When America left him, when the war was over and the treaty was signed and the young colony, nay, nation was fully and completely no longer his, England’s grief was such that sleepless nights plagued him for years.
He’d wake up in a cold sweat, sandy hair caked to his forehead and breaths shallow and hoarse as he attempted to control his racing heartbeat. And sitting up in bed, he’d massage above his eyebrows and shake his head, a mantra of ‘no, no, no’ crossing his lips as he spoke into the empty darkness.
It was on those nights, that he’d dream of what scared him most.
Other nights conjured up visions of America leaving him, of a rain soaked battlefield and a surrender, of tears he’d failed to hide, and of a declaration of freedom. Sleep would also bring him dreams of sunlit days, shared with a boy that had eyes as bright as a new world sky. Those should have been better dreams, but sometimes, they hurt even more than the ones of the war. Knowing he’d never be able to create memories like that again left a deep ache within his heart, his very soul.
But those dreams, while they caused him to toss and turn and sometimes to wake up and need a cup of tea, weren’t the ones that frightened him into cold sweats and an inability to sleep for the rest of the night.
In his worst nightmares, America would fade.
The young nation would simply not make it, unable to maintain a solid government, unable to retain his people, splitting off into many nations. Invaded even, perhaps. He’d seen and heard of so many young nations, kingdoms; so many of them not make it, merely to fade away into the annals of history.
It was nothing unusual. It happened often, and it was just a part of all things. Unless you were a nation, unless to you, the death of a nation, its reformation into something else, meant the death of a person.
Nothing scared him more than America ceasing to exist.
If he’d remained his colony, England would have never allowed that. He would have been safe, so very safe.
Sometimes he heard news of how much the new nation was struggling, with unity and with cooperation. And there were holdouts, former colonies hesitant to join the union. It frightened him.
It was always possible that even if the United States of America failed, America would live, renamed or much smaller or something else entirely, but still America at heart. But perhaps he wouldn’t. And it was entirely likely that America would make it and do quite well for himself, become a strong nation, like England knew the indomitable boy was capable of. But there was always that small chance…
The idea that someday that sunny-smiling boy across the sea would no longer be there, replaced with someone else or even many someone elses, made him ill with premature anguish and guilt.
It was an ache and an anxiety that he lived with every day, clinging to news from across the Atlantic like a lifeline when it reached him. He welcomed the dawn of telegraphs and telephones and televisions, because it meant that there was little delay in said news. He could always keep on top of what was happening to the boy, even when he wasn’t talking to him.
And it was during those decades of growth and commerce and technological miracles, with the dawn of a new era, a new century, that England finally began to relax.
A century and three quarters passed, and America, his boy from far away, was stronger than ever. He knew that there was never a point in time at which he could say he was ‘safe’, but damn if he wasn’t relieved. He’d made it through the storm, and although there would no doubt be many more along the way, England had faith in America’s resilience.
Everything with America was different now, but one thing that remained the same was how his birthday affected England’s health. While certainly they’d worked past many of their issues and were once again extremely close, his body still weakened and his heart was still raw to the point of it being debilitating on that warm July day.
“Well, I should at least call him,” England said, spinning the dial of the rotary phone.
“Hello?” America picked up after three rings.
“H-hallo,” England replied, a slight shake in his voice.
“England?” America queried, and his tone carried a tinge of what sounded like hope.
“Oi yes, who else?” he answered. “I just wanted to say….”
“You should be here right now! The party is so amazing. It’s pretty much the biggest party I’ve ever thrown,” America interrupted. “It’s a crime that my own boyfriend isn’t even here.”
“I’m not coming, America,” England said curtly. “We’ve discussed this already.” America expelled a dejected sigh. “But I wanted to say…” he took a deep breath, his heart beating heavily in his chest and his throat suddenly growing thick and dry, “I wanted to say… I’m glad that you…”
“I’m so very glad that you made it.”
“What do you…?” England could hear the confusion.
“So many of us don’t,” he elaborated, his voice soft.
There was a lull on the other end of the phone, punctuated only by America’s breathing and the sounds of celebration; music, voices, chanting, in the background. “Are you wishing me happy birthday?” America finally asked, a sly and teasing edge to his words.
“A-absolutely not!” England huffed. He cursed his reddening cheeks, even though America couldn’t see them. “I mean I’m glad you made it as a nation, you git! I’m glad you didn’t---“ he trailed off, voice nary above a whisper, “you didn’t… fade away.”
America’s breath hitched, and then there was silence on the other end of the line. And England knew, knew that he understood. He may have been young, but he was far from ignorant of the dangers of nationhood. “You’re bringing that up right now of all times?” America asked, and although his tone was teasing, there was an edge of nervousness to it. “You okay old man?”
England’s cheeks reddened further, this time in anger. He clenched the receiver tightly. “Idiot! I’m being serious. Do you have any idea how difficult it was for me to say this, and today of all days?”
“Whoa, whoa calm down,” America said. “Look, I’m sorry,” his voice softened. “You’re right. I know these things aren’t easy for you.”
England breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’m also glad.” He was almost whispering. “And I’m happy that you are as well.” England’s grip on the phone relaxed. “Thank you England, seriously. I do wish you’d come, but… this is enough for now.”
“No problem,” was England’s short, nearly inaudible reply.
America let out a quiet chuckle. “You’ll come someday. We have time.”
“Oh, is that so?”
“Yep. Because I’m not going away for a long time, and neither are you.”
In spite of himself, England felt his eyes well up. “Yes. Q-quite right.”
“There’ll be no fading on my watch,” America said, and England imagined him pumping his fist in one of his typical enthusiastic ‘heroic’ gestures.
“Idiot.” A watery smile crossed England’s lips as happy tears slid down his cheeks. “None on mine either.”