Jacob looked at Steven, who looked back at him, and the rest of the room looked between the two of them and Matthew, who was standing quietly by the doorway, holding Kumajiro.
"...That's Canada," Rhodey said, rather unnecessarily.
"Dad's brother," Sylvia added.
"And a nation," James pointed out.
"The nations don't know about us." Virginia turned a scrutinizing gaze on to Steven, who cringed slightly. Patrick didn't seem to care that a nation was in the room and continued clinging to his brother. "Do they?"
"No!" he said quickly. "No, no, just Matthew! He figured out that I wasn't Dad, although he didn't know I was a state."
"So you just decided to tell him about all of us?" she demanded.
"If I might?" the Canadian asked politely, and everyone shifted to focus on him again. He shuffled on his feet for a moment, then continued to speak quietly. "It's like if someone tried to impersonate one of you. Other people might be fooled, but you're siblings. You'd know it wasn't them, even if everybody else didn't. It's like you said... um..." He looked at Rhodey and tilted his head to one size.
"Rhode Island," the state supplied. "Robert Kirkland-Jones."
"Rhode Island, yes..." Matthew nodded slowly, absorbing the hyphenated name. "I'm Al's brother. I know who he is, and your acting is pretty good, Steven, but not quite enough."
"Hmph." Steven pouted, but it got a very weak chuckle, which was what he was aiming for. They needed something to lighten the mood.
There weren't enough chairs for them to all take a seat, probably because there wasn't supposed to be so many visitors at a time, but Sylvia had muttered something about a government phone call and they had all left it at that. Virginia took one seat, holding America's hand, and Canada perched himself on the edge of the mattress. Rhodey took the second seat, and the remaining five all settled themselves on the floor. Steven was still a little bit stunned at how clingy Patrick was being, but despite their ongoing rivalry, he supposed that they were still brothers in the end.
The nation jumped at being remembered, and looked at Virginia. "Um... yes?"
"You're a nation," she murmured. "Dad's so independent that he doesn't quite have the... the wisdom, that the other's, the knowledge from experience. Which isn't a bad thing, but it... we don't..." She trailed off, shaking her head and looking blearily at her father's hand in her own.
"Get some sleep, Gin," Rhodey said gently. "You've living off coffee for the past two days, just get some sleep." Tired as she was, the state just folded her arms underneath her head as a pillow without complaint and positioned herself so her father's hand was resting on her back.
"I think what she's trying to say," the short state took over, "is... is this normal? We know that what happens in the land affects us, and it's possible for us to get hurt, but it takes a lot more than it would to hurt a normal person."
"It's not." Matthew shifted quietly. "It happens, but I guess I'm not surprised none of you knew what to do. This was a strange case, it was a mix of the land and the fact that none of us are infallible. Although I think Al might beg to differ."
They all chuckled slightly, then settled back into silence. It had been a long few days.
As it turned out, the moment America's fever had gotten back below ninety nine degrees – which was sometime in the afternoon the following day, and none of the states or the single nation had left his bedside yet – they discharged him with a regimen of medicine and strict orders not to overdo it. The worst of the storm had blown past during the night, and the hospital was being flooded with casualties, requiring them to have every room possible open.
Matthew had wheeled his brother, still not quite coherent from whatever painkillers they had been giving him, out to the car, and had helped the states get him situated. York decided that he would drive Matthew back to their Vermont home in his car.
All the states at home had been brought up to date on the situation. There were now two nations that knew about them, which was one too many, as far as they were concerned, but Canada was a nice guy and technically family. They could make an exception for him.
Hampshire carried America through the front doors, laughing when there was a round of applause and cheering from the states inside and America blinked sleepily at them. He set the nation down on one of the couches, leaving Vermont and Kentucky in charge of the younger ones again, while the thirteen eldest collapsed with weary sighs. One more conversation with Canada (and America, if he woke up enough) and they were done.
"...Mattie?" the American slurred, peering up at him.
"Hey, Al," he replied with a gentle smile. "You gave everyone quite a scare, from what I heard."
"Nah..." He rubbed at one of his eyes. "'m th'ero."
"Speaking English would be nice, Father," North chuckled.
"Or just plain American would do," South added on. "Since that guy across the pond is determined to convince you that what you speak is not proper English."
They all laughed, but then America shot bolt upright and looked frantically between the states and Canada. "What-"
"Chill, Dad." Sylvia tutted and pushed him back down. "We had to bring you to a damn hospital in the middle of a freaking hurricane, you aren't doing any kind of government shit for at least a week."
"Hurricane?" he frowned. "Hospital? What-?"
"Technically it wasn't a hurricane," Patrick amended. "Tropical storm at worst, once it got here, but it sucked, let me tell you. My state's all like 'get the bread and milk!' and freaking out."
"We found you asleep with your laptop still open," North put in. "Three in the morning, really?"
"We're up until four half the time," South pointed out.
"Remember? You were sick and insisting you were fine, and kept throwing up into a bucket we stole from Hadwin?" Maryland prompted. "You're going to have to apologize to him for that, by the way. And probably buy him a new bucket."
"Yeah, I..." America scratched his neck. "I remember that much, and something about you guys taking my place at the meeting? But after that..."
"That would have been me." York raised his hand. "I've got Broadway, I'm the best actor here."
"That might be California, actually," Mass countered.
"Screw you, Yankee."
"Anyway." York cleared his throat. "Uncle Mattie kinda found me out, since he knows you really well, but I fooled all the other nations and told them I had country stuff to attend to when I got word you were being hospitalized. And he insisted on coming with me, so here we are."
"They won't notice I'm gone," Matthew shrugged. "I'm not really noticeable."
"We'll notice you," Rhode Island smiled. "Unfortunately, that makes you a member of our insane family, and you'll have to attend the holiday dinners." He shook his head ruefully. "I'm still finding bits of turkey whenever I go into the downstairs bathroom."
Matthew decided that he'd rather not know.
"We've got plenty of guest rooms you can stay in," Virginia said, patting him on the shoulder as she stood up. "Now, York's been up since sometime yesterday morning, as have all of us, so I'm going to recommend that we all sleep. All in favor?"
All the states raised their hands, even as they got up to leave. America gave the ceiling a dopey grin.
"Democracy," he said, pumping a fist in the air halfheartedly. "Great stuff."
Matthew chuckled, then yawned, but he didn't want to leave his brother's side. This was a lot to take in, and they'd have a lot to talk about later.
"I get why you kept it a secret," he said, instead of any of the millions of other things he could have come out with, most of them accusations. "It would be bad if anyone found out and tried to take them, use them against you. Although it does make me wonder about my provinces... Eh, you never know."
America cracked open a sleepy eye to look at him. "Thanks, man," he murmured. "We can... I dunno, talk. Later. If you want?"
"Later," he agreed, as Kumajiro crawled up onto America and decided he made a better pillow than Canada's lap. "After you're up and around and I'm awake."
They'd have a good deal that they would need to talk about later, but for now, with the sun peeking through the clouds outside, they were content to sleep.
While some of the nations had trouble putting up with Alfred for extended periods of time, it was a relief to all of them to see him at the world meeting the following month. It was slightly off-putting to see two unfamiliar men flanking him on either side, but they chose to ignore it for the time being. It would be impossible to get through the front doors if one didn't have the proper clearance, so they had authority to be here, and that was that. America didn't look very happy at having the two of them holding him by either arm, but he wasn't protesting. He still looked rather weak from his brief illness, despite it happening so long ago, and they couldn't help but wonder how much the personification dealt with in his country.
"Hey, dudes." America cracked a smile at the room. "Hope you haven't all gone to hell in a handbasket while the hero's been away."
That broke the tension, and Italy slammed past the nations in front of him to tackled America in a surprisingly strong hug.
"Ve~!" he shouted. "America, we were so worried, you know! You cannot get sick like that!"
Matthew's absence had been noted, surprisingly, and Germany didn't seem to want to take 'country stuff' as an excuse for missing one of their meetings. The states convened for a brief Congress, which was mostly full of arguing, Hawaii demanding pineapple, Alaska turning a lead pipe over in her hands while a strange purple aura surrounded her, and the Dakota twins sneaking underneath the table and tying everybody's shoelaces to the shoelaces of the person next to them.
After a good argumentative session, America held his hand out towards a slightly terrified Canada. The nation, after a brief explanation, handed him a hockey stick, which he proceeded to beat against the table until everyone quieted down. The process had to be repeated several more times before they actually came to a conclusion, and America leaned back in his chair with an exhausted murmur of 'Democracy!' while everyone left.
They had been hiding for far too long. He knew he had enemies, but his kids were older than they had been when he first found them, they could take care of themselves. They had each other to rely on, and they had him, and he wasn't going to try and tuck them out of sight any more.
"You just can't, then everybody starts freaking out and you will become deprived of your pasta, and we all missed you so very much America and-!"
Shaking his head, Germany walked forwards and pulled the hyperactive nation back by his collar so America could breathe. The two mystery men watched in amusement.
"Guten tag, Amerika," he said with the slightest upward quirk of his lips. It was the closest thing to a smile they were likely to get out of him. "It is good to have you back with us."
"Da, is very good!" Russia agreed cheerfully. The Baltic nations shivered, and the two unnamed people shuffled to America's other side to create a barrier between the two.
"What the bloody hell do you think you were doing?" England muttered, berating and poking at his former colony even as he squashed him into a rather undignified hug. "Overworking yourself like that, didn't I teach you better?"
America made to reply, but France cut in.
"Onhonhonhon," he cackled. "So does that mean Monsieur Angleterre is responsible for Amerique's exuberance and rebellious tendencies?"
"Shut up, you blasted frog!"
The two men glanced at each other, then at the two nations brawling on the floor. A couple nations were starting to realize that they bore a rather strange resemblance to America, but that couldn't mean anything...
"France and England?" the one on the left asked.
"France and England," the one on the right replied. They both had slightly different accents, but both decidedly American.
The one on the left huffed. "I still can't believe you dumped all the tea into my harbor. Couldn't you have done it somewhere else? Do you have any idea how long it took for that to stop smelling?"
"Your memory's getting foggy in your old age, Missie. You helped dump the tea into your precious harbor."
"Shut up, York."
America looked at the two nations brawling it out on the floor, then at the two arguing at each other without really acknowledging that he was standing between them, and tried to make a break for one of the chairs, slipping out of their grasp. Without breaking his tirade, the man on the left caught him by the sleeve and pulled him back.
"You fell out of your chair this morning trying to walk, Dad," he said when he paused to take a breath and the one on the left took over. "Stay put."
"I tripped over Aria's lead pipe, I'm fine-"
"We voted! Democracy, remember?"
He turned back in time for a rather creative insult on what exactly he could do with his tea, and launched off into a tirade. America dropped his head into his hands, but the two looked about ready to start dealing blows, and he managed to shuffle away this time.
"...Did he just say Dad?" Hungary shot him a very pointed look.
America gave an awkward laugh and scratched the back of his neck. "Yeah, um... Massachusetts is wearing the Red Sox sweatshirt, New York is the taller one."
Germany blinked. "That... those are states of yours, ja?"
America nodded, glared at the two, then slapped them both upside the head. The two flinched, then glared. He just jerked a thumb in the direction of the now-stunned nations, and England and France, who were still trying to strangle each other.
"Right!" New York, the one on the right, smiled calmly, as though he hadn't just been throwing death threats at his brother, and held out his hand. "Hello! I'm the state of New York, also known as Steven Kirkland-Jones."
Germany took the offered hand on autopilot, still trying to process.
"Massachusetts," the one on the left said, and shook his other hand. "Just call me Patrick."
"Ah... a pleasure to meet you." They both nodded and stepped back, and Germany blinked several times. "If two of you are states... are there others?"
"Fifty," Steven confirmed. "Including the two of us. A bunch of the others wanted to be here today, but Pops limited us to two."
With a sidelong glance at England, still battling it out with France, Patrick raised his voice slightly to be heard over their arguing. "We, that is to say, the thirteen original colonies, have been keeping an eye on him!"
It was doubtful if the two of them had heard anything that had occurred in the last five minutes, but that got England to stop and stare at them. New York chuckled and hauled the nation to his feet, dusting his jacket off.
"Close your mouth, Redcoat," he admonished. "You'll catch flies."
England's mouth snapped shut with an audible click.
America shrugged at the stunned looks he was receiving. "Hey, I couldn't just let you guys all know that I had a bunch of kids running around. You'd have tried to take them from me!"
Steven clapped his father on the shoulder. "C'mon, Dad, we can take care of ourselves."
"I know, Steven, that's why you're here. Now can you let go of me?" He looked at his arms pointedly.
"You fell over when you tried to get up this morning," Massachusetts deadpanned. "We aren't leaving."
"Aria left her pipe on the floor," he repeated with a glare. "I just want to walk to my chair, that's it!"
"Do you want us to start singing?"
America suddenly looked both mutinous and fearful. "Fine. Help me to my chair, oh dearest sons who would never, ever blackmail their poor father for any reason whatsoever."
The states both beamed. "Of course, Father, we would be delighted!"
"Music?" Austria's eyes had lit up in a rare show of emotion.
"Ve~! I like singing, America! Don't you like singing, Germany? I like singing! Why shouldn't they sing?"
America, now sitting, turned to his sons with wide eyes. "Now, don't you dare- Massachusetts, I forbid you-!"
Too late. The two threw their arms over each others shoulders and were loudly belting out a familiar tune, overriding his protests.
"Gooooodddd bless Ameeerricaaaa... laaaannnd that I loooovve..."
Canada, who had remained silent for the whole time, having known about everything beforehand, doubled over in a sudden fit until he was slumped over in his chair, sucking in gasps of air between bouts of giggling. Japan looked confused.
"But this is song in praise of your country, yes?" he asked. "Why would you be upset...?"
"Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with a light from abooooove..."
America let his head drop onto the table with a thud as the other nations broke out into laughter.
"Thanks, guys," he muttered into the wood of the conference table, but with his hair hiding his face, he smiled.
It was good to be back.
Downstairs, those who worked in the building in order to manage the influx of one hundred and eighty-nine personified countries and therefore were used to the screaming matches, loud noises, broken and damaged property, frequent visits by ambulances and the occasional explosion, were incredibly confused at the sound of uproarious laughter.
It's... done? I'm a little bit lost as to what to do, honestly. First multichapter story that I've finished. Huh.
Anyway, a great big humongous thank you to every single wonderful person that's read and reviewed and favorited and followed this story. Seriously, I didn't think I'd get any response to this, but look at you all! You're all amazing!
As for sequels, there are a few kind of hesitantly planned out. I went through the trouble of coming up with individual names and appearances for everyone, and I don't have plans just to stop here. There's a couple of one-shots up on my profile page that are also set in this 'verse, so you can go check those out as well. And you can also find a link to my deviantART page as well! There's nothing up there yet, but hopefully I'll start getting profiles for the states up soon.
Until the next time!