Chapter 2


Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner|| Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"I assume you're not here for a congratulations on my part?"

The slight chuckle from the man at the table died away as the two others made no comment. His eyes flickered back and forth between the two other men, one seated in front of him, dark blue eyes unblinking and the other standing by the window, gaze set outside to the bustling streets of Washington.

"I don't think it would be wise to be so quick to congratulations and festivities given the somewhat recent events, hm?" Francis' voice was quiet, but the president could hear the hint of coldness underneath and fought back a shiver at the man's unwavering gaze on his form. Andrew Johnson cleared his throat.

"Yes, what happened to President Lincoln was unfortunate circumstances, but he died knowing that he saved this country. Speaking of which, I trust that Mr. Jones is recuperating?"

France smiled slowly, showing no teeth before breathing out a somewhat light sigh and leaning back in the low couch, draping one long arm across the back and crossing his legs. The stance reminded Johnson something of a cat. "Yes, of sorts. The boy harbors some guilt, as you may have guessed."

Johnson fumbled in his pocket for a moment, pulling out a box of matches and opening his desk drawer to pull out a cigar. France watched the man's actions with a steady gaze, waiting until he had taken a slow drag before speaking. The smoke curled from his lips in a heavy plume that seemed to hang over the room like a fog. "Mr. Jones is no more responsible for Booth's actions any more than if he had been bitten by a mad dog."

"Mad dogs are put down."

The statement came from the nation by the window, vibrant green eyes still set on the mid-morning activities before wandering over to look at the president. France can practically taste his husband's distaste for the man but says nothing of it.

Johnson breaths a heavy sigh before replying. "Our best efforts are on catching him and bringing him to justice. I assumed that was universal around the world, given you British with proper technique and what not." The words are cold and seethed through a gritting set of teeth.

Arthur only chuckles, turning fully to the man and stepping forward, steps seeming to echo through the office before standing beside the low couch. "Yes, Mr. Johnson, but I'd like to believe we're a bit more…enthusiastic when it comes to doing what's right."

England wants to laugh at the flash of rage in the man's eyes before Johnson pushes it down in a forced display of calm, taking another heavy drag of his cigar. The smoke plumes in the nation's direction when he exhales. England doesn't even flinch.

"I assure you, gentlemen, that our best efforts and fastest informants are working hard to find this man. In the meantime however, there's the matter of Mr. Jones returning to representation in office."

France raised an eyebrow at the statement. "Representation?"

"Yes." Johnson set his cigar in the ashtray beside him, linking his hands together and leaning forward, posture somewhat submissive though both nations could see right through the poorly disguised ruse. "As a nation, he has a certain…morale to keep up. Both for himself and for the people during this difficult time. Now, we are all concerned for his wellbeing, but for the moment we must out our own individual desires aside and ask ourselves, 'What is best for the whole community?'

"You want him to return and start working? Now?" Even England wants to flinch at the underlying rage in his partner's tone and the fact that it went right over the president's head. Johnson nods his head, smiling widely, not noticing the groves that Arthur was working with his nails into the wooden lining of the low couch from where his hand rested.

"Given the tragic circumstances over the past few days, these past four years mind you, there is a disheartening amongst everyone. And with my own rush into office to maintain some sense of stability, it's been a difficult time for the American people. Alfred being at home doesn't do much to add some relief into that equation. And it doesn't only benefit him to be here," Johnson added with a slight chuckle, "but to my assets as well."

France can hear the grooves of wood beginning to splinter underneath England's death grip. Fortunately, the president couldn't see or hear the man's actions. France steals a glance at his husband for half a second, wanting to wince at the nation's unreadable expression. When he started doing that, something bad was going to happen.

Cher, you're going to break it. Francis thinks the words to his husband. Calm down.

I'd like to break it over his head. The bloody sod thinking he has the nerve to say that about my son-

I am not going to let you murder the President of the United States of America.

Oh, please Francis. You and I have done this enough times to know that we won't be getting caught.

"I trust this isn't a problem?" The sound of the president's voice interrupts both the nations from their thoughts before England relaxes his grip, smiling at the man before stepping closer.

"Mr. Johnson, do you have children?"

The man's smile falters for a moment. "I-I beg your pardon?"

"Do you. Have children." The words are ice cold coming for the Englishman's mouth and France only watches as he goes in for the kill.

"Yes, five of them, but I fail to see how this is relevant to the conversation at ha-"

"Have you ever had the opportunity of watching them die?" England only continue, green gaze set firmly and unblinkingly on the now steadily anxious president, who was now debating on whether or not to call security to the imposing force in front of him, but found his heart to be steadily rising in his throat.

"No. No, I have not Mr. Kirkland." The words are full of the brim with growing anger that is badly concealed through forced calm. England nods, leaning both palms onto the desk.

"I like to think that the love we have for our children is like a lion. And what lion does not cringe to see its cub in pain and eradicate whatever threat stands in the way?" England's smile is sickly sweet and the president finds himself sinking lower and lower into his seat at the flash of murder in those green eyes. He clears his throat, siting up slightly.

"I don't take kindly to threats, Mr. Kirkland and-"

"Mon Dieu, will you shut up?!" The words are spat by Francis now, cold and full of enough rage to make the man falter and rise half out of his seat in retaliation. Arthur's hand is lightening quick, and Johnson freezes at the iron grip on his shoulder. France rises out of his seat, slipping on his coat and moving over to the desk, leaning against the desk and crossing his arms. "I can personally assure you it has been a very long time since we have had to deal with any threats to our children. Pray that you haven't gotten onto that list."

"I trust that we won't be hearing any more calls to office for a while. Not until we extend communication first?" The words are practically growled from England's chest. The president nods shakily, suddenly noticing the slow rush of blood to his shoulder as the nations step back and move towards the door.

"Good day, Mr. Johnson." England states before stepping out followed by France.

The Washington air is crisp and cold as they step back into the carriage. The ride back home begins as soon as they shut the door behind them. A pair of violet eyes meet France's in a form of greeting from across the small space.

"That was quick." Matthew states, leaning his head against his father's shoulder before speaking again. "Did you talk to him?"

England snorts, momentarily giving his son's hand a squeeze while shooting a death glare at France who at the moment was trying to contain his laughter at the irony of the situation. He leans his head against the wall of the carriage, looking out at the pale grey sky. Canada's finger traces the scar over his left hand.

"Something like that."

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