SOY: written for the kink–meme, where I spend most of my life lately. Austria/Italy prompt.
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia.
Chopin explains it better than I do
"What do you mean, you can't make it?"
Hungary scratched her head, almost embarrassedly. "I promised Poland I would go watch a movie at his house, since it's been a while we could have a friends night in" she explained, smiling sheepishly. "I'm sorry, I don't think I can cut that short, Austria".
Austria, shifting on his seat, shrugged uncomfortably. Of course he couldn't ask Hungary to drop all prior engagements just to go with him to the concert, but that left him alone for the evening, and for how much he enjoyed his free time, sometimes he just liked to be able to share with a competent soul his passion for classical music.
He'd managed to get two tickets for a premium concert, entirely revolving around Chopin, so of course the first person he'd thought of was Hungary –whilst not personally into playing an instrument herself, she quite liked to listen when Austria played, and she had come to like the melodies of Chopin.
As it seemed, though, he needed to either find another person to go with, or simply go alone –not going was just a sacrilege.
It was Chopin.
"I'm sorry" gently touching one of Austria's hands with hers, Hungary smiled at him, silently begging for forgiveness.
"Don't worry" albeit disappointed, Austria smiled, showing he didn't mind. "I'll just have to think whether to invite someone else".
Hungary's face scrunched up in thought, then twisted into a grimace, as she muttered away sentences in her language, something that to Austria's ears sounded like some sort of insult. "No, of course I wouldn't suggest him" she murmured, face growing cold. "what about Germany?"
Austria sighed. "Maybe when he was younger he appreciated my music, but… lately he's been warped by that detestable heavy rock music, so…"
"You mean heavy metal? Or hard rock?" Hungary hid a giggle behind her hand. "I understand… what about Switzerland?"
Austria's stony face sent her into another giggling fit, so she simply stood up, adjusting her clothes. "Well, I need to get going, Poland will probably rant about punctuality otherwise… try to have fun, Austria!"
Watching her frame rush away and disappear behind the corner, Austria flopped down on his chair, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
Actually, there were fewer nations he could actually ask about going, especially this late. France, although familiar with the music and connoisseur of the genre, would not be a good partner for the evening (he would try to –dear hell– grope him, or anyone whom he could reach to…), and asking Switzerland's nice sister would be like demanding the shooting nation to have a go at his a… behind.
Neither would he lower himself that much as to ask Prussia to go with him.
Belgium might think about it, but her interest was barely there, and Austria truly wanted someone who could enjoy the evening, not get bored.
Stumped, he simply steered his decision to go alone.
Checking his ticket for the correct time, Austria prepared himself and left his house early, so that he could also enjoy a quiet walk to the theatre where the concert would be held.
The long walk, uneventful as it should have been, was silent, and ended abruptly as he was crossing the borders of the town, and met someone he had not expected to see.
A naked entity he knew but wished he could ignore.
To Italy's defence, he wasn't completely naked.
He still had the less important part of his clothing on –his shirt– whilst missing completely anything from his waist down, including socks and shoes. Basically, he'd forgotten to get dressed after his siesta. It had happened enough during the war to bleach Austria's brain.
"Italy" he attempted to be polite, but the sight of an indecent–looking Italy right in front of him triggered his chords like his fingers did to a piano. "I see you're as undressed as usual".
The beaming must have lit up at least two or three candles, Austria thought in retrospect.
"I was going to Germany's house~ I just woke up, you see, and forgot that I needed my pants… hee hee…"
Austria was then fighting against two completely opposite needs –ignore Italy, waving at him and moving to the concert… or go back to his house and have him dressed properly.
Of course it didn't matter to him if Italy got around half naked (besides, he'd chosen the safe side, instead of dropping by Switzerland's house as he usually did, which resulted in a shooting chase) but the fact that he'd once been under his control, and he'd managed to keep him put and dressed accordingly to his own status…
It was just a matter of pride and…
And of course…
Without allowing Italy a word in, Austria grabbed his wrist and promptly marched back to his house.
"Ve~ Austria, are you angry?"
"No, of course not, but you need to realise your status, Italy!" rummaging through his armoire, the Austrian tried to find clothes that could suit Italy's lither body. The Italian kept looking around in the meanwhile, 'ooh'ing and 'aah'ing as he noticed things he still remembered from the time he worked under the Austrian control.
"Ve~ I remember this picture~"
"Italy, pay attention!"
As once, the Italian turned around, curl bouncing and face parodying a serious face, and stood still, looking at Austria, who sighed and fought the urge to slump down.
It felt like they were still living in the same house, with Italy doing everything he could to make Austria angry without meaning it…
But they were not.
Italy was his own nation, now.
"You need to realise that you're… you should act the way you're expected to" he started, finally fishing out the right clothes.
Of course he couldn't just offer him pants that wouldn't suit with the shirt. He had to also give him a matching shirt. And a tie.
Italy watched the clothes in silence, then down at his half–naked body and shrugged. "I don't need that, Austr–" Austria glared at him "hiii~ d'accordo! D'accordo! I'll put them on! Don't hurt me~"
Rubbing his forehead, Austria checked the time again. He was still quite early, he didn't need to rush, but he wanted to get away from Italy as soon as possible.
The Italian straightened up, dressed impeccably in Austria's clothes, and flushed as Austria got closer, straightening his tie and shuffling the hem of the shirt.
"You klutz" Austria murmured, sighing. Really, Italy could be so dignified if only he put a bit of an effort… "Here, done".
"Ve~ Austria is so nice~"
At that line, Austria had to refrain from wincing; staying close to Italy only made him feel guilty, as he'd been quite harsh on him when the little Italy had been one of his territories. He'd been definitely severe at the time, but time had mellowed Austria's attitude nowadays.
Having to be around Italy…
Spain –that was fine. They had their rifts, both of them had their ups and downs, but being around Spain was never bad, since the two knew how things went.
France… France still had the same attitude as before, and even around him things were not as pained, nor strained.
Germany, even Prussia. With Switzerland things were tenser, but of course that was because Austria himself was embarrassed of having to be saved every time when younger.
Italy had never seen a time where he was the one conquering. The Italian, with all his art, his culture, his literature, had never fought unless forced. Italy had always had to bow and do whatever the nation ruling over him asked, and always did it with a smile. With any other nation, there would be a time where matters could be switched, and Austria would be the one having to bow. That was what made every nation enjoy bossing around others. One could never know when the switch would happen.
That was why France and England had so much spite to throw at each other –they were equals, always switching from a winner to the other.
Playing around, knowing it all was transitory.
Italy had never been on the winning end, and didn't deserve the anger and strictness he'd been receiving for all the years before he fought with some wandering inner strength to be free.
That was why Austria didn't like being around Italy alone. That was why he tried so much to send him away, make him stop smiling –because if other nations might not care, Austria still thought at back then, and felt guilty.
And of course, Austria hated to feel guilty.
He shouldn't think like that, but was unable to stop the guilt from trickling in, touching his heart and enveloping his mind, like a poisonous fog.
A part of him demanded to be let out, to talk with Italy, beg for that forgiveness he knew Italy would dispense without thinking twice about it; another part of him thought how unfair that was –Italy didn't deserve to be a nation on his own, he was too much of a klutz… under Austria's control, he would behave, such as it was back in the days…
As it was, Austria reigned control of both parts, embarrassed at the first, ashamed of the second.
Italy was his own country. He didn't deserve of others to manipulate, control him.
He'd suffered enough.
No matter how stupid he could act, he still deserved this freedom.
"Ve~ Austria, you look upset… is there something wrong?"
Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Austria straightened his back. "No" he steered himself, ignoring those brown eyes looking at him in worry. "You should go now. I have places to be".
"Where are you going? To see sister Hungary?"
"No –I'm going to a concert. Nothing that would interest you".
Brown eyes filled with understanding. "Oh~ you're going at that Chopin concert, are you? Ve~ you're so lucky~ I've been searching for the tickets, but they were sold out and Germany had promised to buy them but he forgot because he doesn't like it~"
Surprised, Austria turned around. "Is that so?"
"Hmm~" Italy looked at him, his bright smile turning a bit less wild and more controlled. "Austria maybe forgot, but I've always loved classical music…"
And it was the truth –the realisation made Austria feel stupid. It was easy to forgot, with how Italy kept babbling and bouncing around, that he was more than a stupid idiot who was bad at war.
With all his thoughts and guilt and confusing feelings, Austria had always considered Italy a stupid nonetheless, who couldn't know what was best for himself, and despite knowing the Italian didn't deserve to be treated badly, he'd still underestimated him.
It looked like Austria was still filled with good intentions, and was still wrong.
"I…" his throat felt constricted, so it took some effort for him to speak. "I have two tickets. If you want, you can come with me, Italy".
Eyes wide open, Italy made to grab his arm, but faltered –clear memory of how Austria had forbidden him to open hugs or touches– and clenched his hands together. "Ve~! Really? I can come with you? You don't mind my presence?"
Austria actually felt even worse. He didn't know why, but noticing that even now, after more than a century, Italy still remembered not to touch him didn't bring him satisfaction.
It made him feel worse.
Open hugs, unbidden, unrestrained affection…
Somehow, he felt it wouldn't feel that bad to be on the receiving end, when Italy had only ever hugged him once (and only because on the other end Spain had acted lecherous towards him).
And Italy had somehow been far too accurate in his words –he'd noticed how reticent Austria always was in his presence.
"Of course, unless you have something better to do right now" he sniffed, trying to push these thoughts away.
Things like these… forgiveness… even if Italy would give it to him, Austria still couldn't accept it. He was aware that Italy forgave everyone without thoughts. It was not the kind of assurance Austria wanted.
Not the one he needed.
One of Austria's hands, against his will, moved upwards, ruffling Italy's hair. Italy looked at him, surprised at the gesture, but his lips soon twitched into a beam. "Let's go~ let's go~ I can't wait now! I'm going to Chopin's concert~!"
The trip to the theatre was… faster.
Somehow, with the company of the loud Italian, Austria didn't even notice until he was in front of the enormous gates; they had spoken together, at first with hesitation, then dialogue fell on music, of course, and Austria's shoulders relaxed, allowing him to conduce a proper conversation.
Italy… knew what he was talking about. From the most famous Austrian composers to the Italian ones, the two spoke and enjoyed themselves, and Austria found himself, rather than surprised at the other's knowledge, pleased that he could finally speak to someone equal to him in that subject.
And then they were inside the theatre, amongst other people dressed royally, being accompanied towards their reserved seats by a man in crimson clothes.
"Uwa~ look at this place~" Italy bounced around, earning strange looks from the others seated around, and yet Austria, instead of feeling angered or embarrassed, felt his lips twitch in what could have easily passed for a smile.
Somehow, Italy was amusing instead of mortifying this time.
Maybe it had to do with the side of him Austria had allowed himself to see for the first time, of how Italy's eyes had brightened up when he was speaking of something different than pasta… maybe it was simply because Austria was allowing Italy's company to be pleasant, instead of forcing himself to feel guilt.
Smiling indulgently, he motioned for Italy to sit down, making himself comfortable on the seat himself, and preparing himself for a beautiful concert.
And it was.
Both of them sat in silence, since the first note trembled in the air, reaching through the hall to them, singling them out from the crowd around them.
Austria was brought back many years in the past, when he had attended to similar concerts, even to Chopin himself playing, and the feeling was just the same; the notes touched him, tearing the strings of the huge piano heart he had inside.
Closing his eyes, he was transported back into a time when things had been easier –maybe less civilised, but at least easier to deal with.
The music was all around him, as strong and beautiful as he remembered, vicious and raw.
Reminding him that only with music he was allowed to express what he lacked in words –that pressing down on the keys of his piano made him feel alive, and that there was nothing music couldn't reach.
The music changed –the different instruments fell into silence and only the piano remained, bringing out the beauty of Chopin's sonata No. 3.
His own hands followed every note, as if brushing invisible keys, twitching, in desire to play, to join in, because music to him was even more beautiful if he could play it himself, feel it come true from his own skills…
And then, gently, something brushed his hand.
Opening his eyes, he noticed how Italy was looking at him, one hand hesitating, barely brushing against his own, fingers vaguely trembling.
Their eyes met, and Austria felt something inside him twist, even if not painfully, into existence. That soft, hesitant touch, that expectant look…
Thousand years of guilt, of holding regret, of silently despising himself for his rude, harsh actions came undone, so clear in his eyes that even a baby could have read them all with one look, and Italy didn't even turn, eye unblinkingly staring into his own.
That hand tightened on his own, and Italy gently let their fingers intertwine, smiling softly.
Austria couldn't talk –how could he, when Chopin was still playing?– but he mouthed everything he wanted to say, words clutching in his throat, caged, but his lips freely explaining everything that his heart could afford and his mind could not let out.
Maybe he'd been a bit of a prick, maybe he'd been a bit too strict, and maybe he'd been treating Italy like he was below Austria, despite everything.
It was 'sorry' over and over, and it was 'I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't mean to restrain you' and then it was also 'I cared about you. You were not just a territory to me', and then it was 'sorry' again, and then 'I still care about you, I'm glad we can share Chopin'.
And Italy never looked away, brown eyes understanding, and it was not simply being forgiving, and Austria could understand it now –how Italy took every word of his, every painful admission, and accepted that Austria felt guilty, and then nodded because it was ok.
Because Italy, despite everything, had his own way to deal with things, and even if he wasn't good at war, and he acted stupidly, he was still a nation that had lived for hundreds of years, feeling pain, but also growing up…
Because to Italy it was easier to see the faults in his own actions and those of the people around him, and why they did them… because he could accept without feeling anger.
It was not mindless forgiving.
He'd been waiting Austria to realise that he'd never held him responsible.
'Ve~' silently, Italy leaned forwards to kiss Austria's cheeks, like he did all the time with his brother and Germany (whenever he found him sitting, that is), their fingers still touching.
Austria flushed, feeling like Italy was the mature one, and the thought felt maybe just a bit shameful.
The music reached its peak, the fingers of the pianist flowing on the keys, music taking over his breath, taking over–
He leaned forwards, pressing a hesitant kiss on Italy's lips.
It was short –it tasted like music.
Flushing and avoiding to look at the equally flushed –and shocked– face of the Italian, Austria turned around, eyes set on the pianist as he moved through the last part of the composition, determined not to look away.
The hand intertwined in his own tightened its hold, and Austria could almost feel Italy's eyes shifting to look at the pianist, too.
There would be time for talking later, and maybe also for something else.
Right now, there was Chopin to listen to, and that dead man had always been more apt at explaining Austria's feeling than Austria himself ever could.
SOY: so that's it. How do you like it? I know nothing truly happened, but with these two, it's kind of hard to make it work… still, I like them together.
D'accordo (Italian) – Ok.
Chopin –basically, a polish composer. Since it looks like Austria likes him a lot in canon, I used him. I think he'd be going well with any from his own culture, but still.