Disclaimer: Axis Powers Hetalia belongs to Himaruya Hidekaz


After the house falls still and quiet once more, Prussia wakes up and rolls over in bed. By that time an alarm clock sits weathering its abuse in silent dignity; the coffee pot runs a warming cycle as it huddles half-empty on the counter; a plate of something growing cold tethers the kitchen to reality while the scent of sweet bread wafts through the vents to his dark and dreamy bedroom. The shower head has dripped and stilled and the mirror cleared of humid fog, and the front door shut and locked behind itself.

He nuzzles the side of his face into his pillow and thinks he'd stay there all day if he could, with the overcast light filtering around the edge of the curtains, perfect for sleeping warm and snug. West will be gone today, because Germany is a functioning nation with a functioning government, and as such his bosses demand days where he governs his people instead of just his older brother-so he won't stand in the middle of Prussia's bedroom and lecture, hands on hips, about the wastefulness of sleeping until noon, and when did he lose the pride he raised Germany with. Pride, Prussia doesn't ever retort, was probably never the right word in the first place; but all the other ones leave a bitter residue in his mouth and his mind, so he just smiles as if he's wrapped up in a nice dream, to spite his little brother, and gathers the blankets to his chin in feigned sleep.

So instead, Prussia gets up-although "gets up" probably isn't the right word for that, either. He flops and shuffles on his side, an ungainly, one-winged bird, or an insect with long, kicking legs searching for the edge of the bed. His toes discover a chill of fresh air, then brush sideways against the floor, and he scrambles for footing while clutching the coverlet close to his shoulders and endeavoring that his head buried in the pillow will be the last part of him to abandon the bed.

He succeeds, not that it makes forcing himself out of bed in the morning any more pleasant.

Downstairs the floor of the kitchen is cold against his bare feet, but Prussia determines not to let that shock the lingering sleep from his head. He reserves that job for a mug of hot coffee, a stack of pancakes steaming from the microwave, and a bottle of maple syrup imported from Canada's house. He settles down to eat and pulls his feet up on his chair, tucking them under his thighs and, although a shudder or two rolls down his spine, pressing his soles to the warm skin there until he reaches an equilibrium.

Between the first bite of pancakes and the first sip of coffee he burns his tongue, but that doesn't slow him down. Somehow both are cold when he reaches the end, anyway. Prussia plops his elbows on the table and holds the coffee mug in his hands, because it fits nicely there, and stares out the window at the grey morning; he didn't pay attention to the weather forecast. He wonders if it smells like rain. He wonders if West took an umbrella, even if it doesn't.

He can't remember the last time he got to remind his little brother to carry one.

The refrigerator hums, or else Prussia imagines that he can hear it in the empty house. Noises like that-2 AM noises, when he can't sleep and he notices how much the house has a tendency to creak and snap and settle in the dark-are usually buried in the daylight hours beneath the light click of nails on hard floors, the faint jingle of metal tags, and heavy breathing. But the dogs are out with Germany; West fed and watered them, snapped on their leashes, and will take them for a quick jaunt through the neighborhood and have them do their business before he returns, changes into his business suit, picks up his briefcase (and a coat, because there's a chill in the air, and an umbrella, because the clouds might bring rain), and leaves for his meeting. The routine never changes; whether Prussia sits awake downstairs or lays still curled up in bed makes no difference.

Prussia carries his dishes to the sink. He picks up West's fork and sets it next to his own, then stacks his sticky plate atop the one that's already been rinsed. The frying pan and the mixing bowl for the pancake batter separate Prussia's coffee mug from Germany's. He's awake at this time, warm and pleasantly full, so he notices the two sacks on the counter now that he missed while subduing the coffee pot and the microwave.

Prussia remembers, years ago, when the two of them put their house back together, a house in Berlin just like the days when he was called Prussia and his little brother the German Empire-a house now with no more West Germany and East Germany, just Germany and the man who once called himself the German Knights. He still thinks of those memories in words like unification and homecoming, positive and warm and powerful words, even though he knew they meant Prussia lost everything he'd fought to claw and wrest from other nations since his days as a holy order, meant that Germany alone controlled the house.

Prussia suspects Austria knew too, maybe even back when they cut the strings he held to guide the Holy Roman Empire and the German Confederation. He knew that Germany opened his house and his arms but shut his ears.

His little brother hasn't held his hand since the North German Confederation, and with nothing to ground him Prussia wonders if one day he'll simply float away.

But he returned to the house in Berlin, the house of just one Germany, the house where West went to meetings which only proper nations could attend. He rolled out of bed in time to sit across from his brother at the breakfast table, to chew his food slowly and properly while he struggled to remember how to talk to West, and Germany fought the same war and fared no better. So when Germany vanished upstairs to the shower and Prussia had carried the plates to the sink, he stood at the counter and assembled sandwiches. He dug through the refrigerator and the pantry until he found apples and sweets, and he took what pleased his eyes and divided the lot into two paper bags. He pulled open drawers until he found a marker. He scrawled "West" on one of the bags and decided that it said everything Prussia couldn't find words to tell Germany all the other hours of the day.

Only it didn't, because Germany stopped at the kitchen table and stared at the bags, a hesitant frown creasing his face, as if he didn't quite know how to gently remind Prussia, you can't come to the meeting too. So Prussia said it for him:

"It must suck, being stuck in a boring meeting all day! Especially on a day as gorgeous and awesome as this. You won't see me trapped in the house-I'm taking a picnic. It'll be an adventure! But I figured, as your awesome older brother, the least I can do is make a second lunch so you're not starving as well as bored out of your mind. Maybe I'll meet you when you're done, huh?"

When the next meeting rolls around Germany wakes up earlier than ever, and when Prussia comes downstairs to breakfast two sack lunches sit on the table beside the breakfast plates. Germany mumbles to his fork, "I just thought-you don't like to be tied down to the house. But I didn't ask first, so you don't have to eat it. If it's not convenient."

Prussia wonders if self-sufficiency and thinking of others and kindness are supposed to hurt this much, a sharp flare like anger followed by a lingering, smoldering ache when he dwells on the thoughts. "Fuck no, I want it."

He stops setting his alarm after that.

The kitchen floor still chills the bottoms of his feet, and Prussia rocks back on his heels and curls his toes tightly. He doesn't have to look to reach for the drawer and pull out a pen. He opens the top of Germany's sack and bats his hand inside for a moment before plucking out the napkin-West remembers practical things like that.

Baby bro, he writes:

Knock 'em dead with your awesome at that meeting today! I know you've got that presentation down perfect because you bored me to tears with all your practicing. They're gonna love it.

Then he draws himself with two thumbs-up and a couple of birds, and stuffs the napkin back into Germany's lunch.

Pride was never the right word for it, he thinks. But when he became his brother's keeper, Prussia should have realized that his responsibility to Germany meant that West had an equal claim in owning him. So he'll hold on, for as long as he can, to the hand that tethers him to the ground, even if that hand doesn't need him anymore, even if it's a hand that's large and broad and wiry with muscles and sinew and completely self-sufficient.

Prussia caps the pen and tosses it back in the drawer and decides, fuck it, who cares if his brother's beaten him to it. He's going to tell West to carry an umbrella anyway.