Title: The Eyes Have It
Author: Zalia Chimera
Characters: France, England, Canada
Warnings: Eye horror, creepiness, squick factor
Summary: England has a unique way of watching over his Empire.
The jar sits innocuously on England's desk, usually covered by a thick velvet cloth, and it has sat there for at least a hundred years, maybe more. France has long since stopped keeping track of England's peculiarities. It is of a similar size and shape to a birdcage, enough that one might think that it truly was; that beneath the cloth there was a sleeping canary or budgie, and that when it was removed, the bird would hop to life.
The cloth is gone now.
France stares at the jar, his expression torn between disgust and intrigue as he watches the eyes bob around in the liquid. They're all different colours, no two the same. He's never found out what exactly England keeps them in; formaldehyde or something altogether more supernatural, and he does not care to ask. He doesn't think that he wants to know the answer. The eyes have certainly lost none of the brightness no matter how long they've been there, and if he stares for long enough, he is sure that he can see the irises contract and retract around the pupils. It is ridiculous of course. An eye cannot see anything without a mind to process the images, they're just dead flesh to cater to England's sense of the perverse.
Still, he tries not to stare for very long.
He starts as one of them looks straight at him, straight iinto/i him. The iris is a vivid unnatural purple that sends a shiver up his spine and makes a sick feeling churn in his stomach. It is one thing to see eyes. He has seen them before, destroyed them before (he remembers ripping out Prussia's, the pretty red indistinguishable from his blood), but it is another thing to know an eye, to recognise it and know exactly where and when and how England had acquired it.
France can only watch as Canada stumbles towards his new master and England's smile is gentle as he takes the boy's hand in his own much larger one. France's precious little boy, New France, and now another New World England, and it is only force of will which keeps him from slapping England's fingers away and snatching Canada back for his own.
England crouches down in front of the child, strokes a hand across his cheek and then carefully pulls off his glove.
And even if France knows what is coming, even if he has done things as bad, or worse, he cannot watch. He hates himself for that small betrayal.
Canada screams as England's fingers dig in, deeper and deeper and France averts his gaze, seeing only the blood as it drips onto the pristine snow. Canada's sobs prick at his heart, the hurt and confused sniffles of a child-colony who does not yet understand.
And France remembers the taste of Canada's eye on his lips that first time, the power as it seeped into him.
The memories are interrupted by the snick of the door closing and he straightens up in the high-backed chair, glad to have some distraction from the grisly decoration. England enters, setting a tray down on the table; a full tea service with delicate china cups and teapot. Let it never be said that England ignores his guests, even unwanted and uninvited ones.
"You could just eat them, you realise," France says pragmatically as England measures out tea leaves to each cup with infinite care. "Rather than this morbid display of grotesquerie."
"You love the grotesque," England says absently, patting the jar in an absently affectionate way as he checks on the state of the water in the teapot. Another of the eyes turns and seems to give France a curiously intent look. The iris of this one is warm and brown; Australia perhaps, although France tries not to speculate. He stretches in his chair to hide the shudder that runs through him.
"Yes, but this is..." He cannot say what he finds so disturbing about it, not when he himself has feasted on the eyes of other Nations, devoured their strength to fuel his own and has had his own strength stolen in turn. But something about the jar and England's fondness for it has always disturbed him. That in iteself is impressive when there is so much about England that would disturb the hardiest of souls.
England smiles at him as he pours water into the two cups, the sweet aroma beginning to drift up with the steam. France takes one of the cups and wraps his hands around the fine porcelain, trying not to grip it too tightly. "It is practical," England says, as though it is just like building up his military or making an alliance, something utterly pragmatic.
"So is eating them," France replies with a look of distaste which he hides behind the teacup. He knows that England is not fooled. "It's better than keeping them here for who knows how long? Do ithey/i know that you've kept them?" Do they come into England's study when they visit, and see them here, those little pieces of themselves, and squirm at the reminder.
It would not surprise him if England intends it that way.
"They know," England says with a small, dismissive shrug. "You take their strength, France, I prefer to take their knowledge." He sits down finally, and leans forward, uncomfortably close. France can see the flecks of colour in his eyes, the different shades of green, deep enough that feels as though he could drown in them. Despite himself, he looks away, unable to hold that gaze for long.
Not when he can remember the taste of England's eyes and be reminded sharply of his hypocrisy.
England chuckles softly. "I can see all of it, you know," he said quietly, tongue flicking across his lips. His hand rests on the top of the jar, stroking along the side possessively. The smile that twists his lips is distant and fond and dreamy and that chills France as much as anything else.
His heart lurches when England pushes open the lid, his breath catching on parted lips as his hand slides into the liquid inside. "I can see what happens across the expanse of the Empire," England says, and his smile is suddenly iwrong/i. "From the frozen north to the tropics to the deserts of Australia." There's that purple eye caught in his hand, peering between his fingers as England raises it up to his face, eclipsing the green of his own eye. And oh god, France recognises that eye, remembers the blood on the snow and it makes his breath catch harsh and sour in his throat. "Everything that is theirs is mine and I can see it all."
Canada's eye stares. Liquid drips down England's arm, staining the cuff of his suit.
It would be so much easier to hear him talk this way if he didn't sound so sane. Give him a mad crescendo, a chilling laugh, and France would be content. Not this stable certainty that he cannot dismiss as the ravings of a lunatic.
He swallows thickly, and sips his tea, grateful for the warmth that seeps into his fingers. His joints are often stiff these days, and the cold makes them ache. Ever since Russia... ah, but that is not something he cares to think about and he has moved on, no?
"That is very impressive," he murmurs, turning his gaze back to the glass and gilt of the jar, and a perverse smile curves his lips. It is a petty, malicious thing to say. It is iall/i that he can say. "And I'm sure you will always wish that you had that last perfect blue eye to add to your collection."