A sequel to "Just a Kiss," but from England's POV this time. Here we go again ;).
Disclaimer: They're not mine.
See! the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea: -
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, Love's Philosophy
If Thou Kiss Not Me
England shut his door behind him, slid the bolt home, took a deep breath, and blew it out, shakily. He stood stock-still there in the entranceway and closed his eyes, anxious, restless energy still pounding, unfocused, in his blood, feeling for all the world like the adrenaline left in the aftermath of battle. Good lord, his nerves were all in shreds.
Disgusted with himself, he wrenched his eyes open again and moved on into the house. What idiocy. The aftermath of a battle, of all things? It had just been a simple, pleasant visit to his colony, nothing more.
He sighed. Nothing more, indeed. Visiting America had always been something he looked forward to. It relaxed him, calmed him, even, to spend time there alongside the young colony, with his eager sincerity and joy in all things new and adventurous spirit and simple, straightforward ways, to simply enjoy the boy's company and not concern himself with the complicated disputes and troubles of Europe for a time. But—but this time, things had been different. This time—
He swallowed with difficulty past the dry thickness in his throat, hating the dizzy helplessness he felt. It was as if the steady rock he'd come to lean against that was his relationship with America had lurched away beneath his feet, leaving him to flail wildly for balance on shifting sand. He rather feared he'd fail to find that balance and would shortly fall sprawling. If he hadn't already, damn it all.
England bypassed the stairs to his chamber and headed instead for his drawing room, where he crossed to the brandy decanter on the side table, poured himself a healthy swallow, and downed it in a gulp. He regretted it a moment later, as searing heat coursed down his throat and blazed up behind his eyes and he nearly coughed, but at least the sharpness of the burn and the heat in his head helped to clear it of his scattered thoughts, so at least he could think about the problem . . . directly.
America had—America had kissed him. Not a short, sweet, fraternal sort of kiss, which England wouldn't have expected, precisely, but America was an affectionate sort, at least compared to England, and a short, chaste brush of their lips wouldn't have sent England into this . . . well, something rather like a panic, he admitted reluctantly to himself. No, it hadn't been a brotherly sort of kiss at all. It certainly hadn't made England feel at all brotherly—
England's hand tightened on the crystal of the brandy decanter, and he forced himself to put it back down carefully. No. No. America was—was his ward, his younger brother, practically a son to him, for god's sake, and far too innocent to have any conception of what he'd been inviting with that kiss. He was little more than a child, after all, and—
And England wasn't even having this line of thought, or anything like it, about the boy. That was the end of it. He was not France.
Of course, if it had truly been the end of it, England wouldn't have spent the entirety of the rest of his visit to America in a state of anxious tension, nerves set to jangling by practically everything America said or did. It had been bad enough at first that America had been withdrawn and quiet, flushing hot when England so much as looked at him, but as England continued to tense at every previously natural gesture that could be even construed as . . . similar, America had gone even quieter, so subdued it was frightening for a boy as unrestrained and loud as he, hunching down the way he did on the very rare occasions that he was embarrassed or upset, and taken to staring at his boots whenever England spoke to him. And England realized that it was absolutely awful for America, who after all hadn't meant anything wrong by it. After that, England had put in a tremendous effort to act his normal self with the lad, talking and laughing and touching him—light pats on the shoulder, one hand ruffling his hair, taking his arm to show him something—proving to America that all was well, that nothing had changed between them (even if a tight, hot sort of knot formed in his belly whenever he touched America now, and his heart would speed up, a strange feeling tingling through him). Hiding all of it and acting his normal self had been absolutely exhausting, but he couldn't very well have cut the visit short and left the poor lad convinced he'd upset England terribly, or that anything had changed between them.
Because he hadn't, and it hadn't. Of course not. It hadn't been anything of particular note, but for the fact that America was clearly starved for affection, and in his usual direct fashion he had taken . . . steps, to—to—taken steps to get it—and the blame for that need could be laid squarely on England's shoulders, as a fault of his leaving America so often on his own. But that was necessary—England was busy, and now that America was growing so self-reliant and strong he simply didn't have the time to—and living on his own would help America grow, England was doing the right thing for him, he had been—that was all he wanted, to do the right thing for his beloved colony—and for himself, of course, but—
America would grow out of this, England thought uneasily, and then told himself sharply that there was nothing for America to grow out of, except perhaps for a youthful tendency to express himself a bit too freely and to ignore the proprieties. Which he would grow out of, and England would never be troubled by this again.
He thought he should probably feel a good deal more pleased by that thought, but no doubt that feeling of raw, lingering regret was just the effect of the brandy. England quickly poured himself another glass and downed that, too, not at all to make that excuse hold more weight, he was thirsty, that was all—
The second (and the third that followed) glass of brandy had been a bad idea, England realized after a long moment of watching his hand tremble, a sort of sick heat spreading through his body. He thought of America, thought of the way America had kissed him, clumsy, yes, and unpracticed enough that his inexperience had been clear, but not at all like a child. Thought of piercing blue eyes clouded with confusion and warmth and—and something more, something England had never though to see there in the eyes of his sweet boy, something hungry. Thought of the warmth that had filled him at the touch of America's lips (just a little rough) to his own, the soft, damp heat of his breath, the question in the way he'd swept his tongue along—into—and the way—
The boy, England told himself, bracing his hands on the side table, with a cold, terribly sharp sort of clarity ringing through his head, was merely lonely, and there was no way on God's green earth that England would touch him. Ever. He took a deep breath, a creeping feeling of shame spreading through him at where his thoughts had been lingering. When—when he'd asked him why, America had said because he liked England, for Christ's sake! A more innocent reason for a kiss couldn't be thought of, and the thought of taking advantage of that sweet, giving innocence—it couldn't be born. And—and England was not going to spoil things between them. America's affection—America was too precious to him to—England would protect America from anything. Anything at all. And that included—
Well, it included everything, and that was all.
England took a deep breath and straightened. He would put this out of his head—surely it had merely been the surprise of it that had made him—think such things about America at all—and he would never think on such things concerning the lad—his brother, his ward, his little boy—ever again.
* * *
The door slammed loudly behind him, but England paid it no heed, already starting up the stairs to his chamber. He had to change, he needed to be in Parliament in an hour and he certainly couldn't attend like this, all over with the dust and mud of—of his colony's earth (America, shouting at him, America pushing him to the ground, laughing in his face as he tossed crates and crates of tea into Boston Harbor, the things he'd shouted).
That impudent, ungrateful little wretch, England thought, ripping off his tea- and mud-stained jacket along with his cravat and tossing it on the bed. Good lord, independence, the very idea, the lad could hardly even lace up his own boots without England there to help him (the uncomfortable thought came that the last time he'd helped America with that particular task had been quite some years ago), where had the lad gotten such ridiculous notions, France? England's lips thinned at the idea and he yanked off his shirt, too, sat down on the bed and wrenched off his boots in two sharp tugs. France would stay far away from America if he knew what was good for him, that boy was far too impressionable, he liked everyone, that was his problem—
England took a deep, ragged, shaking breath and reached up to touch the side of his face. America had struck him—struck him—he could still feel the impression of the boy's knuckles, the bruises it had left and the tenderness going deep, down into his jaw, to the bones. He knew it showed up, hideously blue and purple and red all up and down the side of his face, but there was nothing for it. His lords would just have to see what a strong right hook America possessed, and perhaps it would impress upon them the nature of the difficulty.
Apparently America didn't like England so much anymore.
England sucked in his breath so that it rasped painfully down his throat and leapt back up to his feet. It was nothing, a little spat, America was angry right now but he'd get over it once he understood England's stance on the matter—England could feel more of the shuddering rage that had gotten him home building, growing within him and welcomed it, immersing himself in it so that he could feel nothing else. He would teach that boy a lesson he'd never forget—America was no longer thinking of duty, no longer thinking of England, only thinking about himself, a good thrashing would soon teach that over-grown boy-child the error of his ways, and he'd come back, his dearest colony once again, remember how they were a family. England didn't want to hurt him, he'd never wanted to hurt the lad, but sometimes children needed to be disciplined, that was all, and America had grown up awfully quickly, he just needed some time to adjust, that was all, and England would just have to remind him how to behave. (Didn't that fool boy understand that England would protect him from anything, absolutely anything, anything at all?) England strode over to his closet and quickly set about divesting himself of the rest of his clothes and changing into new ones, doing up his buttons in short, agitated jerks.
Perhaps it was more of the same, England thought, his mind unwillingly returning to America's flushed features as he pulled back from that not-so-innocent kiss. Perhaps if he'd let the boy kiss him, just get that small rebellion out of his system, let him know what it felt like to be held by England, embraced like a lover rather than a brother, his guardian—
No. England growled at himself, his fingers wrenching at the cloth of his cravat. No. He would never take advantage of America's foolish, generous innocence. America was still such a child, as this foolish, reckless excuse for his behavior proved. He possessed no hint of restraint whatsoever in his emotions, just look at what he had done to all that fine tea! And after England had sent it just for him—
What is this "I'm drinking coffee now anyway" codswallop he tried to push on me, anyway? he huffed. Taunting me, that was all it was, the sheer nerve of the boy—
England yanked his coat on over his shoulders, grabbed his cane, and stalked out of the room once again, refusing, just as he had the first time, to think about the confused hurt in America's eyes when he hadn't kissed him back. He was just glad the boy hadn't tried again, that was all, that was the one bright spot in this whole mess.
* * *
England came storming back into his house, and the force of the door when it slammed shut behind him shuddered through the walls themselves, shook the flooring under his feet. England stood there, ripped the paper in his hands into ragged strips with three, four, controlled jerks, and stalked over to the fireplace to stoke up the fire, balling it up into his hands as he went. He tossed it in, kicked another log onto the blaze, and stood there, shaking, to watch it burn.
A Declaration of Independence. A—a Declaration, America had got his people to write it—America shoving it into his hands, thin-lipped and grim, and for a moment England hadn't understood what was going on, had wondered, hopefully, stupidly, if perhaps this was America's way of asking for a reconciliation—
He let out a sharp, derisive puff of air. Small chance of that. Something in his chest, deep and vital, hurt. He watched the paper begin to smoke and curl.
America really didn't intend to come back to him. He intended to leave, for good, and England would have to fight him and—and really hurt him, either drag him back unwillingly, or—
No matter what he did, things would never be the same between them again. That much had become wrenchingly, horrifyingly clear.
England gritted his teeth and thought about all the things he wanted to do to America right then, smashing the butt of a musket into that strong stubborn chin and that wide soft mouth that had been engaged in raining obscenities down on him for what felt like years now on the top of the list.
He stood there and watched, one hand braced tight against the mantle, until the Declaration was nothing but ashes, his head bent, and if his cheeks were wet and his hand trembling, there was no one there to see him, and what was important was that the damn thing was gone.
* * *
He came back only long enough to shed the sopping wet military uniform, his fingers trembling over the buttons and straps, shaking terribly and hardly able to grip or push or unbuckle, but finally he managed to peel it off and toss it on his bed (it couldn't be fast enough for him). He dressed himself quickly in simple breeches, shirt, and vest, hardly looking at the clothes he tossed on, grabbed his cape, and was off again. He couldn't bear to be in his own house right then, it was all too lonely, dark and chill and musty from his long stay in . . . in . . . across the sea, all the time he'd spent there, fighting, the ashes of that—that document still scattered in the cold hearth. He couldn't bear to be in his own skin right then, and he thought, the bright spark of inspiration cutting through the dull pain and deadened blankness that had taken over everything in him that maybe, just maybe, things'd feel better if he just went out and got absolutely, completely, smashingly pissed.
He stepped out of his house, swallowed with misery as he looked up at the rain pouring from the sky, and stepped out into it, not bothering with the hood of the cape.
By the time he reached the nearest pub, he was wet through, and he still couldn't seem to find it in him to care. He found a dark, quiet corner, ordered an ale, and started in on it without so much as a pause, trying his best not to think of anything but the alcohol sliding down into his belly, the way it warmed him, tingled under his raw, cold skin, the burn of it so he didn't have to feel the burn of the tears in his throat and behind his eyes. He'd had two or three, drinking steadily, before he could bear to think on much of anything else, and he sank his face into his hands, realizing with a start that his skin was still smudged with hardening mud and streaks of blood, the tracks of dried tears. He must look a sight, he thought dully, running his hands back into his soaking hair, dripping wetly down the back of his neck in unpleasant little streams, and didn't care much about that, either.
The mud was a little bit of America on him still—
No, he had not thought something that pathetic. He would not. England blinked and stared down into his ale, wrapping his hands around the mug so that they wouldn't shake.
Why, why had America done this to him? Why had he left England, left him a bleeding, shaking mess with a gaping hole for a heart and just gone, like he could just walk away, like it was so simple for him to make that choice? Hadn't what they'd had together, what they'd been to each other, counted for anything? Didn't America care at all what England had gone through for him, what he'd done for him? It wasn't easy or commonplace for England to grow close to someone, but ever since he had first seen that small golden child, felt those tiny hands close around his and looked into those big, bright, candid blue eyes, he'd felt so close to America, closer than he ever had to his own brothers and sisters, and he'd gone to so much effort, opened so much of himself up for America's casual inspection, let the young colony—his breathing hitched painfully, the young country—so far into himself that now it felt like America'd yanked out half of England's heart and taken it with him.
This was why he didn't get close to others; it hurt so damned much.
What had happened? What had he done that had made it all go so terribly wrong? Had he not loved America enough . . . ? England could hardly see how he could have cared for that thankless ungrateful sodding beautiful bastard any more than he already had. Did. Still, still did, oh, Christ, god, fuck, damn it all to hell.
Had it been that blackguard France who'd led America astray, who'd enticed the boy away from him? France had helped America with his damned r-revolution, had helped America rebel against him, taught him how to do it, just like that sodding wanker Prussia, and France had kissed America, or he'd said he had, with that leering grin that suggested that he'd done a lot more, and America had just blushed uncomfortably and stayed silent, and that had to mean—England didn't want to think about what that had to mean, but his mind provided him with a set of images all the same, America letting France push him back into a wall, flushed and gasping and eager, France's hand curling in his hair, pulling his head back, his lips and tongue plundering the sweet innocence of America's mouth, America's artless moan as France ran a hand down his broad smooth boyish chest and slipped his hand beneath the buttoned placket of America's trousers, daring to touch, to take what England had not, and whispered, you like that, mon cher, do you not? And America gasped yes, don't stop, god, please and arched himself up into France's hand—
Why was he torturing himself like this? England groaned and sank down to rest his head against the table. If that French bastard had been anywhere near him at that moment he would have throttled him cheerfully and danced on his broken body, drunk or not. God, if France had—if he'd touched America like that, if he'd touched America at all, if he'd taken advantage of all that spirit and purity and inexperience and all America's strange, eccentrically religious notions about the sex act—and he would, France would feel no compunction about plundering America's innocent, unguarded affections—England would kill him. He would kill him, that was all. He'd rip out his heart and feed it to the crows, throw his liver to the dogs—and it would probably give them blasted alcohol poisoning, the way that wine bastard drank—
If he had plied America with wine—good lord, the boy was barely old enough for strong drink, and he didn't have much experience with it (those odd notions of religion again) and it probably wouldn't be hard to get him intoxicated and—and—England's mental image changed, to an America whose high color was from the unhealthy brightness of liquor, and who flushed anxiously as France pushed him onto his back and crawled over him, running his fingers sensually along his skin beneath his half-unbuttoned shirt as America stuttered and stammered—m-maybe we shouldn't, France—and I'm not sure, I . . . oh, that feels so good, oh and groaned as France kissed his neck, along the curve of his jaw, writhing and arching under him, his eyes rolling back into his head. And oh, lord, England felt hot and ill and very much like he wanted to kill someone. Preferably France, but really anyone would do just as well. He stared balefully around the common room of the tavern, but his eyes wouldn't actually focus well enough on anyone for him to ascertain who was there.
How, how could America have gone to that damn Frog behind England's back? He'd thought he'd taught the boy better than that. France could never be trusted, especially not with someone as bright and enthusiastic and ingenuous and idiotic as America. He'd turned America's head with his—his flattery and his flirting and his damned admiration of all those blasted ideas of liberty and equality and democracy and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness America had got into his idiot head somehow—
America, who didn't want England anymore, America, who didn't want to be England's, America who had left England and hurt him and who he'd hurt and who probably wouldn't even care if England got so drunk tonight that he toppled into the Thames walking home and drowned. He'd left, after all, hadn't he? He'd tossed all England had offered him right back in his face and left him. And England bit the inside of his lip to keep back his wretched sob and blinked the tears back, tossing back the rest of the mug of ale and calling for another, pounding blearily on the table.
It arrived and he took two long swallows and nearly choked on them. He wasn't sure how many he'd had by now, and perhaps that was the reason why he didn't stop himself this time when his mind skipped back onto the memory of America kissing him, him rather than France, and at least he'd had that first, and this time England didn't stop himself from thinking what would have happened if I hadn't stopped? What if I had leaned into that kiss and opened my mouth—
Sliding his hands upward, one into America's hair, shockingly fine beneath his fingers, clenching one hand in the rough homespun cloth covering the broad, muscular curve of one shoulder, England began to take charge of the kiss, shifting and deepening the soft, clumsy strokes of America's mouth on his, the fumbling touch of America's tongue to his own, caressing America's lips with his, pressing their bodies close together with his hand in America's hair, rubbing one thumb in the sensitive skin at the base of America's ear, down the working muscles in his neck and glorying in the trembling he felt there, running his hand from America's shoulder down over his spine to press their hips together with his fingers splaying at the small of his back, and twisted his hips into America's, who was gasping, trembling, his eyes fluttering closed and his hands clenching in England's clothing as if he had to cling to him or lose himself entirely—
What might have happened then? Would he have stayed with me? Is that what he wanted? Would he have stayed if I had kissed him and taken him to bed and—
England slammed his hand down against the rough sturdy oak of the table in a tightly clenched fist, so that pain drove in a spear up along his arm into his shoulder.
Likely you'd just have lost him even earlier, he thought ruthlessly, not sparing himself an ounce of harshness or scorn. He spread his aching hand out against the table and gripped the edge of it, hard, grinding his teeth and forcing himself to focus on the white-hot pain sparking through his hand. Lost him then, rather than later. And you'd have the added satisfaction of knowing that you'd taken inexcusable advantage of—of America's trust, and—and innocence, and spoiled one of the best things ever to happen to you because you couldn't control your own damned depraved sexual desires.
He'd lost him in the end anyway, England's mind protested. America had shown him what he wanted, had offered, perhaps if he had—and he would then at least have had the memories of more than a brief, awkward kiss cut short—he would have had at least one clear memory of America's love, unhesitating, unabashed, complete, completely his—
No! England told himself desperately. It would have been wrong—it still is wrong, just because he's—he's repudiated me doesn't make kissing him right—and it's not like I'll ever have another chance anyway—
He's not my America anymore.
But that thought—he couldn't see past the pain of it, it blurred his vision even more than the alcohol had, made his breath catch hard in his throat. And part of him couldn't help but wish that if that was to have been his one chance, that it had lasted just a few brief moments longer. He'd been so shocked, so panicked by it, that he could hardly remember how it had felt, or—just the feeling of America's hand at the back of his neck, and being pulled so close to him, close enough to feel the rangy, unfinished height of his growing body—
The memory brought tears to his eyes.
Oh, good lord, he was pathetic. Might as well finish getting completely drunk off his arse and be done with it.
He tossed back the rest of his ale and had another.
He would miss him. He already did. He would miss him so . . . so bloody much.
How this have happened to him, to them? How could England have lost him? How could he have gone?
England had never felt so alone.
The British Empire does not, and did not, weep openly, drunkenly, in cheap taverns. He did not even shed a few quiet tears into his ale. He finished it quietly and managed, somehow, to walk in a straight, even line back out into the rainy night. And once there, if his eyes were perhaps not entirely dry, who would notice, even if they were streaming liquid? It was only the rain, after all.
Only the rain.
England wondered how many more rainy nights lay ahead in his long, no doubt proud, future, and how many of them he would spend seeing Alfred, and muskets, and that muddy battlefield before his eyes. He rubbed one hand across those eyes, and set off, slowly, waveringly, back to his lonely house with the dark windows and the cold ashes in the hearth.
Not too many this time. Um, France and Prussia obviously helped America rebel in the Revolutionary War. America's religious nuts are again, the Puritans :P. America just kissed France, it actually didn't go any further, but you'll find out about all that later if I continue this series. It's just that in England's head, France is the Takes Sexual Advantage Man, probably because in my head-canon France was England's first sexual experience around the time of the Norman Conquest (and then they broke up messily after France started cheating on England with Scotland). I think the rest of it is fairly self-explanatory?