Heh... hi there. Long time no see. I come to you all in peace, waving the white flag of 'new chapter'. In fact, not only is it 'new chapter', but it is also quite certainly 'final chapter'. See there, in the upper right corner of this little page display thing, it says 'conclusion'. A chapter title I have been working towards for a really, really long time. I hope it doesn't disappoint.
So this is late, and for that I'm sorry. But life's been life-y, and I also found it somewhat difficult to write for a while. But it came back to me about three days ago and so I managed to finish this. It's a simultaneous relief and regret to see this end. It's been a good ride though, I think. I hope you have have enjoyed it.
I will let you all off to read now. Don't forget to let me know what you think. All feedback is appreciated.
And so for perhaps the final time: I own nothing.
France walked through the wide double doors into the sizable meeting room, taking little note of the area around him except to notice that the room was quite nearly empty.
He was early for once.
France looked to the room's only other occupant. He was only vaguely surprised when England – almost always the first to arrive – merely gave him a curt, approving nod before turning to face the open doorway. France had somewhat anticipated a quip about his unusual punctuality, but he easily accepted the agreeable atmosphere and even sat next to the unruffled Englishman.
Today was not the day for trivial rivalries, he supposed.
Nations slowly filtered into the room, however France paid them little mind. He diverted enough of his attention to greet Spain and Prussia (how did he keep getting into these things?) when they arrived, but for the most part France kept his focus on the room's entrance and his thoughts on the pair of brothers he knew was surely in the hall just beyond the open doors.
A voice spoke from his left. "Do you think we should…"
France looked over at England, who was staring at the entryway with a vaguely concerned grimace. Conversations ebbed and crooned around them, voices, words and accents mingling to give the room a fairly continuous buzzing sound.
Almost everyone was here.
France shook his head at England's abandoned question, knowing exactly what the Englishman had been thinking. "Non, it's probably best to stay here, don't you think?" He nodded towards the nearly full table. England followed his gesture with a slight frown.
"Yes, I suppose you're right." He didn't even look bothered about agreeing with France. "I just hope the lads are doing alright."
France stretched his legs out beneath the table, casting his gaze back to the door where the last few stragglers wandered in. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the start of a headcount (performed by Germany) and the beginning of attendance.
Everyone would soon be waiting on America. The last to arrive.
France let a smile cross his face, hiding the oddly nervous sensation he was experiencing. "They'll be fine," he assured England, voice dropping marginally as the babble in the room quietened. "I'd be more concerned about the rest of the room. You know how Amérique can be with his love for dramatic entrances."
England let out a small chuckle, which attracted a few strange glances from nearby nations, but they quickly lost interest. "Indeed," he replied, leaning marginally against the tabletop, arms crossed in front of him atop the shiny wooden surface. "It's been an interesting month, hasn't it?"
France nodded his head as England continued in hushed tones, the room now surprisingly quiet in the moments before the commencement of the G20 meeting. "And I'd gather that it's going to get even more interesting in the next few minutes, wouldn't you say?"
France's expression bordered on expectant amusement. "I think the world needs some 'interesting', non?"
England turned away from the smiling Frenchman and faced the table in front of him. Across from him Germany was holding a sheet of paper and scowling at it, muttering something that sounded like 'late again'. England looked to the door.
France's words still hung in his mind. The world needs some interesting, huh? England thought. I think it's quite interesting enough already…
He thought of the younger North American brother, of his shy and uncertain demeanour and his gentle, hopeful nature. He thought of the world that had lacked the presence of a certain Canadian and the years gone by that could have benefited from a kind and calming presence.
But I suppose the world could stand to be improved upon.
The muttering of various nations was beginning to start up again, as was typical when a meeting didn't start perfectly on time. England cast his gaze around the table, passing over all the usual G20 nations – a group of South Americans over there, some Eastern Europeans and Asians off to the left, and even a few guest nations here and there. It was a good assembly. More than adequate for their intended purposes.
England's attention was grabbed by the sound of a harsh sigh from almost directly across the room. His eyes landed on the tall, imposing nation just before his new object of observation stood up and rested his palms on the surface of the table. Germany took one look around the table and exhaled noisily.
England grimaced knowingly as the German nation spoke up in a stern voice, pitching his words above the drone of conversation in the room. "Has anyone here seen or heard from America in the past few days. Or knows why in Gott's sake he is late again? Does he even know there is a meeting?"
"Let's just start without him, aru."
"Da, that is most excellent idea."
"Ve, but isn't mister America doing the co-hosting thing today?"
Germany quite visibly rolled his eyes. "I'm impressed that you remembered, Italien, but we still need to get this meeting underway."
England huffed lightly as a few more reiterations of babbled conversation flowed through the room, the topic of discussion quickly dissolving into ambiguity. He wondered when exactly America planned to make his entrance. It had to be any moment now.
Suddenly, there was a loud boom followed by, "Alright dudes, listen up!"
England's gaze shot over to the now closed doorway, where America stood centered in front of the entrance, hands on his hips and stance just wider than shoulder length. It was once of his more typical poses, but today there was just something vaguely different about it. A kind of seriousness. Probably nothing that the other nations would immediately notice, but England – knowing what was to come –saw the purposeful way in which America was currently holding himself.
England also recognized the obvious lack of Canada and came to the conclusion that the North American brothers had decided to go with the plan the involved Canada making his own, separate entrance.
He hoped for their sake that they chose right.
Before America could speak up again, another voice asserted itself.
"Ah, excellent. Little America decided to join us."
England watched as the younger nation spared Russia a look. He was expecting an unsavoury rebuttal or fickle insult, and so was vaguely surprised when America just shrugged it off and turned away.
"Whatever Russia. Say what ya' want, but just pay attention when the time comes, 'kay?"
England smiled, impressed with the obvious composure that America was upholding. Any other day and the western power would be going at Russia like he still thought they were at war.
There was clearly something more important to focus on today. America squared his shoulders.
"So there's something really important that you guys – oh, and girls too – need to know." England watched as America shot one last look back at the door before turning and walking to the open edge of the rounded table. "And I know you might get all uptight about it or something, like you always do, but just hear me out."
More than a few nations frowned doubtfully, and there was the odd mutter here and there. Germany spoke up, sounding rather disgruntled. "Very well then, America, get it over with. We do have an actual timetable to get back to…"
America grimaced. "Uh huh, right. Okay, well sorry about your timetable, but there's something a little more important to do right now." He continued over the not-quite-silence of the room, ignoring the few attendees who mumbled quietly amongst themselves. "I need to introduce you to someone. Someone important. And you guys better listen to me this time." England blinked as America glanced first at him and then France. "I've got backup and proof too. This is real."
"Proof of what?" A voice tossed into the room, and England looked over to see Denmark leaning back in his seat with a vaguely interested look on his face. "Whats'it you got for us now, 'merica?"
America grinned, and though England thought he might have seen just the smallest hints of nervousness at the edges of his smile, his voice was steady and confident as he replied, "Proof of Matthew Williams' existence, dudes."
America took a deep breath as he drew back, standing straight and looking into the room with as much conviction and confidence as he could possibly portray. He needed them to understand what he was saying – he needed them to understand and acknowledge it.
He didn't want these nations – his friends – to be discounting his brother's existence before Canada even stepped into the room. He wasn't sure Canada could handle that.
He pressed his hands flat on the glossy wooden surface in front of him, next to the last empty chair in the room – his spot, likely. They would have to find another chair for Canada to sit in once all had been said and done. America wondered where he would go about finding one.
America glanced back up at the subtle cough and met England's eyes. Right, the introduction. He gave a minor shake of his head to clear his thoughts and faced the mostly-silent room.
"And he's here, right now. So you're all gonna get to meet him."
He did his best to ignore the skeptical looks that were being aimed at him from various nations around the room. They thought it was going to be the same old rant as before; I have a brother, why can't you see him, are you all blind, I swear I'm not crazy. And it would be a lie to say that America hadn't somewhat gotten used to it. The disbelief, the annoyance, the exasperation.
But today it would different.
Today, once and for all, it would change. There would be belief, tolerance, and apology. God America hoped they would apologize to Canada. More than anyone else, his brother deserved it. Deserved to know that from here on out, things would be better.
America looked calmly into the room, eyes passing over the assortment of nations before landing somewhere near England and France. In a sound voice he spoke again, glad for the continuing silence.
"We had to go through a lot, alright, and we'll explain it all later. For now you're just gonna accept the fact that he's here and real and he's been here and real all along." America took a breath, knowing that this was the time where he was to go back to the door and get Canada – his brother agreeing to wait until the somewhat impromptu introduction was done before having his say in front of the conference of nations. America let out his breath in a shaky puff of air. "Alright, we're cool? Of course we are. I'll be right back." He tried to tell himself that he wasn't nervous – heroes don't get nervous – and failed miserably. America was practically vibrating as he turned around towards the large doorway at the end of the room.
"Don't you, like, think this is getting a little ridiculous?" The question ended with what sounded like the smack of gum, and America paused in his step and turned his head back to the table. Poland was leaning forwards with both elbows on the table, chewing intermittently on a piece of gum and looking as if he was terribly bored.
"What?" America found himself asking back to the room, slightly unbalanced.
Poland perked up with a raised eyebrow, seeming surprised that he had garnered a reply. "Uh, you know…" he trailed off for a moment, and America realized that the blond European had likely just aimlessly spoken aloud rather than purposeful direct the statement at America. "You do this kind of thing like, a lot, and like, you don't realize that this Can-dude is all invisible and shit to us. It's, like, ridiculous."
America took a breath, holding it in slightly as he fully turned around, the door hiding his brother a near tangible presence at his back. "Yes, well, we fixed that, 'kay?" he said assuredly. "I– We figured out what was wrong, and you're all gonna be able to see him now." America tried for a confident nod of the head, but that nagging nervousness still churned in his stomach. Nervousness for Canada, he realized suddenly, though it didn't really come as a surprise. He wanted his brother to do well, and he didn't like that there were so many factors outside of his control.
"Fixed or not, you're still managing to do a wunderbar job at wasting our time." It was Germany this time, speaking up from his rather uncharacteristically slumped position across the room. America hesitated once again, frowning with a growing sense of unhappiness. The words had been sharp, but the tone it was delivered in weighed heavy with the sound of exasperated defeat. And from all around the room the feeling seemed reciprocated. An overall sense of I don't care, please finish up.
America found himself at a loss as to how to respond.
"I assure you all that for once, America is not wasting our time." England's voice rang soundly in the listless room. "So can the lot of you just belt up and let the lad continue. I rather think that you'll all appreciate finally meeting Matthew." He crossed his arms over his chest and America found himself feeling exceedingly grateful for the older nation's solid support. England then looked over at him. "America, do go let your brother in. Things should go a little smoother once that's been done, yes?"
America was perfectly content to agree. It wasn't perhaps the most willing crowd to introduce Canada to, but even America could tell that the time had come. "Sure thing, dude," he replied agreeably, and then turned back to the door with a restrained grin. The expressions of the others had been something to see. They obviously hadn't expected the support or the cooperation. But America pushed that to the back of mind. He would thank England later. France too. But right now, he was about to introduce his brother to the world.
Canada figured he should probably stop leaning against the door. From what he could hear beyond his wooden barrier, it sounded like the door was about to be opened. And Canada knew without a doubt that he wouldn't be able to catch himself from falling if his support was so suddenly taken away. Better to prepare in advance than end up sprawling face first onto the floor in front of numerous nations. Canada let out a shaky sigh.
My god, this is probably this most terrifying thing I've ever done in my life, ever. The thought wasn't a comforting one, even though Canada knew how completely ridiculous it was. It just went to show how uneventful his life had been up until now.
He clenched the hands he had pressed up on the door, slowly pushing his forehead up off the wood. The action alone took Canada more effort than he would like to admit, and he desperately tried to muster up some form of a backbone just to get through the next few minutes. He was going to have to do this next bit, for the most part, alone. The idea being that the first time Canada was shown to the world couldn't be in America's shadow, or following America's lead, or anywhere really near America expect at his side like an equal.
Canada appreciated the thought and understood the logic. He didn't however, like the feeling of current separation that seemed to plague him. He tried to set his mind on the goal at hand, knowing the doors in front of him could open at any moment.
And then Canada heard the clear sound of soled shoes approaching his location. His time to prepare had dwindled down to mere seconds.
I'm so pathetic, Canada bemoaned to himself, even as he struggled to hold together the dissipating wisps of his courage. All I'm going to do is address a room of people and I'm shaking like a leaf.
Canada straightened his spine, feeling ever so slightly queasy as he eyed the imposing doorknob.
I actually feel sick. That's how pitiful I am.
The door that had been his support now looked cold and bit his lower lip.
I hope I'm not going to feel this sick every time I need to talk to a group of people. God, other people…
Canada blinked, thoughts derailing slightly. Oh, that's true, isn't it? I can actually think things like that now. Talking to groups of people. To other nations. I could talk to anyone I want, whenever I want to.
The briefest of smiles pulled at Canada's face.
And that was when he realized the footsteps had stopped and the doorknob was turning.
Canada's smile abruptly vanished and a nervous chill overtook his body. It felt like his heart had just dropped into his stomach, taking all of Canada's minimal courage with it. Canada took a shaky step backwards.
America's keen face appeared around the edge of the opening door, the room behind him gradually revealing itself in its brightly lit glory. "Hey bro, you can come in now." His hand lifted back towards the room in a grandly sweeping gesture. "The stage is all yours." And beyond that raised hand was the oblong table at which seated a little more than twenty nations.
Oxygen suddenly seemed in short supply. Canada tried to take a deep breath, but all he managed was a half choked-off gasp. Oh God, they're all there. I can see them. They can see me. They're all there staring at me. They are really actually staring at me. What do I do?
Canada's hands clenched, sweaty palms making his fingers slip. "I… I don't– I can't–" He had never had so many people staring at him. At him. Truly looking at him, standing out here just beyond the door, trembling. Canada could see a few curious gazes; the odd nation craning their head to look past the partially blocked entryway.
The silent judgement was overwhelming.
America stepped further into the hall. "Hey, hey it's okay. Don't panic, Mattie. Just remember what we said, 'kay?" He craned his head into the center of Canada's vision, effectively blocking the majority of the room behind him. His voice lowered as he continued to speak. "I'm here, and the other dudes are here too. And everything's gonna go fine. Deep breaths, right? Deep breaths calm people down, don't they– There ya' go."
Canada filled his chest with air, briefly closing his eyes as he let the breath go with a harsh exhalation. He followed that breath with another one, trying to focus his thoughts on the movement of air to and from his lungs. When he opened his eyes moments later, Canada saw America looking closely at him. There was a confident smile on his face, though it didn't disguise the way his eyes jumped fretfully around Canada's appearance with a nervous kind of concern.
That more than anything should have spiked Canada's anxiety – his brother, the great United States of America, was nervous. Hell, he might even be scared. But instead of giving in, Canada found some measure of calmness returning.
He wasn't blindly walking through this on his own. America was struggling too, and that meant they could struggle together. Hopefully they would find themselves better for it on out the other end.
"You okay now?"
Canada nodded, hands clenching into the bottom of his shirt. "Yes… yes, I'm okay." He hazarded a glance over America's shoulder, noting the rising whispers coming from the room behind him. Their window of opportunity was shrinking, and Canada knew he had to put in an appearance soon or risk losing the moment. "I'm okay," he repeated. "I just– I just needed a minute. I'm good now, I think."
"I never doubted you, bro. You got this."
"I-if you say so."
"We'll work on that confidence later." America grinned before giving Canada a subtle nod of his head and moving aside. "Now go show them what you're made of."
And the room opened up before Canada, blocked only by the door frame, waiting for the northern nation to take those few steps inside. There was clear babble coming from the seated nations, patience likely wearing thin. He could see the curious gazes, the questioning postures. Canada recognized them all, having seen them countless times from his previously invisible spot beside America, but this would be his first, and likely most important time interacting with them.
They didn't know who he was, but Canada was ready to try and change that.
He gave one last barely-there smile to America before checking his posture and striding into the waiting room. Canada made a beeline towards the empty area at the table's edge, sparing both England and France a small nod before coming to a stop beside America's empty seat. He could feel his brother's presence at his back, but Canada knew that he would be the one left to talk. The sound of raised voiced, coming from various nations around the table, fell to the back of Canada's concentration. There were questions; phrases such as who are you were echoed from around the room. Canada ignored them, choosing instead to take a deep, steadying breath.
The other nations seemed to sense the approaching moment and gratefully fell to a whispering silence. Canada could have wept from relief.
Instead he looked up from the table's surface, eyes passing over his fellow nations' faces before settling somewhere in a neutral middle.
"Hello, everyone." Canada's voice wasn't powerful, but it still managed to carry through the room. "Um right, hi there." The attention was overwhelming. Canada pushed it aside, focusing on the moment. "It is, uh, great to be able to f-finally talk to you all." He closed his eyes briefly at the slight stutter, but quickly opened them again. The babble threatened to start again, and Canada wanted to get the next part out before he was overcome by the other nations' voices. He needed to make a name for himself – to set himself out and apart from any preconceived notions the others may have of him. To explain, in his own words, who he was.
"I'm going to start again." He paused, taking another breath. "Hello, everyone. My name is Matthew Williams, and I am the official national representative of the Dominion of Canada. It is nice to finally meet you. You can call me Canada."
He knew there would be question, demands, maybe even be skepticism and distrust, but for the moment what Canada could see was acknowledgement.
From among the rising voices came a question. And that question was echoed a few more times from other various nations.
"Why can we see you now?"
Canada let himself smile. He could handle this. And he could still sense America just behind his shoulder, ready to offer his support when Canada might need it.
"Well you see," Canada said in answer to the reiterated question, and felt a giddy sense of surprise when the room hushed to listen to his answer. His smile became something a little more natural. "It's a bit of a long story, but with some help…" He glanced first at England and France, and then back at America before returning his sight to the assembly. "I'll tell you what I can."
That's right. It's over. It's finished, wrapped up and stamped with the declaration of 'completed'.
I can tell you that I have had fun writing this. All you wonderful people made that possible. I would have never gotten the inspiration to get to chapter 10 let alone finish this story without your support. So thank you. Really. It's been awesome.
So that's it for Proof of Existence. There may possible be a epilogue-eske thing in the future, but nothing's set in stone. For now, it's done.
Thank you very much. I hope you all enjoyed the adventure. Reviews are highly valued, and I do my best to answer any questions that you may have.
Until next time,