Author's Note: Note: Established relationship, USxUK. After finally getting the second half of Cleaning Out the Storage this week in the anime, I got to thinking about England finding that infamous room. This fic was born. It's pretty long for one of my oneshots.
Doors to the Past
By Everything is Magic
England never could quite get the hang of computers. Oh he was not incompetent. He could check his email, browse the internet, and use a word processor adequately enough. He was intelligent, and he was if anything adaptable. He hadn't lasted as long as he had on sheer luck. But it was the mere nature of computers that boggled England; little boxes that could do just about anything you requested of them. America would laugh at it and crack on his age (this never ceased being one of America's favorite things to do), but he did not understand. The last century and a half had been… bizarre and full of an absolutely insane amount of progress, and it was difficult for someone of, yes, his age, to keep up with it. America had no such problem, blast him.
He sat, hunched over America's coffee table, his finger on the laptop mouse and his eyebrows furrowed in confusion and frustration. God he hated asking America questions about this. The younger nation was damn good at all of this technological mumbo jumbo, and he always felt thoroughly stupid after America explained just how 'easy' it was.
"Watcha doin'?" He heard America's voice before he registered his footsteps. England didn't look away from the laptop, attempting to pretend he was not in need of assistance.
"I'm opening an email," England replied plainly. He felt the pressure of America leaning onto the back of the couch.
"You having trouble? Geez, England… I know you're more used to using like, an abacus or something but…"
"I can open an email just fine, you idiot!" He grumbled. "It's got an attachment though. I've never seen one like this. It's ah-err…"
"A .rar!" America chirped, jumping over the couch and plopping down next to England. "It's just like a .zip file, which I know you've had to deal with before." The younger nation reached over, placing his hand atop England's, which still rested on the mouse pad. "You should have the program you need. I've loaded your laptop up with pretty much everything you could ever--- "
"That's a nice look for you, America," England interrupted him, a smirk spreading across his lips. England had finally actually glanced over to the man next to him, and he was surprised to see that he was wearing not only a yellow apron over his t-shirt and jeans, but a white kerchief tied around his head. His hair stuck out at awkward angles from the kerchief, and his glasses were smudged with dust. In his free hand was a feather duster. It was undeniably amusing.
America's blue eyes grew large and he flushed. "Shut up England! I'm cleaning." Okay. It was also adorable.
England cocked an eyebrow. "You? Cleaning."
America shrugged. "Place doesn't clean itself on its own, and my birthday's coming up, so I should have it looking awesome."
Now that England was pausing to think about it, America's house was rarely that messy. It wasn't immaculate like his own, where every speck of dust was managed with dutiful care, but it wasn't terrible (although he still found himself straightening America's things unthinkingly quite often and always in the morning after they ah, you know, he made America's bed). That meant that America cleaning house in an apron and a kerchief was quite possibly not that uncommon an occurrence. He was a little disappointed that he'd missed out on it until now.
"Oh. Quite right," England replied after a moment of silence. "I suppose it being a free Saturday, it's as good a time as ever for you."
America leaned into the couch, throwing his head back dramatically. "I've been working at it for weeks. It just seems like the dust won't stop coming, and damn I don't have much free time lately anyway. It sucks," he whined and tossed the feather duster onto the table.
England slid his computer back, having figured out the winrar. "And how, pray tell, have I missed all of your supposed cleaning? I mean I'm over here often."
At this, America slung his arm around England's shoulders and squeezed him to his side. "When you're here I generally y'know… spend time with you." He winked. "I don't like using my England-time to scrub floors and clean dusty bookshelves."
England stiffened for a moment, and then leaned into America's grasp. Absently, he took the younger nation's hand. "And today?"
America shrugged. "You were busy. I decided I'd do something 'til you'd finished."
It was at that moment that England glanced down and noticed the pocket in America's apron. It held a feather duster. America had just put his feather duster on the table. "You prat."
"What?" America feigned innocence, and damned if he wasn't pretty good at doing so, with his wide blue eyes and his clueless expression. There was hardly a day when he wasn't weak for that. Curse him.
"If you wanted me to help you clean, you could've just asked." England ran his free hand down his face in exasperation.
"Ah, I didn't want to ask you because…" He was scratching the back of his head now, America's most prominent nervous habit.
"Because you're cleaning for your birthday?" England's green eyes flickered, something, and a frown briefly crossed his lips. He shook his head. "Christ almighty, America. I don't care what it's for. You know I hate messes."
America beamed and leaned closer to England, pressing a sloppy kiss to his cheek. "Awesome."
After being shown where America's cleaning supplies were kept, England had set about assisting in cleaning the other nation's rather enormous house. America informed him of what rooms had already been completed, and the two set off in opposite directions. "We'll meet in the middle, I suppose," England had said. He too had been given an apron and a kerchief, which he wore with some minor complaining. America had told him he looked 'really cute' in it and then, like he was some sort of a child, had pinched his nose (and England had blushed, he knew he had). Well, at least that feeling was mutual.
And now he was on the first floor, left end of the house, cleaning a rather massive study, full of dusty old tomes that England reckoned America hadn't touched in half a century. To be fair to him, they were rather… useless for the most part; non-fiction books that were sorely out of date and compilations of files and records dating back centuries. Oh a historian would have a field day with these, but he never knew America to be one to enjoy looking back on the past in such a manner. It was always the here and now with him, always the present and the future. He dusted, and he scrubbed, and he was careful with the brittle pages of each book in the study. He frowned when he came across a couple of flags, folded neatly on a top shelf, one with just twenty-three stars and one with oh, he sighed, thirteen.
The room took far too much time to clean, and England was sneezing before he was even two thirds done. He understood why America struggled so much with cleaning this place up. It was massive, and he knew well enough how quickly dust could accumulate; even if he'd cleaned it the year before, although England suspected that he hadn't touched this particular room in longer than that.
After finishing the study, England made the decision to ask America if he actually needed everything cleaned. He half thought his two plus hours in the room had been entirely worthless and just a tad upsetting. He found America cleaning a guest bedroom on the other end of the house, the second floor. The younger nation was singing under his breath, a popular pop song from the sounds of it, and he had ear buds in and his iPod clipped to his belt.
"America!" England yelled, for he knew his partner had the propensity to turn his music up way too loud.
America popped out his earphones and turned around with a smile. "What's up?"
England huffed. "I just spent two hours cleaning a study that I didn't even remember you had."
The younger nation laughed. "Geez, England. You didn't have to clean my old office! I usually lock rooms like that anyway when I'm having a party."
He crossed his arms and his lips formed into a tight line. "It would have been nice if you'd told me that. Thanks a lot!"
America glanced down at his iPod, checking the time. "Say it's three p.m. and we haven't eaten lunch. D'you want me to make something?" He grinned. "I've got everything we need for BLTs!"
"Oh yes, a bacon sandwich will go down brilliantly with all this dust I've swallowed," England groused.
America rolled his eyes. "BLTs it is then? Awesome. I'll have them ready in about twenty minutes." He gave England a squeeze on the shoulder and left the room.
England exhaled deeply and plopped down on the guest room bed, his feet dangling off the side. He felt thoroughly used, which he knew wasn't that fair. America hadn't asked him to clean the dusty old study with the tomes and the flags so rich in the history of back when they were--- when they rarely spoke and when they did it was--- he shook his head—it was painful. At times like this, he understood completely why America focused on the present and the future and 'locked the doors' that led to the past.
He decided to take a walk, as America's house was certainly large enough to take a walk in. Maybe along the way, he could find something to vent his frustrations on by cleaning.
It took only a short while for England to figure out why exactly America's house didn't appear to be that messy. It was because every unused room he came across, every closet he opened, was filled to the brim with stuff; unsorted, unorganized, junk. To be fair, the younger nation had always been a bit of a packrat. He remembered his unwillingness to throw things away even back during the years of his childhood. And he must have cleaned up some, because most of the items he came across were just a century or so old, or newer. He wondered if America had any idea of the monetary worth of that half closet full of Beatles memorabilia.
England closed each of these doors with a huff, figuring America would lock them for the party. There was one door though, with a handle that he had to jiggle to get open, and even then it didn't budge without creaking noisily on its hinges. England grimaced, the squeak of the door piercing his ears. He coughed immediately upon stepping into the room, the movement having caused a swirl of dust to rise up beneath his feet. The bright light of the hallway filtered in, revealing it to be an old, unfurnished storage room, a rather large one.
A wooden table, quite old, was the first thing he spotted. On top of it was a small pile of books, and England scoffed at the titles; Ballads of New England by John Whittier, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Heart of the West by O. Henry. America's own classics had been tossed, discarded, into a derelict storage room. He flipped open the first pages and his eyes grew wide. And they were first printings, all of them! England slammed the books shut and proceed further into the storage room, his vision catching all manner of items from time long past; clothing, old furniture, and even a painting or few. Layers of dust coated every object, and England sneezed as he accidentally kicked a small end table, the dust that covered it exploding upwards. He waved it away with his hand, then turned around swiftly at the sound of an object clattering to the ground.
Assuming he'd knocked it over when he'd hit the table, he reached down to pick up the fallen object. "A musket?" England muttered to himself, stepping to the center of the room with the weapon, where the light from the hallway shone brightest.
It was… he immediately narrowed down the period of time this musket could have originated from and frowned. England ran his fingers over the old wood and the once sharp, now dulled with time, bayonet at the end. He lifted the firearm up into both arms, remembering its weight, which had once been so familiar. How long since he'd fired one of these? His empire had used these Brown Bess muskets for over a century, back then when they were expanding, when his British Empire was still growing and the sun always shone somewhere on his land. So many wars, so many battles he'd fought with one of these at his side.
And this one, this one was one of those, the long land pattern muskets the American colonists had used during the...
Oh God was this that musket? He shook his head in disbelief, his fingers clenching the wood tightly at the mere idea. Hesitantly, as if he would break if it were true, he surveyed the weapon for that telltale mark.
The scratch from England's own bayonet was there. He quaked, his breath coming in short gasps. England nearly dropped the weapon, but instead squeezed it tighter. He swore now that the musket smelled of freezing rain, of a chilly October day in Virginia and the dirt turned mud on the ground and the metallic stench of blood. And the sound, gunshots, cannons, and a distant voice, echoing at the back of his mind. His voice was different then, younger and filled with a timorousness that he rarely heard from him now. But on that day, he'd tucked that aside and spoken with confidence and pride and an assuredness that reminded England all too much of himself. He'd become an adult that day, as the rain plummeted and England, the great empire, knelt at his feet in tears. And it hurt.
He was biting his lip now, and he fought the sting prickling at the edge of each eye. Why did he keep it? Why? England had thrown his own musket out, tossed it into the very ocean that brought him to America, on his next journey home. He'd replace it. He never wanted to see that one again. But America had kept his, kept the musket with the scratch from then that---
"E-England? What are you doing in here?" This voice was timid, the bravado stripped away. And England turned around to meet a pair of the widest blue eyes, even the glasses not being able to hide the fact that right now, they were so like back then- hesitant, unsure, concerned. When England didn't reply, America looked down to his feet, scuffing the dust up beneath them. "I uh--- lunch is ready. Might be cold by now, actually… I've been looking for you for awh— "
"Why did you keep it?" He was attempting to snap out the question, even phrase it in an accusatory manner. But it came out a whisper, a raspy query laced with desperation and confusion.
America gulped, and shakily, he took England's shoulders and turned him so they were facing each other. England glanced down to the musket in his hand. His knuckles had gone white from gripping it with such force, and he hoped that the tears that had been prickling at the corners of his eyes weren't visible in the half-light. America stretched one of his arms upward, pulling a string that hung from the ceiling. A dim light bulb flickered on, but combined with the hallway, it was enough to light the room quite efficiently.
"Just because a memory is bad…" America began. He placed his hands on the musket, gently coaxing it out of England's grasp. The Briton fought him fiercely for a moment, clasping the weapon ever tighter, but at America's continued insistence, he let it go. He turned the musket upright, resting it on one side, and placed his free hand back on England's shoulder. "It doesn't mean it's not important."
And when he looked at America now, the timidity was gone and he saw something in his expression that he hadn't quite noticed before, or perhaps he'd just never been witness to it. It was a kind of wisdom, a kind of understanding in his eyes of what England was dealing with. And he realized that America had put this behind him. That he wasn't gripping the rifle as he did, as if he wanted to squeeze it out of existence. It was not a positive memory for him, not something he liked to think about, but it was just that, only a memory. He'd closed that door, lock and key. America was an adult, and a flicker in the back of England's mind burned to life; it wondered if America would have ever been able to achieve that had he not become his own back then.
England merely nodded.
"I-I- was sorting of hoping you wouldn't find this room," America laughed nervously. "I mean I usually keep it locked but… I threw some books here in the other day and, yeah."
"First editions," England scoffed, his voice having grown a bit louder now.
America shrugged. "Didn't like those books. Boooring."
The younger nation stepped away from England, leaning the musket against the wall. "Did you get a chance to look around at all?"
"I… well I didn't see much before I found the ah, you know." England frowned, but America gave him a tentative smile.
"There's a lot more in this dusty old room than bad books and bad memories, England," he said. "I mean… I just want you to know that, that's not all I kept."
Now America looked nervous, and England was beyond curious as to what exactly he wanted the Briton to find in this place. "Ah?"
"Just look around." And now America beamed, as if he knew something England didn't, and he couldn't wait for him to find out what it was.
So hesitantly, as if fearing that he might find something else like that musket, England began to sift through the room. The first familiar object England found was so worn and so tattered, that it took him a moment to even figure out what it had once been. But his face cracked a grin when he realized what exactly it was he was holding. "Flopsy, hmm?"
America's eyes grew wide and he darted over next to England, surveying the tattered plush bunny rabbit in his hands. "Oh shit, I was hoping you'd find something more awesome than that, at least."
"Flopsy." England chuckled. "I'm just shocked you kept him. Then again you slept with him every night for about fifty years."
"C'mon! He has floppy ears. It's not weird that I named him that," he paused. "And you wouldn't let me sleep with real rabbits so…"
England rested a hand on America's arm. "You're not still sore about that, are you?"
"Well I figured that you probably slept with your unicorns and other imaginary friends, so why couldn't I sleep with my friends?" He smirked.
The Briton rolled his eyes, and slipped the small rabbit into the front pocket of his apron, hoping America wouldn't notice.
"Oh look at this!" America piped up. "Now this is awesome. D'you remember it?" He was holding up an ancient wooden slingshot, which had been whittled carefully, but crudely.
England slapped his forehead. "Christ, yes. How could I forget? You destroyed my best tea set with that blasted thing!"
America grinned, tossing the slingshot from hand to hand. "I asked you to get me one, because all the boys in the colonies had them… but you wouldn't."
"Because I knew exactly what you'd do with it, and I was right." England gestured, as if reprimanding him for it even now.
"So I ended up making one myself!"
"And I admit I was impressed by your err… cleverness," England huffed. "Although I'll never get that tea set back."
America feigned a hurtful expression. "That tea set was more important than my happiness?"
"Oh quite," England replied, a cheeky half-smile on his face.
"Then it's a good thing I destroyed it!" He paused. "Heroes don't let tea sets get in between—"
"Shut up." He leaned up and gave America a quick kiss. "I forgive you for the damn tea set."
"But you'd better leave that bloody sling shot in this room, or I'll take it back," England demanded.
America's expression faltered, and he threw it back where it had come from. "Oh, fine."
In his attempt, England assumed, to avoid another Flopsy embarrassment, America walked across the room and pulled another object, what appeared to be a pile of fabric, from a pile. He shook it out and tossed it to England, who deftly caught it.
"I remember this suit," England said, running his fingers along the dusty old fabric, "and how much you complained about having to wear it."
America strolled back across the room and kneeled down next to England. "It was tight."
"It fit just as it was supposed to." England watched as America slid off his knees and into a sitting position, comfortable, at ease. He and America had simply eased into talking about the past, and it didn't feel like a tension that was about to snap, nor did it feel increasingly awkward. Here they were, joking and speaking of America's youth as if it were merely one part, albeit an important part, of their long lives, instead of an issue to be avoided at all costs.
"I bet I did look pretty hot in it." America winked.
England's face bloomed red. "That--- I would not have noticed that."
The younger nation's eyes widened in surprise. "Did you..? I was just joking, England."
The Briton looked away and bit his lip. "How about you? Did you… back then…"
"Promise not to make fun of me?"
"Of course I won't promise that."
America stifled a laugh, and England turned back around to look at him. "If I don't admit to it, you'll ask Canada, and who knows what he'll say." He paused, his face flushing. "Yeah, I sort of definitely wanted to make out with you."
England rubbed his forehead. "Oh my God…"
"Yes, okay?" England snapped. "And do you have any idea how bloody weird it was for me?"
America placed his hand on the fabric of the suit as well, and then shot England a look, one that England knew good and well was not innocent. "You know I'm pretty sure I can't fit in this suit anymore… but if I could… I'd put it on and take my glasses off and…"
"SHUT UP!" England shouted, face burning in embarrassment. America broke into an enormous grin.
After that came hours more of shared memories and shared laughter and God it felt good and so right. There was a rifle, America's first one. England recalled, much to America's chagrin, how abysmal he'd been at hunting at first.
He found an entire bundle of clothes that America had never even been able to wear. "I left you one day to go back home, and when I came back you were taller than me! All of these clothes went to waste, I suppose."
"Damn, England. I can't help it I had a growth spurt."
"More, you shot up like a weed."
Continuing on, England had spotted a familiar blue sleeve, now faded. The cuffs were red, white lace at their ends. He frowned, realizing the article of clothing he had found. America noticed and squeezed his hand reassuringly; it's just a coat, England.
They spoke no words to each other as America guided him by the hand to the far corner of the storage room. He appeared to have something specific he wanted to show the older nation.
"I-I kind of debated showing you this because it's kind of ummm…" America scratched the back of his head. "I'm not really the sentimental type, y'know?" England bit his tongue, for he very much wanted to call bullshit on that. But he knew if he did, America would tell him that's not true and that heroes weren't allowed to get mushy or some bollocks like that.
"Well, what is it?" England raised his eyebrows.
America pulled, from the darkness underneath a table, a small wooden chest. It was covered in painted diamonds and had tiers like a castle atop it.
England knew immediately what it was, and his throat caught momentarily. "Those were…"
The younger nation handed him the chest, and England opened it, pulling out one of the elaborately decorated wooden soldiers. "They were always my favorite," America said softly. "Because I knew no other boy in the entire world had a toy like this."
England nodded. "Yes," he whispered. "It was… one of a kind, I made sure of that."
"Because you made them." America grabbed a soldier of his own, rolling it along his hand. "I had names for all of them and ranks!"
The Briton smiled gently. "They are bit beat up, so it's hard to tell the differences between each one now."
America waved his hand. "Nah, doesn't matter if the paint's chipped. I still remember well enough to tell."
At this, England set the box on the table it had come from under, and wrapped his arms around an unsuspecting America. "God, you…" He burrowed his face into his chest, tightening his grasp around his center.
A moment later, England felt America's hand on his back, gently rubbing it. The taller nation leaned down, resting his head on England's shoulder. The Briton's throat hitched again and he sniffled. "Are you crying?"
"I'm not crying, you idiot!" England defended, rather unconvincingly, for it was clear even in his voice.
America loosened the embrace a bit and reached under England's chin, pushing his face upwards so England's moist green eyes met America's blue ones. "It's all right." He leaned down, kissing England's cheeks where the tears had fallen, and then wiping next to his eyes with one of his thumbs. "I won't tell anyone." England 'hmmphed' weakly. "I thought you'd like the soldiers, but I didn't think they'd get you all choked up."
"Don't be so daft," England replied, moving his arms up to America's shoulders and wrapping them around his neck. "It's not the bloody soldiers. It's… " He took a deep breath. "It's everything… today."
And America beamed, that stupid, ridiculous smile that was so inexplicably dear to him, had always been. "You're welcome."
Silence fell between the two of them, a comfortable silence, a good silence, where just being in each other's arms was enough. "You could…" England finally spoke. "You could put those soldiers on display."
America blinked. "That's actually a pretty good idea. I mean now that you've seen them… I guess there's no reason not to."
England furrowed his brows, not quite understanding why they had been such a big secret in the first place. But this was America, and if he understood everything about him, well what else would there be left to discover? "I could repaint them, fix them up a bit."
America shook his head in the negative, rather fiercely. "Nah, they're perfect as is. They might be old, but they're one of a kind."
England frowned, but then rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Thanks a lot. I'll take that as a compliment, today at least."
His eyes widened when America captured his lips in a kiss, and he smiled into it, sliding his eyes closed and tightening his grip around the younger nation's neck. After a moment, or minutes, they pulled apart. America whacked him on the side of the head, gently, teasingly. "It's always a compliment, you stodgy old man."
"Right, you idiotic young upstart." And England kissed him again.
1- The Brown Bess Musket- is a nickname for the British Land Pattern musket. Variations of it were in use from 1722-1854. Both sides used the Long Land Pattern variation in the American Revolution. It was also used in many of the British Empire's conquests.
2- Siege of Yorktown- that chilly October day- As this is essentially the last big battle of the Revolutionary War, I assume that's when England 'surrendered' in Cleaning Out the Storage as well.