My apologies for taking so long to update. I do intend to finish what I started.
Hopefully this works for you.
The day Mathew arrived home was cloudless, a relief that contrasted with the turmoil and uncertainty in his heart. It wasn't that he ever regretted pledging his aid to the newly established nation (All right, so sometimes he did get frustrated. And wondered how he was ever going to manage to balance his own secret efforts at creating a government and influencing his people with the effort to keep all these efforts away from the officials who reported directly to the palace and England...)
It had been decades since he'd made that promise to his brother, and his brother's father figure.
The next morning, Matthew had shocked them all by appearing with his hair shorn with his own hunting knife- a weapon which the Americans had not even questioned him keeping. For weeks, he split his time between holding Alfred's hand, and keeping him calm, and quelling the fears of the few that knew the Nation on sight. He was grateful to be able to pass for America at that time.
America recovered as the British soldiers withdrew, as the possibility of success rose. As those who sought to leave a scar on the lands as they departed were removed.
Only those who were closest to Alfred were allowed to know the extent of his injury- of the reality that he would be blind for the rest of his life. If anyone who didn't know who he was were to find out- visions of institutions for the handicapped still haunted Matthew. There would be pressure to place him in one of those, and without revealing who he was, there would be little chance that they could avoid it, and even if they did-
That would not be Alfred's fate.
Matthew wouldn't allow it.
England had been far too distracted for that first decade to notice that Canada wasn't where he was supposed to be. His visits had been few and far between, as well as well announced- so there was usually time for him to find some way of managing things.
Matthew sighed, settling into the chair in his parlor. For a moment, at least, he had peace, and no demands on his time. Even Kuma was off somewhere (The poor bear had to be left behind so often, that Matthew made a note to spend extra time with him, lest he decide to wander back into the wilderness and leave his friend without a companion to listen-)
It couldn't last. It didn't last.
The reports of harassment from Europe had been escalating, and Alfred's new boss had been rather set on doing things a certain way, rather than using diplomacy.
A jolt of pain startled him from his musings, and he knocked his teacup off of the edge of the table before he could stop it.
"What the hell was that?"
"Fire." The soft voice announced from the doorway. Somehow the bear had managed to open the back door by himself, and come find Matthew. "War coming."
"Kuma?" Matthew stood, feeling the burn in his limbs, "What do you mean?"
"Bad things," The bear insisted. "Invasion."
"I can tell that, but who?"
"America," was the only answer Kuma would give him.
"I've got to go find out what's going on." Matthew cringed at the thought of going to war with his own brother- his weaker twin, who had absolutely no reason to attack him, except... "The President."
Kuma only nodded, watching Matthew ring for his coat. He had to find out what was going on, and stop it.
After the night that he had realised that somehow America's president had convinced his congress to declare war, and to act on it, Canada had not been able to get to Washington DC, where the new capitol had been set up to try and find out what had happened.
Alfred wouldn't have done this, Matthew knew, Alfred had been grateful for all of his secret help, even while he fought to keep the cheerful personality from before the revolution. Alfred knew that Matthew was trying, and nudging, and manipulating his own people to push them towards the same decision that Alfred had made those decades before.
He'd been close, too.
But now England and the British Empire were involved, and he couldn't just sneak away, nor could he send messages, and England was angry. Perhaps it was still anger at America, or perhaps it was because he was being distracted from his current battles with France (Or perhaps the treaties that were being signed, and England was perhaps not sure if he was getting the upper hand...)
In any event, it was three years, and Matthew was once again in the red of a soldier, aching from wounds to his land and his people- sore from marching through his brother's territory. Angry, betrayed. As much as he wanted to believe that Alfred wouldn't hurt him, wouldn't strike out blindly (Ah, that phrase, how apt it was), he wasn't sure.
By the time they got to Washington, he was more than annoyed. The soldiers were impatient (Mostly British), and Matthew was sure there'd be a catastrophe before they were finished. They'd only found civilians, and not many of those. It looked as though there might be a push, but everything was just... strange.
Evening came, and he sat next to the fire, watching the flames lick at the scarce firewood. Matthew relaxed his guard. It had been years since he'd tried to use that odd connection with his brother, but he was tired of this now.
"Alfred, where are you? It's time to stop playing this stupid game- You have to tell your people-" He tried not to channel his anger into his thoughts, on the off chance that Alfred might pick them up. "They have to stop trying to take me in order to get to England. There's no way-"
"Mattie..." The thought was tired, and weak, and a little sick. "I'm dreaming again..."
"Alfred, where are you?" Matthew frowned, looking right through the fire, focusing on the darkness behind his eyes where he was connected... (Why hadn't he thought of doing this before?) "Alfred? Why did you start a war with me? I was trying to help you."
Slowly he became aware of the slight ache in his body, his stomach, behind his eyes. Sure Matthew's legs were aching from all the marching, and he had the usual pains of a colony at war, but this was something else.
"Mattie?" The smell of summer and sea and land was being overwhelmed by the odor of vomit and unwashed sheets. "Mattie, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, they wouldn't listen, and they kept going, and I couldn't make them stop, and it hurt- and I'm sure it hurt you too, but they wouldn't- I couldn't-"
"Alfred, where are you? Please-"
"I don't know. They took me here, and I don't know what's going on- I just- I want to go home. I don't want to fight you."
"Shh, Al..." Matthew made the thoughts as soothing as he could, trying to not let the sudden concern that flashed through his mind leak through. What had they done to his brother? "Shh. I'll find you, just like I did before. Just rest."
Before he could be reassured by a response, a broad hand shook his shoulder.
"Corporal Williams? We've got to move out. One of the regiments coming from the other route decided it would be a good idea to get revenge for all of the destruction on the boarder, and set fire to their government buildings."
"What?" Matthew was on his feet and brushing off the private's grip on his shoulder. "We're already occupying the capitol, we're already winning- why would we do something like-"
"It's done. It's all going up like tinder right now-" Matthew could smell the smoke, and see the glow from beyond the trees that enclosed their campsite. "We're packing up and moving before it—"
Matthew didn't listen to the rest of the explanation, he was already running towards the burning city.
The flames weren't staying where the soldiers had intended- civilian homes were being caught up in the blaze as it danced from rooftop to rooftop. Government buildings, stores, schools, homes-
And Matthew wasn't even sure where to start looking for his brother, beyond the presidential house. The soldiers had cleared that, however, and from what he remembered of the report, had only found a few servants and a dinner set for the president.
"Come on, Al." Matthew murmured. They wouldn't have left him behind, would they? But the innate directional sense of where his twin was located hadn't moved away from the capitol. "Where did they hide you?"
"Mattie... It's hard to breathe... I'm sorry, I..." Rounding another corner, up a street. The feeling grew stronger. The ache in his chest was almost too much- and the fire was getting close.
"Hang on, little brother," Matthew desperately looked at the neighborhood. Why here- why- The sign hanging on one of the buildings made his blood run hot and cold, and it took a lot of effort not to leak the rage through to Alfred. "I'm here. I'm close."
When they found America's president, he and Canada were going to have a good long talk.
The rooms were shabby, at best, and full of people who had been left behind by their caretakers. Alfred wasn't in any of them- Matthew found him huddled in the basement, dirty, shivering, and far too skinny to be healthy. He'd abandoned his bed for the far corner, open wounds turning the grey of his tunic a dirty rusty colour.
"I'm sorry, Mattie, I tried to be strong, I'm sorry, I'm sorry-" the words were babbled softly as the body in his arms shivered. "They wouldn't listen, and.."
"Shh, Al," His brother's body was too warm for the cool cellar, possibly feverish. Was this the infirmary? There did seem to be some medical supplies about, but most of Alfred's wounds were not bandaged. "You can tell me the rest of this later. Right now- you're hurt. Didn't they take care of you?"
"I should be able to take care of myself, Mattie." The dry sobs were catching in his brother's throat. Helplessness and hopelessness radiated off of him in waves. "I'm a Nation, I shouldn't need anyone, right? And you're still England's colony, so I'm not supposed to trust you, but- I- Maybe I should have-"
"Enough, Al." Matthew made his voice firm. They should be going- the fire would come soon, and he still had to see to the rest of the institute's patients. "I won't be a colony for much longer. That's why I was away so long. I should have told you, told them. Maybe they wouldn't have used you like this. I'm sorry."
"I want to be strong, Mattie, I have to be strong. But it's so hard-"
"Al," Matthew could feel his heart clench. How could he have left his brother for one moment? Washington and the others had wanted him to be Alfred's strength- and yet he had to find a way to break free to become that strength- and this was the result. His brother broken and doubting his own abilities, "You don't have to be strong in the same ways as before- use your head. You've... got to be clever. You might not be able to see, or push back as you did before, but you can use your brain, and be smarter than any of them. I'm leaving England- and I'll be your strength. Work on the ideas, and I'll help you. All you have to do is ask. Right now, I'm taking you to my house, and we're going to get you back on your feet. After that, we can work on anything..."
Matthew felt Alfred's body relax in his arms, heard the raspy rhythm of his breaths become calm, and knew that he'd either passed out, or fallen asleep. Either way, he obviously needed the rest- and now Matthew just had to figure out how to get the rest of the residents out, while carrying his brother and figure out how to desert his regiment without calling England's attention to it.
A low and ominous sound broke his concentration.
Was that thunder?
The sound of rain beating the still intact roof of the institution building had hopefully solved one part of his problem- Matthew carried Alfred out of the basement and sought a more comfortable room to start to attend to those wounds. He no longer had to worry about the fire, and the other occupants of this building.
All he had to do now was smuggle America's personification home.
Months later the President of the United States came to visit him to retrieve their national personification, and discuss the terms of the end of the war.
He and his entourage left without Alfred, but with an ear full of terms that Matthew wanted met before he would even consider allowing them to take his brother home. The shame hadn't completely sunk in until he'd told them exactly how he'd found Alfred, Matthew's promise to Washington, and the plans that had been decades in the making to break free from British control.
In the end, they agreed to his terms completely, and apologised to Alfred profusely, with promises to listen more.
It was another year and a half before England himself appeared with France in tow to discuss the final treaty that would officially end the war. Not that there had been any real combat after Canada had convinced his leaders to end it, and quarantine the British troops.
Alfred was still frail, and was falling ill yet again, and Matthew wanted to keep England away from him. Arthur might be wary of meeting him, but not as wary as Matthew was of allowing him near his little brother. Canada had grown in the past few years, where America had not. Still, the meeting was short, and to the point.
Canada would have his freedom, his people would have their freedom. If England refused- which from the tired look on his face, he doubted it- British soldiers would be forcibly ejected from his land.
"England, I choose liberty." The words echoed, a harder edge to them than Canada had intended, however—he was nervous. This was the moment that he had worked for. "I choose to be independent. What do you say?"
"Where is America? How is-"
"He and I have come to an agreement, which is none of your business anymore." Matthew covered the surprise with anger. What right did England have to come here and ask about the one he had hurt after nearly thirty years. "What is your answer?"
"I will acknowledge it."
France gasped, showing the shock and relief that Canada dared not let escape.
After they settled business as Nations, Matthew went to tell Alfred.
"I did it. I can help you openly now. I'm free."
The tight hug, might have been marked by tears, but neither one of them would ever admit to it.