el•lip•ti•cal (ɪˈlɪp tɪ kəl)
adj (of speech, literary style, etc)
a. very condensed or concise, often so as to be obscure or ambiguous
b. circumlocutory or long-winded.
This is what their relationship is like, emotionally: fits and starts.
(France, laughing: “Truly, I can imagine it! How charming and how insupportable—you, who never say of word of what you mean, and Poland who never means a word of all he says! Dear children.”)
But, and: jokes.
And doing stuff.
Like, why do people think they need to talk about their feelings and shit so much? The way you actually make friends with people is, I don’t know, but for instance, playing Mario Tennis. (“…So we say during our two-hour long heart-to-heart about why we don’t need long sentimental gut-spilling heart-to-hearts.” “Okay but it’s late. So I’m contradicting myself, so shoot me. Also, yuck mixed metaphor with the heart and guts, England.”)
And then, relaxing. Sundays together at home. Tea and coffee and toast, croissants, maybe even bacon and eggs. Lazing around in slippers all morning. England nods over the paper, or flicks through making loud tutting noises. Poland demands various sections: world news, film reviews, that random section all the papers have that thinks it’s a magazine with the fashion and agony aunt column and stuff. Then he gets bored and hops over to the piano. Can I play piano now? and doesn’t bother waiting for an answer. The answer would never be no, anyway. England likes to hear him play. And it’s good that someone uses the piano.
(“You should get this tuned! Like, yesterday!” “Yeah… I know. It is a bit… oh it’s not that bad though, is it?” “Right yeah it’s not that bad, but it’s not, you know, in tune, like pianos ideally should be. I’m totally going to call someone for you. Like actually tomorrow.” (He never has.))
The Archers Omnibus is on the radio in the background. Poland plays a few scales then gets bored, or embarrassed, and starts flicking through sheet music, his and England’s mixed together on top of the upright piano. Plays a bit, makes a mistake, gets bored or embarrassed, stops, starts. Rinse and repeat for ten to fifteen minutes. Then he’ll settle to something. England knows this pattern. And eventually they’ll get to Chopin. Poland smoothes the pages of an Etude open, frowns at it with a determined huff and sets to with a will. Start to finish. Boom like that. Poland 1 Piano 0.
He loves, loves playing fast and flashy stuff. It makes him feel awesome and powerful.
And he couldn’t always do it. It took hours, months of focused, concentrated effort. So there.
Like now one of the things he’s learning new might be this Sibelius Romance. It’s kind of long and he’s been picking away at it for a while now. It’s really pretty so it’s very easy to get distracted and just play through it, getting it kind of wrong, rather than actually practising.
…England becomes aware that Poland has been stuck on the same melancholy phrase for a very long while now, worrying at it like a loose tooth. Then he stops playing altogether and speaks for the first time since he sat at the piano.
"I totally thought you would help me out."
(England is (getting) used to Poland’s elliptical style of conversation. On one occasion England had, for whatever reason, asked about Lithuania, Poland’s old partner. Something like, “Doesn’t it bother you that you’ve never—or have you?—really got closure on that?” Only more British and polite. And Poland retorted, “Well what about you and America? Or France, or whoever?”, which shut him up. “Forget I asked." But a couple hours later, Poland suddenly comes out with some irrelevant sentimental and too-much-information tiny detail about Lithuania. As if they were just continuing the earlier conversation. That happens a lot with Poland; you have to keep your wits about you.)
But England can’t remember when they last talked about the Second World War.
"That’s why… anyway it’s partly why… If I didn’t seem as freaked out as all that. I mean I actually was, you know? Like when I stopped to think about it. But then I was like, no it’s fine, I’m totally as prepared as I can be and like… trying my best, and more to the point, I’ve got this alliance with England and France, so.”
England makes a convulsive movement as if to stand, but stays in his place.
"Actually, wasn’t that majorly weird of me? I mean, after Czechoslovakia and— No, oh hey I’m not meaning to guilt trip you here. Not about any of it. I don’t mean it was your fault. Or.” He swallows down the bitter taste and finishes, “well it’s all, like, in the past.”
England should stand up and go over to him. Put his arms around him. Let him know that … that everything is alright. Or that he’s sorry. Just that he’s here. Any of that. But, that kind of emotional thing… he can’t do it. And probably Poland would be angry, and that would be fair enough, after all what kind of cheap gesture—hey I’m sorry I sort of abandoned you, here have a hug because I can’t think of anything helpful to say?
Poland stares hard down at the keys. Then he says, “I don’t know why I’m even talking about this. I just—no, okay, I just wanted to tell you so you don’t think I was being a total moron. I mean, I was actually thinking something. Even if—”
That at least is one he can answer.
"I don’t think that at all," England says all in a rush. "I never—maybe I didn’t know you very well before but there’s no way I could think that now, ever. You’re not stupid, you’re very clever, and incredibly brave.” He pauses. The urge to excuse himself, or get absolution, or something, is too strong. “You know we would have been there sooner if we could have.”
"Yeah, I do know that," Poland says. "I know. That’s why… I’m just being silly, I don’t know why, why I can’t talk about this without crying, it’s so—so stupid—”
England feels something hook around his heart and yank. This is not alright. This is warning bells, unhealed wounds, things pushed down and boxed up and stuffed under the bed and bursting out to be the stuff of nightmares and terrify you of the dark. And probably every nation has done it, but every nation isn’t rocking on his piano stool stifling gasping sobs into his sleeves. England’s on his feet and over there at last and oh God still awkward, he’s taller, standing up, how—
Awkward, awkward, he bends down a little and sort of hugs Poland loosely from behind, head nudging his shoulder. Poland’s shoulders shake, a desperate hiccoughing laugh, but he spins around and clings to England, who kneels down and lets him. Rubs his back. Feels less awkward. In that moment, Poland might be a crying child from long ago, and in that very moment it doesn’t matter why.
I’m sorry I abandoned you. Have a hug because I don’t think words will do.