Author's Note: Based on the song "Baby of Mine". xD Yes, the one from Dumbo. Yes, I thought it was adoreable. ANYWAY! xP I do not own Hetalia or any of the characters, and neither do I own the song used. If I did, I would be awesome. And I'm not. Also: Please review when you are done :D
He had been watching this girl for almost a month now; a month, and she gave no indication to that she wanted to leave the forest and return to whatever village she had left. He had felt confused when he realised that she was a fairly skilled hunter, and more than able to make sure that she had something to eat. She was a woman, should she really be that skilled? He watched her from his hiding place as she took care of the furs so that she would have something to warm herself with when the winter came. Sometimes she would take the horse she had with her and ride aimlessly through the forest, laughing when she felt the wind against her face, laughing over being so free. He watched her when she did this as well, but he kept himself well out of sight. He had never met a human who would willingly wander into the forests alone, especially not a young girl. Then again, he had not met or talked to that many humans... He was not as nervous around them as he used to be, but he preferred to keep to himself. Despite that his brothers always said that he ought to befriend others, he rather enjoyed being alone in the wild; he liked being the only one who knew the forest and all the rolling hills like the back of his own hand. And his brothers continued to laugh at him, make fun of him in every possible way.
The girl sat leaned back by the campfire she had lit, eating what seemed to be a piece of bread and some dried meat. She seemed very calm, not at all afraid of that something might attack. But her eyes also seemed to search for something, something hidden among the trees and the bushes around the small clearing by the cave. Suddenly, her eyes caught a slight indication to movement behind one of the bushes, but she did not move yet. She kept eating, merely glancing at the place from the corner of her eye. And sure enough, through a small opening in the leaves, she saw a small head with blonde hair, and a pair of large emerald eyes that peered curiously at her. She allowed a smile to spread on her lips before she calmly placed some food on a rock next to her, and got up. She moved away from the fire, stepping into the shadows among the trees on the other side of the clearing. And as soon as she was completely out of sight, she climbed up in one of the trees and watched. After a short while, a small shape came out from its hiding place; a little boy who wore a dark cloak. He had sandy blonde hair and large green eyes that now quickly looked around in the clearing to make sure that she wasn't there. Slowly, he snuck closer to the fire, warming his small hands for a moment. Then, he seemed to notice the food she had left. For a moment, he only stared. But when the first surprise seemed to pass, he slowly moved over to the rock and picked up a piece of bread.
So you were hungry after all, little one, she thought to herself, a gentle smile on her face when she watched the child eat. He had been watching her for the entire time she had been in the forest, and she was always aware of his presence. But since he seemed so insistent on keeping himself hidden, she had never attempted to make him show himself; he was skilled in finding good hiding spots, of course, but she had always caught sight of him in some way. She had left food for him before, but he had always refused to come out. But now, he seemed to relent just a little bit.
He seems much younger than I thought... She frowned a little bit. Such a small child, alone in the forest... I wonder why he's here...
He stumbled over a root when he tried to flee, suddenly not certain about where he was. He scrambled to his feet, glancing quickly over his shoulder; the man he ran from laughed and lifted his bow, taking aim at the small child. But when the sound of a bowstring rang in his head, and he saw that the man had not released his arrow, he frowned slightly. Only to notice that a moment later, an arrow had lodged itself deep in the man's chest. He stared, seeing how the body slowly fell to the ground.
The leaves rustled behind him, and he spun around; out from her hiding place among the bushes came the very girl he had been watching for this whole time. She smiled gently at him and crouched down, reaching out one hand to him.
"Are you unharmed?" He felt strangely warm when he heard her voice. "It's alright; I won't hurt you like he tried to do. Come here, little one."
He stared at her, feeling how tears slowly started to rise in his eyes; then, it burst. Just as the tears began to stream over his cheeks, he threw himself into her arms, clung to her and cried. She held him gently, trailing her fingers through his hair, whispering soothing words to him. He forgot about his suspicion for once, and allowed himself to enjoy being held while he cried.
"I still don't know what I should call you."
He blinked and looked up at her, a little confused by her words.
"But I already told you my name," he said quietly. "Or well, names."
She chuckled and patted his head.
"I can't call you those names," she replied. "You're as human as I am, little one, and I would like to give you a human name." She eyed him carefully again. "I'm not certain... But..." She suddenly laughed, picked him up and embraced him. "Ah, now I know! I shall call you Arthur! You are the only one who should be worthy enough to carry the name of a legendary king!"
He blushed furiously and shook his head.
"N-no! I can't be named Arthur," he yelled. "I... I shouldn't have that name, I'm not-"
"It's settled! From here on, you are my little Arthur!" She laughed and spun around with him still in her slender arms. "I'm going to take good care of you!"
Despite his confusion, he could not help but smile and cling to her arms. He had a new name now, and he rather liked it; the fact that it was the name of a person he rather admired didn't seem to matter as much anymore, not when she laughed and smiled at him like this. He still didn't know her that well, but he knew that she was a very young girl (barely past her sixteenth year), and he knew that she was very sweet and kind hearted. After all, she had given him food and kept him warm, and she had comforted him when he had been sad.
It was near impossible to avoid the visits from the child's older brothers; he had explained to her who they were, and that he didn't like them. They bullied him too much. Already from the first time she met them, she decided to keep them somewhat in line with the help of her bow and arrows. The brothers constantly claimed that they were not afraid of her, but they rarely tried to do something to their little brother when she was around. She in turn claimed not to hate them; she only hated the way they would not treat their brother kindly.
"You are family," she would yell at them when she held him and tried to comfort him. "Why can't you treat him like the little brother he is? You should support him and help him grow, not bully him and kick him around!"
And the small child would cling to her, tears in his eyes, and hope that she would not let go or allow them to come any closer. He was scared of them, and he didn't deny it. No.. Not scared. Terrified was a better word. He was terrified of his brothers, especially Alba and his gigantic axe. He didn't know how the man could lift it; he only knew that whenever Alba chose to lift it and chase him with it, he had to run as fast as he could and find shelter somewhere. But now, she would come to his rescue. She'd step forward and aim one arrow at the older boy, yelling at him and telling him to stop unless he wanted an arrow in his eye. She would not tolerate that anyone treated her little Arthur badly.
She was the one who taught him to ride on a horse. Her own mare was what they had available, and it was a very kind horse. But even she got nervous when she noticed that he was afraid. But the girl laughed and coaxed him into coming a little closer.
"Come here, Arthur, don't be afraid," she said. "I won't let her harm you, I promise. We'll take it slowly, okay? I want you to get to know her before we start."
That was the first time he had ever even touched a horse; the girl kept true to her promise, and calmed the horse as soon as it showed signs of being too nervous.
The first time she placed him on the back of the magnificent animal, he felt very nervous. She had promised him to hold the reins and lead the horse, to let him get a feeling of how horses moved with a rider on their back.
"She is far too big for you to handle," she said with a chuckle. "But it should be alright as long as I'm here. Who knows, maybe you'll be able to handle her once we're done."
They took it slow, just as she promised. And he felt a little safer because of it. She taught him not to be afraid of animals, but to respect them and their pride. Animals had pride and love just as humans, she had told him. As long as he treated them kindly, but respected the borders they set, they would respect him in turn.
The day she died, he cried almost hysterically and begged her to wake up. It was a cold winter morning, and there had been a snowstorm during the night. When he woke up, he was bundled up in all the blankets and furs, and she sat leaned against the wall of the cave just opposite him. Her skin was pale, and her lips blue. She was as cold as ice, and parts of her skin seemed as blue as her lips. She didn't move, and she was not breathing.
"A-are you alright, Mary," he asked when he carefully moved over to her. "Y-you're so cold..."
He stared at her, noticing that she did not react. Panic began to build up in him, and he took her hand, only to let go a moment later.
"Wake up," he begged. "Please..! Please, wake up! It's not funny! Please, Mary, wake up! M-mother!"
Tears spilled from his eyes, and he crawled up on her lap, shaking her gently.
"Mother! Mother, please, wake up! Please! D-don't leave me here! I don't want to be alone! Mother!"
The meeting was, as usual a bloody mess. Prussia was once again yelling about how he should be made a nation once more. France had almost magically lost his clothes and now ran around naked in the room. Russia was pestering Latvia as usual, while Poland was showing Lithuania pictures of his new pony. Korea was, as usual, trying to claim China's "breasts", and China was in return smacking the younger nation on the head. The Nordic nations seemed to be very absorbed in a discussion about something or other, with Denmark making loud and inappropriate suggestions to both Norway and Finland while Sweden kept sending him death glares. And on top of the entire mess was America, currently in a smaller fistfight with Mexico, apparently something about the border between them and the immigrants (again). And England just sat there in his seat, his head in his hands, and tried to block everything out. His brother, Ireland, had downed two mouthfuls of whiskey already and was apparently in the mood for chatting with him.
"So, how are things going for you, brat," asked Seamus with a mischievous grin and clamped his hand down on Arthur's shoulder. "Same old, as usual? I hope Angus and Merfyn aren't giving you a hard time, I mean, I know they can be really fucking difficult when they want to. And hell, we could both use a break, I guess. By the way, you still have my hat, right? I've been thinking of getting that back, but I guess you like it, huh? And it seems a bit stupid to bug you about it."
"Please, Seamus..." Arthur groaned quietly and massaged his temples. "I am simply not in the mood right now. Please, leave me alone for a bit, will you? This meeting has turned into a mess before we even got started..."
After a while of silence between them, while the rest of the room continued to be loud and annoying, Seamus began to frown a little. Arthur did not move his head from his hands, and he would not look anyone in the eye. Even when Francis attempted to grope him, he didn't look up when he retaliated by slamming his elbow into the Frenchman's chest. Something was wrong.
"Oi, Arthur," he muttered, carefully placing his hand on his brother's shoulder again. "Let's go outside and talk. I know that something is wrong, and I'm pretty certain that I know what it is. And in that case, we can't talk here."
Finally he got to see his brother's emerald eyes look at him.
"It's not like anyone would hear us talk in this racket anyway," Arthur replied with the slightest indication to a smile on his lips. "And you already know that it's about mother, so what point is there in talking?" He sighed deeply. "I'll get going now; it doesn't look like we'll get anything done today. If they ask about where I went, just tell them that I was tired and wanted to sleep..."
Seamus downed another mouthful of whiskey.
"No promises," he said. "I just might tell them that you decided to go and cook for all of them." He watched his younger brother get up and gather his things. "By the way... You're going to visit her the day after tomorrow, am I right? You know I won't be able to get there, and Angus and Merfyn won't show either... But... Think you could tell her that we all miss her?" He smiled at the incredulous look he got. "You know that we do. She kept us in line, and she helped you. So just tell her that, okay?"
Arthur gave him a small smile before he quietly slipped out from the room. But the "peace" that followed was not enjoyable for long, because someone decided to sit down on Arthur's chair a moment later. America.
"Oi, Ireland..." The younger man sounded a bit hesitant when he spoke. "Where was Arthur going? The meeting isn't over yet... And well, he doesn't look like he's okay. Hasn't returned my calls or anything."
Seamus shrugged; he never did understand the relationship his little brother had with this brat. One moment they were at each other's throats, the next they were calling each other every night just to see what the other was doing.
"He gets like this at this time of the year," he muttered. "You know... Quiet. He doesn't talk much. It's kind of weird, but well... he gets past it anyway, it doesn't last long. A day or two. Maybe a week if he's really feeling it."
At that, Alfred seemed truly distressed, and Seamus could not hold back a laugh at the sight of the youngling's shocked face. But before he could say something, Alfred asked another question.
"Why does he get like this?" Blue eyes watched the Irishman in confusion. "He looks really sad, and I just don't know how to handle it... I mean, it's nowhere near the fourth of July, and that's when he usually gets-"
"It's about his mum, okay? It's not my place to tell you, so stop asking me. Go ask him instead."
Alfred stared for about Two minutes before the sentence really registered in his mind.
Unfortunately, he chose to yell. Which made most of the other nations stop with everything they were doing and look at them. Which in turn made Seamus wish that the brat had an "on/off" button.
Alfred left the meeting quite abruptly, eager to find Arthur and eager to avoid having to explain his surprised outburst. Seamus had left at the same time, calmly telling the rest of the curious nations that if they came after him to ask something, he would have to kill them with his now empty whiskey bottle. While Alfred had found the comment interesting, he was currently more set on finding the Englishman who seemed to have vanished into thin air. But after searching for a while, he finally managed to find the man. Arthur sat by a window, a book open on his lap. He was obviously not concentrating as much as he pretended, but Alfred smiled softly at the sight nonetheless. He remembered this look from when he was a child.
"Hey, Arthur," he said with a chuckle. "Reading something nice?"
The Brit started, accidentally dropping the book.
"Bloody hell, Alfred," he gasped. "Don't sneak up on someone like that, you bleeding fool!"
Alfred gave him another smile and walked over to him, leaning against the wall. Arthur eyed the young man warily for a moment or two before picking up his book again.
"What do you want," he muttered. "The meeting is hardly over yet."
"I know that..." The American huffed good-naturedly and tilted his head a little, trying to get his old mentor to look at him. "I just wanted to talk to you a little... I mean, you've been acting pretty weird lately."
Arthur merely rolled his eyes.
"I have not been "acting weird" as you put it, Alfred," he replied sharply. "Now, would you leave me alone and let me read my book in peace?"
He opened the book to the page he had been on earlier, but when he lowered his gaze to the page... Alfred chuckled silently. The Englishman's eyes were not moving at all, he was hardly reading.
"Look, is it so bad that I just want to ask you a question," he asked and grinned as he took the book from the now sputtering Brit's hands. "You've been acting weird all day, Arthur... Or well, not just today, for three days. What's wrong? And what's this thing Seamus mentioned about your mom? You don't really have a mom... or... do you?"
Slowly, Arthur heaved a sigh and looked up at the younger nation. He didn't look shocked or angry, but rather just... sad. He was not getting ready to jump at the chance to tear Alfred's throat out, or running off down the corridor to find and murder his older brother. He was just watching Alfred for a moment with a sad look in his eyes and a vague smile on his lips.
"Small correction, Alfred," he said softly. "I don't have a real biological mother. But there was someone who acted as if she was my mother. Or older sister. But in my eyes, she was my mother." He leaned back a little bit. "She saved my life, Alfred, and she took care of me... She named me as well."
Alfred frowned slightly, taking in this new information.
"You said was..." The young man sounded thoughtful. "She's dead, then..?"
"Yes, she is." Arthur smiled faintly as he spoke. "She lived when I was a little child, you git. If she had been alive by now, she would have beaten all records..." His voice cracked a little, and Alfred blinked in surprise as tears gathered in the older nation's eyes. "I-if she h-had been... alive..."
Almost immediately, a pair of strong arms wrapped around Arthur. Alfred rubbed his back soothingly; he wasn't used to see Arthur like this, especially not when he was actually sober. He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of voices approaching, and then sighed quietly.
"Look, if you don't want people to see you like this, then we have to move," he muttered. "Come on, Arthur. Let's go somewhere else, to your room or something... Or no, let's-"
"No, Alfred, I'm going home." The Brit looked up at the younger man with a vague smile. "I'm not staying here tonight. I'm going home; I have to go somewhere the day after tomorrow, and I want some proper rest first."
Getting home was as usual no trouble at all. The trouble was that a certain loud and obnoxious American had insisted on coming with him and keeping him company.
"You'd just hurt yourself if I left you alone, Iggy," Alfred had said. "I mean, most likely you'd land in hospital because of your cooking!"
After a smaller spat about Arthur's cooking, Alfred had finally explained why he was so eager to come along; he wanted to know more about the older nation's mother. At first, said older nation had been very reluctant to share more information about the woman, which led Alfred to ask completely random questions while he tried to compose some sort of a picture of how she had looked and how her personality had been. Which in turn made Arthur gradually more annoyed every minute. But he forced himself not to say anything until they reached his house.
"Alfred, if you don't belt up now, I'm going to chain you to the wall in my bloody basement," he growled when he unlocked the door. "Understood? Now, if you'd just shut up, then maybe I will tell you something about her!"
Neither of them bothered with unpacking anything just yet. Instead, they left their luggage in the hallway and stepped into the lounge. Alfred glanced around with a small smile, taking in the details of the room. It was decorated in a fairly simple way, but it was (even from his own point of view) tastefully done. Arthur most likely thought that it was absolutely perfect, and he would probably not take any objections about it; especially not from a certain American who thought that it was a great idea to decorate his living room with a gigantic version of his own flag... Arthur let out a sigh of relief when he sank down in his favourite armchair near the fireplace. Alfred immediately stole the sofa, as was usual whenever he visited, and stretched like a cat as he laid down, effectively stealing all space. He peered at the Englishman with one of his usual goofy smiles plastered on his face.
"Well, are you going to talk?" He tiled his head. "Spill it, old man!"
Arthur sent him a glare, but said nothing yet. Instead, he leaned back and closed his eyes, seemingly to gather his thoughts.
"What did you want to know, then," he muttered after a while, still not opening his eyes. "There are quite many things to tell about her, after all..."
Alfred merely grinned and sat up again.
"Tell me how she looked, then! If you remember, that is, you're pretty good at forgetting stuff."
Immediately, Arthur's eyes snapped open and glared angrily at him, and Alfred's smile vanished within a second. Not a good idea for a joke, then... But it took merely a moment for the glare to vanish and be replaced by a rather sad smile.
"Why would I ever forget her," he said softly. "She had blonde hair, always kept in a braid, and... Her eyes were rather similar to yours, actually... She was quite tall for her age. I mean, she can't have been more than sixteen when I met her. She always had a smile ready, and she was so very gentle... So kind hearted..." He sighed quietly. "I don't think I've ever met a kinder person. She wasn't what people would consider "pure", but that hardly mattered. She cared for me, and she wanted me to stay with her..."
The American tilted his head with a curious look in his eyes. Arthur rarely spoke of people like this, especially not humans. Had he really adored a human woman like this? Suddenly, the Brit chuckled gently and looked up at the younger man.
"She used to sing lullabies to me," he said, sounding rather aloof. "I sang one or two of them to you when you were little, you know... I didn't know that many songs that could lull a baby to sleep, but I remembered some of the ones she sang..."
Alfred blinked in surprise when the older nation suddenly looked him straight in the eye; a mere moment later, the voice of the United Kingdom sounded in the room, singing softly in a language that was incomprehensible to the other. But the sound was soothing and gentle, and it reminded Alfred of when he was a little child who was slowly drifting off to sleep in his newfound brother's arms. The young nation began to relax, a soft smile spreading on his lips. But after a moment, Arthur's voice faded, and sky blue eyes snapped open to look at the older man again.
"Hey, why did you stop," asked Alfred with a frown. "It sounded so nice..."
Arthur smiled at him and shook his head.
"I'm not going to sing until you fall asleep, you git," he chuckled. "You'll have to walk to the guestroom on your own; you're far too heavy for me to carry you now."
Alfred felt that he had to smile at the comment and shrugged before he calmly got up.
"Well, you're not going out alone," he said. "I'll keep you company when you go to see her."
Arthur looked after his guest as he made his way out from the lounge, a small smile on the former empire's lips. As he leaned back, he saw the image of Mary in front of his eyes once again.
"You would have adored him, I think," he said quietly to the otherwise silent room. "He acts much like you did at times... But you were more serious than he is... After all, you had to worry much about how to survive the next day and all..."
"Albion misses Mary?"
He blinked and looked to his right, seeing a blue-ish ball of light hovering near his shoulder. A small woman with shimmering wings looked at him with large eyes.
"Ah... Llyr..." He smiled and nodded. "Yes, I miss her. It's only to expect, is it not?"
The little fairy smiled gently and landed on his shoulder, placing her small hand against his cheek. Her touch spread a gentle warm feeling over his skin.
"Little Albion should not worry," she said softly. "Mary is in a good place, and she watches over her darling child." She gave the nation a meaning look. "She knows who and what you are, Albion. And she is proud. She taught you so many things, she got to protect little Albion. She is happy."
Arthur chuckled and shook his head a little, careful not to push the smaller being off his shoulder.
"You say that every year, Llyr," he muttered. "I suppose I ought to believe you. You have never lied to me, after all."
Llyr gave him a cheeky grin and fluttered into the air again, hovering in front of him as she planted a kiss on the tip of his nose.
"Little Albion is rude," she chided and laughed. "Why would I lie? You should know me well enough!" Her eyes twinkled and she smiled warmly. "Albion should sleep. You need to be a good host for your guest tomorrow, even though he is a little dense."
Arthur smiled at the comment and nodded at the little fairy before getting out of his chair.
"Thank you," he said. "But please, don't call him dense to his face... Even though he can't see or hear you, it's still rude."
She tilted her head curiously, following him out from the lounge and up the stairs to his room.
"Will you bring him there, Albion," she asked softly, politely turning away when he started to undress. "He does not seem like one who would understand such a thing. Why would he understand that Mary lingers still? I wouldn't have bothered." She clicked her tongue in slight disdain as she turned around again, suddenly not caring about being polite. "He is a child, Albion, and he does not understand. Why do you expect him to understand why you do this every year?"
Arthur glanced at her over his shoulder, his green eyes piercing into hers.
"I expect him to understand because he listened when I explained," he replied calmly. "Alfred might be a bloody git, but he understands the bonds between family members. And if I considered a human woman my mother, then he will understand what feelings I had."
Llyr seemed reluctant, but she said nothing more; instead, she calmly left the room to let him sleep a little.
When Arthur had told Alfred that his mother's grave was fairly far away, Alfred had never really expected that they would have to hike through a forest with heavy bags, because Arthur claimed that they would not make it back to any town before it got dark. And he had definitely not expected to stumble over treacherous roots whenever he tried to take a step forward while Arthur wandered on as if he walked right through all the trees. So when he tripped and fell on his face for the umpteenth time, he let out a loud frustrated groan and glared at the older man's back.
"Are we there yet," he snapped. "My feet are killing me! I swear, that was the hundredth time those fucking roots made me trip! I hate this place already! Why the hell did you bury her far out in the fucking wild?!"
Arthur stopped, spun around and glared at him.
"Do you think that there were that many cities around back then," growled the Englishman. "Do you think that the entire land was filled with blooming civilization? It was quite different back then, Alfred! Mother and I lived in this forest; we didn't have more than a cave to find shelter in! And we were both perfectly fine with that! I was a child! I couldn't drag her all the way to a village on my own, especially not with the bloody snow! The best I could do was to wait for my brothers to come there and help me bury her!" He huffed and turned away again, hearing that the American got to his feet. "We're almost there, alright? Just... Please, try to calm down..."
Alfred grumbled, but said nothing more as they continued. Instead, he curiously glanced around at the snow covered land; it was a beautiful sight, true, but it also felt a little... creepy. They were alone in the middle of a forest, but it still felt as if someone was watching them. He looked back at his old mentor, who now calmly stepped through a thick shrubbery and glanced back at him.
"Are you coming, Alfred," he asked with a small smile. "It's here in this clearing."
With another grumble, the American followed the older man into the clearing. There, right in the middle, grew a large rosebush.
"... Are roses supposed to grow here," he asked with a frown. "I mean... I wouldn't have expected to see them in the middle of a forest."
"They grow here because she loved roses," replied Arthur with a chuckle. "The fairies take care of it."
Alfred considered pointing out that fairies didn't exist, but seeing Arthur smile like this when he stepped closer to the bush made him think it over again. This was a place that meant something to the Brit, and he had actually asked Alfred to calm down before they came to the clearing. Perhaps he just didn't want to be in a bad mood when he was here...?
Arthur calmly placed his backpack on the ground, brushed away some snow from an old log and sat down, gesturing for Alfred to do the same. Then, his emerald eyes returned to watching the rosebush.
"I'm sorry for being a little later, mother," he suddenly said, a small smile on his lips. "I don't normally bring someone here, and well.., one thing led to another. But we're here now, at least."
Alfred tilted his head slightly and sat down next to the older nation, listening to the man calmly speaking of how everything had been, and even of the other countries. Even though he spoke of events that had infuriated him, he still had a fond smile grazing his lips. Then, after speaking for a while, he decided to introduce his guest.
"I'm sorry, I should have minded my manners," he chuckled softly. "This is Alfred. Or well, this is America. I've told you about him before, and... Well, he insisted on coming with me. He's a bit of a git..." At this, Alfred huffed and glared slightly at him, but Arthur laughed and smiled at him. "But he's alright. Or more than alright. I've told you before, haven't I? I'm very glad that he's here, actually..."
Alfred began to smirk. He listened to Arthur as he continued speaking, but suddenly the American's arm snaked around the older man's waist.
"So, I'm more than alright," he said, the smirk turning into a grin. "And you're happy because I'm here? I never thought I'd hear that from you, Iggy!"
Arthur huffed and tried to pry the arm off him.
"Belt up, you git," he growled, a slight blush spreading on his cheeks. "I did not mean it like that."
Alfred merely laughed in response.
The night was far less lively than Alfred had thought that it would be. He was curled up in his sleeping bag, currently watching Arthur sleep; how the older nation had managed to find peace and fall asleep so quickly was something he simply didn't understand. They were in a cave in the middle of a damn forest! How could Arthur sleep at all?! Then again, the former empire rarely seemed worried about that anything could happen while he was asleep.
I could push him up on a tree branch without waking him up, thought Alfred with a small smile. At least I think so...
He sighed quietly to himself.
"I'll never get any sleep out here," he mumbled into the night. "How the fuck does he do it? How can he sleep here?"
With a deep sigh, he sat up, promptly shivering when the sleeping bag slipped down.
"Fuck, it's cold!"
After quickly rummaging around after and putting on the extra clothes he had been wearing, he quietly stepped out from the cave. There was nothing but complete silence in the clearing, just as he had expected. The snow crunched gently beneath his boots as he stepped over to the old log and sat down, looking straight at the rosebush.
"So," he muttered. "You're Iggy's mom, huh? Heh, it feels a bit weird to call you that... I mean, you're not even a nation. You've never been a nation... And yet he insists on calling you his mom. It's just weird. You're a human; you shouldn't even know what we are..."
"And yet I know, and he trusted me enough to tell me. Funny world, isn't it?"
He jumped in surprise, staring as a slightly transparent shape stepped out from behind the bush; a young woman with blonde hair in a braid, and clear blue eyes. A smile was on her face, and she held a bow in her hands. Her clothes were (to say the least) extremely old fashioned...
"Are you alright," she asked curiously. "You look a bit pale..."
Alfred kept staring at her, confused and shocked. He considered screaming, but that would wake Arthur up, and waking Arthur in the middle of the night was not a good idea nowadays; he used to spaz badly. But he was absolutely certain that there was a ghost talking to him right now.
"Y-you..." He couldn't get the words out properly. "Y-you are..."
She chuckled and nodded, calmly taking a seat next to him.
"I'm Mary," she said. "And you're America. The child he cared for, which then threw him away."
He tensed immediately, fear of ghosts forgotten.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean," he growled. "I never threw him away! He kept raising the taxes all the damn time, how was I supposed to live with that?!"
The woman raised an eyebrow, her smile not fading the slightest.
"And he had no other choice, if he'd ever be able to pay certain debts," she replied. "My little Arthur did not like it one bit more than you did, but he had to do something." Her blue eyes stared into his, forcing him to keep the contact. "What he felt was that you suddenly hated him and wanted him to go away. He was scared, and sad. He came here to speak to me about it, you know, not too long before your revolution really started."
Alfred huffed, forcing himself to break the contact and look away. He stared down at the snow.
"I can't really imagine him being sad about that shit," he grumbled. "Not with the fucking way he acted around me."
"I would have acted the same way if I had lived to see Arthur grow into a teenager and then have him push me away." She shrugged and smiled at the look she got from the disgruntled American. "Arthur was my darling little boy. It hurt to see him so sad because of a child he took care of, you know."
Alfred glanced towards the cave again; he could see Arthur not far from the opening, still curled up and asleep, blissfully unaware of the conversation. He was smiling in his sleep, as if he had a very nice dream... And after a moment, Alfred found himself smiling at the sight. His old mentor looked so very peaceful, so unusually calm... He glanced at Mary again as she let out a soft longing sigh.
"He still looks so very cute when he sleeps," she said. "He always stays here for the night when he visits, but I can't really get enough of that look on his face. So peaceful..." She chuckled softly and glanced back at Alfred. "You must look like him when you sleep, I think. Or well, I can't know that... It is merely a guess."
The American held back a chuckle and shrugged.
"I don't really know," he admitted. "But according to Iggy, I have this really goofy smile when I sleep nowadays..."
Mary chuckled and nodded, calmly standing up from the log again. Walking over the snow without leaving a single mark, she went to the cave and knelt down by the sleeping nation. Alfred frowned slightly and walked back as well, curious to see what she was going to do. She glanced up at him and shook her head.
"I won't harm him," she whispered. "I merely wanted to comfort him... He always frowns like this when the dream starts to turn into a nightmare." A playful smile spread on her lips again. "He's been singing a song lately every time he came here... I'm fairly certain that I can remember it."
Alfred tilted his head a little and sat down, leaning his back against the wall of the cave. He watched as Mary trailed her fingers through Arthur's hair, whispering softly to him. Then, her voice sounded a little clearer, singing a gentle tune.
"Baby mine, don't you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine..."
She smiled gently as she watched Arthur's frown disappear to be replaced by a blissful smile. She continued:
"Little one, when you play,
Don't you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine..."
She trailed her fingers over his cheek and stole a quick glance at Alfred, who already seemed to be slipping off into sleep.
"If they knew sweet little you,
They'd end up loving you too...
All those same people who scold you;
What they'd give,
Just for the right to hold you..."
She let out a gentle chuckle.
"From your head down to your toes,
You're not much, goodness knows.
But you're so precious to me,
Sweet as can be, baby of mine..."
Her eyes closed a little, and she stood again, grabbing the thick blanket Alfred had kept within his sleeping bag and gently wrapping it around the young nation.
"If they knew sweet little you,
They'd end up loving you too...
All those same people who scold you;
What they'd give,
Just for the right to hold you..."
She smiled again, trailing her fingers through Alfred's hair as well.
"From your head down to your toes,
You're not much, goodness knows.
But you're so precious to me,
Sweet as can be, baby of mine..."
She leaned closer to Alfred, pressing a feather light kiss to his forehead before moving back to Arthur. There, she knelt again, smiling warmly as she did the same to him.
"Sleep well, my little warrior," she whispered, and then glanced back at Alfred again. "And you too, little America. Watch over my Arthur for me, will you...? I believe he needs you more than he would let you believe."
She stood again and slowly stepped out from the cave, fading slowly the further away she got.
"Goodnight, my dear children..."
It had to be fairly early still when Alfred woke up the next morning, wrapped up tightly in the blanket he had brought. He blinked in confusion as he noticed this little detail, and then he looked around in the cave. No one else but he and Arthur were there. He frowned, trying to recall what had happened during the night. He remembered sitting out by that rosebush, talking to someone... She had called herself Mary...
"Ahaha..." He laughed nervously. "T-that's silly... That would mean that she c-came back for one night, a-and..."
He shook his head quickly, but the memory of a song quickly wormed its way through his thoughts.
"She sang," he mumbled. "Heh, she had a nice voice..."
"Mmnh..? Who did...?"
Alfred blinked in surprise and glanced at Arthur, who now sat up and peered sleepily at him. It was hard not to smile at the sight of the normally so proper "gentleman", still in a sleeping bag with tousled hair, who rubbed his eyes a little and blinked slowly.
"What was that about someone singing," asked Arthur, yawning and stretching. "Did you have a weird dream or something...?"
Alfred smiled a little and shook his head.
"Nah, it was nothing," he replied. "What 'bout you? Slept well?"
Arthur yawned again and smiled a little, running his hand through his hair.
"It's a little strange," he said slowly. "I dreamt that... No, that can't be right..." He frowned slightly. "I dreamt that mummy was here... She... She sang to me... But it was some song that I sang to make myself relax sometimes when I was here..."
Alfred's smile widened a little bit, and he looked out through the mouth of the cave to see the rosebush. He could almost swear on that he saw a woman stand there and smile at him.
"Well, knowing how damn weird you and your country is," he said with a shrug. "I bet she was here. And I bet she wants a real hero to protect you, too!"
Arthur groaned and rolled his eyes, but an amused smile remained on his lips.
"You're a bloody git, Alfred," he chuckled. "Come now, let's eat something and get moving..."
Once they finally got moving, Alfred glanced over his shoulder, looking back at the clearing. Once again, he saw that woman stand there, her hand lifted in farewell. She smiled and nodded before slowly fading away. He frowned slightly, not certain about if he should be freaking out or just shrugging it off...
"Did your feet freeze to the ground, git? Come on, or I'm going without you!"
"Ah! Iggy, stop being so mean! Wait up!"
Mary watched them leave with a smile playing on her lips. Although her conversation with the young America had been very brief, she felt rather reassured about her dear Arthur's safety. The younger man seemed kind and at least a little reliable. Maybe she wouldn't need to worry.
"Take care of yourself, my little Arthur," she said softly to the now empty clearing. "I think I'd like it if you brought him again, actually..." She chuckled. "Until next time."