Title: At Sixes and Sevens (The Trojan Horse Variation)
Fandom: Hetalia
Rating: 12/PG
Summary: England would have it be known that his application to join the European Economic Community is not an act of desperation. France would have it be known that England isn't fooling anyone but himself. (Implied France/England)
Disclaimer: All original works are copyright of their respective owners; I lay claim only to this particular story.
Notes: This story is a remix of [livejournal.com profile] zalia's Between Scylla and Charybdis, written for Remix Redux 10. Historical and other notes are at the end. (Also available at AO3.)


At Sixes and Sevens (The Trojan Horse Variation)

November 1961

At some point, England knew, he would be able to look back on all of this and find it laughable. Him and France, on opposite sides of an argument yet again, as if their current impasse was just the most recent iteration of their never-ending squabbles over whose turn it was to hold Calais this century. But he couldn't find anything amusing in it now.

It would be so much easier if he could tell the wine-swilling bastard exactly what he thought of the whole situation. Your boss is a tosser, he would start with, just to warm himself up. He hated me during the war when he had nothing but his name and the clothes on his back and his overinflated sense of self to keep it all together, and he hates me even more now that he thinks he can stride about like the third coming of Napoleon -- who, I might add, also had some rather fascinating ideas about this 'united Europe' claptrap you and Germany keep banging on about these days -- and have us all leaping to obey at the first click of his fingers. The words would snap off his tongue, crisp and perfect and devastating. If either of you are delusional enough to imagine that you can bully me until I give up everything I've fought for, Empire and Commonwealth and all, just to climb aboard your precious little economic experiment....

And that was always where he stopped, in his mind. There was no sensible way to finish that sentence. Threats were only successful if you had the ability to make good on those threats -- and he had to admit that he was not quite so confident in his abilities as he once had been.

It did not help that his own government was most insistent that he try to act at least marginally enthusiastic about signing on to the whole European Community idea. The Prime Minister had even invited France and his boss to stay at his own personal house, rather than Chequers or one of Her Majesty's other grace-and-favour residences, for two days of private negotiations on the British application. Presumably, the gesture was meant to encourage a feeling of intimacy -- an echo of their wartime kinship, or some such sentimental nonsense -- but all it did was make England's skin crawl with an embarrassment so strong that it bordered on revulsion. Nothing good ever came of mixing the personal and the political, especially in so obvious a fashion.

Especially not when France was involved.

France, of course, had spent the entire visit being his usual frustratingly flirtatious self. He had conquered the ladies almost immediately, suavity oozing from every pore as he charmed both England's boss's wife and his own boss's wife until they were very nearly tittering like schoolgirls whenever he spoke to them. He kept his manners cordial enough in his dealings with England's boss, but he seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time chuckling together with his own boss, as if sharing some private joke -- and always when he knew that England would be watching them. Normally, England would chalk up such frivolity to France being France...and yet there was something off about it, as if France were trying much too hard to pretend that these negotiations were nothing more than the usual dealings with his stiff-necked counterpart across the Channel.

Regardless, he had not wasted his own time or energy in responding to France's charms, however true or false they happened to be. He had a duty to perform, but he had no intention of smoothing the way for these talks at his own...personal expense. No matter how eager his boss was to see their application succeed, he had not spent countless years playing the Great Game outside of Europe just to play the whore to become a part of it now. All the same, he had to be a courteous host, laugh politely when it was appropriate and keep the same blandly pleasant expression in place until it felt like his face would crack under the weight of it. It wasn't until after lunch on the afternoon of the second day that he finally saw his chance to take control of the situation.

'With your permission, Prime Minister,' he said, just as they were all preparing to leave the table, 'there are a few matters that my counterpart and I would like to discuss in private before our guests leave tomorrow.' Across the table, he saw France's eyes light up with lascivious interest, and hastened to quash whatever perverted thoughts had fired his imagination. 'If you and the President would excuse us for a short while, I was thinking that I might show him the house's gardens.' With a small smile, he added, 'I am sure that he would be delighted to see the results of her ladyship's patience and artistry.'

A soft intake of breath caught his ear, and without even looking he could tell that that France had just realised how he had been flattered into a corner. Two can play at that game, frog.

If their bosses were glad to see them go, they gave no sign of it. It was settled that they would all meet again in an hour. Overcoats and scarves were found, security men were sent out to patrol the grounds at a suitably discreet distance, and England grandly led the way out of doors.

Late November was hardly the best time of year to be rambling across the Sussex countryside, so they kept to the driest parts of the gardens, going slowly in case the gravel paths proved more unstable than they first appeared. For several minutes they walked in silence, until they were far enough away from the house that England chose to slow to a halt, clasping his hands behind his back as he gazed out across the broad, rolling lawns.

France took the opportunity of the moment's pause to produce his cigarette case, though he did not open it immediately. Instead, he turned it over in his hands, letting the silvery metal of the case catch the light of the weak afternoon sun.

'It was very generous of your boss to have us here,' he said, once the case had gone through two or three full rotations. 'Please give him and her ladyship my thanks for their hospitality in allowing us to stay at their charming home.'

England looked around at the barren heaps of earth that marked the turned-over flowerbeds, the worn grass edging the path they stood on, the dull green shrubberies huddled in on themselves for protection against the early winter chill. 'It is a fine place in the spring and summer,' he declared, a little more loudly than perhaps was necessary. 'They open the grounds for public viewing occasionally, with admission costs given to charity.'

France nodded absently, as if he had only partly heard England's reply. 'I am sure it is a magnificent sight.' He turned the case over again and opened it, but snapped it shut once more before he could take out a cigarette.

Even though he generally found France's taste in tobacco to be unutterably foul, England was half-tempted to ask for one himself, just to stop France from fiddling with the damned thing. But France suddenly stuffed the case back in the coat, and turned to face England, and the sympathetic smile on his face did very little to soften the steel-edged determination in his gaze.

'The answer will be non, my dear rosbif.' Said lightly, but with finality. 'M. le général has not said it in so many words, but I know enough of his mind to be certain of it. And I do not think he will be persuaded to change it.'

England met his gaze for a thin, tense moment, and then looked away. He kept his hands clasped tightly behind his back -- it was the safest place for them -- and said nothing.

'It is by no means personal, you understand,' France continued, once he seemed to conclude that England had no immediate reply. 'It is merely that both he and I think that you and your people are not ready for the commitment that would be required.'

Your boss is a tosser, England thought sourly, but set that remark aside. 'None of the Seven have had any complaints about my commitment to our free trade area,' he said aloud instead. Which wasn't entirely true, but Denmark would moan about anything, and Austria and Switzerland weren't exactly the easiest nations to get on with even when money wasn't involved, so their opinions hardly counted. 'And I've been able to work with them and the Commonwealth easily enough. Let the trade people and diplomats sort it all out in the formal talks -- that's what they're there for, isn't it?'

'That is not his main concern.'

'Then what is his main concern?' His hands were starting to ache, and the tension was beginning to spread up his arms and across his shoulders. 'If you're both so determined to keep me out, then why are you even here?'

France sighed, the long, drawn-out sigh he often gave when he thought England was being more unreasonable than usual. 'It simply would not be to anyone's benefit to try to force -- '

'Force? It wasn't all that long ago that you were trying to force my signature on a bloody marriage licence!' England's hands would not stay behind his back any longer, and he did not trust himself to keep them at his sides, so he stalked a few paces away before spinning round and folding his arms across his chest, half-defiant, half-defensive. 'Pleading that your boss wanted us to be together; all but begging me to save your sorry arse at the price of my own. And here you always accuse me of blowing hot and cold -- aren't you a fine one to talk?'

France's smile faded entirely, his eyes narrowing as the set of his mouth and jaw hardened. 'I see that I should have known better than to think that you would handle this graciously,' he replied, and there was that obnoxious, patronising tone that England had been waiting to hear. 'I was hoping to let you down gently.'

'So you're the one who gets to make the final decision, is that it?' England snorted. 'I wonder what Germany and his boss would have to say about that.'

'Germany understands the situation far better than you do,' France said, with a slight shake of his head. 'And not only Germany: the Six are all in agreement on this. Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg...dear little Italy even wanted me to break the news to you as kindly as possible.' His smile returned, briefly, though it was more brittle than before. 'Please don't hurt his feelings, big brother France! was what he said to me, not long before I left. But I have to think of their feelings as well.'

'And you honestly believe I don't have others' feelings to think of just as much as you do?' England bit down on his tongue -- now was not the time to start sounding like a petulant child -- and forced himself to relax. He ran his hands through his hair, and began again in what he hoped was a far more even, rational tone. 'Look, I know I've got the Commonwealth to consider, but a little butter from New Zealand is not going to send your dairy farmers queuing up for the dole before the year is out. If that's what you're most worried about, we'll come up with a way to make things work.' He tried to smile as well, though it felt uneven at the corners. 'And you know that I can bring Denmark with me if I join, and I'm sure between the two of us we can persuade Norway to think about it as well -- '

' -- and then what?' France cut him off. 'And then we will all cheerfully adapt to your ideas of how everything should be done? If they are even your ideas to begin with,' he added, with sudden vehemence.

England stared at him, disbelieving -- and then his hands balled into fists at his sides, and he took two quick steps forward, grinding gravel beneath his shoes, until he was almost under France's nose.

'So that's your little game,' he hissed. 'All this bollocks about me not being ready -- this is all about Suez, isn't it? This is your frog-faced way of getting your own back over that fucking canal, you and your tinpot tyrant of a boss.'

France had the advantage of height, which put him in the perfect position to look down his nose at England with an expression of pure disgust. 'Is that what you believe? That I -- that my boss and I -- have no other motivation in this matter than to spite you?'

'You've never needed more motivation than that before.' Why had he not seen this coming ages ago? He could still hear the ringing in his ears from that final row with America, when they'd all been screaming at each other over whose fault it was that half of Egypt was on fire and Russia was happily tracking his blood-stained boots all over Hungary's house...when France had told him to enjoy washing his own slop-sheets when America had finished prostituting him to anyone who showed even the slightest interest in his pathetic, pox-ridden excuse for a prick...when he'd had to back down, give up, give in, or go under....

'If that is what you want to think, very well.' France took a step back, giving himself enough space to take out his cigarette case once more. 'Perhaps it is better that you not be given the chance to destroy everything that the six of us have spent the past decade trying to build. You may enjoy your splendid isolation for as long as you like.' He produced his well-worn lighter and flicked it open. 'And as for your perfidious insinuation about Suez -- it reminds me of something that Germany's boss said to my boss at the time, shortly after your little...shall we call it a "strategic retreat"?' His smile was entirely mirthless, full of teeth that flashed as white and sharp as the spark of its flint. 'He said that I should make Europe my revenge. As far as you are concerned, perhaps it shall be.'

'Now see here -- ' England began, almost desperately, but France had already turned away from him and lit his cigarette. It was as clear a signal as any that their conversation was over.

Without another word, England turned on his heel and stormed back in the direction of the house. There was no point in staying outdoors any longer. They would have to go back inside soon enough as it was, and spend the rest of the afternoon listening to their bosses fret and wring their hands over America and Russia's latest pissing contest across that travesty of a wall in Berlin. Somehow, they would get through the remainder of the day without openly throttling each other, and go their separate ways.

One more meeting. One more argument.

There was something almost comforting in it.

Notes

On 24 and 25 November 1961, French President Charles de Gaulle visited British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at Birch Grove, the prime minister's country house in Sussex, England, to discuss the prospective terms of British entry into the European Economic Community (EEC). The negotiations were not very successful for a number of reasons, including the British determination to keep their strong trade ties with the Commonwealth countries and French fears that the United Kingdom would be a 'Trojan horse' for further American meddling in European affairs. In spite of two years of diplomatic negotiations and a second private meeting in June 1962 at Château de Champs in France, at which Macmillan renounced almost all of the earlier British objections to the economic terms of entry, de Gaulle effectively vetoed the British application in January 1963.

The 'sixes and sevens' of the title allude to the Inner Six of the EEC (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and Netherlands) and the counterpart Outer Seven of the European Free Trade Association (at the time composed of Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), as well as the mutually antagonistic Anglo-French relationship.

The make Europe your revenge comment, reportedly said by West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to French Prime Minister Guy Mollet shortly after the British buckled to American pressure and abandoned their support for the Anglo-French forces during the 1957 Suez Canal crisis, may not have been taken quite so literally as it is taken here, but it fits the theme rather well.

Many thanks to Zalia for writing 'Between Scylla and Charybdis' and providing the inspiration for this fic. I hope that this remix is able to do it justice to some extent.


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