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This fic is a chapter of the Edelweiss arc, of which you can find more about in my profile.
Obligatory (but ultimately pointless) CYA: I don't own it.
Stay On My Side Tonight
He finds her in Berlin, in 1945.
She's sprawled near the remains of a wall. Judging by the blood on her face and the mess her right leg is, it didn't make a very good cover.
If it were anybody else—any other country, any other soldier, any other Hungarian, any other woman—Austria would be rushing over. As it is, his feet are frozen. All he can do is stare.
His heart beats hard against his ribcage. His pulse pounds in his veins. He's afraid of something, but what, he isn't sure.
His fingers fumble in his jacket. He shoves a cigarette between his lips, and manages to light a match. His lungs breathe easier with the smoke, and his hands calm their trembling. With his legs able to move, he kneels beside her, setting his rifle and pack down so he can assess her condition.
Blood has trickled down her cheek, dried now, and he follows the path up to her temple and into her hair. His touch is hesitant. He wishes he had gloves. Austria takes another drag, then clamps the cigarette between his lips.
It looks worse than it actually is. A superficial wound in an unfortunate location. Enough to cause unconsciousness, but nothing severe. Her leg, then. Nothing broken, but a lot of lacerations below the knee and what looks like a sprain. He sets about to cleaning her cheek and dressing her leg.
Austria carries more bandages than bullets, at this point in the war. He tries to avoid fighting. He is too tired of it, too tired for it. Germany is too busy with his failing government and corrupt leaders to keep track of him, anyway.
He forces his hands steady as they hold her calf. He has bandaged wounds before; this is no different. He raises his head and futilely looks around. If there was anyone else in the vicinity, he would leave her with them and be on his way. As it is, they are alone, and abandoning a woman in a war zone is not exactly the gentlemanly thing to do. Regrettably, Austria still has his morals; reluctantly, he settles.
He glances obliquely at her prone form. Sometimes, he used to watch her sleep, in the morning moments before she woke, her hair similarly tousled and spread across the pillow.
Austria lights another cigarette and turns his eyes toward a bombed-out school. He thinks about the broken desks and burned books and frightened children that no doubt resulted from it.
When she wakes, it is almost dark. She shifts, groaning slightly. Austria's eyes flick to her, and then away. With a bit of effort, she pushes herself up, and freezes for a moment upon noticing who sits with her. A moment later it is gone, and she carefully props herself up against the remains of the wall.
Silence. Austria lights a cigarette.
"…You patched my leg," she eventually says. An obvious observation to break the silence.
Austria does not confirm this. Instead, he takes a drag and cursorily asks, "How does it feel?" They're the first words spoken to her since the last World War.
Experimentally, she prods the area with delicate fingers, carefully rotates the ankle joint. "As good as it can, I guess." She pauses. "Thank you."
He twitches his head in what might be a nod, but doesn't exactly respond to that. "I'd have thought you'd be in Budapest," he says, and prides himself on his completely blank delivery.
"I was. Horthy convinced me to get out before the siege ended." Hungary swallows. "I'm glad he did, now," she quietly admits.
He nods. The Siege of Budapest. The violence committed against civilians, particularly women. Austria has just enough energy to want to put a bullet through Russia's head. He tells himself he would want to do the same thing, had it happened to, say, Liechtenstein. Principle of the matter, and all. Austria still remembers those. Would like to think they still exist. But he might be fooling himself at this point.
He blows a puff of smoke, props his elbow on his knee. "And so Vienna has fallen, too."
His house, he thinks. His house might not even exist anymore. He realizes he doesn't particularly care. It would just be one more destroyed building, after all. Austria is numb enough to not be shocked by the cynicism of his thoughts, but not quite numb enough to laugh about it, like Prussia.
He concentrates on the way the smoke streams into the air and feathers away. It reminds him of the way a cello sounds—dark and smooth. He has not heard a cello in a very long time.
Silence. His cigarette becomes a stub on the ground, and he promptly lights another. For such a nervous habit, he does it with a surprising amount of grace.
"…When did you start smoking?" she asks, maybe just to feign casual conversation.
"When you left," he replies, and not even all his proud composure can keep the bitterness from his voice.
Hungary turns her head away. "I didn't think you'd mind," she says, her tone low and cool, "considering you couldn't even manage a civil conversation at that point."
"I couldn't?" he says incredulously, finally looking at her. "And I suppose letting the enemy break the news that my wife was divorcing me was a decent and considerate thing to do."
Her voice rises defensively. "I couldn't even talk to you!"
"You could have tried!"
"Well then you could have tried harder!"
Hungary scoffs in utter disbelief. "I couldn't waste any more of my time trying to reason with you—I had my people to think of!"
"And what about me?" he demands.
"You were little more than dead weight who was—!"
The scream of the sirens interrupts them. They raise their eyes to the heavens. There is something terribly ironic and terribly unfunny about that action. Austria makes his last drag an incredibly long one.
"Shit," he curses.
Hungary throws him an odd, criticizing look. "You've been hanging around Prussia too much."
Austria swings his head toward her, his voice sharp and stiff. "Prussia has his virtues, as twisted and buried as they are."
"Are you saying I don't?" she demands, affronted by the possible insult against her character.
"I don't know what I'm saying!" he erupts in exasperation. It's true. He doesn't know what would prompt him to defend boisterous, vulgar Prussia, of all people. Save perhaps an ex-wife that he might still love, might hate, and certainly doesn't want to be around.
He doesn't want to think about these things. Surely can't afford to do so now. And staring at her glaring at him isn't helping.
The sirens scream. Austria makes a decision. He slings his rifle over his shoulder, along with his pack, and before he can think about it and before she can protest, he picks her up.
"Hey!" she complains. He can't afford to take his time, and jostles her rather roughly. "What the hell are you doing?"
"We have to get out of here," he says, his tone a semblance of the composed, unflappable sound it used to be, his feet already moving, his hands already haunted by the curve of her back and the weight of her body.
They fall silent. Hungary holds onto his shoulders for extra stability. The sirens scream, and they might as well be right between Austria's ears, for all the noise in his head.
Three blocks later, they find the ruined remains of a church. Austria prays—actually prays—the crypt is still intact. His body can't keep this kind of exertion up for much longer. Hungary searches for his matches, and by the light of their meager flames, he is able to navigate his way down into the chapel.
She lights one of the wall sconces, and he sets her down on her good foot. It's small, all pale stone and intimidating shadows, but it is a ways from the stairs, and seems stable enough. At the far end, the corners of a cross glint dully out of the darkness. It might be a full crucifix. Then again, it might be a Russian with a gun.
The sirens still scream outside, and Austria wonders if he'll ever be able to get the sound out of his head.
Hungary carefully lowers herself to the floor, leaning her back against the wall. He sets his bag and gun down, lights his last cigarette, and paces, trying to savor each and every lungful. The smoke does little to calm his nerves.
He isn't claustrophobic, not usually, but he wonders if there is perhaps a subcategory to that phobia. Something like a fear of enclosed spaces, so long as they contain one's former spouse. Austria curses England's air raids, and Russia's army, and Germany's idiocy. He curses Hitler, and Hungary, and himself. And then he smokes the cigarette until it practically burns his fingers, there is so little left.
Austria stubs it out and resigns himself to sitting. With his back to the altar, but not quite in front of her. The cross bothers him. Not because of the faith it represents, but because of his paranoia it makes apparent. If anything, a church should bring comfort, but the fact of the matter is, nothing is sacred anymore. Not churches, not schools, not civilians, and especially not war, itself—which was never pretty, but at least used to have strict rules about these sorts of things.
Austria digs around in his pack as if it might magically grant him some tobacco and rolling paper. It doesn't. He tosses it aside with a huff and promptly starts fidgeting the fingers of his right hand. They play a high-pitched, frantic melody on an imaginary piano.
Hungary occupies herself with the edges of the bandage around her leg. "…Do you know how Germany's doing?" she asks, finally breaking the silence.
Something that might have once been a laugh comes from his throat. "Terrible, last time I saw him. Which was a while ago. I can't imagine he's doing any better now."
"He really got in over his head this time, didn't he?" There is something in her voice, something maybe hard-edged and wrapped in soft cloth.
"Yes," he says, shortly. "He did."
"I have a hard time blaming him, though," she admits at length, maybe more to herself than him, "with the state he was in, after…" She trails off uncomfortably. Austria grits his teeth.
"Funny. I don't." But then, he doesn't have a hard time blaming anyone these days.
Hungary snorts derisively. "You were the one who was all gung-ho about moving in with him."
"I was a damned cripple," he snaps at her, perhaps accusatorily. "The prospect of walking again sounded like a fine idea."
"Well, that obviously worked out well." She, too, is too hurt to try to mask the words with her usual cheer, and they come out, all hard and confrontational. "Meanwhile, the rest of Europe suffers because of all the Germanic arrogance of you three. I could have had peace with Russia, but no, your precious Hitler has to take after the country that birthed him and—"
"Do not bring him into this!" The words come suddenly and viciously, before he can even think about them, and it is only after they leave his throat that he realizes his palm hit the stone beside her head for emphasis. "He renounced his citizenship years ago; he is no longer one of my people!"
At the sheer ferocity in his voice, Hungary at least has the grace to fall silent, and blinks at him with wide eyes. They stare at each other in the dim light of the sconce above them, and Austria's chest is heaving, and he is shaking, and angry, and hurt, and how dare she assume that he hasn't suffered as much as any other. How dare she assume that just because the man is of Austrian descent, the country cares for him.
How dare she even get wounded where he should find her in the first place, he thinks, but that is ridiculous, and he knows it. Still, it doesn't change the fact that he would rather be in the same room as the aforementioned monster than in front of her right now.
He could kill for a cigarette. Despite his utter loathing of war and death at this point, he could kill for a cigarette. Would, if there were any around to be had, that is how frazzled his nerves are.
With an understated simplicity, Hungary reaches out, grabs the front of his uniform, and pulls his mouth down to hers. Austria does not resist. Quite the opposite, he buries his hand in her hair and pushes her into the wall and kisses her passionately, desperately, violently.
He finds her breasts, her waist, follows them down to her trousers, practically tears them from her hips, and maybe she helps, maybe that's her clawing at his belt buckle, he can't even follow his own limbs, let alone hers, but once the bare minimum is out of the way, he rises to his knees and hoists her against the wall.
For perhaps the first time, his hands are demanding. He has no instrument to play, no cigarettes to fumble with, and in lieu, his fingers dig into the backs of her thighs, and he jerks into her. For perhaps the first time, Austria takes without thought for her, because their marriage is broken, his empire is dissolved, his body is wasted, and his people are dying. Austria takes, because he is helpless, and disillusioned, and frustrated, and frightened. Austria takes, because he has nothing left to give. He takes, and takes, and takes.
Something is screaming. The sirens, or her, or his own mind, he can't tell.
He isn't aware of when, or even if, she comes, but when he does—long and hard, because good God, it has been years, decades—he moans against her pulse, his mouth sinking into the skin of her throat.
He slumps back down to the floor, catching his breath, and Hungary fairly falls onto his lap. His hands are still on her hips, and her legs are still around him, trembling, and it is only then that Austria becomes aware of—and horrified by—what he has just done.
"Hungary…" he murmurs contritely, a remnant of his proper self, but she shushes him.
"Shh," she says, a measure of amusement in her voice, straightening his smudged glasses with a strange, exhausted delicacy. "Do you feel better?"
Austria blinks, and breathes, and doesn't say anything, because the answer is yes, and no, and everything in between.
"I do," she admits, cheeks bright and flushed, and a wan smile comes to her lips. It is tired and pained and beautiful, and in that instant, Austria misses her more than he has in all the twenty-six years since their divorce, because she is so close, and so real, and she will not stay. This moment of strained, anxious intimacy will not last, and when it is over, she will be gone again and he will be alone again.
He could hate her for that, and maybe he will by the time it happens, but for now, he will allow himself to admit that he still loves her something awful.
Later, they huddle in the corner as the bombs fall.
The world shakes. Dust sweeps underground, and their single light flickers unstably. Hungary clutches him around his too-thin torso, fingers digging into his ribs, face buried in his collar. Austria wraps his arms around her shoulders as if it could actually protect them, presses his lips against the top of her head, grits his teeth, and clamps his eyes shut.
It's all sirens and explosions and ruins—ruined buildings, ruined unions, ruined lives—and Austria realizes that what he feels against his cheeks are his own tears.
When he wakes, Austria is in a hospital, and the war in the European Theatre is over. The crypt collapsed, he learns. He suffered a concussion, a broken leg, three cracked ribs, and was down there for more than a while before America found him and pulled him from the wreckage.
Hungary is nowhere to be seen. All he learns is that Russia was the one to retrieve her.
The Battle of Berlin: The last major European offensive of World War II, that lasted from April 16th to May 2nd, 1945. England flew air raids all the way up until the night of April 20th.
Horthy: Miklós Horthy, Hungarian Prime Minister who arranged for an armistice with the Soviet Union towards the end of 1944. Hitler wasn't about to let that shit fly, since Hungary's placement made it a good buffer zone against Eastern Europe. (Look up Operation Panzerfaust for all the ugly details.) In any event, the armistice was declared null and void, and Horthy, having shown himself to be a decent person, was forced to resign, as the Nazis weren't too fond of those types. With Hungary still in the war, this led to…
The Battle/Siege of Budapest: Lasting from December 29th to February 13th (1945), it ended in Soviet victory. The winning army decided that raping (an estimated 50,000 women) and pillaging (what was left of) the city was a good way to celebrate. It's considered one of the bloodiest battles of WWII. (Vienna consequently fell in early April.)
Hitler was ethnically Austrian (born in Austria-Hungary), but fell in love with Germany at a young age and more or less wanted nothing to do with his country of origin. I imagine the feeling was pretty mutual at this point.
A/N: I got sick of Hungary being this permanent, but intangible, source of angst, so I figured I might as well physically throw them together for once. (Because I sadistically love putting characters into god-awful situations.)
Also, the title comes from the Jimmy Eat World song, "Disintegration," which, besides simply being a gorgeous, dark, kick-ass song, has provided me with oodles of inspiration (and not just for this fic), and so it's probably about time I gave it credit.
Lastly, thanks for reading! ^_^