England couldn't help it. Every few moments, his eyes would invariably wander over to the chair of the American delegate.
He seemed to be a nice chap. Greying slightly, a few pounds overweight. Ready-enough smile. A lot quieter than he was used to, of course, but that was to be expected.
He didn't really remember what they had done with Canada's chair after the nation's disappearance. The duties had been taken over by him, of course, but one would have thought an empty chair at the table would have been noticed sooner than it was.
Same with the name change. The G7 was familiar, and sounded to Arthur just how it should. The G8 sounded slightly foreign whenever he sounded it out, but still had a ring of truth to it.
From across the room, the American waved slightly at Arthur, causing him to start. Bollocks, I didn't realize I was staring, he mentally berated himself. So rude. Thankfully, the man simply shot him a polite, if bewildered look and turned his attention back to the ever-articulate Germany, currently speaking against carbon emissions or something like that. England wasn't exactly operating at full capacity today.
Actually, no nation present seemed quite normal today. Everyone was a little more formal and a little less wild today. England mentally scoffed; it was almost as though they were in the presence of a parent. This ordinary citizen wasn't one of them; could never hope to understand the complexities, the dynamics, the emotions behind the nations in front of him.
But what else was the American government to do under the circumstances? Leave the nation with no representative?
So the nations kept silent, welcoming the newcomer cordially, if coolly.
"I saw your staring today, l'Angleterre," Francis murmured softly as he and England exited the conference building. "You are worried, no? This newcomer..." he trailed off, knowing Arthur understood.
Arthur sighed in response, fumbling for his large, charcoal umbrella to shield himself against the heavy West Coast rain. Finally, the long, silver spokes spread and a dreary cover went up over both the nations. Cab fare was ridiculous in this particular city, and Arthur had always been rather fond of the rain. The old rivals began to walk down the damp streets in tandem.
"I am," he finally relented. "This man...he won't do. He's not like us. How on Earth is he going to represent America with the same passion as-"
"Je sais," France cut him off smoothly. "'E is not the same; 'e will never be. But 'e will have to do, Arthur." The name rolled of Francis' tongue a bit awkwardly; Arthur could count on one hand the number of times he'd actually heard that from the Frenchman's lips. "You know they have no one better, no one more qualified. It took them 'alf a year to find someone and train 'im properly. If monsieur Anderson cannot understand us and 'ow we feel, then we will 'ave to learn to understand 'im." The next words were spoken firmly, though Francis turned his head as he did so. "We are out of options, l'Angleterre."
Arthur felt ill. "I know," he responded faintly. "We just have to deal with the situation, and not make an utter mess of it all. Maybe I'll meet with him privately..." he spoke, not really listening to the words he was speaking. "He doesn't seem so bad. Just different." England swallowed dryly, slightly afraid to ask France the question on his mind all day. Every day. For six months.
"What's going to happen to us, Francis?" he almost whispered, his voice coming out much less confident than he had anticipated. "What if we just...disappear like that?"
The Frenchman was silent as he pondered the question, watching the cars slick past on the flooding street like beetles in the night. "Then we are gone," France answered after a short while. "But 'onestly, were there no signs from l'Amerique before 'is disappearance that something was amiss? I remember that time on our way back from the meeting last autumn. It was as though 'e had seen a ghost, remember?"
Arthur thought about spilling out all of his thoughts over the last few months to Francis. All of the little incidents Alfred had spoken to him of, and then later, the large ones where Arthur hadn't been entirely certain Alfred was still completely sane. He could clearly remember Alfred's face the last time he'd seen him: hollow, pale. England knew there had been signs. Instead, he spoke. "Do you recall a nation named Canada?" he asked tentatively.
"Ah, Canada," France said softly, almost fondly. "I 'ad thought it was merely an old dream of mine, until l'Amerique reminded me." He turned towards England, meeting his gaze directly. "But I do not remember much, unfortunately. The memories I have are very faint."
Arthur simply nodded, not knowing exactly how to continue. "I think America and Canada..."
France inhaled sharply. "Both suffered the same fate, you believe? 'E just disappeared, as did l'Amerique. There are differences, but still..."
"Not quite. Alfred claimed he was seeing Canada in dreams, for a few months before his disappearance. At first, they seemed to shake him quite badly; I remember him being very distraught on a number of occasions." England sighed slightly, feeling a wave of guilt wash over him as he spoke. "In my last meetings with him, he kept saying he...didn't want to deal with this anymore. He was nearly suicidal, Francis. He just wanted to be in the dreams. With...Matthew."
"'E couldn't 'ave killed 'imself, l'Angleterre." Francis stopped Arthur's train of thought sharply. "We, as people, do not have that luxury. If what you say is true, if he really wanted this...then maybe they are somewhere together. Would that be so bad?" He smiled slightly, grasping England's gloved hand with his own and entwining their fingers together. "Perhaps such intense feeling transcends this existence, mon cher."
"Perhaps." England felt an odd feeling rising up within him. Hope. The world would never know the fate of the brothers, but Arthur felt himself begin to see the potential truth in Francis' words. "You know what, Frog? I think you might be on to something, there."
Smiling despite himself, Arthur picked up his pace a little. "Come on, I'll make you some tea back at the hotel," he offered, feeling more at ease than he had for months. Chuckling at Francis' grumbling, he almost collided with a couple of young boys in no rain gear except for the brightest red and blue rain boots.
"Slow down!" one called out tearfully to his brother as the other ran boisterously ahead, yelling for the other to catch up.
Arthur stared after them. "Bloody stupid, not clothed properly, and in this weather. Where on Earth are their parents?"
Francis stared in disbelief before laughing in surprise. Shaking his head, he put a hand on Arthur's shoulder. "Come on, you promised me tea."
Hey everyone. I know you all want to murder me, or stopped caring about this story LOOOOONG ago. I don't blame you and I TOTALLY hate when authors do that to me. I understand completely. But, I do feel bad. SO BAD. And I just had the hardest time coming up with a decent epilogue. So you guys get this short, sweet little number here. My apologies for the ridiculous wait time. I promise that ALL of my future fics will be typed out in full before I bother to post a thing. Because this was stupid of me and please don't yell at me in the reviews though I totes deserve it guys.
Because I still love you guys.