"Why does childhood wander so far away from us so quickly?" Arthur heard his voice crack the steady stillness of the pouring rain outside of his study in his stately flat in London. He stared out the raindrop-stained window as if it would give him an answer. He knew it wouldn't, as it never had in his thousand + years of living, and he supposed, rather cynically, that it never would.

"What do you mean Angleterre?" Francis asked him whilst sitting on the old nation's wooden chair. He looked up from the book he was reading (which one I cannot recall at this time) and studied his old rival.

Arthur moaned steadily. "Life, dear Francis," He picked up his pen from the notebook on his lap (whereupon he, quite crudely, had drawn a picture from a memory) and drew something in the air. "It is much too short."

"Whatever do you mean?" The Frenchman closed his book and crossed his leg. "You surely must be joking, Angleterre, why we have lives that so many people only dream of living let alone experiencing."

"Yes," Arthur greyly sighed. "But, come here Francis, look." He pointed his pen outside of the window to the streets below. "Could you ever imagine this brilliant invention when you were a child? Could you?"

"Well, yes, Arthur, I imagined windows-"

"Oh, don't play that game with me again. I meant the cars!" The British man waved his pen in a circular motion around an imaginary car in the distance. He stared out the window again with a vague look on his face.

Francis stroked his chin thoughtfully. The English nation had gone into his many tirades or speeches about 'life and its meaning' before, but never had it been as sudden. What had prodded this strange notion? "I suppose. What brings this to your mind?"

"Oh just wondering, you know."

"Non, about the childhood idea, what were you going to say about it?"

Arthur's face darkened and he turned to his notebook. "Do you remember your childhood? When everything was a mystery meant to be explored? When trees were tall, booming skyscrapers and seas were mysterious blankets of blue stretching lazily out across the sea? Rocks weren't just bricks for building homes and dreams, they were stubborn creatures wobbling around and were perfect for throwing? The sky was an endless mirror for dreams and hope? Animals were playful companions and forests held great mysterious creatures and brilliant adventures around every corner and glen?" He looked up at the Frenchman with deep forest green eyes. "Do you?"

Francis' eyes lit up and he was immediately hooked onto Arthur's words. His brows furrowed in interest. "Oui, I believe I do." He placed his book on the ornate, two hundred year old desk next to him. "The world was so fragile back then and one little idea could ruin everything; losing a stick meant you had no toy for the day and had to scrounge the rest of the week to find the perfect one!" Francis chuckled to himself.

"Yes, that's the best word for it Francis. Fragile." Arthur's voice was tinted with a light glee and a rosy nostalgia. "When all the world was right."

Francis rolled his eyes. "Ah, but the world was right when we grew up." He scratched nervously behind his neck. "Besides…well you understand the-how do you say 'scuffles'-life was good. We were blessed to have grown up in a world where regular people treat us like kings yet we love them even more than we did our kings that we were them; all in one person, all of the people of the nation."

Arthur placed his chin in his hand. He had to admit, there were multiple times in his life where he lived as a 'king', but he also took time to help the 'common humans', as France had once (jokingly) dubbed people. He worked as a jester, a merchant, a privateer (though would sometimes dabble in piracy, something he never told any of his bosses), a chimney sweep, an army bond collector, etc. etc. "I have been so overworked with occupations in my life that I had almost forgotten what it was like to be in that state again. Free as a bird with no obligations, no treaties to sign, no 'bosses' to impress, and even no taxes."

"Dieu merci pour cela!" France chuckled warmly. "Ah life without taxes, what a dream! Perhaps society is the reason for our change; not only our physical growth but our people change us. Their ideas change who we are to both ourselves and to other nations. We all are on a stage and we try to out-perform other nations in what we can bring to the world and to people; we all try to be better than the other, or compete with others by allying together."

Arthur glanced at the picture in his notebook again. "Yes, but," He began, his fingers moving over the spine on his notebook, "how do we lose that sentimentality, that fragile place in our minds where all in the world is right? Where one sees the magic in everything where-" Francis' face turned up in amusement.

"Don't you start selling your ideas of magic to me, Arthur," Francis uncrossed his legs and stood to reach for the kettle of tea the Englishman (ever so English-ly, France recalled with a small smile) brewed earlier.

"Oh bother, you know precisely what I mean!" Strange, he didn't insult Francis with his (incredibly silly sounding) British insults. Something was definitely off today. "When you're a child, you see the wonder of a new growing world around you-"

"And believe they're the cause of magic."

"Yes-wait…no! Drat, you're missing the point!" He raised his hands in annoyance. Arthur stood from his chair, came closer to the window, and stared at the scene before him. His face was surrounded by the grey light of the world outside.

Francis sipped his tea and sat down in his former seat. The room turned silent as the rain danced more heavily on the window and pounded on the street below. The only other noise in the room was the sound of Arthur's old clock ticking on the left wall.

"There he goes again, Old Father Time, turning the wheels of the earth 'round and 'round. We grow older yet here we stay. We mature, our minds hold more information than we ever thought we could, we trudge on through the mud of history and legend, gaining scar after scar from our battles and skirmishes. Yet, through it all, we plunge on into the history our people provide." Arthur glanced back at the notebook on his seat and smiled. "But, through all of our misunderstandings and trying to outdo one another, we all tread back to our former places of seeking wonder in the world and how we should strive more to bring back that wonder and mag-er, amazement to our people."

Francis sighed and sipped at his tea (which was, in his tastes, much too bitter). "What an interesting idea. Our people drive us, why not give them something back? After all, they've done just so well at driving us 'through the mud of history'."

The Englishman waved him off. "Bah, that's only because of your history, not mine."

"As if you haven't had any problems with your government or your people in the past."

"As if I had people every day holding strikes because their businesses won't give them a week more than necessary for holidays."

"As if I had an obsolete monarchy who act more like celebrities than any ruler with real power."

"As if I changed my form of government every single day."

"I didn't think we'd bring up Italie in this conversation."

"Well…well…I-oh bugger it!" At this the both of them snickered up into hilarious giggles. They smiled so much their cheeks hurt.

"What are we doing?"

"I don't know!" The Englishman tried to speak while laughing and set himself down in his seat. He took his pen in his hand and held his hand to his chin. "What were we talking about again?" Arthur laughed and covered his mouth.

France almost guffawed. "I think it was something about your sourcils poilus."

To Francis' surprise, the Englishman did not try to fight this fact and laughed all the more. "Yes, that must've been it! That or your barbe bizarre!"

"Mon Dieu, your French is terrible!" Francis mocked surprise by slapping his hands to his face. "And my beard isn't bizarre!"

"Your beard is about as beautiful as your English!" They both roared with yellow golden laughter for a while, rocking in their chairs and commenting on their physical features or their governments or even the news. Arthur had accidentally drawn on his chin whilst resting his head on his hand and that made them chortle all the more! If it were a hundred or so years before they would have been trying to strangle the other, yet here they were laughing at the other's imperfections and not having a care in the world.

The laughter slowly died down and both nations' sides and cheeks hurt. The rain continued to pound on the window and the sky stayed a perfect shade of grey (in all of the fifty shades, this one, dear reader, was perfect). The tea was long forgotten and had probably gotten cold by this time.

"Oh dear!" Arthur sighed as the last throes of laughter escaped him, wiping his eyes. "Do you remember when we pulled something like that when we visited the Hapsburg Palace?"

Francis smiled gently and his eyes had a faraway look. "Oh, I hoped you wouldn't remind me of how embarrassing I was as a teenager. I was so-how you say 'upstart'- and I always wanted to be right." He placed his hand over his face and grinned. "I remember that my boss had quite a night explaining my actions and how I was a disgrace to the nation and to my people. Course, he was staggeringly drunk at the time and could barely stutter a word so I just nodded the whole time!"

Arthur smiled at him and giggled lightly. "Yes, those were the days."

"And, there will be plenty more, Angleterre, you'll see."

Arthur stared at his pen in his hand. His voice turned quiet and solemn again. "Remember those days when we met other nations and the feelings that we had at that exact moment when we found others who were like us? How we were so delighted they shared the burdens of an endless life and the same hopes and dreams we still carry today?"

The rain began to fall more softly now, yet the sky stayed gray. Francis pondered that a moment. He recalled some of his first encounters with other nations, fellow people of his kind. It was amazing, naturally, that there were other people who shared their livelihoods and troubles (such as living longer than friends or lovers, seeing your people change, seeing the Earth change, not dying, being able to see about fifty incarnations of a story being told), but it wasn't particularly something on which to dwell permanently.

Francis spoke, his voice rumbling through the air like the afternoon autumn wind whispering across the French countryside, "We are the perpetually sad and the perpetually happy; not only because of the bittersweet echoes of the past, but of the beginning notes of our future." He smiled warmly at the Englishman. "Arthur, childhood is a blessing, especially ours. Thank God and His rich blessings that we had such a thing as our lovely childhoods." He walked over to the Englishman and looked at him as he was sat in his 400+ (either that or it was another hyperbolic age Arthur gave to his chair) year-old chair. "We must not only be thankful for what we have been given, but what we can do with what we are given. You've been given blessings: your people, your culture, your language, your history, and your childhood. What will you do with them?"

Hours later, they changed the subject to politics and wars and news of wars (conversation fillers as you may know, dear reader, nations do like to do the proper thing and small talk) and television shows and whom the newest Doc-er I mean figure in Arthur's favorite television show would be, etc. Finally, the rain stopped at about 4 in the afternoon (much after tea-time I believe, but don't count me as a source for that as I'm only an American and we, according to much of the world and what they think of us based on media and other rubbish, are to be quite ignorant of these things outside of our nation and just about everything else) and the two nations parted.

Just as Arthur was about to show Francis to his exit, Francis' eyes lit up. "Un moment Maître Angleterre," The Frenchman started as he walked about the room. "I forgot to pick up my book from your desk!"

He walked over to his seat and grabbed his book. Whilst he did, he glanced over curiously at the Englishman's drawing on his seat. France could not make it out at first, but when he adjusted he immediately recognized the drawing: both of the nations when they had first met each other when they were children dancing in the forest. France was slightly taller than little England (the only accurate portrayal, as Arthur forgot to add his infamous voluminous brows which France used to joke would scare women away from the poor Englishman) and they were both enjoying the sun and the pool of water next to them.

Francis smiled and didn't stop smiling until he reached his chateau in the Bourgogne region, cleaned himself, and plopped into his goose-down bed, dreaming of forests and kings and hope and the once-lost world of childhood he'd forgotten so long ago that now soothed every part of his ancient mind while he slept.

I sit and wander, where time goes

we try our best to teach them right,

as times change and our children grow,

We love them with all our might.

It's not easy to raise a child

at times, we don't know what to do

we weren't given any instructions

It's a challenge that's all new.

Our children, are our lives

and our most important goal,

to love and to guide them

and to place them in life's role.

Our children are our future

and time will only tell

the job we've done as parents

and if we've done it well...

(Source: Raising Children, Children Poem, author Shelley R. Davis)

Strangely enough, I got this idea from watching Mary Poppins.

Ah yes, translations of the French words. Well, I'm pretty sure you know what 'oui', 'non', 'Mon Dieu', and so on mean, but I can translate the others for you. Please, if incorrect, feel free to correct my French!

Angleterre: England

Italie: Italy (I'm sorry if what Francis said offends Italians, he's not very careful with his tongue mind you)

Dieu merci pour cela!: Thank God for that!

sourcils poilus: hairy eyebrows (shockingly, we're not the only ones who know about them)

barbe bizarre: weird beard (yes it rhymes)

Un moment Maître Angleterre: One moment master England (he'd use 'master' because he's the master of his house! *cue Les Mis music*)

And the references:

Hapsburg palace: in one of the strips, where France and England fight over America, they are (I believe) in Austria (at that time part of Austria-Hungary and the ruling power was made up of the Hapsburgs). I had fun with it.

Why the Bourgogne region: First of all, in English it's Burgundy (but it's in his third-person POV at that point so he'd call it by its French name, plus it gives it a more homey feel to this very homey story [fun fact, my synesthesia makes the word 'homey' smell like a fireplace, so I like typing it quite often...I hope that doesn't sound weird]). Second of all contrary to popular belief, Francis rarely visits Paris because he actually enjoys more rustic settings, Paris is lovely(I've been there so I should know) but he prefers the cultures and settings of the gorgeous French countryside, and Burgundy is stunningly beautiful.

Please feel free to review, favorite, bookmark, print out, make a shrine (don't go that far actually), etc. or do whatever it is you like doing. I don't want to order you around and you probably know how to run your life right now.