"Oh my god," Canada turned to England, "Oh my god!"
"Mathew, I'm going to need you to be calm."
"How am I supposed to be calm?" His voice raised an octave. "How did this happen?"
"I'll explain that in a moment, but first we need to find where Alfred is," said England. He fished his cell phone out of his pocket, ignored the dumbstruck face glaring at him, and asked, "Do you think I should try your phone?"
Canada crossed his arms and shrugged. "Sure, but he's in a hospital," he said.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I was on the plane when I collapsed."
England made a sound of agreement. "What airport were you flying to?"
"JFK. New York," he answered and England immediately googled it on his Blackberry. Less than a minute later he punched in the number he found.
Canada walked back into the living room and plopped down on the couch. For a while, he didn't move, nor did he listen to the drone of England's voice in the other room. He looked down at his callused and scarred hands, his dirty and chipped fingernails. Nothing like his. Canada had his own battle wounds, but at least he had the decency to scrub his hands after working.
"They said he was admitted to a hospital, but they won't tell me which one." England stared at the screen as he walked in the living room. "Perhaps we should call your boss."
"Yeah, let's try that," Canada said, rubbing his hands together and pushing himself off the couch. He rocked on his heels (was it his shoes or feet that felt so strange?) as he called the number off to England, who took Canada's place on the couch when the dial tone began.
"Yes, Prime Minister Harper? This is Arthur Kirkland, representation of the United Kingdom- yes." England nodded out of habit. His eyebrows knitted together and his mouth fell into a scowl. "Yes, this is an emergency. I'm sure you've been notified of Mathew's situation- oh, ok." He made a face, "Could you tell me who is picking him up? Right. Right, of course. It's rather complicated at the moment, sir…" Another pause. "Right. We'll be on the first flight to the States… Oh, er, Alfred and I, I mean. Thank you, sir… Yes, goodbye." He dropped the phone on the couch and leaned back with a sigh.
"What happened?" Canada asked.
"He's somewhere in Alberta and won't be able to pick up Mat- er, Alfred personally. Ontario was near the border and decided to accompany whoever was sent to pick him up. And we need to leave soon for the airport. I'll pull together Alfred's things."
"Why didn't you tell Harper?"
"Because," England began, "we don't exactly have time at the moment to explain to the Prime Minister why his country has switched bodies with the United States of America." Canada bristled, but England continued, "And also because we should keep this a secret as long as we can."
"So you're saying that we should not tell one of the few people that can help us about the thing we need help with." Canada barked a short, bitter laugh. "Sounds like a plan!"
"What I'm saying is that this won't be a problem long enough for anyone else to be worried with it," England snapped. He picked up a large piece of birthday cake sitting on the dining room table, regarded it with a disdainful sneer, and then headed to the kitchen with it. Canada heard the garbage lid open. "Now get in the car," England called, "We're going to the airport."
"Sir, did you have permission to leave your room?"
America only glanced at the male nurse who approached him as he stumbled out of the bathroom. He felt very dizzy all of the sudden. I better not faint again.
"Nope," he mumbled. His head felt light and his heart thrummed in his chest. America took a long, shuddering intake of air… and exhaled.
The nurse watched with concern and more than a little annoyance, but waited patiently until America's eyes fluttered and his expression fell into calmness- Or at least the closest to calmness that he could possibly convey in such a situation.
"You're Mr. Williams, right?" the nurse asked.
"Sure," America shrugged.
"Your family is here to check you out," he said and walked away intending for the dazed patient to follow him, regardless of America's lack of shoes. Although America had to admit he was more than a little thankful to wear faded jeans and a sweatshirt and not (God forbid) a hospital gown.
America wracked his brain for possibly 'family'. All that came to mind were the Provinces, half of which America could regrettably not name. As he rounded the corner, a sense of relief washed over him as he saw a sharp, official looking man and a scruffy young man playing with a phone waiting at the front desk. Oh thank God, it's Ontario. He didn't bother hiding his smile. Not only did he recognize the Province, but he knew him by name!
Ontario smiled, and then went back to his phone. The secret service agent nodded at America and a pit formed in the Nation's stomach. Everyone thought he was Canada.
Should I tell them? Each step he took toward the odd couple became heavy and awkward, although neither man seemed to notice.
"Hey, man. How're you feeling?" asked Ontario.
"Oh, better, I guess," America said with a slight smile, trying his best to imitate his brother.
Ontario's face broke out into a brilliant smile and he bounded next to America. "Man, I've gotta tell you what Quebec did while you were gone."
As Quebec talked, hands flying and expression animated, America was reminded why he remembered this Province so well.
It was the worst flight Canada and England had ever endured. The Nations sat in seething silence for most of the trip; Canada was too angry and disoriented to hold a conversation with England, which did nothing for the Brit's conscience.
"You can't blame this all on me," England said as he brought the luggage down from their compartment.
Canada shrugged and kept his face passive. "I never said I was mad at you, Arthur."
England handed a duffle bag to Canada and they left the plane single file. Responses like that made it easier for England to remember that it wasn't America speaking. In fact, in all the years he'd known Alfred, England had never seen the array of expressions Canada made with his brother's face. It was almost unnerving.
"Wait a minute," Canada said, "How are you sure that Al is still at the hospital? Wasn't someone sent for him?"
"Yes," answered England.
Canada came to a halt and glared at England with fierce intensity. "Then why the hell are we in the U.S.?" he hissed, "They could be halfway to the border by now. We could have beaten them there if we caught a different plane."
"Arthur, what's going on?" Canada asked. His glare was replaced by a look of concern and fear. "There's more to this, isn't there?"
England continued to walk into the wave of people. From what he could hear, Canada was just barely able to keep up with him. By the time the two walked side by side, Canada fell back into silence. That deafening silence hung over the couple, but England refused to indulge in conversation. Not now, he told himself, For Mathew's sake.
Heavy clouds dappled the sky and the pavement was stained dark from a shower that passed over before their plane landed. England slid off his jacket in annoyance as he and Canada stepped through the double doors and out into Washington D.C. "How silly of me to assume it wouldn't feel like a sauna in a northern city," he grumbled, "I don't know how Alfred deals with this. It's not even summer." Just as quickly as his face fell into a scowl, a grin appeared at the site of a young woman approaching. "You got my text, Virginia!"
"Well, duh." The woman offered a smile and a shrug. "I've been here almost an hour waiting for you guys." She walked straight to Canada and placed a freckled hand against his forehead. "Doesn't surprise me you caught something, what with the economy all crappy," she mumbled, "How do you feel, Al?"
"Oh, uh, a little better," said Canada. He pushed her hand away with and tried to give his cheesiest grin and thumbs-up. "A stupid cold isn't enough to beat me down."
"Uncle Artie was right. You sound terrible." Virginia cupped her hand over her mouth and shook her head.
"The poor sod vomited most of the plane ride." England shook his head as well. "He hasn't been himself since he's caught this bug. Make sure he gets plenty of rest." He patted Virginia on the head with a heavy hand. "And don't call me Artie, Virginia."
"Where are you going?" Canada asked, panic rising in his voice.
"I can't just stay here, Alfred. I have business to attend to," said England.
"I'll call tonight to see how you feel," he said. England walked backwards towards the double doors and gave a stern, hard look. "Do you understand, Alfred?"
"No, I don't!" Canada took a step forward. "You can't just leave me like this!"
England broke into a sprint as soon as the double doors opened behind him. Canada shouted something from behind him, but England was too concerned with navigating the thick crowd of travelers to hear what he said. No more than thirty seconds later, the footsteps and shouts became inaudible among the stampede of people. England stole a glance over his shoulder and, sure enough, Canada vanished into the crowd. He smiled; no one seemed to take notice of him running-
He looked ahead just in time to see a set of suitcases piled just as England's foot caught underneath the first suitcase. He swung his arms out and stamped his feet forward to catch himself in a dance known well to those who narrowly avoid tripping. James Bond he was not.
Nope, not gonna write any excuses. I could offer a handful, but no one wants to hear those, anyways lol. I'll just say I've learned my lesson about posting a new story at the beginning of the school year. And this chapter was so incredibly difficult to write, but that's good news because the next chapter should be easier, I think.
Thank you so much for all of the reviews and alerts and whatnot 8) Hopefully chapter 4 doesn't take another month to write...