One night as they camp under a snow drift for warmth, he compares the baby polar bear that had been following them to a warm fire. America is trying to keep their spirits up and suggests that he name the bear ‘Fire’
Canada sleepily replies “That would be a silly name… to call a snow-bear Fire…”
“I think it would be impressive. It sounds like a warrior name! You just said he was like one. What’s your word for that, anyway?”
Canada is quiet for a while, eyes half-closed. The polar bear is curled up next to him, almost as tall as him now that they were both stretched out.
America is scared that he’s being erased again and buries his head into his brother’s shoulders.
Canada mumbles “I guess Ikkumo would be an okay name. Hard to forget a name that fits terribly”
America grins and burrows harder into Canada’s back.
“I’ll make sure you don’t forget. Sleep well, brother.”
“mm~ Sleep well”
“Brother! There’s an animal following us! What if it wants to eat us!”
“Oh, that’s just Ikkumo. He’s your bear. You fed and named him and now he follows us.”
Canada just hummed and continued clinging to America’s coat, head tucked down onto the other child’s shoulder. America pretended not to notice his sibling sneaking worried glances behind as they walked.
The days were not always pleasant. Sometimes Canada would wake up and have no idea who America was, or where they were or even who he was. the violet-eyed boy would look bewildered as his brother pulled the coat over his shoulders and tugged down the furry hood. Other times he would go missing when America was digging through their packs for some rations of dried meat and scavenged tubers.
The blonde would simply forget why he was waiting around and wander off into the snow, staring at the sky and earth with uncomprehending eyes.
If night had fallen and the ribbons of light filled the sky, he always had a much easier time finding his lost sibling. All the southern brother had to do was become still and silent, to listen. If the lights shimmered across the sky, his counterpart could always be heard in the distance, whistling some unnamed tune.
It was those days that America was most terrified, often considering adding a tether to connect them. He never ended up going through with it, thinking that path was far too humiliating. To treat his own sibling like an animal.
He would just be more careful, to never lose his precious brother.
There were good days as well, when Canada woke up alert and curious, knowing instinctively where they were in his lands and speaking clearly. Those were the wonderful days that America cherished, where his brother almost always remembered Ikkumo’s name and would call him ‘Brother’ trustingly. He would help to fish for the bear, relying on his connection to the earth and sky and sea to draw the aquatic animals to the surface to be scooped out. .
Their bear was always well-fed, led around and snuggled at night by the two earth-children.
One morning, Canada awoke earlier than his brother and was filled with longing for (something) and wandered away. America frantically searched for him, and eventually found him curled up with the white bear under a nearby pine tree.
America crawled underneath the boughs and sat with him for a while, watching the snow drift down around them.
“Thank you, for staying with me”
America started, not expecting words after so many sunsets of silence. His brother’s voice was soft and raspy from disuse, translucent blond eyelashes only barely hiding dark purple irises.
“Thank you for helping me travel this far, and not giving up on me, even when I forget and try to turn back.”
America wasn’t sure what to say, so he just mumbled an acknowledgement and ducked further into his hood.
“I know…. I know I cause a lot of trouble, and you always worry about me. I know there are some days when I cant…”
Canada made a muffled noise, throwing blond curls flying with a violent shake of his head. He leaned back sharply, eyebrows furrowing together in a distraught glare at the branches above them.
“I just can’t remember!”
He tapped the back of his head on the trunk. America made a move to stop him, but Canada turned his sharp glare to the other boy.
“On the days that I don’t remember anything, I’m not disconnected from the earth, like you keep saying I am. I can feel every tremble of my glaciers and the gnawing hunger of every bear waiting beside a breathing hole. I feel the urge to take flight and head south and I somehow know. I just know that this isn’t how I’m supposed to be. I’m meant to be part of this earth, like a living spirit of the wind and mountains and ever-frozen tundras but for some reason that I can’t understand - I’m NOT. I’m connected to the people and to you, but no more than any other living thing across my body and I know there’s a reason for it. Why are you so connected to your people? Why should I be the same as you? I’m not… I’m not…”
His head fell down again, cheeks red from the cold.
“I’m not even supposed to be Human Representative. This isn’t me.”
The blue-eyed brother stared for a moment before closing his eyes and sidling closer.
The smaller boy only hugged his bear tighter.
“I’m sorry, brother, I have wronged you.”
Curious orbs turned toward him.
“I’d like to tell you a story, once more.” He took a deep breath.
“When I was born, I awoke in a meadow of flowers and long grass. The sun was high in the sky, and the earth was alive and bountiful. There was a human, not much older than we appear now, sitting beside me. She said to me “surely you must be a child of the spirits. Your hair is like straw, skin like snow and eyes like the clear sky above everything. I’ve never seen something like you.”
Like you said, I had an awareness of all things that made up me. I knew of her language, just as we know the language of owls and deer. I said “I am you, just as I am all things. Tomorrow I may be a hawk, but today humans seem interesting.”
His brother interjected with a small snort, burying his face into Ikkumo’s fur.
“Hey, what’s so funny!”
“I’m sure you were not so mysterious.”
The older brother waved his hand, impatiently.
“That’s not important, let me get to the point!”
He huffed, nudging the violet-eyed bow with his shoulder. The animal skins rasped together.
“Anyway… where was I? Yeah, so a girl found me and brought me to her village,
America was somehow the cause of Canada being stuck as a human. America had wanted to show his brother the amazing potential of humans, and dragged his form to match, despite the boy’s protesting (he had been a blackbird, at the time)
The forced transformation linked them, since America had been concentrating on his own form, and not on what form Canada should have taken, had he been human.
The result was a near-identical young boy, with soft violet eyes instead of blue. The first day was wonderful, and after Canada stopped complaining, they had a wonderful day exploring the human encampments.
America’s voice was soft,
“The next morning, you had a blank look in your face, and didn’t recognize me.”
“I’m sorry, for hurting you.”
“I should be the one saying that. I should have left you wait, and choose on your own.”
America awoke the next morning, cuddled up next to his brother. The smaller boy’s cheeks were slightly red from the cold, adorable. He lifted a mitten and brushed a strand of that golden hair, so much like his own, away from the round face.
Those violet eyes opened.
“Who are you?”
For the thousandth time, his heart shattered.