Dro: Finished! -dies-
Chapter Summary: The world moves on from its near death experience. Some people continue as they did before. Some do not.
Disclaimer: I have given you this in every chapter, and I refuse to say anything other than this: After you get to the end, you'll be happy I don't APH. Because if I did, you would be feeling the way you'll feel at the end of this...all the time.
Berwald sipped the water from his glass and sat it back down on the patio table. His eyes were locked onto Tino's form as the man quickly worked the soil in his garden. Hanatamago yipped and barked at the birds teasing him from low tree branches. And Berwald just sat by, perfectly content to do nothing other than watch the world. His life seemed to center on Tino now, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Rarely were they ever apart, and even more rarely were they out of touch for more than an hour. And that was perfectly fine with Berwald.
In fact, it was ideal.
The anniversary of the day that the Italy brothers had saved them all was quickly approaching, and for most of the world, it would be the first time they remembered the day ever happening at all. Berwald figured that was best. It wouldn't do for the rest of the world to be dragged down by such memories. On one hand, Tino's death had at least—ultimately—saved him from the horrors that had followed it. He had come back just the same as before. He was slightly more determined, slightly more bent on enjoying life to the fullest. But that was the only effect. The only one. And overall, it had made Tino an even better person than he had been.
"Hey, guys! Ready for that cookout?"
Berwald glanced to the side, realizing that the others had finally arrived for their dinner. He silently waved, daring to crack a smile. Mathias, who had spoken, shifted his grin into relief and happiness. They had become closer after the event that had nearly destroyed them all. It was ironic in a way. Tino rose to his feet and shuffled over, pulling the gate to their fence open.
"Come on in, everyone! I already have stuff cooking in the kitchen. I was just about to go check on it." He said quickly. He'd been so energized for the last few days that Berwald had actually started laughing a few times. The shock on Tino's face had made him laugh all the more.
"Tch, what's up with that, Berwald? Why are you making poor Tino do all the work?" Mathias playfully accused.
Tino countered. "Su-san was the who picked up the groceries and cleaned the house and walked Hanatamago and—"
Mathias raised his hands in defeat. "Okay, whoa! I get it. I get it. My bad."
"I'll help you with the food, if you don't mind, Tino." Emil piped up.
"Oh, sure!" The two filed into the house, followed by a silent Lukas, who Berwald could almost swear was trying to conceal an amused smirk.
Mathias plopped into the chair next to him and let his feet rest on the table. He stared up at the clear blue sky, a crisp wind already hinting at the cool winter that was sure to unfold in a few more months. His lips curled up again, and his eyes grew wistful.
"It's a nice day, isn't it?" He asked.
Berwald didn't even need to reply.
Alfred yawned as he sank onto his sofa. His workload had been extra heavy this week. And unfortunately, magic couldn't do his paperwork for him. However…He flicked his fingers inward, and the TV remote flew towards him from the shelf and landed in his hand. Yeah, that was always a plus. He unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt, releasing the feeling of stiffness that always overcame him when he was at work. He turned on the TV and set it to the news, but when he saw it was just about another natural disaster story, he changed it to a sci-fi movie. He'd had more than enough of disasters.
He'd lived through a virtual apocalypse, only to have it completely reversed. And the problems hadn't even stopped there. Everything was finally starting to settle down now, though. The more envious nations—who hated his new magic powers—had finally gotten over themselves after some…convincing by the others. The world had finally returned to its true axis, and everything seemed to be going well. Almost no humans remembered the events, which made it easy to cover up. Alfred hadn't had a particular desire to do such a thing, but even he could see the benefits that it would have. There was no need to cause unnecessary panic.
Of course, he'd been constantly panicking himself since he'd found out about Arthur's amnesia. It was still there. Arthur had been forced to relearn his own nation's history—from a nation's perspective, of course. Which tended to be slightly different than the official textbook version. Alfred usually visited Arthur at least once a week, but all the flights back and forth from London were taking their toll on him, and he'd been fatigued lately. Finally, Arthur himself had convinced Alfred to take a few weeks off.
Alfred knew he had no reason to worry. Francis was taking good care of Arthur. He smiled to himself. There was an obvious relationship budding between the two of them. If this had been any other situation, he probably would have accused Francis of taking advantage. But for this…Francis had never been more sincere in his life. This may not have been the same England that he knew, but it was still his Angleterre, and Francis couldn't abandon his feelings for the man.
So Alfred had opted to leave Arthur to his own devices for a while. With Francis keeping a watchful eye on him, of course. And then there was Mattie. Alfred snorted. Ivan and Matthew had become closer since the Britannia incident. They were constantly visiting one another, and Alfred had accidentally walked in on them more than once during his impromptu visits to Canada. If that had been a few months ago, he probably would have been pissed that the Russian was with his brother. But this was now, and he could accept it. Well, to some degree.
So it seemed all the nations and all his loved ones were doing great. Everyone except—
His doorbell rang. He sat up groggily, yawning again, and trudged toward his foyer. He hadn't been expecting anyone. He unlocked the door and hauled it open, revealing Feliciano standing on the other side. Alfred froze.
He hadn't seen much of Feliciano in the past four months. They'd spoken on the phone frequently for the first few weeks afterwards, but…their relationship seemed to have degraded just as quickly as it had formed. Ludwig was back, so Alfred had expected it to happen, but…It had hurt. It had hurt a hell of a lot more than he'd thought it would.
Feliciano was facing the street, gazing at the night sky. "Hey, Alfred." He replied, turning swiftly on his feet. He smiled softly. "Do you mind if I come in?"
"N-no…Of course not." He moved out of the way and let the Italian slip by, and for the first time, he realized that Feliciano was carrying a suitcase. He sat the brown case down and turned to face the taller American, and Alfred gradually closed the door, unsure as to where this was going.
"It's been a while, huh?" Feliciano pointed out.
"Yeah. It has."
Without warning, Feliciano closed the gap between them and kissed Alfred passionately, and all the suppressed emotions that Alfred had locked away deep inside himself came crashing back to the forefront. He wrapped his arms tightly around the smaller man, holding onto him for dear life. When they finally parted, they were both flushed and grinning.
"I…I thought…you and Ludwig…" He failed to make a coherent sentence, but Feliciano understood all the same.
"We didn't work out." He said simply. The he seemed to reconsider. "That's actually why I stopped calling you. I needed time to think. I've actually spent he last few months totally alone in a little beach house, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. The first month with Ludwig was…well, for lack of a better word, torture. My mannerisms and personality have changed, and…it was like we'd lost all our rhythm, you know?" His gaze grew nostalgic, and Alfred felt a pang of envy for what Ludwig had had with Feliciano. Decades of a relationship so deep that he couldn't even fathom it. "We used to compliment one another perfectly, Ludwig and I. But all of that is…gone. Ludwig tried to hold onto it, but I could see our relationship slipping away. And I knew it was never going to last. He loves the me which I no longer am. You…" He cupped Alfred's cheek. "You love the me I am now."
Alfred's smile lit up his entire face. "Yes. Yes, I do."
He glanced at his suitcase. "Do you mind if I stay for a while?"
"If you wanted, you could stay forever."
He tapped his fingers impatiently, staring at the report in front of him. This would be his first time giving a report on his own. Well, at least in his current memory. Apparently, he had done this thousands upon thousands of times already. Francis had helped him relearn just how this whole nation meeting thing went, but he was still unsure of himself. Hell, he was still unsure about who he was. He knew he was Arthur Kirkland, England, and he had learned just about everything about himself that there was to learn. Well, he still had a few more history books and journals and logs to go through, but he'd gotten the gist of it.
However, if he was going to be truthful about this, he was less worried about this report than he was about his date with Francis tonight. Their relationship had been pretty quiet up to this point, but he had assured Francis that he was ready to be more public about the whole thing. It was a might bit embarrassing that a man who had once been a empire would act like a blushing teenager with a crush. He was an adult, and he was perfectly okay with having an acknowledged relationship with Francis.
Well, that, and he was terrified about it.
He was trying his best to make a good impression on all these people. They had known a man that he was just wasn't anymore, and he was constantly afraid they would reject him. Everyone generally seemed amiable toward him, but he couldn't help but think that most of it was just a farce for diplomatic reasons. He wanted these people to genuinely like him as a person, and as his own person. Even though he technically was the England they knew, he was still a very different man, and he wanted more than anything for them to see him as the person he was now and not the person he had been.
But it was hard. He had their England's face and his voice and his overall appearance. He looked every bit like the man that most of them had known for centuries. But he wasn't. And the moment he opened his mouth, that became obvious. He would catch the dying glints of hope in their eyes sometimes. They wanted their England back. That much was obvious. And it hurt knowing that they just saw him as…a poor replacement. He was trying his best. He really was. So why was it so hard to get them to see this from his point of view? He wanted to be treated like the man he was now, not the man he used to be.
The call to order by Germany startled him, and he jumped. "England, you're giving the first report today, yes?"
He nodded quickly. "Yes, that's right." He cleared his throat, feeling all their eyes on him. Some of them looked at him only from polite obligation. Others gazed at him with emotions he couldn't possibly begin to understand. Like Alfred and Matthew and Francis, who had finally arrived and sat down next to him. They cared about him, both him and their England. He knew that well. But he couldn't help but wonder what they would do if the possibility to get their England back arose. Despite his best attempts, his wasn't and would never be their England.
And as long as that was true, they would never really accept him.
Francis' hand landed on his own, and he glanced toward the Frenchman. "Do not worry, Angleterre. I am right here."
But even though he was an outsider, there were still some things he loved about this world. And Francis was one of them. He smiled. "I know." And as long as that was true, he would accept his replacement label with honor and pride.
Francis poured the batter into the pan and evened it out before placing it in the oven. A year. He sighed wistfully. It had been an entire year. And with every second that ticked by, it felt more like the entire incident was just a dream. Of course, it hadn't been, and Arthur's condition was a perfect example of that. But he could deal with Arthur's condition. He had Arthur, alive, healthy, and happy. And that was all that mattered.
He sauntered back into the living room, the TV set to a low volume on the evening news. Arthur was pouring over another of his old journals, trying to absorb every detail about who he was and how he acted. Several times, Francis had been forced to endure Arthur's horrid attempts to act like his old self, and they had been more amusing than anything else. Francis had explained to him several times that Arthur didn't need to try so hard. This new incarnation of Arthur was perfect just the way he was. And Francis truly believed that.
This wasn't the irritable former pirate he had formerly known. This wasn't the man he had so many centuries of history and war and tension with. This was a different man, and he had a different personality. And Francis was okay with that. He had long accepted that his old Angleterre was gone. But where the former empire had vanished, a polite and determined man had appeared. And Francis liked this man.
Francis loved this man.
Francis had determined that it didn't matter how Arthur acted or what he remembered. He loved Arthur fully and completely, and even if the man had never returned his feelings, he would have stuck right by his side until the end. He slowly waltzed into the living room, skirting by the shelves that lined the wall. Most of them contained pictures. Arthur had not removed a single one. Pictures from the 1940's and before still sat there. Pictures of events that Arthur couldn't remember in the slightest were still perfectly preserved. There was no dust. No grime. Mixed in with them, however, were pictures taken within the last year. Arthur's latest birthday. America's. Canada's. His own. The world gathering they'd all had to show appreciation to Feliciano, Lovino, Alfred, Matthew, and Arthur, who had all had a hand in saving the world.
Arthur did not want to pretend that his past did not exist. He wanted to build from it even though he could not remember it. And that made Francis love him all the more.
"Mm, that smells good, Francis." Arthur noted, a smirk on his lips even though he had yet to look up from his book. Francis made his way over and leaned down, tucking his hand under Arthur's chin and guiding it upward until their lips met in a chaste kiss.
"It will be a most delicious cake, Angleterre."
Arthur snorted. "We'll see." He glanced back down at his book, and Francis' eyes soon followed. It was a drawing of England's North American territory after he had lost Canada to the man. Arthur's finger traced an odd shape through both Canada and the American Colonies that seemingly added some pieces and ignored others. "It's strange, you know. I had all of this at one time. I know I did. And yet, I can't remember this at all. Some things feel…familiar to me, in a way. But other things just…I feel nothing."
Francis nodded solemnly. This was common for Arthur. It was as if he'd retained some latent recognition for things. But only some things. "Do not worry about it, mon cher. You do not have to remember. And you should not berate yourself for being unable to do so."
Arthur sighed. "I know that." He continued to trace his fingers along nonexistent lines on the page. "It's just…some things nag at me so much when I'm reading over them. And with others, I feel strangely empty. I want everything to feel familiar. Not just some things. And then sometimes, I feel like what I'm reading is just…wrong."
"I understand, Arthur. And I will say it again." He kissed Arthur's forehead. "Do not be so hard on yourself. It doesn't matter whether all or none of it comes back to you. You are fine just the way you are now."
Arthur smiled. "I love you, Francis."
His heart fluttered. How many centuries had he waited to hear those words? "And I love you the same, Angleterre." The timer on the over rang, and he straightened up. "Ah, time to get back to my masterpiece!"
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say." His eyes trailed back to the page he seemed fixated on. "Oh, one thing."
Francis paused in the doorway. "Hm?"
"Well, ever since I started reading these colonial journals and such, something has just been nagging at me. But I can't seem to find what I'm looking for in any of these books. And I can't get the thought out of my head. I feel like something is missing here, but I can't find any reference to it. Maybe you can help me. "
Francis cocked his head to the side. "What is it?"
Arthur's eyes met his own, eyes alight with absolute and innocent curiosity.
"Did I ever have a colony called New Britain?"
Dro: -snorts- -chuckles- -breaks out into immensely loud and obnoxious laughter- -passes out from oxygen deprivation- I should probably go to my secret hiding place now, shouldn't I? -straps on bullet proof vest- Bye then! -runs for her life-