Denmark thinks the winter sunrises are the best. They are late enough in the day that he is awake to see them, with fog hanging like a thick curtain over the dark expanse of deep gray ocean. The sun is a sliver of molten orange gold as it drifts over the horizon, turning the world shades of lavender and pale pink. It's late, although time is relative now with no real working clocks. Maybe if the world was normal, it would be close to eight in the morning. Denmark used to like to rise at six, but his grasp on time and reality is a little shaky these days.
The beach is empty except for him, damp sand crunching softly under his worn and torn thick black coat. His breath forms clouds in front of his face, white and ephemeral.
It is silent, except for the gentle lapping of waves on shore and the gentle howl of the whispering wind breezing by. The gloom of the early morning and the quiet is eerie, for there is no usual rushing of traffic. There are no city lights to pollute the sky. There is nothing but Denmark on a fog-laden beach, a few miles from his run-down home with no electricity and bad plumbing because the world is dead except for a few million people.
Denmark shudders as he inhales. The cold burns in his lungs; the salt air stings the raw cut stretching across his upper lip. It's been nearly two years since the last of the bombs, two years since the dust settled, and yet he is not used the silence that hangs like a cloud.
Denmark is not sure why he survived, why he lived when so many died. He knows that some wish he had died inside of someone else – he and Norway left England to get away from the accusing stares of those who loved Finland – why do you live when he is dead and gone? Why did we end up with you?
So they left. They are aware they are not the most sociable, gregarious people. Norway says that the quiet of the north is what suits them and they should have never left in the first place. They were in England long enough to make sure everyone was fine, that they weren't the only ones left in this cold new world.
And then they came home. Months and days and weeks are meaningless terms now. They spend some time in Denmark, then sail across the channel to Norway and repeat, endlessly. Life is about living, about trying to recover what they lost. Denmark tries to salvage his windmills. Norway works with his dams. Electricity will bring life (maybe). The work brings sanity (someday). Both are important in their own ways.
The wet sand is dampening his coat and a heavy chill is settling in the base of his spine. Denmark gets to his feet – his knees crack as he stands; he's getting old – and brushes the grim off his already dirty and ruined clothes before heading home, leaving a line of sunken footprints in the damp dirt.
Norway's at the lab when he gets home. Or at least, he's not rattling around their chilly house, griping about the distinct lack of coffee. No one's had coffee in nearly two years, but Norway still pines for a cup of black gold.
Denmark pines for normalcy – he wants Iceland and Norway sitting in the living room playing a board game, Finland and Sweden carefully working out the bugs in a computer program, Sealand clicking together his Legos. He wants the people he's known for hundreds of years to stand by him and see another hundred pass.
And a bottle of beer, but that's a given and Norway punches him if he mentions alcohol.
There's a bowl of cold porridge on the wood-burning stove with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on top. Denmark smiles tightly. Norway can be sweet, in his own way.
The porridge is nasty and slimy when it's chilly, but there's no way to eat it up and cinnamon's so rare that Denmark gulps it down anyway, just to have the spice burn in the back of his throat. Once it's all gone, he sets the bowl down, staring down at the scratched green plastic flecked with the remainder of his breakfast and wonders what has happened to the world.
He wants a newspaper to read. He wants a phone so he can call up Prussia and make plans to go drinking later. He wants to be able to hope on the train, go to Malmö and bother Sweden.
His eyes are burning, and he grabs the soft skin under his neck and pinches, using the pain to ignore the dull ache beating, burning, in his chest. His neck is covered in dark little bruises that Norway pretends not to see and Denmark, in return, never mentions the scars that trail up Norway's thin white arms, slender and fine and so very delicate.
He puts the bowl down, turns away, staring blankly at the shadowy shapes that make up their cold and hollow home before he heads out to find Norway.
Norway is at the lab – an abandoned high school on the opposite side of town they use, along with what is left of their people, to try and build ways to get electricity. He's working on a model of a dam, long hair pulled into a tail at the nape of his neck with a piece of string – he's let it grow since the war ended; it hangs below his shoulder blades now and glows platinum, almost silver.
The flickering light of the candle burning next to him paints his face with warm oranges and golds, colors Norway normally lacks. He looks softer, gentler – kinder, even. He glances up as Denmark clicks the door to the old science classroom shut and his face softens before his eyes go hard and unreadable again.
"What are you doing?"
Denmark runs his hands through his spiky hair nervously. He needs to cut it soon; it's hanging down to his shoulders like a mop of heavy gold thread and is greasy because shampoo is almost impossible to find these days. "I was looking for you, but now I've found you."
"Because I don't like to be away from you for a long time."
"Your dependency on me borders on disturbing, Denmark," Norway says flatly, turning his attention back to the model of the dam. He adjusts something, pours a little water into the mini-lake in the top section and scowls. "I think I could fix one of the dams in my land, Denmark," he mutters, tilting his head and studying his model, "But mechanics is not my area of expertise and there's a problem with the generator. The lines seem to be in working condition, as well as the grid, but it's the actual energy production that's holding me up."
"What's the problem?" Denmark asks, gliding across the room and leaning over Norway so he can see what he is doing. Norway helpfully shifts out of his line of view a bit, gesturing a tad despairingly at his diorama.
"I don't know. The generators back in my lands at that dam a few miles from that shore village. I can get them turning, but I can't hook them up to the grid at all, get electricity flowing through the lines. Can you think of anyone we know who knows anything about electricity or mechanics?" His tone is beseeching, almost pleading as he glances back at Denmark, blue eyes glowing the deep azure of the ocean in late summer in the gloom.
He doesn't say, "If only Finland were here" even though Denmark knows he wants to. Finland was the one with the talent with mechanics, with slender fingers that could coax any machine to life. But Finland's gone, and even though neither of them are skilled with electricity they are on their own now.
"Maybe we could," Denmark replies, squinting down at the model. The lighting's bad and his vision's been getting steadily worse as the years pass; he's growing nearsighted. At least the sun is drifting over the horizon to illuminate the room with a dull golden sheen. "I'll ask around. We'll find someone." Maybe they will, but finding anything these days is difficult beyond belief. Denmark knows that what Norway needs right now is reassurance and doesn't voice those sentiments.
Norway eyes his model for a moment more, then his gaze drops to the jumble of wires on his desk before he sighs and unties the string from his hair. "Let's go, Denmark. We need more fish."
"We were out all day yesterday," Denmark protests as Norway's hand slips down the ragged fabric of his shirt to tangle their fingers together as he pulls him towards the door. "Norge, let's not do something that's work. Let's have fun."
He can't see Norway's face behind the thick curtain of hair, but his voice is low, cheerless. "There is nothing left that's fun. Life is..." he trails off as he opens the door, and seems to forget what he was saying as they head down the hallway, leaving the door gently creaking shut behind them. Norway's memory fades some days; time and stress have worked their way through his mind, digging their fingers in. He forgets a lot – what he ate for breakfast, what he was just saying, the color of Iceland's eyes and the taste of Finland's food. Little things, really, but the little things that were all that ever mattered and now Norway's so damaged that all he can do is forget.
Denmark doesn't mind; he's damaged too.
Norway's hand is cool and very dry. Tiny pieces of dead skin flakes off as he meshes their fingers closer together. He tugs on his arm, and Denmark follows (he'll follow Norway to the ends of the earth and back again just so they can be the only ones left in the world with their hands intertwined).
Denmark and Norway's side of the story, set after America's entry but before the epilogue. They head up back north. About the scars on Norway's arms - he is not a cutter. What he does is scratch himself. Yes, I know self-harm is cliche and whatnot, but really, when you go through enough emotional pain you need to have some outlet for it. With this, I was trying to illustrate that it's the two of them against the world. Norway and Denmark, having lost pretty much everyone they care about - Iceland and Finland to death and Sweden to grief - can only depend on each other now. Thank you for reading. Please tell me what you thought of it.
About the scars on Norway's arms - he is not a cutter. What he does is scratch himself. Yes, I know self-harm is cliche and whatnot, but really, when you go through enough emotional pain you need to have some outlet for it.
With this, I was trying to illustrate that it's the two of them against the world. Norway and Denmark, having lost pretty much everyone they care about - Iceland and Finland to death and Sweden to grief - can only depend on each other now.
Thank you for reading. Please tell me what you thought of it.