Act 4: Hanging

Arthur awoke with Francis curled around him, having somehow both ended up in his bed as the night went on, his breathing quiet and slow. England lay there for a moment, remembering the numerous times he had woken to find France in his bed after another night on the town. Reaching down, he traced along the hand sitting on his hip, the arm

hair rough and familiar under his touch. Francis sniffled slightly.

The thought of dealing with the vacant country pushed England out of bed and into his washroom. Hot water gushed out of the showerhead, streaming down his body as he ran soap - an old habit - through his hair. A dull throb had developed at the base of his skull due to the statue of Hitler being erected in Trafalgar Square between the Lions. Occasionally a particularly sharp pain would bite as another protestor was shot.

He had grown to ignore it.

Sighing as the water began to cool, he stepped out of the shower, snatching a towel off the rack, running it over his head and wrapping it around his thin waist. He caught his reflection in the mirror and stopped. Had he always looked this worn? The scars that crisscrossed along his back were encroaching on his chest, red and tender and his fit body was becoming thin and stretched. Clutching the sides of the sink, he breathed out deeply.

Hands wrapped around his hips and he jerked up into Francis' warm embrace. Long hair spilled over his shoulder as France kissed his neck. "Bonjour Angleterre." He murmured into Arthur's skin.

Scowling, England pushed his way out of the arms, stalking out of the bathroom and into the closet, pulling his uniform off the hangers and tugging it on. The Iron Cross rubbed against his skin as he slid the knot of his tie tight against his neck. Quickly checking his reflection in the mirror he started towards the door out of his room.

"Is something wrong?"

Hand on the doorknob, Arthur turned to face France. The nation walked to him, blue eyes dull, a loose dressing gown on his shoulders. The long fingers touched Arthur's cheek. "Please, if something I am doing displeases you, you need only tell me. I am yours now."

Arthur slapped the touch away. France seemed taken aback as the emerald eyes glared at him. "Don't touch me." He growled, throwing the door open and slamming it after him, not trusting himself to remain so composed if he saw the look on Francis' face.

"Those were harsh words," He looked up, "Even for you England." Austria was standing in the hallway, tugging at his sleeves and smoothing out his coat, arching a thin eyebrow at the Briton. Leave it to the Austrian to lurk whenever Arthur needed something to punch.

The Brit straightened fixing his glove, mirroring the other nations grooming in an almost mocking fashion. "Like you can talk. You're not better than him, following around Germany and Gilbert like a good little dog."

Purple eyes narrowing, Roderich started to walk, brushing by Arthur as he did. A single finger curled towards Arthur, beckoning him. "I joined the Axis of free-will Kirkland." He said icily as the Englishman followed him, exactly one pace behind, creating a off-time beat which only increased the frown on the Austrian's face. "Do not make me test my rank on you." His voice carried an edge of a true threat.

"A title, and nothing more." Arthur replied, focusing hard on keeping the offbeat, "You know as well as I do, that you are no soldier Roderich-"

The other nation cut across him quickly. "Austria." He said darkly, stopping outside a large pair of double-doors, hands clasped behind his back. "Roderich is a name only allies can use."

The Briton grinned, standing beside him, posture just as straight. "A pleasure few enjoy, I'm sure."

Roderich lifted a hand, clearing his throat. "We've been requested in the War Room."

"I suspect that's why we're standing outside of it sir." Arthur replied easily, grinning.

Before Austria could retort, the doors were opened by a pair of soldiers who both saluted as the two nations walked inside. Four figures were already seated at the table, Germany at the head, standing over a make, pushing small figures across it, muttering to one of his generals while Prussia, on Ludwig's left, had his boots kicked up on the table, a small figure of a silver robin rolling between his fingers. Beside the empty seat at the German's right was Ivan, also staring at the map, muttering quietly in Russian to Lithuania, who was taking notes, trembling only slightly.

Roderich took a seat beside the Prussian, shifting his chair away from Gilbert, upper lip twitching slightly as the albino reached over a hand and ruffling his neatly smoothed back hair. Taking his usual place next to Ludwig, Arthur didn't sit, also peering down at the map, just turning in on the conversation going on. The general talking was a small, weasel-faced man whose eyes were too close together.

"…And there are reports of resistances popping up in Poland along the Eastern border with Russia." Ivan looked up at the mention of his name, the steady stream of Russian stopping, "Our troops are not meeting too many problems but I believe the matter should be looked into." The general straightened, trying to appear taller but failing beside Ludwig. "I think I should go and check myself."

Arthur rolled his eyes. "Sending the general who self-elected, now there's a fantastic idea." He sat up, exchanging a small look with Gilbert before leaning forward on the table, resting his chin on the back of his intertwined fingers, addressing the table as a whole. "I'm all for it. Trust that guy with Feliks. Definitely."

The small man narrowed his already tiny eyes at the Brit, making them appear as mere slits of concentrated anger. "And what say do you have? Filthy Inselaffen-"

"Fenstermacher," Ludwig said calmly, "I would appreciate if you did not insult those considered to be in the Axis alliance."

"But sir-"

Gilbert grinned and the man went silent, swallowing. "Ludwig is correct. Insulting little Artie," a sharp glare from the green eyes, "is not a wise idea. Especially when you consider who exactly who you are talking to."

Offering a hand, Arthur smiled at him. "The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Lord Arthur Kirkland. Charmed."

Not taking the proffered hand, the general looked back to Germany. "Please sir, let me go, I am fully qualified." Ludwig sat down at the table, staring hard at the table and map, brows furrowed in concentration. In the meantime, Gilbert flicked the small figure at Arthur, who caught it in the nick of time, placing the robin straight on Berlin. This time, Prussia did not grin.

"I have made my choice." Ludwig stood up, pushing a small gold eagle towards Poland. "We have to go to Poland tomorrow. Brigadeführer Kirkland and Standartenführer Lorinaitis will be joining me while Reichsfuherer Beilschmidt and Reichsleiter Edelstein will remain here." The general opened his mouth to speak, "That is my final word, and this meeting is dismissed."

Arthur was first on his feet. "This has been great and all gents but I'm off to have a drink."

The Prussian was also on his feet, stretching. "And I will join you, I could drink."

"I have a question." Everyone looked around to Ivan who had a hand raised. "What will I be doing? If I do not have my assistant," Toris shifted awkwardly, "I will not get any work done."

Quietly, Ludwig ran a hand through his hair, frowning down at the map. "In all honesty Russia… I have no plans for you, your government has being very cooperative." He smiled weakly at the Russian and his shoulders relaxed slightly. "I am sorry."

Ivan got to his feet and the small general shrunk back, hiding behind Ludwig slightly. "This is fine." He said, the Lithuanian standing up quickly, holding the small leather notebook close to his chest. A large hand reached out, grabbing the small bronze wolf positioned in Moscow and placing it delicately beside the silver robbing in German's heart. "I like it here. Come along Lietuvos, we will have to make the best of our little time together." he tapped the side of his leg, and Toris followed obediently.

Glancing one last time at the map, Arthur grinned slightly. "I've changed my mind." He said, starting to walk out, Gilbert trailing him closely while Roderich stayed behind with Ludwig, talking in low voices, "I don't want to go drinking."

"That is too bad little Rotkehlchen." Prussia said, closing the door behind them and advancing on Arthur slightly, humming as he placed a hand on the other side of his head, gloved fingers playing with a small piece of blond hair, causing the Brit to try to shift away but Gilbert's hand found the other side of Arthur's head. "I was looking forward to spending time with you"

Arthur quietly slipped out from under Gilbert's unnerving gaze. "I know, absolutely terrible. Devastating I'm sure." He said, walking away, "But I'm sure somehow you will make it through."

Leaning against the wall, Prussia folded his arms over his chest. "Somehow," he said, watching Arthur hurry away, "Oh you can run little bird. But your cage grows smaller with every day."

Author's Note

Don't know why I suddenly picked this story back up... Maybe it was from watching so much House?

Inselaffen - Island Monkey