A/N: Another story originally posted on LJ. :)
"Bro, I've got a gift for... what the hell happened to your leg?"
Australia looked up from where he was sitting in his favourite armchair at New Zealand. He had heard someone knocking but he'd just come home from the airport, gotten himself settled in the living room, and didn't feel like getting up for anyone or anything. For once he was thankful that he'd given his brother the spare key to his place as he was normally irritated about his spare key being across the Tasman. Occasionally he'd come home from the pub and find he'd mislaid his house keys somewhere and be cursing the fact that his spare key was in another country. He could always get another spare cut, but where's the fun in that?
"I went out for a walk, Zea, what do you think?" Australia looked down again. He didn't want to explain why he broke his leg, least of all to New Zealand. He'd either laugh, or laugh and then give him a lecture, or be sympathetic. He could never really tell what kind of reaction his misfortune would get out of him. He looked up again and noticed New Zealand was holding a box. "What's in the box?"
"You are not dodging this one, Oz." New Zealand put the box down on the coffee table and was Australia imagining things, or did the box meow? A moment later New Zealand's hands were on his shoulders, and he was looking into his eyes. Australia shifted his head and eyes this way and that to try to avoid his brother's gaze, but New Zealand's eyes followed him every time until he finally gave up. "What happened to your leg?"
"You'll laugh at me." Australia said. "You always laugh at my misfortune."
"I do not!" New Zealand said. Australia heard more meowing coming from the box on the coffee table behind him, and noticed it was starting to move to the edge of the table. "When was the last time I laughed at you when you were sick or injured?"
"Um..." Australia said, and noticed the box about to fall off of the table. "Zea, the box!"
"Shit!" New Zealand spun around and grabbed the box before it fell off of the table. "Aw, you've woken up, little fella?"
"The cat's a boy?" Australia said and New Zealand spun back around to glare at him with the box in his hands. "I know, I know, you're not done with me yet."
"Not a cat, a kitten." New Zealand said. "Now spill."
"All right. You know how America was mouthing off that he had this amazing new invention that was better than anything invented before?" Australia said. New Zealand nodded as took the kitten out of the box and held it. It was a brown tabby kitten, and had two bits of fur sticking up on its head like Australia's own hair. "And how he said England was a wuss who wouldn't try it?"
"I remember him making a big song and dance about that a few weeks back." New Zealand petted the kitten, and Australia could hear it purring. "He convinced you to try it?"
"Yeah. It was a car with rocket boosters and a few other "improvements" only America would think of making. He claimed that it was the perfect car for busy people everywhere. Start it up, and zoom! When I got up close and personal to the thing I suddenly understood why England refused." Australia said and motioned for the kitten. New Zealand carefully handed it over and Australia held it close. He loved animals of all kinds so this was the perfect gift, and the little guy even reminded him of him a little! "It was covered in rocket boosters including a massive one at the back I swear he swiped from NASA. It looked like it was from one of those space shuttles."
"Shit... and you still agreed to try it?" New Zealand said. "I know the others think of you as the guy who's up for anything no matter how crazy or dangerous, but there has to be limits, Oz!"
"Zea, I was careful." Australia petted the kitten gently, and it nuzzled closer to him, purring loudly. "I followed all of the safety instructions I was given to the letter, and you can't be more careful than that."
"The best safety instruction would've been not getting in the bloody car in the first place." New Zealand said. "What if one of you had died?"
"But we didn't!" Australia said, and the kitten jumped a little. Australia started petting it again, and it settled down. "I broke a leg and some ribs, and America broke an arm and a leg as well as getting a concussion. No major harm done."
"I see." New Zealand took a deep breath and seemed to be mentally counting to ten. He only did that when he was trying not to get angry.
"Don't even think about yelling at me." Australia said and New Zealand let go of that deep breath. Australia was sure he was still angry though. "You'll scare the kitten."
"Can I hold the kitten again?" New Zealand said and Australia stared at him for a moment. New Zealand now looked to be shaking with... well; he couldn't tell if it was fury, worry, or something else. Probably fury, considering. Australia continued to pet the kitten instead of handing it over.
"Not until you calm down." Australia ignored whatever outburst New Zealand was about to have, and focused on the kitten in his arms instead. "If you want something calming to drink there's plenty of tea in the kitchen, and beer in the fridge."
"At least you're not resisting the urge to call me an idiot." Australia muttered to the kitten who just purred in response. He continued to pet the kitten as he watched New Zealand go into the kitchen, and hoped he'd bring him back a beer if he wasn't too angry. He had to admit his hopes of that were starting to fade as he heard New Zealand slamming what sounded like every cupboard door in his kitchen, and the noise of a boiling kettle over the top of that. "Safer to stay out here, mate."
New Zealand soon re-emerged from the kitchen with a cup of tea for himself and a beer which he handed over to Australia. He was still shaking a little as he sat down in one of the other armchairs and Australia couldn't resist making a joke about it.
"Wasn't slamming all the cupboard doors enough to calm down, bro?" Australia said and New Zealand glared at him. "Ta for the beer."
"You're welcome." New Zealand drank his tea. "I thought you had more sense than to get roped into America's crazy schemes!"
"So now it's lecture time, is it?" Australia sighed. The kitten had just fallen asleep, and he carefully moved him to his lap. "Right. Lecture away and sound and act like the Pom while you're at it to make it more entertaining."
"I can't and don't sound like England!" New Zealand said. "I don't act like him either!"
"Yeah you do!" Australia laughed. "You're losing your temper and drinking tea. Just like the Pom!"
"I'm NOTHING like him!" New Zealand said. "Drinking tea and having a temper doesn't mean squat!"
"Oooh, the Kiwi's getting defensive." Australia said. He was fairly sure his leg gave him a free pass for this so he could be a little cheekier. "You're a defensive little Pommy Kiwi."
"You are so bloody lucky you're injured." New Zealand glared at him. "I was actually going to mention Canada before you started calling me a Pom."
"What about Canada?" Australia said.
"He called me and explained that he was feeling stressed out looking after you and America, that you were on your way home, and that I should go see you. He also told me you were injured, but not how badly." New Zealand said. "I thought it might be a sprained ankle or something equally as minor until I saw the cast."
"We didn't plan to cause him stress." Australia said. "Now, I'll admit taking care of two active blokes like ourselves is no easy task. Canada kept us in one part of America's house so he could keep an eye on us more easily, and it was beyond boring! In the end we had to do something to make life interesting and feel more like ourselves again! Zea, you understand, right?"
"Well..." New Zealand noticed the look on Australia's face that said 'agree with me'. "I guess it makes sense. What did you do?"
"We had a race, and it was all America's idea as you can imagine..." Australia started to tell the tale, and kept an eye on the sleeping kitten in his lap.
"Hey. Hey, bro!" Australia looked over at America's bed. Even though his vision was still a little blurry from sleep he could tell America was wide awake.
"Yeh?" Australia said. He didn't really want to wake up right then. He was having the most wonderful dream about being back home, fully recovered, and going for a surf.
"See that armchair over there?" America sat up in his bed and pointed at the chair with his good arm. Canada had been doing his best since they got out of hospital to look after both of them, but America spent more time out of bed driving his brother crazy than in it recuperating.
"What about it?" Australia sat up to look at the chair and rubbed his eyes to get rid of the last of the blurriness. "Mate, that chair's across the room!"
"I bet that I can get to that chair faster than you without my crutches." America said, and got out of bed. He used the side of it to support himself as he hopped to the end of it. Australia got out of bed and did the same.
"You're on!" Australia said and started hopping towards the chair. His ribs weren't enjoying the race as much as he was, but he ignored that. They had to get this race done before Canada came back or he'd drag the two of them back to bed.
"Hey, you got a head start, you cheater!" America said, and hopped as fast as he could to keep up. They got halfway across the room when America was suddenly grabbed by Canada. "Mattie, I'm gonna lose!"
"I don't care if you lose," Canada said as he dragged America back towards his bed. "You're supposed to be resting!"
"But Mattie..." America said as he noticed Australia reach the chair and sit in it.
"Bro, I won!" Australia grinned. "What sort of prize do I get?"
"My hand meeting your backside, mate." Canada muttered as he got America back to his bed. "Alfred F. Jones, you get back into bed and stay there!"
"Y-yes Mattie." America said softly as he did as he was told. Canada only used his full name like that when he was really, really, mad. Canada picked up Australia's crutches and took them over to him.
"Here's your prize." Canada dropped the crutches in his lap. "Get your butt back across that room and into bed this instant!"
"You know I'm still wobbly as on these." Australia said. This was true; he was still having trouble getting the hang of using them.
"Get some practice then, and get back to bed or you'll miss out on lunch." Canada said as he walked out of the room.
"What's lunch?" Australia said.
"Pancakes." Australia had never zoomed across a room so fast on crutches in all his life.
"Oh man, Canada got tough on you two!" New Zealand laughed. "I guess that's what he'd be like as a parent."
"Yeah, he did." Australia was glad to see that New Zealand wasn't angry with him anymore. "You wouldn't make me stay in my room until I recovered, right?"
"Why do you ask?" New Zealand said and noticed Australia was trembling. He walked over and hugged him. "Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine." Australia said. "I just didn't like being cooped up in one room like that at America's house. You wouldn't do that, right?"
"No way." New Zealand said and took the kitten off of Australia's lap. "Now, up you get."
"Eh?" Australia said.
"You heard me." New Zealand gently placed the sleeping kitten on the couch. It moved a little and then curled up again to sleep some more. "You're gonna help me make dinner."
"All right." Australia said and made his way to the kitchen. He arrived in the kitchen to find that New Zealand wasn't in there. "Hey, I thought you said we were making dinner?"
"We are!" New Zealand walked into the kitchen pushing the spinning chair with wheels from Australia's office in front of him. "Take a seat!"
"What's this for?" Australia sat down. "I can get around just fine on my crutches!"
"I know that, but this'll make food preparation and getting around in here easier." New Zealand said. "I was thinking of cooking up the chops in the fridge, some mashed potatoes, and some veggies for tonight. Sound good?"
"Definitely." Australia said. "What do you want me to do?"
"If you could peel and cut up the potatoes, that'd be great!" New Zealand got some frozen vegetables out of the freezer and turned around. "Aaaand you're still sitting there. Potatoes are in the cupboard just there, and a potato peeler should be in the cutlery drawer."
"Oh! Right." Australia scooted around the kitchen on the chair getting the potatoes and the peeler, and then washed the potatoes in the sink before peeling them. The chair did make getting around the kitchen a lot easier than it would've been with the crutches alone, and he got a pot out of a cupboard for the potatoes. He got up to chop them and felt something furry run across his foot. "Zea, what was that?"
"It was the kitten." New Zealand grinned. "He's playing with my shoelaces at the moment."
Australia handed over a lidded pot with the potatoes in it ready for boiling, and sat back down to watch the kitten. The kitten was watching New Zealand's shoelaces as he moved his feet and was trying to pounce on them. New Zealand waved one foot back and forth while he cooked so the kitten would have something to chase and pounce on. He crouched down watching the moving shoelaces closely, looking for the right time to pounce. Aha! He jumped and grabbed a shoelace with his front paws. New Zealand gently pulled his foot in the opposite direction to try to free the shoelace, and the kitten bit the shoelace to try to hold on to it. The kitten started chewing on the shoelace until he noticed Australia. He let go of the shoelace, ran over to Australia, and jumped up a few times to try to get into his lap again. Unfortunately he couldn't jump high enough so Australia grabbed him at the top of one of his jumps, and set him down on his lap.
"Everything's just about ready." New Zealand said. He started turning off the elements on the stove, and switched off the oven. "Do you want to mash the potatoes?"
"Sure, but could you take the kitten?" Australia said. New Zealand took the kitten off of him, and Australia got margarine and milk out of the fridge. He went over to the stove and mashed the potatoes, then took the kitten back. He also got out the way so New Zealand could get the chops out of the oven. He then put a couple of plates on the bench next to the stove, put out some cutlery on the kitchen table, and then New Zealand gave him the margarine and milk to put back in the fridge. "Thanks for making this, and making me help you."
"No problem." New Zealand carried the plates to the table and placed them down. "You've gotta learn how to handle all this stuff on your own anyway."
"That's true." Australia liked having his brother around, but he knew he couldn't ask him to stay for too long. "I wonder how America and Canada are getting on."
"America'll be driving Canada nuts by now." New Zealand said. "He doesn't like lazing around doing nothing even if he's sick or injured."
"Yeah, he'll probably want to fix the design for the rocket car even though we've only been out of hospital for a week or so." Australia said and gave the kitten a small piece of meat. "But that's enough about them. Where'd you get this little guy, and how old is he?"
"He's 10 or 11 weeks old, and I got him and his brother at a pet store back home. His brother acted a lot like me, and he acted a lot like you so I figured you might like him." New Zealand said. "I haven't given him a name. That part's up to you."
"Might take me a few days to find the right name." Australia fed the kitten another piece of meat. "I don't know what kind of name fits him yet."
"No rush, aye?" New Zealand said. "I took a few days to name mine."
"Speaking of your kitten," Australia said. "Who's looking after him while you're here?"
"One of my neighbours." New Zealand said. "Their kids already think he's cute as, and were kind of sad that I had to bring your one here. I think they thought I was keeping both kittens."
"I see." Australia said. "He'll have a great home here! I wonder where Ned is. I haven't seen him since I got home."
"Ned'll turn up." New Zealand said. "Once he realises you're home he'll want to sit on your shoulder as usual."
"I hope he and this little guy get along." Australia yawned. "Last thing I need is a cat and a koala at each other's throats."
"They'll be fine." New Zealand finished his dinner and Australia yawned again. "Go get some sleep, and I'll clean up here."
"Thanks Zea. The flight back from the States must be catching up with me." Australia scooted over to where he'd left his crutches, and gently put the kitten on the floor before getting up. "Night bro."
"Night Oz." He heard New Zealand say as he left the kitchen, and noticed that the kitten was following him back into the living room. He decided to sleep on the couch rather than going all the way to his room. The kitten jumped up onto the couch with him, and curled up just above Australia's shoulder.
"You're staying with me tonight, little guy?" Australia yawned again and the kitten purred in response. Just as he drifted off to sleep he could feel New Zealand putting a blanket on him that'll be on the floor by morning...