Title: Outshining Every Star
Character(s) or Pairing(s): England, colonial!USA, historical cameos
Warnings: England swears. A lot. Also warnings for politically incorrect history. Please remember that just because the character says it does not mean I think so.
Summary: England now has a new colony – only problem is, he isn't quite sure what to do with it. The colony doesn't seem to mind, though: he's quite certain that what he wants is England's affection and companionship.
So England had won the boy – which was right and good, of course, and England wasn't about to give him up for all the gold in the world, for even something as wonderful as that wouldn't be worth leaving this child to the 'mercy' of France, Spain, Finland, Wales, and all those other power-hungry nations of the world, eager to sink their claws into young flesh. (No, England was not in that category. England was simply trying to find child-nations to take under his wing and care for, no exploitation involved).
England had the boy.
England was keeping the boy.
England did not know what to do with the boy.
Said boy was watching England curiously with his wide blue eyes from the safe circle of England's arms. He appeared to be waiting for the older nation to say something.
"Ah," said England, and tried a smile, as apparently children found that comforting, or something. "Do you have a name?"
"No, not really," replied the boy. "I never really needed one. I never spoke to anyone properly before you all came here." He smiled shyly at England, who had the horrible feeling his ears were going pink.
"I could name you, if you like," said England.
The child smiled brightly at him. "Please."
By this point England's aimless wanderings had led him rather far away from town to one of the thick forests that were so abundant in this new world – they reminded him of old Britain, though they scared the settlers – and sat down with his back against a tree, with the child balanced carefully in his lap. The little hands gripped England's fingers tightly.
"We call this place the New World, or the Americas," said England. "As calling you New is rather silly, you could be America, as you're the most important one in the Americas." Spain and his sprogs be damned: they had nothing on this bright-eyed little one.
"America," the child repeated. "I like it!"
England felt a rush of pride at that.
The child's smile outshone the sun. "Thank you, England."
England averted his eyes from such adoration, uncomfortable in his inability to deal with it. "America. Yes. But you need another name, to give your people. Few understand the concept of us, and most that do are frightened by it. Therefore, you need a human name to introduce yourself to them with."
America stared. "What's your human name?"
"Arthur Kirkland," Arthur replied proudly. It had had many different spellings and pronunciations over the centuries, but essentially it was always the same name.
"Can I be Arthur Kirkland too?" America asked earnestly.
England laughed, and then tried to smother the sound in the fear that he had committed an atrocious social blunder. "I'm afraid not," he said, and America pouted. "You see, I am already Arthur Kirkland. You need a new name. One that will be all your own."
"Bunny might give some people the wrong impression," England said slowly, thinking reluctantly of France. "Something else."
America wriggled in England's lap until he was satisfied with his new position, lying with his head against England's chest, small ear to England's heartbeat. "You name me," the child ordered.
Arthur swallowed. A thousand names presented themselves. Lancelot? No; though Lancelot was a brave and strong knight, he eventually betrayed Arthur. William? No, unfortunately not: the name still held unfortunate French connections in England's mind. Richard? Henry? Edward? Robin? Gawain? Lambert? Timothy? Thomas? John? Matthew? Charles? Stephen? The English language was full of good, strong names, and yet none of them seemed right for the sandy-haired child with sleepy eyes in England's hesitant arms.
"How about Peter?" he suggested.
America wrinkled his nose.
America sat up to give England a glare. "That's just silly," he said shortly.
England smiled. "Fair enough." Silence for a few moments. "You know, this would be a lot easier if you were a girl," he said. "You'd be either Elizabeth or Virginia, after my queen."
America frowned. "Well, I'm not a girl," he said, sounding somewhat cross now. "So I can't have a girl's name!"
"All right, all right," said England hurriedly, hoping the child wouldn't go marching off to France. There was something about that frown, though... "Alfred," he said suddenly.
America blinked. "What?"
"Alfred," England repeated. "After one of my early kings. You looked a bit like him when you were frowning before. You could be Alfred."
"Alfred," America tried, tasting the name. "Alfred. Yeah," he decided, smiling up at England. "Yeah, I like Alfred."
"Well, good," said England, relaxing against the tree. "I was growing a bit desperate."
America's delighted giggle made him jump in surprise. England had never heard a child make that kind of noise before. "You're so funny," America said happily. He snuggled closer against England, which just made the older nation feel even more awkward, but damned if he was going to show that. "I need another name, though. Like you have."
"Yes, you do," England agreed. "How about Jones?" All right, so that was a pretty Welsh name, but he supposed he ought to give his brother some credit for helping him find the New World in the first place. Besides, it was an English spelling of a Welsh surname, so that made it okay. It annoyed Wales.
"Alfred Jones," America murmured. "Yeah. I am Alfred Jones, and America. England's America."
"The British Colonies of America," England corrected absently.
"That too." America stretched up then to wrap his arms around England's neck as much as he could and nuzzled the man's cheek. "I'm really glad that you found me," he whispered happily.
England swallowed. Slowly, ever so slowly, he raised a hand and rested it lightly on the top of America's head, fingers lightly buried in the warm blond hair. America made a pleased noise. The child smelt like baby unicorns.
"Quite," England breathed hoarsely.
By this time, the settlers had, well, settled quite well into the New World. There was a small wooden colony, complete with houses and gardens, that could have appeared in any place in Britain; though maybe without the high wooden fence. The English were claiming this new land as theirs.
America was getting a lot of curious stares as he and England entered the settlement. Captain Kirkland wasn't exactly known for his skill at dealing with children, and there was the matter of precisely where this boy had sprung from. Captain Kirkland wasn't known for his relationships, either.
"Are you all right?" England asked, worried that all these stares would frighten the child off.
"I've never seen so many people in one place," America whispered, stepping behind England's leg to avoid a horse, even though there was a good five foot gap between him and the animal.
"Would you like me to carry you?"
America nodded and smiled one of his shy little smiles. "Please."
England picked him up and settled him carefully in his arms, balanced on his hip as he had seen mothers do. America relaxed somewhat at that: however new and strange his surroundings, England was warm and tall and safe. "You're not completely alone here, surely," England said. "Don't you have any inhabitants?" At America's blank expression, he clarified, "There are people living here, aren't there?"
"Oh, yes," America answered, "there are lots, but they don't look like me. They've nearly all got black hair and dark skin. They're nice to me when they see me, but I always feel kind of out of place. And I get scared."
Poor shy little thing, thought England. He also thought, Interesting, more slaves. Maybe I won't have to import my own.
"You can live in my house, if you like," said England, and because he was England he had to add, "just because it would make things easier for me, you see, having you close…"
America leant his little head against England's shoulder. "Yes."
England lightly placed his hand on the back of America's head. The child gripped England's shirt and, without hesitation, snuggled up to the older nation. That threw England rather off-balance: he actually stopped walking, and for several moments found himself unable to do anything but stare at the child and be amazed. Something so small and so trusting and so uncaring for England's flaws…
"Would you like some dinner?" England managed at last.
The child nodded eagerly. "Can I sit with you?"
He did, sitting as close as he could without quite going so far as climbing into England's lap. America wasn't very good with cutlery, making a right mess of himself until England took pity and decided to feed the little one himself. America smiled, apparently rather pleased with the attention, and England's own lips twitched in reply. He could see why Spain kept going on and on and on about his colonies.
Evening fell, and England sat at the window in his house, looking skywards. Without asking permission or any inhibitions about doing so, America clambered into England's lap and made himself comfortable, curling up contentedly as if he had always belonged there. England embraced the child loosely – until America pulled his arm closer and decided to hug it, grip strong and insistent. England's gaze kept slipping down from the stars to the boy, trying to commit every breath to memory for when the moment was over.
"I like stars," America said softly.
"Mm? Oh, yes. Quite. Stars." England leant back against the window frame. "Yes. Me too, actually. There's something wonderful about them."
"They're pretty and make the night less scary."
England absently petted America's hair. "Yes. And they're always there, for everyone, for saints and sinners, warriors and cowards, queens and peasants… The stars look down on all of us, always."
"So when they were looking down on me," America said slowly, "and you were all the way in Britain, and didn't know about me, the stars were looking down on you too?"
"Yes," England answered. "And that will always be true," he added. "That's what I love about stars."
America smiled sleepily. "Then it's what I love too."
"You can see them very clearly out here," England continued.
England glanced down at the boy again and smiled. "The stars also tell me that it's high time I put you to bed."
"No," America whined, sitting up to stare at England. "No, I'm not tired! It's not bedtime!" His argument was quite ruined by his yawn.
"Well, I am tired," said England. "I'd quite like to go to bed, and I won't be able to sleep if I'm worrying about you."
America made some odd grumbling noises that were quite unintelligible, and really quite adorable. "Okay," he decided grudgingly. "If you need to sleep, I guess I will too…"
"You are a most gracious young man." England stood carefully, trying not to change America's position or drop him, and carried him to his room. He was going to share England's room, as the house wasn't big enough to give him a separate one – it was a standard two-room affair, one room as the bedroom and living room, the other as the kitchen and dining room, with a privy outside – and, until he had his own bed made, would have to share that too.
"Are you all right with sleeping in the same bed?" England asked.
America nodded. "Yeah. You'll keep monsters away." It wasn't a question.
"There are a lot of monsters here?"
Again, a little nod. "They're scary and mean and have big teeth."
"But I've kicked France out," said England, and America giggled. "I've gotten rid of him," he added in a much softer voice, "and I'm not about to lose you to some other monster. So there's no need to fear, little one."
America's wide eyes were a mixture of awe and amazement. "You're not scared of monsters?"
England's gut reaction was a short 'no', but, well, where was the harm in telling this child the truth? It wasn't as if he had anyone to tell. Besides, this was bonding, or something. "The monsters I'm scared of are a little different to the ones that frighten you," he said slowly.
"Is France one of them?"
England scoffed. "Bloody hell, no. That wine-guzzling moron couldn't frighten a traumatised cowardly ant with a nervous disorder."
"He kind of scares me a little bit," America admitted. "His eyes are kind of funny."
"If he ever tries to attack you," England said imperially, "tell him that I'm still pissed off about Hastings and will gladly take that anger out on him."
"What happened at Hastings?"
"Something that I wish I could strike from history forever," England sighed. "Anyway, now, stop distracting me. It's time for you to go to bed."
"Awwww," America whined. "Can I have a story?"
"I'll need to see about getting you bedclothes," England said absently. "Pardon? Oh, a story. Oh, all right, if you want." That was common practice among parents with tired, but unwilling to sleep, children, wasn't it? Besides, England was good with stories. "Let's see, let's see." He changed into his nightshirt and climbed into bed, lifting America up beside him. The child made a happy noise (it was a sweet noise) and settled comfortably beside the man.
"A story about someone strong who can look after everyone. I want to be like that."
England patted his head. "I'm sure you will be, in time. Now, then, once upon a time, there was a land divided by war and unrest. In this land, there was a great wizard called Merlin…"
Perhaps the story of the sword in the stone was not the best choice, as America kept begging for just a little more, please, he wanted to know what was going to happen to Wart! Eventually – long after he had intended – England put his foot down and insisted that now was time for sleep, and America very reluctantly agreed. The older nation pulled the blankets up, tucked them under the child's chin, and whispered, "Goodnight. Sleep well."
America reached up to capture England in a quick hug. "Goodnight."
England had the nagging feeling there was something he should have done and neglected to do, but as he had no idea what it was he just left the little one to sleep and lay down himself.
Eventually, America's breathing evened out, and the child was asleep. England sat up to stare at the fae lurking in the shadows. He had been able to sense them since arriving, but they didn't come too close – probably because of the dried daisy chain he wore about his neck. England watched them, mentally comparing the creatures to his friends (these were far less friendly, resenting him for taking their charge, their boy, but refraining from attacking the stranger because they did not know his strength).
England carefully got out of bed, took a stick of chalk from his beside table, and drew a magic circle on the wooden floor around the bed. He decorated it with signs and words that were a second language to him. Then he got back into bed and lay on his side.
The fae in the shadows grumbled. England ignored them.
The next morning, England awoke with a warm lump on his chest. It wasn't heavy, just a definite weight, curled up on England's front. His first thought was a vague, Tibbs is getting fat. (Tibbs was the ship's cat, and though one was not supposed to treat such working animals as pets, England always allowed her to sleep on his bed – he was the bloody captain of the ship, he'd treat the cat however he liked!)
It did not, of course, turn out to be Tibbs. She was staying on the ship, as she distrusted this new land that didn't move up and down. The rats smelt wrong.
England opened his eyes and was met with the sight of a sound-asleep America, curled up on his chest and looking completely comfortable there. He must have been very sneaky, really, clambering onto England's chest under the covers like that and falling asleep there without disturbing the man at all.
... He looked happy.
England slowly, carefully, trying not to wake the slumbering child, lifted an arm to wrap around him. America wriggled a little bit but did not wake; not then, nor when England put his other arm around him. He did feel slightly (read: very) awkward, hugging the little one, unsure of just where to put his hands, what was acceptable affection and what was just mollycoddling, and whether or not this would frighten America or make him smile that wonderful, pleased, bright smile again. England just... just wanted to hold him, for now, while he was there.
He could hear people outside. Another exploration party was setting out. He really should join them. That would mean moving, though, and that would mean waking America. England carefully laid his hand across America's ear, just to make sure he was still safe in his dreams, undisturbed by the commotion outside. Sleep as long as you need, little one, thought England. I'll be here.
It was very calming, here with the little America. England couldn't remember the last time he'd been so... so...
Happy. Not happy at someone's expense, not happy because he had beaten someone to a pulp, proved Britain's strength, sent France or Spain weeping in pain, got one over on his siblings; this was just a simple joy, radiating from the tiny bundle sleeping peacefully on his chest. One of his little hands was clutched in England's nightshirt. Melting into a cooing pile of goo from that would just be unprofessional, wouldn't it?
England wasn't keeping track of the time, but it seemed to him far too soon when America's eyes opened and the child blinked into wakefulness. He looked up slightly worriedly at the older nation and when he saw that he was awake America flushed a light pink and smiled sheepishly. "Um," he said. "Good morning?"
"Good morning." England sat up, pulling the child securely against his chest as he did so. America didn't protest – in fact, he nuzzled England through his shirt and tried to wrap his arms around the man. "Did you sleep well?"
America nodded. "Yes. Um. Is it all right?"
England frowned. "That you slept well? Of course it is. Silly thing."
"I got scared," America admitted. "Started thinking something was going to get me if I fell asleep."
Note to self: give America a daisy chain as soon as possible.
"So you came to me?"
"I'm safe with you."
England closed his eyes and wished that he was better at expressing affection. "That so?" he whispered.
America nodded. "Mm."
"Would you like some breakfast?"
America peeked up at England almost shyly. "Will you make it?"
England smiled. At last, someone who wanted his cooking! "Of course." He didn't let go of the child, instead carrying him balanced on his hip even as he cooked. America didn't seem to mind. He looked quite content, honestly, gripping England's shirt like a baby animal clinging to its mother, certain of its own protection.
He turned rather more cautious and sort of morbidly curious when faced with the results of England's efforts. "This is... food?" America asked hesitantly.
England's returning look bordered on a glare. "Yes," he replied flatly.
America looked slightly frightened. "Okay." But he ate, and didn't complain, and England ruffled his hair as a reward.
"We're going to get you fitted for some new clothes," England said. "I shall also teach you how to read and write, and sing songs, and when you're older, how to fight. I may teach you how to play an instrument as well, but I'll admit that isn't exactly my strong point."
America met England's eyes and smiled again. "If it's you teaching me," the child said, "it'll be brilliant!"
England had no idea how to reward him for that.
America was kitted out in a shirt, waistcoat, and pair of trousers that were unfortunately a little too big for him until a tailor could make something especially for him. He had to roll up the cuffs, which kept unrolling, meaning England had to stop him every few paces to rearrange his clothes.
"You could just carry me," America suggested.
"You're getting awfully uppity in a very short amount of time," said England, but he picked America up anyway. He turned red and spluttered when the child threw his arms around England's neck. "S-steady on!" The settlers were giving them some very odd looks.
America giggled shyly but did release England – well, mostly, as instead of hugging him around the neck he decided to hold onto England's shirt. He was a clingy little thing, though England couldn't say he minded.
"It's that way," America said, pointing out of the town towards the woods. England held no fear about entering them – he had his sword and pistol, and had fought with worse handicaps than a child in his arms (thanks, Scotland. Really. You're a fantastic brother). America directed England over streams, through more forests, over lands as of yet unexplored by any settler, and whenever England wanted to stop to look the child insisted that it was just a little farther, please please please?
"Cover your eyes," America said suddenly.
England looked down at him. "You do realise that I'm still carrying you," he said dryly. "Closing my eyes will mean walking around blind."
America pouted at this unfairness. However, apparently England seeing whatever it was the child wanted to show him was even more important than being carried, as he asked to be put down and wriggled so much in his haste that England almost dropped him. He held England's fingers tightly and as soon as the man had closed his eyes began dragging him. America had an awful lot of strength for such a diminutive-looking child.
He was also very bossy. "Step left! Up! There's a rock there."
"It would be nice if you could tell me that before I walk into it."
"I didn't think you would. Right! Oh, a raccoon!"
Eventually, America stopped and said cheerfully, "You can open your eyes now!" He sounded awfully smug about something.
England blinked several times, rubbed at his eyes, and then just stared. "It's beautiful," he finally breathed.
All right, so it was just a valley. Britain had plenty of valleys, and England had seen almost all of them. Big valleys, little valleys, valleys with lakes, valleys with faerie rings, England was up to his figurative neck in valleys. This, when you got right down to it, was just another valley.
But it was beautiful.
"Bunny!" America cried suddenly, and released England's hand to run over to a young brown rabbit. It raised its head and hopped over to America, allowing the child to pet it with all signs of contentment. America giggled.
England watched for several moments. America noticed his eyes on him, looked up, and smiled as if England was the only important thing in the whole world.
England strode slowly towards the boy, frightening away the rabbit. America just looked curious, as England stared down at him and he stared up at England.
Then England fell to his knees and embraced America tightly, so tightly his own arms ached, and buried his fingers in the child's hair and closed his eyes almost as tightly as he was holding the boy. America didn't protest: he hugged back, pressed his cheek to England's, clung back as hard as he could, and clumsily returned England's kisses.
"You don't mind if I never release you, do you?" England asked.
"No," America replied. "Never. Don't ever let me go. Never, never, never, never, never..." until it wasn't a word any more, was just a sound, a sound promising an eternity of never being alone ever again.
The New World was wonderful. All right, so they hadn't found any gold as of yet like Spain had, but it wasn't as if they couldn't nick that from Spain's ships anyway. Instead, here there were animals, and plants, and (reportedly) food ("But it's yellow, dear boy, I'm quite sure that being yellow is not a sign of being edible..."), and views so beautiful they made England's eyes water. (America didn't understand what all the fuss was about, but hey, it was great when England got all excited and emotional over his stuff!)
Most importantly, there was America. They never did get his separate bed made on that visit. The child would fall asleep with his head under England's chin, usually holding onto the man, and after a few nights England stopped waiting for America to fall asleep before he hugged him in return. Even when England had to actually attend to his duties as an agent of Her Majesty, America was in his lap or on his hip or holding onto his hand, trying to draw the man's attention. He liked it when England paid attention to him.
England taught him how to dress properly, and read and write a little, and how to eat with cutlery, and took him horse-riding (that was fun), and told him stories, and England was so cool and strong and knew everything – even if he was pretty silly sometimes.
"If fairies are real," America said, wrinkling his nose, "why haven't I ever seen them?"
England carefully made a tiny hole in a daisy stem with his fingernail and threaded another daisy through it. "Just because you've never seen something doesn't mean it isn't real," England replied. "You've never seen Britain, but that exists."
"Britain's ages and ages and ages and ages away," America returned triumphantly. "You're saying fairies are real here." Though he was having fun picking the flowers.
"America, dear," England sighed, leaning forward so they could see eye to eye, grass green to sky blue. "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in any philosophy."
England shrugged. "It's something people do when they're bored. They pretend to think very deep thoughts about the world, when really, their time would be better spent doing something about the world. It's all a bit French."
"And French is bad?"
"French is awful." England sat back and continued work on the daisy chain. "The only thing worse than French is Scottish, and they're practically the same nowadays."
"And the best is me?"
"I suppose so. All right, definitely."
"Always always always." England finished the chain and placed it carefully around the child's neck. America giggled. "Promise me you'll wear this, even if I'm not here to tell you to?"
"Good boy." England kissed his forehead, but America wasn't letting him get away with just that, and dragged him down for a cuddle. England acquiesced with a barely-annoyed sigh.
"I don't know why France and Scotland and your other brothers and sister and everyone else don't like you," the child piped up suddenly. England opened an eye to give him a confused look, and was met only with earnest honesty. "There's nothing about you not to like! I don't get them."
"Here's hoping you never have to meet them," England murmured. It was awfully relaxing out here, America resting on his chest, the sun warm on his skin. "I really am rather glad that you chose me," he whispered.
"Me too," America replied. "I didn't like being alone."
England held America's hand in his own. "Neither did I."
Oddly for an explorer, England did not like maps. Oh, of course he could understand the use of them: it was very important for one to know where one was in relation for the rest of the world and so on. England would readily admit that maps were useful things.
But good God, they didn't half make his head hurt. They all started to look the same after a while. There was also the problem that, nowadays, a map just seemed to show what a volatile position England was in. He disliked being reminded of that.
He should really be paying more attention to what Walter was saying, shouldn't he?
America was really distracting, though. Yes, he was asleep right now, but that didn't mean England could take his eye off him. He might fall off his lap and hit his head on the desk, and then he'd start crying, or trying not to cry, and England would have to tell him to grit his teeth and bear it, he was a man after all, and then kiss the wound better once they were alone and gently scold him.
A lot of hassle, this whole child-rearing business. Very distracting.
Oh, damn, Walter had finished speaking. England was probably expected to speak now, or something, wasn't he? What had they been discussing? Well, something about the New World, obviously. Probably. It was quite possible that Walter had been talking about the situation back home, Elizabeth's latest survival of yet another assassination attempt, the latest poor sod trying to ask her hand in marriage; or even about his latest poem to Marlowe. Ah, buggeration, they could have been talking about anything.
"I trust your judgement in this matter," England said diplomatically.
Walter nodded decisively. "Then we shall send aid to our French brethren immediately."
England blinked. "Beg pardon?"
Walter frowned. "That is what I believe to be the best course of action."
Fuck, what have I just agreed to?
Walter began laughing. "Your face, Arthur, honestly. You really weren't paying any attention, were you?" England grumbled something unintelligible and Walter's face softened into a smile. "You've really taken quite a shine to that boy, haven't you?"
"He's just a child," England responded, almost defensively. "He doesn't have anyone else."
"It is odd to find an English child alone in these lands," said Walter.
"All the more reason we have to protect him," England replied archly.
Walter was giving him a look that was far too appraising for England's taste. England tried to feign indifference by checking America was still safe in his arms. "How old are you, Lord Arthur?" Walter asked suddenly.
"Old enough to deserve my title and serve my queen," England said. He thought that he probably looked, to a human, to be in his late teens, but he couldn't pinpoint a specific year. He found that it was far easier to leave things ambiguous and let the humans to decide his age for themselves.
"I have never seen you so happy," Walter continued. "Not at Court, nor at a theatre, nor even while reading. Nor have I ever seen you so maternal."
"Caring for this child doesn't make me any less of a man," England said.
"I wasn't going to say it did. I'm assuming that you will bring him back to England with us."
England's eyes widened and he was still for several moments. "Must we leave so soon?" he asked hoarsely. His grip had tightened on America, causing the child to mumble a protest in his sleep.
"We have spent a lot longer than we had intended here," Walter pointed out. "Besides that, you know that the journey home is a long one, and I am sure that Her Majesty is eager for news regarding her settlements in the New World."
"Yes, of course," England answered. His heart wasn't in it.
"Will he be joining us as your charge?"
England thought of America living in his house, being there every day. He thought of waking up every single morning to find America asleep in his arms, of preparing every meal for two, of taking America around London, showing him Court, the Bridge, telling him all the 'orrible stories of traitors and plots. They could go to the theatre and America could watch the performances atop England's shoulders. England could watch the child grow and help shape the adult that he would become. It could be done: the Italy brothers were living in others' houses, after all.
But then... the climate back home was so different to here, and it was a very long voyage, and for all its huge loneliness this was America's home.
"No," England whispered. "No, I don't think he will."
"We shall return as soon as possible," Walter said soothingly.
England looked down at America's sleeping face, at the little hand holding onto his shirt as if the child could understand the conversation even in his sleep and did not like its direction. In all honesty, England wasn't very keen on it either.
"Yes," said England. "We shall."
"But why do you have to go?" America whined, clinging on tightly to England.
England sighed. "We've been through this several times, America," he said softly. England was supposed to be bidding goodbye to the boy before boarding the ship to return home, and he was supposed to be doing so quickly. America was having none of that, and so that was why England was kneeling on the floor in his big naval coat and feathered hat with America almost disappearing into his arms. "I have to return to England because it is my nation and I have to take care of business there."
"I want you to take care of me here," America whimpered.
England sighed again and rubbed America's back in what he hoped was a soothing manner. "I do hope you realise just how difficult you're making this for me," he muttered.
"Good," sniffled America, "cos then it'll get too hard for you to actually go and then you'll stay! I know you don't want to go. You said forever."
"And it will be forever," England promised. "I will return to you as soon as I am able, and I shall tell you my stories and sing you my songs – please, please don't cry, America, you'll set me off."
"What if you don't come back?" America cried with a sudden burst of tearful strength, throwing himself at England and causing the man to yelp and try not to fall onto his back. "No one else ever did! They come here and I don't talk to them cos I'm too scared, but before I can try they're gone and don't come back and I don't want to be alone ever ever ever again!" He fell to sobbing again, wailing as if his heart was breaking, and England felt his own cracking.
"I will come back," England whispered. "America, my dear, I swear it, I will come back to you. Oh, precious." He kissed the top of America's head. "My precious, precious boy."
"How do I know?"
"Because I love you," England answered with an unusual frankness. "I love you, America, and it will hurt me so much to be away from you, like a constant dagger pressing into the most vulnerable part of me. If I could stay here beside you I would – you know I would – but I have a duty. You'll understand when you're older."
America rubbed his eyes in England's shirt. "Would you stay if I was older?"
"If it was my choice, I would stay. I would stay and never leave your side." England wiped away America's tears gently – pretty ineffectually, as there were a lot of them. "America, dear, know that while you are missing me I am missing you just as much, if not more. When you look to the stars and wish that I was watching them with you know that I am looking up at the selfsame stars and wishing for the exact same thing."
America sniffled loudly. "We have the stars," he mumbled.
"We have the stars," England agreed. "We will always have the stars. Now, brave smiles, little one," and he showed America his own.
America's smile was rather wobbly and watery and weak, but he did his best and received a quick cuddle and a kiss to the cheek for it.
"Good boy. I will be back as soon as possible." England released him and stood slowly. America held onto his legs tightly for several moments, but let go reluctantly when England patted his hair.
"I love you," said the child.
"I love you too. Until we meet again. Stay safe, don't ever remove that daisy chain or the horseshoe over the door, say your prayers, eat well, keep clean, and just... wait for me. Because I'm coming back. I'm coming back, or the Devil may take my soul."
America frowned. "What would he do with it?"
England shrugged. "Something unpleasant, probably involving Finnish food and French poetry." That earned a giggle. "Goodbye for now, my little one."
America waved. "Bye, England. Love you."
England hesitated before boarding the ship. It had been kept waiting for several minutes by England's lengthy farewell, and he wanted to postpone its leaving even more – but that would make everyone lose patience with him, and he really did have to go back to Britain. He walked slowly up the gangplank and didn't turn back until it was withdrawn, as he didn't trust himself not to rush back to America to lift him into his arms and never let go.
America looked so small all alone on the shore in his still slightly overlarge clothes, dried daisy chain hanging loosely about his neck. He was holding it tightly in one fist and staring up at England and trying hard to smile through his tears. His efforts probably weren't helped by the fact that England was crying, too.
"I'll come back!" England shouted. "I promise!"
He didn't care that he was being completely emotional in front of people he always tried to appear dignified and in-control in front of. He just wanted to be with that child again.
Queen Elizabeth was the most important person in the world. She was appointed by God and thus ruled the Church of England – Protestant, of course – meaning that not only did she have political power, she was a holy figure too. She ruled over England, the greatest country of all (well, and Wales, but, uh, that was just an extension, really. It didn't count, unless England was trying to piss off his brother). Queen Elizabeth held absolute power.
She looked very regal in her throne, with courtiers and servants positioned strategically on either side of her, England hovering over her shoulder. She was putting on a show for the foreigners, as the poor dears had probably never seen civilisation before.
"So about the New World," England was whispering.
"Heaven's sake, Hedgepig, not now," Elizabeth hissed.
"Why not now?" England returned crossly. "You keep putting it off!"
"If you had not noticed, I'm rather busy running the country."
"Our country, I think you'll find, husband dear."
England lapsed into grumbling under his breath. He hated it when she used the husband card, as he could never return with, 'well, wives should obey their husbands,' because Elizabeth was queen and not above whacking him upside the head for being an idiot. Strong-willed women were incredibly beautiful and unbearably annoying.
However, England was equally stubborn, and not about to give up his fight any time soon. "I could go alone if I have to," he tried.
"Certainly not," Elizabeth replied. "For all your expertise with ships, you can't sail one alone."
"I could take Fluellen with me."
"He'll try to kill you."
"Not if he wants to keep his Welsh Bible he won't."
"I don't think he wants it quite badly enough not to murder you."
England cursed. Sometimes, he thought that life would be so much easier if his family wasn't full of people that hated each other – or, more accurately, him. At least he had America, now.
He must be so lonely, by now, waiting for England to return, the tiny little thing...
"I'll find a crew in the taverns," England said.
"Why are you so desperate to return to the colonies?" asked Elizabeth, arching an eyebrow at him.
England faltered a little. He hadn't told anyone about America yet, not even his beloved queen. "The people out there are still my people," he tried.
"Yet you weren't so eager to venture into the New World before, when we were first settling there."
Damn women and their intelligence.
"We're dropping the subject for now," said Elizabeth as the great doors at the other end of the hall swung open.
"But – "
"We're dropping it for now."
Ireland wasn't very happy to see England, but then she never was, so that was okay. England paid far less attention to the meeting than he should, not even trying to decipher his sister's accent, instead letting the sounds wash over him. He barely paid attention to anything, nowadays. Apparently this was getting on some people's nerves. It would get on his, too, if he weren't the one doing it.
How the hell was he supposed to concentrate on anything when he had those words echoing in his head? It was just a childish sentiment, a young boy holding onto a source of comfort and warmth, but still... but still...
England couldn't remember much about his mother, and he and his siblings were fighting since the very beginning. The only vaguely affectionate figure he had ever had in his life was the Roman Empire, and he had just been a very odd bloke who smiled a lot and had this awful habit of ruffling England's hair.
"You said forever."
England sighed and rubbed his forehead. Being a big brother wasn't supposed to be this emotional, was it? You didn't see Spain getting like this. Then again, usually when England saw Spain he was wailing about the nasty English pirates that kept stealing his stuff – or England was the nasty pirate. Great fun, piracy.
England was too caught up in his memories of a small blond child who did not judge him, but loved him unconditionally, to notice that Elizabeth kept giving him odd looks.
"All right," said the queen suddenly, making England jump. She turned to him, which involved a rustling of a lot more cloth than England wanted to imagine use for. "Now we can discuss your voyage to the New World."
England frowned. "Has Ireland gone?"
"She left several minutes ago," Elizabeth replied, "as did everyone else in the room other than you or me. You didn't notice."
"My mind was elsewhere," England said.
"Yes, I noticed," Elizabeth returned dryly. "Now come on, Hedgepig, tell me the truth."
"Truth about what?"
"Why you want to return so desperately to the colonies."
"I told you." England stopped standing so formally and allowed himself to slouch a little, leaning on Elizabeth's chair. "They're my people, even if they're in another land."
"No, England," said Elizabeth slowly, "that's the reason you've been giving people. I want you to tell me the truth." She reached for his hands and held them firmly in her own.
God help him, he could never lie to her. "You know me far too well, Bess," he relented.
"It's my duty to. Now come on, spit it out."
England's fingers tightened around his Queen's. "There's a child," he whispered.
Elizabeth's eyes widened. "Bloody hell," she said. "I didn't think you were even there long enough for that. I didn't think you even could."
"What?" Confusion, followed by horrified realisation. "Wait, no! Bloody hell, no. No. I'm quite sure it's – No. Just no. No."
"All right, all right, it's not yours," Elizabeth said soothingly. Her country could get so flustered. "Then explain just whose he is."
"Well, he kind of is mine now," England admitted. "He's alone. Just a child, all alone. He's like me."
"Do you mean that he is a country, or that his siblings have turned against him?"
"I don't think he has any siblings."
"He's very lucky," Elizabeth said wryly.
England squeezed her fingers. Edward hadn't been so bad, but he had been so very young and ill. Mary, on the other hand... Mary had been crazy
"I shall commission a voyage to the New World as soon as possible," said Elizabeth. Then she laughed at England's expression. "Truly I must be a good ruler to please my country so."
"You are a wonderful ruler, Your Majesty." England dropped to his knees and kissed her hands. "There has never been one like you, and never shall there be another."
"I doubt another sole female monarch will be allowed," Elizabeth replied dryly.
"Then this is a land of fools, Bess." His Bess, his wonderful, wise, beautiful Bess.
England stood on the deck of the ship, gazing eagerly outwards, every single day of the voyage. He took many shifts in the crow's nest, hoping to catch a glimpse of his new world – something that was eagerly accepted by the other sailors, as manning the crow's nest was a very unpopular job.
The New World. A world where one could be accepted, no matter what one's beliefs or past, a world where one could change and grow and love as never before in a place so beautiful, so untainted by the pettiness of humans. Even the people there were pure: without any concept of money or greed, sharing all they had, believing that everything belonged to everyone. Of course, that was a foolish idea, as the place now belonged to England, but still, it was a lovely – if naive – sentiment.
I've found Eden, England thought suddenly. I've found that eagerly-sought paradise.
I'm going to have to fight to keep the serpents away.
He barely waited for the ship to dock before he ran into the world. It had changed already, even in the short time he had been away: civilisation's hold was growing stronger on the land, houses springing up and replacing the wild forests.
But England was not paying attention to the backdrop.
He had eyes only for the child running towards him with arms open and light shining in his eyes. America kept stumbling over his trouser cuffs but he would right himself immediately and continue his dash towards his England. "You came back! England, you really did!"
England caught him as he leapt, fastened his arms around him, and spun with the child's momentum. He was like a little bird or angel. "I did," England said, and laughed with America under a warm sun in a beautiful world far from any squabble or sibling. "Just as I promised. I'm home, my dear." He kissed America's cheek. "I'm home."
- The unfortunate French connection: William the Conqueror invaded and took the English throne in 1066. He was Norman, with a great many French followers. His conquest was, for the most part, not appreciated.
- Wales and America: There's a theory that the Americas got their name not from Americo Vespucio, as only royalty are allowed to use their first name to name a new land, but from a Welshman with the last name Americ (probably an English version of ap Meurig, meaning son of Meurig) who had his name on the maps. This could have led to these places being known as 'Americ's lands', which eventually mutated into 'America'. And because I'm Welsh, that's the theory I go with. Stephen Fry said it, therefore it must be true. WALES EXISTS YAY.
- Hastings: See William the Conqueror in 1066. From some historical accounts, Mr the Conqueror refused to learn English, speaking only French, making meetings rather difficult.
- Daisy chains: it's folklore that a daisy chain will keep a child safe from harmful faerie magic. Though England isn't a child any more, he doesn't want to be the victim of any of his friends' tricks, ta very much.
- England and music: name a great olde British composer. The Spice Girls and Take That don't count. Good writers, though. The English, not the Spice Girls and Take That.
- The valley: I know so very little about American natural landmarks that aren't the Grand Canyon, but the lovely buddha_loves_me helped me choose one for England to go starry-eyed over. I picked Burke's Garden, which is apparently very pretty, and the sort of place England would feel at home in. I think the Grand Canyon would frighten more than amaze him, honestly.
- France and Scotland: they were really close during the early parts of the Tudor reign, due to their both being largely Catholic countries.
- England's volatile position: okay, so Henry VIII decided to turn England Protestant and declare absolute hatred for everything Catholic. To the North: Catholic Scotland. To the West: Catholic Wales and Catholic Ireland. To the South: Catholic Spain and Catholic France (both superpowers). To the East: Catholic Netherlands (ruled by Catholic Spain; there was a Protestant rebellion there during Elizabeth's reign, but it didn't work). This just epitomises England to me. "We're surrounded by really strong Catholic nations! We're dirt poor and pretty weak right now! What do we do?" "We'll become their enemy, that's what!" "Good plan!"
- Walter and Marlowe: Sir Walter Raleigh (explorer) and Christopher Marlowe (playwright) would write poems to each other. You weren't anyone in Tudor England if you couldn't write poetry. And I just wanted to mention Marlowe somewhere, cos he kicks arse.
- America's other visitors: Wales and Ireland both claim that they discovered America long before the English with Sir Walter. I'm sure other countries have other claims, too, but no one really managed to settle there until the sixteenth century.
- Hedgepig: Elizabeth I gave various nicknames to her favourites at Court. These were not always flattering ones, but it was far better to have a nickname than not. Hedgepig is another name I've heard for hedgehog, and I thought it kind of charming and archaic. And why does Bess call England Hedgepig? Because he's spiky, that's why, but if you know how to deal with him properly the quills lie smooth and he's a pretty affable chap. (Did Alys spend far too long thinking of this? Yes. Yes she did.)
- Elizabeth and England's marriage: Elizabeth used to say that her only husband was her country. This is probably an incredibly lame pun on my part.
- Fluellen and the Welsh Bible: In order to appease the Welsh Catholics and get them to switch to Protestantism, Elizabeth I commissioned a Welsh Bible. The first official translation was released in 1588, with various edits over the next decade or so. It's actually because of this Bible that the Welsh language has survived. Kind of tsundere of England, really. "I'm only giving you this Bible so you'll turn Protestant! I'm not trying to help you and save your language, or anything, don't think that, this is all for me!" Fluellen, by the by, is England's bastardisation of Llewellyn, my Wales' name. England is named Arthur after his mythological king, and so Wales gets Llewellyn, last king of Wales. It was that or Owain, but England wouldn't have as much fun mispronouncing that.
- Ireland: Probably there because of the Protestant colonies Elizabeth I was trying to establish there to spread the Anglican Church. They weren't well-received by the Catholic natives, something that continues to this day.
- Edward and Mary: Elizabeth's half-siblings, both from different wives of Henry VIII. Edward was the youngest, but as he was a boy got to rule first, and died at a young age. Mary, also known as Bloody Mary, tried to turn England Catholic again. This mostly consisted of burning Protestants. Fun fact: Bloody Mary killed more Protestants during her five-year reign than Elizabeth did Catholics during her forty-five years.
- Eden: Some of the explorers that first arrived in America honestly thought that they had found Eden. It made sense: this new place with strange animals, where the people lived mostly in harmony with the natural world and mostly in harmony with each other.
So they decided to take over and kick out the peaceful people and attack anyone who protested their claim.