Public Displays of Affection
2011 Spring Fever Fanworkathon
Prompt 44 Fanart or Fanfiction: America and England acting openly about their relationship in a world meeting. Holding hands, kisses on the cheek, hugs. Sweet and cuddly, not dirty and sexual. I don't care what other nation's reactions are, but (if it's a fic) maybe Germany could tell them to try to pay more attention to the meeting? Other pairings are fine.
A/N: I hope this fits the prompter's wishes. My head cannon of displays of affection were a little less obvious (in some cases!) than mentioned in the prompt, so I hope this will do. While writing, I had fun thinking of how they looked through the eyes of the other nations so each chapter follows our boys through a segment of the conference as perceived by different observers, including their thoughts on each other.
Paris was always a thing of beauty, but in spring it had a special magic. The majestic strength of stone and wrought iron architecture was softened by the the pastel buds of flowering trees and bulbs. Green shoots at the ends of branches breathed a new life into the old bones of a timeless city.
France leaned back into the support of a street side wooden bench and tipped his head back to let the warmth of the morning sun caress his cheeks. The aromas of fresh bread and coffee drifted to him from the street vendors on this block, tempting him to a second breakfast.
Alas, there was no time. Today the nations would be meeting together and it was his turn to host them. It had been quite some time since he had played host and he was looking forward to showing, again, that he and this lively city held meetings beyond compare. Every detail had been thought through and carried out with style, from the best selection of green teas from China's private tea estates all the way through the boxed lunches featuring artisan breads and local cheeses. Even the hotel had been chosen carefully. It had modern AV applications for their meetings, adequate green space for lunch, and generous parking since many Continental nations would choose to drive.
Said hotel was on the other side of the street and France stretched his legs as he watched the cars begin to queue up at its garage. He always liked to observe the arrival of his friends. The beginning of an event, be it a gala or conference always excited him and he didn't want to miss a moment.
A shiny red Mini with white stripes pulled up to the garage's gatehouse, its license plates revealing it to be a rental.
"...don't honestly know what you even do in the bathroom for two hours in the morning," shouted England's voice as the driver's side window smoothly motored down.
France leaned forward, trying to visually identify the driver through the glare of the windshields. It sounded like England, but why did he drive instead of taking the chunnel and then a taxi?
A large hand cuffed by a brown leather jacket swiped a parking pass in the air in front of the gate's sensor. "Don't be that way, Babe! It takes effort to look this good."
A slim eyebrow rose as France's eyes widened. That sounded like America. They were arriving together?
The gate didn't go up.
A snort sounded from the car. "You walk out looking less tidy than you did walking in. I think you just wank off in there."
The hand flipped the pass around and waved it again. "Ha. Ha. Do you know how nasty those tooth whitening strips taste? I gotta wear 'em for 45 minutes."
The gate didn't go up.
"America, you are a nation, your teeth are already perfectly white."
France crossed his arm and smirked. So, that was England and America... arriving together.
This time America's hand rubbed the pass over the surface of the sensor. "I can tell a difference," he grumbled.
France rose to his feet and crossed the street, hoping to go unnoticed and better hear the conversation from the car. Could it be that the two had finally admitted what the rest if the world had known for the last 50 years? France paused behind a tree adjacent to the garage entrance and listened.
The gate still had not gone up.
"Do you think you need to flip it over?" England whispered.
"Already tried it." Now America was smacking the pass against the sensor. "I do the tooth thing for you, you know," he whined.
Now that was interesting. France leaned around the tree to get a glance at America, but really couldn't see enough to tell if his teeth were any whiter than usual. Primping was something you did for your lover. Not that any nation doubted these two were screwing, but it had seemed more causal, more friends with benefits. Very intriguing that grooming had now become involved.
"Oh for heaven's sake! I don't even notice your teeth – you are always too busy talking. Did you slide it through the slot?" England snarled.
"There is no slot...I don't know what's wrong with the damn thing." America leaned out the window and squinted at the sensor. "It should be a simple RFID..."
The line of cars behind them was growing, and the sound of horns signaled the drivers' impatience.
"You idiot. Let me try." England un-clicked his seat belt and started to climb over America's lap towards the window.
"I've got it," America grunted pushing England off.
"Clearly you don't." England climbed back on and stretched to grab the pass from America's hands.
America grabbed England's hips and pulled him around so they were face to face. "Seriously... can't you tell they look Movie-Star-White?" He pulled his lips back and thrust his teeth in England's face. "See?"
England rolled his eyes snatched the pass out America's hand and pitched his torso out of window and franticly waved the card at the entire gate structure. "Open up, damn you!"
Even though watching this spectacle was particularly amusing, France decided he would like his meeting to start on time and thus abandoned his hiding place and approached the car. "Good morning." France elegantly plucked the pass out of England's grip. He looked at it closely. "I don't think Amerique's UN badge will work at this garage."
"Git!" England grabbed the badge back and used it to knock America in the forehead. "Stop looking at your bloody teeth in the rearview and pay attention!"
"So where are you coming from?" France asked innocently, ignoring the new round of car horns. He was talking after all... how rude.
America gently pushed England back towards his seat. "Morinin' Francis. We stayed overnight at the cutest little B&B. You should check it out."
"Shut it!" England commanded, slapping the correct parking pass at America's chest.
"Ouch- was he always this violent in the mornings?" America grinned up at France, a devilish gleam in his eyes.
"It is impolite to kiss and tell, no?" France replied with a wink to England's flashing eyes.
"Ow! Ow! Geez!" America complained in response to England yanking on his earlobe. "Better get this show on the road. See ya in a few," America promised waving the pass and -finally- getting the gate to rise.
France waved as the Mini disappeared up a ramp. Stayed together over night in a Bed and Breakfast? Together? How delicious. The last barrier had finally fallen between those idiots and he got to be the first to see it.
First Session: Germany
Germany brushed imaginary specks of dust from his crisply pressed and brushed suit while he ran down the agenda. As far as he could tell, all of the key players were on site milling around in the foyer gossiping and getting coffee and tea. All was on track for a on-time start.
He looked to the tables, noting with satisfaction that France had note paper, pens, and water glasses at every seating; and each table had a a sweating jug of ice water. Good.
The screen behind the podium displayed a projection of the day's agenda and a map detailing the locations of the break-out sessions and restrooms. Very good.
He turned to smile at the first person entering the room and hid a wince. It was America. The young nation sauntered right up to the podium and pulled a jump drive out of his pocket.
Germany clenched his fingers, but his smile didn't falter. "Good morning, America. Your slides are already loaded onto the laptop."
America winked and pulled up his presentation. "I made some last minute tweaks. You know how it is."
Germany didn't know how it was. The deadline for submission of the final presentations had been last week. Now America's slides wouldn't match the handouts. Typical.
"Relax." America deleted the old presentation and loaded the new one onto the laptop. "It will make the presentation better."
Germany nodded tersely. "Carless errors do take away from the message," he agreed trying to be flexible, thinking of the gaffes made the last time the North American had used flawed slides.
"I couldn't agree more." England swept into the room and joined America at the podium. Germany admired the pristine shine of the island nation's boots. England was always smartly turned out.
America frowned at both of them before turning back to his slides, a rare look of serious concentration creasing his brow. "That was a one time thing."
Germany noted that the rumpled nature of America's attire was not. Was that mustard on his tie?
England smoothed down America's lapel with a little smile. "Don't fret, for once you are adequately prepared."
America flipped through the slides, testing the animations, then glanced at England over the top of his glasses. "Cute."
England's hands moved up to tuck a stray lock of golden hair behind America's ear. "Seriously. I've never seen you so concerned over a presentation to this lot." He used his thumbnail to scrape the blob of dried mustard from America's tie.
Germany caught himself almost staring at the casual contact between the two. It was unexpected and a little embarrassing. He focused his attention on his papers, but watched from the corner of his eyes. He might need to stop them if they got too carried away.
America's expression softened but he didn't respond. Instead he backed the slides to the title page and pulled note cards from a pocket and checked their order.
England clucked his tongue. "You'll be fine. I doubt anyone remembers the... problems with your numbers last month."
Germany remembered. America had claimed his gross domestic product was ten times higher the usual and had refused to see the errors in his numbers until Japan had pulled up Wikipedia on his iphone and disproved him rather publicly. No one had been surprised about the errors, after all they came from a nation who proposed giant robots in space as a valid defense program.
"I referenced the wrong formula in the excel spreadsheet," America grumbled with a wince. "It could have happened to everyone."
"Yes, and I believe your obsessive checking of this data set has done the trick to ensure correctness." England placed a hand over America's where it tensely gripped the podium edge. "You'll be brilliant."
Finally, a smile cracked through America's expression. "Yeah?" He rubbed a thumb along England's hand. "Thanks, Iggy."
Germany cleared his throat – these personal displays were making him uncomfortable. If he didn't intervene they might even start kissing. "We are already 5 minutes behind the agenda. If England could please ask the other nations to join us, perhaps we could get started."
England started and pulled his hand away as if he had forgotten Germany was there. "Quite right." He swept back out of the room, back ramrod straight.
Making a point not to look at America, who surely would take eye contact as an opportunity to over-share, Germany re-straightened his papers. One could only wonder what this would mean for the keynote speech that afternoon.
A little breeze wended its way through the courtyard, complementing the quiet splashing of the central fountain, making the clusters of wrought iron tables and chairs an inviting lunch spot. Canada tore a piece of bread free from his sandwich and tossed it to the sparrows picking at the concrete at his feet. They were sweet and seemed completely comfortable sharing lunch with him and were far better company than some of the asses inside using the lunch break as a chance to posture and gain political dominance. If they weren't ignoring him they were trying to bully him. Canada preferred the birds to that ugliness, but hoped some of his closer friends might find him out here.
Almost as summoned, a glass door opened from the long wall curving along the courtyard and England strode outside making a bee-line for Canada's table. "Might I and this pathetic excuse for a luncheon join you?" he asked gesturing at a seat with a white cardboard boxed lunch.
"Please do," Canada welcomed, peering into his own box. "The food budgets for our meetings seem to go down every month," he commiserated. Though the bread for the sandwiches was ace. Leave it to France to make a feast out of nothing.
England unwrapped the cellophane covering his turkey on focaccia. "Cold sandwiches and crisps? We are in Paris, you'd think Francis could manage a little better. This is like a meeting in America. Speaking of whom... have you seen your brother?"
Canada chewed on his sandwich and tried not to be disappointed. The topic had turned to America in less than a minute. "Do you even need to ask?" he queried after swallowing. "There was a McDonald's within walking distance."
"Nice of him to invite me along," England sighed. "Just abandoned me to this ruddy cardboard and mayo."
"You were busy finishing up your sidebar with Russia," Canada gently reminded. "And we only get 30 minutes for lunch today. He had to hurry if he was going to make it." He knew better than to try and defend the food. Nothing France provided was ever up to England's standards.
"Even so." England pulled a knotty looking apple out of the box and polished it on his suit jacket. "Even so, my lad."
Canada knew England really just wanted to spend more time with his brother. They were still in their honeymoon phase and mostly in constant orbit around each other.
Just as Canada was about to turn the conversation towards gardening to distract his old friend, the glass door to the hotel banged open with startling force. "Whoa, Arthur, there you are!" America bounded over to the table while carefully balancing several McDonald's take out bags. "I was looking for you everywhere inside!" He placed the bags on the table and started digging through them. "Hey there, Mattie!"
Canada waved his sandwich at his brother, not wanting to speak with his mouth full. He had stopped being amazed at the volumes of food his brother could inhale centuries ago.
"Yes, here we are," England said primly. "Politely eating the food our host has graciously provided, rather than going out for alternatives." He shot a pointed look to the take out bags.
Canada made a point to keep his eyes down so he didn't laugh and embarrass England. He busied himself with his potato chips to have something to look at. England so didn't want America to know he had missed him. It was adorable.
America bumped Canada's shoulder, forcing his attention. He winked before pulling a styrofoam container out of a bag and setting it down in front of England.
Canada's eyes twinkled. Watching these two was entertaining. Despite all the fuss, they were really quite tender together. It wasn't common knowledge yet, that they were finally dating, and Canada was proud to be one of the few in the know.
England pursed his lips and peeled back the lid, releasing curls of steam and aroma. "Soup?" he asked, as if taken aback.
America handed him a spoon and a beaming smile. "Chicken Noodle."
"Er," England groused, nose turning pink. "Well."
America unfolded the waxed paper from a cheeseburger. "Though I can't understand why you would want that instead of a burger. So boring, Sweetheart."
As England complained, and tucked into his soup while America laughed, Canada threw more bread to the sparrows. He had known for ages that England hated cold lunches and apparently America did now too.
Break Out Sessions: England
England scooted his chair closer to the table and held his pen poised as India made small talk and got into the swing of her presentation. Seeing her so grown up and professional made him very proud.
America shifted beside him, trying to hide a belch that came from too many cheeseburgers and too much soda too fast.
The soup had been just the thing, though. It had made the rest of lunch bearable, which was good, because when he didn't eat enough at lunch he became uncommonly irritable and there was enough frustration at these meetings without rubbing salt in an open wound. Maybe the lad could be forgiven his uncouthness in the face of his kindness. Particularly if he got his digestion under control by the keynote.
India was getting into full swing, showing off her increasing savvy with IT with embedded videos in her slides and links to Youtube. England watched her presentation on emerging economies avidly. It seemed that in the past few decades the world's population had been increasing exponentially and the stands of global commerce had become frighteningly interdependent. If the patterns continued as they were, within 100 years, maybe even as few as 50, China and India would be the new super powers.
It was really the same old story except the pages were now turning at light-speed. England had ridden the waves of these changes all through his history, first rising to power, then contracting back. For a nation as old as he, these patterns were recognizable and familiar. He was living proof that contraction was not the end of all things.
A low burp to his right caught his attention again.
However, his dear America had only ever experienced the heady surge of growth and empowerment. He had yet to have his legs cut out from under him. Surly the future held some serious diminishment of power and prestige for him. There was only so much wealth and industry to go around, and unless America learned the lessons that most empires failed to grasp, his star would fade as the Asian powers rose to ascension. It was likely he would recognize his fate too late to do much about it. Much like had happened to England. It pained him to think of how much America would suffer at that time.
It was almost impossible to even imagine a meeker, quieter America. His mind just couldn't go there.
He glanced at his seatmate expecting to see the him doodling or secretly texting beneath the table, completely obvious to the foretelling of his demise. Instead, he was surprised to see America leaning tensely over his notes, one hand worrying at Nantucket. Scrawled on the agenda in America's spindly hand were four questions: Enough water? Adequate education? Environmental controls? Sustainable agriculture?
So, the lad got it. Surprising, really, but hopeful. But would it be enough?
England ran a hand over America's back in small, discrete, circles, soothing the tension he found there, before sliding his hand to rest on his thigh.
America slid his eyes over to England in question.
"If the worst happens, you can join me in retirement," he murmured lowly. "It's not so bad."
America lips twisted in an unhappy smile, but his hand covered England's on his thigh and squeezed. "Thanks, but there is no way I'm gonna let that happen."
England looked away. That was what he had said too. Some lessons had to be learned the hard way, but he would be there for his boy no matter what.
Coffee Break: America
America took a gulp of coffee and then pulled in a quick breath to cool his scalded tongue. It was nice and hot, but it tasted like chicory. He had hoped for better, but it was typical conference coffee. However, coffee was coffee: it would do.
He needed to kill a little bit of time anyway. England and France were catching up in the recently emptied breakout session room, and he wanted to give them some privacy so they could speak freely.
He would like to be included in their century old friendship moving forward, but whenever he was around without Canada they got all uncomfortable and awkward. He could figure why, but had hoped they could all just let the end of his colonial period go.
He poured some cream into his cup and tasted – much better. At least France supplied real cream, that was an improvement from the typical offerings.
He wondered what two old empires like them talked about. Probably prunes and pirates. He snorted at his own joke and finished his coffee, noticing that the other nations were heading to the keynote. Break time was almost over. It looked like England wouldn't make it out in time to get some tea – and God help them all if that happened. He better get the old man something.
He grabbed a cup and scanned the table, only to let out a small huff of a laugh. America wondered if France lived to annoy England. There wasn't a single tea bag on offer among the silver urns of coffee and hot water. There was hot chocolate and instant cider packets but no tea.
Given that there were other tea drinking nations present, America supposed that there was tea on offer in another location, but no one had told England, who should be out here throwing a fit. It was kind of ironic that he and France were lingering in the conference room ostensibly discussing England's low opinion of the day's lunch. Too bad for France.
As tempting as it was to lure England out here and watch the show, this was a perfect chance to be a hero (that and there was the keynote speech to think of). He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a packet of English Breakfast and set about brewing the perfect cup for his partner while he got another quick cup of joe together for himself.
He took both back to the conference room and paused in the door to listen to England malign modern pirates from Somalia. He waited for it but prunes didn't seem to be part of the conversation. America sauntered in and and set the tea down by England with a fond smile. Those eyebrows were so cute.
"Thanks," England said absently, taking the cup and breathing in the steam. "At least you offer a decent tea," he conceded to France. "Quite unlike that travesty of a luncheon from earlier."
France tipped his chair back on two legs and and pouted for a moment, his little prank thwarted. His pained expression asking America why he would be so cruel as to ruin his fun.
America shrugged and took a drink of his coffee, scuffing his shoes along the carpet. He would never tell France, but he could never deprive England of something he truly wanted. No way.
France's expression cleared and he winked at America. "There is no stopping love, I suppose."
"I have no idea what you are talking about," England complained. "No one could love those dry sandwiches."
America returned the wink and backed away. It looked like France had figured it out, however formally telling France that they were finally an item was England's job. There was no way in hell he was going to get in the middle of that.
Keynote: All Nations
It had been a trying day for everyone.
Parking had been atrocious because of some idiots at the front of the line not understanding how to to work the gate. America's presentation had been unusually boring – all facts and not one ill conceived plot or mecha commando force. Lunch had been an utter disappointment for those hoping for high French cuisine. (Fans of rustic foods done well were few, but well pleased.) The breakout sessions had depressed everyone – even those who were expected to rule the Mad-Max world in a century. Half the asian nations had been forced to drink cheap conference coffee because they couldn't find the tea set-up in the broom closet.
All that was left was the keynote speaker then they all could hit the hotel bar. One hour to go, if Germany could be counted on to keep the speaker to time.
All eyes pointed politely forward as the noted Rhodes Scholar began his discussion of post modern racial politics and social justice. Just when the guilt and tension of the white nations began to make them squirm and pull at their collars, America's cell phone began to play Sousa brass at top volume.
"Sorry, sorry!" The tall youth fumbled in his pockets and checked the display. "Ooops! Gotta go!" He begged his pardon over and over as he made his way from the center of a sea of chairs to an aisle. He placed the phone to his ear as if to speak as he pushed through the double doors at the back, exiting the room.
The speaker, used to a much more respectful audience, paused in resentment for a whole ten seconds before going back to his talk, not that much of the crowd was paying attention. Most eyes had discreetly slid to England on the other side of the room, sitting stiffly, posture perfect and paying polite attention to the speaker. Only a twitch of a great eyebrow revealed his knowledge of the eyes upon him.
Bets circulated through the room both by whisper and text messages. They all knew what would happen next- the question was how long would England wait to make his own exit.
The speaker began to get louder and terser as he tried to regain their attention.
Almost five minutes to the second after America's exit, England's hand went to his trouser pocket, as if his cell phone had begun to vibrate. He checked the display, frowned, and then, being that he was sitting right at the aisle, he smoothly slid out of his seat and was quickly out of the room.
Prussia gave a victorious whoop and money exchanged hands with practiced efficiency. It used to take England 15 to 20 minutes to follow America to the broom closet, but over the years the time had been decreasing. They had to know everyone knew what they were doing and the delay was just for propriety... in a decade they would probably just leave together. In two, they might just skip the keynote all together.
The speaker cleared his throat and asked if there were any questions.
What was the talk about again? The nations exchanged glances and took this for the sign that the talk was over and began to applaud the approach of happy hour.
Germany, as usual, tired to maintain order and direct the assembled nations to be still as there was still 30 minutes of presentation to go.
The room settled down and many directed impatient glares to speaker, some individuals pointedly looking at their watches several times before yawning.
The speaker skipped forward several slides to a graph explaining the crux of his research in statistical terms, wincing as a distant cadence of thumps from the broom closet filtered into the room.
France stage whispered to Canada that he wondered if England would be happy now that he had found the tea.
I hope this was enjoyable to you all! ;-). Please drop me a review if you have the time- would love to hear from you!