Parked outside of a Police Station at two in the morning, was not how the President of the United States anticipated or hoped to end his first G8 conference. He leaned into the backseat of the rented car and shut his eyes exhaustedly. Here he was, trying to avert financial Armageddon, and that idiot was choosing this moment for the histrionics.
He heard a set of footsteps approaching the car, then the door opened and a figure was shoved into the seat next to him.
"Thanks," the President said tiredly to the Secret Service agent, as she closed the door and walked around to the passengers' seat. Once they had started and were rumbling along towards the embassy, he turned to address the person in the seat next to him.
"I've got better things to do than be bailing you out of jail in the middle of the night," he said.
America grinned at him brightly, straightening his bomber jacket. "Then, why aren't you off doing those better things?" he responded, smiling out of the corner of his mouth.
The President glowered at him. "You know why. You're my responsibility." He leaned over tiredly and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Even though it might be easier to have you locked up where you can't do anything else for the rest of the conference."
America laughed. "Oh, yeah, do you really want the others to have to spring me? I think that might qualify as a ibit/i of an incident, all of the nations of the world planning a jailbreak together. Might cause a bit of a kerfuffle."
"You're a bastard, you know that?" the President said, without looking up.
He still didn't miss America's shrug. "You're the one who ran for office. You didn't think that it would be easy."
"Well, I didn't know about you. And I certainly didn't think you'd cause so much trouble."
"You thought I'd agree with you." Rather than mocking or condescending, America's voice had a tone of innocent interest, like he did most of the time. The President hated that voice, precisely because it was so difficult to not to like.
"I suppose," the President said. Even he noticed how exhausted his voice had become. "I hoped you would most of the time."
"Well," America said, his voice still friendly, "did you ever consider that was your own fault?"
The President looked up at his nation. America was still looked much the same as he had when the President first met him on inauguration night, though with a few key differences.
He didn't wear the faux military uniform he had before, instead replaced with a pair of ratty jeans and a sweatshirt (under the obligatory jacket, of course). His hair was longer and more unkempt. There was a faded rainbow smear on one of his cheeks, like days old face paint. America looked like all of the other dirty, screaming protesters outside of the G8.
"This is too much, America," the President said. "You can believe what you want, I suppose, but the way you're going about it this… it's embarrassing. I had to personally talk with the President of China, after you and his nation were seen smashing up a window."
America brightened. "Really? That worked? You guys talked? All right! China was sure that would work, but I didn't believe him. Wow. I bet if I made sure a bunch of people saw me tonguing Iran we'd have a peace accord hammered out in a matter of days!"
"America!" the President burst out angrily. "Dammit, this is serious."
"I know that! Why do you think I'm doing this? Why we're all doing this?" America looked at him plaintively. "I've been dealing with war, death, murder, practically since I was born. I've seen my people die for so long."
"I'm aware of our history," the President muttered.
"No you're not," America countered, voice flat, without malice, only pointing out a fact. "You know about forty years of it. I've had more than two hundred. And there are other countries with more. My friends." He put a hand on the President's shoulder. "Mr. President, I can't do this anymore."
The President swallowed. "America," he said emphatically, "it's not up to you to—"
"I can't do this anymore," America repeated. "Fighting and killing other people for no good reason, when I can't even feed my own people." He looked over at the President with wide, sincere blue eyes. The President couldn't hold that gaze for long.
"Well," he began uncertainly, looking out the tinted window at the rundown buildings flashing by. "Well. Are all of the… countries with you on this?"
"I can't think of anyone who's not."
"And, you've all just decided on this? All at once?"
America's tone became suddenly more combative. "It's been brewing for a while. We've never wanted to kill each other, you know. Well, not really. I guess, it all started when Korea's boss put him under house arrest for refusing to fight his brother. Then, a couple of weeks later, after we had all talked about it for a while, we got word that France got arrested at an anti-globalization rally. Then, it was China and Taiwan and Hong Kong getting in trouble, then England, and then, well, I don't like getting left out of anything."
He paused a moment, and the President looked over his shoulder to see America smiling down at his shoes.
"You know," he began. "There's nothing you can really do to stop us. This is how it's going to be from now on."
"So, what then?" the President demanded, matching America's aggressive tone with anger of his own. "Do you want me to just call back all of our troops? Stop all of our military operations on a dime? You think that the Middle East, that the whole damn world might not just collapse if we stop what we're doing?"
"If we weren't financing wars," America countered, "we would have money to give to poor countries, to actually prop them up. Instead of just waiting for them to desperate enough, then preemptive strike them. If we could actually work together."
"Stop being so utopian."
"Stop giving up."
The President looked away from America's shimmering, simultaneously childish and accusatory gaze. Instead, he watched as his hands tightened into fists on his knees.
No one told him about this when he was running. No one told him that he would have to deal with, on top of everything else, the personification of everything America was and ever would be, staring straight into his soul and telling him the only solution was to have everyone in the world get into a circle and hold hands and sing "Kumbaya."
"You can just let me out here," America said lightly. "I'll find my way back."
"That's not a good idea," the President said, but with no strength behind his voice. He was too tired to argue at this point, just going through the motions.
"I'm staying with my brother," America said. "Him and England and France and some others. We're not going to set anything on fire."
The President sighed heavily, burying his face in his hands. "That's an oddly specific denial," he said wryly.
America laughed. "Really. No trouble tonight. Promise."
The President felt another deep, existential sigh welling up, but he tamped it down. He pressed the button on the side of door to talk to the front.
"We need to pull over for a moment."
"Yes, Mr. President," the Secret Service agent driving the car said.
Before the President could let go of the button, America leapt over him and pressed his own fingers down on the button. "Agent?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr. Jones," the agent's voice replied calmly. By the President's own orders, and those of his predecessors as well, that was how nations were to be addressed, but their assigned 'human' names. Having officials talking to 'Mr. America' might be confusing at the least, and a dangerous confusion of loyalties at the most.
"What's your name?" America asked, voice brimming with his usual childish curiosity.
"Agent Nguyen," the driver replied unflappably.
"No, your real name. Like, your first name."
There was a moment of silence as Agent Nguyen hesitated, then with a faint crackle, he answered, "Uh, Dennis."
America grinned. "Hi, Dennis."
The President pushed America's hand away and pressed the button himself. "Anytime, Agent Nguyen."
"Yes, Mr. President," the driver said hurriedly. A moment later, America still smiling in what the President couldn't determine was a friendly or smug way, they pulled up to the side of the road.
"The plane leaves the day after tomorrow," the President intoned as America opened the door and stepped out onto the broken sidewalk. "I expect you on it."
"I'll be there, I'll be there," America assured him. "I just wanna spend some time with my little brother and the others first."
"You're not going to do anything disruptive tomorrow?"
The President was tired. Far too tired to be dealing with this from America. As he moved to close the door, America stopped and looked down at him, resettling his glasses on his unsettlingly childish face.
"You'll think about what I said?"
The President rubbed his forehead tiredly. "I'll—I'll think about it, America."
America grinned. "Thanks, Mr. President. I'll see you day after tomorrow, I guess. Oh, and say bye to Dennis for me."
"Stay out of trouble," the President said shortly.
America laughed and shook his head. "Don't worry. I'll get Venezuela to drive me to Canada's place."
The President's jaw dropped. "Venez—"
"Yeah, yeah. I know. She's nice when you get to know her, though. Real reasonable. If we could just get to italking/i about stuff, we could really work things out I think, her and me."
"America, I can't deal with this tonight," the President told him with all sincerity.
"Okey-dokey." America waved cheerily, and then shut the door, before running down the street towards the pay phone. For an indeterminate amount of time, the President sat in the stationary car, watching America through the tinted glass windows of the limousine.
"Uh, Mr. President," Agent Nguyen's voice came over the intercom. "We're due back at the hotel in ten minutes. Should I—"
"Yes, yes, go ahead," the President muttered. He looked away from his nation as the car started up and began to drive along the dark, lonely street.
The President flipped through the pile of documents once more, before looking back up at the Secretary of State.
"And these reports are confirmed?" he murmured.
She nodded. "Beyond a doubt. Almost all very high-profile incidents. Together, they indicate a definite trend of nations joining…" She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "…Peace movements I suppose."
The President nodded slowly. "All right. And what does this mean for us? Scratch that. What does that mean for all world governments, if the personifications of their nations are opposing their policies at every turn?"
The Secretary shook her head and shrugged. "Hard to make a general statement. I mean, we're examining the fallout, but… have you seen what the Koreas are doing? North Korea was, according to our best intelligence, arrested trying to cross over into the demilitarized zone, which his brother did as well, as a gesture of solidarity. They've become something of a… cause célèbre. China and Japan—the nations, not the governments—have come out in support of this action and are pressing for a renewal of talks."
"Which is good for us."
"Which is wonderful for everyone, if we can put a tyrannical regime under a microscope and lessen a major nuclear threat. But, that's not all. You'll see I have certain instances highlighted. Those're—"
"Yes." She reached over the desk and flipped open the stack of documents to a sticky-note marked page. "Here, he was seen at a peace protest in Minneapolis." She flipped the page again. "Oh, here's a pro-immigrant rally in Paris, in the company of France. Managed to get both of them arrested that time. Here he got himself tear-gassed along with Canada and England protesting in Geneva."
The President drummed his fingers thoughtfully on the table and scanned the page. "Madame Secretary, what I'm asking is for you analysis. Professional or otherwise. Tell me, what am I looking at here?"
The Secretary opened her mouth to speak, stopped, and then leaned back in her chair. "Mr. President," she began, "I honestly have to say that I do not know. Is this new behavior supposed to reflect our citizens' opinions? Or is it just the opinion of these—let's call them 'people' for simplicity's sake. Or is this some sort of strategy on their part? A coup, a revolution… We've reached a situation where the thought 'U.N. world domination plot' seriously went through my mind."
He smiled faintly to himself. "It is complicated," he agreed.
"Never thought about this when went into politics," she stated simply.
"Hm." The President flipped over a page in the document and read one of the highlighted segments.
Jan. 5: The anthropomorphic personification of the United States of America (AKA: Alfred Jones) is verified to have participated in protests against military expansion in Iraq, in Washington. D.C.
Jan. 15: Alfred Jones (U.S.A.) is apprehended by Border Patrol in the company of Teresa Vasquez (Mexico), protesting American immigration law. Details forthcoming.
"It seems to me," he said slowly, "that the real question is, how much do we listen to them?"
"You mean how much we agree to put down our arms, embrace our fellow man, and go traipsing through the flowers?" the Secretary said sarcastically.
"That's what I told him—America, I mean. At the Conference. He didn't seem fazed at all. Honestly, I don't think that anything could faze him. Just imagine, everything that—man—has seen. And this is conclusion that he's come to. To just give it all up…"
The President sat up sharply in his seat and looked at the Secretary of State seriously. "I want you to arrange to get America into my office as soon as possible. Tomorrow, if you can. And, start planning for a larger-scale meeting, as many personifications and leaders as will agree."
He got to his feet and the Secretary followed suit awkwardly.
"Mr. President, it sounds as if you're taking this seriously," she said hesitantly. "You know, these people, who aren't actually people, and are resorting to vandalism and crime to get a vague message of peace across? Because, that's certainly what it sounded like, and I want to be certain before I take any significant action."
"I know, I know," he said, walking over to the window. "I fully anticipate regretting this. Lord knows America will make me after five seconds. But, hell, it's worth a try, right?"
There was a moment's pause, before the Secretary said evenly, "Right. I'll start making calls."
"Thank you," he said, as he heard her heels tap against the carpet.
She paused. "Wait until we see what happens. If we're holding hands and singing by the end of the month, I'll buy you both drinks."
He smiled out of the window as she opened the Oval Office door and walked outside. The President didn't move from his resting place by the window. It was suddenly hard to fight back the feeling that had been nearly overpowering his first week or so in office, the impression that he wasn't supposed to be in this office, he wasn't important enough to sit at the same desk occupied by great men.
It was the same feeling that he experienced looking into America's wide, childlike blue eyes.
He had work to do, drafts to sort through. He slumped at the desk and started reading, forcing himself to concentrate. After a few minutes, the phone rang sharply and the President quickly picked it up before it could ring again.
"Mr. President!" a breath voice said sharply by way of greeting.
"Madame Secretary? Didn't you just—"
"He got arrested again," she said quickly. "In D.C. Vagrancy. I don't know the details, but—"
"Just bring him here," the President said, voice too dull even to be angry. "Pull whatever official trick you want, bail him out, whatever will work."
"Right." She hurriedly hung up, and the President listened to the dial tone for a moment, before dropping it back onto its cradle and slumping into his chair.
Well, he thought, almost wistfully, I was born here, I suppose I can't say I'm really surprised by what he's doing. Always the big gesture.
A dangerous thought hit him, and made his fingers twitch and his breath catch.
…Be a hell of a thing if it worked, though.