America smiled proudly as he walked around the border of the canvas. This one was much larger than the last one he'd attempted, and it took up a considerable amount of the warehouse floor. There was still quite a bit of white, but he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with it. America crossed his arms in concentration, accidentally brushing his skin with the paintbrush and leaving a long streak of green. He'd already done the same with blue and yellow, however, and he bore the green with the same childish satisfaction in messiness.
He looked over his shoulder to the spectator leaning against the wall. "Whadaya think?"
England arched an eyebrow over the rim of his tea before walking over. He feigned deep thought as he reached the edge of the canvas, one hand rising to the side of his face. "It looks like a quadriplegic snow angel died and then you smeared it around a bit."
America's shoulders drooped and he felt his eyes get wide. He couldn't feel a lip quiver, but experience told him it was there.
The older nation's face formed what, as a child, America had dubbed the damn-he's-going-to-cry look. But since Heroes never cried, America had renamed the look fuck-I'm-such-an-ass. England's eyes did another cursory sweep of the canvas. "Erm… I mean… in a pretty way."
America huffed and turned away from him. "You just don't understand it. I thought you were supposed to be the cultured one."
There was a longsuffering sigh. "You dribbled paint on a canvas lying on a floor. What does that have to do with culture, and why must I understand it?"
"Some of your people are doing it too," America pointed out. Then his face lit up again, and he snapped his fingers. "Idea!" He spun around, caught a brief glance of England's surprised expression, and unceremoniously yanked the older nation up onto the canvas. "You can help!"
He flailed but regained his balance admirably. "Thank you. I'm so blessed," England muttered darkly as he examined the various flecks of color now dotting his hitherto flawless black shoes.
America motioned to the heap of paint cans surrounding the canvas. "You can use anything you want! I've got some brushes over there, but you don't have to use 'em. You can just splash it straight from the can, or use your hands, or just walk around and smudge stuff with your shoes." He spread his arms enthusiastically. "Everything you do is part of the piece! You could spill your tea—"
England clutched his tea to his chest protectively.
"—and that would be part of it too! There aren't any accidents!" the younger nation's eyes were eager and bright. "I know this one guy that even uses ashes from his cigarettes. Everything is part of the painting, everything!"
With a sigh, England ran a hand through his hair. "America, I'm not sure if anyone explained this to you, but enthusiastically babbling like an idiot doesn't make other people excited too. It just makes you an enthusiastically babbling idiot."
America gave a light laugh and wagged his paintbrush at the other nation. "Well, at least I'm having fun. Now stop complaining and use your imagination!"
Grumbling, England pushed his sleeves up and then rested his hands on his hips, surveying the canvas.
As he moved to get a can of red, America watched the older nation from the corner of his eye. He couldn't help beaming when England finally bent down to grab a brush and looped an arm through the handle of a container of pale blue. He didn't comment though; the moment he did, England might decide it wasn't worth the trouble and leave.
Instead, America dipped his brush in the red and whipped it through the air, splattering small droplets across a corner. They landed in a field of blue and white, disrupting the peaceful sentiment that had been there before. Then he leaned down, leaving a streak that connected to a thin line of grey, eventually trailing back up to the flecks in the corner. His back was to England, but he could hear the other nation moving and the sound of a brush clinking against the metal of a can.
They worked in silence, neither paying much attention to what the other was doing as though agreeing on an unspoken artistic privacy. For once, America didn't interrupt it. Before, he'd been working out of an energetic carelessness. Now, he felt a sort of frenzied seriousness. It was different with England helping. The colors he'd gravitated to in the beginning were bright and lively, but those were steadily becoming replaced with colors more solemn and muted. He found himself straying to white, gray, and navy, and yet a violent red somehow repeatedly made its way into his hand.
As he turned to retrieve a new can of paint, he cast a look at the canvas as a whole. America's original vivid, positive colors were still visible, but now they were struggling beneath the weight of something dark. The cerulean, green, and yellow were smothered by plum, indigo, and gray. Black pooled and seeped sluggishly in a stream from one side to the center, and then there was the jarring red and orange that saturated nearly everything. To him it looked like happiness smothered by bitterness and regret, all laced with violence.
England saw him pause and followed his gaze. America wondered if he had drawn the same parallel, but said nothing. He just smiled, grabbed the now familiar can of red, and made to continue. Then, with a sudden gleam of brilliance that he was so accustomed to, inspiration struck him. He set the paint can aside.
The older nation had enough time to shoot a questioning glance over his shoulder before he was forcibly tackled onto the canvas. England shouted in surprise, anger, and various other emotions that didn't bode well for America. The younger nation got a punch in the gut for his trouble, but he was too busy laughing to notice.
"What in God's name is your problem, you stupid bloody idiot?!" England yelled as he sat up, completely drenched in paint.
America was still laughing as he gripped England's shoulder and forced him to lie back beside him. "Earlier you said snow angels, and I just thought… paint angels! Great, right?"
"No!" England snapped.
America grinned. The paint was wet against his hair and skin, and it was seeping through his shirt. He didn't really care though. He turned his face to the side and looked at England. "You're covered in red, so I can't tell if you're actually mad or not…"
England turned on his side, raising himself slightly so he could look down at America. "Of course I'm mad! These were good clothes you just ruined you…" His voice trailed off when he caught sight of the younger nation's expression.
America's eyes had widened, and his smile had died. He looked shaken. England was covered in red, and when he'd moved to look at America, his arm had brushed over his chest, leaving a diagonal streak of white…
"What?" he started to ask, but England stopped as soon as he looked down at himself and realized what America saw. "Oh." He caught sight of a nearby section of purple and hastily moved his hands across it so he could use it to cover the white. Once he was satisfied the resemblance was destroyed, he looked up again. "There, see? It's…" America's facial expression hadn't changed. Fumbling in his rush, he unbuttoned the shirt and tossed it aside. His chest was still streaked with color, but the memory had lost its hold. "America…?" he tried again.
America's hand clenched on his arm and yanked England down over him. The kiss was furious, one-sided, and tinged with the taste of paint that may have been toxic, but it achieved its purpose. America thought he could feel England's indignation and sudden worry drain out of him as he sank lower over the younger nation, gently parting his lips in response. There was comfort and empathy in the way England's tongue touched his own, in the way his teeth lightly grazed his lip, in the way his eyes fell closed even though he was wont to keep them open.
England's hands slid across the canvas before cupping America's face, leaving streaks of color on the tanned skin. His fingers tangled in the hair that had been blonde, but now held shades of blue, purple, and white. America felt the sudden weight over his waist when England lowered himself completely, straddling him. Sitting up quickly, America wrapped his arms around the older nation in his lap, clinging to him almost possessively. England's hands dropped to the hem of his shirt, tugging it upwards. The younger nation only let go long enough for it to be lifted over his arms, and then they enclosed England once again.
Everywhere their fingers went, they left streaks of color. There was a swathe of white down England's side that only accentuated his flushed skin, and a line of indigo trailing down America's face made his eyes seem all the bluer. Only their mouths remained immaculate, and that was because they were too preoccupied with each other to make contact with anything else.
The older nation pulled back slightly, his hands pulling at America's belt. "When you said everything became part of the painting… did you mean everything?" he asked with a lazy smirk.
America smiled shamelessly in response. "I guess we could sell it to France. He wouldn't even need to see it first if we told him the story behind it."
England laughed lightly, succeeding in undoing the other nation's belt. "Come here," he breathed against America's lips, leaning backwards and pulling him down with him.