Disclaimer: I do not own Axis Powers Hetalia.
Summary: Japan sighs fondly; if he were anyone else he'd be rolling his eyes in exasperation by now but he can't help the amusement he feels at the situation.
Japan sighs fondly; if he were anyone else he'd be rolling his eyes in exasperation by now but he can't help the amusement he feels at the situation.
It all started the day before. After Germany had dismissed them all from the final meeting of that summit, Japan had been packing away his notes that carefully documented the outcomes decided upon during it (with small doodles from when the inevitable arguments had thrown the discussions off course), quietly conversing with a disgruntled England. The Brit was eager to hop on the first plane home rather than get a couple of drinks with some of the other nations, for once. "It really felt as though it would never end, the way America was going on," he had said, briefcase in hand as his other palm straightened his suit jacket and smoothed out any wrinkles.
"He was rather enthusiastic today," Japan agreed, taking his own bag in hand as he rose from his chair. "Still, we did manage to finish up a day earlier than expected; that is something to be thankful for, at least." He'd smiled up at England then, and noticed a slight shift in the man's expression. Instead of looking slightly mollified and trying to cover it with irritation, as Japan had expected, the Englishman looked thoughtful. He'd started a little when he'd noticed Japan studying him and his green eyes slid away to examine the hem of one of his sleeves. Japan had long since lost his habit of flushing every time he was caught in the act; he was a bit of a people-watcher at heart.
"I was thinking of going down to one of my beaches and just relaxing there for the day tomorrow…" He shifted, weight going from one foot to the other. "You're welcome to join me if you like."
Japan's brows had risen in surprise. Whatever he'd expected, it certainly hadn't been that. Though that was not to say that he was going to decline the invitation – thinking that the serious nation should take a break, his boss had granted him leave for the two days after the summit was scheduled to end to give him a long weekend to relax. "The way you are always so busy makes me feel old," his boss had said ruefully, eyes crinkling in amusement at the irony of such a statement. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been able to spend any time with the blond nation, and he quite enjoyed the prickly Brit's company.
Japan had scarcely opened his mouth to respond, when England spoke again looking a little flustered and more like himself. "It's not because I need the company. Or that I think you do. You've only visited one of my beaches and it's scheduled to be quite sunny this week; I can't have everyone calling me the rainy isle for the rest of my existence." This last part was grumbled, and it looked as though he was going to continue down that train of thought until Japan laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"I'd very much like to visit your beach, England-san."
And it was that very conversation which had led them here.
Here being South End on Sea, Essex. They arrived at midday, having agreed that they'd make a leisurely afternoon of it and their first port of call had been to find a chip shop to have lunch in. Several were set up along the beachfront but England just walked straight by them as though they hadn't existed; Japan knew better than to question him, and followed behind as he took in his surroundings with curiosity.
The sun pleasantly warm, people were milling about in a distracted and almost lazy manner – there was none of the rush that Japan had expected even if schools had yet to let out for summer. It didn't seem as bustling as Blackpool beach had been the one time he'd visited so long ago, even though the torrential downpour that time.
His musings were cut short by a tug on his arm; England had apparently found what he had been looking for. They crossed over a road to a small, understated chippy whose owners England greeted by name with the sort of smile he seemed to reserve for his citizens.
"Arthur! Haven't seen you in these parts for a while; what can I get you?"
"Just the usual, ta." The smile was still there, small as it was, but something sparked behind those green eyes that was so genuine that Japan couldn't help but want to see more of it. There had been a time when Japan had been able to see such an expression regularly, back when they had been close. He often longed for those times, the memories still bringing a smile to his face when he thought of them.
"And for your friend?"
Startled out of his thoughts, Japan coloured slightly not expecting to be addressed so suddenly. "Ah, um… just the battered cod with chips..?"
He'd looked to England, who nodded encouragingly and suggested, "Perhaps some curry sauce on the chips? Like your curry bread." Japan nodded in agreement himself, turning to the man behind the counter who had smiled at them before barking the order over his shoulder.
There was some short conversation about the man's family as their orders were prepared, and Kiku noted the way England's accent converged to that of the man's with some interest. Of course all of the nations knew that each had many different accents and dialects, but the only ones that they tended to encounter regularly were the ones their representatives chose to use in world meetings and such; England tended to affect Received Pronunciation – usually known to others as 'The Queen's English'. While that was pleasant to listen to, and certainly easy to understand for the most part, the occasional twang or gruff exclamation that slipped into their conversation now certainly had its own charm.
A few moments later a young lady in her twenties or there abouts brought out their meals, piping hot and with a can of drink each for them. She totted them both up together on the till, and England whipped out his wallet to pay for it all before Japan had the chance to say anything at all. As they trotted out into the sun to perch on one of the picnic tables outside he caught the appreciative glance she sent England's way, along with the enquiry of "Who was that, dad?" that followed. The man had guffawed a moment before pulling the girl's pony tail lightly with a reply of "I've known him since you came up to my knee; doesn't look like he's aged a day but he has to be at least in his forties by now."
England had seemed oblivious to the conversation as he popped open his can, taking a sip of the cold beverage with a contented sigh. They shared casual chatter as they ate, for once leaving their duties as nations behind and talking about the sort of trivialities many of the humans around them would have been; popular film and music, their home life and - ever a favourite with England – the weather.
Here, with the cool salty breeze and the sound of lapping waves, England seemed in his element. Any tension felt from the previous day's meeting had melted from the blond nation's face, leaving behind a serene calm rarely witnessed. Pushing his polystyrene tray away from him slightly, unable to finish his battered fish, Japan watched England absently pick at the last of his chips. He had an almost wistful air about him; a longing to be out on the seas again, exploring, pillaging, sailing.
He'd looked so far away.
England blinked, drawing his gaze away from the sea as he was startled out of his reverie, flushing as his inattention was caught out. "Ah, um apologies; what would you like to do now?"
"Ah… they say that walking helps digestion?" As soon as the words left his mouth, Japan had felt mortified. Well, if that wasn't the suggestion of an old man, what was?
England simply nodded in agreement, collecting their rubbish and throwing it into a nearby bin. "There's a small theme park with an arcade just before the pier if you'd like to take a walk there?"
Somehow, with just a few words England had managed to make him feel the age his appearance told of. In just a few moments, he felt as though he were really in his twenties; had been as smug as his personality would allow when he brutally beat England on the DDR machine and equally contrite as England had emasculated him a game of table football.
He'd sighed with disappointment and sympathy as England wasted more money than he possibly should have trying to manoeuvre a large claw into picking up a giant unicorn plush toy. He'd smiled at the victory in the blond's eyes as he managed to fish out a rather smaller but no less cute kitten plush from another machine and had pinked when England presented it to him, face turned away and probably stained an even brighter red.
Ice cream had been their next stop, England boasting the whole way of how good it was with Japan trying not to show how dubious he was of anything supposedly edible produced in this country. The lady had not taken the extra thirty pence for the flake that stuck out of his ice cream, making it all the sweeter for some reason. He'd been pleasantly surprised by the burst of flavour that accompanied the heat quenching coolness. Walking back to the beach side by side as they ate their ice creams, Japan clutching his kitten in an arm the whole way made him feel as though he were the star of a shoujo manga – the fluttery warmth in his stomach and the silly grin threatening to break out on his face were utterly ridiculous. But it didn't seem to matter how much he told himself this; he couldn't seem to keep the feelings bursting in his heart within him.
Even with beach towels spread out below them, it had taken a few moments to settle comfortably. While Blackpool beach was a sandy one, South End beach was a beach of pebbles; you had to expend a little effort in order to lie comfortably, but with the balmy heat of the sun beating down on them and lethargy setting in it did not take long to simply bask in the summer glow.
England shrugged out of his t-shirt after approximately five minutes of shifting around restlessly. The sight of pale skin bared for the sun, sweat beading at the nape of his neck as England lay on his front caused Japan to fluster, stuttering about the impropriety of it despite the others wondering about similarly unclad – and moreso – and despite knowing that people found it acceptable to do so in some parts of his own country now too. England had only chucked good-naturedly. He wasn't sure why, but this just made Japan all the more self-conscious.
An hour and a half later, and they are still there on the beach though Japan has since insisted on moving into the shade. England is still lying face down on his towel, and Japan is torn between wincing in sympathy and feeling vindicated by his sense of modesty. He is not the one with the burn, after all.
Still, the skin there has turned an unforgiving red and England grits his teeth and furrows his brows to keep from whimpering in discomfort and pain. His left cheek is pressed into the towel, and he stares past Japan with glazed eyes. "I should have put on more sun cream," he moans quietly – Japan refrains from pointing out that you should put on a new layer every couple of hours, instead asking if there is anything he can do to help. He has not been sunburnt very often, but he remembers that some of the symptoms are dizziness and fatigue; perhaps he could get England a cold bottle of water? "Actually, if you take a look in the bag, there should be a bottle of After Sun Lotion. If you could get that out for me, that'd be brilliant."
Japan does, and passes the bottle over. England reads it over quickly before flicking open the cap.
The thing about England, even after all of these years, is that even if he will never admit it aloud he is far more likely to do something himself if asking help is likely to make someone – especially himself, but anyone else either – feel uncomfortable. It's probably one of many self-imposed rules he lives by as a 'gentleman'. Still, Japan only watches for a moment before he gently takes the bottle from England's hands and rubs some of the lotion onto his own hands instead. England splutters for a moment before Japan's gentle ministrations silence him, cool hands soothing the raw skin. Japan's face may as well have roasted in the heat too for the colour it has turned, but despite his embarrassment he continues, hoping that his host's pain will soon abate.
England's eyes have since drifted shut, the cold patterns Japan traces on his back feeling positively blissful on his scorched skin. Japan thinks he hears him stifle a sound – a moan perhaps – but what comes out instead is a contented sigh. Japan caps the bottle once more and sets it aside. Cheeks still aflame and gaze still awkwardly averted Japan looks out to the sea; Arthur sits up with a flinch as the sun begins its decent to meet the horizon. "Perhaps we should start to head back?" The question is tentative; the beach is starting to empty a little as visitors seek something to eat elsewhere.
The hush between the two of them stretches for a moment before England finally responds. "Let's stay a little longer."
Something in his voice makes Japan look up.
"I just… It has been over half a century since our relations were normalised but we haven't been able to spend any time together since 1923." And it's true; even after re-establishing relations, the two had only really interacted diplomatically, either discussing politics or ferrying their respective bosses around with none of the easy friendship that they had held dear before things had soured.
Japan reaches a timid hand out to rest upon the one England has splayed on the towel to keep himself propped up. Shifting under his, the blond's palm turns up so that they can thread their fingers together and with a small tug, Japan has been pulled into a careful embrace. He can't see England's face, but that's okay; from the way he has managed to burrow his own into the Brit's collar bone hides his own from view as well.
He's wanted this for a long time.
The walk back to England's car is silent, though there are certainly shared glances and raised brows, and the feeling of one's grip tightening around the other's hand. They will part tomorrow; England having to brave a day at work while the skin on his back peels uncomfortably and Japan needing to catch his flight back home. But something has shattered the barrier they had both put up to guard themselves; something new is beginning to replace it. They will realign the pieces to encircle them both, but for now, the feeling of their fingers tangling together is enough.
A/N: Urgh, I started writing this ages ago, but only finished writing it today ^^' I'm not completely happy with the ending, but oh wells =3= It's my first time writing England/Japan, though I've RPed it as England before, so let me know if my Japan is off. Big thanks to revolutionjack who had a look at this for me and helped me with sorting out the tenses and stuff even though she was tired. She has permission to smack me the next time I decide to write something in the present tense =3=
I have a picture that I took when I went to South End beach last month on my Lj entry for this fic, so head over there if you'd like to see it ^^
I swear I had more side notes that I was supposed to list above but I can't think of them at the moment and I need to head back to the house cause it's getting dark, so I'll come back and add them when I remember. Hope you enjoyed reading!