Warning: Character Death in this chapter
Chapter 6 – July 4th Future
Arthur stumbled around in the fog. "Prussia, you bloody wanker!" He shouted into the gloom. "How dare you leave me like this!"
He spotted a dark figure within the mist. "There you are, you bloody wanker!" He stomped over to it. "Just what were you…" His voice trailed off as he realized that the figure was definitely not Gilbert. In fact, he couldn't tell which nation it was.
The person was enveloped in a dark cloak, with the hood pulled low over his face. England figured that the nation was most likely male, since most nations are male and the figure was also taller than him.
"Well, who the bloody hell are you?" Arthur asked. He decided that at this point, it didn't matter whether he was polite or not.
The nation didn't answer or give any clue of who he was. Instead, the nation just held out a hand and gestured for England to follow him.
England rolled his eyes. "Oh, great… Now what are you going to show me? I'm quite fed up with this whole bloody ordeal. Nothing you show me is going to change my mind."
The nation didn't reply.
"So what are exactly are you? I've already met the nation of the past and the nation of the present, so what are…" Arthur's voice trailed off once again as understanding hit him. It was only now that he realized what this whole experience was based on, and it was one of his own books. And then that meant, that the current nation in front of him was…
"Are you the nation of the future?" He asked tentatively.
The nation nodded.
England gulped. "Bloody hell…" Still, now he hesitantly followed the mysterious nation, afraid of what he would see.
Slowly, the fog cleared and England found himself on a place that was too familiar to the old nation.
He was standing on a battlefield.
Smoke rose from various patches of burning vegetation. Trees were burned blacked and were twisted. Bodies littered the ground here and there. The smell of blood and gunpowder filled the air. Arthur was too familiar with how a battlefield was. Did another war start? Why? Where exactly are we? His eyes trailed over the landscape trying to see some sort of life, but he failed to spot any. "What exactly are we looking for?" He looked at his silent companion.
Naturally, he received no reply. However, the nation held a single finger and pointed at something behind him.
England turned around and was surprised to see himself. What would I be doing in this desolate wasteland? And then he took a closer look at his future self.
Future-England was wearing his military uniform, which he obviously would be wearing if he were at war, and had various bandages wrapped around parts of his arms and legs. All in all, he didn't seem too injured, despite the circumstances. What made the present-England stop and stare was the expression on his future self's face. It was a terrified expression, mixed with worry and frustration.
What could make me look like that? He wondered while it felt like something was gripping his heart. It was a sensation he had felt several times before. He remembered feeling it in 1941 when he heard Pearl Harbor had been bombed, as well as in 2001 when he had watched the World Trade Center fall on TV. There were plenty of other times during various wars when he had felt this and there was always one constant that connected the feeling. Arthur realized that he knew the cause of that expression.
America was in danger.
That doesn't explain why I'm here though. He frowned at his counterpart. Normally, I would be speeding to wherever America is.
Future-Arthur darted to and fro, obviously searching something. Finally, he decided to call out to what he was searching for. "America!"
Ice seemed to run through present-England's veins. That stupid git's here? He thought hysterically. There's nothing here but… He stopped that thought immediately.
His counterpart continued to desperately call for America. Present-Arthur found himself joining the future him in searching, looking over the bodies for a sign of life, specifically for that stupid American. He looked at each body, more closely than he would have liked, and looked for a telltale sign of him, whether it was those glasses that he dubbed "Texas" or even that one stubborn strand of hair that always pointed towards the sky that he called "Nantucket." Arthur simply wanted to find that American idiot, to know what condition he was in.
The future-Arthur started to call out America's human name. "Bloody hell, Alfred! Answer me already!" The fear and desperation was obvious in his voice.
Then, miraculously, both Arthurs heard a small cough that was followed by a soft, "Iggy?"
Both heads snapped in the direction of the sound. The future-England immediately ran to where the voice came from with the present-England following close behind. When they finally found him, future-England fell to his knees beside America while present-England could only stare in horror at the sight before him from behind his counterpart.
Alfred looked incredibly weak, even more than he had during the Civil War. It wasn't because he looked sickly. No, it was because he looked so injured. Blood had soaked into the soil and the tree he was leaning against. His uniform was covered in blood and soot. Even his wheat-colored hair was filled with soot. Alfred's face just had a few scratches and a tiny bit of soot on it, but his eyes, which were normally so filled with light and life no matter what circumstances Arthur had seen him in, were slowly dimming from a bright, sky blue to a dull blue gray color. He seemed to be having trouble breathing, as each breath was labored. One of his hands was pressed against his side, though that obviously had done nothing to stem the blood flow, and his other arm looked a bit broken as it was bent at an odd angle. Beside him, his multiple guns lay in the dirt, their bullets spent.
However, his smile was the same as always as he cracked a small smile. "Hey, Artie, glad you look alright."
"Bloody fool, don't worry about others in your state." Future-Arthur quickly answered after assessing all of the damage. He bit his lip, knowing that America was not in a good situation. He took out some bandages to do temporary first aid. "Come on, let's get you back so the medics can fix you up."
"How are the others? Mattie? We won, right?" Alfred blinked slowly. He was starting to get tired. Then again, God only knew how long he had been laying there.
"Of course we bloody won, git. Everyone's alright, even the enemy." Arthur was clearly trying to hold down his panic at the state America was in, but he was starting to fail. He attempted to start bandaging America's wounds, but America waved him off. "Now, America –!"
"Arthur." England cut off at the sound of his human name unadulterated. Alfred looked him straight in the eye and gave a small smile. "I know what's happened over at my place, and even without all that damage, I probably wouldn't live anyway." He tried to laugh, but all he ended up doing was cough. It sounded wet, and blood began to trickle from his mouth.
"No! You're going to live! Don't talk like that America!" Tears started appearing at the corner of his eyes, but he tried to hold them back.
"Well, because the enemy focused all their firepower on me, no one else got hurt…" Alfred's voice trailed off and he blinked again. "Guess I was able to be the hero, and protect everyone." He smiled a true, genuine smile at the thought of protecting everyone.
"Yes, yes. You're a bloody hero. Now let me-!" Arthur was once more cut off from trying to bandage him as America reached out and grabbed his wrist.
"Artie, I-!" America was cut off as he coughed up more blood. "I gotta tell ya something."
"Tell it to me later, once you get better." England was still clinging to the futile hope of the situation.
"No, I have to tell you now." Alfred was using that tone of voice. The tone of voice from when he had declared independence, from whenever he stood up for his beliefs. "Or else I'm never gonna be able to tell you."
"That's a load of bollocks! You're going to be-!"
"I love you."
The world seemed to stop. Both Arthurs stared at him. Present-Arthur had simply been watching up to that point, feeling like a hole was forming in his chest, but that simply phrase threw him for a loop.
"I love you." Alfred repeated. "Not as a little brother, but as a man. I've always loved you that way." He paused as more blood filled his lungs. "That's why," he panted, "I declared independence, so I could have a chance, but… You don't have to reply. I can guess… at your response."
"Alfred." For the first time in centuries, the future-England said America's human name directly to him. Present-England noticed that tears had started flowing down his counterpart's cheeks.
Alfred smiled. "That's my name." He closed his eyes slowly and reopened them. "Y'know, I just remembered that today's my birthday." His smile grew wider. "I guess I finally get to spend it with you, 'cause you're supposed to spend it with the people you love."
Future-Arthur unclasped Alfred's hand from his wrist and instead held it tightly in both of his own hands. "Oh, Alfred… I'm so sorry. I-!"
Alfred looked at him curiously. "'Bout what?" He coughed again.
"Everything… I…. I…" Arthur was sobbing too hard to get the words out.
"It's okay." Alfred closed his eyes. His voice was growing softer. "I'm just glad I could protect you. I… always…wanted to be…" His voice was softer than a whisper now. "…your hero."
And with that, Alfred F. Jones, the United States of America, died.
Neither England could believe it. Future-Arthur began to shake America, shouting at him, but present-Arthur had ceased hearing him.
His mind reeled from the confession of Alfred's true feelings for him and from the future that was playing out before him. He… He loved me? And I… I treated him like… and now he… Oh, Lord… Why?
More importantly, it felt like his heart had been carved out. He felt pain and numbness at the same time. It was pure and utter agony, as if he himself was dying.
But did it matter? In the future, Alfred was going to die and then England would never have a chance to apologize or tell him. Prussia's words rang in his head as if he had known this would happen. Oh God… in the future, I'll… I'll never be able to tell Alfred that I lov-
Arthur's mind shuddered to halt. Wait, what?
Arthur stiffened at the sound of the voice. He had totally forgotten about his companion, but now he remembered. His heart shuddered as he recognized the nation's voice. Oh, God, please don't let it be him…
He turned around to look at his companion. The hood and cloak had fallen away, revealing platinum blond hair, violet eyes, and a childish smirk.
"If America dies, he will not be able to become one with me, da?" Russia innocently asked as he took in the tragic scene before him.
Arthur ran away from everything. The dead America, his future self's despair, and freaking Russia soon faded behind him. He couldn't handle all of this madness.
He couldn't think what was the point of all of this as he raced past more and more bodies. He ran until he couldn't run anymore, and that's when he realized who would know the whole point.
"Mother!" He shouted. "I know you're probably watching this whole bloody thing! Get out here now!"
England whirled around to see Britannia leaning against a tree. Her long blond hair made a stark contrast to the whole scene, but her bright green eyes stayed on her son with her eyebrows that looked so similar to his own furrowed as she observed him.
"You!" He pointed accusingly at her. "This is all your doing!"
She raised one large eyebrow. "My doing? Whatever do you mean?"
"All of that!" He gestured back to where he came from. "You did to all of that! You made Alfred…"
Britannia sighed at her son's thickheadedness. "I did nothing to make that scene occur. That is what the actual future is at this point. All I did was have Kievan Rus's son show it to you."
England paused. "How did you convince him to do that anyway?"
"I told him he would get to see America in a humbling position." A slight smile tugged at her lips. "But that is not the point. The point is that this picture, America not revealing his obvious feelings until the end and you never revealing how you feel, is how the future is going to be at this juncture." She frowned. "Although, how you have not noticed is beyond me. As I said it's obvious."
"Yes, but he-!" Arthur couldn't bring himself to say it. "What do you mean by how I feel?"
"I thought you realized it when you saw him die." Britannia's gaze hardened. "Are you really so dense, Arthur? Are you not going to realize until the very end again?"
"I…I…" He couldn't come up with a good reply to that.
He thought back to his feelings of seeing Alfred die, how he had felt like dying. Then he thought back to other things he had seen during this ordeal and in reality. How he hated seeing Alfred sad or in pain. How he felt a tingly feeling when Alfred gave a genuine smile, or when Alfred had disregarded his boss's orders to see him during the London Blitz. How he was glad that even though they always fought he was glad that Alfred paid attention to him. How his heart had temporarily soared when Alfred had said that he loved him not as a brother but a man.
That's when it hit Arthur. "Bloody hell," he said aloud. In his heart, he thought, I love Alfred. Not as a little brother. I love him, too. But at this rate…
"I see you get it now." Britannia almost smirked. "At this rate, things are going to end up like this. So," her eyes lifted to look at something behind him.
"What are you going to do?" Someone finished her question.
England turned to look at the figure behind him. The new arrival had dark, tan skin and long black hair. She had stern features and wore animal hides. She looked remarkably like the character Pocahontas from one of America's Disney movies. He realized who he was looking at: Native America, America's mother.
"Will you continue to deny both my son's and your own feelings, which only hurts both of you?" Her eyes seemed to stare into the depths of his soul.
"No." He replied firmly. "At least," he smiled a bit, "I can tell him 'happy birthday,' right?"
Native America smiled and England saw the resemblance between her and America. They had the same bright smile. "Good." She went and stood next to Britannia.
"Wait," Arthur felt panic rising. "Even if I do confess, then he'll still die, won't he?"
"Who knows?" Britannia smiled. "The future is not written in stone."
"At the very least, you will be able to spend time together before the end." Native America added. "And if my son dies, then he will die knowing his feelings were returned."
"Yes, that's always good."
"But I-!" Arthur couldn't accept this. "I could always-!"
"Do not try, little one." Native America looked at him gravely. "War will always come to the world, along with death. You simply must make the best of the time you have before it does."
"I see." He realized her words were true. So I'll just have to make the best of it.
"Now return to the living, Arthur, and don't dwell too much on the future, since it can always change. After all," Britannia made one last comment before fading away along with the entire world surrounding Arthur, "at least Alfred won't be making a confession on his deathbed. And unlike in this future, you are aware of his feelings."
The world faded and spun. Arthur couldn't even make a reply as he fell into darkness.