Genre: Romance, Comedy(?)
Characters: America, England, mentions of several others
Rating: PG-13, for 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, America is a dumb, this chapter is even longer ohgodwhy
This chapter: The situation gets more complicated. Several not-dates and a tarot reading. It's a game-changer.
Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four -- Part six
“Great. Right, well, is there anything you’d like to do?”
America tried to think about it, but his mind was having trouble concentrating on any one particular thought. “I dunno. Is there anything you want to do?”
“Well, there is one option you may find interesting. Have you heard about the exhibition?”
“Yeah! Canada told me about it a while back but with everything that’s been happening, I just forgot.” Maybe that had been the reason behind America’s frustrating festival dream.
“Would you like to…?”
“OH! Yeah, of course!”
“I thought you might,” England said with a small smile.
America bounced in his seat as England started to clean up. “You remember the last time we went to a festival? It was a while ago. You were visiting me for some reason, but I don’t even remember why we went.” America’s heart inadvertently started to beat faster as pieces of the dream flashed across his mind.
Even through the dim light of the candles, it seemed that England’s face had turned a stunning shade of red.
As if prompted, America filled the silence. “Do you remember?”
England started wiping down the saucer more vigorously. America waited for him to answer, which he finally did when the plate was pure white. “We were celebrating,” he said tersely.
“Uh…celebrating what?” America asked.
The blush deepened. England looked incredibly attractive when he was flustered. So much so that America almost didn’t hear his reply. “Us. I mean, our relationship. Ah-er, our alliance.”
America stared at him blankly. “W-we were?”
England sighed, delicately packing away his tea set. “It was your idea. Don’t you remember? Blair and Clinton, rejuvenating the alliance? They’d had us in meetings all week and you said you wanted to celebrate your own way.”
Another blank stare. “I did?”
England stood up and turned on the lights before blowing out the candles. “It doesn’t matter,” he said softly. “It was a long time ago.”
It wasn’t really that long ago, but England didn’t seem too keen on discussing it. Now the dream made more sense, but America was astonished that he had forgotten about the reason behind the visit. England obviously remembered it, so why had he blocked it out? America tuned back into reality to see England struggling with the furniture
“Let me get that,” America said. England stammered with embarrassment but stood back and watched as America picked the table up with as much ease as lifting a piece of paper. After putting the furniture into place, America bent down and gathered England’s stack of books into the crook of his arm.
With the room cleaned up and the lights turned off, they left the building. America carried all of England’s supplies effortlessly. They quickly stopped by England’s hotel to drop them off. America felt incredibly strange walking into the stillness of England’s tidy hotel room. He set everything down and waited in the hallway while England changed. Being so close to England’s bed and living space was proving a lot for his mind to handle. He shoved his hands into his pockets and started whistling, trying to ignore the fact that England was taking off his clothes a few feet away.
England emerged from the room minutes later wearing a sweater and a plaid scarf. America usually made fun of his tendency to constantly dress for cold weather like an old man, but now it seemed endearing. They walked in silence toward their destination. These were the moments that America usually filled with babbling or bragging over his latest achievements, but for once he was focused on not making an ass of himself. It didn’t feel half bad, walking alongside England in the darkness, surrounded by the glow of the city.
Soon the beating of his heart and the sound of his own measured breaths flowed with an undercurrent thought that repeated itself throughout the night: is this a date?
An edge of panic spread through his body. Why had he agreed to this so quickly? If he’d only taken a second to think about the possible consequences…no, he still would have chosen to go. Even so, the fear coursed through him. He would have to make sure that he stayed focused and didn’t do anything regrettable.
They wound around buildings and groups of people on their own nighttime excursions until finally the lights of the festival were in sight. America spotted a couple of large rides and a Ferris wheel in the distance, and started to bounce on his heels.
At the front, they waited in line for a few minutes before getting to the ticket booth. England paid for both of them before America could raise any objections.
Oh shit it’s a date isn’t it oh god.
America grinned at him in thanks as though nothing was wrong, but it felt like his mind was somehow hyperventilating.
The exhibition was substantially larger than an ordinary festival. They spent some time exploring the exhibits before making their way around to the food. After America loaded up on snacks, they stood and watched some of the performers attempting physical feats and illusions, even as a cold wind started to blow through the crowd.
When they finally got to the rides, America hesitated.
“Well…?” England asked, waiting for America to take charge and shove him onto a ride.
“Oh, um, do you wanna go on a ride?” America asked awkwardly.
England paused and shook his head in disbelief. “You’re asking? I suppose…maybe one or two.”
“Awesome,” America said with a grin. He approached a ride and gestured for England to go in front of him, which England agreed to with a peculiar look. They sat down in one of the seats and waited for the ride to start up. America was still quiet up until the ride got moving. Once everything was going, America slowly started acting like himself, waving his hands in the air and cheering louder and louder as the ride got faster. England would have sighed with relief at America acting normal if he hadn’t been hanging onto the safety bar for dear life.
After that America rode out the adrenaline, making them go on nearly every ride they could see. England didn’t mind at first, but after a while he started to feel slightly ill, and was glad when America wanted to see the band that was playing.
They went over to the live music that had started and stood in the audience. The band appeared to be playing covers of classic rock and pop songs, and after listening for a while, America started dancing without realizing it. He couldn’t help it; his hips just reacted to music. Before he knew it, he had been completely taken in by the music, and only noticed something was amiss when he saw the subtle amused smile on England’s face. America’s heart pounded loudly, but he was still running on adrenaline.
“C’mon, dance with me!” he shouted over the crowd.
England flushed and shook his head, but when America pouted he reluctantly started to move his shoulders. The song soon ended and when the next one began, they both recognized the beat immediately. America pointed at England as he started doing a bizarre move with his knees.
“It’s Adam Aaant! Come on, you gotta!”
England smirked as he watched America’s crazy dancing. “You’re absolutely ridiculous,” he said with a noticeable hint of affection.
America looked a bit flustered, but started snapping along with the melody and singing. “Goody two - goody two - goody goody two-shoes…”
With a sigh, England started to move with him, shaking his hips as much as his sense of public decency would allow. It wasn’t the first time he had allowed America to drag him into something like this. Eventually they were both dancing with stupid grins on their faces, laughing at their own dorkiness. As the song ended, the laughter slowly died out.
“Well, I’m beat,” America lied. “Let’s get something to drink.”
England agreed. They were walking towards the soda stand when they heard some familiar voices. They both stopped dead in their tracks. Across the lane in front of them was a group of nations. America could see France, Spain, Canada, Germany and Italy approaching nearby, and wouldn’t have been surprised if more were with them. Quicker than you could blink, America and England were running towards the rides, and didn’t stop until they’d gotten plenty of distance between themselves and the group of nations. It wasn’t until America had stopped to catch his breath that he realized England had run with him the whole way.
The two men looked at each other.
“W-wait,” America said, using a bench to steady himself, “why did you run just then?”
England grabbed the back of the bench, equally winded. “I…could ask you the same thing.”
He didn’t ask. Both men looked at the ground as though it was the most fascinating thing in the world, staunchly avoiding each other’s gaze.
“Perhaps we should go on another ride,” England suggested, desperate to remain far from the food area.
They headed towards the closest ride, which happened to be the Ferris wheel. As he climbed into a car, anxiously looking around to make sure no nations were near, America’s heart thumped loudly in his chest and the heat in his body rose involuntarily.
Is this a date?!
Their car ascended slowly. Even though the trees had been replaced by steel and concrete, the view was stunning. They both looked out over the city, and pointedly away from each other. Though his skin felt hot, a breeze made America shiver.
“Heh. It’s colder than I thought it would be,” he said quietly, excusing the sudden movement.
England didn’t reply, but a moment later America felt his arm being nudged. He turned to see England offering part of his scarf, still looking away.
“Thanks,” America said, grasping the end of the scarf and looping it around his neck. It would have been rude to reject the gesture, after all. The length brought their bodies closer together. America could almost feel the warmth of England’s breath, and was convinced that England could hear his heart beating rapidly. From the corner of his eye, he could see England’s slightly parted lips. They looked so warm and inviting in the chilly night, backed with the lights of the city glittering like stars. Just a few more inches and they could be touching, skin against skin, soft and warm. America couldn’t get the thought out of his mind, but they were descending now. Soon the moment had passed, and it was time to leave the ride.
America unwound the scarf, returning that side to England. They got out of the car and decided it was time to go. Still cautious of who was in the crowd, they moved quickly amongst the groups of people, keeping their heads low until they were through the exit and headed in the direction of the hotels.
France glanced sideways and did a double-take as two familiar heads moved past. He turned to his companions, flickering his gaze back and forth curiously. “Was that who I think it was?” he asked, trying to catch sight of them again.
“Nope,” Canada said calmly. “Just your imagination.”
When his words were ignored, he grabbed France’s arm and pulled him in the opposite direction.
The notion of “is this a date is this a date is this a date” rang through America’s mind until they were outside his hotel. America fumbled with his hands and shuffled his feet.
“So, uh, thanks. For the- for everything.”
England smiled appreciatively, though he seemed a little wary. “Certainly. I had a lovely time. Do you feel better now?”
“Yeah, I do! It was just weird, what with you being so nice to me. I guess I’ve been pretty pathetic lately, huh?”
England was taken aback. “What do you mean? I’m always nice! When am I not nice?!” He realized too late that the shouting probably wasn’t going to help his case.
America shrunk back and mumbled. “I didn’t mean it like that. Sorry.”
England’s expression softened. “No, I’m sorry. It’s just…a strange night.”
They stood quietly until England spoke up. “Well, I hope you’re in good spirits now. One more day before the recess.”
“I had fun. I’m sure everything will be better tomorrow.”
“Ah, yes. Well, good night.” England waved.
“Night,” America said to England’s back. He waited until England had turned the corner before walking into the lobby and going up to his room.
Okay, so it hadn’t been a date. England had made his intentions pretty obvious. Even so, it was nice to know that he cared. And it was for the best. America’s fevered mind didn’t need any more encouragement. Or so he told himself.
He spent at least an hour turning over in his bed restlessly, replaying their ride on the Ferris wheel over and over again, haunted by glimpses of flushed skin and pink lips.
The next day was indeed better for America. He felt somewhat content after such an eventful night, and was almost looking forward to a day of boring meetings so that he could just relax. Even though he was still nervous, his heart didn’t feel like it was trying to forcefully escape from his chest. The only odd part of the day was that fact that France kept studying him with such intensity that he constantly felt the urge to check his face in the mirror. He didn’t worry about it too much, though. France was France, and things were finally going his way again. It wasn’t until after lunch that the day went slightly downhill.
Throughout the last half of the meeting, England looked like he was in pain. He kept rubbing his head and muttering to himself. It brought down America’s mood considerably, but he wasn’t sure what he could do. After the meeting, he asked England what was wrong.
“Fighting,” he said stiffly. “They’re fighting.”
Ah. Parliament headaches.
“More than usual? Must be some debate.”
“Indeed,” England replied, not in the mood to elaborate.
“Sorry. We don’t have to meet up tonight, if you want to go back and rest. That would probably be for the best.”
“No, they’ll be finished soon. We’ll meet at the same time.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.” America said goodbye and left while he could still resist the urge to kiss it better.
England did seem calmer when he opened the door of the room, although there seemed to be a heavy crease in his brow.
“So, what’re we working on this time?” America asked, rubbing his hands together. He took a seat and stared excitedly at the bag by the table.
“I’ve brought several items that may be useful.” He dropped the bag between them and started to bring out the books.
America opened the bag and reached his hand inside. England didn’t raise any objections, so he dug in deep. There seemed to be a lot of amulets and stones, as well as a couple of large feathers and smaller bags. He extracted the largest item from the bag and held it in his hands. It was a long stick that forked at the end. He grasped the forked end and felt a strange tug, as though the stick was trying to pull him closer to England’s side of the table. It was no match for his strength, of course.
“I think I know what this is,” America said with confidence, having conquered the stick.
England glanced up from the book he was studying. “A divining rod?”
“Heh, yeah! I remember these from back in the day! You use it to find water, right?”
“That depends on the context of use. They are frequently used to detect groundwater, but in certain forms of divination they will point towards your heart’s strongest desire.”
In a split second, the stick hit the wall with a loud thud and burst into two pieces. America looked at England with a sheepish grin.
“Sorry. It slipped. Did I ruin everything?”
England chuckled and went back to reading. “No, it’s a stick.”
Glad that he wasn’t in trouble, America kept his hands under the table and waited for their session to begin. England cringed periodically, and seemed to be having a more difficult time concentrating. The concern flowed through America, but he didn’t want to overstep his bounds, so he continued to wait.
Finally, England started to pull objects from the bag. He conducted a series of rituals during which America had no idea what was going on, and couldn’t tell if anything supernatural was happening at all. After the fourth one, England slammed his hand against the book in frustration.
“That should have worked!” he yelled at the book. He turned to an empty space next to his shoulder. “Well it should have done!” he yelled at the air. “I know what I’m doing!”
He leaned in close and flipped through the pages of the book. It wasn’t the first time America had seen him talking to himself, but he seemed particularly distraught this time. At the moment, America didn’t care about the failed spells; he wanted nothing more than to hold the man in front of him and stroke his hair soothingly and tell him that everything was going to be alright.
“Mistranslation! It’s always the sodding translation!”
“Hey, Artie, it’s okay. Maybe we should try something else for now,” America said gently.
Surprised by America’s soft tone, England looked up. They stared at each other for a moment before England put the book away. “Yes, alright. Something else.”
England took out a few containers. America gulped and eyed them warily.
“Don’t worry, this one is much more mild,” England assured him. “Even if you do go wrong again or lose control, you shouldn’t be able to do much damage. We’re alone in an empty building, after all.”
America gulped again for a completely different reason.
England took out a small milk bag and poured it into a cup, along with some honey and a bit of salt. “See,” he said while mixing everything together, “nothing harmful here.” He mumbled a few words and took out another object. It was a large seashell, into which he poured some of the mixture and handed it to America.
America took it hesitantly and sniffed the concoction.
“It’s clean,” England said, assuming that to be the reason behind America’s hesitation. “Perfectly hygienic.”
America took a sip. It was a little bit strange, but didn’t taste too bad. He drank the rest quickly. When he’d finished, he put the shell down on the table. They sat in silence for a little while.
“That was…nice,” America said finally. England sighed and fell against his pile of books. America just stared and watched as England sat up again and rubbed his head.
“There’s…er…maybe bibliomancy? It’s not always practical, but it could be worth a go.”
“How do we do it?” America asked.
“You do it, actually. We already have a bookshelf here. Just stand by the shelf, think about your quandary, close your eyes and sweep your hand along the shelf until your instinct tells you to stop. You then take the book nearest to your hand, open it, run your finger along the page and read the passage you find. If it’s done properly, the words you read should provide some guidance.”
America squinted. “Sounds like something preteens do at sleepovers,” he said.
England huffed. “It’s a legitimate form of divination. If you don’t want to try it, that’s fine.”
America stood up and walked to the bookcase near the back of the room, putting his hand on the shelf. “So, just like this?” he asked.
“Yes. Let your heart and mind guide you.”
America closed his eyes and took a deep breath. After a long pause, he moved his hand along the shelf. He could feel some dust rubbing onto his palm, but he tried to concentrate. When he stopped, he pulled down a book and took it to the table without looking at it. He opened to a random page, pointed at a passage and read it to himself.
“Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.”
“What does it say?” England asked curiously.
America shrugged. “Uh, nothing really. Just stuff about, um, ghosts, or whatever.” He wasn’t quite sure what the passage meant to him, but he felt the need to keep it to himself.
“Ah,” England said, rubbing his chin. “Sometimes these messages are rather esoteric.”
America laughed nervously. “Heh, yeah, well that’s okay.” He felt his palms become sweaty and carried the book back to the shelf.
When he came back to the table, England’s face was in his hands.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” America asked, almost reaching out to touch him but then thinking better of it.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for…I just…I’m sorry.”
“You apologize way too much. You have nothing to be sorry about,” America said softly.
“Yes, I do,” England replied gently. “So much. I’m sorry that this has all been useless. I want to help you, but I’m not sure I can.”
America froze for a moment, but then answered slowly over the lump in his throat. “Are you giving up? I mean, I understand if you are. If there’s nothing left to do, then I guess that’s that. You didn’t have to help me in the first place, so there’s no reason for you to feel bad about it.”
England shook his head. “But I do feel bad. And no, I haven’t given up. I just feel your frustration.”
Relief and hope flooded America. “It’s okay! As long as we can still try, I’ll be patient. And hey, it worked that one time, right? For a little while, at least. I’m sure we’ll find something if we keep looking.”
For some reason, this didn’t seem to comfort England much. Before he could apologize one more time, America interjected.
“What’re you doing tomorrow?” he asked, feeling the heat in his blood rise even as he spoke.
England was startled by the interruption. “Ah, I’m not sure. Read, perhaps. There are a few specialty stores I’d thought about visiting.”
“Sounds thrilling,” America said flatly. “Hey, you wanna do something? Maybe this time I can cheer you up!” He injected some false enthusiasm, hoping that England would take him up on it. A part of his mind was screaming bloody murder at him, but he stamped out that thought.
England thought about it and nodded. “What did you have in mind?”
“Dinner?” He had no idea what he was doing, so he quickly started planning. “Maybe drinks?” Yeah, that was good. England liked alcohol.
“Ah. Uh, it’s a surprise. Let’s meet outside my hotel and we’ll go from there.” America had no idea what he was talking about, but at least he had a day to think about it.
England smiled. “That sounds lovely. Yes, let’s meet.”
“And we can lay off the magic for a couple of days. Clear you mind.”
England looked as though he might object, but he leaned back in his chair and nodded.
America helped him clear up the room and then left to plan. Along the way back to his room he mentally kicked himself for making such sudden plans with the object of his distress, but England had looked so sad. A friendly dinner seemed like just the thing that would make him feel better. There was nothing wrong with building up their friendship, even while he was trying to get rid of romantic feelings.
In the morning, after looking through brochures in the hotel lobby, America finally decided where he wanted to go. He made a call to Canada, who was strangely willing to help him get a reservation. America spent the day walking along the streets alone, enjoying the feeling of being somewhere familiar yet distant. The nerves tingled in his fingers, building up as the day went on, until finally he was waiting outside his hotel, leaning against the cold marble. He’d spent a slightly unreasonable amount of time picking out an outfit that wasn’t too formal or too casual. Yeah, he couldn’t wait until he didn’t care anymore.
England showed up exactly on time. He was wearing a fresh suit, and looked as though he’d just changed. America knew he was picky about his clothes, so he didn’t dwell on it.
“Did you have a good day?” America asked as he started walking. England followed next to him, letting him lead the way this time.
“It was relaxing,” England said after taking a deep breath. “You?”
They walked for fifteen minutes, making small talk until America stopped and looked up. There was a tall tower stretching out above them with a large pod on top.
England grinned. “I should have guessed.”
“W-what?” America asked. Was he that predictable?
“A revolving restaurant? Of course you’d choose the most ostentatious location possible.” Apparently he was. Nevertheless, England’s grin remained. They went inside the base of the tower and took the elevator up to the top. Their table was waiting when they got there. The restaurant was round, and larger than it seemed from the outside. They sat down and adjusted themselves. The sun had just begun to set.
“Weird how there’s so much darkness when the sun is so bright,” America said, pressing against the glass like a child and looking down at the buildings below.
“The light is angled,” England replied, reading through the wine list.
“I know. Just sayin’.”
They ordered their food and watched as the world outside moved almost imperceptibly. As the sun sank lower, the sky became a fiery gold, with warm tendrils shooting out behind the clouds.
“Do you still take the train?” America asked out of the blue.
“I- of course. Why?”
“I dunno. I don’t really use it much anymore. Usually when I go places, it’s just easier to fly nowadays.”
England glanced at America, who was still looking out the window. “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but I’m slightly smaller than you. The train is still quite practical for me.”
“I miss it sometimes.” America rested his chin against his hand.
England grunted and turned back to the window.
“Hey,” America continued, “do you remember those trips we took way back when? The first time you came to visit after the war?”
England’s lips curled up in a nostalgic smile. “Along the coast.”
“We watched the sunrise from the observation deck.”
“Yes,” England said wistfully. “I remember.”
Their food started to arrive, and the conversation fizzled out for a while. As the evening wore on and the atmosphere became more night-like, they continued to reminisce about the past. Trips that they’d taken together and parties they’d attended. America was surprised to realize how many of his good memories were also England’s. It hadn’t occurred to him that England might hold those shared memories with the same regard.
Once they were finished with dessert, they rested for a while before heading out. England argued over the bill, but America insisted that he still owed England for all his help. Once the promise of post-dinner drinking was made, England quieted down and agreed to let America get the bill.
Eventually, they went to a local bar and ordered their drinks. With a drink in his hand, England immediately became less tense. They had several rounds, still talking about memories of trips and conferences past. During a lull in the conversation, and once he had a few drinks in him, England started humming.
“Why are you always doing that now?” America asked, vaguely buzzed but not yet to the point of incoherence.
England stopped and looked at him. “Doing what?”
“The humming. You’re always humming.”
“What? I ain’t ‘always humming’. When d’you hear me humming?”
America realized that, of the two occasions he’d been thinking of, one had been a dream. “You just…you hum. ‘Sweird.”
England squinted and resumed the melody.
“Fine, but what ARE you humming? It’s always something I recognize but I never know and then it makes me mad.”
“You’re drunk,” England stated. “Why don’t you guess? F’you get it right I’ll buy you a drink.”
America nodded, so England continued the song. America listened so intently that he had to hold on to the counter to make sure he didn’t fall off the stool.
“I dunno,” he said after listening to the whole song. “I think it’s a theme song, but I don’t know what it is.”
England started humming the same song again. After a moment of intense concentration, America shrugged his defeat.
England sighed. “It’s ‘Only Fools and-“
“ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES!” America yelled, gesturing wildly in his excitement.
“That don’t count,” England insisted, taking a long sip of his drink.
“Fine, ‘ave another go,” England conceded. He started to hum the melody of a different theme song.
“LIFE ON MARS! Hah, that was easy!”
England scoffed. “Congrashulations, you know the theme to a pro’rum that aired sree years ago.” He oozed superiority despite his slowly dwindling verbal skills.
“Now you guess!” America started humming a theme song, forgetting the purpose behind their guessing game.
“Mash,” England said quickly.
America stopped, slightly crestfallen. “Aw, how’d you know?”
“’S too eashy. An you always do Mash.”
America grunted, angry at his own predictability. “Fine, let’s see if you can get this one.” He grinned wickedly and started humming the tune to the American version of The Office.
England narrowed his eyes dramatically. “Yooou pillock.”
By the time they’d finished playing their game, both men were thoroughly drunk. America’s hotel wasn’t too far away, and he decided it would be good to hang out in his room. “…to sober down. Or sober up. Sober something.”
They stumbled down the hallway, arms locked together, laughing at the wild movement of the world. It took America several tries to open his door, but when he finally did they both burst forward into the dark room. America went toward the bed and tried to find the bedside lamp. Just as he flipped the switch, England stumbled into him and knocked him onto the bed.
They laughed at the accident and stayed there until the laughter dissipated. England’s face was pressed against America’s stomach, brushing a small patch of sensitive skin that had been exposed during the tumble. An uncomfortable heat started to build between them. England rolled over, mumbled something about a toilet and disappeared into the bathroom. America could only pay attention to his own breathing, willing the heat in his body to go down. He was still mostly numb thanks to the alcohol, but that incident had sobered him up a bit. He let himself fall to the floor and crawled to the table, pulling himself onto one of the chairs. He scooted the chair so that he could rest his feet up on the bed and settled in. England came back and sat down heavily in the other chair.
Neither man said anything for a while. They were both tired and vaguely embarrassed and still very drunk. America started making weird noises to entertain himself, and eventually England joined him, laughing much more than he should have. They giggled stupidly and felt a bit more relaxed after that. America slouched down in the chair, moving his feet higher on the bed.
“Y’know what, England? I like you.” He spoke very slowly, like he was trying to get the words out through a mind filled with syrup. “I mean, I like being around you. An even though you’re a grumpy old fart a lot of the times, that’s okay. Cause no matter what, you’re a good person. You’re tiny and you’re brave and you don’t smell that bad.”
England grunted, deeply confused and not entirely conscious.
“An I also like how sometimes you say my name, an you put an ‘r’ at the end so it kinda sounds like ‘Americar’. Cause then I think about how cool it would be if I could turn into a car.” He made sounds like a racecar and England let out a snort of laughter. America babbled a little longer until the words became more stretched out and he drifted off.
When his alarm rang in the morning, England was gone. America sat up very slowly, wrapped in one of the spare blankets from the closet. His body was not very happy with him for falling asleep drunk and slumped in a chair, so he was grateful that the alarm had managed to wake him up with enough time to get ready. He made himself some coffee and thought about the night before. He remembered more than he’d expected to, including the surprisingly distinct memory of England pushed flush against his body. Holding his cup of coffee, he winced and hoped that he hadn’t said anything too embarrassing before falling asleep.
Despite having a hangover, the day turned out to be exceedingly pleasant. The experiences of the past few days had brought back that old camaraderie between himself and England. They talked throughout the day like close friends, which garnered plenty of peculiar looks from the rest of the world. America couldn’t be bothered to care why. He was in a happy place.
They had dinner again that night, though they both agreed it would be best not to go drinking again so soon. True to his word, America insisted that they hold off on the magic until the next day. It had been a week since his accident with the gun, and something inside him said that he could wait a little bit longer.
The following day was nearly as enjoyable. Suddenly, the world meeting didn’t seem quite so boring. Joking around with England and being silly with him made it all seem sunnier. After the meeting, they discussed their course for the night.
“We don’t even have to do anything, if you’re still tired. We could go get a bite to eat or see a movie or something.” America’s cheeks brightened ever so slightly when he said this.
“The conference will be over by the end of the week. We’ll still be able to work on your problem at a distance, but it would be best to exhaust the most obvious options while we’re still able to meet face-to-face.”
America blanched, remembering his predicament and the possibility of trying to live with his problem while being an ocean away from England. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s try something. How about some more divinalation?”
“Divination? I suppose. We haven’t done a tarot reading yet.”
“Ooh, is that like those fortune tellers?” America asked.
England almost lashed out, but held back. “Sort of. Yes, I’ll prepare for that.”
America grinned. “Cool.”
America opened the door to the room, and immediately sensed something different in the air. The candles were already lit, gently glowing in the corners of the room. The table was covered by a deep purple cloth, with pieces of metallic stitching that shone dimly in the candlelight.
“Ah, come in,” England said. America sat down and shifted awkwardly, not sure if he should rest his arms on the cloth.
“This is quite a set-up,” America said, looking around.
“Tarot is one of my specialties. I like to prepare extensively.”
“Right,” America said, relaxing just a little.
“Shall we begin?” England asked. He leaned down and took a wooden box from his bag. It was intricately carved with branches and leaves that twisted all across its sides. England set it down and removed a small bundle from inside. He unraveled the string that held it together, and a stack of cards emerged from the red cloth wrapping. They were longer and larger than playing cards, with a blue design on the back. England set the cards aside.
“Your hands, please,” he instructed, holding the red cloth in his right hand.
“My hands?” America said, confused.
“Put your hands out so I can cleanse them. I have to remove negative influences and purify you.”
“Won’t you have to clean the cloth afterwards?” America asked curiously, rolling back his sleeves and resting his elbows on the table.
“I’ll clean everything in due time.”
“You really think I’m that dirty?” America quirked his eyebrow.
“Filthy,” England mumbled quietly to himself, thinking that America couldn’t hear.
America shivered and glanced away as England took his hand.
The fabric was soft. England draped it over America’s left hand and started to rub gently, pushing against the cloth with nimble fingers. America could feel the warmth of his skin through the thin layer of fabric. England worked at a torturously slow pace over each finger and over his palm, rubbing every part of his hand several times. They didn’t look at each other, but they were leaning in extremely close. By the time England had moved onto the right hand, America could barely breathe. Didn’t England have any idea what this was doing to him? Just when America felt ready to burst from the warmth and the touching and the nearness, England pulled away with an air of reluctance. He wiped his own hands on the cloth in a matter of seconds and put it aside.
England coughed. “So. Er. Right, well, now you can take the cards.”
America picked up the stack, awaiting instructions.
“Shuffle the deck as much as you want. Think about your problem and when the time feels right, set the cards down.”
America nodded and started to shuffle. He didn’t have to make any effort in thinking about his problem, as it was pretty much a narration of his life at this point. He cut the deck several times and kept shuffling. With a cheeky grin, he did a few fancy tricks in a misguided attempt to impress England, who just stared with a neutral expression. He even dropped the deck once, but England just watched and waited solemnly as he picked the fallen cards from the table and put them back in the deck. Finally, he stopped and set the deck in the middle of the table.
England took the cards and turned them towards himself.
“Pick up three cards and set them down in a row. From there I’ll be able to do the reading.”
America took the top three cards in turn and set them down in front of England.
“All that for three cards?” America said.
“Three cards can reveal a lot,” England replied. He pointed to each card, starting with the left. “This card represents the subject.” He moved to the middle. “This is the problem.” Finally, the far right. “And this one predicts the resolution.”
America watched with baited breath. England turned the cards over.
The first card on the left held the image of a chalice. The cup sat in a field of flowers, and water was pouring from it. The middle card was upside down. On it, a man and a woman stood in embrace in front of the sun. On the last card were four sticks and two human figures holding garlands. America studied the images on the cards for a while. He eventually realized that several minutes had passed, and England hadn’t said a word. When he sat back, it looked like England was in a state of shock, staring at the cards like they had just predicted the end of days.
“England? Hey, what’s the matter?” America asked, fearful that the cards held some terrible fate for him.
England didn’t answer right away. When he did, he spoke quietly without looking up. “You didn’t tell me the problem involved romance.”
America froze completely. Every hair on his body stood on end. “I, uh, I don’t…um…you can tell that from the cards?”
“Not individually, but together there’s a clear theme.”
America sat still for a while. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. “I’m sorry,” he muttered finally.
“No matter. You had your reasons.” England’s pleasant tone of voice was obviously masking something, but America kept silent. After another moment of contemplation, England started speaking. “Here’s the Ace of Cups. Remember, this card is the subject. From what I now know of your problem, it would seem to represent overflowing love. A love so abundant and pure and joyous that it’s difficult to contain.”
For just a moment, America looked into England’s eyes. A spark of something powerful and dangerous passed between them.
England continued after a moment of hesitation, gesturing to the card in the middle. “The Lovers. A highly significant card; one of the Major Arcana. It would normally represent sexual attraction, equal partnership, budding romance and many of those qualities in a relationship. However, this card is reversed, which suggests a troubled relationship. The problem may be that there are two people who are meant to be together, but something is preventing this from coming to fruition. You may be separated from someone you belong with, which could be at the root of your problem.”
England paused and shifted, examining the cards once more. “And finally, the resolution. This card is the Four of Wands, which represents a journey towards true love and celebration. Potentially, marriage. It would seem that your separation may be corrected, and your problem will ultimately end in a successful union.” He sat back in his chair and took a breath. “Well, there it is. At least we have a more specific answer now.”
America couldn’t move. A shiver went up his spine and seemed to stay there.
“Are you okay?” England asked. America’s face was pale.
“America?” England leaned forward. America’s right hand started to shake on the table.
“Alfred?” he asked in a softer voice. America’s gaze was fixed on one of the candles. He didn’t move.
“Alfred!” England leaned across the table and grabbed America’s hand, enveloping it in his own. America flinched and looked at him. There was an intense fear in England’s eyes, the likes of which America hadn’t seen in many years.
“Alfred, it’s okay. Please, listen to me. The cards…they aren’t important. I’m not- the cards are not telling you what you have to do. It’s merely a suggestion; one of so many paths that you can choose. Please, don’t think that…don’t think that you’re stuck. You still have so many journeys and you shouldn’t think for a second that something’s holding you back, because you have so much strength. You have to choose what’s best for you. It’s the only way you’ll meet your potential. I-I know that now. So please, don’t feel trapped. Only you can make this choice, and we both know that one decision can change everything.”
America could sense that England was talking about something far beyond a tarot reading. All he could do was nod. England relinquished his hand and occupied himself with the clean-up.
“Are we done, then?” America asked quietly.
“With everything? If you want to continue looking for a solution, I can still help. We haven’t run out of options yet. Unless you’ve found your answer.” England’s voice was heavy with emotion, despite his best efforts to appear indifferent.
“I-I’m not sure,” America replied.
England smiled pleasantly at him, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “Let me know if you want to meet again, and I’ll gladly arrange it.”
America nodded and, sensing that England needed time to himself, said goodnight and left.
As he walked to his hotel, something strange came over him. He felt a combination of fear and dread, but there was also a cheerful edge sneaking up on him. The cards had told him something extremely important. He did have another option, and one that he hadn’t actually considered.
He could just…give in. Why not? What was so bad about the possibility of being with England?
They were already close friends. Sure, they lived far away, but they had more opportunities to see each other than a lot of long-distance couples. And what did it matter that they were both men, if they made each other this happy? Sure, the other nations would tease them endlessly, but since when did America give a shit what the rest of the world thinks?
Walking along the street, he thought about it. In the elevator, up to his floor, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Sitting on his bed, he wondered how he could have gone so long without seeing it.
He would just pursue England. Then he would have someone who cared about him more than anything. Someone he could think about each morning when he woke up. They could give each other stupid nicknames and he could call England at all hours of the day and just talk and talk and take comfort in his voice. They could pal around together and drink together and touch and kiss and all of those wonderful things. Maybe they would even stop fighting so often. They would be friends but…together. America took out his cellphone and sent a text to England, telling him that he wanted to meet. Might as well do it sooner than later.
An immense peace came over him. Why hadn’t he done this to start with? All that worrying and sulking and depression and wasted painful emotions, when the answer had been there all along. He sighed happily and turned over. The cards had predicted it, so why shouldn’t he have this happiness? It was there for the taking. He would go to England after the meeting, hold him in his arms and never let go.
Finally, everything was coming together. There was nothing stopping him from having this. Nothing standing between him and-
His eyes caught sight of a silver gleam.
He sat up and looked at the briefcase sitting on the floor, so innocuous. And everything, all of his hope and joy, came crashing down on him.
That’s why he couldn’t have this. Why he couldn’t have England. This wasn’t real. His feelings, his elation at being around England – none of it was real. It was a manufactured effect of a beam passing through his brain.
He couldn’t act on it. If he entered into a relationship knowing that his feelings were false, or knowing there was a possibility that they might someday go away without notice…he cared too much to do something like that to England. What if England started to really fall in love with him? Could he risk the possibility of leaving his best friend sad and broken with a heart full of unrequited love? Now that he knew what it felt like, and how much he cared about England as a friend and as a person, there was no way he would let that happen.
He really was stuck. Trapped in a prison of his own making. He wanted to scream and thrash about and throw that stupid gun into the ocean, but all of his energy had vanished.
His cellphone sounded an upbeat tune. He read England’s reply quickly and collapsed back onto the bed, letting out a sigh that seemed quash any remaining liveliness.
The phone fell onto his sheets and the message slowly faded out:
Tomorrow at 6
One more try
- Tony Blair and Bill Clinton had a
- Don’t drink, don’t smoke. What do you do?
- Oh man Parliament headaches are the worst
- Passage is from "Instructions" by Neil Gaiman
- I spent way too long trying to figure out how one should spell M*A*S*H in dialogue. Sorry if I pissed off any diehard fans.
- So what becomes of you my love~
- Nngh America D: Sooo close
Thanks to Erin and Dani for their help.
One chapter left!