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Tales of Woe

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Set following "In Need of Representation"

2014 Common Era

England collapsed against his door utterly exhausted and spent. He was alone. Finally alone. No fussing members of the Commonwealth hovering over him, no nattering Frenchmen leaning on his shoulders, no panicked servants badgering him to to see if he needed a drink or for them to carry something.

(No wildly energetic or loud Americans laughing or grinning at him.)

Taking in the dark entry way of his house, England made a silent vow: he was never going back to Texas.

As a ghostly echo of pounding fists and sharp knives slid across his flesh, England forced himself away from the door, grabbing his luggage, and started trudging towards the stairs.

The PM had tried to insist that he have one of his brothers stay with him for a few weeks. The Queen had wanted him to come stay at the palace so she could keep an eye on him.

What madness. He'd never needed anyone before. He certainly didn't need anyone now.

As he lugged his suitcase to the top of the stairs, a wave of bitterness washed over him. There was no comfort a mere human could offer him. There would be no solace for the injuries he'd suffered from Scotland or Wales. At best, he could expect sneering contempt for allowing himself to be captured (Scotland) or a dull-eyed stare of vague incomprehension (Wales).

Once he reached his bedroom, England lifted his suitcase up and slammed it down onto his bed with sudden rage. He knew very well his brothers hated him. He'd rather die than go begging for comfort from them. Not that they would offer it. He hadn't gotten anything from them but enraged shouts or deadly assaults for centuries.

He was halfway through unpacking when he spotted the screen of his phone flash on. He'd tossed the device onto his bedside table, electing to ignore the many messages and missed calls for the time being. It had finally gone still and quiet during the ride home from the airport as the rest of Europe gave up on getting details from him about the attack in Austin.

Still, he hated a cluttered lock screen.

Dropping a stack of shirts back into his luggage, England scooped up the device and unlocked the screen.

F. Canada # Sent 15:07
You make it home alright?
sent to: England

He stared at the message for several minutes, a knot slowly forming in his gut. Why had Canada sent that message? Was this genuine worry or the wary-eyed concern of a subordinate Nation spying a potential opportunity for personal advancement? He would never have doubted the old Canada, the Canada he'd raised and protected. But now… in less than a week, his former ward had completely changed. Instead of being the gentile and dutiful child England had always… cared for… Canada had become unusually sharp and firm. All his attention and focused remained fixed on the newcomer - on America.

It had been barely a week since the… Incident. A shudder crawled up his spine and pricked his scalp, phantom hands threading into his hair and trying to rip it out at the roots. A soft, helpless whimper slipped past his lips and the phone fell out of his hands, clattering to the floor.

England sucked down a gasping breath. The room was too big. Heart hammering, his eyes frantically darted from wall to furniture to curtains - he needed a place to hide - he was too exposed vulnerable-

-had to hide-

-attack, someone could attack-

-everyone hated him, hurt him, mocked him-

-notsafe notsafe notsafe NOISE, HEARD A NOISE-

Gradually, the scent of dust and unwashed socks broke through the panic.

Shaking and lightheaded, awareness grew in his mind as he forced himself to uncurl from the fetal position and stare around himself. Crisp, white pleated linen hung neatly in front of him, the messy side of the hand embroidered border suddenly reminding him of quieter, more peaceful nights sitting alone at home. Above, thin wooden beams sat inches from his head.

He was cowering under the bed like a frightened child.

Shame pierced him, heat flooding his cheeks as he began to wrap his mind around his position. But then, he heard footsteps in the hallways - and they were drawing close.

Casting about for something to defend himself with, his eyes skimmed past the lost socks hiding under the bed with him. Then, through the gap between the floor and the bed skirt, he spotted his phone. His hand darted out, grabbing it to clutch to his chest.

The door opened.

"I told him not to… oh." The lilting voice trailed off as the speaker took in the seemingly empty room.

"Told you the runt wouldn't be here." Scotland's rogue brogue oozed with contempt.

Wales let out an aggravated noise.

"What? He's bunking off to get a drink."

"Canada's worried about him. As is France," Wales pointed out in a testy voice.

With a snort, Scotland stomped up to the bed, dried mud flaking off his hiking boots onto the floor. "Canada's overthinking things, as usual. England's always been hard on the wee lad." The bed quivered as the oldest of Brittania's children started rooting through the partially unpacked suitcase.

"Oh, will you stop that?" Wales sighed. "You're just going to find something ghastly you'll want to rend from your mind."

"Bah." Despite the dismissive response, Scotland dropped something back onto the bed and turned away. "What's say we go give Canada a call? Set up a meeting with this America person. If it's truly him, he's part of the family. It wouldn't do for him to think we're all bastards."

"Washington must be swarming with Nations by now."

"Which is why we'll go through Canada. Have a nice family dinner. We can give Ireland a call, see if she would care to join us."

"We'll have to leave North behind. He lost his passport." Wales' voice was growing softer as he drifted back towards the door.

"It's probably for the better. He's not even a century old. No, we'll go and feel out America. Who knows, perhaps with him around we'll finally be able to break away from our Dear Brother." With that final, dire pronouncement, the door slammed shut.

Silence fell on the room like a heavy blanket. Still cowering under the bed, England buried his face in the crook of his arm, eyes stinging with new tears. He always let himself forget just how much his brothers hated him. All he'd ever wanted was to be strong enough to stand up to them. He'd built an empire that spanned the entire globe and made Brittania the greatest power in the world. And yet, not once had Scotland ever offered him anything but the bitterest contempt. He'd only shelved his litany of complaints and insults during the World Wars, standing shoulder to shoulder only in the face of utter annihilation.

Wales, meanwhile, drifted along in Scotland's shadow, never actively cornering rebellion like their eldest brother, but always pushing, always acting out in the prettiest way. When he wasn't composing insulting poetry or songs, he was pretending he didn't understand English and would only communicate in the most obscure Welsh dialect he could think of. It made running a government hell.

It was all just proof that the dreams he sometimes had of playing happily with them while a woman watched over them were the miserable, fanciful imaginings of his own twisted mind.

Forcing the tears back, England slithered out from under the bed. Tossing his phone onto the mattress, he dug back into his suitcase, resolving to unpack as quickly as possible. He had work to do, the work of running a country and keeping his people safe and happy.

As he finished sorting through the mixture of clean and dirty clothes, he started composing a mental list of tasks:

  • Get North a new passport
  • Alert the PM that Scotland and Wales were plotting again and may fall behind on their paperwork
  • Make sure Sweden and Australia had received Sealand and Wy's updated itineraries given that the micronations had elected to remain in the United States for a few weeks
  • Message Canada
  • Write a report about the entire Austin Incident
  • Figure out how the hell he was going to repay the life debt he now owed the so-called United States of America

As his mind briefly lingered on the Incident, England froze, fighting back the urge to crawl back under the bed once more. Something else to add to the list, he realized with a bitter thought: Squash the urge to run and hide once and for all.