The next conference that you attended with England was held in London, which you were thankful for because it meant that you didn't have to ride in a plane or an extremely crowded subway to get there.
Both you and England were the first ones to arrive, and he told you that the meeting didn't start until a few hours later.
"Arthur, why do we come so early?" you asked him as the both of you walked down the extremely long and fancy hallway of one of the floors of the conference building.
"It's better to get here early and have more time to prepare than to get here late and be in a rush," England replied. Another few seconds of silence passed before he leaned a little closer to you and said, "_____, I would also appreciate it if you call me by my country name when we're around everyone else."
You blinked in confusion. "Well, why can't I just call you Arthur around everyone else?"
"Because that would be too informal," England said. "When you're at a meeting with different nations, we call them by their country names to make things simpler and easier. I think it would make the most sense if you call me England, like everyone else does."
"Does a country ever call you Arthur outside of meetings?" you asked as you pressed a finger to your chin.
England shook his head. "No, they don't. I do not allow them to."
You tilted your head to one side in confusion as you set your gaze down the hallway. "Then how come I'm allowed to call you Arthur outside of meetings, but not anybody else?"
Out of the corner of your eye, you were able to see England blush and look off to one side. "W-Well, you're…different."
You paid no attention to the fact that he had suddenly gotten flustered and instead asked, "How?"
England sighed before he replied quietly, "Let's see…you don't get on my nerves, which is why it's very easy having you live with me. You seem to respect me much more than anybody else I know, and you can actually tolerate my cooking."
You blinked. "Is that a good thing?"
England chuckled. "Of course it is. If you acted like everyone else I know, I probably would've kicked you out of my house a week after you arrived."
"R-Really?" you asked in astonishment. "B-But I've lived with you for about two and a half years…"
"Because I like having you in my life," England said.
At that, you froze in your tracks, your eyes widening, and when England noticed that you weren't following him, he stopped walking as well and turned around to face you. "You…like…me?" you asked quietly.
After you said that, you were able to notice England's face turn increasingly red. "N-No!" he stammered as he frantically waved his hands in front of him. "Uh, I-I mean…I…I like having you in my life, is all. You make me feel like…like I'm not lonely."
You slowly nodded, your gaze blank as you murmured quietly, "Nobody has ever said that to me before…"
England blinked, and you were able to notice a hint of pity in his eyes as he quietly asked, "Nobody…ever said they were happy to have you as a part of their lives?"
You shook your head before you dropped your gaze down onto the floor. "If my parents ever said it, then I don't remember. From what I believe, you're the only person who truly cared for me ever since my parents died…."
After you closed your eyes, you heard England slowly approach you, and before you could've reacted, he wrapped his arms around you and pulled you close. "I'm sorry, _____," he murmured as he rested his chin on your shoulder. He felt bad that you had to go through such a long, hard life at a very young age, and he vowed to himself that he would've done whatever it took to make you understand that he cared about you.
You let out a tiny sigh in reply as you wrapped your arms around England's neck. A few seconds of silence passed between the both of you and you thought that you would've fallen asleep standing up in the warm comfort of England's arms. That was before you heard someone snicker a few feet away from the two of you.
"Oh, am I interrupting on you guys?" the voice smirked playfully, and you almost jumped in shock.
When you drew yourself away from England and faced the person who was watching you, you felt your mouth almost drop open when you saw Sophie standing there. The first thought you had in your mind was how you were barely able to believe that this was the same, fragile, tiny girl who you shared a room with just years ago. Now, Sophie looked like she had eaten five times the amount of food she ate back at the orphanage, if not more. Her hair was pinned back in a bun, and she wore clothes that looked like she had just taken a trip to the beach right in the middle of summer.
Once you were able to take in how Sophie looked, you instantly felt a blush creep up on your face when you realized that she had spotted you and England hugging. "A-Ahh…Sophie!" you said as you walked up to her.
She eyed you up and down before she drifted her eyes over to England, who had his gaze off to the wall as he fiddled with his fingers, a flustered look on his face that matched yours. Sophie giggled. "So…is that Mr. Arthur Kirkland that you told me about standing over there?"
You sighed as you rubbed the back of your neck with your hand. "Yeah…"
She let out another giggle and prodded you in the arm with her elbow. "You know, I bet if I were to see him for the first time, I would've wanted to go up and hug him too!"
You felt your face turn beet red as you replied, "N-No! That's not the reason at all!" You tried swatting her in the shoulder with your hand, but she let out a playful squeal as she jumped back.
"Hey, hey!" Sophie said. "No need to get all aggressive in front of me!"
You let out an exasperated sigh, aware of England tapping his foot impatiently against the floor. "So…how's life in America?"
Sophie smiled. "It's so amazing! Alfred took me to so many places and we bought so much stuff. I even have my own camera, and it's already filled with a whole bunch of pictures from our trips!"
You let out a weak smile. "I'm…glad to hear that." England never gave you your own camera, but you knew that if you had one, you would've taken a whole bunch of pictures of all the wonderful places in London just like Sophie did in America.
"Oh, and another thing I have to ask you," Sophie said a little more quietly as she leaned towards you. "You're probably going to think I'm crazy, but is it true that the people who go to these meetings personify countries?"
You drew away from her and looked at her in shock. "H-How did you know that?"
Sophie frowned. "Alfred told me. He told me about how countries don't age like regular, non-countries do. And get this!" she said as she inched closer to you, her eyes widening in excitement. "He told me that he personifies the country I live in, America! Which is why he goes to all of these meetings with different countries! And he also told me that Mr. Kirkland, the guy you live with, personifies England! I don't know if you know that, but I just wanted to tell you!"
She drew away from you, and a few seconds of silence passed until you finally found your voice. "I-I know. Actually, I knew this for a while. I just didn't want to tell you earlier because I was afraid you would've thought that I was crazy."
Sophie smiled at you before she turned her gaze to England, who began to pace across the width of the hallway. "I'm going to go up and greet him," she said to you before she skipped up to him. You couldn't have helped but watch in amusement. You have never seen your friend so full of excitement before, and you were glad that she was finally happy living the way she was now.
"Hello, England!" Sophie said cheerfully as she jumped to a halt only inches away from England, causing him to take a few steps back in surprise.
A few seconds of silence passed as he eyed Sophie up and down. "Hello. So, I understand that you're _____'s friend?"
"Yeah!" she said excitedly. "I'm Sophie, and you're England, right?" After England nodded, Sophie smiled as she extended a hand towards him. He paused before he finally shook it, and you smiled as you approached the both of them.
"It's a great pleasure to meet you, England!" Sophie said enthusiastically before she practically jumped on top of him, throwing her arms around him in a tight hug.
"Ahh!" England yelped as he was being squeezed by a girl who was many, many times younger than him. Quickly, he shoved Sophie away, straightening his wrinkled clothes.
She looked at him, frowning in confusion. "Hey, aren't I allowed to give you a hug as a greeting?"
"No," England replied irritably after he straightened his clothes and crossed his arms. "I'll have you know that I do not allow people to invade my personal space this way, greeting or not."
Sophie blinked at England for a few seconds, and you instantly felt your throat close when a mischievous smile came across her face. "So…I'm not allowed to hug you, but _____ is, eh?"
Instantly, both you and England's faces turned a nice shade of red, and England dropped his hands to his sides and clenched his fists. "Sh-She isn't! What the bloody hell makes you think that?"
Sophie's grin only grew wider as she walked up to England and prodded him in the arm with her elbow, just as she had done to you. "What makes me think that is me walking in on the both of you hugging each other! Don't bother lying to me, because I saw it with my own two eyes!"
"Sophie!" you cried as you fiercely shoved her, causing her to almost trip over her own feet as she let out a loud, obnoxious laugh. "So by what you're saying, I suppose you never hugged any of your parents?"
She looked at you as if you were an idiot, and she lightly smacked you on the shoulder. "Duh, _____, of course I did! But we were actually related. You never would've even met England if you had just chosen a different place to sleep in!"
You huffed as you turned around so that your back faced Sophie. "Whatever," you muttered under your breath, and you saw England slowly approach Sophie and pause in front of her.
"So, I'm guessing that you live with America, right?" he asked her, trying to forget about what happened just moments ago.
Sophie's eyes widened in amazement. "Yeah! How did you know that?"
"Just a lucky guess," England muttered as he dropped his gaze down to the ground.
There was a long moment of silence that followed before Sophie gasped. "Oh, speaking of America, I need to go and find him! I said to him before that once I found you, I would've returned to him." Before you could've said anything, Sophie ran down the hallway and was out of sight.
You felt England lean closer to you until he murmured in your ear, "How long has she been living with America?"
"Since a little before Christmas," you replied softly.
England sighed as he stood upright. "She hasn't even been living with him for half a year and she's already very similar to him. With all the food that she's probably going to be eating, she'll be fat before you know it."
You stared down the hallway that Sophie ran across just moments ago. England was right. Sophie had changed dramatically, and it wasn't a wonder to you that it took a while for you to actually recognize her. Maybe eventually, there would've been as many differences between you and her as there were between America and England.