Originally posted: 2/4/2009, on the kink meme. Link
Length: 1,600 words.
Characters/Pairings: England, Austria, Canada, America.
Premise: America tries to join in on a game of Mornington Crescent.
Time period: Modern.
Funnyness: 9/10 if you get it, 1/10 if you don't.
Wrist slashiness: 1/10
Would I like it?: If you know what Mornington Crescent is, yes. Otherwise, this fic has nothing for you unless you just really like to see America confused.
America could not remember the last time he had wanted to bomb something this much.
"Look," Austria sighed, "I thought we had agreed to pre-1908 Tottenham Court Road Rules."
"What did I do now?" he asked warily. A printed out map of the London Underground was splayed across his knees, covered in dense annotations. He tapped his pen against the side of his boot.
Austria gave the smallest, most genteel grimace. Canada's gaze flew from the aristocrat to his brother, Mediation Mode already swinging into gear. "He probably just didn't realize," he began.
"What did I do," he grumbled.
Canada wet his lips and explained, apologetically, "You, well…well, see, I'd played Goodge Street."
"Yeah, I remember. That's over here." America tapped his map with his pen cap.
Canada nodded encouragingly. "Right, and then…Austria played Tottenham Court Road."
"And I clearly invoked the pre-1908 Royal Privilege Conference," Austria added crossly. He looked up from nursing his headache to let a cutting glance work its way into America. America's gaze drifted helplessly back towards Canada.
With every appearance of trying to be helpful, Canada continued, "But then, you moved to Strensham. See?" And he leaned across the table to draw a line with his fingertip connecting America's pen cap to Strensham Services. America shifted uncomfortably.
After a few seconds, he looked up into Canada's eyes and managed a, "So?"
Canada cringed a little, and gave a quick, nervous smile to the others. In a low, 'really, don't feel embarrassed about this, everybody makes stupid mistakes sometimes' voice, he said, "Well, the service station wasn't even available until the M5 opened in 1962."
"And it wasn't expanded until the nineties," came another voice, dripping with contempt. "With Regent's Park in Charm, and pre-1908 RPC switching the positions of Goodge and Tottenham, you must have an expanded M5 if you want to make the move to Strensham without following up with the Potsdamer Platz Variation, which, I assure you, you lack the tokens to perform in the next three moves."
That was England. England, who had won the last three games. England, who had suggested this stupid game in the first place. England, who was in pretty serious danger of facing an International Police Action if America had anything to say about it.
"How the hell am I supposed to know about road work in fucking…" he looked down at his map for a second. "--Worcestershire?"
Austria made a pained sound and covered his face with his hands. "It's--not really about road work, America," Canada began.
"It's just the simple bloody rules of Mornington Crescent," England snapped. "Even a child could remember them."
"We have children's leagues for 'Crescent in Vancouver," Canada volunteered. Then, apologetically, "I mean, they only play by Shoreditch Regional rules, but…"
"There's nothing wrong with Shoreditch," England placated him with an affectionate smile. "Certainly it's a simplification, but even the most stalwart purists can agree that it keeps to the spirit of the pre-Groening game."
England turned a baleful glower back on America. "If you don't remember how to play the game, simply excuse yourself. Then the rest of us might be able to enjoy the noble game without your…amateur bungling."
"I remember how to play," America protested. "I'm just…a little rusty, is all."
All right, so the truth was that he didn't have the first clue how to play Mornington Crescent. Had never heard of it before that evening, but…how hard could it be? All those British games were just running around in knee-high socks and whacking things with sticks. When England had suggested they pass the evening with a few rounds of Mornington Crescent, except, oh, of course America wouldn't know the game, Americans didn't know anything about civilized entertainment…he'd taken it as a challenge. He thought for sure that he could just bluff his way through the first few rounds until he picked up the rules. Canada had even ducked out to print him a map of London, so he could take notes.
Now there were so many notes that he could barely see London, and he still had no idea what they were talking about.
"Fine, fine," England sighed loudly. "Austria, we'll disqualify America's last move, but I'm afraid the Hainault Loop is still going to reach Fairlop on your watch. Unless you want to suspend helical stress for a turn--I know, I find it distasteful as well, but perhaps it's unavoidable in…mixed company…"
Austria gave a tired wave with one pale, elegant hand. "Please, I don't need any special dispensations. Tottenham Court to Russel Square, then."
"Excellent use of the Reflex trump," England mused.
Austria inclined his head.
America circled Russel Square on his map and wrote Reflex what? next to it.
Canada sat back in his chair. "I'm in Hertfordshire, right? So, Crowleywood to Watford."
"Hmph. It's too early in the game for token shunting," England grinned. Canada blushed a shade. "All right, all right, just this once. I'm putting Junkin's Progression in play and bidding on Liverpool."
Everyone looked expectantly at America. He swallowed. "Uh," he tried. "Chapman's Hill?"
There was an icy silence.
"I'll allow that, since it's not explicitly prohibited," Austria said slowly.
"More than I'd let him get away with," England muttered.
"Maybe he's working on a Lea Hall Gambit! I mean, it does slow down the line velocity on northbound…sort of…" Canada faltered.
By the end of the second game, America had jumped to his feet and accused all of them of yanking his chain, but they swore it was a real game. Canada in particular had assured him, with all the earnest "I don't mean to cause you any trouble, but this really is something I sort of feel strongly about, if that's all right" passion in his heart, that Mornington Crescent was a well-known and well-respected game, and they had even played it together when they were kids, with England, and didn't he remember? And America had backed down, and said that it was just a joke, haha, of course he remembered playing Mornington Crescent, haha, he was just frustrated by losing, haha.
To which England had suggested that if he didn't want to lose, he should try being less of a stupid git, and America had nearly slugged him.
"Dollis Hill Loop, then."
"Going to Caledonian Road and invoking the Maelberg Variance."
"Damn it all--very well, Lipman's Rules, connect to Lydiate Ash. That shuts off southbound to you, America."
"I, uh, I knew that--"
"Great Portland Street." Austria sounded bored.
"Hey, isn't it my turn?"
Canada winced. "You can't have a turn right after a reverse Spielman's Maneuver to the M5, America."
"…Um. Oh. Uh, right, right…"
"Anyway, I'll take Regent's Park."
England glanced at him. "Shuttling, or a transfer?"
"Oh, uh--a transfer, I guess, but isn't Regent's Park part of the Mudchute right now?"
England checked his watch. "It's after eleven o'clock."
"Oh." Canada looked crestfallen. "I forgot the escalators shut off early on Sundays."
"You can change it, if you like…?"
"No, it's okay, it was my mistake…"
"How come he gets to change a bad move, and I don't?" America demanded.
"Because you'll only change to another bad move," England growled. "Brockeridge Common. Now it's your turn."
America picked a spot on the map at random. "Croome Court."
"Bradlfettntandler," Austria muttered under his breath. "Camden Town."
"Wait," Canada protested. "You can't--"
"Yes, he can," England sighed. "Too fucking clever use of the Offside Rule. I think he's got us."
"The Austrian team swept the 2007 intermediate championship in Venice." Austria adjusted his glasses.
Canada sighed. "The only move I have to intercept is Baker Street, but I won't get there fast enough."
"No, and I can't even get back to the Thames without losing half my tokens in the Drayton Park rush. America?"
America rubbed a hand through his hair. "I give up."
"Well, in that case--Mornington Crescent," Austria concluded, and rose from his chair.
England looked up at him. "Enough for you, then?"
"I think I'll retire on a high note. If you will all excuse me." He sketched a bow and headed for the door. Canada and England stood as well.
"Thanks for letting me play," Canada offered, a bit shyly. "I know I'm not as good as the two of you, but--"
England clapped him on the shoulder as he headed past towards the stairs. "Nonsense, my boy. It's just a matter of practice. We'll have you at the plus-five range on the Hughes scale in no time." They shared a laugh. England's eyes narrowed as he glanced back at America, who still sat hunched over the map, his head braced in his hands. "As for your brother…I think it may take a bit more than practice."
Then it was just Canada and America left in the living room.
A few seconds passed, and then Canada went to America's side and gave him a quick hug. America blinked up at him in surprise. "Um?"
Canada grinned at him. "Cheer up, eh?"
America frowned, pulled off his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "'S a stupid game anyway," he mumbled.
Another hug. "You know, you're really not such a horrible brother to have. I mean, you're not too bright, and you're really stubborn, but…there's been some laughs, too."
America didn't have the faintest idea what Canada was talking about, but he managed, "Um, Canada? Do you think you could teach me how to play the game right, some time?"
An undignified giggle bubbled past his lips. "Yeah. Sure thing, America. I'll, uh. I'll start you off on Tudor Court Rules."