The 'Hug'

Chapter 3

As Matthew had expected, Alfred did eventually show up for dinner. Arthur had predictably berated him for not bothering to attempt to be punctual like a proper gentleman, but Alfred simply waved him off until France redirected his ire. Catching his gaze, Alfred mouthed a thanks to the other nation as he slouched in his chair. Dinner was as eventful as usual with the other nations, although Canada noticed how less involved his brother was despite the obvious effort he was putting in to be sociable. Only a few nations ever made the effort to host a formal dinner before the actual meeting when they were hosting, but England had always insisted upon at least the illusion of civility among the nations.

"You are not eating as much as usual Amerika, da?" Russia asked as he sat across from the table, looking innocently curious. But the other nation clearly knew that such a comment would gain more attention than it warranted. Alfred sighed at the Russian's usual blatant remark to him, used to the typical jabs to him. Canada tensed as he realized that Ivan's remark had indeed garnered plenty of attention, including the Englishman who was trying not to appear concerned.

"Nah…but I'm good. Even I can be full sometimes." Alfred said, attempting to give a joking tone to his response. He leaned forward as though to share a secret with the other nation, Russia curiously leaning across the table a little more. "Plus, it's English food, dude. Already stomached plenty a' that…" he said with a chuckle that sounded fake to even his own ears, but convincing enough to Arthur who huffed at that.

"Ah yes. I understand vhat you mean now." Russia said, pulling back with his typical smile in place. "I thought you might have decided to go on that diet Britain suggested to you at the last meeting." He said, continuing with his own meal with a cheerfulness that came from knowing he'd hit a sore spot.

"What? You…when did he say that?" America said, the other nearby nations shifting a little as they sensed an argument. While that itself wasn't too worrisome at these sorts of gatherings, Russia and America were known for some more edgy situations. "Dude, you callin' me fat? Again? All that vodka mess with your eyesight?" America asked with a scowl, Russia's apparent enjoyment over making America uncomfortable only making the agitation the other was experiencing all the worse.

"I vas only curious. It vould not be a bad thing to consider." Ivan said with a shrug. "And do not insult my vodka. It is a quality drink that…"

"It's tasteless and it's worse than the scum at the bottom of a cup of tea." America said, receiving an unamused look from Russia as the two of them leveled their gazes at each other. Some of the more flighty nations got up from their seats, England looking ready to intervene despite the jab to his favorite drink. "I like the flavored ones better than what I usually see you drink. You ever try the root beer one from, uh….what was the company….Smirnoff, I think. That ain't too bad." Alfred said, seeing the chance to steer out of any argument that he wasn't up to putting his all into that night.

"Oh, you like the root beer one? Is not too bad, but I prefer the watermelon. Makes me think of summer." Ivan said, leaning back more in his seat as the two began to discuss different flavors they'd had. Matthew let out a sigh of relief at his brother's rare ability to read the atmosphere for once, seeing several others looking more relaxed after too. The rest of dinner was relatively quick, as it seemed England wasn't too keen on letting another argument between America and Russia build up with extra time, wanting to keep Russia's pipe and America's gun hidden wherever they were. As everyone said their farewells until the meeting, Arthur attempted to act as the gracious host by going through a mental list of what to include or exclude for the end meal of the conference. Wrapped up in thought, he found himself spun around and facing an angry American.

"Hello Alfred." Arthur said with an attempt to remain cordial as he straightened out his shirt, using the other nation's human name in an effort to keep things less hostile. "What can I…"

"Don't…" Alfred started, clenching his eyes shut as his head throbbed. "Just don't pretend to be a 'gentleman' when you stoop to having Ivan fling your insults at me 'cuz I stopped listening to them you limey bastard. That was a low blow and you know how much I hate some of your underhanded moves you think you can make to try and pull one over on me when you're not gettin' whatever it is you want. And you call me a child. So just don't pretend you're gonna be all nice now. You don't normally have a problem with picking at what you see as flaws, so if there's something you really feel the need to say to me, do it yourself." He ranted, leaving his former caretaker standing there stunned as he made to storm off.

"Excuse me?" Arthur said once he recovered his voice. "Are you implying that I have no dignity? First you insult my drink, no surprise there, but now you question my morals. You? You have no right…"

America scoffed as he turned back around to face Arthur, walking backwards as he did. "Of course I do when it's me you're insulting! But then again, you've never been very good at telling when you've gone too far." He said, eager to just get back to his room and taking the opportunity of a shocked England to leave.

Arthur stood there, unsure what to think about what Alfred had said to him. While their relationship had developed into a more friendly interaction, there were still moments that Britain as Arthur felt nostalgic for the colony America as Alfred had been. And he knew that Alfred had become aware of that, several drunken trips back from sharing a pint or two cluing even the oblivious Alfred into those feelings. They hadn't been true enemies since after the War of 1812, and it was only a select group of his population that even recalled that they had also been fighting in North America at the time too. But Arthur, as a nation, remembered and it was clear that so did Canada and America, but England was sure that the other hadn't harbored any of those lingering colonial sentiments he'd had toward him when he'd considered him a brother. And such an apparent use of his own feelings in America's insult made clear to Arthur that Alfred didn't care as much as he had hoped, even though it was Arthur that had suggested possibly ending their 'special relationship'.

Gathering up his things and leaving the dining area, he huffed back to his room in an angry, hurt mood. A thought coming to mind, Arthur perused through one of his spell books that he liked to keep on him as a 'just in case' precaution. It wouldn't be the first time he'd thought of hitting America with one of his curses or spells, but he'd make sure Russia didn't interfere this time. Finding one that would cause a good amount of suffering, he felt justified in teaching America a lesson, thinking perhaps using the potentially lethal Busby chair the last time was a little much. Although he figured of all nations, America wouldn't actually be struck down by it. Shaking off that memory, Arthur began to chant the spell that would irritate the American to no end with its intended effect of being unable to speak for the meeting. As he was reaching the end, a knock on his door interrupted him, causing him to huff as he was forced to suspend his casting. He quickly placed his book down and opened the door, taking a deep breath to gather himself.

"Oh, hello….er….Canada." Arthur said, taking a moment to recall the other nation's name. "I wasn't expecting you. Is there something I can do for you? It is rather late…" Arthur said, genuine confusion in his voice. If it had been either America or France, he'd have not been too surprised at their sudden appearance.

"Yes. Sorry aboot that." Matthew said a little sheepishly. "I was just wondering if you knew where Alfred went." He explained as quickly as he could, already fidgeting under the undivided attention he was getting. "Um…I went to his room and knocked but he wouldn't answer. Francis said you were with him last so I thought I'd ask."

Arthur scowled at that, realizing that Francis had likely overheard the entire brief conversation. Seeing the quick mood swing, Matthew hastily began to try and politely excuse himself. "No, it's alright Matthew. It's not you I'm frustrated with at the moment. Yes, I did speak with him in the dining area but he stormed off. I assumed he'd gone to his room. If not, he's a big boy and can take care of himself as he so likes to remind me and anyone else who'll listen." Arthur said, not really easing Matthew's anxiety.

"Oh, alright then. Um…thanks Arthur." Matthew said, rushing to say his goodbye. "I'll try again in a little while. Goodnight." He said, briskly walking away as Arthur closed the door. The English man walked over to the nightstand and picked up his book, re-reading the information about the incantation. He sighed in frustration as he read that it was meant to be read in one continuous go, and after talking with Matthew, he didn't feel up to trying again. Slamming the book closed, he resolved to possibly try again in the morning if he was refreshed enough from the drain using magic had on him.

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