Life in Slow Motion

Chapter Four: blurring lines

There is music and Hungary is dancing.

He doesn't know how or when it started, since he's known her since childhood, but girl or not she's a fantastic dancer. She twirls with a certain grace that isn't quite sloppy but isn't quite elegantly poised, instead with her own certain girlish charm, and her laughter is light and tinkling, not unlike the sound of a bell. Her dress is red and white and green, and it's long and flowing like a gorgeous summer dress. Her shoes are gold, her favorite color, and they are almost a blur as they move so fast.

And she looks almost alive. And that's what nearly breaks his heart, and all of a sudden he can see what captured Austria's.

Hungary is not a pretty woman. She has none of Liechtenstein's grace or Monaco's elegance or Vietnam's deliberation. But she has gorgeous red-gold hair and her bright green eyes and there's a smile on her face that's warmer than summer sun, and that makes her beautiful, perhaps more than any of the other female nations. She is a child in some aspects but wonderfully mature in others. And she isn't quite dead, yet, although that last one is hard to believe.

He doesn't want to wonder where the music is coming from, but like one in a dream does he turns to see Austria at the piano, creating beautiful sounds for his beautiful dancer, and his heart nearly stops because Austria isn't supposed to be sick. He isn't sick no no nononononononono

Hungary laughs again, and turns to him, reaching out her hand.

(Dance with me.)




No, he screams, but Hungary seems not to hear. She smiles and grabs his wrist, and he screams again.




The scene changes, and he's in a hospital.

It's one of those terrible hospitals one sees in war films: white walls, white floors, and white ceilings. White nurses and doctors in white lab coats, bustling about and doing their best to make sure nobody dies. And what's chilling is that it's all silent: he can see the patients' mouth move when they talk, but nothing is coming out. It's as if he's stuck in an old, silent film – he can hear absolutely nothing. In terror he claws at his own mouth, trying – trying – to get something to come out. But no such luck.

And that's when he hears the violin.

The strains are weak, as if the violinist has just recovered from a terrible illness, but they are beautiful nonetheless. Nobody else in the spotless hallway seems to hear, and all he can do is follow the sounds to a well-lit, luxurious room. He opens the door just a little, just enough to see Norway's frail, blond form perched on the bed, his back to the door, his fingers moving in a blur as they struggle to cope with the movements of the bow.

Norway turns monochromatic violet eyes on him, and he speaks.

(Come. Sit here.)




He tries to resist, but no word comes out of his mouth, and in silent terror he can only watch as Norway's nearly see-through fingers touch his own.




He's back again in a large house he vaguely recognizes. It's large and spacious and familiar, but he can't quite put his finger on who owns it until he sees the large Dutch flag on one of the walls.

Truth be told, he'd thought Netherlands was the strong one of the three siblings. And now look.

He wanders through the house, drinking in the familiarity of Netherlands and his two sisters, looking at their things and pictures and wonders at their attempts to be a family once again – even though everyone knew that countries who were siblings were meant to be separated.

It's silent, but the peaceful kind of silent you see in films, where there is sunlight basking through the window and birds chirping outside – but all is deathly still in front of the house except for his thin form walking through it—

Until he hears his voice.

The deep baritone voice sings a lyrical song he vaguely recognizes in the back of his head, but all is blurry and his head is blind. So instead he walks towards it, realizing vaguely that oh my god he can't stop walking towards it.

The voice leads him into a sitting room populated by two people: one seemingly asleep on the bed, the other on a chair next to the bed, the latter constantly tending to the former, constantly moving his head in time with the song.

The one on the chair stops singing and turns, and he realizes with a stab of horror that it's Netherlands, and the one 'asleep' on the bed is his youngest sister Luxembourg, her hair falling like a golden curtain around her face.

"You came," says Netherlands. "I'm afraid Lucia took ill with that pesky little disease. She likes hearing people sing."

He can only watch. The positions had been reversed.

Netherlands doesn't stop talking. "Help me," he says.

(Sing with me.)




Never, he hisses, but by now he should know that he can't stop them.




Once again the scene morphs.

He is in a garden, one with which he has had little to do. It's filled with flowers from all over, and bridges, and trees, and birds, everything his sister would love. He walks through with an almost ethereal understanding, seeing the beauty in this and marveling at the people who must live here.

"Gorgeous," he says, and with relief, he can speak again.

There is a group of children in the center of the garden, following a taller man across a bridge, and they are singing in a lovely cacophony of high and low, of up and down. The song is of a language he does not know, but for some reason he knows that it sings of flowers and peace and freedom.

The man's face is a blur, but he can recognize those clothes and that posture as China's anytime. The tallest boy is probably Japan, the next tallest Korea. The shorter of the two girls is probably Taiwan. And so on, until he realizes with a shock that their faces are all a blur.

And he screams, and they hear him. They stop singing.

"Whatever's the matter?" he hears Hong Kong say – at least, he thinks it's Hong Kong, how many of them spoke in that deadpan monotone? And then it flashes and he realizes that Hong Kong is dead.

"Are you afraid?" The-one-who-would-be-Japan turns to him, his face nothing but a blur.

"You shouldn't be," laughs Taiwan, only he can't see her mouth move to make the laugh.

"You of all people," says Korea. His hands move to scratch his little nose, only there's no nose to scratch.

"Oh, don't be like that, you're scaring him," says a new voice, and he turns to see Vietnam – only she looks to be around seven or eight in human years.

Vietnam turns to him, and he realizes that her pretty, intelligent face is perfectly clear: the curious dark eyes, the upturned nose, the rosebud lips. He can see it all perfectly, and yet alongside her blurry-faced siblings she looks perfectly natural.

She smiles at him. "It's nice here, isn't it?" She reaches out a chubby hand to him. "Isn't it?" And all of a sudden he jerks his hand back, because he knows what she wants.

(Stay. Stay with us. With me.)




He furiously shakes his head, but Vietnam touches his hand, and her siblings follow suit, and all of a sudden he can no longer see his reflection in the clear pond water, only a pale, Aryan blur...




And all of a sudden they're all there, Hungary dancing with South Italy to Austria's piano, Vietnam and the Netherlands singing to Norway's violin, and Lithuania throwing his head back and laughing like he hasn't done in years, and Belarus is grinning widely alongside him and Latvia and and and they're all sick they should not be that well

Russia turns to him.

(Switzerland. Join us.)

And then the scene changes yet again and he's at Hong Kong's funeral, with Chinese inscriptions and candles

And he's at France's, with all the lilies and the grand decorations and the prayers sung in a soon-forgotten language

And then the scene changes to funeral after funeral after funeral and soon he can't take it anymore–








Liechtenstein is bending over him, concern in her blue-green eyes. "Vash! I was worried!"

He groans and shakes his head, in the process nearly hitting his head on the headboard. "It's nothing, Liesel. I just had a bad dream."

"Would you want to tell me about it?"

And he does, and it all spills out, the terror of seeing Hungary dancing like there's no tomorrow, of seeing Norway's frail form exert himself to that limit, of seeing Netherlands painstakingly care for his younger sister, of seeing the faceless children who've lost their brother and are about to lose another sibling. And the terror of seeing everything all at once, and all the funerals, and hearing her voice, then finally – nothing.

The understanding sister that she is, Liechtenstein says nothing for a while, and then finally, she says, "I think you're afraid." There's something in her voice, then, and Switzerland realizes that yes, she's lonely. Ever since the epidemic worsened he's forbidden her to go outside for fear of infection, and with Hungary under the weather and in terrible condition she has no nearby female nation to share her worries with.

For fear of infection.

Was he that afraid for his life? For theirs?

"You're afraid," Liechtenstein continues softly. "You're afraid that the disease will get to you – to me, to us, and you're doing everything you can to make sure that that doesn't happen. You don't want them to get to you, but you don't want to stand by totally helpless, either. You don't want the fear of it to consume you." She gives him a light smile.

Vash says nothing for a while. "What do I do?"

She sighs. "I don't know."

"Nobody knows."

Liechtenstein sighs. "I know."




"Today Switzerland announced that it is willing to open its borders to refugees and people running from the disease…"

England's hand hovered over the remote control. He stared at the television news reporter in shock, too afraid to change the channel.

"Its government announced that due to some urgent persuasions, they have been advised to allow themselves to help…"

Suddenly England found himself breaking into a grin. Perhaps they had all underestimated Switzerland's niceness, after all.

That was when his phone rang. The screen flashed, revealing Canada's number.

"Matthew," he says into the receiver. "What is it?"

Canada's voice is desperate and hopeful. "Arthur, I think you have to see this," he says. "Really."

Arthur frowned, and he asked the younger nation his location. "All right," he said after a while. "I'll be right there."

"Good," says Canada, and there's a touch of excitement in his voice.




"Who," asks England irritably, "Is this?"

Monaco protectively moves in front of him. "Don't be like that," she says. "She's so young. She doesn't remember a thing."

"Actually," says the high, girlish voice behind her, "Mademoiselle, I do think you are underestimating me, non?"

Arthur's heart nearly stops, and he turns to Canada and Seychelles for confirmation.

Canada nods sadly. "We found her just today, while Charlotte and I were walking in – what used to be Paris."

"What used to be Paris?" says the girl, a touch indignantly. "My capital is beautiful! It's never going to truly fall, you know."

England looks pleadingly at Monaco, who graciously moves aside, and his heart nearly stops again. In front of him is a young girl – had he been human, he would have thought her as around five or six (although a rather spoiled, elegant, overbearing five-or-six-year-old at that). Her hair falls in golden curls around her face, and her mouth like the petals of a pale pink rose. But what strikes him the most is her eyes - Francis' eyes, like a Virginian sky.

"France," he whispers.

"If you must," she sniffs. "But I would like it if you called me Françoise. Françoise Bonnefoy. My name. I have already met Matthew and Charlotte, of course. I am to meet Miss Angelique later. And you are Sir Arthur Kirkland, the personification of England. Do I have permission to call you that?"

"Of course," he says, and before he can control himself, the words spill out. "Oh lord, I thought you were gone! We all did, and you should have seen the funeral. Is Joan fine? Dear god, I knew I should have apologized…You should see how Antonio is doing – absolutely terrible, that is, because there's still Lovino to think of, and Gilbert is worrying about Elizaveta, the dear girl's down as well, you see. Next time, please don't go off like that and make us all worry–"

"Worry?" the newest personification of France says. "The great France, making England worry? God in heaven, what have I done?"

And there's a familiar old glint in her new eyes, and Arthur feels a stab of recollection, because Francis used to do that too. He glances at Canada and Monaco, and he knows they see it too.




A/N: Going to go arm myself with a shield before people throw rotten tomatoes at me for slacking off.

First off, I am very sorry To The Stars got to ten chapters while I seemingly abandoned this at three. I can assure you all that I haven't forgotten about it. Life just got in the way. You know how it is.

Aaaand I am a total idiot and accidentally added stuff last chapter which wasn't supposed to be in there. Oh, well.

I like Switzerland. Honestly. He's going to do much more later. Sorry to all his fans because of how he is in this /orz

As for France, before you guys start bawling hysterically because France is female, just think of nyotalia!France. Only blonder. And she was going to be named Marianne (the other common name for her) but I went with Françoise because it's the female version of Francis. That is going to pop up later. If I remember about it.