Title: Grown Empires Don't Climb trees
Author: Zalia Chimera
Characters: England, Hong Kong
Notes: My fill for Hetalia Sunshine on LJ! :D I am actually very happy with how it turned out, despite my initial worry about writing Hong Kong.
Summary: England returns to one of his colonies after a time spent abroad, and enters into negotiations.
The estate belonging to one Arthur Kirkland, the respectable but somewhat eccentric representative of the Queen, was itself a little strange. It overlooked the ocean for one thing, set atop a hill rather than in the fashionable centre of Victoria City where the respectable British ladies promenaded with their parasols and dresses in the latest imported styles from London and Paris. The city itself was well-planned and well-kempt, with formal gardens and delicate white houses, a little bastion of Britain in the inhospitable and savage wilds of the east.
England himself found the city immensely dull and was only reminded of it sharply as he passed through the streets, eschewing a sedan or carriage in favour of walking. He received a few unfavourable looks for his travel-worn clothing as he strode into the nicest part of town; the ladies with their posh frocks and the gentlemen looking impeccable in expensive coats and cravats despite the summer heat.
He'd never quite grown out of the allure of the exotic; the thrill of exploring new countries, founding new colonies before it became the acceptable thing, the Christian thing to do, bringing civilisation to backwards peoples. But he remembered crossing oceans in search of new lands and Spanish ships to plunder. The attempts of the Colonialists to bring Britain to them rather took the fun out of being an Empire in his opinion.
He climbed the hill, passing through the wrought iron gate which led into the grounds. The gardens were wild and filled with native plants and drove Mrs Callow, his fearsome housekeeper to despair. The governor of Hong Kong had made pointed remarks the last time that he'd been to tea as well, but England had long experience in ignoring pointed remarks and besides, he rather liked the gardens as they were. They certainly helped to dissuade the well-to-do types from calling to talk about the tiresome minutiae of the town.
His luggage was being brought up later by the porter, and his housekeeper was engaged in business, so he indulged himself in an idle walk around the garden instead of presenting himself immediately. The air was heavy with perfumed flowers and the green foliage closed around him as he moved deeper into the garden, away from the well-tended paths and lawns.
There was a rustling in the undergrowth ahead, too heavy to be any of the local wildlife, and England paused, a faint smile quirking his lips. He started walking again, slow deliberate steps, and he began to whistle, an old old tune, the exact provenance of which even he couldn't remember. He snapped twigs and crunched dead leaves beneath his feet as he walked, something that he would never do normally, but it made the rustling follow him and if he listened carefully, he could hear a soft laugh.
"I should head to the house," he said loudly. "I'm so tired. It was such a long journey across the sea. I'll go and get some food and a nice pot of tea. A shame Hong Kong isn't around to share the sweets that I brought though," he added slyly. "They're so delicious." He paused dramatically, listening to the tiny rustles in the trees nearby. "Ah, I suppose that I'll just have to eat them all by myself. A whole tin of them, all to myself…"
There was a gasp of indignation and suddenly England was assaulted by a warm weight against the backs of his legs, a small hand trying to sneak into his pack. He batted it away and turned as much as he could with a small colony wrapped around his legs, smiling fondly. He reached down to pat Hong Kong's head. "There you are."
The young colony (already older than a human could imagine, but still child-like in appearance and temperament) peered up at him with dark eyes, a serious expression on his face. He chattered something in swift Chinese and England frowned.
"In English, please," he said. He enjoyed the exotic but he wasn't about to allow any colony of his to grow up not speaking proper English. He had standards after all.
Hong Kong nodded with great solemnity, so different to England's other colonies, and stepped back, clasping his hands behind his back. "Sweets. I want sweets."
England only just managed to stifle the smile that was twitching the corner of his lips. "And what do you say?"
Hong Kong pursed his lips. "Please."
England positively beamed, ruffling the young boy's hair affectionately and setting his pack down so that he could root around it for the small tin box of sweets that he'd brought with him. He finally located it and pulled it out, glancing up just in time to see the impatient look on Hong Kong's face before it was smoothed away to bland politeness that reminded England far too much of China for his comfort.
Still, children were children, and England held out the box, letting Hong Kong see the selection of brightly coloured treats inside. "I brought them from London just for you," England said easily, feeling a certain satisfaction as he watched Hong Kong fight to hide eager, childish, glee and greed.
Still, he was more restrained than some of England's colonies, keeping his hands tightly clasped behind his back, fidgeting slightly, obviously trying to control himself and not just grab the sweets and run. Somehow, the sight of it made England's heart warm. No matter that Hong Kong was a nation, no matter that he had been China's, he was England's charge now, his younger brother, and acted just like any other child would.
He crouched down so that they were eye to eye, the box still clasped in his hand, his other hand going to rest against Hong Kong's shoulder, squeezing it lightly for a moment. England smiled secretively, pressed his forefinger to his lips. "Our secret, yes?" he said in a stage whisper. "I rather think that we both want to avoid Mrs Callow's temper."
Hong Kong nodded solemnly, lips curving up in a smile that he tried to hide. There was something wonderful about sharing a secret, especially with England of all people.
"That's a good lad," England said, grinning rakishly and pressing the box into his hand. "Make sure that you don't eat them all at once, otherwise you won't be able to finish your supper and I'll get scolded for spoiling you." He laughed softly, running a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes. He needed a haircut. "You know how much Mrs Callow likes to scold me. I'm a bad bad man and a bad influence."
That earned a chuckle from Hong Kong, a noise that was hidden behind his wrist, as though he were still wearing one of those wide-sleeved robes that he had been dressed in when England had first taken him as a colony. It was only emphasised when he took the box of sweets, frowning when he realised that he couldn't hide it inside the shirt-sleeves that he wore now. He finally grabbed one of the sweets, a garishly red one, and shoved it in his mouth before sliding the tin into his pocket.
England watched as Hong Kong rolled it around on his tongue, savouring the taste, his dark eyes widening in pleasure. "Good?" England asked, always satisfied when he managed to get some manner of good reaction from Hong Kong. They boy could be a little disconcerting when he was so silent and coldly polite much of the time.
Hong Kong nodded, as close to an outright smile as England had ever seen from him on his face, and his fingers clutched against his pocket protectively.
England sighed happily and straightened up, brushing imaginary dirt away from the knees of his worn travelling clothes.
Hong Kong was still regarding him, a look of curiosity on his face. He reached out to tug at the threadbare tail of his shirt where the hem had come open, dipping his finger into a small hole there. "You wear peasant clothes." It was said in a matter-of-fact manner, calm and quiet and really, England would probably never get over how different this colony was from his more rambunctious cousins. "You scold me for ruining my clothes because I am a Nation, not a peasant," he added, a touch of reproach in his voice.
The expression on his face when England ruffled his hair again, mussing it, was rather priceless, even if England couldn't see what France meant when he said that they looked alike. England never scowled like a grumpy child. Then again, France was hardly a reliable judge and had probably lost what few wits he retained to the clap.
"It seems nonsensical," England said, wincing when he heard the rip of the hole in his shirt widening beneath probing fingers, "to travel in my good clothes when they shall just become ruined by the salt and the water."
The look in Hong Kong's eyes was entirely too sharp for his liking.
"It seems nonsensical," Hong Kong began, with a lilting tone that England had learned from centuries of practice, that his colony wanted something, "to climb trees wearing good clothes."
"Well, yes," England replied slowly, starting to chivvy Hong Kong towards the path again. The boy remained stubbornly still. "They would be ruined." And he took such pains in making them, or having them ordered from the finest London tailors. It would reflect badly upon him if Hong Kong appeared in public wearing ripped and stained clothes.
There was something smug in the way that the boy looked. His expression didn't outwardly change, but there was an air about him that reminded England of China at his most obstinate. "But Mrs Callow will throw away any damaged clothing so I just have to keep wearing the new things and they keep getting damaged."
I'm not going to stop was the underlying sentiment, and there was a part of England that thoroughly approved of the stubbornness. Stubborn was a good thing in a nation, just... not in one of his colonies regarding rules that he laid down.
"You really should listen to Mrs Callow," he said, pursing his lips in a disapproving manner. "You should be behaving in a manner befitting an English gentleman." Even if climbing trees did seem rather more entertaining than sitting in stuffy meetings with boring people, and Lord knew that England remembered climbing trees and digging out rabbit holes and finding bird's eggs when he had been Hong Kong's size and stature.
Hong Kong just stared at him. England stared back.
On the one hand, he should not undermine his housekeeper. She was the one who ran the household, she was the one charged with most of Hong Kong's education and training in proper British etiquette. And she could hold a grudge for weeks, months even, when she chose to. On the other hand, did he really want to spend the next, well, however long it took for Hong Kong to mature, buying clothes which would be savaged by bramble and briar and know that the boy would find every opportunity to badger him about it?
No matter how long it really was, the time that they spent as children, the time that he could spend doting and spoiling, was always entirely too short in England's opinion. Why should he waste it?
"I shall speak to her directly after supper," he said, finally relenting. He would doubtless be seen as weak and be subjected to many more demands from now on, but it was worth it to see Hong Kong's face light up, the quirk of his lips. "I make no promises, mind!" he added hastily. "It is her household and I do not interfere in such matters. But I'm sure that some suitable play clothes can be found for times when there is no formal business to attend to." And he could add several hundred clauses and warnings and they would doubtless all be ignored because Hong Kong knew that he was soft now.
Hong Kong's solemn nod wasn't quite so solemn this time, eager for scraped knees and bruises. "I appreciate your accepting my terms in these negotiations," he said, and the amusement was barely even veiled.
England gave him a rather sour look. "You are entirely too young to be using such language towards me, young man," he said, disapproving but not angry. "But come, I brought us tea from India. A new blend. The kitchen should be empty since Mrs Callow is running errands and she always leaves something nice in there, ready to be pilfered."
He was teaching the boy such bad habits. He'd be the one getting scolded when he turned into a delinquent. But he liked having one colony at least with whom he could share an appreciation for tea.
"I shall attend presently," Hong Kong said, a secretive smile on his lips. He pulled away, starting to head back into the undergrowth. "She left jam in the cold room!" he called back over his shoulder as he disappeared out of sight, long Before England could even form a protest.
He huffed indignantly, and swung his bag back up onto his shoulders. The tea would take a while to brew as it was, and hopefully there would be fresh bread and that jam did sound rather good.
He headed for the servants' entrance, and as he set a hand upon the door, an almighty banging echoed around the garden, making him jump and yelp in a manner that was entirely unbecoming of respectable Empires. Or disreputable Empires too for that matter.
He glowered over his shoulder where he could just make out a few sparks flying into the sky above the tree-tops, pale in the day's light.
Give and inch and they'd take a mile indeed. And he was certain that if he checked, then his matches would be missing from his tobacco pouch.