Character(s): Francex2, nIreland, Romano, Scotlandx2, Walesx2
Pairing(s): Scotland/Francex2, Wales/Romano
Date: January, 2013; Edinburgh, Scotland and Cardiff, Wales
Word Count: 4213
Summary: Scotland and Scotland are looking into their mirrors. One mirror is beginning to crack, while the other becomes clearer and more difficult to look at.
Author(s): nekoian and moonlighten
Author's Note: Other stories set in moonlighten's universe are here. Other stories set in nekoian's universe are here.
January, 2013; Edinburgh, Scotland
France proves his ultimate indifference towards Scotland as he always does, blatantly and in public.
He seeks out what appears to be more interesting fare across the room, engaging Other-Scotland’s mates in some form of cheerful light hearted banter. It doesn’t help that Other-France sometimes takes the time to wander in Scotland’s direction and enquire as to his well being with what he recognises as pity.
Not because he’s too familiar with it while France is wearing it, but because Wales earns a fair amount of it from other people.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come and sit with us?” Other-France asks again, his head turning towards Other-Scotland – who’s slightly indisposed by the landlord, it seems – and finding a faint smile that was absent while his back was set towards the man.
Scotland does like Other-Scotland – to a degree; he’s sort of like if Scotland himself was a bit more talkative and less disposed towards smacking Wales around – but a part of him despises his alternate when the Frances are anywhere nearby.
He lets Other-France know this by glaring intensely at his glass and making a noise. It’s a fairly menacing noise from what Scotland can decipher judging by the nervous edging away taken by the red-faced youth next to him, who’s maintained near perfect silence and an inability to move since Scotland chose to sit down.
Other-France isn’t intimidated at all by this and just casts him what looks to be a scolding expression and a soft frown.
Scotland feels his whole body go slack as guilt ultimately takes over, his desire to merely scare away the source of his discomfort blindsided by his weakness for any France-shaped creature in the room.
He realises far too late that such a thought has triggered his instinctive desire to set alight anything that might come between him and his own France using nothing but the hypothetical flintiness of his eyes and raw untapped fury.
He especially doesn’t like this creature called ‘James’ who France and Wales have taken a bit of a shine to. He’s a lanky streak of piss who Scotland faintly knows from his rounds at the footy. On closer inspection he appears to combine all of Ireland’s wiriness – without any of the social charm – with Scotland’s outward appearance. His shock of red hair and blue eyes had startled Scotland slightly, because he doesn’t remember seeing that combination on anybody else so close before.
Not that he ever pays attention. Not unless France starts to pay attention at some point before him.
Then Scotland’s attention heads back in Other-France’s direction, his mouth pursed gently. What he could possibly be thinking is beyond Scotland, but he senses a small wince when France rests his hand on another bloke's arm and squeezes it gently. It’s a simple, harmless movement that Scotland is finely attuned to.
If Other-France didn’t happen to be right there he might make a point of wandering over and making somebody suffer for whatever it is Scotland finds objectionable. He can’t quite verbalise it, can’t quite grasp it, but his anger rises fresh and causes his neighbour to once again scuttle a few feet away from him because his hand is starting to tighten dangerously around the pint glass he’s holding and it’s begun to shake slightly.
He releases it before the flimsy thing can shatter completely and ruin his borrowed clothing more than the strain of his body already has.
“If you change your mind…” Other-France shakes his head and eases himself away – much to the ire of Scotland’s bar mate, who seemed happy that Other-France was actively diverting all Scotland’s attention elsewhere.
Scotland nods in agreement, trying to look like he’ll genuinely consider it. He’s not fooling anyone.
It only takes five minutes, however, before a second person dares to enter his personal space. He can tell who it is by a finely honed radar that automatically senses all the people Scotland not only dislikes but can easily overpower; the latter list is a large one, though he doesn’t hate as many people as he thinks he really should.
James looks a little nervous about the confrontation, putting on a terrible act of waiting to be served while eyeing Scotland sidelong and drumming his fingers on the bar counter. The thinly-shaped man seems to work up his bravery with a deep breath before striding over, head held high but growing meeker as he gets within striking range.
The skinny redhead swallows hard and clears his throat, “Your name is Angus, right?” The question sounds suitably awkward, as if James knows Scotland’s name full well and just can’t think of anything better to open with.
Scotland ignores him, hoping he might go away if the coldness of his shoulders is low enough.
James doesn’t go away, he just ups his volume slightly. “Aly’s cousin? You know, I never knew he had cousins till now.”
Scotland allows his eyes to wander towards the man, his first thought being that he’s well within striking distance and that he’d certainly break easily enough if Scotland were to find reason to lash out. Which he already has, in the form of the overly amused Frenchman sitting on the other side of the bar. “Do you want something?”
James’ brow begins to sweat, likely because he hasn’t actually heard Scotland’s voice till now and wasn’t quite prepared to be acknowledged. His eyes flick towards Other-Scotland in the same way a child might eye a cherished blanket, one designed to hide under lest the monsters come.
“I was just, sort of, interested.” James carries on, slowly sinking into the seat beside Scotland and trying to sound amiable. “I mean, Aly is my mate, after all, and any family of his is, you know, a friend of mine?”
“We’re not friends.” Scotland then gets back to his pint, blinkering himself from the violence he’s so tempted to commit.
James sits in silence but Scotland can feel the man’s mind work around the problem in the same way he’s sometimes sensed Ireland doing. The difference being that Ireland never shows a spat of fear unless he needs you to witness it. James however might as well shit his pants right now and be done with it.
“Maybe not now, but you seem like a…” James eyes Scotland, each descriptive word he’s thinking forming neatly on his easily-read features but translating to a less than honest sounding: “Nice bloke.”
Scotland offers him an indignant look that seems to inspire a sense of shame in the lad, because he quickly amends it out to: “And I was hoping to ask you a few things.”
“Like, where are they?” James motions all around him. “I thought you were all spending the holidays together.”
What Scotland feels soon after that is a distant rising of his hackles, one that helps him shift his weight and lock onto James a little more intensely than he’d bothered to up till now. This appears to be misread by James as a sign of interest in the discussion, because he instantly seems to embolden, almost relaxing.
“They’re not here.”
“Yes, I noticed.” James shifts his arse around in his seat and sets his eyes on the way his fingers slowly intertwine. “I was just wondering where they’d all gone, things seem really quiet without them.”
“They’re with his lot.” Scotland rocks his head stoutly towards Other-Scotland who chooses that moment to casually slide his arm around Other-France, causing all of Scotland’s bile to rise within his system and to once again feel his eyes swim towards France, who’s showing far too much interest in some other bloke’s day job.
“Right.” James nods, as if he’s getting slowly closer to the crux of the matter, almost seizing the answer to his question from Scotland’s tightly clenched jaw. “So your brother Llewellyn is with Dylan?
It’s a massive leap of logic to Scotland’s mind, far too specific and hitting upon a nerve he hadn’t realised was so close to the surface of his skin. “Aye,” he says, feeling his suspicious mind circle around like a wild cat might stalk a small bird. “What of it?”
“He just seemed nice. That’s all.” James shrugs.
Scotland recognises the expression though, something he remembers seeing on the face of somebody he used to know. Something he thought he’d never have to deal with again and the realisation of it, the formation of the memory in the back of his mind sends his hand out faster than he intends it too.
His fingers interweave with the fabric of James’ collar, easily pulling the man off his stool with two of his fingers and flashing him a firm look of warning that’s designed to terrify anyone without the capacity to actually fight back.
“If you so much as look at him funny, I’ll end you.” Then Scotland’s fingers unwind, causing the sleeker man to collapse heavily back into his stool, looking so stunned as to have missed every word of Scotland’s dire warning.
A warning that Scotland realises, wasn’t even referring to Wales at all. Merely the trigger to something a little baser. A little more jealous.
Sadly, however, the display doesn’t go ignored. One of James’ other mates instantly marches over. He looks only a little drunk and his lips immediately pull away to show a set of rather lopsided teeth. “Oi, the fuck are you playing at?”
Other-Scotland eyes the scene, apparently feeling the need to supervise it without actively taking part. Whether he actually saw the whole thing isn’t something Scotland knows. He merely gets to work eyeing up the ballsy fucker who now separates him from a man he no longer has a desire to manhandle.
It occurs to Scotland that damaging anybody else isn’t really worth his time, there’s no real challenge to be had in it and petty demonstrations of strength are something he’s long left to the eager hands of Northern Ireland.
James blinks heavily at him, as if surprised that he hasn’t lost more teeth or blood already – he’s either startled or braver than Scotland assumed he was – and Scotland shifts back to his quiet, almost blank state with a brief explanation of, “Nothing that matters to you,” before he turns back towards the bar and almost lifts his glass.
He’s interrupted from doing so by the familiar feeling of a hand snagging onto his shoulder. “You can’t just come in here and mess with my mates, you big ginger fucker.”
Seeing as that sounded like a challenge, Scotland slowly rises to his feet and turns, finding himself almost a solid foot over the head of James’ knight in shining – or more accurately, plaid – armour. His eyes widen as the sheer size of Scotland finally hits him now that he’s up close and not sitting hunched over the bar.
The man utters a familiar, terrified sounding whimper of, “Jesus Christ.”
“I recommend you sit your arse down,” Scotland coaxes him. “I’m not interested in damaging anybody.” He leaves off the ‘yet’ but feels it ring through his whole gritty utterance.
The bloke, however, seems to weigh up his chances and apparently comes to the conclusion that he might just be able to frighten Scotland if he merely straightens up a bit and glares. “You should have thought of that before you came in here.”
Scotland senses the fist before a chance is even given for it to be aimed at him and his instinctive response is to clench his own hand up and swiftly load it with a dose of potential energy that he’ll aim accordingly. Not hard enough to injure badly, just enough to make his point.
“Angus!” France’s voice seems to fill the entire bar, halting Scotland’s fist as if he might be more voice-activated robot than he is human being. “Stop that this instant.”
Scotland feels himself wedge into position, tight, restricted and incapable of resisting.
He releases the man’s clothing from his fingers, dropping him back onto the heels of his feet. His wide and staring eyes flicker distantly with panic and relief at the lack of morbid pain.
It’s not that Scotland finds himself focusing on; it’s the angry downward curve to Frances face that locks him up. The embodiment of how he’d once looked when Scotland first announced his sad denouncement of the catholic faith, and he’d ended up crawling to Ireland for comfort because France had torn apart the alliance they’d once held onto so tightly.
Scotland must look distantly frightened by the display, because he can sense the ripple of amusement circle the room at the sight of a man as big as himself literally cowering from one wispy little Frenchman.
France doesn’t even give him the decency to carry on glaring; he just gets back to the job of swirling the wine around in his glass, as if Scotland doesn’t exist. The only trace of emotion he displays is a distant disinterest and unhappiness at being interrupted.
It’s only then that Scotland feels something start to twist in his chest. Something that stops him from moving again despite how the world around him returns to normal.
For the first time he realises what he is, and the ability to put it into words causes his shoulder to sink, to collapse and crumble. To become the smallest he thinks he’s ever been. He can’t see himself, but he feels it.
He knows exactly what he is.
He’s a dog. A stupid farm dog that always does as it’s told and returns to its master regardless of how hard it works, pleased only to be fed and watered and little more. Wagging the pathetic stump where its tail used to be, removed so it can’t possibly tangle in the equipment.
His immobility does seem to provoke concern, if only from the wary eyes of James and Other-France. It’s James however who slowly rises to his feet and tilts on his axis, his frown one of mild concern regardless of the ill treatment he’d been subjected to. “You alright?” James makes a point to waggle his hand in front of Scotland’s eyes. He must have actually been startled enough to stop blinking.
Scotland feels a surge of energy rattle down his spine as his muscles start to loosen. His hand rubs at the back of his neck, then at the area of stubble where his beard had resided before he’d caved in to Frances demands of shaving it off.
Without looking at James he feels his mouth open, a despondent sounding, “No,” falling out of his mouth as he drops himself onto his seat again.
“I’m not alright.”
When France’s hand drifts across the bed sheets, his first instinct is to grab hold of Scotland; to hide from the interfering lights that manage to sneak in through the crack in the curtains. His rumbled, half-hearted coo for Scotland to either scoot closer – his hulking form is a better buffer from all visual stimuli than anything else France has ever found – or close the curtains properly like he should have done a while ago.
His hand hits nothing but cold, empty sheets and France first unrolls himself from his defensive position at the edge of the bed, enjoying the space before rising wearily and double checking that Scotland hasn’t merely shrunk in the time between them going to bed and now.
The digital clock – which flickers slightly and makes a soft, sick sounding hum – tells France that only an hour has passed, the fluorescent green TWELVE THIRTY the only real company as it appears that Scotland has managed to either fade into nothingness or leave the room without waking him.
Which one is the more likely is up for lengthy discussion, as Scotland is neither light-footed nor small enough that he’d have been eaten out of existence so quickly.
Against France’s natural instinct to go immediately back to bed, he finds himself rising and exiting the room, his feet managing to find the areas that cause the least amount of squeaking all but once.
He finds Scotland in the kitchen, staring out at the moon with a cigarette in one hand and a mug of tea in the other.
“What on earth are you doing up?” France asks, dragging his hand through hair that’s only starting to look unkempt. His feet lament the choice not to pull on a pair of socks. Somehow the floor of Other-Scotland’s house retains the wicked coldness of Scotland’s own.
Scotland exhales heavily, plumes of smoke rising around his badly scarred frame, catching the sliver of moonlight that creeps in through the window and making France shudder slightly. Scotland’s sheer size always manages to intimidate him a little, regardless of the man no longer being as powerful a country as he used to be.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Scotland says, his already deep growl of a voice made all the gravellier by what appears to be too much smoking and a hint of tiredness. His head tilts, the slice of light cast down his nose make it seem sharp and pointed, the cleft in Scotland’s chin seem deeper and more pronounced. “You?”
France avoids answering, but only because he’s unclear as to why he ended up wandering down here in the first place. He answers with a shrug before clutching his fingers into the fabric of his borrowed t-shirt. The design is hideous, but the added warmth it provides makes it indispensable.
Scotland is happy to wander around in his boxers, seemingly confident enough that nobody else would rise to catch him in such a position. How he can even stand to have the cold air prickle at his flesh is likely not worth thinking about. Scotland’s skin has always been as tough as old leather even if its sensitivity to sun is a real problem.
Scotland’s eyes focus on France, a feeling that makes France tingle slightly. He’s always imagined that while Scotland certainly isn’t the brightest man in existence, he’s one of the most intuitive. It’s a sense of vulnerability that France can’t stand and he makes his eyes start to harden in response, trying to shut the larger man out as much as possible.
There isn’t much of a wrestle between them. Scotland backs down almost immediately, choosing to slowly crane his neck back towards the window and flick the built up ash into the sink.
“I was thinking about them two.” Scotland sounds a little brittle as he gets to the point as France remembers him almost always doing. Yet he’s not quite so self-assured as usual and it pulls on France’s insides, as if his heart is pawing gently at his ribcage. “Francis and Alasdair.”
“Is that so?” The slickness in France's voice is automatic, helping him dismiss the things he’s seen here. To distance himself and imagine they’re merely among new friends and not peering headlong into a foggy funhouse mirror.
Scotland doesn’t commit himself to whatever he was going to say, instead he inhales the rest of his cigarette – it’s a feat, as there was a fair amount of it – and sighing again. “It’s just strange.” The smoke pours from Scotland’s nostrils and almost fills the whole kitchen.
France opts towards putting on the kettle and blotting out the more complicated elements of what he’s learned. He’s still coming to terms with the fact that magic exists – not only that, but it also appears to hold everything together – and can’t allow himself to think much past that.
“Alasdair is an interesting man.” France allows himself a complimentary smile at the image of the man in his head. His being the one France had imaged Scotland would resemble when he was younger, more foolish and apt to throw himself into Scotland’s arms because he was brash, impulsive and exciting.
Now he’s just a lumbering giant, one who earns frightened faces and makes France cringe, because he can never quite justify staying at Scotland’s side. Not that he has much desire to. Not beyond the feeble ties of history and the remnants of something that was broken a good many years ago.
“Very interesting.” The softness of Scotland’s tone is at odds with the way he stabs the butt of his cigarette against the grubby glass of the ashtray. The cigarette is immediately replaced with another, lit as if a high wind might extinguish the feeble flame of the lighter, which looks miniscule in the hands of both Scotlands.
It gets thrown aside with a fit of ill temper, the kind France is starting to realise is almost always in correlation to discussion about Other-Scotland.
“Do you prefer him?” Scotland says suddenly, his face hidden from view by shadows and tightly arched shoulders.
“What are you talking about, Ecosse?” France teases the scolding tone into his voice, because such jealous fits tire him out.
Instead of backing down Scotland turns, their eyes meeting, and the chill that develops there is one that France almost seeks to warm up with a swift brush of his fingers and a promise of physical passion if Scotland only stops scaring the smaller, more human part of him.
Or at least, uses that bulk to its best effect, with the lights off and no words being spoken.
“Do. You. Prefer. Him?” The words are spoken slowly, as if France might be especially ignorant and childish, and France feels offended by the very insinuation behind such a question.
But despite himself, France can’t find the answer he knows he wants to makes himself say. That he doesn’t prefer Other-Scotland’s more handsome face, his positive attitude and less icy exterior. That the slightly less colossal shoulders and warmer eyes do appeal to him more.
That he would indeed like to be in the shoes of Other-France.
His face seems to answer for him, because Scotland straightens up and marches away, leaving nothing but a trail of smoke and an awkward, murky atmosphere behind him. Sadly, Scotland’s feet are not light, nor do his hands take any care when he throws open the front door and closes it behind him with an almighty thud.
The hinges seem to put up with this treatment even though the hinges on France’s nerves take a nasty rattle.
He feels like something is starting to slip away from his control. A control he desperately needs, because Scotland is far too big and strong to allow away from the carefully tightened leash France has managed to keep him on all these years.
While he toys with the idea of following, he simply gets to work making his coffee – it will hinder his ability to sleep, but his system demands caffeine – then he plucks up the tattered looking box of cigarettes and inserts one into his mouth, lighting it without his usual sense of guilt at never being able to quit despite inflated claims of being able to at any time he pleases.
“Are we being robbed?” Other-Scotland’s voice is low and annoyed sounding. How France managed to miss him only becomes clear when the other man steps from the gloom of the corridor.
“I’m sorry about Ecosse.” France hears the bile in his own words; it rises and makes his teeth bare. “He has no consideration for anyone.”
He then turns on his heel and pours himself out a cup of coffee. It’s a move designed only to hide the ugly creases of his brow and even uglier expression.
The silently-made offer to make the man tea is accepted with a tired-looking smile, one that almost pleads for escape. The larger man slowly starts to look a little helpless, as if the thick smoky air has betrayed the layer of malevolence lurking beneath.
It forces France to pull a bright smile onto his face, to soften the situation and make it more to his liking. It’s a level of self control he’s mastered, and feels the smile become genuinely warm as soon as Other-Scotland ceases to look like a drowning puppy and instead gets to work examining the room.
“Outside,” France says, gently squeezing the water from the teabag before accepting the milk that Other-Scotland helpfully hands out. “It’s where animals belong,” he adds, though the joke does summon afresh for him the throbbing memory of how he’d had to stop Scotland from doing damage to the poor unfortunates in the bar.
It makes him slow his stirring and pass Other-Scotland his mug.
The man regards France carefully – or, it looks careful in this poor light – before his eyes skim towards the now half-empty box of cigarettes. His mouth opens, perhaps to ask if Scotland is alright, or invisible, but stops himself.
“Tell him to keep the fucking noise down,” is all his says before a silent thanks for the tea is offered and he disappears from the scene as quickly as he came, his tea in hand, presumably to be sipped at in bed.
France quickly decides to follow suit, because the cold and miserable feeling in his gut gets worse as the sounds of the house creaking and bending around him grows far too loud. Much too scary, and the temptation of warm bedding to hide under is much too difficult to resist.