FrUK: He Is My Light
His house was dark. All of the blinds and shades were closed, not allowing any measure of sunlight to disturb him. The darkness fit his mood. He was a total wreck. For days, he hadn't moved from his bed. He just laid there, from the time he awoke to the time he fell asleep. He never even got up to eat. The pain of hunger became so constant that he got used to it, and eventually he didn't even notice it anymore. If he weren't an immortal nation, no doubt he'd be dead by this point. As it was, he was wasting away. Not that he cared. Nothing mattered to him anymore. Not since America had left him.
He'd lost track of the days since he first barricaded himself in his room. Not that he'd ever tried to count in the first place. But as he stared blankly up at the ceiling, some tiny, non-broken part of his mind wondered idly why no one had noticed his continuous absence and come to check on him. Then it remembered that he had no friends and the only person he'd cared about had now disowned him. His older brothers all hated him, so nothing there... God, was he really that horrible of a person? Wait, of course he was. He was pathetic! And worthless. Weak. Bad-tempered. Boring. Grumpy. Inverted. So many bad things, and not a single redeeming trait. No wonder America left. He felt more tears well up as all of the self-inflicted insults cut through him. Uncaring, he let them fall, staining the already-soaked sheets.
- - - - - - - -
In the usual loudness of the world meeting, no one noticed the absence of one tea-loving self-proclaimed gentleman. No one, that is, except for France. As he sat listening to America talk, for even though the young nation was attending his first meeting ever, he already had a lot to say, the Frenchman scanned the sea of faces once again for a pair of familiar green eyes under familiar thick eyebrows. He didn't care to admit it, but he was worried about his friend/enemy. England was the kind of person who would show up even if he was on his deathbed. He was so completely devoted to his duties. With a sigh, he watched as Russia, Prussia, and America got into an argument. Soon, Spain and Portugal joined in, picking opposite sides, of course. China defended Russia's position, which made Japan jump in on the other side, and a minute later everything was chaos. No one paid any attention to France. He quietly slipped out the door, thankful that the host country was Scotland, and England's house wasn't too far away.
When he got to England's house, he noticed that all of the shades were closed, which was very unusual. But what was most alarming was England's beautiful rose garden. It had fallen deep into disrepair. England's care with those roses was usually that of a mother caring for her newborn child. But they were overgrown with weeds and thorns, as well as drooping steeply, and many were dead. Apprehensively, he went up to the front door and knocked. There was no answer. He waited for nearly five minutes before knocking again. When the door continued to remain firmly shut, he got frustrated. He knew England was home; where else would he be? He lifted the potted plant next to the door and took the key which was there. Then he went inside, closing the door behind him. He was immediately thrown into complete darkness. Cursing, he searched along the wall for a window. When he finally found one, he opened the curtains, and light filled the room. There was a thin layer of dust covering every surface. His initial alarm was steadily growing. He made his way upstairs, opening curtains as he went. Finally, he got to England's room. When he opened the curtain in there, England flinched, lifting a hand slowly to shield his eyes from the unwanted light.
The blond was mostly hidden under his blanket, curled up on his side. His usually sharp green eyes were dull, and red from crying. Underneath them were dark semicircles, and his entire face looked hollow and pale. His hair was even messier than usual, tangled and unwashed. He looked thinner even from under the blanket. France's heart wrenched. He looked horrible.
Once England got used to the brightness, he turned his dull gaze to the Frenchman.
"F-France? How did you get in?"
His voice was raspy from disuse and it didn't even seem like he cared about the answer to his question. One more thing was added onto the list of France's worries.
"I know where you keep your key. Angleterre... how long have you been up here?"
He was met with silence, a clear answer.
"It's been 24 days since... that happened."
- - - - - - - -
A part of him was shocked that it had been so long, but most of him didn't care. Both parts wanted France to leave so he could go back to losing himself. He buried his face under his pillow, closing his eyes. Maybe if I ignore him, he'll go away, he thought. But his hopes were soon dashed. First the covers were thrown off of him, making him shiver from the sudden cold. Then the pillow was also yanked away, and he glared at France. The older blond's expression was aghast.
"Mon dieu, you are skin and bones! You have not even been eating?"
The frog was silent, a pained expression on his face. Then it changed to determination, and he suddenly picked up the scrawny country, carrying him out of the bedroom.
"Hey! What are you doing?"
He didn't want this. He wanted the darkness back which had swallowed up all of his happiness. It hurt less. It was numbing. He had been so close, so close to not knowing of anything anymore, but now he was being thrown back into life, and his mind was reawakening. He hated France for it.
"Let go of me!"
He tried to thrash around in the hope that the elder would let go, but he was too weak from the hunger he'd been forced to remember. After a few feeble attempts, he grew limp, glaring pathetically at the blond above him.
"I hate you."
But he didn't have the strength to put any venom behind the words. France merely looked down at him in concern.
"Have you at least been drinking water, Angleterre?"
"Sacrebleu! Even nations have limits! I am aware you are going through a very rough time right now, but the England I know would never just give up like this!"
England didn't bother to answer. He remained silent as France brought him into the living room and sat him down on the dusty couch. France then brought a large glass of water out to the younger man. He set it down on the table and then glared at England.
The younger nation returned the unfriendly look.
A staring match ensued. For many minutes, England refused to move, set on making the Frenchman leave so he could go back to doing and thinking nothing. But France's expression was hard and unyielding. He obviously wasn't going anywhere. After a few more minutes, England gave up. He slowly lifted the cup and took a gulp of water. It burned down his throat, which was no longer used to having something travel down it. But he finished it anyway, knowing France would force him to if he didn't. Without another word, France refilled the glass and set it down again, eyes still hard. England finished that one too, and then another before the older nation was satisfied. Finally, France took away the glass. He didn't come back out, and the sound and smell of cooking washed over the resentful country. England was unwilling to fight another battle over eating, so he merely leaned back on the couch and waited.
When France next came back, he was carrying a bowl of soup and a spoon. He set the bowl and spoon down in front of England and then stood there expectantly. England sighed and began to eat. His stomach was unaccustomed to having food, and it wasn't happy as he ate. He could only eat half of it before he pushed the bowl away. France gave him a hard look, but he locked his jaw and glared at him defiantly, refusing to do anything more. After a long minute, France sighed again.
"Very well... That's enough for now..."
He picked up the younger nation again and carried him back up to his bedroom. England pulled the covers and pillow back on the bed and covered his face.
"Shut the light off, wanker."
France wordlessly obeyed, and then left, probably to go back to the world meeting. England closed his eyes and just kept laying there, forcing himself back into the numbness which was so welcoming.
- - - - - - - -
France was still very concerned for his defeated friend. He'd made a small amount of progress, but England was fighting him with every step. He knew it would take a long time for England to recover. But he attempted to stay positive as he walked back to the meeting. At least the first few steps had been taken. Eventually, he was sure, the broken country would be okay again. With France's help, of course.
When he got back to the summit, it was drawing to a close. He listened to the ending and then went up to Germany and explained why he was gone. The stern man was a little irked that France had left without saying, but he understood. He briefly went over what they had accomplished, which wasn't much, and made France promise to stick around next time. As France was gathering the notes and papers he'd left there, America noticed him and walked up. He casually slung an arm around the Frenchman, grinning as usual.
"Hey, dude! What's up, where've you been? You missed a lot!"
Irritation swept through France, and he pulled away.
"Hey, come on, just tell me! I thought we were friends, since you helped me out!"
France winced. He didn't want to be reminded that he played in a part in the war which caused England to crumble. Anger at America was slowly boiling up. It was irrational, since they really were friends and America didn't know just how much he'd affected his former brother, but France couldn't help it. It's your fault England is the way he is!
"We are, America...."
"So come on and say it, dude!"
"Fine, if you must know, I was at Angleterre's house! He wasn't here, if you didn't notice! Oh, but of course you didn't! Since you won your little independence from him, you haven't cared about him or his feelings one bit!"
America blinked, surprise crossing his face at the outburst.
"H-hey, that's not true... I still care..."
"Non, you do not! You haven't bothered to see if he's all right! Well, he is not! You have no clue how broken he is right now! And it's because of you! On second thought, I would rather you don't go check on him. You should just stay away, salaud! He probably would not be able to handle seeing you anyway! And stay away from me as well! Allez au diable, un ver!"
His voice had gotten increasingly louder as he spoke, until he was shouting. And as furious as he was, he didn't even notice the slipping of languages in that last sentence. He walked away, still seething, leaving a very confused and very shocked America standing there.
- - - - - - - -
To England's despair, every day France would keep coming and forcing him to eat. Every time he was dragged downstairs and had coherent thoughts shoved back into his mind, it took longer to return to the numbness. Finally, about a week and a half later, he could no longer forget the world. His mind had turned back on permanently. That also meant that he could see things from a slightly more reasonable point of view. He was longing to just stay there in his room, curled up, but he finally forced himself out of his bed and slowly walked downstairs. He knew France would be there soon, so he sat down on the couch. He closed his eyes and leaned back to wait for the sound of the door opening.
Rain was pouring from the sky, and the ground was soaked with water as well as the blood of fallen soldiers. He was the only one left in red. Cruel, blue-framed faces were surrounding him, masks of hatred and disgust, but he couldn't care less. His eyes were all for the face directly in front of him. It was unfamiliar in its cold detachment, but still the one he'd memorized years ago. There was no trace of friendliness or brotherly affection in America's clear blue eyes. His voice was icy and firm. No doubts or remorse.
"You're not my brother anymore, England."
He raised his musket to eye level, aiming straight at England's heart. Desperate, the older tried to call out to him, to plead, to ask why he was being abandoned, but he couldn't make a sound. There was the sound of a bullet being fired, and pain exploded through him. He couldn't move, though. He was frozen. The image in front of him cracked slowly like glass. Little pieces fell away here and there, until his little brother's face was the only thing left. It was still cold, still closed off. Disgust and hatred was visible in every inch.
Another shot, and he fell to his knees. The face, the only thing left, also shattered and fell away, leaving him in an ocean of pain and darkness.
"NO!" England woke with a start, bolting upright on the couch. He was breathing heavily and sweating from the intensity of the nightmare, and his heart raced as if he really had been shot. He barely managed to comprehend that the light in the living room and the kitchen were on, so France must've arrived. He let out a sigh, passing a hand over his face. It was the same dream he'd been having every night, but it still managed to shock him. It also still managed to make his eyes tear up. The little droplets of water were already slipping quickly down his face by the time France came hurrying out of the kitchen. His face was shadowed with concern. He took in the sight of England crying and sighed. The Frenchman sat down next to the broken nation before wrapping his arms around England in a tight embrace.
"Let it out, mon cher. It is the only way to get better."
England buried his face in the older man's shoulder and fisted his hands in France's shirt. He allowed the thick tears to slowly soak his friend's collar.
"Why did he have to go?" he sobbed, his voice muffled by his companion's shirt. "Wasn't I a good big brother? Damn it, why did he leave me here all alone?"
After a while, his tears dried and he quieted. He didn't let go of the man holding on to him, however. He took several deep breaths, trying to slow his heart a little. Finally, France let go, drawing back to offer the tiniest of smiles.
"Just a little..."
"That is good, though. It means you are healing."
England let his head fall back on the couch, running his fingers through his hair in distress.
"You must think I'm weak, crying like that..."
"Non, not at all! I know you cared about l'Amerique as if he were truly your little brother."
"Still.... I'm pathetic."
Anger glinted in France's blue eyes. He pulled England's chin down so he was looking the younger in the eye.
"Listen to me, England. Putting yourself down does not help anything. You are not weak, or pathetic, or stupid, or anything else like that! You are just going through a very rough time. You must always remember the good things, not the bad. Understand?"
The conviction behind his voice surprised England. He had been so sure France was only doing all of this because he pitied the broken nation. But... maybe it was possible... that he actually cared? It was unlikely, considering their history, but it was enough to bring a small sliver of hope back into his mind.
France smiled again, letting go of him.
"Vous êtes les bienvenus. Much better."
He stood and went back into the kitchen to finish cooking. England wiped away his tears and took another deep breath, forcing himself to calm down.
- - - - - - - -
France finished cooking, once again feeling relieved that England seemed to have recovered more. When he'd gotten there and found England on the couch instead of in his room, he was so relieved. And now, seeing England talk like normal, and show emotion other than anger, was even more reassuring. Also reassuring was the fact that he actually finished the whole meal this time when the older nation brought it out to him. He figured it was time to take some bigger steps. So when England had finished eating, France pulled him to the bathroom, handed him a towel and fresh clothes, and pushed him inside, closing the door behind him. England had really needed a shower. Then, after hearing the water turn on, he went back to the living room and looked it over critically. There was still a thick layer of dust on everything, and things were still clumped together in the clutter of a war-distracted nation. He found the duster and started cleaning up a little while he waited for England to get out.
- - - - - - - -
When England got out of the shower he saw France cleaning up in the living room. Sitting back down on the couch, he decided to open his mouth to start a conversation.
"How was the meeting?"
France stopped what he was doing to look at him in surprise, obviously shocked at his sudden openness. But after a moment he turned back around and kept going.
"Same as usual.... no one really got anything done."
England was about to ask another question when there was a knock at the door, surprising him. He stood and went over to the door, but didn't open it yet, cautious.
"Who is it?"
"Brother! Let me in!"
The muffled voice sounded very familiar. England's eyes widened slightly.
"Aye, it's me! Come on, let me in already!"
Slowly, England reached for the doorknob and opened the door. When his eldest brother saw him, he blanched.
"Brother... you look horrible..."
"You're so skinny..."
"France already told me."
"France? Is he here?"
"Yeah, he's been coming here since the meeting..."
"And before that?"
England looked away. After a moment, Scotland frowned and pulled him into a hug.
"I'm sorry, England. I should've come sooner."
Shock coursed through England. His eldest brother had never before shown any amount of brotherly affection. In fact, he usually picked on his younger sibling. It had never seemed like he cared, but... maybe he did? Slowly, England returned the hug.
"That's all right, Scottie... you're here now."
A moment later, Scotland pulled away and stepped inside. He looked over at France, who'd been watching them embrace with curiosity.
"Hello, France," Scotland greeted, sitting down on the couch.
"Bonjour, Scotland. Good to see you here."
England, still a little shocked, sat down on the left side of his brother.
"Why did you come here? You don't usually... do this kind of thing..."
Scotland sighed and lit up a cigarette. He was a habitual smoker, but when he was nervous, he smoked more. He was silent for a moment, a thoughtful look on his face, obviously deciding how to word his answer. Eventually, he spoke up.
"I know I don't, lad. I know it seems like I don't care, but I really do. You're my little brother, how could I not? It's just... it's hard to show it. I don't really know how to express my feelings..."
England nodded slowly. It made sense. He was like that as well, after all.
"All right... but why now?"
"Why now? Brother, have you looked in a mirror recently? You're a mess! Maybe I'm not good at showing my brotherly side, but you need it right now."
England looked down at the floor, a little guilty for putting France and Scotland through so much trouble.
"Don't apologize, idiot." Scotland was smiling, the name more affectionate than insulting. "You can't help how you feel, can ya?"
"Everyone needs a little help sometimes, England. Sometimes you fall and you need someone else to pick you back up. There's no shame in that."
"Let's make a deal. You try to get back on your feet, and I try to be a better brother. Sound good, lad?"
"...Yeah. Thanks, Scottie."
After that, their conversation turned more innocent. They talked about stupid, little things. Things England didn't even remember the next day. England was grateful. It helped keep his mind off of all the bad things. However, doing all of the things he hadn't done in weeks had tired him out. It wasn't yet sundown when he fell asleep on his big brother's shoulder.
- - - - - - - -
After France had finished downstairs, he went to tidy up on the second floor as well. When he came back down, he saw England leaning on Scotland's shoulder, sleeping. Scotland was lighting another cigarette, being careful not to jostle his tired little sibling. France sat down on the armchair and eyed Scotland curiously. Scotland took a drag from his cigarette, before exhaling and allowing the smoke to rise up in a cloud. It eventually made its way to the open window and went outside. He watched it float away before turning his gaze to the Frenchman.
"So... You've been coming here every day since the meeting, France?"
"And no one else had come here since... you know..."
"How bad was it?"
France sighed. "Bad. Very bad. I found him locked up in his room... He hadn't been eating or drinking... You can tell, just by looking. So skinny... He couldn't even resist when I dragged him down here. It took me a while to get him to drink something... It was like he wanted to let this happen... Once he stopped resisting, though, I got him to eat as well... But for a while, that was all he would let me do. It wasn't until yesterday that he stopped locking himself up again when I left. Little steps, no? I'm trying... Did you see his roses?"
Scotland had a pained expression on his face as he listened to France describe it. He nodded, taking another drag from his cigarette.
"Aye, I saw. He won't be happy when he first goes outside."
"No, he won't. But it will give him something to do, yes? Something to concentrate on other than..."
"Yeah. He'd spend days on it. Weeks. He'll probably have to replant the whole thing."
"I will help, though. I doubt I will be leaving him alone for very long. Not until I'm sure he'll be okay."
'Why are you so keen on helping anyway? Not that I'm complaining, but I thought you and him didn't get along."
"We didn't. However... Recently, my opinion may have changed. Or perhaps it wasn't so recent. Perhaps I only just now realized..."
France's blue eyes traced the hollows in England's sleeping face. He looked relaxed, for once. There was no lingering pain showing in his features. France couldn't even begin to explain how relieved he felt, seeing that. When England was hurting, so was he. But if he could just see one smile from the Brit, it would make everything perfect again. No matter how England felt about him, he knew how he felt about England.
"I love him."
There was silence for a moment. Now both of Scotland's red eyebrows were high up, and his green eyes were wide with shock.
"You... you love him?"
"Oui. I have for a while... many years. I just didn't know it."
"I wouldn't have guessed... Are you going to tell him?"
"Yes, but not now. Not for a while. He has to get better first."
"It might take a while, you know..."
"I have waited this long, no? I can be patient."
"My brother used to hate you, but..." Scotland looked down at the sleeping Englishman again, brushing the hair out of his face in an uncharacteristically brotherly gesture. "I don't know what he thinks of you now."
France smiled sadly.
"Even if he still hates me, it would change nothing."
"I suppose so."
They sat in silence for a while. Scotland finished his cigarette before shifting his brother and standing, gentle enough that England didn't awaken.
"I should be going now. I have a lot o' work to do."
"All right. But you should come back soon. He'd like it."
"Aye, I will. See ya around, France."
With that, he left, closing the front door quietly behind him.
France sighed, once again allowing his gaze to sweep over England's face. He stood and picked up the younger nation, then slowly walked up the stairs. He set England down on his bed. The blond didn't stir once. He must've been exhausted. France opened the curtain before heading off to the guest room for the night.
- - - - - - - -
England woke to bright sunlight. He had to blink several times before he could even comprehend where he was. He was back in his room. For a moment he was confused, but then realized France must have moved him after Scotland left. He got up and changed before slowly walking downstairs. The smell of food assaulted him as he walked into the kitchen. France was making pancakes. England started making himself a cup of tea, and the small amount of noise he made caused the elder man to turn in surprise.
"Oh, Angleterre. I didn't think you'd be up so early. Making tea?"
"Would you like some, France?"
"Non, that's all right. You know I don't like that stuff."
England looked up to see a smirk plastered on the other nation's face, and scowled.
"You wouldn't, wino."
France's smile only widened.
"What?" England asked irritatedly.
"You're obviously feeling better, if you're back to insulting me~"
That stopped England in his tracks. It was true, he realized. He no longer wanted to lose himself. It wasn't easy to do these normal things again, America having left a gaping hole in him, but it didn't seem as hopeless as the day before. He looked back down at his teacup, concentrating on making his tea perfect.
.A little, I guess. I mean, it still hurts...." he mumbled, "but it's a little easier...."
"That is good~"
"It doesn't bother you that I just insulted you?"
"Not really. As I said, it means you're getting better. Besides, I'm used to it by now."
The younger's face reddened slightly.
"No need, Angleterre. It doesn't bother me."
"Still... I'm sorry, France. I don't mean them, you know. It's not like I hate you."
He looked up to see shock cross the older man's face.
"Of course not. I'd still be up there wasting away if you didn't show up."
Now that his mind was at least a little more on-kilter, he was shocked and ashamed of himself for allowing himself to waste away like that. He wasn't the type to just give up. He was grateful France had made him see sense.
"I appreciate it. Really. Thank you."
France was still looking shocked, but after a moment his expression softened and he smiled sadly.
"Vous êtes les bienvenus. No matter how you feel about me, I would not leave you to die."
"I wouldn't either, if it were you."
By the time England had finished making his tea, France had finished cooking as well. They ate breakfast, and then once France was done putting the plates away, he looked England over critically.
"Get up," he commanded. England looked at him in confusion, setting his tea down.
Slowly, England rose to his feet. France took his arm and led him to the front door.
"Wait, what are you doing?" England protested, pulling his arm away.
"You haven't been outside in a month. We're going on a walk."
For some reason, the idea was terrifying to him. Out there was the world where he'd been rejected and left in the mud and rain. Out there was where America was. Out there was where everything bad that had happened to him, happened. Out there people were cruel. They left big gaping holes in the ones who cared about them. Inside was safe. Nothing could hurt him here, except himself. He backed away from the front door, eyes wide. With a sigh, France came up to England and took his arm again, gentler this time. He spoke in a soft voice, reassuring.
"England, listen. We're only going around your neighborhood. He's not there. No one will hurt you, I promise."
Somehow, just the words and the gentle touch were able to calm him a little. He allowed France to lead him to the door again. The irrational fear was biting at him, but France's constant, reassuring pressure on his arm served as an anchor. However, once the older nation opened the door, he couldn't bring himself to lift his gaze from the ground in front of him. The slowly-growing sane part of his mind scoffed and asked what he was so scared of anyway. Did he expect someone to jump out of a bush and yell "boo"? But the rest of him had no answer. It didn't matter why he was afraid, he just was. So, at first, he focused only on the sidewalk in front of him, refusing to lift his head. But gradually, as he breathed in the fresh air of his home, which still had a tint of moisture despite the sunny day, he relaxed. It was so familiar to him, something he'd known for centuries. The irrational fear trickled away little by little, until he could raise his eyes to examine his surroundings. Just by looking for a few seconds, he could tell exactly where he was, and that reassured him even more. He had long ago memorized every inch of his land. Of course, the buildings had changed over time, but he knew the current ones by heart as well. After all, every blade of grass, every brick in every wall, every beating heart, was a part of him. He slowed, taking it all in once again, and France looked back, curiosity on his face. He smiled when he saw England's distraction.
"Your homeland is very beautiful, Angleterre. See? Nothing to be nervous about here."
"Yeah... Thank you."
He drifted a few feet away, to a wild rose bush, and reached out a hand to one of the delicate flowers. His touch was as gentle as could be as he came into contact with the soft petals. Roses were his favorite flower, and he loved the wild bushes growing all over near his house. For the first time in who knew how long, he smiled. It was a small smile, but a smile nonetheless.
- - - - - - - -
France was so surprised when England's lips curved upward slightly, his hand gently touching a rose in bloom. He was unimaginably happy, seeing that small indication of recovery, but it was soon overshadowed by guilt. Ah.... I have to tell him about his roses.... It will make him sad again. He didn't want to erase that tiny smile, didn't want to ruin the first bit of happiness England was feeling since this whole incident. But he couldn't just not prepare the blond for what he'd see when they got back to his house. So he cleared his throat and put a hand on England's shoulder.
"Er.... England... speaking of roses..."
England wasn't looking at him, his eyes never leaving the rose bush.
"Your rose garden.... It's, ah...."
"What about it?"
Finally, the younger shifted his gaze to meet the older country's, forest-green eyes registering curiosity and confusion.
"Well, Angleterre... you haven't been out of your room for a month.... no one's been looking after them, so..."
He let the sentence hang, not wanting to actually say the words your flowers are all dead. For a few silent seconds, England's expression didn't shift. Then, finally, it cleared, morphing from confusion to understanding, and his smile was gone. Without a word England grabbed France's sleeve and started walking quickly back towards the house. France had no choice but to follow, apprehension keeping his expression in a frown. Once they came in sight of the younger nation's house, England stopped short. France saw a slightly pained expression on his face as he stared at the rows of drooping and dead roses. Slowly, the blond started forward again, still dragging his companion with him, and knelt down next to the beginning of the garden. France gently pulled away, and watched as the other country reached out to touch one of the dry, dead flowers. His expression of sorrow and regret stuck for a few more moments, until it switched to determination. Still silent, he began carefully pulling out the dead flowers, avoiding the thorns on the stems. France watched him work for a while, before concluding England would be fine and slipping back inside. He began to make lunch, humming very quietly to himself. That had gone better than he'd expected. It seemed England really had gotten better. He wasn't wallowing, but fixing a problem.
Once France had finished preparing lunch, he went outside to tell England. The healing man had made considerable progress, but there was a lot of work to do yet.
"Angleterre! It's lunchtime."
England looked up at him, his hands slowing.
"All right. I'm coming."
He finished pulling out the flower he was on, then stood up and walked over.
- - - - - - - -
A few weeks passed, and they adopted an easy routine. If the day was good, England would go outside and work on his garden. If it was too rainy outside, he would stay inside and work on his needlework. France would always be either cooking, helping him garden, or cleaning. He would bring England on a walk every morning, and England never resisted again. He even seemed to get a little better each time he went outside; a nation needed his land, after all. France was pleased with the progress he was getting. He estimated that England would be entirely back to normal with only a few more weeks, maybe a couple of months.
- - - - - - - -
The day was a bit too wet for England to work on his garden, which was slowly recovering, just like him. He and it were doing better every day. It no longer took prodding from France to carry out his full daily routine. He was still a little jumpy, and sometimes the nightmare returned to him, but overall he was much better.
England was working on his embroidery and France was cooking lunch when there was a knock at the door. England looked up, curious. He wasn't expecting Scotland to come today. He set his needlework aside and walked up to the door. But when he opened it, rather than seeing the sharp green eyes he was expecting, he saw a clear blue gaze he knew only too well. His own emerald eyes widened in shock, and pain flooded through him instantly. His vision shifted. Suddenly, he was back on that battlefield, staring down the barrel of a gun. Although the eyes in front of him were wary and nonthreatening, all he saw was icy detachment and resentment. And though the real America had a casual stance and clothes, England saw a shooting position, rifle up, and that damn blue military outfit. It was as if his entire body exploded; that was how sudden and intense the pain was. Speechless, he slammed the door shut and leaned back against it, shaking violently. He closed his eyes, overflowing with tears, and slid to the floor, injured heart beating wildly. That scene was playing over and over in his head, a new wave of pain washing over him each time. He forcefully put his hands over his ears, but the cold voice rang in his mind, rejecting him again and again.
But suddenly, familiar hands were on his shoulders, jolting him back into real life. He opened his eyes to see France kneeling down next to him. Though the image was blurry from his unending tears, he could make out worry heavy in the older man's eyes. He dropped his arms away, the harsh voice already gone from his mind.
"England! Snap out of it!" France was saying, voice thick with concern.
England took a few deep breaths, forcing himself to calm down. As he shoved the memories away viciously, the pain faded back to the background. It was more prominent than it had been in days, but France's grip on his shoulders helped him ground himself. Eventually, the shaking faded as well.
"I-I'm okay..." he said finally, wiping his tears away.
France removed his hands, but he still looked very concerned. He didn't even have to ask who was at the door; England's reaction told him everything.
"Do you want me to make him leave?"
England took another deep breath and shook his head.
"No, don't... I can't keep avoiding this. I have to see him eventually."
"But Angleterre, you don't have to see him now. Like this. Look at how much he affects you..."
"I'm okay," England promised again. He slowly stood, grabbing France's wrist and pulling him up too. Keeping tight hold of his companion's wrist, he took one final deep breath and opened the door again. America was a few feet away, back turned, obviously in the process of leaving. But he looked back when the door opened, and then turned around again. There was another jolt of pain as he and England locked gazes, but the older nation was prepared for it this time, and it didn't hit him nearly as hard. He was able to detach himself enough to examine the young country's appearance.
America had already gone back to wearing his own unique, casual style of clothing. He was wearing green pants, a simple white shirt, and a brown jacket with a star on the front. He had his hands in his pockets and a half-uncomfortable, half-nervous look on his face. His eyes, blue ice the last time he saw them, had melted. Instead of cold detachment, there was caution visible in them. He had always been easy to read.
Franc suddenly winced, and England realized his grip on the other's wrist had tightened without him knowing. He forced himself to relax again. It was time to get this over with.
"What do you want?" he asked his former brother, fighting to keep his voice steady.
America started to walk back up, but England took an involuntary step back, and he stopped. A flicker of disappointment crossed the younger's face, but he didn't try to approach again.
"France told me you were, uh, not feeling well."
England had to resist the urge to flinch when he heard that voice, but he then looked over at France, a silent question in his eyes. France was looking at America warily, distrust visible in his expression.
"At the meeting. I sort of yelled at him," France explained quietly.
England turned back to his former colony, eyes hard again.
"My personal matters are no longer any of your concern."
There was another flash of disappointment in the new nation's eyes, and he looked at the ground.
"No, I guess not...."
He turned again and started walking away slowly. England's eyes narrowed, and his grip tightened again. He couldn't force himself to loosen it this time. His voice was flat when he spoke again, louder since the retreating nation was farther away.
"There you go again, walking away from me.... Just like last time!"
That made America stop, and he turned again, very slowly. Now his clear blue eye clearly showed rising anger and frustration.
"What would you have me do, then?" he demanded. "Do you want me to stay here, where I'm obviously unwelcome? Did you think I would beg for forgiveness? Would you have me go back to being you ignorant colony, taken advantage of and unfairly restricted? You really think I would come here with nothing but apologies?"
America's voice had gotten increasingly louder, and he took another step forward, hands balling into fists. It was only when France put a hand on his shoulder that England realized he'd taken another step back and was shaking. He once again forced himself to calm down, and managed to keep his voice steady when he responded.
"I want nothing of the sort
you obviously still have a lot to say, so don't leave without saying it! Don't just come here to play with my emotions and then walk away like it's nothing!"
America was silent for a moment, his eyes still smoldering with blue fire, before he took a deep breath and visibly calmed himself down. Finally, he spoke, his voice quieter than usual.
"I didn't come here to yell at you, England
I came to make peace
I'm sorry for hurting you, okay? I really needed this, but I'm sorry that I had to hurt you in the process."
England narrowed his eyes again, unexpected anger boiling inside of him.
"You expect me to forgive you, just like that?"
"You can't even begin to understand what I've been through, America! You don't realize how much you hurt me, you bastard! You left me in the rain! You took away everything! And you think you could just come back and apologize, and I would actually accept? You think I could forgive you so easily? Well, you're wrong! It would take a hell of a lot more than that pitiful apology to make up for all you've done to me!"
He was shaking again, this time in anger, and France once again put a hand on his shoulder.
"Angleterre, calm down, please
The words were like cool water extinguishing a flame. England relaxed almost instantly, his anger fading. He released France's hand, and the older nation winced again, lifting the hand to flex his fingers. England looked at him and saw a dark red ring around his wrist, and guilt seeped through him. His grip must've tightened again without him realizing it.
" he whispered, frowning.
"Non, it's all right
I'm sure I'll regain the feeling in my fingers eventually
England sighed, forgetting for a moment that America was even there.
"Maybe we should put some ice on it or something
"Later, England, we still have a visitor, and-"
"'We'?" America interrupted, looking between them. It seemed as though he'd left their previous conversation behind, since he hadn't even reacted to England's accusations. "Why is France here, anyway?"
Before England could open his mouth to inform America that that was also none of his business, France spoke up.
"I'm here because he wants me here, and that's all there is to it. Amerique, I thought I told you not to come here."
"I can do what I want, I'm a free country now," America snapped back, the blue fire returning to his gaze. "Which is more than you can say, under your joke of a king."
Now it was France's turn to narrow his eyes. In one quick motion, he stepped forward and grabbed the younger nation by the collar.
"Maybe you'd like to say that again
" he said icily.
America returned his unfriendly look, easily wrenching the taller man's hands away with his unconventional strength.
"I said your king is a joke
what are you going to do about it, wine bastard?"
Without a word France drew his hand back and punched America in the jaw. America growled and lunged in retaliation. Soon they were on the ground, scuffling and insulting each other, while England looked on in shock. But after a few minutes, he approached and, with some difficulty, dragged France away.
"That's enough! You, go home and don't come back," he ordered America without looking at him, "and you, France, come back inside so I can treat these gashes
Fine," France replied after a moment, still scowling at America. The two of them turned around to go back inside, but stopped when America called out to the eldest country again.
"You're not even man enough to deal with a few bruises on your own?"
Before France could even turn around, England lunged. His fist connected with America's nose and sent him falling backwards to the ground. America brought a hand up to touch his now broken nose, staring up at England in surprise. England towered above him, resisting the urge to keep landing blows. Instead, he merely clenched his fists again.
"I said go home."
For a moment America was motionless, still staring at him in disbelief. Then finally, still clutching his nose, he got up and walked away.
- - - - - - - -
Once the American was out of sight, England visibly deflated, putting a hand on the wall to lean on. Still trying to get the blood flowing to his poor fingers again, France touched the younger nation's shoulder.
"Are you all right, Angleterre?"
England nodded. He leaned slightly into the touch, then straightened again, a look of confusion crossing his face. But after a moment he shrugged off the hand and started walking back inside.
"We should really stop that bleeding..." he said as he started looking around inside drawers.
France followed him inside, closing the door. England finally found some bandages and started patching up his companion's wounds. About halfway through, he finally opened his mouth.
"France... America posed a good question. Why are you still here?"
France frowned. The real answer was because he was in love with England, but it still wasn't the time to admit that. So he quickly thought up a half-truth to use instead.
"England, do you want me to leave?"
As expected, England's eyes widened and something close to panic crossed his face.
"No, don't! Please don't leave!"
"That's why. I'll be here as long as you want me to be."
"But... We've been enemies for centuries."
"That may be so, but I'm not heartless, nor am I cruel, even to you. You've never been through something like this. You need me here, so I will stay. All right?"
"Yeah... Thank you."
"No need to thank me... I'm happy to help."
The green-eyed man nodded and started heading back outside.
"Tell me when lunch is ready..."
For the next few weeks, France watched England carefully. The recovering nation was acting different, spacing out for long periods of time. Also, without seeming to notice it, he'd taken to reaching out for France in little gestures. If they walked by each other, his hand would quickly brush against France's and then recede just as quickly. Or if they were sitting next to each other, England would slowly inch closer until they were either touching or almost touching. He never noticed; in fact, whenever he realized it he would move away again, and that same confusion would return to his face. It took France a little while to understand, but when he did, he decided to let England figure it out on his own. It would be better that way.
- - - - - - - -
Ever since America had shown up, England found himself almost constantly in contact with France. Without even realizing it, he'd begun to treat France as a sort of comfort object. Every time he touched the Frenchman it was like a balm on irritated skin: It made him feel more relaxed and in control. Even the sight of France made him feel better, and he had no clue why. He'd keep trying to figure it out in his mind, but it only led to less work getting done. He was so distracted by these new feelings that the pain went away completely and he didn't even take time to notice. Finally, one day a few weeks later, it dawned on him. As soon as he realized it, he also realized he needed advice. Thankful that France wasn't around, and so couldn't ask why he was going, he left for Scotland's house. However, he did leave a note saying were he went, so France wouldn't worry.
Though he usually paid attention to his surroundings, he kept his eyes on the ground ahead of him as he walked towards Scotland's house. His thoughts were spinning, and he almost couldn't believe this whole situation. He was England, who had no friends and only one family member who cared about him. How could he have developed such feelings? He arrived at Scotland's house eventually, and knocked on the door. Scotland answered, and his expression morphed into surprise.
Hi," he said.
Can I come in?"
"Aye, of course."
England sat down on the Scot's couch, and his big brother sat down next to him.
"Is there something wrong?"
England hesitated for a moment, twisting the corner of his shirt slightly. It was a nervous habit that he'd tried for years to get rid of. He was really about to admit this? Finally, he took a deep breath and said it.
"I think I'm in love with France."
Scotland merely stared at him, looking absolutely shocked. After a moment, however, he recovered. He shook his head and rubbed at his forehead with one hand. When he spoke, his voice carried confusion.
"Okay... And how am I supposed to help you?"
"What do I do?"
"What do you think, you idiot? Have you tried telling him?"
"No! He'd laugh in my face and walk away!"
"No he wouldn't."
"How do you know?"
"Because I know, okay? Just tell him."
"No buts. Tell him."
England sighed, but then nodded.
"I'm coming to your house tomorrow. By the time I get there, I expect you to have told him."
"Good~ See ya."
With that he pulled England off of the couch and gently pushed him out the door, closing it behind him. Another sigh escaped him, and he began the walk home. When he arrived, France was putting away food.
"Bonjour, England," he said, offering a quick smile.
The smile made England's heart speed up a little. He managed to reply in kind without revealing this, however, and escaped outside to work on his garden.
The next day, England sat on the couch and waited for France to get up. He had to say it as soon as possible, as he had no idea how early Scotland was coming. He began twisting his shirt again, staring down at it and trying to calm his nerves. He was so distracted he didn't even notice France until the older male was next to him, trying to get his attention. The Brit jumped and inched a little bit away from him, out of pure habit. France looked at him with concern.
"Angleterre, are you okay? You've been acting strange for a while."
"I'm fine... I've just been thinking."
He hesitated. He was having some second thoughts. Nervous, he stared in the general direction of the kitchen.
France put a hand on his shoulder and he instinctively leaned into the touch. He also took France's hand without thinking, but blushed and let go when he realized what he'd done. France raised one eyebrow.
"Why do you keep pulling away from me...? You're the one who reaches out, but then you move away again."
"B-because... I don't know."
France shook his head and grabbed the other nation's hand, pulling him closer until England was lying on top of him.
"What are you doing?" England demanded, trying to pull away.
"Proving a point... and testing something."
For a few more seconds England resisted, but then he finally relaxed into France's arms, his head resting on the other man's chest. His heart was pounding due to the much-wanted contact, and he was sure his face was red. France smirked, looking more devious than he had since this whole incident.
"You really like this, don't you?"
England nodded, embarrassed.
"Why is that, I wonder...?"
"I..." He hesitated, still a little unsure. But after a moment, he decided to just admit it. "I think... I'm... in l-love with... you," he said slowly.
France's sharp smirk softened and, much to England's surprise, he lifted the younger country's chin and kissed him.
"I know... Je t'aime, Angleterre."
England stared up at him, eyes wide in pure shock. But then understanding swept through him.
"...So that's why you've stayed here so long?"
"Oui... I didn't want to tell you while you were still recovering."
"But I'm fine now... Will you still stay, though?"
"As long as you want me to."
Then he kissed the other again, and England would've responded in kind had there not been a knock at the door. He sighed.
"Right on time
He got up, noticing that France was following closely behind him. The Frenchman had his arm around England's waist as he opened the door, a very obvious gesture. When Scotland saw them, he zeroed in on that, and a grin split his face.
"You told him, eh, Brother?" he said.
England nodded, face slightly pink. Scotland turned his attention to France.
"You've proven me wrong, France. Though I'm glad I'm wrong, for once."
"Oui, I have~ My patience paid off, no?"
England looked between them, eyes wide. He got the feeling there was something crucial he missed.
Someone explain," he said bluntly.
"France here told me a while ago how he felt, Brother."
"Oh..." England had another epiphany then. "So that's how you knew he wouldn't laugh at me?"
Scotland smiled and patted his younger brother's shoulder.
"My work here is done~ Good luck, lovebirds."
With that he walked away. England blushed lightly, and France chuckled.
"Merci. Come, Angleterre, it's breakfast time~"