Title: Any Other Way
Author: Zalia Chimera
Pairing/Characters: France/England, America, Canada
Genre: Fluff, mild angst, romance
Summary: VE-Day and the Arc du Triomphe offers the best views of Paris for two allies celebrating the end of their war.
"You should go find him." An arm was slung over his shoulder and England glowered up at America, although for once he made no move to shrug it off and pull away from the other Nation. America was all bright smiles and warmly flushed skin and ugh, it was annoyingly easy to see why so many of England's young women were falling for him. Blue eyes and golden charm, the promise of nylons and chocolate and opportunity when all were in short supply. The New World without the weight of history. No history that England's girls cared about anyway.
"I don't know what you're talking about," England replied, feigning disinterest, knowing that it wouldn't work and trying anyway. One last nod towards English reserve because he was fairly sure that before the end of the night, he was going to be drunk off his arse and engaged in compromising situations. He hoped so anyway. He'd be terribly disappointed if not.
America rolled his eyes and England was fairly sure that he heard Canada laughing off in one corner of the smoky room. "France. Go find him."
"I'm stood in Paris. I know where sodding France is. Big chunk of land. Rivers, Alps, trees. Ruled a lot of it once."
"Oh for..." America cuffed the back of England's head lightly. "You know what I mean."
England glared at him. He still forgot that America was big enough, enough of a grown Nation to do that. Bigger and taller than him. England was still in that strange period of adjustment to seeing America as his own country, an equal rather than a little brother of a colony. It was disconcerting. He remembered something similar with France, albeit from the other side, although at least he and America hadn't spent the better part of a thousand years trying to kill each other. Only a couple of hundred years and they'd ignored each other or been coolly diplomatic for a lot of that. "What makes you think that I want to see him?" he asked sourly.
America blinked at him, as though he couldn't figure out why England even had to ask. "Because otherwise you'd be in London," he said as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Unless you just can't resist my charm, grace and scintillating conversational skills," he added with an easy grin.
"Old man," America replied with a laugh. "I swear you lot in Europe can be so childish for grown Nations."
England raised an eyebrow at him. "This is a definite case of the pot calling the kettle black coming from you."
America shrugged. "At least I admit it," he said lightly. "Now go," he continued, thrusting a battle of wine into England's arms. "Find France. Get drunk. Whatever it is that you repressed types do to celebrate." He gave England a soft nudge towards the door before turning and moving back into the dark heat of the room. He slung his arms around a couple of pretty girls, chatting them up with his basic French, even if his accent was appalling. He saw Canada wince at the butchering of the language before he gave England a helpless shrug and turned back to the girl sitting next him, conversing with her with rather more polished, albeit differently accented, French. As he watched, Canada leaned in to kiss her lightly and ah, there was another one who had grown up so quickly when England could remember himself being a child for so very many centuries.
It seemed that the entirety of Paris was awake and out in the streets, from the tiniest child to doddering grandparents, all united in celebration. The streets were alight, crowded with people and it was impossible not to get drawn into the atmosphere. It was why it took England a while to realise that he recognised the voice singing an enthusiastic and somewhat slurred rendition of La Marseillaise.
It took a moment to locate him, but there France was, bottle of wine dangling from his fingers and for some reason he was still drinking from a glass clasped in his other hand when England would long ago have resorted to swigging from the bottle. England couldn't stop a smile tugging at his lips and he watched France for a moment before calling out. "Oi! France!" It took a few tries before France heard him over the crowd while England attempted to push through, but when he did, he beamed at England, beckoning him closer as he slipped into the shadow of the great arch.
England just stared for a moment before rolling his eyes and following him and he barely yelped when arms wrapped around him from behind, pulling him into the shadow of a doorway. "Angleterre," France's familiar voice purred into his ear before France pulled away, moving to close and lock the door. He turned his attention back to England and in the dim glow of the electric bulb, England could see the alcohol flush on France's cheeks, his neck, the first few buttons of his shirt undone to reveal his pale throat.
"I wasn't expecting you to be here in Paris," France said, although he didn't sound displeased to find England there. "They are celebrating in London, non?"
"Well of course they are!" England said with a touch of indignation because he hated the implication that his people couldn't celebrate. "We won. Of course we're celebrating!" After years of hell, they had finally won and slowly things might go back to normal. As normal as they could be when things were changing so drastically and so quickly. "I just..."
Just what? Was worried? France had been defeated, brutally occupied, brutally recaptured and had only just clawed himself back in time to be considered a victor rather than an occupied state; the spoils of war. And yes, it had worried him because damn it, France was his! If anyone was going to beat France, it was supposed to be him!
France gave him an unreadable look before he took one of England's hands in his, raising it to his lips and grazing them lightly over England's knuckles, against his palm. England splayed his fingers against France's cheek, thumb running over France's lips. He gave France a raw look. "Don't you dare let yourself be conquered again, you hear me?" he said harshly. "Not unless it's me doing the conquering."
A smile quirked France's lips. "I shall be certain to remember that, Angleterre. Although I very much hope that if it comes to conquest between us, that I will be the one doing the deed."
England snorted, drawing away from France, slipping easily into the banter. It was soothing. "You can hope all you want. It isn't going to happen."
"We shall see, shall we not?" France replied, although his smile seemed a little strained now. "But for now we should not dwell on such topics. We are friends, yes? And we have won against that terror of Europe. Will you join me for a drink and one of the most beautiful views of Paris?"
England winced when he saw the darkening of France's expression. Too far, too soon. He smiled apologetically and nodded his agreement. "I will."
France gave him a dazzling smile and then guided him towards a small staircase. "I took the liberty of borrowing the key to the Arc earlier today," he said, taking England's hand as he led them up the stairs to the top of the arch. "I thought that it would be the perfect place to watch the celebrations from."
England gasped softly as he peered out at the view. The Champs de Elysees laid out before them, packed with people, the strains of music from radios and impromptu bands drifting up to them sweetly. Along the length of the street he could the occasional flicker of flame, bonfires built in the streets. There had been flares earlier, a makeshift firework display, and the streets were lit up gloriously.
"C'est magnifique," France murmured against his ear and England just nodded, still staring and imagining what his own cities would be like, a pang of regret for not being there stirring within him. Was Trafalgar Square filled with people and light? He felt France's warm presence pull away and a few moments later, a glass was pressed into his hands. "You are thinking, dear England, and that is never a good thing." He smiled sweetly and raised his glass in a silent toast.
"Wanker," England muttered but raised his own glass, swirling it, taking a long sniff before he took a sip.
"So you can be cultured after all," France said with some amusement after watching the display. "You are a wine connoisseur now?"
"I am a gentleman," England replied with a faint smirk. "Champagne?"
France nodded. "The best. I liberated it from the clutches of my oppressors," he said, taking a long draught of it. "And I remember you when you were a child-barbarian and a ruthless pirate, when you were far from a gentleman." France's chin came to rest against his shoulder, a finger trailing between his shoulder blades, tugging at belt strap which ran between them. "I remember when there was little but trees on your fair hills."
"Everything's a sodding innuendo with you, isn't it?" England replied with a rakish grin. He took another sip, letting the sweet taste of the champagne burst across his tongue. "You're getting nowhere near my 'fair hills' until we're in the vicinity of a bed." Or a couch. A couch would work too. He raised his free hand to France's head, running his fingers through his hair lightly and eliciting a pleased sound from France's lips. It made England glad to hear it, to have France so affectionate and relaxed instead of the silent, haunted man that he had become in the last few years, Germany's shadow, prisoner to a puppet government. No, this was so much better.
They finished their wine in comfortable silence, relaxed for the first time in years. When the last drop had been drunk, France slipped the glass from England's fingers, going to set it down next to the bottles. He turned back, standing a few feet away and then extended his hand to England, a smile playing across his lips. "Dance with me, Angleterre?"
England stared for a few moments, blinking stupidly at the suggestion, a hot flush colouring his cheeks as he stuttered. "Idiot! Anyone could see!"
France just looked amused. "We are on top of the Arc du Triomphe. I doubt that most people will even think of looking up. Besides," he added, stepping closer, his fingers brushing against England's cheek, across his bottom lip. "You did not seem to mind having me pressed against you in full view, or showing me such affection as you have been."
England scowled, flush remaining on his cheeks. "Prat. We don't have any music," he replied in a half hearted protest that told France that he'd won. "Besides, it looks ridiculous." And it was intimate in a way that he couldn't pass off as merely lust or comfort. It was different to dancing amongst revelers or at official balls where it was expected of them as nations and where every movement was planned.
"We have the city as music," France said, lips brushing against England's cheek. "Please Angleterre, I have not danced for myself in so very long."
It was the wistful, pleading tone to France's voice which undid him, the distant look in his eyes, because England could remember far too clearly photographs from Vichy before England had cut ties with the government; France in Germany's arms, stiff limbed and blank faced as they danced to 'celebrate' the armistice and the new government. He took France's hand, pressing it against his waist as France pulled him away from the edge. "No funny business, frog," he growled, sliding his own arms around France which brought their bodies far too close together. It was worth it to see the shadow disappear from France's eyes.
"I swear on my mother's life," France replied solemnly, but with mirth sparkling in his eyes.
England gave a soft, disparaging snort as they started to move slowly; an odd dance, neither of them leading, but neither of them content just to follow either. "You don't have a mother, France. Not really. And if you did have one then she'd be dead."
"Which is why I would swear on her, because we both know that it is a promise I cannot possibly keep," France said serenely as he gave England's arse a playful squeeze.
"Oi! Hands above the belt!"
"Which belt, mon cher?" France replied as he trailed his fingers along the belt which crossed England's chest before using it to tug him closer so that their faces were nearly touching. "You seem so very fond of them that it is difficult to decide." He leaned over a little, forcing England to bend backwards
"I swear France, if you dip me then I'll be introducing my foot to your groin!"
France winced, eyebrows drawing together in a pained frown as he backed up. "So cruel, Angleterre. So very violent."
"Always," England replied, with a grin that bordered on the vicious. "And you love it."
There was an answering flare of heat in France's eyes, his expression sharpening into something elegantly savage. It was an expression that England remembered seeing on the battlefield countless times and it took England's breath away to see it again. He'd seen too much blank-faced politeness from France since the liberation and had found it so painfully lifeless.
There were calloused fingers against England's cheek then, and he should have anticipated the kiss, but it still made him tense in France's arms. France's lips caressed his, tongue running along them until England relaxed enough to open his mouth, letting France's tongue press inside, trailing over his teeth, brushing the roof of his mouth. His tongue curled against England' coaxing him until he kissed back, too rough to be tender, too sweet to be vicious, somewhere between the two. He leaned into the hand against his cheek, eyes falling closed and fingers fisting into the front of France's shirt. France's hand curled around him, resting at the small of his back, delicious warmth through the back of his uniform.
Finally they parted, cheeks flushed and both of them a little breathless. France leaned in again, his tongue leaving a slick trail against England's lips which was followed by his thumb.
"Of course I love it, mon Angleterre," he said with a satisfied smile on his lips. "I would not have it any other way."