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[personal profile] historize
Title: Wasting Away Again II
Author/Artist: [livejournal.com profile] historyblitz, kept track of at [livejournal.com profile] historize
Character(s) or Pairing(s): America, England, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand
Rating: PG
Warnings: Parrot-headed-ness, lyrics are from Jimmy Buffet's How a Pirate Looks at 40. Have a listen, here
Summary: The second time England hears singing, it's at the Vietnam Memorial...

God knows why I decided to try posting this here

The second time England walks in to singing, it’s in Washington DC.

The Constitution Gardens is always a quiet place. No loud tourists or screaming children—usually. Sometimes people come and write letters, leave letters, look at the names that adorn the Vietnam Memorial in silent contemplation.

It’s sobering.

The song that’s being sung can be heard everywhere over it. But no one seems upset. It’s a mellow tune, one that a lot of Americans probably know. At least ones of a certain age group.

It’s difficult to place why America sings the song in particular. At first, it seems out of place, almost jarring. But maybe to the lad it seems to be about one and about many things.

Mother, mother ocean,
I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall
You've seen it all, you've seen it all

England rounds the corner of the great Wall, the black monolith covered in over fifty-eight thousand names—men who died in Vietnam.

America is there on a bench. He looks like a kid—in ragged blue jeans and a striped t-shirt and raggedy shoes too—and Canada is with him, sunglasses hanging from a strap around his neck. Canada’s cheeks are sunburnt and he’s wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans and he’s snapping his fingers to keep rhythm, singing low and harmonizing with America.

What England didn’t expect—is that Australia and New Zealand are there too. Australia sits on America’s other side in shorts and a half-buttoned-up vintage aloha shirt. He’s got a cigarette in his left fingers because his right is all bandaged up again from whatever episode Australia has had recently. His voice has a lower pitch than America’s and Canada’s and with a twang they can’t imitate and vice versus.

New Zealand too—slender and brown. His hair is sticking up from the humidity and his leather sandals are falling apart. He’s got a throng of beads and real shark teeth around his neck. He sits on a bench across from his older brothers because he’s got the guitar in his tattoo-covered hands. He is always the best one on the guitar. America and Australia had taught him to play—Canada taught him to read music. So he strums along with them.

Watched the men who rode you
Switch from sails to steam
And in your belly you hold the treasures few have ever seen
Most of 'em dreams, most of 'em dreams

America doesn’t look around at his brothers. He watches the Memorial. He was there, of course. He went over as a soldier to see Vietnam for himself. Australia and New Zealand went too. Australia also watches to wall, singing low, smoking as he does. New Zealand isn’t at an angle to watch. He looks at the guitar strings.

England remembers when America returned. The boy had been gone for almost a full decade. He returned to the other nations serious, silent, muscled and secretive and unable to stand loud noises. He’d come back a strange sort of man.

He’d always be a boy to England, a lad that came running when he showed up. But when America had returned from Vietnam and he saw the haunted eyes and knew there were things he had seen that he would never speak of to anyone…except maybe his two younger brothers. Australia was more like America, energetic, loud and Vietnam did its number on him too. He had come back a smoker, strangely quiet for a long time in company. With America and New Zealand, he was different, able to joke and laugh—but around the rest of them…

New Zealand had always been the quieter one—more alike to Canada. He had come back with eyes that refused to say anything. He never spoke of it.

England would not presume to know ‘his boys’ completely but while he knew that subconsciously, he became totally aware of it right then. Even when America, Australia and New Zealand were in jungle combat in World War Two, it had been placated somehow—when Japan had surrendered. But Vietnam had been such an ugly war. And they had all had changed.

Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

England looks away from the names at that verse and back at America—who is staring at him. The boy smiles and doesn’t look away. Something about the verse—as if America is singing about himself…and also, perhaps, about England.

There’s a lot going on in that blond head of his. America sings then about smuggling and being drunk he slides an arm around Canada and Australia at, Just a few friends. and winks at New Zealand.

That was when, for the first time, England notices France.

France is not watching the boys. He’s standing in front of the Wall, looking contemplative himself. Perhaps the frog felt his own kind of guilt—after all, he was in Vietnam first and lost twice as many as America before he went to the boy, asking for help—and then left it to America entirely to take the fall. There was a reason that, in Vietnam, Americans were relatively welcome while the French were not.

England didn’t bother France. France was, in a way, like America—he took a lot of mocking and belittlement…but there was a lot going on in his blond head too.

Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I've found
My occupational hazard being my occupation's just not around
I feel like I've drowned, gonna head uptown…

New Zealand’s fingers strum and the notes echo and fade.

As one man, not even looking at each other, Australia and America casually salute with their right hands. America catches it, smiles and grabs Australia in a headlock and rubs his knuckles in his hair.

“You copyin’ me, Roberick!”

Australia flails. “Watch the fucking cigarette—Charlie! Charlie—help me!”

New Zealand laughs and sets the guitar aside, jumping up and tackling America. The three fall off the bench, tangled up in each other. New Zealand says to Australia, “See, Rob, I saved you.”

Australia laughs and lets his cigarette fall to the concrete. Canada reaches down to help them up. America grabs his brother’s hand, “Thanks Matt.” Up he comes and Australia and New Zealand on top of him before they change tactics and go after Canada—mussing his hair and tickling his ribs.

England approaches them.

America laughs, “Rob, Charlie, Matt! Chill, chill, Dad’s here.”

England narrowed his eyes at him. America grins back. It makes England smile and straighten his suit jacket. “Are you boys hungry?”

There are humans watching. England adds, “Come on. Get Francis, Matthew. I’ll buy you all dinner, God help me.”

“Score,” America says and he high-fives Australia.

Canada gets up. He walks out to France and touches his elbow. The look he gives France is somber, sympathetic.

France looks back, face unreadable a moment and then he smiles gently and nods. He slips an arm around Canada and comes back to them. “What is this I hear that Arthur is going to provide dinner?”

“Buying,” America emphasizes.

France laughs. “Thank the good lord for that.” And then smiles at England punching his arm. “That hurt, Arthur.”

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