Disclaimer: I don't own anything involved here. I just think this space looks silly without something here.
It was, according to the news, the single worst winter that America had known in the modern age.
Snow blanketed the ground in every state and most of the territories, including Hawaii and American Samoa. The entire state of Alaska was forced to shut-down for three days after it became clear that the weather was too fierce for even their people. New York, D.C. and most of Maine also ground to a halt during that time, and many of the Southern states – whose lands had not seen snowfall of this magnitude since the last ice age – were beside themselves. The lost tropical fruit crops alone were devastating.
And then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the fury of winter came to an end.
Meteorologists were baffled. Most eventually decided that climate change was responsible, launching a number of new campaigns for increased awareness of the subject and its eventual effects on the world. Some of the more faithful considered it to be a warning from God that America should change its ways and learn to treat the Earth more kindly.
The Nations who knew better decided that was as good an explanation as any and let the humans have their fun.
The Nordics went back to Europe for damage control. As expected, most of the rest of the world was pretty put-out that America had disappeared for a week and a half; but more surprising was the fact that a number of them – specifically England, France, Japan and Italy of all people, were genuinely concerned for the superpower's wellbeing.
The story that the northern nations gave them was simple: America had literally gone under-the-weather, contracting the nation equivalent of pneumonia under the force of the unfamiliar winter. Most nations seemed to be mollified and, to the Nordics' great relief, few questions were asked.
Once that job was done, they returned to their houses, with the exception of Denmark, who went to Norway's. His stated reason was a desire to keep an eye on the little magic-user, but the truth was likely closer to concern over General Winter's future actions. No matter how many times Norway tried to assure him that three of the four Seasons were on their side, Denmark insisted on sticking close.
When Iceland returned home, he couldn't shake the distinct feeling that he was being followed. It wasn't until he heard a very feminine giggle in his house and realized that it definitely could not have come from his puffin that he figured it out: Ulloriaq, the Taqriqsuit girl, had followed him home. His only recourse was to heave a little sigh, feed his puffin and resign himself to a few nights of being watched affectionately from the shadows like the heroine of a vampire film.
Sweden and Finland stopped by Estonia's place to clear up a few things, and Finland relaxed significantly upon discovering that Sealand was, in fact, safe and sound; much to Sweden's relief.
There was no word from the Other Side or the In-between place or anything supernatural to speak of. Nothing worrying seemed to be lingering from the incident but, just in case, it would be best to keep up a healthy watch before Winter came again.
"…Okay, I've got it. Thanks for the update, Tino," said Canada into the phone. He smiled a bit as Finland prodded him for information with all the insistence and care of a concerned mother hen. "Yes, yes, we're all fine. We fixed Al's arms and they're starting to re-mend. We're coping. Everything's going to be okay."
Through the bedroom door, he saw the lump of two powerfully-muscled bodies shifting within the covers of his bed – they were starting to wake up. Canada turned away, covered the phone with his hand and lowered his voice so he wouldn't disturb his bedmates more than he had to. "I've got to go. I'll see you at the next World Meeting. Take care."
With a final farewell from Finland, he hung up. As the phone came to rest in its cradle, America's head suddenly appeared from the mound of pillows and blankets, sending his brother a sleepy smile. "Hey Mattie."
"Hey Al," said Canada, crawling back into bed. "Sorry, did I wake you?"
"Naw." America yawned and stretched his shoulders as best he could. His arms were bound in thick casts and still numb from the anesthesia they'd used to dull the pain of re-breaking and resetting the knotted bones. The healthy color had returned to his cheeks and hair and the remnants of frost within him had faded into nothing. "Just wondered where you ran off too, is all."
"Finland asked me to check in with him." Canada glanced at the clock. "It's already morning there, after all."
"What time is it here?"
"Too early," said a voice from America's other side.
The hulking figure moved then, pulling America against him with one arm wrapped around his waist. Russia's very tired violet eyes peered over the top of America's head and gave Canada a tired, pointed sort of look. "Come back to bed, Matvey. It is much too cold to be up."
Matthew chuckled. This house of his was heated just fine, and the weather outside was really not that bad, but there was something nice and familiar about their little arrangement now. It shouldn't have been so, as nothing like this had ever happened to him before, but it was.
He slipped under the quilt and between the sheets and was almost instantly caught by America, who pulled him close with two stiff, cast-laden arms. Then Russia joined in, his long arms wrapping both twins in protective warmth. There had been a change in Russia since their return, not a large one but a subtle thing. He seemed warmer now, softer but not weaker, like a sturdy rock covered in moss. Canada wondered if this came from their encounter with the Seasons or if it was America's presence that wrought such change. In the end, he supposed it wasn't his place to ask.
"Спи спокойно," Russia muttered, his head resting so close above them that Canada could feel his breath. A moment later, the huge nation was fast asleep once more, wearing an expression similar to a sated bear.
Canada was about to follow him, but America's soft whisper jolted him back to consciousness. "Hey, Mattie?"
"Did Finland say anything about that 'pact'?"
It was the tinge of disgust in his voice that drew Canada back to full consciousness. Between resetting operations, America had insisted that Canada and Russia tell him about the northern nations' pact and rituals for appeasing General Winter. He'd gone through the entire spectrum of heroic rage: anger, frustration, righteous fury, disgust with the villain's audacity and, most of all, concern that his brother had been made to go through that sort of incident by himself.
Canada thought about his words very carefully before he responded. "No, he didn't say. It might still be enforced, but…We won't really know anything until next winter."
America was quiet a moment. Then, he nuzzled up under Canada's chin like an affectionate child and rested his forehead against the hollow of his brother's throat. "Whenever you find out, tell me. And I mean immediately. I'll never forgive you if you don't."
"I mean it, Mattie," America snapped. "I might not understand Norway's mumbo-jumbo, but I'm not letting you go through that by yourself again. It isn't fair."
Canada sighed and rubbed his brother's back soothingly. "Life usually isn't fair."
"Then I'll make it fair. That's what the hero does, after all."
Canada smiled to himself. He leaned down and planted a little kiss on his brother's forehead. "All right. Whatever you say. Now get some rest. You need it."
As though he agreed even in his sleep, Russia snorted and tightened his grip on the two, pulling their little group closer together. America rolled over and flicked his finger across Russia's broad nose just softly enough to not wake him up. "All right, you big lug," he said affectionately. "I get it. G'night Mattie."
"Good night, Al."
Outside the window a cold wind howled. It rattled the window pane and left a burst of frost across the glass, but it could not reach them within the safety and security of each other's warmth. Soon enough, it died away, and its frosty remnants were eaten by the rising sun that heralded the coming of spring.