Genre: Romance, Comedy(?)
Characters: America, England, mentions of several others
Rating: PG-13, for mild swears and sexual references
Summary: America thought it would be funny to turn the device on himself. What’s the worst that could happen? Y’know, aside from accidentally falling in love with your friend.
This is my continuation of “America’s strange invention” from the end of Comic Diary 8.
Warnings: Pockets of headcanon, slight crackiness, buckets of UST, sensual heresy, and this chapter is looong y’all
This chapter: The heresy begins. Wackiness follows. America is frustratingly oblivious. The heresy continues.
Part one, Part two, Part three -- Part five, Part six
“Antidote? An antidote to what?”
This is where it would get tricky, but America had prepared an appropriately clever excuse. “It’s complicated. Something’s been making me feel…something. And I don’t want to feel…that.”
England looked puzzled, and attempted to make sense of the explanation. “Something’s been giving you unwanted thoughts?”
“Um, yeah. Basically.”
“Do you know the source of the intrusion?”
America shifted awkwardly and stared at the table. After stark silence from America, England continued.
“But you do think it’s supernatural? I thought you didn’t believe in magic.”
America hesitated and bit his lip. “Uh, well…there’s a chance it could help, right?”
England frowned and replied bluntly. “I’m your last resort, aren’t I.”
America flinched. “A little bit.”
For a full minute, England was silent, looking away in thought. America wasn’t sure if he’d been rejected and was expected to leave, but eventually England spoke again. “I’ll do what I can.”
America looked into England’s eyes with hopeful confusion. “You…what? Really?”
England paused cautiously before nodding. “I suppose, as your ally, it’s in my own best interest to make sure you don’t go mad.”
“Oh. Well, awesome! What do you have in mind?”
“Perhaps if you explain the situation more in depth, I’ll be able to do a bit of research so we don’t walk into this blind.”
America stopped talking again. An uncomfortable heat grew in his stomach and flared out to his extremities.
England waited once again for America to start rambling about his problem, but only ended up with more dead silence.
“…or not,” England said with a sigh.
America looked up awkwardly. “I’m sorry. I wish I could explain better, but I don’t really understand it myself. I’ve just been having these feelings and they won’t go away. I know these thoughts aren’t mine.” He knew his explanation wasn’t completely accurate, but there was no way he was going to go any further than that.
England realized that this was most likely the best explanation he was going to get out of the distressed America. “Then we’ll have to make do,” he replied.
A huge smile of relief broke out on America’s face. “Thank you so much! I don’t know what I would have done if you’d told me to get out. I just want to feel normal again.”
England flushed, obviously not used to receiving words of thanks from his ally. “You’re quite welcome. I hope we’ll be able to find some resolution to your problem.”
“Why do you keep saying ‘we’ like that? I don’t know anything about this stuff,” America said curiously.
“Yes, but you have to participate. I’m not going to knock you unconscious and start casting spells.”
“Right, I guess that makes sense.”
“Most of these endeavors require a high degree of mental participation. If you don’t make an effort, there’s a good chance they won’t have any effect.”
America gulped. “Oh. I mean, I guess can do that. After all, I’m-“
England rolled his eyes and interjected. “-a hero. I know, I know.”
“I was gonna say ‘desperate’, but that works too.” America laughed darkly.
Leaning forward, England squinted and examined America. “Open vulnerability? Self-awareness?” He placed a palm against America’s forehead. “Are you sure you aren’t just ill?”
America froze at the touch. His cheeks turned scarlet and time seemed to slow down yet again. England ran his hand along one of America’s cheeks and made a soft noise of concern.
“Your face is a bit warm.”
Once England drew back, America spoke anxiously. “I-I’m fine. I did have a cold, but that was months ago. This is definitely something else.” The color in his cheeks deepened further.
“If you say so.” England still looked worried, but changed the subject. “I suppose we can start with a potion. I’ll have to gather supplies first, but I think I can have something prepared for tomorrow.”
“You’re going to make a potion? Do I have to drink it?” Memories of dinners past made America shudder at the thought.
In response, England held America’s gaze with extreme severity. “Yes. I’m not just playing around for my own amusement. I’ve been doing this for a very, very long time. While this isn’t the most favorable setting for rituals, we’ll have to make do with the constraints we’re under, and that means you should listen to what I have to say, and follow my instructions carefully. If I tell you to concentrate, you should put all your effort into it. If I give you something to drink, you’ll drink it. If I tell you to swallow, you’ll swallow.”
America was suddenly overcome with unwanted thoughts. He shivered and nodded a quick acknowledgement. Sensing that America was uncomfortable, England gently emphasized his point.
“I’m only saying that if this is going to work properly, you’ll have to trust me. And remember to have patience: the answers may not reveal themselves straight away.”
“That’s okay. I know it’ll be hard, but I’ll try anything.”
The determination in America’s voice shone through despite his insecurities, and England could see that his resolve was strong. “Good. I’ll start now before it gets too late.”
Before he could stop himself, the infatuated part of his mind reached out at a desperate chance to spend more time with England. “Um, do you need any help finding stuff? I can look up stores or books for you. You’re pretty helpless with electronics.”
“That is a vicious lie,” England said with a huff. “And no, I won’t be needing any help. I know the area well.”
America wasn’t too happy about England’s familiarity with Canada’s landscape, but he bit back a snarl of jealousy. “Fine. When should we meet?”
“Let’s meet in the park during the lunch break. You can use the rest of the day as a stressor to test the effects of the potion.”
“Huh. That’s an interesting idea, using the meeting as a stress test.”
“You’re always complaining about how stressful it is since they banned your handheld consoles,” England pointed out.
“I just want to be able to use my PSP when it gets really boring. I still don’t see what the problem is,” America remarked, forgetting his current troubles for past gripes.
“You refused to turn the sound off!”
“Well what’s the point of playing if I can’t hear it!”
England scoffed. “You’re impossible.”
“You’re really uptight, and aren’t we supposed to be planning a meeting?”
England started to gather his things. “Tomorrow. At the park. Be ready.”
America didn’t realize how tired he was until his bed was in sight and his legs almost gave out. He was mentally and physically exhausted, but there was a sense of harmony flowing through him. England, though part of the problem, had agreed to help him find a solution.
In the morning, he felt refreshed for the first time in days. He finally had hope, and that fact alone kept him calm through the morning. He barely felt his nerves until he was standing in front of the meeting hall. A tingle at his fingertips was the only reminder that something was off. He took his seat and gave pleasant looks to those around him. To his colleagues this appeared just as suspicious as his insecurity and paranoia, but it didn’t bother him. Then England arrived.
A deep shudder passed through America’s body, jolting him back to a state of pathetic infatuation. England greeted him with a soft smile and America responded with a nonsensical wheeze. England politely ignored it and started situating himself. During this moment, America noticed that England smelled different. It took him a minute or so to figure out that it was probably because of the ingredients England had acquired for the potion, but this realization was not nearly as interesting as the fact that America apparently had a mental record of England’s smells.
America counted the minutes until lunch on the large wall clock. Eventually, his head started to move with the direction of the hand, circling around again and again as the anticipation built. As soon as everyone started to get up, America was out of the building and running through the park, trying not to stumble over any children or pets. England showed up shortly after, walking at a normal pace despite the way America was bouncing on his heels at their meeting point.
Without any greeting, England removed a small blanket from his satchel and laid it down as though setting up for a lunch date.
“Hey, we should have a picnic sometime,” America burst out without thinking as he sat on the blanket.
England gave him a perplexed look and continued taking things out of his bag. “I thought picnics were boring to you unless barbeque is involved.”
“No! I just said that before cause I…um…I didn’t want to go.” The more complicated truth was that he had very pleasant memories of childhood picnics with England, and had always been afraid of stirring up those intense feelings. “You know, your food and everything. Not my thing.”
“You like Scotch eggs,” England said, not meeting America’s gaze.
“Heh, well, that’s only one thing. You know I eat a lot.”
“You once said you could eat them until you ‘explode like a supernova.’”
America chuckled uneasily and shrugged.
“Shall we proceed?” England asked, cutting through America’s nervous response.
“Yeah, let’s do that.” America sat up straight and waited.
England took out a couple of containers, a mug and a tiny jar filled with brown powder. Seeing it spread out in front of him, America started to feel a bit restless. England poured a transparent liquid from one container to the other and swirled it vigorously. He then took a pinch of the powder and slowly rubbed his fingers over the concoction while whispering something that America couldn’t understand. He carefully poured this mixture into the mug and handed it over to America.
“It’s not cold, so you might not like the taste. Drink all of it.”
America nodded and started to drink. It was lukewarm and had a strange consistency, but it definitely wasn’t the worst thing England had ever made him consume.
“Not bad,” America said after handing the mug back to England. “Kind of lemony.”
England coughed and nodded. “Good. As long as you were able to drink all of it, the effects should be maximized.”
“So what’s it do?” America asked, and realized that this probably should have been his first question.
“Hopefully, it should make you feel like you’re in control again.”
America squinted. “What do you mean ‘hopefully’? I thought you were supposed to be an expert at these things.”
“I am,” England said with a mildly offended look. “But people don’t always feel the desired reaction. Individual body chemistry is a strong influence. It can’t be helped.”
“You didn’t mention that before,” America said, rubbing his hands together apprehensively.
England sighed. “You’ll be okay. This is just the first attempt; even if it doesn’t work, there are plenty of options left to explore.”
“Okay. Well, thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” England started to pack everything away as America stood up and stretched. “The effects, if any, should start within the next hour. Tell me if it does any good, and we’ll continue from there.”
The walk back to the meeting was unsettling, now that there was another foreign influence in America’s body. He kept shaking his head, trying to get rid of the unease, but it didn’t help.
At the start, the meeting was as boring as ever. China and Germany were leading an open discussion about something pointless, and America could feel his eyes glazing over almost immediately. Nearly twenty minutes into the discussion, America’s eyes snapped wide open and he stood up.
“What are you doing?!” he yelled to the room at large. Everyone turned and stared. China stopped mid-sentence.
He repeated himself. The nations started to look around at each other and whisper.
Germany started to counter. “America, what are you-“
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! We can’t just sit around talking about sauerkraut and Funyuns when there’s work to be done!” America raised his fist high and slammed it on the table, guaranteeing himself the attention of every last nation. “Someone talk to me, here! I need stats and specs and strategies if we’re going to beat this thing!”
Nobody moved. America had that crazed look in his eye that usually accompanied some kind of disaster.
“Well, what’re you all waiting for?!” He pushed his chair out of the way and leapt over the table so he had the greatest access to the entire group. He pointed at a random person without even looking. “You, get me no less than two hundred soldiers ready and willing to die for their country.”
Sealand blinked, shocked by this sudden demand. “Er…I don’t think I’m meant to be here.” He slid off his chair and easily slipped under the table, away from the grumbling England who was walking towards him.
America ignored this and pointed at someone else. “You, secure the perimeter and make sure no one gets in or out without me knowing.”
Greece paused for a moment, then shrugged and left to fulfill his duty.
“And you,” he said, pointing somewhere between Sweden and Finland, “get me the President of the United States of America.” He said this with a swell of pride, as if he were starring in a grand Hollywood blockbuster.
“You, like, don’t know your own boss’ number?” Poland said with an amused snark in his voice.
“I lost it. That’s not important now,” America asserted with a flippant wave of his hand.
“How could yo-“
“NOT IMPORTANT. Let’s clear a space here.” He tossed aside the papers of the nation in front of him. Italy looked up from the destruction of his doodles with big, sad eyes and sniffed as though he was going to cry. As if on cue, Germany walked around to the middle of the table and stormed up to America.
“This is not an appropriate activity! Stop this at once or you will be made to leave!”
America chuckled, which became a booming laugh. “Don’t you see?! This is what they want! They want us to fight amongst our ranks and destroy ourselves from the inside. But you know what? I believe. I believe in the power of us and I know that we can do it if we try. Just look at how far we’ve come! We started as a rag-tag team of misfits but with a little bit of luck and the power of friendship, we’ve finally made it to the end. Now all I need to know is: are you with us, or against us?”
Germany spoke hesitantly after letting the bizarre pep talk sink in. “America, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
With the force of a gale storm, America slapped Germany right across the face.
“WITH US, OR AGAINST US.”
Luckily he had chosen to take out his aggression on Germany, because anyone else would have flown across the room and crumpled into the wall. Germany just rubbed his cheek, looking confused and unsure of the proper response to such an attack.
Before anyone had time to react properly, America started the chaos up again.
“Hey you, bring me my briefcase!”
Thailand calmly ducked over to America’s seat and brought the bag back with him. America clapped him on the shoulder in thanks, to which Thailand smiled serenely.
“I know I have the document in here somewhere.” After a moment of digging, America brought out a large, colorful piece of paper. On closer inspection, it appeared to be a children’s menu from a family diner. America flipped it over, pulled a small box of crayons from one of the pockets in his briefcase and got down to work. Italy suddenly looked very excited again.
“We’ll start here,” he said, pointing to a picture where he’d made a mark with the blue crayon, “and make our way to the rendezvous point.”
“The Princess’ Castle?” Canada asked dryly, reading the menu puzzle. Most of the nations had gotten out of their seats and were now crowding around the activity.
America waved dismissively. “Yeah, yeah. When we’ve got enough fire power, we’ll move in for the kill, right here. Got it?”
“We start from the Fairy Grove, which, I guess, is this building,” Canada said. “Then we meet the rest of our army at the castle, and defeat our enemy at the Dragon’s Lair.” Canada seemed to expect that any second now, America would realize how ridiculous it all sounded and snap out of it.
“Great. Sounds like you all know the plan, I guess it’s time to assign positions.” He started pointing at various people. “You’ll be my backup, and you’ll be my backup, and you’ll definitely be my backup.” When he came to England, he stopped. “You’ll be by my side,” he said after some thought. “Alright, let’s get to it!” He turned around and slammed into something large and squishy. He reacted by performing a mangled karate chop move before pulling an imaginary gun from its imaginary holster.
“What is going on here, America?” came Russia’s voice.
America eyed him cautiously, feeling a familiar rush of rivalry before remembering his current fight. “Look, I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but this isn’t the time to deal with that. This fight is going to take everything out of us. It’s true, some of us won’t make it, so before we go in I just want you to know: you’re super creepy, and I don’t trust you as far as I could throw you.” He tried to put his hand on Russia’s shoulder, but removed it of his own volition after Russia gave him an eerie smile. He leapt back over the table and opened the double doors wide.
“Alright, everybody!” he yelled with his fist in the air. “Evil doesn’t wait! Take your positions! On my word, we march! One, two, three….GO!” America ran out the door and disappeared. Nobody moved until, finally, Germany walked over and closed the doors. One by one, each nation went back to their seats, picking up debris along the way and putting their papers back in order. Sealand continued to hide in the corner and England rocked back and forth in his seat, slowly rubbing his temples.
“Will someone go and find Greece?” Germany asked.
“I-I’ll do it,” Japan said, quickly getting up and out of the room.
Germany addressed the rest of the room. “What are we going to do about America?”
“What can we do?” England was the first to respond, prompting a few raised eyebrows around the room. “It’s not as though we can bar him from meetings.”
“There’s obviously something wrong with his mental state. If he continues to cause disruptions of this magnitude, I don’t think we’ll have a choice,” Germany replied grimly.
England scoffed, drawing even more surprised looks. “As much as we’d all like to, er, take a break from him once in a while, it wouldn’t be much of a world meeting without him. And really, we all have bad days.”
“He’s been acting strangely since the meetings started.”
“But he hasn’t been overly disruptive until now,” England snapped back defensively. “If he does anything like this again, I’ll take care of it.”
Several nations snickered at England’s defense of America, and most of them were giving England that familiar look of amusement. England was well acquainted with the look, and had dutifully ignored it over the years for the sake of his own sanity.
Germany and the rest of the nations seemed to agree that England would be responsible for calming America down after any more outbursts. Soon afterward, Greece and Japan showed themselves. After a few more minutes, America walked through the door looking dazed. His shirt was torn open and he had a slight limp.
“Hey, I think something weird just happened,” he announced. After being met with many flat stares, he hobbled to his seat. He leaned over and whispered to England, “I don’t think it worked.”
Instead of glowering or rolling his eyes, England was staring at America’s chest. He quickly averted his eyes and appeared to be embroiled in some internal struggle for whatever reason, so America left him alone.
When the meeting was over for the day, England pulled him aside before leaving.
“I apologize for what happened. I didn’t think you would react to it so strongly,” England said.
America was taken aback. “You’re apologizing? Maybe you’re the one who’s sick.” He tried to use this as an excuse to touch England’s cheek, but England was prepared and ducked swiftly out of the way.
“No, I’m quite alright. I know I was partially at fault, so I’m sorry. If you aren’t afraid to try again, we could have another go at it this evening.”
“Yeah, let’s do it.”
“Let’s meet later on, perhaps around 6.”
“In that little room you like?” America asked.
England blushed. “Yes. And it would be nice if you could change your clothes. The, erm, th-the spirits would prefer if you weren’t unkempt.”
“Okay, I’ll do that. It’s starting to get a little chilly anyway,” America said with a chuckle.
England smiled weakly in response and his gaze slid down a little further than necessary before he tore himself away and left.
At 6 o’clock exactly, America knocked on the door of the room. England looked surprised that America had shown up on time.
“Come in, sit down,” England said, gesturing toward the table, which was now arranged so that there was one seat on either side. A stack of books was on the table, along with a lumpy green bag.
America sat down and waited. There were four candles spread out, one in each corner of the room. They weren’t lit; the only light was the sunset coming through the large windows.
“What’re we gonna do now?” America asked once England had taken his seat.
“Well, we could talk about our options. I’ve done a bit of research,” he said, patting the stack of books at his side, “and there are a few things we could try. Spells, summoning, divination, etcetera.”
“Sure, let’s do it!” America said excitedly.
“Which?” England asked.
“Why are you asking me?” America pointed at himself.
“I still don’t know what the source of your problem is. If you give me a hint, I could research it more specifically. For example, if your problem was caused by a demon, you could describe the appearance of the creature and I could look it up. It would be easy to reverse the effects from there. I have quite a few books on demons, and what is so funny?” he asked as America snickered.
“No, it’s nothing. I’m glad you know so much about demons, Giles.”
England’s face grew hot. “You can mock me all you want right now, but if you try that during a ritual I will get up and walk away for good.”
America stopped smirking and nodded. “I promise I’ll take it seriously. It’s just strange to hear you talk about this stuff. You never say anything about it to me.”
England glared at him coldly. “I wonder why.”
America gulped. “Well, uh, maybe we could try some spells? Is there anything we could do?”
Immediately, England pulled a book from the pile and opened it. “Yes, this will work for a start.” He got up and started to light the candles around the room. The atmosphere of the room changed drastically, and America felt himself becoming calmer. In the soft light, England’s demeanor seemed to shift as well. He looked happier and more comfortable. “Oh, I almost forgot, switch off your mobile and put it by the door.”
America took his phone out of his pocket and put it away. “Is that so you don’t get interrupted?”
“Well, yes. It’s also safer.” England smiled mysteriously and America got so caught up in that smile he forgot to ask what the hell that meant.
England took a few items out of his bag, including an amulet and a ring with a blue stone set in. He put the ring on and passed the amulet to America, gesturing for him to put it over his neck. America did so and waited patiently.
America already seemed very relaxed, so England went ahead with the incantation. He closed his eyes and spoke a series of words that seemed unfamiliar to America at first. After listening more closely, he could make out snatches of words, though they sounded warped. England opened his eyes and examined America’s face.
“Do you feel any change in your mental state?” he asked.
“No. Am I supposed to feel it that fast?”
“It depends on the spell. We’ll try another.”
“Is that safe? To do so many at once?” America asked nervously.
“With me, yes.” England smirked again, emboldened by being in his element.
America wasn’t sure this was true after what had happened during the meeting, but he didn’t question it aloud. England looked something up in a different book, and started another incantation, this time putting both hands flat on the table. This spell was more rhythmic in sound, and America realized he was speaking some form of Old English. When it was done, England looked up hopefully.
“I, uh…my nose itches. Is that a sign?” America replied.
England sighed and starting looking through several more books. Just when America was getting bored of waiting, England tapped one of the passages happily.
“Remove the amulet, and close your eyes this time,” England instructed. America handed him the amulet and closed his eyes. He opened them again cautiously, but England was staring back so he shut them tight.
America waited as England started speaking. This time, however, something was different. He heard the words differently, and felt them enveloping him, as though England was embracing him with his voice. He felt like he was falling, the wind blowing his hair back and creating pressure against his forehead, which became more intense until he couldn’t keep his eyes closed anymore. He thought he saw the candles sparking in his peripheral vision, but at once everything was calm again. England was watching him with a satisfied look.
“Did something interesting happen?” England asked.
“Yyyes,” America responded hazily. Something had definitely changed, but he didn’t know what it was yet.
“It may take a while before you know if this one worked properly, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to know for certain.”
America gave a double thumbs-up. He felt like his entire body was slurring. “So we done or what?” he managed to say.
England hesitated. “There’s one more thing we might try tonight. If you feel up to it, that is.”
“Whatisit, baby?” America was starting to feel very good, like a side of his old self was coming back.
“Certain symbols, when drawn correctly and repeated in succession, can have mystical properties.”
“Sounds goooood,” America said slowly.
England continued. “If you wish, I can apply one to you. It may help ensure the spell’s success.”
England walked around the table and helped America take off his jacket, and then told him to get up while he turned the chair around. “Please unbutton your shirt. I won’t look.” He turned his back, though at the moment America didn’t care at all. Once the shirt was undone, England lifted it to expose America’s back. The air was cold on his skin, and drew out some awareness of the situation.
America was facing away, so he couldn’t see what was happening. England kissed his fingertip before placing it lightly against America’s back, applying just enough pressure. America grabbed the back of the chair and rested his head on top. When England started to move his finger, it was like something cutting through America’s being. It was definitely a repeated pattern, but damned if America could say what the shape was, being so caught up in the sensation of that finger tracing lines and loops over his skin. Every time the pattern started over, it felt like it was leaving more of an impression. America wished that it would last forever, but then it stopped, and the haze overtook him again.
Somehow, he managed to get back to his hotel room in one piece. He wanted to go out and find some nightlife, but England had warned him to take it easy, and made him promise not to do anything stupid. America found that he suddenly didn’t care what England wanted, but his legs weren’t really working properly, so he decided to rest anyway. Yes, something had changed. His problems seemed to have gone away, dissipating from his mind one by one. He wasn’t nervous or insecure or worried about anything other than what movie he was going to watch before going to bed. He felt so good that he ordered room service, laid on the charm thick and got a bottle of champagne for his troubles.
His head felt vaguely loopy, but he also felt unstoppable. He poured himself a glass of champagne and sat on the balcony, letting out a feral yell every once in a while, telling the world know that he was back, and up for any challenge.
After eating a large dinner and finishing his drink, he watched the most explosion-filled movie he could find on the hotel TV. He enjoyed every second of it, including the vague romantic subplot, which didn’t evoke any peculiar thoughts whatsoever. When he got ready for bed, he gave the aluminum case a swift kick and let out a giddy laugh. The spell had worked, and everything was going to be okay, and his life would be back to normal. He went to bed feeling as confident as he ever had and drifted off peacefully.
He was surrounded by empty space, but it wasn’t lonely. It felt like he belonged there. He took a few steps and his skin started to radiate with warmth, like the afternoon sun streaming in from an open window. At first there was nothing but the sound of his own breathing, but after some time he noticed a gentle tone, like a voice humming softly. He followed the sound. A figure began to emerge, and he knew that it was England, sitting on the ground and facing away from him, humming something distant yet familiar. As soon as England noticed him, he smiled in a way that beckoned America towards him without a second thought.
When he approached, America slid down to the ground, and England held him. He stroked America’s hair and started humming something different – something that America recognized right away.
“…amber waves of grain…” England said softly, running his fingers through America’s bangs. He leaned down and started to recite the rest of the song, punctuating each line with a soft kiss. America listened, closing his eyes at every touch. England hesitated when he reached the third stanza, but then went ahead, carefully winding around the words as though offering them up to America, not in surrender but in adoration.
“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.”
America savored it. In reality, England refused to discuss any aspect of the rebellion. Here, England breathed the words against America’s skin, caressing him tenderly, trying to prove that they were more than their past. It became a testament of love; a message of affection and respect.
“…and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” England kissed a band across America’s forehead, and America wanted to reciprocate. He turned into England’s embrace and everything became dark.
His eyes adjusted to the darkness quickly. There was already some light outside his hotel room. The clock said that he still had several hours until his day was supposed to begin, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. He sat up in bed and tried to ignore the sinking feeling. He’d been so close to escape, only to be sucked back in by a dumb dream. The nerves started in soon enough, and he felt worse than before.
By the time he was sitting in his seat next to his colleagues, the lack of sleep was potent. His muscles spasmed and his stomach ached, and he closed himself off from everyone else throughout the meeting.
England grabbed him during the lunch break and had managed to deduce that the spell hadn’t worked.
“It worked for a while, but when I woke up this morning I felt like crap.”
England rubbed his chin. “Hmm…It seems as though it was just masking the problem.”
“Is there another version of it? Something more permanent?” America asked hopefully.
England gave him an apologetic look. “No, but don’t lose hope yet. There are many avenues yet to try.”
America couldn’t feel more depressed than he already did, so he tried to look forward to that glimmer of hope. “Tonight?”
“Yes, we’ll meet at the same time.”
America tried to smile but couldn’t manage anything more than a grunt.
The day slogged by at a torturously slow pace. Having been so close and to have it all snatched away was a lot for America to handle. Still, he made it through and showed up at the room only a few minutes late. At England’s gesture, he put his phone by the door and sat down.
There was a distinct smell in the room, but America was too tired to guess at what it was.
“I thought we might try a bit of divination today,” England said abruptly.
“What’s that?” America asked. He knew he’d heard the word before.
“It can be a lot of things, depending on how it’s used. I thought we’d attempt a tea leaf reading to start.”
“Oh, that’s the smell,” America said with a frown.
“I’ll examine the leaves and look for patterns and symbols that emerge.”
“What good’ll that do?” America asked.
“Well, it can reveal possible solutions that you may not have noticed and influences that are affecting your life, or a choice you must make or, well, any number of things. We won’t know until I read for you.”
America squinted. “How specific is it? Hypothetically?”
England considered this. “The symbols may give a direction, but I’ll only know as much as you tell me, so I’m afraid it might not be as exact as you want it to be.”
“Oh,” America said, relieved. “That’s okay. Let’s try it.”
England started to set up. He already had a pot waiting in a tea cozy. After putting out a plain white tea cup and saucer, he poured a cup and added milk. “If you so much as mention the name Trelawney, you’ll be wearing this tea as a decoration.”
England pushed the cup towards America and sat back.
America stared at it. “What happens now?”
England stared back blankly. “You pick it up and do a Mexican hat dance. What do you think?”
“I have to drink it?” America said with unconcealed disgust.
England sighed. “Yes! You have to drink it so the leaves are imbued with your essence.”
America held the cup to his face and sniffed the liquid inside. “But it’s all gross and watery and tastes like leaves.”
“That’s the point. Er, the bit about leaves.”
America sigh heavily. “Fine. Can I have some sugar, at least?”
“Certainly.” England handed him a dish full of sugar cubes and a spoon and watched with equal disgust as America dumped several cubes in. “Think about the issues that are plaguing you. Drink the tea, and then I’ll tell you what to do next.”
America nodded, and started to drink.
“You know, there was a time when you loved tea,” England said softly.
America stared at him. “Things change.”
They sat in awkward silence and America drank the tea quickly, not wanting to prolong the experience.
“There,” America said finally. “All done.”
“Good. Hold the cup in your left hand and swirl it three times anti-clockwise, then place it upside down on the saucer.”
America did as he was told, and put the cup down.
“Now tap the bottom three times.”
America tapped, and England lifted the cup and brought the saucer closer to his side.
“The cup and the saucer are both significant: the cup denotes unconscious symbols and the saucer represents the conscious.”
He examined the cup, turning it around and inspecting every angle. After taking some time to look at the saucer as well, he started to speak.
“They’re quite scattered,” he remarked. “Though that’s not unexpected for nations.”
England turned the cup towards America, who leaned in for a better look.
“There’s a figure of a bicycle near the handle, as you can see. You’ll soon have to choose a path, and it might be a road you haven’t explored until now. Close to the bicycle is a robin, upside down towards the center. It represents an ending of some sort, which could be positive or negative. It may very well relate to the path that you choose.”
America nodded, trying to keep up.
“A hare sits near the bottom of the cup, which could signify an important trip in the approaching future. That or romance,” England said with a chuckle. America laughed weakly.
“Near the back there appears to be an infant, which indicates the need to resolve a childhood issue.” England said this frankly, willfully ignoring any implication that it applied to him. America gulped, unable to stop himself from thinking about his dream.
“And this appears to be a ladle, which represents successful partnerships in the future. Good for me then, I suppose.”
America sat back in awe. He was able to see every image that England had pointed out, but only after several minutes of scrutiny. “How did you find all those symbols so fast?”
“Years of observation and tea consumption. Shall we continue?”
England picked up the saucer, which had a few clumps of leaves and a bit of tea swirling around the center.
“Remember,” he explained, “these are the aspects you’re already aware of. The most prominent figure is of an eagle, which indicates that you may be put into a situation you find tedious, but know to be worthwhile.” England laughed at this. “Perceptive little leaves, aren’t they.” America smiled at England’s amusement.
“Here’s a larger human figure next to outline of a heart near the rim. Their relative position implies that great happiness awaits, should you choose to seek it. In all, what I see from these images is that you are on a journey, and there will be trials along the way, but you will be led to a place of happiness and contentment if you allow yourself to be taken there.”
America sat with a dazed look before putting his face in his hands and rubbing his forehead.
“I’m sorry if it seems confusing. It might not make sense to you now, but in time the pieces will come together. If it doesn’t apply to your current problem, I also apologize for that. I can only read what is given to me.”
“Yeah,” was America’s meek reply. He closed his eyes and tried to absorb what he’d just heard, but something in his mind seemed to be keeping him from fully understanding it. He sat in silence, tapping his finger on the table until England’s voice broke through his mental haze.
“Alfred,” England said slowly, “do you want to go out somewhere?”
He froze and looked up. “W-what? Now?”
“Yes. We could have dinner or go for a walk or whatever you wish.”
“Alone?” America asked simply.
England flushed. “Y-yes. Unless you don’t want to, of course. I just thought that you seemed genuinely upset today, and perhaps the reading didn’t go as you’d hoped. It might do you good to get out of your normal routine.”
America’s heart leapt.
“Yeah,” he said with a tentative smile. “I’d love to.”
- Funyuns are onion-flavored snack rings. I’m not sure why America associates them with China (though there is a county called Fuyun in Xinjiang). I also feel it is my moral obligation to inform the world (the small group of people reading this) that Funyuns were invented by a man named Douglas Bubbletrousers. DOUGLAS. BUBBLETROUSERS. Yeah. You’re welcome.
- Rupert Giles, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. Loves books, tweed. Topnotch.
- England may have neglected to mention that you can also read coffee grounds. Funny, I wonder why.
- Professor Sybill Trelawney, employed by Hogwarts, likes the tea leaves. I know, two Harry Potter references so far. I apologize.
Thanks to Erin and Dani for their help.
Comic-con is this week, so the next part will probably be a little delayed. I’ll try not to be too late!