Title: The Fortunate Daughter
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Characters/Pairing: America (Alfred), Massachusetts (Elizabeth), various other states and nations.
Notes: Once again, I use human names instead of country/state names. And yes, I'm aware that in "Every Little Reason" Elizabeth was a city ad not a state. I like the idea of states better than capitals. There are also a ton of historical refs, but I'll put those in a separate chapter. (The story itself is a one-shot)
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia. The personifications of the states used herein are my creations, however.
"Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" ("By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty")
-Motto of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The first time she sees him, he is but a babe-in-arms and she cradles him underneath her mantle, against her bare chest. She speaks to him in the language of those who named her, and he babbles back at her. His hair is as golden as the sun, and his eyes are at once the clear blue of the sky and the hazy deep blue of her hills. And as much as she wants to keep the child with her, something tells her that this would be wrong.
So she feeds him and sings to him, lulls him to sleep and wraps him up in her raccoon-skin robe after tying beads around his wrist, and walks into the night.
The next time they meet is years later, and she finds that he has grown miraculously quickly. He talks to her, unsteadily and quietly, about the people he has seen. They sit on one of her hilltops, him perched upon her lap in the noonday sun. He tells her about men wandering through her woods that look like him, with pale skin and golden hair. The men argue and shout, save for two; a short one and a tall one. The short one smiles and speaks quickly, incomprehensibly, but the tall one frowns and says nothing at all. He tells her he is not sure who he is more scared of. She tells him that he should not be scared at all, since she will protect him. She touches the beads he still wears and pulls him against her chest so he can hear her heartbeat. She tells him that it only beats for him, and he calms, soon drifting off to sleep.
Just down the hill, she hears heavy footsteps. She sees the tall one approaching and she halts him in his tracks with her eyes, warning him silently what could happen should he take another step. He retreats, granting her this quiet battle.
She curls in on the child in her arms, wondering about and fearing the future.
He holds her hand through the fever and the delusions, the sinews of adolescence pulled as taut as bowstrings under his skin. He mops her brow and reassures her in panicked tones that she will live, that he will not let her die. She rages, unhearing, against her betrayers.
By the time the disease passes she is so weak she can barely walk, paler than the moon from sickness. He tells her how he made a pact with the green-eyed man and that they will be safe. They will serve him, though and that is what breaks her heart. She weeps, and he holds her.
Through the grief, she wonders when she ceased to be his mother and became his sister instead.
Servitude simply becomes routine after a few years. She wears her dour black dress and hides her hair and prays every day, and her blue-eyed boy becomes a blue-eyed man even though she remains the same. He adapts and shifts, accommodating the green-eyed man's laws with a grace that belies his energetic nature. She has a harder time changing, and awakes in a panic when she realizes that she doesn't remember where she is, or what she did to get herself there. She prays harder, finding that religion is the only thing she has aside from him. But he goes on longer walks, visiting people she never meets because they never come into her church. She prays and forgets, forgets and prays more.
The green-eyed man visits her after she has forgotten everything that happened before her black dress and stern face. He asks her what she would like to be called, as her blue-eyed boy has a name and she should have one too.
She looks out the open window over the hills, and for a moment her mind is clear. A spark of rebellion glints in her heart, and she tells him what she used to be called; what she should be called. He frowns, but does not refuse her. She slips back into the fog of her empty mind.
She feels a weight on her lap and sees a book. She leafs idly through the pages as her master watches. He sits beside her and takes command of the book, showing her the words and the patterns they make with his mouth. These new things fill the mind he had emptied. Perhaps this, she thinks, is his kindness. She becomes learned and cultured, and comes to love the man she had once despised. He tells her that she should call him 'Arthur,' that what she calls him is too formal. He tells her the blue-eyed boy is called 'Alfred,' and he calls her 'Elizabeth' in turn. She doesn't mind, even though she thinks she should.
Alfred brings her others to speak to while he is away, brothers and sisters like herself. She becomes particularly attached to a little girl from the north and they spend every day together.
The downside to having a larger family is that she and Alfred spend less and less time together. On some of their few evenings alone they walk on the islands scattered in her harbor and discuss the events of the day. Sometimes they go into the hills. He holds her in his arms, next to his heart, and he tells her stories of how it all began, trying to tease her memories back. He is unsuccessful until she catches him swimming one day. Around his neck are a small bronze cross and a string of beads. He sees her staring and grins the way he does whenever Arthur catches him doing something he shouldn't be. He asks her to keep it a secret, and puts his shirt back on.
Alfred and Arthur are yelling at each other in the room over, and it falls to her to talk to the others about what's going on. Mary hides her face in her hands, trying to ignore the angry words. She crouches down and takes the small child in her arms, soothing her. Benjamin looks at her over Mary's shoulder, and Richard leans against the door frame, a frown marring his handsome features. The three of them-the eldest- know that it won't end well.
That night, they pad quietly down the hallway to Arthur's room and slip through the open door. Arthur is at his desk, poring over letters from Parliament and tax figures. When he sees the three of them, he moves to draw them into an embrace but stops before he can truly get anywhere.
Benjamin asks him what is going to happen to them. Arthur's words are little comfort. He explains that they are part of Alfred, so if Alfred turns against him they all will. It will start as a deep-set resentment in their hearts, a hatred they cannot explain. They will begin to find fault in everything he does. She understands what he is saying, as anger and frustration burns in the pit of her stomach at the mere sight of the man she used to love like a father. She glances at her brothers, but they seem unaffected. Her hands clench into fists at her sides, anger scorching her throat like bile. Anger at Arthur, anger at her brothers for not being angry, anger at Alfred for letting this happen, anger at everything. Before Arthur can say another word, she storms out of the room and runs down the hall. Instead of returning to her room she climbs the staircase to the study, where she knows Alfred will be, and bursts through the door. She runs into his embrace, and asks him 'why' over and over, through the tears. Alfred strokes her back, making hushing sounds and he sits them both down on one of the plush chairs. He explains how Arthur shouldn't be involved with them anymore, how the only thing he's doing is meddling which hurts them. He explains about the taxes that he can't pay, and the people suffering. She knows that suffering, has felt it in her heart. Alfred apologizes, says that ever since he became a colony he knew that this day would come. He asks her if she'll stand with him.
At that, she stands up straight and wipes the tears off her face. She puts a hand over her heart and tells him that her heart beat for him back when she was his elder; just because she is now the younger does not mean that has ceased to be true. She embraces him again before going back to her room. She sees Arthur standing down the hall. She makes eye contact with him, and he mouths 'goodbye.'
His smile is kind, but his eyes are as hard as flint.
She paints up her face and goes to the tavern to pour ale. The men huddled about the table talk treason, so she takes it upon herself to make sure they aren't caught. She talks with them, refines their arguments.
She steals through her cities and towns, posting bills on the walls and doors of meeting-houses and churches.
Her brothers frown when she tells them her rhetoric, but they listen.
When the fifth comes, she bears the scratch across her face as a mark of pride. She paints similar streaks on her face a few Decembers later when she joins her people in emptying Arthur's ships into the harbor.
The next morning she pricks her finger on a needle, and laughs when she bleeds tea-brown.
It burns. Boston is burning, and her skin blossoms all over with shiny red welts that blister and simmer and ooze with a mind of their own. The doctors wrap fresh bandages around them, not understanding how she keeps getting injured. She is stuck in Arthur's camp, beaten and bloodied and she knows, this is what war is. This is what Mary suffered through all those years ago. Still she rallies, growing thinner and thinner by the day when the navy blocks off her ports and her people cannot eat. She holds her head high and remains dignified, as though she were wearing silks and velvets instead of tattered linens. Some of the soldiers try to take advantage of her, thinking her will weakened. But she shows them that her people are not beaten yet, and shouts to the camp that her city will not be taken by men such as them. Guards are posted about her tent and even though she cannot see what goes on outside, she can hear from messengers that things aren't going well for either side.
Trapped in her dark and damp tent, she falls back upon old habits and prays incessantly. She hears Arthur's voice, but he never visits her. She doesn't want him to.
Salvation comes in the form of a general Knox and cannons. Cannons on sledges. If she weren't so overjoyed by her rescuers, led by one of her own, she'd be incredulous. She knows it was cold, it always is in March; but this cold?
Then Nathanael-her brother, she meets the general shortly after-tells her how they pulled the cannons all the way from Ticonderoga to help free her.
And she runs to the camp, to the fire where Alfred is having a meeting with the other officers. Alfred looks up at her when she arrives, a grin spreading across his face. He introduces her as his sister. She goes around to each of the men around the fire and thanks them, joyful tears running down her face. She lets Alfred drape his coat over her shoulders. He sits her down next to him and continues the discussion. Their fingers are laced together, so when he gestures, her hand moves with his and they gesture in concert.
After the meeting is done, she and Alfred walk into The Heights and watch Arthur sail away.
She tells Alfred to mark down the date, because today will be a holiday in their new nation.
The war drags on, and Alfred comes home one day frustrated and angry. It's hers and Benjamin's turn to cook dinner, so Alex gets to intercept Alfred and find out what's wrong.
As it turns out, Matthew has gotten involved, and not on Alfred's side. They eat dinner in silence, right up until the point where Benjamin gets the brilliant idea to ask Francis for help.
That's the point where Alfred inhales a chunk of potato and nearly asphyxiates. Once his coughing fit has dissipated, he tells Ben that it would never work.
Ben insists that they have to try.
Alfred looks like he's going to protest, but then his face looks tired, so tired, and he relents.
Ben is on a ship the next morning.
It is done. They are free. Standing on the fields of Yorktown, with Alfred and her siblings, she feels hot tears spill down her face. She grins and lets them fall, laughing with her brothers and sisters and whatever Alfred has become to them, dancing and embracing.
It will be hard, and they will have to prove their worth to everyone now. They will have to do better than Arthur did, will have to become stronger than him.
It will be hard, but it will be worth it.
Alfred goes around to each of them and asks them to sign a sheet of parchment and say they'll be part of his family, as 'states.' She gets her seal from the cabinet and remarks that she would like him to not call her a state. She signs her name, and tells him that he should call her a commonwealth. He smiles, and she hands back the sheet, the fresh ink spelling her name shining in the candlelight.
Richard is the brother closest to her in age. He is the one she talks to the most, her closest confidant save Mary. But Mary has gone off on her own, and Richard hates her and the other northern siblings.
Alfred doesn't talk much, he spends all his time talking with politicians and diplomats. Once the fighting starts, however, he stays in his room and only lets them in occasionally. When she goes in to speak with him, he is covered in wounds, the seeping blood plastering his clothes to his back and limbs. But he won't let her touch him, won't let her tend him as he tended her in their early days. Conversation is disjointed, with Alfred jumping from one topic to the next without warning. Sometimes he speaks softly and gently, and then begins shouting and accusing her. But moments later he becomes almost a different person, contrite and meek. He is lucid before she leaves, and tells her that it will all be alright, that they will pull through somehow.
She's not sure she believes him.
Baseball is her favorite sport. She's also pretty damn good at it, which leads to her being picked first every time they all play a game. The first time she can't play is when she's stuck in bed with the flu, but then again, most of the family is sick. She and Jonathan trade insults and taunts every summer, and his grin gets cockier and cockier and she starts losing games.
She just sticks her tongue out at him and says she'll see him at the Series. It's all in good fun because even though they both take their sports very seriously, it's just a game.
She keeps trying and writes a musical. The other states love it, and she gets the last laugh for now.
Their boss is one of her people, and she's never been so proud. Before the parade, she fusses over his tie and hugs him. He tells her, grinning his million-watt smile, that she shouldn't worry, it's just a parade and that everything will be fine. She tells him that she worries no matter what, but that he's just what everyone needed.
She goes to sit with Alfred and her siblings on Roberta's balcony. They chat idly, waiting for the parade to come down their street.
There's a sound of a gunshot, then people are screaming and her head is filled with blinding pain. She reaches out to Alfred and he holds her, gathers the others to him as well.
It is not the first time this has happened. But now she understands how Joshua felt. They sit on the balcony in a mass of warmth and arms and tears.
They all dress in black and go to the funeral. She sits next to Jackie, and holds the children's hands. Her whole family mourns, but they must carry on.
Perhaps Johnny's death has made her overly suspicious, overly paranoid. But she doesn't trust this new boss. Lyndon was nice, even though he wasn't very good, but there's something about this new man she doesn't trust. Something in his eyes. So although she is alone amongst her siblings, she refuses him. A war-weary Alfred berates her for her stubbornness, says that she should just trust him because look at all he's done. She says she has and he just sighs, only wanting to go to bed and not argue with her. Her siblings look at her as though she is insane, and she's starting to think that she might be wrong. But then he goes and shuts down all her military bases and restricts her, and she is even more sure of her decision.
The outside has nothing but contempt for her, so she turns inward. She focuses on her schools and hospitals, polishes them until they gleam. She makes her children the smartest in the nation, then goes to Fenway with them and gets drunk in the seventh inning, crowing "Sweet Caroline" at the top of her voice. She loosens up, goes wandering in her hills again. She invites Roderich to her music festivals, and he helps her refine her orchestras.
She is brought back to the rest of the nation quite suddenly one morning. Their boss was a liar, as it turns out, and she is utterly nonplussed. She doesn't lord it over her siblings. Okay, so she does a little. But the bumper stickers are funny, so she puts one on her car.
She's started a new project, and she feels a little silly when she realizes how long it's going to take. But Alfred asked her to please make it easier for people to get around her city. She replies that's it's perfectly easy to get around. He says that's only true for her children. So she sets out to make her roadways more...'navigable.' She shakes her head every time she thinks that word. So she starts digging. Her siblings give her strange looks. She tells them that it's for their benefit, and that it'll be done in a few years. She digs, and digs, and digs some more.
This isn't going to be done as quickly as she thought.
Alfred remarks, one day, that she's come very far from her roots. She laughs and says that if she knew back then what was going to happen now, she would have refused adamantly to take part in any revolution whatsoever. Alfred laughs, because he knows she's only joking. They take the ferry to Provincetown to celebrate with her children, and celebrate they do. She can hear the wedding bells ringing through the streets. She takes Suzanne's hands and twirls through the town.
At the end of the evening, Suzanne tells her that she likes this idea, and kisses her on the cheek.
She gloats, and she'll be the first to admit that the riot wasn't totally necessary, but Jonathan's face across the living room was totally worth it (or so Olivia tells her, she was at the stadium). It has been a looooooong 86 years, and she'll be damned if she doesn't party tonight.
So she parties.
The next morning, picking up trash through the raging hangover, she remembers why parties like these aren't always the best idea.
It's still worth it, in her mind.
She watches as the tunnels, roads and overpasses open all over her city. It has taken what feels like forever, and her children joke that they can't imagine the city without all the construction vehicles everywhere. It's almost fallen apart over the twenty years it's taken to build, but she feels triumphant as she walks down the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
When Mary walks up to her with about five different maps in hand and a frown across her face, she feels less so.
She wants her children to be safe, she tells her siblings. It's a good idea, she tells them, to make sure that if anything happens they will be cared for. Matthew agrees with her. Her siblings like the concept, but the senators and the representatives are wary of it.
She walks through the hospitals and visits those who have no visitors, coos over the babies in the maternity ward (okay, so she spends most of her time doing that, but they're so cute), and plays with the children in Pediatrics. She leaves a thank-you card in every nurse's locker.
When she walks out the front door, as unnoticed as when she entered.
When it came to birthday parties, she proudly admits that her siblings are the best at them. They actually manage to put their petty squabbles away and get along. They form a very skilled force that works in almost startling harmony, anticipating the other's needs before they're even voiced. They're united, Roberta says, one evening after they've finished cooking and are cleaning up the kitchen, and are making their way to the Esplanade with Alfred's cake. They're united, and they always will be.