mentally kicks himself; he'd forgotten the reason England – no, Arthur – had been leaving the room in the first place. "Tell you what, we can talk later, once you are feeling up to it." He lets Arthur's hand go.

Arthur quietly regards him for a minute. "I…I suppose you may stay for now…simply inform Miss Redding that you will be staying with us for now." His words sound awkward, and Alfred knows it will take time for the two of them to be comfortable friends. But this is the right step in the direction, and Alfred is secretly happy now; he'll never admit it to Arthur, but the years of estrangement had taken their toll on him.

He'd missed Arthur.

Love you when you are,


V. Lovers

"Do you love me?"

Arthur looked up from his Sherlock Holmes novel to find Alfred's face inches from his own. After recovering from his momentary surprise, he rested his forehead against Alfred's. The other hummed appreciatively before trying to steal a kiss, and succeeded when Arthur decided to humor him. Then Alfred gently leaned his forehead against Arthur again, smirking slightly.

"You do realize we're only getting away with this is because the frog is too distracted with your brother, right?"

Alfred laughed quietly before pulling back to look past Arthur at Francis, who was whispering in Matthew's ear. Alfred was quite glad that he couldn't hear Francis or understand French, because whatever the French nation was muttering was causing Matthew to turn a delicate shade of red.

"Yeah, but I haven't decided if that's a blessing in disguise or a curse. On one hand, this relationship of theirs gives Francis something to do other than bother us. But on the other hand, it means that I can't visit Mattie as frequently as I used to unless I want to risk being mentally scarred for life."

"Have you ever tried calling before showing up at the doorstep? I hear it's quite the courteous thing to do nowadays."

Alfred snorted. "In your fantasy world, maybe." Arthur muttered something under his breath before returning to his book, giving Alfred a chance to look around at the other nations at the 2010 World Conference.

It was Antonio Carriedo's turn to host this year, and the Spaniard had chosen the coastal city of Cadiz. Obviously, several of the northern nations were less than pleased, even when Antonio assured them that southern Spain wasn't too bad this time of year.

On Matthew's other side was Iceland. The island nation was in the same position that he'd been in since the beginning of this conference: flat on the table and unmoving. No need to ask what was bothering him; the recent volcanic eruptions had been wearing him out. On his other side, Greenland looked grumpy as usual, perhaps even more so today. She wasn't a fan of the heat at all.

Next to her were the Nordic countries. Denmark, Norway, and Finland were pouring over Norway's magic books, all probably trying to find the best way to help Iceland without hurting him further. Sweden was in his usual place at Finland's side, silent and stoic as ever.

Alfred almost missed little Latvia sitting between Sweden and Russia. The Baltic nation looked somewhat miserable, which was fair since his usual two companions were safely seated on the other side of the table. Russia, like Sweden, didn't seem to notice Latvia's discomfort either because, well, Russia was too busy talking to China to realize that he was using Latvia's head as an elbow rest. After China was the line of Asian nations, ending with Japan.

Unfortunately, Japan didn't seem too happy about sitting next to the main attraction at the head of the table.

All had been going well until Feliciano got up to speak about something or other when little Sealand chose that moment to jump in and start demanding for international recognition. Germany tried to calm the micro-nation down after that, but everything easily flew out of proportion after that. Now, both Feliciano and Sealand were vying for a stressed-out Germany's attention. This had been going on for several minutes now, and most nations wrote it off as Sealand being Sealand and nothing unusual.

Alfred knew better.

In the meantime, Feliciano was steadily losing his battle with Sealand because for one thing, he wasn't a strong fighter to begin with. Then there was Romano, pulling on his brother's shirt and yelling at both Feliciano and Germany. Spain wasn't keeping Romano in check for once, mostly because he was in the middle of a lively conversation with Austria. The Austrian for once didn't look completely worn out, and he was actually smiling a little. On Austria's other side, Hungary was happily catching up with Switzerland, another gruff nation who, like Austria, was actually smiling for once…even if it was a little one.

Oh, if only they knew.

Alfred bit his lip to keep from laughing out loud. He'd seen Prussia scheming with Hungary, Spain, and Sealand before the meeting. He knew that Prussia set this little tableau up on purpose in order to have a decent conversation with Liechtenstein without having to worry about Switzerland's rifle (or any other weapon for that matter) waving around in his face.

Alfred looked at the chain and tried to decide who would break the chain first.

Decision made, he looked past Prussia to Estonia and Lithuania. The two were trying to silently reassure Latvia without attracting Russia's unwanted attention. Well, it was mostly Estonia doing the reassuring because Poland was doing an excellent job distracting Lithuania.

Ukraine meanwhile was trying to have a worry-free conversation with her sister, but Belarus was too focused on Russia to even acknowledge her sister. A calm Cuba sat next to her, silently twirling his pen around with his fingers while watching the fight at the head of the table. An unhappy Mexico sat next to him. Alfred felt a little sorry for the Central American nation; Mexico's sole purpose at this meeting was to prevent Alfred and Cuba from killing each other.

WHACK!

Alfred jumped, his elbow going straight into Arthur's ribs by accident. Then, as silence reigned through the room, he looked at the source.

Switzerland looked positively murderous as he lowered his rifle back to its hiding place, having reached over Liechtenstein to smack Prussia on the head with it. Then Switzerland carefully pulled his sister's chair closer to himself, while Prussia slowly pulled himself off the floor, clutching the top of his head and looking absolutely miserable. Gilbird meanwhile cheeped frantically while hopping around on the table, leaving yellow fluffy down in its wake.

"What was that for?" Prussia whined as Liechtenstein carefully picked up the chick and moved it out of harm's way.

"You were about to kiss my sister…"

"No I wasn't! She speaks softly! I was just leaning in to hear her better…"

"Liar! You knew full well that…!"

Alfred smirked as Switzerland and Prussia added another squabble to the returning din, and then he wished he'd seen who had broken the chain. Judging from Spain's cringing expression and Austria's bewilderment at Hungary's abrupt irritation, Alfred suspected he'd guessed correctly.

"Thank goodness we didn't have to deal with that sort of nonsense," Arthur said as he turned a page.

Alfred snorted softly before reaching under the table and clasping Arthur's free hand. "You know, you never answered my question."

Arthur, feigning confusion, smiled. "Which one? You usually have plenty."

Alfred checked to make sure Francis was still busy, and then instantly regretted it. He swallowed before focusing on Arthur's amused expression. "You knew."

"Although I don't make it a point to see what the frog is up to, it was hard to ignore this since they were sitting right next to me," Arthur said, rolling his eyes. "Besides, they're just kissing. You and I both know that's relatively harmless coming from Francis." He raised a bushy eyebrow. "Now, I believe you were asking something?"

Aha, that he was. "Do you love me?"

Something flickered in Arthur's eyes, but it was too quick for Alfred to read. Arthur smiles sadly before he whispered, "Of course I love you." He closed the distance for a kiss. "I always have, and I always will."

No matter what.


A/N: Tried to keep this as historically accurate as possible. Please let me know how I did, this is my first time writing for Hetalia and I'm always worried about messing up their characterizations. Finally, I know that especially in the show, Alfred had that whole hero thing going…and I just wanted to take a step back from that for this. Huge thanks go to Life on Vega for helping me with this story :) Hetalia Axis Powers and all related media belong to Hidekaz Himaruya.