Title: Love is a Verb (1/9)
Characters: France, Netherlands, Scotland
Warning(s): Threesome, though it's mainly just implied.
Date: 25th April, 2009; 9th May, 2009
Word Count: 1,924
Summary: France seems to think that it's the best solution to their current situation. Scotland isn't convinced.
Author's Note: Other stories set in this universe are here.
Author's Note, the Second: This is in present tense as for some reason it seemed to fit Scotland's POV better.
Prequels: Think and Grow; Eyes Open; The Element; Practices and Priorities; Transitions
25th April, 2009; Edinburgh, Scotland
"What the hell?"
"It seems to be the most elegant solution to our…" France waves one hand around, index and middle fingers pressing down tight against his thumb, as though the words he is searching for are hovering somewhere around his head and he's trying to catch hold of them. "Particular situation," he finishes, refolding his hands together and then resting them against his knee.
"Elegant, France? Bloody ridiculous is what it is."
Scotland laughs, because, God, he hopes it's meant to be a joke. France doesn't join in, however, and his lips thin in the way Scotland knows is the opposite of amused. France is completely serious; a realisation that makes Scotland's breath catch at the back of his throat, choking off his laughter into a series of gasping breaths which make his lungs sting. He has known for a long time that France's views on their 'particular situation' are wildly divergent from his own, but sometimes it does still manage to surprise him just how far apart the two are.
France's nostrils flare slightly, blue eyes sharpening as his fine brows swoop down, inscribing thin lines between them. He's never liked to be laughed at, not like this, and Scotland feels slightly ashamed. Not aggrieved or angry, as he thinks he should be – because, really, did France actually think he'd be happy about the idea? – and probably would be, if it was anyone other than France. The feeling is there, but it's diffuse and distant, and, like a reflection on water, it just slips through his fingers as he tries to grab hold of it and drag it to the surface.
Silence follows, thick and heavy, and eventually Scotland throws out the first words to pass through his head, just to lift it. "Okay," he says, "I think I need a drink. Do you want anything?"
France's mouth turns up at the corners fractionally. "What have you got?"
Scotland makes a quick mental inventory of his kitchen. There are four bottles of wine in his fridge – five quid for two at the offy round the corner; France would probably rather try and eat the bottles themselves before he drank anything that came out of them – a pint of milk, a six pack of Stella, and some flat Pepsi which he hasn't got around to throwing out yet. He thinks he might have some coffee somewhere, but as he doesn't usually drink it himself, and most of his visitors don't either, it's probably clumped together and stuck to the bottom of the jar by now. Not that France likes instant coffee, anyway.
"Tea?" he suggests. He's fairly sure there are still a few bags of the fancy stuff France prefers left over from the last time he visited, lurking behind the PG Tips. Scotland never touches it himself: it smells fragrant and a little spicy, but tastes like pencil shavings steeped in ditchwater.
France nods once, his smile widening. "Please."
Scotland removes himself to the kitchen, and starts making tea on autopilot, hands moving through the ritual of years without needing any input from his brain. Which is a blessing, as it gives him time to think away from France's distracting presence. He sits on the countertop as he waits for the kettle to boil, drumming his heels against the cupboard below, and quickly runs through the options available to him.
If he refuses France's suggestion, there's a very real possibility that he won't see the other nation for quite some time. Usually, France's flings last no more than a few weeks, but, every so often, they will continue for months, or even years, and during that time, he gets so wrapped up in them, so focused and single-minded, that he has no time for Scotland at all.
If he accepts, then he will doubtless be able to continue seeing France – although, not as often as he'd like, but it's been a long, long time since that was anything other than the case – but… But, he doesn't really know Netherlands very well. He used to, back in the days when he actually took more of a part in world affairs – before he and Wales made the decision to step back and let England handle everything in their stead until such time as they had regained their independence – but he doesn't think they've spoken on more than a handful of occasions since the Second World War. It's certainly not enough to make him jump at the chance of sleeping with the guy.
He and France used to do this a lot, when they were together the first time around. Scotland's memories of those times are hazy, dimmed by time and distance, but he doesn't recall being particularly happy with the arrangement then, either. It's frustrating to realise just how little has changed in all those centuries; Scotland's still desperately trying to walk the tightrope between holding on too hard and just giving up and letting go. He has the feeling that he's started to sway too far in one direction lately, but he can't decide whether he should attempt to right himself, or just let himself fall.
The click of the kettle switching itself off interrupts his train of thought, and he scrabbles down from the counter to fill the two mugs he's set out with boiling water. Shit or get off the pot, floats across the front of his mind as he pokes at the teabags with the handle of a spoon. It's what he's always wanted to say to England regarding his relationship with America but never has, because he and England don't talk about such things, and, even if they did, England probably wouldn't listen to anything Scotland has to say on the matter, anyway. It's good advice, he thinks, despite the fact that he's never been able to follow it himself. Over seven hundred years, and he still hasn't been able to bring himself to make a decision one way or the other when his hand hasn't been forced by circumstances outside his control.
He pours a splash of milk into his own tea, and then goes hunting for some lemon for France's. He finds a sad, wrinkled little thing at the back of his vegetable drawer that might once have been a lemon, but it's got such a thick coating of white, fibrous mould that it's hard to tell. He doubts France would be very impressed by the addition of a squirt of Jif, so he leaves it plain.
France seems satisfied, regardless, and his eyelids flutter shut momentarily as he inhales the steam rising from his mug after Scotland has handed it to him. "So, what do you think about my proposal, now that you've had some time to think about it," he asks.
He glances up at Scotland through his lashes, head cocked to one side, lips slightly parted, and… And shit, doesn't he know that Scotland finds it damn near impossible to refuse him anything when he looks at him like that? Possibly not, as Scotland has certainly never told him so. It always makes Scotland want to kiss him, but he won't; he never does.
Instead, he curls his hand around his own mug, and then takes a long draught from it in an attempt to refresh his suddenly dry mouth. "I want –" The words still feel brittle, and they crack apart as they leave his lips. He pauses, reorders his thoughts, and continues with: "Yeah, sure, let's do it. If that's what you want."
Those words, on the other hand, come out perfectly. Probably because he's had so much practice in saying them.
9th May, 2009; Paris
Now that he's getting to know him a little better again, Scotland has decided he doesn't like Netherlands very much nowadays, after all.
Scotland glares at him across the table as he stirs sugar into his coffee – if there's one thing that frustrates him about Paris, it's the lack of cafés which serve a decent cup of tea – finding more and more reasons to dislike him the longer he looks.
If he's honest, most of those reasons are simply the ways he's different to Scotland himself. Scotland doesn't know much about clothes, but even if Netherlands' aren't particularly fashionable, they fit him well, accentuating his long legs and slim form. Scotland has been solidly built since he was a child, and he's always felt bulky and a little clumsy next to France. He doesn't know if his clothes accentuate anything, as his only considerations on picking them out are whether they're suitable for the weather and have been washed at some point in recent history. Netherlands' hair has also obviously been carefully styled, whereas Scotland's own hair is thick and stubborn, and defaults to 'just been dragged through a hedge' within an hour, whatever he tries to do with it.
Most of all, though, Scotland hates the way that he's captivated France's interest, stealing away all of his attention without apparently trying. The two of them are discussing some new up-and-coming artist Scotland's never heard of, leaving him with nothing better to do than stew, and glare, and distractedly splash droplets of coffee all over the café's pristine white tablecloth.
Scotland is no philistine, but he knows what he likes, and what he likes certainly isn't pickled cows, unmade beds, and the like. France has always captivated by the novel, however, by those who try to break the mould, be they artists, composers, musicians, or designers, and his eyes are shining with excitement, hands drawing random patterns in the air, seemingly incapable of staying still.
Finally, their conversation winds down, and France stretches languorously in his seat; his fingers lacing together and he extends his arms above his head. Netherlands follows the movement with hooded eyes which then rake across the full arc of France's body, and Scotland wants to lean across the table and punch him. Instead, he simply adds another sugar to his coffee, and tightens his fingers around the cup's handle to stop them from curling in towards his palm.
When he's settled himself again, France pushes up his shirt cuff and makes a show of checking his watch. "I think it's about time we headed back to my apartment." His voice has gone low and rich, and his eyes fix on Scotland for the first time in at least an hour, as he asks: "Are you ready, mon coeur?"
Scotland grinds his teeth together so firmly that he's almost convinced they'll start to crack. The response is a knee-jerk one – he hates whenever France calls him something like that – but when he notices that Netherlands is also watching him with evident interest, it occurs to him that it might be in his best interests to foster the belief that they often use such terms of endearment with each other; casually, as if they're an old habit worn soft with years.
"Just got to finish my coffee." Scotland repeats the word he wants to use a couple of times in his mind before he says it out loud, hoping that it will emerge sounding loose and natural: "Mo leannan."
It doesn't; it sounds stilted and as rusty with disuse as it actually is. France seems charmed, however, faint colour blooming across his cheeks as he smiles.
Scotland lowers his head in an attempt to hide the flush he can feel rushing to his own face, and hurriedly gulps down his coffee. It's cold, thick, and far too sweet, but he barely tastes it anyway.
Mo leannan = Scottish Gaelic for 'sweetheart'