Title: Lie until tomorrow and let's believe it, always
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Disclaimer: Hetalia belongs to Hidekaz
Characters: Prussia, S. Italy, Austria, Germany + cameos from the rest of the world
Rating: Plenty of swearing, so PG-13?
Warnings: Language and angst
Summary: Why does Prussia even exist today? Things get a bit too much during a meeting, and Prussia breaks down in front of the world
Note: Written for the aph-kink meme challenge "Prussia has a breakdown in front of the nations". Call it an experiment to see if the scenario can be written.
Feedback: Yes please
He comes to the meetings still, now and then. It's good to get a pulse of the world, know where the conflicts are likely to blossom. He can't start anything on his own any longer, but Germany is more than happy to let him out to play in the various "peacekeeping" missions America thinks up.
And, of course, there's always that little hope in the back of his mind that something will happen... Another real war, another big re-drawing of the maps. You never know; what with America nervously looking over his shoulder during lunch (not, he would insist, towards the table where the Arab nations tend to gather; he's just making sure they haven't run out of ketchup.). But...
And Russia. He is, remains, Russia. Perhaps a little bit more stable, perhaps not. You can't really tell with him until it all goes to hell and by then it's usually too late.
If only they weren't so fucking boring, Prussia thinks he'd come to even more meetings. Lately they've been worse than usual. Everyone is counting their pennies and glaring daggers at America, but feeling too shitty to do anything about it. Except for that one time when England and Iceland almost got into a fistfight. Prussia got to help Denmark break them up, but apart from that? Nothing interesting has happened for months.
"An- and-d that's wh- what I think we sh- sh- shou-"
"Should do about the economic crisis, yeah, we've heard you Latvia!" he mutters.
Oops. Prussia realizes, as several nations turn to glare at him, that he spoke a bit louder than intended.
"Let him finish, you clod!" Austria immediately calls him out, but then has to pause to cough into his handkerchief. Prussia just rolls his eyes. As if anyone gets to finish speaking during these meetings when they're all feeling healthy. Not his fault they're so bloody globalized, these modern powers, that America's stomach ache becomes China's runny nose.
"Whatever," Prussia waves his hand, dismissive. "You'd said your point already, haven't you, squirt?"
Latvia trembles, feeling the eyes of the world on him, and is unable to utter more than a low moan of terror.
"Oh, ignore him," Hungary comforts the wimp. "He's always talked too loud and thought too little."
"Same to you, darling," Prussia says and gives her a leer. "It's like you're always trying to overcompensate for that dick you don't have."
"Brother. Please stop this." Germany's voice, hoarse with recession, silences him. He does his best to look innocent. It's not that he listens more to his little brother than anyone else, nope. It's just that Germany can nag amazingly well for a big macho lump of a nation and Prussia has to sleep somewhere. Which is amazingly hard to do when you've got someone standing by your bed, describing your failings in careful detail.
"Sure, go on," he sighs and waves grandly. "I bet we're all just dying to hear how to solve the world's problems from some little wimp who has had to go back to a barter economy, right?"
They glare more, but Prussia is used to glares, and easily ignores them. Tomorrow, he will wish that he had ignored the whispers too... That he had ignored the entire fucking cock-up of a piece of shit meeting, but by then, it was far too late.
And he's always been too interested in what Austria was doing, one way or another. So when the priss leant over the table and whispered something to the Baltic trio (Or Prig, Wimpy and Wimpiest, as Prussia mentally refers to them) he couldn't help but sharpen his ears a little.
"Truly, do ignore him," Austria says. "He is nothing, today, has no land nor an economy - why, if only he wasn't so slow to catch up, he would know he was already dead."
Somehow, the world does not stop right then. Though his blood is suddenly rushing loudly in Prussia's ears, though he longs to take a sword and hack out that fucker's spine, most other nations don't even seem to hear. Prussia tries to draw a breath, he needs air suddenly, air to curse the air blue and tell that fucking Austria exactly how alive he is! But, there is something blocking his throat and it hurts like the scratch of a signature on a formal law of abolition.
"Austria!" Germany barks, and the tightness in Prussia's chest seems to ease up a little. That's his little brother, isn't it? Whom he raised, made strong...
"Don't talk about those things when he's still here," Germany says, shushing him a little. As if they are discussing America's obsessive eating, or Russia's little vodka-problem, instead of his entire fucking existence!
"But it's true, Germany," Austria says. He is a silk, Prussia realizes with the clarity of panic. Cool and full of slippery betrayal.
Only now does Germany glance his way, but his eyes flicker away immediately. Why, Prussia would shout if his throat wasn't crammed full of old papers denying his existence, why can't you even look at me, West?
"That's not the issue," Germany says, speaking lower still but somehow Prussia can hear every damn word so clearly, every nuance of regret (because he is here, or because he shouldn't be?) and disgust (does he shame Germany, his mere stubborn existence?) but nothing, nothing, no trace of denial (but I am, I AM!)
Prussia's chair clatters too loudly when he rises. It falls to the ground; they're all staring at him now.
"Well? Did you want something?" England asks, finally, as it becomes clear that he has merely risen and is not about to speak.
Muted, silenced, not. He shakes his head, tries to fake a grin, and fumbles for his jacket.
"Bored." Finally, the words come, and with it the grin - his shield. The one that lasts, even when his sword has shattered and his army lies dead and buried in a forgotten field somewhere.
"Gotta..." He gestures to the door, nearly stumbles over the fallen chair and doesn't look at Germany, though he can't help but catch a glimpse of Austria when he turns.
Austria is smiling at Hungary. He, who still has a name and a land, can enjoy the company of others and drink his cold medication with a woman far too good for him. He either doesn't understand or doesn't care that Prussia has nothing but memories these days.
It isn't Austria who tears out into the corridor as if the hounds of hell were nipping at his feet. He doesn't run down the hall, until he finds an empty room to collapse in, where he howls in pain as sharp as that of a state dissolving, claws the carpet until his nails break and the fingers bleed.
He is still screaming, though sobs are choking him and the rage has turned to a pitiful wail, when the door opens. And though Prussia tries, though nine hundred years of pride has made him most difficult to bend and near impossible to break, he can not rise to meet them. He can not stop the tears. Instead, he remains on the floor, crying miserable.
America almost steps on him and the other G20-members crowd in the doorway. At last, Prussia finds that this shield too has shattered, the lies of belonging that he has told himself for so long. Without it, there is nothing at all to hold him together.
"Wha-!" America drops his drink and stars at the mess of a nation kneeling in the conference room.
"Prussia?" Spain and France, his old colleagues - in the art of slaughter and drinking, on and off the battlefield - are the second to speak. They ask him questions, they babble uselessly, but they make no move to comfort him. It has never been their way, has it, to offer comfort beyond that of a slap on the back and another bottle of wine.
His brother, whom he can sense in the back of the crowd, is silent and still. Mortified probably. Nobody moves. Not the nation he would, until so recently, have classified as an almost friend... Nor the one who is still first and last in his heart. They do not move towards him, but shuffle their feet and mutter amongst themselves.
When Prussia drags his head up, when he sees Hungary's pitiful look and how uncomfortably she smoothes out her blouse, he knows that whatever they had between them, once... It has been dead and ashes for more years than he wants to imagine.
Still no word comes from Germany and that tells him all he needs to know. If not even your brother can act respect any longer, then really, why bother? Why try to keep up an illusion for an audience of one?
If he had collapsed there, Prussia will think later when the events of that day haunt him, if he had finished that fall of self-pity and shame, perhaps he would never have hit the floor. Perhaps his fall would only have continued into whatever hell there is for former nations. Surely it is a deep pit that awaits those who have the blood of thousands upon their hands, in their veins, in the red of their greedy, grinning mouths and the madness of they eyes...
Or perhaps he would have landed there, a pathetic rag of old scars and faded glory, and just never bothered to lift his head again.
Before he does, however, there is a hand that grasps his hair, yanks him upwards. The movement brings pain, so blessedly physical that it breaks through the mist of hopelessness that surrounds him. The slap, too, brings him back and though his sight is blurred and his mind keeps screaming at him, he can't help but stare at the angry face of Italy Romano.
"Get up," the other nation growls, "get up and tell them where to shove it, these sons-of-whores!"
This, finally, brings Spain into action. He tries to drag his former charge away, hissing nervously that it is none of their business. But Italy Romano who has many years of experience when it comes to pushing away his advances, avoids him easily.
"They're not you," Romano says, fist tightening in Prussia's hair. "Alright, you boastful fucker? He's not you! He can't make you let go of what you are, unless you let him!"
He should speak, he should rage, he should bloody well start a civil war that draws in all of Europe and show them what it costs to insult him - but he can't.
There is nothing left in him. Not now. All the piss and vinegar that has kept him going, when his people tried to run away while Russia worked him to the bone, it has been vanquished by words unsaid, as much as the ones spoken. Prussia feels that he is nothing but an empty shadow full of tears and snot, and he can only cling to Romano's hand and cry.
He cries, because he isn't just alone, he is fucking lonely in a way that no nation with a people, no matter how oppressed and demeaned, can ever imagine being. He cries and shakes and he knows that, much as he tries, Berlin will never again be his again. Today the map speaks only of Kaliningrad, today the eagle is German. There is no room for him in this world.
And right now, he can't even fool himself that anybody cares or wishes it otherwise.
"Come on," Romano says, and drags him to his feet. "Don't be such fucking dicks!" he yells at the nations still standing in the door, supporting the swaying man beside him and nearly toppling over from the weight. "Move your asses!"
Slowly, they begin to move aside, but Prussia's legs feel leaden. Though he longs for escape from this humiliation, he finds himself unable to lift them. In the end, he is unable to do anything but blubber uselessly into Romano's shoulder.
When another nation, one tall and strong, takes his left side there is something in Prussia that tries to hope. It is only Ireland, though, who says not a word but grabs his arms and starts marching towards the door. Romano hastens along, and together they carry Prussia away from the curious stares and mean whispers of the other nations.
"Don' let it get to you," Ireland says. "World changes every day, yea?"
Prussia can only shake his head and as soon as he is deposited on the toilet, a fresh wave of tears erupt.
"Aw, fuck." Romano has summarized the entire situation succinctly. Ireland mutters something about getting him a dram or two for his nerves and disappears.
"Look, it's... Look, you cabbage-eating bastard, could you just stop crying! Shit." He tears off toilet paper and is about to stomp away, to moist it and wipe him clean, when Prussia's arm shoots out.
"Don't," he sobs, hating his weakness, hating himself for needing to cling to someone. "God, Italy, don't..."
"Aah." It's too tight for two grown nations to fit properly on one toilet lid, but Romano squeezes down beside him anyway. Holds him, though his arms feel awkward and he is frowning deeply.
"My brother," Romano says after a while, "is an idiot. Stupid, too trusting, too easily distracted, lazy - you noticed he wasn't there, didn't you? No, suppose you were busy. Anyway, he's asleep in the main meeting room, we figured when he'd show up we'd know it was time for dinner... Ah, fuck that. Complete idiot. But he's, he's got something, doesn't he?"
Prussia nods and wipes his nose at his sleeve. Romano makes a sound of disgust and thrusts the bundle of toilet paper into his face.
"Don't you dare use my shirt as a napkin," he mutters. "Look, he's a good guy, you know? Everyone loves him, everyone wants him to be the real Italy but just because he is that good, he." His voice shuts off suddenly and somehow their hands have found each other, are squeezing in a shared understanding.
"He let's me hang around," Romano finishes. "Okay? He wants me there, even if I could go rot as far as the rest of the world is concerned..."
"Still thinks I'm his baby," Romano mutters, "and what that tells you about him wanting to marry me, I don't even wanna think about, okay? But he's not important.." There is something ugly in his voice, a very old hurt that Prussia thinks he should know the source of but his head is starting to hurt and the tears continue to leak from his eyes and he can't remember what he should know, not really.
Romano continues, voice rising in agitation. "None of us are important, you know that! It's the people that are."
"I don't have any," Prussia manages and god, only that admission is enough to almost break him again.
And now, the other man shakes him, almost growling like a very small and pathetic dog. Only, he's the one hanging onto him as if he's a life-saver so who is the most pathetic right now, hmm, Prussia old man?
"Then take some! Don't let that insensitive macho-guy become their all! They still remember you, you know! And your other self, the red name, they remember that too!"
"How would you know?"
"Because I can't fucking keep you German bastards out during the summers! And every bloody year, they feel more like him, and there's less- less greatness in them! You used to be like Spain! A big worthless heap of failure, really, but you fucking did it with style! And he! He just, tromps around, tries to nail the whole world down with his bloody rules! Where's your spirit gone, bastard?" These words, Romano screams at him, yells them into his face so that the whole bathroom echoes. When they sit there in the cramped cubicle, they should sound ludicrous but somehow, he makes them different. Makes them grand, as not even Prussia's memories seem these days.
"Spain had a great empire..."
"So did you," Romano says, calming down slightly. "So did England, but- listen, you ass, listen for once in your life! Ireland is still here, isn't he? Scotland, the rest? And say what you want about your brother, at least he's not trying to murder you, even if he is an unmitigated piece of dogshit. But we... we can remain. If we try, we can remain and share houses for as long as we need to, without oppressing or enslaving each others. We can."
For the first time, it penetrates Prussia's skull that, perhaps, it is not mere concern about him that drives Romano. But even if he sees a hidden worry in that frown, even if the brown eyes mask nothing but fear that this will one day be his own future, Prussia can choose to believe the mask of caring that is presented to him. If he tries, perhaps he might even forget that it is a mask.
The door swings open and Ireland is there, carrying the water of life that springs from the greenest island. Perhaps it is the thought of blessed alcoholic numbness that makes him rise. Or perhaps it is because Prussia can't quite keep apart whether it is Romano's concern or his fear that is on the outside and shields the true feelings. But rise, he does. He even staggers to the sink to wash himself off, unaided, though his hand trembles so much that Ireland must help steady him for the first drink.
He won't come to any more meetings, he decides at first. But as the evening wears on Finland and Iceland show up, offering to buy him some more forgetfulness. Then Ukraine comes by, having captured the tail-end of the rumours flying around. She can't afford to stay out drinking, but she has a whole crate of vodka in her room. When the sun rises, Prussia lies collapsed on her floor, with an equally unconscious Romano snoring on his stomach and must remember nothing at all.
When he wakens, he will still lack for land and people, for borders of his own. For another few days, though, he will carry on. Those days will stretch into months and, with some luck, the years will never roll over into centuries before he is his own again.
And even if not, if that time never comes? There is a small angry Italian who will call him a disgusting son-of-a-whore if he loses it too much again. There are green islands that never forgot what freedom tasted like. There is the memory of all who would learn Russian with their minds, but whose hearts continued to speak the tongue of their mothers. There are the struggling nations and not-nations of today, whom shame him into going on, those old children whose fates are even more precarious than his...
Tomorrow, then, Prussia will swallow it all. Bite down on his anger and laugh as before. He will continue to tell the world how awesome he is until it fucking gets it. And, if sometimes, the polite distance of Austria or the stiff correctness from Germany cuts too deep, then he knows where he'll find a tomato-farmer to bother.
And if, once in a while, there knocks someone on his door? Someone, whose brother is so lovely and thus all the more difficult to resist... Then Prussia, too, can offer a beer or ten. He can make an awesome show of faith, that just because they are slowly becoming redundant, they do not yet have to go away.