So it's a little under a year since I last updated this. Oops. I'm really sorry! Thank you to everyone who continued to read this and support it even after so long! I promise I will do my best to get the next chapter out much sooner! At this pace it'll take forever to finish after all. Hopefully the next chapter will be longer, too. Hope you enjoy!
England chews on the end of his pipe, mouth turned downwards in a severe frown. Spread before him is an array of books and faded journals that curl around the edges filled with mythology and folklore; archaic scraps of paper, notes, letters, and the occasional scroll are intermingled beneath and between them so that there is not even a glimpse of the heavy dark wood of the desk's surface.
"What are you? Not a fae, so what?" England flips idly through one of the books again then slams it shut in disgust and pushes it away.
He takes a slow drag from the pipe, tilting his head back as he parts his lips and exhales, watching as the smoke curls before his eyes. Chances are, whatever Alfred is, he's from nearby. His fair skin and blue eyes have focused Arthur's research to some degree but it still leaves quite a bit to work with. Is he from the Nordic lands? Alfred said he traveled and had even called England his home for a while. Some mortal had housed him and might yet still.
Something like a selkie comes to mind but it doesn't quite fit. It is possible he is a creature of his brothers' lands. Or maybe he is not a creature at all? A spirit of the air, perhaps. The image fits him. He is quite strong, clearly. Some kind of demi-human? A shifter? Whatever he is, Queen Mab dare not risk taking her to the fairy realm and that adds its own weight. If only Alfred will come back.
Arthur's brow furrows. It has been a little while since his darling dear has come to visit. Has he pushed things too far by binding him? He is prepared to make retributions to appease any damage done, even if the price may prove costly, but he can't even try if Alfred does not return to him. He is still holding out hope. It had been over a fortnight between his first and second visit, after all. A little over the same amount of time has gone by, so there is no reason to think all hope is lost quite yet.
The mystery is consuming him and Arthur wants to rip it to pieces. This lad who once seemed so dull—if not exceptionally pretty—is now haunting his thoughts. The allure is strong and he pauses to try and recapture how it feels to run his calloused fingers along that sun-kissed skin.
Arthur clamps the pipe between his teeth and pulls a scroll closer at random, unwinding the string around it. It contains information on a woodland spirit that only manifests itself in the form of a young female. Quite useless. Nothing to do but to keep searching. There very well might be an answer somewhere among these tomes he has collected over time. He will discover what Alfred is yet and then he will claim his heart.
The fragile scent of perfectly brewed tea hangs pleasantly in the air, like a lover's sigh. Arthur takes a sip, eyes closed, and it is bliss. Truly the greatest advantage that time has given him is teaching him how to perfect the art of tea.
America watches as England more or less has an orgasm sipping tea and is extremely tempted to bring up—yet again—the fact that England was in fact one of the last European countries to even get it. This tidbit of information is highly irritating to Arthur, who can't figure out where the git even picked up a fact that wasn't about himself, and so of course Alfred particularly loves to tease him with it. The urge passes and he noisily slurps his coffee. Arthur's eyebrow twitches and it feels like a small victory.
As tempted as England is to tell America he is a tactless wanker that really scraped the bottom of his shoe as far as high culture goes, he is mostly satisfied that America is here of his own free will. The very fact that they have been talking more frequently in general pleases him far more than he deigns to let on. It's mostly through silly things like texts or brief e-mails (with far too many emoticons and pictures in both) but it is actual conversation and that's what counts.
America has been keeping closer tabs on England so he can drop by unannounced without it being overly suspicious but part of it is that he's kind of warmed up to him in a way he hasn't in a long, long time. Not exactly the same as when he was little but his automatic reaction to snub anything England bothers to say as stupid and boring has decreased quite a lot, which is saying something. Sometimes he even finds himself being taken off guard when he is reminded what listening to Arthur is really like. Maybe his topics of conversation can get on the archaic side but he has a way of turning a phrase so beautifully at times and America is starting to learn that if he says the right thing or asks the right questions he can actually squeeze more interesting stories out of him. Part of that he's picked up from interacting with past England.
Of course this train of thought reminds him he's doing this to get back into the past. It's still weird to him that he's actually enjoying England's company, though—mostly. He's still a pretty snobbish jerk. There is one thing that America is starting to wonder about more and more, though, and that is England's lack of bragging about what a total badass he was during his 'glorious most amazing thing ever golden age'.
Alfred has of course heard stories about some of the people England particularly remembers fondly or is proud of but he never talks about himself. Quite frankly Alfred can't figure it out. Is he embarrassed about how lame he is now in comparison? Maybe he just feels he shouldn't let such stories fall on 'innocent' ears such as his former colony. Alfred is a big kid! He can do global politics all on his own and everything. He's dying to hear Arthur's take on what he once was like, when he was still interesting. If nothing else to hear him forced to admit he's a total goober now.
England takes another serene sip of tea and America looks at him curiously. Maybe he should just bring it up. It's not like he's in a rush to get at that pocket watch and he still hasn't come up with a good enough excuse to get away for a bit, though he's cooking something up. No time like the present to ask about the past, right? "Hey I was wondering something recently. Why do you never talk about your glory days?"
Arthur sighs, as if he is being put upon to have to answer such tedious questions instead of drinking tea. "What do you mean? I have indulged you in plenty of stories about that time."
Oh, so he's going to be stubborn about it. What a surprise—not. "Well I mean you brag all the time about stuff you're proud of, yeah, and uh…the other day Fffrrrance? Yeah let's go with him. France was mentioning your glory days back around the golden age and that's when you were really cool, right? So why do I never hear about all that?"
Arthur seems irritated all of a sudden and fixes his gaze on Alfred, not pleased about the question in the least. "I don't know what on Earth you mean. I've told you loads about Elizabeth and William and—"
"Yeah, but that's the thing. I've heard a million stories about them mostly and maybe a few others I probably forgot because I just don't care. I realized that you never talk about yourself though and I don't understand why. You were really different back then, weren't you? Like, actually cool? Why don't you ever talk about what you were like? Kind of a total badass that did whatever—"
Arthur slams his hand against the table, making Alfred jump and his teacup shiver against its saucer. "Enough of that rubbish, I don't want to hear another bloody word of it! There was nothing 'cool' about me. I don't know what kind of romantic stories France has been spouting but he's a bloody liar. I was horrible back then. We all were. Things were so different back then Alfred, you must understand. In those days I was so sure I was going to have the whole world in the palm of my hand and-"
Arthur pauses, squeezing the bridge of his nose as Alfred stares at him, wide-eyed and startled. "Maybe you think I'm boring now, some old bloke who sits around in jumpers drinking tea. Well, let me tell you something, I like myself a hell of a lot better now than who I used to be and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Maybe I changed but so did the rest of the world. I'm more mature now. More civilized. A hell of a lot more intelligent, bloody hell was I stupid back then. It's embarrassing. Don't get me wrong, I have fond memories from back then. Sometimes I'm even a little homesick for it. For certain people. But don't let any of the others give you overly romanticized visions of how it was back then. I was not a very decent individual and there is much I prefer to keep firmly in the past."
Alfred is in a total state of shock, not sure what to say. "Oh."
England sighs, rubbing one of his bountiful brows. "I didn't mean to rant. It's different for you, Alfred. You are too young to know what the world was like. I'm not saying things aren't a bloody mess now and there's still plenty of God awful things going around. It was just different, is all. To put it in another way; remember that picture from the seventies Canada has of you that he uses as blackmail sometimes?"
America cringes and England can't help his lip from quirking up in a small smile. "As I said. There are things I do miss from that time in my life but I don't tend to miss who I was. It's like looking back on a humiliating picture and I can't bear it. I would rather remember the things and people I was fond of than what I was like."
This is not the answer that Alfred anticipated and he's still left somewhat speechless by it. The England he's met in the past seems so much more exciting and filled with energy than his England. It's true that England had been way more of an ass back then, more forceful and uncouth, but America really expected him to have more envy of what he'd once been.
England reaches down to pick up his tea, pressing it thoughtfully to his lower lip a moment without drinking. "Perhaps…it is difficult for you to understand because you are still at that stage."
America gives him an affronted look. "And what is that supposed to mean exactly?"
The only answer he gets for a moment is a chuckle before England takes a long sip, finishing off his cup. He sets it down, smirking at America. "Don't take it so seriously, love. It's okay to be young. Can't exactly help that. Unfortunately."
America crosses his arms, hating that he suddenly feels like he's being treated like he's nothing more than a colony. Another part of him he's too pouty and confused to listen to gets the idea it in fact is the opposite. That by saying such a thing Arthur is actually treating him a little more grown up than usual.
He grabs his coffee and drinks down the rest, pushing the cup towards England. Time to set up his distraction. "Can I get some more?"
England rolls his eyes and the moment seems lost. For some reason America has a pang of regret that he's severed it so hastily. England doesn't often talk to him so frankly unless it's criticism.
There's no time to even consider trying to backpedal. England sniffs in disapproval and picks up the cup. "Have you ever considered cutting down your caffeine intake? You might be able to sit still for five seconds."
"Well what's the fun in that? Is that a no on a refill?" America raises his eyebrows at him, his shock from before no longer evident.
"Sure, sure. I will inadvertently feed your addiction. If you start bouncing off the walls I'll have to ask you to leave." England stands, grabbing his own cup to top off his tea so long as they're at it. This has been going well, with not so much as a hint of suggestion of some potential lover. The question took him off guard and he maybe overreacted. Alfred is curious and misguided, that's all.
As England is almost out of the room America stands. "Hey, I'm going to use your bathroom."
England pauses, suddenly looking unamused. "Are you going to take another shower?"
"What feats of danger will Alfred F. Jones perform next? Will he swim with the sharks tied to rib-eye steaks? Will he cross a tightrope between the tallest buildings in the world while blindfolded? Will he perform the unmentionable, death defying act of taking a shower? The world watches with bated breath!"
"Don't be an arse and just go already. Bloody fucking hell you are obnoxious."
America laughs loudly and they go their separate ways, England to the kitchen and America most certainly not to the bathroom. He slips quietly down to the basement, once again prepared with a pocket flashlight. He didn't figure that Arthur had found his stuff or he'd have probably heard about it but Alfred is still relieved when he finds the bag exactly as he'd left it.
As America begins to change, what England said continues to weigh heavily on his mind. Past England isn't the most amiable sort and definitely has his drawbacks but comparing him to the picture of which no one is allowed to speak of that Canada lords over him, it's too weird. He can't help but wonder if past England would hold as much contempt for his future incarnation.
As there's no way to ever know, America finally lets the topic slip from his mind. Once he is dressed, America finds the pocket watch. He runs his thumb across the surface and feels a dull thrum through his chest. As short-lived as the time traveling bits are, he feels he's almost become addicted to the sensation of it.
The watch is open and America can't remember if he did that or if it happened on its own. It doesn't matter, blue light once again washing over him. The ticking that goes through his whole body is accompanied by the scent of the sea. By now the weightless feeling that comes with this is soothing.
After this there will only be one more visit. What can be accomplished in his final two visits? Despite England's half-rant half-lecture about the past, America is still plenty excited to find out.
AN: You know, a lot of the time Pirate!England or past England is really glorified in comparison to present England but after I really thought about it I decided England probably wouldn't really want to be like that again. I definitely feel like except for maybe some of the more glamorous and powerful aspects of his past, he'd be more likely to consider it an embarrassing and somewhat shameful phase of his life.