A/N: The first part of this is set in the year 1782; the rest of it is set in 1794. I staged Francis' death at the close of the Seven Years' War, and Arthur's death on Alfred's independence day.
The United States of America was a proud country. Not a person alive would disagree with that statement. The man behind the country was no exception; Alfred F. Jones was what some might call a rebel, or perhaps a pioneer - a visionary, even. There were many words to describe the man, but "weak" was certainly not one of them. Yet, July fourth came and Alfred was crying.
Matthew Williams was used to this, as he knew that this was an annual occurrence. He knew because he had done the same sort of thing every February tenth for three years straight. The only difference was that he had stopped a long time ago.
Alfred had been doing it for six years now. He would take Matthew with him to the cemetery in Paris - where Arthur had requested he be buried when he died - and cry over his father's tombstone.
It upset Matthew to be there, since Arthur was buried right next to his father - the man Arthur had killed thirteen years prior to his own death; the one he loved to hate, and yet hated to love. To this day, Matthew still hurt whenever he saw the name Francis Bonnefoy etched into that tombstone, but he refused to deny Alfred's request in coming to the graveyard.
"Al," the younger boy spoke at last, breaking his companion out of his reverie. "They're in heaven now. They're much better off there than they were here." It almost actually physically hurt him to see his adopted brother like this and be telling him to try and get over it, but he knew it had to be said. "I know you miss your dad. Believe me, I miss mine too - I have since seventeen-sixty-three, but I learned to let go. Alfred...you should do the same."
Alfred stood up from where he'd been kneeling before Arthur's grave. Upon moving away, he felt the feeling of safety flee from him, and a wave of cold dread take its place, as if the arms of Arthur's spirit were losing their grip with every step the man took.
"You're right, Matt," he whispered, his voice so soft that a rare gust of wind threatened to blow the words right from his mouth. "I miss him. I always will, but... It's high time I get on with my own life."
Matthew laid a hand on his brother's shoulder, a wan smile gracing his lips. "It takes bravery to do that, Al."
"You did it nineteen years ago. It only makes sense that I should do it, too."
There was another brief moment where neither of them said anything. They simply hugged each other tightly, Alfred waiting for his tears to dry, and Matthew trying to keep his at bay. When they broke apart, Alfred was smiling. It was the first time Matthew had seen him genuinely smile since Arthur died, and it produced a feeling of elation that raised goosebumps on his skin.
"You can do it," he whispered, gently gripping Alfred's arms. He didn't know what he was proposing that Alfred do - all he knew was that an impetus told him to say it, so he did. Either way, it felt right. "You can do it, Alfred. Nothing can stop you."
The two of them looked down at the tombstones of their fathers, but instead of misery, they felt a strange sense of relief, as though they were being forgiven by the spirits that rested there.
It was a feeling Alfred would remember for the rest of his life: The way it felt to hold his brother in his arms, to know that everything from the past was forgiven, that the spirit of his dad was alive, even if his body was dead...
And the way he felt his heart revive in the year seventeen-eighty-two.
Twelve years later, on February fourteenth, Alfred and Matthew walked into their first world meeting together.
They were young countries, each of them madly smitten with the other, though neither one knew about the other's feelings. It was that time of their lives, after all, and it was nothing more than typical. Or, rather, it wasn't to them. To the countries they'd met that day, it seemed to be the only thing that kept the room silent once they had walked in.
Alfred entered the room in which the world's countries held their annual meeting, joined at the hand by Matthew, who was close behind. He found the neighboring seats that had their names emblazoned on them and took his, smiling at his brother as he did the same.
The entire world was staring.
By the time the men had actually noticed this, everyone was exchanging bewildered phrases and hushed whispers.
Alfred saw a man with dull brown eyes and choppy black hair lean over to his blond-haired companion, catching the words, "Like reincarnations" on his lips. He heard someone saying "Striking resemblance" somewhere behind him, and even noticed a tan girl with brown pigtails staring straight at them and mouthing the words, "Just like them."
He'd had enough of it. Abruptly, Alfred stood, clearing his throat loudly. "Excuse me," he began curtly, scanning the chattering crowd. "Please tell me what's going on here."
At the close of his request, everyone hushed. A full minute passed before someone stepped forward. It was an oriental man with amber-colored eyes and his hair tied back into a ponytail; Alfred vaguely recalled his father telling him the story of a great nation called China with looks like that, so it wasn't hard to deduce that this must be who the man was. The American nodded once in a respectful regard.
"Y-you're," the Chinese nation began, stopping to clear his throat. "You're Arthur's son?" Alfred nodded, so the other man continued. "And he's...Francis' son?" Another nod.
China stepped back just as a man with rust-red hair and a peculiarly spaced-out look on his face trotted right up to Alfred's side. Slowly, the man's eyes opened. "You look just like them," he said softly.
"I've been hearing that for the past ten minutes," Alfred replied, his voice just barely edging on annoyance. "Like who?"
"Who is 'them'?"
"Arthur. And Francis." There was a short pause before the redheaded man smiled and spoke again. "Because you really do...you...remind us of them. Seeing you two coming in like that just surprised everyone, is all."
"Coming in like...what?" America's eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"They were always together at meetings on Valentine's Day. They never held hands, like you two do, but they still always came in together."
"Feliciano," a gruff blonde called out. "Leave them alone."
"Coming!" With that, Feliciano went to stand next to the blond man.
"We're sorry for bothering you," the latter apologized, motioning for everyone to take their seats. "This is no time to gawk, everyone. Let's begin the meeting."
Because the subject of Valentine's Day had everyone distracted, the meeting ended up only lasting an hour, which was a fact that Alfred was very thankful for. By the time the blond man - who had introduced himself as Ludwig, the nation of Germany - let them all go, half the world had looked over at him and Matthew with awed glances, and Alfred was rather annoyed with it.
The brothers left the room, barely looking at each other for fear of having nothing to say. At one point, their gazes did accidentally meet, and instead of their fears being lived, the opposite happened.
"Feliciano said that we looked like Arthur and Francis walking in holding hands," Canada said in a rush, turning pink and looking slightly bewildered at nothing in particular. "Does he mean we just physically look like them? Or did he mean..."
Alfred shrugged, trying to act indifferent as he picked up his pace. "I don't know, Matt."
"I-I-I...," the younger brother spluttered as he rushed to catch up, "I do. I just don't know how to say it."
Finally, Alfred halted. "Say what?"
Matthew collided with the other nation's back, letting a quiet huff loose. Still, he did not move. Instead, he curled his fingers into the fabric of Alfred's shirt. "He means we look like them. Like lovers."
There was a long pause. In the absence of Alfred's response, Matthew added, "Not that I'm suggesting anything. I-I just mean, that's what Feliciano meant, I think."
Matthew blinked, startled at the man's sharp response. "'No' what?"
Another pause. Alfred swallowed and elaborated, his tone softer now, with a hint of a smile. "We can't lie to ourselves."
Matthew thought he heard Alfred, of all people, stutter, but he wrote it off to faulty hearing on his part and gripped his brother's shirt tighter. "Lie?"
"I mean..." Alfred turned around, so Matthew let go of him and took a step back. "Matthew, I love you."
There were many things Matthew Williams thought he would feel if that confession was ever made to him - shock, elation, relief, or any form of the three combined - but, for reasons unfathomable, he simply felt right, like it was always meant to be, and he subconsciously knew it should happen. Before he knew it, he was saying it back, not a hint of anxiety or fear about it.
And there were tears in Alfred's eyes again. They weren't tears of regret, or of pain, Matthew knew. He'd never seen his brother cry out of joy, yet he could tell that's what they had to be. It was natural, it was beautiful, it was...something like déjà vu.
The déjà vu struck again when Alfred stepped forward, laced his arms around his waist, and kissed him, right there in the hallway.
"I love you," Matthew said softly, clinging to Alfred's bomber jacket as if his life depended on it. "I'll always love you."
"I'll always love you."
"You told me that once, a long time ago. That day."
"February the tenth. I know."
A chuckle. "Did you mean it?"
"You know I did. I still love you, you know."
"And I love you. More than any person should be allowed to love another person."
Silence for a moment. Then, "What everyone said at the meeting today was true."
A nod. "About them."
"That our love is still living on earth."
"You're so sappy, you git..."
"It's what I do, mon amour." He put an arm around the other's shoulders. "It's what I do."