I've got a surprise for you all! I'm still alive! XDD (If you you followed me on twitter you'd know I never completely forgot about my story here. If you're interested just ask me for my name there, I'll pm you. Though I'm tweeting mostly in German /3) I know the tardiness of this chapter is absolutely inexcusable but I'm apologising anyway. I'm sorry that I've made you wait for a little over three months when I promised to try and update at least once in two or three weeks. But for several reasons I just didn't manage to update this. School took most of my time, then I watched a few TV shows and got into different fandoms (don't worry, this has happened on occasion since 2010 but I'm never abandoning Hetalia), I hit a little writer's block after completing like three quarters of this chapter etc etc. Anyway, I don't want to bore you with my excuses. I know I'm to blame that this fic hasn't been updated in such a long time. I couldn't even wish you guys a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year. Even my written Abitur exams are all done now. Only now I'm realising just how much time has passed since my last update. I'm so very sorry, my dear readers. Hope you haven't given up on me yet ;w;
Thanks to all the awesome people who left a review: The Queen MiMi, xBluieLovex, Dark-nesey, Q3APo, Wall-flower Hermit, chibi-unicorn-girl, ghostGirl, dasavioreHyde, uskoic, nekokitten, 01blackcat02, kyouko68, Loeily, Dreiks, mochiusagi, BloodyFrog, two Guests, TheAwesomePandaChan, khaji-da lover, InvaderPey, xxalexisurgodxx, Sweetest Writer, another two Guests, Life-Without-Music-is-Hell, Lintunia and Jiyu-Ao
and to everyone who faved and followed this and in general to everyone who still cares about this story! Thank you all. ;w; Did I mention that you're all nuts? I don't deserve all your support. Not at all. Seriously. Now that I realise how long it took me to update... *crawls into a corner and hides* QwQ
Now, without further ado. Enjoy!
Chapter Eleven – The First Date
As he watched the minute hand of his watch crawling closer to twelve, four o'clock, the time the office closed down on Friday, Arthur was filled with anxiety. The week had passed in a blur, the hustle and bustle of his workplace and the city around him, his job or even the birds in the park doing a fantastic job in distracting him from the promise he'd made to his boss. His boss who actually wanted to date him. Of all people. Only yesterday night it had dawned upon him that he had indeed managed to push the Alpha and the idea of dating out of his head. Whenever it'd scratched at his conscience he'd quickly found something else to keep his mind occupied.
Eventually, though, he couldn't avoid the inevitable any longer. So yesterday night he'd spent hours pondering whether or not he should dare letting someone enter his life. Remembering the ball all too vividly – a disaster, really – it was more than questionable if a romantic relationship could make him truly happy. He had observed couples there, Alphas engaged in professional discussions whilst Omegas were rooted next to them, smiling, nodding, or speaking quietly to others of their Nature. All of them seemed to play their role perfectly and without complaint.
Then his thoughts flickered back to the recent weeks, how he'd come to look forward to seeing the other at office when getting ready for work in the morning. How he'd caught himself a couple of times glued to the mirror and fretting over his looks, his too bushy brows and his unruly hair. Even more so he'd become aware of his own attachment to Alfred when the Alpha had actually stayed true to his word and refrained from barging into his office for no reason. In fact, he'd barely seen or heard of his boss over the past week.
Never had he believed Alfred to be able to keep such a promise. Boisterous and endear- annoying Alfred who'd bother him whenever he'd find the time to, had actually left him alone to think about his offer.
So could he be trusted after all? Or was it a trick to lure him? Were there really no hard feelings about their past on Alfred's behalf? He seemed genuine when he'd told him not to dwell on that.
Now, here he stood in front of a very familiar door. His watch read one minute after four and he concluded that just perhaps, Alfred wasn't so bad after all. They were both lonely individuals, they both needed someone in their life despite claiming not to. In the end they were much more alike than he had thought at first.
What's the worst thing that could happen, really? One date doesn't mean anything. Arthur discarded any discouraging thoughts and knocked confidently at the door.
It took Alfred a few moments to open the door. To Arthur's bewilderment – and slight comfort – it was Alfred who looked even more anxious than he felt himself. The other seemed restless, with tousled hair as if he'd been ruffling it nervously over and over again. His smile was forced and he refused to look at Arthur properly when offering him a seat.
Clearing his throat the Omega finally made the Alpha focus on him.
"Well, I've reached my decision, Alfred. About dating," he clarified, marvelling at Alfred's fidgety behaviour. Weren't Alphas supposed to be self-confident? He'd always considered the other as an Alpha meeting general expectations. "I realised that I'll never know..if you can make me happy if I don't give you a chance. So I suppose one date wouldn't hurt–"
"Really?" the taller blonde asked, eyes sparkling with excitement. Sometimes he reminded Arthur of a child on Christmas Day. Sometimes, he emphasised, thinking of all the other facets of Alfred he'd encountered.
"Just one date," Arthur warned. "It doesn't mean anything. Afterwards, I'm deciding if I want to continue this or not. And–"
But Alfred didn't seem to hear any "justs" or "buts". Bubbling with mirth he'd started to make plans for them, proposing all the things they could do together. To him a heavy burden had been lifted from his chest. "This time you'll definitely enjoy yourself, just you and me and no one else forcing you to act all Omega-like. I'll show you a restaurant I'm sure you'll like and maybe we could watch a movie or do something fun...take a stroll in the park..or how about ice-skating? I know it's spring now, but–"
"Alfred," Arthur interrupted the babbling Alpha. Again he resisted to shake his head about his childlike acting. "Calm down. Just one date. And there's one condition I'd like to set up before going out with you."
"Whatever you want, babe," Alfred replied, smugness and confidence returning. A condition seemed petty and trivial compared to Arthur agreeing to date him.
"Two conditions," Arthur corrected himself. "Firstly, no ridiculous nicknames, such as "babe", "sweetheart", "Artie" and so on. We're not together. Even if, I wouldn't welcome you calling me that. And secondly, I'd like to share the bills and have a say in what we're doing."
"Bu–" the taller blonde started. Of course he would pay for the two of them. But one glance at Arthur's earnest eyes told him how important it was to the Omega to keep his independence. "All right, we'll share the costs. Anything specific you'd like to do?"
Arthur smiled. Perhaps, he'd been worrying for no reason at all.
A ring at the door startled Alfred who – again – wasn't expecting any visitors. Matthew was sitting next to him on the couch watching Star Wars with him. Since Alfred's breakdown a few months ago he kept a wary eye on his 'baby' brother. Unfortunately, though, he had forgotten who exactly he was expecting.
"No, he's not here," he heard his brother's exasperated voice. The tension radiating from the Alpha was almost palpable. "Besides, I'm surprised you've got the guts to ever show up here again." Quickly, Matthew leapt up and hurried to the front door where Alfred was trying to get rid of the Frenchman.
"Francis," he said softly, "I'm sorry. It totally slipped my mind that you wanted to drop by." He turned to Alfred who kept eyeing the Beta tensely. "Al, I know you don't like him, but there are things I need to discuss with him. And I want to do this myself. Then we can watch another movie or play some video games, all right?"
Reluctantly, he let his twin go with the Frenchman.
"Matthew, I know our relationship went terribly wrong and I'm not going to ask you to take me back, or to forgive me at all. But…do you think you are able to start over? If not right now, then at some point in the future?" Francis sounded completely sincere albeit not very hopeful. Pain and resignation radiated from his marine irises. As his mate or not, the purple-eyed Omega would always remain important to him, part of his heart always beat for him.
Matthew hesitated, the display of honesty, though, made him smile. "I'll think about it. But I can see that you mean what you are saying. I welcome that." The truth had always been their major problem. Starting with little white lies, excuses had cumulated until things escalated. Every time, Matthew had seen right through the farce and unable to take it any longer he had provoked confrontation. With devastating but liberating results. He felt better now, though he knew that Francis was still weeping.
Thoughtfully, the Frenchman stared upwards into the yellow light of a street lamp that had flickered on only moments ago. In the far west, the clouds shone pink and orange and yellow at the edges, and the sky was darkening by the minute. Most people were heading home now, seeking shelter from the chilly evening breeze.
"I understand. I don't want to pressure you now. I heard you've been to Canada?"
His smile widened a little. "Yes. It was lovely. A lovely distraction, just what I needed. And I got in touch with Omega rights' activists."
"Oh?" Francis asked curiously. "I remember you mentioning your wish to be politically active once or twice. Is there anything I could do to help you?"
Matthew eyed him warily, putting on an emotionless mask. He couldn't help but suspect that the Beta's only reason for offering his help derived from his underlying goal to win him back. Refraining from commenting on it he replied curtly. "I appreciate it, I really do. Until the organisation gains ground here there will only be lots of calls and planning to make with my Canadian colleagues. I'll call you as soon as I need help, okay?"
Francis sensed that he might as well receive no call at all, but there wasn't much that he could do beside asking. "All right, then. You still have my number?"
They came to a halt then. Only now, they realised the darkness around them. Aimlessly, they'd been wandering through the now deserted park near Alfred and Matthew's home. Moths were dancing around the feeble lamps lighting the way, their shadows painting blurry patterns on the gravel.
"We should head back, don't you think?"
Suppressing a shiver Matthew nodded.
When Arthur took a look at his closet he forgot about all his fears and 'what-ifs' regarding dating an Alpha – his employer no less. All his woes and sorrows of the past couple of days ebbed away in the face of a much more real and pressing issue. What was he supposed to wear? Sure, there was the outfit Alfred provided him with when he'd agreed to accompany him to that fancy charity gala, but…there was no way he could wear that again. It would make him look like a complete idiot. And by the time he had realised he didn't know how to dress it'd been far too late for a shopping trip.
Aimlessly, he rummaged through all the shirts and jackets he possessed – most of them dating back to his Beta years. He had more of a Beta physique anyway, was slimmer and taller than most Omegas, a side-effect of taking suppressants from early puberty on. After two hours of trying on different pieces of clothing he had finally decided to stick with a cream-coloured, pinstriped shirt, a fir green bow tie and black slacks. It was less formal than the ball outfit but it complimented his eyes.
Just when he was – fruitlessly – attempting on taming his hair a knock at the front door signalled him that it was time. A glance at his watch told him Alfred was punctual.
All right, this is it, Arthur. No turning back now. Just enjoy yourself.
With a last deep breath Arthur put on his coat and grabbed his wallet and keys from the dresser. As he opened the door he put on the kindest and most confident smile he could muster, only for the sight behind to take away his breath. A huge bouquet of roses, deep crimson and over twenty in number, was the first thing that struck his attention, followed by handsome as ever Alfred with his charming smile shining a little brighter than usual.
"Good evening, my beautiful," the Alpha greeted him, taking Arthur's right hand to brush its back with his lips. The gesture seemed to stir the shorter blonde from his trance.
"Good evening, Alfred," he replied, hoping his voice remained unaffected by his shaky nerves. The place that Alfred had kissed was tingling with a burning sensation. He took the flowers with a stammered "thank you" and rushed back inside to find a vase for them. A look in the mirror was unnecessary to tell that his cheeks were rivalling the colour of the flowers that were now decorating the dresser by the door.
The soft humming of the engine was the only sound to be heard in the car. Neither of them knew how to start a conversation, but the silence wasn't an uncomfortable one either. Arthur was examining Alfred's profile, how the city lights illuminated his golden hair and smooth features. That adorable cowlick bobbed ever so slightly whenever he stopped at a traffic light. Cerulean eyes kept focused on the road. Arthur let his eyes wander lower, almost bemoaning the fact that Alfred's muscles were hidden under his suit, leaving him to imagine what was beneath all these layers of fabric. No, no, no! You aren't thinking this!
Before he could tear his eyes away, though, the other had caught his lingering gaze from the corner of his eye. "Like what you see?" he asked smugly, stifling a chuckle.
Burning with embarrassment Arthur looked out of the window. "Oh, don't flatter yourself. And keep your eyes on the road," he scolded, feeling the Alpha's eyes on him now. He peered at him just in time to see the stealthy grin directed at him before Alfred settled for looking back at the road.
"Are you questioning my driving abilities?" he teased, letting out a laugh.
"I wasn't saying that. But even the best driver in the world couldn't perform well without paying attention," Arthur retorted.
"Are you implying that I'm–"
"Most certainly not, you insufferable git. Just get us to that bloody restaurant, all right?" The remark held no bite, though. For the remainder of the drive, they finally indulged in a light conversation, chatting about everything and nothing, their favourite music, the places they had seen, childhood and family.
"So, you cut all ties with them?" Alfred asked, incredulous at what Arthur had been telling him.
"Yes," he paused, "I never fit in, anyway. My brothers didn't like me a lot, probably because my parents babied me since they found out about my Nature. And my parents..well, I guess they didn't approve of the suppressants. They thought me ungrateful that I rejected my Nature after all they did for me. I never quite understood, actually."
"I'm sorry." Alfred suddenly felt the urge to reach out for him, anything to wipe the sadness from Arthur's face. The other didn't even realise how much it showed in his glassy eyes.
"You don't need to be. It's not your fault."
"But..I never knew you were all alone here in the States. I don't want you to be alone."
"Hey, just because my idiot brothers are still in the UK doesn't mean that I'm a loner." Not that I don't feel lonely all the same.
"Still..." Alfred trailed off, taking another left turn before the restaurant finally came in sight. Glad for the distraction he happily announced."Hey Artie, we're here."
Arthur, too, was thankful for the lift in the mood, yet still too deep in thought to notice – and reprimand – Alfred breaking one of his conditions by using the nickname. As soon as Alfred had parked his car he hurried over to the passenger's side to offer his Omega a hand. Arthur was torn between grumbling that he wasn't a sodding princess, and simply feeling happy at Alfred's gentlemanly demeanour.
The restaurant was on the top floor, providing you with a stunning view over the East River, especially at night. Crystalline chandeliers hanging from the ceiling competed with thousands of diamonds scattered on the water far below. Until a couple of weeks ago Arthur had resigned himself to the probability of never marvelling at such a glamour again. A waiter already awaited them at the door, taking their coats, then leading them to a table in a rather secluded corner near the window, where they were undisturbed yet able to look outside.
It took Arthur a few moments to take in his surroundings. His memories of the ball were clouded by the feeling of isolation, even with Alfred at his side he had felt completely and utterly alone. Here, hidden from society's sharp eyes, he could enjoy it all, enjoy himself with Alfred, enjoy the night belonging to them now.
"Do you like the place here? I hoped you would."
Are you kidding me? "Yes, it's lovely, Alfred. But I thought we had agreed that you'd pick some place less costly."
"Only the best for you, only the best," he retorted sheepishly. When Alfred was using charm Arthur knew it was useless to argue with him. It was hard not to throw his own rules overboard and let the other carry him to the end of the universe. "Besides, this is by far not the most expensive place in this city."
Skimming the leather bound menu the waiter had brought Arthur had to acknowledge that he was right. After he'd made his choice he handed it over to Alfred who'd probably go with the usual.
"What are they thinking? It's rude of them to only leave one menu at a table for two." Arthur was visibly irritated, yet kept his voice down.
"Well, an Alpha usually chooses for his Omega," Alfred replied cautiously, knowing the other wouldn't like the answer.
"I know this, but we aren't even together."
Yet. "Still, it's custom. But this is just you and me here. We don't have to abide by the rules," Alfred winked, with a thrillingly mischievous glint in his eyes. It was a fairly simple statement under fairly simple circumstances and yet it made Arthur's heart swell. It gave him the comforting feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, this could work out after all.
Throughout the evening, Alfred supplied him with stories of his childhood and in return he told him more about himself. While listening to these fantastic adventures, though, Arthur couldn't help but suspect the other subtly twisting and bending some facts. Always the knight in shining armour he'd saved nothing short of mankind a couple of times already. And of course he'd been completely innocent of whatever deed his mother had accused him of as a child. The Omega merely chuckled at the self-praise, though. On Alfred, in an unexplainable way, it was far more endearing than arrogant, far more intriguing than repelling. You simply couldn't hold it against him.
As the waiter approached to serve the main course, they'd been enthralled in a particularly vivid episode of a Christmas at the Jones's place many, many winters before. Apparently, Alfred had managed to take down the Christmas tree.
Arthur looked up at the man placing his plate in front of him and uttered a small "Thanks."
"So, you accidentally pulled the garland and the Christmas tree tumbled on top of you?" Arthur struggled to contain his laughter.
"I didn't say that. The dog followed me into the living room and was all excited so she got tangled in it."
"Karma. Alfred Jones, you shouldn't sneak into the living room to look at your presents at four in the morning already."
"Why am I even telling you this?" he pouted. Secretly, he was enjoying himself though.
Arthur smirked. "Yeah, why indeed?"
Alfred's face had changed, though, from a childish pout into a warmer, more sincere expression. "It's good to see you smile. You should do it more often." Before Arthur could respond he clasped his hands in his own and grinned, stifling any protests that may have been forming on those lips.
"Have you found anything yet?" A gruff voice inquired impatiently as the young, brute blonde sat down in front of the desk. By now he had learned not to let his mentor intimidate him, not when he mustered him, seized him up like this, with blue eyes as hard and cold as two balls of ice. Ludwig was very much used to the way the other put his elbows on the table and folded his hands, staring at him haughtily, almost gleefully, as if he was expecting his employee to fail accomplishing the task he'd assigned him and looking forward to humiliate him for it. Only to be disappointed.
Dutifully, the younger man retrieved a thick file from his briefcase and placed it on the polished table. "All the names of those in this town who might be categorised as a potential threat." As the taller blonde behind the desk skimmed the list he went on. "My assistant and I have been investigating the subjects in the past couple of days."
"News on any underground organisations forming in this district?"
"None. At least not officially. But rumour has it there are established ones up in Canada seeking contacts here in the States. Mr Honda is doing research on that as we speak."
Ludwig seemed to hesitate for a brief moment before continuing. "Some of the suspects might be associating with our circle of friends. How should we deal with them?"
The older blonde frowned. "Friends? I doubt it. Keep me informed about the investigation. We'll decide how to handle those 'friends' in time. You're dismissed."
If there's anyone out there who still cares about this, let me know what you think! I always love your input :3 I'd actually intended this chappy to be longer but I wanted to cut it here. The next one is in progress already.