Title: Sisu
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia

Author: Zalia Chimera
Rating: PG
Characters: Finland, Russia, mention of Sweden.
Warnings: Warfare
Notes: Takes place during the Winter War, and during the period of the Grand Duchy of Finland. I am also not Finnish so I hope this works okay as a story. I'm a little nervous about posting it. And many thanks to Sue for discussing the idea for me and helping with little details. Apparently I am still capable of writing spur of the moment fic \o/

Summary: Finland remembers; one face, one voice, and the houses that he built.

Ground shaking. Tanks. Dodge and weave.

Shots fired. They're screaming. Like reindeer during the cull.

Wait. Wait...

Duck left. Unmoving figures. Trees.

Ragged breath. Vapour-damp scarf. Acrid smoke.

Snow. Always snow. White against white. Heavy against his cape.

Green tanks. Red smeared snow. Only colour out here.

Steady fingers. Strike. Strike again.

Flare of gold.

He's always had a strong arm and good aim.

The gold spreads. The shots ring out. The screams increase.

Finland curls up on himself, watches. Sees one face over and over again.

The house is a modest building of wood and stone in the midst of the deep pine forest. It is not large, but it is close to a lake of clear fresh water and the reindeer graze nearby. That is enough.

It had been a ruin not long ago, the years with Sweden leaving it derelict, the wood rotting, the stone crumbling. His tongue stumbling over words that had been his once, fingers unable to form the words in ink. Lying awake in Sweden's large bed, staring at the blank ceiling as he tried to recall old poems and older spells and neither of them coming to him, or coming in a garbled Swedish approximation.

"It is a ruin, yes, but it feels like you I think. It has a large fireplace. I think it will be very warm."

Russia beams, lets go of his hand and nudges him forward to the near forgotten foundations.

"This is..."

"There are tools." Russia sounds so happy. "And we have drink da!"

He holds out a flask. Finland takes it, swallows a gulp, strong vodka burning his throat.

"Joo. Työtä on tehtävä." Yes. There is work to do.

Finland snares rabbits and hunts birds and reindeer. Russia brings him new hunting knives and shows him how to handle a gun. Finland cooks warm meals that make Russia sigh happily, makes him thick coats of reindeer hide and rabbit fur.

And if he murmurs old dedications to long-dead spirits before he kills, then Russia never mentions it and just coos his adoration of the gifts.

The kantele feels odd beneath his fingers, and Russia's eyes watching his every move does not help. He feels impossibly untalented, his fingers thick and clumsy on the strings. The sounds are grating and unlovely, smoothing to dull mediocrity and he is sure that Russia will ask him to stop at any moment. He hums softly, face scrunching up, tongue poking between his teeth as he slowly relaxes, stops demanding, starts coaxing and the music comes, twists between his fingers like it has never been gone.

He whoops, smiles with delight and then flushes with embarrassment, peering at Russia from beneath his overgrown fringe.

Russia is watching him, wrapped in skins and furs like one of Finland's shaman, his eyes bright and excited and as happy as he ever looks. It sends a thrill down Finland's spine to see it, makes something twist in his stomach.

"I haven't sung this for a long time," he says awkwardly and shifts with discomfort, resettling the kantele on his lap, fingers caressing the strings lightly, as though afraid that he will lose the rediscovered knowledge if he breaks contact with the instrument.

Russia blinks, cocking his head to one side slightly, like a little bird. "It is your song, yes?" he asks. "It is you."

He says it like it is so obvious, so easy, and maybe it is and Finland has just been making things more difficult for himself, afraid of stepping beyond boundaries that he had never realised he had accepted so whole-heartedly. He ducks his head, bites his lip, runs his fingers over the smooth wood of the kantele.

He takes a breath and looks up, meeting Russia's gaze. He smiles and gives a little bow of his head, plucking the strings, a wavering note which fills the room. "Mieleni minun tekevi, aivoni ajattelevi lähteäni laulamahan, saa'ani sanelemahan..."

He speaks more Finnish as times go on, often interspersed with Swedish, sometimes with Russian. That makes Russia smile at him, when more and more often Russia's smile is strained and sad and brittle. He vists less and Finland finds himself becoming accustomed to solitude and his own skin. And sometimes the Russian flows from his tongue as easily as Swedish had, and sometimes it sticks in his throat, choking him.

The choking happens more and more, and he walks for miles and miles unable to quench the restless itch.

Russia grips his shoulders hard, shakes him and it makes Finland's head ache, his vision swim. "You will stay with me?" Russia demands, a manic, intensity in his voice, and in his eyes, desperation, longing. "You will not leave me. I do not want to be alone." He breaks off, hands dropping, and rubs at his face with the back of his sleeve, over hollowed out cheeks and eyes.

And Finland frowns and remembers when Russia looked so strong.

"Promise that you will not leave!"

And Finland holds his tongue and kisses Russia's cheek and closes the door as he leaves.

There are no foundations laid for this house, no ruins to build on. It is also bordered by trees and had a little outhouse for a sauna and a large fireplace, but there is a small road outside which takes him to the capital, and plumbing so that he does not have to walk to a lake for water. And Finland buys the tools himself, and hews the stone and carves the wood and Russia does not listen to him play the kantele after they retire, and Sweden does not lie beside him.

And he builds it with his own two hands.

Waiting. Waiting. Too much waiting and it drives him crazy, it really does.

Screams die. Shots quiet.

Another gold flare. Scorched flesh and gunpowder and metal.

Finland uncurls, wraps his cape around himself and grabs his ski poles.

Blocks his ears and his eyes to that voice. Blocks his mind to those memories.

The forest closes around him.

Sisu – Strength of Will, Determination, Remaining cool in the face of adversity. It doesn't really translate well to English, but it's an important Finnish idea.

The Grand Duchy of Finland was a part of Russia from 1809 to 1917. It's during this period that Finnish became the official language of the country as it had been generally relegated to the language of peasants under Swedish rule. It had a high level of autonomy, although the last twenty years or so of Russian rule saw increased attempts at Russification and attempts to unify the Grand Duchy with the rest of Russia.

Finland declared independence in December 1917.

The Winter War was fought between the Soviet Union and Finland between late November 1939 and March 1940.

The kantele is a traditional Finnish instrument.

The poem that Finland sings is the Kalevala, an epic poem which was published in 1835 and helped stir nationalist feeling within Finland.