To Be Brave Like You
By: Verin Mystal
Summary: After a near drowning incident, England decides to teach America how to swim.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/n: Sorry for the super long wait between chapters. I meant to have this out earlier but I got busy with filling requests in the kink meme.
Darkness surrounded him.
Thick and choking, it felt alive. The frozen touches ran up his arms and legs, slowly covering his body. He jerked his hands away, and looked up. A pinprick of light glistened and shimmered in the distance. Desperate, he reached for the light, but the dark hands seized him once more. Touching him and pulling him down into the abyss. Fear seized him, filling his chest and squeezing his heart.
"No! Stop! Let go!"
His cries were all in vain. The light twinkled, shimmering violently.
"No! Don't go away!"
His arms and legs grew numb. A frozen chill covering his skin and sapping his strength.
"Please!" Cold tears burned his cheeks. "Don't go!"
The light shivered and went out.
America awoke with a sobbing gasp. Breathing heavily, he sat up and drew the bed sheets up to his neck. His wide, teary blue eyes glanced about the room.
He was in his bedroom. Rain pattered against the window pane.
Fear still stabbed at his chest. The moon is gone… the rain clouds are keeping it away… Dark shadows filled his room.
Quivering, his dug his fingers into the bed sheets. "…England?" His voice called, barely a whisper. "E-England?"
Only the sound of rain hitting the roof and striking the window answered.
Sniffling, he bit his lip and tried to keep the quivering shivers from taking over. Swallowing the lump of fear back down his throat, he gripped his goose-feather pillow, hugging it to his chest, and slowly slid off the bed. His nightgown rode up slightly, letting the warmth from the bed escape. Cold air touched his back legs and bare back. Squeaking, he stepped away from the bed, yanking his nightgown back down. He clutched the pillow to his chest, using it as a shield.
Minutes passed before he gained the bravery to move from the corner he hid himself in and step across the room to the door. He tried not to look at the dark, scary shadows the filled every inch of his room.
Gripping the handle, America poked his head out into the hall.
The rain continued fall.
Sighing, he squeezed through the crack between the door and the frame and, hugging the wall, stepped down the hallway. He kept the pillow pressed to his chest, determined that it was the same as his bed sheets, and that if anything scary appeared, all he had to do was cover his face with his pillow, and nothing could ever hurt him.
That's what England always says.
The room suddenly filled with light. A deafening explosion of sound ripped through the air, and darkness filled his vision once more.
His nerves already frazzled from the dream, he half-shouted, half-screamed in surprise. Clutching the pillow to his face, he ran down the hall blindly, exploding through England's double doors and colliding into the side of his bed. Gasping, he fell to the floor and scrambled under the bed.
A groan came from somewhere in the room.
America curled into a ball, fear seizing him, and pressed his face into the pillow. Tears spilled from his puffy blue eyes and streamed down his cheeks, where they were then absorbed by the pillow. The bed creaked, and lightening lit up the room again, blinding him momentarily. Darkness flooded the room again, followed by another explosion of sound.
Something touched his arms and America gasped a shout of surprise, a fresh batch of tears flooding his face.
"Shh, Shh, America its me~"
England's voice. The grip on his arm, once scary, was now warm and comforting. America threw the pillow away and scrambled out from under the bed, burying his face into England's chest and throwing his arms around him. England returned the hug, wrapped him in a warm, protective embrace.
"It's just a thunderstorm, America. Nothing is going to hurt you."
England's hands rubbed his back and shoulders. America tried holding his sobs in, trying to be brave, just like England would be, but they exploded past his lips in a choked sob. Hot tears burned his eyes and soaked his face.
The arms tightened around him, and England stood, taking America with him. Grunting softly, he carefully set him on the edge of the bed and withdrew his arms from him. Fear came rushing back, America gripped England's arms in a death grip, forgetting his strength in his terrified worry.
"D-don't go! Don't leave me! The-… the shadows…!"
England paused, tensing at the pain coming from America's grip. "A-America, I'm not leaving you." His voice was soft and patient, yet steady and unwavering. "I'm only going to get something to wipe your face."
America sniffled, fingers quivering. "Oh… s-sorry…"
He released England, who attempted a crooked smile at him and moved across the room where a porcelain wash basin sat with a cotton cloth lying beside it. Taking the cloth, he dipped it into the water, allowing it to soak up the liquid before raising it and squeezing the excess. Turning, he stepped back to the bedside where America sat, gasping and sniffling softly. Sitting beside him, England pressed the cool, wet cloth to his face, wiping the tears from his eyes and cheeks, pressing the cool cloth to his forehead and rubbing it over his temples before taking it away.
America clung to England's side, pressing his face to his ribs and wrapping his arms around his waist.
England took it all in stride, setting the damp cloth on the bedside table and scooting back into the bed, until he lay with America pressed against his side. America closed his eyes and breathed in. England's smell surrounded him, the scent of green plants and fresh spring buds, salt of the ocean and old sweat of hard work.
England lifted his head, pounding his pillow into a more comfortable shape before lying back down. His voice was quiet, and unwavering.
"Do you want to talk about it?" England said, already knowing what caused the incident.
America cuddled against the elder nation, enjoying the protective warm feeling that surrounded him.
"…Had a nightmare." America bit his lip, feeling self-conscious. "It was all dark… and I was underwater."
England squeezed his shoulder comfortingly.
"There was a light… and I tried going towards it… but something pulled me deeper and deeper…" America shuddered at the memory.
"Well, it was only a nightmare." England declared, squeezing his shoulder again. "And they can never hurt you, just like I've told you before."
"But…" America frowned, sitting up from the bed to stare at the elder nation. "What if something like that happens again? What if-"
"It won't." England shushed him, his green eyes glazed over with exhaustion. "Because tomorrow I'm going to teach you how to swim."
The fear fled from America's blue-eyed stare.
England chuckled softly, his familiar crooked smile spreading across his face.
England pulled him back down to the bed. America gladly complied, returning to cuddle against his ribs and rest his head upon his shoulder. England wrapped his arm around the smaller nation, relaxing at the heat the small boy gave off.
"Good night, England."
A snore answered him. America smiled and closed his eyes.
I love you.
"Don't be afraid, America."
England stood waist deep in the lake water, holding his arms out in a beckoning manner.
"I'm right here."
America stood trembling on the beach, his arms pressed to his sides, his fingers clenching and unclenching the cloth of his trousers.
"You… you won't leave me? You won't let go?"
"I'm teaching you how to swim." England stared at him, flabbergasted. "Why would I leave you alone?"
England's coat, shirt, shoes and stockings were resting on the lake-side beach, only his trouser's were still covering him. America wore much of the same. The water just barely covered his feet, it felt cold and refreshing.
After a moment, he took a step forward, them another, the water slowly moving up his legs.
"That's it…" England coaxed, keeping his voice soft and patient. "I'll be with you the entire time."
America stopped once the water reached his waist. "I…I don't wanna go out any further."
England hesitated, and then moved closer to America.
"That's a good start." He said comfortingly. Reaching forward, he took America's hands into his own and moved them through the water. "Feel the water moving through your fingers?"
America nodded, his blue eyes transfixed on his fingers. The previous fearful nervousness melted at England's touch.
"Now press your fingers together, curl your fingers in as if you were to cup the water- that's it…" England pushed the boy's hands through the water once more. "Do you feel that resistance?"
"Yeah…" America stared at his hands. "It feels like I'm pushing the water away. Like…I can carry it?"
"The water isn't something to be afraid of, see?" England moved America's hands around again. "You can use it to help you swim."
America peered at his hands, and then looked up to England, his blue eyes curiously vibrant.
"Who taught you how to swim?"
"Who taught me?" England questioned, looking almost offended. "No one taught me."
America's mouth fell open. "But how do you know all of this?" An alarmed, troubled look flooded his face.
"I knew because I am an island nation." England explained. "Island nations know how to swim by instinct."
"…Instinct?" America frowned. He'd never heard that word before.
"Instinct is the way people or animals naturally react or behave, without having to think or learn about it." England said in his teacher voice. "It just comes to you without thinking."
"Ohh… are all Island nations like that?"
"Now," England began. "Enough about that."
The sun was starting its slow descent towards sunset. A cloudless sky loomed over head; the light blue hue turning varies shades of pink, purple and green.
America never had so much fun with England before. He never gave up an entire day before. A morning or afternoon, but always the minute playtime was finished, he would disappear into the office for work. The two spent hours in the lake. First England let America splash around, blowing bubbles underwater, kissing his legs through the water's surface, and then he learned how to float. Now he swam almost as well as England, kicking his legs and moving his arms through the water.
America stopped short of running into England's abdomen, raised his arms, and splashed a great wave at the elder nations head.
England coughed and sputtered, his blond hair soaked and pressed flat to his head. He grew very quiet, his gaze narrowing.
Oh no…I shouldn't of done that. He's probably angry and gonna yell at me and-
England's frown suddenly twisted into a crooked smirk. He rose one arm and splashed America back, sending a wave of dark murky water into his face. America coughed and rubbed at his eyes.
"What?" England stared at him, the smirk still plastered across his face. "Afraid of a little splash?"
"What?" America stared at him, his hair soaked and pressed to his skull, save for the single stubborn cowlick. "Afraid?"
"That's what I said, boy."
"I ain't afraid!" America yelled suddenly, his cheeks flushing. "And I ain't a boy!"
England bit the inside of his cheek, the "I'm not" already on his tongue. Instead he raised a brow and leveled a look he kept reserved for his days spent sailing at the small colony.
"Is that so, boy?"
America frowned, raised his hands and splashed England as hard as he could. England smiled and splashed back. America returned the splash, and soon the water was foaming at the waves and splashes being thrown back and forth. America giggled and squeaked, while England laughed, a rare genuine grin spread across his face.
"My splashes are bigger!" America half-yelled, half-giggled, soaking England with a particularly large wave.
"But my splashes get you where it counts," England said while splashing water at America's open mouth, who grimaced and sputtered, spitting the mouthful of water out.
The two finally came to a stop, both gasping and smiling.
A strangled gasp came from the shore. Both turned to the sound.
A young woman stood posed by the lone boat dock, a wooden bucket in hand.
England immediately sunk into the water, embarrassment coming off him in waves. America only stared at the woman and tried to remember her name, ignoring his half dressed state.
"L-lord…Kirkland…?" The woman said shakily. "That… is that you?"
England only sunk further into the water, his face slowly turning red.
Tense silence passed.
"What… what are you two doing in the lake… w-without your clothes…?" The lady asked in a shaky voice, her eyes darting to the heap of clothing still lying on the beach. "L-lord…Kirkland?"
England sighed, his shoulders visibly wilting. His mouth opened, closed, and then opened to finally answer her question.
"Ms. Maryann!" America yelled suddenly, eyes wide with the realization of remembering her name. "What are you doing here?"
The lady gaped openly. "I…I'm getting water for my final round of laundry…but…what-"
"Aw~ you must be hot from doing that all afternoon! Why don't you join us?"
America stood up from the water and his trousers nearly fell off, the cloth utterly waterlogged. He grasped at the waistline, trying to tug it back up to keep himself decent.
"Am-…Alfred!" England lunged forward and jerked his trousers back on. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
America's smiling face fell. "But… I thought she was hot and sweaty so I-"
A scream came from the beach. England and America both turned to stare in surprise as the girl fled the dock, leaving her wooden pail behind. England turned white and slowly fell backward into the water. His hands rose to cover his face as he floated away.
America stared at England's white face and depressed reaction. England's never been like this before… did I do something wrong?
"England…England?" America called, swimming after him. "What's wrong? Why are you doing this?" He reached for England's hands and tugged them away from his face, deciding he didn't like it when England did that, as it reminded him of the dark, brooding expression England held when he first met him. "Stop doing that."
"Everyone will think I was swimming naked, with you, in the lake by tomorrow morning." He moaned. "I won't be able to show my face back in town for days…maybe even weeks…"
"But..." America stared at him, his face screwed up in confusion. "What's wrong with swimming?"
"It's not swimming that's the problem," England said quickly, moving from his prone, floating position to standing in the chest deep water. "It's… we're not, ah, properly dressed."
America stared at him. "What's wrong with our trousers?"
…I don't understand why England is so upset about this… we're only swimming! And my trousers cover everything that's important… right?
"Just…" England flexed his fingers and chewed the inside of his cheek. "You see...it's not proper to swim with only our trousers on."
"Well…" England slowly moved towards the sandy shore, America followed after him, his blue eyes glued on England's vibrant green gaze. "You know how it's improper for women to go around in public without their, ah, chests covered… the same is for us." England swallowed audibly and forced himself to look at the shore where their pile of clothes were.
America followed after him.
"But… why?" Why do they need to have their chests covered anyways? "I don't understand. Aren't girls the same as boys?"
England twitched and made a half gasping, half choking sound. Slowly, he turned around to stare at America. His cheeks were now blazing red, the color slowly spreading to his ears and neck.
America stared back, his eyes wide, filled with both confusion and curiosity.
"Ah…" England cleared his throat and looked away. "You'll find out when you're older."
"What?" America's curious face fell. "Why?"
"But Englaaaaaannnnd~~" America whined and splashed water at him. "I want to know now!"
"Your too young to… understand."
"No I'm not! I'll understand!"
England finally stood, water dripped from his trousers and into the sand. He stepped to the pile of clothes, pulling out his shirt and boots. America followed after him, keeping one hand on his trousers, the other hand reached out to grasp England's pant leg.
"Pleasepleaseplease England?" America nearly begged, his blue eyes huge and bright. "I want to know why!"
England pulled the shirt on, threading his arms through the sleeves. "I've already told you once, America. Not until your older." His voice was sharp and held the edge of finality. It was the voice England used when meeting with the local lords and ladies, the politician and governors, criminals that happened upon his path, and dealing with his young upstart colony. "And if you don't stop asking, and ignoring my answers, you'll go to bed without dinner."
America paused, and realized their maid and house keeper, Mary, was out visiting family. That means…England is cooking. Deciding that missing dinner wouldn't be too bad, America jerked on England's arm, forcing him to turn around and finally look at him.
England gasped in surprise and tore his arm from America's grip, his eyes narrowing into a glare. "America-…" England growled, anger finally filtering into his voice.
"If you don't tell me then I'll just go up to one of the neighbor girls and find out myself!" America glared right back at him. "It's not fair! I want to know why!"
"What!" England gasped and lunged forward, clamping his hands onto America's shoulders. "You had better not!"
"Why?" America asked again. "What's wrong with asking?"
"It's indecent, improper-"
"But why is it all those things?"
England grew silent, his face slowly growing smooth. He leveled a glare at the boy.
"America." England said in a quiet, deadly serious voice. "If I so much as see you with another girl, without an adult, so help me I will ground you to your room for a week."
"But…but I…" America started in a quiet, wavering voice. "I only wanted to know why…" His vision grew blurry as hot tears filled his eyes and spilt down his cheeks. "I…I don't know why you're being so mean…" His voice hitched, and a whimpering sob escaped.
England pulled away and picked up America's shirt and boots, helping him put them on.
"We're going home."
America buried his face into the goose feather pillow. Angry hot tears escaped, covering his face and soaking the cotton fabric.
I only wanted to know why it's so improper…what's wrong with knowing?
Once the two got home, England immediately disappeared into the kitchen, leaving America alone in the entryway.
I…I should've listened to England... and now because of me… he's angry. Angry at me-
There was a knock at his door.
America quickly rolled onto his stomach and buried his face into soft pillow. The door creaked open, and England entered, dishes twinkling and scraping against each other. The bed dipped, and something was placed at end of the mattress.
America kept his face buried. His tiny fingers dug into the pillowed, twisting and clenching the fabric.
There was a sigh, and a hand gingerly touched his leg.
"America… please don't be upset." The hand encircled America's ankle, squeezing it. "I only said those things because I…I love you. I don't want you to grow up badly, without manners or inner conscience."
America sniffed and slowly pulled away from the pillow. His blue eyes red and puffy, his cheeks flushed and tear streaked.
"Your… you're not angry at me?"
England blinked at him.
"Angry? I'm not angry at you. I'm just concerned that-"
Relief poured into America, his breath caught in his throat, gasping and trying to keep himself calm. "Y-your… you're not angry? Really?" A fresh batch of tears started flooding his eyes.
"America, really, there's no need to be so upset-"
"B-but… you… you said-" Tears spilled over and covered his cheeks once again. "Y-you-" He gasped, his breath catching.
England leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the small colony. "America… are you this upset because… you thought I was angry at you?"
America buried his face into England's chest, crying and sniffing and generally making a mess of himself. England pressed his hands to America's back, rubbing the muscles and skin comfortingly.
"Shh~ stop your tears, there's nothing to be so worked up about…"
England dug into his pocket and pulled out an embroidered handkerchief. Carefully, gently, he pushed America away and swept the handkerchief across each blue eye, then swept down across his cheeks and nose, wiping away the snot the started running. Pulling away, England set the soiled cloth on the bedside end table and turned to the tray of food he brought in.
"B-but…" America gripped England's chest. "Shouldn't we… eat at the table?" That's proper…right?
England leveled a calm gaze at the young boy.
"I think we can make an exception for tonight."
The two ate in silence, America chewing and swallowing the burnt food, forcing a smile on his face to indicate he was enjoying it, despite the horrid taste still lingering in his mouth. He quickly downed a glass of water once everything on his plate was gone, wishing to wash the taste away. England moved the tray to the top of the dresser and returned to the bed.
"America… you do understand why I said those things though… right?" England peered at the small colony. "All of use follow manners, we are not indecent or improper… you are a young gentleman, just like me."
America nodded slowly. "I'm a gentleman… and a good gentleman is proper… right?"
England nodded. "And just as I said before, I will… tell you about why, ah… women are different from… us. Just… not now. In the future. When you are older."
"Promise?" America stared at him, his eyes still red from crying.
England smiled and reached up to squeeze the boys shoulder.
"What?" America asked, embarrassment flooding his voice. "Why do you keep staring at me?"
"It's just… I can't believe how much you've grown…" England stared at him, trying to see the tiny boy he left years ago. "You've grown…so much. You're…" …you're even taller than me now…
America shrugged and leaned back against the steps of the porch the two sat on. After being gone for several years, England finally found the time to return and visit the small colony he'd come to love. However, the minute he stepped off the ship, instead of a laughing and grinning boy, stood a young man, his smile still holding all the previous excitement, but now it was muted with maturity. The boy had grown into a handsome young man. No longer would he run crying into his room at night when lightning and thunder woke him. No longer would the boy beg and plead him to play with the toy soldier's he gave him. No longer would he want to be with him at all moments of the day. He would find other things to occupy himself with.
"Well…" America shrugged. "It just… happened?"
England swallowed a sigh that nearly escaped.
"How have you been in my absence?"
"…Good." America said simply, his eyes bright. "I've had a lot of visitors recently-"
"Who?" England asked suddenly, his voice holding an edge of suspicion.
"Ah… local politians… governors and local lords and ladies… the usual." America forced a smile onto his face. "How have you been?"
"Busy. The frog has been nothing but a thorn in my side for years…" England growled. "But… I shouldn't be thinking of that right now." He turned to focus on his blossoming colony. "It is nice to finally see you after so long… but…" I wasn't expecting you to grow up so quickly… I had hoped you would stay young for even a little while longer… "But… I guess now that your older… there's a promise that I made that must be… fulfilled." England finished with a wavering tone.
"A promise?" America asked. "What promise?"
"One that I made a while ago… it's… this is bad timing but… I promised and I always keep my promises. No matter what they are…"
America stared at him and tried remembering any promises England made with him when he last visited.
"It's… ah… about you and I… us being… uh… men… and… women…"
America stared at him incredulously, his eyebrows slowly disappearing into his hairline.
"Wait, wait!" America held up a hand, his mouth twisted into a grin on the verge of laughing. "England… I already know about… that."
England stared at him.
"You don't need to say anything." America sputtered quickly, a pink blush covering his cheeks. "It's okay-"
"Who told you?"
The grin abruptly fell from America's face.
"Oh… you know…" America started, his voice fleeting. "I just… found out."
England glared at him, his mouth pressed into a thin line.
America forced the grin back into place. "It's… it's nothing! See… I just found out… it's no big deal-"
"Who…told you?" England asked, his voice deadly calm. America wouldn't have found out just through the mindless, idle talk of boys…Someone told him…
"Uh…yeah…see…" America strummed his finger's against the wooden porch steps. "That's… a funny thing-"
America stared at England, biting his lip and worrying the frayed end of his shirt.
"It was France."
A/n: …and that's how the French-Indian/Seven Years war started. (Just kidding) I'll leave it up to you guys as to how England reacted x'D