Things Arent going so well any more, are they? These are the hesitant words Lithuania asks over supper one evening. America just nods in reply, feeling worn after a long day of attempting to find someplace to sell his surplus goods. He is starting to realize the error of his over-zealous ways, and oh does he know hell be paying for this soon.
The wealth of the 20s had been a sham, an economic bubble that had recently popped. Its not like Alfred as a single person can do anything about the fact that only a small piece of his population is monopolizing all the wealth, he cant help the millions who cant afford more than one new set of clothes a year. As a nation hed ruined himself with too many years of living off credit, off more than he had.
Its going to get worse, he knows.
He tries to smile everyday for his housemate, even as people start getting laid off left and right, and factories start sporting Were firing, not hiring signs to deter the unemployed. It is only for Lithuanias sake that he attempts to make it seem like hes still strong. He has a pretense to keep up, he has to at least seem strong for as long as he can.
But then Black Tuesday comes and suddenly its impossible for Alfred to even pretend that things are alright. He can feel the hunger of his countrymen, the ones who cant afford to provide for their families any longer, no matter how many honest or shady jobs they take on. And aside from his own internal issues, he has to deal with heat from other nations, too. His economy falling through means that everyones would. Except for Russia, damned smug socialist that he is
When did he become so important to world affairs anyway? Alfred only wanted to be his own man, his own country. He wants to be a hero, too, but he is failing at that spectacularly. In the end, he knows it is his own fault that he is so annoyingly necessary to the world.
Its alright, really, Lithuania is always, always trying to keep Americas spirits up, Youre a hero, remember? You can definitely find a solution for this. When Lithuania says that with such a warm smile, one that reminds America of sunflowers, he cant help but believe the other nations words.
But hopeful words mean nothing when Toris is taken away by Ivan who, unlike Alfred, can actually afford to take care of his people, of Lithuania. Alfred can do nothing but hope that the smaller man will maybe come back to visit sometime, when the economy is stable and Alfred can afford to have a guest over. He realizes in that moment that in this world it really is impossible to be a hero without proper funds, which completely undermines good intentions. Watching the other call for him as Toris is carried away feels like utter defeat at the hands of a villain, but what can he do? What good is a hero who cant take care of anyone?
Alfred knows hes needed; hes needed by his boss and his people and the rest of the world. But just because he is needed doesnt mean he isnt still influenced by his people and their general mood. The general mood isnt a hopeful one. Its strange and gives Alfred these bizarre urges to jump onto freight trains and ride across the country, which is perfectly illegal he knows. On some days he just feels dead, listless, like he can do nothing but wander. These are the bad days, the ones where his limbs feel heavy and he knows thousands of the unemployed are remembering getting paychecks and sobbing over how it feels like theyll never be working again.
But his is a country of hope, so even though he has days where the idea of getting up in the morning feels as heavy as a death sentence, he still does. He goes on living, coming together with the people around him, all of them desperate and relying on the support of the others around them. The feeling of being together like that isnt so bad, he thinks, even if everything is crashing down around him. As much as he wants to travel on some days, on others he just wants to sit and listen to his new boss on the radio, or go to the drive-in, or read mystery novels. Monopoly had recently become his favorite pastime.
Somehow Alfred finds time to do and feel all of these things while standing by his president (and when hes out traveling and therefore not physically with his boss, hes with him in spirit and always remembers to pick up an interesting stamp or two for him). And his boss, oh America--both the person and the country--loves this guy, hes always got a new deal, always has a new solution that might improve everything.
At first the only thing that seems to be improving is morale. Alfred notices it as he starts feeling less and less sluggish, he starts looking forward to waking up and working again. And then, somewhere along the way, a real change is made and Alfred realizes it. He really realizes for the first time in years that the money in his pocket is worth something, that hes happy and excited and together. He cant explain that last one, but its the best part of getting better, it really is.
Well, maybe not quite the best part, Alfred thinks a few years after hes sure his home is stable again and another war has come and gone. Maybe the best part is that after the war, as terrible as it was, he wakes up one morning and finds he has an unexpected but entirely welcome guest.
You still leave the spare key under the welcome mat, Toris says with a small smile as he shakes his head. You should change the place every once in a while, someone might break in.
For a moment Alfred just stares at Toris, sitting primly on his living room couch the same way he used to when they ate dinners together while listening to the radio. Then, after the shock has brought him into full wakefulness, then he all but tackles the other nation in a fit of joy and bittersweet emotions and --Oh man, have I missed having you around!
Lithuania laughs a bit shakily, petting Alfreds messy hair down as the other nation hugs the life out of him. Yeah, this is definitely the best part about being cured of his depression, Alfred thought. Now he can take care of himself, of Toris, of everyone again, he can be the solution again and not the problem.
I told you youd figure everything out.
Course I did, Im a hero after all!
Now he can be a hero again.