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Alfred slept restlessly that night, his sleep filled with depressing images of death and destruction; black smoke and fire.  He had been in the world trade center that day, but he had been on the bottom floor when the first plane hit. He had been one of the people who was helping others out of the rubble. Of course he was, he couldn't just leave his people there to die, could he?

That had been one of the most painful things he had ever been through, and his physical form had died before. But it wasn't just physical; it was emotional, too. He would never forget the screams and the smell of burnt flesh from that day.

He woke himself up with another nightmare, another helpless victim's screams. He looked at the blurry digital alarm clock on the table beside his bed. '3:12', it read. Alfred sighed. Even though it was this early, he knew he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. So instead, he stood and got dressed. Nothing too fancy, but still good enough to pass. He put on his bomber jacket and a pair of black and white converse and stepped out of his hotel room.

He was surprised to find Russia out in the hall as well, turned towards his door. Alfred watched him as he turned around and walked down the hall, stopping in front of the elevator.

"Hey Russia, why are you up so early?" he asked, jogging down the hall to join the other.

"I couldn't sleep very well, so I decided that I might take a walk through town," he said, adjusting his ever-present scarf.

"Well, Vanya, you may not know this, but big cities in my country are dangerous at night. Especially for people like you." America made sure to use his little pet name. Why? I don't think even he knows, but it felt right for the moment. Russia even smiled when he heard it, whether from amusement or something else.

"Maybe the great Fredka would like to accompany me then, da?" he asked, still smiling.

"Of course, that's what hero's do!" America said enthusiastically, grabbing the other and stepping onto the elevator.

------

They walked around the city for a while, quiet and comfortable. The quiet bustle of New York at night could do that to you.
"Fredka," he used the pet name again, "You never told me why you were up at this hour...?" America sighed, contemplating whether he should answer that truthfully or not.

"I couldn't sleep either. I guess the anxiety about tomorrow is really starting to get to me." Once he started speaking, he couldn't stop. "I worried all week about where to take you all today, because it's the anniversary of that day, and I wanted it to be special, but I didn't really want you all to see me when I'm at my weakest. Hero's aren't weak, but I am. I don't do much good for the world, and the others hate me. Finally, someone acted on it, ad it hurt. It still hurts, worse than anything I've ever been through. I know my people suffer, and it kills me to know that I cant do anything about it, you know?" Sometime during his little spiel, he had started crying, even though you couldn't tell by his voice. Just the tears running down his face. "But I shouldn't trouble you with my problems, so forget I said anything."

"Alfred, it's going to be fine, you know. I can't imagine that the others would hate you. I know that it was hard, and you will probably never forget it. But you are not hated by everyone, and that's a fact." the Russian said quietly.

"Mattie won't hate me, but that doesn't mean he has to like me."

"I wasn't talking about your Canadian brother." he paused, "You seem very attached to your people. Always thinking of them before yourself. Not many are like that, mostly just you, Canada, and France. I don't think I would be able to care for someone that I knew I was going to have to watch die. I am too weak to handle it. You are not weak."

Alfred was stunned into silence. What do you even say back to something like that? He didn't know, so he didn't say anything at all. They walked for a little while longer in silence before he spoke up. "We're awefully far away, do you think we should start heading back? It's almost seven now, so some of the others might be awake already."

"Yes, we probably should. I bet you have something great planned for today, and we wouldn't want to keep everyone waiting, would we?" he affirmed, and they set out back to the hotel, neither of them planning on mentioning this conversation to anyone.

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