He hadn't actually intended to pull the trigger. His finger slipped.

America had been showing Japan some of his latest military technology. His top scientists called it a hyper…amorous...stimulation…something something. America called it The Gayray. Okay, so he hadn't exactly made it himself, but he'd come up with the idea. It was experimental and top secret, and his people had assured him that it was almost ready for mass production. It was his right to show it off.

And then Japan had started poking holes in the idea. Alright, so maybe there'd been a few times when love had actually strengthened armies. That didn't necessarily mean it would apply to modern armies. Japan wasn't always right.

So he'd put the gun to his own head. It was meant to be a joke, but then…

His finger slipped. The gun crackled and he felt something inside him change – a warmth spreading over his mind. Oh, this was bad. This was very bad.

America jolted to consciousness with a gasp and tried to say something to Japan, but the words wouldn't come. The gun fell from his hand and hit the ground, interrupting the silence with a noisy clatter.

Japan could see the alarm in America's face. "D-did something happen?" he asked, covering his mouth with his hand.

"Couldn't you see it?" America asked hysterically, regaining his voice.

"I didn't see anything abnormal," Japan replied.

"I-I felt it, though. The gun went off. Oh god. I can't be – I c-can't…" America started to back away, eyeing Japan as though he expected something terrible to happen at any moment.

Japan attempted to quell America's distress. "Please stay calm, America-san. It may not affect you as it would a normal person."

America crossed his chest with his arms, clutching at his shoulders. His voice started to rise in pitch, and the words came out stilted. "But I can feel it. Something inside me. In my mind. Make it stop! Japan, you have to do something or I'm gonna turn into a little sissy-"

"A-america!" Japan yelled, though his raised volume was barely on par with America's regular voice.

America looked up and took a deep breath. If he was going down, he would face his fate like a hero. He stared into Japan's eyes, gauging the strength of the inevitable homosexual urges. To his surprise, he didn't feel anything.

After a long pause, Japan spoke up again. "Are you alright?"

America looked down, studying his hands as though he'd expected to turn into an alien. "I…I think so. Hm. Maybe it's broken." He crouched down and picked up the gun gingerly, taking extra care not to touch the trigger again.

"What were you expecting?" Japan asked.

"I dunno. I guess I just thought I would fall in love with whoever was around."

"America-san, I don't think such feelings can be created from nothing. Maybe your 'weapon' can only enhance feelings that already exist."

America scrunched his nose in thought as he stared at the gun. Japan sighed inwardly, hoping that America would finally calm down. He wasn't sure how the gun could work at all, but he would never say such a thing about America's creation outright.

After a minute or two more than was necessary, America finally looked back at Japan. "Okay, I guess that makes sense," he replied.

Japan smiled. "Do you feel better?" he asked.

America paused again, and then returned the smile. "Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for setting me straight. I don't know what happened, but I think I'll be okay."

"Ah. I'm glad."

They walked back to the hotel, where America promptly holed up in his room, put the gun back in its aluminum case and checked the lock compulsively for the rest of the evening.

One phrase kept coming back to America, sneaking in through some dark crevasse in his mind. Maybe your 'weapon' can only enhance feelings that already exist.

Feelings that already exist.

Every time this phrase caught up with him, his chest would tighten inexplicably, forcing him to take a deep breath. At regular intervals he would reach up and rub his head without realizing it.

So he would be alright as long as he didn't have unresolved feelings toward the people around him.
And he didn't.

So why did his heart feel like it was doing the Charleston whenever that phrase popped up?

True, he had "feelings" toward certain people, but they weren't romantic or sexual feelings or anything like that.
It was just…complicated.

America reached behind his back and propped up the lumpy hotel pillows. He leaned against the pile and let his mind wander, thinking about the series of meetings that were about to take place.

In a way, he had a deep connection to a lot of the countries there. His people had come from many of them. His culture, his language, his accents – so many aspects of himself were derived from these individuals.

But there was one person who kept appearing in his imagination. One person with whom he had shared so much of his life. Memories and images started to surface from the depths of his mind.

A hand reaching out to him. A figure framed by sunlight.

The joy in his heart each time he'd held one of England's letters in his small hands.

The pain of loss and the longing, despite his utter conviction that it had been for the best.

Giving support to soldiers in the trenches. A look of empathy as they shared in their trials and their grief.

Seeing his former mentor covered in bandages, ravaged by bombs. The sudden, uncontrollable desire to cry despite the grin he put on. The look on England's face the first time one of their joint missions was successful. The unrestrained smile when it became clear that they might actually win. To see that transformation - that elation in England eyes after so much pain – had definitely stirred up something.

The newfound interest when their cultures started to cross over, as they learned how to relate to each other as equals. For a few years after America left, they had even written letters to each other again – real cordial correspondence – before the distance and political stresses piled up once again and the bickering resumed. Thinking about this, it made America sad. He didn't know why; it wasn't as though England had openly broken apart from him. Their political relationship was in a constant state of flux, but their alliance was still very much intact.

He couldn't deny that he felt elements of England's popular culture affecting him all the time. Actors, movies, books. Music, especially. He had more than a few issues of NME stashed away.

And even though he wouldn't say so out loud, he liked it. Having something to share with England again made him feel nostalgic and warm and floaty, like the feeling that comes from lying in the grass on a summer day as the possibilities of the world unfold behind closed eyelids.

Okay, maybe the situation was a bit more complicated than he'd thought.

In the morning, America woke with a feeling of nervous dread, like something angry and pointy was bouncing around in pit of his stomach. He checked his appearance in the mirror so many times that he considered punching it, until he realized that he'd have to smash all the mirrors to escape their draw.

This was stupid. What was he worried about? One little shot from an amorous-whatever-device wouldn't send him into a flustered tizzy. He was the United States of Awesome. Besides, he wasn't even sure if the gun had worked.

"So why am I doing this?" he asked his reflection as he ran a hand through his hair, trying to achieve a look that suggested he'd rolled out of bed like this and looked fucking amazing anyway. After a few more strokes, he stepped back and looked at himself. The more he stared, the more uneasy he felt. His reflection was starting to look unfamiliar, like a word read over and over again. He took a deep breath, leaned his forehead against the cool surface of the mirror and decided that he must be going nutty. His heart pounded.

Feelings that already exist.

He pushed himself away from the mirror and shook his whole body out. Following a couple of swift slaps to the face, he took a deep breath and went on his way, slick black briefcase in tow.

Upon arriving at the meeting, he caught himself taking note of who was there. France, Germany and Spain were chatting about something fruity and European, like soccer. Japan sat at the far end of the table, sorting his pens according to style and color. There were a few stragglers outside the conference room, talking on their phones and making plans for the evening. England wasn't there yet, and America refused to consider why this was.

America strode in as he normally did, holding himself like he had already won the support of every person in the room. He sat down next to Japan and cracked his knuckles loudly, overcompensating for his insecurity by mimicking his highest level of confidence. Japan didn't react to his performance at all.

"Hello, America-san."

"Hey Japan," America answered with a resigned sigh.

"Are you well? Is the-" Japan leaned in close and whispered, "is the issue from yesterday still bothering you?"

America paused. He didn't want to lie to Japan, but what could he say? At the same time, he knew that if he lied it would be the first step on a very dangerous, unhealthy path.

"Naw, I'm fine. Haven't even thought about it since yesterday." As America became more nervous, his voice grew louder. "I'm so un-gay for everyone here it's not even ridiculous. In fact, I was just thinking about how much I love boobs!"

A very awkward silence fell over the room as the world leaders heard America's proclamation. It was even more awkward for England, who had just entered the room looking haggard and tense.

"Oh, honestly," England mumbled, though he still chose the seat next to America. The buzz of conversation resumed, and America desperately hoped that he his face wasn't as red as it felt.

Japan finally replied, attempting to politely ignore the awkward situation that America had created. "I'm glad you feel better. I am sure that nothing will come of it."

He waited for America's response, which never came. Unsure of what to do, he started to talk about the latest technology being developed. America barely heard a word of it, as he was thinking about the man sitting on his other side. Did England always sit next to him? He'd never really thought about it, but looking back, he couldn't remember the last time England wasn't seated in his near vicinity.

But that wasn't weird. He and England were allies. You could even say that they were friends, when it came down to it. Sure they fought, and their connection had been tumultuous at times, but at the heart of everything they were definitely friends. America was even willing to eat England's food, even though it was always bland and overcooked, and England insisted on putting soggy onions in everything he could get his hands on. That had to mean something. So there was absolutely nothing strange about sitting next to each other.

"…still wish that 2-dimensional characters could hold intuitive conversation. Or give consent." Japan let out a melancholy sigh.

America snapped back to reality. "W-what?"

Japan realized that he had revealed too much, and immediately backtracked.
"It's nothing! I misspoke!"

"Right." America replied, cocking his eyebrow.

Japan swallowed audibly and started to thumb through the meeting agenda. Sensing his discomfort, America gazed around the room, only to see that England was staring at him. He glanced away quickly

America wasn't sure what to do next. He tried to think about what he normally did before a meeting, but those memories had suddenly melted away, leaving him to re-learn his own life patterns.

"Alright?" England asked. It seemed that America had stopped moving altogether.

"Huh? Yeah, yeah, I'm great." America rolled his neck and then shot England his winning grin, with a wink thrown in. "Just a little sleepy, I guess."

"Exciting night for you?"

America was sure he was just imagining that tinge of jealousy in England's voice. "Not really. I just didn't sleep great. I should talk to my advisers about springing for a room that's fit for human habitation."

"Then what did you do last night? I can't imagine you spent the evening preparing notes." England sniffed and drummed his fingers across the agenda in front of him.

America had intended to reply, but he was suddenly struck by something he hadn't prepared for: the accent. That awful, beautiful accent that comprised so many impossibly intricate variations, each of which were expressed when the occasion called for it. He wanted to hear more. He wanted to hear it reciting lyrics and beautiful verse. Whispering softly against his skin.

Oh.

Something was terribly, terribly wrong. America had been around this voice for such a long time, he should have been used to it by now. He'd grown up around it, broken away from it, been berated by it. He heard it shout obscenities at him on a weekly basis. He shouldn't be so entranced, and yet he couldn't stop replaying England's question in his head, analyzing every nuance.

It wasn't just the voice, either. It was a soft crease in that brow. Hands that were weathered and masculine, yet graceful and poised. Unbelievably green eyes, like emeralds glinting in the-

Holy shit. The gun had worked.