A/N: Tower Bridge and London Bridge are not the same (London Bridge is the next one up the river), but I needed a little. And I don't own them!
One London Bridge
June 28, 2009.
America scowled at the pavement beneath his feet, feeling his shoulders hunch forward, and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
Fuck him anyway. The least England could do was to be around when America dropped everything and came to visit him. Damn selfish asshole. Going out on a night like this. America didn't visit every day, after all.
There was a little voice inside his head that sounded a lot like his brother Canada that suggested timidly that maybe he wasn't being quite fair—he hadn't given England any warning, after all, and the man really had no way to know that America would suddenly get the urge to drop everything and head to London—London! England's very own city! The effort America had gone to for this, plane tickets and everything—to see him, and—
America told that little voice to shut up. He was enjoying being pissed off, damn it, and feeling hurt, and—
He sighed and glanced up for a moment to gauge where he was going. He'd gone out for a walk—even though he didn't give a flying fuck whether or not England was back by the time he returned—and his wandering feet seemed to have taken him in the direction of one of London's more famous landmarks. Tower Bridge arched upwards over his head, stunning against the sunset that stained the sky pink and orange, the coral and lavender reflected in the water of the Thames, the vista of the city lights around them and the lights spotlighting the white of the bridge itself.
America's breath caught—because the sky was so pretty, because England's city sure as hell wasn't—and he let his sudden impulse carry him, because the sunset would look a hundred times better from the bridge itself, wouldn't it?
It had actually been a while since he'd been up on Tower Bridge—England had taken him up on it not long after construction had begun, but that had been back when they had just started speaking to each other again after . . . everything, and . . . well, it had been awkward, and they'd hardly been able to exchange more than a few words without making that awkwardness worse, but America still remembered the pride in England's eyes, masked by something a little like shyness (but that was dumb, huh? Why would England ever be shy with him, after all, that was crazy!), the way the wind on top of the bridge had tugged at England's already messy hair and whipped a red flush into his cheeks. The city had looked small and far away from all the way up there, and America had wrapped his hand around one of the pylons and leaned out over the Thames and laughed with the pure glory of it.
America realized he was smiling a little at the memory and scowled, but he leaned out and rested his arms on the edge of the walkway all the same, letting his hands dangle. It really was a great view, even if England sucked. Which he did. So much. Like a freaking vacuum cleaner—
He gazed out over the water and watched the boats for a little while, ignoring the looks he was getting (because it wasn't every day England's people saw someone as awesome as he was standing there, probably). After a while, he could feel his own anger, his annoyance and frustration, draining out of him, and he sighed and rested his head on his arms, cool wind feathering along the back of his neck under the lining of his jacket, lifting his hair off his forehead, the breeze shading quickly into chill as sunset softened, deepening into violet twilight and the soft blue of evening.
Man, he thought, a little rueful, it sure was pretty over here.
He stayed there until the light had faded from the sky almost entirely, leaving just a slight touch of cerulean blue near the horizon bright against the endless dark of the night sky. The lights of the city were a dazzle of bright color along the banks of the river. Then he turned to go, glancing up along the highway that crossed the bridge, up at the higher walkway and tall towers and—
And felt his breath strangle in his throat. He couldn't believe his eyes. He blinked, bit his tongue and blinked again, and the sight before his eyes didn't change or disappear, so it had to be real.
"E-England?" he stammered.
Well, fuck. Because that sure was England; he'd recognize that tousled mop of blond, those eyebrows, anywhere. But what he was doing—
He was—well, he was obviously drunk. That much was pretty much as clear as—as the fact that he was singing "God Save the Queen" at the top of his voice. With lyrics that America sure didn't remember, not that he remembered any of them anyway, but he was pretty much a hundred percent certain the words "those sodding wankers" weren't included in the original version. Not unless there were some verses to that thing he'd sure as hell never heard.
England was coming in his direction, already pretty close, weaving unsteadily along the side of the road, what looked like a bottle of—beer? It was alcohol, anyway—in his hand. There was a hot flush high over his cheeks, his eyes were glazed, and he was pretty obviously smashed off his ass. America was actually kind of impressed that he was managing to walk in a relatively straight line, considering, and a sudden wave of relief hit him that England had actually made it all the way across the bridge without stumbling out into traffic. England was wearing a pair of navy blue slacks and a button-up shirt that wasn't so buttoned anymore and a brown wool vest, and he looked like the absolute last person on earth who'd be walking along a non-pedestrian road angrily singing the wrong words to the British national anthem, hoarse and loud and just a little off-key.
America bit his lip. Now that he was face-to-face with England—well, sort of, in his actual presence and looking at him, anyway—he couldn't seem to completely dredge up the annoyance he'd felt earlier. At Number 10 Downing Street they hadn't told him that England had gone out to get plastered.
America'd been sure England had already seen him, was coming toward him, and that he was about to get a drunk angry diatribe about the American Revolution full in the face, because when England drank around him that was always what happened—and because that was so what he was in the mood for right then, great, just great—but England stopped before he got to him and took a long swig from the bottle, tilting his head back. America could see his throat working as he swallowed.
England pulled the bottle away from his mouth—about an inch of liquid still sloshed in the bottom—and wandered over to drape himself over the edge of the bridge like there wasn't a bone in his body. He was still singing, more quietly now, waving one hand a little unsteadily as if in time to the music as he stared down at the water below. America started forward, lifting one hand—
England sniffed loudly and dropped his head down against his arm and America froze. Was he—he couldn't be—could he?
America chewed on the inside of his cheek when England let out a watery sigh and straightened up. Maybe he could. That sigh had sounded pretty thick, choked-up, almost.
"Damn you, America," England said suddenly, quite clearly, and America jumped and opened his mouth to—to say something, anything—when England added, " 's not like I care, anyway, and I don' wanna go to your stupid party, but 'f you're not even gonna invite me—" a deep shaking breath "—well, it doesn't matter 'cause I already made up my mind t' refuse, an'—" he shook himself and said, loudly, "Stop talkin' to yourself, Arthur," and America realized that England was too drunk to have realized that America was standing behind him, still, that he'd been talking to the air. Or to whatever version of America he carried around in his head. But definitely not to America, himself.
America pressed his tongue into the raw place he'd gnawed on the inside of his mouth until it stung and swallowed, hard. He'd wanted to invite England to his birthday party in person this year, partly because of that whole thing with France and the D-Day Commemoration earlier that month, and what had been going on with Iran, and partly because he thought maybe—well, just maybe. But it looked like that plan had backfired kind of spectacularly. It was just like England to have this idiotically bad timing, he thought in annoyance, and there wasn't a rather guilty ache in his chest, beneath his sternum, not at all. None of this was his fault
England brought the bottle up again and took another long swallow, then dropped it on the pavement. It clinked against the asphalt as it rolled, coming to a stop against America's Nikes. He bent, picked it up, and took a sniff—and almost gagged. Jesus, hard dark rum? England got drunk off two freaking glasses of beer. America's anger started to return. What had he been thinking? Who'd let England drink this crap and go wandering around London in this state, anyway? Anything could've happened to him! His fist clenched around the neck of the bottle and he looked up.
To see England yanking his vest off over his head as he started in on "Rule Britannia." America stared as England's shirt followed the vest, what few buttons were still buttoned popping at the two hard jerks England used to get it open over his chest. He shrugged out of it and dropped it on the ground beside the vest, his words slurring together until America couldn't tell if the lyrics of this song had gone the way of England's national anthem and been replaced with profanity or if he was actually bothering with the real ones this time.
The blunt curves of England's shoulders and back were startlingly pale in the echoed wash of the lights that caught the bridge, the expanse of fair skin slightly flushed from the alcohol over the rounded muscles in his shoulders, all down the solid strength of his spine. The light caught on the lines of old scars that interrupted that smooth plane of flesh in jagged seams, raised and white where the rest of his back was stained with that slight reddening tinge. America wondered if England was flushed like that all over and felt his own cheeks burn. England's pants were on crooked, canted down sideways over one hip, and America noticed that his belt was undone.
It was more undone in a second as England tugged at it, swearing impatiently. The snick downwards of his zipper seemed to echo like a gunshot in America's ears. He watched, his own vision practically tunneling, as England shoved his pants down around his knees to reveal—
Boxers with the Union Jack on them? Skinny calves and knobby knees and boxers with the flag of the United Kingdom on them. America almost laughed (ignoring the fact that his own boxers had little B-52 bombers on them, as well as the fact that he was feeling kind of warm in the vicinity of said underwear, and that they seemed tighter than they had just a few seconds ago, even).
England set one foot—still wearing plain leather loafers, his pants sagging down around his ankles—against the wall, laid both hands on the edge, and pulled himself upwards, and warning bells went off in America's head even as England slid his legs over the other side ridiculously quickly considering how drunk he was and ended up with one arm looped over the edge. He waved his hand out over the Thames, leaning forward, and broke into another, louder rendition of "Rule Britannia," his pale bare chest catching the lights of the bridge.
Oh, holy shit, he was gonna break his goddamn neck. And then what would America do?
Trying to ignoring the genuine panic shuddering through him at the thought, America ran to where England dangled half off the wrong side—the very wrong side—of the bridge, swearing under his breath, and reached down without preamble to slide his arms under England's armpits and yank him back, making sure he had a firm grip across England's chest in case his legs gave and he fell. England felt sweaty and warm, his skin pimpled with gooseflesh from the wind off the water and the night chill, and he reeked of booze and tobacco and smoke and only slightly of the tea and wool and books and cologne and English air that America associated with England so strongly.
England gasped as his bare back thumped against the rough stone, but he didn't lose his grip and his legs didn't buckle. He did start cussing, breaking off in the middle of "Britons never never never will be slaves" to fight America's hands around him.
"Hey, England," America said, into his hair, against his ear as England practically slammed it into his mouth, "hey, hey, England, it's me, okay? It's America."
"Wha—?" England slurred blearily, and tilted his head back. His eyes locked with America and he said, his voice suddenly crisp and clear, "Fuck you."
"Okay," America said hurriedly, "okay, sure, whatever, just come on back over the bridge and you can take a swing at me or whatever you want." England scowled at him and tried to twist away, but America held on desperately. "What're you doing?" he said, maybe panicking a little, "Don't try and throw yourself off, please, I—"
England let out a loud crack of laughter. "Ha!" he said. "That's rich. 'm just singing." He flailed his arm out over the expanse of lights beneath them, taking in the river and the view of the buildings on both sides. "They're my people," he said.
"Yep," America said, blowing out a shaky, relieved breath. "They sure are." He reached down and lodged his hand under England's hip where it sloped into his thigh. His boxers were very, very thin cotton, and he could feel the heat of England's skin beneath them burning into his hand, the curve of his hipbone under his thumb. "Come on back over and we can sing together."
"Don' wanna sing with you," England slurred. "'My Country, 'Tis of Thee'—hah! 'God Save the Queen . . ." His head slumped back against America's shoulder, and America seized his chance to lift him bodily, using his grip on his hip to shift him up so that his back wouldn't scrape against the stone. England twisted in his grip just enough to actually help America by steadying himself against the wall, and then America let England sink back down to the ground and let go of him, trying not to think about the pure, blank panic that had swept over him just seconds ago, or the warmth that still blazed in his hand where it had pressed against England's thigh. Crisis averted—not entirely with his usual awesomeness, but still, the hero had saved the day in the end.
"Where'd the rum go?" England muttered sullenly, staggering away from America as if in search of it, and America reached out and snagged him around the shoulders with one arm.
"It's gone," he said.
"But why?" England mumbled. "Why's it gone?"
"Cause you drank it," America said. "Shit, England, d'you know how drunk you are?"
England laughed, the sound loud and brittle. "Drunk as a lord!" he said, and his voice rang bright, hollow, and he sounded pleased with himself. He blinked, and shook America's arm free, turning to look at him. "America," he said then. "What the blinking fuck are you doing here?"
America heroically resisted the urge to fist his hands in his own hair and pull. Instead he took a deep, steadying breath, and said, "I came to invite you to something."
England's eyes went wide and very, very green, and he flushed even brighter. "I'm not going!" he said, and his voice went sharp and high, and his blush edged from bright red into sheerest crimson. His hands brushed down against his waist, almost nervously, and he started. "Where the fuck are my trousers?" he mumbled.
"Your, um. Your ankles," America said, and England looked down at them and blanched. He bent over as if to pull them up, overbalanced, and fell forward onto his knees.
"Ow," he moaned. "Oh, good lord, I'm drunk."
"Yeah," America said impatiently. "You are." America bent and offered England his hand. When he just stared at it like it was some kind of unfamiliar creature, America heaved a sigh and reached down to pick England up, clasping his hands around his waist, strong and solid under his fingers. His skin was very soft, strangely so, velvety and smooth except for where America could feel the raised roughness of scars.
America let go quickly and bent to pull up England's pants, tucking his boxers back into them and zipping them up, fastening his belt. He heard someone catcall from beside them and raised his head to glare. "Fuck off!" he shouted. England jumped and started to shiver.
Oh, Jesus Christ. I hope you start looking down on me soon, Lord, America thought a second later, and looped his arms around England's back, pulling him close.
England shoved him back and wrenched away, and a car full of girls in the other lane whistled. America contemplated throwing the empty rum bottle after them, but he didn't want to get in a fight, he really didn't. It was his birthday in a week, after all. "England?" he tried instead.
"You came all the way here to invite me to your stupid party?" England said instead, and his voice wavered a little. "Excuse me if I don't believe that, America. Why're you really here?"
America snapped. "I thought—" he bit out "—that you might actually come for real this time if I asked you in person, but I guess I just wasn't fast enough for you, huh? God forbid it might take me some time to screw up the courage—"
England sucked in his breath and froze, staring at America, and America's mind caught up with his mouth a second later and he realized what he'd said.
His face burned. "Aw, fuck," he said.
"You—" England said. "You—America—" He reached up and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes.
"England?" America said hesitantly, scared and embarrassed and feeling totally uncertain of himself.
A car pulled up alongside them, its loud purr shifting into idle, and England's head jerked up, startled. "Hey, there, love," the driver said, leaning out his window and leering, his gaze lingering on England's bare chest. "Need a ride?"
America saw red. "No," he said shortly. "He doesn't."
"Sod off," the driver said amiably. "Burger-eating invasion monkey. Looks like your Yankee boyfriend's not treating you too well, dove," he said to England. "What do you say?"
England flushed and took a deep breath and said, "I'm quite all right, thank you," at the same time America said, "Leave him alone!" The driver shrugged.
"If you're quite sure," he said, with another long, lascivious glance at England that reminded America of fucking France.
England nodded shortly. "Just need some air," he said, and the driver shrugged and drove away.
England sighed and leaned back against the wall behind him, crossing his arms over his chest. His eyes slid closed.
America stalked over to him, shrugged out of his own jacket, and yanked England forward. England stumbled and lost his balance to fall forward against America's chest, but America just settled the jacket over England's shoulders, making sure his arms went into the sleeves, and linked his arms tight around his back, pressing his cheek to England's hair. "You're a fucking menace," he said. "God."
"I'm fucking drunk," England said into his chest, "is what I am. I think probably you're not even here. 'm drunk and lonely and imagining it. Which is beyond fucking pathetic." He sighed and leaned into America, nuzzling his face against America's chest.
America's breath caught, and he couldn't breathe, warmth flooding through his body, and before he knew what he was doing he was stroking his fingers through England's hair and down the back of his neck, the line of his back through his own jacket. It looked huge on England, or maybe England just looked small in it. "I wanted," he said, very clearly, taking care to enunciate every syllable, "to come and invite you to my birthday party in person, this time. I really did. Okay? I'm really here. You're really drunk, but I'm really here."
England sort of froze, and America knew his words had actually penetrated his alcohol-induced haze, but he didn't pull away. "Why should you want to invite me?" he asked, scoffing. "You don't need me there."
America sighed, and stroked England's hair the wrong way so it stood up, then back down flat again. "Nah," he said. "I don't."
England stiffened and tried to pull away, but America held on.
"Want you there, though," he said.
England flushed and struggled back out of his grip. "What?" he said. "What is that supposed to mean?"
America shrugged and tried a grin. "Isn't it nicer to be wanted than needed?" he said. "You're right. I don't need you. But I sure as hell want you. Um. There."
And that, he thought, was what it was really all about, wasn't it.
"Oh," England said, very small, then took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders, looking much smaller than usual shrouded in America's jacket. "I appreciate the invitation," he said, his voice clipped and far too precise. "I am far too drunk to contemplate it any further at this time. In the interest of giving you a coherent answer, I would be deeply thankful if you would be so kind as to take me home so that I can sleep it off." He gave America an uncertain glance from under furrowed brows, frowning a little. "And if you're still here the next morning, I'll tell you then."
"Sure thing," America said. He took a few steps back to snag England's clothes and then stepped forward and bent his head to kiss England's forehead once, quickly, then the thick scrunch of his stupid gigantic eyebrows. "Sure thing," he said. "I'll take you home and make you tea and you can take a shower and go to bed and not try to kill yourself by leaning off your own freaking bridge."
"I wasn't trying to kill myself," England said, blearily but with so much resigned vexation that America laughed and looped his arm around England's shoulders.
"You know," he said. "The view from this bridge? It's pretty amazing. And it's so pretty with the sun setting and turning the sky all pink—just saying. I mean, I wish I'd taken a picture."
England leaned heavily into America's chest as he took several stumbling steps forward. "Flattery will get you everywhere," he mumbled, "you bloody git."
This story is set the day I wrote it. I don't think I've ever written something in "real time" like that before.
Tower Bridge is an iconic bridge over the River Thames, in London. It originally open in June, 1894.
America is worried that England was hurt by the Queen not being invited to the D-Day Commemoration this year, toward the beginning of the month (June 6).
Canada Day is July 1, of course! (I actually talked about Canada more originally XD.)
I thought England might like rum because it was the drink of choice for seafaring men for quite some time, and British sailors had a rum ration. The Pirates connection occurred to me later, and to my everlasting shame I couldn't resist it.
"God Save the Queen" is the British national anthem, while "Rule, Britannia" is a famous patriotic song. England's such an (angry) sentimental drunk.
America took a plane instead of flying his own there because our government has been trying to convince him not to fly his fighter around and use airlines instead. For reasons of national security. It makes him pouty, but he does it all the same.
Number Ten Downing Street is the residence and office of the British Prime Minister. I have a feeling that England spends a great deal of time there.
"My Country, 'Tis of Thee" is an American patriotic song set to the tune of the British national anthem, because Alfred is a brat.
These notes are trivial and probably obvious? But I thought I'd make them all the same.