Author's Notes

This is like one of those fanfics that are there so that the author can be like "HEY GUYS. I'M NOT DEAD". So most obviously, this isn't my best work. Just something I wrote to pass the time. It's USUK, though, so... Yey? ;w;

This is inspired by that one song, Get Yourself Back Home, by Gym Class Heroes. And I hate the entire song, except for the chorus. Which is sung by Neon Hitch. I think. I don't even know. So yep. Do not own that, nor Hetalia, because then, USUK would be canon as fuck. The FrUK shipper inside of me is hoping I never own Hetalia, now xD

It's also inspired by the onslaught of pictures of American soldiers coming back home and embracing and/or surprising their families that had taken control of my Facebook wall a while ago. I actually find those pictures really touching. I cried for a couple. Sue me.

Also, there is a lot of redundancy in this oneshot, so if you are allergic to the words "I miss you", "I love you" and "Come home", I suggest you turn away, unless you're suicidal, that is.

That's it, I guess. Warnings include swearing and mentions of violence, but it's overall a very mild oneshot.

So... Enjoy the USUK, I guess?


I don't know where you're going
Or when you're coming home
I left the keys under the mat to our front door
For one more chance to hold you close
I don't know where you're going
Just get yourself back home.

It had been seven months, three weeks, two days and fourteen hours since Alfred had first left on overseas deployment.

Of course, Arthur hadn't been counting, or anything.

Every day, he came home from work to a silent apartment, was greeted by their two cats at the door, got changed and sat down on the sofa, glaring at the calendar in the living room. Calculations went off in his head every day, counting how much time it had been since he'd seen his lover last.

In the end, he always came to the same conclusion, whether it had been a week, or months. It had just been way too long since he'd last held Alfred in his arms. And he knew it would be long until he could hold him again.

He just didn't know how long he could still go without Alfred's bright presence around him. It had been so long since he'd even last heard of him, and though he knew Alfred was simply on a peacekeeping mission and didn't have as many chances to get hurt, he knew accidents happened. He knew the civil war belligerents didn't care about the American soldiers and would kill just to get them out of the way.

Alfred was out there, being a hero, but Arthur was just so afraid that others would only see him as a disposable nuisance.

And after months and months since their last correspondence, Arthur was starting to go crazy. Why didn't Alfred reply to his letters? Why couldn't the base wire him up to Alfred's phone? He needed to hear him. He needed to feel his presence by his side again.

Arthur was going crazy as he counted off the hours every single day.

Teacup, their orange and white Scottish fold, meowed as Hero, their fat white cat patted his head with his paw. Arthur's attention was turned away from the calendar, towards the cats, and a sort of bittersweet smile stretched across his face as he watched the two cats swatted at each other playfully.

Even the cats had each other.

Arthur had no one.

Suddenly aware of the void around him, Arthur curled up, pulling his knees up to his chest and burying his face in them. He didn't want to be alone. He wanted Alfred to be home and hold him and kiss him and tell him everything would be okay. He didn't want to feel so empty in such an empty apartment, yet with a heart so full of emotion, it felt ready to burst.

As if sensing his distress, the two cats turned to him, and seemingly on common accord, strode towards their master and jumped up on the sofa, next to him. Teacup meowed softly, rubbing himself against Arthur's thigh to get him to open up. Hero just stood back, purring and wagging his tail in a strangely dog-like manner as he looked at Arthur.

Slowly, Arthur brought his face out of his knees and looked down at Teacup, exhausted. The cat looked up at him with bright green eyes, as if trying to understand his distress. The moment was broken when Hero decided he was bored and went up and rubbed himself over Teacup, eliciting growls from the latter.

Arthur couldn't help but chuckle and untangled his limbs, picking Teacup up and lifting him in the air, eliciting more yowls from the feline.

"But you're not alone..." he whispered, gazing at his cat as it fought against his grip. "You've got him." He brought Teacup down in his arms, petting him softly as he looked at Hero. The fatter cat, annoyed his favourite playmate had been taken away from him, yowled and tried to climb up on Arthur as well.

Arthur couldn't but chuckle humourlessly, gently putting Teacup back down next to Hero so they could resume their play-fight.

"There, you stupid cat. Here's your lover." He whispered fondly, scratching the back of Hero's ears. Hero meowed in delight and bumped his wet little nose against Arthur's hand. "You're so affectionate." Arthur whispered sadly, pulling his hand back and holding it against his heart. "No wonder Al-" he suddenly choked on his words.

And found that he couldn't say the name of the person he longed for, for fear of deepening the void already there.

"No wonder he liked you at first glance." He smiled sadly, trying to hold back the tears threatening to escape as he watched the cats play. "Stupid cat." He sniffled, chuckling at his own pointless sentimentality as he rubbed his eyes. "You better not leave Teacup, no matter what, or I swear I won't feed you."

As if understanding, Hero glared at him, meowing loudly in offense. He then rolled into Teacup, sending them both tumbling across the sofa in a heap of fur and meowed protests.

Arthur chuckled, getting up. He needed a cup of tea to help compose himself again. If only getting Alfred home was a matter of threatening not to feed him. If only it were that easy.

Mind and eyelids heavy, he stumbled to the kitchen where he mechanically put the pot on the stove and turned it on. While waiting for the water, he opened a cupboard and brought out some cat food to feed their pets. As soon as he shook it, though, Hero meowed loudly from the living room and rushed to his side. Arthur couldn't help but laugh as the cat stalked his every move, reminded of how Alfred would pester him about food all the time, too.

His mood fell again at the thought of Alfred, or, technically, Alfred's absence, and he sighed as he bent down, filling the bowls for both Hero and Teacup. He waited until both cats were there before he wished them a half-hearted 'enjoy your meal' and headed back to the kitchen.

A few minutes later, he came back out with a cup of steaming tea in his hands, heading for his –their- room tiredly. Having finished eating, Hero made to follow him, but Arthur nudged him back out with the tip of his foot.

"Sorry, I've got to work, whether he's here or not. You'll have to make do with Teacup for a while longer." He smiled sadly, making the cat meow again. "Oh, come off it. Run along, you promised you wouldn't leave Teacup alone." He prompted him, and watched satisfactorily as the cat turned around and trotted back to Teacup, still eating his food.

Watching them meow at each other for a bit longer, Arthur took a sip of his tea and let nostalgia wash over him. He could almost feel Alfred behind him, standing in the middle of their bedroom as usual so that when he turned around to come in, he could open his arms, inviting Arthur in.

And Arthur would say he wasn't a lovesick fool, which he, of course, wasn't at all, and would still cuddle up in Alfred's arms, basking in his warm presence and enjoying the feeling of his fingers on his skin, his cheek against his forehead, his breath over his lips...

But when he turned around, nobody was waiting to hold him and love him. Arthur was alone again. It had been over seven months he'd been alone. And he'd still be for many more. Saying he was anguished was an understatement. There was only one truth in all of this, blatantly standing out through the darkness of loneliness.

Arthur really missed Alfred.

...OOOOOOOOOOOOO...

It had been two hours and nineteen minutes since Arthur had received Alfred's newest paycheck in the mail.

The envelope was now lying on the table, amongst others, as Arthur eyed it from afar, a cup of tea hugged between his hands. He was hesitant to open it. Of course, it wasn't the first time. He knew Alfred chose to send all but the entirety of his money home so that Arthur could pay for their bills. But still, he didn't like how the check that came in the mail every month seemed like it was destined to be a cheap replacement for Alfred.

Arthur didn't want the money. He wanted Alfred. He didn't mind not paying rent and being thrown onto the streets, he didn't mind not having the budget for food and starving to death, he didn't mind not being equipped for winter and freezing his toes black, not if it meant having Alfred back in return.

The base always sent him the same message with his paycheck. The usual formalities, wishes of wellbeing, mentions of how Alfred's service was very much appreciated, the usual patriotic speech, and the lie at the end. Arthur already knew the entire letter by heart, and if someone accused him of having read the letters over and over again for any sign of Alfred's whereabouts, he would plead guilty.

"We wish you well, and continue to support your communication with Major Jones."

"My big bloody ass." Arthur sighed, burying his face in his hands tiredly. "It's been eight months. Eight fucking months since you've last let me speak to him!" he yelled at the letter, as if it were responsible for everything. "Tell me where he is!" he demanded, knowing it was hopeless. "Please... just tell me where he is... if he's alright... if he's alive..." he choked back a sob and tried not to cry. "Please tell me... If he's thinking of home... If he's thinking of me... Please tell me if he's happy... If he's lonely... Please, tell me if he's coming home." He pleaded, trembling as he felt the minuscule drops of water accumulated on his eyelashes.

But he knew the letter would tell him nothing. Just like all the others. The only meaningful thing it told him was the fact that Alfred was still well enough to work, and so, make money to send home. But he only had this indication once a month. What if something happened to Alfred during the month? Would he only start suspecting something when he failed to receive a paycheck? Was that how it was going to work?

Arthur hated this. He just wished Alfred would get in touch. He'd tried, he tried every single day to call the base, but they wouldn't hook him up. Phone-line hackers, they said once. Mission, they said another time. Moles in the system, they said the last time. 'But you cannot contact the base at the current moment', they'd told him in their cold voice.

Arthur wanted to die. He was sure the loneliness would kill him before Alfred came back, if he came back. He was stuck in a mundane world, living a routine life, trying and failing to adapt to the lack of a warm body against his back at night, feeding their cats and paying their bills. That spark that gave him the will to live wasn't there anymore. Alfred took that, and Arthur's heart, along in his suitcase when he was deployed overseas.

Arthur turned his attention back to the unopened envelope with Alfred's paycheck in it and scrutinized it. It was at times like this that he hated Alfred for making the choice of doing his military service. He was selfish, horribly so. He didn't want Alfred to leave and become the 'hero' he'd always dreamed of becoming. No, he wanted Alfred right next to him, because no amount of money, or possessions, could ever replace the ecstasy that being with Alfred felt like.

Getting up with a weary sigh, Arthur took the letter from the tip of the envelope and walked into their bedroom, opening a drawer next to their bed and throwing the letter in. It thumped on the other five unopened letters dully, the light illuminating the sheer mass of papers Arthur had never bothered reading. The feeling of emptiness in his heart only grew with the sight of so much replacement money, so Arthur immediately closed the drawer again, determined not to open it until next month's paycheck landed in their mailbox.

...OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

It had been nine minutes and forty-three seconds since Arthur's latest attempt to contact the base.

Another refusal. Bad weather over there messing with the signals, they said this time. At least they bothered thinking up alibis. What really bothered Arthur was the times when he would be refused without any proper explanation as to why.

Sighing in exhaustion, his cell phone weighing heavily in his jacket pocket, Arthur boarded the bus and took a seat in the closest open space he saw. To distract his mind from yet another failure, he opened his briefcase and pulled out a few files he'd have to work on that night. Before he'd known it, his exhausted mind had pulled him back into the routine of work and more work, and by the time his stop came by, it was raining outside.

Pulling out his black umbrella, Arthur stepped out of the bus and let it drive away before crossing the street. The rain was pattering down heavily on his umbrella, and he effortlessly dodged the incoming crowd as he weaved through them. It was only when he got out of the wave of people that he spotted him.

"Alfred..."

Not ten feet in front of him stood a blond man in military uniform, waiting under the rain for the light to turn green so he could cross the streets.

Arthur's heart practically stopped. Could that be him? Could that actually be the one he wanted to badly at his side? Or maybe it was a mirage, created by his desperate heart.

Either way, he was running before his brain even gave his body the signal. In no time, he had gotten next to the soldier and had put a hand out, gently touching the other's shoulder, heart thundering.

The man turned around, blue eyes scanning him for a moment before he smiled.

Arthur heart froze in place.

"Hello. May I help you?"

Of course it wasn't Alfred.

Alfred wasn't the only blond soldier in the US. How stupid of him to think so. How utterly foolish of him to have such hope. How idiotic to make himself believe for just one moment that finding Alfred would be that easy.

"Hello? Are you alright, sir?" the man asked again, looking quizzically at Arthur.

"Y-Yes." Arthur was a horrible liar. Of course he wasn't alright. His heart had just literally snapped in half and was now bleeding and rotting and hanging in his chest. He might as well just carve it out, the useless piece of rubbish that betrayed him every single bloody time-

"May I... help you with something? Are you lost?" the man asked again, confused.

"N-No, just..." Arthur looked at the man again, at a loss of words, and shook his head. "No sir. I just wanted to thank you for your service." And he extended his hand shakily, using his umbrella to shield the both of them.

The soldier looked at him for a moment, and then shook Arthur's hand as he grinned brightly, burning to ashes the only pieces of Arthur's heart that were left. The grin reminded him of Alfred so much... He wanted Alfred or death at the current moment, nothing else.

"Anything to serve my country and its citizens." The man replied cheerily, nodding at Arthur.

"How brave..." And how incredibly selfish, Arthur added in his head. Didn't this man also have relatives he missed and that missed him? How could he let them suffer in his absence like that? This entire soldier business- it was messed up!

"Yes, well, I didn't do much. Just some patrolling overseas." The man laughed brightly, although his laugh had the exact opposite effect on Arthur: the rainy day became even greyer. "I'm just glad I'm back, though." The man finally sighed in content. "The wife and the children are so eager, and honestly, I am, too."

"I understand you, I really do." Arthur whispered under his breath, all but shutting the world out. That was it. All soldiers were doomed to make their loved ones suffer. They went overseas to become heroes, but while they were gone, who would be their loved one's heroes? Who would save whatever was left of the people left back home?

The soldier frowned at Arthur's detachment, and suddenly put a hand on his shoulder, dragging his attention back to him.

"Whoever he or she is, wherever he or she is, I pray from the bottom of my heart that he or she will come home soon." He simply wished.

And the entire world just seemed to fade out, as if Arthur was listening to the patter of rain and the sound of honking cars through a glass wall. This man knew. This man knew how much Arthur was hurting, and he knew how lonely being so far away from relatives could become. They were complete strangers, but they already seemed to know so much about each other.

Arthur wanted to cry. Was he really that easy to read? Maybe he was, but he blamed Alfred, Alfred and his stupid sense of patriotism and that ridiculous idea of heroism, and beautiful, smart, amazing, perfect Alfred that had abandoned him to the emptiness of a mundane life as he left him void.

Arthur felt the tears burning his eyes.

"T-Thank you." he managed to choke out. "Have a safe trip back home." He wished to the man, because hell, the poor man had come all this way to see his family after so long, so it would be entirely cruel to stop him now. "Here. Please accept this. It wouldn't do to drip water all over the floor as soon as you get back home." He chuckled nervously, a ball clogging his throat as he gave his umbrella over to the soldier, who accepted it gratefully.

"Thank you. I will pray for your precious one's safe return." He nodded with a smile, effectively breaking through Arthur's barrier of self-control.

"Trust me, I will be, too. Every night. Every morning. Every single moment of the day. Please come back home, Alfred."

"Have a nice day." Arthur only managed to utter out before he turned around and ran away entirely.

His feet splashed through puddles, soaking his socks and ankles and freezing his toes to the bones. His hair quickly flattened under the rain, and his coat, unable to repel the fat drops of water, quickly turned dark as well. But the rain was far from bothering Arthur as he ran. In fact, he didn't mind it at all.

It concealed his tears very well, and the running gave him an alibi to be gasping and panting for breath.

Arthur ran all the way home, and let himself drop in front of their apartment building, sitting against the wall and hugging his knees close. He liked the rain very much, but now, it seemed like the sky was crying with him.

Shaking as tears rolled off his red cheeks, breathing heavily as his heart tried to piece itself back together, Arthur let out a sob, hiding his face behind his wet hands. He didn't want to see, nor hear, nor touch anymore. He just wanted to die. He needed Alfred, he needed to at least be aware of where he was, what he was doing, how he was feeling.

Anything would do. One sentence, one word, one blown kiss through the phone, one breath, anything. Arthur just wanted to feel Alfred again.

He barely retained enough self-control not to crawl onto the side and throw up. He didn't know what he could do to quell the queasy, uncomfortable, disgusting feeling in his stomach and heart. He just wanted him close. He just wanted him there.

"Please come home, Alfred." Arthur wailed out loud, his agonized pleas lost to all ears as the rain crashed down all around him. "Please come home..."

...OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

It had been thirteen seconds since his phone started ringing.

Arthur just couldn't find the strength to pick it up, lying limp on their couch, with the cats napping on his stomach and he tried to read a book. His eyes went to the phone, and he mentally willed whoever was calling to call him back later. Preferably after he was feeling better. Preferably after Alfred came home. He didn't want to interact with anybody right now.

As if following his thought process, the phone stopped ringing. Arthur sighed in content at the silence and was just about to pick up his book when a beep went off, signalling that the person on the other line was leaving a message. This annoyed Arthur to no end and he groaned, closing his eyes.

As the message started, there was only the sound of breathing, and some faded yelling and crashing in the background. Arthur wondered if this was a prank call before the voice came in and blocked everything else out.

"Arthur? Are you there? If you are, please pick up."

And if Arthur were thinking about anything else at that moment, he surely would have realized he'd most probably broken a world record for quickest movement yet. In less than a second, he was on the floor, kneeling next to the phone, clutching his knee where he'd hit it against the table in his abrupt movement, and trying to block out the noise of the cats hissing in displeasure as they got up from where they were thrown.

Arthur didn't care, though. His senses were all on the phone.

"Arthur, is that you?"

"It's you..." he whispered in return, unable to close his gaping mouth.

"Yeah, it's me, silly. Who else would it be?" the voice chuckled on the other line.

And Arthur had never wanted to hit and kiss someone at the same time so badly in his life.

"Stupid bloody fucking bastard idiot!" his voice escalated with every word he uttered out, until he was yelling. His grip was white on the phone, and his eyes were shut tight to prevent the burning tears from sliding down his cheeks. "H-How dare you call me after eight fucking months and act so smart with me!" he screeched hysterically.

"Hey, I'm sorry, I just wasn't allowed to use any communication devices so I-"

"I don't want to hear it!" But he did. He wanted to hear anything his lover had to say. He wanted to hear, to feel, to touch, to see, oh god, his heart was breaking even more, shivers were running up and down his body, he felt like he was splitting in half.

"Well at least I was nice enough to buy a calling card and use some civilian's home phone to call you." The other person huffed. "Fine, repay me by yelling my brains out."

"When you come home, that's all I'm going to do!" Arthur choked out, his voice losing its edge in the favour of choked sobs.

"I'm looking forward to it." There was a chuckle that all but melted Arthur's heart again. "I really am."

"Then just come home, you stupid idiot..." Arthur sniffled, rubbing his wrist under his eye to collect the tears beginning to fall there.

"You know I can't do that, babe."

"You've always been creative, you'll manage." Arthur gave a watery chuckle, his heart leaping at the pet name he secretly adored being called. "Please come home, Alfred. Please just come home." His expression twitched, as if he was trying to keep his fake smile up for some invisible crowd, and then, he lost it without further prompting.

His smile fell clean off his face, and the tears succumbed to gravity.

"Please just come home, my love." He pleaded, gasping for breath.

"I will. I promise I will." Alfred sighed on the other line. "Now please, Arthur, listen to me. I can't spare too much time."

"W-What?" Arthur asked in disbelief, hanging onto Alfred's every words. "N-No! You can't leave already! It's been eight months since I've heard you, you can't leave so soon!"

"Arthur, I'm not even allowed to be making this phone call right now. Just listen." Alfred hissed. "Just listen..." he soothed, a bit gentler, all but making Arthur melt into a puddle on the floor.

"Alright. Talk. I just want to hear you." Arthur shakily nodded, putting a hand over his mouth to keep his sobs quiet.

"Arthur, I don't know where I am. I don't know what day it is, what time it is, and when I'm leaving. I can't tell you when I'll be back. Nobody will tell any us of anything. We're on a peacekeeping mission in some Arabic country. I'm not even sure which one. They all sound the same..." he trailed off.

Arthur only chuckled at his lover's childish antics. Alfred just had that charm. So childish, yet just so amazing when he tried.

"Anyways, point is, I can't say anything to quell your worry."

"I didn't expect you to."

"And I can't promise you we'll speak again before I'm sent home."

"Yes, I didn't count on that, either."

"But I can promise you this." Alfred's tone dropped low and serious. "I'm going to come home. Don't let anybody bring you down. Let them talk like you don't hear what they're saying."

"I will."

"I love you, Arthur."

"I love you, too, Alfred. More than words can express. More than you could imagine."

"I have to leave you now."

"W-What? Already? N-No, not again! Not so soon!" Arthur protested.

"I'm sorry. There are shots being fired outside and I have to go join everybody else." Alfred sighed.

"Please stay safe. Please don't do anything stupid." Arthur sobbed.

"I won't. I have to go now." Alfred blew a kiss over the phone.

"I love you so much." Arthur struggled to utter in a straight voice, not mentioning how he missed him, how worried he was, how much he wanted him to stay longer, how much he wanted him to be safe, how lonely and broken and utterly shattered he felt without him.

"I know. Me too. Talk to you later, Arthur."

"Goodbye, Alfred." Arthur whispered, the words burning through him just as they did the day Arthur drove Alfred to the airport.

And suddenly, he found himself wishing he could hang on a bit longer.

"Alfred?"

"Yes, Arthur?"

"It's the sixth of June today." Arthur shakily laughed, wiping his tears. "It's our four-year anniversary today."

"I knew there was a reason to my good luck. See, even fate is helping us come together again." Alfred laughed. "Happy anniversary, babe. Try not to burn the entire apartment with your cake."

"Idiot. I can't have cake if you're not here to blow out the candles with me and smudge frosting on my cheek." Arthur whispered, red-rimmed eyes stuck staring at the ground.

"Then keep the cake for when I come back. I love you."

"I love you, too, Alfred."

"Bye."

"Goodbye, love."

And just like that, the line went dead.

Arthur kept the phone against his ear, as if waiting for Alfred's voice to come back on and replace the tortuous beeping of the phone, but after a few minutes, let the phone slide down into his hand, putting it into its dock again.

He took a moment to breathe deep and wipe his tears away, and then chuckled. The cats, wondering what that was all about, approached their master and sat down in front of him, watching as Arthur laughed higher and higher and higher, almost demented as he rejoiced.

After all this time, it finally felt like he was living again.

Arthur was going mad with worry and ecstasy.

...OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

At that very moment, Arthur's world crashed and burned.

"H-He's w-what?" he whimpered, his grip white on the phone.

"I'm sorry." The toneless voice told him on the other line. "But-"

"No, no, that can't be right. Not Alfred. Anyone but him." Arthur cut her off, breathing stilled in absolute terror.

"Sir, I will ask you to remain calm." The lady reprimanded. "I repeat, yes, Major Jones was hurt, a bullet in the side, and he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. He is now recovering under tight surveillance."

"Oh god." Arthur put a hand on his mouth, choking a sob. The situation seemed much more real after the first four times he'd made the woman repeat.

"This is simply to inform you of why his next paycheck will be worth less, because he probably will not be able to work for a while after this."

"I don't give a bloody fuck in the world how much money comes in the goddamn mail." Arthur hissed, clenching his fists. He couldn't believe that they'd called him, only to talk to him about the money. What a superficial world he lived in. He just wanted Alfred back. "Please tell me how he is."

"Hurt."

"You don't fucking say, lady." Arthur groaned mentally and rubbed the bridge of his nose wearily.

"May I please talk to him?" he asked instead.

"I'm sorry, you may not contact anyone at the base at this current moment." The woman mechanically replied.

"You've got to be kidding me." Arthur protested vividly. "Come on, you have to let me talk to him!"

"We cannot wire you to the base right now, as they are too busy over there and will not-"

"Don't give me that bullshit!" Arthur all but yelled, knuckles going white as he tried to resist punching a wall. "My best friend, the man I hadn't heard from for eight months, my goddamn lover is hurt and you're telling me I can't speak to him?"

"Sir, please calm down and understand-"

"No, I don't understand! I don't understand why a single minute over the phone would be against the laws of this godforsaken military! I just want to make sure he's alright, is that such a crime?" he was going mad with worry. He knew that. He just needed to hear Alfred again, though, and he would be alright for the time being. Just hearing him would do. Just one minute, thirty seconds, just the time to remind him how much Arthur loved him and the time it took to beg him to come back come. That's all he wanted. That's all he needed.

"Sir, I'm sorry, but I am going to have to ask you to-"

"And I'm telling you to let me talk to Alfred F Jones at this instant." Arthur ordered coldly, trying to keep his nerves under control.

"Sir, I only take orders from higher authorities, and I have been told to tell you only what is necessary to know: that the paycheck this month will be worth less. That is all. Good day to you." And with a frustrated huff, the woman hung up on him.

Arthur hadn't even had time to reply when the empty beeping of the phone rang in his ear. He stood there a long time, a very long time. Five, ten minutes, simply listening in utter disbelief to the tone of the phone.

And then, when he moved, he thought he heard his body creak, like an old, worn-down, exhausted, rusty shack with nothing but emptiness inside.

Slowly, his hand took the phone down from his ear, and down into his lap. Arthur looked at it for a moment, wondering how such a small object could be his only means of communication with his beloved, and how even at that, he couldn't contact him. Anger swelled up in him. Why did everybody want to keep him in the dark?

The pressure had built up too much. With a frustrated, utterly agonized growl, Arthur reared his hand and threw the phone at the wall.

The phone all but exploded on contact with the plaster, pieces falling and rolling against the bare wooden floor noisily. The body itself fell down onto the table, knocking down a picture frame and sending it smashing on the ground.

But Arthur didn't feel a single bit satisfied. When had things gone so wrong? If only he had Alfred... None of this would be happening.

Completely disheartened and cracked in various places, Arthur got up shakily and went for the table, passing by the cats that were huddled against the couch, shaken by their master's outburst. He pushed the broken pieces of the phone away with the tip of his toes and then knelt, avoiding the broken glass as he picked up the picture.

It was a picture of him and Alfred, holding hands under a tree with yellow leaves, in autumn. Alfred was smiling so brightly, the entire picture seemed to light up, whilst Arthur merely blushed and looked away, embarrassed. Arthur didn't even remember having the picture taken. But the photograph had been damaged by the glass, a small tear having been made in the middle, right between the two boys. He grabbed the two corners of the picture and held them together so that the picture wouldn't fall apart any more.

It was a shame, for it was a lovely picture. No wonder Arthur had left it on the table. Still, as he gingerly held the delicate photograph in his hands, gazing at it, he wondered if there truly had been such wonderful times once so long ago.

And, as the cats wandered next to him, curious about his outburst, he started chuckling, because he honestly found the entire situation ironic.

Whether it was the army receptionist or the shattered frame, everything in the world was trying to rip Alfred and him apart. And he, kneeling on the floor, alone and neglected, was desperately trying to keep the pieces together.

...OOOOOOOOOOOOO...

Ten minutes ago, Arthur opened his mailbox to find another paycheck.

He brought it home and threw it on the table as usual, minding to pay it no heed until a few hours had passed.

And then, he moved onto his next envelope, clutched between his trembling hands as he read the return address. The military headquarters.

Fearing for the content, Arthur ripped the letter open and brought out a single sheet of paper, a letter neatly typed under strict protocol, cold and vague.

But the words warmed his heart as he first read, then re-read, and then re-read the letter again. By the time he put it back down, a wide smile was stretching across his face.

"I can write to him." He announced to nobody in particular, twirling around and clutching the letter against his heart like a lovesick fool.

Curious, Teacup poked his head out from under the couch, meowing softly as he got out and shook himself off. As if sensing his presence, Hero bounded into the living room, mewling loudly.

"Hero, right on time!" Arthur exclaimed cheerily, bending down to call the cat forward. Both felines moved almost immediately and came to affectionately rub their heads against Arthur's hand. "Guess what! They're letting me write to him!" he repeated, pointing at the passage of the letter that clearly said 'and thus, we believe it would be therapeutic if he were to be given a reminder of home'.

As if understanding his enthusiasm, Hero made a loud noise and lapped at Arthur's hand encouragingly.

"Not now." Arthur laughed after what had seemed to him like an eternity of frowning. "We're all hungry, so I'll make dinner, first. Besides, I have to think about what I'm going to write to him." All the wonderful declarations of love he could come up with, reminders of how much he missed him, and how worried he was. Yeah. That would be alright.

And as if understanding the word 'dinner', Hero mewled and bounded towards the kitchen enthusiastically.

That night, Arthur sat down at his dimly-lit desk and picked up a pen and a blank sheet of paper. His heart was thundering in anticipation as he wrote the date, and the 'Dear Alfred' he wanted to start with.

And then he froze. What to write? He was only allowed to have one page's worth of writing, so he couldn't waste it. What would Alfred want to read? What could he write that would cure Alfred's homesickness until he actually came back?

He took some time to think, and then scribbled something down. Chewing the end of his pen, he repeated the gesture a few more times, before the silence of the night became disrupted with the continuous sound of a pen scratching paper. It was midnight before he finished. Eyes heavy, but smile still glowing on his face, Arthur finished with his signature and put the paper up into the light to read. He felt it was exactly what he wanted to write. And exactly what Alfred would enjoy reading over and over again until he could spell the words out in his sleep.

"Dear Alfred,

It's getting cold outside already. I'm not very eager for the snow to start, either. Although Christmas without snow would be somewhat inappropriate, I find myself hoping it won't come too soon. Once thing I want to come for Christmas, though, is you.

The cats are getting livelier. Remember when we brought them back from the animal shelter? Meek and awkward and mewling loudly during the night. Those days are long gone, as now, they seem to want to follow me everywhere. Also, Hero's getting fat. I suggest you put him on a diet when you come back. I don't have the heart to refuse such a ravishing creature his nourishment. At least Teacup's still the perfect gentleman. Always putting up with Hero when he jumps on him and cuddles. It almost seems like they're in a relationship, however that works for cats. I mean, they're just always rubbing together and conversing in cat-language, and playing together... Well, at least the cats have each other, right?

Also, I cleaned our room the other day. I found the shirt you were looking for to take with you. It smelled absolutely repulsive, let me tell you, having spent over a month stuck in between the dresser and the wall. You're lucky I didn't burn it. When you come back, I expect you to do your own laundry, especially if all your clothes smell as horrid as your shirt.

My boss is still flirting with me. Bloody frog won't ever get the hint that I'm taken for good. And you'd think he was a decent person, having been able to get higher up than me in the ranking ladder. He did ask to take me out to eat on a friendly date, though, but I put him on hold until I got your thoughts about this. Not that I need your permission or anything. You trust me, right? It's free food (and it's French. Not that I like French food, I mean. It just happens to be... Better than that McDonald's crap you bring home all the time), so I won't turn him down. It'll make the time pass by quicker, anyways.

And I've gotten better at cooking. I took some of my scones to work the other day. Angelique didn't throw them against the wall unlike last time. Granted, she stayed very far away from them, but... I consider this an achievement. You will also be happy to know that I took care of the repairs to the oven, and that they didn't cost as much as I thought they would.

I guess that's all there is to it. I don't have much allotted space to write, so I'll end it with one more thing.

I miss you. So much. And I hope with my heart in its entirety that you're alright, and that you'll be coming home soon. If you ever come home, and I'm not there, I left the keys under the mat to our front door. Anything, just for one more chance to hold you close. Alfred, I don't know where you're going, but please, for God's sake, just get yourself back home.

Yours truly until the end of time,

Arthur Kirkland"

Satisfied, Arthur caressed the places where the ink had smudged with tears, and then carefully folded the letter, putting it inside the return envelope. He thumbed the paper, undecided on closing it, and then noticed the half-eaten scone on a plate next to him. Acting on impulse, he grabbed the scone, crumbled it in his hand, and let the crumbs fall into the envelope. He then sealed it, stamped it, and set it gently down on his desk, to send it out tomorrow.

He knew the censoring team would read his letter and would most probably throw out the bits and pieces of scone he put in there. That didn't matter to him.

He just hoped that by the time the letter got to the military base, the letter would have gotten enough time to retain the comforting smell of home.

...OOOOOOOOOOOO...

An hour and thirty-two minutes ago, Arthur sat down on the couch with the intention of working, but had done nothing as the time passed by. He just let the muted TV run in front of him, showing some documentary about the ecosystem, and idly caressed the cats in his lap. His eyes were trained on the calendar on the wall, a big, red X at the end of the month marking the day that Alfred had left him, last year.

It had almost been a year. Arthur was still amazed that he had survived, and hadn't died, drowned in his loneliness, his heart bleeding out for the world to see. Well, if he'd gone this far, he could survive further. He just really hoped Alfred came home soon. Although he wasn't ready to admit it to anybody, he felt terribly lonely and heartbroken, sitting on the couch in a silent apartment.

Movement in his lap drew his attention down, and he noticed that Hero had licked Teacup on the cheek, and that Teacup was hissing at him, although he didn't move. Hero bumped his nose against Teacup's, and they mewled in unison, tails swishing lazily, contentedly.

On a whim, Arthur put his hands around Hero's tummy and lifted him away from Teacup. The fatter cat struggled for a moment, before looking up confusedly at Arthur. Teacup hissed at Arthur, immediately trying to climb up towards Hero. Holding the latter up in the air, Arthur watched the Scottish fold make efforts to latch onto his clothes and climb up, and couldn't find the scenario a bit ironically funny in a bittersweet way.

"Teacup, aren't you the jealous lover?" he chuckled humourlessly, gently setting Hero back down. "Don't worry, I've got my own. You can have your man back." He patted Hero's hind legs to prompt the cat to return to his partner's side. Hero meowed and walked over to Teacup, bumping his nose against him before setting back down on Arthur's lap.

Seeing as Teacup still wasn't moving, looking up at Arthur challengingly, Arthur rubbed him in between the ears and sighed.

"Sorry." He couldn't believe he was apologizing to a cat. "He shouldn't have been taken away from you." He muttered self-consciously. "But really now, you should've done something to prevent it, too."

Seeing as the cat had no means to reply, Arthur gave him a couple more scratches, and then sighed, slumping on the couch and looking at the ceiling pensively. There was a silence that extended across the entire flat, a silence that Arthur had painstakingly gotten used to during the absence of his lover.

And then, the cats suddenly put their heads up, looking towards the door. They both got up, adding pressure on Arthur's lap and making him wince in pain.

"You guys are getting heavy." He muttered, looking at the cats in confusion. "What's happening?" he asked.

As if to answer his question, the two cats sprang down from his lap in unison and jogged to the door, Hero scratching the wooden door with his paws as Teacup stood a bit further back, meowing loudly.

Arthur frowned for a moment, but then realized that the cats had probably smelled the curry he'd ordered down from the staircase. They had probably gotten hungry and were impatient for the food to get here. Honestly, Arthur hadn't had the same appetite since Alfred left, so the cats could eat his delivery all they liked.

There was a knock on the door a moment later, confirming Arthur's hypothesis, and, grumbling in displeasure, Arthur got up, stretched, and went for the door.

"Get out of the way, you fat blob." He rolled his eyes, gently toeing Hero out of the way. The cat tripped back and returned to Teacup's side by Arthur's legs, peering out from behind them.

Arthur unlocked the latch and turned the knob, and as soon as he opened the door wide enough, Hero slipped outside.

"H-Hey!" Arthur protested, surprised when Teacup followed Hero's motion. Opening the door entirely, he was just about to call their cats back when his voice froze in his throat.

His entire body just stopped for a moment, and his brain went into a momentary coma. And then, when he came back, he realized he had all but gone into shock.

The cats were there, at his feet, rubbing themselves over his black boots and purring loudly. He was holding, in one of his hands, an old, battered suitcase with a bunch of flag stickers on it. His eyes were shining in the light, which glinted off his glasses, and his hair was practically glowing in the dim lighting of the hallway. In all his American glory, military uniform blazing, Alfred F Jones grinned widely and let out a relieved laugh.

"I'm home, baby."

...OOOOOOOOOOOOOO...

"You look wonderful, love." Arthur insisted for the umpteenth time, pecking Alfred's lips as if to confirm it.

"But what if I-" Alfred started again before Arthur cut him off with another kiss.

"Don't worry. You'll be fine. Just stand there, accept your medal when it's your turn, shake a couple of hands, and wait for it to end." He assured him. "It'll go by in the blink of an eye."

"I hope you're right. I don't want to leave again, now that I'm back." Alfred whined childishly.

"It's not like you're not coming back." Arthur chided gently. "It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. You'll call me if you need anything."

"Yeah." Alfred nodded, biting his lip.

There was a silence in which Arthur desperately fought against the stubborn cowlick in Alfred's hair, before Alfred cleared his throat to speak again.

"S-So you're not mad at me for not being able to talk to you for a bit more than eight months? And being absent for a bit less than twelve?" he murmured, as if ashamed.

"Love, you're back, it's all that matters." Arthur assured him. "Besides, you said it was an undercover operation, right? Couldn't go around blowing your secret by calling me." Although he really would have liked it if somebody had told him that Alfred had been deployed on a secret mission, and that is wasn't just the base being bitchy to him.

"I... I guess. I'm just really sorr-"

"Hush." Arthur cut him off, gently putting a finger against his lips. "It's alright. You're home, and nothing's ever going to make you leave again." Not on his watch.

"Alright." Alfred tried a nervous smile, and looked at himself in the mirror once again before straightening. "Okay, I'm ready."

"About time." Arthur huffed. "You look wonderful." He threw a semi-appreciative look at his military uniform, and had to admit that Alfred looked quite dashing in it. "Now go, before you're late."

"I'm going, I'm going." Alfred laughed, heading for the door, Arthur closely following his footsteps. "Goodbye, my children!" he called to the cats curled up in Hero's basket, taking a nap. The felines put their heads up briefly and glanced at America before putting their heads back down and cuddling closer.

"They don't seem to care much." Arthur commented as Alfred pulled his jacket on.

"That's okay. I'll shower them with love any time I want. It's been less than a week since I've been back, and I haven't really gotten time to spoil them yet." He bent down and snatched a kiss from Arthur. "Been too busy spoiling you instead."

"I'm honoured." Arthur rolled his eyes and unlocked the door, opening it for Alfred. "Ladies."

"Thank you, my child." Alfred answered with a smirk, stepping out. "I'll be back in a few. Don't make supper without supervision, now."

"I was doing fine before..." Arthur mumbled, leaning against the doorframe.

"Well, now that I'm here, things are going to be more than just fine, they're gonna be excellent!" Alfred cheered, grinning brightly. "So just wait for me, okay? I'll seeya!"

"Alfred?" Arthur called before he could even take a couple of steps.

Alfred turned around curiously and glanced at Arthur, wondering what was up. Arthur simply looked at him, from head to toes, noting how much he'd changed, how much more perfect he'd become, how much Arthur had fallen in love with him all over again.

"Alfred, I... I don't really know where you're going, or when you're coming home." He looked down at the ground. "But... You know I always leave the keys under the mat to our front door." He looked up and smiled sadly. "You know. If for anything, for one more chance to hold you close." He blushed. "But, quite seriously, even though I'm not even sure where it is you're going..." He looked up, and he smiled a bit sadly at Alfred.

Alfred blinked at him innocently, and then gave him a silent, charming grin that made Arthur's heart practically leap out of his chest. He felt his breath catch as he was reminded of how much he loved this man, and just smiled back, because he knew everything would get better now that his Alfred was here to stay.

"Alfred... Just get yourself back home."


Author's Notes

And this is one of the endings I don't like at all U_U I killed your brain cells with redundancy, didn't I? Ahhh, sometimes I'm really proud of myself.

The time mentions were just there to give a sense of length to the story. Like, time going by slower because Arthur keeps counting everything.

Also, June 6th had something to do with the relations between the US and the UK during WWII. I don't remember what it was, though. Subtle historic references, despite being vague, FTW~

Also, take note that I have no idea how the US army works, and that I honestly don't really care for technicalities, so pretend this story is in an alternate timeline. Or something. Just don't bitch at me for inaccuracies, because the research put in this fic is surprisingly low in quantity.

That's that, I guess. I'll return to trying to write a decent fanfic. Next up on my priorities is a Cardverse!USUK fic. Let's see if this one's gonna be brought to completion, or if it's gonna be abandoned with the other dozen of fics that I've started but never finished.

Okay. So. Please review? To tell me how you liked/disliked/shat brix/punched a wall/ate a banana/I'm hungry/etc. Just review. Even if it's just one word. Even if it's a dot. EVEN IF IT'S A SPACE (... okay. Perhaps not). Just please review, for the sake of USUK and all that jazz~ :D

'Till next time, then,

~No Pain No Gain