Character(s) or Pairing(s): US, UK, Canada, France, off-screen cameo of Japan and mentions of various others. Sort’ve US/UK, if you squint. Also kinda US/Canada in later chapters, but not really. It’s hard to tell between family love and romantic love sometimes, you know?
Warnings: Character death, but with a happy ending.
Summary: “The old world is dying, Alfred. Arthur is just the first.” People, animals, governments and nations all pass away, but life and love will always find away to continue on….
“Hello? Oh, Kiku. Good morning.”
Canada cradled the old portable phone between his shoulder and his ear, freeing his hands to continue scrubbing his breakfast dishes. “Oh, we’re doing all right, I suppose. Well, we’re dealing at least. There’s not a lot else we can do right now.”
A dollop of suds floated up and landed on the tip of his nose. Canada went cross-eyed pouting at them and tried, somewhat futilely, to blow them off. “Alfred? He’s…coping. Well enough, I suppose. But you know how he is, he can handle it. No, I’m not worried about him.”
“…Yes, I’m lying.” Canada sighed, gave up on the bubbles and pulled the plug out of the sink. “I can’t help it. He and Arthur were pretty close, you know, even though they didn’t act like it. They always treated each other so bad, but they never really hated each other. I just don’t know how Al’s going to take it from here on out.”
On the other end of the line, Japan offered the small comfort that America was indeed as hardy as his brother had assumed. Canada dried his hands on a dishtowel, shifting the phone onto the other shoulder to give his neck a break. “Well, enough about our sad situation. How are things with you?”
“Hong Kong? No, I haven’t heard from him. How long has it been?”
Japan’s answer was very soft. Canada started in surprise. “What? That long? I know he’s never been the talkative type, but…are you sure no one’s heard from him?”
“Tibet, too? Oh, Christ…”
Canada groaned and sank into a chair, laying his elbows across the breakfast table. His left hand raked restlessly through his hair as his right held the phone steady against his ear. “This is really happening, isn’t it? The world’s really going to hell, and everyone’s just…Jesus. How are you holding up?”
“Yeah, me too. Not quite as young as before, but not bad,” Canada sat up, and his back ached in protest. He didn’t remember that ache. He’d been stuck in his late-teens for so many centuries that he’d forgotten what growing pains felt like. “Come to think of it, Al looks like he’s aged a few years since this all started, too. Not a lot, maybe four or five. I think that’s a good sign. We’re probably going to make it through. I just wonder about everybody else.”
Japan’s words finally brought a smile to his face, followed by a light chuckle. “Heh. Well, if that’s what China says, I suppose we can trust it.”
“Yeah, me too. I’ll tell Al you called. Catch you later, Kiku.”
Canada sighed again as he clicked the button to hang up the phone. He set it on the table beside him and rested his head in his arms, much to the frustration of Kumajiro, who was trying to clamber into his lap. He blew up the curly bit of hair that fell into his eyes and stared at Alfred’s breakfast. Five sad-looking, syrup-soaked pancakes sat mournfully untouched on the plate, soggy and cold and practically inedible now.
‘Catch up in a bit,’ he’d said. Who knew that ‘a bit’ would mean upwards of three hours?
Canada groaned and stood, picking Kumajiro up from the floor. He carried the bewildered polar bear to the window, pulled back the curtain, and gazed at the pyramid of stones. “Jeez, Alfred,” he muttered, “Just where the hell are you?”
( - )
“Look, America, look!”
America looked, but all he could see was Avalon dancing alone in the grassy, overgrown field. This area had been cleared once, for farming, but, like the forest, it had been left untended in the hard times and the wildflowers had reclaimed it. “Look at what?”
“My friends!” Avalon giggled, his arms dipping and weaving through the air as though he were catching fireflies on a warm summer night. “They’re dancing for us, ‘cause I asked them to! Aren’t they pretty? Look at all the colors!”
America’s face fell slightly. “Your…friends?”
“Uh-huh! They’ve been with me since the beginning, and they took real good care of me when I was little!”
Oh god, not this again…
America swallowed, a painful lump rising in his throat. England had always done this. Well, he’d never danced in the fields as far as America knew – the very thought was enough to make him snort – but he’d always spoken of ‘his friends’ in such endearing tones. The unicorn, the fairies, the elves; England’s delusions (and unnatural love for tea) were really the only things that remained constant about the older nation throughout the hundreds of years they had known each other.
It made sense, if Avalon really was what he looked like he was, that the boy would have the same ‘friends.’ But none of them were real. They’d never been real. America had always known that.
America swallowed again, choosing his next words very carefully. “I…I’m sorry, Avalon, but I can’t…”
Avalon stared up at him with wide, blue-green eyes. Something in his hands flashed a brilliant purple.
America blinked, and the purple flash came again. He blinked several times, as rapidly as he could, and the flashes came faster and faster, the light remaining behind longer and longer until it finally didn’t go out at all. As though his vision were clearing after a knock on the head, the light twisted around and reformed itself before America’s eyes, until, finally, he could see its source with blinding clarity.
It was a tiny purple woman with gossamer, dragonfly-like wings, sitting in the cradle of Avalon’s palms as easily as a normal person would a recliner.
America suddenly found it very hard to breath. “What the –”
The fairy – because that was the only thing it could be, a fairy – turned at looked up at him with eyes like tiny polished sapphires. She giggled, in a voice composed of the highest notes on a harpsichord, and flew to America with a swift buzz of her wings. She hovered in front of his face and tapped him on the nose, as if to say, in her little fairy way, “Yup! I’m real, big guy!”
America pulled away with a gasp, and suddenly there were a dozen of them, in all colors of the rainbow. The danced on the wind like butterflies, leaving trails of colorful sparks in their wake and singing, all in high-pitched, beautiful notes as clear and true as the finest crystal. They flew circles around little Avalon’s head, playing with his hair and his gown and doing everything they could to make him smile, like tiny celestial nannies tending to their charge.
America stared, wide-eyed and amazed, his brain shutting down from the overload of shock. Only the most obvious of words could make their way to his mouth: “They’re real.”
“Of course they’re real!” Avalon giggled, spinning around. “They’re my friends!”
America tumbled into the ground and sat in the grass, just staring at the haunting, beautiful sight before him. The little purple fairy flew up to him again and danced around his head, her voice ringing magically in his ear.
“They say they’ve been waiting a long time for you to come to your senses,” Avalon translated diligently, his eyebrows scrunching together with innocent bewilderment. “I wonder what they mean by that.”
I’m sorry, Arthur. You were right all along.
Avalon frowned. Brushing his fairy friends away gently, he shuffled through the grass and crawled into America’s lap. Big eyes looked up at him in concern. “Mister America? Why are you crying?”
He was crying? America hadn’t realized it, but he was, a few stray tears rolling down his cheeks in lazy streams. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with his sleeve. His voice caught in his tightened throat, and he swallowed the sob that wanted to bubble out of him
“It’s nothing,” America insisted softly, rubbing a bit harder as more tears came. “I’m sorry. I was just thinking of…of an old friend.”
“A friend?” Avalon’s face scrunched up in further. “But why would thinking of friends make you sad?”
America sighed and pulled his arm away from his eyes. He looked down at Avalon and placed a hand on the back of the boy’s head. He looked so much like England. “Normally, it wouldn’t, but…my friend had to go away recently.”
Avalon grabbed the sleeve of America’s jacket with both of his eager little hands. “But if he’s your friend, he’ll come back to see you real soon, won’t he?”
“Avalon,” America’s voice cracked, and he had to clench his eyes closed for a moment to cut off the tears before they could come. He pressed his hand against the back of Avalon’s head, assuring himself that the boy was real. He was really, really real. “Sometimes, when friends go away…sometimes they can’t come back. Not ever. And my friend…my Arthur…he’s not coming back.”
Avalon’s eyes grew wide. “Not ever?”
A glimmer of worry passed over Avalon’s face, and America instantly felt guilty. This boy was too small to worry about death and loss. He should be laughing and dancing and playing with his fairy friends and enjoying life. Instead he was here, comforting a washed-up old pilot who couldn’t let a dead friend lie in peace…
Suddenly, Avalon was standing and pushing the corners of America’s mouth up with his little hands. When America looked down at him through the unusual pressure of his cheeks, the little boy smiled at him.
“You don’t look good when you’re frowning,” he said with a little giggle. “Mister America has a happy face, so Mister America should always be smiling! ‘Cause that’s the way that you look the best!”
America chuckled, and his smile became real. Avalon let go and fell back into the older nation’s lap, holding onto America’s jacket to guide himself down. “You know, I don’t think your friend would want you to be sad. ‘Cause if he knew you were sad because of him, well, that would make him sad too, wouldn’t it?”
“I suppose that’s true,” America said softly, though he wasn’t completely sure. England had never really been the touchy-feely type.
“And you know what else?” Avalon asked rhetorically, tugging on the bomber jacket to keep the older nation’s attention. “Since he can’t come around to be your friend anymore, I’m gonna do it instead! So from now on, I’ll be your friend, and you won’t ever have to be sad! Okay?”
America’s smile widened and he pulled Avalon in for a hug. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” the little boy giggled and wrapped his arms around the older nation’s neck. America held him tightly, memorizing his weight, his smell, the softness of his hair. The fairies – England’s beautiful, magical fairies – danced around them like a maypole, leaving their warm and magical dust behind like a blessing of happiness as they rose up into the bright, clear summer sky.