"Alfred... might you be able to spare a moment? I have something I want to talk to you about."
The boy in question glanced up, curious, but shrugged it off as he slung his backpack over his shoulder. He'd known Arthur for five years now and for his friend to so politely ask to talk to him was weird. Still, it was Arthur, and after a summer in England it was possible that he'd gone and picked up some weird habits again. "Sure thing, Artie."
Strangely, the other boy didn't react to the nickname at all. Instead Arthur fidgeted with the strap of his own bag and glanced around, as though to verify that they were alone in the classroom. When he found that they weren't, he frowned. "Somewhere else, I mean...? It's a little, er... personal..." He murmured low, so that only Alfred would hear.
"Oh, um. Okay."
Somehow they ended up on the roof.
Alfred glanced at the phone he kept in his pocket, slipping the device up just enough to see the time. He had practice soon, after all. "So what's this about, anyway?" He said, half-laughing. "You make it sound like you're about to tell me some big national secret."
The British boy looked openly uncomfortable and laughed awkwardly. "Well, yes. I suppose I have." He admitted, which was also strange. Arthur tended to bristle when he made jokes but now he was shuffling from foot to foot and wringing his hands.
Alfred watched him, blinking at the peculiar behavior.
"Have you ever..." Arthur began slowly, "liked someone?"
Feeling his brow furrow, Alfred looked at him with amusement. "Liked someone? How so?"
"Well, just..." A pregnant pause. "Is there anyone you--, no, I mean..." Arthur looked visibly pained.
"Hey, you okay man?" Alfred said, not sure whether to laugh or be worried about his friend. While his actions were kind of cute, Alfred wasn't sure what to make of it all. It looked like he was short-circuiting with how red he was turning.
"Er-- it's just. What I mean to say is--," Arthur stammered, flushing red, "I... I fancy you, Alfred."
Emerald green looked at him, expectant.
Alfred blinked, trying to process this. He cocked his head one way, then the other, then crossed his arms. "You... fancy me?" He repeated, thinking he'd misheard.
"Yes, I-- Yes." Arthur pressed his lips together, again looking as though he were waiting for some kind of response to that.
Alfred peered at him.
... This was a British thing, wasn't it?
"Oh. Well." Alfred grinned, feeling triumphant. "I don't fancy you, but I can totally see why you'd fancy me." He announced smoothly. "Was that all you wanted to say? That's really silly." He added, laughing slightly.
Arthur was staring at him, his expression carefully blank. "Oh, I... That was it. Yes. That was all..."
"Cool, 'cause I gotta get to practice." Alfred told him, checking his phone again. He turned for the door to the roof. "See ya later, Artie!"
He shrugged off the silence that followed him, making his way quickly down the stairs. If he was late, his coach would kill him.
Alfred preened internally though.
He didn't always understand British slang, but he hated to ask what things meant because, more often then not, he'd get an earful on the faults of the American education system and blah, blah, blah. And he usually got it right anyway if he just thought about it for a little bit.
Still, wasn't it a little odd for Arthur to go out of his way just to tell Alfred that he liked his fashion sense?
It was kind of cute though. Maybe he was acclimating to the states now. Maybe he even wanted tips!
And what was Alfred to say in return, anyway? Bulky sweaters and turtlenecks and those little effeminate jackets just weren't his thing.
Regardless, he'd just shown Arthur that, no matter what strange words the British boy used, Alfred could understand the meaning just fine. American education system, indeed.
Arthur was avoiding him.
Alfred hadn't been sure at first, but after about a month it became almost painfully obvious that that was what was going on. And his brother thought he was slow? Pft.
But the little incidents had begun to add up, one by one, until it became something that he simply couldn't ignore. Arthur was doing what he could not to be alone with him and...
And that fact hurt, really.
A lot more than Alfred really wanted to admit.
"Hey Arthur, you wanna eat lunch together--,"
"Sorry, Jones. I'm busy."
"So I need help with this English assignment. Can you come over today? Mom's making her awesome lasagna again and--,"
"Apologies, Alfred, I have a doctor's appointment this afternoon."
"Oh, well, maybe tomorrow then?"
"I'm sorry, but no. I'm just too busy."
"Hey, the guys said you were holed up in the library so I thought maybe I'd come keep you company. Math homework, right--?"
"I was just leaving, actually."
And it went on like that for weeks. If they had a class together, Arthur would insist he needed to focus on taking notes, if they happened to meet during lunch, he'd skitter away from him with some excuse readied at his lips and often forego food entirely just to get away, and if Alfred tried to stop him or sought him out after hours or called him or texted him...
Arthur got angry.
And it hurt. So much. It made Alfred's chest ache because, after all these years, suddenly Arthur was rejecting him at every turn. And, if he were completely honest with himself, it bothered him beyond the typical reasons his peers might have assumed, because he didn't just value Arthur as his friend.
He damn well loved the guy.
And not even in a bromance sort of way, but in a full-on, masturbatory fantasy, Alfred and Arthur sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G, sort of way. And, sure, maybe no one else really knew he was gay, and maybe he didn't really feel comfortable telling anyone, but he had thought that, eventually, when the time was right, it'd come up between him and Arthur and he could gently break the news and see how the other boy felt regarding it and then, after that, well, see where things went from there.
Sure, it'd make things awkward at first, of course, but Alfred had hope that, in the long run, he might be able to confess. Even if Arthur rejected him, as long as he understood his feelings and didn't think of him as disgusting, Alfred would be happy. Maybe they'd even be able to talk about sex more, in general, and Alfred could gush over hot guys while Arthur talked about 'pretty birds'-- if the other boy was straight, that is.
It'd be ideal if he weren't, of course, but jokes about fruity, English gents aside, Alfred knew his chances were slim. He'd seen the magazines Arthur kept tucked under his bed and Alfred was sorely lacking the breasts and bod that those ladies had.
Yet even his most optimistic dreams were slipping away from him now and Alfred couldn't help the gnawing fear that maybe, somehow, Arthur had found out without him even having said a thing. Maybe he had already decided that Alfred was gross or maybe he thought the American boy a sin or maybe-- maybe--
Maybe it was something else entirely.
Still, Arthur was distancing himself, clearly, and Alfred cared for him so much that it was becoming a physical ache.
So, naturally, he had to do something about it.
"Is it because I'm gay?"
Arthur's entire body jerked as the British boy turned to look at him, dropping the paper cup of tea in his hands, yet not even bothering to look down at it as earl grey splattered all over his jeans and the pavement. "W- what?"
Alfred took a step forward, wondering if that reaction was a yes. "You're avoiding me, aren't you?"
The other boy's bright green eyes darted to the side, as though to look for an escape, and Alfred felt frustration boil up in his chest.
"I know you are, don't even try to deny it!" He said, yelling a bit too loudly and gaining the attention of some of their peers.
"Oh for Christ's sake, Alfred...!" Arthur hissed, grabbing his wrist and dragging him out of the courtyard as curious eyes watched them go.
They ended up behind the theater building.
Arthur was raking his hands through his hair, looking antsy and weary and, honestly, like a rabbit afraid that a wolf was about to pounce.
Was that how it was now? Alfred a predator because he just so happened to like dick a little too much? He watched the other boy, unable to suppress the bitter conclusions in his mind.
"Look now-- what are you on about, Alfred? This isn't like you." Arthur said and, now that Alfred was looking at him more closely, he noticed the way the other's cheeks appeared a bit more gaunt and the light, purple circles under his eyes that bespoke of sleep deprivation.
"You've been avoiding me, Arthur. I'm not an idiot."
Arthur released a hissed breath. "Yes-- okay, fine. I have. And what of it? Isn't that natural?"
"Wow." Alfred said, barking a laugh. "Natural? You're gonna go and segregate me now? I didn't think you were that fucking judgmental."
"Judgmental?" Arthur balked.
Alfred shook his head. "You're an ass, you know that."
The British boy moved forward, suddenly all anger, bristling in a way that Alfred had only seen a handful of times. "Now see here, you insufferable git, I've had enough of this-- of this shite. I don't know what the hell has gotten into you, but enough! Yes, I've been avoiding you! Of course I have been! After what you said to me--," Arthur jerked back and suddenly Alfred saw the tears.
"You laughed at me!" Arthur said, his voice cracking even as his face contorted into a bitter, humorless smile. "You damn well laughed in my face..."
Alfred blinked. "I don't understand--," He shook his head. "You're not avoiding me because I'm gay?"
Arthur stared at him, green eyes dancing with disbelief. "You're gay?" He said, sounding honestly surprised.
"You... didn't know?"
"Of course not! Why would I?"
The bell rung, announcing that morning class was to begin in three minutes.
Arthur looked up, as though the noise were a beacon one could see. "... Class is starting soon..." He murmured, rubbing at an eye.
Grade A Academic and Studious Jock. They both valued attendance.
Arthur glanced at him, wary but intrigued. "We'll have to continue this later..." He said.
"I can't. Mum's picking me up."
Alfred hummed. "Tomorrow afternoon is Friday right?"
"Well, I don't have anything going on then, so how about we hang out? Like, for realsies hang out? Go get food and maybe see a movie or something?"
Arthur wrinkled his nose. "That sounds like a date." He pointed out.
"So is that a no?"
"I didn't say that." Arthur sighed. "Alright, fine. Sure."
Alfred couldn't help the grin that lit up his face.
Arthur still looked suspicious and more than a little irritated, but--
But maybe things could be salvaged after all.
From whatever it was that they were now.
And, moreover, Arthur didn't seem to care at all that he was gay.
That fact followed Alfred around for the remainder of the day, making his chest warm with a giddiness that could hardly be contained.
Arthur was so cute it was almost difficult to believe.
Sometimes Alfred wondered if he were an alien and not just the foreign kind but the actual, out-of-this-world type, because as Friday afternoon came all too quickly, he found the boy standing off to the side of the school's entrance, waiting for him with the most delectable pout on his face.
God, he wanted to just eat him up.
"Heya, Artie!" He greeted, reveling in the way his friend jumped and scowled. It felt good to go back to the way things had been, although technically none of that had really been resolved just yet.
"My name is Arthur."
"Yeah, that's why it's called a nickname." He quipped, grinning. "Ready to go?"
The other boy exhaled a sigh, looking fairly put out. "Yes. I suppose."
"Awesome!" Alfred grabbed his wrist and dragged him down the side walk towards the shopping center, ignoring his protests in favor of savoring the feeling of soft skin beneath his palm.
When Arthur did manage to free his hand, it was with red cheeks and a sputtered, "I can walk on my own, thank you!"
"I know, but I'm really excited!" Alfred admitted, only slightly worried that his friend might take that the wrong way.
Or the right way, all things considered.
"We haven't hung out in ages!"
Arthur sniffed. "That's hardly my fault."
"It's totally your fault, dude."
The other boy's face crumbled slightly and he looked away. "I... guess so." He said. "I'm sorry. It... I never meant to make things awkward between us."
Alfred blinked at that, brow furrowing. "Oh, uh... it's totally fine. Just don't do it again."
Arthur shot him a strange look--almost hurt--but then it was gone, hidden beneath something else entirely. Alfred wasn't sure what to make of it.
"Anyway!" He continued, hoping to lighten the mood. "Let's have fun tonight, alright? No more avoiding me after this. That was totally uncool."
His classmate and long time friend didn't look convinced, but he nodded. "Er, yes. Okay, then."
Alfred watched as Arthur daintily dipped a single fry into a tiny cup of ketchup before delicately lifting the thin piece of fried potato to his mouth and nibbling on the end with wet, peach-colored lips.
Squirming slightly, he tried to focus on his burger.
Arthur always accused him of liking this food a little overly much, but really it was just that every time they came here Arthur would order the same thing, which included small fries, and every time he ate them he would do so one by one, with a deliberateness that was almost hypnotizing.
So of course he loved McDonald's. How could he not when it was always dinner and a show?
In the past he had felt disgusted by his voyeurism but now...
Well, it was still kind of a shameful indulgence. He had an oral fixation-- what could he say? Everything was always mouths with him and it only made it a thousand times worse when it was the one he wanted so desperately to kiss.
"Are you listening at all, Alfred?"
He snapped to attention at that, blue meeting green as his expression of surprise gave away that no, no he hadn't been.
Arthur rolled his eyes and bit off another small section of the fry in his hand before swallowing it. "I'm not giving them to you so you can stop with the staring."
Alfred grinned unabashedly. "You know me too well, Artie." He said, sucking on the straw of his soda for a distraction.
Arthur simply looked away, slightly awkward. "Not as well as I had thought..." He muttered.
"What was that?"
Frowning, Alfred looked down at his plate, wondering if Arthur intended that as a comment on his being gay. After all, it had to have come as something of a shock, right? Because it was kind of unusual and he knew some of the other guys around would be really uncomfortable with knowing that about him. He'd thought Arthur would be different though.
Maybe he was wrong?
"I'm... sorry I kept it from you." Alfred said, looking up, earnest.
Arthur blinked at him. "What?"
"That I'm gay." The other boy flinched and Alfred winced. "Gosh, I... Yeah, I'll... fuck, I shouldn't bring it up, huh? I'm sorry." He ran a hand through his hair, wishing he'd just kept his damn mouth shut.
"No, no, I..." Arthur began, his face slightly red as he looked down at his food, out the window-- at anything that wasn't Alfred. "It's not... I don't mind that you're--..."
"It's fine, Artie." Alfred laughed, taking pity on him. "You don't have to pretend, I understa--,"
"Will you just listen to me for one bleeding moment, you git?" Arthur hissed, clearly trying to keep the confrontation a quiet one. "I don't rightly care that your gay. Why the bloody hell would I when I'm bisexual?"
Alfred felt as though all the air had left him in a single, sudden go, and he stared at his friend with wide, disbelieving eyes. "Y- you... You are?"
Hope. This was what hope felt like, wasn't it? Because if Arthur sort of liked guys too, then maybe... maybe...
If he was really lucky...
Oh man, he'd never ask Santa for anything again if he could just have this.
"Yes." Arthur said, staring at him now with open befuddlement. "I thought that much was obvious."
Alfred laughed. "Well, I dunno, I mean. I guess?" Was it obvious? He couldn't really tell. This was probably one of those 'can't see the forest for the trees' things, huh?
Arthur was staring at him now, brow tightly knit. And then he looked down at his food.
Unable to help himself, Alfred swallowed before blurting out, "So, do you like anyone?"
The Brit's head jerked up. "Pardon?"
"Do you, you know... like anyone? Like... like like?" Alfred grinned, although he felt more tense than anything else. He'd never really been tactful or patient and he realized that maybe this was, well, too soon to be asking a question like this.
Yet that kind of thing had never stopped him in the past.
Arthur was peering over at him with such a profound look of confusion that Alfred almost felt like laughing. And he would have, if he weren't suddenly feeling very stomach sick, because maybe that look meant that Arthur knew...
And if Arthur knew and was giving him that look then...
... then that was a pretty bad sign.
"Never mind." Alfred added before the awkward silence could stretch on any further.
For a moment neither of them said anything and all he could feel was the pounding of his own frantic heart.
But then Arthur looked up at him.
"Do you..." His friend began, hesitating before, "Do you? Like anyone, that is?"
Alfred felt warmth in his chest as he smiled and said, "Yeah. I do."
He wasn't sure how to feel about the fact that Arthur's neutral expression suddenly tore into something that looked like devastation.
"I should go."
Arthur was on his feet and out the door before Alfred could say another word.
Alfred jerked into motion, although he was totally cool and awesome and grabbed their school bags first before blindly dashing out after his friend. And then he was lucky, too, because he caught sight of Arthur's back just as the other boy disappeared around a corner.
Speeding after him, Alfred dodged by people on the sidewalk as he gave chase, relieved to see that his friend hadn't made it too far once he turned after where he'd last seen him.
He saw the boy in question flinch before his pace picked up speed and Alfred breathed a soft curse as he ran a little faster, hoping to make up for the distance between them. He wasn't even sure why Arthur was running, but he could feel his own heart pounding a painful thump in his chest and he knew that always meant he'd fucked up even if he wasn't really sure how...
Arthur was heading into the park and he darted out into the road to cut across after him, thankful that there were no cars around as his tennis shoes finally met the stone pathway. It was all a blur of motion after that, but he could only focus on willing his legs faster as Arthur darted down a side path.
And then the distance between them shrank and shrank until he practically barreled into his friend, arms latching around the smaller boy's waist as he caught him.
Unfortunately he'd forgotten about momentum, so that ended up launching them into a tumble off the path and onto a stretch of grass and fallen leaves nestled in a grove of trees.
"Let me go, let me go, let me go--!" Arthur protested nonsensically, sounded half-hysterical, and Alfred lifted his body weight off of the smaller boy with an apology on his lips, but that died when he saw his face.
He was half pressed into the grass, but it was clear as day that he'd been crying--was crying, actually--his cheeks red and puffy and wet even as he pinched his eyes closed, pushing against Alfred to get him off of him.
"Whoa, whoa, calm down. Arthur! Calm down! What's going on--!" He said, alarmed, turning him over so that Arthur was on his back, only distantly aware of the fact that he was straddling him.
Emerald green blinked up him and flinched at the brightness of the sun as Arthur sucked in a wet gasp of air. "L- leave me... leave me alone..." He pleaded, the words sounding like a sob.
Fuck, it damn well broke his heart to see him looking like that.
"No, no, c'mon. What's wrong, Artie?" He murmured, leaning forward to half-hug him as he pressed his palms to the smaller boy's cheeks and wiped away some of the dampness.
Arthur sniffled and then made a sound like a whine. "S- stop it..."
"Not until you tell me what happened. Why are you crying?"
And then, suddenly, anger, like a light had been switched on, and Arthur was thrashing against him, making Alfred back off as the other boy say up. "Why am I crying!?" Arthur repeated, livid. "What kind of game are you playing with me, because I-- I just... I can't believe you!"
"I don't-- what? I'm not playing any game. Hey!" Arthur shoved him and he grabbed his wrists. "Wait. Please! Please tell me what's going on-- I don't understand!"
"What do you mean you don't understand!?" Arthur yelled.
Alfred felt his chest twist painfully at the betrayed look his friend was giving him as he held onto his wrists, despite the way the other boy was attempting to jerk them free. "I don't--,"
"I'm sorry, okay." Arthur said suddenly, tears springing to life anew.
"I'm sorry I dared like the great Alfred F. Jones. I'm sorry it hurt when you laughed and said that that was silly. I'm sorry I avoided you because it was painful to be around you and I'm sorry I, apparently, single-handedly made things 'awkward' between us." And the Arthur stopped to gasp for air, brow furrowed and angry, tears streaming down his cheeks, and chest heaving from the effort of it all.
Alfred hardly noticed any of it, though, as he released Arthur's wrists, watching as the other boy rubbed at them with tearful annoyance. "You..."
Arthur looked up him.
"... You like me?"
"So help me if you laugh again, I'll--,"
"No, no, I mean. Wait. What?" Alfred leaned forward to still what was likely another rant, his hands coming down to grab Arthur's shoulders as he looked at him. "You like me? Like... like like?"
Those wide, teary eyes darted away and then back again, as though panicked. "I did-- I do-- I..." Arthur looked actually scared and Alfred could only believe him.
"Since when?" He breathed, still not comprehending what was going on. "I mean-- how was I supposed to know--?"
Arthur glared at him, frustrated, "I told you!" He said. "And then you laughed at me!"
"I don't remember that. When was this--?"
"On the roof." Arthur explained, confused and bitter as he searched him for some kind of explanation. "I said I fancied you and--,"
Alfred's mind reeled as the last month suddenly played back in his head on fast-forward and every terrible detail suddenly made sense and it felt as though he'd been punched in the gut but mainly--
Mainly he'd caused Arthur so much pain and that fact fell on him in one sudden burst of guilt and shame.
"Oh my god, Arthur, I'm so sorry, I thought--,"
"I know." Arthur said, shaking his head. "You don't like me, I understa--,"
He'd always had a thing for mouths and so he pressed his over Arthur's to stop the boy from saying anything else, hoping this conveyed his message through the confusion.
It was a clumsy mesh of lips, innocent really, yet it was warm and Arthur's lips were slightly chapped and he loved all of that.
When he pulled away, Arthur was staring at him, stunned.
"I love you." Alfred said, positively grinning.
"..." Arthur's staring only seemed to increase in intensity as the other boy's mouth fell open in surprise. And then a softly breathed, "You what--?"
"Love." Alfred said leaning in giddily because at least, for this moment, he had an excuse to touch Arthur and he couldn't help but brush some of his hair behind his ear. "You."
"No, I... I don't understand. You said you didn't--,"
"I..." Alfred looked down at the grass, shame bubbling in his chest. "I might have thought that you were talking about fashion..."
Arthur blinked. "Fashion...?" He said, repeating the word as though it were entirely foreign to him, which it might have been because Alfred had seen his closet before and it was kind of strange.
He simply nodded his head.
Silence stretched between them for nearly a minute.
And then Arthur's body began to shake and alarm spiked in Alfred before he realized that the other boy laughing.
"You..." His friend gasped in between soft huffs of air. "You... sodding idiot... I can't-- bloody moron..."
The side of Alfred's lip quirked. "You seem to think pretty low of someone you claim to 'fancy'."
The withering glare Arthur shot him at that made Alfred's mouth snap shut.
"Okay, okay. I know. I'm an idiot."
"This was all your fault." Arthur said bitterly, but his scowl kept giving way to a strange sort of disbelieving smile that made Alfred's heart thump with happiness.
"Yeah. So I guess I've gotta make it up to you, huh?"
Arthur regarded him with interest. "I suppose." He said slowly.
"I will." Alfred told him, pulling him into a hug. At first Arthur was tense but then he relaxed slightly, ducking his head down against Alfred's shoulder. "I'll make it up to you. I promise."
The soft exhale of laughter made his heart swell as he heard his possibly-hopefully-now-boyfriend sigh a quiet, "... Okay."
He couldn't help but hug him tighter.