Thanks so much to all of you who stuck with this stupid thing that for some reason I have become so invested in. I still hate the ending with a fiery passion, but have resigned myself to the fact that I could never bring myself to change it. *dramatic sigh*
An extra hug goes out to S. Calvin for betaing this piece of crap. Honey, you are awesome.
Warning: Slight makeouts in this chapter. You done been warned.
And now. The gripping conclusion.
Divided We Stand
-Delusions of Grandeur.
Things always seemed to come full circle.
Russia was humming again, the cheerful noise echoing dully around the ancient and familiar ornate room. Gilbert resisted the urge to pick up one of the pretentious looking silver pens lying strewn across the oak table and slam it into the Russian's damn creepy violet eyes. He sighed irritably, dull red eyes flickering to the small splintered cross mark etched in the table, rubbing one thumb along the matching scar on his hand. His palms were sweaty, and he wiped them against his leg, mumbling his newfound mantra under his breath in a steady monotone. "For my people. For my people. For my people." He swallowed heavily, "God, I can't do this," he muttered, splaying his pale, skeletal fingers on the rough surface, forcing himself to calm down. "My people, people, fuck the people," he recited monotonously, voice rough and scratched from too many bouts of insomnia.
Russia fell silent, his pallid violet eyes amused. "I wonder if they'll even thank you for this…," the older nation absently wondered out loud, tapping his foot against the tile floor.
There was a moment of tense silence before Gilbert flew to his feet, grabbing a chair and hurling it into the painstakingly crafted wall. The thing splintered on impact, sending up a cloud of pale yellow dust as the sharp edges of the chair tore into the plaster. Gilbert was breathing heavily, his eyes wide with panic. Bolts of pain exploded in the back of his skull, and he gave a small cry, pressing his hands against his temples to keep his head from splitting open. He sank to his knees, hunching in on himself as spasms wracked his gaunt frame.
Across the room, Russia laughed in delight, standing and moving over to where the weakened man was curled up on the floor. He crouched down next to him, the smile on his face widening. "Oh dear," the Russian said sympathetically, "It seems your iron will is not as steeled as you'd like it to be." He cocked his head to the side, "Are you sure you don't want to change your mind?"
"My will is fuckin' titanium," Gilbert spat out, rising shakily to his feet, still clutching at his aching head. He shoved the Russian aside and moved to sink back down into his chair, brushing yellow plaster dust off of the velvet surface before he did so.
Russia rose to his feet as well to sit next to Gilbert, fixing the younger man with an inquisitive stare. "I wonder what it'll be like," the violet-eyed man mused aloud. "After the treaty is signed, will you just turn into smoke? Or maybe you'll explode everywhere." The Russian sighed, "Goodness, I hope not. What a mess for the staff to have to clean up… Just like that time with Saxony..."
Gilbert stared blankly at the older man for a moment before turning away again, shuddering slightly. His mantra changed. "Anything's better than Russia. Anything's better than Russia. Anything's better tha-"
The door suddenly slammed open as three blonde men strode through the doorway, two of them bickering fiercely.
"Well you've had a bloody actor as your boss for the past four years – it's no wonder you're so detached from reality!" England snapped, yanking out a chair from the table with a quick jerk.
America just laughed and slumped down in the chair England had moved. He grinned up at the heavy-bowed man. "You're just pissed 'cause you got your ass handed to you at that World Cup thing you Europeans are so obsessed with."
"I did not get anything 'handed to me'," England muttered bitterly, "Spain just got lucky, that's all."
"Gentlemen, please," France groaned, sitting down at the head of the table. "Flirt on your own time - preferably when I am not within a ten thousand kilometer radius."
Gilbert stared across the table at the three nations, eyes darting to the door for a moment before glaring at America. "What're all of you doin' here? The only thing keepin' this from this bein' a goddamn reunion is that skinny little Asian dude," he growled, a hint of menace lacing his tone.
"China," France supplied helpfully. "That 'skinny dude' is named China."
"I had tea with China the other day," Russia said offhandedly. "It tasted weird. Like grass."
"Thanks for the idiot news hour update," Gilbert snapped. He glared at the former Allied men. "Answer me. Now. What the fuck are you doin' here?"
An uneasy silence fell over the seated nations as England and America exchanged glances.
"…He asked us to," England said, folding his hands on top of the table.
Gilbert waited a few moments, but neither of the other two seemed to be willing to divulge anything more. "…Did I not use small enough words for you?" he asked, his patronizing voice dripping with sarcasm, "Who asked you to?"
"Who do you think?" France droned, crossing his arms and leaning back into his chair. "Germany, of course. He asked us to keep you company until he could get here." The Frenchman's blue eyes grew troubled, "Of course, even if he hadn't, I still would have come." He sighed, rubbing at his sparse beard. "Antonio tried to make it, but his boss refused to give him the time off, even for something as monumental as... Well, he asked me to give you this, in any case."
France slid a bottle of orujo across the table. It shuddered to a halt in front of the platinum-haired man.
The blonde quirked a smile. "To old times, mon ami." His smile faded, as he said quietly, "I'd consider downing the whole thing if I were you."
Gilbert stared at the crystal clear bottle, his head beginning to throb again as he felt his mind spiral out of control. "What… what do you mean… West is comin' here?"
America cocked his head to the side in confusion, "Just what it sounds like." He turned to shrug at England, "You find anythin' confusin' about that?"
"Shut it, Alfred," England said softly, "For once your commentary is not needed."
America fell silent, glancing curiously at Gilbert before he averted his gaze. "…My bad," he said finally, crossing his arms over his chest.
Gilbert was still staring at the bottle of tequila, muttering to himself. "I don't want him to see this." He raised his head to glare at the other nations, the sudden wash of anger a welcome reprieve from the constant feelings of despair that were all he seemed to have left. "I don't fuckin' want any of you to see this," he spat out.
"I want to see," Russia said with a smile, "Public executions have lost their charm as of late."
"Bloody hell, Russia! Don't you have any compassion at all?!" England shouted angrily.
Russia blinked in puzzlement at the British man for a few seconds, before the door flew open with a loud bang, and Ludwig came rushing in, his suit jacked thrown haphazardly over his shoulder. "I'm here, I'm here," he said hurriedly, tossing his briefcase and jacket next to the door. "Herr Jones, they're just starting the-"
Ludwig trailed off as he finally looked away from America to see Gilbert sitting at the table, and his blue eyes turned soft and warm with an unrecognizable sadness.
Gilbert just stared back at the tall blonde, fury still blazing across his face.
"Get out," He said venomously, rising slowly to his feet. He glared around the room. "All of you! Just get the fuck out of here before I go all eighteenth-century on your asses!"
"Gilbert, calm down, I'm here to-"
"There's nothin' you can fuckin' do, West!" Gilbert yelled, "So you can just take your goddamn cronies and shove them up your–" His voice faltered as another barrage of pain knocked him to the floor, a small cry escaping him despite his best efforts to contain it. The world grew white before his eyes as he clenched them shut, biting his bottom lip hard enough to bleed, hands flying up to press against his head.
The pain faded excruciatingly slowly as Gilbert came back to himself, his breathing harsh and labored as he tried in vain to gather up the shattered bits of his consciousness, piecing them back together to form something that resembled a sane and sovereign nation. The platinum-haired man shook his head slowly, focusing on the overwhelmingly loud beating of a hammering heart to ground himself. The deafening sound gradually slowed to a steady and comforting cadence that echoed dully through him. Gilbert let himself fall into the rhythm, the sound blanketing his frail body in warmth. He allowed himself to selfishly enjoy a few more moments of blissful unconsciousness before reluctantly opening his eyes. He stilled, his own heart stuttering in panic. Two strong arms were wrapped around him from behind, a warm chest pressing into his back while a deep voice whispered incomprehensible words into his ear.
Gilbert wrenched himself out of the embrace, staggering clumsily to his feet as he whirled around, his eyes narrowed in fury. "Russia you goddamn mother fucker," he yelled. "I swore to God if ever you touched me again I'd-" The words caught in his throat.
Ludwig rose to his feet, a stricken expression on his normally impassive face. The two stared at each other for what felt like an age, unvoiced thoughts reverberating through the still air between them.
Gilbert suddenly turned to glance around the room. "…You kick them out?" he asked softly.
Ludwig nodded, taking a few hesitant steps forward as though afraid the red-eyed man would bolt like a wild animal. "I did," he said cautiously, stopping just in front of Gilbert. The blonde man gave a shaky smile, "I seem to remember something about you suggesting I shove them somewhere."
Gilbert just jerked his head in the direction of the door. "Then I recommend you follow their example," he said, moving to sit down at the oak table, propping his feet up on the scarred surface.
Ludwig just sat down next to the shorter man. "I can't leave," he said simply, resting his chin on his hand. "Not until this is finished."
"Hate to spoil the endin' for you, but let's just say it involves me either magically fadin' like a candle in the wind or explodin' like a fuckin' pipe bomb!" Gilbert snapped. He stood angrily, pacing over the iron wrought window. "What other outcome could there possibly be? Look at Bavaria! Look at Saxony! The only reason I'm still around is because of some big cosmological fuck up! " His voice stumbled, and he grabbed onto the window for support as another headache threatened to overtake him. "I mean, God, West," he said weakly, "You're practically a Frankenstein's monster of former demolished nations. What the fuck makes you think there's goin' to be an exception for me?"
Ludwig rose as well, his mouth set in a grim line. "I can't exactly control the circumstances of my birth."
Gilbert scoffed, "God, how egotistical are you? Then what on God's green earth makes you think you can somehow magically control this?
"Because I need you!" Ludwig yelled, grabbing the other man by the shoulders, hands gripping too tight with desperation. His anger drained in an instant as he stared down at the shorter man. "…I'm not like you, Gilbert," he said softly. "I can't survive on my own. Not like... not like I thought I could."
Gilbert furiously pushed away the other man's arms. "Stop with the romance novel bullshit," he said bitterly. "You've got the goddamn three musketeers practically fallin' over themselves to kiss your ass."
"…The circumstances being what they were, I hardly think it's surprising that we grew close-"
"Who gives a shit about circumstances!' Gilbert yelled, slamming his hand into the window frame. "Now get the fuck out of here!'."
Ludwig's jaw was set. "No."
Gilbert was going insane with pain and frustration. His vision started to blur around the edges, and he stumbled to rest against the wall. "Come on, West," his voice bitter with resentment. "A dyin' man's supposed to get his last wish. A dyin' nation should get at least the same."
"God, Gilbert…" Ludwig sounded like he wanted to be sick. He closed the distance between them with two quick strides. "Please…" he begged quietly, letting his arms fall to grab Gilbert's hands, drawing them up to his chest. "You can't just give up like this."
Gilbert felt the pent up rage and terror built beneath his skin suddenly vanish at the other man's touch. With it gone, he just felt hollow- the apathetic shell of a fallen kingdom.
"My time's up, West," he said softly, eyes focused on his pale hands lying flat against the taller man's chest. "I can just… just feel it, you know? Those voices that've been buggin' me for near half a century... I know who they are now. And damn," he chuckled weakly, "Damn, they're loud. Deafenin'. Hard for a man to even think." He raised his head to gaze up at Ludwig, carefully studying the younger man's face. Gilbert smiled, a shadow of the former devil in him making the edges of his mouth curl. "It's been fun, West," he said impassively, "But I'm done fightin' what I can't even see."
Ludwig just stared back for a moment, his steel-blue eyes clouded and unreadable. He pulled Gilbert's hands away from his chest, and turned them over to examine the deep scar etched into the otherwise flawless skin. "That day," he murmured, "I thought I was going to go insane. But I was a soldier. Like you were. Like we all were. I threw myself into rebuilding what I had so stupidly destroyed in my blind devotion, trying to forget about that half of myself that had been ripped from me." Ludwig ran his fingers over the delicate ridges of the older man's palm, and Gilbert struggled not to flinch away. Ludwig looked up, eyes soft with apology, before continuing.
"That night at the wall when you called out to me… you know that you're the only one who can call me 'West' like that and get away with it." His smile faded, replaced by something distant and haunted. "But you sounded so lost, so adrift. It terrified me. And that's when I knew."
Ludwig raised Gilbert's hand, blue eyes sliding shut as he gently brushed his lips across the deep scar embedded in the pale flesh. Gilbert shivered at the touch. Ludwig's lips ghosted over his skin, murmuring softly, "I can't let you go."
The blonde man opened his eyes slowly, gazing down at Gilbert with an intensity that made him forget for one breathless moment the ethereal threads of inevitability that tugged at him, drawing him ever closer towards the clamoring voices.
Gilbert swallowed heavily, freeing his hand from the taller man's grasp to bury it in the soft blonde strands of hair at the base of Ludwig's neck. He cautiously pulled the other man down to him, pressing his forehead against Ludwig's as he fought a loosing battle to keep at bay the damning words that threatened to spill past his lips. Some things should fade with him.
Gilbert wrapped his thin arm around Ludwig's waist, tugging gently to pull to younger nation to him. He pressed his fingers gently into the back of the other man's neck, feeling Ludwig give a faint sigh from his touch.
"Guess that makes two of us," Gilbert said, the words scraping past his throat as the voices tried to steal them from him. They were close enough now that he could hear their individual tremors, each one sweetly beckoning him to let go and entrust in the man before him all that he had savagely clung to for hundreds of years.
He started to shake, and Ludwig's arms pulled him even closer with an intensity born of desperation. The soldier in him had to fight tooth and nail to not break down and truly accept the comfort offered from the one person he wanted it from.
Pain suddenly shot up his entire body, searing through his nerves like wildfire, making him cry out in agony. Gilbert collapsed against Ludwig's chest, clutching to him like a drowning man, his eyes squeezed shut tight against the pain. The voices drowned out any other noise, save for the beating of his heart fluttering weakly against his ribs like a dying bird. He distantly felt Ludwig grab his hand, but that sensation too faded away as a dull covered him, stealing his senses one by one until all he could see and feel was white.
A single name hung suspended on dying lips.
But in a breath, it was gone.
there was nothing left.
Gilbert's eyes snapped open. He immediately wished they hadn't as his vision swam before him, making him feel even more nauseous than he already was. His senses slowly returned one by one, and he shook his head to clear it of the last lingering traces of white.
"Damn obnoxious color," he muttered to himself, wincing as his head ached slightly from his own voice reverberating around him. "Gotta remember not to use it in my next flag."
Gilbert cautiously raised his head, and blinked. There was a door in front of him. He turned around, but only saw a long, dark hallway stretching back towards God knows where. Gilbert rolled his eyes, grumbling, "Enough with the flimsy metaphors already." He turned back around to examine the heavy door in front of him, and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
"Well," he said resignedly, reaching out to press his hand against the oak surface, "No time like the present."
He pushed open the door and walked through, his shoulders squared, his steps proud and unwavering.
Gilbert blinked his eyes against the sudden glare, instinctively throwing up a hand to shield his face. "Whoa," he muttered, squinting into the pure, blinding light, "Didn't think I'd end up here."
His eyes slowly adjusted, and he looked around him, his eyes landing on one large object.
He stared in disbelief. "…You gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me."
The large oak table loomed in front of him, the pitted surface still marred by that damn cross shaped mark. Gilbert hesitantly reached out, laughing in triumph when his hand made contact with the surface. He turned and kicked a chair, his smile widening as the thing clattered to the floor. Gilbert's mirth faded, and he crossed his arms over his chest. "Well now," he spoke aloud to the empty room, sighing and scratching his head. "This is an unexpected turn of events."
There was silence. He sighed, muttering to himself, "At least when the damn voices were around I had someone to talk to… even if they were a bunch of dead countries with overly pretentious vocabularies."
A tall figure suddenly ran in through the open door, military boots echoing loudly on the floor.
"Who the fuck is in here?!" they snapped, and Gilbert turned to see Ludwig making his way towards him, the younger man's face an angry mask.
The blonde man froze when he spotted Gilbert, shock and horror vying for dominance on his face as it grew deathly pale.
"…Hey," Gilbert replied, the element of surprise robbing him of anything witty he would have liked to have said.
Ludwig's face curled upwards into an angry snarl, "Who the hell are you?" he demanded, storming forward to tower in front of the other man. "Who let you in here?"
Gilbert just stared up at Ludwig, a slow grin blossoming across his face. "Damn. It really is you, West…" he said, his voice catching slightly. "West… I-"
"Shut the hell up!" Ludwig yelled, furiously slamming the other man up against the oak table. "You are not allowed to call me that! Nobody is! Now you tell me who you are right now or I swear to God I will make you tell me!"
Gilbert's eyes narrowed in wary suspicion. "This isn't a dream, right? Or some fucked up acid trip? You didn't follow the Netherlands and get any of that shit legalized, did you?"
"I have protected what was left to me," Ludwig spat out. "Now do as I say, or I will be forced-"
Gilbert suddenly reached out and snagged Ludwig's hand before the taller man had a chance to react, drawing it close to his face.
Ludwig attempted to pull his arm away with an angry growl, but Gilbert tightened his iron grip on the other man's wrist. "Stop fidgeting, West," he grumbled, trying to examine the other man's hand.
"Let go right now or I'll-"
"Baseless threats get you nowhere. Thought I taught you better than that," Gilbert muttered absently, prying open the taller man's hand to study the palm. His red eyes widened. "Well," he let out a weak laugh, "I'll be damned." Gilbert drew Ludwig's hand up to brush his lips against the younger man's palm, looking up with dark red eyes to gauge the other man's reaction. Ludwig jerked backwards, glowering down at him in speechless fury. Gilbert rolled his eyes, grabbing the blonde man's arm again.
"No, dumbass," he growled impatiently, "Look." He pressed their palms together, and then slowly drew them apart, casting a pointed look in Ludwig's direction. Ludwig glared back, but slowly, slowly his expression began to change. He glanced down at his hand with a guarded air, and blue eyes flew wide open in shock. Gilbert held up his own hand, a small, genuine smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "This proof enough for you?" he asked quietly.
Ludwig's gaze never wavered, as he stared at the fresh but worn scar that marred his palm, bloodlessly marking him with the familiar shape. "I…" Ludwig looked up, his blue eyes rimmed with red, looking as though he'd aged a hundred years since the last Gilbert could remember. The blonde's throat bobbed as he swallowed heavily, "I… how…"
"Unity," Gilbert said simply, studying his own hand, marveling at how shallow his scar had become with a detached sense of wonder. "Splittin' the past fifty-fifty." He quirked one eyebrow at the blonde, "Either that, or we're both dead, and God's just enjoyin' fuckin' with us."
Suddenly he was in Ludwig's arms, the blonde man almost crushing him in a passionate embrace, his voice choked with emotion as he whispered Gilbert's name over and over again in a seamless torrent of sound that resounded through the lavish room. Gilbert pressed his face against the solid form in front of him, laughing in startled delight at the simple feeling of the younger man's arms supporting him.
"West… West, man, you're cuttin' off my air."
"I don't care," Ludwig muttered, tightening his grip even more as though afraid Gilbert would fade away again. "Just tell me that it's actually you."
Gilbert snorted, although the sound lacked its normal caustic edge, "Know anyone else capable of stayin' in the same room with you for more than five minutes without blowin' their brains out just to escape your overbearin' personality?"
Ludwig laughed weakly, reluctantly letting go of the older man to cover his face with his hand. "Only one other, actually. Although he's significantly less abrasive than you are."
Gilbert rolled his eyes, boosting himself up to sit on the edge of the table. "You say abrasive, I say uncompromising. Gotta pick your words carefully, West, or else you might hurt my feelings."
"I knew I shouldn't have gotten you that thesaurus. It was a headache waiting to happen," Ludwig groaned in exasperation, an unguarded smile still lingering on his face.
"So, why the hell'd you just try and kill me just now?" Gilbert raised an eyebrow, "Some historical accuracy complex hauntin' you?"
Ludwig flushed slightly, "I wasn't expecting the treaty they signed today to actually do anything. So I, uh…" he said awkwardly, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked off to the side, "I… didn't recognize you."
Gilbert blinked. "The hell you talkin' about?"
Ludwig sighed, and moved to grab the older man by the shoulders, steering him towards the large windows that lined the room. He parked Gilbert in front of one of the glass panes that had been thrown into shadow by the early dusk and took a step back. Gilbert studied himself in the reflection, blinking in surprise at what he saw. Gone was the gaunt skeleton of an unwanted nation that had stared accusingly back at him for years on end; his red eyes no longer dull and sunken, but pulsing with a vibrant light that made his whole face look alive and devious. Gilbert reached up to cautiously poke his forehead, tugging at his bangs. He exhaled in relief when none of the silvery strands came loose in his hand. Gilbert turned around to look up at Ludwig, eyes shining with mirth. "Didn't recognize me, huh?" he smirked, stepping forward to press himself against Ludwig, eliciting a sharp gasp of surprise from the younger man. His smirk intensified, and he reached around to languidly drape his arms over the taller man's shoulders. "Sure you didn't just feel threatened by my overwhelmin' sexiness?"
Ludwig's cheeks flushed, but his face remained impassive. "Hardly," he muttered. "I draw the line at necrophilia."
Gilbert gave a startled bark of laughter, but gradually his expression fell, brows knitting together in thought. He took a step back, all traces of humor suddenly wiped from his face. He walked around the table to perch on the edge again, resting his elbows on his knees. "So," he asked quietly, "what exactly happened?"
There was silence from across the room, then the soft sound of footsteps as Ludwig made his way over to sit a carefully measured distance from the other man. The blonde gave a shaky sigh, his eyes focused on the tiled floor. "You never even made a sound," Ludwig said dully, his hands gripping the edge of the table, turning his knuckles white. "Just… one minute you were there, and then it was like you never were." Ludwig turned to stare at Gilbert's proud profile, his smile embittered. "I blinked, and my damn arms weren't even warm anymore. And suddenly… I felt whole. Whole but… gone. Like a broken box put back together, but with nothing in it."
Gilbert chuckled dryly, "So, what? You sayin' I'm a zombie or somethin'?"
"What I'm saying is, I barely remember that month." Ludwig rested his chin on his hands, "It was just… so different. More raw and empty than not being able to see you or hear you. Not being able to touch you." The blonde let out a shaky breath, running his hand restlessly through his already disheveled hair. "I honestly have no idea how you did it. How you survived for forty years like that. Alone." Ludwig's face darkened with calm fury, "I still can't look Russia in the eye without wanting to break him down to atoms for what he did to you."
Gilbert shifted slightly, before hesitantly laying a hand on top of the other man's knee. "I'm sure if we put our heads together we can come up with some kick-ass Machiavellian plan to rearrange his face. Don't worry about it."
Ludwig shifted cautiously to face the older man. "For those twenty-one days, there was one thing that selfishly haunted me," he murmured, tentatively reaching out to rest his hand against Gilbert's cheek. "One thing I could never forgive myself for never daring to do."
Gilbert's eyes flew open in surprise as Ludwig suddenly leaned forward almost impulsively to close the distance between them, pressing his lips against the older man's in a soft, chaste kiss. The blonde man pulled back abruptly, his face a bright crimson. Gilbert just stared at his counterpart as Ludwig buried his face in his hands, the tips of his ears, flush with embarrassment, all that was visible behind his rough hands.
"G-Gilbert," Ludwig said shakily, giving a deep breath and standing. "I'm sorry," the blonde said stiffly. "That was unprofessional of me. You haven't even been here five minutes and I'm already making a mess of everything. We should head to the conference room. I'm sure our boss will want to ta-"
The nation's true name sounded foreign on his tongue. Gilbert rose to his feet, his jaw set as he twisted his hand in the blonde's shirt, yanking the taller man around to shove him back against the edge of the table. Ludwig opened his mouth to protest, but Gilbert cut him off. "Shut up," he said quietly, hooking his finger in the loop of the other man's tie, "I'm sick of talkin'."
Gilbert yanked Ludwig down, crushing his lips against the younger man's in a searing kiss. His body was moving almost against his will, casting off the memories of a bitter eternity of rage and isolation, where all was conquest and betrayal and blood and war. Gilbert could feel Ludwig dig his fingers into his back, the blonde struggling to keep from falling into the table as the platinum-haired man pressed up against him.
Gilbert suddenly took a step away from Ludwig as he tugged roughly on the younger man's tie, pushing him backwards to fall gracelessly into one of the ancient plush velvet chairs. Gilbert studied Ludwig's flushed face for a moment with red eyes gone dark with hunger, before lowering himself to straddle the younger man's lap, the added height allowing him an uncompromised view of the other man's face. He languidly ran his hand up the surface of the broad chest in front of him, feeling Ludwig shudder under his fingertips. Gilbert smirked, and leaned down to murmur softly against the younger man's lips, "Can't believe I waited so long to do this… "
Gilbert captured Ludwig's lips again, feeling the younger man bring his hands up to rest on his waist, thumbs tracing sharp lines over his jagged hip bones. He arched his back as strong hands hesitantly traced the surface of his skin.
For the first time since he could remember, there was no chorus of ancient voices in his head, no blistering pain robbing him of his sense and of his senses. He basked in the serenity, closing his eyes and tilting his head back to let Ludwig press his lips against his collarbone, the blonde man whispering his true name against the pale skin of his throat.
It didn't last long.
"WHAT THE SAM HILL ARE YOU TWO DOIN'?!"
The horror-struck voice made Ludwig jump out of his chair, his face a vivid crimson. Gilbert rose from where he had been knocked to the ground, nursing his injured pride. He glared up with murderous intensity at whoever it was that had dared interrupt him.
America stood in the doorway, his eyes clenched tight and his palms pressed against his ears. Gilbert glowered at the over-zealous nation, irritated that the American couldn't see his patented death gaze.
"Can I open my eyes now?" America yelled, his eyes still scrunched shut behind his glasses. "You guys aren't gonna start… straddelin' each other again, are ya?"
Ludwig gave an irritated sigh, but called out in a calm voice, "No, Herr Jones. We'll do our best to restrain ourselves."
"Speak for yourself," Gilbert muttered. At Ludwig's glare the platinum-haired man crossed his arms, leaving his blonde counterpart to deal with the panicked American.
America slowly opened one eye, as though making sure no more illicit activity was going on in front of him before he straightened, lowering his hands to his side and giving a weak chuckle. "Uh… Lud. Your boss was lookin' for you," the American's voice was pitched higher than normal, his blue eyes focused pointedly on the wall behind the other two nations as he shoved his hands in his pockets.
Ludwig glanced down at Gilbert, but the other man just shrugged his shoulder, his face a carefully constructed mask of indifference. Ludwig sighed again, and turned to face the American. "I'll be right there," he said calmly, straightening his tie with all the dignity he could muster, running his hand through his hair in an attempt to coax the disheveled strands back into their normally rigid style.
Gilbert just continued to glare impassively at the intruding nation, and America shifted uneasily under the older man's scrutiny. "He-hey there, uh… you," the blonde said hesitantly, as though still trying to get rid of the mental image of what he had unwittingly stumbled upon. The American gave an unsteady laugh, "It's uh… good? Yeah. Good to see you're back. Guess that reunification treaty thing worked after all. Well, sorta. In a way." He slowly backed out of the room, still babbling semi-incoherently, "Should I uh… Should I go on ahead and let them know you're comin'?" America paused, grimacing slightly as he quickly amended, "To the meetin'. Comin' to the meetin'."
Ludwig gave an irritated sigh, and snapped, "Just get out of here, Jones."
A look of relief washed across the American's face, but the young nation attempted to hide it with a relaxed smile that only served to make him look disturbing. "Cool, cool. So I'll uh… see you two there. Together. Coincidentally." With that, America turned on his heel and all but bolted from the room.
The two older nations glanced at each other, the color of Ludwig's face slowly returning to normal. Gilbert groaned and sank into one of the chairs, pressing his hand into his forehead to try and suppress his frustration. "I can't believe I'm sayin' this," he ground out, "But I'm almost glad I had to deal with Russia instead of that train wreck of a nation."
"Jones isn't all bad," Ludwig said, his embarrassment fading fast as he straightened his crooked tie. "Just… exuberant."
"He's fuckin' nosy," Gilbert ground out, rising to his feet and heading towards the door, "No surprise he's always getting' himself caught up in other people's wars."
Ludwig took a few quick steps to catch up with the other man. "Kirkland usually does a good job of reigning him in," he supplied helpfully, "If you get too irritated at meetings, just try and stick close to England."
Gilbert rolled his eyes, "Goody. Stuck in a jam-packed room playin' 'Who Can I Resist Murderin' for God knows how long 'till our bosses get this mess straightened out."
Ludwig suddenly reached into his pocket and pulled out a small object wrapped in a white cloth. The blonde bent to grab Gilbert's hand, gently pressing the item into the older man's hand. Gilbert raised one pale eyebrow at the other man, but Ludwig just smiled enigmatically, offering no explanation.
Gilbert rolled his eyes, but opened his hand to unwrap the thing. He froze when his fingers met cool metal, and he ripped the cloth off to find the small iron cross resting solidly in his hand, flecks of old, dried blood still caked on the back surface. Gilbert swallowed heavily, and looked up at Ludwig, ruby eyes wide with confusion. "…How did you-"
"I found it embedded in that damn table. Had to use a knife to pry it out," Ludwig said, plucking the cross out of Gilbert's hand and fished a chain out of his pocket. He threaded the chain through the small loop on the back of the piece of metal, and placed it back into Gilbert's still outstretched hand. The blonde stared at Gilbert with a grave expression on his face. "You've no idea how glad I am to be rid of it again," he said quietly, "It's quite a burden to bear alone." Ludwig reached up around his neck to free his own cross from where it was nestled hidden under his uniform, holding it up in the light for only a moment before tucking it away.
Gilbert just stared at the other man before wordlessly slipping his own chain over his head. The cross hung there, a solid weight against his chest, resting over his pounding heart.
The years of wretched isolation, of dreaming and loathing the voice of unity, of having to put his trust in destruction, chaos, suffering and anguish - all embodied in one, stupid piece of metal. He fuckin' hated the thing. Hated how every time he looked at it, all he could see was the one who made him, the ones who had faded before him. His scar. The scars they had so willingly inflicted on others.
Gilbert took a deep breath, and looked up into the resolute face of his other half.
"I can't call you West anymore, can I?"
"Well, thank you, anyway," Gilbert said simply, twining the thin chain through his pale fingers. "Whoever the hell you are."
Gilbert glanced up at Ludwig out of the corner of his eye. The blonde's face was a deep red again, and he looked mortified enough for both of them. But slowly, slowly, a hesitant smile began to bloom across his face as Ludwig turned and walked purposefully down the hallway.
"He-hey!" Gilbert yelled, running after the taller man. "What the hell, West? Almighty me has decided to shower you with my graces and you just fuckin' turn around and leave?"
"I am choosing to ignore you for the moment," Ludwig said, his tone brisk and businesslike. "Clearly being dead for a time, however brief it may have been, has vested you of any semblance of both physical and mental self-restraint."
"You're sayin' that like it's a bad thing. Remember, some of my best ideas came from when I was sufferin' from noted bouts of spontaneity."
Ludwig rolled his eyes, "If by 'best ideas' you mean those drunken cavortings you used to go on with France and Spain, then yes."
The two continued to walk leisurely down the hallway, bantering back and forth, the backs of their hands covertly touching as their voices mingled in the still and dusty air.
The door swung shut to hide the ancient oak table from view, the sound lost beneath the loud echoes of bright laughter.
The two halves stood in front of an imposing set of double doors. Gilbert fiddled irritably with the tie around his neck.
"Damn monkey suits," he grumbled, "Don't know how the hell you can stand them."
Ludwig sighed and reached down to push the other man's hand away from his neck, "You spent dozens of years wearing that uniform of yours. I fail to see how this is any different."
"It's the principle of the thing," Gilbert said sullenly, fixing his jacket collar with a hint of resentment. "A business suit doesn't exactly strike the fear of God into any hearts now does it / have that same bad ass flair, you know?"
The two fell silent, before Ludwig asked quietly, "You're sure you're ready to do this?"
Gilbert rolled his eyes, "Two weeks of bein' cooped up as your personal sex slave is enough, Lud. People are startin' to talk."
Ludwig groaned, massaging his temples, "There has to be a better way of saying you're just taking advantage of my hospitality."
"Man slave?" Gilbert suggested, "Or wait, that'd probably be the other way around. 'Man master' doesn't have the same ring to it, though."
Ludwig coughed discretely, "…So I was thinking we'd try and set you up in a condo. Or an apartment. A bomb shelter could work too."
"Wait, by myself? That's cruel, West," Gilbert complained.
"I would offer to buy you a cat or something if I weren't so sure it would inexplicably end up in your garbage disposal or locked inside your refrigerator," Ludwig said dryly.
"Hey," Gilbert protested, "I'm damn good with animals. Remember that little yellow chick I used to take care of?"
"… You ended up barbequing it."
Gilbert laughed, "You thought that's what happened to it? Nah, man. I shipped it off to Hungary. She acts all tough, but it's almost too easy to win her over with cute things. Think those kinds of tactics will fly in here?"
"I do not believe so. But just please remember to act with a bit of decorum," Ludwig requested, although his voice sounded anything but convinced that he would be taken seriously.
"Decorum. Right..." Gilbert said slowly, before suddenly turning to kick open the double doors, shoving his taller counterpart into the conference room.
Gilbert strode in after the stumbling man, a wicked smirk slashed across his face as he stared back in amusement at the startled faces of the nations sitting before him. "Quake in fear, you tiny fools!" he crowed, latching on to Ludwig's arm to help keep the blonde man from collapsing in shame. Gilbert saluted rakishly with his free arm, smirking elatedly at the stunned gaggle of countries seated around the conference table.
Now what was their name again?
"The Bundesrepublik has officially arrived!"
Bonus points if you can spot the Rocky Horror reference. I couldn't resist.
Again, thank you all so much for reading. It means so much to me... Seriously. I'm bad with words, so I'll stop there.
If you're looking for something without such a cookie-cutter ending, rest assured that 'Porzellan' will be anything but. Pardon the shameless plug.
Now... go plant a tree or something. Shoo!