When he finally lifted his head and removed the brim of the helmet before his eyes, he saw nothing but death, desolation, a crude horizon of dark soil and a cloudy sky.
The weather forecast had been right in saying that the 6th of June would have been the nicest day of the week, nice enough not to bring rain or a rough sea, but still there hadn't been sunshine and the sand under his feet was heavy and humid, soaked in salty water and blood.
His battalion had been the first of the second wave of landings on Gold beach, just before the afternoon: his superiors had preferred for him to guide the attack from behind the front line, at least in the early hours of the morning.
Of course he had accepted, although reluctantly, Churchill and Montgomery's conditions: it was the price to pay to be finally back in action, after almost a year away from the battlefield. To 'cure his wounds' they had said, fearing that getting even more injured would cause greater losses of men in his army. But the truth was that being away from his dying men, working in the top secret undergrounds of Westminster meanwhile London was constantly bombed, had only increased his distress, anxiety and bad health conditions.
It may have been a cruel thought, but he was a Nation after all and he was born to fight for his people: breathing the thick, smelly air of battle once again had been like a gulp of fresh water on a muggy summer’s day.
At least for the first five or ten minutes, right before his cargo left him and his men just about the shore and they had to cover the distance by foot, hobbling through water and projectiles.
After that, he submerged himself in his best battle-mode, obliterating his thoughts in favour of quicker, swifter actions.
His squad had been one of the luckiest, encountering just a small amount of resistance on the sandy hills just above the shore.
After taking care of the remains of a small German division, he guided his men to the head of the marching line, opening the way to more exhausted and battered companies. When the afternoon came they were entering Port-en-Bessin, where part of the US army from Omaha beach had already taken care of most of the German troupes waiting there. Alfred's battalion wasn't amongst them, so he proceeded along the coast.
Francis had been waiting for him along the path, bringing news from the French resistant force and Feliks's men position on land.
They were attacked by a stray group of soldiers and battle inflame once again, for long hours.
His and Francis's men died fighting on the hill, in and out of German refuges and casemates.
Then the roaring in his ears quieted, the wind stopped blowing too strong on his face and he found himself alone, amongst allies and enemies' bodies on a French shore.
He looked around, then down again.
The battle was over on this front: survived soldiers were already occupying camps and men from the Red Cross were cautiously walking down the pathways, carrying stretchers and helping injured soldiers.
He felt completely exhausted.
When he finally untied his bloody uncomfortable helmet and let air brush his soaked sandy blond locks, a call came from the ground, a few feet from where he stood. A faint: ‘Colonel’.
He turned around and spotted a man lying on the ground, his blue eyes looking at him, his expression uncertain like he was on the verge of saying something more.
A violent wheeze shook his body, covered in dark soil and blood and more blood came rushing down his chin, dirtying his green uniform in big stains on his chest.
Arthur knelt before the man, quickly searching for the source of his suffering: a blow had tore half of his left hip open.
He recognized the man.
“Major-General O'Brien, sir. It seems you may need some help,” he said, lightly.
To England this soldier was just another human born under his flag, but to Arthur Kirkland this man was a superior: he had been offered higher positions in the army's ranks, but after the disaster that had been the First World War, he refused getting an higher position than Lieutenant Colonel. He had never wanted to win a war from inside a tent smoking cigarettes and giving orders, he wanted to be able to do that on the field, beside his men.
So England could fight, but Arthur had to take care of his status, which meant he had to make sure Major-General O'Brien would had been transported to the camp's infirmary and cured.
He looked around for the Red Cross, but a firm hand on his arm stopped him from shouting for help.
“No, there's no need,” said the low, croaky voice of the man.
“But, sir...” Arthur tried to protest, but O'Brien just shook his head, firmly although the pain.
“I'm leaving here, Kirkland, there's no need to waste a bed on a dying man.” he repeated, squeezing Arthur's arm tighter.
England kept silent, watching intently the man's eyes on him.
“How did yours do?” asked O'Brien.
“Well. Extremely well, though I lost some.” replied Arthur. “We came all the way from Gold”.
O'Brien nodded, wincing at the pain-inflicting movement. “I'm glad to go on this day.”
Arthur forced the smallest smile: “I agree, it seems like an okay day. At least it is not raining.”
O'Brien found out he couldn't laugh, since a strong wheeze blocked his mirth.
Arthur took his hand with one of his and sat on the ground, decided to wait for the man.
“What are you doing, soldier? Aren't you going back to the fight?” immediately asked the Major-General.
“It stopped some moments ago, sir. We won here and up east. I'm resting.” he said honestly.
“You're waiting for me to tell you to go rest somewhere else?” asked the man, with a spark of wit in his clear eyes.
“No, sir. I find this spot quite nice.” he replied on point.
“It would be an order,” said O'Brien.
“Then I would not obey to it, I'm afraid,” dared Arthur.
The man fell quiet for a moment, breathing with difficulty through his nose and mouth. He coughed up more blood, then asked: “Won't you leave me alone on my dying moment?”
Arthur couldn't decipher the tone, but decided to answer honestly: “No, sir. No one deserves to die alone. I would like to help, as much as I can.”
“You're a strange man, Kirkland.” said O'Brien.
“Thank you, sir.” replied Arthur, used to hearing the line.
Silence fell on them once again: all round the pair, murmurs of men suffering could be heard, amongst the screams of the seagulls and the distant roar of the waves.
“I would ask you to bring a message to my family, back home.” said O'Brien, then stopped.
“What are you supposed to say when you're leaving someone forever?” asked O'Brien suddenly, his voice growing more and more faint.
“That... you love them?” asked Arthur, not expecting such a twist in their conversation.
“Ah, that would be true, of course,” said the man: “But also a bit... selfish? No, that's not the right word, but... I want to leave something for them. For my wife and children.” he clarified.
Arthur nodded, ready to take the message for him.
“Kirkland...I ask you to tell my family they made me very happy. And that I hope, for the time I was given to spend with them, that I made them happy as well.” he declared, with the very last of his strength.
He coughed again, followed by a high sound at the back of his throat. His grasp on England's hand gave in.
“Yes, sir. I certainly will.” replied Arthur, just a second before the light in the man's eyes subdued and he closed them.
He said no more, slowly accepting death's grip on him.
Arthur waited until he could feel his pulse stop and his breathing quiet down.
Many of his men had died that day, just like O'Brien did. He could feel their weight on his back, the weight of generations of soldiers dying under his flags burdening his shoulders and back for centuries.
“Arthùr,” an accented voice called him quietly: Francis approached him warily, studying the long time friend and enemy-turned-ally's expression: “Someone you knew?”
“Not much, honestly,” he replied, grabbing the Frenchman's hand to be helped up: “Still, he was a good man.”
He looked around once again: the air was getting crispier as the sky was turning darker, preparing for the night to come.
“Es-toi heureux d'être rentré en terrein familier?” asked England in French.
“Oui” replied immediately France, stopping on the ground and smiling tiredly: “Ça fait longtemps! Ma terre, ma patrie!”.
Arthur smiled despite himself. “Arthùr, ne t'inquiètes pas, mais... l'atterrissage de Juno a été difficile,” said Francis, his expression back to serious, quite a sight on the man's face.
“Juno... les hommes de Matthew?” asked Arthur.
“Ils ont trouvèe une forte résistance et beaucoup d'entre eux sont morts sur le rivage...” explained Francis, turning slightly paler at every word: “Trop d'entre eux, Angleterre. Je crains qu'il ne puisse être là.”
Arthur nodded gravely: “It's our priority to find him, get him to safety and make sure he can endure it,” then he stopped.
“Could it be the first time he...?”
Francis nodded: “Je ne sais pas,” he said: “We always tried to shield the boys when it counted...” he added, receiving another firm nod from Arthur.
“I would feel very responsible if anything happened to them,” said Francis: “Ils ne sont même pas en train de combattre leur propre guerre.” he voiced, carrying on his old resistance against Canada and America's intervention.
Arthur sighed, agreeing: “Let's find them. Alfred's Fox Green was at Omaha, right? I heard they needed reinforcement, so I was headed there...”
They parted ways and Arthur went for the shore, where more men were working through the boats and crafts: he recognized some of them as his, some other as Americans.
The Omaha beach was a mess of bodies, dirt and ruins.
When he got there, in the middle of the once battlefield, the sun was already setting and the injured, still alive people on the ground had started to call desperately for help. Some men proceeded with him through the bodies with stretchers, stopping to check on the men and rescue anyone still breathing.
Arthur ran his gaze over the bodies of the Americans, some of them looking far too young to be there, and his mind filled with even more worries and doubt.
He started calling in vain.
“Damn it, boy! Where the hell are you?” he cursed out loud, looking around frantically.
“Alfred! Alfred Jones!”
“Sir, please...you must remain quiet.” asked a Red Cross behind him, afraid a new attack might come if some German soldiers heard his screams.
“I need to find Lieutenant Jones,” he said to the boy, who shrugged.
“I'm sorry, sir. I don't know him.” he replied. “I haven't carried any Jones to the infirmary”.
Arthur thanked him and proceeded, squinting at the sudden lack of light: behind the clouds there were holes of dark blue sky and on it, the stars were already shining.
“Alfred!” he called again, reaching a deserted area.
He looked around once more and gave in to desperation: images of what could have happened to America filled his mind.
He couldn't accept that both his boys had been injured today. Or worse: killed, captured, trapped...
“Alfred!” he screamed, the louder he could.
A moment, and a distant but clear voice replied: “Arthur?”.
And he ran.
Right into the open arms of the United States of America.
“Where have you been!? I was searching for you!” he exploded, relieved just to look at him and touch him and find out he was mostly uninjured, all in one piece.
“Artie, stop!” the other exclaimed when the older Nation's hands touched his face and the back of his head to check for wounds: “Arthur, I'm fine! I was looking for you too!” he laughed a bit, grabbing both of England's hands in his to block his movements.
Finally immobilised, England looked into his eyes in disbelief.
“Promise you won't get mad?” asked Alfred sheepishly.
Arthur stared some more at the other lifting one hand to show his eyes, bare without his spectacles.
“I...broke my glasses at some point and couldn't really make out where I was, so I waited and then I just kind of... wandered around searching for other allies?” he confessed. “You...” started England, but was interrupted.
“I figured out I just had to go east, but then at some point it grew darker, and...”
“You bloody idiot! The enemies could have found you! You could have been killed or taken prisoner or...Alfred, I... I can't believe you!” he cried, lightly punching him on the arm. “What else could I do?” exclaimed Alfred.
“Stay where you were and wait for help to come, you fool!” replied Arthur, getting even angrier.
“Well, help came in the end, didn't it?” asked Alfred, a bit quieter. Then he released his grip on Arthur's wrist to hug him again: “You're here, aren't you?”
Arthur sighed and hugged him back, as tight as he dared: “Yes, of course I am. Of course I am, my boy.” he repeated, briefly closing his eyes. Relief and exhaustion washed over him in an instant.
“You're not hurt, are you?” asked America, distancing himself to look again in England's emerald eyes.
Arthur shook his head. “But we need to get back. At least to the nearest camp...it's still dangerous around here”.
Alfred nodded, then looked around them, at the summer's night slowly descending on the land.
Arthur took his arm and guided him through the path he came from.
“We're going where the others are.” said Alfred firmly, then asked, “You know nothing about the others?”
Arthur swallowed with difficulty and replied: “I met France and I know Poland's men are good, but...” he bit his lower lip, feeling Alfred tensing by his side, “Francis said Juno's landing had been very difficult, and...”
Alfred's expression changed instantly to something harder, sharper. His stride increased in speed.
“We need to get there faster”.
“Al, we don't know where they are or if they found him...” said England weakly.
Alfred's expression grew even darker. “We need to get back.”
“I know...” said England, looking ahead.
“He's my brother...” said Alfred weakly, after a pause.
The older Nation grimaced in sadness.
They walked toward east until they reached Colleville-sur-mer.
There they found a Jeep directed toward the nearest Allied camp and when they arrived they found it filled with officials, already planning how to get a better and safer bridgehead on French territory.
In the medical quarters there was even more chaos, with hundreds of beds occupied by injured soldiers and many volunteers tending to them.
Alfred was about to run all around the tent and make an even greater mess when luckily Arthur found a French soldier and asked for General Bonnefoy.
At the same moment, Alfred stopped at a patient's bed down the aisle.
“Lieutenant Jones?” asked the man on the bed: half his head was bandaged, covering his right ear and eye.
He had a cast on his arm and his dog tags gleamed in the low light of the tent.
Alfred had to squint hard to make out the man's appearance and figure out who he was.
“Private Brown,” saluted Alfred, although being a superior, approaching the man: “I lost you bastards at around noon, where did your squad go?”
“We attacked a German casemate and were lucky enough to find one full of soldiers. I asked around after getting here: I'm probably the only survivor.” replied Brown, in an incredibly light tone.
Alfred sat on the side of the bed, looking straight in the man's eyes: “Where did they get you?”
“Seems like I barely missed a grenade on this side,” said Brown, pointing at his missing ear and covered eye: “Then fell on this arm and passed out.”
Alfred nodded, not sure what to say at that.
“At least I'm alive.” said the man, cheerfully.
Alfred smiled and looked at the small pile of belongings beside the bed. At the top of the pile there were two photos and a pair of glasses.
“Who are they?” he asked, pointing to the young girls and boys in the photos.
“My cousins back in Philly, sir. And the girl is my fiancée Carol. She just sent me that photo in her last letter,” explained Brown, pointing to a stash of papers: “I got a doc to give me my stuff so I could read my letters again, but I got it bad on this eye and the other's focus comes and goes...must have been the explosions,” then he added, “Maybe I won't even need the glasses after all.”
“If that's the case, can I ask you to borrow them for a while? At least until I find a spare one or get mine fixed,” asked Alfred, showing his broken pair.
“Be my guest, sir.” said the man, taking the glasses with shaking hands and delivering them to the Nation.
“I'll give them back as soon as possible.” said Alfred.
“It's no problem.” replied the man.
Arthur was back right after, and looked curiously at Alfred in his new glasses.
They excused themselves to Private Brown and exited, towards France's location.
France was in a private tent, with two doctors and Matthew.
Alfred marched in and ran to his brother's bedside, succeeding in both removing Francis from the only chair in the room and getting yelled at by the doctors for being bloodied and dirty near a patient.
“How are you, Mattie?” he asked, completely ignoring everything else.
Canada lay on his back, on white sheets already stained by blood: his face was incredibly pale and pearled with sweat and his breathing was fast and wheezing, difficult. He reached for his brother's hand and gave a faint but sincere smile: “Thank God, Al...you're here.” he forced out.
“'Course I am, brother.” said Alfred trying to reply to the smile with one of his own, although watery: “You gon' stay with me, right?”.
Matthew squeezed his hand, the looked to Francis and Arthur. “I'm sure you'll be fine, sweetheart. We're here for you,” intervened England, getting nearer to brush some stray locks of long, blonde hair from his colony's forehead: “How do you feel?”
Matthew tried to move a bit but failed, cringing at the pain. Alfred's other hand came to rest on his shoulder, trying as gently as he could to prevent his brother from get more hurt.
“I'm cold,” whispered Canada, with his eyes almost closed for the effort of talking: “And afraid?”
Francis couldn't contain a sob: “Mon Dieu...” then, whispering directed at Arthur: “Il est trop faible. Ils disent qu'il n'arrivera pas au bout de la nuit.”
Matthew's body shivered visibly and Alfred's gaze toward Arthur looked utterly devastated.
England had to look away from his suffering boys: “Stop it.”
“Stop it, Francis. We don't need this now.” he declared.
The he knelt beside the bed and gently caressed Matthew's cheek and said: “There's nothing to be afraid, my darling. We're here with you.”
“You'll survive, Matt. Promise.” said Alfred.
His brother smiled again, then frowned.
“Al, what happened to your glasses?” asked Matthew, extraordinarily succeeding in making them laugh.
“They broke somewhere down at Omaha,” he explained, shrugging. “These are borrowed.”
“Oh...” whispered Canada: “You could have used mine’s if I knew where they'd gone...” he sighed tiredly, “I must have lost them”.
“Don't worry, we'll find a solution,” said Alfred: “Besides, I'd look bad in yours.” he added, making his brother laugh, lightly and almost breathless.
At the opening of the tent someone spoke in French: Francis reluctantly excused himself and exited, followed by the only doctor left.
At that Arthur got up and announced: “I'd better look for something to eat.”
At the boys' panicked expression he added: “In the canteen. Obviously not cooked by me.” and the two relaxed.
“I'm staying here with you!” exclaimed Alfred to his brother just as Arthur was exiting the tent.
The night came around and the doctors told them to be prepared to lose Matthew during the following few hours.
However, they were completely ignored by Alfred, who didn't look up once from his sleeping brother's figure, feigning ignorance.
Arthur and Francis smoked their cigarettes just outside the tent and didn't talk at all, too focused on their thoughts about the war and the meaning of a Nation’s death.
A few minutes of silence and Alfred came out, looking for them: “I need some fresh air.” he shrugged, suddenly looking very pale and tired.
“Come with me, lad. You need some rest.” offered Arthur extinguishing his smoke. “I'll be with Mathieu.” said Francis, returning inside the tent.
“Just five minutes, Art. I don't need more.” said America firmly, refusing to follow England toward their shared tent.
“I'll have none of it, young man. You have to sleep.” replied Arthur stubbornly, stopping his foot.
Alfred was about to protest some more, but seemed to suddenly give up and just sighed.
“I want to stay with him.”
“Alfred, there's nothing more we can do about it... he's asleep now and I'm sure he'll go painlessly, which is the best thing we could hope for, right now. In a few hours he'll be back and then we'll help him as much as we can. But to do that, we need to be well rested,” he explained carefully, getting nearer Alfred to take his hand.
“So, now you come with me and get some sleep.”
“I'm not a child anymore,” said Alfred tiredly.
“You need sleep nonetheless,” replied Arthur, guiding him through the camp.
At some meters from the tent, Alfred stopped.
“Go in first, I have to give the glasses back,” he said, sprinting toward the medical quarter.
“Now? Can't it wait?” asked Arthur tiredly, to no one but the wind and the chilly night.
He got inside the small tent and prepared his and Alfred's sleeping bags, adjusting his belongings in a small pile and washing his hands, face and hair as best as he could with just a small amount of water from a bucket.
He waited for Alfred to get back and was about to go out again and search for him when the Nation entered the tent slowly, with his face and new glasses covered in tears and shoulders down in defeat.
“What happened?” asked immediately Arthur, alarmed.
“He... he died,” said in a small murmur Alfred, then added: “Private Brown died.”
Arthur calmed down, after being about to sprint toward Canada's tent: “I'm sorry to hear that, Alfred.”
“He seemed... just a while ago...” said America, starting to silently cry again: “Why?”
Arthur pointed to his sleeping bag and said: “Lay down.”
Alfred obeyed, still crying while Arthur got closer to him and wiped his tears with his cleanest handkerchief.
“Why, Artie?” the younger Nation kept on asking, with the same tone he used when he was younger and upset with something or scared by a nightmare.
He unconsciously rubbed his face against Arthur's hand, unusually bare of his black gloves.
“Because we're at war, darling. And people come and go faster this way,” the other Nation tried to explain calmly, while Alfred curled up on himself, not caring about anything else: he positioned his head on Arthur's thighs and sighed loudly.
England gently brushed his hair, finding them still soft despite the salty wind, the sea water, the sand and the black powder they fought through the whole day.
Alfred sighed deeply, closing his eyes to the last of his tears.
“Sleep, my dearest boy. You'll feel better when you're rested. And if you do, your men will get better, too.” said Arthur, finding in his voice the gentlest tone he could produce, remembering in a moment all the other times he used it to soothe Alfred's distresses.
“We lost too many...” murmured the younger Nation, a wet and warm blow against Arthur's legs, still covered in his uniform: “We can't go on like this...”
Arthur just hummed at that, still carding his fingers through Alfred's golden hair.
A quiet, warm silence fell on them: the camp all around the tent suddenly felt very far and different from the atmosphere they shared.
The ground under them felt hard no more, the sheets weren't so rough and the yellow light of the single, very small lamp felt somehow comfortable.
Alfred turned his head around so he could look up to Arthur's expression, a distant gaze full of memories.
“Sing to me,” he asked, very quietly.
Arthur looked at him, at his familiar sky blue eyes through new transparent lenses and smiled.
He decided to completely ignore the awkwardness of the request and agreed to it, in order to spoil his ex-brother some more and to recall more good memories.
He closed his eyes and started to sing very softly:
Of all the money that e'er I spent
I've spent it in good company
And all the harm that ever I did
Alas it was to none but me
Of course Alfred knew the tune and part of the words of this particular, very old song.
It came to America through sea some centuries prior, on ships, on the instruments and lips of Irish and Scottish sailors and travellers.
Of course Arthur would choose a song invented by his and his brothers' folk to say farewell to this grim day, in order to welcome a more hopeful tomorrow.
And all I've done for want of wit
To memory now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Alfred closed his eyes to the tune of Arthur's soft voice: now low and deep, now clear and vibrant.
He could clearly picture in his mind all the people his former caretaker was singing for: all the soldiers, their whole families, their friends waiting at home.
British people and Germans alike, Americans, Italians...
Oh, all the comrades that e'er I had
They're sorry for my going away
His brother's figure was lying still and cold on a bed not far from them.
Francis' tears that were so rare, so difficult to see, rolling down his cheeks while waiting for warmth and life to come back to Matthew's skin and eyes, his hands searching frantically for a pulse or a breath when there was none.
He sobbed, feeling a lone, cold shiver in his bones telling him his twin had gone: alone, this time, on a journey that was brief for them, given their nature, but anyhow still dark and scary.
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They'd wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
Would Ludwig be already asleep after the fight he lost today, had he really been fighting with his men this whole time? Or would he be somewhere in Germany, maybe in Berlin, watching the war unravel from afar?
And Feliciano, would he be singing too, at the very same moment? Singing just like Arthur, with his angelic voice, to soothe pain and lift spirits in despair?
Would Kiku come to the battlefield on his early morning still despising Alfred's choices, still wanting to follow his superior's orders to defeat and annihilate Yao's resistance? Would Ivan feel like they all felt on the battlefield, losing many of their men but winning a battle? Would he share the fatigue and sorrow and mourning they shared through looks and gestures, and the joy of winning only through empty words?
I'll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be with you all
Where were all the other Nations, all the others fighting this war on each side?
Arthur was still singing for him, for them.
What was their opinion on this war?
What was the whole world's population thinking in that very instant?
A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
Would this eternal circle of war and peace, life and death be their lives forever, their destiny as Nations?
Would their lives never feel satisfying, complete?
Alfred felt Arthur's body warmth under his cheek, under his fingertips. He felt grateful the man was with him in that moment: Arthur who had always been with him, in good and bad times, for joyful or terrible reasons; Arthur who he admired and cherished and had always loved so purely and truly and desperately; Arthur who had always been at the same time his whole world and a mirror through the world outside, the world of the others.
And knowing that Arthur too, despite being older and wiser, didn't know how to reply to all his questions, scared him.
That uncertainty scared him the most.
But since it has so ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
But here they were, despite all that came and went and came again.
Against them or others, be them united or separated.
Oh, he knew Arthur hated battles and wars, although his history seemed to say otherwise. Oh, he knew now he hated them as well, with the same intensity.
But here they were and here they stood, that night as well.
Arthur's voice and proximity and touch helped him accept, forget and forgive: strength from the Nation who taught him strength; love from the Nation he received the most love.
He was a Nation and as a Nation he had to behave. With this thoughts, he fell asleep.
Good night and joy be with you all
As he was finishing his song, Arthur slowly moved Alfred's body to a more comfortable position on his sleeping bag.
He whispered the last words to his boy's temple before kissing it softly and lay beside him, watching Alfred's sleeping face carefully, finally relaxed.
Slumber soon took him too, a brief and fragile calmness before dawn, before his turn of watch over Matthew's recovery, before a new day of war.
- French translations.
Es-toi heureux d'être rentré en terrein familier? = are you happy to be back on familiar ground?Ça fait longtemps! Ma terre, ma patrie! = it's been a while! My land, my homeland!
Ne t'inquiètes pas, mais... l'atterrissage de Juno a été difficile =Don't get too alarmed, but... Juno's landing had been difficult
Juno... les hommes de Matthew? = Juno... Matthew's men?
Ils ont trouvèe une forte résistance et beaucoup d'entre eux sont morts sur le rivage... = They found a strong resistance and many died on the shore...
Trop d'entre eux, Angleterre. Je crains qu'il ne puisse être là = Too many, England. I fear he can be between them
Je ne sais pas = I don't know
Ils ne sont même pas en train de combattre leur propre guerre = They're not even fighting their own war
Mon Dieu... Il est trop faible. Ils disent qu'il n'arrivera pas au bout de la nuit = My God... He's too weak. They said he's not going to make it through the night
I studied French in middle school but I'm really not that good at it, a very good friend of mine helped me translate the most of these lines. Sorry for any mistake.
- Historical notes.
Although being allied, the US and the UK had different opinions on almost everything during the war and that included battle's strategies. They tried hard to be as coordinated as possibile during the D-Day attack, but even in that occasion they fought very differently, also because of bad timings and sea's conditions. They attacked five different beaches: two were 'Americans' (code-named Utah and Omaha) and the other three were named by the British (Gold, Sword and Juno). Omaha and Juno had the greater losses and fought the worse battles.
On Wikipedia there is a good article about the whole operation if you're curious, but I also used some other sites and books as references.
- Some headcanons.
- America and Canada are twins or, more precisely, are considered twins. I don't really know if Himaruya ever spoke about it, but I usually read that Matthew should be older. Anyway, it's not like the case of the Italy brothers, in which we know exactly who the older is although they look almost the same, here they look the same and I imagined England and France deciding they're twins just in a conventional way, since they really couldn't tell who was born first.
- Death of a Nations during a war (as the Nations takes part of military actions) usually consist in losing a battle and many men. The Canadian's losses were severe during D-Day so I thought it was an ok event to introduce this headcanon (I'm sorry, Matt!). The death of a Nation is also different when not caused by war or attacks: usually the recovery time is shorter and it doesn't cause losses in the population but it may interest the economy. Anyway, when a Nation is involved in a war and fight on the field it usually means the attack is stronger, almost like they give more power to their men: that's why most Nations fight in wars.
- England spent about a year (between 1942 and 1943) in London, working for the Government. During that time he was never sent back to war on any of the fronts where the British Army was involved, since the King and the Prime Minister had decided he had already suffered too many injuries and they couldn't risk him dying on the battlefield, which would had cost them the loss of too many men. It was the first time in history that a Nation wasn't on the battlefield and, even though England still suffered from the bombing and for the loss of men, Churchill considered this choice to be a winning one.
-During that time France was mostly in London with England, since he had to escape after the occupation of Paris (14 June 1940) and the armistice. Canada and the other Nations of the British Commonwealth too had bases on British land. And later America as well, although he was often off on other fronts, particularly the Pacific one.
- During this 'second part' of the war, Ludwig is missing (at least officially) from the battlefields.
- Common people don't know about them being Nations, so they usually call each other with their human names when in the presence of others.
- About the USUK relationship: in my headcanon, they got together around the end of WWII (on the day of Churchill's famous speach about the "Special Relationship"). Before the war they had already come to be allies and somehow friends, but it was during these five or four years that they finally accepted the feelings they had for each other and were brave (and desperate) enough to talk openly about them and decide they could try and be together. Obviously this came very slowly after lots of obstacles and problems, or they wouldn't be themselves! XDThis said, during the D-Day and this fic in particular they're still in transition between being friends and being something more, but the events (and what happens to Matthew) makes them remember their previous relationships and being tied as brothers.
I have a whole, bigger fic already planned about these and many other events of the WWII, also about the other Nations involved. I hope I get to write it all, sooner or later :)
I hope I've explained everything I had to explain, sorry for the wall of text!
I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, but it's not always easy, so I'm sorry if you find inaccuracies or errors.
Also, sorry if some of the things I wrote or explained sound like some other fics around the web, I read a lot and I take inspirations (and headcanons) from already existing works most of the time, trying to forge my own vision on these arguments. But I also always try to write something very mine and original, so I hope I haven't offended or copied anyone!
Bye and thank you for reading :)