Waking up in the morning has always been an interesting routine for Alfred. Actually, routine wasn't the right word - experience better fit the description. Mornings were rarely routine. They were almost always different. And when you're the personification of the United States of America, well, it's quite the experience. Even for someone as old as him, Alfred's mornings still had their perks. Most of them, anyway.
And what a perk he woke up to on that fine Sunday morning; opening his eyes and seeing his old mentor lying on the couch right across from him.
What a perfect way to start the beginning of the day.
Alfred yawned and stretched from his own position on his couch. He vaguely recalled some of the previous night's events and quickly decided to forget about it for the time being. No need to start getting all emotional first thing in the morning. He glanced at the still-sleeping Brit from the corner of his eye.
Everything about Arthur spoke of weariness. The dark circles under his eyes hadn't lessened any more since his arrival, his body rose and fell in soft motions, and a small frown turned down the corners of his mouth. England must be getting a lot of work lately, thought Alfred. Maybe...he should do something to help the older nation.
That wouldn't come across as too affectionate, right?
Yawning again, Alfred cracked a few joints before getting up. Ah. He'd slept with his glasses on. That was almost always uncomfortable. He grumbled to himself as he made his way to the kitchen. He should add taking glasses off at the end of a movie to his list of late-night-movie-watching rules also.
It wasn't long before he'd found the necessary ingredients to a good breakfast. Bacon, eggs, toast, and sausage were all on their way to becoming something worthy of his morning meal. He would make Arthur a great American breakfast as a way to hopefully cheer him up and make up for some of the not-so-great events that had befallen the Englishman since his visit. Alfred licked his lips. "Mmm..." That bacon smelled good. He could hardly wait for it to be finished. Alfred got bored waiting for his breakfast to finish cooking (because unlike Arthur he could leave food cooking on the stove without turning the kitchen into a raging inferno), so he decided on something a little more entertaining and walked back into the living room. He knelt down in front of Arthur's sleeping form. Arthur's face when he slept always looked serene and incredibly peaceful, something that highly contrasted his usual obnoxious self. It was really a rare yet...nice sight.
Alfred grinned and stuck out his tongue at Arthur to amuse himself. It was even more amusing when there was absolutely no reaction at all from the Englishman. Had he been awake, it would have been a completely different story. He stared at the sandy-blonde nation for another few seconds, and idea came to his head.
A pretty wicked idea.
He quietly got up and went to his office. Looking around, his eye caught on what he was looking for, and he reached for it. Alfred made his way back once again to Arthur...with a black marker in his hand. He hadn't checked whether it was permanent or not - he assumed it wasn't. He had made sure to get rid of all permanent markers due to their heavy scent and a rather nasty accident involving Tony and long dark marker lines scribbled all over his walls, which took a solid three weeks to finish painting over. The marker was mostly likely washable. Now all it needed to do was to make Arthur's already dark eyebrows even darker.
The cool, chiseled tip of the marker had just touched Arthur's eyebrows when he began to stir. Suddenly (for what reason, we shall never know) he turned in his sleep. Alfred hurriedly tried to take his hand back before-
His hand slipped, and Alfred's eyes widened in surprise as the marker slid from his hands and drew a nice, fat, line right across Arthur's forehead.
It looked something like a large line, or, an extremely prominent U-no brow. If you really wanted to go that far you could say that the two caterpillars that rested on Arthur's forehead had joined together at last and became one. Had he not felt so suddenly guilty, Alfred might have burst out laughing. In fact, he was still gaping at what he had just done. His face was inches away from Arthur's as he stared at his handiwork. The marker fell from his hands onto the floor.
And it was at that moment that Arthur decided to wake up.
Green eyes blinked open and came face to face with blue ones, then widened when they took in the fact that Alfred was staring him right in the face.
Arthur sat up as best as he could and as quick as he could from his position on the couch, wincing as he felt his back crack from what happened the night before.
"What..." He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked at Alfred, the normal glare settling in slowly, "What were you doing?"
Alfred was still having a hard time piecing together what exactly he had done.
"Speak, you dolt. I'm pretty sure I raised you to do that much." growled Arthur.
Alfred felt once again at a loss for words. His mind screamed at him to say something-anything-to just distract him from those eyebrows. Oh right! He was making breakfast. That's what he should say, breakf-
Arthur raised his eyebrows, further accentuating the monstrous black bar on his brow. "...I beg your pardon?"
"A-Ah-! No! That's not what I meant-" Damn those eyebrows looked so incredible, "-food!"
That statement earned him a bewildered 'what-the-hell' look from the Brit. Alfred groaned inwardly.
"I mean...I'm...making...breakfast." The last word was finally and painfully released from his mouth.
Those eyebrows were really starting to bother him.
"You're making breakfast?" Said brows did not waver from their raised position.
"Yeah, I am."
"What do you mean?"
"Well...first I wake up and you're staring me in the face," Arthur's face turned a faint shade of pink, but that quickly faded away, "the next thing you say is 'hamburgers' and then 'food'? Now you're telling me you've made breakfast. You didn't make hamburgers for breakfast too did you?"
Alfred laughed, "Nope. That would be awesome, but I didn't."
"Thank goodness you didn't...what did you make anyway?"
"Oh you know, some good-old traditional American breakfast food. All the nice stuff. You looked like you needed something to eat-"
The words that had been on his mind ever since Arthur arrived at his house suddenly came blurting out of his mouth. It was too late to take them back. Arthur looked at him with a mix of surprise and suspicion.
"Um yeah...you do." Alfred's voice gradually drifted into a faint mumble.
"I see." was the simple response after a long pause. Arthur looked down for a moment, as if contemplating something. He looked back up at Alfred again, and his expression had become stoic and unreadable. Not unlike what he usually looked like during meetings. He stood up and started walking towards his room. "Well you said you were making breakfast right? You should hurry and keep an eye on it. I am going to go make myself decent." A yawn.
Alfred gave a blunt nod and watched almost in a trance as his English counterpart walked out of the living room and closed the door to the guest room. He snapped out of it and went to the kitchen; the toast was already finished, the bacon was almost done, as was the sausage. The eggs, however, still needed further cooking. Alfred walked over and proceeded to do just that. A few minutes later he was done, and placed the morning meal onto clean plates, setting them on the table. He was in the middle of getting out the silverware when Arthur came in.
The Englishman had dressed plainly. As usual. He wore an evergreen long-sleeved shirt and, to Alfred's faint surprise, jeans.
Arthur pulled out a chair with his foot and sat down in it. One last fork was placed onto the table and Alfred seated himself as well, trying his best to seem nonchalant when he found himself once again drawn to Arthur's eyebrows. He was going try and distract both Arthur and himself from it and find a way to wash them off without Arthur noticing. Alfred wasn't exactly sure how he would carry out the last part of that plan, but he was sure a he would be able to find some sort of heroic way to do it.
But the first part of the plan had to take shape before that.
"So," he grinned at Arthur across the table, "Whatcha think?"
Arthur smiled thinly, forcing himself not to correct the American on the irritating 'whatcha'.
"I think it looks just fine."
Alfred's grin wavered at the less than enthusiastic response. "Haha, well you gotta eat it to see whether it tastes as good as it looks. Go ahead—try it!"
That was met with an eye roll. "This isn't the first time I've eaten American food, America. No need to make such a big deal out of it."
Despite that, he managed to help himself to some scrambled eggs, bending his face close to the plate to spare himself the effort of raising his arm. He did the same for the sausages. Arthur was about to bite a piece of bacon when he glanced at his American counterpart, realizing he was the only one eating. Alfred seemed to be staring in the distance and at him at the same time. When he shifted his eyes from Alfred to his plate, he realized with that he hadn't touched his food either. Not even his fork and knife had moved themselves from their place on the table. He frowned, something was definitely amiss. Alfred had been denying it all the time, but Arthur could see that he wasn't acting like himself.
This brainless asshat.
He finally reacted, and his gaze shifted into focus. "Huh?"
"America, what is wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with me?" Alfred repeated stupidly
Arthur was looking at him with an expression of genuine concern. It was rather rare that he would show that to any of the other nations, no matter what the situation. But the emotion was undeniable in those green orbs.
"You don't seem like yourself today."
"For one," Arthur pointed out dryly, "you haven't even started your breakfast."
Alfred gave a snort. "That's nothing to worry about, England!"
"I'm not wor—" Arthur frowned but stopped short when the blonde across the table proceeded to dig into his breakfast. Loud, animalistic munching sounds came the wheat-golden head buried in food. In a few minutes Alfred gobbled up the eggs, sausages, and bacon. He hastily spread some butter on the toast and stuffed it in his mouth. Arthur hadn't even begun his toast yet. His appetite was beginning to slowly fade away.
His mouth full, Alfred still managed to beam at Arthur, a few toast crumbs falling off his bulging cheeks.
"Der fu garm?"
"Don't speak with your mouth full, America, it is extremely unbecoming."
Alfred gave him a look, and then swallowed.
"The food good?"
Arthur couldn't help himself this time and sighed, "Is the food good, America, 'is'."
He looked back at Alfred. "And yes, the food was just as delicious as it looked. I enjoyed it, thank you."
"You didn't eat your toast."
"That is because I can't, you dolt."
Alfred raised his hands in surrender.
"Okay England, you win. I can have the toast then."
He reached over and took it, slathering on some butter and Arthur watched it disappeared down his throat.
"D'you want some tea?"
Arthur blinked, Alfred was full of surprises today wasn't he?
"Certainly…" he chose his words carefully, "Do you even have any?"
This probably wasn't a good time to make a quip about Boston, was it. Alfred decided to ignore that and instead got up. He took the plates and put them in the dishwasher and then went to one of his cabinets. Opening it a little, he pulled out just one of the many packets of tea he had kept for when England visited. There was tea in every house he had. Arthur never knew that of course, and he intended it for it stay that way.
Alfred made tea and coffee, and placed the warm mug into Arthur's hands, sitting down again.
From the way Arthur was looking at his tea, Alfred noted with satisfaction that he looked pleased. He smiled into his cup and gulped a mouthful of his coffee. The two drank their beverages in what seemed to be comfortable silence; Alfred finished his before Arthur, as the latter preferred to savor their drink.
Alfred got up and was beginning to clean up the things from last night's movie-watching when he was stopped by a question.
"You said that I looked like I needed something to eat?"
Arthur was still sitting at the table, calmly sipping his tea, eyes closed. He wasn't showing a hint of anything.
"…Do you really think so?"
Alfred turned back to extracting the DVD from the video player. "Well if I said that I'm pretty sure that's what I thought, right?"
He heard the chair scrape back and the sound of a cup on the kitchen counter.
"If that's what you really think, I should probably take a look for myself then."
"Yeah sure, whatever you want, man, you don't have to a—"
Alfred stopped short and felt his stomach sinking. He stood up, walking as fast as he could to the bathroom.
"A-Actually there's no need to look! You're perfectly fine England, honest. You don't need a mirror to see it or anything. Just…don'tgointothebathroomwaitstopohmygosh…!"
His words slurred to a halt as he watched Arthur step into the bathroom and stopped. Alfred was torn between watching England's reaction and getting as far away from the Englishman as possible. Before he had time to make up his mind, Arthur spoke.
"Bloody, bleeding hell."
Alfred bit his lip.
"America…" His voice was deadly calm, "…can you explain what this is?"
"Wh-what do you mean 'this'?"
"You know what I mean."
"No I don't."
"America, what in Heaven's name happened to my eyebrows?!"
Arthur turned away from the mirror and stalked towards the speechless American and grabbed his arm, dragging him to the bathroom doorway with more force than Alfred remembered him having. The Englishman jabbed a finger at his reflection in the mirror, straight at the dark black line on his brow.
His blue eyes roamed his bathroom, trying to look anywhere but that flashing pair of green eyes under those...eyebrows. He fidgeted with the edge of his clothes, and then turned to look at Arthur. He definitely couldn't worm his way out of this one.
"Well you see…"
And Alfred spilled out the story that he'd kept inside all morning. Every now and then he glanced at Arthur to make sure he was still listening, but did his best not to pay attention to his expressions, he figured they would probably make him wince and stop. When he finished talking, he sighed and leaned against the wall.
Arthur just shook his head. It was so typical of him, trying to pull a prank and then making it ten times worse. The only tragedy was that he was the victim. He sighed as well, and looked up at his former charge.
"Is there any way I can wash this off?"
The blue-eyed nation perked up at the chance to rekindle conversation - and the fact that he wasn't going to face anymore scolding.
"Yeah! I'm pretty sure it's washable marker - here, let me see it."
He twisted the faucet, letting the water run over his fingers for a good measure, before swiping his forefinger across Arthur's brow. The Englishman tensed for a second, and then relaxed, expecting black-colored water to be dripping down his forehead.
But there wasn't any.
Alfred pulled his finger away, confused. The black had only faded a little, and his finger only had very little residue. Slowly, it dawned on him, and horror bloomed anew on his face. Arthur watched in confusion.
"America? What's wrong?"
Alfred shot out of the bathroom and bounded into the living room, scrambling on all fours down to the carpet, scanning the floor for the marker he used. His eyes caught on the black cap and he snatched it up. When he read the words, he felt his heart sink.
He'd used permanent marker.
He knelt there for a little longer, not heeding the footsteps that came up from behind him.
"England...I used permanent marker." he said quietly, "Sorry."
Arthur stopped short of kneeling down next to Alfred, and he slowly raised a hand to where the black line was. He began rubbing his temples, and closed his eyes in frustration. Alfred had a way of proving the impossible - what couldn't have been worse could still be worse. He gave an annoyed sigh, and silently resolved not to put up with the silly country's antics anymore during his stay.
"It'll wash off before I leave. Do what you want, America. I'm going to try to get back to my work."
With that, he turned on his heels, and brought himself back into his work (which had become something he both detested and longed for in his stay with Alfred)
Alfred looked at the marker in his hand, at Tony, who's beady red eyes looked disapprovingly back at him, and the space where Arthur had been moments before. He frowned, and set the marker on the coffee table. He really wasn't doing a good job of being host.
Late in the afternoon, the sky was clear and cloudless, a very flat blue. All was quiet in the neighborhood, and after he had washed the dishes, Alfred busied himself around the house. He ate lunch on his own, Arthur refusing to see him further, and went outside to play baseball with Tony in his large backyard.
They had been going at it for a good hour or so, and the two of them were riled up from the good fun. Alfred was pitching, and Tony held the large wooden bat. He swung it back and forth testily, eye Alfred, and waiting for him to make his move.
"Ahahaha! Here it comes, my Super-Awesome Mega-Deluxe Hero Pitch!" Alfred yelled, and snapped his arm for a speedy curveball. But his aim changed, and the flick of the wrist was strange, and the ball flew out of reach. It sailed through the air under the clear blue sky, and Alfred twisted his neck to see what direction it was going at.
His eyes widened when he realized where it was headed.
Glass shattered and a shriek pierced through the winter air.
Since shutting himself in his guest room, Arthur utilized his still fresh annoyance and built-up frustration to motivate himself to finish his work. He'd gone through exactly two and a half stacks of paperwork, as well as three manila packets of files, and sorted through some others. Lunch was of no concern to him, he did not want to be entangled any further with American nation, and missing lunch had been common over the past couple of weeks. When Alfred called on him to eat, he refused as politely as possible and buried himself further in his work. He was busy signing some of said work when all of a sudden there was a whizz in the air, and the window over his desk burst into a thousand ice-cold fragments.
On instinct, he raised his one good arm over his eyes to shield himself. An uncharacteristic shriek flew out of his lips. A few pieces of glasses cut his cheek, but what really hit him was the blast of cold air and ruffled his papers. He shivered, and slowly lowered his arm, eyes still wide with shock from the...whatever it was.
He turned to look behind him, and lying on the floor was a dirty baseball, a few glittering pieces of glass still clinging onto it. It took him no time at all to figure out the only person in the world who had the alien strength to lodge the ball through the window at such high speeds, and Arthur was standing and glaring out the window faster than you could say 'God save the Queen'.
"Alfred F. Jones what in the name of-"
The door swung open from behind him, revealing a very worried looking Alfred. Oh good, that saved him the trouble of going down there and dragging him up himself.
"England are you hurt?"
Words that Arthur was about to shout at Alfred died down in his throat. For a moment the two of them stared at each other, the awkward question silencing them. Heedless of the cuts on his cheek or the wind that was once again messing up his hair, Arthur forced himself back on topic.
"I'm perfectly fine, America." He said, clearing his throat. "Although it could have been much worse." Arthur made sure to ground the words out between his teeth, and Alfred visibly winced at the tone.
"But the larger problem is why that bloody ball flew threw the window and decided to distract me from my work! You play the sport don't you? Learn some control, dammit! I think it's quite obvious - " Arthur gestured to his remaining work, "-that I've been busy, I was busy, and I will be busy! Would it kill you to have some peace and quiet now and then?"
A frown flickered across his features. "I just…" Everything about the situation didn't feel right, everything was going too fast for him, all he wanted was to finish his work and relax.
"I don't know." He sighed.
Alfred watched as Arthur's shoulders slumped, and he sank into the chair. He walked over, and placed a hand gently on the tired nation's shoulder.
"I'll clean up." He said quietly. "I can call for someone to fix it up quickly. But about your work…"
"How about you take a break? I think you could use one, besides, its totally boring having you here doing nothing all the time. Peace and quiet is only for old men like you. Cool heroes like me need energetic activities! We can do something fun, like go out for a walk, or play games or something."
Arthur huffed in annoyance. "What about my work?"
"Screw it! I can help you with it later, after you've taken a break, combined with my hero powers you can get it done faster that way."
He leaned in front of Arthur's face.
"So whaddaya say, England?"
Arthur looked up, and cursed himself for yielding into them like he always did. He bit his lip, trying to drag the silence out. He didn't want to back down so easily. But he felt Alfred was right, even if he wasn't, he wanted to believe it.
If the lad didn't help him out later he was going to give him hell.
He did his best to sound as aggravated as possible, trying to mask the actual fact that he was very much relieved to be taking a break from work.
"I'll spend some time with you, America. But if you dare go back on your word about helping me with my work, I will make sure your boss hears about all of this. All of it." His green eyes glinted.
Alfred winced again at the thought. "There's no need to start threatening me, geez. Let's just focus on having fun for now, okay?"
Arthur got up from his chair, turned around to look Alfred properly in the face, and said something he rarely said to the American.
A/N: Since no excuse on Earth could excuse me from not updating this fic, I'm just going to extend my deepest and most profound apologies that those of you who followed this story had to wait this long for this fic to update, if you were anticipating it anyway. I actually finished the chapter a month or so ago but spent another month on it because I couldn't get the ending right. Then it sat in my files for a while and now here I am, typing this long-overdue Author's Note. I tried to make up for it with some humor, haha, as well as a much longer chapter than usual (about 1,000 words longer, I think). I'm not very good at it. /bricked And I'm trying to improve my writing. It's hard to write this story now though, because my view of these two are more in-depth than when I first started. I apologize that I don't have a next chapter preview, I haven't written that for yet-but I can tell you the two of them will be getting out of the house and doing something much more enjoyable than going to the hospital.
Thanks for reading, and please leave a review, that'd be much appreciated. /(*v* )