"All done!" England happily announced.
America stood dripping in the tub. England had just finished pouring a bucket of water over him. Any lingering suds or dirt had now been rinsed off. America was still in the same position he had used to brace himself for the short shower: standing with his eyes shut and holding his nose with his hand. England took a large towel and lifted his little brother out of the tub with it.
"Don't you feel better now that you're clean?" England asked America as he dried the boy off.
America grumbled something incoherent. He was still pouting about having to take the bath. To tell the truth, he would still be fighting England's efforts to bath him at this moment if England had not won his cooperation part-way through the bath. Remembering why he had surrendered his fight, the boy began to wiggle a bit in the soft cloth. England was busy rubbing America's wet hair when the boy suddenly poked his head out from under the towel.
"When do I get my present?" he wanted to make sure that England didn't forget about the promised reward for his obedience.
"Patience," England said with a small smile before recovering America's face and playfully ruffling his hair further with the towel.
America scowled under the cloth at England's cheer. The boy was starting to suspect that the bribe had just been another trick. He really hoped it wasn't. He had been so good for the last half of his bath, that he felt like he deserved something. True to his word, he had allowed England to scrub and clean every inch of him. Throughout the whole process, he had stayed as still and as quiet as it was humanly possible for a boy his age. The only exceptions were when England had gone over a few ticklish spots, but even then America had mustered up enough will-power to only allow his body to twitch a little. The worst had been when England had cleaned between his toes. America had thought that that part would never end. And just when America had thought it was over, England started cleaning under his toenails. America had almost broken when that happened. Who cares if you have dirt under your toenails?!
But America had not complained. He had just bit his lip and continued to wait patiently for England to finish. After that, the boy's fingernails had received similar treatment. Of course, England had also paid special attention to the boy's ears; washing both behind them and inside them. America had grimaced silently as every speck of filth, hidden in every crack in his body, was scrubbed loose and then finally washed away when that last bucket of water was emptied on him. After all that meticulous cleaning, America felt like he should get a medal at the very least!
Suddenly, America felt himself being lifted up and carried. He couldn't see where he was being taken because England had tightly wrapped his entire body (including his face) in the towel. America immediately began trying to squirm his way out of the towel cocoon.
"Hey! Let me out!" he demanded from inside the towel.
"What's that?" he heard England tease. "I can't quite hear you. You know mumbling isn't polite."
America shifted his arms around until he was able to bring them up and pull the towel down from his eyes.
"I'm not mumbling! You covered me up with the towel!"
"Did I?" England asked in indifferent innocence. He was pretending to be blissfully unaware of what he had done.
"You did so!" America insisted as he squirmed harder. "Stop playing around! You know you did!"
"Alright, alright," England admitted wearily. "Stop fidgeting before I drop you by accident." The next thing America knew, he was being laid out on a bed. "Wait here, and I'll get the surprise," England told him.
America saw now that they were in England's room. The boy sat up and watched as England went around to the foot of the bed. The old nation took a key out of his pocket and bent down to unlock a large chest that rested at the end of his bed.
All of a sudden, America forgot that he was supposed to be angry about the bath. Bath? What bath? England was actually opening his chest! America had always wondered what was inside that thing. Although England always denied it, America still thought that the wooden container looked suspiciously like a pirate's treasure chest. It did not matter what his elder said. The boy's active imagination convinced him that the mysterious chest had to be filled with treasure. England would never let him look inside it, and in America's mind, that only confirmed his childish beliefs. But now America was not only going to get a chance to see what was really inside the secret chest, but he was also going to get a special surprise from it!
America hastily loosened the towel around him and stood up on the mattress. He could barely contain his excitement as he walked to the end of England's large bed. Unfortunately, the boy was in for a disappointment. His anticipation was crushed when he snuck a peek over the open lid of the chest. The only items inside the "treasure chest" were some large blankets, some extra sewing supplies, and a few small boxes. England was in the process of going through the boxes, so he did not notice America. Supposedly, England was looking for America's "special surprise," but as far as the spying boy could tell, each box that his brother opened only held small, uninteresting, old trinkets.
The unhappy boy flopped back down on the bed with a moan. Talk about anti-climactic. There had not been so much as one golden coin in the misleading chest. There wasn't even anything remotely interesting in the chest! What a let-down. And England was looking for America's big surprise in there? America sighed and prepared himself for more disappointment.
"That's odd," America overheard England say to himself. "I was certain I left it in here
The waiting dragged on. The more time England spent searching, the more anxious America got. What if there was no present after all? What if it had all been another trick, and England was just pretending to have lost the non-existent gift? America wiggled his toes outside of the towel with worry. England wouldn't do that to him, would he?
America looked around the room and tried not to think about his missing surprise. He really wanted to trust England. He reminded himself that his brother did have a tendency to misplace things. England would probably find what he was looking for any second now.
As America scanned the room, he noticed something on the bed. It was one of the boy's long shirtsa clean one. England had probably laid it out before filling up the tub, so he could be ready to dress America right after the bath. America pulled the towel tighter around him. He was chilly, and he was getting annoyed with having to keep a hold on the towel. He wished he was dressed so that he could walk around normally. The boy glanced back expectantly at the man who usually dressed him, but England was still rummaging through his old trunk. America sighed with displeasure and returned his gaze to his shirt. Why hadn't England dressed him before he started searching for the surprise?
All of a sudden America sat up straight. A revolutionary idea had just come to him. Why hadn't he ever thought of this before? He wanted to get dressed, but England was busy. So what? It was so obvious what he should do. America took off the towel and picked up the shirt.
Meanwhile, on England's end, the British man was getting discouraged. His thick eyebrows were lowering with concern as he pressed on in his search for his object of bribery. He was having no success, but he kept up his hunt. He was so sure that he had stashed what he was looking for in his storage chest. He couldn't understand why it was now so hard to locate.
"How is it that I always manage to lose the important items?" England asked himself.
England was very happy with how the bribe had worked out. After he had won America's cooperation with it, bathing the rest of boy had been as easy as taking a stroll through a park. The remainder of America's bath had gone more smoothly than any other bath that England had ever managed to force upon the boy. England was so excited about the pleasant outcome of his bargaining that he had almost jumped for joy when the bath was finished!
England had to find the reward he had promised his brother. He knew bribing America might never work again if he couldn't find what he was looking for. Not to mention that England had made the gift for America, himself. He had been working on it for a while; taking great care to craft it with high quality. He was quite proud of his handy-work. England didn't want to lose all of the effort he had put into the surprise. He began to re-search through the contents of his chest one last time. The chest was where he had always put his project when he was not working on it. It just had to be in there somewhere!
"Ah ha!" England exclaimed at long last. "Here we are!" he proclaimed triumphantly as he took the box he had been seeking out from its hiding place deep in the chest. How the box had become mixed in with his folded blankets, England would never know. England rose with his special gift and walked back to the awaiting boy on his bed. "Now then, let's
" England paused when he saw America. "What are you doing?"
"I'm getting dressed," America responded with child-like pride. He was sitting on the bed with his clean shirt over most of his upper body. He had succeeded in getting one arm through one sleeve but was having difficulties doing the same thing with the othermostly because he had ended up putting both his head and his arm through the hole for his head by accident. He was now stuck in a very awkward position with his sleeveless arm up in the air and his head halfway through his shirt's neckline. To top it all off, the shirt was on backwards.
"Do you need any help?" Amazingly, England suppressed his laughter as he offered his much needed assistance.
"No," America grunted confidently. "I can do it."
England waited for a minute or two while America tugged and pulled at his shirt. It would have been a bit difficult for any grown person to take off a shirt in that position, but little America had not yet mastered the delicate art of dressing oneself, so this new adventure was a quite a challenge to his uncoordinated body. After much effort with no progress, America began to get a little frustrated. The boy tried harder, but he only wedged himself further into the hole. England watched America's struggles until he couldn't stand it anymore.
"You've got it all wrong. You need to"
"No!" America waved England away when he came closer. "I can do it by myself!"
"No!" America insisted as he pushed England's hand away. "Let me do it!"
England held himself back for a few seconds before he gave up and tried once more to intervene.
"Let me at least"
"No-ooooooooooh," America whined stubbornly as he waved England's hands away again.
England sighed. He put the box down on the bed. Without a word, he took hold of America's shirtmuch to the disapproval of his independent little brother.
"Hey, stop!" America gripped at the shirt as England tugged it upwards. "I wanna do it!"
"You are going to rip it if you keep that up," England warned. With one swift pull, the shirt was off.
"Give it back!" America stood up and jumped at England.
"No!" England took his stand. He held the boy back with one hand and held the shirt high in the air with his other hand.
"Why not?!" America demanded as he pushed against England's blocking hand.
"Because you don't need it!" England angrily informed. He had thought the storm had passed. How had he ended up in another fight with his brother today?
"Yes I do!" America persisted.
"No," England grunted against America's advancing. "You don't!" With that last statement, England gathered his strength and pushed America back. America tumbled backwards on the bed. While America was momentarily down, England tossed the shirt behind him and went for the box he had placed on the bed.
"Hey!" America cried out indignantly as he sat back up, but before he could say anything else, the box was tossed onto his lap.
"There!" England bursted.
America looked down at the box in his lap.
"What do you think?" England was aggravated and insulted. Had the boy forgotten the surprise which England had toiled over already? "It's your gift. Open it," he commanded.
America looked at the box. Then he looked at his shirt on the other side of the room. Instead of opening the box, America took the towel that was still on the bed and wrapped it around himself.
"I'm cold," the boy complained. "I wanna get dressed first."
England was going to lose his temper if America did not do as he was told, and soon.
"You don't have to get dressed yet," England said firmly.
"How come?" America wanted to know.
"Just open the package," England spoke quickly. "You will understand."
America didn't see why it was so important for him to open his gift before he got dressed. He was cross with England for taking his shirt away before he could finish dressing himself for the first time, ever. Plus, he was still a bit worried that he would not like the gift. The box didn't look attractive, and if that was any indication of what its contents were like, America was in no hurry to open it. Still, he did as England told him. He lifted the top off of the box. Sure enough, America was not too happy with what he saw.
"A new shirt?" he whined. What kid enjoys getting clothes for a present? "I thought you said I would like it."
"It's more than just another shirt," England patiently assured.
America reluctantly held the piece of clothing up for a closer look. When it hung down unfolded, he could see that it was very different from the other shirts he had. The most obvious difference was the length. It was even shorter than the ones that he had been growing out of. America studied the shirt in confusion for a moment before something else caught his eye. The box was not empty. There were more items in it that had been hidden under the mini-shirt.
America put the strange shirt to the side. He picked up some mysterious black cloth sitting in the package. He curiously unfolded it and gasped.
"P-p-pants! I have pants!"
England smirked in satisfaction at the boy's shocked expression. America looked up at England with wide eyes. England merely gestured back at the still not-emptied box. America hastily went through the rest of the container. He took out the many parts of his surprise one by one. With each new item, his excitement grew.
"And socks! And shoes! And a vest! And a tie!"
America was temporarily blinded. Something large had dropped on his head. America swiftly took it off and held it in front of him.
"And a HAT!" America trembled with joy at the three-cornered hat that was so popular in his colonies. England seemed to have produced the hat out of nowhere and dropped it on the boy's head for fun. To America, the hat might as well have descended straight from heaven.
"I take it you like it, then?" England calmly asked (as if the answer was not obvious!) with a very pleased expression on his face.
I don't believe it!" America exclaimed happily as he gathered his entire outfit together and hugged it close to him. Everything looked so nice! It was all just like an outfit that a real grown-up would wearand it was all his size! America held his clothes tight as he looked back at England in wonder and disbelief.
"Can I really keep them?!"
"If they fit," England said with a nod.
It did not take long at all to get the impatient boy dressed up in his new clothes. England helped him and showed him how to do things like fix the buttons in place, tuck in his shirt, and tie his neckerchief around his neck. England then combed the boy's damp hair finished the look by adding the hat. After the boy was completely outfitted, his older brother asked him to turn around a few times. England admired how well his tailoring looked on the small boy. The hat and the shoes were the only parts of the ensemble that England had not made, but England had picked them out with care so that they would match the rest. While studying America as he turned, England was also quite pleased to see that the clothes fit perfectly. The man had to congratulate himself once again for another job well done. England was sure no one could match his sewing skills. Sure, maybe France could have made the outfit more stylish, glamorous, and poofy, but what could be practical about walking around like a peacock all the time?
"There you are! What do you think?"
England thought that America would praise the outfit further, but to his surprise, America didn't answer right away. England realized that the boy's excitement had gone down. America was making unsure movements and overlooking his new clothing with a critical eye. He seemed to be having second thoughts about all this.
" America finally started out. "Do I have to wear these all the time?"
England was taken aback by this sudden change in attitude.
"Of course," England reinforced firmly. "You are too old to be dressing like an infant."
America shifted back and forth; pulling at parts of his clothes with a frown.
"But it feels funny," the boy confessed. "And it's hot and itchy."
England chuckled a bit. He saw what the problem was now. The clothes had looked good all alone, but wearing them for the first time must have felt very strange to the boy. England remembered the discomfort he, himself, had felt each time dramatic changes in fashion had taken place in history.
"You will get used to it," he promised his little brother.
America still looked uncomfortable. He grimaced as he tried to move normally in the restricting clothes. He couldn't stop tugging and scratching at himself. He stumbled a bit in his new shoes. The shoes seemed to be the hardest thing for the boy to become accustomed to. America actually felt like he had weights on his feet. His toes felt trapped. He kept trying in vain to wiggle his sweaty toes inside the tight leather.
"Oh, for goodness sake! Don't look so depressed," England tried to cheer America up. "You look splendid! Here, see for yourself," England pushed his little brother in front of a full mirror, hoping he would feel better once he saw how handsomely he looked.
America stared at himself in the looking glass. He looked himself up and down. Slowly, the boy began to stand up a little straighter. A smile appeared on his face and he beamed as if a revelation had suddenly come to him.
"See?" England said with a smile. "What did I tell you?"
America looked up at England full of pride and new excitement.
"I look just like you!" the boy shouted happily before turning back to his reflection.
England froze at America's exclamation. To America, what he had just said seemed like a natural thing to be happy about. England was his big brother. America automatically thought that almost everything about England was awesome. He admired England with all the admiration a little boy could have for an older sibling or a father. He craved to be just like his big brother.
However, what America had said had astounded England. No one ever wanted to be like him. Not even his own family. France had always openly mocked England's style. When England thought more about it, it also occurred to him that most native people usually rejected the influences of foreign sovereigns. Yet, America was actually excited about donning an outfit that resembled something that England would wear. The boy actually wanted to look like England, and that had genuinely touched the old nation.
England marveled at the boy in front of him. America was grinning at himself in the mirror and making dramatic poses. He practiced taking off his hat and bowing a few times, like he had seen England do to greet people on occasion.
I guess this isn't so bad," America decided. "I guess I can wear this stuff, but
it's going to be kinda hard to play like this." After some thought, America looked up at England and tried to make a compromise. "Can I take the tie off when I play outside?"
England considered the suggestion for a moment.
"I don't see why not," the older nation said. He could allow that. It did seem a sensible thing to do.
"What about the vest? Could I take that off, too?" America ventured further.
"I suppose that would be alright," England agreed. The conversation was starting to make England think. He began to realize that America was going to need a whole wardrobe of new clothes now. He would at least need a change of clothes set aside for play so that he would not ruin his new, nicer clothes.
"And the socks and shoes?" America added, hopefully.
"No," England drew the line at that. "You may not take those off."
"Shoes protect one's feet," England lectured. "It's high time that you settled into the habit of wearing them." England was trying to be stern on this subject for the boy's own good, but when he saw America's downcast face, his resolve weakened. "However," England continued with a sigh of defeat. "I think there might come some instances in which I could make an exception and allow you to remove them. Just be sure you ask permission first. Alright?"
America's smile returned.
"Alright! It's a deal!" the boy enthusiastically agreed. He could live with that. Suddenly, America rushed at England and began tugging at his older brother's shirt. "Hey, hey, England?! Can we go into town?" he asked.
"What? You mean right at this moment?"
"I want to show my new clothes to all my friends!" America was bouncing up and down with eagerness as he spoke.
England glanced out the window. It was getting late in the afternoon and he and America had not even had lunch, yet. England was also not sure if he had the energy to make a journey into town after his earlier battle with America.
"It's getting rather late to go all the way into town," England tried to be rationale. "Couldn't you wait till tomorrow?"
"Oh Please, England? Please?" America tugged at England some more as he begged. His cute face became all puppy-eyed. England looked away, but he was too late. He didn't have a chance when his brother made that face.
"I suppose I could use the chance to run a few errands
"Hooray!" the boy jumped and shouted as he released his pleasure. He ran for the door to England's room with his arms spread out as if he were flying. "Come on! Let's go!" he called to his brother.
"Not so fast!" England called out to America as he dashed out of the room. "I need some time to get ready, first!"
"Ok!" America understood, but he did not slow his stampeding towards the stairs.
England stuck his head out of his room and gave the hasty boy a few instructions.
"I'll be along momentarily! Stay in the house while I change!" England didn't want America getting any ideas about running off on his own.
"Ok!" England heard his brother answer cheerfully from somewhere in the house. As England closed his door, he could hear America bounding back up the stairs. When the sound of his little brother's footsteps whooshed past the outside of England's door, he heard America announce:
"This is way better than a pop-gun!"
England grinned at sounds of his brother's celebration. Normally, England didn't allow America to run in the house, but he could let it go this once. The boy was bursting with happiness and wild energy. He needed to let it out.
England turned back to his room and slumped against his door. The room was a bit disheveled. The sheets on his made bed where out of place from America moving around on it. The contents of his trunk were out of order. America's wet towel was on the floor, and his old shirt was on the far side of the room. England would have to tidy the room before he could think about getting dressed for an outing.
As England made his way to his chest, he caught a glimpse of himself in his mirror. He winced at his unkempt reflection. His clothes were damp and wrinkled. He had removed his wet shoes and stockings after falling into the tub with America, so he was still bare-foot. The back of his shirt was torn from when he had fallen out of the tree, earlier, and his wild head of hair was even more frazzled than it usually was.
England turned away from the mirror and sighed. He was not looking forward to putting himself back together. He was not really looking forward to the trip into town, but he tried to convince himself that it would be the practical venture. He needed to pick out some more materials, so that he could start work on more clothes for America, anyway. He could also try to find an extra outfit that America could wear for play, in the meantime. Maybe a jacket would be good, too.
While England tackled his storage chest, America ran back and forth in the hallway outside of England's room. He was starting to get used to the feel of his new clothes. He felt very grown-up in his new pants that came down just below his knees. The only problem was his shoes. The boy was used to running around barefoot most of the time. Wearing shoes just didn't feel right. He wanted his feet to be free. His pace slowed as he thought about taking off the shoes (just for a minute. His imprisoned feet needed air).
But as the boy came to a stop, he noticed something about the shoes that he had not before. He looked down at his shoes and wiggled his feet inside of them. Were his shoes...squeaking? He took a few slow, experimental steps. They were! America walked around in a circle and listened to the entertaining sounds. The hallway echoed with the "squeak, CLOP, squeak, CLOP" of his yet-to-be-broken-in footwear. America discovered that he thoroughly enjoyed the sounds his shoes made when he stomped them. The powerful noises that his hard shoes created when they hit the wood floor made America feel much older and heavier. The boy began to march and stomp his feet as hard as he could.
"Hey, England! Listen!" America called to England's closed door. "My shoes make funny noises!"
Inside the room, England groaned.
"How wonderful," he said in a voice betrayed his true feelings. He obviously thought that the racket was less than wonderful.
America went back to his running, but still tried to stomp his feet as he ran. He smiled broadly as he raced about. The boy was beginning to see the advantages of his new clothes. He could run as fast as he wanted, and he didn't have to worry about his long shirt flying up or getting caught on something. America ran back to the stairs and slid down the banister. Wearing pants made this action so much easier. When he reached the bottom of the stairs he started doing clumsy cartwheels and tumbling. He did a head-stand using a wall for support. Standing upside-down was more fun without his long shirt falling down over his head.
"Hey, England quick! Look what I can do!"
England heard his little brother calling to him. By this time, England was finished with his chest. He had slung the wet towel over his shoulder and was now smoothing out his bed-sheets.
"I don't know what you could be doing," England called back. "But I am certain that you are not standing on your head with your feet against the wall, as you have been clearly instructed not to do in the past." England heard a "BUMP" before America answered.
"I'm not! Never mind!"
In his excitement, America had completely forgotten the rule. England did not like dirty marks on the wall. When he stood up, the boy was relieved to see that his shoes had not left any spots on the clean wall.
Back in his room, England gave a knowing smile in the direction of the sound. He had come to know that boy so well. Once his bed was made, all that was left was America's shirt. England went over to it, picked it up off the floor, and shook it out. He walked back to the bed to fold it.
England paused when he held the shirt up in front of him. He suddenly felt struck by how small the shirt was. When had America gotten so big? It seemed like only yesterday when the boy was so little that his long shirts practically devoured him. England could almost see the happy toddler in the worn shirt, reaching out for England to hold him
. When was the last time America had asked to be held? England suddenly realized that he was going to have to pack away all of America's delicate, little shirts. The boy would not need them anymore. For some reason, thinking about all this made England's stomache hurt and his eyes water. The nation quickly wiped his eyes, cleared his throat, and tried to get control of himself.
"What am I?" he scolded himself. "A pathetic old maid, grieving over an empty nest?" England folded the tiny shirt and tried to think nothing more about it. It would be ridiculous to get upset over this. His brother was just growing out of some old clothes. It was nothing to blink at. If England could not handle this, he shuddered to think about how he would react when his brother went through pubertybut it would be ages before that happened! America was still a small child. There was no reason to go flying off the handle over a new set of clothes.
Suddenly, England heard the door open behind him. When had America come back upstairs?! England did not look at the boy. He was afraid his eyes might be red. He spoke quickly and tried to act as if nothing was wrong.
"Before you ask: no, I am not ready yet, and I don't want you coming in here every few seconds to chOMPH!" England felt America ram into the back of his legs. The boy's arms wrapped around England's legs and squeezed. England feel forward and caught himself on the bed. "What's all this?!"
"Thanks, Arthur!" America said sweetly, as he hugged England with gratitude. "And
I'm sorry that I ran away," the boy added softly. "
and threw dirt on you
and made you fall out of the tree
and spit on your face
and splashed you
England smiled down at him.
"Apology accepted," he interrupted with a pat on the boy's head. "Don't worry about it." To be honest, a part of England had somewhat enjoyed the adventure that America had put him through that morning. "Now, if you will kindly grant me a few minutes to put myself back together?" England said as he slipped out of the hug and gently pushed America towards the door. "I must hurry if you still want to go into town today."
"Alright!" America hurried out the door, but before England could shut it, the boy returned. "Hey, next time I need a bath, can I take it by myself?"
England was startled! Had he heard his brother correctly?
"I beg your pardon?"
"If I'm big enough to wear breetches, then I'm big enough to wash myself, right?"
England's mouth dropped, and he stuttered a bit before finally replying.
I thought you hated baths."
America looked at England like he was crazy.
"Who me? No way!" he bragged. "Only babies are afraid of baths!"