blood_winged: (USxUK - Map)
[personal profile] blood_winged
Title: White Flag [3/?]
Genre: Romance
Characters/Pairing: America, England, France. US/UK
Rating/Warnings: PG for later. Possibly R. I'm not sure yet.
Summary: Arthur finally plucks up the nerve to ask Alfred out on a date, only to find that the American nation has never looked at him 'that way'. However, the simple request sets off an uncomfortable train of thought in Alfred's mind as he begins to wonder exactly why that might be.

A/N: Also titled 'oh god I am still writing this'.

*****


“What the bloody hell was I thinking? Of course he doesn’t see me that way.”

The small fairy who had been patiently listening to him and nodding to everything he said for the past half an hour finally became bored with pretending that she understood what he was talking about and turned her back on him, walking a foot across the table and disappearing in a small shower of sparks. Arthur let out a groan, bumped his head against the table, then grunted and sat up, rubbing his forehead. There had to be a better way to let out some tension than sitting in his house talking to fairies.

He cast his gaze around, and then pulled a copy of the Yellow Pages towards himself, thumbing through it until he found exactly what he was looking for. It was fifteen minutes later with a gym bag in his hand that he left the house, still muttering to himself.

Arthur wasn’t going to let this get to him. It wasn’t the first time he’d been rejected and it wasn’t going to be the last, and like hell if he was going to turn into a mess over it. He had a much better idea about what he could do, and as he pulled up into the gym car park and headed up to the doors he knew his body would undoubtedly hate him for it in the morning. At least, though, it would be better than a hangover. Gyms had changed a lot since the last time he’d been in one. It was clean, almost sterile, and he could smell the chlorine from the swimming pool as he paid and moved through to the changing room. Francis had once described Arthur as slender, and he’d been right – there was little to him in the way of muscle mass, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t throw as good a punch as anyone else.

The focus of his annoyance ended up being a helpless punching bag hanging in the gym. While a few women nearby huffed and puffed as they jogged on treadmills, Arthur wrapped some cloth around his knuckles, powdered his hands so they wouldn’t sweat, and began to take everything out on the fixed bag of leather and stuffing. At first it felt like punching a wall, then slowly he began to find a rhythm and it seemed as if the bag was giving way under his fists. The chain fixing it to the floor rattled each time he hit it, and he was letting out soft grunts of exertion that went entirely unnoticed until a driving kick to the side of the bag sent it swinging free as one of the chains holding it up snapped with a dull crunching of metal.

The suddenness of it made him stagger, and it was as if his strings had been cut and all the strength drained out of him. He panted and leaned forwards, his hands on his knees, and glanced over his shoulder to find that everyone else in the immediate vicinity was watching him. Arthur swallowed, then coughed, almost retching and pressing the back of his hand to his mouth. Seating himself heavily on a nearby bench he dropped his head down and rested his forearms across his thighs, feeling every limb shaking. Perhaps he’d been more bothered about it than he thought, he mused as he watched the punching bag swinging lopsidedly.

Flexing his fingers, he unwrapped his hands, finding his knuckles already darkening.

***

Seeing other nations, particularly nations like Alfred who had their noses in everything, was something that was completely unavoidable, and it was little less than a week until he saw Alfred again.

Arthur was rubbing his knuckles, still yellowed with fading bruises, when Alfred entered the room, laughing loudly at something that Francis had said before the door opened. He fell silent when the English nation looked up at him, and their eyes met for a long moment. While he was usually so open, there was something in his eyes today that Arthur couldn’t read, and he narrowed his gaze on the younger man as he strolled across the room as nonchalantly as he could possibly manage and dropped into a chair. Alfred looked at him again, then glanced down at his hands.

“What did ya do to those?” he asked. Arthur frowned and made a vain effort to pull the sleeves of his jacket down to cover them.

“Nothing,” he muttered.

“Aw, come on, did you get into a bar fight when you were drunk?” Alfred was trying to joke, but the way he nudged up against Arthur’s shoulder and grinned only made Arthur want to hit him as much as it made something right in the centre of his heart ache. “You can tell me.”

“I didn’t get into a sodding fight,” Arthur hissed. “I was at the gym.”

“Doing what? Hitting a wall?”

“A punching bag, and it’s none of your bloody business.”

It looked, then, like Alfred was doing his best not to laugh. “A punching bag? What, do you think you’re Rocky or something? C’mon, Arts. Everyone knows you can’t fight.”

“Ah, Amérique…” Francis, his head cocked to betray that he’d been eavesdropping, finally turned his full attention to the conversation and tried to diffuse what would inevitable turn into some kind of drama. Generally, he preferred his drama on the television if he wasn’t the one causing it, and Arthur knew that, but he waved the man aside and looked at Alfred with a flat, somewhat unfriendly expression.

“You think I can’t fight?”

Alfred looked as if he was trying to imagine Arthur wearing boxing gloves. He sniggered, and out of the corner of his eye Arthur saw Francis press a hand to his face as Alfred shook his head in response to the question. Arthur stood up, and straightened his tie.

“I refuse to rise to this. I fight with words, America, not with my fists, because I am a gentleman, not a hooligan.”

Except when he was drunk, but that was a different matter entirely. He moved from his seat to one at the other side of the room, pointedly sitting beside Matthew and striking up conversation. Through the meeting, Arthur felt the other man’s eyes on him every now and then, but he refused to look up. Though he would have liked nothing more, at that moment, to have punched the idiot, he had to take the high road, and talking to Matthew over the course of the meeting that followed calmed him down considerably.

By the time it was over, he’d all but forgotten why he was angry.

Alfred was waiting for him outside, with an expression on his face like a schoolboy waiting to be scolded. He had a polystyrene cup in his hand, and as Arthur appeared, he held it out to him.

“What’s that?” Arthur muttered, shifting his briefcase to his left hand.

“Just tea. It’s not very good, I think but…” the younger man shrugged, and handed the cup over. Machine-brewed tea was never very good and always tasted like cardboard, but the gesture was appreciated, and Arthur felt himself blushing, near enough furious at himself for the fact. Why did this boy just make it so difficult to be angry with him? Arthur sighed, and nodded slightly.

“Thank you, Alfred.”

There was an awkward silence, then, broken only by Arthur sipping at the tea and doing his best not to pull a face at the taste of it.

“Erm, look, Arts, there’s a few of us going out for a drink now and I was wondering if, y’know, you wanted to come. If it ain’t too ungentlemanly for you.”

“Depends who ‘us’ is,” he muttered, trying another sip of the tea to see if it tasted better the second time around. It didn’t.

“Uh, me, Matt, Gil, Francis, Antoni—”

“Pass.” Arthur tipped the tea into an unfortunate nearby plant pot. Alfred didn’t seem to notice.

“Oh, come on, Arts! You won’t have to sit near him! We even got Kiku to come.”

He thought about it. On the one hand… Spain. He preferred to spend his time as far away from Spain as possible. On the other, he could really use a drink, and drinking alone at home soon lost its novelty. He nodded once, and Alfred made a sound as if all his birthdays had come at once and slung his arm around the older man’s shoulders, all but hauling him along the corridor to the small group waiting outside. Arthur didn’t check to see if Antonio looked particularly annoyed at seeing he’d agreed to come along, simply walking somewhat stiffly in Alfred’s grip as he crowed a cheerful ‘look who I found!’ and didn’t seem to be intending to move his arm.

“So,” he said after a few minutes. “… Where did you really get those bruises?”

Arthur sighed. This was going to be a long night.

-------------------

<| Chapter Two | Chapter Four |>

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