Author's Note: Thanks for the feedback on chapter one. Here's chapter two of three.
Waltzes, Minuets, the Whole Lot
By Everything is Magic
The chippy had been uneventful. America and England had talked about the World Summit over their baskets and wax paper, and America ordered seconds as usual. When they arrived at England's house, the older nation put in a classical music CD and spoke little as he cleared out a space in the living room, moving the furniture to the side of the room. "You could help." He gestured to America.
"Ah, oops. Your old man back giving you trouble?" He winked at England and picked up a couch easily, carrying it over one shoulder and setting it neatly against the wall.
England huffed. "Bloody show off, as usual." The Briton crossed his arms.
"I try," America quipped, moving the last piece of furniture, a table, out of the way.
"We'll start with a minuet." He snatched America's hand in his and cleared his throat. "The minuet is a dance generally done in ¾ time, although there are quicker versions, which originated in Ita--"
"England," America interrupted. "I don't care. I'm not here for a history lesson." He clenched his fingers around his partner's hand.
"I apologize. I know how much you don't like being cultured." He rolled his eyes and dropped his arm. "We actually don't take hands yet, now that I think about it. We have to bow first."
"Shouldn't you curtsey England? You're doing the woman's part, after all." America stifled a laugh.
"Oh come on." They bowed to each other. America leaned down and lazily placed his hand across his waist, sloppy and unrefined.
"Your bow is atrocious. Remind me to give you some lessons on posture as well before the ball." He slapped his left hand into America's right one. "Now we hold hands."
England counted under his breath as he showed America the steps of the minuet, the two swaying in beat to the music. After several minutes of practice, a few stumbles and some success, England changed the subject. "So why did you want me to teach you to dance?"
"This dance is boring, England," America averted the question.
"I never said every dance I teach you would be thrilling," England retorted.
America sighed in exasperation. "We're like… three feet apart and we never get closer. What kind of dance is that?" He smirked and grabbed England around the waist, pulling him closer until they were pressed against each other.
"Perhaps you'd be kind enough to stop complaining?" He flushed and feebly shoved at America's chest. "There will most certainly be a minuet, and you'd look right foolish if you couldn't even do something that simple."
"American dances are so much better." He whispered into the other nation's ear, his breath ruffling England's hair. "You'd think that with the dance being French, it wouldn't be so… chaste," America laughed.
England turned his head slightly and silenced America's complaining with a kiss. "Will that hold you over? There's still loads more dancing a meter apart that we have to learn."
He sighed. "Yeah, yeah. Let's get back to the boring prudish French dance, however that works."
The older country chuckled. "Things will get a bit more exciting after the minuet, I promise." England snatched America's hand again, leading them through the minuet once more.
America caught onto the dance quickly. He'd known it once upon a time, so it was just a matter of it coming back to him. He tuned England's counting out and watched his face instead. He was intent in his concentration on teaching America the dance, and this was reflected in his expression. England had asked him again why America wanted him to teach him, and he'd avoided answering.
America wanted England to figure it out by himself. Surely if he did, it would mean something to him as well, right?
Every few minutes, America would find himself unintentionally speeding up the dance, for which England reprimanded him. "Yes, I know it's slow. Be patient!"
America never had liked slow dances very much. He preferred them to be fast, upbeat, lively. When the people of his nation had started inventing dances of their own, exciting dances like nothing the world had ever seen before, America had been thrilled. He could get into these. They didn't require stuffy suits and music composed by old dead men and lists of proper protocol. His dances tore across the floor, in a frenzied fervor, and he couldn't deny his amusement when even Europe jumped into the fray, adopting his dances and the culture that came with them. During the second Great War, he experienced much of this first hand. Dance halls and pubs and parties played his music, and danced his dances, and he rarely missed a chance to tease England about it especially.
"All right, I think we're done for the day. You've got it down," England cleared his throat. When they pulled apart, America snatched England's hand and swung him out. "What the hell are you…?"
"The lindy hop, you remember that, right?" America grinned. He pulled England inward, wrapping his hand around his waist. "Now that was dancing!" He dipped the Briton down against his knee, and then smirked as he leaned down and teasingly poked his nose.
England squirmed away, nearly falling flat on the floor as he did so. "Christ's sake, America."
America shrugged and began to move England's furniture back to its proper place in the living room. He wondered if England remembered that as vividly as he did, the last time he'd taken the Briton's hand in a swing dance. It was just one more moment of almost, one more moment they'd just missed each other, but had walked away before anything began.
The sounds of big band had wafted across the room and a beautiful redhead was crooned at the microphone, her voice seductive and her green eyes daring. American and British servicemen mingled with the young women, buying them drinks and telling them stories of wartime heroics, some of which even America had no doubt were exaggerated.
"I'd never do that," America said, pausing to take a swig of his drink. "All of my heroics are genuine."
England snorted and gestured for the bartender to bring him another glass. "Bullshit."
"I could write an entire book about it. Times I Came and Saved England's Ass with My Awesome, by America." He held up his hands in front of him as if framing a title.
"War's not over yet," England retorted.
"Just try and catch up with me."
"Either way, the odds of you writing a book are about as astronomically small as--- "
"Oh I love this song!" America interrupted. The band had switched gears, from a crooning ballad to upbeat swing. He tapped his feet to the music. "Now this is music American style. It's the best! So much better than all the stuffy classical crap you have over here in Europe."
"I don't see how this is superior to classical music," England grumbled.
"It's downright cacophonic." He gulped down his scotch.
"Caca-what?" America shook his head. "Never mind. C'mon England, get with the times! You're stuck in what… the 1600's?" America glanced over to the dance floor, where dozens of couples were engaging in a lively swing dance. The girls' skirts would fly up when they twirled, never showing what was underneath, but coming teasingly close.
"No, if it were the 1600's, you would still be tolerable." England slammed down the glass.
"Whatever, England." America rolled his eyes. "Damn, I do miss dancing." He rested his hand on his chin and sighed. "I mean American dancing, of course."
"Of course," England huffed. "If you want to dance, why don't you go ask someone?" He turned away, his cheeks pink. "I'm sure there's plenty of women here who would jump at the chance for god knows what reason. That's what all your soldiers do. Buy them gifts and…"
"Nah," America interrupted. Maybe it was the haze of the alcohol slightly clouding his judgment, but America himself could not have even predicted what he did next. "I'll just do it with you." He grabbed England's hand roughly and pulled him up onto his feet.
"Wha-what the bloody hell are you doing?" England's cheeks were as red as the swirling crimson skirts that dotted the dance floor. "Are you insane?"
America laughed, not letting go of England's hand. "What's wrong England, can you not swing dance? Is it too awesome for you?"
The Briton's thick eyebrows furrowed and his lips formed into a tight line. "Of course I can do it. I assure you that I can do anything you can--- "
"Then let's go!" America exclaimed, yanking England by the arm toward the dance floor. The older nation cursed, unable to pull himself out of America's grasp. "The lindy hop. You've got to know it, right?"
"Perhaps," England replied weakly.
But America could tell immediately that England wouldn't be able to keep up with his quick feet. Swingout. A hand around the waist. Spot turn (one, two, three, four, five, six). Fingers brushing against each other. Lindy circle. Fingers still touching, knees pressed together. Basket. Under the arm, hands never letting go. Dip. America's arm on England's back, guiding his body toward the ground, their faces barely missing each other as he pulls him back up.
At first America could tell that England was fighting him, but America kept his hold strong on the other nation, guiding him through the steps as best he could. Every few moments, England would nearly trip and America would have to wait for him to catch up.
"I can't believe I'm doing this with you," he grumbled as America closed the position in a swingout. This brought them face to face, almost in an embrace.
He froze there. "It's just a dance, England." But in the heat of the smoky hall, with the music blaring around him and drowning out almost every other sound, America's blue eyes connected with England's green eyes. He felt his cheeks grow hot.
"Just a dance." England turned his face away. America did the same.
"Definitely just a dance," America agreed, confused by the huskiness of his voice.
"The music's stopped," England whispered.
America's eyes grew large, for indeed the music had stopped. And it had been replaced with the sound of a siren. That siren. The one that everyone in London knew so well. The band had was putting their instruments down and throwing them into the cases, wary to leave them behind. The dancers around them were yelling and running, running to the closest safe spot.
And America and England still held each other, their breathing heavy. America was the first to pull away. "Let's help everyone get down to the shelter."
"Right, of course." England nodded. The pair split up, waving everyone the right direction and telling them to keep calm. America spoke gently to one panicking woman, chided a band member for refusing to leave his very large, very heavy instrument, and worked his damndest to get his mind off what had been happening before the air raid began. With England. It was so strange, and yet so familiar. His mind began to brush on a long forgotten memory, but he shook his head to will it away. It wasn't important right now.
He glanced backwards, spotting England, who was assisting an older man who had fallen down while running to the shelter. Then he walked outside, leaving England behind, and watched as the skies bloomed orange and crimson.
The furniture was moved, the CD player on, the lesson in full gear. America was more taken with these dances, the steps quicker and the contact closer. It wasn't quite as stuffy as the minuet. They completed the lesson before England brought it up again.
"Tell me again why I'm giving you lessons?"
"Ah, how about I go pick something us for us to eat? I'm starved," America changed the subject.
"America…" England narrowed his eyebrows.
"Right! McDonald's it is. I'll get us both the usual," he laughed a forced laugh and ran out the door before England could reply.
It was raining in London, as was so often the case. America cursed himself inwardly for not grabbing an umbrella. Perhaps he was being unfair, but it irritated him that England found it so bewildering that America wanted him to give him dance lessons. They shared the same memories, did they not? And why did he have to have a reason anyway? Maybe he just wanted England, the most important person in his life, to be the one that taught him. Maybe he just wanted to spend time with him. America pulled his jacket over his head and jogged to the closest McDonald's.
It was the Viennese Waltz, and when England took America's hand to show him how to start it, the younger nation almost jerked away in shock.
This was the dance. The one that England had run away from, the one America had blundered through over two hundred and fifty years ago. Surely England would remember now?
"It's far more intimate than what we've done before now, and you can speed it up so it's quite fast," the Briton explained.
"And it's Austrian?" America grinned. "So the chaste one is French and this one is Austrian…"
England couldn't help but laugh. "Yes well, at the time this was seen as almost scandalous. It took some time for it to catch on." He began teaching him the dance. "One, two, three, one, two, three." It was all too familiar. America bit his lip nervously and almost did not hear England's next instruction, causing him to come within a hair of tripping.
America's arm was around England's waist and the older nation leaned back slightly, their hands held. They spun in circles and America thought the lesson was going very smoothly, if he did say so. He wasn't letting this get to him. Maybe the memory didn't mean as much to England. Perhaps England had just left in such a rush because he had something to do. And it was so long ago…
England cursed, bringing America back to attention. "Bloody hell, America. You just stepped on my feet three times in a row!"
America's eyes grew wide. So maybe he was letting it get to him after all. "Sorry England, you must just be so clumsy that it's screwing me up."
He rolled his eyes. "It's not me that's doing it incorrectly. It's you. You were fine with the other dances but with this one…" The Briton shook his head.
"I'm just distracted by stuff today," America reasoned weakly.
England dropped his arm and sighed. "That's fine enough. Perhaps it's not necessary to learn the Viennese Waltz. You can just sit out for that one. We'll stop the lesson tod---"
"NO!" America yelled, clenching England's hand fiercely. "We're going to learn it. I'm going to learn it."
The older nation blinked, nonplussed. "Why is it so important to you?"
America looked down at his feet, his bangs shadowing his face and his free hand fisted at his side. "Why do you think, England? Aren't I the one who you usually say is so thick?"
England's green eyes were wide. "What—what ever are you even talking about?"
"Think England, think. You and me and dancing. Have any good memories there?" America raised his head, meeting the other nation's gaze.
"We're doing this damn dance together, and I'm not leaving until I get it right," America demanded, placing his arm back around England's waist and raising their hands up to shoulder level.
England nodded. "One, two, three, four. Let's get this over with then."
They'd decided to go Victorian, vests and puff ties, coats and slacks. America had vetoed the hats. "Yeah, yeah I know we used to wear them. They just look funny to me now." His vest was maroon and his suit black, England's vest was a rich green and his suit black as well.
"We look pretty awesome, if I do say so," America commented as he pulled on his jacket.
The other country snorted. "A bit odd though…"
His partner did look fantastic, America thought. The clothes suited him, even more than a more modern suit would have. His mind wandered back to another time England wore a similar suit. That night at the Crystal Palace…
He shook his head, hating how this ball had caused him to dwell on the past so much.
"What's odd?" America finally queried.
England turned his face away from him. "Ah just… us… together," he paused, "in this clothing."
He faced the mirror that occupied the front foyer they stood in and stared at his and England's reflections. "Yeah, like going back in time." He rubbed his hand on top of England's hand, coaxing him to take it. The Briton did so. "Looks sort of like an old fashioned photograph!"
"I'm quite sure we don't have any photographs like this." England gestured down to their clasped hands.
The younger country sighed. "No, we wouldn't." He beamed nervously. "Would be nice if we did though!"
An awkward silence fell between them. Their hands remained joined and they stared deftly, thoughtfully, at their reflections before them. It was as if they were both taking a moment to imagine, to dream of what it would have been like if they'd reconciled earlier.
England was the first to break the silence. "I demand that, before we go, you tell me why you insisted upon me teaching you to dance."
And America dropped his hand. "I was hoping you'd figure it out on your own."
"Well I haven't."
"Really? Nothing at all."
England's eyes flashed in recognition for a moment, but he shook his head. "I'm not quite sure."
America slid his palm down his face. "My first tailored suit- 1749, or somewhere around there, the Crystal Palace- 1877, Vergeltungswaffen Blitz- 1944, Kennedy's inauguration- 1961…"
"Oh." He raised his eyebrows.
"We were always missing each other. One of us always left, whether it was by choice or not…" He leaned forward, placing his hands on England's shoulders. "England, we've known each other for four hundred years, and how often have we really, really danced together?"
The older country flushed. "Look, about the time with the suit. It was… I didn't quite know how to handle it at the time, all right?"
America felt a small smile creep across his lips. "Neither of us probably did. I mean it took us like, two hundred years after that…"
England stifled an ironic laugh. "God, we're pathetic."
"Your words, not mine!"
He shook his head and reached up, removing America's hands from his shoulders and holding them instead. They were face to face. "We haven't really, have we? We've done so much, and yet we haven't so much as shared an actual proper dance."
America nodded. "Like I said, I wanted you to figure it out yourself…"
"Why were you so insistent on that?" England inquired.
At this, America's cheeks reddened. "I was hoping those memories were important to you as well, that's all."
The Briton closed his eyes and shook his head, his lips quirking up in a half-smile. "They are important. Of course they are, you idiot. But they're not very good, are they?
"Um no, that was… my point." He rubbed the back of his head. I wanted to make better ones…
England snatched up his keys and gestured America to the door. "Come now. We'll be late to France's awful party."
"Better with two though, right?" America followed behind him as he opened and shut the door.
"I do think so." England glanced at him warmly.