"saying prayers to light a fire, we're gonna start a war"
Life in Slow Motion
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Rating: T for safety
Summary: This disease was killing them all. And they had to stop it before it was too late.
I OWN NOTHING
Chapter One: the terror in his eyes
Wide, unblinking azure eyes.
And England sees this in front of him – behind him the silent conflagration that is Paris, and in front of him France's dead body.
There is no blood – and England is glad, almost, that France had died without gore, although it didn't change the fact that he was dead to begin with. France's eyes are open, almost gleaming in terror, although they are dead, lifeless, and it's only the reds and yellows of the fire being reflected in his once lively blue eyes. And his mouth is hanging open, as if he'd been screaming when he'd died. England closes his eyes and closes France's eyelids over his eyes for the last time. And his voice – seemingly lost in the caverns of his throat, forces its way to the surface. "This is impossible," he finally croaks, his knees giving way and his world spinning out of control yet again.
"Francis –" he speaks, using France's human name for the first time since the outbreak of the Hundred Years' War (the name sounds foreign and yet at home on his lips) " —you were supposed to live till a ripe old age, remember? We were supposed to be beating the shit out of each other with walking sticks a thousand years from now. Why are you dead now?" His voice falters. "You go on to your happy place with Scott and Erin and Lloyd, and leave me here? You fool. You even lie to me about when you're going to die." And that's when he breaks down.
"Arthur?" In the back of his head, England recognizes Canada's faint yet worried voice, and the familiar footsteps rushing up from behind him, and he thinks, no, Mattie can't know. This will be too much for him, but he can't get up and stays rooted where he is. "Arthur, what's going on? I heard the news about Papa from Alfred – he's fine, by the way, and I brought help, but–"
The footsteps stop, and Canada's voice – breaking, faltering. "No. Oh, dieu, no."
That's when England gets up, and hugs Canada as he cries.
Sweden's face is solemn as he receives the news from a broken China – broken China, how ironic. His face is sad and cracked like a once beautiful piece of porcelain.
"Hong Kong is gone." China stresses the last word, his eyes dead. Again, the irony. This man is probably thrice as old as he, Berwald, and for the first time since they've met the look of the man's eyes betrays his true age. They were once so lively, so bright, so beautiful. Now –
"Gone, aru," China repeats, and his voice cracks. "Hong, my poor Hong. He'd only just been returned."
Sweden nods silently, and hands him yet another cup of tea.
"And Yong Soo, Mei, Sunan," he laments, downing the tea in one gulp. "They were always so full of light, all three of them. Now, it's as if someone as blown the fire out of them, aru." China sighs again. "And Lien! My beautiful sister, on the brink of death! We're all so busy taking care of her all the time that I'm worried…" China sobs and mourns, and Sweden wordlessly hands him another cup. "Mei and Sunan have their hands full just making sure she stays alive."
"I don't know, aru," China spits suddenly, and Sweden is surprised at the sudden mood change. Hadn't he been mourning the loss of his beloved youngest brother just a few moments ago? "He's off somewhere. He's alive, aru. Just not coming."
"Isn't Japan-san helping to look for survivors among the Central Europeans?" Finland cuts in kindly, speaking for the first time since China had appeared on the doorstep, near tears and needing someone to talk to. In his hand is a letter from Austria. "I just got news from Austria-san, whose house Japan is at right now. He's doing a little better, but Hungary isn't doing too well." He shakes his head sadly at the thought of his old friend.
"I just want this stupid plague to be over, aru," China moans.
Sweden opens his mouth and is about to say something when the door flies open and Iceland dashes in, his cheeks flushed and a horribly worried look on his face.
By now, they know that look.
"Svi," he calls, panting. "Fin! Norway's down." He acknowledges China with a hurried nod.
"Another one, aru?" he asks, uncertainly.
Finland gasps, horrified, Sweden bolts to his feet, and China's heart does a somersault. How much longer would it take until all of them were down with this strange disease that put nations on the brink of death and set their capitals on fire?
How much longer till all of them were…gone?
"Natalia, please. This is a world conference; we have to talk about what should be done."
Ukraine sighs and turns to the blond man beside her. "Eduard, please, reason with her."
England looks on with tired, tired green eyes at the scene in front of him. Estonia and America – oh, thank the Lord the boy is still fine, who knows what England might do if he wasn't – are pleading with Ukraine's imperturbable younger sister.
"Bela, your sister might have a point," Estonia puts forward. "We cannot risk anyone making contact with the sick ones anymore. The disease is potentially contagious."
England sees Belarus expertly flick her wrist, and Estonia knowingly ducks out of the way. Half a second later, a knife hits the wall behind him. Normally, he would have been amused by this, but now it is impossible. His brothers…
"How come the Asians-"
"My apologies, Miss Belarus," Estonia replies, "But I'm afraid your brother is much sicker than Miss Vietnam." Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Vietnam's family wince.
"Eduard, I do not care. Take me to my brother at once." Belarus adjusts her ribbon and glares at him. "I must see him. I cannot sit here and talk about everyone else when he is dying."
"Natalia, I am quite sure Ivan can manage–"
"Sister, I think…"
"I say let her." Seychelles stands up, a hauntingly somber look on her once sunny face. Her hair, loose from those trademark red ribbons, nearly covers her sad brow. The black mourning dress she wears reaches her knees, and it's the hem of this dress she fingers as she stares at all of them. "She cares about him, guys. Let her have the chance to see him before…" her voice cracks; and her warm eyes meet England's for a second. "Before it's too late."
Grief stabs England through the chest again, and he realizes how much he misses the sunny cerulean of Seychelles' dress – the exact same shade as France's sapphire eyes once were. Monaco gasps and bursts into tears. Next to her, Canada tries to comfort her through his own flood of tissues.
"I never even got to say goodbye," Monaco chokes through her accent. "Oh, Papa."
Estonia looks between her, Ukraine, America, and Belarus, and finally relents.
"I-I'll take syestra," Ukraine chokes out. "Perhaps…it will do us both some good." She takes her sister's hand and leads it towards the door. One hundred and fifty eyes watch their departing forms.
"How is Lien, by the way?" Spain looks over his shoulder at the East Asians, his face unreadable, like it always has been since France's death. "Has she heard?" China gives him a horrible, horrible look, and goes back to staring at his tea.
"She's the same," Lien's sister responds, rubbing the dark circles under her eyes. A glint flashes under their honey brown shade, but Taiwan gives him a smile anyway. "We – we told her."
"Oh?" For the first time in a week, Spain's face puts on a half-assed attempt at a smile. "How did she take it?"
"Not how people expected her to," Thailand pipes up, carefully avoiding the painfully empty seat across the table, the usual gentle smile gone from his tired face. "She just…stared at us, and just closed her eyes."
"No fuck yes or anything," Korea adds mirthlessly, his usually handsome face marred by fatigue. "Just…sleep."
It is a lie, of course. But then again, it's not like telling the truth would make any difference.
When they told her, Vietnam's frail body became very, very still – so still, in fact, that her family was afraid she'd stopped breathing. She went to the garden. She stayed until nightfall, staring up at the cloudy sky. Then she got back in bed and did not speak to anyone for three days.
When her little sister gets her to talk, finally, she gives her family one sentence, in a cracked, broken voice hoarse from disuse.
"He was the only one…who flew me to the moon."
But they do not tell the world this. Not while Tibet is at her house, giving her all sorts of Buddhist medicines that they know, deep down, will not work. Not while the world is on the verge of tearing itself apart. Not while Canada and Seychelles and Monaco are grieving. Not now.
"Francis wouldn't have liked that," Denmark says mirthlessly, a savage look in his usually playful eyes. He glances at the empty chair next to him, winces at the absence of pain the person who was supposed to be sitting there would have given him for that remark, and heaves a sigh at the rest of the Nordic nations. Finland gives his hand a reassuring squeeze, and Sweden gives a light cough, but Iceland does not move.
"No," he murmurs absentmindedly, staring out the window. "He wouldn't have."
England clenches the table until his knuckles turn white. "Look, Ludwig," he calls over, "We're not getting anything done here."
"He's right." America, who has been uncharacteristically quiet ever since Belarus and her sister left the room, speaks up. "We're not going to accomplish anything moping about France's–" at this he grimaced visibly – "Death. What we need to do is tally everyone that's…infected, figure out what the hell we're going to do about it, and end this whole mess." He slams a fist down onto the table, looking each of the nations in the eye. "This disease is a problem, but it's a problem we're going to solve, dammit!"
Most of the nations are too stunned to speak – it was rare that America took anything seriously. Switzerland is the first to react. "Good you're doing something right for once, Alfred," he tells the younger nation. It would have been almost approving had his face not been so serious.
Liechtenstein nods next to him and takes out a piece of paper. Almost immediately after she divides the paper into "Infected" and "Deceased," voices pour in.
"Russia, I'm afraid, is quite ill," Germany tells her softly. "So are Latvia and Lithuania. As I'm sure you've heard."
"And Vietnam as well," China moans. Liechtenstein gives each of them a serious nod and takes the names down.
"Norway," Iceland whispers.
"Hol, too," Belgium tells the younger girl. "Lucia's at home caring for him."
The paper is filled up with names of affected nations when Liechtenstein turns to Austria who, hasn't spoken a single word this entire meeting. Finally he looks up, and his stare is that of one who has been utterly broken.
"Hungary," he finally utters hoarsely, the indigo eyes overflowing with an emotion Liechtenstein can't quite place. "My dear Eliza. She's dying."
Prussia hangs his head, Spain buries his face in his hands, Poland starts sobbing for her and Lithuania, Switzerland looks down, and Liechtenstein closes her eyes and turns away.
Because underneath all the false encouragement they can give each other, deep down they know there's nothing they can do.
A/N: FIRST SERIOUS MULTICHAP HETALIA FIC YEAH
It was a little plot bunny that wouldn't leave me alone.
So anyway this is only the prologue. Things will get a lot…harsher later.
If I decide to continue it, that is (I'm a lazy bitch. Really.)