Chapter Eight

The darkness pooled around him, covering him like smoke. It whirled and danced around his tiny, weeping form, making him seem small and insignificant. He certainly felt that way, his self esteem plummeting to the depths of the deepest recesses of his mind, falling into a cavern that once closed may not be opened again for centuries to come. England looked pale as a sheet, his skin a ghostly white and contrasting vividly against the inky blackness around him, making him seem corporeal in form and features. Never in his short existence had he felt misery and fear such as this. Afraid that he may never leave this wretched place, he suddenly sprang to life and started to run, screaming and crying in pain.

"Let out! Let out! Home! Wanna home!" Running blindly through the darkness, he screamed and shouted, desperate to flee. His legs shook with emotion and for the first time since arriving in the Principality of Shadows he felt tired, fatigue rocketing through him like a falcon swoops down on its pray. Stumbling, he collapsed to his knees once more, shivering and sobbing brokenly as any resolve and strength he had broke with the onset of fear and distress. His arms snaked around himself and he hugged himself for comfort, remembering fondly the feeling of France cuddling him in comfort or the softness of Uni's fur in his arms. England was utterly desperate for someone, anyone, to hold him and tell him that things would be okay. He had never felt so small and young as he closed his eyes to the darkness, wishing it away.

Time stretched and he lost all track of how long he knelt there, hugging himself and shivering and whimpering in anguish. It may have been seconds or days, this place distorted reality in an incomprehensible fashion. The isolation was crippling for all he could hear was the sound of his own crying, nothing else permeating through to him. It took him by surprise therefore, when the sudden sound of footsteps was heard and a blinding white light tinged his closed eyelids. Opening his eyes slowly, he tried to focus on the white light, but found it almost impossible, blinking rapidly in response to the sudden radiant beams. It was beautiful, the light, for it seemed as pure as the most perfect snow and as warm as a hot summers day. Despite his misery, he felt the light was calming, comforting almost in its splendour, almost as though the light was draping him in clothes that would protect him from the all consuming darkness.

Abruptly, the light spoke in rich, feminine tones that seemed to hold within them the wisdom of the ages, "Do not weep little child. There is much to rejoice in, for I am here now." From the light a single hand reached forward and soothingly stroked his messy, blonde hair in a gentle, comforting gesture. The child relaxed, finding the pain easing a little, his instincts telling him to trust whoever this person was.

"Who you?" He asked, slightly timidly, as though afraid that his curiosity might drive them away.

"I am Britannia, the Mother of your land." She replied, her majesty almost overwhelming the child before her. England almost thought he could make out her features in the light, although it was almost impossible to see - a feeling not dissimilar to trying to make out a face in the light of the direct sun.

"You Mother?" His large green eyes were tinted and glistening in the brilliant white light and were trained on her with an innocent questioning expression.

"Yes, I suppose I am your Mother little one. As much as any of the Nations have kin." Her voice was filled with warmth and care, "I certainly love you like a mother loves their child."

She bent down and slowly picked up the child, drawing him into her arms in a gentle embrace. England had never felt so warm and loved as he did in that moment. It seemed that she had poured all her love and kindness into that one gesture and England soaked it up in utter childish bliss. He turned into her, nuzzling affectionately as instincts took over. In all his life he had never felt as cared for as he did in that moment and it felt as though any grief he had had evaporated.

"Is this love?" He queried, his childish innocence shining through the simple question. Although in many ways it was sad, for the little experience he had had in love was also threading its way through his words.

"Yes, this is love my sweet." She held him even closer as though to prove it, revelling in the feel of her precious child in her arms.

"I like love." England replied simply, enjoying the moment of affection. He felt as though all his sorrows had been washed away and replaced with a strength that he had never known before. He felt as though he could take on the world with this precious feeling circling through him. "Stay forever?" He asked, his simple wish almost impossible to refuse.

"My child, I wish I could. I have watched you grow from this land. I have seen you learn about the world. I am so proud of you and what you will achieve." A lilting sign rippled through the light clad being. "My love, I cannot stay with you in the land from which you come. I had my time and now my children have taken over. I just wish you the longevity that your Anglo-Saxon brothers could not have. You have other brothers though, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They will not understand you and you will not understand them, but one day there shall be peace between you all." She soothingly stroked his back as she spoke, "They will always care for you little one, even if you do not always see eye to eye."

The child listened to her words intently, storing them away in his heart. He had learnt so much since coming to this place and he prayed that he would never forget the lessons that had been taught to him.

"Stay here?" He mumbled, hoping that perhaps if she could not join him in his world she would stay with him while he was in the darkness.

"My dear child, you have much to learn that I cannot teach you in this realm. Stay strong little one, you will pull through." She placed a small, tender kiss on his brow. "I will see you again before you leave this place and I am always watching whether you are here or there. You will not stay much longer here I do not think, this realm knows when it will have shown you enough." She swayed gently in an instinctive form of comfort, "Be strong, I know you can be and if you get afraid again then call and I will come."

Softly, she hummed to the child, swaying gently and embracing him warmly. England felt a yawn ripple through him and was surprised at how drowsy he felt. Once more fatigue seeped into him and he slowly closed his eyes. The feeling of security was overwhelming and made him want to sleep and make the most of the comfort provided to him.

"Go to sleep little one, I will keep you safe." She spoke gently, her words soft and sweet as she swayed gently.

The sweet humming echoed with a melancholy melody and made him feel warm and content. He hardly noticed when he finally fell asleep, although even in sleep the comfort rippled through him so he felt completely and totally content.

Britannia saw the little child fall asleep in her arms and smiled to herself. She placed a small kiss on his forehead before she wrapped him warmly in blankets of the light that radiated from her. Slowly, she placed him onto the ground, her heart aching as the child stirred slightly. She could not fathom how much she wanted to pick him up once more and never let him part from her side. Still, she knew he was safe in the light that protected him and that was enough.

Humming gently, she turned and walked away slowly, not daring to give the child a backward glance as she disappeared into the void once more, her footsteps echoing away into silence.

A/N: Thanks for reading and supporting my work.

I do not own Hetalia.