This chapter took ages. This is the second drabble idea of PTSD, which will become clear later on. Remember, there is no relation between fics!
Plus this one is a...little bit longer...then the rest!
Feliciano peered round the corner, his head peeping out from the hallway into the living room. Well, it wasn't his living room, it was Ludwig's. In Ludwig's house. That he was visiting!
He'd been staying a while, he was worried. It wasn't long after Ludwig has gained back power as a country and the vast majority of the Allies choke-hold had diminished. Feliciano didn't want him to feel too on his own, afterall, they were friends. And to be honest, Feliciano was worried Ludwig was still pretty fragile. He felt bad – it was like watching a paranoid friend recovering from hospital, or watching over an elderly person after a stroke. They were still flaky, but their pride was injured and your pitying stare didn't help.
Feliciano's curl bounced as he tried to banish the inner sadness, watching his friend sitting and reading in soothing silence in his favourite armchair. Maybe he'll bake something to ease Ludwig's worries! He always has loved cakes and confection, maybe Feliciano should give it a good old go! Yeah. If a friend ever had to give another friend a pick me up, this was that moment.
Revitalized and shoving up his shirtsleeves in determined fervour, Feliciano spun on his heel and skimpered to the kitchen.
Peeling the pages now and then was the only disturbance to Ludwig's literary sanctum. The crisp slide of worn but well-kept paper, smooth and dry under his callous, considerate hands. Reading glasses resting on the bridge of his nose, for once not assisting strained eyes to evaluate paperwork. Philosophy this time. Only when he was feeling particularly troubled did he turn to manuals. Only when he was desperate for safe, chronological order did he reach for the manuals for assemblies. Step by step, stick that there, support this, 1, 2, 3.
But no, philosophy. Thought complex and mature and obscure to normal mental processes, stretching his stiff mental muscles until warm before kneading it thoroughly like baking dough. Dough? The blonde lifted his head from his reading, nose and ears perked from the sudden thought, before catching a whiff of flour. There was a twitch at his lip that might betray a smile, and it lingered even as he returned to reading, but afterall it was barely there anyway.
Feliciano was something Ludwig had never deserved. Unconditional love, saintly patience, endless faith, kindness and hope and consideration. Sure, he was a little air-headed sometimes, but that was probably because, Ludwig imagined, Feliciano preferred to run on clouds than run on earth. Ever since they'd….well, safe to say, Feliciano hadn't been afraid to exchange bandage changing duties. They were healing together, with Gilbert too, and Romano. Healing together in the more bizarre healing circle; all suffering from utter defeat, severe frostbite, war-fear and violation of the Allies.
Sometimes Ludwig would spot Gilbert and Feliciano sitting and chatting cutely in the living room, the childish petnames of 'Feli' and 'Gil' the only things his ears picked up. Sometimes the two Italian brothers sitting in the pale sun, soaking up warmth and eating gelato, for once enjoying each others company. The same for the German duo – existing privately and far-too-close: spluttering, running hugs, pancakes, brash remarks and chiding. And when Ludwig was with Feliciano, he'd noticed his friend had sobered up considerably since….
While his old sudden affections had just appalled and smitten the spluttering German, Feliciano had toned himself down. Which both saddened and calmed Ludwig. Feliciano had a quieter manner, more nurturing. Ludwig found himself noticing the Italian boy chiding him just as much as he, making the man wonder 'is that what I'm like?' absentmindedly. Touched his hands, offered him coffee, kept the radio and television turned down to nothing more than a filling hum, knowing loud noise disturbed him.
The house quiet, humming, smelling of hot beverages, the occasional saintly taste of glazed sugar, the warmth of two comforting bodies nearby.
Ludwig peeled another page. His lip tightened ever so slightly. The house seemed to have returned to normal, but mulled and quieter. There was a lingering – a solemnity – that hung in the hair, every time they fell on the subject…and then there was a knowing change in subject.
Ludwig distantly heard footsteps, a tired exclamation of 'Feli!' responded in kind with 'Gil!' from the kitchen. There was giggling and raspy, manly laughter as pots and pans clanged as they played, followed by the spit and boil of heating water, and the glugging splash of meat being dropped inside. Feliciano squealed and complained, as obviously Gilbert had taken it upon himself to make something more manly and German than cake, and in Feliciano's honest opinion wurst tasted like shit.
Ludwig settled back to his book, turning his ears away from the chitter-chatter that would ensue. He got up and removed himself from the room to better get some peaceful isolation, moving nextdoor to his downstairs study. He slid between chair and desk and settled down once again, the smell of baking still following him tantalizingly.
As time passed, Ludwig found himself too zoned out to notice knocking at the door, which Gilbert answered. The atmosphere of the house instantly soured, bitter as a tall, built man with a brash grin and a naïve, chest-out posture. He chatted loudly, excitedly, oblivious to his change to the home, spectacles glinting over superior baby blues. He inquired loudly what was cooking.
Feliciano came out from the kitchen to see what the racket was about, and instantly wanted to shy back into the kitchen, but Alfred noticed him. Alfred exclaimed some botched attempt at greeting in Italian, obviously showing off that Romano had become so poor and business-broken thanks to the invasion of the Allies from the south, he had to become dependent on the powerful nation. Of course Alfred knew, on the inside, that he was welcoming in Italian's to feed his insatiable thirst for being needed, for being a support for those in need, for being the crutch to the frail boy he himself had pushed over.
Feliciano wasn't sure exactly how to reply and so replied weakly, grimacing clearly when Alfred barged past a scowling Gilbert and successfully knocked his broken arm. Gilbert's expression tightened and his whole jaw looked instants later from causing all of his teeth to shatter and ping everywhere like buttons. He huddled over the battered appendage, and Feliciano saw the injured hand frozen, stricken, sticking out from the sling, surely only causing him further agony.
As Alfred's height towered over the Italian, intimidating without really knowing, he conveniently missed the venomous, volatile look Gilbert sent him. Didn't understand the spitting curses. Alfred laughed jovially, slapping Feliciano on the shoulder. Feliciano winced, spying a positively murderous expression over Alfred's shoulder, and the large American walked past. The two grimacing friends exchanged glances, before hurrying after him.
Ludwig blinked out of his reverie, hearing a racket outside. His eyes returned to the continual lines of letters laid out on paper, on a book, on his desk. He looked up at his window, before turning his attention to the door. What was all the commotion for?
He could hear another German voice that wasn't his brothers, tinning and weird – and realised the TV had been turned up loud. Someone was chattering and begging meekly – Feliciano? Alerted like a hound, Ludwig sat up straight and perfectly still as he attempted to drill a hole to spy through the door with his eyes, all of his attention to listening. A raspy grunt in the background – Gilbert. Whitenoise on and off in-between several layers of voices and music – the radio had been turned right up too. And over all of this the large-mouthed chit-chat with a Western pitch, English that was botched with slang. Ludwig frowned suddenly in surprise. Alfred?
What was he doing here? Ludwig pushed himself up from the desk, commotion and chaos filling up his house, threatening to swallow it, and it was up to him to get in there immediately and put an end to it. As he gripped the doorhandle there was goofy laughter, followed with a 'You have the funniest accent!'
Ludwig shoved the door open, reading glasses slipping a little as he lurched through and stared out. His entrance – guiltily meant to be a little sudden and dramatic to gain their attention – had no effect. Gilbert was in the doorway between the hall and the living room, clutching at his arm with a rage-red face but obviously incapacitated. Feliciano was tailing after the American, pleading with him to quiet down, trying to wrestle the television remote from him as he turned up the volume ever loud, laughing.
The German man grit his teeth, hand clenching over the brass handle of his study door. What was this all about? Sure, Alfred was boisterous and oblivious to manners most of the time, but barging into his house and harassing them? It wasn't something that hadn't happened before, Ludwig's house hadn't long been free of occupation. It was none of Alfred's business to be here, laughing puzzlingly, finding the most mundane, irritating things delightful.
"P-Please, Alfred, L-Ludwig really doesn't like this much noise—"
"Haha! It's so silent I just can't take it! So when is what you're making going to be finished? I'm starved!"
Feliciano pittered after the taller American desperately as he bee-lined all over the bottom floor, all 3 of them too engrossed to notice the aggravated younger German standing in the hall. Ludwig felt his ears filling up with music and a news channel and all kinds of voices and excited screams and laughter, felt it bunching up in his head and he grunted in discomfort. He'd strictly enforced peace and quiet in his home since he could always remember (even Feliciano and Gilbert adhered to it the majority of the time), but now he far more sensitive about it. His friend and brother felt the same – all of them were battered enough to desire the restful atmosphere.
Alfred seemed visibly bereft of any bandages, patches or stitches. But by the pace he was bouncing around, it was no wonder. But, unfortunately, it only seemed to enforce his sense of indestructibility. Ludwig ground out a long-suffering sigh to ease his escalating nerves.
"We're going to need loads of party food maybe, and drink! Should I make some punch?"
Alfred longwinded garble of talk ended in a sudden halt and contemplative expression, earning a flustered Feliciano to bump into him from behind. A moment later, and Alfred turned with a finger brandished in result. "I'll make some punch."
Feliciano and Gilbert threw each other equally puzzled looks of 'Punch?' before following him to the kitchen, Gilbert hobbling behind a little.
"P-party food? Why? No, ve, I'm making something for Ludw—"
"That's right, snacks! They're go great with the fireworks!"
There was an almighty pause.
"…Fireworks?" Feliciano ventured.
"…Fireworks?" Of course Gilbert sort of shouted that. Alfred gave him a surprised look, having somehow pulled a paper-wrapped burger from some pocket or orifice, and was munching on it.
"Yeah, didn't I say? I borrowed some from Yao, I reckoned you guys needed some cheering up, I hadn't seen you in ages!"
Ludwig had heard enough. He marched up the hallway to confront them.
"Aw they're the amazing things! I lit them out front, seriously, so many awesome designs!"
Feliciano looked borderline ready to have a breakdown, juggling Alfred's half-shouting, Gilbert's volatile nature on the brink of breaking, and Ludwig appearing at that very second, looking angry and like Feliciano couldn't handle the situation at all. The failed Italian then realised that he had left the cake in the oven for far too long, but Alfred was in the way. Gilbert's wurst was still boiling and frying on the stove.
Ludwig snatched off his reading glasses just he strode to the kitchen, stuffing them in his breast pocket as he walked. His heart sped up, faster and faster and hurried at his chest, overwhelming by all the commotion. He felt a little lightheaded and loose-tongued, as if he would lose him temper should this go on any longer. The TV blared a droning news channel and the radio was one some ridiculous, obscure talkshow station that had a far too excitable female host that kept screaming.
"Alfred, now look here—!" The German began, blue eyes hard and unrelenting with a fierce finger pointing in his direction.
A droning whistle outside.
All the heat drained from the blonde's body, ice filling up in its wake. His stomach dropped, his eyes widened, posture frozen and heart skipping a beat. Oh god no.
The whistle drooped and decelerated, striking into his frightened heart like a needle, his entire body seemed to float in space for an instant and every sound was drowned away except for that terrible, terrible screech.
The sound shook the house and stuttered through the floor, rattling up into Ludwig's bones. Like the world being turned upside down and the ocean dropping on him from the sky, chaos crashed about his ears. He stumbled and he saw Feliciano cry out in fright, Gilbert had visibly jumped and a man in his house laughed in joy. His frail house his broken house – crumbled, flecks of battered ceiling falling onto his shoulders. A woman screamed, a man screamed, of agony, of being blown to pieces, shot in his throat. Corpses tumbled into the soil of Hell itself, saturated in blood and hopes and children's delusions of honour. Barbed wire disfigured fallen fathers and sons and carved open their mouths and backs, whistling as shells bombarbed the tortured earth, raining down like Judgement itself.
Ludwig gasped and grabbed onto anything, a surface, the counter, the trench wall, as another explosion happened nearby, about his ears, behind the walls, the bombardment was here.
Ludwig looked up frantically into the wrecked skeleton of a home, passed the rimmed visor of his winged helm, fatique and injury dragging down his flesh like weights. He saw Feliciano, his injured flank, his shoulder blade fractured, the burns on his arms and the cuts on his face. Panicked eyes sought out his brother, even more injured than his stricken friend. His arm broken and lame by his side, drenched in blood and hanging in a grotesque direction, his uniform drenched in filth. His eyes went up further still.
An intruder laughing, chortling, teeth glistening and hungry, spectacles perfect and bright in the wreckage. His arm was gripping at Feliciano's injured one, unknowing, uncaring, pointing out the window at the shelling. Stars and stripes. Feliciano's face was twisted in deep discomfort at being shook, the entire scene slowing dramatically. Ludwig gazed as Feliciano's hair swam in the air as he was shaken excitedly, saw brown eyes crinkled in unhappiness at the entire ordeal. Protests amongst the screams and the endless spitting of semi-automatics.
There was shouting from his comrades now. Gilbert saw him first, eyes widened in realisation, in acknowledgement. Maybe they'd thought him dead. Feliciano noticed him next, drank in his presence. Ludwig expected relief, hoped for it, but then his friend wore the same expression of his brother – dreaded, dreaded realisation.
They could see he was already gone.
Ludwig was too pumped with adrenaline, his vision too narrow, to notice that they were both beginning to plead with Alfred to quiet down and pay attention; that Ludwig was panicking again. Gilbert struggled towards him, swimming in time as everything ran slow and far away, Ludwig's body encompassed in terror and determination. He wrestled with his uniform and fled back into the remains of the living room, pulling a tattered, dusty box out from under a cabinet. He wrenched open the top and pulled out a loaded 9mm Luger.
Thank god for his forward-thinking, his distrust, whatever had led him to hide this weapon rather than keep it at his waist, and he tore around and back towards the kitchen. He yelled, and the smell of burning crashed into his face, particulates rushing into his nose – the taste of charred flesh flooding his mouth.
His heart hammered savagely against his chest cavity, more fiercely than normal. The intruder spotted his weapon, and he put his hands diplomatically in front of him in shock, but one of them had clenched onto Feliciano clothes, and was accidentally successfully pulling Feliciano in front of himself. The blonde saw red and lifted the narrow weapon, pulling the trigger without a moment of hesitation. The crack made everyone else jump, bizarrely, they were in a warzone, and blood spat across the decrepit wall of the building. His victim was visibly slammed by the surprise bullet to the shoulder, and crumbled back, eyes wide.
The shelling was intensifying, and Ludwig lunged, knocking Feliciano to the floor and covering him with his body, trying to shush his loud exclamations and protests, it's ok, it's ok, I'll get you out of here. Feliciano was swallowed underneath his size and pinned by his weight, staring up at his eyes, glazed and fierce and trapped in Hell. Ludwig panicked at the next load of explosions, and grabbed Gilbert's leg with an almighty, deathly-strong yank to bring his brother to the floor and save him from falling debris or stray bullets. Gilbert grunted and swore loudly as his panicking, deluded brother only managed to have his head smack off of the table on the way down, rolling and clutching his face.
Ludwig shifted partly off of Feliciano to check Gilbert's sudden injury, but his nose was bleeding, he must have hit something.
"Quick, we have to get out of here!" Ludwig scrambled back up, dragging his brother and friend with him. Gilbert glanced at Alfred on the floor, groaning and disassociating from bloodloss, swallowed by the heat of the still-cooking oven and the 2 meals within. The sloppy cake that Feliciano had made for West was going black.
But there wasn't a moment longer to think as the hefty German tore through his house, dragging his sibling and friend, ignoring their protests, trying to ssh them, hissing at his brother to keep quiet, lest the enemy hear them. He dragged them back down by the backdoor, slamming his back against the wall and listening, Luger cocked and ready.
Gilbert rolled over and wheezed on the floor, mopping at the blood on his chin, and Feliciano just stared at Ludwig fearfully, watching his anxious looks, his far-away expression, continuous blinking, the determination to kill a threat and to fight a war that didn't exist anymore.
"Please, Ludwig," Feliciano began, grabbing onto his shirtsleeve for his attention. Vicious blues turned on him, before melting with concern at his friends anguish. He curled away from the wall, kneeling down to hold onto Feliciano in turn and lowered the Luger to listen to him. "Please, it's ok! Please calm down, let me go and turn things off and call an a-ambulance—"
Ludwig looked puzzled. "Feliciano, there isn't time for an ambulance. The field hospital is too far away. We're on the outskirts of a town, and the hospital may have been hit."
Seeing this information didn't ease the shaky Italian's worries, he stole a glance and a listen to certain they were alone, before checking them both over.
Gilbert's arm was still in the sling, though the knot had loosened a little from all the tugging around, and his nose was bleeding from headbutting the table. But in Ludwig's eyes he saw the arm twisted and hanging, ripped, drenched material hiding the fact it was holding on by tendon and muscle alone. The blonde grimaced, uncertain how to go about fixing it. Maybe Feliciano was right.
"West," Gilbert rasped, spitting out blood. "Put down the gun, it's alright."
"Bruder, what are you talking about?" Ludwig inquired irritably, but then realised (with a glance at the arm) that bloodloss could be making him delirious. He set his face and held his brother's shoulder bracingly. "Can you stand? Can you walk? We can't stay in the same place for too long."
Ludwig's calm was a façade, was an illusion of calm even to himself as the dreamworld swam around him, burning flesh and whistling bombs and sputtering weapons over an endless garble of the dying. He had to function, he had to cope. He had two injured allies, he was somewhere in a battled town and no communication. He didn't know where the rest of his regiment was, didn't know whether they were even alive.
First things first – they had to find a safe, secure area to hold out, away from the enemy. If similar enemies are nearby, they sure would have heard the crack of the foreign weapon in his hand, and would come to investigate.
The shelling seemed to have let up, which was both a miracle and a disaster – realistically it provided good cover, but it was making him feel increasingly frazzled. His nerves were given a slight reprieve as he stole a glance out of the window outside, searching frantically for any enemies in his path. Seeing none and the shelling slowing, Ludwig seized handfuls of material from the clothes on his friends fronts and yanked them to their feet, shoving the backdoor open with a slam of his back, the lock snapping and the ping of metal scattering on the floor. It crashed against the outside of the house and swung back into the frame.
His brother and Feliciano were chattering needlessly in his ears again, complaining, asking for him to slow down as he ploughed away from the house. Assuming it was simply fear, he discarded it, eyes unseeing of his own land, seeing nothing but tortured earth speared with metal shrapnel and defeated clumps of debris. His throat went dry and his stomach stirred with upset at the flecks of blood patches staining his rotten landscape sight. He struggled a swallow past the knot in his neck, before stamping across the wasteland, blind to fact he did not have Reich regulation armyboots on, but the only shoes he had that weren't reserved for work. He didn't have any equipment, any uniform, and neither did the two injured persons he dragged with him, not to the exaggeration that he thought. The three of them struggling unnecessarily through the land behind the house blindly, in home attire, was bizarre.
There was a male cry and Ludwig shot the voice a look of alarm, Luger raising, messily lining his sight with the barrel – finding it resting on Roderich. The three of them stopped, Ludwig looked at them with outrageous confusion, trying to compute their presence in this warzone.
"Ro-Roderich…what are you doing here…?" He called weakly, clearly mystified, before getting back into form. "Quickly, get out of here, it's dangerous!"
Roderich stared from across the way, having come around the side, and Ludwig was further perplexed as a flustered Elizaveta ran around the corner to join him. Ludwig gaped – he already had two injured to look after, why were they just running outside in civilian clothes?
"I heard a gunshot, Ludwig, what's going on?" Roderich called cautiously, eyeing his neighbour. His eyes were wild, his breathing ragged, the hand clutching the gun was shaking midair. A glance over the Italian, looking overwhelmed and helpless, Gilbert bleeding and cursing and trying to escape Ludwig's incapacitating but unbreakable grip. Roderich's dark eyes glittered as he tried to understand the situation, and gave them all a reproachful look. "What happened?"
"Get back inside!" Ludwig barked at them, giving the Luger a sharp wave, making Elizaveta flinch. Gilbert had started opening his mouth again and snapping at him, and Feliciano was whining and whimpering to his right.
"What are you doing! It's dangerous out here!"
"Put that fucking thing down!-"
"Be careful where you wave that!"
Feliciano was almost crying, changed his tactic as he watched Ludwig get increasingly aggrevated, gaze skittering and confusion plain and dangerous on his face.
"Please, Roderich, he's panicking!" Feliciano pleaded. "Get help!"
"I am fine, Feliciano, be quiet!" Ludwig snapped down at the little Italian, though he instantly regretted it at the flash of raw fright on his face. But he had no patience to feel guilty now. Feliciano would understand. He also ignored the look of surprise and disapproval on the face of his older brother, feeling cornered and increasingly paranoid.
Everyone was startled by the muffled cry, coming from inside Ludwig's house. Eyes turned on the building, Ludwig's breathing becoming increasingly ragged, his body almost vibrating from nervous, adrenaline-pumped energy.
"Ludwig…" Elizaveta gasped, looking at the frozen man. Realisation lightened her face, and she tugged urgently at Roderich's sleeve. "OH Roderich, it's like shell-shock! He's—"
The back door slammed open for a second time, a foreign man stumbling outside, eyes wide and mouth turned down and gaping, as if he'd just seen something truly awful. A head of golden locks, hands thrust forward and coated in a layer of blood. Francis stared out at them all, gasping, eyes finding Ludwig in the centre of the yard, looking like a wild animal that had been ensnared.
Ludwig's instincts took over and he near threw the Luger from his body with the aggression he aimed and clenched the trigger, ears filling with the second snap of a gun, nose flooding with the scent of discharge. Elizaveta screamed 'FRANCIS!' and Feliciano cried out, Ludwig looking like he'd seen a ghost as he watched his former enemy choke, clutching his stomach and tumbling into the dirt. The neighbours rushed towards the shot man, Ludwig stumbling back a step as if fighting for balance, just staring.
More people ran into the doorway and the panicking German frantically aimed again, only to have his comrades leap onto his arm and direct the bullet into the ground. Ludwig gasped and wrestled to get them off him, panicking as more and more enemy soldiers poured out of his decrepit house.
"Fucking Kraut!" Ludwig looked up past the two bodies trying to disarm him, seeing an infuriated Brit sprinting towards him. Elizaveta was kneeling over Francis, delirious as he lay on the floor in his own blood, panting. The Brit was flanked from behind by Vash. Ludwig's eyes saw him armed up to the teeth, very plainly carrying a deadly hunting rifle as he cautiously followed behind the Brit. He struggled anew, his strength only weighted down by his brother, suffering his jogged broken arm to keep the blonde's gun arm down.
Feliciano was crying now, two men have been shot and everyone was going to hurt his friend, who was living in a hell reserved in his head. He was going to get all the blame and the trouble all over again. It was out of control!
"Please!" Feliciano shouted breathlessly from his desperate grip. "He doesn't know what he's doing! He doesn't! Help me!"
The two sandy blondes shot the German a proper look, slowing; his unnatural panic, his own family trying to subdue him. They sped back up, full out charging as Vash slung his rifle over his back. Roderich began to run also. Ludwig only seemed to get worse.
"Feliciano, let go! Quickly, take my brother!" Ludwig cried at the Italian, torn up inside as he watched the young man crying, not taking their situation into account. He didn't want his brother and his friend to die!
The three running males bodily slammed into the threesome, sending them all sprawling into the dirt. The three men weren't known for their physical prowess, but Arthur worked on forcing Ludwig into the ground, Vash wrestling the gun from Ludwig's hand as he tried to pistrolwhip them. The floored German made a roar of effort as he undulated and wrestled with the others, confusion bright in his eyes as Roderich was betraying him. In the chaos and shouting Gilbert was wrenched out of his grip and disappeared from his peripheral vision.
"Brother!" He cried desperately, hand shooting out of the tangle of limbs to retrieve him, but only meeting air. Ludwig wrestled both arms around the Italian, encompassing him and pressing him urgently to his chest to protect him from the stealing hands, feeling unending sets of hands and knees and arms and legs pressing on his body to keep it down, wrenching at his arms to steal away Feliciano. Eventually the mass and throng of effort against him loosened his grip too far and Feliciano slipped through, dragged around the waist and thrown away from them.
"FELICIANO!" Ludwig bellowed, searching for him, snarling, frustratingly remaining pinned as he was thrown onto his front and pressed harder and harder into the dirt.
Just outside of the 4 men wrestling on the ground, Gilbert and Feliciano stood, Elizaveta a little behind with Francis. Both Elizaveta and Feliciano were sniffling. Feliciano stood with Gil, watching and feeling sicking, so awful, that he was watching it all over again, standing aside and helpless while Ludwig was harassed and frightened. He couldn't control himself, and Feliciano began noticing the Brit was getting rough. As he watched he noticed the fury start to leave Ludwig's eyes, like a switch he looked just confused and cornered, a handful of men forcing him into the earth. Real fear, defeated fear plagued his face.
Feliciano muscled forward. "Stop it! He's had enough, leave him alone!" He peeled Arthur away and defended against their efforts to swat him aside, going as far as to push Vash off of Ludwig's back. The man scrabbled around to get to his feet, but Feliciano dropped down onto his knees and cupped firmly at his face.
Hyperventilation filled the air as Ludwig sat restless and panicked, the delusion bleeding away and looking around for answers – why was he being attacked, where had all the shelling and the debris and burning flesh gone? Warmth suddenly on his face and glacier blues skittered to a halt onto the browns of a friend. Friend. He wasn't an enemy. He wasn't trying to overwhelm him. He wasn't going to hurt him.
"Calm down, calm down, Ludwig, please, ssshh, it's ok, it's ok," Feliciano whispered loudly through his tears, nodding as Ludwig stared, as if looking for permission, as if questioning if Feliciano knew what he was talking about. Feliciano shushed and stuttered and swallowed all his crying, asking the larger man to breathe, just breathe, it's ok, no one's going to hurt you. Ludwig eventually conceded and bowed his head in Feliciano's grasp, eyelids falling as if heavy, face twisting in distress and a choke, large hands lifting to touch for support on the slighter man's back. "That's it, it's ok, close your eyes. It's ok Ludwig, I'm here, it's ok, don't be scared."
Feliciano cradled his head under his chin, stroking the dishevelled strands soothingly, hands gliding down the back of Ludwig's neck, feeling him trembling and whimper as tendrils of hell tormented him just behind his minds eye. Felt his breathing hitch and catch as he fought against the fear brought on, ears ringing with the cracks of guns, of the screaming and death rattles he could no longer hear.
The crowd watched on as the Italian guarded his friend, calming him from a tormentor none of them could see, none of them could understand. After making certain that Ludwig wasn't going to kick off again, Vash picked up the Luger and wandered away to Francis to help, Arthur rushing back inside. Elizaveta had since gone to Gilbert after noticing his ragged wincing and clutched arm, Roderich kneeling by Francis as help was urgently called.
The calm after a disaster, the kind that crackled with nervous energy, descended on the world. For the moment, only Feliciano existed, and the Italian encouraged Ludwig to lie down, being dragged down with him. They curled up and rode out the lingering terrors, Feliciano's mind troubled with the repercussions, the unavoidable consequences of today. Of when Ludwig broke through his traumatized haze and realized what had happened. That he'd shot two nations only months after his first real taste of independence from occupation, of oppression, of war-guilt.
They'd just have to see. Once Ludwig had silenced and calmed down, lulled in the welcome warmth of a friend, of anyone who had actually decided to hold him, Feliciano would take them inside and let have him rest. Gilbert would need it too. He'd make sure all the blood was washed from the surfaces, that everyone had been seen to. That he could defend Ludwig while he slept, unaware and exhausted upstairs, to all the people who would inevitably demand what happened.
Feliciano pushed the cake dish into the oven. The old, burning cake had long been discarded, and the kitchen was clean once again. The windows had been opened to whisk away the smell of burn sponge and meat. It was Feliciano's job to make sure nothing was burnt or smelt burn so not to provoke Ludwig's flashbacks afterall. He closed the oven door and discarded the oven mitts on the side, his apron on the chair, moving out of the kitchen into the living room.
The TV had been turned off, the radio on a nonsensical station of unknown discussion or news, the volume so low it did not even sound like people were speaking. In fact, it was the low hum of music, but quiet as it was far away, as if there was clouds covering everything in the home. It was Feliciano's job to make sure nothing was turned up too loud to provoke Ludwig's anxiety afterall.
He walked out and ascended the stairs, moving into the main bedroom. Next door he heard the soft, rattling snore of Gilbert. There was a sizable lump resting under the covers, and he circled around the bed. Ludwig's face came into view, collapsed into his thin pillows and skin smoothed, expression at peace.
Feliciano sat on the edge of the bed and sighed. He stroked a hand over the lump that was the larger man's arm, then reached up and touched his friend's face. Eyes rolled under their lids, and eyes peeled open to reveal tired eyes in the dim light of the evening. Feliciano smiled gently, and Ludwig's mouth twitched back. A hand came up and took his to hold it, larger hand swallowing more slender fingers. The silence remained companionable, the both of them exhausted and battered, drained.
Ludwig's expression became reproachful as the silence dragged on, his brow creased a little, obliviousness of waking leaving his eyes.
Feliciano sighed again, closing his eyes for an instant to banish it. Seeing Ludwig fragile was something he would never get used to, but he was needed. Ludwig was hurting, Ludwig was all alone.
Ludwig lips straightened a little, and as if afraid, hesitantly lifted his eyes to meet the Italian's.
Feliciano placed his other hand onto the top of the others bracingly, and gave him his best supportive look.
Ludwig watched him.
He then looked down and away.
"Thank you, Feliciano."
Feliciano was surprised, watching. The guilt and confusion, the distress bubbling underneath a stubborn and persevering surface. The shame. The loneliness.
Feliciano leant down and touched their foreheads together, earning a small wince from the man underneath, shying away as if he wanted to hide, but the pillows were no such hiding place. The Italian smiled.
"It's ok, Ludwig. It's ok."
This was a lot longer than originally anticipated. But I went with the flow. I hope you enjoyed!