It was their annual meeting. Up in NYC, per usual, as all the nations were fluent in English. The streets of the city seemed to overflow from the seams. Heat sweltered, made no better by the thousands of tourists who flocked to take pictures in front of Times Square or The Statue of Liberty.
Despite the fact that everyone was there, only a few decided to leave: Alfred, Arthur, Vash, Roderich, Ludwig and Feliciano. After all, it was August 10th, a day that would be forever burned into their memory like the branding of cattle.
A walk in Central Park was what they needed, to escape from the bright lights of the city, and from the memories that lay there. The memories of leaving the one of the few things in their lives that they would've died to protect. Leaving them like a package.
Arthur shook away these thoughts. It's been 14 years, he reminded himself, though 14 years had never felt so long, Only 4 more.
Alfred looked over at the other blonde, "I know….We've made it this far," he said hopelessly optimistically, and intertwined their fingers. The American was truly an idiot sometimes, Arthur concluded, But he had the best ways to make somebody feel better.
Up in front of the group, Feliciano ran ahead, "Ve~ There are street performers!" Sure enough, there was a fair crowd making a large circle. A stereo was placed in the very back.
Sighing, the rest followed the Italian to see. It wasn't like they had anything else to do.
"Alright, well we only have a few numbers left, but just as a reminder: We're collecting donations to allow our team to travel to L.A. for one of the biggest national dance competitions," a girl who looked to be in her early 20's announced. She didn't look anywhere close to professional, her blonde curls tied up messily in a bun, wearing sweatpants and layered tank tops.
If she really wanted donations, you think she'd actually try to make a good impression, Arthur thought and crossed his arms. They might as well stay and watch, as usually the street performers proved themselves to be trained well.
The announcer ran back to her place behind the stereo and scrolled through her iPod that looked like it just jumped out of 2005. It was clear when she found the right song because her face lit up, as if it were some big achievement. Jessie J's 'Who's Laughing Now' started bouncing through the air. She paused the music and ran over to talk to a younger girl, who could've easily been her little sister. The younger one nodded and followed her back to the speaker.
The music started up again, and it turned out the announcer was the one dancing. The song had an odd mix of a big downbeats, rap, and slow beautiful vocals. Then there were the words, possibly the biggest FU to bullies that Arthur had ever heard.
The dancing itself told a whole different story. Her body leaped up like it was effortless and was still able to make all of the jerks and hits sharp. Leaping up from the floor in 2 counts seemed like nothing, same with the 10 turns. And, yes, Arthur did count. He also noticed the raw emotion thrown into there. She had to have choreographed it herself, because it certainly felt natural.
By the end of the piece, the Brit had found a new respect for her, and made a mental note not to judge others by their appearances.
Next to him, Alfred clapped loudly, hollering as she took a not-quite-as-graceful bow. Feliciano was grinning like and idiot, but what else was new? The performer had gotten a few claps from Ludwig, which was quite the achievement.
The group stayed for the remainder of the performances which included a large group dance to Linkin Park's 'CASTLE OF GLASS', and the younger blonde's stunning solo to 'Safe & Sound'. Digging into his pocket, Arthur felt a twenty-dollar bill, planning to dump it in their donations can. These girls certainly deserved all the money they got. Sweat dripped down each and every one of them, so it was obvious they had been out here dancing for at least a few hours.
After the majority of the crowd had dumped their change into the small can, and there wasn't such a huge mass of people, Arthur went over and dumped his money in, "You girls were brilliant."
"Thank you!" The younger blonde grinned, her hazel eyes lighting up with earnestness. Over in the back, her older sister, the nations assumed, was sitting with headphones in, her arms moving like a madwoman's would.
"What the hell is she doing?" Vash asked about the other girl, his eyebrows furrowing up in confusion, an expression the other men wore as well.
"Probably choreographing the next routine or something," she shrugged and yelled over, "What are you doing!?"
No response. "Yeah, she's choreographing, with the headphones probably way to loud to be considered safe."
Alfred chuckled, and dropped a twenty in as well, "Sounds about right for any teenager."
"Does it matter?" The American raised an eyebrow.
She responded with pursed lips and shaking of the head, "Guess not."
Ludwig passed Feliciano a ten-dollar bill and Feliciano dropped his twenty in along with the other. The Italian smiled at the younger girl, "So where do you go? To dance?"
She recited, as she was asked that a lot, "Run It Again Dance Center."
Roderich smiled at that, and put his and Vash's tens into the cup, "Interesting name."
"Um…thank you?" She laughed nervously and waved her hand over for her sister to come over.
It took a few seconds, but the older girl caught on and unplugged her headphones. The music still blared out, though, with 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' being the choice. She jogged over, "What's up?"
"They really liked our performance," the other grinned.
"Really?" the older one raised a skeptical eyebrow.
Alfred responded with an enthusiastic, "Well, duh! You guys were beyond amazing!"
"Thanks! Means a lot to us," she looked around to see the rest of the dancers going off in pairs, "Though it really doesn't look like it right now…." She trailed off, "Did I introduce myself? Did you?" She looked down at her fellow dancer.
Thinking about it, the younger blonde shook her head, "Nope."
"Idiot. I'm Liz," Liz shook her head half-heartedly and waved with a smile.
It hurt. Even if this wasn't his Liz, the name still stung. Just another reminder of his greatest regret. Arthur forced a smile though, and looked to the side. Alfred was doing the exact same.
Ludwig coughed into his fist, "I'm Ludwig. This is Feliciano, Vash, Roderich, Alfred, and Arthur," he said stoically and gestured to each of the nations.
Liz laughed then went deadpan, "Wait, you actually expect me to remember all that? No offense or anything." Then she remembered, "And…..this is the one and only Verizon."
"As in Verizon Fios?" Alfred cracked a real, honest smile.
"I hate that nickname," 'Verizon' pouted, her arms crossing. The donations cup clattered out of her hands and she immediately scrambled to pick up all the bills and coins.
Liz looked down at her, "You got it?" 'Verizon' nodded, "Alright. Well, her real name is not Fios, because that'd be stupid. It's Fiore, but people always pronounced it 'Fie-or-ee', instead of 'Fi-or-ee'. One of her friends ended up giving her the nickname 'Fios' and that reminded me of Verizon so, yeah. Story over." She clapped her hands together and Fiore stood up.
Fiore rolled her eyes, "That's one of the shorter stories."
It was clear at that moment. Clear as any pane of glass. They were standing in front of the girls that had been left on the doorstep of an orphanage only 14 years prior. The nations' faces all fell hearing the name, only to plaster on a fake smile. They couldn't know, it wasn't supposed to be now. It wasn't. Yet here they were, face to face with their biggest fear.