Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: July 2, 2020
Genre/Continuity: Anime, post-apocalypse speculation.
Disclaimer: “Hetalia: Axis Powers” belongs to Hidekaz Himaruya and is published by Gentosha, Shueisha, and various other parties.
Alistair Kirkland, personification of Scotland, wove through the foot traffic crowding the cracked pavement of the latest trading center he’d found near the remains of London. If he ignored the newer buildings, bicycles, and other surviving technology, he could almost imagine it was several centuries past. Not that he would. Living in the past wouldn’t do him any good, and it wasn’t like the past had been all that rosy anyway. But, it had been a few steps above the devastated wasteland he got to live in now.
Exactly how he was still around to enjoy the post-apocalypse was something he hadn’t quite worked out. He’d died; he knew that. Hardly his first death. But, definitely the worst. The last, searing blast of heat had been almost painless compared to the feeling of being shredded from the inside out as his people died and died and died. He’d felt their deaths long after his physical body was gone, each one a tear in his soul, until, finally, he lost himself in the darkness.
Alistair hadn’t expected to wake up again. Not in this world at least. Certainly not in a ditch miles from where he’d been last in clothes he hadn’t been wearing and with a face that wasn’t quite his.
Although, the face had righted itself in a couple days.
So, either his essence had been shoved into the body of some luckless - and possibly dead, cold and stiff as the body’d been - drunk or the beaten, weakened land had taken the long path of having him born the human way and only gradually feeding his powers and memories back in.
Wales hadn’t been any help in answering which when he’d found him. Said he woke up in bed one morning - a bed of all the disgusting luck - knowing who he was and mostly in the right body aside from his hair only being blond at the roots. He apparently didn’t live with anyone, and no one had come looking for him.
Alistair hadn’t been able to resist asking if Wales had even properly died or just fainted and slept through the worst decades. That got him a glare and hours of snide Welsh insults.
Eh, however it worked, they were alive now, and that meant he had his duties. To his surviving people, who were picking up the pieces and making the best of it like he knew they would, and to his family.
They’d drawn straws. Wales got to go find Eire, and Alistair would hunt down England.
Which was why he was here. No sense looking for his baby brother in London. If he’d been there - and the warning came so late he probably had - that body was ash, and he was more likely to revive where his people were strongest. Which was the bothersome thing about the brat making himself primary personification of the British Empire and later United Kingdom. He could be anywhere on the island.
But, Alistair was betting on near London. Little numpty had entrenched himself so deeply in politics and the old center of power, his spirit wouldn’t go far.
And, this place looked like the most prosperous yet. And, not just in trade goods. The people were a little cleaner, held themselves a little straighter, moved with a little more purpose. There were half-decent crops being brought to market, scavenged technology being put to good use, and he heard there was running water.
Perfect for his prissy little brother.
So, where was he?
Alistair had already combed through several similar settlements. If Arthur waited until civilization was back on its feet to waltz in after the rest of them had done all the work...
But, no, that wasn’t his way. Arthur would want to be at everyone’s shoulder watching to see they did things to his standard. Nevermind he wasn’t an empire anymore. Might not even be the dominant personification anymore, and wouldn’t that be fun. Alistair grinned at the thought.
And then, nearly ate dirt as someone knocked him hard in the shoulder.
Catching himself, Alistair spat a curse, but the man who had clipped him ignored it in his mad dash across the street. Reaching the other side, he barely missed crashing into two more people browsing at a street stall before snatching up a little bundle of mismatched clothes. A child, Alistair realized, probably only two or three years old.
“Where did you go?” the man wailed, cuddling the child close and completely ignoring the angry shouts of the couple he’d almost run down.
The vendor working the stall started apologizing to his customers while shooting the man an exasperated look. “He’s been here with me just where you left him,” he said irritably. Then, more gently, “Remember, yeah?” He looked back to the angry customers. “Sorry, he gets confused.”
Almost involuntarily, Alistair found himself drifting closer.
The odd man was bouncing the child in his arms, muttering nonsense. He looked young, but his dark brown hair was already graying at the roots. Happened a lot these days. Then, the man half-turned, and Alistair froze.
His face was... Not familiar. Not yet. But, it was close. The nose, the chin. And, one distinctly Kirkland eyebrow. The other looked like it hadn’t decided if it wanted to join in just yet or not. And, Alistair realized, his roots weren't gray; they were blond.
Alistair strode over. The man spun to face him fully, hazel eyes narrowed dangerously as he clutched the child close to his chest and one hand slid out of sight to reach for what was probably a knife.
But, Alistair knew that glare even if the eyes weren't the right color. He held empty hands up.
“There you are, Arthur.”
The man started to snarl back at him and stopped. His curled lip slowly flattened as his eyes searched Alistair’s face. Something like recognition flickered in his eyes.
“I’m not Arthur,” he said. “I’m—” He stopped. Frowned.
Alistair leaned closer. “England,” he said softly. Then, softer still, “Albion.”
Green sparked in the hazel eyes. Then, they narrowed stubbornly.
“I’m not—” he started again before stopping himself. “I wasn’t.” He nodded then as though that settled it.
“Aye, but, you are now?” Alistair asked, grinning despite himself.
Arthur didn’t answer him. “I know you.”
“You should.” Alistair snorted. “I’ve been stuck with you for a brother for longer than I like to remember.”
Arthur scowled. Then, there was a soft mumble from the child in his arms and his attention shifted, reminding Alistair for the first time that this Arthur - or the man he’d been - had a kid. And, Arthur wouldn’t leave it. Not that there was anyone much to care for orphan children now anyway, but Arthur always had had a soft spot for the wee ones. Well, they’d manage that somehow.
The child turned its head, and Alistair swore.
Like Arthur, his hair was too dark, his face the wrong shape, but that cowlick standing straight up...
“Th’— Where did he come from?” Alistair barked.
Arthur glared at him. “He’s my son.”
It wasn’t possible. America might as well be England’s son, fair enough. But, how could he be born outside his own land?
“And, where’d he come from?”
Arthur - and it was definitely Arthur now; he’d recognize that sneer anywhere - huffed. “The same place all children come from or do I need to explain it to you?”
It wasn’t possible. They couldn’t have children.
As personifications. And, while he was becoming more himself by the minute, Arthur wasn’t quite there yet. A few years ago when the child was born, he’d have easily been human enough.
“And, his mam?”
Arthur instantly closed up. “Dead.”
Well, that simplified things, but it didn’t answer his question.
“You know Jack here?” The vendor must have finally seen his would-be customers off as he came up to put himself halfway between Arthur and Alistair. He was a big man, a little broader even than Alistair, and his intent was clear. Alistair would have been annoyed if he hadn’t approved.
And, knowing his brother’d been “Jack” was ammunition he could use for a long, long time.
“Aye. He’s family.”
“That so?” The man wasn’t looking at him so much as Arthur, who had gone back to bouncing his boy.
Arthur glanced at the man, then Alistair. He nodded. “He’s Alistair.” He focused back on the boy, combing his hair with his fingers.
“And, he’s your family?” the man pressed.
“Older brother,” Arthur answered, not looking up. “He’s too annoying to be anything else.”
The man looked surprised.
Alistair barked a laugh. “Tha’s you too alright.” He half-turned to the vendor, offering a smile for the man who had clearly been looking out for his baby brother. “So… I'm thinkin’ he's not going to be much help in telling me what he’s been up to.”
The man nodded, cautious but willing to talk now that Arthur’d vouched for Alistair. “He doesn’t... He forgets. Doesn’t remember how or when he got here. He was a little over ten though.” He gave Alistair a hard, searching look.
Alistair just nodded. “Tha’ was when I last him saw leave with the old man.”
He left it there. No need to concoct some whole story he only needed for a few more minutes. Arthur had already confirmed his best guess. The land had taken the slow, human route, bringing them back in pieces. Now, he just wanted to learn what he could about America. If it was America.
Fortunately, the man accepted his insinuation with a weary nod. He looked old enough he probably knew life Before and After. And, either side, it could be hard. Families had been splitting and parents selling or abandoning excess children for centuries. A worldwide apocalypse certainly hadn’t made it better.
“Well, since he’s been here, he’s always been...” The man glanced at Arthur, who was ignoring them. Or had forgotten they were there entirely, off in his own world, chattering to the boy. Yeah, that kinda spoke for itself. “He wanders around a lot. Forgets to eat and what we talked about just an hour ago and where he left the boy. But, he never forgets the boy. Never. Panics if he can’t find him.”
So, Arthur couldn’t take care of himself or his brat. Well, Alistair had crammed food into Albion before. He could do it again. Just because Arthur was grown didn’t change anything.
“And, the boy’s mam?”
The man sobered even more. “Gone. Stabbed right in the street a couple years ago. Jack had been getting better with her. Remembering better. Lost it when she died.” He straightened. “We’ve cleaned things up since then. Couldn’t have that happen again.”
He glanced at Arthur then, and Alistair realized there was a connection between them. Different from guardian and ward. Nation and citizen. It was frail and incomplete like Arthur, but it was there.
Alistair suddenly knew why this was the most prosperous settlement. And, what Arthur was doing – or trying to do – in his “wandering around”.
“She was a sweet girl,” the man continued. “A little older than him. Stranded here with her parents when… when it all happened.”
Alistair’s ears perked. “Stranded?”
“From across the pond. America.”
Well, that answered that. He still didn’t know how America’d been born off his own soil, but the answer had gone from completely impossible to just crazy. Which, really, was normal for any of them, let alone Arthur and his boy.
So, Alistair nodded and then looked to Arthur. Arthur was looking back, eyes greener and alert again.
“You want to come with me for a bit?” Alistair asked.
His brother wouldn’t need him long. He was already waking up with his people’s help and guiding them in turn with his presence. But, Alistair saw how him being here had sped things up. A few weeks with him, and Arthur would be back to his old self. Then, Alistair could get back to his own people.
Now, the boy...
He was too quiet, too calm. Not the loud, excitable personality Alistair remembered. Even when he was quiet and serious, there had been an energy in the lad. Meaning, right now, he was less America, less Alfred even than Arthur was Arthur. And, he probably wouldn’t be getting better until they got him back to his own land. Just being born long distance had been impossible enough. No way the land could squeeze the memories and powers and everything that made Alfred Alfred back in with an ocean between them. But, they could worry about that later.
Right now, Arthur was looking from him to the vendor uncertainly.
“I’ll bring yeh back,” Alistair assured him. Then, softer, “I know you’ve got things to do here.”
That seemed to do it. Arthur nodded then, firmly, and looked up at the bewildered vendor.
“I’ll be back soon. We’ve a lot of work to do yet.”
It was half-promise and half-command and said with more than half of Arthur’s full force as the personification of the nation. It wasn’t surprising all the man could do was stare and nod in response.
And, even if the effort apparently exhausted Arthur’s ability to pull his fractured self together and he immediately slumped back into himself, it left Alistair feeling oddly encouraged. They were going to get through this. It would take a while, but they had the time.