Despite the fact that this is labelled as USUK, the M-rating is for language and gore/violence/ideology (due to America going a wee bit mad during the Cold War) rather than sexy tiems. There are sexy tiems, but they're hardly M-rating worthy. In fact, they are really more like implied-sexy-tiems. Just so you're not disappointed, you drooling perverts. XD
For Better, For Worse
(You should have made the ring better. Sometimes it still makes me bleed.)
"Jack and Jill went up the hill..."
England murmured it to distract him; holding the tweezers over the silver-blue flame of the gas canister, watching them glint in the heat as he turned them this way and that.
"...To fetch..." America paused, twitching nervously beneath England's hand. "Ah, what were they fetching?"
"Water," England hummed. "A pail of water." He lifted the tweezers from the flame. "Hold still now."
America gave a nod; but flinched away anyway, instinctively, as the heat radiating from the blazing ends of the instrument flushed against the bare skin of his shoulder.
"Be brave, soldier," England whispered, pressing a kiss to the bullet-wound.
("Green. You never used to wear green. Not before... before all this started."
"The Second World War?"
"I wore this uniform in the First World War too."
"Well... That's what I meant. This whole "world-war" thing. That's when you started wearing green. I guess... it's kind of fitting, though. Green, it's all... well, it's a mixed colour, right? You mix yellow and blue to make green. It's not clean-cut, just like all this, what with everyone changing sides this way and that, Russia and Italy and—"
"You mean tertiary."
"Green. It's a tertiary colour as opposed to a primary one."
"Because you mix it?"
"Mm. Like orange and purple."
"What about brown? You can mix that too, right?"
"What about red? You used to wear red all the time."
"Red is a primary colour."
"That's right. Red is far purer.")
"H-hey." America, panting in recovery as he watched England toss the bullet and the tweezers unceremoniously into a coffee-can lid, suddenly spoke up. "Hey, England. Marry me, okay? When it's all over, I mean."
England's gaze flickered up to him.
"Don't be so ridiculous." He didn't even sound surprised.
"I'm not," America insisted. "I'm not being ridiculous. We've had our ups and downs, but with this... This war thing, I mean, you and I—"
"I mean it, I really mean it, England. We've kicked some ass out here, you and I. Force to be reckoned with, right? I don't want that to end with the war. We couldn't have done this without each other, you know? Think about it. It really would be for the best."
"Why, though? ...Aside from political convenience."
England handed him his bomber jacket as he said it, still rather unfazed by the conversation – as though they were merely discussing another Lend-Lease Programme designed to bomb Germany to Hell and back With Love from the Anglo-American Alliance.
"If I say I love you, you'll laugh," America replied with a pout in his voice.
"Yes, I'll laugh." England taped the gauze patch over the cleaned entry-wound. He almost felt like laughing right now. Stupid America, managing to get shot by Italy...
"So I'll say this instead: Because I want us to be like green. Merged, right? But it looks good. It works." America grinned and flashed England one of those pin-up girl winks. "Looks good on you. Matches your eyes."
England didn't say anything, carefully buttoning America's shirt back up for him. America rocked from side to side, making it difficult for him.
"Englaaaand," he whined. "Marry me, stupid. Say yes and I'll work twice as hard at winning this thing so I can deflower you sooner, right?"
"That shouldn't be... that's, I mean, I'm not..." Feeling his face heat up a little, England looked at him bitterly. "Don't talk in that manner. I raised you better than that."
America simply laughed and laid his head on England's shoulder.
"That's still not a no," he mused cheerfully. "We'll wed when we win the war, then."
"Of course." England pinned one of the red blooms to the worn leather of America's jacket. "The rose is my national flower."
"A bride needs a bouquet."
"I'm not your bride." England touched the ruby rose on his own tattered lapel, smiling cynically himself. "If I was a bride, I'd have a dress made from some dead soldier's parachute and new shoes and red lipstick to stain your victory kiss."
"Well," America countered, "I think this is fitting."
Whether he meant the fact that they were getting married still dressed in their uniforms or the fact that they were getting married in the roofless ruins of some Blitzed church, England wasn't sure. The rubble had ivy running between the chunks of it like wires, keeping them together even though the bombs had broken them apart.
Or maybe America merely meant that it was fitting that it was deserted but for the two of them; no priest, no witnesses, even the effigy of Christ on the Cross half-buried.
They spoke their vows in the sober silence, in good times and in bad for better for worse for richer for poorer in sickness and in health to have and to hold for better for worse, America's hand clamped tightly around his even though he wouldn't meet his gaze.
America was shaking.
Well, it's not over. We've won but it's not over.
"Do you like them?" America held the rings – matching, identical – out on his palm. Two simple, plain bands of silver. "They're not silver. They're steel. I made them from the scrap of a plane-wreck. It was a good plane, took out three of Japan's ships before it was shot down."
"If that was the theme we were going for, you should have said something," England said expressionlessly, taking one of the bands and slipping it onto America's ring finger. "I could have borrowed the Crown Jewels and melted them down."
"Don't be like that." America took the other ring and England's hand, smiling nonetheless. "I thought this would be a better reminder of what we've been through together – the reason we married."
England gave a cold little laugh.
"I don't even remember why I said yes," he said, only half-joking.
America put the ring on him. He hadn't filed one of the edges down enough or something, because it cut into England's finger as it was twisted straight. England jumped and tried to snatch his hand back to inspect the damage but America clung to his wrist.
"You didn't say yes," America said again. "You just shook my hand and agreed that it would be for the best."
(America held him much too tightly when he kissed him under the broken archway – as though afraid he would slip out of his grasp and be gone now that the war in Europe was over and he didn't need him anymore.)
"I'm... I'm on my way back."
The line wasn't good and England could hardly hear him.
"I know. I heard... I heard that it went..." England trailed off, wrapping the cord of the phone around his finger distractedly. "Ah, that is... That's good. I'm glad. You..." He paused again. "America, you're... alright, aren't you?"
"Of course." Too quickly. "I'm... looking forward to seeing you. I mean, I—"
"I know, I know. I miss— I anticipate seeing you too."
"Anticipate?" A laugh – somewhat forced, but maybe a little real, at least just a little. "That could be good or bad."
"Be grateful that I care at all, you brat." England breathed out a laugh himself.
"I am." He heard America take a deep breath. "...England?"
"I was just—" Someone else spoke in the background and America promptly cut himself off. "Oh. Sorry, I have to go. But I'll see you soon, okay?"
"Alright." England was ready to say his brief goodbyes when a thought suddenly struck him. "Ah, wait! Did you... did you want anything?" He swallowed. "For... for tonight, I mean."
"Oh. N-no, I don't think..." America paused thoughtfully. "Hmm, actually... It's dumb, really, but... wear green."
"Yeah. You look great in green. It suits you much better than red ever did."
They had not consummated the marriage – their silly sham of a wedding – on that warm, bright morning back in April because the war had not been over. They had said their vows and put on their rings and kissed; and then they had gone to buy breakfast and sat opposite each other in the back of the café over their ration-book toast and tea and coffee and crumpets and talked about ways to finish the war with Japan as quickly as possible and England had cleaned the blood from his finger with a napkin.
America had not apologised for his shoddy workmanship.
They had not consummated it all, agreeing that it would be completed when the war was completed; America had left that afternoon for the Pacific with a grin and a joke that he wouldn't go making a war widow of England already.
He had returned this afternoon, months later, with less of a grin and no joke whatsoever, England waiting for him in a green wool V-neck he'd had for years.
("That's not the green I meant," America hummed. "Where's your uniform?"
"Upstairs somewhere," England replied irritably. "It's so battered I feel that it might fall apart if I so much as touch it.")
The bedroom floor was littered with green and brown; England's jumper and America's uniform and bomber jacket. It was one of those heavy, hot August nights, and America was heavy and hot on top of him as he slept, exhausted more than simply physically. England could feel his weight pressing down on him, on his ribcage and his spine and his guts, and he couldn't move him an inch. He didn't feel that he was going to suffocate, however – at least not yet. It was an oddly-comfortable sort of compression, some soundless unsung wedding hymn that made him feel it would be okay, really, if America crushed him.
America didn't look any different, smell or sound or feel any different. He simply slept wrapped around England, sighing deeply with every exhaled breath. This was probably the best he had slept in all those months.
He was different, though. His sheer weight alone was proof enough of that, with England – once so much stronger than him – having no hope of getting out from underneath him.
In the humid darkness, alone with America asleep and his own thoughts, he understood that he had no choice but to accept it. The war had changed everything. It had made America stronger – it had made him grow up.
It had made England need him.
("You did... want this though, right?" America panted, pressing down close to him, hands tight on his thighs. "It wasn't just... just for political convenience or... b-because it was for the best, I-I mean... I do... love you, you know, England.")
I don't know. I can't do without you, certainly, but even I can't be sure if I'm just using you or not – if I married you because you're the one who took my place.
America nuzzled closer to him, burying his face in his neck, and England stroked his hair.
The ring had cut his finger again.
In the 1950s, America spent money like it was burning a hole in his pocket, exchanged abusive letters and phonecalls with Russia and China and played his latest Elvis Presley records at inappropriate times of the night. Once he draped the Stars and Stripes around England like a cloak and whispered "Ignore the red" and sang Don't Be Cruel as he carried him up the stairs. He hummed it and other Elvis songs and Bill Haley and The Coasters and anything else that seemed to be flitting through his empty head the entire night; it had made England angry, really, to be wrapped in America's flag and have Elvis bleeding Presley drilled into his skull even whilst America was fucking him, but he held his tongue and wasn't cruel because, when he looked up at him, he saw the fear in his eyes.
"I want you, I need you, I love you," America quipped later, playing with England's ring hand, kissing each of his knuckles.
England smiled tiredly and wanted to say something like that in return, but he knew that America's mind wasn't really on him anyway.
It was on Russia and how many bombs it would take.
America leaned against the doorway to the kitchen, arms folded across his broad chest. He was in those blue jeans he liked so much these days and a plain white T-shirt with a silver crucifix around his neck. He really needed to push his glasses up – they were so far down his nose he wasn't even looking through them – and his hair was too long, hanging like a curtain over his blue eyes and making them seem darker still.
England looked at him briefly over his shoulder before humming in agreement and going back to arranging the roses he'd taken from the garden in the glass vase on the kitchen table. His steel wedding band flashed between the crimson blooms as he manipulated them, pulling them this way and that to make a perfect picture of them.
"Roses are red—" he replied.
"Violets are blue," America snapped. "I don't like red." He narrowed his eyes at England – who was wearing a dark red sweater-vest over his white shirt and grey dogtooth tie.
"Well, that's too bad," England responded tersely. "It's on your flag. It's on my flag."
"That can't be helped, but you..." America stepped towards him and suddenly grabbed his wrist, wrenching him around to face him. "If I see you wearing red again, I'll kill you."
England barely blinked at the threat, letting America squeeze his wrist as though trying to burst the marrow from his bones.
"If you kill me, I'll be wearing an awful lot of red, America."
"Not if I choke you to death."
"Then I would be blue." England sighed it wearily as though tired of repeating himself.
Don't be so ridiculous.
"Mm. And I'll dress you in green for your grave." America tilted his head, looking at England up and down. "God, you look good in green. You don't wear it much anymore, though."
"Well, I hardly keep up with fashion, but I have noticed that nobody's really wearing green anymore."
That is, I'm not wearing it because I'm not fighting. That's why you want me in green, isn't it? To fight your wars with you? That's the only reason.
"Yeah," America agreed absently, finally letting go of England's arm. "Seems like everyone's into red these days."
He reached out and took hold of the hem of England's sweater-vest, peeling it upwards over his ribs and chest; England briefly considered wrenching it back down in defiance but America was already insistently tugging it up under his armpits so he raised his arms and let him pull it off over his head.
America tossed the garment to the kitchen floor and beamed at England, not saying anything.
"Everyone?" England sighed, turning away as his patience ran out; tracing the velvet edges of the roses with his fingertips. "Don't be so bloody paranoid."
"Bloody..." America gave a hiccoughing little laugh and put his arms up behind his head. "Yeah, England. Everyone."
"England," America whispered in his ear, rolling over and getting on top of him.
"What?" England didn't even open his eyes, putting his elbow against America's shoulder and pushing at him. He couldn't budge him and groaned sleepily when he realised it. "What do you want, you stupid git?"
"The wallpaper." America paused, as though deliberating. "I can see things in the wallpaper."
"I am not putting up with this at this time of night," England replied shortly. "Fuck off."
"I really can, though."
"Go and sleep somewhere else, then. I am absolutely serious. I don't care if there's a headless horseman looming over your side of the bed, I am really not in the mood for your bollocks tonight, so kindly go and cry about it elsewhere."
"You don't believe me?" America bit at his neck. "You don't agree with me, England?"
"America!" England whacked him in the temple with his elbow, getting him off at last. "Don't fucking test me. I don't know what is the matter with you lately but I don't much like it."
He rolled over and presented America with his back.
America was quiet for a long time; finally he knelt up and reached over towards the lamp at the bedside table, flicking it on. England hissed irritably and retreated under the covers completely, thinking he'd really have to punch America in the face come morning. There was another long bout of silence, at length punctuated by the sudden sound of what was unmistakably paper tearing.
England ventured out from beneath the covers just in time to see America pull a long strip of wallpaper from the wall, holding the dry coil of garishly-patterned skin between his thumb and forefinger as he inspected it from every angle.
"Why must you be so damned destructive?" England exploded, reaching up and snatching the piece of torn wallpaper away; he crumpled it in one hand and tossed it over the side of the bed. "Turn that light out and go to sleep, for pity's sake."
"You think I'm destructive?" America blinked at him curiously. "But you're like me, England." He flashed his scrap-metal wedding ring. "That's why we're such a perfect match."
"Be that as it may, I am going to leave you for France if you don't shut your trap this instant and go back to sleep."
"France, huh?" America rocked back and forwards distractedly. "How about Russia? Would you leave me for him?"
"Keep talking and I might seriously consider it. At least he's quiet. Why you have to act like an annoying brat when you no longer have an excuse for it is beyond me..."
England settled again with a deliberate sigh to signal that the "conversation" was over; the light still didn't go out, but after a moment he felt America's weight lift from the mattress. He listened to him patter away out of the room and gave another, quieter, sigh of relief.
Good. Don't come back.
(He didn't think that their relationship was bad, really – or even that it was worsening. He just thought that America was getting stranger by the day; more and more paranoid, jumpy and snappy and oddly aggressive sometimes, and damned downright possessive of England, holding him so tightly at times that he bruised him.
That bloody Russia. England would have punched him in the face by now if only he wasn't so sure that Russia would punch him in the face right back with nukes.)
America came skittering back into the bedroom and was on top of England before he'd even realised it, wrestling him onto his back.
"What the—?!" England kicked at him, thrashing beneath him. "America, stop this nonsense this second! I am not playing with you!"
"Good," America replied, his voice suddenly very cold, "because I'm not playing either."
He pressed his knees upon England's biceps, holding him down; grabbing a handful of his hair to keep his head still as he lifted the knife he'd gotten from the kitchen. He flicked it back and forth a little; England's eyes following the tip of it.
His heart hammered under his ribs, and he still struggled beneath America's weight as much as he could but really—
"Be brave, soldier," America whispered as he lowered the knife.
—he wasn't afraid. He wasn't as afraid as America was.
America cut the letters into his bare chest quickly and clumsily; his sweaty hand slipped on the handle two or three times and he was hunched low over England, squinting, because he hadn't bothered to put his glasses on to do it. It hurt like hell but England didn't beg or scream or even move once the blade was biting into his skin because he felt that it would only frighten America more; because America was odd like that, terrified of abstract things, things that were mere ideas with no physical form, things he couldn't attack.
Ghosts and things in the wallpaper and Communism.
Take out your fear on me if you must.
America flipped the knife over in his hand when he was done with the last letter and lifted his bloody fingers to his mouth, sucking them very intently as he sat back and took his knees from England's upper arms. His big blue eyes flickered upwards almost shyly and England met his gaze, panting with pain.
"Capitalist," America informed him happily around his first two fingers – and it wasn't sensual, it wasn't sexual or suggestive. He just looked like some obscene, oversized imitation of a child.
"Pig," England hissed. "Finish it, idiot." Even though the white-hot pain, he smiled twistedly up at America. "The whole phrase is Capitalist Pig."
America finished licking his fingers clean in a very calm manner, taking extreme care to get it off his wedding ring, before raising that same hand and slamming it across England's face.
"I'm not like them!" he spat angrily, and he was suddenly crying – angry, frustrated, upset, stupid child in over his head, playing at hero and at villain, at lover and at torturer. "I'm not like them! I won't call you that because I don't think you're wrong!" He looked down at his handiwork, breathing heavily. "I'm just reminding who you are – what you are. You're exactly like me."
"What, paranoid and hysterical?" England reached up and took away the knife, putting it down on the bedside table rather decisively. "I really don't know why I put up with you sometimes, wanker."
"Because you love me!" America burst out, but he didn't sound entirely convinced himself; he put his hands either side of England's head and leaned over him. "England, don't leave me. I'll find you and drag you back if you do. I'll kill you, okay?"
"America, love, don't say things you don't mean," England said softly, wiping America's face dry. "You keep saying that but you don't mean a word of it. I doubt you could kill me even if you wanted to."
"I could," America retorted, pulling his head sharply away. "I could easily kill you. I could snap you in half. I could break your neck. I could hang you with one of your stupid ugly ties or force your hideous red roses down your throat until you choke." His cheeks flushed angrily. "Don't tell me what I can and can't do!"
"I meant that you don't have the balls." England laughed even though it hurt his chest. "Go and get me a towel, you stupid boy."
Something else flared briefly in America's eyes before his shoulders suddenly sagged and he obediently got off England and the bed and slinked away out of the room.
He didn't come back, though; and not too long afterwards England heard him throwing up.
"Guess you were right." America stood in the bedroom doorway clutching the tin First Aid kit. "That's an awful lot of red."
It was morning; early, but with the light bright and clear by now. England, exhausted from having lain wide-eyed and wide-awake for the rest of the night, clutching at the rust-stained sheets in loose, forgotten fists, turned his head to look at him.
"Of course," he said stiffly. It was all he could say.
"I'm sorry." America crossed to the bed and sat on the edge, putting the kit down and opening it up. He was wearing his glasses again and didn't need to hold everything two centimetres from his face in order to see what it was.
"That's not going to cut it the way it used to, America." England didn't flinch away from him; instead, he felt abnormally patient, strangely gentle.
"I know that." America was rifling through the tin box in search of something. "I didn't come to beg for your forgiveness. I know you won't forgive me for this and that's fine, really. I guess I don't expect you to, after all. But, you know, I am sorry. I thought about it afterwards and I wished I hadn't done it. There was no need for it."
He poured some antiseptic onto a cotton-ball and reached over to England's bare, bloody chest, dabbing at the smooth, clean lines of the letters.
England hissed and twisted, biting hard at his bottom lip. It stung like buggery, the burning liquid seeping beneath his open skin and settling deep in the layers of his exposed flesh.
"Don't make me hold you down again," America hummed. "I was still talking, anyway. I realised there was no need for me to do this. I did it because I was worried that that you were forgetting who you were, you know? I don't want you to be like them – that is, I won't lose you to them, England. Not having the balls has nothing to do with it. Go red like Russia and China and I'll kill you, I swear to God I will. Better to be dead than red."
He paused, then laughed a little, his blue eyes shining like a child's behind his glasses; and then dipped down and kissed England on the cheek.
"But it's fine," he went on happily, "because then I realised that there was no need for any of this. I'll never lose you to Communism. You're Capitalist, more Capitalist than me, and I know that won't ever change. I was scared you were forgetting who you were, but it's me that forgot! The British fucking Empire, right?" America laughed again, his fingers manipulating the cotton-ball over the first 'i'. "God, you're a greedy bastard if ever there was one. You'll rob anyone blind if they turn away from you for so much as a moment."
"That was years ago, America." England was too tired and in too much pain to protest this fully and protect his gentlemanly interests from his past deeds. "Everything... is different now."
"Oh, I know," America chirped, "but still, it gives me confidence. You'll never give up your gold-edged tea-set for Communism, will you, my pampered prince? They call me greedy, obsessed with consumerism and material possessions, but you were once the world's largest empire, the wealthiest nation on the planet. The only reason that changed is because you spent all that money fighting wars instead of on museums to show off your collection of stolen trinkets."
Wearing green, not red.
America had locked him in the bedroom.
Not immediately. He had spent the morning fawning over him, dressing him in a soft old shirt (green) of his own, wincing guiltily every time England had given a hiss of pain and clutched at his chest; buttering him up with a brilliant breakfast and using "I love you" as frequently as punctuation, his voice growing more and more desperate every time he said it.
("You forgive me, right?" America asked, his body too close, his grip too tight, his wedding ring too clean.)
Later England had found him singing to himself, cleaning his gun. Well. A gun. One of his guns. One of his favourites – the M1911. Semi-automatic hand-gun (pistol, to be precise) with a magazine – self-loading, practically, so you didn't have to pause for breath or bullets when shooting some sucker full of slugs. He knew it – he'd carried a similar model, the Browning Hi-Power, during the war. He knew the vibrations, the clicks, the recoil. They were good guns. American, of course.
America had been holding that gun with a tenderness, a genuine affection, that he had not bestowed upon England in years. He had been humming Buddy Holly (who had died that year) as he'd pressed his lips to the barrel and then smiled contently around the kiss.
And then he'd opened his eyes and looked up and seen England standing in the doorway of the study.
"Don't get jealous," America had teased, letting his tongue roll out and slide up the length of the barrel. "It's just a gun."
England had shrugged.
"A gun is a gun," he'd replied. "Good for putting a bullet in Russia, eh?"
He'd retreated down the hall and into the bedroom to retrieve his book, aware of America scrambling after him and half-expecting to suddenly feel the gun squarely between his shoulder blades. America's hands had been empty, however, when he had wrapped his arms around England from behind.
"Be safe," he'd murmured. "Be safe, be safe."
And then he had been gone again and the bedroom door had slammed shut and England had heard the scrape of the key in the lock from the outside. It was an old house with those kinds of old-fashioned quirks – doors with heavy old brass keys that locked on the outside to shut up the mad servant girl who said she heard voices beneath the floorboards.
Be safe from who?
England had read his book for a while – some odd, post-war futuristic vision called 1984 – but now he lay still, America's shirt loose and comfortable over his smarting chest, and looked at the wallpaper. The ugly, gaudy wallpaper. It really was fairly hideous, a sick shade of yellow with a pattern too thick, too bold, of brown, burnt-looking flowers wildly coiling this way and that, a vast thicket of the things exploding all over the expanse of the walls as though some forgotten garden that hadn't been tended to in a century. It was old, like the house, and neither of them liked it but they'd never changed it.
But see things? England, with his gift for seeing things others couldn't, things others didn't even believe in, could see nothing. No matter which way he turned his head, no matter which bizarre angle he looked at it from, no matter how he squinted or leaned in closer or pushed further back, he couldn't see anything in the wallpaper other than ugly brown flowers – repulsive rotten roses.
He looked at the white strip where America had distractedly torn some of the domineering pattern away from the wall. Odd. Well, he hadn't been himself last night. Or last week. Or last year. He had never been like this before; he not been like this when he had made his ill-worded, highly-unromantic but thoroughly-America proposal to England back in the early Forties, nor the morning they had stood under the roofless wreckage of a church and taken those vows with no-one around to hear them but themselves, nor the night after the war had ended and America had come crashing down on him like a wave, too shattered, too weary, to do anything other than beg England to still love him in return.
Not even when he had gone through that rebellious declaring-independence stage had he been like this.
What do you see trapped behind these roses, America?
England tore his gaze away from the wallpaper and looked towards the door, frowning. He'd surely imagined America calling his name – the idiot remembered that he'd locked England in the bedroom, right?
"England, come here!" No, America was unquestionably calling him. He sounded... desperate. Frightened, maybe. Definitely demanding. "Please! England, help me!"
The truth was, England hadn't tried to get out of the room. Correct, he wasn't as strong as he had once been and America had done a number on his chest – which stung with almost every movement that he made – but the door was old and the lock was old and he was old, perhaps, but he still had a pretty mean kick.
He left the door hanging off its hinges and went to the study, hoping America would be sitting there grinning (and then he'd stick out his tongue and laugh that ridiculous laugh of his and mock England for having fallen for the joke; and England would scowl and pretend to be more annoyed than he really was and they'd fuss briefly and insult each other and then America would hitch him up on the desk and press insistently between his open legs and kiss him—).
"Help," America repeated, his eyes bigger and bluer without his glasses (they were tucked into the top pocket of his shirt). "England...! Don't just fucking stand there!"
(England couldn't help it. He hadn't expected to walk in on America sitting on the floor against the wall with his legs wide open, his jeans and underwear around his ankles, with his precious M1911 semi-automatic pistol inside him all the way up to the trigger.)
"H-help...?" England blinked, coughed and then composed himself, looking away irritably. "Help you with what, exactly? If you want me to fuck you with that thing, you've got another thing coming, let me tell you now."
"I want it out!" America exploded. "Help me, for God's sake!"
England huffed a heavy sigh and met America's gaze again – well, more or less. He doubted America could see him very well, the short-sighted twit. Not that it mattered much from where he was standing – he could see America just fine. Pale, a sheen of sweat on his brow, his too-long gold hair tangled around his face.
"Did you get it stuck, you idiot?" England asked coldly, finally approaching him.
"N-no." America shook his head. "It's not stuck, it's just... I can't pull it out without—"
"So it's stuck."
"Without pulling the trigger," America finished icily.
"It's loaded?" England barely blinked as he knelt between America's legs.
"And the safety isn't on?"
England's green eyes flickered up briefly to meet America's blue ones; the expression in those cerulean irises was the usual not-seeing-what-the-issue-was, but beneath it...
America was terrified. Clearly this was something else that he hadn't thought through completely, merely declaring it a Good Idea At The Time and going at it with his usual moronic gung-ho.
"Let me see," England sighed. "Move your hand away."
"I can't move my hand away," America bit out. "That's the fucking problem, Sherlock."
England looked at him again and made the barest of motions, indicating that he was about to rise and walk out and leave America to get the thing out himself or (literally) die trying; America panicked, flailing as much as he dared.
"No, no, don't go! I'm sorry!"
"That's better." England settled again and looked critically at America's predicament.
"It's the angle," America said helpfully. "If I move the hand holding the gun back any further, I'll pull the trigger."
"Yes, I can see that. If I might ask why you thought it would be a good idea to shove a loaded gun up your own arse in the first place?"
America looked uncomfortable and, after a long moment, merely shrugged. England didn't pursue it, not sure if he really wanted to know the answer anyway.
Him. Is it him?
"Alright, let's try this." England slipped his finger behind the trigger, pushing back against it to prevent it from clicking into place. "Take your hand out now."
"Let go of the bloody gun, America."
America pulled, grimacing against the awkward angle, and England felt the pressure of the trigger against his finger as America brushed the other side of it; he got his hand free with a gasp of relief, shaking it vigorously.
"Thank fuck for that," he breathed, leaned his head back against the wall.
"The gun is still inside you." England closed his ring hand around it properly, knowing the shape of it well against his palm.
So, so similar to the one he'd carried close at his side as another ally.
America raised his head again.
"But you're going to take it out, aren't you." It was not a question; America had gone right back to threatening him.
Not that he was in any position to be threatening England at this precise moment.
"Oh, I don't know," England replied softly. "Perhaps it would do you good to have a nice Capitalist bullet in your guts."
America blinked, silent and stunned for a moment or two. And then he grinned.
The wallpaper was old. The door was old. The gun was old. But this smile was new.
"As long as it's not a Communist bullet, that's fine with me."
"Funny." England pulled the M1911 out of America in one sharp, swift movement, making him buck forwards with a sharp, strangled cry of pain and shock. "Looks to me that that's exactly what you were doing." He rose, still holding the weapon, standing over America with the bloody gun aimed right at his forehead. "Playing out some sick little fantasy about our old friend Russia and his lovely Communist gun."
America's head jerked up; he looked at England in disgust.
"Take that back right now," he said in a low voice.
"Or what?" England spat at him. "Put your damn glasses on, America – you can't even see that I have a gun aimed at your face."
"Take back what you just said about Russia."
"Why should I? It's the truth, isn't it?"
America laughed at him – it was cold and humourless.
"Are you that insecure, England? Do you think I don't love you anymore? Do you think I'd rather be with someone who wants to decorate his front lawn with my head on a pike?"
"I rather think I'd like your head on a pike, you bastard." England didn't lower the gun even an inch, gun-metal hard against scrap-plane-metal. "Don't you mouth off to me about being insecure when I'm still bleeding from where you cut up my chest with a kitchen knife just last night!"
"That's why I did it," America said, his voice taking on that childish, pouty quality England hadn't heard for years. "Because I love you. Because you're mine."
"For fuck's sake, America!" England erupted, finally throwing the gun aside in frustration. "You always have an excuse, don't you?!"
"They're legitimate, though." America finally reached into his shirt pocket and took out his glasses, unfolding them and putting them back on. "Right? I mean, if I don't stand up to Russia, who will? It's for the sake of everyone, you know?"
He beamed again – this one more reminiscent of that idiotic 1940s grin right before he was about to announce some daft plan of attack most likely involving China and a wok (again).
But still. Different. England just couldn't place what.
In sickness and in health—
"I'm still the hero," America went on cheerfully, "right, England?"
["Make love to your fucking bomb with your beautifully-worded reasons and ride it to Hell, America," England said bitterly, back beneath America's oppressive weight with his legs wrapped around his waist. "See if I give a damn."]
It was a wonder America even came to the United Nations meetings. He had no excuse not to, certainly, since the headquarters was in Manhattan, but he'd always been somewhat aloof about it anyway, about this whole team-effort thing, hell, he hadn't even joined the original League of Nations back in 1919 – and, well, Russia and China, they were always at these meetings too, since they were members, and really everyone expected America to simply sulk at home instead of coming all the way here to sulk in public.
During the mid-morning break everyone milled about and exchanged bland pleasantries or heated glares; America and Russia shook hands and smiled sickeningly at each other, the handshake going on too long and their smiles too false, too taut and too stretched. After that America went to stalk England, following him everywhere he went, giving a rather pathetic act of pretending to be overly-affectionate when it was painfully obvious that he was watching his every move and gauging, analysing, who he talked to and for how long and how close to them he stood.
England finally got caught up in some abnormally-unaggressive discussion with France; and America, not terribly interested in European affairs and trusting France not to be a Communist, left England alone for five minutes to go and get himself some coffee. When he came drifting back, nursing his Styrofoam cup, he found that England and France had been joined by China and that they were all laughing about something together.
His coffee had barely hit the floor by the time he had seized England and hauled him away out of the room.
Nobody heard them screaming blue murder at one another but when they came back – late – England was white with anger and America's nose was streaming blood.
[20th July, 1969]
"England!" America banged open the door breathlessly, his blue eyes bright as he bounded over to the sofa, his broad frame blocking the black-and-white television. "England, England, were you watching? Did you see?!"
"Did I see what?" England asked, calmly putting aside his needlepoint while keeping his face completely straight (which was difficult to do, seeing America panting with exhilaration and strung with red, white and blue paper streamers, the things tangled in his mussed hair and in the fur collar of that battered old flight jacket he still wore).
"Agh!" America made an exaggerated sound of mock-disgust and laughed, descending on England. "You...! I know you watched it! The TV is still on!" He pinned him into a corner of the sofa. "Soooo, what did you think? Pretty awesome, huh?"
"It was alright, I suppose," England replied nonchalantly, delicately picking a red paper string from where it was hanging down from America's hair over the right lens of his glasses and tossing it aside.
America simply laughed again. He was genuinely happy. England hadn't seen him so elated for he didn't know how long.
"When have you ever seen any better, you jerk?" The younger man stuck out his tongue. "Why can't you praise me for once, huh?"
"Please." England rolled his eyes. "As if I need to feed that ego of yours. If your head swells any bigger you'll crush me even more than you usually do."
"Oh, now I'm fat too?"
"You were fat before."
"Oh, that's not even..." America bounced off him again, hauling him to his feet, and shrugged off his bomber jacket; he was wearing a black NASA T-shirt underneath, slim-fitting and close to his trim figure.
He really wasn't fat. Heavy, yes, certainly, but not fat. England looked at him for a long, silent moment, feeling that he hadn't seen him properly in years. He'd seen him, of course, in various states of undress – completely naked, even, just last night. But when was the last time he had seen him so open, so honest, so... himself?
Over twenty years. It had to be. It was exactly twenty years, after all, since China had taken Russia's advice and switched to Communism and America, never quite right after that incident in 1945 with Japan, had started changing, growing more and more paranoid and suspicious and aggressive and competitive.
Exactly ten years since America had so helpfully reminded him whose side he was on.
(Of course, it was too early to breathe a sigh of relief. The only reason America was so pleased with himself was because he'd beaten Russia in the Space Race. There was a Stars and Stripes staked into the Moon's surface and he was satisfied that it wouldn't turn red.)
"See?" America crowed. "You're smiling!" He grabbed England's cheeks and squeezed them. "You know I'm right. I look as good as the day you married me, right?"
"What, when you were surviving on those pitiful excuses for army rations?" England bit out, slapping America's hands away from his face. "I suppose you do."
"Man, England, you're losing your touch," America observed drolly. "Your insults really suck these days. You used to be awesome at making me doubt my self-worth for like five seconds."
"Your insufferable demeanour must be rubbing off on me," England sighed. "Well, since we've stooped to pleasantries, I suppose a congratulations is in order."
"Excellent." America beamed and clapped his hands together. "I know just what I want."
"I said a congratulations, not a reward!" England protested loudly as he was promptly hustled up the stairs.
("It's not just for me, you know," America said, finally taking off his glasses and laying them on the bedside table as he put his head on England's heaving, scarred chest. "This changes everything, England. We can go back to winning wars again now.")
America waited for him at the bottom of the stairs, shifting his weight from foot to foot impatiently. It was like they were going on their first dinner-date in years, anticipating finishing up the evening in the fancy hotel they'd booked six months ago – a shot at pouring the spark back into their marriage, with him waiting impatiently for England to finish preening, to put on the fancy new frock and expensive new shoes and vividest shade of rocket-ruby-caustic-crimson-sizzling-scarlet lipstick the world had ever seen.
It wasn't a dinner-date, though, and since he'd never seen England wear a dress, he didn't expect him to start now of all times.
America was fidgeting with his tie when England came down the stairs in green. It wasn't exactly the same uniform as fifty-odd years ago but it was exactly the same shade of green and he grinned.
"You look wonderful, darling," he drawled, offering England his arm. "I knew you'd clean up nicely for the occasion."
"Well, it has been forty-nine years since we last went to war together, love," England replied drolly, taking his arm sarcastically. "I thought I had better make the effort."
[Friday September 14th, 2001]
England approached him on the steps to the White House. It was raining and America had his face buried in his knees, all hunched up on the shining wet slabs.
He didn't say anything, but America heard his footsteps on the stone and his head jerked up.
He gave him a broken smile and stood, reaching for England's hands and taking them as they came level enough, England one step below him.
England still didn't speak, not knowing what to say, how to even begin to console him; but America didn't seem to want those kinds of words from him right now. He didn't want pity. He wanted a promise.
"I'm going to go to war," he said, running his thumb over the steel ring on England's third finger.
He was still wearing his own, of course; England could feel it cold against his palm.
"You'll come with me, won't you?" America pressed. His glasses were filthy. It was a wonder he could see anything through them. "Won't you, Great Britain?"
For better for worse for richer for poorer in sickness in health to have to hold—
"Of course I will," England replied.
He'd hesitated, but not for very long.
At every United Nations meeting these days they were glared at and whispered about; too hasty, much too hasty, attacking Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan; America had been angry and just looking for an excuse, for revenge, for someone to take out his shock and rage and grief on, and England, well, how the mighty had fallen, he had gone to war because America had gone to war, what a pathetic little tagalong he was these days...
Germany, with Italy pasted firmly to his side as usual, merely gave an aggravated shake of his head as America defended the Anglo-American position in the Middle East for what was probably about the sixth time today, yelling over Romano and Switzerland and Turkey, all of whom were on his case; and Spain and France were trying to get England riled up by telling him (un)helpfully that he didn't have to do what America said just because he'd been bitten by that war-wedding bug back in the Forties and gotten hitched to the idiot in some stupid shotgun ceremony France had been dismayed to only find out about in 1953 (not that it had stopped him from trying to talk England into marrying him a few years later).
Separately involved in two very different arguments, they were still holding hands.
[Friday 8th July, 2005]
"This is why," America said, holding up his ring hand. "This is why it happened, England."
England simply gave a numb, silent nod. It wasn't that he'd never been attacked before – they had married, of course, in a church completely gutted by the Blitz – but one minute he was being congratulated on winning the 2012 Olympics bid and the next...
"I'm sorry," America went on nervously, misreading his silence. "I didn't mean... for this sort of thing to happen to you too..."
"I know." England looked up at him. "I know you didn't. I don't blame you." He reached out and wrapped his hands around America's. "I chose to support you, after all."
America gave him a sad little smile.
"Are you still with me?"
"For better or worse," he replied.
America brought him roses.
They were like the ones he had arranged that day exactly fifty years ago in the vase at the kitchen table; bursting bright red, brilliant and beautiful with the thorns still on their stems.
They were wrapped in green paper.
"Happy anniversary," America said, and grinned gleefully at the surprised look on England's face. "You thought I forgot, right?"
England narrowed his eyes sceptically for a moment before shaking his head and smiling and accepting the bouquet.
"You forgot last year."
"After you sulked for a week because I forgot, I'm hardly going to forget again. How dumb do you think I am?" America stuck out his tongue. "Sentimental old man."
"Obnoxious little brat."
"Hey, you married me." America leaned in very close. "Where's my thankyou, you ingrate?"
"Thankyou, America." England batted him away with the roses. "Assuming you can afford these, that is."
"Hm?" America blinked.
"Recession?" England rolled his eyes. "What with my banks lending to your banks and your banks lending to my banks and all our of banks managing to fuck something as simple as that up, we're rather like the poor church mouse and his wife these days, remember?"
"Oh. Yeah. That." America pulled a face. "Well, you know, about that, my boss reckons it's gonna pick up. For both of us, I mean." He prodded at England's cheek. "You'll back to buying Royal Albert dinner plates to gather dust on the wall by this time next year, my darling."
England flipped his middle finger at him and America laughed.
"I'd hoped you might be senile enough by now to forget to be mean to me," he said. "Anyway, as for those..." He gestured vaguely to the roses. "I totally stole them from a vase in the White House, so they didn't cost me anything."
"What, you mean like these didn't?" England flashed his wedding band. "If I'd known you were going to turn out to be such a cheapskate, I'd never have married you."
"I am not a cheapskate!" America protested. "I spoiled you rotten in the 50s!"
But England was giggling behind his roses; and, after a long moment of pouting, America smiled and put his arm around the dip of England's back and they began to walk. They were both having a difficult time of it, still at war, in the midst of a recession following the collapse of the banks late last year, with an end in sight but a thousand more obstacles to clamber over. It was a relief to laugh.
In good times and in bad, they'd gotten through everything else. They would get through this.
"You want to go get breakfast?" America asked, squeezing England closer to his side. "Nothing fancy, obviously, since we're like religious mice or whatever."
"Poor as church mice," England corrected. "It's a turn of phrase. And alright. Let's pretend it's 1945 again and we've only got three ration-coupons between us. Which was actually the case, if you remember."
"For richer, for poorer," America sighed. "And it's not my fault you left your ration-book where France could so easily steal it."
("By the way," America said with an appreciative nod towards England's choice of tie, his bagel halfway to his mouth, "green is still your best colour.")
The roses in water by the bedside, their velvet red no less vivid or valorous for the darkness. England lay on his side and looked at them, listening to America breathe; their legs were tangled together under the sheets like a sailor's knot and America had his forehead pressed against the crook of England's neck, one arm draped over his waist from behind.
The words America had carved into his chest fifty years ago were still there, faded but fitting, eerily so – especially now that they lay together as poor-church-mice-spouses as they had before. He smiled. It was America who encouraged all these silly allusions to nursery rhymes and fairy stories, really; because England had seen him grow up, perhaps (or maybe just because he was the only one who would listen, even if he did roll his eyes when he thought England wasn't looking).
Grow up? His smile sharpened to a brief smirk. A hard label to bestow upon someone who still insisted on breaking everything down into either 'Good' or 'Bad' according to colours. All these years later, it seemed that America still preferred (him in) green to red.
America's enemies always seemed to be red – right now he was in the damned red.
("No matter what I do, you stay," America whispered, carefully unknotting the green tie he had admired earlier and sliding it out from England's unbuttoned collar.
It wasn't a threat or a plea or condescending remark. It was simply an observation. The truth.
"For better or worse, you always stay," he went on, pausing in his worship of England's throat to lift his hand and kiss his genuine-WWII-American-fighter-plane wedding ring. "You always have faith in me." He glanced up over his glasses to meet England's gaze and opened his mouth, seeming as though he wanted to add something.
Why? Do you want to ask me why, you bleeding idiot?
"Thankyou," America said quickly, quietly, and he let go of his hand.)
It was so commonplace by now that he barely noticed, but his ring had sliced into its usual spot sometime earlier when America had threaded their fingers together – holding him too tightly the way he had a bad habit of doing – and the blood was sticky as it congealed between the ring finger and those either side of it.
He raised his hand and reached towards the roses, letting his fingertips ghost over the firm, full ruffles of the blooms. America had remembered that he liked roses. He wondered if America remembered why he liked roses.
This bed was anything but unslept in, but he suddenly felt as though this was the first time they had been it since that first night sixty-four years ago – or maybe even that they hadn't moved at all since then, that everything they had suffered at the expense of each other, for each other, was nothing but the build-up of cobwebs, of dust and of dirt, and the blood from his awful excuse for a wedding ring was the same blood from that night, too, when America had held his hand too tightly. The ugly wallpaper with America's spirits and spectres and the strips missing was the same, new 1940s nouveau.
And the roses on their jackets – laughable bouquet for the bride – had not withered to paper-thin, brittle skeletons, but had instead multiplied and grown, gradually filling the room with red, as proof that they would recover and always recover.
His eyes fell on the twisted coil of his tie on the floor just as he felt America suddenly lift his arm and reach over; his hand closed around England's, pulling it back away from the roses. He brought it to his mouth, tongue flickering out against the ring and languidly licking at the blood.
He thought he felt America mouth it against his fingers; and though he couldn't be sure, he suddenly felt that he should give him some kind of answer.
"Jack fell down and broke his crown," England said softly, feeling America nudge closer against him at the sound of his voice, "and Jill came tumbling after."
Wearing rose-rationbook-Revolutionary-Russian-recession red lipstick to stain your victory kiss every single time.
Before you start thinking poor wittle Engwand was victimised all the way through by that big meanie America... notice which of them never once says "I love you".
Dress made from a (dead soldier's) parachute: This was very common during and immediately after the war, since parachutes were made of silk, which was otherwise expensive and hard to come by, so thousands of brides in the 1940s wore wedding dresses made from recycled military parachutes. Kind of cool, right? :)
Don't Be Cruel/I Want You, I Need You, I Love You – Elvis Presley singles, both released in 1956.
(As an aside, the Coasters' song most likely going though America's head was probably Yakety Yak. It's about a kid who's always being nagged by everyone around him. Sound familiar? XD It's actually very famous.)
America somewhat-abusing England during the Cold War due to paranoia/putting a loaded gun inside himself are ideologically symbolic of things that should really speak for themselves, so I'm not going to bore you with a mile-long explanation...
"Make love to your fucking bomb with your beautifully-worded reasons and ride it to Hell, America." – England's words are a reference to Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Cold War dark comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. That famous bomb-riding scene has been parodied several times in other media, including the first place I ever saw it, The Simpsons (in the episode Homer the Vigilante). The significance of England saying it? It's a British film. :)
September, 1962 – This teeny-tiny segment is set one month before the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which the Cold War came its closest to becoming a somewhat-hot nuclear war.
1990 – Reference to the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Although Britain was involved in much of the Cold War as an ally of the US, it was not part of the Korea/Vietnam proxy battles as the US was; and, likewise, the US was not involved in the Falklands War of 1982 between Great Britain and Argentina. The Gulf War was the first time the US and the UK had officially fought together as allies in a war since the end of WWII.
The significance of the 'Friday 14th September, 2001' segment should speak for itself. Well, really, so should the 'Friday 8th July, 2005' one, but in case some people don't know about it, on Thursday 7th July, 2005, four suicide bombers detonated bombs on three London Underground trains and one London bus, killing 52 people and injuring a further 700-odd. All four bombers were British-born Muslims who objected to Great Britain's support of the United States and the British Army's involvement in the war in Iraq and thought blowing themselves up in public was the best way to voice their concerns – notably, it happened the day after London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The entirety of the British population panicked (as we were wont to do these days, it seems) and I swear every single train and bus in the UK stopped running that day. I stupidly went shopping with my friend that day in Cardiff – which is, you will note, in Wales, not England – and they cancelled all the trains because some joker phoned up and said there was a bomb on one of the trains and me and my friend were stuck in Cardiff City Centre until something like eight at night, which is hardly something to complain about given what had happened only that morning in London, but still. That really could have been handled better... (There was no bomb on the Arriva Trains Wales line, BTW.)
Naturally, the US and the UK are both still in Iraq. Leaving, allegedly. But still in Iraq.
England: He giggles. I think it might just be that funny voice Noriaki Sugiyama has (because Code Geass' Rivalz also tends to kind of giggle), but he definitely giggles. Like when he's laughing at America's Kittyhawk fighter plane. Guess he doesn't appreciate Disney. XD
P.S: Given the whole "wear-green" thing going on here, I saved this to post today. Everyone get your green on! Happy St Patrick's Day! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! ;)