England sat by the fire, slowly sipping his drink.
"Angleterre?" England looked over and scowled.
"Why are you here France?" The long haired nation pushed back his hair with a grimy hand.
"I am here to see you." England's scowl deepened.
"You look horrible."
France's blue eyes glittered. "Perhaps you should trim your thorn bushes then!" England shrugged and finished his drink. He poured another and began drinking again. "Absinthe, Arthur?"
"I like it."
"Oui but you rarely drink it."
"I want to." England stared at the fire. "So why are you here?"
"You have missed a meeting or two…"
"Bullocks. I took a week off." France jerked and England looked up.
"A week," France repeated. "Mon ami, what have you been doing?'
"Relaxing in my garden in the day. Reading. Watching the flames. Why do you care? And why are you filthy?" France ignored the question.
"Have you eaten?"
"Let me make you something and wash up." France stood and walked quickly to England. England looked up at him and France frowned, recognizing the glaze i England's eyes. "Again, Angleterre?"
"It's not a big deal France. It's not like I'll die from heroin." France sighed and padded off. When he returned, he had sandwiches, a bowl of soup, crackers, and a few pieces of fruit. He was also clean and in fresh clothes England recognized as some of his.
"Your kitchen is sparkling," France said. "Eat, Angleterre." England muttered but ate. France sipped a glance of wine. "You have not answered your phone," France said.
"I told you I took a week off." France swallowed hard.
"Mon ami, you have been gone over six weeks."
"I am not lying."
England's jaw tightened then he shrugged. "Well, then, I guess it doesn't matter, does it? One week, six, a year. No difference." He poured another glass.
"Doesn't matter?" France echoed. "Six weeks, England!"
"And how many people missed me, Francis? You do realize you are the only one who's bothered to see me. Not even my own people are worried."
"You idiot." France set aside his wine. "Do you know what I had to do to get here? Your home is guarded, locked down. Every time anyone come close, wind pushes them back or they are pelted with rocks and we won't talk about your dogs."
"The white hounds. They look like Ireland's wolfhounds. Pure white with blue eyes and red ears."
England smiled slightly. "Ah. Those dogs."
"You have not answered the phone, your emails, nothing."
"I wanted to be alone."
"Sulking does no good, Angleterre."
"I'm not sulking, god! I was tired and wanted time to think, frog!"
England shrugged. "Everything. Nothing." He stared at the fire and then gestured to where fresh cut roses sat on a table. "I picked roses this morning."
"They are lovely." France drank his wine, tried another tactic. "I see your new princess may be pregnant."
"I wouldn't know."
"But the Queen?"
"We meet monthly," England said, a smile tugging his lips. "And I see Charles now and then. I rarely see the younger royals."
"You went to the wedding…"
"Katherine doesn't know who I am, Francis, not that I'm England. I was introduced as an old friend of the Queen. Heavens, the princes were introduced to me when they was 5. Neither remembered me until a few years ago." France cocked his head. Absinthe always made England mellow, for lack of a better word. As did heroin. France really didn't like that England was combining them yet the island nation seemed all right.
"How did they remember?"
England took a long drink. "I saw the picture of Harry in that costume." His green eyes turned hard. "I went through the door and sent him across the room. William was there as well. It was as if they understood then just who, what I was."
"The Nazi costume." France nodded. "I remember." "
I know they're human, Francis." England sighed and rubbed his eyes. "But to wear that. Germany banned it for a reason. I should have pushed for it as well."
"It was a long time ago for them."
"My scars still ache at times," England snapped. "And their grandmother remembers."
"Oui. But all they know are pictures and histories." England nodded. He put a log on the fire, watched the flames dance higher.
"I'm fine," he said in a low tone.
"Six weeks." France ate a few crackers. "The last time you withdrew like this…"
"Let me be, France. God. It's not as if you care. Do we ask ourselves why the English buy our houses in the Dordogne and the Périgord, in the Lubéron, in Savoie and in many other regions? ... I have nothing against the English, who are our friends, but it is not my ambition that the most beautiful villages of France become holiday resorts reserved for the British."?"
France sighed. "Sarkozy had an opinion. I know you dislike him-you think he snubbed the Queen-"
"He did. June 6 is mainly a Franco American holiday, my ass. My soldiers died on those beaches. So did Canada's. Next he'll be saying France didn't surrender to Hitler."
"He is my boss, England, not me."
"He's a prick." France shrugged. England's eyes gleamed. "Ah, well, at least he can pal around with Obama. Speaking of which, how is Israel doing?"
"That was not supposed to be public!"
England laughed, a coarse bray that sent shivers up France's spine. "It's nothing to worry about. I think Netanyahu is an ass, too."
"At least Cameron isn't in trouble," France muttered.
"Murdoch," England said gloomily. France brightened a little. "Touche."
"I miss Winnie."
"He had faults, too."
"I know but I could talk to him. Cameron is all right but…" England paused.
"We all have disappointing leaders. You did not like Thatcher."
"She was all right. Better than America's Reagan."
"Did they ever have an affair?" France asked. "I always wondered."
England frowned. "I don't know."
"The point is I care, mon ami. We have our differences but we are stuck with each other."
"Really? I thought you and Ludwig were the new Europe."
"Where are you getting this? You are a moody bitch aren't you?"
"I didn't ask you here, France!"
"This is about America and Canada mocking you at the World meeting, isn't it? It was a joke!"
"Go away." A low growl echoed from the near the fire and a huge hound, bone white, stood by England.
"Thank you, Beowulf. I'm fine." England stroked the silky ears. The hound settled back down, blue eyes locked on France. In a minute, the hound vanished and France swallowed hard.
"I came for you."
"You came. I'm fine."
"Cameron called for me. He asked if I could find you."
"He may have called Harper too."
England pushed his fingers into his temples. "Hell."
France leaned forward. "You have done this before, Arthur."
"It wasn't a joke."
"Canada's parliament has members that said I am a burden on their economy. America has people that blame me for Israel's predicament. Neither disagreed."
"How do you know?"
"One thing I do very well, Francis." England's voice was ice. "I spy."
"We are your friends!"
"And you spy on me. It is all a game, France." He patted the air around his shoulder. "And games get weary." He looked at France. "At least you came. Thank you for that."
France sadly smiled. "You are most welcome."
"Tell everyone I'm fine."
"I will not lie for you. You are broody and bitter. And if left alone, you will isolate yourself from everyone, even your brothers."
"They can bugger off, too."
"Let me get you more soup."
"I"m tired. Go away, Francis." England yawned. "I will take you to bed."
"You wish, pervert." England leaned back. "Go away."
"How long since you have had anyone, Arthur?"
"You think sex will make me less bitter?"
"I think a friend will do wonders."
"I'm fine." France reached out, stroked England's hair. England permitted it, just for a hearbeat, then ducked away and closed his eyes. France waited until England slept deeply then gestured.
"It's about time," America hissed, scrambling from under a desk. Canada followed him. Both looked filthy and bedraggled. "We were cramped!"
"Be quiet, Alfred!" Canada hissed. He leaned over England. "He's out cold. Now what?" A low growl and the hound reappeared. America inhaled as the dog stood beside England. Canada backed up a step and another hound appeared, bigger than the first.
"This keeps getting better," America said, studying the dogs.
"Celtic hounds," Canada said. "Fairy creatures."
"Great," America said, staring at the dogs. "So what do we do?" Canada swallowed hard, glanced at France.
"We don't want to hurt him. He's our friend," he said slowly. One hound eyeballed him and then walked towards him. Cautiously, Canada held out a hand and the hound sniffed it then America. America reached out, picked England up and the hounds studied him. America led the way to England's bedroom, Canada, France, and the dogs behind him.
"He smells like licorice."
"Absinthe." France looked at the hound who paced beside him. "Angleterre rarely drinks it." America laid England down on his bed and Canada began stripping him. The two hounds trotted down the hall and then vanished. America closed his eyes.
"Not ghosts," he muttered. "They're not ghosts."
"Get his pajamas, Al." Canada tossed England's dirty shirt on the floor. "France, get his boots." America grabbed a set of clean night clothes and ran a finger up England's bruised inner arm.
"A lot of bruising."
"It happens when you use a lot," France said. "They should be gone in the morning."
"You don't seem worried," Canada said as Alfred carefully dressed England.
"England used to use all the time." France pulled off England's pants. "He does it rarely now. Turn him on his side, Mathieu. We don't want him vomiting in his sleep."
"Gross," America muttered.
"Like you haven't?"
"Not for a long time." America tucked pillows around England, propping him up on his side.
"Find something that will fit you two. You need baths," France said.
"We're bigger than England," Canada said. "Maybe he has sweats." America dug around in England's dresser, pulled out an old pair of jeans and an American flag sweatshirt. He tossed a Canadian one to Matthew as well as jeans. "I forgot we have clothes here," Matthew said. "No underwear?"
"No. Not unless you want Arthur's."
"Commando it is then." When both of the North American nations had cleaned up, they found France in the kitchen, looking out at the garden in the moonlight.
"Angleterre does garden well," France said, sipping a mug.
"Is that coffee?"
"Oui. He has a large selection."
"Why?" Canada asked as America darted towards the counter. France glanced at him.
"Perhaps for the same reason he has a large supply of various syrups, mostly maple. Unless he is just kinky…" Canada snorted and elbowed France. He breathed in the scent of flowers and then stopped.
"He isn't.." he whispered. "
Canada hurried to where roses and a Japanese maple tree shaded several large bushy plants. Gently Canada broke off a twig and walked to the house. France looked at him. "Well?"
"Marijauna." Canada looked guilty. "Maybe I left some here last time I visited…"
"No worries, bro. Iggy could have got that anywhere." America drank his coffee. "But he is starting to sound like a bit of an addict here."
"So now what?" Canada walked over and poured a cup of coffee. "Arthur's isolated, lonely, and depressed. And he hates our bosses."
"He doesn't hate them." France gestured and the three sat down at the table. "They annoy him-which does not bother me. Most of us dislike each other's bosses."
"I liked Churchill," America said.
"Cameron?" Canada asked. "He's OK. I don't know him well." America rolled his shoulders. "Hey, he never said he hated Obama."
"Your Congress annoys him. Did you really agree that he was the cause of israel's issues?" France asked.
"No! I know somebody in Congress might have said that but I don't even deal with them that often. Heck, I've been spending my time with the President and the Secretary of State mostly. Sometimes the VP. Those are the only three who really know who I am."
"And I've been with Harper. I'm sure he's right-I have jerks in Parliament too but my people like being close to England." Canada blinked. "Guys?"
"What?" America coughed up his coffee as a small, silver blue figure drifted close to the table. "Tell me that's not a-"
"fairy," Canada squeaked. The winged figure smiled at them, sat on France's mug, kicking her legs.
"Ah, hello," France said. A giggle, a wave, and she flew off.
"Must be the coffee," America muttered. "
Oui," France agreed.
"This isn't going to be easy-convincing him, I mean," Canada said. "He thinks everyone hates him."
"He thinks everyones thinks he's useless. That's different," America said.
"My plan is kind of weird…" Canada bit his lip.
"I find it wonderful," France purred.
"That's because it's kinky." America finished his coffee.
England woke with a headache and with two warm arms around him. "What?" he mumbled.
"Morning, sunshine." England shot up in bed.
"What the hell?" he screeched. "America?"
"Hi, honey. Miss me?"
"What is going on?"
"Relax." America stretched and stood up. "Come on." He held out a hand.
"Where are we going?"
"How about we have some breakfast first?"
"I need a painkiller," England grumbled, grabbing his robe and heading in his bathroom.
"Lay off the heroin!"
"What!" England stormed from the bathroom after taking his aspirin. America was gone but wonderful odors emanated from the kitchen. England cursed and headed downstairs. "Alfred, you bloody better not be making a mess! Canada! When did you get here? And I see you're still here frog."
"Eat something," France said, putting a plate of pancakes and eggs in front of him along with scones and tea. England looked warily at the other men but ate. After he finished, Canada handed him another cup of tea and took his plate.
"We were worried," he said, coming over and embracing England from behind. England jumped and looked at Canada in confusion.
"I'm fine but thank you, Matthew."
"We know you haven't been fine," America said. "We know what you and Francis talked about."
"Of course you do," England said, glaring at France.
"Not like that," Canada said. "We were in the room, too."
England blinked. "But I didn't see you."
"We were using an invisibility cloak," America chirped.
"Right, Harry," England muttered.
"Anyway, we thought we'd help you trim the hedges and help you realize you have been missed," America said. "A lot."
"Cameron called you too?"
"No, I tried calling you for days. And Mattie called and emailed as well." America sipped his coffee. "And if you ever checked your voice mails, I'm sure you would see a lot of people called. But you were busy, I guess. Drinking, shooting up, and smoking doobies."
"Doobies?" Canada scoffed. "Let it go, Alfred. That word is out of date."
"I drink a little and I relax," England said primly. "It's nothing to worry about."
"A little?" France echoed. He reached down under the table and glass clinked. He put four bottles of the table. "Absinthe. Four. If you were human, you would be dead."
"I'm not human." England sipped his tea. Good. He didn't find the other empties...
"That's still a lot," Canada said. "And that doesn't include the heroin."
"Oh my god, we're having an intervention?" England yelped. "What the bloody hell are you three thinking?"
"That you need someone," America said. "Face it, Arthur, you need people to keep you from becoming a bitter, old man."
"Too late," Arthur snapped. Arthur suddenly stiffened as Matthew wrapped arms around him.
"We love you," Matthew murmured. Arthur swallowed noticeably.
"I'm not a lush, Matthew," he said, a tiny quiver in his voice. "And while I appreciate your concern, lad, I'm all right."
"No, you're not. But you can be." Canada breathed on England's neck and England hissed through his teeth. It had been a long time since anyone had held him close in any affectionate manner…
"What are you blathering about?" England tried not to lean into Canada's touch. Pity him and his brother are so bloody good looking…
"We want a foursome," America said.
Canada's arms tightened. "Good work Al," he said sourly as England began struggling. "Not quite like he said, Arthur."
"Just what is going on? What did you do to them, Francis?"
"It is not my idea," France replied hotly. "It was Canada's!"
"We just agreed to it." America grabbed Arthur's hand, the one nearest to him. Arthur stopped his useless writhing-Canada was as strong as his brother-and looked at America. "Please, just hear all of us out." England looked into America's eyes and slowly gave a nod. Matthew let him go and sat down across the table, wrapping his fingers in Arthur's other hand.
"I've been thinking a lot," Canada started. When you stopped talking to everyone and disappeared in here. Look, all of us have issues. But the one thing we have in common is we all care for each other. And we're all family, in one way or another. Then I thought about relationships. None of us has really any great long lasting relationships except with each other. Francis and Alfred are both bed jumpers-"
"It's true, Al, and I'm not really much better," Canada squirmed. France leered. "And Arthur, you used to get around as well-although more by conquest than anything else. But with each other-you and France have ended up together any number of times and you've lusted after Alfred since 1900 and I wouldn't believe it but I did catch you ogling my ass a few months ago-" England felt his face flare. He huffed and cursed himself for that heroin he'd injected the night before. Normally he'd be having a raging fit but frankly he didn't know what to say. Canada cocked his head and continued. "Anyway, I wondered what would happened if the four of us made an-alliance, I guess. If we formed a foursome-we restricted our relationships to each other." He blushed. "So I started talking about it with France-"
"Who jumped at the opportunity, I'm sure," England dryly said.
"And both of us," Canada said, ignoring England's outburst. "Both of us discussed it with Al."
"It makes sense," America said. "I thought it was crazy, Iggy, but once I thought about it, Mattie was right." He squeezed England's hand, his cheeks turning pink. "Look, we work well together. And we love each other. Even you, old man. That's why we finally got through your damn thorns and no one else did."
"Are you three bloody mad?" England finally found his voice. "First of all, none of us share well at all! Have you thought of that? And four of us in one bed? And what if we have to go to war against each other? What will everyone think?" America grinned and then kissed England quickly. England stopped and stared.
"We have answers," Canada said, squeezing Arthurs hand. England turned and studied the large violet eyes. "I know none of us are good at sharing-Al, really. Stop stroking his neck." America 'awwed' but removed his hand and England tried to focus again. Canada flicked a hand over England's forehead. "But this is us. I mean, we're family already. All of us could do this, I know it."
"And how does this work?" England said drily. "I sleep with France on Wednesdays, you on Fridays, and America on Sundays?"
"We sleep with whomever we want, as long as they're in the group," Canada said with a shrug. "It doesn't mean we all sleep together all the time. It means if you and I are together, we're together and you don't mind if I go to Francis later that week and I don't get upset if you and Al see each other a week later."
"You and Alfred?" Arthur blurted. God, that is not something I should be thinking about right now. Why is my house so hot?
"We are not human, as you have said time and time again," America said, running his fingers over Arthur's knuckles. England quivered.
"And we can't get pregnant," Canada added.
"And Mattie is about the only guy I could share you with," America said softly. "OK, and France. France only because you two go way back and you can kick his ass." France snorted. "Sorry, man. But this could really work, Iggy. Look, none of us can do anything about going to war-but it'll be our bosses' doings, not ours. And no matter what France, Canada, America and England do, Francis, Matthew, Alfred, and Arthur will be friends and lovers." England swallowed hard. Matthew squeezed his hand and England suddenly jolted to his feet. He bolted down the hallway. France stood up.
"My turn," he said. He hurried after England. In the library where all this had started, England paced in a circle. France watched for a time and then slowly reached out and pulled England to him. "Give it a chance, mon ami," he said.
"Are you kidding? Four of us, Francis! And what about when we quarrel? And when one of us gets jealous? And when one of you hates my cooking?" Francis touched his long fingers to England's lips.
"Then we talk. Arthur, you are not afraid of these little things. You are afraid of being hurt." England scowled. Then he looked at France.
"Yes," he said gruffly. "Aren't you?"
"Every day," the older nation said honestly. "We are drawn to them because they are not as soiled as we are. Because they are cleaner in different ways. But we can work well together. Our strengths, together, will help us all."
"What can I offer them?" England muttered.
"Mon Dieu! You are an idiot! Love, Arthur! And your experience, your knowledge. Look, we all have flaws. Alfred needs someone to ground him. Matthew needs someone to acknowledge him. You need someone to trust." "And you?" France laughed. "Moi? I need someone to make love to."
"Bullocks," Arthur snapped. "You need someone to see beyond the pervert image. You are more than just a bed jumping slut and you know it." France looked at him, face still.
"Merci," he said finally. "I admit, I am tired of that." England nodded. "I am sure Alfred is tired of being seen as an immature hamburger eater and Matthew as a timid shadow," France continued. "Just as you are tired of being seen as an old stick in the mud."
"I am a gentleman!"
"You were a pirate." England chuckled once. "It's a gamble,' he said. "Life is a gamble! How long has it been since you took a risk?"
"Since I ate with America at McDonalds," Arthur muttered. Francis laughed.
"Then this is no risk at all! Come. Let us go celebrate."
Alfred grinned as England and France neared the table.
"So, are we all one big gay family then?" he drawled. Arthur's face flushed. "Cool! That means this is perfectly acceptable!" He grabbed Arthur and kissed him soundly. Arthur gasped but buried his fingers in Afred's hair. He ground his pelvis against Alfred as all his blood ran south and then gasped again as the warm lips suddenly vanished.
"What the hell did you stop for?" he blurted.
"Because," America said. "Mattie would kill me. As would Francis. You have to call everyone before anything else, Arthur. Everyone is going crazy, you know. And then we have hedges to cut down and you can deal with your freaky fairy friends. And the dogs."
"He's right," Matthew said. "Duty first."
"Wankers," Arthur muttered, heading to his study.
"We'll help," Matthew chirped, following him. Both Alfred and Francis grimaced but nodded.
"Still no bloody sex. Over 40 years and I still can't have a shag," Arthur muttered.
"What?" his three companions chorused.
"40 years?" Alfred blurted. "Are you sure it still works?"
"That almost makes you a virgin!" Matthew added.
"That is both sexy and scary," Francis murmured.
"Let's just get the work done," Arthur snapped. "If we're doing this sex thing, we are doing this right. I want to able to say 'It was so good, I couldn't walk for a week.'"
"Guess you're bottoming," America grinned. Arthur flushed and Matthew laughed.
"It's simply a phrase," Arthur sputtered, glaring at Francis who just smirked. "I am not bottoming for the three of you! I'm flexible, not kinky!"
"It's only kinky the first time," Matthew whispered, Arthur flung open his study door.
"Let's get the work done," he said. "We'll worry about the sex later." He shook his head and dodged Francis' wandering hand, heading for his arse. This is never going to work. We'll kill each other. He studied Alfred's muscled chest, Matthew's sexy ass, and Francis' intriguing hands. On the other hand, it will be an incredible way to die. And who wants to live forever?