England woke drenched in sweat. The sun hadn't yet risen, but it had shooed away the stars from the sky. America, Flanders, and the old miners were still sleeping. Not wanting to wake them, England quickly stole off into the wilderness. He knew there was a river nearby upon hearing it last night during his stand-off with America. Maybe some water would help calm him down.
He fell to his knees on the shore before the water, panting as if he had run the entire way. He was terrified. His heart hammered in his ears and his hands shook as he scooped water up, splashing it on his face. No spell had ever been so strong to penetrate through his shields right to his very core. Whoever had gotten though had seen and knew everything; that he was a country, his history, his sorrow over his broken relationship, and his current dilemma of being stuck in the past.
The river went quiet suddenly. England looked around in alarm when he saw a shadowed man standing on the opposite bank. He had long, braided black hair with two golden eagle feathers sticking out from his hair. He was naked except for a loin cloth and leather moccasins. He seemed fierce as his black eyes pierced England's own green. He was unarmed, but England was still fearful of an attack.
"Nation," the man breathed. His voice was as silent as the breeze on a still day. "Why have you come?"
"I...I was brought here," England whispered, daring not to speak too loudly.
"Why have you come?" the man repeated.
"Time trap," England replied, but the man was still not satisfied. "I was brought out here by America."
"I-I think it was to help our relation-"
England grew frustrated. "Why are you asking me? You're the bloke who invaded my dreams! You should know everything by now!"
The man tilted his head forward and this only served to darken his face. England would not be perturbed. He stood tall and proud against this unknown man, if he even was one. He suspected he was America's version of a magical being much like a fairy. There certainly was a lot of magic humming in the air. It strummed along England's forearms and swarmed around his head giving him a slight headache.
"Why have you come here?" the spirit asked once more. "I may know, but do you?"
"Yes, I told you! I came out here to the desert with America to fix this horrid relationship and then was taken back here in time!"
The man paused. "You came out to fix it?"
England took a moment as realization sunk in. He had been firmly against this trip and had argued with America every step of the way. He hadn't come to fix it, America had.
"I know you, England. If you really didn't want to be here, you would leave."
The man seemed to lessen slightly. "Forgiveness."
England didn't remember going back to sleep or even walking to camp after his strange confrontation with the Native American spirit, but the sun was clearly in the sky now. America was already up and making breakfast. Flanders and his men were gone. England sat up and rubbed at his stiff neck.
"Mornin'," America said. He sounded different; almost calmer. "I'm making some eggs and bacon."
"How did you get that?" England asked.
"I packed them yesterday. Flanders headed back to town already, so it's just us."
England willed himself not to get excited over this prospect. When had he changed from abhorring alone time with America to suddenly welcoming it? He coughed to hide the jitters that inhabited his stomach, and moved to help with cooking.
"Sleep well?" America asked. England nodded. "Um… I've been thinking… I think you're right. I should go back. I've stayed out here too long anyways. People will start to get suspicious. But… I also want to get back what's mine. I can't just…let it stay this way. I have to make a difference."
England smiled and pat America's leg out of a habit; one that started when they began dating. He only did it when he approved of something the nation did. "I'm proud of you."
America flushed right to his ear. "You-! You never say that!"
"Perhaps it's best I start doing so, then." America shyly smiled at England, and it felt things were on their way to improving between them.
They were better.
Mining only went for a few hours when America declared it time to head back to town. He did have a job to do. They loaded up their packs and set off for home. It was halfway there that England recalled his dream. He'd focused so hard on squashing its memory all through-out the morning that he'd forgotten he had wanted to ask America about it. If anyone had any clue about a Native American spirit, it was America, whether he wanted to talk about it or not.
"America, what do you know of the natives here? I know you told me of their history, but not of them presently. Have you angered any recently?"
America snorted angrily. "I do daily…"
"Yes, well, it's just… I saw a fellow this morning. He seemed to know who I was. I mean, he knew I was a country."
America shrugged. "Probably a spirit guardian. They lay traps all over the place for me of people, hoping to catch us."
"What do you mean, traps?" England asked slowly.
Another shrug. "You know, like ones that erase your memory, curse your family, or paralyze your body. I can always tell when one's nearby so I've never stepped on it."
"Could one do time travel?"
"I don't see why not. Indians are crazy…"
England frowned. "Having magic does not make one mad, you know."
"No, but-" America caught himself before he started to argue. "Look, just drop it. If this is the first you've seen of the sprit, then he probably cursed you."
England gulped. "What if I already set off a trap?"
America grinned at him evilly. "Then there's no hope for you!"
England rolled his eyes, prompting America to start laughing. They dropped the topic and remained quiet the remainder of the trip. It only took another twenty minutes until they arrived in the town, only to find it was deserted and dead quiet. There were no citizens milling about, rustlers passing through, or even a drunkard passed out on the steps outside of the bar.
For a moment, England thought that he'd returned to his time, but none of the buildings were desolate and America was still young on his horse beside him.
"Where is everyone?" England asked. He looked at America who didn't look none too pleased. "Amer-"
"Sh!" America jumped off of his horse. "Get along, Ace."
Ace galloped off towards the stables. England got off of his horse as well, but Jackson didn't seem in the mood to follow after the other horse. Instead he bit at England's hat.
A door was heard closing and the two nations turned quickly. They were relieved when they saw it was one of the men from the other night when they had gambled. His hands were up and he was scurrying to America with panic on his face.
"Sheriff," he hissed. He grabbed America's arms and hugged him towards the shadow of a house. "Get out of sight!"
The nation wasted little time. He took England with him as they hustled out of the middle of the street. Jackson stood there for a little while longer before trotting off on his own.
"Hold up?" America asked.
The man shook his head. "He's come for his sons."
"What?!" England was shocked. "But he was just here with us and he's been with us all night!"
"Where is he?" America asked seriously as he peered around the corner.
"The saloon. They got Miss Emily."
The click of America's gun silenced the two. He stood and began to head for the bar. England reached out sharply and grabbed his arm.
"Alfred, what're you doing?!"
"Keep out of sight," he said quickly. He looked at the other man. "He's unarmed so make sure he's okay."
The man nodded. England knew it was no use even if he asked for a gun; he wouldn't be allowed to fight. America was on a mission to be a hero. It was stupid and he might be injured, but if there was one that's been a constant in America's personality, it was that he would move mountains if that meant he could help someone; especially one of his own. England let him go.
America smiled his gratitude. He walked out into plain view with his hands by his sides, fingers itching in case he had to act quickly. No one appeared. It was far too still in the town. England had to wonder where the townsfolk where, but he could see them peeking out from behind curtains in the many buildings, doing their best to keep out of trouble. The sun was at high noon now and America's shadow had deserted him.
"Flanders!" America shouted. He stood just outside the bar, back straight and head held high. "Come out!"
The man appeared, still smiling and, surprisingly, unarmed. "I thought you'd never show, sheriff."
"You're not bright to be showing up unarmed," America said.
"Who says I am?" Flanders jerked his head over.
One of the old miners from last night came out from behind Flanders. He was gripping Miss Emily by the elbow, dragging her outside with a pistol pressed into her temple. The poor girl looked terrified. Her make-up was smeared by her tears. She whimpered upon seeing America.
"What d'ya want in return for her safety?" America asked lowly.
"My boys. You locked them up in your jail. Two of 'em are my own sons."
"They ambushed an old man and tried to rob from my friend."
Flanders smiled a crooked grin. "Gotta make a living."
"Not from robbing and mugging," America growled. "Your sons only had a few months in jail, but now you'll have to join them there."
"How do you expect to take me in?" Flanders asked, his voice dripping with a condescending tone.
"I'm a faster draw than you or any of your men."
"Really?" Flanders didn't sound convinced. "But who will you shoot? Me or him?"
Flanders looked over America's shoulder. The nation turned slowly to look at what Flanders was talking about. His eyes widened at seeing England being dragged out held at gun point by the man that had warned them just a moment ago. The man looked guilty and sweated as he held his pistol at England's cheek.
"Sorry sheriff… I needed the money…"
America grit his teeth. He turned back to Flanders. "Don't involve these two. It's between you and me."
"I have to level the playing field somehow," Flanders said with a shrug.
At this, America smiled confidently. "Then you haven't in any way." His flickered to Miss Emily.
Swiftly, Miss Emily used her free hand to slide across her body and chop down into the old minder's crotch, snatched the gun from him after he had fired it and yelped in pain, and then aimed it at Flanders' head. In a flash she produced a hand-held gun from between her breasts and pointed it at the injured old man, just in case he regained himself and tried for another attack.
England took that as his cue to punch the man holding him right in the face, grab the gun with one hand as he yanked it out of the man's grip, and shove him away with the gun aimed at his chest. The man skittered back in fear with his hands up. In seconds the two captures had become the captured.
America hadn't moved. "Like I said, you haven't leveled it in any way."
Flanders twitched and in that moment, America had rolled out of the way. Gunshots echoed in the town as it began to rain in bullets. Men from above fired off shotguns down of them from the roof tops. England and Miss Emily ran with America to the jail house. They huddled just inside, the walls being shot up with holes. America knocked out the glass in the windows and began firing out at the men on the roofs.
"Alfred!" England shouted over the noise. "Isn't there a better way than to kill them?!"
"I'm not killing them!" America yelled back. "Just injuring them so they stop firing! They'll live!"
Miss Emily joined him in the fray with her gun, shooting only to injure. England was quite impressed with the woman. She had seemed so unlike a gun totting fighter like America was, but he shouldn't have assumed anything in this time era.
It went quiet all of a sudden. It seemed everyone was out of bullets, but in reality it was because America had his hand up to signal Miss Emily to stop while outside, Flanders stood in the street with his own hand up. He had a pistol in his hand now.
"Sheriff! Let's settle this once and for all!"
"Why should I trust you?!" America shouted out, not letting too much of his head be seen from outside. "You've already tried an ambush attack on me once!"
Flanders was heard laughing from outside. "Let's be honest, we have the upper hand."
"Then why stop when you're ahead?" America asked slowly.
"I do not have any quarrel with your friends," Flanders said. "And I don't want my men hurt any more than necessary. You know I'm a fast hand. You scared you can't face me in a showdown?"
A real gun showdown, England thought with a stutter to his heart. The last match between two gunslingers. He knew America was a fast draw after having seen him shoot guns clear out of other men's hands, but he had no idea how good Flanders was. He wasn't worried about America being killed; if he was shot in a way that would spell death for a normal human being, the two nations would just have to have to fake his death and funeral, but that would be problematic for everyone, especially England who didn't need to be held up any longer.
Surprisingly, America got up and went to the door. Miss Emily jumped up to stop him, but England held her back. He knew it was impossible to get past the other nation's head fast determination to defeat his foe, as if this were some game. However, looking at America's eyes England could see that he wasn't going out there with all the bravado of a man about to win something. There was pain, reluctance, and an internal struggle as he opened the door and stepped outside. This wasn't fun for him.
The two men face one another and moved to stand in the street, walking the same distance apart without turning their backs to each other. They stood at opposite ends of the street, keeping eye contact. They tried to break through each other's stare. England knew from experience that it was near impossible to do so with America.
America's hands dangled at by his side, but his fingers didn't move like Flanders', whose seemed to twitch every so often in an attempt to fake out America to shoot first. However, the nation had caught on to this trick and wasn't buying it. England and Miss Emily watched from the window in painful apprehension. This was the first time England had seen a show down without it being on a movie screen. He didn't know how long these tended to go, but this one seemed to drag on.
There was no one on the street. No one had come to their aid during their shooting. Not one citizen tried to help their beloved sheriff.
And then, it was over. England had blinked, missing their movements, but he had heard the guns firing. When he opened his eyes a millisecond later, the two men had their guns out pointed at each other. No one moved. England had no idea who shot first, or if they had even hit each other. Then, Flanders fell backwards like a stiff plank of wood.
Someone hollered in cheer and then the townsfolk poured out from hiding to celebrate. America, however, looked pained. He pocketed his gun and put on a good show with a smile to his citizens, but he wasn't jolly about the outcome in the least. England watched from the outskirts. He knew that practiced smile all too well. He had to look that way when he watched his own citizens, most of them royal, killed right before him. But to kill them yourself must be even worse.
A showdown didn't have to happen, but for these people, it was the only way. They wouldn't want anything less than a climactic end from their sheriff, and America was all too willing to give it, if it meant Miss Emily and England were safe. England just could never get used to this Western lifestyle.
He approached America with a wary smile. He wasn't sure how to react; should he congratulate him or console him? America looked at England tiredly, but relaxed at seeing the nation was safe. The piano in the bar began to play, filling up the street with the sound of music. Inside, the townsfolk had begun to laugh and chatter loudly.
"You're an idiot," England said. "Are you okay?"
America nodded. "Yes. I'll be okay." He looked over at Miss Emily. "Good shootin'. All of that practice paid of then, huh?"
Miss Emily put her hands on her hips and smiled. "My pa said a girl's always have to watch her back if she's showing off her front."
America and England both nodded. America looked at the bar. "Why don't you head on in? Get a drink. It'll be on the house."
Miss Emily kissed America's cheek in gratitude, and then headed inside. America didn't fluster about as he had the first night of England's being here. He just smiled and watched her leave.
England chuckled. "Well, a kiss from the damsel for the hero?"
"A kiss from all the endings to… Oh never you mind." England felt bold. He leaned forward, grabbed America's hat to shield their faces, and then kissed him on the lips.
America tensed at the sudden intimacy, but he didn't push away. After a moment, England pulled back to find America with his eyes closed and lips slightly parted; adorable. Then, a smile lit up his face. He put his hat back on his head as he let out a true cowboy holler.
"YEE HAW! Come on! Let's celebrate!"
England guessed his kiss had only temporarily subdued that guilt he knew was weighing heavy in America's gut. It'd be a long time before he truly got over killing one of his own; a father, no less. Tonight, however, they had free drinks and partied to the saloon girls singing on stage. Miss Emily was particularly very hospitable to America and England, but America had turned all of his flirtations he normally returned to her. His attention was now solely focused on England. There was electricity between them now that hadn't been present before.
England's affections had returned. That spark of something was reignited in his chest. He deeply wished to be in his own time so that he could make amends with his America. He wanted to kiss him, hold him in his arms, look into those familiar eyes that had known war far worse than he could ever imagine, and tell him he still loved him. However, this young America had calmed down, making it much easier to be in his company. Considering he couldn't leave the town for at least a month, it would be nicer with this sort of company.
Of course, after he left America, England had no idea what he would do next. A solution still hadn't come to him. It he went home he could try to find a way to reserve the time trap. He'd scour through the multitude of magic books he had buried away in his basement, but that risked meeting his past self. It would almost certainly rip a hole in time and space.
Half-way through the night England looked over towards the bar to see if he could get another whiskey, but instead saw the same Native American spirit as before. He stood in the middle of the room without even being there. No one paid time attention and walked right around him, never actually touching him or looking his way. England clearly saw him and knew the spirit was only paying him attention. His very presence quieted the raucous room around England, and the sounds came out muffled like a television with the volume turned down low.
"Why are you here?" he asked again, just as he had that morning.
"To find my hero hadn't left me. To let America know he still has so much potential. To fall in love all over again."
This satisfied the spirit. He vanished, giving way to a torrent of sound as the bar noises returned. The saloon girls had taken to singing again up on stage.
"Happy trails to you. Until we meet again. Happy trails to you. Keep smilin' until then. Who cares about the clouds when we're together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather. Happy trails to you! 'Til we meet again!"
America was staring off at nothing, lost in thought, while the bar erupted into cheers at the women's dance. He then put a hand atop England's. "Let's go somewhere."
"Now?" England asked. His head was slightly buzzed from seeing the spirit a moment ago.
"No. Tomorrow." America's hand closed over England's. "I'll retire from being a sheriff here. We can travel together, back East. Just you an' me…"
England flushed, but smiled in a giddy way he hadn't felt in years. It was as if they were young lovers again, hiding their relationship from the world, and finding new ways to be together in complete secrecy. He desperately missed those exciting years. Perhaps he should start doing such exhilarating dates again to bring back the spice into the relationship.
"I'd love to," England said after a moment.
The rest of the night was a blur of booze, singing, and hesitant touches on England's neck and shoulders. He doesn't remember kissing America any more, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. He does remember falling asleep holding America in a way his heart needed so that he could relieve himself of anxieties left over from his future.
When day broke England knew something was different. There was no commotion outside, no telltale sound of horses, and no sign of America in his arms. He lifted his head and was met with a sight of a decrepit hotel room overrun with sand and time. He looked over his shoulder only to fall off the bed as it gave way under his weight. The bed had gone from sturdy to old overnight. England scrambled up from the ground and hurried to the window now covered in grime and desert.
Sure enough, the street had returned to an empty lane and the buildings had looked as sad as the first time England saw them. Somehow he had returned home. The spirit had reversed the time trip.
Then, England's cell phone vibrated in his pocket. During the night he must have changed back into his regular clothes. He'd left his mobile in his pants when he had America buy him new clothes and it had been dead considering it was far out of its time. As England turned on the screen, the phone filled with all of the numerous texts, missed calls, and voicemails; all from America and all in a four hour span. England was relieved to see that he'd only been away for a few hours rather than days.
He tentatively answered his phone. " 'ello…?"
England held the phone away when America's voice bellowed in his ear. "Where the fuck have you been?! Jesus Christ, I've been looking for you for hours! Where are you?!"
England felt relief and happiness to not only hear his America, but to know his beloved still searched for him, even after all that time. He gulped, finding his voice, and said, "I'm…in our hotel room…"
"Stay right there!" America demanded. "I'll be right there!"
England hung up and waited. His mind whirled with what could possibly happen. What would he say or do? Would America end it all? Oh wait, England already had. Well, was it too late to fix it? If there was anything he learned from his cowboy adventures with a young America, there was no harm in trying.
Loud thumping echoed from downstairs, and then they came up the stairs and down the hallway until the door opened in a flourish. England turned and saw America exactly as he had left him, in his T-shirt and shorts, only now there was panic making his eyes look wild and a mixture of happiness and sheer anger on his face. England nearly began to cry at seeing him, but America was quicker to react.
"You asshole!" he shouted. "You stupid fucking asshole! You may have broken up with me, but you don't just run out into the desert off on your own! You didn't even have water! What if you got lost?!"
"I'm sorry," England whispered.
America averted his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. "Jeez… I get it. You hate me. But you didn't have to go storming out like that…"
"No," England said. "I don't…"
"You don't have to lie," America said sheepishly. He looked to the ground. "It's cool. We can work it out so this won't affect our politics, but… I won't…force you. We tried, but… it just didn't work."
"No," England repeated more forcefully. "No you fool. I don't want anything more than to make it work between us."
"Huh?" America looked up in surprise. "But…I thought…"
"I was angry and confused. I thought I'd lost you and that we had changed too much. It's true that you have, but you are still my lovely America. Still a hot headed, stubborn fool madly in love with me, and oh, Alfred!"
England rushed America, pushing himself into his chest and kissing him firmly on the mouth. He gripped America's face, his fingers pressing possessively into his skin. America was caught off guard. It must have been confusing for him to see England go from leaving him to kissing him. England broke the kiss and knew he had to explain how he had changed so drastically in the past four hours. But first he had to apologize.
"I'm so sorry I ran off," he started. "I had to clear my head…"
"So you came here?" America looked around at the room fondly. "Why?"
"I thought I'd forgotten. How could I have? Our time here meant so much to me. You protected me, showed me a new side to you, and we shared our first kiss…"
Arms finally encircled England at the waist. America looked into England's eyes. He was still so young behind that tough guise. That same hesitation was just there in the corner of his blue eyes.
"I thought you didn't care," America said quietly. "You never returned my letters… We had agreed to travel together, but come morning… you were gone."
"I had been called back by urgent matters back home," England replied. It wasn't a complete lie. Technically, he had been called back and the "matter" was his urgency to rectify his relationship. It's just he had no control over when he left. "I'm sorry. It was a difficult time for both of us."
America rested his forehead on England's shoulder. "Yeah… That war…"
England slipped his fingers into America's hair, kissing his temple. "It's okay, love."
America was silent; seeming to revel in the attention England gave him. They were familiar and comforting touches. Then, he asked, "You still love me?"
England pulled America's head up to look into his eyes, past his shields and bravado, and right into that wounded part of his heart. He knew he'd spend the next few years trying to heal that, as long as they did it together. "Yes, my dearest. How could I have almost lost you? How could we have hurt each other so much?"
"It's happened before," America replied with a slight chuckle.
England caressed America's face. "It'll take some time, but let's fix this. You're worth it."
America smiled, taking England's hand in his. He kissed the knuckles tenderly. "So are you."
"Let's take that trip now."
"You mean back East?" America's smile was steadily growing to an immense size.
England nodded, matching his smile. "Yes. And you can even sing in the car." They laughed together for a moment before something occurred to England. "Oh, what ever happened to Miss Emily and this town?"
America shuffled through the massive amount of history stored away in his head. "I didn't stay here much longer, but I know Miss Emily settled down and had herself a family. She had a good life. This town ran out its run on the silver rush and died out suddenly in 1868. It wasn't until 1871 that the place shut down for good."
"Shame. It used to be so lovely."
America looked over towards the window. "I found Flanders' grave while looking for you."
England studied America carefully. "Are you okay?"
America nodded. "I guess his death was just a prelude for the Civil War for me. So many boys… But it's okay. I'm okay."
England kissed America again, this time keeping it long and gentle. America kissed him back. He tightened his grip on the other nation. When they broke away they took a moment to not speak, but to look into each other's eyes. There was that secret promise to get better, to overcome this hardship.
"So does this mean we can ride off into the sunset together?" America asked.
England smirked, resisting the urge to laugh. "If you insist."
"Score!" America laughed. "C'mon, let's go. The car awaits!"
England, like so many times over the years, followed after America out of love and respect. He knew he'd continue to do so for many years to come. It was only natural at this point. Before they left the hotel room, though, England stopped America to kiss him one more time. They shared a brief kiss that sealed the promise of a hopeful future.
Hoshiko2's cents: And thus ends this miniseries. Thanks so much for reading, and I apologize for updating late. I was out of town and could not get to a computer. Also, I went back and fixed a critical mistake from last chapter- Davy Crockett WAS a real person. My apologies.
I have a sequel starting Sunday for Hospital Flowers. I hope you can follow along. Also, if you'd like to ask me any questions, please feel free to on my writing blog at 2kokoro . tumblr .com