Title: Made With Love
Author: Zalia Chimera
Characters: England, America, Canada
Notes: Written on Twitter for Canada and America's birthdays XD (sorry for the spam), and re-written here to make more sense!
Summary: Strange lights and smoke appear around England's house during the last few days of June every year. Convinced that England has been possessed, America and Canada finally go to find out what is really happening.
No-one wants be around England's house at the tail-end of June. That's when people see him staggering home with arms full of shopping bags which means that he's attempting to cook which means that he'll be wanting people to eat whatever he produces and none of the nations are quite suicidal enough to do that, even if they've avoided exposure to his cooking so far. There are, after all, rumours about what really caused Rome's fall, of what led to Germania's demise, about how England had really forced his brothers into the union with him (cake or annexation - and no-one ever chose the cake if they valued their taste buds).
He sequesters himself for days in the kitchen of his big old house, emerging bleary eyed and claw-fingered only for a few snatched hours of sleep, the bathroom and the afternoon's episode of The Archers on Radio 4 (which is as traditional as red mail boxes and the Queen's speech and cannot be skipped). Over the years, the locals have said that they have seen eerie lights glowing in the windows at night, others, that they have heard maniacal cackling emanating from the building. All say that the smoke which comes billowing from the chimney to settle thickly over the ground is the reason why rats avoid the place and the bins are safe from foxes and identity thieves.
Of course America, being America, decides that such a mystery cannot be passed up. Canada, being Canada, knows that someone with sense needs to be there and reluctantly agrees to go along with his brother to make sure that no International Incidents occur. The paperwork involved in covering up such Incidents takes weeks.
The fact that it has taken over half a century of these strange reports reaching America before he finally decides to investigate means nothing. It certainly doesn't mean that America thinks that England might be possessed by ghosts who compel him to make cake and has spent several decades psyching himself up to face them.
It's a valid concern. He'd long since decided that England's cooking should be classified alongside WMDs.
America sneaks in via an open window which leads into the downstairs bathroom and nearly breaks his neck when he slips in the bath.
Canada gets the spare key out from beneath the red flowerpot and goes in via the back door and only nearly slips when America grabs him from behind and yanks him into the shadow of the staircase, whispering (loudly, because America knows no other way) to be quiet and start sneaking already!
America sneaks with the exaggerated gait of a character from that video game that they'd played together once, the one that was more cut-scene than actual game. Canada half expects him to start chanting 'sneak sneak sneak' just to make sure that people get it and it's quite ridiculous because he knows that America is capable of running spy missions that would put Solid Snake to shame, but apparently evil England possessing ghosts just aren't worthy of experiencing the true scale of his skills. In the end, Canada just nods his agreement, sighs and pads after him, confident that no-one will notice whether he sneaks or not.
As it happens, there is some kind of wild chanting (well, muttering) from the kitchen and maniacal laughter would not go amiss considering the dark smoke clouding out from beneath the door.
America grabs Canada's arm, looking at him with eyes wide behind his glasses. "Do you think that's the ghost manifesting itself?" he asks, and if his voice is a little trembly and quieter than normal, Canada knows better than to comment upon it. "Maybe it's succeeded in its fiendish plot to drag us all to hell!"
Sometimes, Canada wonders what he did to earn such a family. He glances at the smoke still billowing from the kitchen and grimaces, the acrid taste sticking to his tongue. "Perhaps we should check to make sure that England is alright?" he suggests. "I don't think that amount of smoke is healthy for anyone, even a nation."
"I know that!" America grumbles, glowering at him. "I was just about to rush in there and be heroic." He pulls up his collar over his mouth and yanks open the door, dashing in there before he has the chance to see Canada roll his eyes and follow at a much more sedate pace. Canada opens the kitchen window as he passes it. He likes being able to see ad to breathe.
As it turns out, England is just fine (albeit a bit singed), or he had been until America started shaking him violently to see if he really was England or whether he was being controlled by an evil world conquering cake baking ghost (he isn't, but he does turn a rather unhealthy shade of green for several minutes after America stops shaking him.)
Once England has regained his colour (and has stopped ranting at America - Canada takes the opportunity to open the back door as well, and lets the black smoke slink out into the night) he pulls out the thing from the oven, a flush of embarrassment on his cheeks. "I wasn't going to give this to you until it was perfect," he says uncertainly as he slops the-well, Canada supposes that it could technically be called icing, but he isn't sure why icing would ever be burned-onto the cake.
The icing is the colour of dried blood, the colour of dead skin, the colour of murky ocean. The brothers share a faintly horrified look.
But England positively beams as he cuts them each a slice, sets each one out on a delicate china plate patterned with roses and gilt. He looks so happy and hopeful that they can't really refuse and they were the ones whoe broke in so they can't even make excuses to flee.
England watches expectantly as they pick up their forks and take their first hesitant bites, and whoever first said that food made with love tasted better than anything else was a damn liar, because seriously, if either of them had paid money for this, they'd be making complaints. But once they've cut off the burned bits, and scraped away some of the icing lumps and bits of congealed butter cream, it turns out to be at least edible, in a burnt sugar and too much flour sort of way. It's edible enough that they can at least finish the slices on their plates and the sunshine and softness look that England gives them makes it worthwhile.
Mostly, anyway. Canada feels a little queasy and there's a greyish pallor around America's lips.
"How was it?" England asks eagerly. "I've been meaning to make you a birthday cake for a long time but I wanted it to be perfect. It never quite worked out before, but I'm quite proud of this one!"
Canada and America share a glance. They don't want to hurt England's feelings when he seems so pleased, but they also don't want to eat more of the cake if they can possibly avoid it.
"Uh... how long is that?" America asks suddenly, moving to stand right next to England, blocking his view with his greater height. "How long have you been practicing for, I mean?"
Canada slides the cake onto a plate and slips it into the fridge. The very back of the fridge behind the vegetables and a stack of yogurts that are so far past the expiry date that England has doubtless forgotten they exist. He thinks that he sees one of them move, and he closes the fridge quickly.
England's smile fades a little and he looks immensely awkward, staring down at the filthy tea towel bunched between his hands. "Oh I... well, I wasn't in any state to be thinking of baking a cake for a long time. Empire and all," he says, just in case neither of them remember those centuries. "And then there were the wars and rationing so probably a little after that?" England adds, looking a little flustered by the question. "Not very long at all. And I only practice for a few days each year. It... it isn't like I spend all of my free time thinking about it or anything!" His cheeks are red and there's the scowl on his face that means that he's trying very hard to pretend that he's done everything on a whim and he really doesn't care one bit.
Another glance is shared between the brothers and it is Canada who speaks eventually. "England..." he ventures, a small frown creasing his forehead. "Are you saying that you've been trying to bake a birthday cake for us for over fifty years?"
England ponders this, lips drawn into a tight line, and then he nods, looking sheepish. "Well, I started after the rationing ended, yes, so I suppose it has been that long."
There is a guilty look passed between Canada and America, which mingles with dread as Canada leans over to open the fridge and rescue the cake from the depths. America smiles, a sickly expression, but England doesn't seem to notice their expressions. "Then we totally have to have some more of the awesome cake, right Canada?" America manages to grind out.
Canada looks down at the hellish iced monstrosity and wishes that he'd just left America to his own devices. "Yes. I suppose that's right," he says faintly.
And England beams and wishes them both 'Happy Birthday' and maybe, just maybe, if they come back in another fifty years, there will be a cake where they can't taste each individual ingredient and where the icing doesn't stick unpleasantly to the roofs of their mouths.
Until then, love will just have to make up for it.