Sequel to 'Your Right, My Order'.
Your Family, My Friend
This is where every soldier expected to show up after the war. This is where every soldier expected to pay their respects, to cry for their comrades, to cry for their enemy. This is where every soldier had known he would be coming.
This is not where any soldier wanted to see their loved one no longer at home, their loved one who they were supposed to be protecting by going to war.
He could not cry, not yet. All he could do was stare at the grave and try to believe in something which he had not been able to know for so long. Feeling himself swallowing him into the dark abyss which he had fallen in long ago. And just like that time long ago (which was not really so long ago) a light would always show up. A light to remind him that yes, he was trapped down here and there was no way out. But he was not trapped down here alone.
The presence beside him did not say anything, seemed to be staring down with the same convictions as himself. Ludwig knew at this point. They had shared that much together.
"I knew he vas..." Ludwig started, but found himself unable to finish the sentence. Not because his voice choked up, because it did not. Not because his throat constricted the words, because it did not. Because his mind could not quite process what he knew was the truth.
The blond beside him said the word as if it were any other. "Dead?"
Italy was dead. So were many others, but this was Italy. His Italy. Italy could not fight, but he always managed to run far enough away. Ludwig had always been there to protect him.
Expect he had not.
"I saw him vhen I vas shot." Ludwig knew the other Nation would know when he was referring to. "I knew it, den. I knew. I coult hafe joined him." He could have gone to Feliciano then. He could have been happy.
"Why didn't you?" he asked. The other knew the answer, but did not want it to be the truth. He had never wanted to be the person keeping someone from happiness. Ludwig did not want him to think that he was.
"Because if Italy has taught me anyding, it is dat I can't leafe a friend vhen dey need me."
Alfred let out a little sound of agreement and Ludwig finally let his eyes look over toward the other. Both of them looked so awkward in suits, in jackets with a thousand pockets, without a bag so heavy on their backs. Both of them looked so awkward standing so straight when the weight was still there, to lay upon them forever.
"I had to forgive Canada for almost killing you," Alfred finally said what Ludwig was certain he had come to say. "I didn't think it'd be so difficult. We were in war. He was just doin' his job."
"You didn't hafe to," Ludwig responded, though he knew it would be to no avail. "I'm fine."
"Of course I did." Because they both knew saying 'I'm fine' now would always be a lie. "I... I don't think he recognized me much. Have I changed?"
Ludwig stared at him of at him. From the annoying Nation, spouting off loudly that he was the hero and every interval, who could not take a hint if his life depended on it, who was the richest of them all in so many ways, who said he cared when he had no idea what that meant. From that to the man who looked awkward in a business clothes. From that to the man who would not speak above a normal voice because he might think he was under attack otherwise. From that... from that to a Nation who cared more than almost anyone Ludwig had ever met.
"Not from vhat I'fe seen."
"You liar," Alfred laughed quietly, staring up toward the grey sky. Ludwig had been waiting for it to start raining soon, but it never seemed to reach the breaking point. "Y'know... I never thought I'd ever really look at Canada and not be able to see him like I used to. I mean, we're brothers. No matter what, family should always matter most, right? They're the friends you're stuck with until the end."
Ludwig let his mind drift toward his brother. Ludwig wondered if he had stopped by to see him and he had missed him. He had been gone since yesterday. Just standing here.
"I'fe heard dat family are de only friends dat are able to stay."
"That sounds right."
No, it sounded wrong. Alfred's agreement was forced from his mouth as if Ludwig had been strangling it out of him. He had to agree to live. He could not say 'no, this is not the case. I know this now' because that would simply shatter the both of them. They would need an alternative to turn to. They could not take away the only option and leave themselves with no where to turn. Not again. It would be the last time.
Ludwig knew Alfred had saved a bullet for himself. Ludwig could see Alfed still carried that gun, much as Ludwig had his own.
Only with one bullet.
"When friends become your family... those are the people you should be able to trust."
The thought nearly electrocuted Ludwig. Alfred's words were like the buildings they had been forced to sleep in. Broken, dusty, empty, and dead. Dead.
Ludwig suddenly felt the tears rolling down his cheeks.
"You're like the brother..." Alfred sobbed. "You're like the brother I no longer have."
Ludwig only could tell that he had gripped Alfred's shoulder because his hand stopped moving. He felt numb. He did not feel as though he were crying. But he knew he was, there was no denying it. Alfred screamed, for he was able to. Because he was younger? Maybe.
When war was over... were you supposed to forgive your enemies for making you fight? Were you supposed to forgive yourself for fighting? Were you supposed to forgive your comrades, your friends, the people who kept you fighting, killing, the people who fought and killed for you?
Ludwig suddenly hated this place. Hated the stone which marked his friend's death. Hated the fact that he knew, somewhere in the north there was a copy of this grave. A copy in a different language, in a different land, marking the death of another Nation. And another and another and another.
Ludwig could not bear to grieve for anyone more than Italy now. He was incapable of accepting Feliciano's death and knew he had to come to terms before he began to think about another.
Alfred grieved for everyone, everything, and it was too much for him. Too close to him. Ludwig knew better than to think Alfred had put himself in a league outside of everyone else's comprehension. No, Alfred had never done that. Alfred had made himself free of other's chains, but at the same time made himself depend on their existence for his own happiness.
Alfred could cry for everyone. Alfred could die for everyone.
Ludwig did not envy him.
"Want to come over to my place? I'll make pancakes."
Alfred's home was far away from here, far away from the death, but Alfred would never be able to escape from it there. Probably less there than anywhere else. Alfred knew it. Ludwig knew it.
Ludwig also knew there was nowhere he could go now. He might as well spend time with someone who needed him. Get away from here. Stop staring the proof of a demise straight in the face.
"Why not?" Alfred asked. And Ludwig knew. Alfred had yet to sleep until noon, had yet to see Japan, did not apologize to Canada when he forgave him, and...
Well, neither of them could do what they most wished to anymore. But the rest... maybe. Maybe they could do these other things. Maybe.
"I'll bring de beer."
Alfred slung an arm over his shoulder and turned him around. Ludwig could not say, think, consider a goodbye to the grave.
Even though it meant he would have to return later.
This scene has been stuck in my head ever since I wrote 'Your Right, My Order'. Hope you have enjoyed.