Air conditioning had to have been the greatest invention, England thought. He sighed as he turned the vents towards his face with his usual scowl. His companion paid him no attention as he sang some ridiculous country song.
"Singin' yippie ki yea. I'm a saddle bum. Always on the run. Whichever way the wind blows, that's where I go. I'm a saddle bum."
"Must you sing while you unpack the suitcases?" England asked. He shot a glare over at the blonde American, who only returned a warm smile back. England furrowed his brow, thinking how it was too warm for that smile to be out.
"What's wrong? I thought you liked my Southern drawl." America tried to pout, but England wasn't fooled. "Or what, you want me to sing like one of your rock bands? I can even head bang."
"I'm sure you can." England closed his eyes, turning away from the man.
"England, what's got your brows in a twist?" America asked, dropping his Southern accent.
England started tossing the clothes a little more roughly into the drawers, not caring if some of them wrinkled. He decided not to answer, causing America to effectively shut up. However, this didn't make England any happier like America thought it would. Instead, it only made his frown increase.
America wasn't exactly just England's companion, but the two had started using less intimate words for their relationship for some time now. They had started to grow apart for reasons neither one looked deeper into, nor did they have the time. America's economic and social situation was growing worse and England's domestic woes caused him a nightly headache. However, the couple had felt that their relationship would always be a perfectly comfortable moment of peace. And then suddenly, it stopped. Awkward silences started, touches that should have been turned into ones that did not, and there was longer time between visits.
Always the optimistic, America organized a surprise road trip across his favorite ghost towns. England protested, but America honestly couldn't understand how being cooped up in his truck, music blasting, and the Englishman constantly complaining about the summer heat didn't bring the two closer. He even tried to be seductive on the first night, doing an awkward strip show that ended up with him sleeping on the floor. Still, he would not be deterred.
And yet, the trip was turning into a worse disaster than America knew. England was completely losing faith in their relationship as he saw America cower at the ghost stories and keep him up, crying about how England couldn't fall asleep first. Most of his thoughts were of surprise America was really a country and not the child he once knew. There was hardly any difference these days.
What happened to my strong hero? England thought to himself. He glanced over to see the sulking blonde and sighed again. He certainly wasn't here in their hotel room.
"America! Let's get going!" England yelled at the bathroom door. America was taking an unusually long time this morning making England all the more irritated. When America emerged, his arms out in a dramatic pose, England rolled his eyes and shoved the keys into the man's chest. "Took you long enough."
An old fashioned cowboy hat was atop his head and he wore leather boots even with spurs. England didn't notice the chaps, and he certainly paid no attention to his blue jeans with the big belt buckle. And he missed seeing the red bandana around his neck. In fact, England just ignored all of America and headed for the front door.
"Today's going to be an awesome day! I just know it!" Always cheerful, America quickly passed by England, holding open the door for him. However, the Englishman paid him no mind and stalked to the hotel's elevator. He was already dreading the half an hour ride out into the desert. Their destination just had to be an old cowboy ranch town in the middle of a desert.
"Maybe there was a reason no one wants to live in these places anymore," England grumbled under his breath. America didn't hear him and happily pressed the lobby button. He was back to singing, but this time it had changed to a pop song. "What did I say about singing?"
"Hey, it's my country, my rules." America's tone was merry as always, but his under bite made England go rigid. He narrowed his eyes in defiance, about ready to start an argument, but thought better of it. Remember the car ride, he told himself.
But the car ride couldn't be saved. America and England bickered the entire way from the biggest problem of who controls the radio station to insignificant squabbles, usually about the heat or America's weight problem, which just ended up in pregnant silences.
"For the record, I've been on a diet," America mumbled under his breath.
England chuckled slightly, causing America to glance over in hopes that many the mood would lighten. Instead, the older blonde returned a sarcastic smirk to the man. "I can't believe you actually said that."
America scowled, but decided to not say anything for once. It's just the heat, he told himself. He was really counting on this ghost town to be the ice breaker in their relationship. Maybe England would say what was really wrong and they could go back to the way things were.
"England?" America started. They were only one exit away from the town. From the corner of his eye he saw the blonde glance over. "This town means a lot to me. I hope it still means that much for you as well."
"What are you talking about?" England asked. He glanced out the window. "You know I never go to the desert, save for this impromptu trip."
America chewed on his lower lip. As he turned off the road and the sign came into view, a small, anxious smile formed. "M-maybe you just don't remember the name."
A broken and faded sign missing letters slowly passed by on the right. England raised an eyebrow as he turned to look at America. "Surely you jest. I have never been to a place such as Star City."
America stopped the car suddenly causing England to lurch forward and almost hit his head on the dashboard. He barked a few choice words and ignored the absolute hurt look America gave him. He opted to get out of the car for fear of his safety. However, the town he had just stepped into looked like an even worse option.
Every single aspect of the town was decaying and unappealing. Five buildings struggled to remain intact, their windows all broken and the wooden roof planks were sliding off. Signs were hanging off of their hinges and the letters completely faded. The other three buildings in the area were only shells of their original selves.
England wrinkled his nose, furrowed his brow, and turned to America in disgust. "What kind of joke is this?"
"Come on." America grabbed England's hand, dragging him towards a building. "Maybe this will jog your memory some. It's the saloon."
England wrenched his hand free, stepping back from America. As he caught his breath, he looked around. The desert sun shimmered through the planks showcasing the entire desolate bar. Tables were overturned and a ratty looking curtain was hanging over what seemed to be the remains of a stage. No memories could have come to England even if he tried. This dreary place was a far cry from England's own ghost towns, but even those he rarely frequented.
"America, what is going on?" England asked. He waved his hand out over the empty saloon. "You honestly expect me to remember ever being in a place such as this?"
America hoped over the bar and wiped at the dusty mirror behind the counter. "Just wait. It has to come to you! Remember, you were here and I was there!" America pointed to two empty spaces on the other side of the counter enthusiastically. "I bought you a drink and told you to get the hell out of town, but you just gave me that look you always give and called me a child."
"And then over here!" America jumped over the counter and rushed towards a fallen table. "You almost got into a fist fight with some guy and I totally had to protect you because I'm awesome like that."
England chuckled. "I assure you, if some bloke tried to get into a fist fight with me, I wouldn't need your protection."
"Well you did and I protected you." America's excited smile was starting to wan. "Don't tell me you really don't remember this stuff."
With a heavy sigh, England tried once more to recall these so-called memories he should have possessed. "America, I'm terribly sorry, but I truly have never been here in my entire life. I never came to visit you when you were in your Western years. That was after you act so foolishly and closed yourself up to the rest of the world."
"It wasn't foolish," America stared. "You know exactly why I did what I did."
"Quite honestly, I don't. Yes, yes, history and what-not say it was Washington's Will and the Monroe Doctrine, but for you personally, no I do not know why you got such a ridiculous idea to hide away into a shell. You weren't the one betrayed."
At this, England had to shoot America a challenging stare, hoping to make the younger blonde back down. As usual, it didn't. America simply challenged right back.
"You betrayed me," he said sternly.
England clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth and let a haughty smirk escape his lips. "So it seems we're going down this old road again, eh?"
"I don't want to, England," America started, reaching for England's wrist. "I brought you here in hopes we could rekindle our relationship, but as usual you're a stodgy old bastard."
The same routine began with the boys; a tired and true act. The two bickered, carelessly throwing hurtful words back and forth thinking that they meant nothing to the other and not seeing how many cuts they were slicing into the other's heart. England could only take so much before his battered body would give in. America's words always hurt the most as they had since he first uttered the words "independence." He had hoped, however, that when he had also said, "I love you" there would be no more drawn out fights and pointless banter as was such the situation now.
England was the first to slam his fist into the poor wooden table, effectively cutting the argument short. "Enough! America, you are still such a petulant, ignorant, and selfish child! How we ever came to be together and then continue this charade of a 'Special Relationship' is beyond my understanding but I've had enough!"
America stopped, his confidence and ego completely caught off guard and shattered. "You don't mean that…"
"I do!" England turned and started for the batwing doors without seeing the broken expression on America's face. "Take me away from this God forsaken place now! I don't see how any part of this could be considered 'America the beautiful'!"
If England had waited a moment longer to chance a look over his shoulder, he might have seen a man destroyed by what England considered offhanded remarks. However, he could care less about the man he had spend over two decades sharing intimate moments with and was focused on getting back to an air conditioned hotel room. Then, in the future, a flight back home with some long awaited tea and quiet time. Like hell he was going to stay for the rest of the road trip.
The batwing door swung back and forth, creaking loudly until England couldn't hear anything more but those doors. Even the wind was muted. He turned to stare at the unusually loud swinging doors when the air filled with piano music. Then, horses neighing and men hollering in celebration surrounded him. Women's laughter and shrieks of surprise eventually joined the fray. And lots of cigarette smoke.
England coughed and stumbled back from the saloon. Steps that weren't there a moment before were under his feet, making the Englishman fall down into the desert road. Horses were fully saddled and tied up to posts outside the building. The building that was, only minutes earlier, completely abandoned and bruised by time, and was now bustling with life. There were dancing girls sitting on the arms of gamblers and cowboys, a lively piano bouncing in front of the stage, and old miners, having returned from looking in the mountains for their fortune, were scrambling for a drink at the bar.
The ground started to rumble, momentarily scaring England into thinking that perhaps it was one of those infamous earthquakes, but he soon saw the cause of concern. Ladies in long dresses and bonnets fled from the streets as five rough-looking cowboys tore down the street with guns blaring and their voices echoing off of the buildings. They spotted England, in his unusual attire for the century, and circled him.
Only one phrase came to England's mind at that moment. "Oh bloody hell."
Hoshiko2's cents: Welcome to my story! I hope you guys enjoy it! It'll be silly and right out of a Western movie! I'm aiming to have this be my July story, so I'll update every Sunday.
Batwing doors are saloon doors that swing in and out. Spurs are the pointy, circular metal devices on boots that they press into a horse's side to get it to go. By the way, Star City is REAL and is now one of hundreds of America's ghost towns. It was an old silver town that sprung up in the late 1800s.