He scratches at his chin, stares at the computer; a blank email awaits his answer. Management is tired of the cooking segment on Sundays and they want him to agree to fire his boyfriend.
“Hey boss!” The door opens, bumping the plant that sits in the corner. Blue eyes peer in.
“Alfred,” he sighs. “What is it?”
“Meeting’s about to start.”
Another sigh. “Of course.” Ludwig saves the email as a draft. “I’ll be there.”
Germany meets America at a brown little bar in Munich. It’s a little nice affair, just the two of them and the Secret Service men brushing the hilts of their pistols with the heels of their palms. America orders a pint with a lazy accent and tells Germany how much he’s improved. “I’m proud of you, I gotta say.” America thumbs some foam from his own lip looking solemn, glowing all the same. “That doesn’t sound patronizing, does it?” He keeps on before Germany can think to reassure him that no, it’s not, despite America being, in some ways, his patron.
“It’s been hard for all of us — I’m trying to keep it together, and it’s been rough. Can’t imagine what it’s been like for you.” Germany still feels the edge of implication, sheathed but not dulled, not in these twenty years. Not as bad as it could have been, is just at the back of America’s throat, and Germany sees it in those technicolor blues.
The bar hums with a vague energy, something like camaraderie: clerks out of work, university students ready to talk loudly and boldly and be on the edge of poor decisions, two nations drinking away today and tomorrow’s paperwork. The booths shine, the lights are dim with time and smoke, and they finish the pint. Germany lurches to pay for it, and America laughs him off, as if the very idea of Germany taking care of the bill for once is a joke in itself. America presses some bills into the scuffed polish and slides out of the booth. Germany follows, opening his jacket as he stands to press the wallet back into place. They leave, and the servicemen leave, the door clanging behind. A shadow of arching letters spells out the bar’s name across the hard edge of the kerb.
America offers Germany a ride home — it’s dark, it’s late, you must be tired, just got the thing reupholstered, treat yourself for once. His car is white and shines in stripes under the streetlights, gold decal flashing as the city peels away before them — Chevrolet, and Germany wonders idly what sparked the flurry of pride that inspired America to bring it over.
They pull into a spot on the street in front of an apartment that Germany recognizes as America’s, one set up during the occupation when he came more frequently, kept to avoid the hassle of a hotel on one of his many visits. He shifts the car into reverse, fits his arm around the back of the Germany’s headrest. “Just need to make a call,” he explains, smiling at the night as he backs into the space. Germany has a phone in his own apartment now, and he would have offered it if he offered America anything. It isn’t that he is selfish, he doesn’t harbor resentment, but what did can he give to America that isn’t assumed given? His attention, time, loyalty are already there, at America’s fingertips, comfortably and tacitly in his palm.
America invites him up for a nightcap, and Germany accepts.