Holy hell, I am so sorry for my lack of updating . I had very important A-Level exams and then I went on holiday. But I'm back now and hopefully my updates will be more regular now that I'm on holiday!
Thank you for all your support and the lovely reviews you've left. Hope you wnjoy this chapter!
Scotland lifted his head from the book he was reading at the sound of his traditional Nation name. England's green eyes were alight with both curiosity and apprehension and he looked as though he didn't quite know how to say what he clearly wanted to say. The red-head waited for a short while in order to allow the younger blonde to formulate his question properly.
"What was your Father Nation like? You knew my Mother but I never did get to meet your Father..."
Scotland's eyes widened and he realised why England was being apprehensive; he never spoke about both his and Ireland's father. He didn't speak about him, not only because he was still mildly upset about his passing and he missed him, but mainly because he genuinely didn't have anything left to say. What could he say? Nations are born and Nations can die; it was just unfortunate that his Father Nation had to show him that. The red-head's expression softened since he knew England only asked because he wanted to know more about him; it wasn't an attempt to upset him only an attempt to create greater understanding. He extended a hand for England to join him on the sofa.
"Sae ye want tae ken ah wee bit aboout mah Papa Celt..."
England seemed relieved that the other wasn't mad at him and he made himself comfortable next to the Scot.
"I would like to know about him, if you don't mind...Mother Britannia would always speak very fondly of him and she constantly rejected Rome's advances because of him, even though he had died some decades before hand..."
Scotland smiled tenderly for a moment and then spoke.
"Aye, Ah ken yer Ma loved mah Da dearly...An' Ah think it's appropriate tae tell ye that mah Da adored yer Ma. He preferred tae live quietly in th' North an' although it has always bin cold, back then the chill could be biting. But yer Ma brought warmth tae his world...She completed him..."
England smiled with Scotland as he spoke of the love their respective parents shared. Scotland ran a hand through his hair, recalling memories as old as he was.
"Erm, mah Da had ah thicker build wi' regards tae his body but Ah think he looked more like Patrick looks now, although Patrick thinks that I look more like he did..."
England rolled his eyes dramatically.
"You and Patrick look similar anyway. You're blood related..."
Scotland rolled his eyes and spoke teasingly.
"Ye an' Cari look similar and yer nae blood related any more cus yer cultures developed along different lines..."
England raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, well, that's Cariad and I; stop getting distracted..."
Scotland chuckled, a deep rumbling sort of sound and England could feel its vibrations through his own body.
"Alright, lad. Papa Celt had red hair longer than Paddy's noow an' Ah remember that he was very tall an' thickly built...He was th' friend uv both man an' beasts...'The Great Bear o' th' North' the people in our Tribe woulds say. He didnae speak much but, when he did, his voice was gruff an' deep..."
England noticed a certain glaze to Scotland's eyes and he knew that the elder man was lost in memories; something that tended to hit elder Nations hard. Scotland was no longer with him in the living room, he knew, but running wild beside his Father and his brother in forests he had no memories of.
"His laughter was scarce an' like th' roll of thunder an' his hands were rough like sandpaper; but he was still gentle an' his smiles were true. He was as strong as an oak an' firm wi' me an' Paddy; but he luved us...He was th' kind o' man who gave praise when it was due an' nae when it was wanted. If ye did somethin' wrong he woulds let ye ken. He was honest and proud an' he taught Paddy an' Ah all we knew at that time an' then we taught ye an' Cari an' Ella...Oh, if only ye could uv seen him in battle, Artie, t'was like watchin' ah dance..."
England listened quietly, building a picture of what his lovers' Father must have looked like and been like.
"Ah remember, however, when he came back home quieter than usual. He was distracted an' sighing all th' time. Poor Paddy, thought that he was unwell an', in hindsight, Ah suppose he was reit..."
The Scot stopped speaking suddenly. When England glanced at the Scot, he noticed that the red-head's brows were furrowed.
"Look, let me show ye; everythin' Ah'm tellin' ye will make a lot more sense cus, after all, Ah can show ye better than Ah can tell ye..."
England's eyes widened when Scotland moved and pressed two fingers against his own forehead. Scotland's midnight blue energy swirled gracefully around the digits and he kept them there until his eyes turned to the colour of molten mercury. After a few seconds, he moved his hand mechanistically and pressed his finger tips against England's forehead. England gritted his teeth and furrowed his brows as he struggled to stop his energy from rising to attack the Scot. He could feel the blue energy penetrate his skin and then the bone of his skull, making its way deeper until it got to his brain. His body became lax against Scotland's, the elder man making his embrace more snug so that England wouldn't slip off the sofa, and his eyes dulled to the same colour as Scotland's. His body shuddered briefly as an onslaught of memories seemed to flow into him from his red-headed spouse. Something told him that what was happening was special but he really wasn't concentrating on his own thoughts.
'In his mind's eye he saw a dense forest; there was nothing but brown and green for miles. The trees towered over the entire world and England could swear that he could even smell its scents; the dampness of the rain, the earth below and the wild flowers that dotted the forest floor. When he turned to his left however, he noticed that he was standing beside a man who was the spitting image of both Scotland and Ireland and to his right there was Ireland. Ireland was small and his face rounded with youth. He grinned at England, his smile so innocently sweet that it made England's heart ache.
Big brother? England was incredibly confused until it occurred to him that he was seeing these memories through Scotland's own eyes. He looked back up to the man next to him and figured that he must have been Papa Celt. If England could blush then he would have; with high cheekbones, pale skin with freckles and long, wild hair below his shoulder blades the man looked so much like both Scotland and Ireland that it was uncanny. He was slightly more heavily built than Scotland and older however and this, coupled with his fiery facial hair, really did make the man look like a bear. A voice like quiet thunder disturbed his thoughts.
"My son...That tree over there; hit it..."
England felt Scotland's young body move immediately. It was an extremely disconcerting feeling to be a part of a person's experience in such a manner. He was a simple spectator from behind Scotland's eyes and the feeling was slightly unnerving. Scotland drew his bow and arrow and took aim against a tree with a thick trunk. England noticed that the boy's aim was slightly off and, just as predicted, the arrow missed its target when it was shot, hitting a tree to its left. England heard a grunt.
"Concentrate. Go and get your arrow and then try again."
Papa Celt was indeed a stern man, England realised; his voice was apathetic but his emerald eyes were icy. Scotland voiced a frustrated 'che' sound but obediently ran to collect his arrows. He could feel the boy's aggravation and disappointment in himself, but he could also feel a genuine sense of failure and sadness. England could somehow feel himself smile; even at such a young age, Scotland hated to fail those whom he loved.
The youngster ran back to his father and took aim at the tree once more. Ireland watched supportively but with anticipation. The air was chilly even within the dense forest, but England could feel sweat trickle down Scotland's face as though it were his own due to the pressure he felt was upon him. That made England remember something; although Scotland was the strongest swordsman, he was weakest of their family with the bow. The bow and arrow was England's talent.
"You are over thinking things. Stop thinking about anything irrelevant..."
With those words, England could feel Scotland panic briefly but then calm. He took a deep breath, aimed and shot. The arrow sailed cleanly through the air and managed to hit the desired target, much to both Scotland and Ireland's delight. Scotland looked up to his Father. Although the man did not smile, his eyes were alight with pride at his son's progress. England could feel Scotland swell with joy.
Scotland retrieved his arrow with less bitterness but, before he could return to Papa Celt's side, England felt his consciousness being sucked towards another memory.
'England found himself with a slightly older Scotland and Ireland practising their sword skills using wooded swords. Ireland was on the floor panting, bruised and bloodied in a few places, and Scotland was winded; the pain sharp and uncomfortable. Scotland moved to attack the elder Celt and England wanted to scream for him to stop lest he hurt himself more. The long haired Celt dodged the attack easily, centuries of expertise trumping Scotland's mere decades. It was not long before the Celt spun and followed his dodge through by striking Scotland with the hilt of his sword, causing the boy to fall. The boy turned to face his opponent and Celt merely shrugged whilst holding the tip of his wooded sword against Scotland's collar bone...
Later that day saw two young boys, bruised from head to toe and both sporting numerous cuts and scrapes, being treated with salve and a hearty bowl of broth by their doting father.'
England was surprised by the gentleness of the 'Bear of the North' but he couldn't dwell on it since Scotland had begun to tug his consciousness towards another memory.
'Even though he only recognised Celt from a few memories, even he could tell that this was a memory of the bear-like red-head not being himself. Just as Scotland had described, the man was distracted and looked forlorn and it was all seemingly without a cause. England could feel Ireland and Scotland's anxiety with the whole situation and he could understand this entirely. Nation families really only had each other; the children really relied on their family Nations and so anxiety was a shared concept. The man would not even reveal what the problem was when asked; he would grunt in annoyance, dismiss the issue entirely or blush and mutter 'I am not well'.
Time suddenly seemed to pass in a fast-forward manner and England theorised that Scotland was speeding up his memories to show that even though time had been passing, his Father's behaviour remained unchanged. The winter morphed to spring, the spring to summer, summer to autumn and back to winter in a continuous cycle. The cold colours of winter melted with the greens of spring and summer only to be engulfed by the fires of autumn. And yet, even though his surroundings changed, Papa Celt remained despondent. It wasn't until the following year, near the end of spring that Papa Celt became noticeably happier. His eyes were bright once more and there was an almost intolerable buzz about him. It worried Scotland and Ireland all the more because the change was so sudden.
It seemed as though Scotland's curiosity got the better of him when his Father left their house late one night. Scotland looked towards Ireland and England saw that he was fast asleep underneath his furs. Scotland left the boy and went to follow his Father, always being guided by the bond he shared with him whilst cleverly suppressing his own energy completely so that his presence would remain undetected. England knew that the Scot was worried but he couldn't believe that he had left the safety of his hut in the dark of night without so much as a dagger on him and that he had willingly left Ireland all alone. Yet, the young Scot was evidently comfortable in the Forests he grew up in.
He soon reached a small clearing by a lake and was surprised to see his father sitting under a tree. He was seemingly waiting for something, his eyes restless. Scotland his behind a hulking mass of dead wood that had collapsed some months before. He watched his Father waiting for some time and he was very close to calling it quits until he felt a sweet but apprehensive energy and saw his Father get up immediately and straighten up.
From the dense forest came a woman. England felt Scotland furrow his brows in confusion; he clearly wasn't expecting his Father Nation to be meeting a woman. He watched the way his Father's eyes lit up with an almost agonising joy and even in the dark of night he saw that his Father was nervous.
Scotland could see that the woman was beautiful even at his young age; her corn-coloured hair shone almost as white as her luminescent skin in the moonlight and fell in gentle waves to her hips, her form was graceful and lithe beneath her smock and her face exquisite with its loveliness. If his Father was a bear, then the stranger was a doe; all grace and beauty but laced with strength. The young woman spoke, her voice like bells although he couldn't really hear what she was saying. Papa Celt held out a hand to the woman in a silent request that she was free to refuse although his eyes remained so hopeful and so full of tenderness that it was almost too much to bear.
England on the other hand was close to tears as a young Scotland stared in wonderment. That was Britannia; that was his Mother and seeing her again through another's eyes was agonising for him. Even after so many centuries, he still loved her so dearly. Seeing her again, even if it was just a memory, caused a great ache in his heart.
Britannia hesitated for a long while and Celt seemed to give up hope. He turned to leave but that startled the woman into action. With tears in her eyes she cried out to Celt and, when he turned around, she ran straight into his arms; her petite stature all the more apparent within the arms of the Great Bear. Scotland seemed to understand that this was a private moment and returned home.'
England remained immobile as Scotland took him through some more memories of a family life with Britannia; from their first introduction to humorous memories of the woman out-shooting and defeating both the young Celtic boys and even giving Papa Celt a run for his money. England, although slightly jealous at the family scenes, was moved by what he saw and found himself feeling happy that his Mother was loved by a man who blatantly adored her; even if he was quiet and rather stiff and self-conscious.
'England had to steel himself as the flow of memories slowed down until it reached a dreary scene. The sky was engulfed by grey, the trees were bare of leaves and the atmosphere was thick and heavy. And there in the centre of it all was a dying Celt held tenderly in the arms of his eldest son whilst his youngest was clinging on to his tunic, clearly distraught as tears poured down his face. Poor Ireland, he clearly did not understand what was happening but he knew it was something terrible. The Celt spoke roughly.
"Do not cry for this my boy...You will not see me but-"
The Great Bear softly laid a hand over Ireland's heart.
"I will be...right here...Always..."
Ireland continued to sob but he was quieter. Celt looked up to Scotland and England saw only raw love and grief in the man's eyes.
"You are...the Head of this Family...now...Protect and love..this Family...as much as I have loved...all three of you..."
Scotland remained unresponsive but England could feel tears welling up in his eyes. There was now so much responsibility on his small shoulders.
"It's too soon, Father...Please, don't go..."
Celt smiled sadly as he cupped the boy's cheek in a rare show of affection.
"I believe in you, Son...Remember, I will not...really be gone...I will...watch over and guide you...I love you..."
Celt lowered his hand and turned to look at a grieving Britannia who was hugging both boys. Good God, England hated seeing her so upset.
"Silly woman...shedding tears for me and not yourself..."
Britannia knew he meant that she should grieve for her own loneliness and not for Celt's passing. The woman shook her head and smirked sadly.
"My heart will be broken but I will not be alone..."
The poignant look in Celt's eyes would haunt England forever. It was a look of a man who though accepting that his time had come, really did not want to go. He did not want to leave his sons or his lady whom he loved more than his own life.
With one last kiss from Britannia and hugs for his boys, Celt closed his eyes one final time as his body seemed to fade into a dust that was carried away by the wind. England felt Scotland's heart break as his arms were suddenly empty of the Father he loved. There was nothing left to show that he had even existed.
Later that day, Scotland was still managing to keep his emotions in check as Britannia finally put Ireland to sleep. Quite suddenly however, Scotland stormed outside to sit by the lake. He sat there for a while, just staring out at the water, until he was disturbed by someone sitting next to him. It was Britannia, her face sympathetic but her eyes were glassy with fresh grief. She spoke quietly.
"It is weakness to cry in front of one's enemies, but not in front of one's family..."
Scotland turned to look at Britannia with bitterness; bitterness that England would have skinned him for if his could.
"I only have one family member now, and he is inside sleeping..."
If Britannia was hurt by the words, she did not show it. Her face remained understanding as she wrapped and arm around the boy. Her tone was firm and honest but gentle.
"Well if you truly believe that Family only means blood then you are a fool; and I know that your Father did not raise fools. Until the day I join your Father and even beyond that, you and your brother will always have me...You are my beloved sons..."
It took a while but soon Scotland began to sob quietly; he was only a boy and the day was catching up with him. Not long after, the very fact that he would never see his Father again seemed to hit him like a herd of stampeding cattle and he began to weep in earnest. Britannia cried silently as the boy wept in her arms until he fell asleep. Britannia carried the boy to the bed he shared with Ireland. As the woman moved to sleep in the bed herself and Celt shared, heart heavy by the fact that she would be sleeping alone, she shed a few tears of joy as Scotland's timid voice called out.
England gritted his teeth as the fog of memories seemed to be sucked from his consciousness, leaving him in full control of himself once again. The mercury glaze slowly cleared from his eyes as Scotland removed his fingers and his blue energy faded away. It took a while for England to orientate himself to the present but he quickly turned around to make sure Scotland was alright. He wasn't really expecting to see the man with his eyes closed with silent tears running down his face. His brows were drawn together in anguish. England could feel guilt and pity surge through him. He moved to embrace the Scot, his hand running through the man's hair soothingly. Scotland spoke, his voice hoarse with grief.
"They say that time heals all wounds, but Ah donnae believe in that anymore..."
England looked pensive for a moment but then spoke quietly and sadly.
"It dulls the pain somewhat, but it doesn't ever erase it completely...I am so sorry that I brought the memories to surface...Your Father was a good man..."
Scotland choked out a sob but managed to collect himself, his tears stopping soon enough.
"It's alright; it is unwise tae forget...He was th' best...There's never bin ah man as guid as he was..."
England chuckled quietly and Scotland looked at him with surprise and mild hurt. England smiled and kissed the man chastely as he wiped any lingering tears away.
"If Celt is your standard of a good man, then you and Ireland have certainly reached-if not surpassed- that standard...You do him proud..."
England knew he had said the right thing when the elder man's mouth tilted upwards into a smile, his eyes creasing with joy and his cheeks flushing with pride.
"Yoour exactly like yer Ma; ye always ken th' reit thing tae say..."
It was England's turn to flush, his heart warmed by the man's words.
"Thank you for sharing your memories with me...You must have known that the memories upset you and still you shared them..."
Scotland simply smiled and rested his forehead against England. The blonde knew exactly what the man wanted to say without the need for words; he was happy to share his thoughts with the one he loved.
Both of them soon felt exhaustion from the day's events and they both moved to go to Scotland's room to sleep. Scotland took his side of the bed by the window and made sure that England's back was flush against his chest, their legs were entwined and his arms were around the smaller man's waist. England sighed in bliss as sleep took over and he was comforted by Scotland's warm breath against his neck. He silently prayed that he would never have to go through what his mother did; he did not know what he would do if Scotland were to die like his Father all those centuries ago. He did not know if he could live with that sort of grief.
During the night however, England awoke because he felt as though he and his spouse were not alone. The moon shone through the room's large window and it wasn't long before England noticed a man sitting quietly on the arm chair at the far corner of the room. Panic surged within England and he was about to wake Scotland up until he saw the stranger lift a finger to his lips in a gesture for silence. England raised himself slightly to look at the man better, being careful not to wake up his sleeping Scot, especially after such an emotional day. The man walked towards him and into the moonlight and England's eyes widened.
Wild, thick red hair to his shoulder blades, thickly muscled body, bright emerald eyes and stern but kindly features; it was Papa Celt. England had heard stories about how Rome and Germania visited their families but this was new for the Britannic family. The man spoke quietly in an ancient Celtic language, his voice very much like quiet thunder.
"You are the spitting image of your Mother..."
England blushed slightly under the phantom's scrutiny but he spoke confidently in the same language.
"And your sons are the spitting image of you..."
The man was quiet but England suddenly felt incredibly bold.
"I'm glad that you're their Father and that it was you that loved my Mother...They couldn't have been loved by a better man..."
The Celt seemed surprised but then he responded.
"That may be so but they couldn't have found a more loving Family...Thank you for loving them..."
England flushed suddenly feeling less bold.
"There is nothing to thank me for; loving your sons comes as naturally as breathing...I..."
England looked away from the man briefly but then turned back with determination.
"I have made mistakes- terrible mistakes- in the past but I have always loved them and I always will...I promise you that they will always be loved when they are here with the Family..."
The Ancient was silent for a long while; simply staring at Scotland's sleeping form and the way he held on tightly to England. He then turned to the blonde with a ghost of a smile. He placed a gentle but heavy hand on England's head, ruffling his hair some.
"I believe you...Patrick and your sister Eleanor are visiting in a few days, am I correct? As well as all my grandchildren..."
England nodded, the heavy hand on his head limiting his movement somewhat.
"Yes...Ela, Patrick, Alas' children, Seamus and some of my own children will be there..."
Celt's smile became more pronounced.
"Your Mother and I will visit then...So we can all be together if only for a day...Do not tell anyone though..."
England's face was disbelieving; both he and Cariad would see their mother and his children would know their grandmother. England's eyes creased with emotion.
"Tell Mother how much we still love her...Tell her how desperately we want to see her..."
The Celt smiled wider, the expression surprisingly natural on such a gruff looking man.
"She loves you all as well and, despite our happiness at being together, we miss you...We are both so proud of all of you..."
England smiled genuinely.
"Thank you and thank you for coming here tonight..."
The Celt merely nodded as he ruffled England's hair one last time. With a final, tender glance at his sleeping son, he faded into nothingness. England found he missed the weight upon his head. He went to bed once more, snuggling even more into his husband's embrace, suddenly incredibly eager for time to pass.
When Scotland questioned England about a strange but comforting feeling he had had during the night, England smiled knowingly but kept his promise to Ancient Celt, much to Scotland's confusion.
"Don't worry my love; the Bear kept watch is all..."