Hi everybody! Wow, this is pretty awesome being able to jump back into these two rather odd characters. :) I won't bore you much, since this is just a prologue and all, but seriously, I hope you guys like it and I'll get this A/N over with as quick as I can. I will address all the wonderful, absolutely beautiful comments I received about AT's final chapter briefly in the actual first chapter so you're free to enjoy this tooth-achingly sweet prologue... promise, the dark comes quickly. :3

Thanks to my beta, Kay! You're awesome, gurl!

And for those of you that somehow stumbled upon this without reading American Trains... go read it: :/www. fanfiction s/7203671/1/American_Trains


Golden beams of morning light filtered through the thin, pale curtains of the broad bedroom window. It illuminated the small space, leaving gleaming dashes of light across the white sheets tangled around the two warm bodies in the bed on the other side of the room. The watery light was just barely enough to stir one of the bodies from blissful sleep.

Ever the early riser, Alfred opened his eyes to greet the sunny day as the beams touched his face. His cerulean eyes were unfocused for a few moments, slowly blinking sleep away. Exhaling softly, he smiled when the body beside him stirred as his warm breath ghosted over his lover's face.

Arthur didn't bother opening his eyes, but inched closer to Alfred, nuzzling against his chest.

"It's too early…" The Brit mumbled hoarsely. He grumbled some form of unintelligible insult when Alfred laughed and shifted. It disrupted Arthur's perfectly comfortable nest of blankets, pillows and tanned body he was so thoroughly enjoying cuddling with. He growled, burying his face into a pillow and blinding grabbing for his American paramour. He tugged Alfred back down to the bed, meeting almost no resistance. "Stay," Arthur ordered, voice muffled by the pillow. He heard Alfred laugh again, but felt the American's familiar weight pressing against the mattress once more. The warmth of the taller's body returned, soothing the irritable Brit and making him sigh.

They stayed like that, warm and quiet until the Brit turned his head, finally opening his eyes to the morning light filtering in, and he certainly wasn't disappointed. A soft, adoring smile tugged at the corners of his lips as he gazed into Alfred's clear, blue eyes. The American was lying on his side, his face only a few inches from Arthur's. An affectionate, doting smile adorned his lips while he watched Arthur's groggy eyes slowly clear and focus on him. Arthur noted the breath-taking way the golden light splashed across Alfred's fallow-gold hair, alighting it with an angelic glow. It left his strong, handsome face cast in a lovely shimmer and intensified the luminosity of his beautiful, blue eyes.

Happily content with that image, Arthur was a bit irked when the American leaned over him, chest flush against his side, and merely grabbed his glasses. Perching them on his nose, Alfred settled back down, this time farther from Arthur than before. Arthur voiced his annoyance with a faint growl. Smirking, Alfred inched closer; he made sure that the emerald-eyed man could snuggle up against his chest again. Arthur felt his heart flutter as Alfred leaned even closer, and kissed his cheek before whispering:

"Well, g'mornin', Artie," the ex-cowboy murmured sweetly against his ear in his deep, drawling, tenor tone. "Ya sleep okay? I know last night probably tuckered ya out." Even though it had been nearly three years since leaving the West, Alfred still had that distinctly charming accent that Arthur secretly loved. Naturally, he would never admit that to Alfred, lest the cowboy take it as an excuse to talk anymore than he did. Besides, there was only so much temptation Arthur could hold back with those lovingly drawled words breathed into his ear after last night's long, satisfying session. Forced to stifle a pleased groan, Arthur merely grunted, eyelids at half-mast.

Alfred kissed his cheek again before laying his head back on the pillow. Their noses brushed they were so close, and Alfred took the opportunity to simply enjoy the lovely view. Arthur's bright, emerald eyes were always so fascinating. Just the way the slight variations in the green tint would seem to shift from day to day, and the incredible vividness of the burning viridian had become the ex-cowboy's favorite thing to look at. Of course, the pale, scarred skin, slender jaw line and small, straight nose framing those emerald orbs was just as lovely. Even the thick, furry eyebrows were well loved in Alfred's big heart.

Alfred tangled a hand into the golden crown of Arthur's hair, gently stroking his scalp and playing with each strand. They cascaded across his fingers, tickling his heavy, calloused hands. Arthur gave an appreciative hum, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the sensation of Alfred's gentle hand in his hair. It was impossible to describe the wonderful feeling that warmed Arthur's whole body and left him feeling weak-kneed when Alfred touched him like this. He guessed it would be hard for anyone to imagine just how gentle and loving those heavy, calloused hands could be on his body. It still amazed him how the hands that could fire a rifle with perfect aim, control a half-ton horse, and break a man's nose with one swing could still leave feather-light caresses on his thin figure and affectionately paw at his hair.

Arthur exhaled softly when the blue-eyed blond let his hand wander down, moving from the golden locks to his lover's pale jaw. His thumb rolled over the smooth expanse of skin, earning a tiny smile from the Brit. Alfred moved a bit lower, ghosting the pads of his fingers across Arthur's scarred neck. He traced a pair of silvery-white scars that slashed over his jugular. They had been made by an angry dog when Arthur was still living in France. But the thin marks were nothing compared to grisly maze of old, mangled wounds that littered the expanse of Arthur's back, chest and arms though. Alfred let his hand go there, palming the round jut of the Brit's narrow shoulder for a moment before finding one. The tips of his fingers found the first of many wounds with ease as they splayed out. He traced the pale scar all the way down Arthur's shoulder blade when it converged with another scar. This one was a more fleshy color, and wrapped its way around the curve of his rib cage.

He brushed the blanket that hid the rest of the wound aside, exposing his lover's lithe, naked legs. The Brit shivered at the sudden loss, but kept his eyes shut, and waited for Alfred's warm hand to return.

The younger swallowed hard, and let his hand glide back to an unblemished patch of skin on Arthur's thin flank. He tried not to let his gaze stray to Arthur's lower half, but found his fingers dancing along Arthur's thigh anyway. The sleek muscle beneath rippled under his touch as Arthur stretched out. He cracked his eyes open just a bit to catch the red blush starting to creep up onto Alfred's tanned cheeks. They had been back together for nearly a year, yet Alfred still managed to blush around his naked body. The emerald-eyed man found it both amusing and endearing. Alfred was naturally shy with this sort of intimacy, but slowly he was growing bolder and bolder around Arthur. He no longer objected to sleeping naked, and had recently started doing these affectionate morning explorations. It was an impressive leap forward, as Arthur could very clearly remember their first kiss three years ago: Alfred having something akin to a small panic attack and slamming Arthur into a wall had broken it off after only a moment or so.

The emerald-eyed man smiled fondly, recalling their earliest attempts at a budding romance back on the dusty Kansan plains. His smile caught Alfred's attention, and the blue-eyed man brought his hand from Arthur's thigh back to his cheek, cupping it. The Brit refocused his faraway gaze to the taller blond lying beside him.

"I reckon ya the most beautiful thing I ever seen, Mr. Kirkland," Alfred whispered, his face still aflame with a burning blush. Arthur's heart swelled with a lovely happiness as he leaned forward to place a feverish kiss to Alfred's lips. It was unavoidable, as those sweet words drove Arthur wild and reconfirmed just why he loved the younger so much. There was no one else who could make him feel this loved, admired, or special.

He ravished the American's lips with his own, and knotted his fingers in Alfred's hair. The chapped lips were sensually responsive, taking over control and pressing back against the Brit's.

The American had to compose himself, and dejectedly denied Arthur's tongue entrance when the wet muscle lapped at his lips. Arthur loosed an annoyed growl, pulling back and cocking a heavy brow at his lover.

Alfred tried to compensate by leaving a feather-light kiss on the tip of Arthur's nose and offering a dazzling smile.

"Sorry, Artie. I dun' think ya in much a' any shape to be goin' any farther than this. I figured ya'd be awful sore, y'know?"

"Nonsense! I'm perfectly fine-" Arthur shifted up on his hip, attempting to get closer to his lover's warm, firm body. He suddenly gasped, letting out a hiss of pain through gritted teeth. A sharp pain shot down his spine, leaving a pulsing ache in his tailbone. He flopped back to the mattress with a pained smile.

"Damn you… bloody brute," Arthur muttered as Alfred tried to comfort him with another kiss on the cheek.

"Sorry." Alfred avoided the Brit's eyes, his whole face red.

"Don't be," The emerald-eyed man assured. He certainly wasn't sorry about their lovemaking. Alfred was big and broad in nearly all aspects of his anatomy, which Arthur certainly enjoyed, even if the sore mornings left him aching for a while. The sharp ache was always worth the intimate experience with the shy and gentle American. "You know I love every moment. It's always worth the morning after."

Alfred couldn't control the maddening blush that engulfed his entire face and neck. Unable to look his lover in the eye, Alfred settled for nervously knotting his fingers in the sheets. As much as he enjoyed the praise for his performance, it was still terribly embarrassing.

"Well, if we're not going to revisit last night's grounds, then I suggest you start getting ready for work. Mr. Trolley isn't going to be happy if you're late."

Alfred bobbed his head in a nod, glad for the change of subject. He shifted to brace on his hands and knees. Easily untangling Arthur's feet from the blankets, he suddenly scooped him up in his arms. The Brit gave a surprised gasp at the rapid motion, expecting an acute pain in his tailbone again, but found none. It must have shown on his face because Alfred grinned down at him with a reassuring smile.

"Hey now, gimme some credit, Artie! I wouldn't hurt ya. Well," Alfred tried to calm the raging heat in his face as he thought back to last night. "Not intentionally, at least."

Arthur rolled his eyes, pushing on Alfred's chest.

"Yes, yes, I know. Now put me down, brute!" He ordered squirming in Alfred's strong arms. The American complied, setting the naked Brit down gingerly on his feet. He kept his arm around the shorter's narrow shoulders as he winced. But Arthur shooed him away with a wave of his hands.

"Go on! I'm just fine, so go dress yourself."

"If ya say so," The blue-eyed American mumbled, moving towards the tiny closet they shared. "Shout if ya need me!" He called as Arthur carefully trod into the living room where he had discarded his drawers and trousers last night. He slipped them back on, and then headed for the narrow kitchen to start preparing breakfast.

When Alfred remerged from their bedroom, dressed in his usual attire consisting of his tight, rough denims, a long sleeved, collared, cotton shirt, his leather vest, gloves and boots, breakfast was waiting on the table. Arthur was just finishing wiping off his hands on a raggedy towel when he felt Alfred's heavy hand on his shoulder. He glanced back with a tiny smile. Alfred always looked so incredibly dashing no matter what he was dressed in, Arthur decided. Naked or looking like a poor stableman, he was still perfect in Arthur's eyes.

Alfred squeezed his shoulder lightly, guiding him to sit beside him at the wooden table where breakfast was waiting. There were two cups of coffee, and a single plate heaped with jet-black toast and brown, shriveled eggs. Alfred didn't seem to mind the terribly burnt taste and he bit into the toast. Most of it crumbled like soot in his mouth, but he swallowed it anyway. He broke off a piece and handed it to Arthur, who nibbled at it thoughtfully after putting his head down on his folded arms. The Brit was still tired, and rarely had an appetite this early in the day. He didn't necessarily have to rise this early, but did so to make breakfast for his lover each morning and see him off to work before crawling back into bed. Arthur couldn't hold a job in such a small town with his condition, and so he usually stayed at home, managing their finances and tending to the house. He rose with Alfred, sent him off, crawled back into bed for a few extra hours of sleep, and then rose in the afternoon to tend to their daily living space.

Alfred smiled down at the sleepy Brit as he tried to ignore the awful taste of the food he ate. Arthur's cooking was probably the most horrendous and vile stuff, but he ate it anyway. The emerald-eyed man didn't seem to realize that toast wasn't supposed to be black, or that eggs were supposed retain their white and yellow color, not turn muddy brown. Or that coffee beans should not be left in the coffee after it was finished brewing, he thought after taking a large gulp of the hot liquid. But he ate it because Arthur made it, which somehow made his happy heart swell with a strange joy every morning when he sat down for breakfast. Arthur had a very strange way of showing his affection, and it seemed as if his awful cooking was one of those ways. Alfred not only tolerated the awful food, he loved Arthur even more for it.

He finished off another two pieces of toast and some crunchy eggs before he pushed the last piece of toast to Arthur. The Brit waved it away, preferring to sip a bit of his lukewarm coffee instead. Alfred shrugged, popped the last piece into his mouth, and rose from his seat.


"Sure am. I'll see ya later, 'right, Artie?"

Arthur nodded slowly. Tilting his head up so Alfred could grace his lips with a chaste good-bye kiss, he silently bid goodbye to his lover. Alfred ruffled Arthur's messy hair before walking to the door. He gave a little wave, and then exited with a cheeky grin plastered on his face.

Arthur watched the closed door for a few moments before yawning. He picked up the plate and the half-empty mugs of coffee and set them down in the sink. He would wash them later, for now though, he intended to get properly dressed.

Walking back to their bedroom, he slipped out of his old, temporary clothes and dressed in his favorite dark green suit. Pulling on his undergarments and trousers proved to be painful on his sore lower half, but he managed through the sharp pain even as he bent to put on his shoes.

"Ow…" The emerald-eyed Brit muttered as he pushed himself off of the bed and headed for the door. He fixed his stance, looking like the proper thoroughbred Alfred always liked to say he was, and walked out of the house.

His emerald eyes quickly adjusted to the bright morning light and scanned the road. He could faintly make out the fleeting outline of Alfred's form at the very end of the cobblestone path. Taking the steps down the porch carefully, Arthur silently padded along the grassy border of the road. His heels made no sound against the soft, springy grass as he secretly followed his lover down the familiar roads to the other side of Oil City. They lived the in the poor district, in a bright yellow house, separated from the wealthy oil barons on the opposite end by an impressive bridge spanning the Allegheny.

When Alfred crossed said bridge, Arthur paused, waiting for the American to be well out of earshot of his clicking heels when he crossed the wooden surface. The journey was short after that; Alfred turned down the first street afterwards and followed it all the way to the crest of a small hill where his employer lived. He paused suddenly, glancing up at the sky as a sudden breeze drifted across the hill. Off in the distance, dark thunderclouds blanketed the sky near the mountains rising in the distance. Subconsciously, he rubbed at his right shoulder, feeling the weakened muscle begin to quiver and ache.

Alfred hated the rain; it made his old gunshot wound sore, made his body feel heavy and left a tugging ache in his bones. Thankfully, it looked far off, but the ex-cowboy knew how quickly the weather could shift. He refocused his attention back to the hill. He could worry about the rain later.

A tall manor stood proudly at the top, looming over the expansive acres surrounding it. Its gleaming white sides caught the light perfectly, leaving it aglow in the wake of the rising sun.

Standing under the awning of the wrap-around veranda stood a fat, well dressed, and very annoyed looking man. His dark hair was greased back, and his squinty piggish eyes were focused on Alfred as the tall cowboy approached.

"G'mornin' Mr. Trolley, sir!" He greeted with his usual, friendly cheer.

The man snorted.

"Hardly, Jones. Where have you been? Didn't I tell you yesterday that I needed you to be here early this morning? Or are you deaf as well as an idiot now?"

Alfred bit his bottom lip, looking ashamed. It quickly came back to him now that the man brought it up. Mr. Trolley had indeed asked for Alfred to be at the manor well before sunrise to groom his two best stallions for an early morning sale.

"Sorry 'bout that, sir. It must a' slipped my mind."

"I'm sure that happens often, Jones," The pudgy man groaned, dabbing a silk handkerchief across his already sweating brow. "I suppose it can't be helped. Just get to work and don't let me catch you shirking! I won't tolerate this idiocy and insolence on your part ever again, am I clear? Oh, and make sure you act respectably when the buyer arrives. I won't have you shaming my good name!"

"Yes, sir." The ex-cowboy muttered dejectedly, bowing his head. He turned away when he heard the door to the manor slam shut and started down the hill. He glanced up for a moment, catching a glimpse of something moving at the base of the hill. He squinted, but quickly dismissed it as merely a shadow. There wasn't time for nonsense: his boss was angry, and if he wanted to keep his job he had better get down to the stables as quickly as possible.

~ FY~

Arthur slammed the door shut behind him with a vicious growl spilling from his throat. His blazing emerald eyes smoldered with anger as he stomped into the bedroom, and kicked off his shoes.

He couldn't believe this! This was the third day in a row that that arrogant pig of a man, Trolley, had dared to insult and mock his lover! The oil baron made Arthur sick every time he watched those piggish eyes leer at Alfred and that flapping mouth of his spew such cruel things to the shy ex-cowboy. The man was very loud, had a deep rumble to his voice, and so Arthur heard everything, even from his hiding spot at the base of the hill. He heard it all the time, but it was becoming more and more intolerable.

Flopping onto the bed, Arthur felt his tailbone ache again, and a burning fury begin to burgeon in his gut. It didn't work to soothe his bad temper.

This happened far too frequently, Arthur decided. Trolley was a cruel man who treated Alfred like a dog. Even if Alfred loved caring for the magnificent horses the man kept, he still came home all too often with a sad smile. One that always said: 'I'm tried of being treated this way, but I won't burden you by telling you my troubles.'

It made Arthur's heart ache, and sometimes he could coax Alfred into admitting he hated the constant insults, remarks and threats. But the younger was always quick to add that it was fine, because they needed the money and Alfred loved the horses too much to let it affect him too severely. It never reassured Arthur, though. The big American didn't deserve that kind of treatment. He was too kind, and shy, and sweet and perfect to ever be spoken to like that.

So fix the problem….

The dark, familiar voice in his mind whispered. Arthur shook his head, glaring down at his hands.

Fine. Then my cowboy is going to continue to suffer…

He's not suffering. Arthur resigned. He says it doesn't bother him.

And you ever so foolishly believe him? You're a sodding idiot then… you don't deserve him…

Arthur bit his lip, pawing nervously as the sheets. Maybe Alfred was suffering? He suddenly narrowed his eyes, resolve steeling his heart. If Alfred was hurting, then he would destroy the source of his American paramour's pain. The big ex-cowboy had suffered too much in his life as it was. This was supposed to be the happiest time of his life: well-aged at twenty-nine years old, living comfortably in his hometown and inseparable from the love of his life.

Outside, the rumble of distant thunder rolled through the sky as the storm clouds drew closer to the city.

The emerald-eyed man licked his lips thoughtfully, before leaning over the bed to open the nightstand drawer. He slipped his hand inside, pulling out the familiar, dangerous penknife he had had since he was young. He uncapped the top, staring at his reflection in the golden blade. His feral, viridian eyes glared back it him on the sheen of the sharpened metal.

"I'll fix the problem…"

There really isn't history here yet. Only note Arthur's co-conscious of Dark!Art. I'm not sure how much it was brought up in AT... so, there's your reminder. :)

Anyone else as stupidly excited as I am about this? xD

Btw, here's my tumblr. Come follow me for more USUK stuff and other fandoms. :)

hellieace. tumblr. com