I just recently stumbled across Hetalia. Unfortunately, when I take an interest in something, my head tends to swirl around with it unendingly until I sit down and put something in writing. That is where this fic comes in.
Summary: The entire world of nations falls under the shadow of destruction. How will they manage to repair what seems to be utterly destroyed?
Notes: Both national names and their human names are used throughout this story. I had intended for it not to come from any specific perspective, but when I sat down to right it immediately become Brit-ified. So expect plenty of Arthur-centric bits.
Also: I always try to put forth an effort to avoid the inevitable pairing in my stories. However, don't be surprised if I am eventually drafted into the UK/US Navy. Ahoy!
London was burning.
Arthur could feel it, even across the Channel, where he had been sitting in tense conversation in Francis' parlor. The effect was immediate; pain lanced through him with such sudden ferocity that the cup of tea he'd balanced in his palm clattered violently. Arthur did not even truly hear Francis' automatic response of disapproval when that intricately painted porcelain shattered on the floor beneath his feet. He was too preoccupied with clutching at his chest with a trembling hand.
Francis scowled, though his anger quickly transformed into concern as he realized the sudden distress from the other man. "Arthur? Are you all right?"
He heard a strangled noise that choked in the back of the smaller man's throat. Arthur's eyes had shaped into wide green saucers, blinking hurriedly in a blind daze as his other hand began grasping emptily at the air in front of him. Francis was at a loss, hand tentatively reaching across the distance to take hold of Arthur's wrist. "England?"
The only response that Francis found himself earning from the Englishman was a harsh whisper rasping out through his neighboring nation's clenched teeth. "Francis. Ring them.. Attacked..."
Whatever last thread of willpower Arthur had used to maintain his conscious state snapped. He distantly heard Francis gasp, registered the feeling of the Frenchman's arms catching his weight, yet Arthur knew nothing more beyond that as he toppled over into darkness.
It felt like ages before Arthur could finally open his eyes. He squinted against a spread of sunlight that filtered in through a nearby window, a hand automatically lifting to shield his eyes. His mouth had a grimy quality to it that reminded him of many mornings after a long pub crawl. It felt as though every muscle had gone stiff with pain. Had he been drinking? Arthur could only recall that he had been sitting down to tea with Francis, and aside from their usual trade of insults, it had been a civil meeting. Then it had—
Arthur gasped, sitting up sharply. He looked around him with darting eyes in an instinctive analysis of his surroundings. This wasn't his bedroom. It was a conservatively decorated, standard room. Certainly a room designed for comfort, but not for a lengthy stay. Arthur could discern, by the lack of flashiness alone, that he wasn't in Francis' house any longer. Though that merely deepened the mystery.
Throwing off the blankets, Arthur discovered that someone had thoughtfully dressed him in flannel pajamas at some point. They were not quite his size, the fabric cut a little larger than his frame, but the material was soft under his fingers. Arthur also felt a brief slice of delight as his feet swung down to bump against a pair of slippers laid out next to the bed, and he spied a drab robe folded over a chair nearby. He put them both on over the sleeping clothes. If he were going to go investigate outside of his bed chamber, British propriety would not allow the English nation to go tromping about in just his pajamas.
After tentatively sticking his head out to determine that the hallway outside was empty, Arthur stepped out of his bedroom. He belted the robe around his waist as he walked briskly down the corridor. It was eerily silent; for a time, Arthur saw no one present that might indicate where he was. Fortunately, his exploration was not very long before he found himself coming into sight of a large, familiar tapestry that hung against the wall. The Englishman's steps slowed, then lagged to a complete stop. He felt his jaw slacken as he looked up at the aged crest of Geneva.
What in nine bloody hells was he doing in Geneva?
"Good morning, England, sir! You're finally awake." Arthur turned as he was addressed, seeing that it was Toris coming down the hallway towards him.
He frowned absently at the Lithuanian, that automatic scowl ebbing some of the cheeriness from Toris' face. "'Good morning'? 'Finally awake'? I wake up in the middle of Geneva without the faintest notion of how I arrived or why I ended up here, and that's the best you have to offer?"
Toris' shoulders slumped in the face of England's foul mood. "S-sorry."
Arthur sighed. He reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. The poor man did not deserve such rude behavior. "No, Toris. I am the one who should apologize for being impolite. To be honest, I feel utterly knackered." Dropping his hand to his side, Arthur peered curiously at the other nation. "What is going on? Why are we here?"
"Ah.." Toris' face darkened, eyes averting quickly sideways with those questions. He beckoned with his left hand. "Perhaps you had better follow me. I only know a little of what has transpired; you would be better off to hear it from one of the others. In the meantime, I would be honored to make some tea for you once you are settled."
"Wait – some of the others are here?" Arthur felt his eyebrows pulling together again. He twisted slightly towards the direction of his bedroom. "I should get dressed first if I'm to have a proper meeting."
He stopped when Toris reached out to take hold of his forearm. The Lithuanian smiled faintly. "I don't think they'll care, England. Trust me when I say that formality should be the least of your concerns right now. Please let me escort you."
"V-very well." Arthur could not interpret the man's words as anything less than holding dire promises for what he was about to find out. He shot one last look to the tapestry on the wall before following the lead of the other nation down the hallway. For some unknown reason, every step closer felt heavier and heavier the whole way there.
If Arthur had found his presence in Geneva to unbelievable, then the welcome that he received upon entering the conference room proved even more surreal. He could only stand there numbly as the familiar faces of his fellow nations greeted him with relieved affection. Ludwig smiled at him – actually smiled! – and from out of nowhere Feliciano practically threw himself into a lively embrace of the Englishman. Arthur could only manage to pat the Italian gingerly on the back before Francis was nudging the other nation aside.
"Arthur. Thank God." The Frenchman's voice was kinder than Arthur could ever recall. France was being tender – towards him? He found himself being embraced by the taller man, and it surprised him considerably how daintily the Frenchman handled the hug.
In times of such uncertainty, Arthur fell back on a response he could trust. He huffed in irritation and pushed the man's arms away with a scowl. "I'm not made of glass, Francis. Don't handle me as if I'm breakable." Somehow, in the face of Francis' unexpected tenderness, Arthur couldn't muster proper venom behind his voice or his actions.
Francis did not take Arthur's dismissal badly. He was long since desensitized to the effects of England's bad moods. The Frenchman swept an arm towards the table in the center of the room. "Why don't you have a seat? We were just conferring, the three of us, while we waited for the others to wake. Toris will bring some tea for you, won't you, Lithuania?"
"Of course." Lithuania bowed formally at the waist. He did not seem to mind the Frenchman's order; Arthur supposed that having to follow Russia's orders for so long had imprinted the subservient attitude into the Lithuanian eons ago.
"What is going on?" Arthur demanded of the nations gathered nearby. His mind was racing with questions, with concerns. He couldn't even decide what to voice first. "Why are we here? What is happening? Why bloody Geneva?"
"In time, in time." Francis sighed heavily as the Englishman balked at the offer of sitting down. He stepped behind Arthur in order to place both hands on the back of the smaller man's shoulders. Despite the fact that England's heels dug in a little, it wasn't too difficult for Francis to push the smaller body the rest of the way to the table. "Sit."
"Just because we're in your country doesn't mean that you're allowed to give me orders, Frog." Arthur was about to brew up a tirade, having to grasp at a chair to keep from tipping over when the Frenchman finally released him. "I can bloody well—"
"England." Ludwig's voice was loud in the room. Arthur looked quickly at the German, seeing that the man was no longer smiling. Ludwig's square jaw was firmly set, pale blue eyes grim as they regarded the complaining Englishman. "Now is not the time for arguments. You have been unresponsive for more than a week's time while recovering from your injuries. There is news to tell you, none of which will be pleasant. The gentleman from France has asked you to sit, so you will sit."
He stabbed a finger in the direction of the chair in front of Arthur. The Englishman stared at that extended finger for a few heartbeats before he sat slowly down with as much wounded dignity as he could muster. Internally, Arthur was surprised with himself – he must have been considerably tired if he took an order from Germany without protest. Arthur folded his hands calmly on the table in front of him, green eyes hard as he fixed Ludwig with an expectant look.
Feliciano trembled slightly as he took a chair beside Arthur. He seemed both fearful of Germany's harsh clipped voice and utterly riveted by it at the same time. The Italian breathed out the nation's name with admiration as he propped his head onto uplifted hands. "Hey, England! Did you know that we have a new map now? Germany was showing it to me today, but I still don't understand it."
"A new.. map?" Arthur tried to make sense of the Italian's rapid-fire words, his brain needing a few seconds to process them properly. His eyes dropped from the German's stoic face to observe the map that was spread out on the table in front of him. Then he felt the color draining from his face. "This.."
The surface of the large round table had been blanketed entirely by an enormous map of the world. Arthur could see that all the nations had been marked by tiny push-pins of assorted colors. He did not comprehend what the system was for the coding of those different marks, though it wasn't hard to define vital information from that glance alone. His summations were aided by the fact that some nations, tacked by red push-pins, also had large X's drawn across their surfaces by someone with an efficient hand.
"A total disaster." France said in a voice dripping melancholy. "Ah, my friend, how fortunate that you have been unconscious for these tragic days."
"I don't understand." Arthur shook his head, a hollow feeling inside him.
Germany cleared his throat. He began to gesture at the map, directing the Englishman's attention to the different nations. "The white zones indicate those nations who have been spared from the disaster. You will notice that we are in the middle of the European White Zone. Those who have been marked by yellow represent those nations who have reported damage within their borders."
Arthur's eyes mournfully shifted to peer down at the span of the United Kingdom. His eyes misted as he silently took in the sight of several yellow pins spread across his homeland. Unbidden, his eyes dragged dully to either side of that spot, far to the east and across to the west. He had to clear his throat against a sudden lump in his throat before he could speak. "Russia is red. America is black."
"Yes." Ludwig said gruffly. "Black represents those nations who we have not heard word from yet. We do not know the extent of their damage. America, Canada, the South American countries – we have not yet received word on their status. While some have indicated that they do not hold faith in hearing word from either nation," Ludwig's eyes flickered in the direction of France, "we will wait until we hear official news, whether good or bad."
He looked back to the map, as the harsh edge of his clipped accent softened. "Red.. represents those nations who have been reported as completely annihilated."
"Impossible.." Arthur breathed out, unable to believe it.
"Most of the Arab nations have been completely wiped out. Much of Asia, as well." Ludwig's long finger pointed out to the lands on the map that had been crossed out. "Japan was damaged, yet he managed to remain mostly unscathed."
"What the hell happened?" Arthur looked around at the other men. "What in the bloody hell happened that caused all of this destruction?"
Feliciano's head dropped, his hands shifting from beneath his chin as he began to weep. He dug the heels of palms into his eyes to try and discourage the flow of tears as he warbled. "Their bombs. Their bombs! They made the sky rain with fire and blew everything up."
France gave the crying nation a gentle pat on his head to comfort the emotional Italian. "Oui. A war broke out, Arthur. A war that started and ended quickly. Naturally, my friend, you are well aware of the tensions that have overshadowed many nations for decades. This madness started when Korea's brother decided to launch a missile at America. It was unable to make the entire journey due to a malfunction, crashing into China within a matter of minutes."
Ludwig nodded, continuing where the Frenchman left off. "This began a chain of events that quickly escalated out of control. Upon hearing that an attack had already been launched against America, Iran took the opportunity to do the same. As far as we know, their missiles didn't malfunction. We don't know whether America managed to deflect the attack or not." He tapped the western bulk of the United States. "Before those weapons had even managed to reach their destination, America had already launched a retaliation strike. Iran and most of its surrounding countries were destroyed in under an hour."
"What happened to Russia, then?" Arthur was trying to absorb all the information that they were sharing. "How did these other countries end up coming under attack? Why was I attacked, and by whom?"
"Russia snapped completely."
They looked back at the door when Toris' voice spoke up behind them. The Lithuanian held a tray in a white-knuckled grip. He walked it over to where they were gathered, placing it carefully down on the table in front of where Arthur and Feliciano sat. Arthur could smell the faint herbal blend of tea, though the comforting scent was nearly overpowered by the sharper musk of coffee. He could not think about coffee right now. Simply couldn't. Not with those black pins on those western nations.
Toris straightened, looking down at Arthur. "Ivan's darker nature has always been riled in the face of destruction and bloodshed. When he found out that the other nations had begun a battle of bombs, Russia decided to unleash his own arsenal of weapons." Toris' whole body was wracked by a disturbed shudder. "He just stood there, stood there with that damned smile on his face, and laughed as if the entire situation struck him as funny. I always knew how unstable Ivan was. But never once did I actually think that I would ever witness him doing anything like he did in that moment. Ivan just smiled at me in that way of his, warned my brothers and I that we should head further south, and watched his superior push the button."
Ludwig grunted quietly. "Apparently, he had no real target in mind for his onslaught. Judging by where his missiles ended up, Russia had merely fired them completely at random. Those are the nations outside of the skirmish that received damage. Our only possible response to his insanity was for our nations to return fire. The former Soviet Union will probably burn for the next decade."
"That bastard had lucky aim." Francis said, scornful. "Or perhaps they had always been aimed at the lot of us. I wouldn't have put it past Russia to have a missile aimed at every nation that had ever slighted him."
Feliciano was pouring a heavy amount of sugar into his mug of coffee. "Our Germany got everyone organized. He contacted all of us and told us to come here as soon as we were able. Lucky for me, my homeland was untouched by the attacks. I am very fortunate, same as big brother Romano." His earlier misery came creeping back as he watched the stream of sugar dumping into his mug. "He has been very unhappy, though. The corner of Spain caught one of the explosions. Big brother refuses to leave his side until Antonio is feeling better."
"I need.." Arthur murmured, though the words dried up on the tip of his tongue. What did he need? He needed to see his homeland for himself, with his own eyes, to survey the extent of the damage. He needed to find the strength inside that was currently eluding him and leaving him feeling so numb, so powerless. And he needed to know – had to know – what the hell was going on in the Western hemisphere. All of those things in time, he knew. For the present, it was a matter of first thing's first. "I need to get back to my room. I need more rest, I think. It.. this is all a little much to absorb for one day."
"Go rest." Germany told him. "There is no rush. With the world in its current situation, we have nothing but time right now to decide what to do in the aftermath."
Arthur pressed up quickly. He gave the teapot a blank look as he realized that he hadn't even had one sip of the tea Toris had so thoughtfully prepared for him. England couldn't even summon the energy to feel bad about it. All that he could provide them was a pale hand lifting in a silent parting gesture as he left them to continue their discussion without him.
Halfway across the world, a wounded nation managed to open his eyes. He did not know for sure where he was - somewhere in the deep wilderness in the north, if the sound of the trees burning were any indication. For the past few hours, he had been unable to do anything besides lay there and listen to the steady crackle of the burning forest, powerless to move or to even open his eyes to survey the damage around him. Now that he was coming back to himself, his strength returning, he now found it possible to blink up at the sky overhead.
It was daytime. He could see it despite the thick curls of smoke that filled the air high above him. The tops of the maple trees were blackened already from the fires. A few of them had lost all the fuel they'd had to offer the blaze, standing behind as smoldering skeletons of black ash. Much of this forest was beyond saving. It would have brought tears to his eyes if only they hadn't dried up while he lay there.
He knew that he could not remain in that spot. He did not know where he would go, or if there were even any safe haven left to go to, but he knew enough to understand that he had to gather the strength to find his way out of these burning woods. His limbs were stubborn as he tried to make them move. The dirt was cold underneath him as he dug his fingers in, a low wailing moan rolling out as he forced himself to turn over.
Matthew was not a man of considerable courage. But damned if he was just going to lie there and die. He knew that standing was out of the question right now. There were still other ways to move. His teeth grit against a rush of pain – his legs felt like they were on fire just as vibrantly as the forest around him. Matthew slapped his hands out in front of him, fingers digging deep into the dirt to find purchase, and with a silent prayer of thanks for hockey-related conditioning of his upper body, he was able to start pulling himself forward.
"C-come on, Matt." He whispered to himself in encouragement as he strained forward. "S-sure you're the quiet nation. No one – hrn! – listens to you. No one will pr-probably come looking for you. You don't need them t-too. You'll get out of this because… because you have too much on the line, eh."
He grunted as he spit some dirt out of his mouth, shaking his head quickly. "You've got hockey. Maple trees. M-music. Lacrosse. U-universal health c-care." He bolstered himself with each thing, until he saw the rays of pure sunlight sparkling through the tree line a short bit ahead. Matthew flailed desperately to cross that last bit of distance.
Finally, he felt the warmth of the sun on his face. Matthew pulled himself out from the shadow of the burning trees, lifting a dirty hand up towards the sky in a victorious gesture. "You… are Canada." Then he dropped his arm back to his side, head dropping heavily to rest right there against the soft cushion of grass as he proceeded to pass out from a fresh wave of exhaustion.
Matthew found himself having a strange dream. In the dream, the world had gone completely to hell. His own country had somehow fallen into the path of destruction. He had dragged himself out of a burning forest of maple trees. He had collapsed in a field in the middle of God-knew-where.
In his dream, he opened his eyes, squinting them against the blinding sun overhead. He still could not feel his legs except for the agonizing burn. The rest of his body just felt pleasantly numb. In the dream, Matthew rested there and wondered dimly what had brought him awake again. He wondered if perhaps a bear had come to investigate.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when something bent over him enough to block out most of the sun. It was still blinding him enough that he could not properly see. That and the fact that he'd lost his glasses somewhere along the way so that everything was a calm blur. Matthew raised a hand up to defend himself in the event that it was a wild animal coming to claim him for a kill.
Then he felt the firm warmth of a hand clasping tightly around his. It was an unexpected feeling. He squinted up again in an effort to sharpen his vision. In this kind of light, there was nothing more to see than a vague silhouette – a human figure looming over him, lean and large. Matthew felt the tension in his body melt away as he noted the familiar shaggy hairstyle, the broad shoulders, the confidence and strength that radiated from the fingers locked around his.
Matthew laughed softly. "You know what? I think they were probably aiming for you, anyway. You're late, dumb ass."
Author's Note: Somehow, I just hear Ivan giggling in my head while he's bombing the world. Kolkolkolkol.