They liked to drink, there was no doubting that. They liked to see each other and drink, alcohol was a social accessory after all. What none of them liked was Denmark leaving long rambling phone messages demanding while asking nicely that they all get together to drink.
"He's late again," Iceland observed, leaning back in his chair. They'd been waiting for nearly an hour at their usual table in the bar; waiting for an hour wouldn't have been so bad if they'd been drinking, but alas, Denmark would be offended when he finally showed up, and rather than the gift of silent anger that all the other Nordics possessed, the Dane wouldn't let them be when he got ticked.
"What else do you expect from him?" Finland replied in a cheerful enough tone with a dark roll of his eyes; Sweden grunted in agreement. Iceland admitted that he didn't know why he'd been expecting Denmark to be early...or even on time.
"He does it all the time," Norway muttered into the hand he was leaning on before glancing at his watch, "If he doesn't show up in five minutes, I'm getting a drink. Anyone with me?"
"Here, here," Iceland sighed, holding up an imaginary glass. Norway gave his brother the smallest of smiles before glancing to Finland and Sweden.
"No thanks," Finland said, "I need to go in early tomorrow, there's a lot I'm behind on. I was only gonna drink if Denmark made me."
"'N' y'know he w'u'd," Sweden muttered.
"Right," Iceland laughed, putting on his best impression of Denmark's low, aggressive voice, "What kinda jerk doesn't join his friends?" He put an imaginary glass in front of Finland, "Drink up, Finny." They all laughed, even Sweden gave a dark chuckle. "You know why he keeps inviting us out, right?"
Norway cut in on a planned joke, "Because he's a lonely bastard who's too proud to admit that he needs friends so he tries to make it look like he's taking pity on us by inviting us out to drink?"
Iceland paused for a second, "I was going to say he's tired of spending time with his hand, but your answer is just as good." Norway made up his mind and called for a bottle of aquavit and two glasses from a passing waiter.
"Do you remember that time," Norway asked, his cheeks flushed just enough to show he was a little tipsy, "that time, Iceland this was before you were really y'know, born or anything, but that time that Denmark got so drunk he fell out of the longboat and almost drowned?" Finland and Sweden laughed at the memory, Iceland too even though he hadn't been there.
Breathing heavily from laughing so hard, Iceland started to look around, "He's not here yet, is he?"
"No," Finland chuckled, "We'd know if he was here."
"Yeah," Norway poured himself another drink, finishing off the bottle and setting it next to the other empty one, "He'd kick in the door and yell something like," Norway waved his glass around in circles trying to come up with something, "Well, I don't know what he'd say, but it'd be something stupid about how we should all pay attention to him now and we should feel lucky to be in the same room as him." Everyone else at the table laughed and nodded in agreement.
What none of them knew was that Denmark had only been an hour and five minutes late, and he'd come into the bar relatively quietly. Upon hearing his 'friends' talking about him, he'd taken a seat at a nearby table with his back to them and listened and listened. The more he heard, the worse he felt. Around midnight the other Nordic nations left the bar and walked right by him, but Denmark had his face buried in his arms leaning on the table top. One of the passing employees had to ask him to leave so they could close up. Denmark walked out into the cold by himself.
After Denmark hadn't shown up to the date he'd arranged, Norway was vaguely worried. When he didn't hear from Denmark afterward with an explanation, he worried a little more. When Denmark's seat went empty for two meetings, Norway started to worry a lot. He asked Sweden and Finland if either had heard anything from him, both hadn't; he asked all of Europe and everyone said basically "We thought he was with you, we don't know where he is." There was nothing in the news to suggest why Denmark had dropped off the face of the earth. If this was a practical joke, Norway wasn't laughing. He finally broke down and admitted that he was concerned enough for Denmark to go to his house and see if he was okay.
Norway knocked on the door and glanced around, all the shades were drawn in Denmark's house. Inside, the Dane was lying in bed, staring at the wall; he shifted slightly at the sound of knocking. The movement caused a couple empty bottles to roll off the mattress and hit the floor. With a sigh, Denmark rolled over and decided he wouldn't get up no matter who wanted his attention. Outside, Norway had waited for almost five minutes. Perhaps Denmark was away, maybe he went to visit the Faroes.
Pulling out his cell phone, Norway called the islands in question. She answered cheerfully and, upon being asked whether Denmark was there, replied that she hadn't heard from him in months but hoped that he was okay. Norway thanked her and hung up. Frowning at Denmark's house, he knocked again.
"Go away," Denmark muttered weakly from under the covers. The Norwegian outside made a little disgruntled noise and selected Denmark's number. Inside, a cheery ring tone played on the nightstand, and the cellphone shook against the dark wood. Denmark's arm crawled out and grasped the device before throwing it against the wall.
"Denmark," Norway told the answering machine, "I don't know where you are, but I'm standing outside your house." He took a pause as though he expected an answer, then repeated, "I really don't know where you are." The Norwegian tried to show his concern in his voice because he certainly wasn't going to say 'I'm worried about you.'
It was cold out, the skin Norway had exposed was starting to go numb. He trotted down to his car, glancing back to the house twice in case Denmark was actually there.
"I'm worried about him," Norway confessed to the other Nordics over the rim of his glass. It'd been two weeks since he'd stood outside Denmark's house, and still no one had heard anything from him.
"I'm sure he's fine," Finland placed a comforting hand on his friend's arm, "wherever he is."
"H's tough," Sweden commented with a terse nod. Norway nodded and sighed.
"This just isn't like him," He said to his aquavit before downing it, "It's like he just dropped off the face of the earth." Eventually, the others left him with murmurs that Denmark had to be somewhere, and wherever he was, he was probably missing Norway there. Norway wanted to believe that.
With a sigh, he left money on the table to pay for everyone's drinks and headed for the door. Going past the bar, Norway heard a distinct choking sound. There was a blonde man sitting hunched over the bar; his hair was flat. As Norway took a couple steps back to get a look at his face, he could see it was Denmark. The other man glanced up briefly from the swirling abyss of his beer, and their eyes locked. He looked back down and turned away, trying to pretend it hadn't happened. Norway didn't know if he felt relieved or elated or angry. Finally a feeling of empty abandonment came to him, and anger managed to succeed.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Norway hissed in a clipped tone, approaching Denmark's turned back with sharp, stabbing steps. Huddled in on himself, Denmark was a bit surprised to hear Norway swear, but he didn't turn around. "Huh?" Norway pushed him lightly, "Do you even know how long I've been looking for you?" He lowered his voice so no one would hear what he said next, "How worried I was that something terrible'd happened to you?"
Denmark was shaking, and Norway could hear him taking deep gasps. Was he crying? "Look at me!" Norway snapped, pounding a fist on the polished bar. Denmark whipped around suddenly.
"W-Why would you do that?" He had a twisted grin on and was laughing while tears streamed into his laughter lines and down his face. "Why would you bother with me at all? I thought," His smile started to falter, "I thought I was a insecure jackass who needed everyone to look at him just so he could actually feel good about himself. I thought I was too loud and drunk and I never care about anybody. And you're all surprised there hasn't been a Send-Denmark-Away-to-the-Moon campaign because that's what we really need." Norway couldn't believe he was hearing this. He stood with his eyebrows knit together as Denmark ranted and raved, repeating everything he'd heard. "And I cause everyone so many problems, and I never shut up, and I drink too much."
The Dane threw the glass in his hand to the floor and it shattered. The bartender hustled over to tell the men they needed to leave. "Leave us the fuck alone," Denmark barked in the man's face, "We're having a conversation." After the young man backed down, Denmark fell against the bar, crying into his arms and mumbling about why did no one ever tell him this before.
"Who said these things?" Norway asked, leaning close to Denmark, who started to laugh again.
"That's the really funny part," He looked back up abruptly. Their faces were mere centimeters apart. Norway could smell almost three months of nonstop drinking on the other man's breath. "You did, I heard you." Norway's face fell. "Oh you thought I didn't, but I did."
"No," Norway whispered, "I didn't, I-I wouldn't." His emotions were getting in the way; he couldn't think clearly.
"Yes," Denmark snapped, "You did, and you would, and I know you," He paused, standing up straight, "I know a drunk Norway is an honest Norway." They both couldn't look at each other, "Why didn't you just say you hated me so much?" Denmark leaned his head in his hands.
"Because I don't," was Norway's soft answer, and the Dane raised his gaze. "Don't get the wrong idea," He went on, "You're stupid, thick and annoying." Denmark's eyes fell swimming with tears before Norway leaned forward and placed a kiss on his Dane's cheek. The taller man flinched away slightly at the short contact, and a couple tears slid down his face, but Norway wasn't going to let him get away. "But opposites attract, I suppose," He clenched the front of Denmark's jacket and pulled him down for a longer kiss, slipping in his tongue. Denmark tasted like beer and tears, but Norway could guess that he probably tasted the same way.
With a barely audible moan, Norway pushed Denmark back up, cutting off their kiss. He trailed a hand down the Dane's arm and took his hand. Denmark simply stood, bewildered by everything that was happening to him.
"You're coming home with me," Norway stated as though there was no question. He pulled lightly on Denmark's hand, and the taller man followed. The broken glass crunched under their feet as they left the bar with their hands together. "I don't want you to be alone." Denmark leaned his head down to rest on Norway's. He wasn't smiling but wasn't crying either.