To Be Brave Like You
By: Verin Mystal
Summary: After a near drowning incident, Empire!England decides to teach Colonial!America how to swim.
A/n: I'm not really sure where this came from D: Technically this is in the same "world" as my other young!America one-shot, but you don't need to read that to know what's going on in this :) (But Kudos if you do recognize it :D)
America sat on the front steps to his home, digging the toe of his shoe into the dirt. Before him stood two neighborhood boys, one from a family of farmers, the other the son of a ripper, who brought freshly-caught fish from the coastal waters inland for local markets.
"Aw come on Al, Mr. Kirkland ain't gonna notice!" said the farmers' boy, whose hair was a chocolate brown and skin covered in freckles. "You say so yourself, he's always in his office, right?"
"But…" America bit his lip. "I'm already in trouble from last time…"
"What? From that time you went on the roof?" The ripper's boy giggled, his brilliant red hair cut short and jagged, with skin darkened by the sun. "I wish I'd seen you standin' up there."
America frowned. "Can't we just stay around here?"
"What's the matter?" The freckled boy leaned forward. "Too scared?"
"N-No!" America sputtered. "I just… I don't think this is a good idea…"
"Hah! Yer scared!" laughed the red haired boy. "Just admit it!"
America jumped up suddenly. "I am not!"
"Then prove it."
Both boys stared at him, waiting for his answer.
America glanced at the two of them. I know this is a bad idea… but… they'll think I'm a coward if I don't go…!
"Alright!" America stared at the two boys with a firm stare of determination. "I'll go."
"You know the story right? About that boat at the bottom o' the lake?"
America shuddered inwardly, but stood tall. "Yes, I've heard."
"All you do is row this boat to the middle of the lake, right where the water ain't brown no more, and you throw the anchor over the side." The farmer's boy explained. "After it touches the bottom, you jump in the water and swim down to the bottom. That's where the boat wreck is-"
"How did a boat get wrecked in the middle of a lake?" America asked suddenly, wondering how something so unfortunate could happen. "I mean… it couldn't be a big boat-"
"It was the natives!" The farmer's boy said confidently. "My brother told me."
"Nah I bet it was that old louse that lives down the road." The red haired boy confided. "My pa says she's a witch."
America couldn't help but roll his eyes at their accusations. It isn't the natives and that old lady isn't a witch… even though… I don't really know how I know that…
"Well… I just have to row out and swim down to the boat wreck?" America confirmed once more, shoving thoughts of the cold dark water to the back of his mind. "That's it?"
"Yeah, that's it." The ripper's boy smiled. "But I bet you won't do it."
"What?" America glared at him. "I said I would!"
"Ah, nah, I bet yer just a coward. A little chicken."
America clenched his fists and marched down the sandy lake-side beach to the row boat. I'll show you coward. Rubbing his hands together, America easily pushed the boat into the water and, once it was afloat, climbed into the row boat. Clenching the oars, he moved them in a circular fashion, pushing the water out behind the boat, driving himself forward. A fluttering sensation filled his chest as America stared at the brown, murky water.
After rowing for what seemed hours, America finally came to the area where the water seemed clearer, more blue than brown. After tying the anchor to the boat, he picked it up with ease and dropped it over the side, where it plunked into the water and rapidly descended to the depths below. Swallowing the lump back down his throat, America gripped the side of the boat, took in steady, deep breaths and tried to forget the nagging alarm bells ringing in his head.
As long as I hold the anchor line, then I can just pull myself down, touch… whatever it there is to touch, then pull myself back up to the boat. I'll be like climbing a tree! America nodded firmly in obvious reassurance. This'll be easy… and even though I can't swim, he swallowed thickly at this thought. I'll show those boys that I'm brave! A tiny smile crept upon his face. A brave hero, just like England.
A cold shiver crept up his spine, despite the warm spring weather. It's not like swimming at all… it's just like climbing! Only… it's underwater-
"Well are ya' gonna swim down or you gonna sit there like a coward??" hollered the farmer's boy from the shore line.
"I… I'll do it! Just give me a second, will ya??" America yelled back, angry at the quiver in his voice. "Just give me a second…"
America stared at the murky blue water and tried peering beyond the surface. How deep is this lake, anyway? America clenched the side of the boat until the wood splintered. I can't think about that! It's just like climbing a tree… just like climbing a tree…
Repeating that mantra, America stepped over the side and slid into the water, which was far colder than he ever expected. The air rushed from his lungs in a gasp and a violent shiver took hold of his arms and legs. Swallowing, America clung to the anchor rope, his fingers squeezing the life out of the tightly wound rope. His feet hung below him in the water, floating freely, the bottom of the lake nowhere near touching his-
I can't think like that! America tried breathing calmly and deeply, but it felt as if his lungs were made of iron, unable to stretch and expand. I'll just climb down, touch it, and climb back up. It'll be simple! America clenched his teeth tightly, took a deep breath, and plunged under the water's surface.
Opening his eyes, he was met with nothing but a brown murky color, the sunlight illuminating little. Clutching the rope, America started pulling himself down, the murky color growing thicker, the sunlight growing fainter. Still he pressed on, utterly determined to prove his bravery.
How deep is this lake? It can't be much further-
A faint outline of an overturned boat came into view, with leafy plants and a green glaze covered the rotted wood. Quickening his pace, America pulled himself downward until the boat was just before him. Keeping one hand firmly clutching the anchor line, America reached forward to touch the boat when he noticed the line coming from a jagged hole in the hull of the boat. My anchor… it must have crashed through the wood when it fell down. Narrowing his eyes, and ignoring the burning sensation in his lungs, America peered through the hole where his anchor had crashed through. Clutching a jagged wooden edge, America tried tearing a piece of wood off when something grazed across his hand. Fear crashed through him and in his surprise, kicked his feet to push himself away.
His right foot crashed through the wood of the hull.
Fear growing and boiling in his gut, America tried yanking his foot from the newly formed hole. Oh god please come on, come on please-
It was stuck.
Desperation crashed through him and America let go of the anchor line to widen the hole. Digging his fingers into the jagged wooden edges, he tried prying the wood away, but had no leverage to balance his strength on. The burning in his lungs becoming nearly unbearable, America flung his arms out, blindly searching for the anchor line when his lungs seized and contracted. The last reserves of air gushed up his throat, exploding past his lips and floating upwards. Water filled his throat and flooded his lungs. White hot pain surrounded him, his chest burning as if it were on fire.
His vision blurred and faded.
At the lake shore, the two boys stood waiting. The ripper's son stared at the empty boat, his chapped lips slowly turning downward into a frown.
"Hey… Al's been down there a while-"
"You worry too much." The farmer's boy kicked at a pebble. "He'll be coming up any second now."
The red haired boy continued to frown, obviously not liking the long wait. He stared at the boat, searching for any signs of movement when the water to the side of the boat suddenly gushed and bubbled.
"H-hey! Look-!" The ripper's son pointed to the bubbling. "Hey Al! Ya made it!"
The farmer boy rushed to the edge of the water and peered at the boat. "Aw he ain't come up yet."
"But I saw bubbles!" the ripper's son jabbed a finger at the boat. "At the side! I know I saw them!"
"But… it's nothin'-"
"It's been a while!" The red haired boys face fell into a distressed gawking stare. "What if he's stuck? What if he's drownin'??"
The farmer boy grew quiet in worry.
"W-we… we gotta tell someone."
England sat hunched over his desk, pouring his focus into a series of important documents regarding local trade. A cup of tea sat beside the ink well, having long grown cold in the waning hours of the morning. Leaning back into the spine of the chair with a sigh, he brought his hands to his temples and rubbed at them, hoping to will the strain and ache away. Where is America, anyway? The morning had been relatively quiet, and when that was mixed with the tiny colony… I'd better check on him.
England stood, taking a moment to stretch and work the kinks from his back when a loud pounding came from the front door.
"Mr. Kirkland! Mr. Kirkland!!"
"What in the-…" England sighed and felt his headache returning in full force. "Coming, I'm coming…"
Probably another courier calling me to town for some crisis I have to solve…
Shaking his head softly, England left his office and stepped down the stairs, the pounding and yelling at the door only increasing in volume.
"Mr. Kirkland please-!"
England unlocked the door and flung it open, finding a local boy standing at his doorstep. "What -?"
"It's Alfred! He's- he's in trouble!"
England narrowed his gaze. What the hell has that boy gotten himself into now-?
"What is it?"
The boy trembled and gasped for air, his cheeks red and tear streaked. "He-… we-… I-"
"Calm down." England grasped the boys shoulder. "Take a deep breath."
"I…" The boy took in a deep, shuddering breath. "Al…Alfred's…"
"Alfred's what? Come out with it!"
The boy choked, gasping and hyper ventilating as tears streaked past his cheeks.
England ran up the road to the lake, his boots pounding into the dirt. The minute the boy uttered those words, scarcely a second passed before he lunged into a full, unabashed sprint. Adrenaline pumped though his body as his heart pounded against his ribs. He didn't want to think of the possibility of his precious colony never reviving. He didn't want to think of America, always smiling and playing outside with his faithful rabbit companion, Poppy, face down in the water... He didn't want to think of those sky-blue eyes never opening again-England immediately forced the thought from his head and took a sharp right turn, streaking past trees and bushes, glimpses of the lake just appearing through the trees, his focus solely on rescuing his colony.
Another local boy stood at the beach. The boy turned at England's sudden appeared, his face stricken. "The boat! He dove under the boat and never came up again!"
"Leave!" England tore his shoes off and flung them to the ground. "If you don't want to be blamed for this, then leave!"
If you see America looking… dead… then reviving- England shuddered, hating to even think of such a thing.
The boy continued to stand with his feet rooted to the ground. "But…but-"
England unbuttoned his shirt, nearly tearing it off. "If you don't leave right now-!"
The boy gasped and fled into the woods at England's half growled order.
England ran into the lake, his pace slowing down considerably as he pushed his legs though the shallow, nearly freezing, water. Once the water came to his hips, he sunk into the water and started swimming across the lake, the boat gradually growing larger as he neared. Gasping and spitting lake water from his mouth, he pushed and kicked the murky water behind him, ignoring the burning sensation from the frigid water.
Oh please America, please… England finally touched the boat and grasped the anchor line. He's still down there…??
Swallowing the lump in his throat, he took in a deep breath and dove under the waters surface. Pointing his hands out before him, he cupped his fingers and forcefully shoved the water behind him, kicking his legs and pushing himself deeper and deeper until the faint outline of a young boy came into view. With a renewed burst of energy, England kicked and swam harder and faster, until America floated limply before him, his skin pale and tinged in blue. Sweeping his eyes over him, he found the cause of the problem: America's foot was caught in a tiny hole in the rotted, sunken boat. Pushing himself closer, he grasped America's trapped ankle and found it covered in cuts; being heavily lacerated from the sharp wooden points in the hole.
America… you really fought hard to free yourself. Clenching his teeth tight, and shoving his worry away, he clenched one side of the hole and raised his foot, slamming it down to the opposite end. The wood splintered, freeing America's foot from its grasp. Pushing away, England threaded his arm under America's armpits, wrapping his arm around his chest. Planting his feet on the boat, England pushed off, kicking and using his free arm to push himself away from the murky depths of the lake. The sunlight gradually grew brighter in intensity until England's head broke through the surface.
Gasping, he kicked to the boat and grasped the side, shoving America over the side and into the boat with oddly practiced skill. Clenching the side, he picked himself up and over, sliding himself into the boat. Instantly he was at America's side, smearing the hair from his face and pressing an ear to his chest and fingers to the hollow of his throat.
England yanked his head away and flattened his right palm to America's chest. Tilting the boys head back to open the airway, England shoved his palm into the chest, using short, quick compressions.
I just need to get your heart beating again-!
Filling his mouth with air, England pressed his mouth to America's blue lips and breathed the air down the throat. He repeated this a second time and resumed the awkward compressions until a tiny movement caught his eye. Halting all movement, England pressed his fingers to America's throat, finding his heart beating once more. The muscles in his throat contracted, muscle spasms contracted his chest and America threw up mouthfuls of water. A haggard, hissing breath sucked past his lips until it suddenly stopped and America keeled over once more, vomiting another mouthful of water onto the floor of the boat.
"Nguuh!!" America gasped greedily and trembled, his chest heaving and taking in the glorious air. "Ahh~"
Minutes passed before his breathing came under control.
America slowly turned around.
England glared at him, his hands pressed to his knees, his fingers digging into the skin. Red faced and livid, England trembled, his green eyes nearly glowing in fury.
America shrank under the intimidating gaze, trembling.
The elder nations mouth worked, his teeth grinding and clicking together.
"What… in the nine hells were you thinking?" England growled through clenched teeth. "What… possessed you… to do such a stupid act!?"
"I-…I-…" Face crumbling under the elder nations gaze, America lost all control of his emotions. "I didn't want to be a coward! I-…I wanted to be…"
Tears flooded his eyes and spilled down his cheeks. "I w-wanted-"
A hiccup interrupted him, and he choked back a sob. "I wanted to be brave l-like you-!"
He sniffed at the snot running from his nose and tried wiping the mess from his face.
"Brave?!" England stared back, his knuckles white and trembling from the strain of clenching his knees. "You-… you-" …foolish, thick-headed, idiotic boy!
America winced, expecting something profane to spill past his lips.
"-you stupid, stupid boy!" England suddenly lurched forward and gripped America's shoulders. "Do you have any idea how worried I was?!"
America looked at him suddenly, his blue eyes impossibly wide.
"I-I thought I'd…" England's mouth snapped shut and he flung his arms around America, burying his face into the boy's wet hair, smelling the scent of warmth and wheat and everything uniquely America. America responded in turn, burying his head into England's bare chest; his tiny hands and arms wrapped around him. Both taking comfort in each other's warm, familiar presence.
England clung to the boy, relief flooding him. "I thought I'd lost you. I thought… I…"
"I'm sorry..." America said into his chest with a sob. "I'm sorry, England."
England sighed and released one arm from America, rubbing his hand over America's round head comfortingly.
"…Just-… please just don't ever scare me like this again. Please."
…I don't think my heart can take it.
A/n: …Sorry if that was too dark. There's more fluff next chapter, I promise!