A/N: Hello there! Welcome to Bardtalia! Yes, after proposing the concept about six months ago, I'm finally getting around to it. Our first adaptation is A Midsummer Night's Dream, because the cast list came together almost effortlessly. This should be fun!
Axis Powers Hetalia belongs to Hidekaz Himaruya.
MSND belongs to William Shakespeare (and, it's public domain anyway).
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, such shaping fantasies…
It was a blazing hot June morning when the Duke Bonnefoy, his fiancé, and entourage strolled leisurely into the beautifully kept gardens of the palace. Francis plucked a rose off the immaculately pruned bush nearby.
"My dear," he said smoothly, proffering the gift to the woman next to him. "It's only four days until our wedding, can you believe it? I feel as if the time will never come."
Marie was unamused. Staring at the flower, she didn't move a muscle. "Oh, it'll be here soon enough."
Francis frowned, but to save face in front of all the courtiers, he quickly switched topics. "Fine. Er…you!" He motioned to the tallest attendant, who was dressed a tad more lavishly than the others. That had to mean something important, he knew it. But it just wasn't coming to him at that particular moment…
Said attendant waited expectantly for a few seconds before recognizing the vague confusion in his master's eyes.
"It's Matthew, sir. Your Master of Revels?"
"Ah, oui, Matthew." Francis gestured across the wide lawns of his palace. "Deliver my decree to the entire town: All are welcome to celebrate my wedding with as much vigour as they wish, and I do not want to see anybody in low spirits! Only funerals beget tears, and death is certainly not welcome right now. Rejoice! Have fun, for goodness' sake!"
Matthew bobbed his blond curls as an affirmative before dashing out towards the streets, other attendants in tow. Finally alone, Francis turned once again to his fiancé.
"Marie?" She looked up at him with wary eyes. "I know I wasn't the most…gentle during our courtship."
She snorted with derision, turning her back again. As she turned to leave, Francis caught her by the sleeve.
"I know I hurt you. It was painful and wrong. But this will be completely different, I promise."
He saw a flicker of emotion pass through her eyes. Just as she opened her mouth to reply, a commotion coming from the patio at the top of the stairs interrupted them.
"Vee, but daddy!"
"No buts, Feli!"
"Let go of him! You can't use force, that's unfair."
"There's nothing unfair about this; he's holding on to me."
Francis hurried up the marble steps with Marie right behind him, her dark hair's plaits bouncing slightly as they ran.
The sight that met the couple was a strange one. One of the most respected elders of the town, Roma, was standing before him with two other well known young men, Antonio and Ludwig. The former had traded in his trademark grin for a frown, something most unsuitable for him. Ludwig, who did have a reputation for being fairly stoic, was looking uncertain and worried as he tried to gently pry another figure away from his arm. Feliciano, Roma's son, was clinging on for dear life.
Upon the arrival of the Duke, Roma abruptly turned away from the awkward situation to bounce forward excitedly. "Congratulations! I'm so happy for you!"
"Thank you very much," Francis replied. Antonio took a brief moment to revert back to his normal state of being, flashing Francis and Marie a grin before turning back to Ludwig and Feliciano. Francis noticed that putting on a face of distaste seemed difficult for Antonio, and it twisted his features into something quite uncomely.
Roma noticed the couple staring at the boys and stepped in to explain. "You see, I have a problem here. I told Antonio here that he was free to court my Feli." He indicated the man next to him. "And over there, is Ludwig. Now, I normally wouldn't have any problem with him, but he…he bewitched my Feli!"
The blond shot Francis a desperate look as the older man began to argue hotly.
"Basically, behind my back, they've been meeting secretly and exchanging gifts and all sorts of other romantic things, which are, I suppose, very nice and sweet, but I specifically told Feli to let me know if anybody comes near him so this is an insult to my honour and reputation, which I will not stand fo-"
"I understand, Monsieur Roma," Francis cut in quickly. The Italians in his city had a tendency to ramble, so one would have to literally remind them to breathe. "What exactly do you want me to do about it?"
"Oh, right!" Feliciano peered up nervously at his grandfather from his safe spot behind Ludwig. "I want you to enforce the ancient laws of this city to make my Feli listen me."
Marie started forward, but Francis held her back. Roma continued. "The law that says any man's child must obey his father's command."
Francis glanced over at the wilting Feliciano, supported by Ludwig's steady arm. "And Feli? What do you say? It shocks me, really, to hear that you disobeyed your father. Antonio's a good man."
Feliciano blinked up at him. "So is Ludwig!"
"The point is, Feli, your father made a choice. He's right. The law says you have to obey."
"Ve…" Feliciano's bottom lip jutted out as he stared forlornly at the polished floor. "If only he saw what I did!"
"If it were the other way around, there wouldn't be any problem either."
"But please!" Feliciano darted out from his hiding place to clutch at Francis's sleeve. "I can't express it enough. Whatever my punishment is, I cannot go with Antonio!"
Francis shut his eyes. This was the occasional moments when he really hated his job. Really. "Then you can't be with anyone at all. You'll be sent to live in exile, away from your family and friends, alone for the rest of your life. Do you want that, Feli?"
He could still feel the tug on his sleeve. "B-better than not being free to be with the one I love…"
Francis could hear the fear in Feliciano's voice. He'd known him since childhood, and was well aware that he'd crumble and fall apart if ever deserted. Exile would be the end of him.
"Feli, how about this. I'll give you until the day of my wedding to think about it, but then you have to decide. And I really encourage you to choose Antonio. You'll be happy together, trust me."
"I promise I'll make you happy, Feli," said suitor cut in. "Ludwig, let go of him."
Ludwig willed himself to calm down, to not get riled up from being so ignored in this conversation. "I said, I'm not holding him hostage or anything. This is his own choice. And since Roma chose you, be happy with that."
Roma rounded on him indignantly. "Yes, I did choose him. I chose him to inherit anything that belongs to me, and that includes Feliciano."
"Oh, that's all very nice and well," Ludwig shot back. This stupid business was really beginning to get to him, and it was getting harder to hold in his temper by the minute. "I'm sorry to inform you though, that Feli is mine, and I am his, so such a mutual agreement surely holds more stock than that…"
"And of your precious Antonio's reputation," he said, glaring at the other man. "Do you know what he's done? Feliciano and I have known each other for a while. He was off somewhere else. At Lovino's. Who originally was the recipient of all those vows of loyalty and undying love – and completely wrecked him. Is this the man you put so much trust in?"
Antonio's hands balled into fists, and he lunged at the blond. But Ludwig was ready. Feliciano screamed and darted away towards his father as the two youths began wrestling in rage. Francis pried them apart.
"Stop it!" He stared at both of them severely. "This is getting ridiculous."
"Look, I did hear about that," he explained to Ludwig. "But I can't control every small thing that happens in this city. Feliciano, listen to your father. He's right when he says that it is perfectly legal for strict action to be taken against you if you continue to disobey. Marie, let us leave. Roma, Antonio, come with us, for there are some matters that require your insight."
"Certainly," replied Roma.
"Excellent." Francis held out an arm towards Marie, who took it with great reluctance. "And Feliciano…"
The slight redhead shrank back once more as the Duke turned to him.
"You have exactly four days to decide on fulfilling your father's wishes. Be wise."
The group headed indoors to the cool chambers of the mansion, leaving Ludwig and Feliciano remaining outside, the former still seething with anger, and the latter trembling like a leaf.
After a few moments, the smaller of the two turned and ran blindly away towards the town. Ludwig, startled out of his thoughts, started after him.
They'd gone down quite a few houses before Ludwig finally caught up, panting. "What's wrong?"
Before he could say anything else, Feliciano whirled around and threw himself into his arms, bawling like a child. They had stopped in a small but quiet piazza, and the desolate sobs caused quite a few heads to turn curiously at the two. Blushing with embarrassment, Ludwig tried to calm Feliciano down.
"H-hey, don't cry…" He frantically tried to think of a reassuring answer, something he could affirm himself with as well. "Look, in everything I've ever read, fiction or not, love has never been easy…" A thought struck him.
"Like in this one book, there was a princess who fell in love with her stable boy."
Feliciano stopped for a moment, pondering the notion. "Vee, that would be so awful, different social classes…"
"And in another, the pair were twenty years born apart. He thought he was too old for her."
"Oh no! How horrible."
"Yes, or have their friends and families chose for them…"
"Like us, vee! Luddy," Feliciano began. "That's the worst possible thing in the world-"
"Exactly," he interrupted. "So there's ample evidence that, Feli, something bad will always befall people in love, even sickness, death, or war. It's been like that throughout history. It's a fragile thing, like a flash of lightning you can only see once."
His rambling seemed to have done the trick. Feliciano pulled himself up, rubbing his eyes morosely. "Then I guess we have to be patient about it, vee?"
His boyfriend broke into a relieved smile. "Yes, we do. Listen, I have an idea. Do you remember my brother?"
Feliciano stared at him, eyes completely void of tears by now. Instead, a confused expression spread across his face.
"Vee…the loud one who was saying he was so…amazing? Astounding? Astonishing? What was i…"
"Vee! Yes! I remember him. He was friends with the Duke, yes?"
"Yes, so you know he's quite wealthy and powerful." Ludwig took in a deep breath. "We're the only people left in the family, so…he'll definitely take me in. Feli, we can…he will…you and I can get married in his house."
He glanced down, red-faced, at the young man in front of him, who stared back. There was an elderly man watering his garden plants on the other side of the square, but he spilled quite a bit of his water when a shrill shriek rent the air once more.
"LUDDY! ARE YOU PROPOSING TO ME?"
Apparently, Feliciano didn't really mind not receiving a response, having opted to bestow a breath-restraining hug upon his (now) fiancé. Ludwig struggled to make himself heard over the squeals of joy.
"Wait, I'm not done! You have to sneak out of your father's house, then. Meet me in the wood. The city is too dangerous; we could get caught. The place where you and I went to watch the sunrise…"
"Yes, yes, I will," sang Feliciano happily. "Running away to your brother's house, in the woods, where we watched the sunrise…"
"I was there too, idiot."
Ludwig and Feliciano looked up, startled and scared. Then Ludwig relaxed.
"Oh, it's you, Lovino."
Another slender, attractive young man stood leaning against a stone wall just a few feet away from them. He kicked at a stone moodily.
"Lovi!" Feliciano disentangled himself from Ludwig and ran over, trying and failing to give out another hug. "It's so wonderful to see you, I like your hair today, it's so pretty, what did you d-"
He flinched when Lovino angrily swatted his hand away.
"Pretty, my ass! Yeah, right. Because you're the pretty one. At least to whatshisface, that bastard, the lying, evil, disgusting, perverted, idiotic, stupid…"
"Antonio, of course!" Feliciano shrank back from the outburst coming from his friend. "The total ass who just worships the ground you walk on, have you even listened to him talk about you? Ohh, Feli's eyes are like stars, his voice is like the lark…you should just hear the shit that comes out of his mouth, the sap…"
Feliciano mustered up the courage to step forward again. "But, vee…I thought you liked Antonio?"
Lovino stiffened, and then turned to glare at him. "He's an asshole. But…"
Ludwig was surprised to see a flicker of genuine unhappiness pass over Lovino's face.
"…How the hell do you do it?"
Lovino stewed in his bitterness. Ludwig watched awkwardly. Feliciano, not realizing that the last statement was meant to be rhetorical, had scrunched up his face, thinking hard.
Finally, he spoke. "Ve, I don't know! I tried to be mean to him, but he acts like it's not a big deal."
Lovino rolled his eyes. "Of course, stupid. I've been doing the exact same thing for years, haven't you noticed?"
"I even tried to swear at him. Only once!" Feliciano added anxiously as Ludwig started in surprise. "It was like he didn't even hear me. The more I tried to push him away, the more he just follows me around…"
At that, a sudden gloom descended over his childhood friend. "The more I tried to get his attention, the more he ignores me…"
Lovino evidently didn't expect Feliciano to have such impeccable hearing, since he wasn't prepared for the bone-crushing hug from the other boy. "Vee! Don't be mad at me, Lovi! It's not my fault that I can't make Antonio like you!"
Ludwig rushed forward as Feliciano stumbled from Lovino's angry shove. " I do…I don't like him! And it's not my fault that I can't be you! Damnit!"
Hanging onto his boyfriend, trembling, Feliciano slowly righted himself. "D-don't worry, Lovi. Antonio will never see me again."
Lovino stopped panicking for a moment to shoot his friend an inquisitive glare. Feliciano continued.
"We're…" He glanced up at Ludwig, who begrudgingly nodded. "We're running away!"
Lovino just stared, open mouthed in amazement as Feliciano rushed through the rest of his words.
"I know it sounds crazy but Lovi please before I met Luddy everything here seemed perfect but now if I stay it's going to be so awful just because we're in love and it's so very unfai-"
"What he means to say," Ludwig interrupted, "Is that tonight we will leave. Under the cover of darkness."
Feliciano nodded breathlessly. "Lovi, remember where we used to go play when we were little? In the woods? We'll be hiding there first! And then we're going far, far away to live somewhere else. Like maybe in another country! We could meet all sorts of different people, and maybe their food is really yummy too…"
Feliciano suddenly remembered that he was actually speaking to another person, albeit they were scrutinizing him with an incredulous expression. "Bye-bye, Lovi! I'll miss you so much…I hope Antonio comes round, veee!"
He instantly whirled upon Ludwig to squeeze him tightly around the middle. "And I'll see you later, Luddy…"
Ludwig blinked, and just like that, Feliciano had disappeared. Now it was just Lovino, who was still looking shell-shocked, and himself. After a few moments of more awkwardness, Ludwig cleared his throat."
"Well, uh," he began. Lovino's face instantly snapped out of its daze into an automatic scowl at him. So, at least there was one thing Ludwig wasn't going to miss about this place…"Goodbye."
He had to catch himself from wincing as the other boy let out a short, derisive laugh. "Oh, yeah. Goodbye and good riddance, potato bastard."
Ludwig grimaced. "And good luck. With, you know. Antonio. And all that." Not waiting to be insulted again, he quickly turned and left.
By now, it was definitely midday, as the burning sun overhead indicated. Very few people were on the streets, having retreated to the coolness of their homes. All was still in the little square as Lovino silently pondered this new information in his head. Birds chirped faintly, and the courtyard's fountain burbled underneath.
A loud splash temporarily joined in the other noises as Lovino angrily tried to slap the water. All it resulted in was a soaked tunic, which he set about wringing dry, fuming and cursing the whole time.
"Why the hell does Feli get every single fucking thing he ever wants? I'm just as good as he is…if not better! At least I don't whine about pasta all the time."
"And I'm way fucking hotter. Or at least equally. Fuck!" He slouched against the wall, ignoring how the warmed stone almost burned his skin through the thin fabric of his clothes. "Antonio doesn't care…all he sees is Feli and how 'cute' he is…which is a total fucking lie," he concluded. "Nobody remembers how he never keeps a real opinion and always switches sides in a fight, geez! There are plenty of dumb things about Feli!"
There was another moment of contemplation as Lovino stared down at the fountain. The constant flow of water distorted his features, revealing a trembling, uncertain face staring up from the surface.
"GOD! This is so stupid!" he shrieked suddenly, and the lone man who was creeping by in the boiling heat quickly scurried away, disturbed by the youth who was shouting at his reflection. "You're not supposed to love people based on how fucking 'cute' they are, you bastard! Why do you think Cupid's always drawn with a blindfold? Because it should be blind, idiot!"
"And you blinded me," he mumbled sadly, dipping one finger into the cool water. Not realizing what he was doing, Lovino began to trace it along the warm stone ledge of the fountain. He recalled better days, previous times, when Antonio actually did pay him attention, came to talk to him, smiled at him, laughed with him…
Until that one afternoon when Feliciano happened to come over. And the rest was history.
Lovino shook his head free of these memories, and was surprised to see the little hearts he'd drawn in water quickly evaporating.
…He'd been drawing hearts? God, this was driving him crazy. Insane. Losing his mind. Lovino wasn't going to stand for this.
He got up from the fountain's edge, wiping his wet hand against his side, forgetting that it'd already been soaked. Turning on his heel, he marched away from the town square, eyes searching out the right streets to lead him to his destination.
He was going to find Antonio, and tell him. Tell him everything…
Later, when all he got in return was a rough shove aside as the enraged Spaniard took off into the night, Lovino couldn't help feeling that the one, brief touch was worth it.
A/N: So, it will go like this: every chapter is equivalent to one scene from the play so it will be easy to keep track of and to compare. For example, this is A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act I, scene I. This will probably result in some long-ass chapters (like this one), and others, fairly short. Though I do consider my paraphrase to be close, it won't be EXACTLY line for line, though I try.
I personally don't really like the first half of this chapter. It was mostly exposition, which is always rather tedious…and, it was so difficult to paraphrase Lysander/Ludwig and Hermia/Feliciano's conversation from l.127-179, so I skimmed a LOT of it. Which I was so regretful about because there's some really pretty imagery, but how to convert it into today's vernacular is beyond my writing ability :C
Hoped you enjoyed it! Please leave me reviews; I love them.