Series: Axis Powers Hetalia
Characters: Arthur (England), Alfred (USA), major historical figures (and the occasional unnamed citizens and mentions of other nations)
Pairing: Eventual Arthur/Alfred
Rating: PG-13 overall (for language, violence, and war)
Warning: This is a WWII fic and deals with a lot of historical detail, most specifically the Blitz and the US build-up to entering the war. So general warnings for that. Note also that the opinions of characters are not necessarily those of the author's.
Summary: Before the victory of the allies, before the United States of America joined the war, before Lend-Lease, before everything — there were just two nations, two men, who just refused to meet halfway until it was forced upon them.
Summary for this chapter: Alfred listens to the sounds of war half a world away, and stands firm in his decision to remain uninvolved.
Time stamp: September and December of 1940.
Notes: This is something I've been researching for heavily since May-ish, and now I'm finally posting. Short chapter to start this off - and please let me know what you think and whether it's worth continuing. As you can see, I do have a lot planned... if people are interested. This story will deal with the build-up to the US entering WWII, and the groundwork for the "special relationship".
01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15
By all means, it was a rather pleasant day outside. A sunny mid-afternoon, waning into early evening. It was dark in the room, though. If he’d wanted, he could have easily watched the sun set—throw open the curtains and stand out on the porch of his modest house, watch the night progress, the cheerful buzz of crickets and the twinkle of lightning bugs. But instead he sat in darkness, the only light coming from the corners of the curtains, where they couldn’t block all the light, and from the low red ember of a lit cigarette. The radio was tuned, clicked on, waiting for what he always waited for, every day without fail.
There was the little chime of the opening, the fizzle for that brief moment when the airwaves were perfectly silent. And then, low and clear, crisp as if right behind his shoulder, Edward Murrow said over the radio airwaves: “This is London.”
And then the bombs exploded in his room, filling the dark, silent air with shrapnel and sirens. Coherent thought drowned in the whistling sound of the bombs, the crunching sound of destruction, the sound of antiaircraft guns. The bombs screamed, the sirens wailed, and through it all he couldn’t hear a single voice, other than that one man. He could never imagine what Murrow’s face must look like on the other side of the ocean, willingly standing in the lasting debris of a falling nation.
There was a horrifying moment when there were no words, only a siren’s scream, only the sound of unnatural thunder, the sound of collapsing buildings, of fire raging through streets.
Alfred inhaled, cigarette between his lips. He held the smoke in before exhaling, breathing out the smoky translation of everything he would not say: the tobacco language. He understood it well, understood the way the smoke moved. The smoke drifted through the dark room before dissipating, as if it had never been there at all.
September 1940 had been a long month. Even for him. He couldn’t imagine what it was like for the people on the other side of the ocean, in Europe. He told himself he didn’t actually care, as long as he and his land were left untouched. He listened to the radio, to the BBC, not because he was concerned, but because it was necessary to stay informed about what was going on. The men in Washington thought so, at least. In many ways, he thought, he and the others like him clung to the image of war, thrived on it—it was something they could understand, something in which they could find a strange solace, a strange understanding. And it’d been so long since Alfred had tasted war, and the taste was still bile in his throat most nights. But it’d been so long that sometimes it was reassuring to hear the familiar sounds, to hear something that he could understand and grasp, above everything else (this is what he told himself, when his own sun went down and the bombs were still screaming in London).
He sat for hours, listening to the radio broadcast, as England moved from sundown to sunrise. Ever since the start of the Blitz weeks ago, he’d sat in the same room, on the same channel, listening to the sounds of human suffering an entire ocean away but loud enough that it could very well have been outside his window. Sitting alone in his room, listening, with coffee and a cigarette he kept forgetting to smoke, staring blankly at the wall—he listened, motionlessly, as the room filled with the sounds reflected from London.
It’s only a matter of time before he falls.
It wasn’t the first time the thought occurred to him, wasn’t the first time he recognized that the situation seemed rather dire for everyone on the other side of the ocean. But he couldn’t get involved, wouldn’t let himself get involved. He couldn’t.
He stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray and with steady hands lit a new one.
It’d been too costly to be involved in the last war in Europe, and because his administration wasn’t willing to do it again, neither was he. He would do as his people wanted, and leave it at that. He turned the volume down on the radio, only slightly. He knew his own people were listening in, too, listening to the destruction and the pain. He wasn’t sure how they thought of it all, though.
A bomb exploded close to where Murrow was recording his broadcast, and it seemed to rattle the very room Alfred sat in, seemed to rattle his very bones.
He listened to the destruction, listened to Murrow speaking through the airwaves, describing in little gems of detail how people struggled to live their lives, even as their city and world threatened to shatter around them. Shattered.
After a long while of listening, just as he always did, he wondered to himself: why did he listen?
What could it possibly do for him to listen to the destruction of a country he didn’t care about? He hadn’t cared about England for a long time and he wouldn’t ever again. He kept reminding himself of that, kept telling himself that even if it was a horrible situation on the other side of the ocean, it wasn’t his business. Not anymore. Never again.
The broadcast was ending. It was dawn in England. The Luftwaffe was returning for the night, leaving London in ruins.
The broadcast began to wrap itself up. The hum of bombers disappeared into the night, as the sun rose over a damaged London, but still not broken. Murrow told his stories of the hardness of the Londoners, moving on through their lives as best they could. Their way of thumbing their nose at Germany. How brave those people were, Murrow always hinted at and Alfred feared he would start to believe—he could not be sympathetic to people he could not and would not help. He waited for the broadcast to end.
There was a long pause, and then Murrow said, voice quiet and deadly, saturated with his frustration and desperation: “Perhaps you can relax as these people did after Munich… But consider what’s happened in the last two years and try to ignore what the next two years will bring—if you can.”
The radio clicked away into static.
It was a few days later, in the beginning of October, with the Blitz continuing its destruction in London, that the US ambassador to Britain returned to Washington, for good. Alfred was in the White House visiting the first lady, as he did every other week, schedules permitting. Eleanor was always kind enough to set up a bedroom for him, and he would oftentimes spend days in the White House with the president and his family—and sometimes alone, traveling the halls he knew by heart, remember each president who’d come and gone. He appreciated the distraction from his duties, since peacetime often left Alfred with little to do. It was also a necessary distraction now; even with a few days’ time between him and Murrow’s broadcast, Murrow’s closing statements still haunted Alfred. But he tried not to focus on it. He was in the White House now, in his own country with his own people, people who loved him and were safe from war. Even if Franklin was a bit cold at times, Alfred loved him as he loved all his bosses, for all their faults and for all their virtues.
Setting back to his room to fetch his coat so he could walk with the first lady in the rose garden, Alfred passed a door left ajar and heard it then: “England is gone.”
Alfred, despite himself, froze in his steps, unable to move for one brief moment. For one brief moment, he felt his heart stop in the shock of hearing such a statement. He hadn’t listened to Murrow for a few days now, he hadn’t been paying attention to the news—had the United Kingdom finally—?
Before he could realize what he was doing, recognize the startled look on his face, Alfred backtracked, standing at the crack in the door and peering in. Franklin was there, as well as the ambassador to the United Kingdom, Joseph Kennedy.
“I will devote now my efforts to what seems to me,” Kennedy said, face grim, back straight, “to be the greatest cause in the world today.”
Franklin said nothing at first, and Alfred gripped the doorframe, feeling his body shake.
“And that is to help you, Mr. President, in keeping the United States out of war,” he finished.
There was a long pause. Alfred weighed the words. He was still shaking, which was utterly ridiculous. He told himself to calm down, pressing up against the wall, staring into the room. Kennedy was talking about the country, not the person. There was no way to know if he was actually gone. There was no reason for him to even care. By all means, Alfred should be pleased—if his people were anything to go by. Even now, there were many of his people who hated the British. So the abrupt reaction he felt at the words was something that was a little more than silly. Unnecessary. He should be relieved.
“I will not return to Britain,” Kennedy continued. “It is beyond hope now. What matters now is staying away from this conflict, and getting the Americans out of Britain while they’re still in one piece”
There was another pause and Alfred lingered, wondering why it was that Franklin didn’t say anything—why wasn’t his boss saying anything? Of course, with such thoughts it was only a matter of time that his president and boss headed his words.
“Alfred,” Franklin said suddenly and Alfred startled, rearing back a bit. “Don’t linger in the doorway. This concerns you. Come in.”
“It doesn’t concern me that much,” Alfred muttered, loud enough that his boss would hear.
He was rewarded with a look.
Guilty, Alfred opened the door the rest of the way and walked in. Franklin didn’t smile, but there was a touch of a smile in his eyes. He stopped a few feet away from the two men. Kennedy watched him, unsure at first who this young boy could be. He glanced back at Franklin, and Franklin finally did smile, nodding towards Alfred.
“This is who you’ve just sworn to protect, Mister Ambassador.”
When Kennedy looked back at Alfred, there was still the slightest look of confusion. Alfred waited for comprehension to dawn, and sure enough it only took a few moments before there was a spark in the ambassador’s eyes and he stood up straighter. He understood now who stood before him and his lips thinned out to a taut, terse line. He stared at his country personified with a look of awe and respect, but that same, strange childlike wonder all his citizens got when they realized for the first time who he was, really.
Kennedy stepped forward, grim-faced but open, and clapped a hand on Alfred’s shoulder.
“We’ll protect you, my country.”
Alfred didn’t say anything, but glanced between Kennedy and the president, who watched the two while betraying nothing on his face. Alfred swallowed thickly and nodded, understanding.
England is gone.
England is gone.
England is gone.
The hand slipped away from his shoulder and Kennedy stepped back. He, like so many others, was never sure how to treat him. It was not every day that one met his country. America never begrudged his people for the uneasiness.
England is gone.
- Edward Murrow was head of CBS news in Europe during the second world war, and stayed in England during the duration of the war, recording broadcasts about the Blitz. Everything Murrow says in this prologue is from actual broadcasts.
- The Blitz and the German air force. From September 7 on, London would endure fifty-seven straight nights of relentless bombing. Until then, no other city in history had ever been subjected to such an onslaught. Warsaw and Rotterdam had been heavily bombed by the Germans early in the war, but not for the length of time as of the assault on London.
- Murrow’s broadcasts on the Blitz became incredibly popular in the United States, and actually helped change US Americans’ attitudes on the war to a more sympathetic light, as at that time US opinion of the UK was incredibly sour, due to US American opinion that Britain had tricked the US into WWI. Within one month, public opinion in the USA changed due to Murrow’s post: it went from 39% of US Americans favoring more US aid to Britain to 54%.
- “Perhaps you can relax as these people did after Munich… But consider what’s happened in the last two years and try to ignore what the next two years will bring—if you can.” Actual closing statement by Murrow, and referring to the Munich Agreement.
- Joseph Kennedy was the US ambassador to Britain, but abandoned the UK in its dire hour and proclaimed it a dying nation in the wake of the Blitz’s damage. He urged all US Americans staying in Britain to leave back to the USA and for the United States to sever ties with the UK in favor of keeping itself out of war.