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U is for UST

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By tradition, the spring world meeting was held the last Thursday in March. Of course, as soon as the clock struck five, the meeting promptly adjourned and moved to the nearest pub. With their work finished, nations quaffed their alcohol of choice and proceeded to get drunk and rowdy. Given his reputation for being a complete lightweight, no one was surprised that England eagerly joined in the drunken revelry. Little did they know the true reason why he eagerly awaited every post-meeting pub night…

With a satisfied burp, England finished off his fourth pint and slammed the empty glass onto the bar counter. Even in the noisy, crowded bar, the sound was loud enough to catch a certain nation’s attention. As soon as England spotted America looking his way, he swayed dramatically and nearly fell off his stool.

Seconds later, a strong arm wrapped around his waist and steadied him. England resisted the urge to smile as he slumped against the solid warmth of America’s body. It was so nice and cozy and America smelled heavenly. He closed his eyes and sighed happily.

“Dude, are you shit-faced already?” America asked with an amused snort. “It’s not even midnight.”

“I’m not drunk!” England protested, letting his voice slur into a particularly thick accent. He lazily rolled his head to the side to glance up at America. “I’ve got amazing toler-er… er, wot?” he trailed off as he lost himself in the tenderness of the other nation’s crinkly-eyed smile. A heady sensation filled England’s body, and it had nothing to do with the alcohol he had imbibed. He gave America a dopey smile and the other nation grinned back.

“You’re drunk, England. Time to go home,” America declared. Sometimes he hefted England over his shoulder like a bag of potatoes, but tonight he turned his back toward England and helped the other nation climb onto his broad, nicely muscled back.

England loosely wrapped his arms around America’s neck and let his head rest against America’s shoulder. It was so nice pretending to be drunk. No one would question the redness in his cheeks or wonder why he was draped over America’s back.

“I swear, your tolerance is getting even worse,” America remarked. “You only had four beers! Not that I was watching or anything.”

“I could’ve ‘ad four more!” England insisted loudly.

America snorted. “Yeah, right,” he replied as he carried England piggy-back style across the pub. He waved goodbye to the other nations and made his way toward the exit.

“Remember to pull a prank on him!” Prussia shouted, sloshing his drink as he pumped his fist in the air. From his position nearby, Germany shook his head and sighed. America clearly wasn’t the only one who would be dragging home a drunk that night.

Once at the door, America grabbed his fur-lined jacket from the coat rack. He stepped outside into the cool March air and casually tossed his jacket over England’s shoulders. With America’s jacket on top of him, and America beneath him, England felt like he was in the middle of a delicious America sandwich. He flushed bright red—yet another action he could blame on his apparent intoxication.

“You know, one of these days I’m gonna resign from the job of dragging your drunk ass home,” America remarked as he waved down a taxi. But he sounded more amused than irritated, and he helped England into the cab with his usual gentleness. After making sure England was safely belted in, America gave the cabbie England’s address without the slightest hesitation. Given the number of times he had helped England get home, it was no surprise he had the address memorized. Yet England always felt a bubble of warmth each time he heard America recite it.

As the taxi made a hard left turn, England let himself slump to the side, until his cheek was pressed against America’s shoulder. Instead of pushing him away or laughing about his drunken antics, America lifted his arm and wrapped it around England’s shoulder. England let his head nod forward and felt a warm rush as America pulled him closer.

From beneath his messy fringe, England blinked open one eye and caught a reflection of their cozy pose in the cab’s dark windows. He smiled to himself and reveled in his ability to cuddle up next to America without anyone suspecting the truth.

Their little tradition had started when England invited America out for drinks during World War II and made the mistake of underestimating the boy’s tolerance. He had woken up the next day with a pounding headache and long gap in his memories. To his surprise, he discovered that his belt and shoes had been carefully removed and placed on the chair next to his bed. There was even a glass of water and an aspirin on his nightstand. That level of care and thoughtfulness wasn’t what he would have expected from America, and the next time they went drinking, England drank a little less and acted a little more. This time, when America hauled his drunk ass home, he remembered the gentle way America had carried him up to his bedroom room and the soft smile that America had given him as he neatly tucked England beneath the sheets.

It was amazing, like he was seeing a glimmer of a sweet America he had long thought lost to him. But unfortunately, the younger nation only dropped his guard when he thought England was completely trashed. And thus began England’s reputation for getting drunk quite easily and America’s self-appointed task of carting England home each time.

By the time the cab pulled in front of England’s house, he was so warm and contented that it was easy to act like a passed-out drunk when America lifted him out of the car. He let his head loll against America’s chest and let the nation carried him bridal style into the house—one arm beneath England’s knees and the other cradling his back. The pose would be undignified if he were sober, but since he was pretending to be drunk, he had no trouble allowing America to carry him across the yard and up to the front door. America never scooped him up that way in public, yet he always did it once they reached England’s house. As much as England would dearly love to know the reason why, he never dared ask because he would have to admit his own ‘drunken’ duplicity.

The simple fact of the matter was that England couldn’t tell America the truth. Not now, not ever. He knew better than most that love between nations was a dangerous game. At any moment their countries would strike a different alliance and tear them apart. Even worse, an amount of time that seemed long to a human passed for a nation in the blink of an eye. Perhaps he could secure a century of happiness, but when it inevitably ended, he wasn’t sure he could handle having his heart ripped to pieces. No… it was far safer to play his little game and enjoy his sweet stolen moments.

Thanks to many years of practice, America had perfected the art of opening the front door without dropping England. The door swung shut behind them and America’s steps echoed in the foyer. Finding his way in the darkness, he made his way to the stairs. Despite his careful grip, however, he accidentally jostled England when he stubbed his foot against the first step.

“Shit,” America loudly swore to himself.

England blinked. “America?” he murmured drowsily, pretending to wake up as America began to carry him upstairs. “Wot ‘appened?”

“Oh, just the usual,” America laughingly explained. “You got super drunk after the meeting and I’m a hero so I’m taking you to bed.” He paused. “I mean your bed. For sleeping. Not together!”

“You could sleep with me,” England offered, feigning drunken innocence. He glanced up at America’s pink cheeks and smiled to himself as America had a coughing fit, too embarrassed to reply.

Cheeks still burning as he reached the top of the landing, America nudged England’s bedroom door open with his foot. There was a large collection of scuff marks from the hundreds of times he had done it before. England cherished each and every one. As America laid him down onto crisp linen sheets, England wrapped his arms around America’s neck.

“Stay with me,” he whispered, pulling the other nation into a kiss.

The kisses were a more recent tradition, one that America usually tolerated only when he had been drinking a bit himself. Tonight, America’s lips tasted of coke and rum. America closed his eyes and leaned into the kiss. Unprepared for the weight of England’s arms wrapped around him, he overbalanced. With each hand on either side of England's head, he managed to catch himself just before he toppled onto England.

Looking up into America's half-lidded eyes, England felt a painful weight constricting his chest. Their heavy breathing was the only sound in the room. A second later, they both leaned in and their lips met like a jolt of electricity. America kissed England hungrily and slipped his tongue between England's lips. His earlier gentleness gave way to hunger and need.

With a speed and strength that belied his drunken acting, England rolled onto America and reversed their positions. He smothered the other nation in sloppy kisses, leaving him with little love bites that England would carefully pretend not to recognize the next day.

He could go further… if only he was prepared to tell the truth. But the truth meant risking America's anger that he had lied for so many decades and taken advantage of America's heroic impulses to get him into bed after every pub night. He was scared of what admitting his feelings could mean for the tentative friendship he and America had worked so hard to build.

“Fuck,” America whispered hoarsely, sounding equal parts horny and annoyed. He pulled back and looked up at England with sad eyes. That was usually the signal he was ready to push England off and insist that he was too drunk to know what he was doing.

Hating to hear the anguish in America’s voice, England saved him the trouble of having to say or do anything. It was clearly time to 'pass out' for the night. With a breathy sigh, he slumped forward and landed on his side next to America. Their legs were still entwined and a moment later he felt America reach out to brush his fingers through England’s messy locks.

“God, you’re such a handful,” America murmured affectionately. He slowly began to disentangle his legs and then reached down to remove England’s shoes. With two loud thumps, he dropped them onto the floor next to the bed. “Such a gorgeous, sexy handful.”

England kept his breathing slow and steady, even as his heart pounded loudly in his chest. He always loved the truths that would spill from America’s lips at the end of the night when the other nation thought that he was too drunk to remember. In vino veritas, they said, though in this case it was England’s vino that produced America’s veritas.

He felt America climb out of bed and listened as America padded over to the adjacent bathroom. The other nation returned a moment later and set a glass on the nightstand. Mostly likely it was the water and ibuprofen he always left to help England deal with his ‘headache’ the next morning. It was a pity they didn't make pills for heartache.

A second later England felt a feather light kiss on his forehead, followed by a lovelorn sigh. “God damn it, England, why do you make me love you so much?”

England’s eyes flew open at that comment, startling America as much as America had shocked him. Despite all of the lovely comments America had made when he thought England was too drunk to remember, he had never actually used the l-word before. That frightening word could topple their careful balance of denial and affectionate bickering. The shift threatened the foundations of their peculiar relationship. Very awake and very sober, England stared at America, trapped in his blue gaze as the declaration lay heavy between them.

America stared back. His mouth flapped open and shut like a gaping fish. “April Fools!” he finally shouted, laughing madly as he raced out of the bedroom.

Blinking a few times in surprise, England slowly smiled to himself and shook his head. He supposed they were both a couple of fools. And maybe some day they would actually admit it.