The hero is always strong, isn't he?

I've always thought I was indestructible. The hero could never be hurt, right? But even heroes had a kryptonite. I found mine painfully. I can still remember the day I'd lost my sight, the day a part of me had died. It was back in the early September days, when summer became autumn.

Matt, my northern brother, was the one there to help me. I had come over to his home, standing on his porch and arguing about who'd be at bat. That was when the first shock of pain ripped into my heart. And then the screams filled my ears. The screams were worse; it was thousands of voices, thousands of yells I couldn't understand.

I had fallen to my knees, my right eye stinging painfully. I knew Canada was asking me what was happening, but the screams were too much to bear. I made out 'the tower' and 'plane' and began panicking.

"M-Mattie, turn on the news, please," I choked out, my mouth dry as though I was breathing fire.

"Alfred, what-"

"Now!" I watched, cupping my stinging eye in pain. "The news, something happened, I have to know!" I coughed, my throat burning.

Matt helped me inside and onto his couch, fumbling hurriedly with the remote. "Ah, maple, h-here...!"

I leaned forward, watching with one eye as my other stung. Five drawn-out minutes of pain later, the breaking news logo flashed on the screen, showing one of the two World Trade Centers... burning.

"We're just getting reports of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center North tower, causing panic in New York City."

I watched with fear and horror. The screams still rang in my ears, as the people of my country became trapped in the tower and plane. "Matt..."

My brother sat on my left side, taking my hand. "It's okay, everyone will be okay..."

8:55.

I clung to his hand with my eye watering with pain and grief. I watched people fall from the tower, my shoulders shaking with shocked fear. The news spokesman mentioned a terrorist and sent chills down my spine. It felt like time had slowed and sped up, the smoke unfurling towards the sky on the camera.

And then agony stabbed my other eye. 9:03.

"They are evacuating the South Tower at the-" The reporter reporting live broke off, letting out a swear as she turned around. "A second plane has crashed into the South Tower; the South Tower has just been hit!"

I screamed, clutching at both eyes. The pain and cries beat on my skull; I wanted to curl up and die. America was in pain, and thus I was suffering.

"Al, your eyes are starting to bleed!" I felt my brother's arms around me, holding me in a tight embrace. "Hold on, Al, please hold on for me..."

I sobbed into Matt's chest, my cheeks stained with blood and tears. My cell phone buzzed, but I could barely move in agony, much less talk. My throat felt full of smoke.

Mattie took the phone and started to talk. But I could barely hear who it was, everything drowned by screams and sirens and snapping fire. Then I felt... apprehension. It was as though something else was coming. But what more pain could I go through?

The answer came as time slowly dragged by in tortured seconds. 9:37.

The Pentagon. If my voice had any volume before, it was completely gone now. I coughed, shuddering in fits of agony as blood splattered from my coughing onto Matt's chest. I felt like I was trying to swallow glass. Every breath burned horribly. Every cough tore in my throat and brought up more blood. I choked on the blood, fought for air.

Matt picked me up, surprisingly strong. My pained eyes opened to find light fog veiling my vision. I wanted to tell him, but I kept coughing. I could barely sense where we were. Car door. Engine. Squealing. Coughing. Screams. Matt's voice. America's cries. Fear.

It was when Matt braked, tires screeching and mingling with a woman sobbing. 9:59.

The South Tower fell. My left eye reared an ugly head of pain one last time, and then... nothing. No pain, no tears. My right eye still was in agony, but... the lack of pain terrified me. And I didn't know why. I faintly heard Matt explaining, and then I was shifted onto a gurney. I moved my hand to cover only my right eye, opening the left in hesitation.

The darkness had never frightened me before. It did then. I coughed out Mattie's name in a whisper, frightened near to death.

10:15. My throat closed up in a tight knot, and I couldn't breathe at all. I thrashed, trying to claw my throat, to find air. I barely registered the tube, the doctors helping me, the steady pump of air in my lungs. I just wanted to die already.

10:28. My right eye died in darkness. The North Tower fell. Smoke furled in my lungs and ash coated my tongue. That was all I could remember, before I lost consciousness.

I woke from a coma, they said. It was weeks after the terrorists had taken my eyesight, and it was still gone. The Towers were gone.

I went into a depression, a barely-alive state that ate and drank. My throat had healed, I was almost healthy again. But I was left mute for a year and blind forever.

I cried into Matt's chest every night, I was barely responding in the day. It took me months to come out of my shell, months more to manage to pass my therapy, even longer to learn Braille. Matt went to the World Meeting and took notes for me. I spent weeks learning to type on a keyboard, to eat on my own, to be able to function as though I weren't blind. I fooled a doctor once, who hadn't met me yet. It was my cane that gave me away in the end. It became easier for me to walk around; I could even walk without my cane as long as Mattie held my hand.

I was told my eyes were still blue after a year. I was glad I hadn't changed much. I slowly began to gain my voice again, going into speech therapy and practicing with Matt. Soon enough I was chattering away to everyone and anyone that was within earshot, and I slowly began to smile again. Matt always told me bad jokes to make me smile.

I learned to sense where I was by the sounds of my footsteps. It wasn't really something I was taught; I just starting hearing my dress shoes clicking and the sound seemed to bounce from the walls. My hearing had become excellent; Matt groaned every time I heard him mention McDonald's or candy in the halls from my room. One day I snuck off and managed to walk to the front desk of the seventh hospital floor from my room without bumping into a wall too often. Matt had panicked, but I had struck up a conversation with the nurse, my black-glasses hiding my unseeing eyes. He had punched my shoulder when he got to me, but he found out about my 'dolphin echo-location' technique and began helping me. Soon I could sense where someone was in the room as well and 'look' at them. It was kinda funny to hear how shocked people were when they learned I was blind.

I still went into my shell. I still had nightmares of my people dying. But I learned to smile, slowly but surely.

Soon I was able to go home, to my country house in Pennsylvania. Matt helped me clean up so I didn't trip walking around, and bars were put in so I could make my way around without a cane. My brother was always staying over on the weekends, telling me about that week's meeting and world politics so far. I was grateful for the company.

One morning, I was listening to the radio when there was a loud knocking at my door. That surprised me; Matt had a copy of the house key. I wondered if it was a door-to-door salesman.

I picked up my cane and slowly hobbled over to the door. "W-who is it? I'm not buying and I don't want to talk about our lord and saviour, if that's what you're here for."

"Bloody git, I'm here to find out why you haven't been at a meeting for almost two years!"

I froze. I could recognize that British accent anywhere, but I didn't want anyone to know. I had always believed that they would call me weak for letting myself go blind. I was America, and I wanted to still be the hero, even if I was blind. "Uh, right now I can't talk-"

"You will let me in before I break this door and kick your lazy arse!"

"Arthur, you don't get it, I'm not-"

"Open this bleeding door, Alfred Jones!"

I gripped my cane before pushing it into the hall closet. "Only if you can keep a secret."

"What- no, I'm not playing your childish games!"

"This isn't a game, Britain! I need you to keep this secret, please!"

There was a pause, and then a sigh came muffled through the door. "Fine, I'll keep a secret."

I nodded, fumbling with the lock. "Alright, hold on, I'm not good with the locks." It took me a good minute before it clicked. I backed up a little, holding the bar. "Alright, come in. But remember that it's a secret." I heard the door open and I nervously adjusted my black-glasses. I felt my stomach knotting and unknotting as Arthur shuffled inside, and I wished I could see him.

"Now, what's this bloody secret?"

I turned, biting my lip. "Come on into the living room, we might as well get comfortable." I walked carefully and slowly; I was still able to walk without the cane, but it was hard without holding onto the bars. I had memorized the furniture's arrangement in every room, in the event my cane broke. Five steps from the bar, and the couch brushed my leg. I sat down, my lip being chewed to pieces as I heard Arthur shuffling in the room.

"What's this about, Alfred?"

I smiled a little, hearing the annoyance in the British accent. "Well, do you remember what happened about two years ago? Back in September?"

There was a small pause before I heard a quiet 'oh' from the Brit. "The Trade Centers?" I nodded. "Alfred, I'm sorry that I had gotten angry with you. You're in a war now…"

"Yeah, but that's not a secret. Everyone knows it… the Towers had become an important symbol here. They're gone now… it had hurt me badly." I fidgeted, nervous. I hadn't talked to anyone so much; Matt was surprisingly talkative, and I let him describe the world for me. I never had needed to talk much except for during my speech sessions. My throat felt itchy and dry. "I, uh… I can't really get around on my own anymore, not as well as I used to." I didn't mean to avoid saying it, but I was too afraid to say it out loud.

"Alfred, I don't quite understand. You seem fine to me…"

I laughed a little, my hand moving under the glasses to rub my right eye. "Yeah, I guess I do. I fooled a doctor once, actually. I've gotten really good at moving without my cane."

"Your cane? You didn't… lose your leg, did you?"

I shook my head. "I think I'd have rather lost a leg, though." I moved my hand, but since my hands had become clumsy since losing my sight, I had accidentally knocked off my black-glasses. I flinched as they clattered to the ground and I pointed my chin down so my bangs hid my eyes. "Shit, where…" I reached down, my fingers tracing the floorboards to find them. I heard them clatter to my left with my sensitive hearing, so I searched there. "Damn, uh, dude, where are my glasses?"

"I don't see why you wear those idiotic things, it's cloudy outside. They're right there."

I guessed he had pointed, but it didn't help me. Forcing a laugh, I nodded and moved my hand to a random area. "Oh, uh… right…" I still didn't find their smooth plastic, and shame burned in my cheeks. "Right there…" I moved my hand to another spot, shifting to the left on the couch. There was still nothing but the grainy wood floors. I heard water hitting the floor and reached to my useless eyes, feeling the tears on my fingers. "Damn it…" I covered my face with both hands, trembling. I'd never felt so helpless before.

I heard Arthur stand and begin walking. I figured he was leaving; why would anyone want to stay with someone so weak? But the couch shifted and I felt arms wrap tight around me, holding me against a broad chest. I broke into sobs and I clung to Arthur's shirt tightly. Arthur pulled me into his lap, rocking me gently back and forth as the Brit began to hum low to me. My frame shook with sobs, and I buried my face in his shoulder as my worthless, blind eyes cried.

"In sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came… that voice which calls to me, and speaks my name…" Arthur sang softly to me, his hands running through my hair and smoothing the messy locks. "And do I dream again, for now I find… the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside my mind…"

I sniffled, smiling to myself a little. "Sing once again with me," I choked out; I coughed, rubbing my eyes of tears. I cleared my throat to try again. "Our strange duet… my power over you, grows stronger yet... and though you turn from me to glance behind… the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside your mind." I took deep breaths, calming down finally. I rested my head on Arthur's chest and stayed in the warm embrace of his arms.

Arthur rested his hand on my head. "Alfred, you are the bravest nation I've ever had the honour to know," he murmured softly to me. The statement warmed my cheeks with humility and surprise. "I'm proud of you. I'm proud that you didn't just sit around but worked to live with your eyes. And I think that you're incredible to have stayed strong all this time."

I guessed I was probably red as a… a tomato by the end of his little speech. "I-I'm the first and only blind nation, though…"

"And that makes you all the more strong." Arthur kissed the top of my head, sending little tingles across my skin. "I am so proud of you."

It was all I could do not to cry again, not to cry from relief and joy. To feel accepted by Arthur, the man I'd loved from a distance since seeing him in the first World War, was the greatest feeling. I trembled softly before hugging the Brit as tight as I could. "Thank you… thank you so much," I whispered.

"Just remember one thing." I paused, listening intently. "If you ever keep something like this from me again, I'll never buy you McDonald's. Is that understood, you git?"

I laughed a little. "I copy you loud and clear, Iggy."


[A/N]: Hello, I'm KM! I've been obsessed with blind!America, so I've got a huge amount of fanfictions like this in my head. The scenario that runs with me a lot is post-9/11 America, so expect more than one fanfic like this. This is my second fic in Hetalia; my first is in the works and deals with a Partially-Blind!America. I'm a big writer on disabilities, disorders and what-have-you; I'm probably going to be spamming the Hetalia fandom with my horrible fanfictions! Merci beaucoup pour lire, et au revoir! (Thank you for reading, and good-bye!)

-KM