Break of Day
["To have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. Now England would live. Our history would not come to an end. Saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and the thankful." – Winston Churchill]
Aren't I wicked?
England lay on his side, facing away from America, one hand tucked under the pillow; dawn was breaking through the slats of the blinds at the window. It was a different light to that of last night – the harsh yellow glow of the city was bright enough, hard enough, to make lines on the sheets, but this was a dissimilar dreamy December daylight, cold and soft and gentle so that it only permeated and not penetrated.
He shifted, shivered. He could feel America's warm weight at his back but it wasn't the same as being in his arms. He'd already disentangled himself and retreated. He couldn't help but feel guilty.
Honestly, Japan should have had more sense than to launch himself at America. Even if he'd truly been of the opinion that America might really be too nice, too good-natured, to hit him back, had he seriously thought that England would let him get away with it?
Funny. England had always thought of Japan as being fairly rational – certainly more prudent than Germany and Italy, at any rate – and even now, with the deed done, found it hard to believe that Japan had been altogether shocked by the declarations of war issued by both the United States and the United Kingdom that had subsequently been slapped on his desk in rather less than forty-eight hours.
The thing was, though…
England was glad. Secretly, shamefully, he was glad that Japan had attacked America. Not only had it encouraged China – already at war with Japan – to join forces with himself, France and Russia, it had forced America to pick a side. It had been clear that, despite the Lend-Lease programmes, America really hadn't had much intention of becoming a combatant in the conflict. He was, after all, the New World – what was it to him if the members of the Old World tore each other apart the way they'd been doing for centuries?
Not that he'd been unsympathetic – but still, England had needed him, had been willing to sink to his knees and beg barely a week ago but for the fact that he knew it would get him nowhere and thus wasn't worth the undignified display.
And then suddenly, out of the blue, came crazy little Japan. Whom England now owed, ironically. He'd even been kind enough to scribble Thanks, you stupid prick at the bottom of his own war declaration.
It was damn sight better than what America had written.
It wouldn't have mattered. Of course England hadn't wanted to see America hurt but still he was elated that Japan had provoked him and he would have just lied and pretended to be absolutely outraged and overly compassionate to stoke America's bruised ego while secretly throwing an inward early Victory Parade except that—
America knew. America knew he was glad.
("Gee, England," America drawled sarcastically, "I'm real sorry about the Blitz."
"Thankyou," England replied stiffly. He didn't look up from his drink.
Don't do this, you idiot. You don't understand.
"Huh." America scowled, bristling at his unreceptiveness. "Don't you have anything to say to me?"
England raised his head a little, regarding America frostily.
"Such as what?" he asked dully. "I have nothing to regret.")
England winced as he remembered it. It had been cruel. What an awful thing to say. He'd already been a little drunk by that point but it was no excuse for his behaviour. He'd never been very good at lying when under the influence but that still was no reason to be selfish, to be so terrible.
Even if it was the truth.
("God damn it!" America slammed his hands down on the table, leaning across it towards England. "You don't care one little bit, do you? You don't care that I got attacked as a neutral party, that he—" He cut himself off angrily, drawing in a sharp breath. "Who am I kidding? All you care about is yourself. You only want me as your ally because I'm the one with all the money and guns. There's no doubt that my intervention is going to save your ass and yet you behave like this towards me, you ungrateful—"
"I'm not ungrateful," England cut in icily. "I'm not."
America leaned back, raising his chin slightly. He was a bit drunk himself.
"Fine, not ungrateful," he muttered blackly. "But not sorry either.")
He felt America shift behind him. He could tell that he was still asleep by the sound of his breathing. He hesitated, then rolled over, turning towards him; finding himself disconcertingly face-to-face with him.
The idiot was still wearing his glasses, although they were crooked from his having slept in them. The winter morning light bounced off them, making them glare, almost obscuring the dark curves of his eyelashes through them.
He was frowning. It wasn't the first time England had noticed it but America always looked uncharacteristically serious while asleep. This...
...seemed different, however. The sleep-mussed state of his hair, the pale pinkish light of the dawn on the curves of his cheek and bare shoulder and bicep, the odd narrowness of the bones at his throat...
He suddenly looked strangely vulnerable.
He shifted his head on the pillow and the light on his lenses altered, rendering them transparent again.
In last night's light, he hadn't noticed; but now, in this much calmer illumination, England saw the dark circles smudged beneath America's eyes. There were there, obvious, despite the fact that he was asleep.
("To hell with this!" America snapped. "I knew I shouldn't have hauled my ass all the way out here, you selfish jerk! I should have just mailed Japan a hand-grenade and been done with it!"
"Selfish, selfish..." England stood up himself; too quickly, swaying a little and grabbing at the table. "That always sounds so delightfully ironic coming from you. You wouldn't have hauled your arse out here if not for the fact that you got attacked. You would have been content to let the Axis Powers rip me apart as long as it meant that you didn't have to get your own hands dirty. Don't you dare talk to me about being selfish, America!"
America opened his mouth; but he didn't say anything. Perhaps he had an argument, perhaps he didn't, but either way he closed his mouth again after a moment or so. His fists clenched at his sides.
"Well?" England pressed. He couldn't help revelling in having rendered America silent – victories were so hard to come by these days.
"Why should I care?" America rushed out. "You guys, you Europeans... I have no idea what the hell is wrong with you but it seems like you're not happy unless you're all killing each other. This time, the time before in 1914... I had nothing to do with any of the reasons you guys can't get along for five minutes without someone invading someone else and all hell breaking loose. Why should I care if you tear each other apart? Why do you always want me to be involved – so you can sink your bayonets into me as well? It's not my fault, for God's sake!"
England looked at him in horrified silence for a long moment. America abruptly sank back into his chair, his shoulders hunching as he fiercely looked away. He looked like he was about to start crying.
"Well," England said weakly, "that's exactly it, isn't it? This whole business between you and Japan. It's not my fault. Why should I care?"
America glanced back at him, suddenly seeming exhausted.
"If that's how you feel, then why did you declare war?" he asked. "On anyone, I mean. On Germany. He attacked Poland and that wasn't your fault. It was nothing to do with you, really. And yet... you cared, didn't you, England? Enough to start another fucking war.")
He dared to lift one hand from beneath the sheets and reach up to brush a few stray spikes of gold hair away from America's face. The younger man didn't respond to his touch at all, not moving in the slightest.
He felt rotten – a little hungover, perhaps, but worse, literally rotten, as though everything inside him had shrivelled and died and putrefied beneath America's judgement. Drunk, yes, America had been drunk – they'd shared an entire bottle of brandy between them – but his gaze hadn't been unfocused and his words hadn't been slurred. He'd known exactly what he was looking at, exactly what he was talking about.
Like England, he hadn't been sorry about being truthful.
(He was drunk. America was quite open about his emotions but he still wasn't usually reduced to tears so easily.
"Damn it, America." England moved around the table to him, putting his hands on his shoulders as he sobbed. "Stop it now. Don't cry—"
"What's Poland?" America wailed. "What's that useless ass ever done for you that you'd go and start a war over him? Did I deserve to be attacked any more than he did?"
"Of course—of course not." England shook him. "Look, I never said you deserved—"
"You wouldn't start a war over me!"
"Yes I would, I almost started one with France—listen, that's not the..." England gave a sigh and a tug at America's arm as he felt him begin to calm down. "You're drunk. Come on, let's just go to bed, eh?" He shook him again when he got no response. "America."
"Yeah," America agreed flatly, sniffing as he got his sobs under control. "I'm drunk. So are you."
"That's right. Let's go to bed."
America gave a nod and allowed himself to be hauled to his feet again.
The thing was, the evening hadn't started out that way. Despite everything – his reason for needing to invite England to his house so post-haste in the first place – America had seemed to be in a strangely good mood. He had greeted England on the doorstep with a long kiss and a breathless comment of "So, that little fucker Japan, huh?" on pulling back and stepping aside to allow him to come in. Overall his demeanour had really been rather pleasant up until the third glass of brandy at around 1am – before that they had had dinner and made idle conversation about what they were going to do with Germany, Italy and Japan when they got hold of them and cracked a few not-so-subtle jokes about the fact that China had agreed to join the Allied Powers on the condition that he didn't have to sit next to Russia at meetings because he didn't like the way the perpetually-scarf-clad man stared at him.
But halfway through his third glass and suddenly America started feeling that England wasn't being nearly sympathetic enough about what had happened four days ago.
It was easy to blame the brandy.
("You're taking advantage of me," America said in a very matter-of-fact tone between kisses.
"Don't talk rubbish." England bit at America's bottom lip as he pushed him against the back of the bedroom door. "We're in your house."
"So am I."
"I'm more drunk," America insisted at the edge of another kiss.
"That's not a word."
"Yes it is."
"You said we were going to bed."
"And so we are."
"I mean bed bed. I'm tired."
"You can sleep. You can sleep afterwards, hm?"
"I don't want to."
"You don't want to sleep?"
"No, I mean I don't... I don't want to..."
England pulled back from him with a sudden breathless laugh.
"And what's this?" England pushed his knee upwards, the curve of his thigh pressing snugly against America's crotch; his arousal was heavy and obvious and he squirmed as England put an unbearable amount of pressure on it.
"Coincidence," he ground out between gritted teeth.
"Wonderful," England sighed, lowering his leg and leaning in to kiss America again. "I've become rather fond of coincidences these past few days.")
Dawn was breaking higher. England didn't know what time it was but he knew he didn't have much longer to lie here and pretend that he didn't have to get up and go fight a war. Today was the first day he – they – would be joined by America as their official ally.
It would have been a wonderful way to say good morning – all things considered – if only he hadn't gone and buggered the niceties of their allegiance before it had even truly begun. Personal and business relations were two very different things and it was all very well for them to have a quick shag as lovers here and there but as far as being colleagues went, he had a horrible feeling that America was going to be very unpleasant to work with.
He was different when he had a duty.
("Ungrateful?" England whispered, pressing a persistent line of kisses across America's collarbone. "I'm not ungrateful. I'm not ungrateful for anything you've done, for anything you've given me. I can't thank you enough."
"Th-then why don't you care... that he hurt me?" America panted.
His toes curled on the sheets. His back arched. His breath hitched and his cheek pressed flat against the mattress as he gave a gasp at feeling England move inside him until he could move no more, winding tight a hot spiral of pleasure at the pit of his belly.
"I care." England's voice was musical and distant, lyrical like his bards and travelling poets with dust at their heels; he used that tone when he was lulling America into believing whatever he said, a promise of an Old World Engelonde who had existed without Empires and World Wars. "But I needed you and you weren't going to come. I'm grateful, grateful that he angered you and pushed you. I have slept the sleep of the saved and the thankful ever since."
"And what if... I don't save you?" America squeezed his eyes shut behind his slipping, misted glasses and wrapped his legs tightly around England's waist, pulling him closer, pushing him deeper.
"Your mobilisation has made my salvation inevitable," England explained gently. "Like the break of day."
"You're taking advantage of me."
"Yes." England paused, looking down at him in absolute adoration. "Can you forgive me, America?"
America opened his eyes and met his gaze.
"How can I forgive you?" he asked, sounding strangely defeated. "You're not sorry.")
Aren't I wicked, then?
It was becoming very bright outside; the way the winter morning light fell on America seemed to change with every passing minute, here making his hair appear more brilliantly gold, here making the frames of his glasses glint, here buffing a pale shine on his shoulder.
England was suddenly struck with the very strange notion that he was somehow running out of time.
He moved. It was too late now, really, but suddenly he realised that he was sorry. He was sorry that America couldn't lie like this any longer – peacefully asleep. He was sorry that America was going to have to trade in his daily routine for training and missions and a bloody battle that he hadn't started.
He was sorry that, despite all that, he was still going to use America as a shield.
He had slept the sleep of the saved. America had slept the sleep of the condemned.
England leaned over to America's side and took his face in his hands and kissed him. For a long moment the younger man did not stir, apparently oblivious; but then, without opening his eyes, he shifted his arm under the crook of England's neck and behind him, pulling him nearer with a sense of gentle acceptance.
He was forgiven. Finally forgiven because he was finally sorry. America knew him well enough to recognise that he could only be so cruel.
England nuzzled against him afterwards, resting his head on that sunlit shoulder.
"Good morning," America said quietly, his arm wrapping around England's scarred back. "What a lovely way to start the war."
["Sleep to gather strength for the morning, for the morning will come. Brightly will it shine on the brave and true, the kindly, on all who suffer for the cause, and gloriously upon the tombs of heroes. Thus will shine the dawn." – Winston Churchill]
This fic was inspired by –and, so, I guess, written for – a lovely piece of UKUS art by the talented TechnoRanma over on DeviantArt. It's called Good Morning. I probably took quite a bit of artistic liberty in building up the background for what it essentially a picture of them kissing after a night of sexytiems but I've been reading quite a few books on Winston Churchill recently for an essay I'm going to be writing sometime-this-week-when-I'm-done-procrastinating-by-writing-fanfic and I couldn't help but notice that, from a military perspective, Churchill was massively relieved when Japan was dumb enough to attack America, pretty much just kind of "sorry about that lol" to Roosevelt; and when I saw TechnoRanma's artwork...
IDK, it was an odd two-and-two to put together, I guess.
TechnoRanma, I hope you liked it/don't mind/don't take legal action against me.
(There's a conspiracy theory that the British actually knew about the Pearl Harbor bombings beforehand and didn't tell the Americans because they were getting F'd-in-the-A and really needed the United States to get off the proverbial couch already, but... that's a whole other kettle of fish. Which is a really odd turn of phrase, BTdubs. What a silly place to put a fish.)