Arthur stood in the doorway gazing at the rain-drenched blond on his steps. Alfred wore a hesitant smile, and shifted his weight under Arthur's tired but scrutinizing gaze.
"Come inside, you git. You're going to catch a cold." The Englishman stepped aside to let the other through and closed the door. He retreated further into the house to find a towel, leaving Alfred alone in the entryway.
The American pulled off his wet bomber jacket and fiddled quietly with the collar before hanging it up as Arthur re-entered the room.
"What's wrong with you? You've not spoken a word since you've arrived and you've hung up your jacket properly." Arthur asked, pulling Alfred's head down to dry his hair.
The silence between the two that followed was thick; Alfred fidgeted under the Brit's hands, not looking up to make eye contact. The rain pounding on the windows and roof, the house creaking under the wind, and Arthur's calm breaths were the only sounds and they only made Alfred more nervous.
Arthur tilted Alfred's face to look him in the eyes, his brows furrowed and a deep frown on his lips. "Alfred?"
Alfred gulped and stared into intense green eyes. "Th-there's something I need to tell you…" he whispered, his voice ragged. He cursed the uncertainty in his voice.
Arthur frowned and looked away, lifting an impressive eye brow, but saying nothing as he started drying Alfred's face and neck. After drying Texas and placing it back on Alfred's nose, Arthur stood back and put the towel over Alfred's jacket on the coat rack.
"Would you like some tea… or coffee?" Arthur added the last bit quietly; reluctant to admit he stored coffee in his house for when Alfred came to visit. He was surprised when Alfred shook his head.
Arthur raised his eyebrows and put his hands on his hips, but did not otherwise voice his surprise. "Let's move into the sitting room then, shall we?"
Alfred took off his boots and followed Arthur into a large but cozy room. A fire burned in the fireplace. In front of it was a coffee table in between two couches. The walls were painted a warm brown; a few pictures adorned the walls and a small bookcase sat in the corner of the room. The entire room smelled of tea and parchment.
Arthur took a seat on one of the couches. Alfred sat next to him, resting his arms on his knees and staring at the old coffee table. Alfred took a deep breath.
"I… I think I love you."
Arthur blinked. Surely Alfred wasn't suggesting…
Arthur scoffed and rolled his eyes, "Why yes, Alfred, I l-"
"No, Arthur, I mean it. I love you." Alfred looked up, a seriousness not usually reflected in his blue eyes. A few moments were silent, the rain once again the only sound.
"Don't be ridiculous," Arthur snapped, standing abruptly and turning away.
"I'm not being ridiculous," Alfred said with a frown, standing as well. "I love you! I'll say it as many times as I need to."
"Stop it," Arthur whispered, his hands clenching into fists.
Alfred ignored him, "I know we fight all the time, but that's just for fun! I don't really mean all the terrible things I say to you sometimes. In the past I know we've hurt each other with some of the fights we've had; you were drunk, I was stupid, whatever! But I'm tired of putting up this act. I love you, and I know you love me too!"
"Stop," Arthur said again, louder, squeezing his eyes shut.
"I've loved you for so long," Alfred continued. "The way I felt changed; I loved you more than as just a brother. I didn't want to love you as a brother, even before the Revolution, that's why I had to-"
Alfred was shocked into silence. Slowly, he reached a hand out to comfort Arthur.
"Who do you think you are?!" Arthur whipped around and knocked Alfred's hand away. Blue eyes widened as they looked into teary emerald.
"You come here and ask for me for what?! Acceptance? Love? Do you think I can let you in again after what you did?! The scars you left will never go away, Alfred!"
Alfred opened his mouth to say something, anything, but Arthur took a step forward. His whole body trembled, and he covered his face with one shaky hand as he let out a small sob.
"You broke my heart, Alfred. What you did wasn't out of love; you wanted to get away from me, to be 'free.' Don't come back now and say you want me again, not when I've finally been able to cope without you. Just don't. I can't do it again. I can't…" His voice broke on his last word. He curled in on himself as another sob wracked his body, arms wrapping tightly around his chest as though trying to hold himself together.
Alfred's heart clenched watching tears spill from Arthur's eyes. He laid a hand on Arthur's shoulder when it wasn't swatted away. Arthur's knees buckled and Alfred lunged forward and caught him in his arms, holding him close and rubbing circles on his back.
Alfred kissed the top of his blond head and Arthur shuddered, inhaling the scent of coffee and sweat and rain and Alfred; hating the man he clung to so desperately, but loving him so much it made his heart ache even more.
He buried his face in Alfred's rain-dampened shoulder and slid his arms around Alfred's middle, squeezing tightly. Alfred squeezed back and shushed him, kissing his head again.
"I'm so sorry Arthur," Alfred stroked Arthur's hair and spoke in a low, soothing voice, "If I hadn't left, I couldn't be with you the way I wanted to. I had to be your equal, an adult. I haven't said anything until now because I was afraid of what you'd say, of this happening or worse! Arthur, please give me another chance. I'll never hurt you again, I promise! I'm… I'm a hero, Artie, I…"
Arthur pushed himself away and stepped back, looking up at Alfred with overflowing eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks.
It felt as if a cold hand had reached inside Alfred's chest and ripped out his heart. His stomach lurched, and his eyes stung with tears. The cold seeped in to his bones, shaking him to the core. The rejection overcame him like a tidal wave, the weight of it bearing down on him, his shoulders slumped.
His shaky hands released Arthur and hung limp at his sides. Swallowing and looking away, Alfred uttered a small "oh" and bit his lip, willing those stupid tears away.
Arthur shook his head and touched Alfred's cheek gently. "I love you, Alfred, but I can't. I can't trust you with my heart again, not after you broke it so completely. It'll happen again, and I can't go through that."
Alfred grabbed Arthur's hand and looked up. "But I won't, Arthur! I'll never leave you, never!"
Arthur shook his head more firmly. "You will, because that's just who you are. You're bloody America; always changing, always moving on to the biggest and the best and the newest," he said. Arthur smiled sadly and pulled Alfred down to touch their foreheads together, "And I'm just England. I'm old news, Alfred, and you'll get bored of me, just like you did before."
Alfred squeezed the hand in his and took deep breaths to stop the tears. Arthur still thought he was a child, and the last thing he wanted was for Arthur to see him crying. "B-but Arthur! I-"
Arthur shushed him and gently wiped a tear away from Alfred's too blue eyes. "Go, Alfred. Leave. And don't look back," he said, but his voice lacked conviction and he looked close to tears again, "You'll thank me later, America, just go!"
Alfred flinched at the raised voice and the use of his other name, but let go of Arthur's hand and moved slowly to the entryway. He put his damp jacket back on and laced up his boots.
He didn't look back when he heard Arthur crumple to the floor in tears; he just opened the door and walked out into the crisp autumn breeze. The cold nipped at his tear-stained cheeks, and the wind whistled in his ears, but none of it was colder than the ice he felt taking the place of his heart.
He walked through the gate and out on to the sidewalk, and he never looked back.