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A/N: We're back! The feels trip continues with our next, rather lengthy (at least by our standards so far XD), chapter.


Warnings: Drinking, sexual references.

Escaping the suffocating buzz of the school had been a blur. Alfred would have noticed other people, how they stared, if he hadn't been so focused on Francis.

His heart felt like it was being stepped on, cruely broken further and further with every detail he observed about the Frenchman. He used to saunter through these halls, making flamboyant gestures with his hands as he spoke. Now he looked small and frightened. He looked trapped. Alfred gripped his hand tighter, hoping the tiny bit of reassurance and comfort helped a little.

Releasing a small breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding in, Alfred ran out of the school with Francis. When the Frenchman suddenly stopped, turned, and imagined, looking back at the rooftop where the two of them had been standing but a few moments ago, Alfred couldn't help but do the same.

He swallowed dryly, heart clenching painfully in his chest. God, Matthew, what have you done? The slight tightening of Francis' fingers assured him that he was still there, still alive, still far from okay, but at least he wasn't...

He was still breathing.

Alfred didn't even want to think about it. When the Frenchman turned away, Alfred was more than ready to do so as well. He began heading towards Francis' apartment with him, their hands still locked together.

Francis didn't try and start up a conversation as they walked. In all honesty, he was too depressed and upset to do so, having enough trouble simply dealing with his own thoughts. There was no room for any more words in his head.

To anyone passing by, Alfred and Francis might have looked like a couple holding hands. A very unhappy couple, by the way the Frenchman kept his eyes focused on the ground as they travelled, simply eager to reach his home, to shut the world out and be alone with Alfred. Like the American, he lived close to the school, though it was still a fair distance. His home, a small apartment, was part of a fairly large complex and was situated on the third floor. He had planned to move one day, but life went on and he met Matthew, and then it had been all he could afford, what with him saving up money for the Canadian's ring. The thought made him sigh and hold the other's hand tighter. But even before all of his plans, he had been living alone, so how much space did he really need?

His forced optimism may have been unhealthy, but it kept him going. Francis was generally a happy person, but this situation was nothing like he'd ever encountered before.

They ascended two flights of stairs to reach the third floor and only then did Francis let go of the American's hand. Unlocking the door, he stopped inside and ushered his friend through to his living area.

This proved to be a mistake.

It was as if Francis had forgotten how much he loved Matthew when he suggested going to drink at his flat, because everywhere he looked, the Canadian was there. Along with numerous books and glasses scattered around, there were photo frames. Pictures. Memories captured forever, and most were of Matthew and Francis. Just the sight of them made him ache, made him want to smash them like his 'lover' had done to his heart. But he didn't.

Instead, he threw his bag onto the floor next to the sofa, much like he had done beneath the ladder of the roof, and set about finding his alcohol-- determined to push everything away, all of the painful memories and emotions.

He went over to his little kitchen and gathered what he wanted, what he needed, carelessly throwing the cupboard doors open in the hope of reaching the alcohol more quickly. It didn't even matter what the substance was. If it was alcohol, the strong stuff, then it joined the ever-growing pile.

Going over to the sofa with an armful of assorted bottles and glasses, Francis set them down on his little table and gestured for the American to come over, not even daring to speak for fear his voice would crack. After setting up a round of shots (and knocking over a picture of him and Matthew in the process, though he set it back up again with a shaking hand afterwards. Even if it was just a picture, he still somehow loved the man and it hurt too much to leave it laying on its back), he grabbed a bottle of whiskey and brought it to his lips, not bothering with a glass, far too eager to forget. He took a long drink from it, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed eagerly and allowed his lids to cover tearful blue orbs when the liquid burned his throat, feeling himself slowly begin to slip away. He tried to swap the pain in his splintered heart for the heat in his mouth as the drink slid down into his stomach.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Alfred knit his eyebrows, eyes filled with worry and almost pleading as they followed Francis' every move. How he'd knocked over the picture, then been too kind to leave it that way, and then how quickly he'd picked up a bottle of alcohol, drinking it at a speed that Alfred knew wasn't safe. What if he hurt himself this way? The American suddenly felt too sick with worry to drink a single drop. Instead, he hesitantly lifted a hand, then placed it on Francis' back, rubbing slow, careful circles, much like he had done on the roof. He gulped at the sight of the Frenchman downing whiskey so quickly, blue eyes crinkling sadly.

Taking a shaking breath, Alfred felt his eyes burn with tears again, chest tightening. Why did he feel so guilty? He had no reason too, he'd done nothing. Exactly. He'd done nothing. He'd been too much of an idiot to see the signs. He had no excuse for what he had-- or rather, hadn't done; he wasn't blinded by love for somebody. Alfred had simply been too ignorant to pick up on this cruel plot. He could have saved Francis so much pain. He could have-- he should have solved this sooner. He should have saved his friend. And now look where Francis was. Alfred doubted he'd ever be the same. And how could his heart ever be whole again? Not when the one person who had access to it, who had the ability to fill it, repair it, had been the same one who had carelessly shattered it. And there was nothing Alfred could do except watch and offer measly comfort that Francis either ignored or didn't feel. He just watched him, drink after drink, crying quietly.

About a third of the whiskey later, Francis was starting to feel more dizzy than satisfied. The pain was still there-- it ached in his chest just like the alcohol burned his throat and warmed his stomach. Extending a shot glass filled with vodka towards the other man, he urged him to drink. "Bois." He said, the words more of a command than anything. He felt sorry for Alfred-- the poor man had been back-stabbed by his own brother. Francis could hardly begin to imagine how he felt. Despite being in an immense amount of pain himself, he dearly wanted to sympathise. He wasn't a selfish man, after all. Even in his drunken state he was able to recall the importance of looking after others.

It could have been minutes or it could have been hours that Alfred just watched Francis drink. His eyes followed the dizzying liquid, from the bottle, then as it touched Francis' lips, slipped down his throat. This wasn't right. Francis should stop, he was only going to hurt himself. But at the same time, Alfred knew he couldn't stop him. The American's face, usually lit up, was startlingly dull and monotonous, clear trails of tears continuing to slip from his eyes and spill down his cheeks.

Pressing the shot glass into the American's hands, Francis took another for himself and downed it, followed by a second, and then a third. Followed by another swig of whiskey. If he had been drinking for pleasure, then it would have been wine he was downing-- no, sipping-- enjoying the deep, beautiful comfort of his beloved red. But this... there was no pleasure in this. He just wanted to forget.

When the shot was pressed into Alfred's hand, he simply looked down at it, the tears in his eyes making the world appear as though it was under water. Drops of salt water rolled across the frame of his glasses, then dropped into the liquor with a light splash, adding to the mix.

"Ils sont bonne, oui?" He slurred, referring to the shots that they were downing. Or rather, should have been downing. Turning to Alfred, he prepared to reprimand him for not drinking; however he found himself greeted with a different person entirely.

Blinking in confusion he leaned forward, practically sitting on top of the American. However, his expression soon softened and, with sad eyes, he pressed a hand to the side of who he thought was Matthew's face. There was no mistaking his believed... soft blond locks, delicate tanned skin, cool metal beneath his palm-- the tin rim of his glasses. However, this person had cerulean orbs and a softer face and glasses that were more sharply defined-- small, important things that Francis was unable to pick up on in his drunken state, in the darkness of that room.

And so, he was mistaken.

"Oh, I have always loved you... I could never hurt you, not like that. Not like you did..." He whispered, finding himself suddenly pouring his heart out, these words a little more distinguishable than his last ones.

A hand was suddenly placed on his cheek, making Alfred gasp and jump slightly, eyes widening and a light blush dusting his cheeks. He locked eyes with Francis, and then, in one crushing, sickening moment, he realized Francis wasn't looking at him at all. "F-Francis..." He whimpered, breaths uneven and shaking. Oh. Look how Alfred and Matthew's roles have changed. So this is what it felt like, to be mistaken for someone else. Someone a thousand times more important to the person in front of you than you yourself were. "Francis, it's... it's just me. Alfred..."

Francis had been expecting some kind of harsh rebuttal from his former lover, some insult that would be thrown his way. Which is why he was so shocked when, instead of hearing verbal abuse, he heard a whimper. A soft voice, whimpering his name.

Freezing in shock, the Frenchman's lips parted in an astonished gasp as his vision suddenly changed. Teary sapphires replaced cold amethysts, and the blond hair he adored so much became short. Blinking in shock, he didn't dare to move, his face still near to the other's, his hand still pressed to his cheek. Oh God-- what had he done? His only friend in the world, and he had mistaken him for the person who hated him most. Granted, Matthew was Alfred's twin, but how had Francis ever mixed the two up? How had he mistaken someone so perfect for someone so evil?

"Dieu, I--" He broke off, not knowing what to say as he looked blankly at the other. But the sadness in the other's eyes... it was heart breaking, and he knew that he must speak and say something. Pressing both hands to sides of the taller man's face, he tried again. "Non, Alfred. You... you are not 'just' anything." It was hard to speak, hard to get the words out in his drunken state, but he managed it somehow. "Tu es--" He frowned, muttering to himself in French as he fought to translate. "You are... wonderful. The best. Your words... they fix my heart, you know. Je me suis cassé mon coeur, mais... non, that is not... that's not right.." Taking a breath, he tried again, words simply pouring out of his mouth. "I did not my break heart. Matthieu; sweet Matthieu, he broke it. Et... now you are fixing it. I am... grateful." He slurred, taking a piece of the American's hair and toying with it gently between his fingers. "I think you are the only one who ever truly cared for me."

Fighting back tears, Alfred realized, was no use. Maybe he shouldn't have come here. Crying for hours straight wasn't healthy, but he just couldn't stand the thought of Francis being alone, in pain. He hadn't been able to stop what happened, but he at least had to be there and make an attempt to fix it.

Alfred knew he had no real reason to feel so guilty, so ashamed, so stupid, but somehow he couldn't stop crying, shaking at Francis' broken, slurred, sweet words. Even when he was drunk, the man could still speak so beautifully. Alfred couldn't help but let his mind wander back to a few moments ago. The way Francis had looked at him-- no, the way Francis had looked at Matthew. Alfred had been in his brother's shoes just then, he'd been looking through his eyes, seen his visual point of view. So that's how Francis looked at you, Alfred thought. So much love in his eyes, it was almost startling. God... no one had ever looked at Alfred like that. And yet, the Canadian just tossed such a thing aside. Threw Francis away. Did he not know how lucky he was?

Alfred suddenly felt sick, his chest was too tight, there were too many emotions at once and, for the first time in his life, he couldn't find the words to say. In shame, in guilt, in sadness and in confusion, the American lifted his fingers, taking off his glasses, and then proceeded to hide his face in his hands, muffling sobs into his palms.

This wasn't right-- Alfred shouldn't be upset. This wasn't Francis' goal. He had wanted him to forget the pain, but whatever he'd said had somehow seemed to have made things worse. Had his words made the pain more unbearable?

Feeling immensely guilty, he reached forward and pried the American's hands from his face. They were wet and sticky with tears, along with Alfred's red and blotchy face. In the same state as his own, he figured. Meeting the other's gaze with a desperate look in his eyes, he leaned in so that they were close and intertwined their hands. Although, Francis was practically sitting in the other's lap, anyway, so it wasn't really possible for them to get all that much closer.

"Alfred, look at me. P-Please... don't cry. This... this feeling won't go away, but... we can escape it." Francis knew that there were two ways to do such. Either drink himself into unconsciousness and find peace in the dark black of sleep, or to grab onto someone else who was hurting just as much and loose himself with them. "Just... with me. We can survive together... and help each other." He swallowed. "Just let go." However, as he spoke, Francis realized the implications of his words. It almost sounded as if... He was inviting Alfred to be with him, rather than escape with him. It was true that the Frenchman had found comfort in one-night-stands before, from being loved by another just for a little while, but... this was Alfred. Alfred. He couldn't do that to his friend! And so soon after Matthew... perhaps the other would start to believe that he really was a slut like the Canadian had said.

Francis didn't really know what to say next, so he simply stayed silent; his forehead almost grazing Alfred's as he squeezed his hand tight and gazed wordlessly across at him.

A whirling tornado of emotion suddenly halted. The storm didn't clear, no, but it froze in place. The air around them both seemed cold and heated, still and yet charged with electricity. Alfred's round blue eyes slowly rose to meet the Frenchman's, and it took a moment for him to truly process what he was asking of him. "Y-You mean..." No. No, no, no-- absolutely not. There was no better way to ruin a friendship with someone than to sleep with them. And Francis was all Alfred had; Alfred was all Francis had. They couldn't risk it, this friendship was worth too much. And... so soon after Matthew. To even say such a thing, Francis must have been so desperate. Although, it's not like there would be any love in it, anyway. Perhaps it was because of Matthew? It would simply be... a distraction. Mind-numbing bliss, just for a little while. Francis might as well just hire someone for the night.

Alfred was speechless as he sat there, thinking. God, the look on Francis' face. He obviously was just desperate for a little relief from his pain. It was understandable. And his eyes, they were almost pleading. Francis... Alfred cared about him. He did, he was his best friend, after all. Alfred wanted nothing more than his happiness.

"Yes." Alfred barely whispered. This is how you can help, he thought, taking a deep breath to steady himself as he sat up a bit straighter. You wanted to save him, you wanted to do something right. Do this, then. For Francis.

"Okay." With a little more firmness in his voice, Alfred spoke once more, then placed his glasses on the table, exchanging them for the shot of whiskey. Trying not to think, not to realize what he'd just agreed to, what this made him, Alfred tipped his head back and downed the shot.

As the pieces clicked in Alfred's head, Francis found himself swallowing nervously. He was desperate to be loved, yes, but Alfred was a very dear friend to him. He hadn't even meant to ask for such a thing in the first place, and now that Alfred was actually considering it and looking as if he might agree, Francis felt nervous. If they were going to do this... he had to be careful. The American wasn't just some toy to be played with; Francis needed to explain to him what he had meant and how they would do this, that he wasn't just going to use him and then throw him away. But then, all too soon, Alfred had agreed and began downing shots. With wide, shocked blue eyes, he watched, soft gasps escaping from his lips as he did so. "Alfred, cher, wait..." He insisted, moving forward and physically climbing on top of the other to get his attention.

Once he had straddled him, he placed both hands upon his shoulders and leaned in. "Don't feel obliged to do this. I... you are my dearest friend, Alfred. I-I won't ask you to just..." He trailed off, not wanting to voice his thoughts, not wanting to admit that it would just be a quick one-night-stand, if he made it that way. "...for a night. You.. you mean more to me than that. If we are going to do this, then..." Suddenly, he paused and looked at the American. Looked at him properly. His gaze was the same as it had been a few moments before, when he had mistaken Alfred for Matthew; full of love and caring. Only this time, it was intended for Alfred and Alfred alone. "...then let's make love. Let's be gentle..." He had tried one-night-stands before, prior to his relationship with Matthew; they worked, although there was no meaning behind them. Kisses were rushed and needy with no real emotion behind them. In his experience, every action was only performed when wanted, out of lust, not consideration for a partner. That wasn't what he wanted with Alfred, he didn't want to use the other for simple relief. He wanted to show him some love.

Those deep blue orbs of Francis'... Alfred found himself suddenly lost in them. They were so gentle, so sincere, so warm and loving. How could Matthew not fall in love with Francis when he was looked at like this everyday? Breath catching at the intense colour, Alfred couldn't help but be transfixed, a shaky breath leaving his parted lips, lingering with alcohol. But his daze was interrupted by realization. As blurring as the alcohol was, as hypnotizing as Francis' eyes were; with his promising words and deep, loving eyes... Alfred could still see clearly, for just a moment. "You're so drunk." His words were hardly a whisper, he practically mouthed them and, judging by the way Francis' eyes were clouded, his expression unmoving, the Americam knew he didn't hear him. Of course he was drunk. And in pain. Who were they kidding; this wasn't going to have any love behind it. Francis did care about him, but Alfred knew he was in no way over the Canadian. Alfred, as harsh as it sounded, was simply a replacement for tonight. He was doing Francis a favor, helping lessen his friend's pain.

"Okay." He wasn't agreeing to making love, because they simply couldn't. But distracting, numbing Francis's pain and being his relief for one night; that's what he agreed to. "...Just relax." The American murmured, then lifted his hands, wrapped them around the Frenchman and pulled him down so they pressed flush together. Dipping his head some, he began to kiss up and down his neck, across his shoulder, sucking gently and leaving little bites where he knew the skin was sensitive. Nimble hands pulled Francis' cotton shirt out of the way, exposing the milky white skin of his upper torso.

When Alfred began to kiss him, it felt strange. He wasn't used to being treated like this, despite him being very in touch with so called 'l'amour'. When he was with Matthew, the Frenchman very rarely experienced anything like this, as the Canadian wasn't usually the one to instigate their kisses. Not in public, at least. Francis had simply put it down to the other being shy and not wanting to take the bold step of blatantly kissing another person when there were people around him. Even in front of Francis himself, he was vaguely shy. Matthew preferred smiles and gestures-- little things; like when Francis would bring him cups of sweet coffee in the evenings when he was studying, or when they'd sit and cuddle together, sharing secrets and making promises in the darkness. Although, now he knew the real reason behind Matthew's actions.

But Francis suddenly realized that he didn't want to think about what Matthew liked. Especially not now, when Alfred was biting his neck like that, leaving little marks and fleeting soft touches as he moved up and down. Doing things that reduced Francis to gasping; shuddering as he clutched at the other's back, his hair, his anything.

Shifting his head, his lips found the American's ear and he began to gently suck and bite, copying the other's movements, wanting them to share emotions and feelings and simply become one, forgetting their pain together. But then, as he was nibbling on the tip of the other's ear, it hit him. A question, nagging in the back of his mind that even in his drunken state he knew he should ask. For the sake of their friendship-- he truly didn't want to take advantage. One hand threading through the American's silky locks, he murmured against his ear. "Alfred... have you done this before?"

He had to ask, didn't he? Alfred sighed, looking numbly at the wall over Francis' bare shoulder. "Not once." He admitted, face blank, grey, streaked with tears. This expression didn't suit the American, but what was there to be happy about? His brother had lied to him, Arthur wanted nothing to do with him, Francis wanted to use him. And Alfred was entirely willing to give this up for his best friend. If he couldn't fix him, couldn't save him, then he just wanted to help and, if this was the only way he could do such a thing, then so be it. Alfred just wanted Francis to stop suffering. He no longer cared about himself, about these kinds of sacrifices. It would be worth it if Francis smiled again, just once. Alfred was so tired. Tired of crying, tired of trusting people, believing in people. He didn't want friends, he didn't want a lover. He didn't want to, didn't plan to, let a single person in. Not after today.

With his griip on Francis loosening slightly, the American let his eyes flick upward. The ceiling was blurred, whether it was from the tears in his eyes or the fact his glasses were missing, Alfred couldn't tell. He watched the fan spin round and round, and he tried to focus on it, on the burning of alcohol in his throat, on the comforting weight of Francis over him. It seemed that when his trust and faith in people left him, he lost his spirit too.

Upon receiving an answer to his question, Francis recoiled, pulling away from the other's ear. Meeting Alfred's gaze, Francis shook his head. "Then I won't. Save it, Alfred." Francis was surprised to hear that the American was still a virgin. He wouldn't deny that he thought Alfred was attractive-- very much so, in fact. The man being Matthew's twin, he was inclined to think so. However, even though they were brothers, twins even, there was something different about the American. His blue eyes were brighter; they sparkled more than his brother's soft violets. Even when meeting him for the first time, you could just tell... tell that he friendly, that he was a good person, whereas Matthew had always been quite shy and mysterious. Francis had found this alluring at first, but he now knew that it was just a mask; a cover for all of the hate that lay beneath his sweet surface; hidden away. And Alfred's smile, surely nothing was brighter; it was like the sun itself. But right now he wasn't smiling. Realizing this made the Frenchman's chest ache; it made him want to take the other into his arms and hold him tight, comfort him until all the tears had disappeared. "This... this isn't right, for me to do this. Save it for somebody you love." Save it for somebody who loves you, he thought, but didn't say such. Because he did. He did love him. Not in a romantic manner, but somehow in his drunken, depressed state, he finally understood. Alfred was the one that had truly been there for him all along. The others, they had just been pretending, toying with him and his heart as if they were nothing. But Alfred, with his winning smile and shinning eyes, he had stayed behind to pick up the pieces. He had seen Francis at his weakest, completely broken... and yet he had not judged him at all. He'd saved him from committing suicide; preserving his life because he cared. Leaving his brother and supposed best friend behind, the one that he had truly loved. Alfred had chosen Francis over Matthew and Arthur. And now, he was freely swigging alcohol because of Francis, willing to give his virginity away to the other man because he wanted to comfort him. Francis could see that the pain in Alfred's eyes wasn't only for himself. He was hurting for both of them. At his sudden realization, Francis almost began to cry again, but instead he chose to be strong, to sacrifice his own urges in effort to make the other happy. Holding him close in what he hoped was a comforting manner, he did not lean in for another kiss. "Keep waiting, Alfred... you'll find the one that you love."

Letting out a soft sigh of relief that he didn't even know he'd been holding in, Alfred relaxed a little more, letting his head sink into the couch cushion, resting his eyes for a moment. He couldn't help but be relieved. Not because he was afraid to give this up, but because he was afraid it would ruin their friendship. "I do love you. You're my best friend." He mumbled. The last person he had, the only person he still trusted-- he didn't want to loose Francis over something like this. "I'm sorry." He felt his chest tighten, eyes sting, but he had no tears left to cry. "...I wanted to help... You can still..." He trailed off, knitting his eyebrows and looking away.

Francis let his hands drop, releasing the other's body, though he was still sitting in his lap. As much as the other wanted to relieve him of his pain, Francis wanted to show him what it felt like to be loved. But deep down, he knew it wouldn't be fair, to take the other's first time like that. How would he be remembered? As a one-night-stand where the two of them had been drunk out of their minds, needy and desperate. No. Alfred deserved better than that. He deserved romance and love-- somebody who he genuinely wished to be with. Francis wanted him to do this out of desire, not obligation. It wouldn't be fair to ask this of him now, when they were both so ruined. "Simply by being here, you are helping me. I didn't want to drink alone, after all." He said, a weak attempt at humour, desperate to make the other smile again. However, something made him curious as he remembered the other's words, how he had trailed off. Francis hadn't understood what he had meant, and it was then that he realised how drunk he must be. Francis had always been good with people, able to read the general mood along with their body lanhuage, but tonight, his skills were lacking as the alcohol warped his judgement. "I can still... what, amour...?"

Of course, Alfred wanted to save himself. But now, it didn't seem like it mattered so much. After seeing what loving someone could do to a person, Alfred didn't plan on letting himself fall in love. No lover, no soul mate, no romance; no reason to save yourself for someone special if they didn't exist. So why not give up his virginity for the one person he still trusted, for his best friend? Swallowing dryly, Alfred glanced down, pushed his fingers through his hair. Why was he calling him that? That sweet little French pet name-- that was meant for Matthew. "Never mind, don't worry about it." He replied, flashing him a small, almost forced half-smile, the corner of his lips turning up for just a moment. "I'm glad I'm helping, Francis..." He knew he couldn't do enough. He couldn't be enough. Francis still only had eyes for Matthew, he was in mourning; trying to recover from a broke heart right now. The Frenchman must simply miss loving someone, and having that love returned. The American could at least try, he figured. He just wanted to make Francis happy again, take away his pain. Wrapping his arms around him again in a close hug, Alfred offered a small, forced smile again, then kissed Francis gently between his eyes. He was almost shocked at how natural it felt, but he brushed the unfamiliar feeling aside. "

The soft kiss that was pressed to his face made him shudder and his eyes go wide once more. Feeling arms wrap around him, pulling him in, lips against his skin... he couldn't do this. This was too familiar. Francis knew this, knew what it felt llike, but Alfred didn't. "Alfred.." He murmured, before speaking more firmly, though the volume and tone were still soft. "Alfred, stop. We.. we're going to go too far. Please.. save it. Don't give it away so easily, I'll-- you'll only regret it. We don't have to do this..." He felt a need, a duty, to stop Alfred from forcing himself. Francis didn't want it if the other was purely acting for the sake of things. Exhaling shakily, he opened up to the other man. "Matthieu and I, we never.." He shook his head. "We never did that." It was true. The Canadian hadn't wanted their relationship to go any further at the time, which Francis was completely fine with. And yet now, when he knew why that had been, it hurt him. It was because the other hated him, despised him-- why would Matthew ever want to sleep with him when he had that opinion of the Frenchman? Alfred's opinion of him... it was different, but made Francis feel just as bad. He could see so plainly that the other's smiles were forced, that he was only loving him because he thought he needed it. Francis had stopped the man to protect both Alfred and himself. If they did this... then it would feel as if they were both using each other. They couldn't just do this out of pity-- it'd destroy them and their friendship.

"Shh, shh, hey, it's alright..." He hushed softly, still holding him in a close hug, searching his eyes. "That wasn't my intention; we don't have to do anything." When he had pulled Francis closer and kissed his forehead, he'd simply done it because he wanted Francis to feel loved. He didn't want to sleep with him. Knowing someone on that level; it was too personal. It was getting too close to the American's locked up heart. "I thought so... That's a good thing, I guess. He didn't use you.. physically, at least." Alfred responded softly. Of course Matthew wouldn't have gone as far as to sleep with the Frenchman. He was disgusted by Francis. That, and what about Arthur? It'd just be cruel. But... after seeing Matthew today, no amount of cruelness could surprise Alfred. Thinking back to earlier, Alfred realized he'd meant what he said. He would never forgive the Canadian for this. The American sighed, looking Francis in the eyes, shrugging lightly. Freeing one hand, he carefully cupped the Frenchman's cheek, gently wiping away the tear stains from his damp skin. Enough talk of Matthew. Enough about hurting, about this whole mess. Alfred simply wanted to distract Francis from it all, take the weight off his heart. He wanted to see the Frenchman light up again, those sapphire eyes of his sparkle, smile, just a little. He got like that when he talked of what he loved most. Matthew. But... Matthew was gone. So Alfred would ask him about what he loved almost as much. "Tell me about France."

When the other spoke and reassured that they weren't going to do anything; that Alfred wasn't going to give up such a precious thing, Francis relaxed a little. This was how they should be. Together-- talking, questioning, exploring. Comforting. Even now, the way that Alfred wiped his cheek so carefully, drying his tears and trying desperately to take the pain away... it made his heart swell with warmth. Even his words. Alfred, who was so busy with a million other things to think and do and take care of, always off being the Hero somewhere, and he still had time for Francis. He remembered Francis, even in the blur of everything. The Parisian knew that the other was asking about his home nation to try and ease his pain, for hadn't it been Francis himself who had said that he loved Matthew more than France itself? That had been back when he was in a relationship, if it could even be called such a thing, when he had been peaceful and happy. It touched his shattered heart that Alfred had remembered his words, all this time later. How long had it even been since his world collapsed? Hours? Days? In the blur of the alcohol, he couldn't recall. But what he could recall was more valuable than any date. He had memories. "You... want to know about France? Well, she is..." He trailed off, every adjective suddenly reminding him of Matthew. So he went a different route. "She is 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité'." He said softly, something stirring in his chest as he said those special words, his eyes regaining a hint of a certain spark that was once ever present.

The American smiled softly, sincerely now, a thin ray of relief touching his locked heart. That little spark in Francis's eyes. Yes, there wasn't a whole sky full of stars like there normally was, but every little twinkle counted. Alfred subconsciously made it his goal to bring back each hint of light in the Frenchman's eyes, even if it took forever. He didn't know what his words meant, but they were beautiful, and they seemed to relax Francis a little. Alfred looked at him like he was imagining, dreaming of what France might be like, but really, all he was thinking about was Francis. Dipping the tips of his fingers into flowing, soft blonde locks, Alfred carefully, slowly combed his fingers through his hair. He let the very ends of his fingers splay out a little, gently massaging the Frenchman's scalp. "She sounds beautiful." Francis' love for his country was something Alfred could relate too. They could both go on for hours, simply daydreaming about their homelands. The American slowly laid down fully on his back, sighing softly.

Francis felt an urge to continue when he saw the other smile, suddenly wanting to see more of it. Alfred's smile was his saving grace, his light shining in the darkness. If Alfred wasn't smiling, then Francis wasn't happy-- the simple expression had become a part of his life. He needed it to feel safe and secure, to know that everything was alright. For this reason, he continued to speak. "C'est, uh... it means 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'." He translated, and a hint of a smile appeared on his face. "It is... somewhat of a motto. How every person of my country should live. Freedom and friendship... a community to belong to. Everybody should feel love and spread it to others. Nobody should ever be lonely or thought any less of." When he spoke, a sudden passion came into his voice. He truly loved his country and her values-- they meant a lot and were very significant to him. Those three words were how he lived his life. They summed up who Francis was, because they came together to make love itself. He thought so at least. That if he respected these values and put them into practise, then he would be able to spread love to the world and make it a better place. However, this had backfired. Badly. Never had he expected to be rejected so horribly by the one he loved-- he almost felt as if he should give up.

Inhaling shakily, he reached for the bottle of whiskey again, though paused when he felt fingers in his hair, soft and gentle. They caressed his scalp and he found himself leaning into the touch, the alcohol left forgotten on the table. "Oh, Alfred.." He sighed softly, plunging the world into darkness as he covered his blue orbs with his lids and lay down next to the other on the sofa.

Normally, Francis wouldn't wait to be asked to start talking about his country. That was all he talked about, for the most part. France. Well... Matthew and France. So Alfred let him go on and on about his nation, the other love of his life. This was something both Francis and Alfred had in common. They both loved their homelands. He listened to those mumbled values, understanding completely how important nationality was to Francis. Those values reminded the American of his own. Both their nations lived under the value of liberty; their mottos matched there. However, a little pang of sorrow hit home at the Frenchman's final murmur of words. He'd tried. He'd done everything he was supposed to do. It was sick how he was repaid for doing nothing but spreading love. As they laid down together, the couch creaking softly under their weight, Alfred made sure to keep the Frenchman close to him, resting in his arms. The way he sighed his name, closed his eyes and leaned into the touches was enough to tell Alfred that whatever he was doing, it was helping. He just continued to carefully comb his fingers through the Frenchman's hair, caress slow circles over his scalp and watch him lazily as they drifted off. Soon, it became clear to Alfred just how tired Francis was. The man looked as if he might pass out any second, so Alfred decided to gently urge him into resting. "Get some sleep, Francis," He barely whispered, pressing his lips to his bangs, softly murmuring the words against his hair. "You've had a long day..."

Sleep sounded good. Francis was still in pain, his heart still heavy and aching in his chest, despite the large amounts of alcohol he had consumed. Rather than take his pain away, it had only served to increase it and now he was drunk and hurting. Alfred's gentle touches and soft words, requesting that the other sleep, were very much welcome. He leaned in towards the other, finding comfort in his kindness and the way he was touching him so sweetly-- gentle fingers in his hair, calming him. No sooner had the other spoken did he begin to close his eyes, giving a gentle nod and murmuring parting words. "Bonne nuit... and you too; sleep well, amour..." His lids soon closed and he slipped into unconsciousness as the world went dark.


Bois - Drink
Liberté, égalité, fraternité - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (This one was already translated within the text, but we'll include it here anyway ^^)
C'est - It is

Bonne nuit - Goodnight

Ils sont bonne, oui? - They're good, yes?
Tu es - You are

A/N: Well, now that Alfred is caring for Francis, the heartache with Matthew and Arthur is finally over! Or is it...?

A quick note-- we won't be translating the little French nicknames that Francis uses, along with other words in general, if we have already done so in a previous chapter, so please do look back. Also, be sure to let us know if we've left any out, as there may be times when we miss one or two. Saying that, if anything is incorrect then please do let us know, as I'm afraid neither of us are native French speakers.

As always, please do drop us a note in the comments! So far we've delighted in reading them together ^^

Until the next time~!