The 'Hug'

Chapter 16

Alfred had managed to convince the hospital staff that he was stable enough for them to have to let him return to the conference. He'd had enough of sitting around and he'd shown them that the wound on his chest had healed to the point where they couldn't make out even a scar. Filling out the necessary forms, he'd been told about the updating he'd need to do on his preliminary forms. He'd felt his face go red at the realization that Arthur had probably been informed of the older terminology on the forms that had more to do with family members only being allowed to visit when he was still under heavy observation for an illness or injury. At the time, 'former caretaker, ally, and estranged brother-figure' was a little long for the space given and he'd resorted to simply filing the British personification's name under 'brother' as he'd done with Matthew under the assumption that the older nation would understand the fact that he'd be as knowledgeable about his health concerns as Matthew. He could only imagine the look that had been on Arthur's face at being told that Alfred had listed him as his brother, although he was mostly glad he'd been unconscious for that big reveal. But he did find it odd that Arthur hadn't brought it up at all while he'd visited with him nearly around the clock like Matthew had. Still, it had been nice to have Arthur concerned for him and actually trying to care for him a little – until the night terrors would remind him of how much the other man really only hung around with him because of their alliances over the years.

The American personification had managed to make his way slowly back to the hotel and to his room, feeling as though he'd been running the whole way rather than taking a ride on one of those double-decker buses he thought were pretty cool. He'd nearly nodded off onto some kind old lady's shoulder until she'd gently nudged him awake as the bus came to a stop. He'd apologized but she waved off his embarrassment with a comment about doing that herself sometimes.

But he'd been too tired to really focus on the paperwork he'd pulled out immediately after entering his room. The bed had looked incredibly inviting and the thought crossed his mind to simply down a bottle of water like he'd been advised by the doctors, and to take a nap. He hadn't actually slept more than a solid hour with the nightmares and the desire to not fall asleep again and experience another one. The medication was out of his system, but the doctors warned about a relapse if he didn't rest up some more. Instead, he'd shaken his aching head to try and clear his thoughts before standing at the table to look over all his notes, trying to glean the most important pieces and remember what meeting he was supposed to be heading to at that time of the day. His stomach growled as it reminded him that he'd skipped out on lunch to avoid running into his brother and the two perpetually arguing Europeans that had been keeping him company. He'd thought it incredibly warming to think of them taking the time to look after him, but he believed himself to be able to get over whatever was going on with him mentally by simply getting back to what he normally did – and that was not sitting in hospital beds. He'd felt himself start to sway as he stood, before gripping the table tightly.

Glancing over at the clock, Alfred nearly felt his legs give out in his surprise that it was almost time for the afternoon session. Deciding on not bringing anything to the room would be better than bringing the wrong thing, and that he didn't think he'd manage to grab everything in the short time before the meeting was to begin, he'd grabbed his wallet and his bomber jacket that his brother had returned to his room for him. He smiled at his brother's thoughtfulness as he shrugged it on, sprinting out the door at fast as his tired self could manage. But he found himself sighing as he realized somewhere along the line he'd taken a wrong turn to the conference room and was in another hallway for more rooms. He made to backtrack by quickly turning around the next corner, but his path was blocked by a large mass that nearly knocked him over.

"Amerika?" Ivan asked, his voice filled with confusion while still retaining that cheery tone. The tall Russian man reached out to steady the rapidly wilting American personification. "I did not think you vould be back so soon. I knew the vodka would fix any ailment." Ivan said with a smile, Alfred breathlessly chuckling as he noticed Latvia being squished up against the wall with the Russian's other hand.

"Yeah, thanks for the bottle Ivan. It was a lifesaver." He said, more meaning in the off-handed casual remark. The Russian nodded and released Latvia, the smaller nation breathing out a sigh of relief at his temporary reprieve the American's presence had provided.

"Da, it always is." Ivan said, eyes widening as Alfred swayed a little and reached out to steady himself against the wall. "But are you sure you should be up so soon? Or did you want to thank me personally? To become one with mother Russia, da?" Ivan said, keeping up his cheery tone while Latvia looked back and forth between the two large nations.

Alfred laughed but refrained from rolling his eyes, his headache bothering him and dizziness returning. "Nah, you wish. Just tryin' to find the conference room so I'm not late again." Alfred said as he did his best to look as though just casually resting an arm on the wall as he stood and talked with Ivan.

"But Mr. America, the meeting isn't until later today." Latvia tried to helpfully supply for both the American and Russian personification, although he feared he'd once again done something displeasing to the towering man with the scarf.

"Da, the meeting is scheduled later in the day for today than the previous ones." Ivan said, enjoying the confused look on the American's face. "If there is anything else you want to ask of us…" Ivan began in his childish way, although Latvia could hear the underlying sarcasm in it.

"Since you're askin'….ya know what would be really awesome?" Alfred said, clearing his throat and blinking rapidly. "If you could catch me dude…" Alfred said, feeling himself lose the battle to stay awake and tilting forward.

"Catch you?" Ivan asked, face scrunching up in confusion. "I do not understand joke…. Боже мой!" Ivan shouted as he ended up with an armful of American man as Alfred fell into him. Ivan grunted under the unexpected weight as he fell to the floor with Alfred on top of him. "Ooof…что случилось?" Ivan muttered as he struggled out from under Alfred, Latvia standing wide-eyed at the unexpected development. Ivan poked at Alfred a few times, face scrunched up in the equivalent of childish curiosity at the lack of insult or any response directed to him from the American personification.

"Latvia, go find Lithuania." Ivan said as he readjusted his position to roll Alfred onto his back on the floor. "Latvia…." Ivan said again, his voice taking on a harsher edge that prompted the boy to stutter out a response.

"B-B-But…I don't know where he is right now." Latvia said as he stood up against the wall shaking. Ivan leveled a direct look at the smaller nation before answering. "Then you better start looking now, da?" The Russian man said, Latvia getting the hint and heading off to where he thought Lithuania's room might have been. "If I find your sisters first, do you want me to bring them…" He turned back around to ask but he could practically see the dark aura around the other nation.

"Latvia…go find Lithuania. Now." Ivan said, voice never losing the cheery quality that put the others on edge. The smaller nations shook at the look directed at him before bolting down the hall. As soon as the other nation was out of sight, Ivan returned his attention onto the unconscious form on the floor beside him.

"Never listening to what they're told; classic American attitude toward authority." Ivan said as he rolled the other man onto his back. "You come find Ivan for him to take blame, da?" He said, not entirely expecting a response from Alfred. Still, the other personification did consider the entirely plausible option of just leaving the American in the hall for Lithuania to find and be done with the problem, or to even 'help' by wrapping his scarf around the other as a 'comfort'. Ivan placed his hand on the other's chest to check on the other man, but the thicker bomber jacket Alfred always wore had been closed; not the usual style worn by the American but Ivan figured it was likely to cover the wrinkled shirt he could see peeking out from underneath.

Not feeling anything through the jacket, Ivan sighed and unzipped the article of clothing to see the wrinkled shirt the American hadn't ironed in his haste to get to the non-existent meeting. Laying his head on the other's chest he waited silently.

Alfred felt something shift him around, but his concern didn't warrant him making the effort to open his eyes until he felt something moving his jacket around. Blinking open his eyes at a weight on his chest, he was met with the sight of platinum blond hair. "Ah, still beating…" he heard Ivan's voice say.

"Sorry to disappoint…." Alfred mumbled, the other man sitting back at the sound of Alfred's voice. "But thanks for breaking my fall." He said, feeling his eyes slipping closed again.

"Are you still awake Alfredka?" Ivan said, slapping him not overly gently on the cheek, chuckling when Alfred groaned at the assault to his face. The American personification lifted his head and glared as best he could, but based on the other's laughter, he was hardly achieving the desired look. Instead, he let his head fall back to the floor with a thud and shut his eyes in protest of conversing with the Russian personification. "Alfredka?" Ivan asked again, this time Alfred swearing in his mind that he could hear genuine worry – or at least curiosity, he never could tell with the Russian personification. Feeling a weight on his chest again, Alfred stayed quiet in the hope that the other man would simply go away on his own once he realized he was still breathing. But when it seemed Ivan wasn't going to sit back on his own anytime soon, Alfred thought it time to say something to let him know that he was being a little unsettled at the other man's creepy actions.

"As much as you'd like it to be otherwise, you're bound to be disappointed again. Heart's still going…" Alfred said, not bothering to open his eyes again.

"Disappointment is not the same thing for you as it is for me, Alfredka." Ivan said, pulling away again. "Have you not ever read any Russian literature? Dostoevsky or Gogol could impart valuable lessons to you and your ever absurdly high expectations." The Russian man said as he held a hand to Alfred's forehead. The unnaturally chilly hand though was more comforting than Alfred had thought, leaning into it for a moment before Ivan pulled away.

"Yeah…well…I think I'll stick with Mark Twain or maybe Herman Melville." Alfred said with a sigh, Ivan shaking his head at the mention of the American authors. "But hey, if you prefer the morose, there's always Edgar Allen Poe for ya'" Alfred said with a slight smile. The two lapsed into silence, Ivan prodding the other harshly in the side when it seemed like Alfred was slipping into deep sleep again. "Dude, I appreciate the concern and all, but you really need to stop jabbing me between the ribs like that." Alfred moaned, swatting the other man's hand. "I'll be up in a sec'. Just need a minute to get myself together and I'm good to go." Alfred said, Ivan shaking his head at the stubbornness of the younger personification.

"I do not think so, Alfredka. This time, I've got the upper hand here." Ivan said, Alfred tensing under the other man's hand. "Latvia is bringing Lithuania back to help you. I thought you would appreciate the care…" Ivan said, Alfred looking for the hidden meaning but thought that it might be worth the chance that the other personification might actually be sincere in helping him. Before he could respond with more than a sigh as he tried to get comfortable on the floor, Ivan lifted him up so that he was lying with his head in the other man's lap. "I am not so bad, Alfredka." Ivan said a little softer, briefly placing his hand again on the side of Alfred's head. The other man shivered a little but thought that the brushfires must've picked up back home to make him have a fever. Or there had been more flooding in areas that left him feeling like he was drifting so much – perhaps that was why Texas wasn't making seeing things any easier at the moment. His internal musings were interrupted by footsteps that seemed much louder and heavier than they should have been to Alfred from his position on the floor.

"Mr. America!" Toris' voice said, Alfred pushing to turn his head enough to look at the other Eastern European nation. "Latvia, vhy did you bring Belarus?!" Ivan's uneasy voice asked, Alfred finally spotting the female personification standing in front of the smaller, quaking nation.

"S-She was with Lithuania when I found him. I thought you wanted to me to hurry so I told T-Toris that you needed him and his doctor stuff and she…" Latvia started to explain before Belarus interrupted, her gaze never leaving from Alfred's face as though jealous of the other man's position.

"I came to aid you big brother. I will always come for you, big brother." She said as she looked to the Russian personification, Ivan's grip on Alfred's arm tightening at the possessive tone the other woman used. Alfred would've laughed like normal if he wasn't immediately sandwiched between Ivan and his sister as he was propped up as a human shield by Ivan. Lithuania protested the movement as much as he dared, but when Belarus started going on about tending to Ivan's needs and that she needed to be closer to check on his wellbeing, clothes being a hindrance, Ivan's earlier statement about not being so bad was questioned by Alfred. In an act of desperation to gain some time to get away, Ivan pushed Alfred into his sister's waiting arms, Alfred receiving a kiss to his cheek as he tried to turn out of the unexpected embrace. Belarus' eyes widened at kissing America before backing up and wiping her mouth as if she'd just gotten a mouthful of something nasty, Alfred trying to get to his feet and out of the way as the woman took off after the already long-gone Russian personification.

"Whoa…" Alfred said with a laugh at the craziness between Ivan and his sister before sagging into Toris' arms, the adrenaline from the encounter wearing off. "Hey Toris…I'm good. D-don't worry 'bout me…" Alfred said with a wave of his hand as he tried to dismiss the other's concern.

"Mr. America, you shouldn't be out of the hospital yet if what Mr. Britain said about your condition was right." Toris said as he wrapped one of Alfred's arms around his shoulders to support him, the two carefully and slowly walking down the hallway. At Lithuania's look, Latvia approached Alfred's other side to assist somewhat but Alfred waved his hand.

"Don't worry little dude. Thanks for the help, but I'm not really doing such a good job at not breakin' stuff lately." Alfred said, Latvia's eyes widening again at the implication of an accidental injury caused by the other personification. "Don't wanna hurt you or somethin'." Alfred said with a smile, leaving Toris to try and counter the other's surprisingly heavier weight. Alfred heard Toris mumbling something in Lithuanian to Latvia, who apparently was closely enough related linguistically to understand. Latvia grabbed something out of Toris' pocket and took off down the hall with it. "Please, Mr. America…I can barely hold myself up." Toris said, gaining Alfred's attention as the taller nation pushed himself to not lean so much on the other nation. They continued on for a little while until they got to the elevator, Alfred sliding to sit down on the floor winded from doing far more than he'd had the past three days. Lithuania was also trying to catch his breath in time to hoist Alfred back to his feet, stumbling over to where Latvia was standing in the hall, holding a door open for them.

"This ain't my room…" Alfred said, wondering where he was. Lithuania gave a slight laugh as he gently deposited Alfred onto the bed.

"No. It is my room. I do not know where yours is and I have all my things to treat you with here." Toris said, Alfred nodding and turning his face into the pillow. He heard Toris say something else in his language to Latvia before the smaller nation took off again. "I'm sorry Mr. America, but you need to stay awake so I can tell what's wrong. I think you might still be dehydrated…" Toris said as he gently shook Alfred's shoulder.

"Yeah…can't seem to fix that right away. Ironic since there are a ton of floods back home right now…" Alfred mumbled into the pillow. At Toris' urging, he let the other man assist him in sitting up so that he could take his jacket and shirt off for the other man to examine him. While not primarily a physician, Toris did have an extensive amount of knowledge about health that had come in handy when he's been at Alfred's house while he had been reeling from the crash in 1929, Alfred finding it funny that his dream seemed to be repeating. He tried to struggle against the urging to let himself be taken care of or to be taken back to the hospital, but with Toris' gentle voice reminding him of Arthur's when he'd read him stories as a colony, Alfred couldn't help but comply.

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