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I Still Care
It was an average day in New York City. America was sitting in front of the TV, still in his boxers. The past few weeks hadn't been so great: scandals, a worsening economy, a boss who was in it for himself... it was all too stressful for such a young nation to handle. To make matters worse, he hadn't lost a single pound since the little "incident" at the last World Conference: other nations ridiculing him for a problem that was affecting them, too, but because Alfred had it the worst, he got the blunt end of it. Everyone was laughing right in his face, and worst of all, England, who America thought loved him so much, just sat there, not making a sound.
America was hurt so badly that, for the first time ever, HE was the one who had to leave the conference. Usually it was Germany, because, according to America, his "emo-ness" prevented him from being able to talk about what was REALLY going on with other people.
Still, America knew he couldn't wear this little mask of his any longer, and he would have to confess to everyone that, now, it was the Hero who needed saving.
Canada came over a few days ago to check up on him, as he had heard of all the pain America was going through. Canada brought Tylenol, cough syrup, soup, all that good stuff- but what America had was a long-term illness, not a little cold that would go away in a couple of days. Canada left after his brother blew up at him, and while he did understand that America hadn't grasped the concept of "it's the thought that counts," Canada didn't like to have pressure put on him.
America grunted as he flipped through the channels. Most were on commercial break, and if they weren't, they were full-time infomercial stations or foreign languages like Portuguese.
"Going to be high in the eighties this week... The new Ninja Chopper... Doushite? Doushite?... That's double the slushy fun for FREE!... Lots and Lots of Jets and Planes!..."
"Wanna get out, won’t miss you sensaround. To carry your own dead, to swing your tire tricks. Wanna get out, here, you’re bred dead quick. For the outside: the small black flowers that grow in the sky..." America looked down at his phone, knowing England was calling (yes, "Small Black Flowers That Grow In the Sky" by Manic Street Preachers was America's special ringtone for England, as it was one of England’s favorite songs). He contemplated whether he should pick up or not. The last time he and England had spoken was at last year's World Conference, a little before the other countries decided to bully him about his weight. He kept his distance from England at the seasonal G8 meetings, and didn’t even make eye contact when the countries on the Security Council met every month. But what could he do? Whether he answered or not, there would still be a risk of losing England...
"Hello?" America paused a bit after answering the phone. His voice sounded tired, groggy, and lazy. “Damn”, he thought, “I sound TERRIBLE.”
"Oh, um, hello." England's voice seemed nervous, almost shocked to hear America speak to him. "Haven't talked for a while."
"Yeah." America sighed. “Well THIS is awkward,” he thought.
"I heard you aren't feeling so great." England coughed to cover up the fact that he was choking up a bit.
"That's a bit of an understatement." America let out a sarcastic laugh.
"Oh... Ha..." Anyway, I was visiting Canada because he had some sort of scientific breakthrough, and... I was thinking that maybe I could come down and pay you a visit, you know, because you aren't feeling so well and I just thought-"
"Yes." America cut England off with a rather abrupt response."
"I'm sorry?" England seemed a bit surprised. Perhaps he was excited to be reunited with America, or maybe he had no interest in sharing the same air.
"Yes." America thought of ways to explain his answer without seeming desperate. "I... would really like that."
"Really?" England sounded like his heart skipped a beat, but he almost immediately covered it up by clearing his throat before continuing. "Ahem. Sorry. Really?"
"Yeah." America blushed. "Oh, and by the way, I'm in my apartment in New York. Had to get of DC; needed a change of surroundings... Or something."
"Great," England replied, "I'll be there in about an hour.”
“Okay... See you then?”
“Yes... um... goodbye...”
“Oh. Bye.” America pressed “End Call” on his phone and fell backwards on the couch. “Pffffft.”
It was then when America remembered he was clad in only underpants, and ran to his room to get dressed. He opened his drawer to see that there were only a few shirts in it.
“What the...?” America wondered where his clothes were. The he saw the pile of dirty laundry on the floor. “Right...” He reached into his drawer and grabbed his “nice” red t-shirt and started to put it on when-
“Wait, when was the last time I showered?”
America opened the next drawer and found that there was nothing in it except for a few pairs of basketball shorts. He ran to the pile of dirty laundry and began to search for a pair of jeans.
“Come on... come on... Aha!” He pulled out a pair of jeans that looked like the Top-Secret files crumpled into balls and played Trashcan Basketball with during meetings with the Allies. “These are so wrinkled, though... Oh, who irons jeans, anyway? Well maybe Poland does...” He took the shirt and the jeans into the bathroom to change into after showering. He stepped inside and remembered the time he caught Canada singing “Numb” by Linkin Park in the shower. “Wonder what it’d be like if it were the other way around,” he laughed.
After shampooing for a bit, America realized that he was humming “My Happy Ending” by Avril Lavigne. Boy, was he glad Tony stayed in DC... Tony was still grasping the concept of a HETEROSEXUAL relationship, so how could he understand... this? America shook his head.
He finished up in the shower and used a towel to dry his hair a bit before wearing it on his shoulders like a small cape. America put his shirt on and walked back into the bedroom to sit on the bed and put his jeans on.
"Wait a second. " America thought as he got off the bed and inspected it. "How is the bed made?" Then he remembered he hadn’t in HIS bed for about a month now, usually waking up on the couch, in front of bars, and, in the cases of last week, in the beds of strange women.
"Oh well," he thought as he got on the bed again. America stuck one foot in each leg and pulled the jeans up until-
“S***.” He couldn’t zip them up. He yanked the zipper as hard as he could. “Nnnnnngh!” NOTHING..
America kicked that pair of jeans off and tried to put on another pair. This time, he couldn’t get the button to cooperate. Another pair. Smelled like dirty river water. Another pair. Looked like they could be Tony’s. Another pair. Made him feel like he was suffocating. Another pair. Couldn’t even pull them over his THIGHS.
He was TOO. FAT.
“Screw this!” America shouted as he reached for a pair of heather gray sweatpants. He pulled them up and sighed.
“No wonder they all laughed at you.”
America slipped on a pair of socks and exited his bedroom before turning off the TV. Wondering how much time was left until England arrived, he looked up at the clock, but he couldn’t see the numbers very well. He then realized that his glasses were on the coffee table.
“For once, can I NOT lose those little dumbutts!” America groaned as he walked back to the couch. He flopped himself onto it and reached for his glasses. More often than not, he would actually knock the glasses AWAY FROM HIM rather than grab them, and whenever he DID grab them, they would always wriggle their way out of his hand. Finally, America managed to put his glasses back where they belonged after a long battle, but then, there was a knock on the door. He stuck his phone in his pocket, slipped on a pair of red Converse, and looked through the peephole, even though he knew no one else would come to visit him.
“Pull yourself together, man. He’s just visiting. It’s not a date or anything. He’s just visiting,” America gave himself a pep-talk. He took a deep breath and opened the door to see England, with his usual messed-up light blonde hair and giant eyebrows, wearing a black leather jacket, white band tee (America wasn’t sure what band it was, England usually listened to Indie rock bands), red plaid Tripp pants, and the boots he wore when he was fighting in World War II.
“Good... morning...” Never in his life was it so hard for America to get his words out.
“I hardly think you can say it’s morning anymore,” England said, coldly, “but, good morning.”
“So... How’ve you been?” America asked. “I suck at this so much,” he thought.
England muttered something that sounded like “worried sick,” but he cleared his throat and replied, “Fine. You?”
America raised an eyebrow and looked around at his mess of an apartment, then back at England.
“Okay... NOT the question to ask right now...” England looked down at his feet.
“So...” The younger nation pursed his lips and looked away.
“So...” The older nation tilted his head up towards the ceiling.
“Well,” America asked, “what do you want to do?”
“I was thinking we should... go somewhere... It would be nice for you to get out of the house.” America was about to debate that he DID get out of the house, but then he realized that what England meant was he should get out of the house and be able to remember it the next day.
“How about Central Park?” It wasn’t EXACTLY within walking distance, but it wasn’t TOO far away. Plus, some extra walking couldn’t hurt.
“Sure. Oh, grab a coat. The weather is a total B**** today, even to my standards.”
America looked around to see if there was a sweatshirt nearby, but the only thing he could see was his old bomber jacket. A smirk stretched across his face as he walked over to grab it. “Hey, look.” England looked up to see America holding the old thing. “Just like old times, huh?” America laughed.
England smiled. “Just like old times.”
America jogged back to the entryway and grabbed his keys off the side table by the door and locked the door behind him. "By the way, the elevator's broken."
"I know," England replied in a bit of a grumpy voice, "I had to walk up eight flights of stairs, you twit."
Side by side, the two nations walked down the hallway and to the stairwell, where America remembered all of the secret pockets he had in his jacket.
"Whoa! I totally forgot about THIS one!" America exclaimed as he opened ANOTHER pocket.
"That's what you said about the last one," England chuckled, "and the one before that."
"Yeah, but, LOOK!" America pulled a switchblade out of the pocket. "Neat, huh?"
"Very impressive," England remarked as he held the door from the lobby and into the street open
"Agh, damn sun!" America squinted and opened another pocket. However, unlike the other times when he found "treasure" in his pockets, he froze.
A box of cigarettes and an old lighter.
"Never thought I'd see THESE again. how old are these things, anyway?" America thought. He tossed the box up and down for a bit before finally giving in and pulling a "skinny little beeyatch," as Canada would say it (though he shouldn't have been one to talk, as he used to have a pretty bad caffeine problem), out of the box.
"I see you've quit smoking," England said, sarcastically.
"I DID," America replied as he proceeded to light the cigarette, "in the 70's." He inhaled a buch of smoke as a weird yet happy look fell across his face. "So, what exactly was this whole science thing with Mattie?"
"Um..." England looked down and furrowed his brow. "Something about Grizzly bears. I don't know."
"You don't KNOW?!"
"Well, it's not that I don't know," England explained, "I just don't remember."
"Eng-" America cut himself off as he remembered he had to use human names in public. "Arthur, I KNOW you're not the type who just forgets something."
"I... I didn't really pay attention during the ceremony..."
"Oh..." England always paid attention unless something was on his mind. "But don't tell me you went to his thing wearing THAT!" America let out a laugh (though it was forced) as he tried to change the subject.
"Don't be ridiculous, I wore a suit, you numbskull." England jokingly rolled his eyes. "Besides, the ceremony was yesterday."
"Ah." A cloud of smoke emerged as America exhaled. England watched, mesmerized.
"Oh bloody Hell, give me one." England snatched the box out of America's hand and lit up a cigarette. He inhaled, then proceeded to cough and spit profusely. "Ugh. Forgot how terrible these tasted."
"Sort of like your cooking?"
"Shut up." England smashed the cigarette into the nearest ashtray. "Blegh."
The two shared a most lively discussion, laughing and reminiscing on their way to Central Park.
It seemed like nothing was wrong.
"Wow," England mouthed as he entered the Park. It took him a while to wrap his mind around his surroundings. "This is just... REMARKABLE. I can see why you're so fond of this place, Alfred."
"Yeah..." He remembered how much he love the Park, but he didn't remember if smoking was allowed, so he pulled the cigarette out from his mouth. Not seeing an ashtray nearby, he decided to hold it.
"Where should we go?" England asked.
"Let's just sit somewhere."
After wasting what seemed like hours looking for a clean bench that no one was sitting in, the two nations decides to sit on the grass facing the lake.
"You know, one time, when you were younger, you came up to me and asked, 'Wait, why is your accent so stupid?' Oh boy, weren't you a character?"
"Haha, yeah..." America nervously rubbed the back of his neck.
"So, tell me, and you have to be honest with me- how have you been?" England looked at America with an expression of concern.
"How have I been..." America muttered. Well, it started going downhill around the time of the Boston bombing. Then there was an explosion in Texas. And then came the scandals. First, the remnants of Benghazi, and then, new ones: NSA, IRS, AP- you name it.
"How HAVEN'T I been? Things were slowly descending around last September, but I've pretty much been free-falling for the past month or so," America sighed. "It's like no one can see that something isn't right. Well, no. The PEOPLE of AMERICA can see that things are pretty fucked up, but the people in Washington don't think anything's wrong, let alone do anything about it. That's why I had to get OUT OF THERE. I couldn't stand being NEAR any of those people." America paused for a moment and SCREAMED. "Worst of all, it's like none of you other countries even care. I guess I'm kinda stupid because I keep trying to get everyone's attention with useless viral videos, and I guess that makes me a bit of an attention whore, but none of you guys even care about me anymore."
"W-well, when you say it like that, you sound like some sort of worn-out pop star."
"No, that's not what I meant! It's... I just... Like, nobody cares about what's gonna happen to me! Nobody cares if I do something RIGHT, nobody cares if I screw up, nobody CARES! Nobody cares if I'm angry, nobody cares if I'm sad... Hell, if I DIED, NOBODY WOULD CARE!!!"
England's eyes widened as America's filled up with tears.
"I am LOSING IT. I feel like I'm KILLING MYSELF. Slowly, but still, KILLING MYSELF. PAINFULLY. But NO ONE CARES! I don't have complex emotions! I don't have emotions at all! I'm just some... some stupid FAT GUY you can make fun of whenever you want! See? NO ONE CARES!" What started as watery eyes turned into full-on sobbing.
"No one cares. No one cares! NO ONE CARES!" England had no idea what he was supposed to do. Having no other options, he held the younger nation like he did when America was a child and would come to England, his best friend, for comfort.
"Shh..." England patted America on the shoulder.
"No one cares... No one cares..." America eventually quit crying, only sniffling every now and then. "No one cares," he whispered.
"I..." England couldn't get the words to come out of his mouth. "I still care." His cheeks immediately turned a bright shade of red.
"You... You do?" America looked into England's deep green eyes.
"Yes." England grabbed America's shoulders. " I always have, and I always will."
America sat there, wide-eyed. England seemed a bit shocked, himself. After a few seconds, America leaned over and hugged England like he did during the good old days, squeezing him like a teddy bear. He did this for about five minutes, until he asked, "why? Why would you care about ME? Is it because I'm..." America gulped as he prepared to say the dreaded words. "Your... best... friend?"
"N-no..." England stuttered. "It's because... well, I... uh..." He took a deep breath and put his cards on the table. "I love you."
Now America's cheeks were as red as England's were before, if not more. England, however, didn't notice.
"There. I said it. I love you. Go ahead, call me a faggot and never talk to me again. Start hating me for all I care, I'll still love you, but that's fine, it won't bug me at all because I'm a sinner and I'm going to Hell and it's not like I have FEELINGS or anything-"
"Arthur, stop!" America yelled. He was so loud, some people nearby started staring.
"Oh bloody Hell, what is it?"
America held England's right hand with both of his and looked England in the eyes. There was a long silence until America began to speak.
"I love you, too."
"Really?" Tears of joy fell from England's eyes.
"Really." America replied as he wiped the tears from England's cheeks.
"Wow..." England whispered as a smile stretched across his face. He leaned on America's shoulder and grabbed his large arms.
"So," America started, "now that THAT'S off our chests, what should we do?"
"Maybe we should get something to eat?" England suggested as the dog began to burn off.
"That sounds great." America rose to his feet and helped England up. "I know some amazing little cafés nearby.
"Well, then, what are we waiting for?"
The two nations grinned at each other and began to walk out of the Park. Neither had ever been this happy.
And for the entire time they were walking, they were holding hands, their fingers interlocked.
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"Stand up and walk. Move forward. You have two beautiful legs, don't you? You don't need to rely on anything." - Edward Elric