And the Ocean Calls My Name
Notes: This was written for the Kink Meme Prompt: WWII Sea Fort!Sealand getting a pep talk from England. It sort of went off in a totally different direction though. IAfter lots of hemming and hawing - mostly me wondering if anyone would actually read it - I finally got around to uploading the chapters here.
My name is Peter Kirkland... I'm also called Sealand. I am the smallest nation in the world. I was born in 1942 - or at least, that's the first moment I remember. It seems like a long time ago now... I am still so young, they said, not a proper country at all. So many times, they said it, that I would never be a country. But they were wrong. Today. Right now. I am what I always knew I would be. And it's good... Even when it hurts... it's good. Everything I ever wanted and hoped for.
Mine, for this one wonderful moment.
Mine to keep, forever.
~ 01 ~
"What in the bloody blazes is this?!" A pair of blue eyes opened slowly at the sound of the raised voice, blinked, saw the world for the first time. Through the haze of light, so blinding brilliant for a few moments, he could make out the shape of a man standing over him. It never occurred to the boy to question the things he knew by instinct alone and this person, this green eyed stranger, was somehow familiar to him. So he did not cringe back when the man loomed over him threateningly, words sharp with demand. "How did you get in here? This is no place for childr-" The voice cut out as their eyes met, blue to green, and the man stuttered to a halt. Peered down at him as though he was some kind of alien creature - strange and untested.
Maybe he was. He didn't know. He couldn't be sure exactly what he was, except... new. That was it: he felt new.
"Who am I?" He asked, guileless in these early moments of his existence. If he didn't know who he was, he knew that this man would, somehow. "And who are you?" This last was added as an afterthought. His sense of self was still soft, malleable, but slowly beginning to solidify and take form.
"This is nonsense-" The man snarled, pacing a quick lap in front of him before returning to his former position, looking down at the boy still sprawled on the floor. "I am Arthur Kirkland. You may refer to me as 'England'. And you-" A second of hesitation, a hint of uncertainty behind verdant eyes. "You should not even exist. There were never any others before." Others? Other 'what's? Other 'who's?
"But who am I?" He called out again, perturbed at the lack of an answer - an unfamiliar emotion, another something new. He needed to hear it. He needed a name. Without a name, he had no self. Without a name, he was... nothing.
"You are-" A catch, a stutter in England's voice, "Fort Roughs, I suppose. Or you will be." England glanced over his shoulder, and the boy's eyes followed, to the sight of the construction underway. Two towers, rising as high as he could imagine, the scent of concrete and metal - sharp and earthy. The sight filled his vision, caught him - enthralled. The structure pulled at some place inside him and as he pushed to his feet, his first steps were as weak and wobbly as a foal's. He did not let this deter him, his legs steadying as he drew close enough to lay his palm against the nearest support. England made a choked noise of protest behind him, but that did not matter.
Yes. Yes, of course. "This is me." He breathed, delight dancing in his young voice. "I am this. Here I am."
And England, standing to his back, sounded so much less enthused, so much more weary. "Right. Here you are. Just my damn luck, isn't it? Now what am I going to do with you?"
The boy who had no name yet, but who would be Fort Roughs, had no concern for the unhappiness in the man's voice, not when he was still engulfed in the first brilliant euphoria of life. How it had happened was of no concern to him, because he was alive and that was something altogether marvelous and unexpected. And he laughed his first laugh for the sheer joy of being.
The need for more would come, and come quickly, but for now there was this, and there was him, and that was all there was to the world. And the world was good. So very good.
- 1943 -
"So, Angleterre, who is this?" The boy looked up as he heard someone approaching - England, with a curious stranger at his side. He drew himself up straight, not sure who this was, but eager to make a good impression.
"Hello!" He chirped in cheerful greeting, holding out his hand. The stranger in the blue uniform took it with a purr and a catlike smile of satisfaction.
""Merveilleux! You are a charming boy, aren't you?" The man crooned, pressing a kiss to the back of the soon-to-be-Fort's hand. "Ah, Angleterre, gros cochon! Where on earth did you find him? And why did you not tell me? Such a sweet little colony!"
England's voice was low and flat, without humour. "He is not a colony, Francis. He is a fort." He gestured to the completed structure behind them, ready to be towed out to its destination. "I found him here partway through the construction of Fort Roughs."
The stranger - France, was it? Yes... France - straightened up immediately, looking at England with brows furrowed and lips pursed, a long stare. England met his gaze steadily, arms crossed, and after a few more moments of this, France let out a soft chuckle before falling into awkward silence again. "I see how you are trying to make a fool of me, Arthur. It is an amusing ruse. But seriously, where did you find him? I wasn't aware there were territories left to be colonized. Or have you kept him secret for a long while?"
"I amserious." There was not a trace of amusement in England's tone.
France's face fell, blue eyes wide, and he finally released the boy's hand. "Absurde! C'est absolument impossible!" His gaze went from England to the child, "We cannot simply 'make' others, Angleterre! The world does not work that way!"
The boy glanced at each of the adult nations, confusion skittering across his face. He did not yet have any grasp on what they were discussing, exactly, except that it concerned him. He might have spoken, but England was faster and more knowledgeable besides, stepping in and leading the conversation before he could consider what, exactly, he would have asked. "Don't you think I know that? Honestly, why would I lie about something like this, Idiot? I can't explain it. He's just... here. That's all."
"C'est vraiment bizarre..." France murmured in a voice like a low breeze. "And he is a fort?"
They were talking over him, even with him standing there, and frustration began to bubble in the pit of his belly, fingers curling against his palms as he looked from one to the other. He might as well have not even been in the same room with them. So vexing!
"Fort Roughs." A shrug of England's shoulders, "He will be stationed at Rough Sands."
"That is a poor name," France demurred, "What other name have you given him?"
"What other name does he need? He's a fort, Francis! That's all."
Oh... he was starting to hate that word. Hate was a new thing too, a twisted, knot of heaviness in his chest. He hated the curl of England's lips and the way he spat out 'fort' like it was something nasty and cold. And beneath the hate, there was an undercurrent of disappointment that threatened to sweep his feet out from under him.
"He is your brother, Arthur!" A considering pause, "Or maybe he is more like your son... since you created him. Perhaps you should give him your name? Another Kirkland, non?"
"I would like a name very much, please!" He piped in, sensing that England was going to deny him something he had only just realised he wanted very badly. The boy was appealing more to France than to England, sensing a potential ally - the two did not seem to agree on much.
"See!" A hand resting on his shoulder and a smile like honeyed pastries, light and syrupy sweet. "Be kind, Angleterre. Give the boy a name."
The child's blue eyes went England, wide and hopeful, and the nation made a pained noise. "Fine! You can have a name. It's of no consequence one way or another." He threw up his hands, as if to say 'do what you like'.
A smirk twisted on France's lips, a teasing lilt to his voice. "Perhaps I shall name him then? Something lovely like Phillipe. Or maybe he is more of a Benoît, hm?"
England whirled on him. "For god's sake, no! Keep your nose and your ridiculous names out of this, Frog!" He glanced down at the expectant boy, fumbled with his words for a moment with nothing escaping him, then barked, "Peter! That's it. You're Peter. Happy now?"
Peter...? He was already trying it on for size in his mind, found it fitting.
"Oui! Peter Kirkland, then." France cooed, taking his hand again. "May fortune be kind to you little one, and let you grow to be more charming than Arthur."
The two quickly descended into a scuffle and a wild chase around the shipyard, France laughing and England swearing incoherently. The young fort ignored both of them, testing the name on his tongue.
"Peter. My name is Peter Kirkland." Enjoying the way it rolled from his tongue, the taste of it on his lips. Enjoying the first thrill of victory at the mere having of what had been denied him. It tasted sweet - a sugar coating to the bitter edge of his given title. He was more than simple Fort Roughs. He was Peter. Peter Kirkland. Thank you very much.
It was drizzling the day they gave Fort Roughs to the water. The boy stood beside England, his heart pattering high and fast in his chest as the men began to move the structure. He had the strange, dizzying sense of being in both places at once. He was aware of being Peter - the one standing next to Arthur - but he was also aware of being Fort Roughs, a construct of metal and stone, and every tearing scrape of the shifting concrete went straight through his small body. Into the water for the first time, tense with fear and excitement, and his form didn't sink. It was enough to ease the minute trembling of his hands and he darted a glance and a smile at England, who was overseeing this whole event in silence, lips pulled into a grim line.
Fort Roughs felt the nation's distantness and he lowered his head again, not quite with a sigh, watching as the tugs began to pull his structure out across the water. They followed in another ship, out into the open sea, the shore receding behind them and becoming a distant, misty shape.
He wasn't sure how, but he knew when they reached their destination - it was a knowledge that had nothing to do with the buoys that were marking the spot - and another thrill of that excitement and fear shivered through him. England was giving orders to be relayed to someone, but the young fort was too lost in sensation to register the words. An abrupt coldness went through him, a feeling like liquid pooling in his belly, and he gasped, his hands gripping the rail as he felt the concrete barge that served as the base of his fort, beginning to take on water. His feet were planted solidly on the deck, but he felt the urge to struggle and kick as the ocean began to surge up and engulf his supports.
Though he was trying very hard to hold tight to courage and be the strong fort that he was supposed to be, the feeling was too much. He felt like he was drowning, the sea wrapping herself around him and drawing him down. It was how he imagined dying must feel, and a cry tore from his lips before he could silence it - high and terrified. The sailors' eyes went to him and he felt the dampness of tears on his cheeks. Raising one hand, he tried to swipe the tears away, shaking so hard that he only made it worse.
'What a child', they must have been thinking, and Fort Roughs snuffled a little, still trembling and gasping. The brush of a hand against his shoulder caught his attention, and he turned to see England there. Green eyes were dark with some unfathomable emotion, but the nation held out a hand to him and Fort Roughs took it, held on so tightly that his fingers hurt as he buried his face against England's chest to muffle his sobs. A hand petted awkwardly at his hair, the first comfort his brother/father had ever offered him.
Moments passed - an eternity - and then he felt it, felt as his base hit bottom on the sea floor and settled into place. The sensation of drowning began to ease.
It took just a little longer for him to establish some kind of control over himself, his sobs easing until he was simply panting in short wet gasps. England's shirt was damp and sticky with his tears, but in a moment of courtesy, the nation did not push Fort Roughs away, waiting for the boy to pull back on his own.
"Well, that's complete then," England cleared his throat, patting briskly at the fort's shoulder. "We should be able to begin deployment in just a few minutes." He didn't ask if the boy was okay - and though Fort Roughs wasn't really surprised, he couldn't help the stab of disappointment. He'd embarrassed England by crying, he sensed, but there was nothing he could do about that now. There was nothing for it but to try harder and show his big brother that he could handle this mission.
The deployment was a scramble, a mess of bodies and barked out orders, and the boy standing there struggling to take it all in, so unsure throughout the proceedings. The pounding of feet against the platform reverberated through him and he wondered if this was what it was like for England all the time, when the nation had so many more people than the hundred or so men who were stationed on him.
Once things had settled a little, England was there again, catching Fort Roughs off-guard with his presence. The nation had a serious look on his face as he approached, hands coming down to rest firmly on the boy's shoulders. "That's as much as I can do for the time being. You'll need to handle things from here on your own." Fort Roughs gave a slight bob of his head in acknowledgment and England continued. "I don't know if you're aware just how important this is, Peter." It was the first time England had called him by his given name, and he found himself transfixed as the man spoke. "The Germans have taken to deploying mines in these waters - disrupting our shipping and transport routes. People are starving, Peter. I need you to be alert - to make sure they can't block this area. This is vital to the country's survival, do you understand?"
Oh... oh he did understand. He felt like his little body was buoyant, like he might float away at the import of what his brother was telling him. This was such an important mission, and he was going to try hard and help a lot of people! And then England would be proud of him.
He drew himself up straight and proud. "I understand, brother!"
The uncertainty was back in England's eyes, that look he didn't understand. "Just call me England."
"Yes sir, England!" He gave a crisp salute, held it. Waited. England stared at him for a long moment, green eyes wide, then he gave a slight bob of his head.
"Good. Very good." But he didn't return the salute, though Fort Roughs waited for several long minutes. Slowly the boy lowered his hand, unhappiness flitting across his features. They made their way back to the platform, England descending and reboarding the ship waiting below. He looked back up, to the youth standing far above the water, and Fort Roughs saluted again. This time, he wasn't surprised when it wasn't returned... just disappointed.
"We'll all go crazy eventually," One of the men was saying - the same tune, day in and day out, "Months trapped in this cramped hellhole - an open target. If we're not destroyed by the enemy, we'll turn on each other. Mark my words, it'll happen. This is no way for a human to live!"
Fort Roughs sighed, diverting around the table instead of sitting there as he would have normally. He took his food up, up to the platform, sat with his legs dangling over the edge as he ate his rations. Bland, tasteless things... no wonder his men were unhappy. But what could he do about it? He wasn't the one who determined the rotation schedule. It was a matter that he set to pondering, and pondering hard.
No solution came to him. Not that day. Not the day after. The third day into his deep thoughts, his desire became need, as the first hint of disaster brushed him.
'Fort Madness', they called it. Something unpredictable. Something irrational. It caused men to behave in ways they would not have under normal conditions. In hindsight, he wasn't sure why it had surprised him so... Fort Roughs was never to know for certain if the man had jumped or been pushed - certainly no one was coming forth to confess to the latter. The end result was the same. By the time they fished the body out of the water, there was no hope for a resuscitation. There was even less hope that this would be an incident unrepeated.
So he did what he had to do. He got their coastal contacts on the radio and asked to talk to England. Demanded it, when the man on the other end of the line showed no signs of responding to a friendly overture. For the good of his men - for the war effort in general - something had to be done.
England came to see him in person, battered and looking weary. He listened in silence as Fort Roughs explained his situation, asked for a change to the rotation to allow his men more shore time. And when the boy was done outlining all of the things his men needed, England let out his breath in a long sigh. A hand patted gingerly at Fort Rough's shoulder, the look on England's face annoyingly familiar - it was that 'you're too young to know better' expression. Fort Roughs had gotten it from several of the human officers situated there in the early weeks of deployment, though it had mostly died out by now.
"I understand your problem," He began, in a tone so reasonable that Fort Roughs knew he was going to be denied. "But with the war going on, our resources are already stretched thin. We're lacking in additional men to be able to take over the duties here, and even if we had those, it would be counterproductive to be constantly running boats back and forth. I'm afraid there's really nothing I can do at the moment."
It made sense. Sure it did. But that did nothing to ease his qualms... though it did spark a low ember of resentment that had been building in his belly for a while now. He balled his hands into fists, stamped a foot on the deck and snapped back in a petulant tone. "I don't care! Don't be such an ass! My men are dying out here and you aren't doing anything to help! You don't even care!"
As soon as he said the words, he knew they were a mistake. He could read the anger in the tenseness of England's shoulders, the sharp flare of his nostrils as he drew a breath. He could see it in the sudden chill of those green eyes regarding him. "Don't be presumptuous." There was a cold edge to his tone that made the boy want to flinch back. "What kind of nerve do you have, standing here and accusing me of not caring about what happens to these people? They're my men. And I have many others fighting and dying even as I'm here talking about your petty problems. Don't be such a self-centered brat. You're not a child - so stop behaving like one."
Fort Roughs bit his lip, feeling the urge to scream, to run and flail his fists at the man standing in front of him. He bit back on the urge to cry - it would only prove England right. "Then what should I do?" He gritted the words out between his teeth.
England's eyes narrowed and he drew himself up straight, running one hand through his hair with a sigh. "Just... just find a solution that doesn't require rotating the schedule. I will provide anything I can afford to spare, but the schedule must remain the same." This was it... the best offer England had for him. Considering the exchange of sharp words, he was shocked that the nation was even giving him this much.
Swallowing, Fort Roughs nodded, silent. He stayed silent as England left - saluting his nation. England didn't even see it this time, and Fort Roughs only held the salute for a few seconds before letting his hand drop to his side.
Days later, a ship arrived, bringing with it cartons of supplies. In among the usual rations were new materials as well: paper and paints, yarn and thread, blank books and canvases. They weren't much... these things, but it gave the men something else to focus their minds on during the long, lonely days. Even Fort Roughs was grateful for something new to do when he wasn't on-duty, and in his off-hours he began to teach himself to knit - started on a simple scarf in white, red and black.
By the time the war was over, he had enough scarves for his entire garrison.
Merveilleux! - "Wonderful!"
"Ah, Angleterre, gros cochon" - "England, you pig!"
"Absurde! C'est absolument impossible!" - "Ridiculous! That is impossible!"
"C'est vraiment bizarre..." - "This is very strange"