A Gentleman's Dilemma

France isn't sure what has him so annoyed. It's not altogether unusual, nights like this when they all take a night off to go out drinking wherever they happen to be, and the noise and near toxic smell aren't exactly things he notices anymore. No, what he is noticing is England, drunk, unruly, making passes at America and failing miserably at it yet again. This isn't unusual for France to be seeing either, but somehow, just for tonight, it's aggravating him.

France hears the scrape of a glass against the bar table and when he looks over he sees Russia sliding onto the stool beside him.

"You haven't touched your drink," Russia points out. "Had enough already?"

"Mm," says France, and looks away again. He sees England leaning up to whisper something in America's ear: probably trying to flirt with him, judging by the way America is grimacing and trying to escape.

"What?" Russia pauses, glass halfway to his mouth. "Got your eyes on someone?"

"Not really." France gives a congested sounding laugh. "Just watching England make a fool of himself."

Russia cranes his neck and smiles slightly when he spots him—England is easily identifiable as the only person in the room with his hands on another man.

"England never could hold his liquor," sighs Russia. He's being a little too normal, so France can safely assume he's already had a few drinks. It's comforting to know. "When is he going to learn?"

France doesn't say anything, just taps his fingers on the table and lets his eyes narrow, slightly, when he sees England's hand inching to where America's shirt has come untucked, exposing the skin at his hip.

"I doubt he's going to let that go," Russia says.

Not a moment later, America swats England's arm away.

"That idiot," France sighs, then shifts on his stool to scan the room because he can't watch anymore. "Where's China gone?"

"Toilets," says Russia, mildly. "He went off with somebody."

"Blowjob?" France asks, as he picks up his drink.

"I didn't want to ask."

France smiles and sets the glass down again without drinking from it.

"I'll admit China's not the only one who's needing it by now," he says. In the corner of his eye, he can see America making an angry gesture and stalking off, leaving England alone in the corner to look dejected.

"And who are you referring to, I wonder?" Russia asks, smiling slightly.

"I swear it wasn't a trick question," France says. He stands up and pushes his glass to Russia. "It's yours, I haven't had any."

"I really shouldn't," Russia protests, but he knocks down a mouthful of France's drink without further complaint. "Hm. I always knew you had good taste."

"I guess I should offer to bring Eyebrows home. He's in no shape."

"Yes, I suppose you should. Good luck with him."

France waves a distracted good-bye and makes his way through the crowd, jostling shoulders and pushing past more than a handful of raucous drunks. By the time he's crossed the room, England is rubbing at his face and has his hands in his hair like he can't believe himself.

"Bad luck, huh?"

"Shuddup," England slurs. "Don't start."

"I won't then. Look, do you want me to take you home?" France pulls his keys from his pocket and rattles them. "I'm afraid that if you drive yourself back you'll just end up dying."

"Fuck you," England snaps, and he tries to storm off in huff but nearly falls. France snorts at him.

England has been oddly silent for the entirety of the car ride, arm slung over his face, and France glances over as he takes his keys from the ignition. He supposes that quiet is better than having to listen to any of his usual drunken muttering, but the silence is just as awkward.

"Alright there?"

"I'm fine."

France gets out with a shrug. He circles around to the passenger side door and opens it, offering a hand.

"I can get out on my own," England tells him, nastily.

"Considering that you could barely stand earlier," begins France. Still, England's speech seems a little less slurred now, so maybe he isn't quite as drunk as he once was.

England glares murderously at him as he actually does manage to step out onto the driveway without assistance. Still, he's wobbling something terrible, so France grabs hold of his shoulder to keep him steady as they go up to the house.

"Maybe you should have stopped sometime before the seventh bottle," laughs France, though he does look at England a little pityingly as he struggles to get his key in the lock of his front door.

"I didn't—not all that much—"

Once England gets his door open they move inside, dumping their coats on the hallway floor before making to go upstairs. Unfortunately England manages to trip himself up on the first step and France has to dive to catch him before he falls.

"Fine, are you?"

"Yeah, I'm fine! Now get—ahhh—fuck, wait… I need to—"

England slowly lowers himself onto the steps and sits with a grunt, immediately putting his hands to his temples. He'd been looking even more miserable than usual ever since he'd gotten into France's car, so France sighs and resigns himself to dropping down beside him.

"Go on, then," he says, after a while. "Might as well tell me what's the matter if we're just going to sit here."

"Fuck, France," says England. "Just fuck. This just can't—I'm pathetic."

"I'd say so," France agrees, nodding a little too readily. "Can't even make it up a flight of stairs on your own."

"Shut—God, shut up," England snaps. "That's not it. I'm talking about—"

"America," France supplies. "I know." He leans back onto a higher step and puts his hands behind his head—he supposes he really won't be going anywhere for a while. "Well. It was your fault."

"Don't," England groans. "I told you don't start."

"Fine," says France, rolling his eyes. "America ditched you through no fault of your own, then. The fact that you had your hands all over him had nothing to do with it."

"Shut up," England moans. "Shit, France, why can't—but—America—completely—he's—"

"Articulate today."

France plucks a stray thread from his vest as England glares at him again.

"You know I'm—drunk, dammit."

"Trust me, I noticed."

England starts weaving his fingers into his hair and France thinks, in the moment of renewed quiet this leaves them in, that this business of falling in love is cruel. Love is supposed to be happy, all sunshine and daisies, but it's never that way in practice, not when people keep falling for the dumbest idiots they can find. It's too damn hard, France thinks, to manage anything more than a blowjob in a dirty bathroom with someone you'll never see again. It's amazing that humans ever manage to reproduce in the first place.

"I don't know—I just fuck it up," England mutters, out of nowhere. "I try to talk to him, I fuck it up. He's just—I can't get through."

"Well," France says, patiently, "what are you trying to get through to him?"

"That—" England turns to stare at France like he's daring him not to laugh. "You know what I'm—what I feel about him."

"You're in love with him." France shrugs. "Everyone knows that."

"Right," says England. He slumps down in the perfect picture of misery. "You'd have to be really thick not to know I fancy him. But he is thick, and that's the problem. I just—I wish he'd figure it out. I'd be so happy if he—if I could just—"

"Stick your dick in him," France says, dully, aided by with a vulgar hand motion. "Right."

England opens his mouth slightly, his expression having changed into that of utter outrage.

"That's—I don't—"

France can only take about two seconds of England's look before cracking up.

"Good Lord," he snickers, and sits up again. "You're serious."

"I've never wanted—that," England says, looking deeply uncomfortable.

"Idiot! Then what do you want from him?" France asks, still laughing. "Don't tell me you'd just like to hold his hand for a bit? Just stare lovingly into his eyes?"

England looks pensive, like even he doesn't know.

"When he was younger—I miss that," he says. "It's like… he made me happy and… I just ruined it, being like I was. Too… dunno. Selfish, I guess. That's what he'd always say, anyway."

France blinks.

"You're still regretting all that? C'mon now, it's been centuries."

"It's not about that." England sighs heavily. "It's that I realized, once he'd already grown, when it was too late and he'd been gone so long—that's when I really, really just… fuck. That's when I loved him. That's when I realized what I'd lost, what I could've had."

"So what is he to you exactly?" France interrupts. "Just a friend or—?"

"I don't even really—" England stares down at his feet, frustrated. "I don't know. I don't. I don't know if it's guilt or something else. Sleeping with him, that's just—I don't care about that. I'd be happy if he'd just feel the same way. But in the meantime, I know. I'm going crazy."

France purses his lips, watching England with his cheek now resting in his hand. He thinks he understands something that he's never even considered before.

"Look. England," France says. "That's fucked up. This is America we're talking about."

England glares.

"Well excuse me if—"

"No, no," France cuts in, waving his hand. "I mean, the way things are, that's what's fucked up. See, he's not your kid or anything, but you were the one who was always there for him, so you think you get him. But I don't think you get America at all, at least not now."

"How?" England snaps. "How don't I?"

"Weren't you just saying how thick America is?" France crosses his ankles, making himself more comfortable. "If you ask me, he doesn't know because you haven't told him. You'd have to be an idiot not to have figured it out already, that's true—but you and I both know that America is the very definition of a humongous idiot. So just tell him you fancy the pants off of him already, and maybe it won't go over so badly when you get drunk enough to want a feel and he thinks you're just being a twat. It's honestly not that difficult."

"But what—" England says, "what if—"

"What if you tell him and nothing changes?" France offers a dry smile. "Is that what you're worried about?"

"What if I tell him and he hates me, more like," says England, desolately.

"Are you an idiot? The next time you see America you know he'll either forgive you for tonight or forget completely, so what're you so worried about? He's not going to abandon you, you know he still looks up to you. Hell, you know I hate you and even I think you're alright. So give it a shot, why don't you? Take some of this advice I've so graciously given you and see what happens."

England looks wordlessly at France, eyes wide but expression unreadable. France wonders whether he's absorbed any of what he's just said. He wonders if things might have turned out differently if only he'd had the nerve to take his own advice.

"You're not going to, are you?" France says, dismally. "Christ, if you keep this up, you're going to go down in the history books as England the Chaste, you know. I don't care if you're guilty or scared or whatever the hell it is—do you want to know what I did the last time I was in love with someone who didn't give me the time of day? I went off and fucked someone else, and then I got over it. It's not fair to hold out for someone this long so don't go torturing yourself, idiot."

"Right," England says, slowly, after a pause. "You're right. I know you're right."

"Ho!" says France. "That's a first. The sun sets in the east now, does it?"

"Because it's him," England says, mostly to himself, "yeah."

"Back to being articulate already, I see."

"What I mean is that—I don't want to because I... love him too much. Or something."

"That honestly doesn't even make the slightest amount of sense," France laughs. "You love him too much to tell him? That's stupid. That's completely illogical."

England leans in, looking bleary and hesitant.

"Ah," says France, suddenly sobering. "Yes?"

"I don't care," England says. "Fuck logic."

England makes a small movement, places his palm flat on the step between them, and leans in to kiss France on the mouth.

France startles at first, shoulders tensing, stomach flying somewhere into the region normally occupied by his throat, and everything seems to stop and go very silent and still. France doesn't know what the hell's just happened but he thinks it doesn't matter either, so he gives in, just closes his eyes and kisses back.

It's actually sort of funny, France thinks, because of all the times they'd shouted at each other until they'd gone hoarse, all the times they'd given each other a good punch in the mouth, France had never realized that England's lips were this soft, nor that he could put them to such better use.

England jerks away. He shudders, staring breathlessly.

"I didn't mean," England rasps.

"Fuck that," says France. "That wasn't an accident."

England is completely motionless, and France doesn't quite know what to do next. He could just forget about it—England is drunk, after all, probably horny and desperate and half insane because he won't let himself sleep with the one person who really means the world to him. It would be easy enough, of course, to tell England to get some sleep and never speak of the incident again, pass it off as momentary lunacy, but France has never been one to have much control when it comes to things like this. His heart is already pounding, aware of how close England is, and damn it, he's not the only one who hasn't had any luck in a while.

"S-sorry," stutters England.

"I didn't mind it," France says, marveling. He really didn't. He'd like to do it again, actually, because the last time he let himself fall in love with someone he shouldn't have, he went off and fucked someone else. This is his chance, and he knows that he has to take it.

France leans in again, touching England's jaw, but this apparently only serves to scare the shit out of him, like now is the time to be considering the madness of the situation they're in. England suddenly brings himself to his feet, all the color rushing from his face, then quickly turns and bolts up the rest of the stairs.

"Hey!" France stands up, mouth opening and closing. "England, what the fuck—?"

France starts after him, thinking at first that he'll never catch up to him before England shuts himself inside his bedroom and doesn't come back out ever again in his life, but then France remembers that England is still drunk, as evidenced by the way he's half stumbling, half falling up the steps. With just a little effort France manages to catch England's arm and stop him just as he reaches the landing.

"England, what the hell are you playing at?"

"I don't know," England says, seemingly just as bewildered as France is. "Christ, I don't—I hate you, alright, it didn't mean anything—"

France touches his face again, still a little confused, a little excited, and decides he isn't going to let him off. He shoves England up against the wall and kisses him.

England squirms, mouth fumbling, but France holds fast. He's never kissed quite like this before—the mouth underneath his is desperate and uncompromising, wanting everything and pressing moist and sticky against his lips. It's positively bizarre, confusing at best, but God it's good, and France doesn't want to stop.

"Oh hell," England groans.

"Shut up," mutters France. He twists his fingers together with England's and pushes harder up against him.

"But—'m drunk—" France knows that, but even though England's hands are trying to push him away, his mouth is seeking a better angle. "Fuck, France—"

"Shut up," France grunts, again. He clutches at the fabric of England's shirt and starts working a knee in between his legs so he can make England's breath hitch and his hips jerk forward. "Stop talking. Stop talking or I swear I'm going to bite your tongue off."

England quiets and the kiss only gets better; it turns into a battle of wetly smacking mouths, of teeth clacking together, of thighs and groins rubbing and creating friction. France suspects that all the blood rushing directly downward may explain the sudden numbness in his brain.

"This was what you wanted," he realizes, and England makes a filthy noise as a hand goes down the front of his trousers. "America and this are two separate issues—"


"You love him so—" France shoves England's trousers down to his thighs— "you won't tell him. You'll never tell him, but you'll tell me. You want to leave the debauchery for someone else, is that right?"

"France," England hisses, nails scraping down the wall. "Fuck. Fuck you."

France decides that love is a fickle thing, a gentleman's dilemma, but it's the spontaneous, violent sex with someone you hate, someone you might have loved, that makes the game worth playing.