America started towards the congregation of equipment and looked it over. "I don't think we need the thermometer too much," he started, picking that up and throwing it over. He scrutinised some of the rest. "And I'm not even sure what this is, so we can probably trash it." He threw the barometer over, followed shortly by the telescope, and stepped over to the edge. Holding on since the balloon was swaying with every motion, he looked over the water. No noticeable difference.
By then France had started discarding things, too. More equipment over, including anchors and the rest of the scientific instruments. When both had finished their mad rampage, all that was left was the steering.
"How's the water look?" France called, carefully guiding them in the direction of the distant and hazy French shore.
America leant over a little, sending the basket rocking. "No fricking way!" He manoeuvred closer to the centre. "There's, like, no difference, man!"
France grimaced, working with the steering until he felt their course was stable enough. "I guess you'd better take the rest off and hope it works." He didn't seem quite as upset about that.
"These weigh nothing! If we want to lose any real weight, we should get rid of that steering thing!"
France gripped said steering thing again. "This is the last piece left on this balloon that gives us any control over it! We can't throw it over!"
"We can't crash into the water, either!"
France refused to be swayed. "Just take off—" He stopped when America suddenly ripped the equipment away from him and the basket. It was over the edge before France could blink.
America looked over the edge, but the basket almost turned on its side. France stumbled but managed to get across from the other passenger, and the still-swinging basket evened out.
"Did it work?" America called, trying to get the bangs out of his eyes if only the wind would stop blowing them.
France dared to lean over a bit to look. "I think so!" he finally called. Indeed, the waves started to shrink beneath them. America gave a victory whoop and looked out over the horizon as the balloon progressed.
But then the crash of waves grew a bit louder.
Looking down again, America saw that the waves had stopped shrinking. In fact, the froth was starting to become more detailed. Which could only mean...
"We're sinking again!" America hollered, though France had noted this on his side as well.
"There's only one thing left to drop," France replied, looking over his shoulder.
"I'm telling you, it won't be heavy enough!" America watched the Channel approach for a while longer before he started to realise what he had to do.
Quivering, France watched the water. Then the basket suddenly jerked beneath him, and he had to grab onto the side as the ground lurched away. Once he was stable enough, he looked behind him to see America balanced precariously with one foot on the edge of the basket.
"What are you doing?" France shouted.
America didn't look back. "If I don't make it out of this, just promise you'll remember my sacrifice! Tell the story of the hero who saved this historic balloon! Tell it for generations! Tell—" Though France had been yelling America's name several times now, only now did he stop talking. "What?"
"Don't do anything drastic! There's still a chance we can go back up if you just take off your underwear!"
"Will you quit pushing that already?" America yelled back, not budging. "Now since you interrupted by Heroic Sacrifice monologue, I'll have to start it all over!" He cleared his throat and prepared to start again.
"By the time you finish, we'll probably be sunk!" France snapped before he could start.
"Okay, okay!" America looked down into the thrashing depths of the Channel. If only it didn't have to end this way. If he had just waited for lunch. ANd maybe not have eaten so much for breakfast...
Suddenly a new idea suddenly struck him. "Hang on! I'm going to step back!"
"Got it!" France clung to the edge as America moved, sending the basket shaking. And, at last, America put his thumbs under his waistband at both hips. But he didn't move anything just yet.
"France!" America interrupted. "We had an awful lot of coffee this morning, don't you think?"
France was bewildered. "What? Yes, but what does that—"
"And I don't think you've used the bathroom, either, right?"
France finally started to get the picture. And after some tiptoeing and basket-shaking, the poor English Channel found itself being urinated in by two desperate nations.
They really had had a lot of coffee, because once they were done, the balloon was on its way up again. It wasn't quite going in the right direction, but it was headed to France, it was above the water, and—
And it was going back down again.
Before either passenger had realised the turn of events, the basket suddenly dragged on the water's surface. With a confused and terrified yelp, France was suddenly in the air, clinging to one of the ropes. America emitted a yelp himself as the basket went completely off-balance. France suddenly realised this was sort of his fault and dared to climb back down.
With the bottom of the basket a hair's breadth above the water's surface and the coast so tantalisingly close on the water, the two nations prepared to be thrown off completely.
Their vision was blocked when the air whipped around them. But their hair wasn't the only thing suddenly blown up and away. The balloon was rising, too. And with this sudden, strong updraft, it wasn't going back down anytime soon.
America whooped again as the waves shrunk and blurred beneath them as they went higher and higher, and closer to the coast.
Then he shivered. The height seemed fine for the balloon, but it was too high for the passengers. Between the high altitude, the January winds, and the lack of clothing, it didn't take long before their fingers and toes were utterly numb. The rest of their limbs was starting to follow.
"I-i-i-it's too c-c-cold!" France hollered. America's teeth were chattering too hard for him to get out any sarcastic comeback.
Daring to inch closer to the centre, France continued, "We n-n-n-need to c-c-conserve b-body heat! C-c-c-come to the m-m-middle with me!"
America only budged because the basket was starting to list to his side. He managed to gain control enough over his jaw to inform France of this. "A-a-and if you t-t-touch me, you'll b-b-b-be conserving heat with th-th-the f-fish."
"F-f-f-fine. Once a-a-again, you're n-n-n-no f-fun."
The two stood there awkwardly, a little bit of space between them, as the balloon finally came over to the shore. And kept going.
"Wh-when do we l-land?" America started as trees started to pass beneath them.
France shrugged. "We th-threw landing e-e-equipment over! I-I don't know wh-what we're g-going to d-do!"
They shivered a while longer, watching the land pass beneath them, until another wind caught them.
This one was a downdraft.
The balloon descended rapidly as the basket swayed, sending both nations stumbling and flailing for the sides. Even gripping those, the two couldn't do much but squirm as the trees came closer and closer.
"I'm going to try to pull us to a stop before we can go any further down!" France said, one arm attaching him solidly to the basket and the other now reaching out towards the impending treetops. He grabbed at the ends of a branch, but the velocity was too much for him—he lost his grip before he could pull anything. He tried this a few more times before America said, "Let me try it!"
Wrapping an arm around one of the ropes, America reached out and seized the first treetop he could reach. The basket jerked when his arm was fully stretched out, and France toppled onto the floor. With a loud grunt, America kept pulling, and the balloon swayed and shook, but it also slowed down. By the time America's frozen fingers were unable to hold on any longer, the balloon was lazily drifting downwards.
France righted himself, and both were clinging to the sides of the basket when it finally touched down. The balloon flopped and rolled, but when it came to a stop, France and America climbed out without any new injuries.
"We made it!" France gave a somewhat hysterical laugh. "We made it!"
"It?" America repeated, grinning wildly. "We made history!"
The two stood there, recovering a bit from the chill, celebrating, and—at least one of them—mourning the loss of the brandy, until some footsteps started to come through the trees.
"Hello?" America started, stepping over in that direction.
"Hey!" a voice called back. There wasn't much more waiting to do before the small group of farmers broke into the clearing.
"I told you I saw a balloon," the biggest man said, laughing, as the others followed him and looked at the newcomers. The smallest of the group, a girl, turned beet-red and hid her face behind the other man's back. The first man, her father, looked over his shoulder at her and back at the ballooners, and laughed.
"How about we get you some clothes?" he started.
"Please," America replied.
After some handing over of clothing, the farmers agreed to give the nations a ride over to Calais, where they knew a crowd was waiting for the balloon to come. And the crowd was hardly less excited when they found out the balloon had gone a bit off-course—after all, it had still made it.
America and France stood in the centre of the crowd and the excitement. Fortunately, despite the horrible loss on the journey, some of the non-aviators had brought a bit of brandy along, and one now rose for a toast.
"To the brave men who today became the first to fly across the Channel!"
A cheer followed, with a bit on clinking and a bit more drinking.
"And," America added in proudly, "the first to fly mail across the Channel!"
Another round of clinks and drinks followed, while France pulled America over a little bit.
"What are you talking about?" France whispered. "You know we got rid of all the mail a long while before we landed."
"Did we?" America grinned broadly and retrieved the one letter he had snuck under his underpants waistband when France wasn't looking.
The letter addressed to Benjamin Franklin.
A/N: And that's the end. Most of it is true (other than them being nations rather than humans, and a few details), but if you'd like to read the real story, I got my version from Uncle John's Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader (don't judge). Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you later~