America hasn’t really paid him much attention before now.
Yeah, some of his people have immigrated, but so have everyone else’s, and his aren’t the kind that get the rabble-rousers all up in arms. They live up north and they talk kinda funny and they make cheese or something, don’t they? Good, clean, respectable folk.
He hasn’t paid him much attention, and isn’t really planning to, as ’39 drags on and the rest of the world sets itself on edge, and he tries to take solace in his isolationism like any reasonable nation should - until October, when a report crosses his desk. He reads it, carefully, and he frowns.
War is going to happen, all right, in the last place he’d expected - Finland. It’s not just America; hell, the world hasn’t paid him much attention before now. America tries to conjure up an impression of him and all he remembers is a glimpse of a smiling face from his childhood - friendly, agreeable. Innocuous.
Not the type to get caught up in all of this.
And since that memo’s crossed his desk, America’s been watching - who hasn’t? - and he’s not afraid to move, far from it, but he knows that It Doesn’t Concern Him. Concerning him is what got him involved in the last mess and he’s learnt his lesson this time. Still, he sees what’s going on and America doesn’t know if it’s some secret plot of Hitler’s or if Russia’s moving on his own but he knows like hell that it isn’t self-defense, and America doesn’t like bullies.
He does what he can, never mind that it’s a lot less than what he could, and writes a warning, though he may as well have kept silent. All the strongly-worded missives and the best diplomacy the world can offer - and they are offering it, all of them, because even if they won’t admit it they’re all dreading what comes next - do absolutely nothing, and it’s clear sooner rather than later that there’s going to be another war.
If he were anyone else he’d tell Finland to capitulate. Give up now, save your people, and if you’re lucky maybe you won’t become another Poland. He doesn’t, because anyone with half a brain can see that that’s the wisest choice and with the thinking already taken care of America’s free to indulge his idealism.
When a Russian shell lands on a Russian village and the war begins in earnest, America’s there with the rest of them to condemn, and to shake his head at what’s sure to become another massacre.
And then it doesn’t, and America begins to pay attention.
‘Plucky little Finland,’ the newsreels call him, and if there’s anything America likes, it’s pluck. Of course, that and a nickel will buy you fare on the subway, and it’s not his war in the first place, but everything else is in stalemate and America likes having someone to root for. There’s just something about it, about long odds and patriotism and stopping an empire… something that’s got at least a few hundred of his citizens fired up, and when they volunteer America figures he might as well make the journey with them. Not as a soldier, because that won’t stay quiet and if Russia doesn’t kill him his boss certainly will, but he thinks, at least, that he should know he’s got support.
His boss doesn’t like it at all, but as far as gestures go it’s a grand one, and America’s fond of those.
America’s not sure what to expect when he sets off. He’s got a head full of high hopes and high-minded ideals but once he gets there all he notices is the cold. His skin freezes he can’t feel his face and he wonders at daring to fight a war in this, because America knows full well that cold kills.
He bids farewell to his citizens and looks for the politicians and learns that Finland’s not with the diplomats. He’s with the army, and he won’t leave. It’s a choice that’s either stupid or brave and America being America he’ll go with the second option. His first thought, when finally meets him, is that ‘little’ is definitely right. He’s sitting and sharpening a knife and looks like he wouldn’t withstand a chill breeze, let alone a war, but he’s still standing.
“Hei,” America says, and that’s all, because his Finnish is terrible.
Finland doesn’t seem to mind. He sets his work aside and strides right up and shakes his hand - no gloves, in this cold! - open and affable, even with the circumstances. “Welcome to Finland,” he says, and his English is perfectly clear if strangely accented, and America’s used to strange accents.
America returns the handshake and resists the urge to call him ‘kid’ - he’s not sure why, perhaps something about that unflagging grin, that’s all defiance and daring and guts - “My president won’t let me send the army, and the diplomats don’t want to hear it, but… America supports you.”
It falls a little flat to his ears, now, as he stands and freezes, but Finland thanks him, nonetheless. America hadn’t really planned what to say after that, and looks back at the knife that Finland was sharpening and Finland catches him looking.
“Not enough bullets,” he explains.
He’s matter-of-fact about it even though he should be panicking and America thinks that in the face of this all he can contribute is a few hundred people and a handful of planes.
Sadly, that seems like it’s gonna be a real big help.
Before America can start to wax philosophical someone comes in to tell Finland something that America doesn’t understand, and in response he starts to gather his things.
“What is it?”
“The Russians are advancing. You should get out of here,” he says with a mirthless laugh, and suddenly he looks his age. “I don’t really want to be known for the death of two democracies.”
And there should be a speech here, something about the good fight and the underdog and the hero always coming through, but America looks at him still smiling and can’t bring himself to tell a lie. “I’m sorry,” he says, “I -”
“That’s okay,” Finland says, and shoulders his gun. His smile never wavers.
Yeah, America thinks. This one’s got guts.