Alfred figured out that he was in love with his best friend two Christmases ago, when he'd caught quite the cold and had to cancel his annual Christmas party. Kiku had visited anyway and had come bearing wonton soup. He'd stayed up all night to make sure the other was okay, even making him homemade Japanese sweets just because Alfred was craving them. They'd stayed together four days until he was better again, and the way Kiku smiled when Alfred thanked him made all the pieces click into place.
Those were the best four days of his life - despite the fact he had been sick - and every day since then, he'd been mapping out a heroic, romantic, and dramatic way to profess his love, with optimism that made his heart accelerate with anticipation.
When Christmas of nineteen-twenty rolled around, Alfred was positive that would be the day. It was all planned out. He knew it would have to work, because the hero always won in the end, after all.
So, there he was, on the evening of December twenty-fifth, in his house where the Christmas party was taking place, rooting through semi-inebriated party-goers to find the man he loved. Find him, he did, standing on the back porch with an awed expression. In his mind's eye, that was exactly the look Kiku would have once he told him how he felt; they would both smile, then Alfred would lean in for a kiss, and...
Excitedly, he reached for the handle of the glass sliding door.
I love you, Kiku Honda. The words were on his lips - he could...hear them. Really hear them... And he could see Kiku smile so wide, the way he did when he was really happy, the lights in his eyes aglow. He saw him leaning in for the kiss Alfred had been dreaming of for three years. Then he saw Arthur, playing the role of the hero, stealing the kiss right from the damsel's lips.
Now it made sense. Those words that he thought he had been hallucinating. I love you, Kiku Honda. He'd always wanted them to be said, but he never envisioned Arthur to be the one who said them.
The fire in Alfred's eyes died. For a moment, he felt as though he'd been shot in the chest. This was wrong - it wasn't supposed to end like this.
By the time the couple spotted him, he'd torn away from the door, dodging the nations of the world. They were only blurs to him now.
What had he done so wrong that fate found it necessary to hurt him like this?
It should've been easy - he was the hero, after all. The plan was to sweep Kiku off his feet, tell him he loved him, and share a movie-scene kiss. It wasn't supposed to end with Arthur beating him to it.
But it had happened anyway, against Alfred's hopes. Now what, let them go? Find someone else? Pretend none of this had ever happened? He may have normally done just that. He was the United States of America; he was strong and not easily breakable, but tonight there was no spirit in him to do anything but listlessly endure the remainder of the party, faking a smile whenever someone told a joke or interest when someone approached him to talk. Those things were easy to feign. When Arthur raised his glass of ale into the air and vied for "a toast to my and Kiku's new relationship," the hardest thing to fake was happiness. Jealously was hard enough to cover up - heartbreak was an entirely different league.
And when Kiku approached him that night, ("Isn't it wonderful?" and "Yeah, man. Congrats to you two.") he realized that he'd never be able to lie to Kiku, even if he wanted to.
If Kiku noticed the hurt in the American nation's eyes, he didn't let on. With a hurried "Arigato, Alfred-san," he left his side to rejoin Arthur.
Seeing them together still hurt, but, like everything else, Alfred learned to act oblivious to it. He learned to ignore the fact that they held hands everywhere they went. Learned to ignore the occasions where Arthur leaned down to whisper in Kiku's ear, or brush his hair from his face. With immense effort, he even learned to ignore all the times they shared a kiss, as well as the fact he seemed to be there each time they did, as if fate were taunting him further.
Ignorance is bliss, he told himself. He believed it. It wasn't the situation he wanted to forget - it was the feelings that tore his heart in half.
Though he disregarded all the little moments Arthur and Kiku shared, the one thing he couldn't seem to shake was the longing for it to be him that had won Kiku's heart.