From France to England
When Arthur had returned home, the words of the perverse Frog and idiotic Dago still ringing in his ears, he knew that that day was going to be especially unpleasant and decided, quite firmly, that the only way to distract himself completely from their foolish behaviors and vague lies was to get heavily plastered.
After a few hours and five too many pubs and bars, Arthur was back out on the streets in the early AM. He had never learned just how emotional he got when he drank and had started the night confused and miffed at getting kicked out, but that ended soon with the more alcohol he had managed to find. Thankfully, for both him and the other bar patrons, most had shut down by the time he tipped just passed "too affectionate". Now, a slur to his tongue and a sway in his walk, Arthur was striding down his city streets in a near pitch blackness.
Arthur was not really a fan of walks in parks or down lanes, but the quiet tranquility of the empty office buildings around him struck him with a bout of nostalgia. He sighed, not sure why the feeling was there, and could physically feel his body rejecting the liquor he had drank not less than an hour ago. Arthur wasn't sure what saddened him more: the bright shafts of light from empty structures, the poor people whom stayed up far too late inside and alone, or the feeling of sobriety that brought back his sharper senses and thought processes.
As a Nation his alcohol tolerance was higher than any human's, but was still very low when compared to the other Nations. However, this only meant that Arthur had to drink more to get the same effects of drunkenness, only to have the feeling stave off quickly in regards to his high metabolism. Not even all the prime bourbon or whiskey in the world could get Arthur to the amount he needed to drive off his unwanted thoughts and feelings; the only thing he would ever reach was to be shameless and half-nude - and that was level even he didn't want to reach.
In his head, lost and wandering, Arthur was not made aware quick enough of the impending pole in his way. Thus, a single woman in one of the buildings above was shaken awake by a loud yelp and thud from outside; her jump toppling papers to the ground and her rush to grab them wiped away any question formed by the crash.
Meanwhile, outside, with a bruised forehead and an even more bruised ego, laid Arthur. His arms and legs were outstretched in the remnants of his ungraceful and pathetic attempted to regain footing. So, on the sidewalk near three in the morning, Arthur could feel himself give up and cursed towards the overcast sky for his unbearable bad luck.
Instead of standing back up, Arthur glanced to his right and made the decision that it was clean enough to lean against. While he wasn't all that tired for sleep, he was physically exhausted, and his placement deep in his home made him feel comfortable and secure. So, in light of having nothing to do and no where to go, Arthur stayed seated.
Sadly, that wasn't the only thing he was able to do. His mind raced, its speed still sluggish by his earlier alcohol intake, though gaining momentum, and Arthur could feel day old disbelief and irritation rise yet again.
'They're just going bonkers,' Arthur thought, every fiber of himself going into tearing the metaphorically limbs off the Frog and Dago - the Kraut as well while he was at it.
However, no matter how many times he tried to convince himself, insulting them inside his head just wasn't as rewarding as he hoped it would be. Arthur sighed, a deep and heavy puff of air, and stood to lean again the wall instead of sitting at the base of it. After a moment of thinking he switched directions and followed the path towards the forest rather than his old Victorian home.
Of course no one else would know this forest existed; a cloak of magic covered it from the prying eyes of his citizens. And while he was saddened that he had to hide his dearest friends from the humans he considered his children, it was times like this that had him thankful that the woodland creatures were his and his alone.
The thought of the Fae and Little Folk sent a wave of heat through him, Arthur's own magic responding gleefully. The last threads of hold that the alcohol had on him snapped away, burned by his boiling blood, and Arthur was swept away in a sense of rightness followed by a horrible and cold numb of dread. With the liquor no longer in his system, Arthur was finally made aware of a pulsating beacon deep in his chest.
There was a Nation in his heart.
The words of Germany echoed in his head - "So, in the mean time, no one goes to someone else's country." - and a chill pricked the back of Arthur's neck, the hairs there standing up. No one would be foolish enough to disrespect the German's orders nor would they have a reason to visit him.
Arthur, unaware that he had stopped walking, resumed his pace towards the forest. The beat of the other Nation was in time to his heart, a pressure pressed over every inch of skin. They had to be close by.
Yet, even with his fellow Nation's words and the feeling itself, Arthur refused to believe it and ignored it altogether. So he cursed himself, greatly and with much color, when he tensed as a shadow's silhouette stretched from a flickering lamppost.
Arthur swallowed his sailor's tongue for a gentleman's smile and lead his feet to the now-visible woman standing there, her back facing him. Arthur was directly across the lane from her when he readied his words; she could simply be a worker taking a break or a foreigner who had one too many drinks and could not find her way back. But Arthur never got to ask his question for he was hit with a chill once again and the woman turned her eyes to him.
She definitely looked the part of an officer worker - hair in a neat bun, low heeled shoes, a deep read Tyrolean jacket, jet black pencil skirt - but that did not match her posture, her pose, at all. While Arthur's hand were deep in his pockets, her's rested in the crooks of her elbows, as if to ward off others in a show of hostility. It matched how she balanced on the balls of her feet, ready to bound and leap away in a split second.
Still, Arthur refused to back down from his theory and was ready to prove it by speaking to her, but when his eyes caught her's, everything was over. He knew that she was the same woman both Antonio and Francis had seen, knew that the chill in his bones and pulse in his heart was because of her - and while he could not make out the color as the other two could, Arthur knew it would be just as how they described it; utterly indescribable.
The lights above her flickered, a halo going on and off, before it simply gave out. The dark was brutal before the lamp seemed to lurch back to life, but the ruse she needed was made and the woman, the Nation, was gone. She vanished - "...she left! Disappeared! Poofed!" "Also, like Antonio, she simply disappeared!" - like mist upon a snowy bank and Arthur deeply wished he could have just written this off as a drunken hallucination, but he knew he had been sober long before he had even turned onto this street.
So Arthur did the last thing he ever wanted to: He pulled out his phone and dialed a number, whose he didn't know nor cared, and said the simplest of words that started a massive, rolling snow ball. He took a breath and whispered, "I saw her."
This... this was quite the surprise. Matthew, his younger brother, had just asked for freedom. Even with the youngest of their brothers looking towards Matthew for help - a flair of anger and pain burned through him as he remember Alfred had looked to him like that once - Matthew still wished to be free and independent. Even though little Leon, Jett, and Kaelin looked to him (and as would Neeraja, his soon-to-be Indian charge), Matthew asked to be... gone.
Of course Arthur had "no" prepared to rise from his throat, but one look from Matthew had him freezing in place. It was a look of curiosity, of slight apprehension, of a secret passion.
This wild light in his eyes... as if he were a survivor of an invisible war or a hero that did not shout out their accomplishments, but instead kept them hidden from view. It held the look of someone wanting, longing, aching for something that was just out of reach. It reminded Arthur of all the things he missed from his own elder brothers and their near endless wisdom; not that he would ever tell them that.
Yet, as Matthew kept eye contact with Arthur, there was something softer there, something none of his brother - older and younger alike - would ever have. Matthew was someone willing to be patient and listen to every rambling word, no matter if it made no sense in the end. He was someone who wanted to hold, to lock away every secret, to lift that burden off your own back.
Out of the many years Arthur had taken care of Matthew, he never saw the Canadian boy as someone who soothed away all your fears and ignored their own if that was what it took. That he was someone who wanted to give a hug or a kiss in that desperate time of misery or despair.
It was the look, Arthur was startled to find, that changed the Northern Nation from a boy to a man. And it was thanks to that look he had to accept, just like he did long ago, when he was so unwilling to part with a piece of his family.
So what else was Arthur to do than say yes and let another piece go?
As Madeline walked through the doors of her hotel, she couldn't help but think of the man she saw underneath the street light. She knew exactly who it was she was looking at, there was hardly a man who looked as Arthur did. Madeline could recognize those pine green and smoke gray eyes, remnants of when he was young as well, and the shagginess of his blond hair was a near dead giveaway.
She also knew how risky it was to use her magic like that, but with how Arthur had looked at her with such strong regret, Madeline just didn't know what else to do. Now Madeline sighed, the walk from the deserted streets leaving her tired, as she dragged herself into her room. This time Kumarie was sitting right at the door, waiting for her dear Person to come back and snuggle.
She smiled at her old companion, but the smile soon slipped off her face as she recounted her steps that night. Of trying to find a place to see the sky as homesickness gnawed at her bones and had her missing the way she could just step outside her home in Canada and easily see the light shining from the moon and stars.
It was a bit harder than she would have expected or have liked, but Madeline knew that the old homes and churches had given her a fill of new things to see. It was decades since she last been to England and she had forgotten all the painful and wonderful memories it brought her by seeing the worn buildings she personally been in right as they were finished being built.
(The same could be said for the ruins of buildings she had been in when they were bombed, but even that was a horror Madeline locked up with Matthew.)
Thankfully her smile wormed back into place as Kumarie tried to find her way inside Madeline's jacket to get even closer to the warmth her body brought. She sighed in loving exasperation; a lighthearted exhale that spoke to Kumarie and said that her Person is going to be alright. Madeline opened her jacket to let her bear snuggle in, both giving the warmth the other needed.
It was how Madeline and Kumarie slept that night: cuddled up against the other, Madeline's legs tucked up and curled around her polar bear.
That same night, as Madeline and Kumarie drifted off to sleep, Arthur was looking out his window, his chin rested in his palm as he lost himself in thought. The feeling this woman was still in England was there, but he did not try to find the woman for the rest of the week. He simply had no want or need to.
Arthur wasn't sure why, but he felt as though he were letting her go for good.