Characters: Canada, England
Warnings: None, really.
Disclaimer: Do not own. Characters only bear resemblance to living counterparts or other people through extreme coincidence. Characters' views do not represent my own. The place mentioned, however, is real. I don't own it either, it's in a national park.
Notes: I have an illicit love affair with quiet-winter-day pieces. I finally did a fic with little to no direct reference to popular anything, or history.
This was something I wrote awhile ago but never got around to posting, because editing issues. And then I forgot to cross-post this and Paint from my LJ for much longer than necessary.
Snow fell from the sky, feather-light and drifting, and he thought of days long past, of shushing over the ice in a sled behind a team of dogs, of running through the thick forest along the Indian-paths, grey air breathless and waiting around him as the first flakes made their tentative forays towards the ground. Canada's boots crunched over the snow, flattening ridges under the grip patterns on his soles, maintaining steady pace, perfectly in time with the hunched form walking beside him.
"It's ghastly cold," that person said, jamming his gloved hands deeper into the pockets of his coat.
"Just a little further," Canada told him. "It won't be so bad on the way back, heading down."
"I don't know why I agreed to come," England said, cursing a little as he stumbled, cheeks flushed bright and crisp in the chill air. Canada caught his elbow automatically, even though he knew it wouldn't improve his temper any. Long habit. Long years under green trees in lonely fields just barely held out of the forest's clinging, growing grasp, building up his land, his people, first for a Frenchman, then an Englishman, that God help him but Canada still didn't know why he ever loved as much as he did. "What is this thing, anyways, that you're taking me to see? We've been walking for hours. This had better be worth it."
"You'll see," Canada said.
I wish you would just appreciate spending time with me instead of always searching for a point, and trying to get away as soon as possible. Why do you do that?
The trees were thick and dark around them, white like icing piled over the lower branches of trees that towered over them, and the air was filled with floating crystalline shapes, glittering even in the dull air. The sky was bleak and flat. It was cold, but not painfully so yet.
"Here," Canada said, and they broke out of the trees and onto the rough rocky shoreline cupped between the looming mountains, whose sides peppered with trees and snow and whose tips cut the low-hanging clouds into tattered ribbons. Snow eddied and swirled, up there, above the jagged black treeline, but down here there was not a ripple to disturb the glassy-green depths. Branches like whales loomed under the surface.
"... It's a lake," England said, and he did not sound terribly impressed. Canada unslung his pack and pulled out a hot thermos, offering the cup to England, who took it, hesitantly, and allowed him to pour him a cup of what turned out to be tea. He looked a little surprised by the thoughtfulness of that, even if he was clearly not too pleased about their destination. He sat down on a rock, fingers wound around the cup, breathing in the comfort of steam.
"Like a mirror," Canada said, and turned his face up into the snow, catching the melting flakes on his closed eyelids.
"It's... beautiful, I suppose, Canada, but I still don't see why -" England began.
Canada held up a hand. At any other time, in any situation, he would not have dared to interrupt England; but being outside, mountains stronger than bones beneath his feet, the feel of his land running through him like oxygen, making his blood tingle, filled him with a calm and an assurance that was so hard to find when he was confined to a suit in a meeting room with other nations staring at him in bewilderment whenever he stood to talk, unaware he was even there when he did not.
"Listen," he said, and to his surprise, England fell silent, turning to look at him, solemnly, green eyes darker than usual without the sun, but still brighter, more vivid by far, than any of the green left in this landscape.
You come from a different world, Canada realized, for possibly the thousandth time. No wonder we never understand each other.
Silence sang around them, the scent and feel of snow and towering spruce made audible. England tilted back his head, eyes falling half-closed of their own volition, snowflakes landing diamonds on his hair and eyelashes, frosting his eyebrows, sweet cool kisses on everything they touched. Canada half-wanted to reach out, brush away the snow, press his lips there instead, but he would not. Words locked in his throat, ones he could not say, ones all but forbidden to him because he was Canada, and this was England, and all his past and all his present and all his ideas about the future told him that he had no business allowing such words to lie between them.
"I don't hear anything," England said at last, and Canada clenched his jaw.
"That's the point," Canada said. England was not a stupid nation. England was not nearly that oblivious. He was trying - always trying, it felt, and failing most of the time. He'd hoped - he'd been counting on - the spell of silence to save - what had he hoped it would save? He shouldn't have expected it to work. England was not from here. Why should his land speak to England in words he could understand?
Perhaps... perhaps a translation was in order? He couldn't look like any more of an idiot than he already felt around England the rest of the time anyways.
"Listen," he said again. And sound reverberated back from the mountains as Canada swallowed shyness, ridiculousness, and let melody take over the silence that lay between and around them, words in a language all but forgotten, now, grown from this land like the mountains themselves.
Maybe he wasn't a singer, like Japan, or France, or even England himself, who had a voice surprisingly suited to the heavy beats and electric guitars of rock, but he could coax an echo out as well as anyone, and make it flower. His voice rolled off the sides of the valley, bouncing from side to side, reverberating over them and into the sky in a round of sound. He heard rather than saw England shiver, wrapping his arms around himself, the tea gone, and he wondered if, for once, England would understand.
He let the notes die away into the stillness, the ghostly haunting echo of his own voice fading away several seconds after he fell into silence. Then he sat on the rock beside England, and took the thermos from him to pour himself a cup, the hot liquid bittersweet with more than just tea leaves and a trace of honey as it ran down his throat, and filled his stomach with warmth.
He was cold, now, and feeling more and more like an idiot. What would England even think? That he was... showing off, maybe? Being conceited and affected? Why was he so quiet? Was he upset about the fact that he still remembered his native tongues? He was, wasn't he? He'd always gotten awfully defensive when Canada had wanted to use any of the languages he'd known from his first moments of consciousness.
"I hardly remember it anymore," he said, hurriedly. "Only out here - in the woods - or by quiet water. Never in the - the cities. I'm just as likely to start speaking French or Ukrainian or Mandarin or German, or, or anything, as English, in cities. And what comes are only a few words, a prayer, a song. Or an old story I heard once long before anyone else came here. It's silly, I know, but it's so rare, it doesn't happen very, very often, so it feels important when it does, even if it's weird, and I -"
"I speak to my hills," England said quietly, and took the thermos back to pour himself more tea. "The old, old language that I had as a child. Sometimes it feels as though they're speaking through me, though the words are faded now, and difficult to hear." A sigh, wry, accepting in a way that Canada had not expected. Eyes as distant as the land they were inextricably connected with. Steam and the rim of the cup as he raised it hid his mouth and eyes, so that Canada could not tell the emotion, if any, behind those words. "I didn't think anyone else still did that."
The tea was hot on Canada's tongue, and tasted like a winter afternoon in the cozy house he'd lived in, once, during the bitter winters along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes.
"Could I hear it again?" England said, voice different now, warmer, and Canada's heart was tight in his throat, watching those eyes the colour of ancient quiet hills, blinking away the snow as it grew heavy on his lashes.
"Yeah," said Canada, and swallowed the ache away. "Yeah, all right."