Chapter Five: Lady Midnight

Canada was starting to come around sometime in the middle of the night. Perhaps it was because he went to bed early, or perhaps it was because his mind was anxious.

Or perhaps it was because it was July 4th – Alfred's birthday.

No matter the reason, Canada found himself groaning and grabbing for his glasses so he could check the time. He rolled over, squinting at the bedside table. He reached for the shadow of what could have been his glasses and stuck them on his face. The red numbers on his alarm clock blinked at him happily:

3:00am.

Canada groaned, rolling over. The pillow was nice and soft, and he might have lulled back to sleep if it weren't for a little furry body crawling into bed next to him.

"Canada?" Kumajirou's little voice asked, tiny white paws resting on Canada's side.

"Kanajiou?" Canada asked, mispronouncing his pet's name for the hundredth time. For once Kumajirou hadn't required Canada to tell him his name a thousand times before he stopped pretending not to know him. Maybe that was just another difference in this world.

"I hear a funny noise," Kumajirou complained. Canada smiled sadly.

"That's probably just America snori – erm… Sealand snoring."

Kumajirou cocked his head to the side. "'America'… You've been saying that in your sleep lately," Kumajirou got in Canada's lap, "What does it mean?"

Canada shook his head. "Nothing… Not anymore." Tears welled up in Canada's eyes again, and he tried to wipe them away. "It doesn't mean anything anymore."

Against his will, the rebellious tears dripped from his eyes into Kumajirou's fur. Canada held the bear to his chest, without saying a word.

"…There's that sound again," said Kumajirou.

And this time, Canada heard it, too.

It was quiet, like the soft thumping of feet. Was one of his siblings awake? No… it didn't seem to be coming from the hall….

"Shh! Stop making so much goddamn noise! You wanna wake him up?" came a harsh, whispered voice from outside. Canada jumped, dropping Kumajirou. The polar bear rolled off the bed and hid under Canada's dresser. Canada reached for one of the hockey sticks mounted on the wall and stood up on his bed.

"I'm trying, big brother," said a different voice, "I'll be quiet."

"Shut the hell up, idiot!"

Canada trembled, holding the hockey stick out in front of him. He could see a dark figure appear in the circular window on the far wall. A hand began pushing the window open and with a little creak, the window gave. A small figure stumbled into Canada's bedroom. Canada gasped.

"…Italy?" he said, barely a whisper.

The Italian looked up, rubbing his head, tears in his eyes. Romano appeared in the open window next, slipping inside the house with less clumsiness.

"What the hell?" Romano whispered, "I told you he'd wake up!"

"I'm sorry big brother –"

"Ssshhh!"

Canada stared at the two, dumbstruck. The two were dressed just as indecently as in their photo. The younger Italian got off the floor, looking at Canada with those big brown eyes that never ceased looking innocent.

"He looks scared, brother – "

"Of course he's damn scared!" Romano snapped, "He knows what the hell we're here for, don't you, Daddy's boy? Now be a goddamn dear and get in the goddamn bag."

Canada's mouth dropped to the floor. "What?"

Italy grinned. "We're going to make England let go of our Italian soldiers he's keeping hostage by giving him you."

Romano stepped on Italy's foot. "Shut up, Veneziano. Don't explain things to the goddamn hostage!"

With the volume they were whispering (and the Northern half of Italy wasn't even bothering to whisper), Canada was surprised no one heard them. And then Romano's sentence clicked with Canada.

"H-hostage?"

Romano glared at Canada, pulling a pistol from his… Canada didn't want to think about that part. He pointed the pistol at Canada, and Feliciano seemed to start panicking in silence.

"Do what we say, or I'll kill you."

Canada just stared at Romano. The older Italian cocked the gun, holding it firm. He jerked his head to the side.

"Get off the bed. Drop the… stick."

Canada hadn't meant to follow the Italian's orders – the very idea of Romano or Italy giving orders was silly to him – but he had shifted his stance a bit and slipped on the bed covers. He fell off the bed and his hockey stick flew up into the air, clattering back down to the floor a distance away from Canada. Romano cursed, holding the cocked gun to the side so he couldn't accidently shoot someone, and grabbed Canada by the arm. Italy took Canada's other arm helpfully.

It was this point that Canada finally – finally – processed what was happening to him. He struggled against the two itilies, trying to pull away from them.

"Let me go!"

"Feliciano!" Romano shouted, trying not to fire his gun (which would probably take out Canada's overhead light if it went off). Italy pulled a thing of duck tape from his coat pocket and slapped a bit of it over Canada's mouth, apologizing repeatedly. The two dragged his toward the circular window. Romano handed his gun to Italy and took over the job of holding Canada. He twisted the blonde's arms behind his back and held Canada out over the edge of the window.

Canada felt dizzy looking at the earth below. There were two grappling hook lines running down the side of the building, which explained how the Italies got in his house. Germany was below them, looking up with a very worried look on his face. Canada would be worried, too, if his kidnapping plan was dependent on Italy and Romano… and involved dropping someone out a two story window.

Which was exactly what Romano did. The older Italian kicked Canada in the back, sending the Canadian hurtling toward the ground. If it weren't for the duck tape over his mouth, the poor man would have been screaming. Instead, Canada had to settle for fearful tears dribbling upward from the drop, and praying that his death would be quick and painless.

Luckily for him, Germany was ready for him and caught him before Canada met an unsightly end on the pavement. The German looked down at Canada, an apologetic look in his steel blue eyes. Canada wilted in the man's strong arms, choosing to give up fighting them. He turned his attention up to his – Alfred's – bedroom window as the Italy brothers grabbed onto the ropes they'd climbed in with and slid down to the ground. When they landed, Romano quickly took his gun away from Italy and they both silently nodded to Germany.

Canada found himself tossed into the backseat of an Audi A6, Romano getting in next to him holding the gun to Canada's head. Italy jumped into the passenger's seat, Germany taking the wheel.

Germany cranked up the car and slammed on the accelerator. Italy screamed as the car shot forward. With a quick glance out the window, Canada could see he'd have to be desperate to try escaping at this point; he'd break a million bones in his body were he to jump from the car. The speed it was going at would make any car a deathtrap.

Romano pulled the gun away from Canada's head and rolled down the window. Canada wondered what he was doing for a minute, as Romano pointed the gun out it. The Italian used his other hand to place two finders over the hammer of the gun. He slowly pulled the trigger, looking a little on edge. Canada watching as he slowly walked the hammer back to its un-cocked position. *

Italy noticed what his brother was doing, too. "Hey! You finally got the hang of that! This is the first time it didn't go off!"

Romano withered at Italy's cheery reminder, and Canada felt very unsafe all of a sudden.

The car ride was very awkward, to say the least. Canada curled up in the back seat, wondering when his family would notice he was missing. He buried his face in his knees, not knowing what to do.

What a way to begin America's birthday.

Once the car came to a stop, after an hour of Italy playing inappropriately upbeat music on the radio, Germany looked in the backseat.

"You're Canada, correct?"

Canada looked up at Germany and nodded.

"Canada, I feel I must warn you that resistance is futile." Romano grabbed Canada's wrist and Germany continued, "You will come inside, sit on the couch, and stay there until negotiations are over and England swaps the Italian prisoners of war for you. After all the proceedings are over with, you may go home with your father. Is that understood?"

Canada nodded again. Italy was squirming around in his seat, asking Germany if he was proud of him. Germany waved the Italian away, unbuckling his seatbelt.

Romano kicked open his door and dragged Canada into the open air. Germany and Italy followed. Canada looked up at the immense building that was Germany's three-story house. Germany took Canada's arm from Romano and gently, yet firmly, held the blond, steering him into the house.

"Come on, now," Germany said gently, "Be good. I'll – "

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Loud crying came from someone inside the house. As the Italy brothers entered the house behind Germany and Canada, Romano groaned, closing the door.

"Spain's here? Let me guess… the bastard watched Pan's Labyrinth again?"

Romano marched ahead of them and they followed the Southern half of Italy into the living room where, sure enough, Spain was curled on the couch with a movie on, crying his eyes out.

"Spain…" Romano said, sounding annoyed.

Spain looked up at saw Romano. "She… she's so young and cute… w-why did she have to die? Why'd he have to kill her? She's just a cute, cute little girl…." Spain began to sniff and sob some more. Romano shook his head, glaring at the credits playing on the television screen.

"Spain, stop watching that movie if it makes you cry –"

"She was so – sniff – young, and – sniff – innocent! Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy?" Spain cried some more, getting up and wrapping his arms around Romano. "Why is the world so cruel?"

Romano gritted his teeth. "Because England's running it…."

Spain froze, arms tight around his young charge. He pulled back, still holding Romano and looked into the Italian's face. "…What have you done?"

Romano glanced behind himself at the three people in the hall. Spain's eyes trailed up to Italy, Germany and Canada and he looked like he was about to have a heart attack.

"C-C-Canada?" Spain spluttered, stepping away from the blond. He ran a hand through his curly hair, looking very flustered and scared. "No, no, no… this is not good. Romano! Why is he here… with duck tape on his mouth? Oh, no, Romano! Tell me you didn't!"

"The time to act is now!" Romano spat, "That bastard England has our soldiers! He will give them back to us if he wants his son!"

Spain looked near tears again. "You can't, Romano! This is going too far!"

"Too far?" Romano hissed, "Like he'd be one to say someone went too far…."

Spain looked at his ex-henchman, mouth a hard line. He shifted in a way that implied shame.

Canada looked at Spain pityingly. Romano approached the man who took care of him all those years ago (because no one could raise Romano… Romano was the kind who raised himself). He took Antonio's hand and kissed the Spaniard's cheek.

"That bastard's going to get what's fucking coming to him…."

"Romano, I worry about you…."Spain's eyes looked sad as he held Romano's hand. He raised the younger nation's little fist and kissed his knuckles. "Take care of yourself…. I don't want you to end up like me."

Germany tugged on Canada's clothes, trying to get his attention, but the nation – er… British colony… ugh…. – was too wrapped up in the drama before him to notice. He also didn't notice the sound of Prussian boots hitting the steps in the basement all the way up to the first story landing.

"WHAT'S WRONG? WHO DIED?"

Prussia dashed into the room, white hair a mess, panting like he'd just run up a flight a steps… which he had. Well, Prussia was still living in Germany's basement….

"Gilbert…." Antonio muttered, "Ah… this is…."

Prussia wasn't stupid, unlike popular belief, and the situation was quickly understood. It was a little hard to miss a tall, blond man with duck tape on his mouth.

"…Oh, god, no…."

Germany didn't seem too surprised by his brother's appearance, or apparent shock/distaste for the situation. "Bruder, prepare a room for him…"**

Gilbert shook his head, pinching his nose. "Hold on, I might be having a heart attack…." Prussia leaned against the wall, a hand clutching his chest, "You… You… Oh, god, West…"

"Gilbert…." Ludwig said, sounding tired.

"You kidnapped him, didn't you?" As if he needed confirmation. Ludwig just nodded. Prussia took several deep breaths.

"…I'm calling France – "

"No you're not!" Romano shouted, making a dash for the phone. Prussia grabbed for it, but Lovino got there first, grabbing the phone off the receiver and holding it aloft. Now, Prussia was taller than Lovino, but when he made a grab for the phone in the Italian's hand, Romano leaned backward so much Gilbert was practically on top of him in a pretty risqué position, one for which Spain wasn't about to permit, particularly with his little Romano in that slutty outfit. The Spaniard grabbed his friend from behind and yanked him back; probably more roughly than he should have, but it was his Little Tomato Gilbert was straddling.

"Damn it, we have to call France!" Gilbert shouted, dangling in Antonio's arms, "I can't believe how irresponsible you lot are! When England finds out –"

"That's the point," Romano hissed stuffing the phone down his skin-tight shirt (which looked pretty odd); "He's going to return our soldiers to us for his beloved son."

"You're crazy!" Prussia shouted, trying to pull away from Spain, "He'll punish you! You mark my words, Romano!"

Spain stiffened, lip trembling. It was clear to Canada that Spain knew exactly what Prussia meant, and he wasn't about to let that happen. Canada tried to say something – anything – to act as intermediary, but the duck tape prevented him from peacekeeping. This was distressing to Canada, as mediation was in his nature. Perhaps Germany could see Canada sudden distress, as he spoke up for Canada.

"Will all of you shut up?"

The arguing nations abruptly cut off, staring at Germany. Ludwig tried to calm himself, finding it rather difficult. Everyone stood still, except for Italy, who chose to get between Romano and Prussia. Canada had to say, that probably wasn't the best position to be in if Prussia got free….

To everyone's shock and surprise, the phone rang. Romano stood stock still, shocked, and didn't even react when Italy took the phone out from under the southern Italian's shirt. Italy, being Italy and just answering the phone whenever someone calls, clicked the accept call button and held it to his ear before anyone could react.

"Pronto! Sono Feliciano Vargas!" ***

Romano snapped out of his shock at this and reached for the phone, but Italy stepped out of Romano's reach. "Oh, hi Big Brother France!"

"Give me that phone, Feliciano!" Romano snapped at his younger brother. Italy pouted. He opened his mouth to say something, but Spain abruptly let go of Prussia and took the phone from Italy's hand.

"Francis?"

Germany had calmed himself and was now sighing, holding out his hand in a silent command for Spain to hand him the phone. Spain held up a hand as if to tell Germany 'One minute.'

"…Yes. No, no! …Yes… yes… I will… I'll see what I can do… I think Germany would like to have a word with you."

After a moment, Spain handed the phone to Germany, who hooked it between his ear and his shoulder. "Hallo, this is Germany. Is England home? …no? When will he be back? …Yes, this is about Canada."

Germany was quiet for a minute and Canada struggled in his grasp, wanting to talk to his father. Germany grunted.

"Is this line taped? …good. I don't want him to have any sense of security. No, we haven't hurt Canada and do not plan to. Though, if England were to disobey our demands, I can't promi –"

Prussia swiped the phone right from Germany's ear, and yelled into the receiver: "I won't let them hurt him! Don't worry! West wouldn't do that! It's all talk!"

"Gilbert!" Germany yelled at his older brother.

"I'll take good care of your son! I will! I promise! …No, I'm not going to do that! What kind of sick perv do you take me for? …WE'RE NOT DISCUSSING THAT! THAT WAS AN ENCLOSED INCIDENT! …SHUT UP, FRANCE!"

Germany let go of Canada, and ripped the phone from his brother's hand to talk to France and end the madness. Canada took the opportunity to rip the duck tape off his mouth. It hurt… a lot.

"Can I talk to him?"

Everyone paused. Germany hesitated before nodding.

"If you're so worried, here he is."

Germany handed the phone to Canada, giving his hostage a warning look. But Germany wasn't a bad guy; his fight was with England, not France.

"…Papa?"

"Oi, mon dieu, Canada! Are you alright?"

"Yes, Papa."

"Are you hurt?"

"No, Papa…."

Canada could hear the fuzzy sound of France sighing into the receiver. "Oh, Canada… Ooooh, Canada, this is bad… Don't worry! Prussia and Spain will take good care of you. I'd be a little watchful of Romano though…. He's quite the little firecracker."

Canada nodded, despite France not being able to see him. "Papa…."

"Italy's harmless. Don't worry about him. And Germany probably won't doing anything too – "

"Papa," Canada said firmly, "I'm fine. I'm not afraid."

"…You're not?"

"No."

"…But this is the first time you've been out of the house without England or me…."

Canada paused at this information. The first time?

You've got to be kidding him.

Canada covered his face with his free hand, tired of these little surprises. "Papa, I'm going to be fine."

Another sigh. "Oh, Canada, what are we going to do…? I suppose I have to tell your father…. This isn't going to go over well…. He's in a meeting of all things, and somehow I can't imagine he'll be in a good mood when he comes home….. Hunny, are you sure you're okay? You're not hurt, are you? You can tell me…."

"Non, je suis bien. Tout sera pas mal, Papa. Ne vous inquiétez pas de moi."****

There was silence on the other end for a minute. "…How's Prussia?"

"Eh? Prussia?"

"Oui."*****

"Ah… He seems… fine?" Canada said, glancing at Prussia, who seemed to be having a fit of some sort, tearing at his silvery locks.

"….Tell him I'm sorry, okay?"

Canada blinked. "…alright."

"Please, Canada… I mean it. Tell him I'm sorry."

There was another pause, until Canada finally said "Alright" again. Germany was making a motion like he wanted the phone back. Canada gulped. "Papa, I think Ludwig wants to speak with you some more."

There was static on the other line from a sigh. "Yes… I suppose he does. Hostage situation and all that…. You just behave Canada, and stick with Spain and Prussia. Alright, hun? You father and I will come get you soon enough… hopefully in the most peaceful manner we can."

"Yes, Papa." And then he handed the phone back to Germany, who took it into the other room. Prussia put an arm around Canada.

"I'll be damned if you get hurt, Canada. Literally. Whatever England could do to me, France would do tenfold if you got hurt. …You know, maybe I can just take you home, and – "

"Down stairs, in the basement, Prussia!" came Ludwig's voice, and Prussia visibly deflated. Romano cocked his gun again, threateningly, and Prussia laughed nervously.

"So, a room! Yes, you can share with me. Eh-heh…." He nudged Canada toward the basement door and Canada didn't resist. Romano looked like he was trying to un-cock his gun again.

Prussia closed the door, leading Canada down the steps. The sound of gunfire reached their ears, and Romano's loud cursing came next. Prussia sighed.

"Welcome to hell."

Canada looked at him for a moment. "….I think I just came from there…."

Prussia didn't reply. They hit the landing and he turned on a light. "This is my part of the house…." It looked like the room of someone who was living in his mother's basement. Posters of German men and women hung on the walls, a computer was giving off a soft glow from the corner, and various food wrappers littered the floor.

"You can have the bed, if you want," Prussia said, pointing out an unmade bed, "I'll take the couch."

He sat on this couch now – green, lumpy, and musty – and opened a bag of chips. Canada hesitantly moved forward, sitting down next to the man. Prussia offered him the bag. Canada took a chip and bit into it. …It tasted horrible.

It reminded him vaguely of America's favorite foods. Greasy, salty, totally not good for you… He continued to eat the chip, trying not to cry for the hundredth time in the past few days.

He failed.

"Woah!" Prussia said, startled. "Don't do that! Please! Everything will be fine!"

Canada didn't feel like everything would be fine. Because nothing would be fine ever again. Because Alfred was gone. Because he made Alfred go away.

"Al…" Canada choked through his sobbing, "I'm sorry… I'm so, so sorry…. Al…."

Prussia flailed for a second before putting an arm around Canada's shoulders. "Hey, hey, hey… Dude, I don't know what you're apologizing for, but nothing's your fault…. This is happening 'cause of your dad…."

Canada cried. "You don't understand! He wouldn't be like this if it wasn't for me!" Canada sobbed, burying his face in Gilbert's shoulder. "I made this happen. Everything would have been normal if I hadn't made that stupid wish….."

"….Can you, uh, start from the beginning?" Prussia asked helpfully.

And so Canada told him. Prussia's face contorted into confusion as the tale was told, and Canada was sure he saw an alarmed look appear every now and then, but the Prussian nodded and pretended to care.

"…..you think I'm crazy, don't you?"

"No!" Prussia said quickly, "No, no, no! I-I believe you! A twin brother, you say?"

"Yeah."

"And you wished he disappeared?"

"He was never born."

"Right…."

"You don't believe me."

"I do! Makes… uh… perfect sense."

Canada shook his head, curling up into a ball on the couch. "No… it doesn't. It doesn't make any sense at all."

Prussia bit his lip and gave the Canadian a gentle squeeze on the shoulder. "It's okay, dude. Relax. The awesome me's here to make all your nightmares go away!" he grinned and then the grin faded, "Well… until your dad comes to get you."

Canada looked at him. "….nightmare…"

Prussia nodded, smiling. "Yup! You just stop crying now, 'kay? I get enough of that from Feli…"

Canada nodded slowly, keeping an eye on the Prussian. Prussia patted him on the back. "Cheer up, dude."

Canada paused, thinking. He opened his mouth, taking Prussia's words into consideration, forming a sentence in his mind, when –

Growl.

Canada blushed. He hadn't had breakfast. His poor stomach was empty of any and all food products. Prussia burst into hysterical laughter at this natural bodily function, and clapped him on the shoulder. "Come on. You need breakfast, kiddo~!"

The Prussian grabbed him by the arm and made Canada stand up. The ugly couch groaned at the sudden absence of weight, dust flying into the air as the cushions sprung back up. Prussia dragged the younger boy up the stairs and banged on the door. "WEEEEEEEEEEEST! Kid's hungry!"

"Oh, really? Then he must eat, yes~?" asked the voice of Italy, bouncing over to the door and opening it before Germany could shout "DAMN IT ITALY! HE'S A CAPTIVE!"

Canada was shoved into the light by a suddenly happy Prussia. "What should we feed the little birdie? I know! Beer!"

"No, no, not for breakfast, Prussia~!" Italy chirped, enveloping Canada's arm in a hug, "Wine is for breakfast! And Pasta!"

"Pasta for breakfast? That's disgusting."

"B-but your food is always disgusting…."

"WHAT?"

"What are you both going on about?" Germany asked, twitching, "He's a hostage. He gets potatoes and bread down in the basement." The man had his hands on his hips and was sounding very much like an old school teacher scolding her students for not listening. He might as well have been that.

"Eeeeeeeew, you mean that crap you eat every day? Totally not awesome, West, he's a guest."

Germany flushed. "HE'S A HOSTAGE!"

Matthew mumbled something under his breath and all eyes turned to him.

"Sorry, birdie?" Prussia asked, "What was that?" Canada blushed.

"….what about pancakes?"

There came a moment of silence. Canada shuffled his feet as the others looked at him.

"….That sounds like a great idea!" Italy chirped, jumping up and down. "Ve~! I haven't had pancakes in a long time!"

Romano poked his head into the room. "What's this about pancakes?"

"Ve, we're having pancakes for breakfast, Lovino~! Just like what Grandpa Rome used to make~! Alita Docia!" ******

"Ah…. It's been a while since I've had that…" Romano seemed to be considering the food.

"It's a great idea!" Italy had decided.

"W-with maple syrup?" Canada offered as Germany tried to tell them that 'we do not serve hostages pancakes.'

"Ve? What's maple syrup, Canada?" Italy asked, cocking his head to the side. Canada's eyes lit up.

"It's a delicious syrup made from the sap of maple trees! Mama Native America taught me how to make it! She told me it was our secret, not even Alfred got the special lesson! Ah, it's great. It's sweet and very tasty…." Canada trailed off, mind years and years back, with the woman who helped raise Alfred and himself. Her beautiful smile, the way she laughed, and the feel of her strong hands as she held them in her arms….

"…Who is Alfred?" Germany asked Prussia. The albino jabbed the other in the ribs.

"I'll tell you later."

"Veeeee~! Sounds tasty! I'll go to the store and get some~!"

Germany was alarmed. "NOT IN THAT OUTFIT!"

After much scuffling, arguing, and Germany somehow ending up accompany Italy to the store, pancakes were somehow made and set out on the table. Canada, Italy, and Romano dug in almost immediately. Germany, Prussia, and Spain were a bit more hesitant.

"….What is this, exactly?" Prussia asked, poking at it.

"Pancakes," was the unhelpful response from the three familiar with the food.

The trio of less-than-enthused breakfast companions picked up their forks and knives and cut off bits of maple drenched bread. Spain seemed to take to it with a content nod, though Germany almost immediately spit it out, deeming it too sweet.

….Prussia…

The albino's eyes lit up as his mouth curled around the pancake square on his fork. "…It's… delicious." Italy nodded rapidly and Canada grinned.

"I mean, it's, like, awesome delicious," he continued, taking more pancake for himself, "Like, completely and utterly awesome…." And he ate faster, devouring the syrupy meal. Canada laughed out loud, biting off another piece of pancake, grinning with his fork between his teeth. He watched the Prussian eat the breakfast item in a way too enthused manner.

"Germany~! Germany~! Eat your pancakes!" Italy said, having polished off his own food and was now jumping up and down next to Germany trying to make him eat the pancakes.

"No. It's too sweet."

"Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease Germany! Please, please, please! It's very good!"

"No."

"Please!"

The two had their back-and-forth until Germany gave and ate more pancake. Spain insisted on feeding Romano part of his when the Southern Italian polished off his plate. Romano ate from the other's fork willingly, though he looked as if he didn't want to. But that was Romano. He always looked like he didn't want to.

Canada smiled at the group. They looked like one big, happy family sitting at the table bickering and playing like that. It reminded him of life in his own universe, where things were… if not perfect… happy... mostly.

Italy jumped on him, nuzzling the Canadian's neck, and Canada let himself laugh, pretending for just a moment that he was home.

Prussia grabbed him by the hand. "Birdie!"

Matthew looked up at Gilbert, looking confused. He blushed as the other squeezed his hand and leaned in close, two inches from his face. "W-what do you want?"

Gilbert gave him a very serious look. "Let's make pancakes together, Canada."

Canada blinked. "….huh?"

Prussia pulled Canada out of his chair, away from Italy, and pulled him to the stove. "Teach me how to make it! Teach me how to make it!" Ludwig was groaning at the prospect of eating the sugary mess every day for the rest of his life as Canada reached for a pan.

The rest of the make-shift family disappeared into different places of the house as the hours passed with Canada teaching Prussia via cooking a lifetime supply of pancakes… Prussia was sitting on the counter as Canada showed him for the hundredth time how not to burn a pancake. (Prussia's rejects were in the garbage can.)

"Dude," he said, sucking on a pink lollipop, "You're so awesomely good at this…. Who taught you to make pancakes?"

"Papa," Canada said, smiling, "Daddy tried to teach me first, but Papa had a fit when he found out. Daddy's pancakes look like really big, black hockey pucks…." Canada trailed off, remembering that his 'Daddy' wasn't here anymore… only that pirate in his place. He trained his eyes on the pancakes, "I mean, it wasn't that bad…. I used them for hockey practice later…."

Prussia slid off the counter, deciding to lean on it instead, licking at his lollipop. "Ah… Refreshing to hear about Mr. Monarchy acting like an actual parent…." he said, "Was this before or after he flogged you with his belt?"

Canada was quiet. He didn't know the answer to that.

As the silence stretched on, Prussia straightened up and sighed. "Aaah… look, I'm sorry. I just don't like that guy…."

Canada nodded.

"I mean, your dad's kind of a repressor, dictator, spawn of Satan…"

Canada nodded.

"Murderer, torturer, sadist, rapist, Devil incarnate…"

"Prussia…"

"Yeah?"

"I get it."

Prussia nodded, shuffling his feet awkwardly. Another silence hung in the air.

"Papa…."

Prussia looked up at Canada.

"…..Papa… says he's sorry."

Prussia blinked at Canada as the blond flipped the pancake. The albino smiled softly and put an arm around the Canadian. "You're an okay guy, you know that? Almost as awesome as me! Hey, I'll talk to your papa about letting you join the Awesome Trio."

"…..Wouldn't that make it an Awesome Quartet?"

"N-….. maybe."

Prussia grinned at him, and Canada cracked a smile.

Later that day, after they finished making pancakes and Prussia had taken them all, putting them in odd places around the house for him to eat later, Canada stood on the Germans' balcony. He looked over the landscape. Germany was a beautiful country. He was afraid it would be in ruin, but everything seemed calm and relaxed… at least for now.

"I see you have found my room."

Canada squeaked and turned around to find Ludwig staring at him with his hands on his hips. He laughed nervously. "Y-you're room?"

Ludwig pointed to a bed in the corner of the room Matthew hadn't even noticed when he came in. The room was so plain; he thought it was just another empty room.

"This is my room," Germany said, walking up next to Canada, "And this is my window. And this is my balcony. And oh look," he turned to Canada with a mock pleasantly surprised expression on his face, "there's my hostage."

Canada groaned. "I'm not trying to run away…"

"Of course you're not. England's you're father. That's like capturing a Russian soldier …."*******

"Hn…."

There was silence on the balcony for a moment, which seemed to happen whenever England was brought up in conversation. Germany looked over his country, a small smile on his face.

"…Prussia tells me you have a delusion about having a twin brother named Alfred."

Well, that was blunt. Canada flinched and shuffled his feet. "H-he said that….?"

"Well… perhaps not those exact words…" Canada slumped against the railing of the balcony, looking sorry for himself. Germany shuffled his feet awkwardly.

"…You know, Canada… it's perfectly normal for a child in a broken home to have a strong desire for love and attention and develop a psychological projection of those feelings into the form of an imaginary friend, often a fantastical tutelary. You probably grew out of this fantasy as years past, and are now experiencing a longing for your mock protector – your imaginary brother, Alphonse – "

"Alfred."

"Right. And have created a new delusion that Alfred was real and you somehow wished your brother away, also expressing a misdirected loathing of yourself by blaming yourself for the misdeeds of your father. Textbook."

Textbook was right. Ludwig obviously swallowed one. ********

Germany coughed and awkwardly put a hand on Canada's shoulder. "Perfectly normal Canada. And healthy. Not like what I did when things got out of hand."

Canada looked up at Germany. "You?"

Germany winced. "Do… do you remember World War II?"

"Who doesn't?" Canada said bluntly.

"Right…." Germany looked over his country, a sad look on his face, "Back then… I was in a dark place, Canada…. My people were dying…. We were murdering my own people…. I could feel it in my heart and bones…. Every night I heard their screaming…." He shuttered, "I felt… empty. My boss was a nut job from Austria's house with more screws loose than you could shake a stick at… but there was nothing I could do to oppose him."

Germany was quiet for a moment. Canada gently touched his arm, looking up at him. Ludwig looked down at the Canadian.

"I was in a bad place, Canada. I'd done bad things, not only to others but my own people… I couldn't take it. I had convinced myself I was having a nightmare and I just needed to wake up…." Germany shuttered, "It took five German soldiers to hold me down and take my gun away…."

Canada's eyes widened. "Y-you….?" Germany nodded.

"I tried to kill myself. Damn near broke Italy's heart…. But what could I do? I felt trapped. I didn't believe this was reality…." He trailed off. The German gave Matthew's shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"But we must preserver, am I right, my captive?"

Canada cracked a slight, awkward smile. "You can call me 'friend.'"

Germany coughed into his fist and patted Canada on the head. "We shall see… Captive."

Prussia suddenly wrapped his arms around Ludwig's neck. "Yo~ West~ You telling that depressing story? C'mon~! Let's go play some games with Mattie!"

"WE DO NOT PLAY GAMES WITH HOSTAGES!"

In the end, they played Mensch ärgere Dich nicht for the rest of the evening.*********

"Aw, man, Canada!" Prussia said, flopping down on the couch. "I don't think I've had this much fun in a while…."

Canada slid under the covers of the bed Prussia so kindly gave him. He looked up at the ceiling.

"Good night, Birdie…." Prussia yawned.

"….Good night, Gilbert…."

And Canada drifted off to sleep.

Canada was leaning against his brother, about twelve-years-old physically, a book in his hand and Alfred's arms wrapped tightly around his waist as he looked over the Canadian's shoulders.

"What's that word?" he asked, pointing to a word on the page.

"Un cuiller, Alfred. It means, a spoon," Matthew rolled his eyes. Alfred rested his chin on his brother's shoulder, hugging him from behind as he stared at the book.

"What's that word mean?"

"Ronfler. It means to snore."

"And – "

"Alfred! Just learn French already…."

"Noooo…" Alfred whined, "French is haaaaaard." This earned another eye-roll from a certain Canadian. Kumajirou was snuggled up in Matthew's lap, snoring as the brothers read… or, rather, Matthew attempted to read, and Alfred asked annoying questions.

"Mattie…" Alfred mumbled as Canada reclined on the other, using him as a human pillow, "will you play with me?"

"Later. I'm reading."

"Mattie?"

"What?"

The American kissed the other's cheek, snuggling up to the Canadian. "I love you, bro~"

Matthew smiled. "Love you back, bro."

"Mattie…"

"Yeah?"

"I'll always protect you! Because I'm the hero, right?"

Matthew rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, Alfred. You'll be my hero when you stop peeing on the toilet seat."

"God, Mattie, you're such a girl."

"You love me that way."

"I do…."

Matthew smiled up at Alfred and poked him on the nose. "Hey… We'll be together forever, right?" he asked him, looking up into Alfred's blue eyes. The American looked down at his brother, blinking.

"'Course Mattie! I'll be there for you, and you'll be there for me," he grinned, "Because that's what brother's do!"

Canada smiled, and snuggled into the other, resting his head on his shoulder and his lower back on the other's somewhat pudgy tummy. "Good."

Kumajirou snored loudly, yawning a bit as he shifted on Canada's lap. Canada scratched lightly behind the bear's fluffy white ear, but the snoring only seemed to get louder and louder. Why –

Canada moaned and rolled over in bed, eyes squinting open. He grunted as Prussia's bedroom came into view. Gilbert was snoring loudly, stretched out on the couch. So it was a dream….

Or… or was it?

Canada looked around the dark, dreary, sorry excuse for a room. This wasn't right. His world was right. The world he shared with Alfred.

Canada blinked into the shadows, violet eyes shining in the darkness. He thought about what Ludwig had told him.

"…You were right," he said softly, "This isn't reality."

He slid out of bed softly, bare feet hitting the cold, stone floor. The white nightgown Prussia had given him fell about him, the hem fluttering around his ankles. (Why the Prussian had given him – or for that matter, owned – a gown when the man clearly slept in his Prussian-flag-boxers was beyond Matthew.)

Matthew walked forward as Gilbert gave a snort in his sleep. The Canadian stumbled over a stray something on the floor; it was too dark to see what it was, and Canada suspected he didn't want to know what Gilbert left lying around his room.

The Canadian crept up the steps, the old wood creaking beneath his feet. He was slow in his ascent, floorboards moaning under his weight. He brushed his disheveled hair out of his face, reaching blindly for the brass doorknob when his head hit the door it belonged to. He turned the knob, poking his head into the first story landing.

The house was dark and quiet as he made his way through the kitchen and down the hall to the second flight of stairs. The moonlight from the window caught his face, pale and ghost-like.

His feet pattered up to the second story.

"Ve~! Ludwig!"

Canada stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Feliciano's voice. He was awake? At this hour? Canada pressed his back close against the wall, noticing where he was – outside Germany's bedroom.

"NNnn… Vhat is it, Italy?" Germany asked, German accent heavy in his groggy state. "Vhy aren't you in yer own bed?"

"I-I can't sleep….." Italy replied, sounding teary.

Canada's heart went out to little Italy. He was such a pure little heart, to get teary over something like not being able to sleep. Canada smiled. Alfred used to climb into his bed at night when they were little and cry over his latest –

"Nightmare?"

Italy made a whimpering noise of confirmation. "U-uh-huh! I-it was a scary nightmare, too! Germany and Japan didn't like me anymore, and they wanted me to go away, and, and…"

Canada smiled. Nightmare… huh…

He crept quietly past Germany's room and he found the stairs to the third floor. These were less worn and made less noise as he crept up them, obviously not being used nearly as much as the others. With each step, he could hear Alfred talking to him. "I'll go up there Canada! Because I'm the hero! I'll chase away all the big bad Iggy monsters in the attic!" His own laughter…. "Alfred! Daddy says you'll fall on a nail if you go up there!" "I'll be fine!"

Canada was smiling as his cold feet took each step at a time. "Canada! Canada! Let's play!"

"I'm coming, Al…." Matthew whispered, hand resting on the door at the top of these steps.

"Mattie…. Mattie, please come back…."

"I'm coming…." Matthew said simply, turning the door knob.

The steps had not led to the third floor, or the attic. Instead, the door opened up to the roof of the fantastic German building. Wind hit his face, blowing his gown and his hair.

Matthew walked forward, wrapping his arms around himself. It was cold, and his gown was thin. His teeth chattered. His feet shuffled forward, toward the edge of the roof.

"It's just a nightmare…." He mumbled to himself.

Beep… beep… beep…

He shook his head, covering his ears. "Just a nightmare…."

Beep… beep… beep… beep beep beep beep beep…

"A nightmare…" He took a deep breath, closing his eyes and hanging one foot off the edge of the roof, suspending it in the air for a moment.

BeepBeepBeepBeepBeepBeep!

"Mattie?"

Matthew smiled at his imagination. Ah… Alfred's voice…. He'd be able to hear it again soon, for real…

"MATTIE?"

Canada let his foot down on the air, as if he could walk on it, and let the other leave the safety of the roof.

"BIRDIE!"

Matthew's eyes shot open as a pair of strong arms wrapped themselves around his chest. His fall was interrupted before it hardly begun, and his lower back smashed into the side of the building. He was yanked back to the safety of the rooftop, scraping his back, and rolled onto his back, staring up into the red eyes of his savior.

"…..Gilbert."

(Author Note: D-don't worry… the story is not over. I-I've just been very busy… As I'll be for a while. I will slowly, but surely, work on the next chapter. I promise! It'll exist! I refuse to abandon this story! You can count on me! So.. uh… happy new year.

For those who are confused… why yes. You did get a smidgen of a taste of how everyone is dealing without Canada. And yes. That was a heart monitor you heard. Muhahahahaha!

Actually, I had originally planned to leave off at a cliffy where Canada tried to jump, and then you don't find out Gil saves him until next chapter….. but that was too evil considering how slowly I've been updating. Consider yourselves lucky.

I hope it was long enough and interesting enough…. In other news, I've been reading "Colours" by Kitty29. It's awesome, and you have it to thank for what may be slight PruCan…. . It might entertain some of you while you wait for me to update. ^^;

And the title of this chapter comes from the song "Lady Midnight" by Tortoise and Hare. It was pretty much all I listened to writing that last scene.)

* This is perhaps the most dangerous way of un-cocking a pistol. Do not try this at home. I didn't. I looked it up online. Some guns have a safety setting that will prevent the gun from firing and allow you to un-cock it; some have a specific un-cocking mechanism, but not all do. Romano's lacks these features for the sole purpose of making life difficult.

** "Bruder" = "Brother."

*** "Pronto!" is the way Italians answer their phone. It basically means "(I'm) ready (to talk)." "Sono Feliciano Vargas" means "I'm Feliciano Vargas."

**** "No, I am alright. Everything will be okay, Papa. Do not worry about me."

***** "Yes"

****** The earliest pancakes were created in Ancient Rome and were known as Alita Docia, Latin for "Another Sweet."

******* See Axis Powers Hetalia manga book 1 for joke reference

********No real science used, I just strung together pretty words. Also, no textbooks were harmed in the making of this fanfiction.

********* "Mensch ärgere Dich nicht" is one of the most popular German bored games. The name means "Human, don't get angry." The game was created in 1914 and since then more than 60 million copies have been sold. The rules are simple; up to four players try to move all of their four pieces from the Starting point to the Ending point by rolling dice. When one player lands on another's piece, however, the other player must go back to the beginning. It's easy to learn, fast to play, and can be enjoyed by all ages.