Title: The Dumbing Down of Love
Author: The DayDreaming
Rating/Warnings: Rated T…FOR TEEN! Slight language, probably controversial issues, grade-school-esque romantic antics. One-sided US/UK, though it's really only a plot device. More-likely-than-not incorrect information. (What, the same warnings as before pffft what are you talking about?) THIS STORY IS RUSSIAXAMERICA. YOU WILL FIND NO HAPPY USUK ENDINGS HERE.
Full Summary: Follow-up to "Love a Lover" That feeling of emptiness that made him question why why why, the sensation of being alone in a crowded room, a wish that for once, there was some mutual strand of affection to be found for him and for someone else—America searches for the meaning of love, and Russia happily obliges, if only to see the one he hates the most fall into despair.
A/N: This story is a chaptered companion piece to a one-shot, "Love a Lover." It's recommended that you either read that story first, or after this chapter. Otherwise, prepare to feel completely lost the next time I update. 'Love a Lover' can be found on my profile page. :)
Step 1: try
"To try to write love is to confront the muck of language: that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive ... and impoverished."
The red chrysanthemums are his favorite.
He's careful with them, nurturing, because perhaps they can understand him better than anyone else and he won't break a friendship like that. Japan had given him the seeds, which had fallen from the chrysanthemums that China had given him years upon years upon even more years before.
But even that thought makes him shudder, because he can remember, because how can he ever forget, because the meaning behind them, because the purpose of a chrysanthemum is…
Sometimes, when Kiku lies on his couch, asleep from jetlag with the game controller still clutched in his hand, Alfred can remember.
He can never erase the glint of hatred in the other's eyes as he raises his sword and pushes down down down and lets Alfred taste betrayal like the bitter tang of copper, pennies and wishing wells and tea kettles boiling over. He can't bring himself to think of how he cried and tried to pry the sword from his jacket his stomach the hardwood floor beneath while the presence of a bone-white mum plucked from America's garden sits like a silent vigil over his heart.
He likes red the best.
Red like blood and love and fire as he burns each ivory bloom into naught but ash and leaves the last for Kiku, who writhes on the floor and pleads surrender.
He likes it, and that is that.
"Mm, what the hell do you want you bloody git? It's two in the fucking morning, why are you calling?"
"I just…I was…wondering…"
"Out with it, now. Now's not the time to develop an even worse speech impediment than you usually present on a daily basis."
"I…never mind. Good night, Arthur."
Alfred let the dial tone sound in his ear like a dying siren heard in the far-off distance, the cold of the kitchen seeping into his feet.
The gladiolas have already mostly subsided, but he adds the last of his late bloomers if only to not see them go to waste.
Daylilies, fiery and orange, come as an afterthought; he wonders if the other will remember giving them to him so long ago, and silently hopes not.
The rest are taken to compliment color and fill in the empty spaces. He's never been strong at arrangements, but when it's finished and wrapped, set in preservative-riddled water for the plane-ride over, America thinks it's his best work yet. And maybe it's a little brown now, but it still looks nice, and he'll like it.
He'll like it.
America pats the bouquet beside him. It's all of his hard work, tie-wrapped in colored plastic and a silk bow, the fruits of his labor that he's kept growing and alive, through illness and tears and droughts and floods and he's only ever given the damn things his best, the very best, so that must show for something.
They're his very best.
And it's enough.
"Would you go on a date with me?"
"What? But, but you didn't even think about it-!"
"I can only assume you're joking, America."
"No! No, I'm not!"
"Still: no. Have you hit your head against something, you daft fool?"
"But, c'mon England, pleeease? One date. Just one!"
"You're acting more ridiculous than usual. Now, drop all this nonsense and allow me to go about my day."
"No, America. What are you trying to pull? Some harebrained scheme, I'm sure. Well, you won't catch me falling for it."
"Please, England. I'm not kidding. Just…please go on a date with me?"
"….Why I allow him to do this to me, I'll never know-Fine. When and where?"
"Ah, um…h-how about the next conference?"
"The one at my house?"
"Right, then. So…I suppose you'd want to go on our scheduled off-day, between days Two and Three?"
"Yeah, that'd be great! How does around lunch sound to you?"
"Fine, I suppose. You're paying, of course."
"Whaaaat? Whatever happened to being a gentleman? Besides, I thought we'd go Dutch on this one."
"Anyone can be considered a gentleman when they're standing next to you. If you're trying to be romantic, I must commend you on your fantastic failure."
"Hey, I'm perfectly romantic, you're just—"
"Enough. I'm not paying, that's final. If you're worried about the bill, go borrow from China and don't eat like such a godforsaken pig."
"Oooh, such wit."
"…Fine. Call later and we'll work out the details. Understood?"
America couldn't abate the pounding in his chest, the beating of his heart. After all, isn't this he wanted?
It's cold today.
America wraps his arms tighter around himself and eyes Russia's retreating back. Wishing that he'd had the forethought of bringing a coat, or a thicker jacket, gloves, a scarf. It is so, so cold, and as he sits by himself, the metal of his watch burning into his skin like a frozen brand, he wishes that he would come along, and maybe offer a hat, or the warmth of an arm.
He must be busy. Must have forgotten to call.
Russia must be lying.
He stares into the face of his watch, reflection faint in the domed glass. Had he remembered to set it to England's time? Maybe he hadn't. That's why he's not here; America's just early. But, it's been hours.
He'll show up soon, though; any minute now, even.
Another minute ticks by, second hand twitching in beat with the tapping of pedestrian footsteps, and he wishes for just one single pair to come up and sit with him, to make him not feel so alone within a crowd of apathetic people.
It is so, so cold.
"Don't forget, okay?"
"Yes, yes. I've gotten it quite enough, thank you. I'm not going to forget it, since you keep bloody bringing it up at every waking hour of the day."
"I'll remind you tomorrow, too. Just in case! I'll have the hotel call you!"
"Fucking—Yes, I understand. I'm not you, you know."
"So, yeah. Totally call you."
"So you've said."
"…I'm going to hang up now."
"O-okay! Bye, Arthur!"
America closed his cellphone and smiled.
America doesn't wait for the answering machine's message to play, instead quickly canceling the line and redialing, listening as the tone carries on.
Six missed calls. Two voice messages. Four texts.
The tone hitches, then smoothly slides into the faintly electronic voice of the answering machine as it rattles off his options. Cancel and try again.
Seven missed calls. Two voice messages. Four texts.
Going going gone.
Eight missed calls. Two voice messages. Four texts.
And so he tries again. At the last moment, the tone is interrupted by a pause before a low, husky voice assaults his ear, heavily accented, cloying like a breath of hot air against skin.
"Bonsoir, how may I help you this fine evening?"
He hears giggling in the background, pitchy and familiar. He says nothing.
"Come now, don't be shy. You have been busy trying to call, speak up."
The voice from earlier slurs out a 'Fraaaanschiiiish, get the fucksh over here, you—ahm, you worthlesh piece of—oooh, right there right there—'. A breathy laugh falls into the phone and curls into Alfred's ear, worming its way down to his stomach and settling like a great, sleeping beast.
"Whoever you are, you'll have to excuse us. L'Angleterre is, ah, preoccupied at the moment, as am I. Au revoir!"
The disconnection tone sounds in his ear, wailing in a fury, only to quickly burn out as the iPhone returns to the main call screen.
He tries again and goes directly to voicemail.
Nine missed calls. Three voice messages. Four texts. One call received.
He held the stem tightly in his hand, dirtied fingers sliding evenly over coiled green, steadying for the quick, decisive cut.
All around him the decayed crops of summer sat idly by, wilted husks across the ground like slain soldiers and tattered pages of fairytales. The porch light splayed over his back, a quiet beacon in the night as he clipped each of his chosen gifts carefully. He had to leave in a couple hours, but he wanted the cuts to be as fresh as possible, the flowers to last just a little bit longer.
The best. Only the best for England. He'd like them. He had to like them.
He tried so hard, after all. And even if England still screamed and shouted at him, belittled him and threw his feelings aside like an old newspaper, yellowed and torn, he would see just how hard he tried.
The scissors slipped, cutting into his index cleanly and without remorse. It didn't hurt if he didn't look at it. That's how it always was, right? If you can't see it, you can't feel it. He wondered if that's how his government worked, but let the thought pass him by to place the white blooms of anemones in his basket.
It's beginning to rain.
He stares at the screen of his dead iPhone, batteries already depleted.
He turns to his watch, lines of moisture warping the face and magnifying the roman numeral III. It's dark out, making it difficult to locate the tiny arms jittering away inside.
It rains a little bit harder. How typical for bad weather on a date with England. He should have known. The damp gets into his hair, crawls down his scalp to slip past the neckline of his hoodie.
He stared at the ceiling, counting to ten in his head, one two three foursixeighteleventen, easing into getting on his feet and dragging himself to the kitchen.
He realized for the millionth time how big his house was.
Reaching the kitchen counter, America blindly grabbed for the phone. He fumbled the numbers, thumb sliding smoothly over the rubber buttons before pressing in with decisive clicks.
He held his breath, unable to remember how many hours ahead or behind he was from England, but ceased the thought as the line picked up on the other end, yes yes yes—
"Mm, what the hell do you want you bloody git?"
He wondered for the millionth time just why he felt so alone.
The red chrysanthemums are his favorite.
Even if the irregular incurves take a little more effort than some, he's happy to put in the effort, to water them and feed them, shade when the sun is too hot or shield when there's too much rain; talk to them and tell them his hopes and dreams, because maybe, just maybe they'll bear dreams and aspirations of their own in the tiny bubbles of existence they reside within, that he shares with them.
He picks a delicate red petal, tugging firmly so that it separates cleanly from the base. It's soft, and despite his gentleness, rumpled and torn. It covers the scab over his index finger, looking a little bit like blood.
"Loves me," he mumbles, lets the petal go, fluttering into the fountain, a cardinal's feather.
He put in three red blooms. Now there's only one left, in his hand.
Let go, rinse and repeat, the daily school-yard games he never got to play with the other children; those humans came and went so quickly, child to adult in the blink of an eye and he knows he dealt with loneliness back then, but he can't remember how.
"Loves me not."
He can't quite imagine who he's thinking of.
He wonders if it's England, and suppresses a laugh. 'Lie back and think of England.' He can't, "Loves me not."
The fountain is swimming with petals, disturbed by the pitter-patter of rain on water. The color bleeds into night, and he can't help but miss the stars.
The sky is a black hole over London.
He misses being able to see the stars. He wants to go back to the days where stars were just a fleeting thought in the world, nameless upon his child-like breath as he slept in untamed forests and fields and drank the water of gods without knowing the consequences.
He thinks of Ivan (not Russia notRussia, because Russia is mean and hateful and yearns for him to die, he can tell from that look in his eye and sometimes America wishes he could do as Russia wants and just disappear among the stars), and wonders if what he says about Alfred being unlovable is true.
There is one petal left on the battered, browning stem, bright red in the dim of the distant streetlight and pouring rain. Where is he now? He counts backwards, comes up with an answer.
He throws the stem into the fountain to rot with all the rest.
Maybe he shouldn't be trying. Maybe…Maybe he's meant to be this way.
He looks to his watch and sees that the hands have stopped moving, eternal ticking gone silent.
Everything feels so cold. Even his heart has stopped ticking, winding down, timing out dead battery better luck next time. Nothing lasts forever, not even the petals on a red chrysanthemum.
He folds himself up onto the lip of the fountain and hugs his knees to his chest and wishes his mouth didn't taste of copper, like pennies and wishing wells and tea kettles boiling over.
Like blood and love and fire as his eyes burn with the weight of the starless universe over London on his back.
-The first section is of course referring to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagisaki.
-Chrysanthemums: truly beautiful flowers. Originated in China, then were introduced to Japan sometime around the 8th century. Later came to Europe sometime around the 17th century, and then made its way to the Americas. Technically, Europe introduced the chrysanthemum to America, but for the story's sake, I'm saying Japan, because how awe-worthy is it when you think of being given a chrysanthemum flower that is the resultant of hundreds of years of other chrysanthemum flowers that were originally given to you by China?
-White chrysanthemums: In many Asian countries, white chrysanthemums symbolize lamentation and grief, and are generally used at funerals. Some European countries designate them to mean death. In even more countries, it represents honesty. So, take that scene as you will. There's kinda sorta a lot of meaning packed into those two little paragraphs, but I trust you guys to be able to sort through your feelings. ;)
-Red chrysanthemums: Generally mean 'love' or 'I love you.' (awwwww)
-Gladiolas and daylilies: Gladiolas used to be an important medicinal plant in England. Daylilies were brought over to the Americas during the 1700s, around the time of colonization. I tried to imply that England gave America these flowers, m'kay? ;)
-Going Dutch: A (somewhat offensive) term meaning split the bill equally, or everyone pays for themselves, instead of the more traditional inviter pays for the invitees. It has a funny history and implication in the rest of the world, if you wanna look it up. ;)
I…I'm gonna go shoot myself in the foot now kthxbye.
I promised myself I wouldn't write this story until I got some of my others over at ffnet finished up. D: But, I got struck with inspiration for the beginning of it, so here it is now, incredibly stupid and awful and ugly. Fuck.
I really don't like this, but I can't make myself stop; it's like some sort of fungus it's eating me aliiiive. Anyways, this basically parallels Love a Lover, though is much more condensed and cuts off before Russia makes his second appearance. I didn't think you guys needed a repeat of that, so just decided to give you a look into America's thoughts at the time, since Russia's limited point of view is ridiculously biased and detailed and yet still incredibly oblivious. :|
Chapters will be erratic, with varying lengths depending on content and inspiration at the time, but you can generally count that they'll be around this length. Maybe. …Hopefully. …Don't count on it.
I really hope this doesn't disappoint those of you who wanted a sequel to Love a Lover. I honestly can't figure out why you guys liked it, but hopefully you'll be okay with this, too?
*******I have a LiveJournal account under the username Eram_Quod_Es, where I will be posting chapters for this story first, and then transferring them over onto my ffnet account a couple days later. Wanna see updates sooner? Go over to my lj. :)