Summary: America and England have a special arrangement for birthday gifts. They like to buy a terrible gag gift, and then hide the true gift within. Honesty has never been their strong suit, but the message still comes through, especially when hypnosis is involved. Established USUK. Oneshot.

Rating: K+ for sheer fluffiness.

Story inspired by: the "Independence Day" hetalia strip, available at
hetalia . livejournal (DOT C-O-M SLASH) 25491 . html


America normally wasn't very good at selecting birthday presents. He always asked himself, 'What would I want for my birthday?' and then chose gifts based on his own tastes. Which is why other nations ended up with brightly-colored desserts, horror films, and video games for their birthday celebrations. Most of them politely accepted the gift and then quietly threw it in the trash. Japan at the very least found a use for the video games.

But England was special.

For England, America carefully found a truly atrocious gift and then gave it to the island nation on his birthday. The gift was always more than it seemed at first glance. Like a Cracker Jack box, the bad gift included a secret surprise on the inside. In fact, one year America gave England a Cracker Jack box with a hidden silver unicorn figurine underneath the candy-coated popcorn. The tradition had started when England brought America a spring-loaded boxing-glove-in-a-box for his birthday. After getting punched in the face, America found the real gift beneath the box: tickets to an awesome boxing match. They had continued the prank gift-giving ritual ever since and now it was once again time for England's birthday.

America grinned brilliantly as he knocked on England's door. This year he had definitely picked something England would like, disguised by something he would totally hate. America couldn't wait to see the expression on England's face. The other nations found it strange that America and England continued their pranks even after (finally) getting together, but they just didn't understand how cute England looked when he was annoyed or how much they enjoyed teasing each other. After years of bickering, America and England just couldn't handle being a sickeningly sweet couple all the time. They still needed their teasing and their pranks to really have fun. After all, bickering was how they had said 'I love you' for so many years, they couldn't simply abandon it now.

England opened the door with an expectant look. "Yes?" he asked.

"Happy Birthday!" America shouted, thrusting a tiny gift box into England's face. England took the box and unwrapped it carefully. Based on past experience, he opened the box on its side so that any explosions or spring-loaded traps wouldn't fire into his face. When nothing came out of the box after a few moments, he gently tipped the item into his hand.

"Some sort of mobile?" he asked, puzzling over the small device. England didn't care to admit it, but he wasn't terribly comfortable with new technology, which he defined as anything made post-WWII.

America laughed. "England, you're so old. It's obviously an iP*d. I've filled it with music that was released in the past three years so that you can finally update your music collection. I mean, you still listen to the Sex Pistols. It's time for a change, babe."

"It's hardly my fault that music today is utter rubbish," England retorted dryly. He finally found the 'on' button and powered up the iP*d. After a painful minute spent pushing buttons at random and refusing to ask America for assistance, he realized that he needed to move his finger in a circular motion to scroll through the menu. He glanced up at America with a look of triumph and then quickly began reading through the list of albums.

"Let's see… Americana, The Element of Freedom, The Resistance, It's Not Me It's You, and… Fallen Empires." He said the last album name with an icy tone and a scowl.

America grinned. England seemed annoyed, but he wasn't yet to full-on shouting mode. It was time to explain the best part of the gift. "Oh yeah, I really love that last album. By the way, I figured you weren't the only one with out-dated taste in music, so I got your Queen an mp3 player with the same music too."

"How dare you bring the Queen into this, you thoughtless git!" England shouted and promptly slammed the door in America's face. Slamming the door was part of the tradition too, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

"Mission Accomplished," America said with a grin. Now he just had to amuse himself for the rest of the day as England figured out the real gift.


America stood inside the theater waiting for the island nation to appear. England was smart, he would definitely figure out the secret message hidden in small sound bytes between the other soundtracks. Of course, the only way to hear the whole message was to listen to all of the songs. Once he did, England would know when and where to meet America for his real gift—a dinner date at a stage magic show. England liked to complain about 'fake' magic, but he still loved the shows. After a few more minutes, the shorter nation's blond head appeared in the crowd. Their eyes caught across the crowded room and England began threading his way towards America.

"I didn't realize London even had something called Magical Theater Date Nights," was England's first comment as he came within speaking distance. He had worn his green Burberry coat over a dark gray suit, bringing out the brilliant green of his eyes.

"Yup, I found it on the internet. Dude, I'm so glad I invented that thing."

They both paused for a second, expecting South Korea or Al Gore to leap out from behind a plant and claim that he had invented the internet. When nothing of the sort happened, they calmly resumed their conversation.

"You didn't really give those songs to the Queen, did you?"

"Don't worry, Iggy, I just gave her Broadway show tunes and the complete discography of Queen. You're the only one that gets the special present." America grinned.

"I'm touched," England replied dryly. Underneath the sardonic tone, America could tell that he was pleased by the careful thoughtlessness of the gift. They shared an affectionate look and took their seats together as the theater doors opened.


"And now for the final portion: the hypnosis section of the show!" the emcee announced from stage.

America bounced eagerly in his chair. "Yes, this is the best part!" he exclaimed happily.

"Come now, you don't really believe that rubbish, do you?" England asked in disbelief. "He's simply using plants in the audience to make it seem like its real. Hypnosis is just as fake as all of the other so-called magic they perform on stage."

"No, no, it's totally real. You should go up there are see for yourself," America insisted.

On stage, the emcee called for volunteers. He started to pick out people from the audience to fill the chairs on stage.

"Look, I'll prove it's not real. I'll raise my hand," England waved his hand like he wanted to volunteer, "And he won't call on me because he's just using…"

At that moment the emcee pointed at England and gestured for him to come on stage. "What?" asked England.

The emcee pointed again and smiled. "Yes, you with the green jacket and the eyebrows. Come on up here!"

"Go! Go!" America said excitedly as he pulled England out of his chair and pushed him towards stage. England was too surprised to push back and found himself slowly making his way to the stage, wondering what on earth he was getting himself into.

The hypnotist had the ten volunteers sit down on a line of chairs on stage, with England furthest on the right. England glared at America who simply gave him a thumbs-up sign in return. England listened to the hypnotist go through his slow and boring monotony and wondered how anyone could believe in this sort of rubbish. They couldn't see real magic when it was staring them in the face, but they persisted believing in silly ideas like mesmerism and hypnotic trances. Still, it was rather relaxing to just sit in this chair and not do anything but listen to the sounds and words wash over him. Since the hypnotism was obviously not going to work, he decided to think about his proposal for the next meeting. Eventually it became too hard to think about both the proposal and listen to the words, so he gave up trying. He thought about checking his watch, but he found himself too comfortable to move. He felt surprisingly relaxed. Everything felt comfortable. His eyes started to close and his head slowly slumped forward.

After a few more minutes, the entire group of volunteers lay completely relaxed in their chairs. "Now for the fun part," said the hypnotist as he smiled at the audience. He brought the first volunteer to her feet and convinced her that she was a barking dog. She amused the audience for a minute before the hypnotist returned her to her seat. He convinced the next volunteer that his hand was stuck to his face. They had a short conversation while the young man tried to pull away his hand without getting too desperate.

And so on the hypnotist made his way down the line of volunteers, having each person act in a silly manner. He told the sixth person in line to forget the number seven and then had her count her fingers. No matter how many times she tried, she just couldn't get to eight. By the time he reached England, the audience was ready for something a little different, so the hypnotist pulled England to his feet and handed him a microphone.

"So, Eyebrows…" the hypnotist began to say.

"Call me 'Eyebrows' again and I will punch you," England growled. America smiled to see that even a hypnotized England still acted like a total grump.

The hypnotist held his hands in front of him in a placating manner and laughed along with the audience. "Okay, okay. What's your name?"

"Arthur."

"Well, Arthur, did you come here with someone special tonight?"

"Yes," said England as the color rose in his cheeks.

"Great! I want you to think of a love song and then I want you to sing it to your date!" The audience cheered, hoping for a cheesy song and some hilariously rotten singing. "Just remember," the hypnotist continued, "You are the best singer in the world, so be sure to really belt it out! On the count of three start singing, 1, 2, 3…"

Although these days England enjoyed only the occasional drunken karaoke at bars, he had been quite a singer in his punk rock days, so he easily captured the audience's attention and approval as he began singing. Even under the suggestion of hypnosis, he wasn't going to pick out some cheesy love song. He chose something that conveyed his real feelings—including his inability to always express those feelings. England sought one person in the audience and sang with all of his heart to a face with a broad smile and blue eyes in the back of the room.

It's the price I guess
For the lies I've told
That the truth it no longer thrills me

And why can't we laugh?
When it's all we have
Have we put these childish things away?
Have we lost the magic that we once had?

In the end, in the end
There's nothing more to life than love is there?
In the end, in the end
It's time for us to share our weary hearts

Will you dance with me?
Like we used to dance
And remember how to move together

You are the torch
And it all makes sense
I've waited here for you forever
I've waited here for you forever

The crowd clapped and cheered loudly when England finished and even the hypnotist looked impressed. "I guess I did a good job of telling him to be the world's best singer!" he joked. "I bet your date would love to personally thank you for that lovely song. Come on up, Arthur's date!"

Alfred made his way through the tables with his usual confidence as the crowed laughed, clapped, and whistled. If anyone was offended, they took care not to show it. Alfred bounded up on stage and wrapped his arm around England's waist. England looked normal and seemed to be listening to the conversation, but America could tell that the smaller nation was in a strong hypnotic trance because England was just standing under the stage lights, leaning slightly against America, instead of doing what he would normally be doing in this situation, i.e. blushing and yelling and stomping in the opposite direction.

"What's your name, young man?" the hypnotist asked.

"Alfred!"

"Did you enjoy the song, Alfred?"

"Yeah, it was fantastic!"

"Since I already made your date the best singer in the world, I thought I would make him the best kisser in the world and have him give you a kiss here on stage." The audience cheered in approval.

"Oh you don't need to do that. He's already the best kisser in the world," Alfred said with complete sincerity and smiled at Arthur. The audience awww-ed.

Feeling like he had been upstaged, the hypnotist forced a smile and asked, "Just a regular kiss then?"

"Nah, Arthur's pretty embarrassed by public kisses. I think the song will be embarrassing enough on its own, ya know?"

The hypnotist laughed. "Alright, let's all give a final clap to Arthur and the other volunteers for entertaining us tonight! Now, you'll all wake up at the count of three!"

"…1"

"…2"

"…3!"

England blinked and glanced up at Alfred like he was seeing him for the first time. "Alfred, what are you doing up here?" he asked as America led them off the stage and back to their seats. England would have removed America's hand from his waist, but he was still feeling slightly unsteady on his feet for some reason, so he allowed himself to be guided back to their table.

"What happened, did they cancel the hypnosis part?" England asked, still trying to account for how he had gone from sitting in the chair on stage to standing next to Alfred without remembering. His proposals must have been more engrossing than he thought.

"Nope, they just spent the last half hour on hypnosis."

England glanced down at his pocket watch and looked at it in disbelief. "But it only felt like a few minutes… did you mess with my watch?" he asked America suspiciously.

America pocketed a digital camera from the table that had been aimed at the stage. "Of course not! Don't worry, I got the whole thing on camera, I'll show you once we get home. Speaking of which, ready to head back now?" The other tables were starting to empty since hypnosis had been the last part of the evening magic show.

A young woman walked past their table and smiled at England. "Arthur, you were amazing!" England was left sputtering as she walked away.

"What was she talking about? Alfred, honestly, this had better not be some sort of elaborate April's Fools prank because you're almost a month late." England crossed his arms and scowled.

America responded to England's scowl with his very best sincere, honest, and completely innocent look. "Arthur, I promise, I didn't do anything. Hero's honor!"

England relented after a few moments and stood up from the table. "Very well, let's head back and watch this video of yours." They left arm-in-arm and England didn't complain because he still felt slightly light-headed.


It's the price I guess
For the lies I've told
That the truth it no longer thrills me

"You must be joking…." England moaned with his head buried in his hands once they reached the part of the video where the England-on-screen began to sing.

"I thought it was really sweet," said America. England lifted his head and glared at him. "Did I say sweet?" America quickly corrected himself, "I meant kick-ass and super awesome because you're totally punk. Super awesome British punk."

England's glare diminished slightly.

America grinned. "I'm glad you liked the music I gave you."

"Yes… well, it was one of my bands…" England mumbled as he returned his face into his hands and his ears turned slightly pink.

And why can't we laugh?
When it's all we have
Have we put these childish things away?
Have we lost the magic that we once had?

America smiled wistfully. "Well, I don't know about you, England, but I kept all of my childish things."

"Of course, you did, you over-grown child." England snorted softly.

In the end, in the end
There's nothing more to life than love is there?
In the end, in the end
It's time for us to share our weary hearts

"I really like this song," said America. "I'm glad you picked it. Oh hey, this next part is my favorite." He leapt off the couched and dragged England to his feet. "Dance with me, England!" America grinned as he pulled England into a dance hand-hold.

"You haven't improved your dancing since I taught you, have you?" England scowled, but his lips kept twitching upwards into a slight smile.

Will you dance with me?
Like we used to dance
And remember how to move together

America led them in a slow circle. As the England-on-screen sang, they both leaned forward and their lips met in a soft kiss.

You are the torch
And it all makes sense
I've waited here for you forever
I've waited here for you forever

England had to admit, if only to himself, that sometimes America did a wonderful job of picking truly terrible birthday gifts.


Author's Notes

Obama really did give the Queen an iPod with Broadway show tunes back in 2009. Some people thought it was a bad gift, which gave me the idea for this fic. Mostly, I wanted to try my hand at writing a oneshot with established USUK as the pairing. It's always been my headcannon that getting together resulted in very few outer changes to their relationship and we know from cannon that they love pranks. What can I say, they bicker because they care :)

"Fallen Empires" is a 2011 album by Snow Patrol, a band from Northern Ireland. England is singing "In The End" although I've altered the lyrics slightly. I've seen people being hypnotized on stage and if they're asked to sing they usually pick a song they heard earlier in the day. I liked this song for England because it's a bit melancholy and I know England would never choose a cheesy love song. Since most of the songs on the album are kinda love songs, I interpret the album title as referring to two empires that "fell" in love, aka USUK. Yes, I now interpret everything through shipping-goggles.

My only regret is that I didn't upload this fic on April 23, England's birthday. Happy belated Birthday, England!