"Would someone explain this 'country' concept to me?" said the 'stranger-lady', getting used to using her voice after all these years. Unease crossed each of the men's faces. They've spent all their lives never questioning their nation prominence, so their words caught up short once again. Jumping off of the table, America smirked, veering his head towards China.
"What are you looking at?" hissed China.
Putting on a faux accent, America impersonated the peeved Asian,
"'If there's anything you don't know, all you have to do is ask me'!"
"Oh, shut up. I know what I say… just give me time." Shifting uneasily on is feet, China made an effort to put his thoughts to words.
"… Countries… each country we represent. We are embodiments, and we take care of our nation-state–like a leader." Between each choppy phrase, the pauses grew longer, and the channel of communication shortened.
"That's all we know."
China's reluctant explanation only confused Chell even more, to the point where wrapping her mind around the idea became almost impossible.
"So, they're your actual names?" Chell spoke an easier question, which noticeably relieved them.
"Well, yes and no," stated England. "Our names are rather formalities we follow to keep from confusing each other. Professional names. But of course we have our given titles. Arthur for me, Alfred for America, Ivan for Russia, Yao for China, and Francis for… you know, the frog."
"'ow nice of you, Artie," France scoffed, dusting England's shoulder. "You know, you zhould get zome 'elp for zhis zandruff problem you 'ave 'ere."
"Screw off! Don't think I can't–" China jerked England back the arm, furiously gesturing to Chell as he whispered into his ear.
"Of–Of course… " They continued speaking in whispers to each other, America, France, and Russia joining in on it shortly after.
Chell yet again tried to grasp a hold on situation, attempting to decrypt their hushed arguments, and failing to do so. But a strange feeling washed over her. She somewhat felt urged to turn around. Since the countries were apparently occupied at the moment, she took a glimpse over her chair.
A contented gentleman stood against the chalkboard. He retained similar looks to America–well, aside from his crimped hair, a curl taking place of where America's signature cowlick would've been, his thick sandy-colored winter coat replacing the bomber jacket his identical counterpart adorned.
His similar appearance to the arrogant hero wasn't what startled Chell. Actually, his transparency was what baffled her. She could see right through him, spotting the foreign markings of chalk right through the man's gratified smile. He was–for lack of a better word–a ghost.
Chell pondered on the idea that her mind deteriorated to the point of insanity. Hearing voices through the walls of the facility, seeing the same suitcase toting individual through the broken windows of the desolate observation rooms, and now this?
The apparition's eyes flickered open, as if he just awakened from hibernation. Once he caught sight of Chell, he tilted his head slightly, confused, until he waved a hand at her and mumbled a 'hello'.
Chell wasn't so sure what to do. After looking back to the occupied men, she returned her focus to the apparition, hesitantly raised her hand, and waved back
The apparition faintly squealed, hugging the assumed stuffed polar bear toy closer to him. At that moment, Chell noticed the opacity returning to his skin; he no longer appeared ghostly.
"… She just got here! She can't take a job in one day, let alone, buy a house! We need to… I–I know, I know… America, that's not going to help!"
Chell switched her attention back to the Allies, who were now–to some extent–in agreement with each other. They kept themselves a great distance away from her, eyes wandering. They even tried to whistle, sputtering hot air, never actually carrying a tune.
"Your turn," America yelped as he prodded England out of the tight little cluster of nervy Allies they created at the far corner of the table. Hissing the word 'ninnies' at the group, England straightened his posture, saying to Chell, "Since you're… new, we're trying to figure out how you're going to… adjust here. You don't have any currency, do you?"
Chell shook her head.
"… I was afraid of that."
In the midst of the stillness, America's voice suddenly boomed, startling every person within ear-shot into panic, even the bashful apparition buried his face in the plush, snowy fur of the polar bear toy to block out the noise.
"DUDE! SHE SHOULD TOTALLY STAY AT MY HOUSE!"
"Have you gone mad?" England screeched. "One, keep your voice down–my ears are bleeding. And two, only a complete maniac could bear living with you!"
America let out a brief 'ha!', stating, "Like you're any better, iggybrows. Just look how I turned o–"
"YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD NEVER BRING THAT UP AGAIN!"
The slap-fight war to-the-death yet again commenced. Chell, unmoved, leaned a little farther back, avoiding the swiping of hands, which at times hit their targets, smacking the adversaries in the face. China stepped in, shoving the two as far away as possible. Instead of playing the harsh baby-sitter, however, he seemed nonchalant, chuckling at their intolerance.
"Silly, silly." He waved his finger to and fro. "Don't you see you two are inept-aru? I think it would be best if she stay with me. I am the eldest, after all. At least I am not punch-happy."
"She iz not a child," said the vexed France. "None of you know 'ow to treat a demoiselle précieuse, like moi."
Russia, who had contributed nothing to the argument, used his 'magic voodoo' to quietly poof into existence next to Chell. Luckily, she wasn't as frightened by his sudden appearance.
"You become one with Mother Russia, da?"
Unsure of how to answer that, she backed away. Russia only beamed and waved goodbye as she slipped into the background.
Chell waited for the argument to end by the bashful apparition, who appeared apprehensive that someone stood so close by him, making soft whimpering noises into the fur of the bear toy while stressing to sustain eye-contact with her.
Feelings tugging at her heart-strings, Chell turned towards the apparition, quietly asking the question, "What's your name?"
Stricken with bewilderment, the apparition stared at Chell with those big blue doe-eyes of his, as if the notion of someone engaging in discussion was all Greek to him. His focus shifted from her, then to his shoes, then to his polar bear, then back to her, fearing that all except one answer would be all the wrong answers.
"I'm Canada." His voice was a tad too soft, wavering with unease.
So this was Canada. Chell suspected more confidence from such a large country, but this didn't really mind her. Actually, she seemed relieved that he wasn't a second America.
"You're name is 'Chell', eh?" he asked.
"Well–eh–nice to meet you…?"
Canada winced, getting ready for the worst, only to see a hand held out to him, followed by a friendly smile across Chell's face. Canada sensitively accepted the handshake with a light grip and an easy grin, refuting her insanity theory.
Back to the Allies, America had England under his boot while France hastily dodged China's attacks as Russia sat typically merry on the edge of the table, clapping his hands to a slow tempo. Chell, composed, excused herself from Canada's presence, strolling over to the quarreling buddies and stomping her foot against the floor, hushing the entire feud.
"Why can't I get a say in this?"
They appeared dumbfounded, that idea never occurring to them before. They all shaped up, now standing like soldiers beside each other, some bearing welts on their foreheads.
"Of course, dudette!" piped America, giving a comical military salute. "Just remember who the hero is when you're choosin'!"
"I will." Chell rolled her eyes, good-humored.
"So, Chell," said England, fixing his crimson necktie, which was muddy with shoe-prints, "who do you choose?"
Of course, with all these enthusiastic countries watching her, it was difficult to choose. Chell glimpsed over her shoulder, noticing Canada wave happily at her.
Confusion escaped into the atmosphere in collective 'who's.
"… Say again?" they all inquired. It wasn't known to them that her answer was actually a call to the unknown individual. The person identified as 'Canada' stepped forward from the back of the room, stunning the Allies with his now visible existence.
"How'dyougethere?" America shrieked in fear, hiding behind England. "Howdidn'weseeya? Who'ahyou? Some kinda' ghost?"
Canada shrugged off the arrogant hero's lack of memory and spoke a little catchphrase of his,
"Oh, that's right. Canada." England snapped his fingers at the sound of his name. "I'm sorry we're so forgetful. We've never really seen you before at the meetings, so it's a bit difficult to remember you."
"I've always been at the meetings." Canada stated, his voice shifting into a slightly downcast tone. But his affable nature returned again soon enough.
"Canada,"Chell asked, drawing a breath, "do you mind if I–?"
Canada looked a bit surprised, not negatively, but gleefully.
"I wouldn't mind at all!" he squeaked, slightly bouncing on his feet.
Around a quarter-to-six, the countries decided it was best to leave to their homes, each expressing their goodbyes in their own little way. England politely excused himself from the room. America shouted some sort of movie reference before he tripped over the rubber door-stopper. And Russia soundlessly slipped through an exit without a moment's notice.
As China headed for the door, he paused, spun on his heels, and scurried back to squeeze both Canada and Chell into a tight hug, flustering them a little.
"Ah! You two just look so cute together! I can't help it!" said the eldest nation, squealing like a seven-year-old fan-girl, before letting them go, departing the room.
France stayed, walking over to Canada and Chell. Chell held her hand out for a goodbye. Just as France reached over to kiss it, however, he remembered her reluctance towards his rather passionate affection. Just as cordially as always, he shook her hand, giving his farewell.
He then faced Canada, tall and content, speaking in his native dialect,
"Bonne chance pour vous et votre dame, Matthieu."
"You too," Canada replied, grasping knowledge of every word. With an 'au revoir' and his signature wink, the last of the Allies was out the door.