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Title: Here Lie We
Originally posted: Here, for the CMC Event at the [ profile] russiamerica comm. ♥ Prompt: Propaganda.
Length: 1,400 words.
Characters/Pairings: Primarily England. Also, America. Implied Russia/America.
Premise: Unsure what it might accomplish, England loans America a book that has only become more relevant with time.
Time period: 1984, of course.
Smuttiness: 0/10
Funnyness: 0/10
Wrist slashiness: 5/10
Warm-and-fuzziness: 0/10
Lolhistoryness: 3/10
Violence: 1/10
Would I like it?: It's a lit fic! Every fandom writer who aspires to be really overbearingly pretentious has to write a lit fic sooner or later. This one's mine! Definitely will be more obtuse if you're not familiar with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.


"One of my writers wrote a book about you," England said.

America brightened and shifted his coat from arm to arm. It was an autumn day, pale and blue and sparkling, and pigeons stirred and surged in gentle waves across the grey flagstones of Trafalgar Square.

"Oh yeah? --Hey, are we getting lunch?" America checked his watch.

"Mmm. And Russia. It's about the Cold War. --And we can."

He held out the book, and America accepted it. He glanced at the cover. "Published this year, huh?"

"No. 1984 is just the title." They fell in beside each other and strolled past the fountain. America's hands were full, as he wrestled with the coat and flipped the book over to read the back cover; England walked with his head down, and his hands in his pockets.

America grimaced, and nudged up his glasses with the spine of the book. "It says it was put out in 1948. The Cold War hadn't even gotten started yet in 1948."

"There were signs, however," England informed him. For those of us who were willing to see them. "And I believe the book has only become more about the two of you with time."

"Wait, I remember this one--" America swerved around a pair of children pelting across the square. "Isn't this the one where--" His expression screwed up in distaste. "Isn't this the one where I annex you? And you got all pissy at me about it when it first came out, even though I totally didn't do anything?"

"Yes," England replied. "But time has led me to conclude that that really isn't the point."

"You can't just go back and decide that books are about something different than they were about in the first place."

"Actually, the principle premise of the book is that you can." Orwell would be proud of him, England reflected--or horrified.

"Whatever." America flipped around his coat and jammed the book into one of his deep pockets. "I'll read it if I have time. Your fancy books usually go over my head, though."

"I believe you have powers of perception hidden even from yourself which may assist you in this regard." A splash from the fountain struck England's pant leg; he brushed at it like a piece of lint.

"Yeah, well, you just keep thinking that."



It was the posters that had made England resolve to lend America the book. They were inescapable.

They were very dramatic; bold, clear statements of ideological intent, designed by the best marketers in the world to scare the lights out of anyone who looked at them. Russia's posters (which were generally better) dealt with neglect, oppression, spiritual starvation, and racism, which he presented as hallmarks (and the only hallmarks) of the West. America's posters were more straightforward, and tended to show things like communists murdering women and burning down national monuments.

Both of them were obsessed with the notion and the imagery of the atom bomb.

It was very strange to remember that they had once been in love.

In fact, it was impossible to remember, most of the time: they snarled at each other, and attacked each other at conferences, and plastered their posters and their slogans on every wall, and accused each other of every crime they could come up with, until England and the other nations longed for them to just have a good fight, if it meant they would shut up. And England had remembered the book again when it occurred to him that this was deliberate. America and Russia did not want anyone to remember that they had ever been in love. It was not enough for them to despise each other, which many nations accomplished every day, and had for centuries, without kicking up much of a fuss; everyone had to know that they hated each other. And everyone had to know--no, more than that, to agree--that their differences were irreconcilable.

America hated Russia. Therefore America had always hated Russia.

This was more obvious in the Soviet Union, where any mention of former cordial relations between the two nations had been, as England understood it, systematically exterminated from the public record, with a vigor that Orwell's Ministry of Truth would have found admirable. America did it more quietly, concealed it in his left hand like a vanished coin in a magic trick; those sections of his history which were incompatible with his new reality were shortened, and shortened, and rephrased, until it was impossible to conclude that a friendship had ever existed in the first place.

Now you see it, now you don't.

(Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.)

Their war was not a war, and no one stood to gain by it; and it had become essential to their ways of life. England had even seen America indulge in what he thought of as a Two Minute Hate: when America would start in about communism, communism, how evil it was, its fallacies that were so obvious in America's eyes that anyone should be able to see them, and on and on and on...

England did not know who Russia confided in, but he suspected that someone behind the Iron Curtain was listening to the same thing, with only a few key words changed here and there.

England, of course, did not like Russia. He had never liked Russia, and he could say so without any Orwellian historical revision. And he had never liked America's relationship with Russia. On that subject, he had engaged in a few Two Minute Hates himself, or he would have, if he had been able to find anybody would listen. So he was gratified, certainly, very gratified to see the pair of them so estranged.

And yet…

He didn't know what he expected, by lending America the book. He supposed that America failing to understand it, or getting bored, and not finishing it, were among the better outcomes. He was like Winston, writing the last truth in Europe in his diary, unsure if it would do any good, and taking the risk that not only would his words be ignored, but that they might be taken as heresy.

England told himself that he was not afraid of making America angry. His fortunes were not so wholly dependent on him as that.

On their posters, in their news, on their radios, they called each other liars and oppressors and murderers. England remembered when they had touched hands at world meetings when they thought no one could see; he remembered how they had spoken to each other, the tone of voice they would use, and it was different, brighter, somehow, than how they had spoken to anyone else.

He wondered how long it would be before no one remembered it at all.


Two or three weeks later, he and America met in Chicago for coffee.

"Did you read the book I gave you?" England asked, pressing his napkin to his upper lip.

"Yeah, I did."

A silence ensued. America carved out a chunk of muffin with his fork.

"And?" England prompted.

America was quiet for a moment longer, and then he grimaced a smile. "Not enough pictures."

"Ah," England exhaled. "I was afraid of that."


And he might not have thought about it again, except that six months later, at a conference, he picked up America's binder by mistake.

It wasn't until he was in his next meeting that he realized it had happened, when he opened the binder to the first page and found the inside of a fact sheet about energy efficiency covered in doodles of biplanes fighting dinosaurs. He sighed and flipped forward to the next section. It wasn't really as if it mattered.

He turned past a page where America had written two short lines, and paused.

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I betrayed you and you betrayed me.

It took him a moment to recognize it, and then to process it. His eyes found America, further down the table. He and Russia were bitching at each other, like they always did when they were trapped in the same room. In about ten minutes, they would need to be held apart, or else the meeting would break apart over yet another one of their fistfights.

England felt, without being able to articulate why, suddenly and profoundly sorry for them.

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you, and you sold me;
There lie they, and here lie we,
Under the spreading chestnut tree.


-- If you never have, you can read Nineteen Eighty-Four online here. 'S a good book, if you're into books.


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