Small FACE one-shot that came to me whilst I was discussing children and how clever they were with my colleagues.
Personally, I don't really like children, but I do find that their manipulation-skills far surpass those of an adult most of the time. ^_^
Warning: F.A.C.E family antics. FrUK pairing and a soft hinting of Ameripan.
Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia, Alice in Wonderland, Johnson's baby-powder or the cleverness of young children.
The Cleverness Of Children
"Daddy, I'm runnin' away."
The voice is young, but determined and Arthur has heard many times before. He can't help but note that this is the seventeenth time that Alfred has declared that he is 'running away' and he can't help but note that he has lost count of the times that Alfred has used this tone of voice. The boy is only six, but Alfred has developed into a highly stubborn and determined little thing. His tone of voice says everything to Arthur: 'I am going to do this because you said I couldn't'.
Arthur hums as he remembers some of the odd times that Alfred has used such a tone with him.
"Alfred, don't climb that tree!"
"I shall and I will!"
"Alfred, stop eating so much ice cream; you'll ruin your dinner!'
"No I won't."
"Alfred stop cutting your brother's hair for heaven's sake!"
"Never ever. He needs a hair cut!"
Arthur wonders if he is a bad parent. Then he remembers darling Matthew and knows that he isn't. After all, Matthew was sweet and polite and had a face that could melt the hearts of even the most deprived of individuals. Alfred on the other hand, was headstrong and blunt, always knowing what he wants and how he will get it. Alfred always requires someone to remind him of his manners; he always needed someone to remind him that no, he can't just throw mud at a girl because she wouldn't bloody kiss him.
However, Arthur understands that he is being too harsh and acknowledges the fact that Alfred does have his good features as well. For example, the boy can be highly amusing; especially when he decides that he is going to 'run away'.
"Oh really?" Arthur asks, exaggerating the tone of his voice to imply that he was highly interested in the fact that Alfred was leaving. Alfred, his six year old son, was running away. Nothing could possibly sound more absurd to Arthur than that.
"Yes," Alfred confirms. Once again, his tone is hard and strong, demonstrating just how determined and serious he was. "And I am never comin' back."
Arthur resists the urge to smile, but couldn't help the hum of amusement that escapes him when he hears his French husband chuckling in the kitchen. They had experienced this situation sixteen times before. They had come to realise that Alfred wasn't running away because they were bad parents; simply, he was running away for attention and mostly because he wanted something.
Arthur couldn't understand why children just didn't ask for such things instead of going to such drastic measures such as running away.
"And where exactly are you going?" Arthur asks, leaning against the frame of their front door as he observes the child before him. Alfred was standing in the middle of their well-kept front lawn with his arms crossed against his chest firmly. He had his small backpack falling off one shoulder and his stuffed bunny-rabbit firmly wedged under his left arm. His beautiful blue eyes were narrowed with concentration and the determination to get Arthur to believe him for once.
"I am goin' to Japan!" Alfred declares. His tone leaves no room for argument or discussion and Arthur can't help but feel the teensiest bit proud that Alfred has obtained that from him. But oh—Japan?
This certainly is new.
Normally, Alfred chooses to go to Spain because it is sunny. Or even France so he can live with his French grandparents and not worry about money. Once, Arthur recalls with fond amusement, the boy wanted to go to Prussia because his babysitter had told him all about the place and how perfect it was. It had taken Francis two hours of consoling the boy when Arthur told him that it no longer existed, but it took five minutes to threaten the babysitter into understanding that if he ever placed such ideas in Alfred's head again, then Arthur would personally cut his privates off.
But Japan? Arthur didn't know that Alfred even knew about such a place.
"And why Japan?" Arthur asks, cocking his head and genuinely looking interested for the first time. Alfred notices that he finally has Arthur's full attention and smirks widely. Arthur feels unnerved that the boy has managed to copy his own smirk perfectly.
"Because that's where the pretty girl from across the street comes from," Alfred replies, nodding his head in the direction of where said 'pretty girl' lived. Arthur blinks in confusion, trying to comprehend what 'pretty girl' Alfred was speaking about when, it hits him.
The tall blond has to press his lips together tightly, lest a bark of laughter leaves his mouth. Across the road lives a wonderfully polite Japanese family. The husband had been transferred to a new company in England and as such the whole family moved with them. The husband, the wife and their son. Kiku Honda is a delightful child, always polite and lovely. He gets along fine with Matthew but for some reason, Alfred could never bring himself to talk to him.
At first, Arthur thought the boy was being rude; but now he understands. He smiles at the thought of Alfred's first crush being on a boy and can't help but wonder what the blond boy would do when he realises that Kiku is as much a boy as he himself is. Arthur can't wait to tell Kiku's parents either.
"Oh? So why are you going to Japan if they live here then?" Arthur asks, his interest in Alfred's reasoning growing with each answer the child gives him.
"So I can get somethin' pretty and Japanese for her," Alfred states confidently. "That's what you do for girls, right? You buy 'em pretty things."
Arthur adores how delightfully innocent Alfred is.
"But surely she has many pretty Japanese things, why go all the way to Japan just to buy her some more pretty Japanese things?" Arthur asks, green eyes lighting up and his smile growing ever more fondly. He distinctly overhears Francis trying to convince an upset Matthew that Alfred really wasn't running away and no, it wasn't because Matthew was a bad brother.
"Because I can," Alfred states with an uncaring shrug. "S'not like that's the only reason I'm runnin' away though."
Arthur quirks a brow and pushes himself off the door-frame. "Oh? Why else are you running away then?" he asks, as he slowly walks down the steps and moves closer towards his wonderfully lovely little child.
Alfred blinks at the question and then furrows his brows. His little mouth screws up into a frown and he glares down at the floor. Arthur raises both brows at this reaction and stops moving. Alfred glances up and bites his lips, scuffing at the ground with his new white trainers. Arthur bites his tongue to prevent himself from scolding the child for ruining his shoes. Instead, he waits for Alfred to answer him.
"You never read to me anymore."
Those six words had never sounded more heartbreaking in Arthur's opinion than they had then.
He swallows hard and takes a step back, fully observing the boy before him. True, his shifts at the publishing house are getting later and later and true, he never has the energy nowadays to do much more than sleep. From driving the children to school, from driving to work and then working, to coming back late tired and exhausted and in need of one of Francis' wonderful massages, Arthur finds himself never really having time to spare anymore.
That realisation breaks his heart even more. To think that he has been neglecting his children hurts Arthur more than anything else he could remember. He longs to take Alfred into his arms and hold the boy close, stroking his hair and apologising heatedly. He longs to carry his child upstairs and read to him until they both fall asleep on Alfred's bed. But he doesn't move.
He knows that if he moves, then that meant Alfred has lost. His grand scheme of running away and making Arthur feel guilty would be in tatters and Alfred would, understandably, be very upset. True, Arthur already feels guilty, but he decides to allow Alfred to 'run away' for ten minutes because he knows just how triumphant the boy will feel when he returns to find Arthur waiting for him in his room with 'Alice in Wonderland' in hand.
"Right," Arthur says. "So you're really running away then."
Alfred nods furiously. "I am." Such strong determinism from such a small boy scares Arthur. This small boy was going to grow up and doing something marvelous with his life and Arthur will no longer have his baby. The very thought shakes Arthur to the core, but he knows that by allowing Alfred to 'run away', he himself was getting used to the fact that his baby is getting some independence in his life. It is a slow process, but Arthur can see it happening as each day passes.
"Well then," Arthur says, clearing his throat free of the lump that had formed there. "I suppose you have all the refreshments you will require for the journey?"
Alfred nods again, patting his backpack twice. "Yep!"
Arthur smiles, almost bitterly too. "And I suppose you have all the money you will need to get there?"
Alfred grins. Arthur feels his heart break that tiny bit more at the beautiful smile on his baby's face and reminds himself that his little boy is growing up. He needs to let Alfred grow up. Even if it means growing apart as well.
"Bunny has all the money and maps and stuff," Alfred says, nuzzling his stuffed toy with affection.
"Bunny has maps?" Arthur asks, swallowing hard. Alfred really has thought of everything. "That's good; nice to know that you won't get lost."
Alfred rolls his eyes. "I'm not gonna get lost! Silly, only babies get lost!"
But you are a baby! You're my baby! Arthur wants to scream and shriek and yell his heart out. Instead, he smiles sadly and nods along with Alfred's words.
"Alright," he says. "Off you go then."
Alfred blinks up at him with his beautiful baby blue eyes and grins. "Tell Mattie that I love him, 'kay? Oh! Papa too!" he says, voice full of life and excitement and his words are said so strongly that Arthur can't help but think and me? You love me as well right?
Arthur doesn't say that though. He doesn't say anything. He watches his baby walk out of their garden, through the garden gate and down the street. Arthur knows what Alfred is going to do. The blond is going to walk all the way up to the bus station, wait there for a good five minutes and then sprint back desperately. It's happened sixteen times before so Arthur knows what to expect.
He licks his lips nervously and turns back into the house. Arthur leaves the front door open for when Alfred comes back.
He enters the kitchen first and returns Francis' smile easily; however, Arthur knows that the other man can see straight through his walls. Arthur knows that they'll be having a chat later on that night and he fears that talking about their children growing up may cause him to break down into tears. It's okay though, because he knows that Francis is going through the same torment as well.
Arthur walks straight up to Matthew and kisses his delightfully polite son on the forehead. Then he kisses Matthew's stuffed polar-bear, breathing in the soft scents of maple-syrup and Johnson's baby-powder. Then, so he doesn't leave anyone out, he presses a soft kiss to Francis' cheek and walks away before the Frenchman can hold him back. Arthur walks straight out of the kitchen and heads straight upstairs.
Walking across the landing, he enters Alfred's messy bedroom, closes the door behind him and picks up the dog-eared copy of 'Alice in Wonderland' that had been lying on the floor; almost waiting for him to finally pick it up. Gently, he lies down on Alfred's bed and opens the book up to a random page.
He begins to read and waits.
Exactly ten minutes later, the door opens and a flushed looking Alfred enters the room. His backpack is missing, most likely sitting on the kitchen table, but his Bunny still remains firmly tucked under his arm. Arthur peeks over the sentence he had been reading, 'But then, shall I never get any older than I am now? That'll be a comfort, one way - never to be an old woman - but then - always to have lessons to learn!', and glances at the boy before him.
Alfred stares back and then shrugs. "The bus never comes when I want it to," he says simply. "So I left it and decided I'm gonna try again tomorrow."
There won't be a tomorrow though; they both know that. Alfred has gotten what he wanted, therefore he will be fine for now, without any thoughts of running away going through his mind again. Or, at the very least, for quite some time.
"Ah buses," Arthur sighs. "Such a pain, aren't they?"
Alfred snorts. "You're tellin' me."
Arthur smiles and silence resumes. He fingers the corner of the page he had been reading and cocks his head. He can tell from looking at Alfred that the boy is eager to jump into the bed with Arthur; he can tell that Alfred is seconds away from demanding that Arthur read to him. But the child doesn't do anything and just stands there, waiting.
As such, Arthur makes the first move. He shifts across the bed, leaving just enough room for two small bodies. One for Alfred and one for when Matthew joins them later. He knew that he had been neglecting his children and Arthur intends to make up for it. Starting with reading them the story that they all loved so much. Alfred takes the chance to join Arthur almost immediately.
He jumps and bounces on the bed, childish glee and delight filling the room. It warms Arthur's heart as he wraps an arm around Alfred's small shoulders and pulls him in close. 'Alice in Wonderland' has always been a family favourite. Alfred adored the Cheshire Cat, Francis too, whilst Matthew preferred Alice herself. Arthur couldn't help but side with Matthew and found a childish innocence in Alice that endeared her to him. The same childish innocence that he found in his own two sons.
So Arthur reads and Alfred listens, happy and content that his 'running away' strategy had worked. But something is still bugging his young mind and he holds up a hand and presses it to Arthur's lips. The blond man quirks a brow and glances down.
Alfred bites his lips and looks away. "Uh...I didn't say it before but," he pauses, wondering if he should carry on. He's started though, so he figures that he might as well finish. He looks up to Arthur and stares him straight in the eye. "I love you as well daddy."
With the words said, Alfred was sure that his mind would be at rest. But something is still not right and he can't help but frown and wonder why his daddy is crying and smiling and laughing all at the same time. He is confused by the amount of emotions that his daddy is showing but figures that it's a grown-up thing and leaves it at that.
Feeling Arthur's wet tears, Alfred wonders if all grown-ups act like this.
It was there and then that the little blond boy decides that he never wants to grow up.
It was there and then that Arthur truly realises how delightfully wonderful Alfred is, flaws and faults and all.
"Oh Alfred," Arthur sighs. "I love you too."
Fun Fact: I 'ran away' from home when I was seven. I wrote a little runaway message and hid under the kitchen table for two hours. I came to realise that my mother knew where I was because she kept leaving small pieces of apples and sausage-rolls on the table for me to eat. She found the whole thing hilarious whilst I was fuming that my 'running away' plan had failed.
Anyone else 'run away' as a child? ^_^
Love City Girl