England straightens out his tie in front of the mirror one more time, and stares at his reflection. Perhaps if he waists just a little bit longer… But no, it is his duty to remember. His and France's and Germany's and Canada's, and all of the others. It is their duty to remember because soon they will be the only ones who do truly remember.
He adjusts the poppy on his chest, sighs and then leaves. At the church he stands out as usual, not just because he looks young compared to the others, but also because his chest is completely bare and unadorned. It is not his place to accept medals for protecting those under his care.
As usual there are less of them than last year. England remembers the days when only a few could attend – and now to be one of so few. And some of them can barely recall their own name, let alone the long forgotten dead. Still, as he walks to sit beside them, one gives him a smart salute, and England smiles, salutes him back respectfully, and then squeezes his shoulder. Some of them are still clinging on at least. He sits between the veterans of World War One and Two, a young man on his own surrounded by old men and their families. But that is also his fate, to remain young while those around him wither and die. There will always be Nations, and they will always remember.
And he does. Through the service, England dwells on those who have died from the first to the last. From the young man blown up on the battlefield to the pretty lady shot for being a spy. He thinks of the freemen struck down at Battle, protecting their land, and of service men killed only last week in the current conflict. From kings to servants, England remembers them all, because someone has to. They died for him, whether it be with him or in lands far away. Whether it was to protect his lands from foreign invaders and cruel regimes or to ease paranoia and extend his influence. They died for him, and so no matter how the wars they had been involved in were remembers, England will remember them in honour.
He passes the service on automatic rising with the church and mumbling the hymns, and keeping his head bowed the rest of the time. As it ends, he lets his feet lead him the familiar walk towards the memorial and he watches his Queen and his Boss lay wreathes of poppies. When it is his turn, he kneels, ignoring the water that soaks through his trousers from the wet stone.
"Always in my heart; the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland remembers all those who have fallen in my service." He murmurs, echoing the words inscribed on the back of the wreath, the words he has always dedicated to them.
As he rises other men and women take his place one by one, laying down wreath after wreath until the white stone is covered in red, a bright and vivid remember of those lost. England salutes it one last time, and then allows his feet to lead him through the crowds of mourning men and women, though the churchyard and back out into the bustling streets of London. Although it seems normal, just a crisp autumn day, noticeable on most chests is a bright red poppy.
Fortunately France finds him before he wonders too far as his uniform on his young frame is drawing a few stares. He calls for the driver to stop as he stops him and jumps out to grab England, manhandling him into the car. England goes without a fight, letting France sit him down. France lays his hand over England's and the other blonde looks at him then slowly gives a small smile. Satisfied by that, France sits back until they reach England's house.
France stays until Sunday, and though they quickly start fighting again, England is glad for the company. He demands that France sleeps in the spare room, but he wakes up with stubble against his cheek and snores in his ear anyway. They almost fall into routine and for a few days England is able to forget. But on Sunday, France gently shakes him awake wearing that ridiculous blue and red uniform of his. For a moment, England forgets himself and panics, reaching under his pillow for his gun, but then he remembers that he war is over, and has been so for seventy years, and he collapses back into the mattress. When France prods him again a minute later. England glares at him, but does at least get up to lock France out of the room while he showers and dresses. Breakfast is a rushed, quiet affair: tea for England and coffee for France, and a slice of toast each to eat while it cools.
This time England stands out even more, accompanied by France. Blue and red are blindingly obvious in a sea of green and black, and England finds his cheeks colouring. He considers getting France to leave, but the git has as much right as anyone to mourn ad his presence is distracting if nothing else. Rather than spending the service in a daydream, England is fully aware and keeping an eye on the Nation beside him. But France behaves himself and keeps his hands to himself. His hand rests on the pew beside England's, almost but not quite touching, until England brings up the courage after a hymn to lay his over France's. France glances at him, smiles, and then takes his hand and squeezes softly. They remain like that for the rest of the service.
It turns out that France hasn't thought to prepare a wreath, and after quietly berating him in the back of church, England allows him to kneel with him to lay his second one. England feels a bit uneasy murmuring to the memorial with France listening, but he still does, and as he finishes, France pulls out a rose from… somewhere and lays it down on top.
"The French Republic also honours those who have died, not only in defence of me, but at war with me also."
England stares at him, and almost forgets to rise, but can't quite find the way to thank him, so once they're out of sight he smacks his arm instead and mumbles that he's an idiot.