blind carbon copy

Summary: In which Japan's new teleportation machine goes awry, and an America from a world where his Revolution was disastrous comes to visit. There is a high chance this'll be AU!US/AU!Canada and our!US/our!UK. Some Germany/France on the side, what with them being attached at the hip nowadays

Warnings: Weaves back and forth between humor and angst. Random current events will be incorporated.

Japan was having a very intense invention session again. Just three weeks ago he had created a rather realistic teenage dating sim (he had perfected a mathematical model of this form of romance it was a sinusoidal curve, alternating between breaking up and making up every other week, kind of like England and America, he supposed), and this week he was working on a teleportation engine. In fact, he was so very into it that he felt a bout of that old isolationism wash over him, he had to stay at home, couldn't face the world in this state —

Still, Japan had never missed a World Conference, even through monstrous, decade-long colds (it was an extremely evolved form of the virus, he had been told, one that Russia had accused America of creating with his overuse of anti-bacterial soap and then spreading with his unhygenic eating habits) and weary, weary warfare. Could he bear to part with his carefully built reputation? Japan sighed. He had to go, even if this particular meeting was in the not-so-gentle recesses of Antarctica.

Though...that wouldn't stop him from bringing his new-fangled apparatus along for company, would it? Perhaps, he hums quietly to himself, he can convince America to buy it after playing with his splendid prototype (not that, of course, it was his intention to drive America into ever-increasing debt, no, he had no evil intentions here, and America really needed to learn to control himself when it came down to buying what he didn't need).

Japan arrives an hour early, apparatus in hand, expecting to be the first one there. The meeting is in an unclaimed part of Antarctica (Japan supposes this is for the purpose of neutrality, even though some seven nations have been squabbling over land claims there as well), and regrets his early arrival as soon as a mild blizzard (if they can ever be called this) blows at his face. He does manage to step into the meeting room (though his footing is slightly unsteady), and gapes (though had he had an audience, they would've deemed it nothing more than a slight quirk of the lips) at what he sees.

America, of all people, is early.

And England is with him, though this latter point is not as surprising.

Japan doesn't fully remember what happened next, though he recalled another gush of wind causing the slightly ajar door behind him (how had he forgotten to slam it shut?) to ram into him. He recalls falling, a not-so-mild blizzard blowing through the gaping hole behind him, the apparatus in his hand slipping, further falling, loud cracks, a disjointed cry, and a high-pitched scream (was this last one himself, America, or England?).

When the three of them finally regained their senses, they endeavored to fix the door and huddled behind it like a pack of rats, waiting for the meeting to begin. Japan had grabbed his apparatus tightly and was refusing to let go. They were all much too cold to talk, and instead stayed close to each other, trying to conserve their warmth, each cursing whatever had caused them to come early. America blamed England and his need to draw stupid stick-figure pictures on the wall at an ungodly hour. England blamed France, who had made a horrible bet with him about drawing proportionate stick figures, and yet had not bothered showing up. Japan blamed himself for not having ramped up his isolationism to full speed.

Several mathematicians and foreign policy analysts would later write a paper called "A Geometric View of Foreign Policy", visualizing this meeting as a ray of blame (America → England → France → ?), plus a dot on a parallel plane (Japan).

The meeting finally began precisely an hour later, when a good majority of the motley group of nations had settled down. America, as had been the case for a while, was asked to present first. And, as usual, he did not look prepared.

Germany was at the front of the room, trying in vain to fix the wayward microphone. "America," he grumbled, fumbling with the despicable piece of Antarctican technology, "are you going to come up here or not?"

America looked dazed, and continued to fidget in his seat. "You-you want me to start? Shouldn't that be Engl...I mean, I haven't prepared anything. Why aren't asking England instead?"

Germany glanced at America. The nation looked distinctly uncomfortable and Germany couldn't help but notice the subtle, confused looks he was shooting England. Had their sexual tension moved on to Stage Two: Communication by Eye Movement? It was certainly likely, because Frankreich had often complained to him that England and America had the romantic capabilities of a pair of teenagers. France's spying had revealed fairly regular sex mixed in with a dry spell during the Vietnam War, and sexual tension during nearly every other large conflict America got Britain involved in. Thus, France had proclaimed with an amused grin, their current relationship status is likely that of almost-post-war sexual tension.

Germany chanced a glance at France —

France waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

— and immediately regretted it. He didn't have time to be wondering about petty gossip! He had a set of questions for America prepared — and he would be damned if the nation didn't answer every one of them truthfully.

Then Germany saw the catalyst — England was turning to give America a withering glare! He winced, mentally steeling himself for yet another meeting room verbal brawl.

"It's not as if your preparations give way to anything meaningful," England quipped, "And weren't you the one who suggested 'just winging it' as a meeting essential?"

America looked backed at the other nation, confused. "I don't...I don't remember saying anything like that."

England shot him a look of frustration. "Because you clearly have some undiagnosed form of long-term memory loss!"

Germany sighed, eyeing America warily, waiting for his reaction, which was sure to be far from peaceful and was sure to set off a chain reaction that involved England, Frankreich (how he always got involved no one knew), and America duking it out in the middle of the (currently freezing) meeting room.

To his surprise, however, none came. Instead, America just turned away, huffing lightly in response.

Crisis averted!

There were some days when America just did not get England. The Empire may not have been particularly nice over the years (especially after that failed revolution of his two centuries ago), but America had rarely seen him as irate as he was today.

Did England really have to insult him at every turn? Usually England would only show such irritation when dealing with France (though America had a feeling that this was far from genuine) or Russia (which was definitely genuine, especially given their ongoing Second Great Game).

Secondly, he'd been asked to present at a meeting. Colonies didn't usually do this, did they? They weren't exactly nations, so England was supposed to handle his foreign policy and his defense. So why did England act as if he expected America to come up with something, or "wing it", as the Englishman had oh-so-eloquently put it? America closed his eyes, willing himself to recall something, perhaps some forgotten meeting he'd had with England where he'd been informed that he was expected to do more than just slink around in the background with the other British colonies?

His reverie was broken with another shout from Germany (who sounded very, very annoyed) —"America! Will you please start presenting? Stop wasting our time and my god we all need to have a serious talk about your latest stimulus package. Have you even thought about the repercussions or were you just too busy being clueless?"

"Indeed," China cut in, "you did not even have the decency to inform us that you would be weakening your currency. If you could stop being so selfish for once and see that anything you do inevitably affects the rest of us — "

"Yeah," South Africa snapped, "all this talk about helping the developing countries and turns out you don't give a shit after all."

America sighed. His legs were moving against his will, forcing him to stand, forcing him to walk to the podium...The knot in his stomach was growing — he truly had no idea what he was doing, and he was feeling rather wilted under the glares of the other members of the room. And Germany had mentioned something about a recession...What the hell were the others talking about again — weakening his currency? Since when had he had any control over the pound? And the goddamn stimulus package was England's doing, not his! He could still remember —

"A bailout? So now you're communist too?" America had asked England with a bitter laugh. He knew it was the wrong thing to say, knew it the moment he'd let the words fly from his lips, but the drink in his blood had made him bold, careless. England had been taking money from his people for a long time, but today...

England had been drinking too, downing some surprisingly strong bottle of beer, and the words made the nation rise, unsteady. There was a gleam in his eyes, the sort of gleam a wrongly accused madman might possess, wild, bitter, and cold.

(Who will survive? Who will survive? May the last man stand, tall and proud!)

"You think I'm a goddamn commie? After all I've done for you-you useless bastard — " England had snarled, voice low and slurred, legs swaying as he stood.

"What?" America protested, fighting to keep the years and years of rage and bitterness and humiliation down, fighting against the sway of that horrible drink between his fingers. Normally, he would think things over before speaking, but today, today — "Fuck you, England," he screamed, "I'm the one keeping you afloat anyway, with my taxes and your goddamn government monopoly on half my trades and you come here and call me useless? You wouldn't even have the bomb if it weren't for me!"

"You ungrateful little shit — "

The bottle in England's hands suddenly came crashing down on the side of the table, and England's eyes became frighteningly blank. The glass shards fell the floor, joining the spilled alcohol and pent-up anger. They both stood there, watching as the wood, glass and alcohol mingled on the ruined kitchen floor.

"After all I've done to keep Russia at bay," England growled, eyes betraying an untameable fury, "After all the sacrifices I made, the blows I took in your place, this is how you repay me?"

America, shaken at the intricate weave of glass and liquid at his feet, whispered, "I'm repaying you, aren't I, England? You just come here and take whatever you damn well please and I give it—"

"Are you implying I don't deserve it?" England sneered, "That you — "

"Yes," America spat out, earlier fear forgotten, "just take it, take it all, England! Take all of my fucking money and give it to those rich bankers in your goddamn capital. See how the rest of your nation likes it, rolling around like a bunch of filthy communist pigs in my money!"

"What the bloody fuck did you call me?" America could hear the animalistic growl in England's throat, mixing in with the swirl of beer and a horrifying addiction to gambling. He opened his mouth to reply

when, without warning, England swung, bottle still in hand, horror and self-disgust and paranoia churning in his mind like a potent chemical beast. A split second after, America fell forward, his blood joining the horrible, horrible concoction on the floor, his hands clawing desperately at the remnants of a glass piece embedded in his midsection.

He'd thought he was going to die, and that he'd only have a madman for company, a madman to bury him, a madman to scatter his ashes, to suffocate him...

(But I'm the last one standing! Don't you see? Don't you see?)

When Canada found them, England was kneeling on the floor next to America, trying to bandage his colony with unsteady, desperate hands.

Canada took in the scene around them with slow horror, the broken bottle, the spilled beer, blood, and tears. He had screamed then, and it was the first time he'd lost his composure in decades. Canada knew the perpetrator immediately.

"Get out," he breathed hoarsely, glaring at England. "Get out, get out, get out!" He repeated himself several more times, refusing to take his eyes off England's face, not caring that England had been crying, or that the bandages were still half done, or that America might bleed more if England lifted his hand, or that he didn't have the authority to tell England to leave he'd let things slide before, but now...

On the fifteenth repetition, England rose, legs still tingling from being cramped on the ground, and teetered unsteadily to the door. There were no lingering words of comfort.

Canada was only glad he hadn't apologized.


"Don't talk," Canada whispered, "You really should rest."

"I-I don't care," America bit back, clearing his throat. Then, after a moment's silence, "Is it—do you think it's crazy?"

"What's crazy?" Canada asked, pausing to stare at America.

"That I don't...that I can't feel anything right now." America mumbled. Then he heaved forward, suddenly burst into a coughing fit, spraying large red droplets all over Canada's sleeve. "I just — I don't even feel angry. Just nothing, nothing at all. I thought it'd never be like this, dispassionate, cold, I mean, I was always the one with my emotions blaring everywhere, right? And now..." America dabbed fruitlessly at the red dots lining Canada's jacket, failing to get rid of them, only succeeding in smearing concentric circular messes across the cotton cloth. "Oh god, Matthew, your jacket..."

"It's just a jacket," Canada said, pulling the offending article off. Then he pulled his brother closer, still fumbling with the bandages. Damn bandages.

There was a silence, until America, ever the persistent one, pointed out, "You haven't answered my question."

Canada stopped wrapping for a moment and quipped, "You're always crazy, Alfred." He grinned goofily, trying to lighten the mood.

America laughed then, but it was cut short by another coughing fit. "That's — " cough " — a lie of omission — " cough " — Matthew. We're both utterly nuts, but it's a testament to our greatness!"

Canada laughed too, feeling genuine for once in his life.

(And they held each other tightly, like a pair of lifeboats on a lifeless sea, floating, floating...)

"America!" Germany's irritation was clearly growing with time. "Are you going to talk or just stand there? We expect some explanations about your this stimulus package of yours! We mean no disrespect, but it is, frankly, clueless and selfish." America's eyes snapped forward back to the audience, shocked that he had entertained a flight of nostalgia in the middle of a meeting. This was horrible timing.

"Um, well, I guess we can talk about the recession" — America paused, trying to think of something reasonable to say — and why did Germany have to call it his recession anyway? He wasn't England, and his economy wasn't as affected as the other European countries were, and he sure as hell was not in the mood to talk about one of England's goddamn stimulus packages "...if it's my economy you're worried about, it's actually not doing so badly. We've just recently found a gold belt and it's — "

"A gold belt!" England cut in incredulously, "What are you trying to relive, America? The 1850's and that damn gold rush in your West?"

He'd had a gold rush before? And in the 1850's, no less? "What are you talking about, England?" America asked, slightly panicked, "I've never had a gold rush before."

England glared. "You can stop your sarcasm right there, you damn prat! Take this meeting seriously for once, and stop mocking us with your false promises and flowery rhetoric."

England wanted America to fix a recession that wasn't even really his? Had the Empire gone absolutely crazy?

"But I just told you," America began slowly, despairing at being put on the spot, "I don't have a cold, and I can't fix a problem that's not mine. And, and—" here America gestured wildly at England, slightly flustered, "—I'm not supposed to handle this. I don't understand why would randomly bring me into the middle of a meeting and expect me to make a speech about your economy."

"What?" England asked, biting back his surprise when he saw America wince at the volume, "You're supposed to make a speech about your economy! Who the hell asked you to make one about mine?"

America gripped the podium, willing himself to stay calm and not back away. It wouldn't do any good to yell back at England. America had long since decided it was easier to just let things slide, as it wasn't all too often England visited and could make a fuss anyway. The Empire was usually off at Russia's house, stirring up a shitstorm and bringing the two superpowers (and their respective colonies) ever closer to "mutually assured destruction".

And even if America didn't like England's presence in his life, he was really the lesser of two evils, right? He was not at all keen on being a Russian colony—Lithuania had managed to drill that into his head during the secret meetings they'd held in Alert, Nunavut. America had enjoyed Lithuania's company, and had gone out of his way to talk to the other nation, entirely against England's wishes. He had complained (almost too dramatically) to his brother that England would accuse him of being a "damn Commie" again, and insisted that he just didn't have the energy to deal with the sheer paranoia anymore.

Canada was sympathetic and offered to play host for them in Alert, Nunavut, a remote (and extremely cold) Canadian town. America later returned the favor when he found out that Canada was friends with Ukraine, another poor soul behind the Iron Curtain. America offered to host them in New York City, where the pair had mingled and faded into the crowds, undetected. Damn was Canada good at disappearing.

America glanced around the room warily. He counted five nations glaring at him, four sleeping, and a large horde of with a skeptical look in their eyes. The ones awake were, to his disconcertion, paying rapt attention to him.

He glanced at Canada, hoping to elicit some answers, but the look his brother gave back to him held none. What the hell was going on?

"Alright, look, this...speech is about my economy, and I said I'm doing fine, which I am. We've got 5% growth in all job sectors and though unemployment is still slightly higher than the last few years, we haven't really been affected that much." America went on, trying to predict his own future, and throwing in a few statistics he'd remembered about his economy for good measure.

"America," China cut in right after America had spouted off a series of numbers on trade between himself and Canada, "you are avoiding our question."

"Wha um, what was it again?" America looked sheepish—he certainly hadn't meant to avoid anything.

"We want you to explain your reasoning behind your Federal Reserve's latest fiasco—a ridiculous idea to create 600 billion out of thin air!" Germany shouted, addled.

America obviously knew, and was probably protracting things for kicks and giggles. Germany knew that mocking America's naivete was an international pastime, but he had a feeling that the nation was more often selfish than truly naive. And this stimulus plan nailed it—it was obvious that America and only America would benefit, the rest of the world be damned.

Germany had a list of goals coming into this meeting he'd met with several other nations in Berlin a few nights before, and they'd agreed on one goal for America's time at the podium they would push the point with the nation until he acknowledged the selfishness of his domestic policy, and then work on wrangling some new deal out of him at the end of it all. If America thought he could just walk around the problem by pretending to be uninformed...

"Um, what?" America stared back at them, confused. "I've done nothing of the sort!" And just what the hell was this Federal Reserve anyway? Had England created yet another useless bureaucracy to govern him and failed to inform him? He glanced at England (who was discreetly shuffling his papers around, pointedly ignoring the shouting in the room altogether), hoping for an explanation.

"Don't be so dense, America!" China grumbled, "You knew perfectly well what a falling dollar would mean for the rest of us!"

What in the world is a dollar? America wanted to ask, but didn't.

"Yes," England cut in, suddenly looking up from his listless paper-shuffling, "it would mean that you can no longer push your cheap products on him, right, China?"

China glared, Germany sighed, and France grinned. "Trust Angleterre to defend his precious Etats-Unis..."

"You idiot!" England snapped. He was about to stand up in preparation of a shouting match with France when he saw Germany place a hand on France's shoulder.

"Frankreich...let's try to get through this meeting without the two of you shouting at each other on top of the table, please?" Which was, sadly, what had happened at the last meeting. It was even worse when France had wrapped his arms around Germany's waist, dragging him straight into the middle of their food fight, causing Germany to get hit in the head by a barrage of burnt scones and England's fist. The worst part was that the scones had hurt more than the fist.

Luckily, France looked acquiescent this time (Frankreich was considerate like that, Germany thought, smiling to himself), and nodded. "Let's skip the argument today, Angleterre—"

"Who said I would listen to your stupidity? Jumping to conclusions like that I was merely making an observation, and a very accurate one at that if I do say so mysel—"

Germany closed his eyes, kneading his temples in frustration. As soon as England spoke, France had erupted from his arms, jabbing accusatory fingers in England's face could they go a single meeting without there being a small scale war? And to think that the two were actually considering cooperating militarily...

On the other side of the podium, America was very, very relieved. He was running low on more statistics to toss in, and, not wanting to make things up in front of an international audience, he had taken the France-England-induced chaos to make a hasty exit. He grabbed the chair closest to Canada, and planted himself solidly between his brother and Cameroon.

"Canada," he whispered, "what the hell is going on?"

"What do you mean?" Canada asked, "France and England are at it again, and Germany's trying to step in unsuccessfully because England thinks he's too biased to serve as a mediator. Pretty damn typical, don't you think? Well, other than the fact that we're in Antarctica, of course..."

"No, no what was Germany talking about? Why is everyone acting like I should...I should be fixing this recession? And—"

"Well, you're in a recession that occurred because of your mishandling of finances and it's affecting the world. Everyone's trying to fix things, why wouldn't they expect you to help?"

"I'm doing fine!" America insisted, "Look, why the hell are we sitting at the nations table anyway? And why did England not tell me I was presenting today, and first too?"

Canada stared at him in confusion. "Why would England have to inform you that you're presenting? I know you're not that clueless, Alfred, you present at every single meeting, and you almost always present first."

"What? I've never—I've never done this before!" America sounded frantic, and Canada wondered if this was his brother's idea of a joke. Perhaps he could humor him.

"Of course, you've never presented before, Alfred," he remarked dryly, "I was just joking, you know, about the last two hundred years and counting. England clearly had to baby you through the years, informing you every time he—"

"Damnit, Matt, that's not funny. Think about the situation we're in why would England suddenly move us here when we clearly don't belong—"

"Clearly don't belong? America, you're not making any sense." Now Canada really did look worried, and he regarded his brother anxiously. He was about to grab his brother and tell him to take a breather in a warmer, less humid room when a loud voice cut through the air, putting an end to argument at the other end of the room.

"If you're all quite finished, it's my turn to present now." Australia was standing at the podium, shooting France and England an annoyed look.

"Right," Germany agreed, half glad that France and England would finally stop arguing, and half peeved that he hadn't had the opportunity to interrogate America further. "Let's let Australia have the stage."

Australia? America made a face. Was this British Colony Appreciation Day or something? First him, and now Australia? Would they have Canada up next after the Aussie had finished? (Then again, they were all sitting down at the nations' table, weren't they? Not off in the corner, where they'd usually been. And Canada thought it was a typical meeting!)

Part way through Australia's speech, America discovered an assortment of papers stuffed in his pants pocket. He pulled them out, listening to Australia with half a ear. Who had written these notes? Was he supposed to have used them at some point during his speech? They looked like his own handwriting, and—

The Fed's $600 Billion Statement, Translated Into Plain English

The Federal Reserve is about to create $600 billion out of thin air. It's a huge, experimental stimulus program that will affect stock markets and government policies around the world.

There was a messy line scrawled under "affect stock markets and government policies around the world" that looked like it was his own doing. Underneath "the world" were three more lines, each thicker than the last. When had he read this? How was it that he just could not remember? Clearly this 'affecting the world' problem was why Germany and China and everyone else had looked so angry, but he couldn't remember ever doing this, or that a mere colony's policy change could affect the world—

"America." It was Canada again, and he looked even more worried than before. "You should get some air, take a break from the meeting or something. I can lend you the notes on Australia's speech."

"Forget it." England?

America almost jumped in paranoia what was England doing here? When had he moved over to Canada's side of the table? Damn.

"Forget it," England repeated himself, "it's freezing outside, America, the damn blizzard never stopped since morning."

"Um, right. I'll just I'll just step out into the hall for a short while then," America finished hastiliy, "Come with me, Matt?" He had to talk to Canada without England there...

Canada glanced at England hesitantly. It was obvious that England wanted something from America (private time in a closet, perhaps?), or else he wouldn't have bothered leaving his seat and traveling half-way across the meeting room. It didn't seem unreasonable to give him the chance, did it? "I have to take notes, Alfred—"

"Let him take his notes, I'll come with you," England took the opportunity immediately, "Just as long as you have the decency to not heave on me while we're in the hallway."

"Of course," Canada was looking at the two of them skeptically. "The two of you will return from your time in some stuffy broom closet and then steal my notes. How typical."

England let out an undignified squawk. "I'll have you know that I've no intentions of doing anything of the sort, especially not—"

"Sure, sure," Canada remarked drolly, waving at the two of them with good cheer, and chuckling lightly at England's permascowl.

Such a typical meeting.

They walked into the hallway, where the ventilation was slightly, ever-so-slightly better. America remained nervous he had not wanted to talk to England at all. Why couldn't Canada see that? How could taking notes be so goddamn important at a time like this? It wasn't like they really needed to know what Australia was saying England would inform them if something was truly important.

England broke the awkward silence they were beginning to descend into. "Have you really found another gold belt?" At least this statement was innocuous enough, America thought.

"Uh, yeah," he grumbled, not bothering to meet England's gaze. The Empire would probably have wanted to be the first to know about his colony finding gold, but America just hadn't had the time to say anything before he was suddenly pulled into the meeting room. "I was going to tell you, you know, but your line was always busy. Were you talking with Russia again?"

"Why would I talk with Russia?" England asked, incredulous.

America shot him a confused look, shrugged, and the two fell into another awkward silence.

America failed to notice the anxious look on England's face (mainly because he was avoiding eye contact altogether), and went back to fumbling with the crumpled paperwork he'd retrieved from his pocket. For lack of anything better to fend off his anxiety with, he read the first line on the second page:

"Bank Bailout and Stimulus: Did they help or hurt?"

England's damned bailout again—but why was it copied in his handwriting? He hadn't remembered writing a pip on the damn bailouts. Sure, his trade lagged and his taxes increased when England's economy lagged, but he was allowed to trade with the other British colonies too, and Canada was a very valuable trading partner. The two of them were practically self-sustaining nowadays, so it made no difference that England's housing bubble had burst, or that his banks were engaging in shady behavior, or that the rest of Western Europe was under extreme duress due to England's stupidity, or that England no longer shat gold, or—

Something was wrong. He had been asleep before he'd somehow appeared in the Conference room. He'd guessed that England had dragged him here and that he was here because the British Empire felt the need to preen his plumage in front of Russia, which was familiar territory.

In fact, for the past decade or so, all of England's colonies had been "cordially invited" to attend the World Conferences. America knew perfectly well that this "cordial" invitation was no more than a veiled threat they had better attend or else. And being not-nations, they had little to do at the Conference, so they would hang out awkwardly in the background, trying to make small talk.

Russia had taken to doing the same thing bringing all the Eastern Bloc states along (they were here today, again, weren't they?). He and Canada would use the time to hang out with Lithuania and Ukraine, and wait for the nations to finish their jabbering.

This, of course, was what troubled him the most why were they being asked to present and given no heads-up? Was England trying to occupy their time because he was suspicious of their behavior during the meeting? Did England know? America closed his eyes. He didn't want to imagine what would happen if England found out that he and Canada really enjoyed Lithuania and Ukraine's company, and had met with them multiple times behind his back. Just what would he say to his North American colonies hanging out with a bunch of "filthy communists"?

America had seen the destruction the two nations were capable of wielding on his own land, with his own two eyes. He

The stage was just another European war (so typical, so, so typical), and England had made a trip to visit him, despite the Blitz raining down on London. He'd invited England outside, and they'd sat side-by-side on a dusty bus stop bench. England was smiling grimly beside him, pointing to the desert scenery around him and nodding, agenda clear as day. "It's perfect."

"What's perfect?" America had asked.

"This land, your land. There's no one living here, short of desert shrubs and reptiles, right? We can test our weapon here, America, and then we will be untouchable." England almost looked serene then, as if this new weapon was the panacea to all of his troubles, and America found himself unable to refuse. They would be untouchable, untouchable...

They'd merged their scientists then, in various camps across his land. And they'd worked, letting the mad rush of pressure and fear and pure scientific ingenuity push them forward. Some years later he'd see it feel it as the bomb ripped across his land, driving dirt madly about, clouding his vision with a dust column rising boldly above the ground, wrestling with the life forms in its path, ashes and debris and human toil all intertwined...

When the spectacle was over and he could see England's face again, he saw it, and was horrified.

England was smiling a genuine smile.

Later, he'd felt something wet and sticky crawling on his arm, accompanied by a sharp, biting pain. He clawed at the sudden, jagged wound developing on his left arm, letting out a silent cry.

A genuine smile.

(There were people there, people who'd been harmed, people...And no one would hear, no one would care.)

He'd complained to England some years after about the tests, bringing up the neighboring residents, the hundreds affected by the fallout who hadn't known, even showing England his own scar. England had made a series of promises, saying he would bring up the problem with his leaders, saying he would get them to devote a part of their budget to nuclear exposure compensation, saying

(But they were so empty, so — )

America had let it go, again, this time at Canada's urging. ("It's a war, America. These things happen. You don't really want to be Russia's colony, do you?" "No, I don't, but—")

And well, they were untouchable, for a while, at least. Until Russia got the bomb too, and America was almost glad, in a twisted sort of way, when he saw matching scars on Kazakhstan's arms. So that was where Russia was doing his testing, Kazakhstan.

(Never on their own land, of course not. He might as well have been a Russian colony—)

He and Kazakhstan had compared scars silently at the next World Conference, eyeing each other knowingly, and America didn't know what to feel anymore. He had an urge to arrange another meeting with Lithuania.

"America! Were you even listening to me?" He looked up, shocked it was England again, this time sounding slightly exasperated.

"Oh, sorry," he turned to face England, belatedly realizing that the nation had been talking for a while now, "What were you talking about?"

"Did you hear anything I said in the past ten minutes?" England grumbled, frustrated. Since when had America started zoning out all the time? Then again, England himself had been too nervous to actually notice, so...

"Um, I wasn't really paying attention...sorry. Mind repeating it again?"

England looked dismayed, but said, "Look, I know you won't like this, know I'm running out of money, right? I mean we all are, but, well..."

England started fiddling with his tie.

"Oh, right. Another bailout?" America tried to keep his voice as neutral as possible, tried to not remember the last time he'd mocked England for this, tried, tried

"My people would not respond well to more. You saw how France's rioted over a simple change in their retirement not that my people are anything like the French, but still this is about saving. I need to save on my military budget, so I was thinking of...well, of...hedging my bets on a military partnership with...France." England looked embarrassed and somewhat uncomfortable it was France, first and foremost, something he might never live down, and

"Whoa, really?" America shot England an incredulous look, "Weren't you two just screaming bloody murder at each other a few moments ago?"

England felt relieved America hadn't look offended, and he hadn't mentioned betrayal or intelligence leakage or any of the political travesties of their modern world. England didn't want to lose America he loved him, but it was just that necessity dictated little choice in dire times. His hands were tied, surely America could understand that...surely...

"No, no, America, please don't misunderstand I am most certainly not doing this out of any love for France! He's still his disgusting, perverted self. I just..." he trailed off, sounding unsure.

America looked confused, but gave England an encouraging nod.

"I just...I don't have a choice, alright? I'm only agreeing out of financial necessity. Look, I know you're concerned about the intelligence you shared with me over the years, but you needn't worry that bastard won't have access to any of your data, I swear!" England was rambling, and his eyes no longer seemed to be focused on America.

"Wait," America began, confused (since when had the Empire become so anxious?), "I —"

"Besides, you get along a lot better with France nowadays, right? I'm sure this will all work out fine—I mean, even on a good day I wouldn't want to look at that bastard across the Channel, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so well, I " England looked worriedly at America, hoping that the nation in front of him would get that a simple military partnership did not mean that he was in bed with France. (Besides, that place was already taken by Germany, and England was not interested in fighting some deranged version of the Trojan War over France). Theirs was a purely political relationship a symbiosis of sorts.

He waited, glancing nervously at America, hoping the nation would at least support the plan, that everything would go smoothly, that he could salvage his damn free-falling budget

or that Alfred would say something to break the horribly awkward silence!

"Um," America began hesitantly, "that's...good, I suppose. As long as you're saving money, I'm sure everything...will...uh, work out.."

America really didn't know what to say. Why was England telling him all of this anyway? It didn't have anything to do with him, unless England was trying to apologize for that last time by explaining his latest strategy to handle his debt... Was England asking him for support then? But why the hell would the British Empire give a damn if one of his upstart colonies supported him in some plan involving a foreign nation? He could make them support him, he didn't need to ask.

"Oh, so you're alright with this then?" England felt relieved and America hadn't even mocked him about France yet! This was much easier than he'd expected. "We can hash out the details later, I'm sure, whenever you find time to come around." He patted America on the back, and grinned shamelessly. "Now that that's over with, let's fulfill Canada's prophecy, shall we?"

"What?" America asked lamely, "Canada's, um, prophecy?" What the hell had Canada been talking about earlier — something about stealing his notes...and a broom closet?

England grinned, placing his hands deftly around America's shoulders. He leaned in, cheeks flushed from the Antarctican wind —

brief historical/current events (and other) notes:

[ online . wsj . com / article / . html - France+UK military cooperation. From the first article: "The two countries are being thrown together not out of love, but rather out of financial necessity." :D number10 . gov . uk / news / statements-and-articles / 2010 / 11 / uk%E2%80%93france-summit-2010-declaration-on-defence-and-security-co-operation-56519 ]

[ www . npr . org / blogs / money / 2010 / 11 / 03 / 131043062 / federal-reserve - the Fed's 600 billion strategy, which is drawing heat from many countries: www . bbc . co . uk / news / business-11697483 ]

[ Kazakhstan (specifically the Semipalatinsk Test Site) was the primary location of Soviet nuclear testing. The UN estimates that one million people were exposed to radiation near the site. ]

[ The UK set 21 out of their 45 tests in Australia, and the rest were in the U.S. as a part of the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement. This allowed the UK to perform underground tests in Nevada, and let the two countries share large amounts of classified information. The UK apparently had very few nuclear tests compared to the US, France, and the USSR because they depended heavily on American nuclear testing. (The Special Relationship reporting for duty!) ]

[ The British government also has no formal compensation program for nuclear testing victims, and many Christmas Island residents want to file a lawsuit for damages. ]