Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia nor do I own Rent. Hetalia belongs to Hidekaz Himaruya and Rent belongs to the late [amazing] Jonathan Larson.
Just as a note: This is just a side project I'm doing because a friend of mine asked me to and since she's been feeling down lately I thought I'd get this started. My school performed Rent this year as our musical and I had the chance to be a part of an amazing cast. Due to this, I own a copy of the school-friendly script. I am aware that because it is the school-friendly edition, certain words, lines and songs might have been taken out to appeal to a younger audience. Thankfully, I know most of the songs' words by heart and know where they have omitted certain lines and can re-add them back in. However, the song Contact will not be written into this story because a) all it's about is sex and b) doesn't really move the plot forwards. Plus I can't write smut to save my life.
This is just a side project so y'all needn't worry about me not continuing my other stories. Because it's a side project though, there'll be slow updates since this is a story I'll be writing whenever I have writers block on other stories or am just bored. To make up for this, if you have any questions about this story [like what Hetalia character is going to play a certain character or anything else] then feel free to message me and I'll answer your question in a pinch :)
Now, on to Act I. To anyone who hasn't seen the musical, all of Act I happens on the same day, Christmas Eve.
In the lower east side of New York, on the top floor of what used to be a music publishing factory, live two men. In the centre of their apartment are a wood stove and a snaky chimney that reaches up to the skylights. The room is dark, albeit one light shining from the hallway leading out into the main floor. There is not much in the apartment; there is a table, some chairs, an old ratty couch that looked like it was twice the age of its owners and a guitar amp. Posters line the walls, providing the only colour in the bleak room.
Arthur Kirkland, a twenty-six year old blonde man with monstrous eyebrows and brilliant green eyes who once lived in England, enters the room, clutching his black electric guitar in his right hand. The guitar was the only evidence of the life he used to lead. He walks towards the guitar amp and casually plugs in, sitting down on a nearby chair as he sets levels. After setting levels he stands up and makes his way to the table, where various sheets of paper were scattered, each with notes and lyrics on them, written and rewritten and rewritten some more. Arthur sits down on the table and begins to strum a few notes, making a face when they don't sound good together.
His roommate, the wild and boisterous Gilbert Beilschmidt enters holding his only prized possession; his camera. It is common knowledge that Gilbert's dream in life is to make it big as a filmmaker and after abandoning his previous projects, has decided to film his life as a documentary. He runs a pale hand through his white hair, his red eyes gleaming excitedly. He fumbles with a few dials on his camera before turning around so the camera was on him and pressing record.
"We begin on Christmas Eve with me, the awesome Gilbert, and my roommate Arthur," Gilbert begins to say, turning the camera to show Arthur. Arthur does not register that Gilbert is speaking about him, still continuing to strum away on his guitar. Gilbert rolls his eyes and turns the camera back on him. "We live in an industrial loft on the corner of 11th Street and Avenue B. It's the top floor of what was once a music publishing factory. Old rock 'n' roll posters hang on the walls. They have Arthur's picture advertising gigs at CBGB'S and the Pyramid Club," he pauses in his monologue to turn the camera once more, filming various posters on the wall across from him. "We have an illegal wood burning stove; its exhaust pipe crawls up to a skylight," he continues, now filming the stove, tilting the camera upwards to capture the old rusty exhaust pipe. "All of our electrical appliances are plugged into one thick extension cord which snakes its way out a window," Gilbert says, walking towards the window. The window is covered with frost. He pauses his camera quickly and wipes away as much froze as he can before pressing record again and continuing. "Outside a small tent city has sprung up in the lot next to our building." There are groups of men and women in layered clothing huddling around a small fire, cloudy breath coming out of their mouths. Gilbert turns the camera back to him. "Inside it's freezing because we have no heat," he says, the cloudy breath coming out of his own mouth.
He smiles wickedly, before turning the camera to a still oblivious Arthur. "Smile!" he exclaims. "December 14th, 9 PM – Eastern Standard Time, from here on in I shoot without a script, you know – to see if anything comes of it. First shot should be me since I'm freaking awesome but I decided to be nice and make it Arthur, who's turning the fender guitar that he hasn't played in a year," Gilbert says to the camera, taking various angles of Arthur, who is too absorbed in his music to care about Gilbert's antics.
"This won't fucking tune," Arthur mutters to himself. Gilbert smirks.
"So we hear, Artie!" Gilbert says cheerfully. He turns the camera back to himself. "He's just coming back from a half a year of withdrawal from life and the awesome me," he informs the camera. Arthur finally looks up him, clearly irritated.
"Are you talking to me?" he asks. Gilbert laughs.
"Not at all!" he sings out, turning the camera back to Arthur, who is now staring at Gilbert blankly. "Are you ready? Hold that focus – whoa, steady! Tell the folks at home what you're doing Arthur!" Gilbert says dramatically, zooming in on Arthur's face. Arthur swats at the camera.
"I'm trying to write one great-"
Gilbert glances at their phone. "The phone rings," he states. Arthur rolls his eyes.
"Saved!" he mutters to himself, turning back to his guitar.
"We screen because neither of us wants to answer the damn phone! Zoom in on the answering machine!" Gilbert proclaims, moving closer to the flashing answer machine.
Gilbert's and Arthur's recorded voices are heard, both saying Speak right before a loud beep.
"Whoa man that was a loud beep. Are you finally going deaf from that rockstar business Artie? I think you're going deaf – that was a freaking loud beep. I don't even actually know if this is working – hey Artie, Arthur, are you there? Hey man are you screening this call – it's your brother, Alfred! Mom told me to call and say we love you and shit – oh yea, she'll miss you tomorrow at that Christmas party. I guess I'll miss you too. Ish. Yea Jack and his baby momma just arrived – mom says they send their love. Ha, as if," a loud voice says. Gilbert tries not to laugh as Arthur winces at the sound of his younger brother's voice. Alfred takes on a mocking feminine voice, "oh Alfred do tell your brother that I hope he likes the hot plate and that he shouldn't leave it on when he leaves the house!" Alfred's laughter can be heard. He continues in his regular voice, "Oh yea, hey Gilbert – what's up?" Arthur smirks at Gilbert as Gilbert grimaces. "I heard about Antonio, man – sucks. I guess it's c'est la vie or whatever. Let him fuck that Italian dude! There are probably other fags-I mean, guys for you to screw! Alright, peace – Alfred." The voicemail ends. Arthur is now laughing at the disgusted look on Gilbert's face.
"Your brother is a douche," Gilbert remarks and Arthur rolls his eyes.
"He and my mother are precisely the reasons why I left," Arthur replies and Gilbert smirks. The phone rings again just as Gilbert is about to continue filming his roommate. As usual, they let it go to voicemail.
"Hey Gilbo! You're probably listening to this but too lazy to answer the phone so hi! It's me, your cousin Lizzie!" Elizaveta Héderváry says cheerfully from the phone. Gilbert groans and buries his face into his hands. Arthur starts laughing at Gilbert again. "I hope you're having a crappy Christmas because mine is what you'd call awesome," she says. Gilbert growls.
"Not cool. That's my word," he mutters and Arthur smirks at him.
"Oh you're pissed, aren't you? I can almost hear you muttering to yourself from my expensive pent house apartment! Yea so the only reason I'm wasting my valuable time to call you of all people is because I heard about Antonio. Sad how things like that happen, isn't it? I guess he finally grew a brain and moved on to someone far better. I heard his new boyfriend's from the rich part of town. Oooh, ouch. Dumped for another guy and a rich one at that! Ha ha, your life sucks. Merry Christmas, love from your darling cousin Elizaveta! Oh, and Merry Christmas to you too, Arthur," she adds before hanging up. Gilbert makes an obscene gesture at the phone, even though Elizaveta wouldn't be able to see it. He sighs, before picking up his camera and turning it to Arthur.
"Alright, take two!" he says cheerfully, the previous event already long forgotten. "Tell the folks at how what you're doing, Arthur!" he exclaims.
Arthur sighs. "I'm writing one great song-"
"Again?" Gilbert exclaims in frustration.
"Yes!" Arthur exclaims in relief.
"Yea ok fuck that – we're screening that call too," Gilbert says.
Their outgoing message can be heard. Judging from the background sounds coming from the caller, the person is calling from nearby their house – possibly at the pay phone nearby the tent city set up by the homeless people.
A loud cheerful singing voice can be heard. "Chestnuts roasting-" Gilbert blinks.
"Shit!" he exclaims, running to the phone, holding onto his camera with one arm. "Mathias!" he exclaims jovially. Mathias Køhler, a former roommate of Gilbert's and Arthur's, is a tall Danish man with wild blonde hair and a cheeky smile. He wears what looks to be a new jacket, singing to himself nonchalantly, not noticing the two homeless men nearby who are staring at his jacket with an almost hungry look in their eyes.
"I'm downstairs!" Mathias exclaims. Gilbert puts down his camera to lift up the phone and run to the balcony. Mathias waves to him cheerfully.
"Hey!" Gilbert exclaims, his voice heard through the phone and in the night air.
"Arthur picked up the phone?" Mathias asks teasingly. He can see the self-proclaimed awesome man roll his eyes from his place at the pay phone. He laughs again.
"Uh no – it's the awesome me!" Gilbert replies. Mathias grins.
"Throw down the key!" he says, watching as Gilbert pulls out a key, fumbles around with his with his already numb fingers before throwing it in the Dane's general direction. It lands at Mathias's feet. Mathias stoops down to pick it up.
"Fuck its cold – alright I'm gonna go back inside. Now that you're here a wild night is now pre-ordained!" Gilbert tells him through the phone. Mathias looks up, Gilbert has already gone inside. The homeless men who had been staring at him have now come closer, one of them holding an old wooden baseball bat. Mathias eyes them wearily, already aware of their intent.
"I may be detained," Mathias says just as the men lunge at him. Dropping the phone, the men half-drag Mathias away from the phone. Mathias is a strong man but taking on two equally muscular men is a challenge, even for him. Attempting to save new warm jacket he fights back as much as he can, the cold winter breeze chilling him and slowing his motions. The two men push him to the ground and attempt to pull his jacket off. Gritting his teeth Mathias grabs onto one sleeve as the men kick at him to let go. There is a ripping sound and the jacket sleeve Mathias is holding onto is separated from the rest of it and the men run off. One man pauses, noting that Mathias looks like he could still easily chase after them and picks up his baseball bat, swinging at Mathias's head and kicking him once again. Mathias's head comes into hard contact with the baseball bat and he collapses onto the cold pavement, out cold. The men run off, leaving the bloody bruised man on the ground.
Meanwhile, back in the loft, Gilbert and Arthur are staring at the phone receiver in confusion.
"What does he mean…?" Gilbert asks Arthur. The phone rings again. "What do you mean – detained?" Gilbert shoots into the phone. Arthur leans in so he can hear the answer.
"Ho, ho, ho," a monotonous voice says. Gilbert and Arthur both pale and they stare at each other in utter horror.
"Ludwig!" they hiss in unison. "Shit!"
"Men, I'm on my way," Ludwig says from his cell phone as he strolls along the cold sidewalk, shielded from the cold winter breeze by a long fur coat that probably sacrificed tons of baby woodland creatures to make. He makes his way to his parked Range Rover and gets in, balancing his cell phone with his right shoulder and right ear.
"Great!" Gilbert says with fake enthusiasm. Covering the phone he and Arthur exchange another look.
"Crap!" they exclaim. Neither of them wanted Ludwig to visit.
"I need the rent," Ludwig informs Gilbert. Gilbert blinks.
"What the fuck? What rent?" Gilbert asks.
"This past year's rent which I let slide," Ludwig replies.
"Let slide? Dude you said we were 'golden'!" Gilbert accuses into the phone. Arthur pulls the receiver away from Gilbert to add his own two cents on the matter.
"When you bought the building?" Arthur prompts. Gilbert takes the receiver back.
"When we were roommates?" Gilbert adds. Arthur pulls the receiver back to him.
"Remember? You lived here once upon a time," Arthur asks. The two men hold the phone between them to hear Ludwig's response. They can practically hear Ludwig roll his eyes in exasperation.
"How could I forget? You two, me, Mathias and Antonio. How is that Drama Queen?" Ludwig asks. Gilbert winces. Arthur smirks.
"He's performing tonight," Gilbert says casually.
"I know. Still his production manager?" Ludwig asks.
"Two days ago I was bumped."
"You still dating him?"
Gilbert blushes. "Last month… I was dumped," he informs the other man. Arthur finally starts laughing.
"He's in love," Arthur says dramatically.
"He has a new man?" Ludwig asks.
"Well… yea. If you can call him a man, that pansy," Gilbert mutters.
"What's his name?" Ludwig asks.
Arthur and Gilbert glance at each other; Arthur in amusement, Gilbert in annoyance. "Lovino Vargas," they chime in together. Gilbert can tell Ludwig is smirking.
"Rent, my amigos, is due, or I will have to evict you. Be there in a few," Ludwig says briskly. They hear a dial tone as Ludwig promptly hangs up on them.
"Asshole said amigos just to piss me off," Gilbert mutters to himself. Arthur rolls his eyes, playing a single note. Noticing that it was the beginning note to Musetta's Waltz he begins to strum the song. Gilbert grins slightly and picks up his camera, pressing record. Arthur begins to show off a bit for Gilbert, dramatically playing his guitar as Gilbert films him from various angles. Both men begin to laugh.
Halfway through the song, the fuse on the amp blows. Gilbert and Arthur freeze, staring at each other. The single light shining in the hallway flickers a few times before going out. Gilbert groans.
"The power blows," he informs his camera, setting it on a tripod nearby the table and walking towards the fuse box. "How do you fucking document real life when real's getting more like fiction each day?" Gilbert mutters, prying open the metal door and prodding some of the wires. "Headlines, bread-lines – fucking blow my mind and now, the deadline 'eviction or pay' rent," he snarls.
Arthur glances at a piece of paper lined with scribbles and random phrases and frowns. "How do you write a song when the chords sound wrong – even though they once sounded right and… rare?" he mutters to himself, looking through the papers, trying to find the notes that sound right, the words that fit in – something. He can't. "When the notes are sour, where is the power that you once had to ignite the air?"
"We're freaking hungry and frozen!" Gilbert exclaims at the fuse box, punching it in frustration. Arthur rolls his eyes.
"Some life that we've chosen," Arthur replies.
"How are we gonna pay last year's rent?" Gilbert shouts to the sky. Arthur rolls his eyes again. He puts his guitar down and stands up, walking to a nearby cupboard and pulls out bunches of fat little candles.
"We light candles," Arthur replies, tossing Gilbert a few.
"Yes, because that's going to pay rent, isn't it?" Gilbert shoots at Arthur. Arthur shrugs, trying to find something to light the candles.
"How do you start a fire when there's nothing to burn and it feels like something's stuck in that damn flue?" Arthur asks, opening random cupboards and drawers, trying to find a lighter or matches that he can use. Gilbert pulls out the matches he uses for his cigarettes and tosses it to Arthur.
"How can you generate heat when you can't feel your feet-?"
"And they're turning blue?" Arthur adds, grabbing the almost-empty garbage can. The garbage can is practically because there is nothing to throw out. Neither man has eaten for at least two days now. He throws into the garbage can the old lyrics sheet he had been holding. He lights a match and throws it into the garbage can. Gilbert smirks.
"You light up a mean blaze," he remarks, grabbing some of his old scripts and screenplays, all of them utter failures.
"With posters," Arthur says, ripping off some of his old band posters and throws them into the garbage can.
"And screenplays," Gilbert adds, throwing in the thick sheets of paper. Arthur lights another match so the fire can grow. The fire's light shines below them, casting an eerie glow to each man.
Arthur sighs. "How the hell are we gonna pay last year's rent?" he asks.
Meanwhile, in a brighter, richer part of the city, an irritated Italian man paces a few times before grabbing the receiver from a nearby payphone and dialling a number. He is automatically sent to voicemail. He scowls.
"Don't screen bastard, it's me – Lovino. Your stupid substitute production manager-" he's cut off from the sound of his lover answering the phone. "Hey. Did you eat?" He tries not to be concerned, but as Antonio tries to casually change the subject to something else, his stomach churns anxiously. "Don't change the subject, asshole – you haven't eaten all day have you? Fuck you! You won't throw up – you're not going to throw up. If you don't eat right now you're going to faint and then your stupid fucking protest will be ruined." He smiles, knowing that Antonio will now listen to him, fearing his protest would be ruined if he didn't. As Antonio asks if everything is alright with the equipment, the smile fades. "The digital delay… didn't blow exactly… there may have been one teeny tiny spark—" Antonio tells him he will call Gilbert for help. The Italian man scowls once more. "You're not calling that bastard!" he yells into the receiver. He will figure out how to fix the equipment – without Antonio's stupid ex-boyfriend's help.
In the meantime, Mathias wakes up, dazed. He remembers vaguely talking to his friend Gilbert before getting mugged. As Mathias tries to stand up, he feels dizzy. How do you stay on your feet when on every street it's 'trick or treat' – and tonight's fucking trick! Mathias thinks to himself, pressing his hands against the cold brick wall behind him to hoist himself up. "Welcome back to town," he says sarcastically as he gets onto his feet. The world swirls around him. "Oh… I should lie down," he gasps. "Everything's brown and-" Mathias's stomach lurches. "Oh fuck – I feel sick!"
Gilbert pauses in his search for flammable items to walk over to the balcony. He looks around curiously. There was no sign of his tall Danish friend anywhere. "Where is he?" Gilbert says over his shoulder to Arthur, who shrugs.
Mathias's knees buckle. "Getting dizzy," he mutters before everything goes black.
Arthur joins Gilbert on the balcony, looking around for Mathias as well. Neither man can see him. At this point they realize that the lights that had been coming from the other apartments were actually flames of fire. All around them, from above and below they can see their fellow neighbours yelling about the same thing, all holding burning eviction notices and other burning items in their hands as they through it down to the parking lot below.
"How are we gonna pay last year's rent?" they all cry out. Gilbert and Arthur glance at each other before running back into the house to stoke the fire up some more. They were gonna give Ludwig a greeting to remember.
Speaking of the German man, Ludwig was driving along the road in his Range Rover, still on the phone. "Feliciano, why do you sound so sad? I can't believe those two after everything I've done. Ever since our wedding I'm dirt – they'll see, I can help them all out in the long run," he says more to himself than his husband waiting at home.
A stray piece of paper falls gently onto the ground as Arthur is throwing all his old lyric sheets into the fire, page by page. Gilbert picks it up and smirks. "The music ignites the night with passionate fire?" he says, laughing as Arthur flushes.
Lovino Vargas argues with his lover on the phone. He doesn't care that people are staring at him yell into a payphone receiver. "Antonio I'm not a fucking theatre person!" he exclaims.
Arthur glares at Gilbert, picking up a random script and reading out loud. "The narration crackles and pops with incendiary wit?" he challenges. Gilbert laughs.
"I would never and could never be a theatre person, you bastard!" Lovino exclaims into the phone. "I can't believe I'm with you, you st-" Lovino pauses as he no longer hears his lover's voice. "Hello?"
"Zoom in as they burn the past to the ground!" Gilbert says dramatically, throwing his arms open theatrically.
"And feel the heat of the future's glow!" Arthur exclaims, motioning for Gilbert to help him lift up the garbage can.
"Hello? Bastard you better not have hung up on me!" Lovino cries out, hanging up the phone in fury.
The phone rings in the loft. Gilbert and Arthur exchange a quick look before they put down the garbage can. Gilbert runs to the phone.
"Hello? Antonio? Your equipment won't work? Okay – alright, I'll go!" he exclaims before slamming the phone down and running back to Arthur. Together the men drag the garbage can to the balcony, just as Ludwig is rolling in with his Range Rover. Automatically, the residents of the building begin to scream.
"How can you connect in an age where strangers, landlords, lovers – your own blood cells betray?" Men and women shout, throwing flaming eviction notices, chairs, anything they can, aiming to hit Ludwig.
"What binds the fabric together when the raging, shifting winds of change keep ripping away?" Gilbert shouts. Ludwig hears his voice and glances upwards, moving quickly to dodge an incoming flaming piece of paper.
"Draw a line in the sand and then make a stand!" Ludwig roars to the residents.
"Use your camera to spar!" Arthur exclaims, lifting the garbage can to the edge.
"Use your guitar!" Gilbert adds.
"When they act tough – you call their bluff!" a man cries out.
"We're not gonna pay," a person screams. It slowly begins the residents' chant as Gilbert and Arthur, also chanting as they let the contents of the garbage can fall to the ground.
"We're not gonna pay!" they screams. "We're not gonna pay – we're not gonna pay last year's rent! This year's rent – or next year's rent!"
"Rent, rent, rent fucking rent!" Gilbert yells.
"We're not gonna pay rent!" the residents chant.
"Because everything is fucking rent!" Gilbert and Arthur exclaim, throwing the garbage can down to ground, high-5ing each other as it nearly hits Ludwig, making him jump to the side and glare at them. Ludwig's Range Rover is not so lucky. A crack in the car's smooth windshield appears and Ludwig howls in horror. Gilbert and Arthur begin to laugh almost manically as Ludwig gives them a death glare. Around them are people yelling insults and throwing things. All around Ludwig is dying flames of fire and car horns. The homeless people have begun to throw things as well, knowing that if Ludwig had his way with the residents they'd all be kicked out.
Ludwig gives the area around him one last glance before walking into the building. Gilbert and Arthur exchange a look and walk inside themselves, preparing for Ludwig's visit and wrath. Arthur glances around at his fellow residents, who, perversely pleased with the amount of damage they caused to the ground below, were turning back inside to escape the cold winter air. Arthur sees a flash of blue from the balcony below and sees a man with long blonde hair looking up at him. His green eyes meets the man's blue and Arthur blushes, walking inside briskly. The man grins mischievously before doing the same.
The last few flames quietly die on the pavement ground.