The 'Hug'

Chapter 4

The nations were milling around in the large meeting room, idly chatting with one another before the meeting was to officially start. Arthur yawned before he could help it, hastily covering his mouth as he checked the time on his watch. There were only a few minutes left and the usual countries that ambled in late were still missing, although he was more interested in the missing Alfred. It was apparent that so was Matthew as he and Francis were conversing in rapid French, the language already putting him on edge. He had thought that he'd see Alfred at least at breakfast, but it seemed the other man had decided to skip that meal altogether. He was beginning to reconsider his earlier decision to not put the effort into casting that spell again as he felt his irritation begin to build.

"Here Britain, aru" Yao's voice said, startling Arthur out of his internal reverie as he realized the other nation had placed a cup of tea in front of him. "You have much on your mind at the moment and tea is always a good remedy for that." The Chinese personification said with a sympathetic smile.

"Thank you China, I appreciate it" Arthur said, addressing the man by his nation-name while in the meeting room and taking the offered cup. "I suppose I have been a little preoccupied but I'm sure things will all work out soon. The meeting should be starting soon anyway." He said taking a sip.

"Ah, but it's not the meeting you've been worrying over." China said, taking a seat beside him. "I am always available to share my wisdom if you are in need of someone to listen." He offered, Arthur looking across the room to see that Matthew and Francis were not going to hear what he might say.

"I appreciate the offer, China, but I'm sure good old-fashioned British perseverance will pull me through in the end." Arthur said as he sat back in his chair. "But for conversation's sake…" he began, China giving him a knowing look that he understood the roundabout way Britain was taking to address his true feelings. "What do you normally do, should say, you and Japan get into some trivial argument. It's not of any great concern, but in case the matter should come up again…."

"You and America argued again and this time it was not over something so trivial as proper English." China interrupted, England looking as though he was ready to deny any such thing occurring. "Whatever the reason, America is a very passionate country and he most likely only got riled up because there was something deeply troubling him and it involved you somehow." China said, taking a sip of his own cup of tea. "Japan often argues with me and I am often still seeing him as the little boy I took care of. I have to remember that he is still that little boy, but he is also his own nation capable of his own reasoning and so I let him argue and then I tell him what I need to say when he needs to hear it." He said, England feeling his frustration grow at the form of advice the other nation was giving him.

"China, this does not exactly provide me with a method to deal with my arguments with America….you know, if we should find ourselves in such a predicament." Britain said, checking the time again.

"There is no one method Britain, aru" China said with a shrug. "Sometimes Japan as Kiku needs to hear what I have to say to him while we are arguing, sometimes much later. And sometimes, he needs to be shown rather than told." China said as Britain continued to shake his head. "It was difficult to do so during World War II, but in that example I needed to do both and to be firm about it. Other times, I can simply share a meal with him. And if he's particularly stubborn about letting me speak, I give him a hug…." China said with a smirk, Britain also smirking at the idea of a whining Japan only being released from the torturous physical contact of his older brother once China had shut him up and said what he needed to say.

"Well, that might not work in my case." Arthur said, standing up to head over to the podium to begin the meeting. "Maybe if I offer him ice cream?" He said with a smirk, China shaking his head in amusement at the suggestion as he went over to his seat, deliberately patting Japan on the shoulder as he went and smiling as the other nation went wide-eyed at the surprise touch. Japan looked as though ready to brace himself for more once he saw it was his brother, but England saw him let out a sigh of relief at seeing China continue to his seat.

"Alright, if I may have all nations' attention and call you to your seats, I will begin the meeting with the customary host address and open the floor to the…." Britain began, only to have America burst through the doors.

"Hey everybody! Hero's here!" America said, apparently having sprinted to the meeting room as he was out of breath. "Sorry England. Didn't mean to rain on your parade; the weather outside already beat me to it." He said with a laugh as he walked to his seat, some nations joining in as they noticed that it was once again raining outside the window. "Overslept. But hey, did you know…"

"Thank you America. We can all rest easy now that you've graced us with your presence." Britain sarcastically remarked, shuffling the papers he had in front of him as he looked away.

"I know, right? Hero's here to protect everybody." America said, flashing his usual grin as he began to pull out his own folders. Britain rolled his eyes, but continued on as he planned, getting through his opening speech quickly and opening the floor. He reluctantly took his seat beside America, thanking China again in his head for having brought him some tea.

"Psst….Britain." America's voice disturbed his thoughts about an hour into the meeting while Spain was talking, earning another sigh from the older nation. He turned to look at America, using all the patience he thought he could muster. "Hey dude, sorry about last night. I was in a bad mood and shouldn't have snapped at you." He said, surprising Britain. But America had been known to occasionally admit to his mistakes and show the maturity he boasted about to apologize.

"Well, quite right." Britain said with a nod, getting a small smile that looked a little strained to him. "I forgive you so long as you actually mean it this time." He said, thinking back at the numerous pranks America had pulled on him over the years.

"Yeah, for sure. Trust me, will ya?" America said, Britain biting his tongue to keep from saying anything about his speech. "And, um…." America began, looking down as though embarrassed. "Could I…um…have a sip of your tea, please?" he asked, causing Britain to nearly spill the said cup.

"Excuse me? Say that again?" Britain asked a little louder than he had intended, gaining a few looks. America and Britain gave sheepish smiles to the other nations, Germany looking ready to call everyone's focus back into order again. "America, I just told you not to mess with me and the first thing you do after that is to…."

"No, seriously Iggy…" America said, slipping into his nickname for his former caretaker. "Please. I need a drink." America said, looking imploringly to Britain. "Please. I just need a sip. Promise not to down it."

Britain looked curiously at the man sitting next to him, before nodding and sliding over his cup. America shot him a grateful smile before taking a sip and handing it back as promised. "Thanks Iggy." He said to a startled Britain, the two lapsing into silence for a while.

America presented and Britain was surprised to find that he kept it short and to the point this time, sitting back down with plenty of his allotted time to spare. But none of the other nations seemed to complain, Russia launching into some topic of his own to fill the time. Britain did his best to remain calm like usual instead of bombarding the other with questions like he normally would have done, only realizing much later into the meeting that he and France hadn't squabbled once. He looked over to France as he realized this, only to have America grasp his arm.

"I-Iggy…" America's voice shakily asked. "Can you read this for me? I…um…I'm having a little trouble with that right now." He said, earning the other's full attention.

"Come on now. What's all this about? Those glasses of yours are more for show than anything." Britain said, looking at America and seeing the distress on the other's face. "Are you alright lad?" Britain asked, wondering if the spell he'd been two-thirds of the way through had affected the other man anyway. Grabbing America's chin to get him to look up at him, he saw out of the corner of his eye Canada watching their moves.

"Yeah… of course. I'm the hero…." He said, following it with a tiny laugh as he pulled away to grab at his papers. However, in his haste to prove himself fine, a few fell off the desk. "Oops, I got 'em" America said, swiftly bending over to grab the papers. As soon as he did though, he realized how wrong a move that was as the pressure in his head increased and his already migraine-induced vision problems increased. "Uh oh…" he quietly mumbled to himself as he felt himself slipping out of the chair and feeling unable to catch himself. He crashed to the floor, hearing Britain shout his name as he did. America took a moment to let himself get his bearings as much as he could, Britain helping to right him back in his chair.

"America, are you alright?" Germany asked, looking unsure if he should be worried or annoyed at the American's antics.

"All good. Keep goin'. Is it time for lunch yet?" America rushed out in one breath, noticing Canada by his side too. Germany sighed and shook his head, figuring that all must be well if America was asking for more food.

"Yes, I suppose ve can break now for lunch. Everybody be back in one hour." He said, effectively dismissing them despite that supposedly being Britain's duty. Nations sporadically left the room, but America found himself with Canada and Britain not moving from his side, France lingering back a little.

"No lies Alfred. How are you really doing?" Matthew asked as Alfred tried to stand again, only to have Arthur push him back down. America sighed but let himself sit down again.

"I dunno Mattie. It just sorta hit me real bad all of a sudden. The letters on the page keep disappearing here and there and I'm tired. I didn't get much sleep last night after I went for a walk. You know, tryin' to clear my head and all." Alfred said, doing his best to focus on Matthew. "Kinda feel like I'm…I'm…"

"Moving through water?" Arthur asked with worry in his voice. If he remembered right, there might have been something about that on the page he was looking at the previous night. Alfred looked over to Arthur and nodded.

"Mathieu, come with me and we will get him something to drink and something to munch on to help him think better. It should help enough to get him to his room and get some medicine in him, right Arthur? You will stay with him until we get back?" Francis asked once he realized that a cooperative America was a particularly ill America. Arthur nodded as Francis pulled Matthew away, saying they would be back shortly.

"There now, we'll help you get sorted right away. Not to worry, poppet." Arthur said, brushing a few hairs out of Alfred's face. He placed his hand on the other's forehead, relieved to find he hadn't developed any fever at least for the present time. Alfred nodded but remained quiet, shifting a little in his chair. A shimmering over by the window caught Arthur's attention, the older blonde looking over to see a couple of fairies that had gotten inside and were looking to mess with something out in the hall. "Oh, of all the times for them to…don't move Alfred, I'll be right back." Arthur said, although Alfred looked to be close to sleeping sitting up. He checked to make sure he wouldn't topple out of his seat again and rushed out into the hallway to control the fairies the other nation repeatedly told him weren't real, rounding the corner to keep them contained long enough to deal with them.

"I told you Romano, I can't leave that white flag behind. I might need it and it's the prettiest one I have." Feliciano said as he and his brother walked back into the room, missing Arthur's exit. "I'll be quick. You're such a good brother to come with me."

The darker skinned Italian rolled his eyes as he followed his brother into the room. "Yeah, yeah…" He grumbled, but the look in his eyes showed he appreciated the comment. "Potato-bastard made me come under threat of locking me in with France the next chance he got. Just hurry up…oh, America's still here." Romano said, noticing the sleeping nation.

"Oh, he won't want to miss lunch." Feliciano said, prized white flag in hand. "I'll just gently wake him up and maybe he'll want to join us for pasta, hmm?" he said cheerily to his brother.

"Don't touch him. Leave him alone and let's get going. You have your damned flag." Romano said, a little creeped out by how still the normally hyperactive nation was, reminding him of his own energetic brother. But Feliciano disregarded what he said and began to poke Alfred repeatedly in the shoulder.

"Ve~, America…America…." Feliciano whispered, resorting to pushing more on Alfred's shoulder, jostling him so that he fell forward onto the desk in front of him before sliding to the floor, remaining unconscious. "Ahhh!" Feliciano yelled, running to his brother and grabbing him in a tight hold.

"Whoa, you killed him…"Romano said as he struggled to get his brother off of him so he could see for himself what was wrong with America.

"Oh no! No! I didn't mean to!" Feliciano said, detaching himself from his brother's side and rushing out of the room. "Germany! Germany! America's dead! Waaahhh!" He shouted out as he passed Arthur and a few other lingering nations, Romano following after him and shouting for him to stop. Arthur dropped his hold on the window he'd opened to eject the troublesome fairies out of the building, his eyes wide at Italy's pronouncement. He sprinted past the curious Spain, Prussia and Germany, all of whom understood to get out of his way. Seeing Alfred on the floor, he gently rolled him onto his back and lifted him into his lap.

"Alfred? Alfred, lad, wake up. Joke's over." Arthur said as he looked over the man he knew he still considered to be like his brother. The other nations entered the room, watching Arthur's every move.

"Out of the way, s'il vous plait! Make way!" Francis' voice startled Arthur into looking up as Francis pushed his way into the room, dragging a worried-looking Matthew behind him. "What is Feliciano yelling about? What's wrong with Alfred?" Matthew said as he knelt next to Arthur, panic in his eyes. Arthur didn't know how to respond, bending over to check on Alfred.

"He's breathing. He's just out cold." Arthur said, a relieved look on his face. "But we still need to get him back to his room. Help me carry him Francis." Arthur said, but Matthew scooped up his brother and began to walk back out without leaving time for the others to say anything.

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