Author's Note: This chapter is a monster for me. 5k long. The chapter fic deadline was extended, so that's why this wasn't finished by Christmas Eve. It will be done by the first of the year. Thanks for all your amazing feedback.
By Everything is Magic
A prolonged note on Norway's violin, prompted by a loud riff on Denmark's drums kicked their song off, and Finland's surprisingly brusque singing voice came in next, although the lyrics were just a murmur in America's ears, so focused was he on---
"America… is something wrong?"
America started up, his eyes widening. Oh god, he hoped England had not noticed the way in which he was totally staring (not that he was staring) at him.
Because yeah, that would be um, really embarrassing.
"Nothing's wrong!" America replied, grinning widely. "Hey! Uh, Japan made us all bento, if you wanna eat it before we go out."
England shook his head, and America tried to concentrate on that instead of his--- "Well it's probably not the best idea for me to eat so soon before we perform. It will be just a few minutes, after all…"
"Oh yeah…" He scratched the back of his head and finally managed to tear his gaze away, staring instead at the dark concrete floor of the backstage area. "So are you ready?"
England blinked and stroked the front of his guitar. "Oh I'm quite ready." And there was a hint of that confidence, that smirk, that he so often wore when he played.
America gulped. "Awesome. Well I'm counting on you as my backup!"
The other boy rolled his eyes at this. "I'm not your bloody backup."
"Well uh, actually you are, there's that part where you're singing back---"
"Shut it!" He tossed the messenger bag he was carrying, which America had hitherto not noticed and assumed held his spare clothing, onto a plastic chair.
America glanced up to England and looked away when he discovered that England was staring straight at him.
"Rock 'n roll angels bring thyn Hard Rock Hallelujah," came Finland's voice from the stage, backed up by his band. Oh yeah, there was someone performing right now.
"They're uh, pretty good," America said. "I mean, I haven't been paying that much attention, too busy getting ready myself but… yeah, sort of great."
England blinked, and he stepped a bit closer to America, his shoulders relaxing slightly. "Finland's band? Yes, quite. I'd heard as much, but to hear them…"
"Don't worry England, we're way more awesome!" Unthinkingly, he slapped his hand onto England's shoulder and rested it there. The shorter student stiffened, his face blooming bright pink.
He flashed him a brilliant smile, and England relaxed, infinitesimally. "Yes, you had mentioned that."
"It's true!" And then America noticed the placement of his hand and pulled away, flustered, his cheeks heating up, which was weird, because seriously, it was just a hand on a shoulder. Why would doing something like that embarrass him?
England frowned, raising a hand up to rub the spot America's hand had been in. "Right well…"
America laughed nervously, raking a hand through his hair as he did so. "Wanna run through the part we sing together? I mean I know it's a little loud with Finland's band and all but…"
"No, no… that's not a bad idea." England nodded. America grinned.
"Okay uh, good." He exhaled. "You start in one two three— "
"Crimson and clover, over and over," began England, his voice clear and self-assured. America watched him sing, his lips forming around each word, sure and strong and--- okay yeah, really damn good. "Crimson and clover, over and over," he sang again, and upon repeating the phrase, America came in on the second word.
"Our house in the middle of the street, why did we ever meet? Started my rock 'n' roll fantasy," America paused for a fraction of a second, registering how England gazed at him intently, and he felt his heart swell a bit and his confidence rise. England continued to sing his part, and America did as well. The taller boy leaned in a bit, in attempt to hear better over the din of Northern Cross.
"Don't, don't, don't let's start. Why did we ever part?" He heard a sharp intake of breath from England at this, but they both trudged onward. "Kick start my rock 'n' rolling heart."
They both cut their words off in the same moment, and England shook his head. "Uh, great." His cheeks were lightly flushed, and America's own face felt hot as well. He jerked away. It was odd. They'd sung this part together many times in practice, but this was the first time they'd done it face to face, without the rest of the band and---
Why did we ever part? America repeated the lyrics in his mind, registering, really registering what he had been singing for the first time. He wondered if England's sudden gasp before had been for the same reason.
England shifted on his feet, ran a hand through his hair, squared his shoulders, and cleared his throat. "Right well, let's stop dawdling. If you hadn't noticed, there's some rather loud applause going on out there, meaning Northern Cross is about to leave the stage."
"Oh um…" He hadn't noticed, which was, yeah, what the hell? America shook his head, and everything around him came back into clarity. It was like, when England entered the room, in his crazy pants and his--- so not stodgy appearance, he'd totally tuned everything out. And not just the band on stage, but, oh yeah, Canada and Japan were over there chatting with each other, and the members of Glorious Awesome were standing together in a circle over in the corner, Lithuania was nowhere to be found, presumably having gone to join the audience for the rest of the competition, and Belarus was silent, but she was still there.
And Finland had just pushed the backstage curtain aside, stepping backstage with his band members behind him. America noticed for the first time that he was wearing tall black boots with buckles and platforms, raising him to just a couple of inches shorter than Sweden. And well, the rest of his clothes were pretty---
"Good luck, America," Finland interrupted. He had halted just a few feet from America and was smiling politely and genuinely. "I'm sure you'll do great!"His voice was back to its normal gentle and sweet tenor.
America grinned, scratching the back of his head. "Yeah, thanks. You guys were really cool!"
"Oh well, thank you!" Finland shifted, slightly embarrassed, and America realized that he was actually looking up at the normally shorter student. Sweden, smiled, or at least, America assumed it was supposed to be a smile. It was a sort of… bizarre turn up of the mouth that looked freakier than it did friendly.
"M'wife's p'rfect. C'rse we did gr't," he complimented. Finland blushed.
"S-Sweden I'm not---" he sighed. "Oh never mind, let's go join the audience."
Sweden nodded, placing an arm on Finland's back. The other three followed them, Denmark yelping something about Northern Cross Forever, Norway rolling his eyes at him and quipping a 'be quiet,' and Iceland sighing to himself and bringing up the rear.
Finland's tall platform boots pounded, despite walking softly, as he closed the backstage door and left with his band. America was struck by the fact that England wasn't the only person who was revealing a totally different side today. Although England's was so much stranger, because while Finland may have been sweet and genial, at least he wasn't some crotchety old man stuck in the body of a teenage—
"America!" Said teenager was scowling at him, and America was sure he'd have crossed his arms had he not been holding his guitar. "We're all ready, let's get out there."
America beamed. "Yeah, let's do this thing."
"Set your dials, to tune into the Hero Frequency!" America yelled into the microphone, his voice emanating from the speakers of the school's large theatre, filled to the brim with students as it was. His blue eyes flashed as he shot a quick nod to Canada, who kicked off the song with three taps on his cymbal. Then a glance to England, who jumped in, then Belarus, then Japan, and then he took a breath and began to sing.
He gripped the microphone tightly, trying his damndest not to look at England, but instead to focus on the crowd in front of them. He was mostly successful, because as (shockingly) cool as England probably looked rocking out on his guitar in that getup, America was worried that he might get… distracted with him again. Instead, he played to the audience, moving around on the stage and smiling his million-watt smile whenever he could. The microphone came off the stand early in the song, and he held it.
As one verse led into the next, America did chance a glance at Belarus, whose petticoated skirt swished and bopped in time to the music, then Japan, who looked more emotive than usual as he played the keyboard. Belarus also winked at one point, which America took to mean that she'd found Russia and was playing to him.
He didn't know how she spotted him. Beyond the bright stage lighting, the audience was just dim outlines, barely discernable as anything more than a bunch of shady blobs. Knowing Belarus though, she probably had a sixth sense or something, especially honed for locating her beloved Russia.
America could make out the first couple of rows though (Russia wasn't in them), and the audience did seem to be taken to them, smiles on their faces and at one point, clapping to the beat, plus there were cheers during some of the more impressive instrumental and vocal riffs. Awesome. Not that they'd be anything but awesome, but still---
Oh yeah fuck, England was singing now. This was their duet, and they'd sort of discussed standing next to each other while doing it, which meant that…
"Crimson and clover, over and over…" The second go around.
"Our house in the middle of the street," America piped up, leaping beside England, who had taken residence in front of the other standing microphone.
He made eye contact with England, and this was different, more frantic and fevered than their performance backstage. Which was probably a good thing, because then they didn't have time to dwell on the words and distract themselves. Although England's bright green eyes, filled with a wanton love of performing, were…
Uh, yeah. "Why did we ever meet?" And the high flush of his cheeks, and the way sweat was starting to form on his forehead and cause his bangs to cling to his sort of… well uh, expressive eyebrows. Oh and his fingers, his damn hands strumming those strings again. Plus the god-forsaken pants. "Started my rock 'n' roll fantasy!"
England threw his head back, and America remembered that he was supposed to be watching the audience. He turned away from England, not looking, not looking. "Don't, don't, don't let's start. Why did we ever part? Kick start my rock 'n' rolling heart…"
He jumped away from England, back to the center of the stage. "I'm on my feet, I'm on the floor, I'm good to go!" All right, back to the normal Englandless part of the song. England was over there playing of course, but America didn't have to stand next to him now. This was for the better, because England was annoying and kept trying to divert his attention from playing, which was honestly stupid of him, because if the hero forgot the lyrics, they might lose to France.
And as the song began to wind down, America was feeling pretty confident, that they had delivered upon their promise to present pure awesome in the form of Hero Frequency. Just a little bit more, he repeated the last line one more time "I wanna fall in love tonight…"
England held one last long note on the guitar, and when he let go, America whooped out loud and pumped the air with his fist, absorbing every bit of the student body's positive reaction. "That's Japan on keyboard." Japan smiled and waved at the audience. "Canada on drums." Canada banged a symbol. "Belarus on bass." Belarus blew a kiss, aimed directly where Russia was, no doubt. "England on lead guitar." England smirked and raised his guitar over his head. "And me, America, on lead vocals!" The crowd cheered. "Thanks so much! You guys are awesome!" He proclaimed to the roar of the crowd.
He waved one more time and practically leapt off the stage, bouncing in excitement, the rest of his band following, Belarus and England once they'd quickly unplugged their guitars.
Glorious Awesome was quite possibly the least awesome thing America had ever heard. Oh it wasn't all bad. Austria had paid to have his baby grand brought to the theatre, and he played like the pro he was. Hungary and France were pretty good as well, and Spain was decent.
But Prussia was…
It was intended to be metal, but his vocals were somewhere between the spectrum of mind-blowingly bad and worse than anything America had ever seen while watching the tryouts for American Idol.
He was less bewildered by Prussia's bad vocals, and more confused by the fact that his band members had actually agreed to back him up. Especially Austria. He glanced to England as they finished, who was rather gaping like a fish. They'd decided to stay backstage for the song, because England 'didn't want to see that frog's face from the audience.' And whatever, no reason not to humor him. America really didn't care whether they watched them from the crowd or not.
They exited the stage, Prussia looking pumped, and everyone but Spain looking positively mortified.
Austria was more than mortified. He was fuming, huffing and stomping his feet, arms crossed over his chest. Hungary was attempting to calm him down, but she too, was shooting daggers at Prussia with her eyes.
"I can't believe!" He stepped toward Prussia, eyes narrowed. "I can't believe that I brought my piano here for this. It will take forever to get it back in tune! Not to mention, you've publicly humiliated me to a level that--- "
"Dude, chill. We were awesome, four-eyes." Prussia shrugged.
"You most certainly were not!" Austria snapped. "A level that has destroyed my credibility as a classical pianist at this school! Imagine that scholarships that I might lose because of this."
Prussia rolled his eyes. "You've got enough money to buy a college, you don't need a scholar---"
"Well excuse me for being financially intelligent. I am not going to spend money on university unless I absolutely have to, which I probably will now because--- "
Hungary shook her head and sighed, placing a hand on Austria's forearm. "Austria," she spoke calmly, "as completely idiotic as Prussia is, I don't think you'll lose any scholarship chances because of that."
"See! The lady knows--- "
"That being said," Hungary interrupted, gritting her teeth, "who in the world told you that you were qualified to lead a band?"
France ran a hand through his hair. "It was not me. Spain and I have been practicing for a couple of weeks, but Prussia never showed up when I was there," he explained, "I just imagined that he felt he was ready. It was probably not the best idea to do this performance without practicing together as a full band but--- "
"Not a good idea!" Austria scoffed. "An understatement, but I thought I was skilled enough that when you asked me and Hungary at the last minute… I agreed."
Hungary frowned; hand still on Austria's arm. "I guess we should have known something was up when Prussia didn't show up to the one practice we went to, the day before the concert…."
"Hey!" Prussia cut in, "I didn't need to come to practices. The awesome me doesn't need to---"
"Surely one of you had heard Prussia sing before this show?" Austria interrupted sharply. All eyes went to Spain, who had remained silent up to that point.
Spain laughed, looking a bit guilty. "Ah, I didn't really notice that he was bad?" He shifted. "I just… well I don't know anything about metal, so I assumed he was supposed to sound like that."
Prussia grinned. "Metal IS supposed to sound like that!"
France rubbed his forehead. "I believe metal should sound more like what the very attractive Northern Cross performed?"
Austria and Hungary nodded in agreement.
"Especially Finland… he was… unexpectedly---"
"Man, Sweden is going to kill you for even thinking that," Prussia snorted.
France sighed. "Thoughts never hurt anyone. Anyway--- I imagine it is over for us now?"
Austria frowned. "It is for us," he paused, "but Prussia?"
"What is it, four eyes?"
"You are to pay me back the money I spent to have my piano moved, and quickly," he demanded, curtly.
Prussia groaned. "Ah man. You are so fucking not awesome."
America grinned to himself, bouncing on his feet, as he packed up to leave the show. They'd advanced! Along with Korea and the Battery Powered Wonder and Northern Cross. This was so, so awesome. Not that there was any doubt, because Hero Frequency was the coolest band ever, but now it was official!
Two more rounds and they'd have this thing. England had already left, Japan had departed with Greece, and now it was just him and Canada. He beamed at his brother.
"So how great are we?" He queried.
Canada smiled. "Pretty good, eh. I thought we all nailed it! You and England on that duet part, you were really impressive."
America's cheeks pinked at that. "Th-thanks. I mean luckily England had my awesome to bounce off of…"
He chuckled. "Well England was pretty awesome out there too, eh? I'm sure you think so."
He shrugged, but couldn't help a smile. "Y-yeah, I guess he was."
Canada rolled a drumstick along his fingers, flitting his eyes away as he did so. "'Though now that France is out of the picture…"
America paused in his movements, his stomach dropping and panic forming. "E-England's gonna drop… now that he has what he wants."
"Now, I'm sure he won't. I mean I think the France thing was just an excuse, eh…"
But America barely registered his words. He gulped, a tight knot forming in his stomach and a frown growing on his face. His blue eyes were wide, and he turned away, facing the wall. England… can't leave. He expected his first thought to be, what about the band!
But it wasn't.
It was… he couldn't quite form a complete thought. Spending time with England, he… liked it? It was… reforming their relationship, it was good! And there was something else, something kind of like, when he'd seen England today, it felt different. He'd sort of consciously thought that he was hot. What the fuck was that? It was probably some side-effect of those weird pants…
And he felt hurt. England couldn't do this to him, could he? Dump him after all this hard work, just because France wasn't involved anymore. It was about more than that now! It was about winning this whole damn thing, right? About being awesome.
His cheeks bloomed red. Well if England quits, so be it. Belarus can cover his part. He willed the ache to go away at the thought of England departing.
America slung a bag over his shoulder, faking a grin. "D'you wanna grab something to eat, bro?"
Canada blinked. "Sure I guess…"
"Do you mind--- "
"Eh, I'll pay, don't worry," he sighed.
Monday's practice could not have come soon enough. America had been fretting and trying not to fret over England the entire weekend, and it had ruined it. He hadn't been able to have any fun! Japan had purchased a new video game, and America's mind had been so elsewhere that he'd only finished the game in a third of the time listed as average gameplay, as opposed to his usual fifth of the amount of time. He'd also turned down a free hamburger, when Japan couldn't finish the rest of his two cheeseburgers combo meal on a trip to McDonald's. Japan and Canada had honestly wondered if he was ill and had dually recommended a visit to the school nurse.
He could have just called England, but somehow, that idea was scarier than just waiting. Not that he was scared. Belarus could totally cover. It was just more annoying to be turned down vocally. He'd rather just find out by England not showing up. And if England didn't show up, it was because he was a chicken and didn't think he could keep up with Hero Frequency the rest of the competition.
Because the other option was worse; that England really was leaving because France was out, which meant that he didn't care about America and---
He shook his head and interrupted his thoughts by calling out to Canada to pass him a CD. They were flipping through America's CD collection, in attempt to decide what to perform next. The practice was starting in twenty minutes, and they wanted to have some ideas prepared. The second round was to be two songs- one cover, and one original song.
"I'm sure he'll come," Canada said, flipping past a Franz Ferdinand CD.
America grinned, a bit lopsided and false. "What makes you think I'm worried about that?"
Canada leveled him a skeptical look.
"Look, even if he drops, it doesn't matter. Belarus can play his part!"
The door creaked open and Japan came in, joining them beside the pile of CDs. "I assume we're working on selecting a song?"
"Ah, I apologize. I'm not familiar with most of these bands…"
He smiled. "S'fine Japan. We've got it covered."
"Are you feeling any better?" He asked, looking at the back of a discarded album.
"Oh, I'm fine," America faked a laugh. "Actually… I was never sick."
Japan blinked. "Did you get yourself checked? I'm just--- "
"You'd best not be sick, git," came a new voice, and America's eyes grew wide, as he dared to glance around.
"E-England?" It wasn't a dramatic entrance like the first time he'd shown up to practice. He'd just slipped in the partially open door and come to join them like any other practice. America hadn't even noticed…
"Yes, that's me," England replied, placing his guitar on a table and sitting down next to America. "So I take out we're trying to decide on our next cover? Bloody hell you've got a lot of CDs…"
America's heart leapt up in his throat, which he thought was kind of cheesy, but damn if it didn't happen. England was here. England was here with his guitar and helping them pick out a CD and… ready for practice. He gulped, eyes meeting the other student's. His cheeks pinked, and so did England's. They both looked away.
He cleared his throat, finally managing to speak again. "But… France is out…"
"Indeed he is, and his band was so terrible I almost felt bad for him," he paused, "almost." England's lips curled up in a small smirk.
"But you… I thought you were only in this to beat Fra---"
"Are we going to win this bloody thing or not?" England cut in, his green eyes flashing determination. "I'm in this to win."
America beamed, brighter than sunshine, and before he could think, he had his arms wrapped around England's center in an embrace, his head resting on the shorter boy's shoulder. Japan and Canada had been completely forgotten. America rubbed his hands up and down England's back, muttering something about 'thank you' and 'so awesome.'
England stiffened and froze, but relaxed after a few moments. He patted America on the back as well.
It was only when America actually remembered Canada and Japan, that his face heated up and he swore he must have been red as a traffic light, England even redder. They both shoved away, laughing feebly as they did so.
But the feeling of England's warm body in his arms lingered in America's mind, and he found himself smiling to himself anytime he thought back on it during practice. Okay, he also got a little flustered, but was… a nice flustered.
England was staying! He wasn't in this because of France at all, at least not anymore. He was as into the practice as ever. This was so awesome that America felt like maybe he kind of sort of wanted to burst. Since when did England make him so damn happy? Or maybe not England but…
They'd totally have to keep doing their dinner dates--- err… times they went out to eat together, rather.
America and England did continue going out to eat together, and America's heart felt a little lighter every time they did.
This was hanging out with England, like it used to be, before everything went sour. Two guys who didn't seem to have much in common on the surface but… just kind of worked. That had always been him and England, and he had never really realized how much he'd missed that.
But it was a little different now. Maybe it was because they were a year older, or maybe it was those pants again, although America was half considering that the latter was a dumb excuse, the former kind of being one too.
They'd actually gone out to eat somewhere a little nicer that night, a week after their first second round practice, than the local McDonald's, and America had even changed out of his school uniform and into some nicer clothes before joining England at the popular Italian restaurant. Canada had teased him when he'd stopped by the dorm to change, saying he was going on a date. He was totally wrong, of course. Ironing his clothes before going didn't mean anything, and neither did picking up England from his dorm and escorting him to the restaurant.
It's not like there had been flowers or something mushy like that.
America spotted a flower booth on the sidewalk as they journeyed back to the dorms on foot and immediately perished the thought. That would be dumb.
He glanced over to England, who had the smallest of content smiles on his face. He had changed as well, although to be honest, his uniform was usually so pristine, that it probably would have been nice enough. But England looked kind of…
Well, when he was smiling like that, which America knew was something not many people witnessed, he looked kind of… cute.
His cheeks flushed at this. Unthinkingly, he reached his hand out toward England, but pulled back once he registered what he was doing. America shook his head. What was getting into him?
"You all right, America?" England quirked one of his prominent (but not really in a bad way at all oh god why was he thinking this) eyebrows.
America grinned. "Awesome!" He scratched the back of his head. "I had fun tonight…"
England's face heated up. "I-I did as well…"
They crossed the street, flashing their IDs to enter the dormitory area of their school. "Hey um, are you still… having trouble with that pre-calc homework?"
England huffed slightly. "I-I'm sure I can handle it…"
America chuckled. "Math has never been your strong point."
"Well what about your project for literature?" They were walking amongst the dorms now, lamp light lighting the way, the sun having set at least an hour ago. There was a tiny scowl on England's face, which was like the smile, kind of adorable.
"Yeah that's the thing!" America spoke swiftly, ending that train of thought. "I thought you could help me with that, if I helped you with your pre-calc? That way we're both getting something we need. That's fair… right?"
England blinked, but nodded. "All right."
They had stopped in front of England's dorm. "We'll do your pre-calc tonight. It's due first, right?"
"Y-yes it is."
America grinned. "Great then! Guess you'll be getting the most heroic math tutor ever then?"
England rolled his eyes, but his cheeks were flushed high. "Idiot. Come inside, then…" He gestured for America to follow him up the steps to his dorm.
"Wh-what?" America's blue eyes grew large. He hadn't been in England's dorm forever. Not since… then. In fact, he remembered a massive fight they'd had last time he was there, which had been one of the final straws in breaking their friendship. It felt like something really personal now. He knew England was in a dorm by himself, which was a privilege he'd given himself upon becoming student council president. It did kind of suit him though, America thought, a bit sadly. England was the student council president, but he didn't have any real, honest to goodness friends.
He ached at this, and again, felt like reaching for England's hand. Maybe that's one of the reasons England's become so… well, whatever he is now. I mean he did get progressively worse as our friendship got worse…
And maybe I'm why he's loosened up a little now? America dared to hope.
"Come inside, your daft fool," England clarified with a roll of his eyes. "Are we going to study or not?"
He nodded, giving England what he hoped was en encouraging smile. "Yeah, I'd love to!"
England's face bloomed crimson, and he turned his face away. "You'd l-love to, what does that even--- oh never mind, let's get to it." He turned the key in the lock and walked inside, America following him.
He prayed that England did not notice the huge and sort of goofily happy grin on his face.
Maybe the flowers wouldn't be such a bad idea…