Author's Note: Thank you for nine hundred reviews. You all are awesome!
You Can't Take the Sky From Me
By Everything is Magic
"We're being separated," Japan said while panting, having jogged back to the hangar immediately after receiving the news. "Our unit is being split up."
Canada's mouth dropped open. France's eyes grew wide, but then he sighed, "I suppose it is to be expected… all things considered."
Canada lifted up his goggles. He'd been giving a check over to France's plane. "But… America said we'd keep our positions. I thought—"
"We're not losing our positions," Japan interrupted politely. "We're being transferred. I apologize. It may… make what we wish to do more difficult if we're not together."
He sat down at the table in the hangar and pulled his bomber jacket, previously slung over his arm, back on. The large overhead fans, combined with the cool early evening breezes outside, were causing it to feel a bit chilly.
France nodded, rueful. "Oui. We will have to make the best of it."
Canada bit his lip and joined them at the table. "D'you know where we're being moved, eh?"
Japan ran his fingers across the top of the table, a pensive expression on his face. "France, you'll be transferred to unit thirty-seven…"
"That is the unit Vietnam heads up, correct?" he clarified, raising an eyebrow.
He nodded. "It is. Canada, you're… not going to be a part of a specific unit. Colonel orders you to remain at the base as a mechanic for any unit that requires you."
Canada ran a hand through his hair and pouted. "Staying in the military at all while America isn't here… is…" he shook his head, "gonna be so weird. Where am I boarding?"
At this Japan glanced away. "I'm sorry, but they want you to live off base."
"What? But why? I don't have anywhere- "
"You are America's cousin," France cut in. "If they see anyone as a danger, it is probably you. They do not want you around the base when you don't have to be, I imagine."
Japan nodded. "What they don't realize, is that we are all loyal to our captain."
Canada slid his goggles off entirely and ran a hand down his face. "My parents live too far away to commute. I guess I could get an apartment…"
"Forgive me if I'm out of place in suggesting this, but you are friends with Cuba, correct?" Japan queried.
"If it isn't too much trouble, perhaps you could ask if you could stay with him for a while. I understand if you don't wish to ask or think it would be encroaching too much but…"
Canada waved his hand. "His apartment has an extra room, so I guess I can ask." He rested his chin in his palm. "Still… I can't stay there forever."
"It won't be forever," Japan replied. "Only until we clear America's name."
"Yeah, if we can clear his name," Canada mumbled.
"We will." Japan's lips closed into a firm line, his eyes hard and determined.
France tapped his chin. "You have not told us where you are going, Japan?"
At this, Japan's cheeks pinked. "I'm very sorry. I was getting to that." He exhaled. "Because of my rank, I had some say in my transfer. I am… transferring to the Delphys Division of the force."
"You are going all the way over to Delphys?" France said, surprise and a tinge of irritation in his voice. "How are we supposed to work together if you are not even here?" His face lit up in realization. "Japan, Delphys is where Greece is stationed, correct?"
"T-that is why I'm going there."
France frowned. "I never thought I would say this, but now is not the time for romance, Japan."
Japan's already pink cheeks went scarlet. "Greece and I are not-" he sighed, "never mind. I trust Greece to be an ally, but more than that, he works in the military's messenger service. He's often privy to information others are not. I just think that if we all work in different areas, we might be able to find the leak and clear America's name sooner."
"That's a good point, eh…"
France rested his elbows on the table. "You think we should split up, cover more ground that way, do you not?"
Japan nodded. "Yes. I have a plan."
The warm reds and golds of the sunset crept into the porthole, breaking as they touched the pair curled up together in the small bed.
America's eyes slid open, and he squinted at the light, reaching up with one hand to rub his forehead. He had a dull headache, and his mind was fuzzy, despite being well rested.
He shifted, and upon doing so, felt something tighten around his waist. He glanced down to see a pair of arms clad in striped pajamas and… a small smile touched his lips.
A murmur and a soft puff of air on the back of his neck was the first reply America received.
"Bloody hell it's late," England finally said, muffled, after several moments. "We slept all day."
America frowned, and absently, he rubbed his fingers over England's hands around his waist. "Yeah… guess we were tired."
He felt England nod against his back and could have sworn his face was heating as well. "P-Prussia came in at one point, the imbecile."
America's cheeks grew red. "O-oh…"
"I told him that if he said a thing? Forget the mast; I'd tie him to the bow of the ship."
America felt a hand on his cheek, coaxing him to turn around. He did so, facing England, who was giving him a small, tender smile.
"This is probably a daft question, but how are you doing?" he asked.
America bit his lip and glanced away for a moment, before turning back with a bright smile on his face. "As good as I can be, I guess."
England smacked his cheek lightly. "No faking it, all right? You don't need to force a smile for me."
He and England were really close, their bodies flushed together. It wasn't the first time they'd slept together, but it was the first time since America had realized his… feelings. It was different. He stared at England; at bright green eyes pooling with concern, and a small, but genuine smile.
I could tell him…
It wouldn't be too difficult to close the distance between them and kiss him, whispering his feelings as he did so.
But he'd dumped a lot on England in the past twelve hours.
"I do sort of have a headache?"
England ran a hand through his hair and sat up. "That's probably because you were crying-" America frowned. "Sorry. In any case, a glass of water or maybe some tea might help?"
"I don't like tea."
"Ah, that's right… well water and a bath then, perhaps."
America sat up and dangled his feet off the side of the bed. "You guys have a bath on this ship?"
England scoffed, crossing his arms. "Of course we do. You've just only ever stayed here a night so…"
He smiled. "Cool. I guess I never thought about it."
England slid off the bed and stood up. "Are you implying that I smell?"
America's eyes widened. "No. Geez, England. I… like I'd think that, okay?"
Both of them blushed pink.
"R-right well… you'll find the bath in the room next to the loo. I know you know where that is," he explained. "I'm going to make myself a cup of tea. Come up to the galley once you're dressed, all right? We'll have something to eat."
America nodded, reaching over to grab his glasses as he did so. He snatched his pack and slung it over his shoulder. "Great."
England rubbed his arms for a few moments before exhaling, and then reached up to touch America's cheeks; the tear stains having not yet vanished all the way. "I want you to know that…" his face reddened, "everything I said this morning, I meant."
America felt his chest tighten, and it squeezed around his heart and he wanted so much to show England how grateful he was, how thankful he was that he was there when no one else could be, and there when America needed someone the most.
Instead he just wrapped England in a hug, a warm embrace so tight and desperate that England gasped for breath, his feet dangling off the ground. America pressed his face into England's shoulder, feeling the tickle of his hair at the nape of his neck and taking in the scent, the sight, everything England. He willed his tears back, but when he said "Thank you, England," it still came out a choked sob.
The bath was warm and soothing, the steam rising up out of the water helping his head to clear. America leaned back in the water, sliding his eyes closed and letting out a puff of air.
But even though the dull ache in his forehead was slowly dissipating, America found that being alone forced him to do something he really didn't want to do.
It forced him to think.
Even if he'd had time to think through his actions the previous night, instead of doing everything at breakneck speed, he was fairly sure that he wouldn't have done anything different.
It's not as if he had many options. England was the safest place to go. He was used to avoiding the law. He did it every day. It was practically his career.
America's stomach lurched.
He was an outlaw now, a man on the run from the military, one who had defied orders and-
Even if he were able to get his name cleared, would they ever allow him back into the military? If he'd been a good soldier and gone to trial, maybe justice would have won out, and then he'd be allowed back in. Then he'd be considered a hero.
And he'd be back with his best friends, back with his family. Everything would be normal again.
He lowered his face into the water halfway, blowing bubbles and pouting underwater.
Did he really want things to be normal again?
Did he want to return to the military and have to follow every order dutifully for fear of them suspecting him of criminal activities again? Did he want to never be able to question them again, because surely even if the judge decreed him not guilty, they'd still keep an extra close watch on him?
It was kind of a dumb thing to say… or think, he thought, but America knew that he'd changed; that his idea of what being a hero meant wasn't the same as it had been before he met England.
Being a hero meant doing what you knew was right, no matter what.
And even though at the current moment, America felt like pretty much the least heroic person ever, a failure really, he knew that it was still what he wanted to be.
Splashing his face one last time, America stepped out of the bathtub and wrapped a towel around his center.
He reached into his pack and pushed aside the extra military uniform at the top, snatching instead a pair of tan full length breeches and a light blue button up shirt.
And then he pulled his clothing on, adding his normal pair of tall black boots and staring in the mirror once he'd put his glasses on. He was rarely out of uniform, but…
America decided there was no use pretending he was something he was not. He shoved the extra uniform to the bottom of his bag, piling all of his other clothing on top of it.
Leaning down, he retrieved the uniform he'd taken off, folding it neatly with a frown. America ran a finger across the cold metal of his captain's insignia. He shook his head and sighed, not removing it from the folded vest.
So much for surpassing Grandpa and Dad… so much for reaching General Wang…
He raked a hand through his damp, towel dried hair, and then removed his fob watch from his discarded belt.
Running his fingers over the cracked surface, he smiled a small, rueful smile.
But it didn't mean that he couldn't still fight the Kosmider, and he was damn sure that England was still up to the task as well. Not being in the military might not be so bad with England there.
He wrapped the chain around the belt he now wore, allowing the fob watch to dangle, its familiar weight pressed against his upper thigh.
America hoped that his grandfather would approve, but knew that even if he wouldn't have, he'd still do it.
It was Switzerland who came into the kitchen first, upon realizing that England was finally awake. He sat across from England, his eyes narrowed and he pressed his lips firmly together.
"'Allo, Switzerland," England said, as if there were nothing unusual going on.
"I saw you and America."
England nearly dropped his teacup. "Prussia! I'm going to kill him."
Switzerland rolled his eyes. "Prussia didn't tell me anything. We all looked into the cabin on our own. Prussia was just the only one loud enough to actually wake you up."
England's cheeks went scarlet. "M-mind your own business!"
Switzerland rested one elbow on the wooden table. "Making sure you're safe is my business. You weren't in one of your normal places, so of course I was going to look for you."
England frowned and stared down into his tea. "America is… going to be staying here."
Switzerland's eyes went wide. "He's joining the crew? But he's-"
"He's not joining the crew. He's merely… staying here for personal reasons, which I'd prefer you not to ask him about. America will share if he wishes to," England explained.
At this, Switzerland crossed his arms, irritated. "So he's just staying here, while we do all the work and the raids, he gets a free pass? I know you like him Captain but…"
England raised a hand to silence the gunner. His cheeks were pink again. "Belt up, Switzerland. Firstly, you know we haven't been doing much in the way of raids with the Kosmider threat. Secondly? He's my guest, so I'll use my share to cover anything he needs."
"Fine, then." He stood up and brushed off his breeches. "Liechtenstein volunteered to cook dinner. She'll be starting that soon."
He began to walk away, but England called him back, "One last thing, Switzerland."
"Treat him well, all right? He's been through a lot."
Switzerland just nodded, and America entered the galley almost immediately after he'd exited.
England's eyes softened. "America…"
"Hey, England," he replied, scratching the side of his head and giving him a small smile.
"Let me get you that glass of water."
"Thanks." America sat down in one of the rough-hewn wooden chairs.
England glanced back as he filled a glass with water, boiled and then cooled and stored in the ice chest in the closet. It was the first time, outside when he'd been wearing just his boxers (he flushed at this), that he'd seen America fully out of his military uniform. He felt a pang at this, but shook it off.
The sky blue of his shirt matched his eyes, which shone behind his spectacles.
He handed the glass to America and sat back down. "Was your bath okay?"
America perked up. "Yeah, it felt great! Seriously… I was feeling kind of grimy."
The tear tracks were finally gone, and his eyes no longer looked red.
"Quite right, then."
England ran his finger across the handle of his teacup, and America gulped down his glass of water.
A heaviness had settled between them. There was a tenuous unspoken, things they both wanted to say but didn't feel it the right time.
England wished that something would break the dam, make it so they both felt like they could say what they wanted to.
"So uh, I have some stuff to tell you about the Kosmider."
England raised his eyes at this. "America, you don't need to right now. Take a break, all right?"
America's eyebrows narrowed. "No way in hell. Do you think the Kosmider is going to take a break? I… can't do it either."
England's mouth formed an 'o,' but despite his surprise, he was more than happy to see some of America's fiery spirit and determination returning.
"If you don't still want to fight- I get-"
"Are you bloody kidding me?" England snapped. "I want to kick their arses more than ever."
America grinned at this. "Awesome." England chuckled. "So the thing is," America began, finishing off his glass of water, "the night you and I were supposed to meet up? I ended up meeting a Kosmider member instead. He told me a lot, England. And I think… some of it can really help us."
And America explained his encounter with Lithuania, the details and facts of their meeting down to every last bit. He continued talking even when Liechtenstein came in to start preparing dinner, and it was a solid hour before he finished talking.
England gaped. "Blimey, you really hit the jackpot there, I dare say."
"Y-yeah. It cost me a lot but…"
England man stood up and walked to the other side of the table. He rested his palm on America's cheek. "You were set up. It's not your fault."
He patted his cheek and pulled away, crossing his arms. "So tell me about these strongholds. Do you remember the locations?"
America's expression brightened. "I remember every detail."
"Well since the military is obviously not going to do anything, I reckon it's up to us, do you agree?" And England's green eyes flashed; determination, conviction, and eagerness.
"Seems like it is," America replied, placing his hands behind his head. "The first one, the bigger one, is on the Medved side of the Lyod Strait. He said it was really difficult to get to, inaccessible unless you know the area well. Plus it's like… negative a million degrees up there. I know the exact directions, but…"
"Not to mention the ice storms and the blizzards," England grumbled. "The Victoria isn't built for that kind of weather. I can't take her up there, my unfamiliarity with the area aside."
America jutted out his lower lip and exhaled. "Yeah… I guess we could go for the smaller one…"
England shook his head, a pensive expression on his face. "Absolutely not. It's better to take out the bigger threat."
He grabbed a chair and slid it next to America, sitting down beside him. He was smirking. "I've got other resources, America, other crews that are also against the Kosmider."
"I think it's high time I give my allies up north a call," he said, firm and confident.
England placed a hand on America's shoulder. "The Ukko Pirates, the toughest crew in all the skies."