A little while ago I was reading about the Tudors, and I remembered the fact that Elizabeth said she was married to her country. And somehow, reading it again with the knowledge of Hetalia made some very strange, fangirlish ideas take shape in my head. I had a look and, lo and behold, I'm not the only one who now madly ships EnglandXElizabethI.
And so I wrote them a story.
I feel duty-bound to warn you that I haven't actually finished writing this entire thing in advance so you might possibly have to put up with short periods of 'arlskglsdgdls I can't write anything!' halfway through. I'll try my best not to give into that, though.
Hetalia belongs to Hidekaz Himaruya, but you knew that.
Yes, my Elizabethan fanfiction starts in 1973 and includes my unshakable AmericaXSouthVietnam headcanon. Deal with it. ^_^
7th May 1973
"America? Oh my God, where the bloody hell have you been?"
The United States of America stood on the doorstep of the United Kingdom household and stared silently up at his former mentor. His clothes were dirty and crumpled, as though he hadn't changed them in days. He barely acknowledged the pouring rain as it drenched his dishevelled hair, ran down his unshaven face and pooled on his slumped shoulders, soaking his shirt. Nantucket drooped so low it was barely recognisable. The smell of stale sweat and alcohol hung around him like an aura of uncleanliness and his usual confidence was gone as his blank, helpless eyes stared through his limp fringe in a way that made England's spine crawl. He had seen America at his best and at his worst, but he had never once seen him like this.
"I don't know..." he said slowly, as though just searching for words that made sense was an effort. "Places."
"Everyone's been sick with worry! You can't just disappear off like that without telling anyone where you're going! Last we heard, you just walked out on your President and no-one could get in contact with you! It's been a week! You've caused an international emergency, did you know that? The CIA are out looking for you and everything! And now you just turn up on my doorstep... Good God, man, you can't just do that! What were you thinking?"
America withstood England's tirade with the same blank, emotionless stare. It was as though something deep within his brain had short-circuited and now he was running on autopilot, just drifting along without thinking or feeling anything at all. America was a good few inches taller than him, but England still felt the odd sensation of looking down at him as he took in his eyes. America had always had the most expressive eyes England had ever seen. Whether he was angry, disappointed, happy, excited or determined, his emotions were always broadcast to the world through his eyes so clearly it was impossible to mistake what he was feeling. He had never seen his eyes this flat before. Completely, utterly, soul-shatteringly flat, as though his world had burned away and now there was nothing left for him to feel.
England sighed and stepped aside. "Come in."
It is a well-known fact in the United Kingdom that tea cures everything, and if not cure, it still works at least as well as a general anaesthetic. Whether you've had a bad day, a messy break-up or a broken leg, tea is always the best thing for you. Which was why, after giving America a clean, dry shirt and pointing him towards the shower, England wasted no time in filling the kettle with water and setting it to boil.
"He doesnae look too good," said Scotland, coming into the kitchen with an uncharacteristically concerned expression. "What's wrong with him?"
"I don't know," said England. "Listen, can you call the Prime Minister for me? Tell him we've found America."
"Aye," Scotland said without hesitation. Although he'd never admit it, England was thankful that even his brother had grasped the seriousness of the situation and had dispensed with his usual habit of coming up with every excuse under the sun to avoid doing whatever he asked him to do.
"Oh, and one more thing." Scotland turned to listen, halfway out of the kitchen door. "After you're done, can you please make sure Wales and Northern Ireland don't come down here? I don't think he needs an audience."
Scotland nodded and left. England leant against the counter and closed his eyes, listening as the kettle hummed and the water splashed and hissed itself to boiling point. It was a calming sound. The past week had been a flurry of phone calls and emergency meetings, of heightened security and terrified politicians, of kidnap worries and conspiracy theories. It wasn't every day that the USA suddenly just disappeared and every nation in the world had heard about it. Everyone had been on high alert, their police scouring city streets, all searching for a trace of the American. And now he just appeared on their doorstep without even calling first, looking like he'd been spending his free week rolling around in the gutter.
England took a deep breath and let the noise of the kettle soothe his nerves. He'd been so tense that week a good blow would've snapped him clean in two. At least America was alright. Well, physically, anyway. He clearly hadn't been kidnapped or murdered, which meant a lot less political fallout and a lot more trouble for him when he got back to the White House.
The sound of the door brought England out of his reverie. The shower had done America good; he was clean and dry now, and no longer smelt like the worst kind of lower-class pub. The new shirt fit him a little strangely, but at least it wasn't stained with God-knows-what.
"Sit down," said England, and America dropped into a kitchen chair without question. "Scotland's calling the Prime Minister, telling him we've got you. He'll pass the message through to the White House. I can't even tell you how relieved they're going to be. They take you very seriously, you know." He dropped teabags into two of the biggest mugs he could find and filled them with hot water. Stir, press, drain, bin. One of the teas was perfect, one had far too much milk and two sugars, just how America liked it. He brought the mugs to the table and sat down.
"I hate tea," muttered America, but he still held the mug tightly and took two long gulps.
England did the same, and felt a week's worth of tension and stress begin to melt away. "Now," he said, regarding the American over his mug, "do you want to tell me why you saw fit to disappear like that?"
America stared into his tea, his face desolately expressionless. For a moment England wasn't sure if he was going to say anything at all, but then two flat, heavy words dropped from his mouth. "She's dead."
"She's dead!" he said again, a little louder. "She's dead and I couldn't save her."
A suspicion was creeping up on England, the tendrils of realisation starting to grip him, but he still had to confirm it. "Who's dead?"
"South... South Vietnam."
It was just as he'd feared. England sighed deeply and took another long gulp of tea, considering what to say next. He had never been good at comforting people, especially not over things like this. America's eyes weren't emotionless any more, but the crushed, devastated expression in them was even worse.
America saved him the trouble of having to think of a suitable response. "My... my President told me. North Vietnam stormed Saigon and killed her. He was so... detached, like it was just another political development, like he didn't even care... I-I don't know what happened, I just... I just couldn't be in there any more. I just wanted to leave. I didn't know where I was going or how it was gonna help, but... I don't know, Britain. I don't remember much. I don't even really know why I'm here... I guess you always made it better when I was little. Not that you can now or anything. I just had nowhere else to go."
England listened to him talk with his tea frozen halfway to his mouth, then set it back down on the table. America's President had broken the news to him rather insensitively, and that in turn had broken America. England was no stranger to countries being born and dying - although he didn't look it, he himself was quite an old nation. That was America's problem. He was so young. He was so tall and loud and confident it was easy to forget, but he had only properly come into existence a couple of centuries ago. He had an ability to lead, to walk into a room and be so sure of himself and his strategies that he left no space for doubt, but all that hid an innocence and naïveté that was now coming back to bite him. "I see," he said, trying to keep the pity out of his voice. America needed him to be strong, like he had been when he was the one who cleaned up his bumps and scratches and chased away his nightmares. "Yes, I had heard that there was only one Vietnam now. I-"
"It's my fault!" The words burst from America like he'd been struggling to contain them for hours. "It's all my fault! If I hadn't been there, they might not've even fought each other! If I hadn't convinced her that she could fight, South Vietnam wouldn't... she wouldn't have... I told her I'd save her, Britain! What sort of hero am I if I can't even save one girl?"
England took a deep breath, letting his thoughts process themselves. He had never been good at this, but he knew what he needed to say. "It wasn't your fault. You didn't help matters, I'll admit. You may have... escalated the conflict, but listen to me, America. You did not start the Vietnam War. South Vietnam was..." he paused. 'Doomed from the start' seemed a little insensitive. "It was her time. Countries don't live forever. We live longer than regular people, but we're born and we die just like them."
"But she wasn't just any other country!" America looked away and furiously rubbed at his eyes, trying to pretend he wasn't crying. He had done the same thing since he was young enough to use the knees of England's trousers to wipe his tears away. "She was... I don't know, she was special! She didn't deserve to die! She was so kind, so... She wasn't a soldier. What was I thinking, sending her to war? She was... I..." His words petered away, and he slowly turned back to look at England with dawning horror written plainly across his face. "Oh, shit. Do you think... I... Britain, I think I might have loved her."
He was looking at England with such urgency, as though a prompt answer to this question could change his life, that he had to take another long, slow gulp of tea before he said, "if you're this upset about it then yes, I think you might've done."
America let out a string of curses so extensive England would've pretended to be offended by it if this were any other situation. "But love's supposed to make you happy!" He turned almost accusing eyes on England. "You always told me it was a good thing! You read me those books, don't deny it! The hero saves the girl and they live happily ever after. Not one of those things happened. Not one. So how can it be love?"
England sighed. What had he been supposed to tell the smiling, laughing little boy? That love started out great but made you want to tear your heart out by the time it was over? He had skirted the question like a particularly muddy puddle. And the storybooks hadn't even been his choice - America had demanded he read them to him over and over again because he adored the action scenes and idolised the heroes. "Love's not always happy," he said slowly, feeling his way hesitantly down this unfamiliar path of conversation. "It can be, yes. If you find someone you love and they love you back, then love can be so happy you could just forget the world and drown in it. But the thing you have to know about love is that it covers both extremes. It can make you happier than you've ever been or so sad you want to die rather than have to live with it. That's just how it works."
America thought about this for a moment. "I was happy when she was... when I was with her," he said. "She was so sweet, and so brave, and she had this way of smiling where she barely moved her lips but it just lit up her whole face..." He was caught for a moment in a memory before crashing back to reality. "And now she's dead," he croaked, and his voice cracked. "And... and you're right. You're so right."
England wasn't quite sure how it happened, but suddenly America was sobbing into his shirt and he was holding him close just like he had when he was just a fledgling colony. Only this time he couldn't mop up his cuts and bruises and sort out his problems. This problem was one America had to deal with alone, and all he could do was offer comfort and advice. Comfort and advice that, he knew, would seem so insignificant in the face of all this impenetrable sorrow they might as well not be there at all.
"It won't last forever," he said, unsure of how much good it would do but sure that he had to try. "It might seem like it will, but it won't. It'll be tough for a long time, but then you'll wake up one day and realise that you don't want to cry whenever you think of her. There's nothing you can do but just remember her, and remember why you loved her, and let her go. There will be days where you don't even want to get out of bed, days where you feel like you'll never think of anything else, and days when you think you're alright but then someone reminds you of her and you feel like breaking down all over again. But as painful as it is now, it heals. It leaves a scar, but it heals."
America was silent for a long time before speaking. "How do you know?"
"Because..." England floundered; he hadn't been expecting that question. "Because I'm older than you. I've seen more of life."
"Who was it?"
He sighed again and resigned himself to the truth. His former colony had just poured his heart out to him, and now he deserved the same in return. With a quick look at the door to make sure none of his brothers were listening, he said quietly, "Someone. Well, more than someone. One of my queens, actually."
America gaped at him. "One of your queens?"
"Yes," he admitted, rubbing his temples in a futile attempt to stave off the beginnings of a killer headache. "One of my queens."
England wasn't quite sure why he was asking; he doubted if America could name a single one of his monarchs. "Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth. The first one."
"Shit," said America again. "Elizabeth I? But... you... how?"
To be honest, he was starting to regret bringing up the whole topic. But America's eyes, although red and puffy, were no longer streaming and his shoulders were a little less slumped. If telling this story would take America's mind off South Vietnam, if only for a little while, then it was the least he could do.
England took the longest gulp of tea yet and, much to his surprise, emptied the mug. Leaving America waiting on the edge of his seat, he stood up, walked over to the counter and put the kettle on. Might as well make another cup of tea.
He was going to need it.