Poignant Recollections

by sophisticated as hell

Je t'aime, moi non plus

starring Spain and Belgium (Axis Powers Hetalia)

Their relationship was built on misty-eyed laughter, bouts of déjà vu, and constant reversals of unrequited love.

Te amo, yo tampoco

It is nothing if not nostalgic and heartbreaking, and for a tiny moment they both wish it isn't so, but then again–

Then again, everything comes with a price.

I love you, neither do I

.

1477

When everything begins, he is nothing but a boy, barely warranting a double-digit age in human years and still suspended in the awkward transition from child to adult. He had been minding his own business when suddenly Austria shows up out of nowhere and hits him on the head with a stick, knocking him out cold (who knew the pale, bespectacled boy was able to pack such a punch? What, did Switzerland finally stop babying him and started training him instead?) When he wakes up, Spain finds himself in a large bed in an elaborately decorated room with Austria by his side, who greets him with an "Oh, good, you're finally awake." Before he could get mad though ("Austria, you didn't have to hit me! What gives, huh?"), Austria tells him that they are already united under something called the House of Habsburg, and that there is nothing Spain could do about it.

When Spain lets out an indignant "Buh–!" sound, the aristocratic boy lifts his hands and closes his eyes in mock-surrender, silencing Spain from any further protests. Austria goes on to admit that hey, he isn't entirely happy at the idea either, because although he already went through so much trouble 'conquering' Spain and getting his hands dirty and all, Spain's lands at the time didn't have much to offer to the Austrian Empire.

"Austria, you hit me with a stick," Spain objects. Austria raises an eyebrow in puzzlement (shouldn't Spain have taken more offense to the last statement instead of–never mind.) "How could you get your hands dirty if you hit me on the head with a stick?"

"If you would kindly allow me to finish," Austria replies with an air of arrogance that, thankfully, goes unnoticed by the ever-dense Spain (who merely shrugs but doesn't offer any rebuttal.) Austria proceeds to tell him that their bosses decided that maybe a political marriage would be a much better option instead of a violent (and expensive) conquest, and though it wasn't to his liking Austria figures it would simply be ungentlemanly of him to reject the idea of allying with the unruly, boisterous Spain and rain on his boss's parade (or in this case, wedding.)

Spain, on the other hand, who has never been much of a fighter before, is silent for a moment because he just experienced his first major taste of defeat ever since his fight with the Ottoman Empire. While Austria talks on and on, Spain decides that if getting defeated by Austria meant gaining friendship with him (besides, there wasn't much of harm done, right? Only a bop on the head, after all), he laughs in Austria's face, and says simply:

"Sure, Austria, why not?"

Austria stops in the middle of his rant, confused. Then he sniffs and says (somewhat) graciously, "Well. Thank you for your support then, I suppose." He primly adjusts his glasses while Spain just grins. Austria then beckons him out of the room. "Come; let me show you your share of the lands."

"Woah, I get lands? Sweet!"

Austria can't help but roll his eyes.

.

1506

"Hey, you!"

She – because he could see that she is a she, her soft wavy blonde tresses and rounded face screamed female despite her masculine choice of wardrobe (was it the culture here, for girls to wear armor?) – perks at his odd (and somewhat rude) greeting, turns around and tilts her head to the side and answers, "Oui?"

She regrets her decision almost immediately when a tremendous wave of pain washes over her battered body and bruised face, and she winces. She knew she shouldn't have allied herself with big brother Gaul (ah, he's called France now, isn't he?); because the kind yet lecherous boy is too busy fighting somebody named Brittania (what a girlish name, she thinks to herself) and searching for other lands to conquer, leaving her to face civil wars and inner turmoil on her own, while her other brothers Netherlands and little Luxembourg are too busy acquainting themselves with old man Germania to offer any support.

Her vision grows fuzzy as the stranger nears her, and she is too tired to even stay alert, and this is bad, this is bad. She can still make out his mussed up lump of brown hair and brightly colored clothes, and she directs a half-hearted glare at him, telling him to stay away from her. Of course, he doesn't get the message and runs even faster towards her instead, and she rolls her eyes – she really should stop doing that because the action is making her head hurt, ow.

He stops directly in front of her, chattering away in his native tongue, and she only hears glimpses of "Estoy España!" because her mind is too weary to actually process his words. She cradles her head in her hand and with a small moan crumples into Spain's arms, whose grass green eyes widen in alarm as he struggles to hold her weight and not topple down onto the ground. He panics for a moment, blushing because he's never had a member of the opposite sex this close to him before (he can feel her hot, heavy breaths go past his shirt and prick at his skin, and he gulps.)

Scrambling to distribute her weight evenly, he asks her to wake up, and of course, she doesn't respond, already rendered unconscious. He scrutinizes the faint bruises on her knees and her flushed face, then tentatively presses his palm against her pale forehead and just as quickly pulls it back. Her fever felt like it almost burnt his skin. He spites Austria in the deep confinements of his mind (figures that the stuck-up stinkypants would give me the unfit colonies and hog all the healthy ones for himself, Spain grumbles) but still, he can't just leave her out here in her condition, Rome had always taught him to be a gentleman and a gentleman always protects a lady (though she didn't seem much of one as for now.) His mind made up, Spain lifts the blonde girl up in his arms and awkwardly hobbles home.

.

"Sooo…" Spain drawls out loudly, his eyes locked upon her closed ones. He knows his attempt in making a conversation with someone who is passed out is ultimately pointless (and sort of stupid) but he just couldn't stand the tense silence. And it isn't like he expects her to answer him, anyway.

So it is needless to say Spain almost jumps up in shock when her eyes abruptly snap open and she replies, "So. Where am I?"

"My bed," Spain answers, and turns a bright red when he realizes how that must've sounded. "Wait, what? No, no, I mean… Well, I saw you earlier and–and I tried talking to you b-but you just passed out right in front of me and I, well, um, I couldn't just have left you there, right? N-not that I wanted to, psh, of course not, so I brought you over here to–to my house and… and here we are, I guess? But you already know that, s-so what I mean is, uh–"

He clams up and stops his babbling when he hears her giggle. "You're funny," she tells him truthfully, and she feels oddly pleased when Spain blushes and nervously smiles from embarrassment.

"I'm Spain," he introduces himself (again) straightforwardly, and she recognizes his name from earlier. She tries saying it, imitating his odd trills and song-like intonation, and it is his turn to laugh when she seems to have some trouble with how he pronounces his 'n'. She pouts and he apologizes, and he asks for her name, careful to say it slowly so she understands.

"Belgae," she announces with a blossoming smile (and it's quite beautiful.) "Call me Belgae."

"Bélgica." he says, grinning. She shakes her head and frowns at him, that's not how you say it. "May I call you Bélgica?" he implores.

Her lips purse at the (barely) different name, and she looks at him, who is taller than her and just barely older than her, etching his face in her mind. His skin – free even of battle scars; a sun-kissed complexion distinguishing his still-boyish features. His hair – brown, almost the same shade of muddy, squishy ground after a light afternoon shower (and it smells just as fresh.) His eyes – green and gleaming and wild, wild like nothing she has ever seen, but strangely, she doesn't feel afraid (when she looks back, she thinks that she really should have.)

"Bél–Bélgica," she repeats, and he nods, happy that she got it right on her first try. His lips form a sunny grin, and something inside her melts before it.

He takes her silence for concurrence and laces his fingers together. "Well then, Bélgica," he says, resting his chin upon his knuckles, his smile never leaving his face. He meets her gaze and his eyes flash for a moment, and it sends a little jolt up her spine but she ignores it (when she looks back, she thinks that she should have followed her instincts and leave him.) "You're now under my control. Welcome to the Spanish Empire."

.

1559

Although Belgium does not consider herself to be particularly close to her older brother Netherlands (they bicker far too much for their own good), she is nevertheless grateful that he is also under Spain's control along with her. She has seen Spain slowly conquer many more lands over the decades, and one day he happily brings home a little boy who grumpily introduces himself as 'Italia Meriodonale' or South Italy, more often referred to as Romano to distinguish him from his brother North Italy. Belgium instantly takes a liking to the little Romano, and she spends her time alternating between being a good, doting older sister and a bit of a trickster, teasing mentor (much to Romano's dismay.) She always complies to his childlike requests of "Bésame, bésame!" and always giggles fondly when his face turn into a very interesting shade of red – looking like a poofy pancake cross-bred with one of Spain's tomatoes.

"Oh, Romano, you're so cute!" she gushes over him, and the Italian in question just sputters incoherently, turning very meek all of a sudden.

"Isn't he just?" Spain suddenly pops in on them; scaring Romano and making him kick his boss in the shin. "Ow! Romano, you didn't have to kickme!"

"Quit fooling around, you two," Netherlands' stern voice calls from somewhere else in the house. "There still much to be done in this house, you know. Sister, why don't you go do the laundry or cook lunch or something?"

"Hey, whose house is it anyway?" Spain says indignantly. "I make the calls here, Holanda."

Belgium just sighs. "Come on, Romano. Think you can help me make some churros?"

.

1576

Life with Spain, Romano, and her brother is hectic, to say the least, Spain treats them all well enough but always seems to always have different views with Netherlands. In the end, Belgium is the one keeping them from maiming one another, forcing them to settle their disputes – sometimes with Romano clutching the hem of her dress and complaining on how everybody's loud voices woke him from his nap ("Goddammit, can't you all just shut up, I need to take my freaking siesta!")

"Bel," her brother calls her one day, staring at her over the kitchen counter, his chin rested upon his upturned palm.

"What is it, broer?" she asks politely, choosing to speak Dutch in his presence.

He is silent for a moment, and Belgium patiently waits for her brother to say something before giving up after five seconds. She rolls her eyes and resumes scrubbing the dishes again (instead of just sitting there sulking, why don't you come over here and help me for a change, she inwardly mutters) when finally, he speaks, his tone hushed and quiet.

"Bel, I want to revolt."

"You–what?" she sets down the plate with a rather loud clang, turning around to look at Netherlands in disbelief. "Sorry, you want to what?"

He sighs, as if he expected this kind of reaction from her, then repeats his words. "I want to rebel against Spain, België. I can't stand being oppressed any longer. I've had it."

"Brother, what are you talking about? Spain treats us very well, doesn't he?"

Netherlands scoffs at her. "Have you seen how he treats his other colonies other than us? No, wait, scratch that. Have you seen how he treats me?" he gestures to himself.

"Well, sure, you two are always at each other necks, but isn't that pretty much an everyday occurrence?" she shoots back at him. When he doesn't answer, Belgium continues. "Brother, I do think you are overreacting to this. If you're thinking about what happened yesterday, it hardly warrants a revolt–"

"It isn't just about what happened yesterday," he cuts her off. "Sister, I love you. I do. But he – he has united us, when our cultures aren't the same. He stands up for you, because you share the same views as him, but I…" Netherlands narrows his eyes. "I cannot voice my own opinions, or have my own thoughts, and – Bel, I cannot even worship the Lord if it isn't in the same way he does." he trails off and averts his gaze. "Not that anything he prays for will ever be granted, being selfish, heartless son of a bitchthat he is. He should go to hell and rot, that bastard, for all–"

"Brother!" Belgium cries, lips curling and eyebrows knotting in disdain. "Stop saying such things, you're being terribly unkind." Spain is a good person, she wants to add, I'm sure he's doing it for a good reason, but for some reason she can't say it at all, although the words are already teetering on the edge of her tongue. Instead, she keeps her gaze locked on Netherlands (her own brother by blood); watching the shadows cast over his eyes as he bows his head.

"I'm the one being unkind? Open your eyes, stupid. You don't know what you're saying."

Belgium stays silent.

"België," he starts, his voice taking a much lower pitch. "Sister, won't you join me?"

"…What?"

"I'm your big brother, België. I'm all you need." He says in an attempt to convince her, and she tries to hold back the urge to scoff and bring up their past (petty) quarrels. "Think of poor Luxembourg – he's too young to have a broken family. We have nothing but each other – we can't be separated, not ever." Netherlands' tone changes at the last word; Belgium shivers and shuts her eyes (if only she could shut her ears as well.)

"Won't you join me, to revolt against Spain?"

Belgium thinks then. True, there had been times when she and Spain had gotten into particularly heated arguments (because despite what she tells herself, they are by no means the perfect family – they aren't friends or siblings, or anything of that sort, she is merely his, and nothing more.) Sometimes little bursts of thoughts about a revolution, an uprising against him flits through her mind, but she suppresses them and distracts herself, because she simply can't do that to him. She can never imagine seeing anything besides cheerfulness reflected on his grass green irises.

"What if I loved you?" she had asked him once as they were watching the sunset together, her voice nothing but a whisper almost masked by the dusky sunbeams dragging back into the horizon.

"Then we would stay together, you and me, Bélgica, and I would be very happy." he had replied, unabashedly forward, his eyes bright(er than ever.)

She looks at Netherlands (her own brother by blood) and for moment she is torn, but she makes her choice.

"No." she tells him, and that was it.

.

1619

Her brother has declared war against Spain. No – her brother has declared war against Spain and herself. Again.

She feels like a prodigal sister, sort of, for siding not with her own brother but with his enemy, her boss (his boss, she thinks. It's Spain's boss) instead. When she hears the news that parts of Portugal were being conquered by Netherlands to use as a battlefield, she knows that it also meant Spain was rapidly losing his foothold and that he was in danger of collapsing (his kingdom, his empire, and everything that he worked so hard to achieve.) Determination in her eyes, she takes off from his house and strides through the ranks of his troops, searching for him. By the time she got there she could hear her brother yell out a battle cry, and her pace quickens, her vision almost nothing but a blur.

Where is he, she thinks desperately. Where is he?

She spots him limping behind the rest of his soldiers, with his eyes downcast and his hand clutching his thigh. Netherlands' glare bores into Spain's spine as he watches the brunet depart in shame, his sword unsheathed as a last display of defiance (this isn't over yet, Holanda.) His blue eyes slide away from his former boss and he catches a glimpse of wild blonde curls amidst the mops of dark, curly hair, and it is his sister, running like her world was going to end (and maybe, in a way, it was.)

"Zusje!" Netherlands calls. "Little sister!" he shouts, but Belgium pays no heed. She keeps running and catches a collapsing Spain under her arm, supporting him firmly until they were safely out of harm's way (she can only do this, she can't even fight without holding back childish sobs, she wants desperately to grow up even faster.) It is then does she look back, sparing a glance at her brother, hoping for some semblance of forgiveness from him (I'm sorry, Broer,) when she realizes his gaze on her is cold and frozen, and he is not the same Netherlands he was back then.

.

After that incident, Spain does not allow her to leave his house again.

"That was very dangerous," he scolds her, after his wounds had healed and his voice had returned. "Who knows what could've happened to you, Bélgica?"

I could've lost you, his eyes tell her, and she looks away guiltily (but she won't apologize, because she could've lost him too but she didn't and she's glad for that.)

"Just leave the fighting to me," he says steadily, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Okay?" he asks.

Belgium nods; and she feels the loss of warmth that happens when he lifts his hands off of her and leaves.

.

In the evening, just after Belgium has tucked Romano in and ensured that the little Italian has floated off to sleep, she hears Spain's heavy footsteps shuffling into the house. She sets down her mug of warm milk and goes out of her room to welcome him home, careful to plaster on a smile on her face (it's the least she can do.) She sees him then, all battered and bruised (but no blood, no blood at all, he must have wiped it off before he decided to come home) and their gazes meet, and when she looks into his tired eyes, her smile falls off.

"Welcome home." she says quietly, and he directs a grateful look at her, though saying nothing in return. He groans a little in pain as he clutches his left knee, and she hurries over to him. "Spain!" she cries. You're hurt, she wants to say, but he shushes her and points in the direction of Romano's room.

Her shoulders visibly sag and Spain sees something flicker in her expression. Of course, she thinks. We wouldn't want to wake little Romano. "At least let me treat your wounds," she reasons, carefully putting an arm around his shoulder to prop him up. He remains perfectly still for a moment, then his head dips down a bit. Then it lifts, a single nod, and he shuts his eyes briefly before opening them again. With a heavy, staggering breath he leans into her entirely, and she tries not to appear struggling with his weight (he knows she is, but he's just so tired and he needs her support, he needs her.) Spain inwardly smiles as he remembers this same situation take place a long time ago, when they were younger, only it was reversed back then, and he was the one to stand up and take care of her. It seems like the whole world ran on irony at the moment.

"I'm sorry," she whispers as she looks away from him. "My own brother is the one doing this to you. I'm sorry."

He says nothing, and guilt pushes the breath out of her lungs as she struggles to stomach the thought that he's not going to forgive her. Then his rough, scarred hands clutch at her apron, pulling her into something resembling an almost-embrace, and he tiredly whispers into her upper arm (his voice muffled and almost pleading, but Spain never pleads.)

"Stay with me, Bélgica."

She inhales and anxiety overwhelms her, her eyes flare up with muted pride (what does she have to be proud of?) She bites her lower lip to withhold her desire to speak and she nods wordlessly, but then she notices his eyes are already closed.

.

1715

For a nation, time is a fickle thing. A century could pass and it would be hardly noticeable, perhaps equivalent to a blink of an eye, but in some times even a mere decade could feel like an eternity.

Time is a fickle thing, and countless invasions, wars, and battles have led up until this point of her life, and sometimes Belgium feels them and sometimes she does not.

Spain is caught up in a war again, but it isn't the one against her brother anymore – Netherlands has long since gained his independence, his Republic now an economical powerhouse with a developing naval power capable of threatening the fleets of Portugal and even England. He has even gained some colonies of his own, some of which are as far away as the Spice Islands of Asia and the East Indies (and she is very proud of her brother, but sometimes Belgium can't help but feel envious his incredible prowess).

Spain fights (he is always fighting nowadays), his boyish softness long gone, scraped away by the harshness of battle. He still retains his sunny smiles and gleaming eyes around her and Romano, but he has become more somber and serious with others, often fierce and brutal and reckless and wild, wild like nothing she has ever seen, and she becomes scared for his sake (or is it for hers?) He has gone to war against countless nations, like England and Sweden and Denmark and Prussia and even big brother France – who seems to have a penchant for her as well, always trying to cop a feel of her newly-developed chest and rear, claiming to be 'extending control over Southern Netherlands', and making her shriek until Spain comes in fuming and kicks the lecherous young Frenchman out of his house. Spain has even had a brief feud with Austria, who had been his closest ally for the longest time, and as he slides a hand to his forehead in frustration, his teeth clenched and lips curling into a grimace, Belgium wonders if he has finally had enough

But no, he hasn't (he never will) because each day, she is greeted by the sight of his back, leaving at that rushed pace, and her throat closes off with the effort of suppressing her urge to tell him, "Stop it; don't go." She can't.

She knows better than to ask him to stay.

.

1790

She has heard rumors of his other colonies that he treats differently compared to Romano and herself, but she always brushes them off, believing them to be petty attempts made by Spain's colonialist rivals in order to smear his reputation. She always shakes her head in denial and begins developing a calm, polite façade trimmed just to counter the nags and badgering that comes with being one of Spain's colonies, always defending him whenever she can.

But when he comes home from one of his usual long voyages over the Western Oceans, his clothes splattered with blood and his eyes tired and dark and dull, that is when her breath hitches and she staggers back in shock (and finds that she cannot defend him anymore.)

She spins on her heel to make a run for it, but is stopped by a hard yank of her arm. "Bélgica," Spain calls her name as he grips her wrist from behind, denying her any movement. "Are you running from me, your own Patria?"

Of course she is, he inwardly reprimands himself. She has seen enough of his battles in Europe to know what he is like now, and rumors spread by that damned France and England must've reached her ears at some point. It would be hardly unlikely of her to try to get away from him while she still can.

But she can't, not now, because she is his, and at this thought, Spain lips form into a grin (a manic, frenzied grin that sends shivers down Belgium's spine.)

"What are you afraid of?" he asks her, whispering into her ear, tickling her skin with his hot breath.

He knows she has always been a bit of a two-face, putting on a demure and ladylike appearance a split second before going into her feisty and bold persona the next. He's become paranoid of any sort defiance from his colonies (because after seeing so much bloodshed it's hard to keep your mind from slipping and seeing things that aren't there, isn't it?) so when he sees a spark flicker briefly in her eyes, he jerks her body again, this time towards his lean frame. She breaks the fall by elbowing his waist, and he stifles a groan of pain.

"Let me go," she says harshly. "You are no longer my Patrie." She turns her head away. He had made her abandon her own brothers in favor of him, and her eyes can't help but water at the thought.

His grip tightens instead. "Take that back," he hisses. Belgium works her jaw stubbornly, and he can hear her teeth grind (does she hate me now? Does she hate what I have become?) He loosens his hold on her and lowers his tone, his voice sounds almost heartfelt and rueful as he says his next words.

"You said you loved me."

She stiffens upon the old memory, and then snatches her hand away.

"I said what if," she replies, shoving against his chest, never looking at his face. He lets her go.


Historical notes.

1477: Mary of Burgundy marries the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, effectively putting the Burgundian States (A.K.A Belgium and her brothers) as territories of the House of Habsburg. Spain unifies his (Catholic) monarchy in the late 1480s, completes his Reconquista in 1492, and starts sending expedition fleets over to the newly-discovered Americas in around 1498, marking the pseudo-beginnings of the Spanish Empire.

1506: Mary and Maximilian's, Philip I the Handsome (Felipe el Hermoso) inherits the Burgundian States from his mother. He marries Joanna of Castile (Joanna the Mad) and becomes Philip I of Spain.

1559: Southern Italy becomes a territory under Spain's control.

1576: The Eighty Years' War (A.K.A. The Dutch Revolt) is taking place (it started in back in 1568.) Netherlands asks for Belgium's help against Spain and wants her to sign the Pacification of Ghent, but she refuses and remains mostly loyal to Spain.

1619: After a brief peace treaty between Spain and Netherlands (The Twelve Years' Truce, signed in 1609), they return to opposition again in the Thirty Years War. Belgium continues to side with Spain and even forms the Union of Arras to help him fight off Netherlands.

1715: The War of Spanish Succession ends. This is when Spain goes through many wars and exhausts his economy, leading to utter decay in his monarchy and the decline of the Spanish Empire while other European nations were busy going through reforms and stuff.

1790: Belgium is handed over to another branch of the House of Habsburg and stages quite a number of minor revolts. During a rebellion against Emperor Joseph II, she tries to declare independence as the United Belgian States, but the rebellion is able to be put down due to a bad split between liberals and Catholic conservatives. Not long after, Belgium is conquered by the Revolutionary French armies and added to the French Empire.

.

Author's notes.

Almost all of my winter break. Sleep deprivation. Countless hours spent researching / prepping for another semester's course of World History. Three quarters of my sanity. This is what this fic has cost me. Yes. I sort of cross-referenced the stuff so it would be somewhat more...uh, I wouldn't say accurate, per se, but...corresponding, maybe? IDK.

If there happens to be any errors and whatnot, I meant no offense.

Originally, it was a lot longer, almost bordering more than 10k+ of words, since I wanted to continue until after WWII (no, I don't know what I was thinking either.) But, considering we haven't seen much of Spain and Belgium's adult relations in canon, I decided to end it here.

This fic is dedicated to xxkoffeexx, starlight amethyst, and my cousin Mi*** (darling, you know who you are), who all have agreed to beta-read my other (rather fluffy) Spain/Belgium fic that I may or may not decide to post here (lolwut shameless plugging. STFU, self.)

Je t'aime, moi non plus (literally I love you, me neither) is an actual French term, methinks, for unrequited love switcheroos. You know, A loves B, B says no, A loves another person, B finally realizes they love A, A says no. Or something like that. Yes.

Reviews are awesome, and they make my day. Keep that piece of info stored in the back of your mind for safekeeping, love. Seriously.