Even though he couldn't swim, Arthur still loved to come to the community pool behind the college. His roommate, Alfred, was a lifeguard there, and some of their other friends came often as well. The British exchange student loved to just sit by the pool and tan while reading a good book.
Right now, he was rereading Alice in Wonderland. For the sixth time.
Alfred was on duty, dressed in the white and red Hetalia Lifeguard uniform. He had already spent most of the summer tanning just from watching over the swimmers, so he was quite dark already. His blonde hair also looked quite sun-kissed, if he did say so himself.
A few other familiar faces were present at the pool. The Bad Touch Trio of Francis, Antonio, and Gilbert was there, as well as Matthew, Alfred's older brother. (Even though most people considered them twins.) Feliciano, Romano, and Ludwig were swimming. Ivan and Yao were having a conversation in the shade. Peter and Lili were playing in the shallow end, with Vash watching the blonde girl protectively. And Arthur could have sworn he saw Toris and Feliks a few moments ago...
Arthur must have been paying too much attention to his book. Just like he was doing right now as Francis snuck up behind his back.
Two hands suddenly gripped his waist.
The book slipped from his hands.
Arthur looked over his shoulder as he was lifted from his seat.
"F-Francis?" He gasped out. The French exchange student held him close, still holding tightly to his hips and lifting him just above the ground.
"You'll thank me later, Arthur."
The blonde was suddenly flying through the air in the direction of the pool. A gasp passed through his lips, and his emerald eyes widened.
Water splashed high into the air.
"Dios Mio!" Antonio cried with shockingly seriousness. The track runner was known for his sunny smile, after all. "Arthur is drowning!"
Alfred jolted and moved into action. His eyes instantly locked onto the desperately flailing and sinking man. With body caught up with his mind and threw his red flotation device first as he started to make his way around the pool.
"Iggy! Hold on, dude!" He shouted.
Suddenly, Prussia was standing with Francis and Antonio as well. "Mein gott!" He said with an odd mixture of horror and pride on his face. "The floaty does not appear to be working!"
The Bad Touch Trio snickered quietly as Alfred lunged into the pool.
Moments later, the two blondes resurfaced with Arthur being held tightly to Alfred's chest.
"You alright?" All the American got in response was some coughing. "We'll just pretend that's a yes." Alfred started swimming to the nearest side. He pushed Arthur out of the pool first before getting out himself. Feliciano abruptly appeared with a towel. Alfred thanked his and used it to wrap Arthur up.
"T-Thanks." The Englishman coughed again.
"Dude, what happened?" Alfred asked with worried eyes. Arthur noted then that they were the same shade as the sky.
"F-Francis," the smaller blonde admitted angrily. He was still shaking. "B***** frog k-knew I can't s-swim."
"You can't swim? But you come here all the time. That's kind of stupid, you know," the younger man debated.
"Y-yes, well. I had my reasons." Like, I find you incredibly attractive and I like to sit by the pool and stare at you in-between pages of my book.
"I could teach you, you know."
Arthur jolted. "W-what?!" He shook his head rapidly. "You must be joshing."
"I'm not kidding!" Alfred laughed heartily. "It'll be totally fun, and you won't have high chances of dying!" They stared at each other for a long moment before Arthur sighed and looked away.
"Yes. I might as well. This way, the frog can't hold anything over me."
Alfred just laughed.
"Okay, so let's start with floating."
It was much later in the day, and though the pool was officially closed, Alfred had requested to use it after hours to teach Arthur how to swim. Thankfully, his boss had thought it was a great idea.
Not so great, though, was the fact that's Alfred's teaching seemed ridiculous.
"How am I supposed to float, you idiot?" Arthur snapped. He felt rather exposed wearing just his swimming trunks. And he was rather embarrassed that he was taking swimming lessons at the age of twenty-three. And from Alfred no less. At sunset, half-naked, alone, in a secluded area, with his crush.
Arthur was feeling just a bit crabby.
"Hey!" Alfred cried indignantly. "You have to let me teach you first, or you'll never learn!" Arthur rolled his eyes.
Alfred just laughed again.
"Alright, here's the deal," he started with bright eyes, happy to finally share what he had been learning in training. "When you get scared, your body instantly starts working to help you survive. Your brain starts pumping adrenaline, which makes all of your muscles tense and dulls pain."
"I don't see how this will help me swim," Arthur huffed. The American flicked his forehead.
"Be quiet and listen." Arthur huffed again, over dramatically in a playful manner. The two blondes shared a smile. "Okay, back to business. Adrenaline makes you tense. But to float, you need to be completely loose. So, if you start panicking, you'll tighten up-" Here, Alfred demonstrated by hunching up. "You need to stay calm."
"How am I supposed to stay b***** calm?!?" Arthur cried. "I'm drowning for Pete's sake!"
Alfred sighed and shook his head. "But if you're calm, you won't be because you'll be floating." They lightly glared at each other. "Now, give it a try. I'll hold you up until you're loose. Then I'll slowly let go."
"A-Alfred-" Arthur worried.
"Shhh, I got you," Alfred assured. "We're in the shallow end. So if you sink, just stand up straight. The only way you'll float is if you're calm." Arthur shook his head quickly.
"Alfred! I don't think I can do this. I'm not ready. I can't stay calm. I'll sink and -"
"Arthur," the voice seemed very close to his ear. "Don't you have any faith in either of us? I won't let you drown. You need to trust me." A hand appeared on his lower back. "Okay?"
The smaller blonde took a deep breath and nodded. Alfred gently tipped him down so that he was laying in the water. Arthur took another deep breath.
You're not afraid of the water.
You can do this.
Alfred is here. Alfred...
Alfred has really nice eyes. They're such a pretty shade of blue.
And he looks so handsome when he wears that one t-shirt.
His hair looks so soft. What would it be like to touch-
"Wow, that didn't take long," Alfred sounded surprised. The green eyed man suddenly noticed that there was no hand on his back.
He was floating!
"What were you thinking about?" The American asked.
"J-just what you told me."
"Alright!" Alfred beamed. "You did really great! Think you can do it out deeper in the pool?" Arthur looked away with a blush on his face.
Arthur had been working the next night, so they hadn't been able to practice swimming together. But they were both free the evening after that. With that, the swimming continued.
Arthur placed his towel on one of the pool chairs and kicked off his sandals next to it. He pulled off his white t-shirt and took a few slow steps toward the pool.
"Hey, Artie!" His teacher grinned as he came jogging up from the offices.
"My name is Arthur."
"Sure, whatever you say," Alfred waved him off. "Let's get to work!"
They both lowered themselves into the shallow end again.
"So, I already taught you how to float, but another good way to stay above water is to tread. I totally understand that sometimes you can't get off an adrenaline rush and calm down enough to float. That's where treading comes in," the nineteen year-old explained. "Treading is like swimming in place, so I figured it would be a great place to start."
"Alright," Arthur nodded. Alfred grabbed his hand and pulled his out a bit deeper into the pool. "A-Alfred!" The taller blonde held Arthur securely at the waist. "What do you think you're doing?!"
"Teaching you how to tread?" Alfred responded. "I don't get you." He sighed and nodded downwards. "Watch how I move my legs." Arthur blushed slightly and did as he was told. "Now try doing it with me. Kick back and forth slowly." Arthur kicked. "Good. I want you to start pushing the water with your hands. Do you remember when I made you watch Avatar the Last Airbender?"
"Y-yes," Arthur nodded. He was still staring at Alfred's legs.
Alfred had some very muscular legs.
"Do you remember how the water-benders moved their hands?" Alfred continued. Arthur just struggled to nod again, finally pulling his eyes to his teacher's face.
Which, in all honestly, wasn't the best idea.
The sun was shining just perfectly on Alfred's face, making his slightly damp hair glistened and his eyes sparkle. Everything about he was currently gleaming, and Arthur knew that he was probably the only one who had ever seen him that way.
"Alright! So just move your hands back and forth like they do. Don't panic if you go down a bit, you can really only tread with your head above water. And if there's any problems at all, I'll be right here with you," Alfred finished with his perfect smile with all of his perfectly straight, glittering white teeth.
He apparently had it very bad...
Arthur shakily nodded again and stared down at the water, trying to get his legs to move like Alfred's. Back and forth, back and forth. Then he started moving his hands in large, slow circles.
"Great!" Alfred cheered. "Now, I'm going to let go. Just keep doing what you're doing!" The warm hands disappeared from Arthur's waist. He started to sink again.
At first, he felt ready to start screaming. He was going to drown. O-oh no, he was going to drown and he wouldn't come up and he'd never see Alfred again-
And then he remembered Alfred and what he had said. So, he tried to keep breathing calmly and tread.
"You're doing really good, Arthur! Just keep kicking! Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick!!!" Alfred shouted. Arthur was going to laugh, but he suddenly started sinking below the water even further. Panic washed over his face.
The blonde disappeared beneath the water, only to resurface a second later when Alfred grabbed his waist again. Having completely lost his sense of calm, the green eyed man began to hyperventilate as he held on to Alfred's wrists tightly. He clamped his eyes shut and shook his head. He could still feel the water all around him it was going to get him he was going to drown he was going to die help oh scones he needed help-
"O-out. I want to get out. Now! I want to get out now!" Arthur whimpered. Alfred nodded and pulled his trembling body close.
"It's okay. I got you. I won't let you drown," the American assured. "I'm going to take you to the shallow end, okay?" Arthur nodded quickly and buried his face into his roommate's chest.
The blue eyed man made sure to keep Arthur's top half above the water as he swam across the pool slowly. Eventually, they reached the edge of the water, where the British exchange student grabbed on the ledge and pulled himself out. Alfred followed his example. He moved to grab their towels and gave one to Arthur. Arthur wrapped it around himself silently.
"You okay?" Alfred questioned, once more looking worried.
"I'm f-fine," Arthur assured quietly. "I'm not sure if I can do this again, Alfred." He looked up to the taller blonde at his side. "I don't really have to do this, do I?"
"No, of course not," he answered softly. "If it bothers you that much, we don't have to continue. I thought that you liked learning how to swim, though?"
Arthur shook his head.
"I can't swim because of my brothers," he admitted in a voice barely above a whisper. "When I was very little, they thought it would be funny to teach me how to swim by throwing me in a lake."
"Let me guess," Alfred growled. "You didn't do so well?"
"No. I was in the hospital for a while, completely unaware of anything because I was unconscious for a week and I had pneumonia for the rest of my stay," Arthur declared.
"Well, at least that should have scared them straight, right?" Alfred laughed. He looked at the Englishman's face. "Right?"
Arthur shook his head.
"They made fun of me because I couldn't swim. A-and whenever I go under, I-I just-"
"I understand," Alfred interrupted. There was a short silence. "Do they still make fun of you?"
"Not so openly, but they have their moments," the shorter blonde sighed.
"That sucks, dude. I'm sorry," Alfred looked away with a heavy sigh. "I'm also sorry I tried to force you into swimming lessons."
"You didn't force me into anything," Arthur smiled softly. "I did want to learn how to swim, but... I think it's just to much right now. Besides, when will I ever actually need to know how to swim?"
So they stopped with the swimming lessons and started going to dinner instead. They had both agreed that it had been nice to spend time together since they didn't really see each other that much.
Their solution was to go to dinner or a movie ever Friday night.
But of course, they weren't dating.
That would be preposterous.
Eventually, Arthur had stopped going to the pool as well. It felt like the water was taunting him and his failure, his inability to swim.
He loved to see Alfred, but he hated to be near the pool.
He couldn't even enjoy reading a good book in the shade, anymore. He kept panicking, thinking that Francis was going to pop up again and throw him in.
And, his brothers were coming to visit.
Arthur had made the mistake of letting Alfred meet his brothers.
It hadn't gone over well, to say the least.
As usual, his brothers had joked around a bit before actually starting to pick on him. Alfred didn't seem to like this and had intervened.
Which was sweet, but stupid.
Because they were now both being teased for being in a relationship. For being... Boyfriends.
Which they weren't.
Because they weren't dating.
Alfred had tried to improve the situation by hurling back some insults of his own before storming out in a huff. That hadn't helped. At all.
Now, all four of his older brothers were teasing him about his choice in men. All because Alfred had apparently made 'a poorly executed tactical retreat.'
He wanted to kill himself in that moment.
"So," Allistor began. Oh no. "We 'eard you was tryin' to learn 'ow to swim. Did yae succeed?" Arthur gulped and quietly shook his head. "So yae still cain't? That's just unacceptable."
Arthur just averted his eyes.
"Look at 'im, lads! Cain't even look me in the eye!" His brothers laughed.
Suddenly, the door slammed open again. Alfred was there with a plate of hot dogs and a bottle of ketchup. Which were both then slammed on the dresser.
"I don't care who you four are or what you're here to do, I want you out of this room! If it's anyone's fault Artie can't swim, it's yours! He's traumatized because of you! Get. Out!" The American shouted. The room was still for a moment.
The older boys cackled.
"What?" Patrick choked out. "Who gave ya' authority te make us leave?"
"He's right." It had been barely a whisper.
"No, not you, you b***** twats! Alfred is right!" Arthur exploded. "It IS your fault I can't swim and I might not ever be able to! And I'm sick and tired of you making fun of me!" He took a moment to take a deep breath. His face was an adorable shape of red. "I'm with Alfred. I want you to get out. Go home."
Allistor scoffed and stormed out of the room, the three other brothers following behind him like little ducklings. "Let's go."
The door slammed shut behind them, and Arthur shakily sat down on his bed. Alfred came over and patted his back.
"Those guys were kind of jerks."
"No! They were as pleasant as tea with the Queen!"
"That was sarcasm wasn't it."
So, they had a received an apology over the phone a few days later. Apparently, having Arthur finally blow up at them had knocked a bit of sense into their thick skulls.
They were going to try to not make so much fun of him anymore.
And they wouldn't pull any more stupid pranks like they had when he was little.
Arthur had been appeased by this, and the five brothers all went out for dinner that Thursday night to catch up.
It had actually gone quite well.
"I want to learn how to swim."
Alfred's eyes just sparkled.
Arthur had learned how to tread.
Then he learned the elementary backstroke, because it kept his face mostly out of the water.
Next they learned the regular backstroke, because Arthur wanted to be diverse.
After that, Alfred taught him the sidestroke, just in case the backstroke wasn't enough.
And freestyle, just for the heck of it.
They were spending a lot of time together, 'practicing.'
Francis smiled from his place on the third story balcony of Hetalia University. Antonio was on his left, and Gilbert was on his right.
The Bad Touch Trio was watching the pair of men in the pool.
"They're so cute together!" The Spaniard squealed.
"Oui. Did I not tell you so? I told you it would work," Francis smirked.
"How do you know about Arthur's swimming problem and his brothers? You didn't meet him until last year," Gilbert wondered.
"You can learn a lot from flirting with older women."
"You asked him mom?"
"Oui. You could say that."
"It all ended okay, in any case."