EDITED A/N (22 June, 2010): Minor corrections have been made to the French parts of the story. Apologies to my French-speaking readers for making the slight mistakes! ^.^
A/N: So this is my first Hetalia one-shot. I'm a bit nervous about it; I haven't been into Hetalia for an extremely long time yet. (Please keep this in mind if/when reviewing.)
It's slightly AU in the respect that I made Alfred smarter than he seems to be in the actual manga strips. (In this one-shot, he knows French as a second language, and he has a reading knowledge of Latin. The Latin's not really important, though; it's just mentioned. He does have a French conversation, though, which I will translate at the end of the story. Also, my Arthur knows French as a second language, and he knows Latin as a third. All of this is a sad result of my having taken too much foreign language in high school and college, thus far. *fails at life*)
In case you didn't read the warnings in the summary: Alfred acts mature (i.e. his age... sorry), and Arthur is highly angsty. Just a warning.
Anyhow, I actually did a bit of research on the Declaration (read: I found a copy of the original text on-line and read it), so when I have Arthur say that it "literally says" such and such, it does say it. (At least, according to the text I found.)
All foreign language usage comes from my knowledge; if it's wrong, I'm to blame. (I never use on-line translators. They're almost always wrong, if not always.)
I shall shut up now. I hope some of you like this. ^.^
I reiterate: The French is translated at the end of the story.
It was July second, and the allied countries' meeting had just come to a close. Everyone was busying themselves with packing up files, legal pads, and pens into brief cases and messenger bags. A dim murmur could be heard throughout the room as small groups formed in various areas, like cells dividing, in order to make small talk and gossip amongst themselves.
Outside, it was storming. The sky was dark grey, and rain was pounding on the roof of the conference centre. Monstrous explosions of thunder were heard intermittently, and flashes of lightning could be seen in the distance. The lights in the conference room flickered.
"Damn... It's relentless out there, huh?" Alfred asked no one in particular as he looked out the conference centre's panoramic window.
"Oui," Francis replied as he locked his brief case. "Ah, bon anniversaire, Amérique." As an afterthought he added, "Anticipé."
"Er... Merci beaucoup, er... tous le... meme?" Alfred asked, looking to Francis to see if he'd gotten it correct. He was secretly wishing he'd paid closer attention to all those French lessons Arthur used to give him.
"Tres bien," Francis said, smiling at Alfred. "Angleterre—il vous a enseigné bien, n'est pas?"
"Er... Something about England and... something being good?"
Francis chuckled lightly and smiled before repeating the question in English. "He taught you well, right?"
"Oh. Yeah, he tried. Tried to get me to learn Latin, too—God only knows why."
"Le Latin est un bon langage," Francis said, a tone of approval in his voice.
"Well, there's at least something that you guys ag—"
"Happy early birthday, America!" Ivan exclaimed—in heavily accented English—as he clapped Alfred on the shoulder. He smelt suspiciously of vodka. Francis arched an eyebrow at him.
"Er... thanks," Alfred said, blushing crimson when he noticed that Ivan's exclamation had attracted Yao's attention, as well as the attention of a glaring Arthur from the other side of the room. He mentally noted Arthur's glare, but turned back to France and Russia—the latter of whom was wearing the stupidest grin Alfred had ever seen.
"Vous etes ivre," Francis commented with a smirk.
"Eh?" Ivan asked, turning to Alfred. "Wasshe sayin', A'fred?"
"He's saying that you're drunk. The hell're you doing coming to a meeting like that?"
"M'not drunk," Ivan protested. "'Sides, I did... did... fine t'day." He started walking away, muttering something along the lines of "Bastards."
Alfred rolled his eyes before sighing resignedly. "Well, anyway, I think I'm gonna go talk to big, bad Britain over there," he said, nodding in the general direction of the conference centre's panoramic window. He noticed the storm had yet to let up. "I think he's in one of his moods. Y'know... usually is this time of year." Alfred looked down at the floor, knitting his eyebrows together.
"Ah, indeed. Indeed. Well, I shall be going. I think we had a... semi-successful meeting today."
"Apart from Russia being drunk and England yelling at everyone any time they brought up a point, you mean?"
"Well..." Francis heaved a sigh and looked over toward the window, where England was standing with his back toward everyone. "Les choses ne changeront jamais."
"Peut-être..." Alfred murmured.
"Bonne chance avec lui."
The room's lights flickered as Alfred walked across the room. Arthur was standing with near-perfect posture, looking out the window at the pouring rain and the dark grey sky. Tension clouded the air between them, and Alfred wasn't sure if even the fanciest manoeuvres made by the sharpest of knives would be able to slice through it.
He was a couple of kilometres away from Arthur, and he decided to stop walking. He just... stopped. And stared. And thought.
He thought about the smaller country's reaction to this "time of year"—how he always acted the same, year after year, ever since the Revolution. Only, he didn't always act the same. Francis was wrong when he said "some things never change." Each year it seemed to get worse. Each year, Arthur would spend more time at the pub, getting drunker and drunker. Alfred knew this, because he would always be awakened late at night by a phone call from a drunken Arthur. Well, he would get the phone call if they were in separate countries. If they were in the same country—most likely due to a conference, because Arthur tended to avoid willingly visiting Alfred's country around the beginning of July—Arthur would knock loudly on Alfred's hotel room door, and Alfred would get a visit from the drunken representative. Last year, it was a phone call.
People liked to think that drunkards are hilarious to watch or listen to, but Alfred knew otherwise. Russia might be that way, but England definitely wasn't. When Arthur was drunk, he would go from accusing Alfred to accusing himself, and he would be extremely harsh about it—harsher than he was when sober. It was painful for Alfred to listen to, and, on the occasions when he received a visit from Arthur, it was extremely painful to watch; the smaller country always ended up verbally abusing himself until he was reduced to such sobs that he could not physically speak anymore. He would have his arms wrapped about himself and would be rocking back and forth on the floor, tears streaming down his face. And he wouldn't let Alfred within a metre from him. This was his punishment; he deserved this, and he refused to be comforted.
Alfred dealt with it every year without fail. It sometimes made him wish that the powers of Time could just skip over his birthday.
An extremely monstrous clap of thunder startled Alfred out of his thoughts and into the present moment. He was still standing a few kilometres away from Arthur. He sighed and walked closer.
"Hey... Britannia," Alfred said with a smirk, both on his face and in his voice. He would put up a cocky front and hide the fact that he knew the tension between them was thickening even more.
Arthur's back became as rigid as a steel pole as he corrected his posture to absolute perfection. His hands were clasped tightly behind his back.
"Hello," Arthur replied, his voice formal and distant.
"S'wrong?" Alfred asked, trying to keep his voice light as he walked even closer. "Nobody call you 'Britannia' anymore?" He murmured this softly right next to Arthur's ear, knowing all too well that it would send chills down Arthur's spine.
Arthur cleared his throat. "No, no. It's fine," he said softly. "France—" he took this moment to clear his throat again—"France still... calls me Britannia."
"Yeah, that makes enough sense." Alfred paused. Then, smiling, he said, "You, me, and France—the only three countries who give a damn enough to use Latin on occasion."
Arthur turned to Alfred. "You didn't call me that in order to exercise your, until now, very dormant Latin abilities."
"Hey, now. Be careful with the 'very dormant' stuff. My Latin abilities are just fine."
"Oh? Gero memoria rerum gestarum... sic animus meus vexatur est." He spoke the language with ease, but he sighed in the middle of the sentence as though he were resigning himself to the torments of his mind.
"Uh... yeah, I have no clue what you just said. Damn, you really speak it like a Roman, don't you? Well, minus the non-Roman accent, of course. And... y'know... wrong century an' all."
"I said that I bear the memory of deeds, thus my mind is vexed."
Alfred didn't have to ask of which "deeds" Arthur spoke.
"Deep," Alfred commented. "Very—"
"What do want from me?" Arthur suddenly asked, a flash of lightning casting an eerie lighting effect on his frame. "I mean..." He ran a hand through his hair, dishevelling it, and suddenly his posture wasn't perfect anymore. "You called me 'Britannia' for a reason." His voice was eerily soft—the sort of soft voice that actors in horror films use; the sort that is so soft yet chilling that your bone marrow tingles.
"You haven't called me that since—"
They were both quiet for a period of two minutes that seemed to last ten. Discomfort and agitation ran through their veins as they stood before the window, staring out at the storm. They were the only ones left in the conference room; Yao was the last to leave, shutting the door silently behind him. Neither of the two stressed countries noticed him leave.
They both began simultaneously. Arthur looked down at the floor.
"You first," Arthur muttered.
"Okay. Well, I was just going to say that I called you that because we deal with this every year, and, well, we might as well face it sooner rather than later." He paused, thinking about whether he should or shouldn't say what he was thinking about saying next. He decided that since they would probably end up fighting, anyway—they usually did—he'd go ahead. "Russia showed up drunk today. Do you know how much that ruined the productivity of our meeting? We have another one tomorrow, and—"
"What's Russia being plastered got n'ething to do with me?" Arthur cocked an eyebrow.
"Well, I don't particularly want a certain British country showing up drunk, either."
Arthur was silent.
"We have another meeting tomorrow," Alfred continued. "I'd rather face whatever we have to face here and now, rather than at midnight tonight when you come banging on my door at the hotel."
"Wrong choice of word there."
"Wha—?" It took Alfred a second to catch his mistake. "Oh, sorry. Banging on the door, knocking on it... whatever. The—"
"There is a difference between knocking on a door and banging one, I'll have you know."
Alfred knew that Arthur was just trying to keep the tone light, but he was also skirting around the conversation, which the American would not have. "England. The point is, I can't have you showing up tomorrow either drunk or in various states thereof—and that includes hungover. So we're dealing with the inevitable now."
Arthur offered a sad smile up at Alfred. "Y'know, it's sad. It's to the point where you know I'm gonna go out and get drunk."
"It's happened every year for ages." Alfred sighed, taking his glasses off his face and pinching the bridge of his nose before rubbing his eyes lightly. I don't expect things to change, is what he left unsaid. And Arthur knew it.
Arthur looked at Alfred—really looked at him. He looked tired, worn out. He didn't deserve this. Bloody hell, it was the poor sod's birthday—or nearly, anyway—and he was catching hell because of Arthur. It was all his fault, Arthur decided. Alfred didn't deserve any of this. He deserved to celebrate his people's independence. Arthur should be suffering alone. He deserved to be left, deserved to be heartbroken. Here he is, in his own misery, trying to bring America down with him. Just who does he think he is, exactly? I'm a right git, s'what I am, he told himself.
"You should go," Arthur said, keeping his voice steady.
"Oh, no," the American replied, "I'm not going anywhere. We're hashing this thing out before either of us leaves this building."
Just then, Arthur saw the most evil-looking creature he'd ever seen—and he'd seen many in his dealings with dark magic. It had the body of a faerie but the face of a demon; thick black tears were running down its necrosis-ridden face, and it had big black holes for eyes. "Leave him alone, you bloody git! Go to a pub and drown yourself." The creature was somehow channelling Arthur's superego, and it was throwing the harsh words at the Englishman in its raspy voice.
It was one thing for Arthur's mind to tell him these things, but quite another to hear them coming form a third party—especially a particularly scary-looking one. "Y-you should... should really go." Arthur's eyes were watering now, his mind unable to handle the pressure of such abuse. "I'll be fine."
"The hell you will," Alfred protested, starting to sound concerned. "Look, England, you're gonna hafta talk to me, babe. I only have a vague impression of what's going on in your mind; I can't help you if you don't –"
"It's his birthday. He doesn't need you around making things miserable for him. He probably wishes that the year would just skip over his birthday, thanks to you and your Goddamned emotions. What a disgrace. You seriously need to get your priorities straight. If you really loved him, you'd tell him to get out so you can suffer alone—the way you deserve."
"Just sod off, damnit!" Arthur shouted, reaching up and grabbing hold of his hair, pulling it, and stepping backwards, away from the demonic faerie. He felt flushed and hot and claustrophobic. His trembling hands moved from his hair to his shirt collar, and he undid the first two buttons in a haste to make it easier for him to breathe. He didn't even know if he was telling the creature to sod off or if he was telling Alfred. He may have been telling both.
"I'm not going anywhere," Alfred reiterated. "I don't care how much you beg or command; it won't do any good."
"You have... You have to leave."
"He never loved you to begin with. How can one love a pebble in his shoe?"
Arthur whimpered and fell to the floor. He drew his legs up to his chest and wrapped his arms about his knees. He began rocking himself back and forth. "Just leave me alone!"
"Hey, what's going on?" Alfred got on the floor next to Arthur, but he knew better than to try and lay a hand on him; Arthur would shrug him off, he knew. "C'mon, Iggs, ya gotta talk to me. As cool it would be to be a mind reader, I'm not one."
"M'dragging you down with me," Arthur cried, unable to look at Alfred.
"Huh? What d'you mean?"
"It's—all of it—s'my fault. Revolution. George the Third. That smarmy git of a wanker, Arnold..."
"As in Benedict?"
"I knew about him, America! I knew what he was doing the whole fucking time!" Arthur was sobbing now. It was one of those times where tears and snot run down your face. He was thoroughly upset with himself. "And all your—" sniffle –"Colonial lads... when they sent us... when... the Deca-Decaler—" he began hiccoughing.
"England, you need to calm down."
"But you can't, can you? You can't calm down. You can't even talk. You're pathetic."
"The Declaration," Arthur finally managed to get out. "They sent it, and... it said..."
Alfred then saw the most pained look on the Englishman's face that he'd ever seen on the face of anyone. He looked as though he'd been stripped of everything he had—like Job from the Bible. Only, unlike Job, Arthur wasn't handling it too well.
"It said... God! I... God..." Arthur bit his bottom lip and continued rocking himself back and forth. Alfred had to bite back tears at this point. A fleeting thought passed through his mind that perhaps this year was the worst of them all so far.
"Say it," the demon hissed at him.
"Iggs," Alfred murmured, keeping his voice steady because he knew he had to be the strong one. He decided to brave placing a hand on Arthur's shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" he shouted, flinching away from the comforting touch. Alfred felt a tear finally fall from his right eye, and he had to take his glasses off to wipe the fog off the lenses. Of course Arthur would react this way; every year, Alfred tried to comfort him, and every year, Arthur wasn't worthy, so he shouted the exact same thing.
"It said—it says—we were guilty of acts of tyranny. Blast!" Arthur bit into his arm to keep from screaming in pain. When he let go, strands of spit and mucous attached his nose and mouth to his arm, and there were deep white imprints where his teeth previously were.
"Iggs, don't do this, please..." the American felt more hot, salty tears stinging the backs of his eyes.
"Look at what you're doing to him; he's about to cry. Good job, ya wanker. Proud o' yourself yet?" The demonic faerie continued to abuse him.
"I'm sorry! I told you to leave!" he shouted through his sobs. "Just fucking leave me!"
"Goddamnit, England!" Alfred shouted back, tears trickling down his own face. "I am not leaving this fucking room!" There was a pause of a few seconds in which the only sounds heard were their breathing and the rain outside. "And I'm not leaving you."
"Yeah, well, it's a little too late for that, isn't it?" Arthur asked in a harsh whisper.
"Damnit, England, you're making this unfair!" Alfred shouted, starting to just slightly lose his cool. He didn't mean to, but Arthur was just being difficult. "I left your government. Not you. And the Declaration's right; the king and all his men were tyrants. You couldn't have honestly expected me and my people to stay under—"
"If you leave my government, then you do leave me, you bloody idiot!" Arthur sobbed loudly. "And no, I didn't expect you to stay. I didn't care if you left me! Do you not fucking get it? You're better than me! So just fucking leave now! If my government were tyrants, then I was, too, because I let them do everything they did! I didn't stop them! I let Benedict Arnold betray you!"
"According to Plato and Aristotle, a tyrant is someone who rules without law, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others. I let them do everything they did. I let them." Arthur looked up at Alfred, his eyes broken. "I let them hurt you."
Under normal circumstances, Alfred would not act as though what King George III did was a small matter, but these were not normal circumstances. "You let them tax me. Of course it was without representation, but... Hell... Taxes are—"
"It was more than just overtaxing, and you know it, damnit." Arthur sniffled. There was a pregnant pause before he continued. "Declaration says George the Third destroyed the lives of your people. And it does say that. Literally."
Well, hell. The bastard would choose that moment to know everything wouldn't he?
"I'm so sorry... I'm sorry... It's all my fault. The Coercive... things... Acts... All of it." Arthur's voice was hoarse from sobbing. "Dieu! Je suis vraiment un con! Nnng!" Arthur groaned and pulled at his hair. "Just leave," Arthur said softly. "Just leave! Je m'en fou!"
Alfred knew that it was bad when Arthur started using French. He never spoke French unless he was extremely pissed off, otherwise extremely upset, or talking to Francis—which usually led to being pissed off. And not only was he shouting in French, but he was cursing in French—cursing himself.
Alfred tried wrapping an arm around Arthur, but Arthur flinched away again. "England," Alfred murmured before sniffling and wiping away a few tears that had escaped from his own eyes. "Just..." He scooted closer to Arthur until his lips were at Arthur's ear. He spoke softly. "Just let me love you. Okay? Can you do that for me?" Alfred kissed the top of Arthur's ear. "Can you allow yourself to be loved?" Alfred clenched his eyes shut to prevent a slew of tears from falling. His chest felt heavy as though it were full of lead.
"I don't... kn-know," Arthur said, his voice shaky. "I... I don't know. I..." His voice trailed off.
Alfred suddenly did not care if Arthur didn't think he deserved to be held. The American wrapped his arms around the Englishman and manoeuvred both of them so that Arthur was sitting between his legs. He kissed the top of Arthur's head before burying his face in the Englishman's hair.
Arthur wrapped his arms about Alfred's waist and clinged. He buried his face into Alfred's chest.
"Iggs, I want you to listen to me, okay?" Alfred asked, his voice slightly shaky. He held Arthur as tightly as he could. "Your mind tends to warp a lot of things. You're very self-deprecating. So I'm going to tell you the truth. No matter how much your mind tries to change this, I never left you. And I'm never, ever going to. I love you, Iggs. And I mean that. I'd take a bullet for you."
Arthur didn't say anything; he merely nodded and wrapped his arms tighter about Alfred.
"I'm always gonna be here for you, all right?" Alfred kissed the top of Arthur's head.
"He lies. He'll leave you, like you damn well deserve." The demonic creature was channelling Arthur's superego again. Its voice was right beside his left ear. He felt the flutter of its wings.
"Nnng... Go away!" Arthur pleaded half-heartedly, clenching his eyes shut and fisting the fabric on the back of Alfred's shirt.
"Iggs?" Alfred asked. "What is it?"
"S'a demonic... faerie. S'channelling my mind and... and telling me stuff my superego comes up with."
"What's it saying?"
"He wanted to be rid of you."
"It's saying that all you're saying is lies and that you'll leave me like I deserve. S'been saying stuff like I deserve to suffer alone and drown myself at the pub, and all I'm doing is taking you down with me. S'been saying that if I really loved you, I'd tell you to leave me so you wouldn't have to put up with... put up with..." His voice hitched in his throat.
Alfred couldn't believe it. He knew that Arthur was self-deprecating, but he didn't know it was to such an extent. He couldn't blame the smaller country for getting drunk every year, with a relentless mind like that.
"Your mind is the one that's lying. So help me, I'll put up with you until the day I die, Iggs. And I don't mind it one bit. It might seem like I do sometimes, but I really don't. And I'm going to help you deal with your mind. You don't have to go through this alone."
Arthur smiled softly, his eyes still burning. "You... you don't mind putting up with a daft sod like me? Even with the French and the Latin and..."
"There's my England. Always bringing up—"
"S-say..." Arthur's voice was slightly above a whisper. He looked up at Alfred. "Say that again."
"What? That you always bring up the necessity to learn Lat—"
"No. The part where—" he swallowed—"The other part."
"What other...?" It took Alfred a second before it clicked. He pressed his forehead against Arthur's and reached a hand up to Arthur's face, cupping his cheek. "England," he murmured gently, stroking Arthur's cheek. "My England..."
"Yours," Arthur murmured in reply, nuzzling into Alfred's touch and closing his eyes.
"Always," Alfred whispered, his lips ghosting across Arthur's.
Alfred held him close and kissed him, and Arthur felt the rest of the world melt away. He felt his superego being slowly defeated. All clichés aside, just the two of them existed in the world—Arthur and Alfred. England and America. There was no war; it was only a conspiracy. Arthur's home was not war-torn; the Blitz was the stuff of fiction. It was as though he was in the world Salvador Dalí had created in his painting, The Persistence of Memory. He felt as though he were experiencing Time in a dream state—a state where Time is irrelevant.
The kiss ended, and Arthur felt as though he had awoken from a very pleasant dream. His eyelids fluttered open, and he rested his head against Alfred's chest.
"I love you," Arthur said. "I love you so much..."
Alfred kissed the top of Arthur's head and nodded. "We'll be all right, Iggs," he said, lifting a hand up to his face to wipe away a stray tear that had fallen from his own eye. "We'll be all right. I don't want you to worry about that."
And, of course, England would. But whenever he did worry—be it "that time of year" or otherwise—Alfred would always, without fail, be there for support. Arthur would never admit it out loud, but Alfred was his hero, because the American always saved him, especially from his worst enemy of all—himself.
~ The End ~
French Translation (conversation between Alfred and Francis; English translation is in Italics):
"Yes," Francis replied as he locked his brief case. "Ah, happy birthday, America." As an afterthought he added, "In advance."
"Er... Thank you very much, er... all the... same?" Alfred asked, looking to Francis to see if he'd gotten it correct. He was secretly wishing he'd paid closer attention to all those French lessons Arthur used to give him.
(This part is translated in-text.)
"Latin is a good language," Francis said, a tone of approval in his voice.
(This is where Russia comes in all drunk and stuff. And the French bit is translated in-text.)
"Well..." Francis heaved a sigh and looked over toward the window, where England was standing with his back toward everyone. "Some things never change."
"Perhaps..." Alfred murmured.
"Good luck with him."
French Translation (when Arthur curses himself; English translation in Italics):
"God! I am truly an arse! Nnng!" Arthur groaned and pulled at his hair. "Just leave," Arthur said softly. "Just leave! I don't give a fuck!"