The Games We Play

Characters: France (Francis), England (Arthur)

Bunny's note: Sorry for the French… the only French I know at all has been picked up from fan fiction.

Also, thank you for the lovely reviews: lady-ribbon, forevergamegirl, haraguro-tan, KitakLaw


Summer, 1939

The first thing Arthur noticed when he got on the bus was that his usual seat at the very end by the window was taken. The perpetrator was someone he had never seen before. Unlike most of the village children, this boy bore the exquisite, elegant air of someone who had been well-cared for. He sat, resting on one elbow, his expression one of bored contemptuousness.

"Hey," The boys cerulean blue eyes slid in his direction, "you're in my seat." Next to this stranger, Arthur felt horribly unkempt in his smudged shorts and un-brushed hair.

"I was here first, cher." The boy had a distinct French accent, which grated on Arthur's nerves.

"I always sit there," he said rather loudly. To his surprise, the boy's lips quirked upwards.

"Perhaps we could share?"

"No."

"Come now, cheri, I like this seat too, you know."

"No. That seat's only meant for one person." The boy's smirk never left his face as he leaned over, his breath tickling Arthur's ear.

"You can sit on my lap." Arthur gagged violently, gaping in stunted disbelief, his face growing warm as he struggled for words, rendered incoherent by the strange boy.

Who is he?

The boy leaned back in his seat, eyeing him amusedly. Finally, Arthur stormed off to the front of the bus, admitting defeat.

-x-

Summer afternoons were often hazy, where the invisible lines separating reality and fantasy became blurred in the seductive heat. The sun winked at him through the leafy curtains. Francis liked the forest. He liked its cool arms, it soothing whispers, the strange feeling of tranquility rushing through him.

"Die, witch, die! You shall never succeed in your evil plans!" There followed the sound of something heavy crashing through bushes and loud shrieks of triumph. Francis cringed inwardly as the resounding battle cries grated on his ears.

Heading towards the direction of the sound, Francis was met with a rather unusual sight. A boy, alone in a clearing, his back to him and wielding a long wooden stick, swung wildly at thin air, shrieking all sorts of profanities.

"Die you bloody wanker! Die you rotten old hag! Die!" The boy collapsed to the ground, panting heavily, before once again leaping to his feet.

"And the evil witch of eternal darkness is vanquished!" He shouted, brandishing the stick above his head, one hand on his hip, "the kingdom is at peace once again!"

By now, Francis had managed to catch a glimpse of the boy's face. Oddly enough, it was the boy he had met that morning on the bus.

Suddenly, the boy turned and emerald orbs locked with cerulean ones. For a moment, both stared, frozen, at each other, then the other boy yelled.

"You!" A single, trembling index finger pointed dramatically at him, "You've been following me!" Francis felt an embarrassing, unexplainable warmth creep up his face.

"Why have you been following me?" The boy had stormed across the field and now stood, arms folded, glaring at Francis. The boy was several inches shorter. For one brief moment, Francis couldn't help thinking the boy's ridiculously thick eyebrows looked like caterpillars.

"Well?" He demanded. For a moment, Francis found himself lost for words. The boy's chest was heaving heavily, eyes wide, as if he had caught someone stealing red-handed. If he wanted to avoid the wooden stick coming anywhere near his face, he would have to think fast.

"I can assure you cher, I was not following you," he said smoothly.

"Oh yeah? Prove it!" The boy's oddly childish glare darkened. Francis smirked slightly; somehow (he didn't know how), he found the boy adorable. Deciding to ignore the question, he held out his hand.

"Francis," he said, wondering if perhaps the boy would slap his hand away. He could practically see the other boy fumbling between his options before shaking his hand rather reluctantly.

"Arthur Kirkland," his eyes were averted.

"'Arthur'", he allowed the name to roll slowly off his tongue, tasting every syllable, "so adorable." Arthur blushed furiously and let out a low growl.

"If you're here simply to annoy me, then you-,"

"Where are we?"

"What?"

"Honestly cher, you need your ears inspected." Shaking his head in mock dejection, Francis gestured towards the clearing, "I said, 'where are we'?"

"A forest of course," Arthur crossed his arms, "or are you too stupid to realize that?" Francis sighed.

"Honestly, mon ami, you lack… finesse." Arthur growled, "I mean, where is this place?" For a moment, Arthur considered ignoring the other.

"The Kingdom of North Cameron," he replied, "my kingdom."

Somehow or other, Francis ended up spending the rest of his afternoon rescuing the residents of the Southern Villages which were under attack from goblins.

It was an unwritten agreement, one they never spoke of, and one which Arthur denied to himself each night before he went to sleep. Every afternoon, somehow, inexplicably, they would both find themselves traversing the same dirt track, toward the clearing.

-x-

"So, King Arthur, pray, tell me, what wonderful deeds are we to perform today?" Francis smirked as he mock-bowed.

"The beautiful Princess Valencia is trapped in a castle, guarded by a dastardly dragon." Arthur said boldly as he drew his sword from its hilt and waved it over his head.

"Mm hmm, does that mean I get to marry her?" Francis watched the excited Arthur through half lidded eyes, knowing full well the answer even before it came.

"What? No! I'm the king here!" And exactly as he had anticipated, Arthur turned a brilliant shade of crimson, rendered incoherent by the very idea. How could a frog marry a princess?

"But cher, if you are to marry the princess, then what role do I play?"

"Well you're certainly no knight in shining armor." Arthur muttered.

"Oui, I am no knight. Imagine moi, lumbering around in a stuffy chunk of metal." Francis gave an exaggerated shudder, "But…" Francis got slowly, languidly, to his feet, delicately brushing off a stray leaf, "This is disturbing mon ami, surely I must be wrong. Surely I cannot be subjected to such a delicate role, as perhaps, that of the princess?"

"What?"

"Oh come now Arthur, how unrefined," shaking his head dejectedly, Francis continued on, "surely I should be the prince and you the princess? Then I will gallop through the open window on horseback, you will climb up next to me, and together, we shall ride into the sunset. Of course, if I am not mistaken, this little episode involves a lovely kiss…"

"S-shut up!" Arthur's face was the color of beetroot, "you're insufferable! You're forgetting I'm the king of this kingdom! King Arthur, the protector!"

"Mon cher Arthur, surely you mean 'Queen Arthur'?"

"Bloody hell, are all French people as annoying as you are or is it natural talent?"

"Mon petit Arthur, you need lessons on l'amour."

"Can you stop the bloody French talk? I'm getting quite sick of it."

"Why? I'm having so much fun!"

"You're horrible! I'm going home." Arthur, whose ears resembled raw beef, swung his school bag over his shoulder and stormed off towards the lane. Francis, still smiling, called after him.

"But Arthur, you haven't rescued Princess Valencia yet!"

-x-

It was a rather odd thing really, that Francis and Arthur were friends. They were strikingly different in almost all aspects: Francis was open, friendly, and, despite his young age, flirtatious to a point where some chose to avoid him; Arthur, on the other hand, was reserved, sulky, almost an outcast.

It would be a severe misconception to assume that they got on splendidly. They never spoke in school, and one would never have guessed that they even knew the other's name. The only times they ever spoke to each other was in the warm, leafy clearing with the brook running through, and even then, their meetings often ended with Arthur storming away red-faced and Francis doubled over with laughter. Nevertheless, they returned every day after school to the sun-kissed clearing. There was something strange, fantastic almost, about their little secret, about a magical kingdom which belonged solely to them.

And so, the lazy July afternoons wandered by, each one bearing witness to the wonderful adventures and daring escapades which took place in the Kingdom of North Cameron. After a while, July left and in came August, heavy, thundery, in her coarse beauty.

31 August, 1939

"I have something for you." Arthur was blushing furiously again, his hand twisting the edge of his shirt. A devious smirk spread across Francis' face.

"A kiss perhaps? From a lovely queen to her dashing king?" Arthur almost gagged on his tongue.

"Of course not you stupid frog!" He snapped, as he fumbled in his pocket, finally producing a smooth, green stone. It was almost flat, casting spots of emerald into the overhanging foliage.

"My mum said to give it to a friend," Arthur grinned proudly, "she said if I did that, we would be best friends forever." Francis felt something swell in his throat.

"Merci," and for the first time in his life, Francis was truly grateful.

-x-

September came the very next day, bringing with her the rain which fell in sheaves, turning the lands to a clear golden color. When Arthur returned to school however, something was different, almost feverish in fearful excitement, whispers rushing swiftly, rhythmically through corridors. 'Did you hear?' the whispers sang, 'Great Britain has declared war on Germany! What's going to happen to us?'

And amidst all the hissing and fearful glances, Arthur remained shrouded among confused veils. The rumors sent small shivers, horrible shuddering shivers rushing down his spine.

When afternoon came, and the school bell clanged, Arthur ran, ran faster than his legs could take him; and he didn't stop, until he collapsed, panting in the small clearing, clutching a stitch in his side, and wondering why he felt that something had gone horribly wrong.

For a while, he waited; then, as impatience began swelling rapidly in his throat, he climbed to his feet and decided to head out. But no, he should be a little more patient. Perhaps Francis was already on his way. So, Arthur sat back down.

Francis is coming; he will come; he hasn't not come before; he'll be here soon.

I'm going to find him.

The sky above was brilliant orange. The road ahead basked in the golden autumn sun; the smell of acacias mingled with ozone; rain was coming.

Arthur knew where Francis lived. He had never been to the older boy's house, but he knew the address, had seen his house every time the school bus passed.

So where is he?

Francis had not been in school that day; perhaps he was ill! But no, he had been fine only yesterday!

He stopped; stopped outside the house he knew Francis lived in, but he didn't want to go in; he knew the house, knew who it belonged to, and yet, somehow, he didn't know. It was strange, unfamiliar, unwelcoming.

"Francis?" No answer, "Francis, are you here?" There was a woman, a thin, rather old woman, sweeping serenely and a small pile of leaves.

"Oh hello," she said, a slight smile playing on her lips, "are you looking for someone?"

"Where's everyone?" Arthur's hated how his voice shook, how suddenly weak he sounded, "Where's Francis?"

"Oh you mean the little boy here? Such a lovely child too," she sighed, "they left you know."

"W-what?"

She was lying; she had to be lying; she had to; Francis wasn't gone, he would come back anytime soon, he-he…

"They left," the woman repeated simply, "they left this morning, after they heard about the war." She's lying; it can't be true; it can't; Francis wouldn't; he wouldn't…

He wouldn't leave me here.

"Hey," she stared closely at him, "aren't you Arthur? I have something for you." Her hand fumbled through her apron pocket before retrieving something. Sitting in the center of her milky, wrinkled palm, was a smooth, glittering emerald stone.


Bunny's note: Ugh… this sucks. I'm really sorry for the horrible quality, especially since I've been away for three weeks (blame exams for the late chapter) and this chapter sounds so much like I'm rambling =( and poor Artie sounds off character.

I'm not promising who or what I'll do next, seeing that I didn't do Austria/Hungary like I intended to. That chapter was almost done until I realized that Hungary was ooc. I'll need to read more of her fics…

12 April edit: The time line is incorrect. Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany several days after the invasion of Poland.