Series: Hetalia/Death In Venice
Character/pairing: Germany, Italy, Aschenbach.
Author's note: kink meme: Germany/Italy, Death In Venice.
I decided to do commentary on the novel itself with Hetalia instead of retelling with Hetalia because.. While Aschenbach is a dead ringer for Germany, Tadzio is blond and polish. Ahem.
One artistic license is that Death In Venice was finished in 1911, while this is set after WWII.
Also this sort of ignores the Valentine's day canon, or maybe it hasn't happened yet, or maybe it's au. IDK.
He's kicking his feet at the pier. Sunkissed shoulders, a chaotic smattering of faint freckles at his back that Germany has seen a thousand times. He has a wide-brimmed straw hat on, but only at Germany's urging so he won't get sunburnt.
Germany wears armor against the sun, enough to survive the battle that is the walk on the beach. A wide hat, boots. He looks more likely to storm a beach than to relax. He gives up the hat at the thought of Italy's skin peeling and burning. He's always so useless and careless and he'll get himself into all kinds of trouble if Germany isn't there, or at least that's what he tells himself.
Germany's hand hovers near the back. There is no blanket to place there, his face turned away, flushed. There is no excuse. His hand falls to his side, sandy, sunkissed skin untouched.
Instead he says "I came with a writer. He recently added 'von' to his name."
Italy smiles. "I know, I saw him. He reminded me of you."
The air has a faint sickly scent to it, like something overripe.
He came with the writer like a ghost haunts a former loved one, like an ill omen follows a cursed one. He does not talk to Aschenbach, but it is for the best, as Aschenbach watches another with a devotion nearing delirium. It is an excuse: I am here on business, I am here with Aschenbach, I did not come here for any other reason.
He might as well add I did not come because I miss you, because the bed feels cold and
the air feels empty without your voice.
But, he thinks, Italy is hardly one to see through a facade.
To all of them, he is simply yet another constrained German. He pushes down his cap to shade from the sun and waits until he hears the laughter, the beginning of a song hummed in a language he doesn't know. A musical one, without the violence and roughness of his native tongue.
Sometimes he doesn't hear the singing, even as he waits at the pier, and he has to find Italy. This is a monumental task, for there is no order when it comes to Italy. Italy sleeps in any corner of Venice he can. In unused Gondolas, the shade of a shop, or under the pier itself during low tide.
(He doesn't think a land can drown, but he always feels apprehension when looking under piers now.)
He catches sight of the fabled boy, this Tadzio at the shoreline. He resembles the country of his heritage with his gold curls and delicate body, to say nothing of his almost coy, teasing nature that he can only see viewed through the glass of Aschenbach's devotion. Aschenbach watches the boy's every movement as if he might find esoteric meaning in it. He tries to hide it behind newspapers, behind lowered hats and half-closed eyes. He isn't as invisible as he thinks he is, for Germany has noticed.
Aschenbach is a fool, he thinks.
But then he sees a curly lock, a smile, pure foolishness, all of it coming towards him. He hears his name being called, and something within him, the lost memories of Luther and Christendom smugly tells him motes and stones, Germany. Motes and stones.
Italy leans against him. This is nothing new, for Italy is always touching him. However the feel is distinctly hot. He rests the back of his palm against Italy's forehead, testing.
"You're ill," he says.
"I-I'm not sick. Wh-who told you I was sick? I'm healthy, see?" Italy laughs, desperate and looks around, as if someone were watching.
"There's certainly no sickness."
"A banking crisis isn't anything to get all fussed over," Germany says tetchily.
"Y-yes, it's a banking crisis!" Italy says.
Germany stares down at him. Italy looks utterly terrified, and he keeps looking to the officials, the policemen and owners of the hotel to make sure they aren't watching and can't hear him.
"A banking crisis," Germany says in a calm voice. "And nothing else."
Later when he is alone, he searches out the German newspapers he has been avoiding, for Italy takes up his time, both in the beauty of the land itself and the troublesome boy who gets sunburnt and sleeps under piers.
He walks by the river when the hangs low and dusk nuzzles at the skies. He is unafraid of any rabble, for he has fought wars, he is immortal, or close to it.
Hints of a plague, Assyrian in nature. Italian officials would refuse it as simple rumors.
By the water he again smells that sickly sweet, overripe smell. The smell of rot, the smell of oncoming death.
He pays a visit to Aschenbach's hotel. He is not questioned because of his German accent, the thick way he mangles the Italian language. When he says he is a relation, they do not pay him a second glance.
Out tumbles the story: a plague covered up by the Italian officials for the sake of revenue. He tells it with digressions of gods and the beauty of a boy who has stolen his heart and his mind. He looks out to see rays of a set sun, to see the object of his affection one last time.
Aschenbach is wild-eyed, lost in dreams and myths. The author talks to himself, murmuring half-thoughts.
"I think I could give it all up for love," the author murmurs aloud. "To live for love and to die is better than to have never lived at all."
And what if they betray you? Germany thinks. What then?
I could die for love, for his love... Oh Ganymede, oh Hyacinth, he is more beautiful yet than you, the author repeats in his delirium.
Love is a sort of madness in itself, Germany thinks. It clouds your vision, your reasoning. How many times has he come to Italy's rescue when the sane, logical thing would be to abandon him?
And yet the view of Italy standing out their on the dock, freckles and smiles turned towards him makes him think that it is anything but logic.
There is a cold compress on Italy's head. The plague can no longer be hidden.
"I'm sorry, Germany," he says over and over. "They...they told me I can't say anything. I'm sorry about your author...I'm sorry to let you down, Germany..."
The fever has set in. He clings tight to Germany's arm even as he's too hot and throwing off his covers. He's covered in a sheen of sweat.
"He'll die, won't he?" Germany says, already knowing the answer. "But you..."
"I...I think I'll die without any pasta or gelato...the doctor said I can't have any until I get betterrrrr!" Italy wails.
Italy breaks off into great heaving sobs, and Germany sighs. His eyes are closed. Italy will be fine, with time. The plague will run its course, but the country will live on.
He feels that old relief deep within him. It feels almost nostalgic to be here. Here, saving Italy once again.
He wrings out the cold compress and puts it again in the cold water.
He'll stay a while longer.
Aschenbach's body will never return home. Perhaps it is best, he thinks, to intern him here, where he lived the most. He, however, is not set with such restrictions. He hopes the man saw one last vision of his beauty before dying. It is the least mercy he can wish for him.
He feels a twinge of regret to see such a great man so fallen, but then the world will not know of his final madness.
Italy is asleep when he comes to say goodbye, so he leaves a note. Letters, the oft-used tool of cowards. It's simple and to the point: I'm going home, I have things to take care of. Take care.
The rails will be closed by now. He'll have to walk all the way home, but he's walked before. Over mountains, through valleys, beside tanks. He's no stranger to physical exertion.
Every step away he knows that it will be the image of Italy's back to him, sunhat high and sunkissed skin glistening.
Every step away will be a possibility lost: unkissed kisses, untouched touches, unsaid words.
And he will be that much farther from the madness that is that is all-consuming love with even now he feels the embers of, so strong that even betrayal couldn't quench it.