Title: Two Litres of Tesco's Finest
Author: Zalia Chimera
Pairing: France/England (with mentions of Germany/Prussia)
Summary: England's sleep is interrupted by the very inconsiderate nations in the room next door and he is forced into a rather illuminating conversation with his oldest acquaintance.
It doesn't matter how much Prussia screams, England refuses to believe that Germany is that good in bed. And Prussia iis/i screaming, enough that England is surprised he has any voice left. It's worse than all of his shrieks and war cries on the battlefield had ever been, and England finally reaches his breaking point and reaches for his ear buds and iPod, turning it on to something soothing and classical in the hope that it will help him to sleep without having to resort to bloody murder or the bottle of whiskey that he'd smuggled into the conference.
It works for a few minutes, at least until his attention starts to wander and then Prussia's howls break through the strains of Bach in a horrific crescendo and idear god/i, has Germany never heard of gags? Surely one of his numerous sex companies made one big enough for even Prussia's exceptionally large mouth.
A string of expletives can be heard through the wall; old German and mangled English mashed into something truly unholy. England snarls and bangs hard on the wall of the hotel room before switching the music to something by The Clash and wrenching up the volume. It does manage to drown out most of the noise, but the volume necessary makes it impossible to sleep. He should ask to change rooms. He should swallow his pride and go to reception and ask them to move him to another room, even if it means that he ends up mils from the other Nations. iEspecially/i if it puts him miles away from them. Even if it puts him in the room next to Russia and everyone knows that Russia snores. It has to be better than listening to Germany taking out the day's frustrations on his brother's body.
The Clash's dulcet tones are not helping with the headache either, the one which had started at the base of his skull and then moved steadily forward to throb in his temples and forehead. He turns off his iPod and sighs, rubbing his temples tiredly. Why couldn't someone room them next to Switzerland next time? Even Prussia and Germany would think twice about being so loud when Switzerland and his substantial arsenal were right next door to them.
They were still at it. Dear god, how much stamina does Germany ihave/i? How is Prussia still taking it? Unless they've all been wrong and Germany didn't care and was just keeping Prussia around as a whipping boy to take whatever punishments Germany chose to mete out. Someone should probably check up on that but it certainly won't be England.
He climbs out of bed and pulls a pair of boxers on beneath his t-shirt before padding over to the balcony. It was a warm night and he's had the doors open for most of it to keep the air fresh. The balcony looks out over the courtyard of the hotel, and area surrounded by palm trees and exotic grasses to shield the area from the view of the rooms. Despite the late hour, England can see some of the other nations in the pool and hot tub down below. He thinks that he spots Spain down there, and Greece lazing, draped over the side of the hot tub. That has to be Romano cursing fluently at Spain. No-one else manages to make 'tomato' sound like an insult.
He opens the bottle of whiskey and takes a swig as he leans back against the balcony, tilting his head up to look at the stars. The hotel lights don't help, but they're far enough out into the countryside that the stars are still visible. The whiskey burns all the way down; cheap stuff or he wouldn't have been gulping it like he was. He takes another swig and imagines that the splashing of water in the courtyard is not Romano trying to drown Spain in a fit of pique, but the ocean against the bow of a ship. It is a weak comparison, but soothing even so. Romano sounds enough like a seagull when he shrieks anyway.
The scent of cigarette smoke reaches him, sharp and acrid, and he looks over to where it's coming from. Two balconies over and France is there, cigarette between his lips. His t-shirt hangs loose down to his hips and there are boxers beneath them, steadfastly masculine for once, enough that it makes England raise an eyebrow. He can see the full curve of France's spine from here, a perfect arch of bone and muscle and the sinew and the ideas which hold them together. He stretches like he knows that England is watching, like he ialways/i knows when England is watching, and it makes England's mouth go dry at the sight. And once he is settled again, he turns his head and smirks right at him.
England stares for a moment before a smile curls his lips and he raises the bottle of bad whiskey in an alcoholic's salute. France rolls his eyes and plucks the cigarette from his mouth, exhaling a long, slow plume of smoke. His lips curve into a smile that is as much an invitation as England has ever seen.
He takes another swig and then screws the top back onto the bottle.
They're four floors up. England climbs the railings of the balcony and balances precariously on his toes as he judges the distance to the next one over, maybe a metre, maybe two. He could just go back inside the room and use the door. He ishould/i do that because he's never found it easy to explain to his boss that he splattered his brains across the courtyard because he was at least a little drunk and France made eyes at him.
Perhaps it is the alcohol that prompts this behaviour, or maybe just that there's been precious little excitement recently and this is a simple solution to that, a brief hit of adrenaline to feed the addiction.
He jumps, well, steps and half-jumps onto the railing of the next balcony along and hops down. France claps and laughs and there are tiny crinkles of mirth at the corners of his eyes that always surprise England to see. Somehow, they make him feel younger, as though some of the harshness of worse years has been stripped away.
He makes the mistake of glancing at the balcony door, and gets an eyeful of Germany's arse and Prussia's hips as fuck up against the wall and igod/i, someone has to clean that room!
He blanches. That's what crosses his mind at the sight? Not 'Germany has a nice arse and Prussia's is still skinny and white'. Not 'I wonder if Prussia still makes that mewling sound when you tongue his balls'. No, he's worried about the goddamn fucking icarpets/i.
He makes the leap to France's balcony to escape it. France catches him when he lands and he spends a moment pressed flush against his chest. He can feel the way France's chest shakes with laughter and he's very warm despite the chill of the evening.
"Angleterre!" he says when England shoves away from him. "Have you been smoking some of your stash?" he asks with a grin. "You know how upset America gets when you get stoned at a conference. Or any other time for that matter."
"No I bloody well have not," England replied indignantly, setting the bottle of whisky down on the ground near the railing. "And America is not my sodding nanny."
"Sometimes I wonder," France says with a smug smirk, earning himself a sharp jab from England's elbow. "Ah, so daring and violent, icheri/i. Another punk phase creeping up on you?"
England snorts and leans back against the railing. "The chance would be a fine thing," he says with obvious bitterness. "My boss has me on a leash tighter than his budget."
France winces and stubs out his cigarette, leaning next to England against the balcony railing. "That is bad," he mused, "but at least your boss is not begging you to keep Germany sweet for the sake of the Euro." A heavy sigh and he pushes his hair back roughly, arm shadowing his face for a moment, hiding his expression. It makes England think of darker times. "Speaking of Germany, how was the view?"
"Ah yes!" England says, rolling his eyes and bumping his shoulder against France's until France looks at him again. "I forgot that voyeurism is your national sport. Surprised that you haven't got a pair of binoculars trained on Spain and his ichica Tomate/i down in the pool."
"My boss confiscated them," France replies, deadpan, with that expression that England can never quite read enough to tell whether he's joking or not, even after all these years. It was probably safest to assume that he wasn't.
"I thought you liked Germany anyway," England says. "You spend enough time in each other's company."
France shrugs. "He has his charms, even if he is completely lacking in the art of romance. There are times when you just need someone who can hold you down against the bed and my igod/i the man is like a piston when he gets going!"
"Ugh." England grimaces. "I do not want to hear about your sexual exploits. I've already suffered the view of Prussia and Germany going at it like particularly noisy rabbits. That was enough trauma."
France laughs, and it's a nice laugh, even if England knows that he's being teased. "I thought that you liked Prussia," he says, throwing England's words back at him. "I remember a time when we couldn't get the two of you off each other."
"That was then," Arthur grumbles. "Things've happened since then." He grabs for the bottle and take a swig.
France sighs and runs his fingers through England's hair, as though trying to bring it to some semblance of neatness. It doesn't do any good, nothing ever does, and England bats his hand away a great deal more gently than he normally would have. "Darling, if I can forgive Germany enough to work in the EU with him, then I am sure that you can manage it at least enough to enjoy being a voyeur. He does have a very fine figure."
"It isn't that," England says quietly and only continues when France nudges him with his elbow. He sighs heavily, glowering at his companion. "Alright, if you must know," he says, although he would have told France anyway even had he not wanted to hear, "when I saw them together, the first thing on my mind was that someone has to clean that room and no-one should have to clean semen off a hotel wall," he finishes wretchedly, shoulders slumping.
France is silent for a moment, his eyes gone wide with what England can only assume is shock. "Oh my, that is truly horrifying. No wonder you seem so shaken."
England just huffs in agreement and takes another pull at the bottler before handing it over. Is this what he has come to? Unable to appreciate the sight of two attractive nations having sex without worrying about the state in which it will leave the décor?
France sniffs at the alcohol warily and grimaces but takes a long swig which leaves him coughing and making exaggerated choking noises which England is nearly certain are completely fake. "Dear god Angleterre! Have your boss's budget cuts left you drinking paint stripper?"
"That's Tesco's finest budget whiskey, that is," he says, and it would have sounded more indignant but he just can't put his heart into it. "Two litres for less than a tenner."
"Yes, that's what I said," France replies and takes another drink anyway.
England glares at him. "My boss said that I had to cut down and that he wouldn't pay for any drinks at the hotel bar. Says I have to set a good example." He sneers, lips curling into an expression of disgust. "I didn't get to be an empire by being a good example! Britain's glorious history is built on people being reprehensible through the centuries! But would he listen?"
"Isn't every nation the same?" France asks, finally handing over the bottle and reaching for his cigarettes once more. "You, at least, have always been anarchic. Even towards Rome."
"Rome deserved it," is the blunt response. He takes a cigarette when one is offered. France lights his own and then leans forward, touching the tips of the cigarettes together.
"Fancy bastard," England says with a grin.
"You should be thanking me."
"I should be," England agrees, and unrepentantly does not thank him.
"You never did learn any manners," France says, giving him an amused look.
England takes a long drag on the cigarette and exhales, staring up at the sky once more, the blackness which fades to the glow of light pollution. "Just think, we've got another three days of this," he says morosely. Three days of being cooped up in stuffy rooms all day, in meetings that never seem to go anywhere and that he is almost entirely certain are just to keep them out of the way.
"Ah, another three days to drive Germany to apoplexy. I approve. He is already finding grey hairs or so I have heard."
"Well, just look at Prussia," England says with a grin. "And you've just been talking about just how well you are getting along with Germany in this ridiculous group marriage that you call the EU."
France smirks, waving the cigarette around as he gestures expansively. "That does not mean that I cannot enjoy, as you say, winding him up. And he is so very amusing when he is trying and failing to keep control of a situation."
"Sadist," England replies with a grin.
"As if you are not when it suits you." His voice drops to something husky and inviting. "As if you do not enjoy it when I am."
England's eyes flutter closed, breath coming just a little faster at that, but he ploughs on nonetheless. He has a point to make and it will be made or he will die in the attempt. "I just don't see the point of these interminable meetings, when, on the rare occasions that we come to some agreement, we're ignored by our bosses."
France sighs heavily and slumps back against the railing, all evidence of flirtation erased from his posture. He just looks tired now. "I do not think that they ever listened to us," France replies, his expression darkening. "If they had, then they would not have become so acquainted with Madam Guillotine, non?"
It sends a shiver down England's spine to hear France talking like that once again. "Your revolutions are contagious," he grumbles.
"Maybe that is what Europe needs," France replies, his lips drawn into a thin line.
England just stares at him for a moment, letting the cigarette burn down a little before he taps off the glowing embers and takes a drag. "Maybe," he admits. "There have been enough protests. Not to mention riots," he adds dubiously.
"Nostalgic?" France asks, finally smiling a little. "I always did like you as an angry punk. The leather and denim and piercings. Ah, the piercings!" he says dreamily, and the tone of his voice makes England's cheeks heat.
"It wasn't a sodding fashion statement," he says gruffly. "It was an... and ianti/i-fashion statement."
"But you wear anarchy so well, my dear," France replies, leaning close so that his lips brush England's ear for just a second. "It is impressive when anarchy is so bad for us."
England gives a strained smile. "Isn't that always the way? We love the things that destroy us."
"You miss it." It isn't a question, and England has always hated how perceptive France can be but only when he cares for it. At other times he can be frustratingly obtuse.
"There is nothing like screaming for revolution alongside your people," he says, a hint of steel and fire in his voice.
"Even when you iare/i the system that they are raging against?"
France snorts softly. "I sometimes think that you would have been better off as a human. This self-destructive fascination cannot be healthy. But you made such a splendid empire that I cannot quite imagine you any other way."
"Are you drunk?" England asks suspiciously.
"Non!" France protests. "You are the drunkard who had to sneak obscenely cheap whiskey into the conference!"
"You're being complimentary. What am I supposed to think?"
"Even someone like you deserves the good that a compliment from me does for the soul," France says smugly, a superior smirk on his lips, but then, he always looks like that so England can happily ignore it.
"You really are arrogant," he says, although he's grinning.
"iYou/i are arrogant," France says primly. "iI/i am confident, and full of poise and grace."
"And modesty. Don't forget modesty."
"Modesty most of all."
There is a loud moan from the room next door, followed by a heavy thump as though something, a lamp say, has been knocked to the floor in the throes of messy German passions. Raised voices follow it. England groans. "Are they still at it? What are they doing? Trying to break the world record?"
"Trying to break the bed at least from the sound of it," France says, all while trying to lean far enough over the balcony railing to see into the room.
"How are they still going?" England asks incredulously as he pulls France back. Never mind his stunt earlier, France was going to kill himself at this rate and voyeurism was low on the list of things he wanted to speak to France's boss about. "They haven't exactly been focussing on foreplay! They must be buying lube in industrial quantities."
"Well, no matter what you think of him, Germany does have rather impressive stamina."
"Oh god, you iare/i sleeping with him!" England says, sounding more annoyed than shocked or betrayed. "You keep ranting about how he's a control freak and how much you hate him and want to kill him and how he wouldn't know fun if it beat him over the head with the stick it pulled from his arse."
France smirks that infuriating smirk. "We spend most of our time together trying to kill each other, Angleterre, and year I do not hear you objecting to our having sex..." He pauses thoughtfully for a moment and then continues with, "even when other countries do."
"That's us," England insists petulantly. "I've known you for longer than he has."
"You have known me longer than America has as well, and yet you did not seem to object to our little menage a trois," France says with an unhealthy amount of glee.
England sputtered indignantly and in a way that France finds quite adorable. "O-oi! That's different!" he protests, reaching over to grab the bottle and take another gulp. "I was included then," he mutters.
France gives him a startled look and then a slow smile curls his lips. "Be careful, Angleterre," he says, leaning close to that England can feel the warmth of his breath against his cheek. His eyes look very blue up close like this. "You are dangerous close to admitting that you possess feelings and we cannot have that."
England regards him coolly for a moment, then licks his lips nervously, gaze skittering away from France's face. "You say that as though it's a bad thing," he mutters, slightly gratified when France blinks, the surprise showing clearly on his face.
"You have in the past made it clear that what we have it nothing more than camaraderie and ifucking/i and that is only at the best of times."
"I never said that," England protests.
"You never had to," France replies quietly and it's like he's just dumped cold water of England.
"Well, if I start to show anything else then you act like there's something wrong with me and the world is coming to an end." He upturns the bottle against his lips, drinking until France grabs his wrist and pulls it away. England glares as France prises it from his grasp and casually drops it over the balcony railing. He winces when he hears it smash on the concrete far below.
"That was mine you bastard!"
"Your boss is right," France says unrepentantly. "You drink too much."
"Piss off," he growls, and turns to stare mournfully over the balcony, pretending that he can see the bottle's sad, shattered remains.
"It is my balcony," France points out, insufferably smug as usual, a tone that England hates, just as he hates everything else about France, like the incredibly annoying hand on his shoulder which is warm and squeezes just right.
He pulls away sharply, starting to push himself up onto the railings to return to his room, even if he's rather more wobbly now than he had been.
France's arms wrap around him from behind, holding him firmly down, and England can feel the press of his body, a hot line against his back. "You are going to kill yourself, you ridiculous fool," France mutters.
"Only temporarily," England replies, but stays put. It's only because it's a pain to deal with the consequences, that's all. They'd make him fill in paperwork once he'd revived.
"Non, you have always been a fool," France says, leaning more heavily against his back. The grip around his waist tightens. "And I do not want to see your corpse mangled and bloody and broken."
"Oh, so it would be fine if I died in an attractive manner?" England replies morbidly.
"of course," France says, his smile curling against England's neck. "We would not be wasting time with words then. You are more agreeable as a corpse."
England snorts softly, shaking his head. He should be disturbed by the twisted place that is France's mind, but after so long, it's almost reassuring to know that some things will always be the same. "Do you really believe that?" he asks.
"That you are more agreeable as a corpse? It is not an offence to you. Most people are."
"You know that's not what I meant! Do you really believe that I only meant camaraderie?"
"I do not know," France says reluctantly, the words dragged grating from his throat. "I do not like to assume."
"You always assume. You love assuming."
France's shoulders slump and he slowly releases his grip around England's waist, stepping away. "Not about this. I would not dare."
England just stares, taken aback by such an honest response when he had expected flippancy.
"I have known you for centuries," France continues, "and I still cannot tell what you are thinking, not when it comes to this."
England gulps. "What is 'this'?" he asks, hardly daring to consider what the answer could be.
France looks away, trepidation written in his posture. "I cannot be monogamous. I cannot be yours and yours alone. We are not human."
"I know that!" England snaps, eyes narrowing dangerously. "If I were human, I wouldn't have to share you with policy or hold myself back because of my history."
France leans forward, pressing their foreheads together lightly. "Ah, we are a pair, are we not?" he says wistfully. "A pair of broken down empires in the wrong age, wishing for the one thing that we cannot have."
A strained laugh escaped England's lips, a hoarse sound. "I think that you're right," he says, "I do drink too much. Always makes me maudlin."
"There is plenty to be maudlin about," France replies, "and few ways to channel it into anger any longer."
"I think that they organise these conferences and meetings to keep us out of the way," England says, weariness and bitterness seeping into his voice. "To keep us away from protests and revolutions. Remember when we used to have the ear of our bosses?"
"Remember when we used to be imprisoned for speaking against them?" France adds quickly.
"You know what I mean," England says. "They wouldn't have imprisoned us if our words held no weight. Now I just... I wonder if we're of any use at all."
"There are still nations," France says. "As long as there are those, surely we are needed."
"By our people perhaps. Not our bosses. Maybe it would be easier to disappear and live as humans."
"We try this," France says, a touch of sourness in his voice. "We manage for a year, or for ten years, and then we cannot sustain it any more. We are what we are." He smiles, but as bitter as his voice. "We are building a new world after all. A world of peace and prosperity and freedom," he says mockingly, spreading his arms wide to encompass the whole world.
England gives a tired laugh. "And sometimes all that I can think about is what came before. I was an Empire."
France's smile gentles from the harsh wild thing that it had been, and he smooths his thumb against England's cheek. "We both were," he says, as England turns his face into the touch. "And they forget, iwe/i forget, that we are as human as are with what we feel."
"You have an answer for everything, don't you?" England says with a smirk.
"Oui, of cou-"
A howl of pleasure interrupts them from the direction of Germany's room. England groans and bangs his head rhythmicly against France's shoulder. "How can they be going again?" he whimpers. "How can Prussia walk if they're doing this every night?"
He looks up and these is a look on France's face, a look that verges on the terrifying. "Why, Angeleterre," he purrs, "you are talking like an old man! Do you not think that you can keep up with the new blood?"
England bristles at the teasing words. "Prussia is hardly new blood," he snaps.
"Then you should have absolutely no trouble keeping up with him," France replies smugly.
"You're trying to goad me."
"Oui. Is it working?"
England is silent for a moment, then he grabs the back of France's neck, dragging him down for a rough kiss, all teeth and tongues. He finally lets France go, breath coming a little harsher, and grins, wild and wide. "It's working. I can outdo those two any day."
"I look forward to it," France says, and drags him down for another kiss.
They do not sleep that night, and they emerge for breakfast bleary-eyed and exhausted, but it is so worth it. England wears a smug smile and France acts very much like a self-satisfied cat for most of the day, even in the face of glares and shouted rebukes.
It is a rather harried looking Germany who approaches them during lunch, his eyes dark ringed enough that even make-up cannot hide it (and he has tried, England can tell; they've all become adept at hiding the physical blemishes). His usually immaculate suit seems rumpled , his tie crooked and strands of his hair have somehow missed being combed back.
"May I have a word please," he says, sounding as awkward as England has ever heard him.
He and France share a glance and nod. "Well?" England says, folding his arms across his chest, and narrowing his eyes.
Germany's shoulders slump. "In private, please? It is a somewhat delicate subject."
"Of course," France says, and there's a frown on his lips. It sounds serious, whatever it is, as though he's approaching them to discuss some dire matter of state and European unity.
Germany leads them out into the corridor and draws himself up to his full height. "I must request that in future, if you feel the need to ah... be intimate with each other during the period of a conference, it would be appreciated if you could keep the noise down. I've received a few complaints."