And A Bottle of Rum - Chapter 2

 Arthur glanced at the clock on his mantle and realized he'd been sleeping in. He was supposed to be in conference in ten minutes. "Oh God, I'm late."

The pirate's eyes lit up. "See? Yer already turning back inta yerself." He slapped England on the back, sending him sprawling. "Now ye just 'ave t' ferget somethin' really important, get int' a fight on yer way t' work, an' maybe kick a puppy."

England suddenly remembered he'd forgotten the report he was supposed to write. Wonder-fucking-ful. "Oh shut up, you!" England snapped, pushing himself to his feet. He ignored the apparition and dashed upstairs. One glance in the mirror told him he wasn't running straight to work. As he watched, his reflection suddenly transformed into the pirate. It grinned and walked forward from the mirror.

"Uh-oh. Can't go to work looking like a drunkard, can ye? Or can ye?" He poked England in the chest like a bully. "Will it ruin yer perfect li'l nancy-boy reputation?"

England brushed him off, flustered. "No. I don't have to worry about my reputation. Leave me alone, I'm busy." He walked into the adjoining shower room and closed the door, locking it. He stripped and showered as fast as he could, almost slipping when he stepped out of the shower.

The pirate, who had been standing there the whole time, caught England by his upper arm and righted him, chuckling. "Don' slip, ol' boy."

England wrenched his hand away and grabbed a towel, covering himself. "Get out of here! Have you no decency?"

The pirate stared at him. "Are ye serious? I don' know what decency is." He rolled his eyes. "How can ye be embarrassed in front o' yerself? Ye really need work, matey."

England flushed. Of course. How silly of him. How could he think of an apparition of his former self as a person? He was being ridiculous. He shook his head and ran into the other room, throwing on a suit and leaving his tie draped around his neck. He darted down the stairs, grabbing his car keys, and flew out the door. He hopped into his emerald green Ford Focus and started it. He turned over his shoulder to back out of the driveway and saw the pirate staring straight back at him from the back seat. "Will you leave me alone? I'm really busy!"

The pirate huffed. "That's yer problem. What kind o' ship is this, anyway? Are ye a grandma, now?"

England growled and pealed out of the drive way and down the street. He glanced nervously at his dashboard clock, simultaneously trying to keep his speedometer needle within five miles of the posted limit. It was driving him crazy. He just wanted to pass these bunch of slow jackasses.

"So do it." The pirate spoke from the passenger's seat. "Pass the buggers. Blow 'em outta the water. Jus' like the ol' days, Captain."

England shivered at the word. Captain. Back when he had power. That's what they called him. When they respected and fear him. Now he was "Old Man", "Drunk", "Loner". He used to be someone. Captain. He shook his head. "I won't. I can't risk it, I'm already late, I don't need a bloody ticket."

"No wonder that brat used ye as a doormat to his New World, Arthur. Ye got no spine t' stand with." He chuckled cruelly. "I understand. It's too hard fer ye. Wouldn't want yer li'l princess fingers printed up in th' records. Wouldn't want anyone t' think ye weren't a virgin."

England fumed. "Ok, I am NOT a virgin, and you bloody well know that!"

"Well, ye bloody well act like it. Aw, ye missed another light. Tough break, Nancy."

England suddenly stomped on the gas, speeding up and running the yellow light just as it turned red. He whistled through the intersections and to the highway. He wove in and out of traffic, exiting at twice the posted off-ramp speed. He pulled into the parking lot five minutes late, parking near the entrance.

"That was the fucking best birthday ever! I mean like, of all time! Way better than anyone else's birthday in the history of birthdays!" Alfred grinned as he walked into the conference room, arm swung casually around Japan as the other made wild hand gestures which he word he spoke. He stepped away for a second, just barely aware that his arms were in danger of hitting the Japanese man. "...and then suddenly BOOM! Ah ha ha ha, the fireworks were better than ever this year!"

Japan smiled politely. He was by now used to the noisiness of America that many considered rude, though this current time was one of the few where Kiku understood where the other was coming from. Firework festivals in the summer were extremely popular in Japan; at least one was had every day somewhere in the country. Kiku could not get enough of the dazzling light show illuminating the sky, and apparently neither could his people.

However, though he agreed that the fireworks as well as many other elements of America's birthday were wonderful, he thought that of other nation's birthdays as well. All cultures were different, it was impossible to compare any aspect of them when each was special. America's birthday was great, but he could not say it was the best when other nations' were just as amazing.

A few quick, short movements caught the corner of Japan's eye as Italy rushed into the conference room, waving his arms around just as wildly as America as he gazed up at a stiff and tired-looking blonde. Japan frowned at seeing the dark circles under Germany's eyes. The other must have not gotten much rest again – did Italy really kick in his sleep that much? As his friends began making their way to sit down and America seemed to have no intention of pausing in his long rant about his birthday, Japan coughed politely to get his attention. "Ah…Amerika-san*, do you mind…?" He said, gesturing to where Germany and Italy were sitting…right nearby Russia. On second thought, maybe he would sit with America today.

"Huh? Sure! Go ahead, see ya later Japan!" Alfred said, waving his hand goodbye as he went to go sit next to Canada. Too late. With a deep sigh, Kiku slowly made his way over to an energetic Italy and an annoyed looking German, making sure to take the place on the other side of Italy, far from Russia.

Italy waved his hand quickly as Japan sat down, greeting the more serious nation with a wide smile. With a small smile of his own, Japan nodded his head in greeting, making Italy beam at him before turning back to Germany. "Ve, Germania*, we should start soon if you don't want me falling asleep again. My siesta starts at three, and after that is pasta~!"

In return, Germany rubbed his temples, choosing not to comment on the fact that Italy slept and ate more than the average person should. "I would, Italien*, but unfortunately England has chosen the day he was supposed to start the meeting with his report to be late." It was clear in his tone of voice that Germany was already resisting the urge to scream, and so early in the morning too.

England rapidly darted up the stairs, no time to wait for the elevator. He got to the door and wrenched it open, stumbling, hung over, into a room full of his peers. He tilted his head down a little so his hair would partly cover his eyes, which were ringed with dark circles and probably still bloodshot. Though the shower had gotten rid of the grime and the smell of alcohol, his clothes were wrinkled, his hair was unkempt, and he had no fucking report. He cleared his throat. "I'm... so sorry."

"Hey, Anglija.*" Russia spoke up, breaking the stone silence that followed England's arrival. "Are you doing report on what happened to your tie?"

England flushed, hands flying to his throat. Indeed, he'd forgotten to tie his tie. And he had it tied every day. God, what was the matter with him? And why was Russia so into detail, anyway? Like he was just here to poke fun at him. A good pistol-whipping would fix tha- he shook his head, concerned. Why was he even thinking like that? Attacking his peers over a tie? He was crazy. At least he hadn't kicked any puppies.

He took his place and sighed, struggling to fix his tie before clearing his throat. "Again. I'm very sorry. My house was um... broken into last night." He chided himself for lying. Why didn't he just admit he failed? "And if anyone else is offended by my tie, please don't hesitate to tell me." He gained a little satisfaction when Russia's smile fell into a cold stare. There. Not so funny now, was it? Stupid jerk. Like England didn't know how he was chasing after Japan. Poor Japan.

Germany raised an eyebrow at England's appearance, choosing not to comment as Russia took up the liberty of doing so. As a silence descended upon the conference room once again, he coughed as he stood up, turning to the late attendee and attempting not to shout at him for detaining the meeting. Germany liked to run by a schedule, the one thing he actually had in common with Italy. However, unlike Italy who dealt with delays by making Germany rework his whole schedule to coincide with the problem, Germany instead stressed out over getting everything done in the short time period he had left. Ugh. Maybe he should take a few lessons from Prussia on lying back and not fretting over complications in his day. Then again, Prussia caused half his problems (Feliciano causing the other half).

"England, are you ready to begin your report?" Or, like the rest of you, are you completely unprepared? Ludwig resisted saying. He sighed as he felt a headache coming on. These meetings took so much out of him, and nothing ever got done.

Beside him, he noticed Feliciano begin to slump down in his chair. Sure enough, as he turned his head to investigate, the nation's breathing was heavier than before, and he could hear a faint "Ve…ve……" with each breath out. Verdammt**, Italien! Don't fall asleep so early in the meeting! He thought loudly to himself, debating whether to yell at Italy now or wait until after the meeting. Yes, there was definitely going to be a major headache coming. And since they were at a meeting, he couldn't take a Kava.*** Verflixt.****

England swallowed nervously. He had no report. Great. He couldn't even remember what it was supposed to be about. He cleared his throat nervously, wishing he'd had a chance for a cup of tea. He had the worst cottonmouth in the history of hangovers. He tried to compose himself, struggling to recall the topic he had two weeks to write about.

His blood ran cold when he saw the pirate walking around the table, unseen by the other nations. It paced, as if looking for something. England tried to ignore it, distracting himself by attempting to wing his report. He was rambling about something he was sure was off-topic, trying to fill in with talk of endangered species and exports, shooting in the dark for something.

The pirate was standing behind Alfred and Matthew. England's eyes followed his every movement. The phantom ran its gloved fingers through Alfred's hair and grinned at England. It hummed casually, as if bored. One hand carefully wrapped itself in the blond hair as if about to wrench the boy out of his seat by it, but suddenly he changed his mind and released him. England watched quizzically. What was he playing at? For a moment, Alfred frowned when he felt something in his hair, and ran a hand through it right after the pirate's own fingers had moved away.

The pirate moved on, reaching around Matthew and leaning on the table. Matthew's pencil hovered over a blank sheet of paper, pretending to take notes. The pirate reached out toward the boy's hand and knocked the nearby glass of water over into his lap. Though only England and America seemed to even notice Canada jump to his feet, startled and embarrassed, the pirate laughed aloud. "And 'e thinks 'e knocked it over, too!" England furrowed his brow, trying to concentrate even as the pirate went on his way around the table. It stopped behind Russia and England's voice trailed off for a second.

The figure was gesturing something. Something about dropping something. And pointing to Russia. England's eyes widened. He resisted the urge to shake his head, still faintly aware that all eyes were on him. He quickly began rambling again to cover, nervously watching the apparition.

The pirate grinned wickedly at England and placed its hands on the back of Russia's chair. Slowly, very slowly, he pulled backward. Russia subconsciously leaned back, probably thinking he was doing it himself, staring down the table at Japan and not paying attention. Suddenly, the pirate grabbed Russia's shoulders and tugged. Russia's eyes doubled in size and his mouth opened slightly, but nothing got a chance to come out.

England winced at the sudden loud CRASH as Russia's chair fell backward onto the hard floor. Russia himself grimaced when his head collided with said floor. England bit his lip to stifle a chuckle, chiding himself. It wasn't funny, what if he was really hurt? But why should England care? Russia was a jerk.

The wetness in his younger brother's lap gave America an idea, and he grinned as he stood up with Canada as silence came over the meeting room when Russia fell over. "Oh no, Mattie! You could catch cold like that, come on, let's go to the bathroom and dry you off." Without giving Matthew a chance to protest, he put an arm around the shorter nation's waist and lead him out the conference room doors, glad to escape England's boring rambling and have a distraction.

England paused in his speech as everyone's attention turned to the embarrassed nation on the ground. "Russia, did you have something you wanted to input? Or do you just like lying on the floor?" The words left his mouth before he could stop them. He turned and saw the pirate standing next to him, mouthing the words he'd just said. Was he being controlled?

Russia glared at England. He quickly stood up and picked up his chair, righting it with a loud BANG on the linoleum before dropping back into it heavily. He glanced at Japan to see if he'd seen him make a fool out of himself. He should have known he was too tall to lean back in these stupid little chairs. Why was he even doing that? "Just do your damn fairy report..."

Arthur flushed, hoping he hadn't really been talking about fairies, but Russia hadn't been paying attention either, so he probably wasn't serious. He cleared his throat and tried again, addressing the current fuel crisis, and watched as the pirate walked a few feet forward and stopped, sitting down in the empty seat next to Japan.

Japan's eyes widened as Russia and his chair went toppling to the floor. He hadn't been paying much attention to the other nation beforehand (in fact, he been trying to ignore the other's staring and concentrate on England's report) so he hadn't seen how it happened, but it was certainly strange for Russia to be so clumsy. Then again, he supposed it probably wasn't a big deal if Russia lost balance, as the Baltic nations always carried his reports or any other important thing he might drop. Maybe this was a normal thing and Japan had just never witnessed it.

Kiku shook his head to get himself out of such silly thoughts. What did it matter anyway? Why was he studying Russia's balance problems when he should be paying attention to England's speech which he...still wasn't sure was about.

England grew distracted again as the pirate started to look Japan over. It reached out and played with the oblivious nation's collar, moved his pencil while he wasn't looking, and took a sip of his water once when he looked away. It yawned and stretched, draping an arm over the back of Japan's chair and raising his eyebrows at England suggestively before turning its head and blowing softly into the Asian nation's ear. England stumbled over his words, giving up. "L-look... I don't really know what I'm saying... I've been through a lot..."

Curiosity came upon Japan when he noticed England looking nervously in his direction. Was something the matter? He looked to his side to see a napping Italian. Perhaps England was worrying about whether it was his presentation that had put Italy to sleep. Kiku smiled encouragingly at England, trying to get it across that it was fine. But England seemed to be paying attention to something else.

Suddenly, gently warm air touched his ear, and Japan shuddered slightly. He shifted in his seat, slightly uncomfortable. Even if no one had been around to do it and it was just some wind, it felt strange. He wondered vaguely if someone had opened a window before he tried concentrating on what England was saying.

Kiku felt a bit of sympathy for the poor man when he admitted to not having properly prepared. It was understandable that with both Alfred's and Matthew's birthdays having just passed, two nations who were very dear to his heart and yet had both wanted to get away from him, England would not have been able to write a very good report. Plus, hadn't he mentioned something about getting robbed the previous night? How terrible.

However, though he understood, Japan knew Germany would not, and even as he glanced over he could see his friend's face heating up in anger.

It was getting so hard not to yell. Germany opened his mouth once before closing it and gripping the table slightly before finally looking at England. "Very well, then."He said through clenched teeth. "Though I have to convey my disappointment in the fact that you had two weeks to prepare a report and came here with nothing." He sighed and once more rubbed his temples, fighting off the growing migraine. "Russland*, since you were next, would you like to continue?"

Arthur felt his pride shot down when Germany spoke. He'd had two weeks and still couldn't get over himself and do it. He was so busy wallowing in self-pity and getting drunk, he hadn't bothered to uphold his share of the world's responsibilities. He'd made himself look like a fool. He hung his head and moved back to his seat, hoping the heat he felt in his face wasn't visible to anyone.

Unfortunately, fate wasn't happy with that. So it sent Sealand.

"No fair, it's always one of the bigger nations who gets to go!" A small voice whined from the back of the room. Next to a shaking Latvia, Sealand sat with his arms crossed in a pout. Ever since Arthur had allowed him to start attending these meetings, no one bothered to let him speak. How was he supposed to spread the word of Sealand's independence if no one was willing to listen?

Germany's eyebrows raised in annoyance as England's latest adopted child complained about the way they ran the conferences. He tried to reply in a way that the younger boy would understand. "Well, being as you are under British rule and they have just failed in their presentation, I think that..."

"Sealand is NOT under British rule! We are independent!" Quickly standing up in his chair, Peter leaned forward and put his hands on the table, glaring at Germany. He pointed an accusing finger at England. "Arthur, are you still telling people I'm yours? That Jerk England's a liar!"

Arthur rubbed his forehead as the boy argued with Germany. He shook his head at Sealand's accusations. "Of course not, Peter! You know what? Just bloody go ahead if you have anything real to say! Really! Just go ahead! I don't care!" He crossed his arms, face red with anger. He just wished the world would leave him alone and not mess with him for once.

Russia, still miffed, stood to move to the front, when a little boy sitting by Latvia suddenly started throwing a hissy fit. He rolled his eyes and sat down, waving a hand calmly at England's words. "Da. Go ahead. I don't have anything important to add. I am sure we can listen to a report about how whole world needs milk and cookies instead of a report about terrorists and spies."

"Not if all the spies are yours..." England caught himself muttering.

Russia turned to look at England, raising his eyebrows. "What was that?"

England shook his head nervously, pretending to shuffle papers. "N-nothing."


England glanced up to see the pirate standing across the table from him. He narrowed his eyes. What was he up to? "Watch 'ere, mate." England watched helplessly as the pirate walked over to Germany, grinning maliciously. He knelt down next to the tall nation and began untying his boots. While Germany sat and fumed, England was at the right angle that he could see the pirate tie the laces from one boot to those of the other.

He bit his lip, wondering if he should point it out, but then he'd give himself away. But wait, he hadn't even done it! He was so confused. He watched the pirate walk away and tried to ignore Germany, even though he could already envision him standing to leave and faceplanting. He winced at the thought. Was he really that mean back then?"Oh aye, ye were."

England covered his ears, so he couldn't hear the phantom. "Ye can't shut me out, Arthur. I'm in yer 'ead." England shook his head, trying to concentrate on his glass of water. He didn't realize when he whispered to himself. "This isn't happening."

"Aye, but it is."

*We're having all the nations call each other by the way their country would say the name of other countries. So in Japan, America = Amerika, in Italy Germany = Germania, etc.

**Damn it

*** Second most popular pain reliever in Germany


And A Bottle of Rum - Chapter 1

 Arthur Kirkland lay across his sofa, his head lolling over one arm. He was awake. His eyes settled on the ceiling, half-focused. Half-closed. His other arm hung over the edge of the sofa, a bottle dangling from it. The un-drunk half of the rum was room temperature now.

How did this happen? It was Alfred's birthday. It wasn't supposed to be the end of the world. He just couldn't let go. Alfred was supposed to be his brother. Why did he want independence so bad? And he'd gotten drunk again. And yelled again. And drove him away. Again.

Now silence rang through his house. Like always. But now, rather than remind him of the life that had gone from there with Alfred and Matthew, it reminded him of how he'd recently made an ass of himself. And he'd been unfair to Alfred. After all, he was an adult. But he couldn't. He just couldn't let Alfred go. He didn't know what he was doing and the world was so big. The Depression had had Arthur up all night. Wondering what would be of Alfred in the morning. Did he have enough to eat? And everyone seemed to be terrorizing America. It made Arthur sick to think he had to sit by and watch his brother get torn apart. He was a failure. An utter failure.

On top of it, he was confused as hell about his life. He didn't even know what he was thinking sometimes. He was starting to feel so nervous around Japan. What was that about? Sure, Japan was really nice to him. Sure he was kind of cute. He shook his head. What was he thinking? As much as he embarrassed himself? The stupid drunk. Japan probably thought he was a raving fool.

He rolled over, the bottle slipping from his grasp and cracking against the marble floor, but remaining intact. He ran a finger over the fissure and chuckled mirthlessly. "Huh. Like me." He ignored the rum leaking onto his floor and stared lazily at the bottle. Rolled it over. Captain Morgan. Ironic. His favorite. An American brand. He stared through the glass at the floor. It was a nice-sized bottle. You could fit a small model ship in it. He smiled. Those were the days.

He was free. Young and free. And powerful. The world belonged to him. The sun never set on him. It didn't dare. He sailed the seas faster than any human, wreaking havoc akin to a natural disaster. People feared. And awed. And obeyed. And never got independence. And never thought he was a fool.

Suddenly the bottle beneath Arthur's fingers shot itself across the room, hitting the back of the lit fireplace and shattered, exploding. Arthur's wide eyes lit up at the plume of fire before it disappeared in a puff of black smoke. He clutched his chest, breathing heavily. "Bloody Hell."

"Yer tellin' me." A voice growled from behind.

England jerked, startled. He fell off the sofa and grabbed the nearest rum bottle, turning to face the intruder. "What the hell?" He was looking in a mirror. A mirror from another era. It was the spitting image of him back in his pirate days, down to the stubble on his face and the dirt under his nails. But it was transparent. He could see through the phantom. His eyes widened. "God, I'm off my rocker."

The vision chuckled. A dry, distant chuckle. "Aye, but when aren't ye?" The vision suddenly stepped toward England.

Arthur stumbled back, away from the figure. He smacked the bottom of the bottle in his hand against his coffee table, breaking it in half. He swung the broken end at the pirate's face. "G-go away! It's just a dream!"

"Cut that out." The vision growled and reached forward, grabbing Arthur's wrist in a surprisingly strong grip.

England's eyes widened. It wasn't a vision? What was it? A spirit? His own spirit? Oh God, was he dead? He tugged desperately, but it was no use. He wasn't as strong as he used to be. And well... the other him was. It was exactly as strong as he used to be.

The pirate knocked the bottle from his older self's hand easily. He was disgusted with what he saw. "Wha' kind of li'l nancy did you turn inta, boy?" He threw his head back and laughed.

England was flabberghasted. This nightmare was not only physically controlling him, it was insulting him. He furrowed his brow and gave a little harder tug, wrenching his wrist free. "And just what are you laughing at? I'm you, you stupid git!"

The pirate grabbed England by the front of his shirt and lifted him off the ground. When England winced, his younger self shook him violently. "Stop that! What are ye? Afraid? Of yer own damn shadow?" He drew a hand smartly across England's face. "No wonder nobody respects ye." He spat. "Ye can't even face yer own past. Who could expect ye t' face the present?" He laughed again. This time mocking, and released Arthur, allowing him to crumple to the floor.

Arthur gazed into the fireplace. The bottle shards were still there. He looked around him at all the other bottles. This was his life now? Rum and the sofa? He shook his head. "I don't know where I went wrong..."

"I know where ye went wrong, Arthur." The pirate offered as he flipped through some books on England's shelf, discarding them over his shoulder carelessly. He moved on to his picture frames, casually inspecting them and dropping them. Pictures of Alfred and Matthew and little Peter.

"Wh-what are you doing?" Arthur stood up, flushed with indignation. "Stop that!"

"You let me go." The pirate held a childhood picture of Alfred up, gazing upon the little face with no emotion on his face, before suddenly tossing it into the air. He drew a gold and brass flintlock pistol with ivory handle grips, cocked it, and fired, hitting the picture mid-fall and shattering it into a hundred pieces. "When you should let them go." He turned back to Arthur, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "But that's all about t' change. From now on, I'll just be helpin' ye with yer problems. I'll take care o' them. Ye jus' can't handle it."

Arthur dropped to his knees, watching little bits of glass fall like rain. He felt like he should be mad at his younger self for destroying his things. But somehow, the separation felt... good. It took a little bit off of his chest. He could already breathe better. He shook his head. "No. Absolutely not. The last thing I need is my young, reckless pirate self showing up to a damn conference." He turned to walk away.

Suddenly the pirate was in front of him. Not an inch away. He gasped, clutching his chest, and the pirate threw an arm around his shoulder, closing it around his neck so that he could breathe, but not go anywhere. "Now listen. If ye wan' e'ryone else t' toss ye aroun' like a ragdoll like I do, and believe me, they will, ye better do wha' I say. B'cause you, Arthur Kirkland, are a sorry excuse fer a man."

Arthur struggled, but couldn't escape the stronger version of himself. He sighed and gave up. "You're right. Who am I kidding? I've completely lost touch with myself."

"Now yer talkin'." The pirate ground his knuckles into the top of England's head. "Trust me, ol' man. Ye jus' gotta get yer manhood back. Now, when's the next un o' these "conf'rences"?"