It had started out with a name.

The strange thing was, that piece of information ought to have been insignificant, and ought not to have crossed his mind in the first place. Nations did not bother with the names they all knew they possessed because to do so meant suggesting that they were human in a sense, and that was an idea bordering on insanity. Even carefree, cowardly Italy didn't bother to breach the subject, although Austria was certain he'd considered it once or twice. The man (more like a child, rather, even after all these centuries) was nothing short of an idealist.

Although, Austria supposed, he was being a tad bit hypocritical. After all, he wouldn't deny having given into idealistic thoughts every once and awhile, although he only allowed himself the pleasure when he was alone and without his own home, of which he was neither right now.

Looking up from the book on his lap, the pianist stole a quick glance to the man sitting on the couch to his left. Germany did not notice, sitting as he was on the couch, one hand holding a book on military tactics while the other draped itself lazy on the back of the sofa. He had his right leg resting on his thigh and he face was relaxed in a look of sleepy boredom. He hadn't turned the page recently, and Austria wondered to himself if the man simply wasn't trying to occupy himself with something for a little while until he could return to the large pile of work that no doubt awaited him in his study. Centuries since the Second World War had ended and the man still spent hours on paperwork that most nations (he might be so inclined to include himself if it weren't so incriminating) tended to rush through half finished.

It wasn't like their bosses truly paid attention to what they did anymore. Austria had to dwell on it for a few minutes before he could even remember who currently held the seat of power in his country (or him, rather). Austria had been present at the ceremony as custom dictated, and hadn't seen or spoken with the man since. And really, he wasn't going to waste time better spent on music if no one was going to notice. Not if it meant more time for him to relax with the piano.

His gaze left Germany and instead fell on the man sitting directly across the coffee table from him in the other loveseat. Prussia had, with no care for posture or presentation, draped himself over the arms on the chair, one arm tossed carelessly over his stomach, the other hanging over the side of the chair. A book (Austria thought better than to look at the title or contents) lay open over his face and he was snoring lightly, his pet bird fast asleep in the nest of his hair.

Germany hated the bird, and once upon a time would have scolded the ex-Nation for letting it into the house because it would excite his dogs and create a mess. Today however, the dogs were outside and Germany had said nothing about the bird when Prussia had come downstairs. He never said much of anything against his elder brother anymore, although Austria had caught him glancing at the man once or twice, the looking speaking of the concern he wouldn't dare speak aloud.

Prussia was, ever so slowly, beginning to fade away.

It made sense that he would. He was no longer a nation, and there were only a handful of people who knew anything of his long gone language, culture or history. The vast land he had once ruled over had long since been divided amongst the current countries, and as far as the world was concerned, there was no reason for a physical manifestation of a non-existent country to exist anymore. Not even his adapting the German language and culture as his own was saving him now.

Of course, Prussia was never one to take something with anything less than his arrogant laughter and attitude, and dismissed his growing weakness and exhaustion as simply 'a phase'. He continued to cause trouble and chaos, even if it was in smaller amounts than expected, refused all forms of help when the weakness caught up with him, and dragged himself throughout each day, sometimes injured, sometimes on the brink of collapse, but always with his limitless pride intact.

Admirable as it was, it was still a sickening sight to see. He did not like Prussia, and was well aware that Prussia got more joy out of making him suffer than any other nation, but Prussia had lived his life fighting for his place, and even Austria couldn't deny how wrong it was for someone like him to die like this.

But they were nations, and nations were not eternal, even the powerful Roman Empire had not been spared. At some point, what was happening to Prussia would happen to all of them, and the world would continue to spin and people would continue to live. It was a hard, cold truth, but it was one that all of them had come to grips with long ago, and that was why no one, Prussia included, ever point blank mentioned what was happening. They simply waited for the day that Germany would wake up and find his older brother's bed cold and empty.

Maybe it was wrong, perhaps it was heartless.

But it was simply the way things were done.

Tearing his gaze away from the dying Nation, Austria returned to the book resting in his lap, but found himself unable to focus on the musical jargon in the text, too lost in thought to return to reading. Outside a bird chirped, a dog barked, and the clock struck three in the afternoon.

Roderich Edelstein

Austria stilled suddenly, the page crinkling as the book shifted in his grip and, no longer steadied by both hands, began to slip. At any other point he might have despaired over the slight tear in one of his normally immaculate music books, but he couldn't bring himself to notice, struck dumb by the this one thought of his normally straightforward, practical mind.

All nations had human names, useless as they happened to be. Austria could not remember how he had received this name or who had given it to him, it simply wasn't an important enough of a matter to give his full consideration to. He was Austria, official name Republik Österreich, a country known for its music, it art, and elaborate history. Why he even had a human name, he could not begin to guess.

Germany stirred on his left and Austria shifted his gaze to him, eyebrows lifting slightly in a questioning look as he noted the other man's expression. Germany's mouth was pressed into a troubled frown, his hands closing the book and setting it on the coffee table. Across from him, Prussia had also stirred and his looked mirrored his longer brother's in its confusion. Prussia began to shift, struggling to sit up and breathing harshly as he fought his exhaustion to pull his body upright. Both Austria and Germany knew better to offer any assistance, and so simply sat and waited for Prussia to right himself before simply staring at each other, saying nothing.

At any other time Austria might have simply dismissed the strange thought as a sign of exhaustion, or maybe boredom. Now, however, as he looked at his fellow nations, he began to feel a slight sense of dread. Germany looked serious (far more so than normal) and Prussia was making no attempt to dissolve the awkward silence with a crude joke or insult, as he normally would have in a similar situation. No one said anything. No one did anything.

They recalled their human names too, didn't they…

The nations stared at each other for a long while. Prussia had begun to wring his hands in a rare (and probably unconscious) sign of anxiety, and Germany was beginning to trace something on the polished wood of the table in front of them, lost in his own thought.

It made no sense. No sense that they should recall their human names, no sense that such a pointless thought should weight so heavily on them.

But it did.

And it was only the beginning.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

The next sign that something had begun to change appeared at the annual World Meeting. Austria could still remember when only eight countries needed to attend, and he could stay behind and simply wait for Germany to come home, often full of complaints about "those useless, arguing idiots". But in the current day, it had at one point been decided that, rather than a month meeting for a set of eight countries that rotated randomly, an annual meeting for everyone to attend was a better option. And so, on the 21st of September every year, he awoke, dressed, packed several important documents and papers into his issued briefcase, and waited in front of his house for Germany to come and take him to the location of the meeting (with Germany insisting the man would get lost if he ever tried to get there himself). Their status of nations granted them the ability of cross other countries with much more speed and efficiency than humans ever could. Last year's trip to Japan for the meeting had taken just shy of two hours with no sign of ocean that Austria could remember.

This year the meeting was set in Madrid, and he had received the Spain's red and gold reminder not two days ago (as if any of them could ever forget, but customs were customs). Germany was waiting by the door at two o clock sharp, as always, and the two Germanic nations greeted each other with silent nods before walking side by side to the car.

"We're probably going to arrive early" the other man noted as the car pulled out of Austria's driveway and into the street.

"We've always arrived early" Austria replied, crossing one leg over the other as he tugged uncomfortably at the tie wrapped around his neck. He couldn't recall when exactly it had been decided that formal wear would become the new dress-code as opposed to having the option of formal or traditional clothing, but he couldn't say he was found of the change. He was a practical man when it came to spending money (frugal, despite Prussia's insistence, was far too harsh a term in his opinion, if not true), and had managed to preserve clothes from centuries ago in perfect condition, if not a bit worn in some places. The navy dress shirt paired with the black slacks and tie were part of a collection of 'modern clothes' he'd felt obligated to purchase after the dress code had changed, but the fabric felt stiff and made him long for his coats and breeches still folded and sitting on his bed, waiting for his return.

"If you keep messing with that tie, you'll just have to re-do it again."

Austria grunted in reply, giving one final tug and sighing when it finally loosened. "I don't see why I would have to keep it tied while we're driving. I feel like I'm being strangled."

"And to think you hardly had it on in the first place. It's not supposed to be loose on the collar at all."

He chose not to dignify that comment; or its slightly bemused tone, with a reply, and instead opted to gaze at the window. He could no longer see the Alps from the review mirror, and the signs on the high way had already switched from Austrian to Swiss German, betraying the remarkable speed at which they were traveling. He could only hope that Switzerland had opted to leave earlier than they had. He wasn't in the mood to deal with getting shot at.

"Italy's not driving with us?"

"Ah, no. He and Romano left for Spain last night. They've probably long since settled in by now"

A soft snort. "I can imagine Spain must be overjoyed having them both to himself for the evening."

"He did sound pretty happy when I talked to him, even with Romano screaming in the background."

Austria hummed in response and left the conversation at that. The rest of the drive passed in silence, the nations silent in their own thoughts and the radio silent because their musical tastes were far too different to come to a common ground. After a while the signs began to switch into French, and eventually morphed into Spanish before his eyes and the two Germanic nations finally reached their country of destination.

Spain was in the possession of a beautiful country, and at this time of the year the temperature was mercifully mild and the sun high and bright in the sky. As their car pulled into the long driveway of Spain's house, Austria attempted to re-right his tie, finding it far more complicated a task then when he had struggled through it this morning.

"It'll be easier with a mirror" Germany remarked, grabbing his brief case from the backseat before unlocking and opening the car door. "Find the bathroom and fix it before you come to the meeting room. You have time."

Austria didn't bother replying, leaving the fabric hanging around his neck as he grabbed his own briefcase from the floor of the car and exiting with a grumble. Side by side the pair made their way to the entryway and Germany reached up to knock twice, two sharp staccato beats against the door. There was subtle shuffling, and the door opened. A young Spanish woman held the door open for them, bowing as they stepped into the hallway.

"Hola, señores. May I ask your titles so I can introduce you?"

Titles. Not names

Names…

Roderich Edelstein

"Señor? Señor, are you alright?

Austria jerked back to the present, blinking and staring at the maid, not quite comprehending what had just happened, and feeling surprisingly dazed. That name again…why had that come back up?

"Señor?"

"Ah…yes, I'm sorry. Republik Österreich" he answered, blinking a few times and shaking his head. "May I ask where I could find a washroom?"

"Yes, just down this hallway and to your left."

"Thank you. Germany, I'll see you in the meeting room in a few minutes"

Turning away from the pair and ignoring the somewhat concerned look Germany shot his way, Austria made his way down the hallway the maid had indicated, massaging his temples as he did so. This was completely ridiculous. To have gotten so lost in thought, to have gotten so distracted…over a name he never used, never bothered to remember? He was getting plenty of sleep, eating well, relaxing…so clearly it couldn't have been a health issue.

So then, what happened back there? I remember my human name, some idiotic, insignificant name I never use for anything…and completely lose focus?

Maybe it wasn't a health issue, but he even so…

Perhaps I should consider going to sleep earlier.

And suddenly Austria was jolted out of his contemplation by the feeling of colliding with another body. He pitched backwards, his feet scrambling to regain themselves and his arms shot out for purchase to keep from falling, curling around something soft and warm (a shoulder?) as he regained his balance. The opposite party wasn't so lucky, Austria's weight pulling them forward and abruptly pushing them back again. Losing the battle for balance, the other fell on the ground with a soft grunt, Austria catching the wall of the narrow walkway just fast enough to avoid a similar fate.

"Austria?"

The ex-aristocrat pushed himself off of the wall and straightened up, wincing and turning to face the person on the ground. His stomach abruptly twisted itself with guilt as he recognized the young woman he had (although unintentionally) pushed to the floor. "Hungary!"

And Hungary laughed at the surprise in his voice, rising to her feet and straightening the dress she was wearing, beating it free of dust. In the back of his mind Austria noted how little the nation in front of him had changed since they had last met. She still preferred to leave her light brown hair lose around her shoulders and down her back, and her green eyes still held that lively, boyish sparkle so many had tried and failed to restrain behind elaborate gowns and strict regulations. The green of her button down dress was a few shades dark than her eyes and it complemented them well, the sleeves cut short to show her arms, slender, but well shaped from centuries of battles she had taken to fighting herself. They were a fair warning of the power deceptively hidden behind the good natured smile and sparkle in her eyes, and he distantly wondered how many men had been fooled and suffered the consequences once they had pushed their luck too far.

"I didn't expect to run into you quite like this" Hungary remarked, breaking Austria's chain of thought completely. She was still smiling, and Austria felt his body relax in the knowledge that at least he was safe from the anger of her frying pan. "It's nice to finally see you again, Austria"

"Hungary, I..I apologize." He answered in reply, his mind giving him a mental kick to remind him that yes, he was still in possession of his good manners and he had just bowled her over in his haste and carelessness. "I was..lost in thought and became careless. Are you alright?"

She laughed, her hand going to cover her mouth in a gesture probably learned from their time as one nation, one of thousands of little details that had probably been drilled into her. But it didn't look forced and Austria reined his mind back to the present, warily of letting it stray after what had just happened. "Really now Austria, I'd hope you'd give me more credit than that. I fell, that's hardly enough to hurt me."

Her laughter quieted but her lips remain upturned in a smile. "I'm more worried about you, to be honest. The only time I've ever seen you lost in thought was when you were at your piano."

He could feel his face darken in embarrassment, and one hand went to the back of his neck in a nervous gesture. What was he supposed to say? That he had checked out and run right into her because he was thinking about a name? Maybe his reputation didn't depend so much on everyone's opinion so much anymore as he did in the past, but he didn't want to appear so light headed in front of one of the few nations of which he could say he had a solid respect for and friendship with.

"I've been a bit pressed for sleep as of late." he lied, and Hungary tilted her head to the side, watching him. "Lately I've been a bit scatterbrained. I truly am sorry though, Hungary."

"Don't be. Like I said, I really am happy to see you again."

"And I you." He replied. And indeed, he was happy to have found her amongst the crowd that would no doubt be waiting for them in the meeting hall. Since the cessation of their marriage and Hungary steadily growing as a nation, it had been harder and harder for them to meet with one another. Eventually, perhaps some forty years ago, then had settled on writing letters than head grown steadily shorter as more and more of Hungary's time was demanded by her country. They both knew not much could be done; a nation's obligation was always to their country before anything or anyone else. Even so, it was a disappointment. And with the ever growing and changing number of countries attending the annual meetings, finding one another in such a crowd was next to impossible. Eventually, the only thing to do was to declare their friendship a lost cause and move on.

It had been a bitter disappointment for him, and judging by the contemplative look now gracing Hungary's features it hadn't been pleasant for her either.

But now that they were both here, Austria felt a curious weight inside of him lift and allowed himself to smile, pushing his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose.

"It really has been too long, Hungary. I hope everything's been well with you."

"It has been" she replied, her solemn look vanishing almost instantly. "It's so been so busy up until now. Recently it's been really quiet, so I'm happy for the break. I can't remember the last time I could relax a bit."

"Coming to a meeting is relaxing?" he asked, chuckling a bit behind his hand in a mimic of Hungary's earlier action. "You truly must have been working hard. But I'm glad to hear you've been allotted a bit of a break."

"Likewise" she replied, flashing another smile before her green eyes landed on the tie still hanging loose around his neck. "Oh, your tie…"

Oh, that's right

"Ah, yes." Flushing, Austria lifted the two ends of the black fabric in his hands. "In truth that's why I had come down here in the first place, to see if I couldn't re-do it. I'm…well, obviously I'm not very familiar with modern formal wear."

His body tensed in expectance of a laugh or teasing remark, and was inwardly relieved when he received neither. Instead, Hungary took a few steps forward until she was directly in front of him; their fingers brushing as she gently claimed the fabric from his hands and began to knot the tie for him. Her fingers moved with practiced skill over the black silk, tying the knot properly before pushing it up to the base of his throat and smoothing the remainder of the fabric so that it hung neatly down his chest. He did nothing to stop her actions, his brain seemed to have come to a complete stop and didn't seem to have any intention of starting soon, even as Hungary backed away to inspect her work. Time seemed to stretch on for a painfully long time and Hungary made no move to speak. It made Austria surprisingly uncomfortable and after a few seconds he couldn't help but ask "Is something wrong?"

His question seemed to snap her out of some internal monologue and she looked back at him. It was hard to tell in the dim light of the hallway, but she appeared to have a slight dusting of pink across her cheekbones. "I'm sorry, it looks like you're not the only one getting lost in thought today. It's just…different seeing you dressed like this. It…suits you."

It was his face's turn to heat up now, and he turned to cough into his hand in hopes of deterring the effects of his blush. "Thank you. You look quite lovely as well today, Hungary."

And it wasn't a lie or compliment returned out of obligated politeness. She really did look beautiful. But that came as no surprised to him, Hungary had always appeared beautiful, even in the heat of the battle over Silesia back when they had been united. Her clothes might have been stained with enemy blood and her eyes might have been alight with battle lust, but even then, she had been beautiful

The dim lights of the hallway flashed twice briefly before brightening significantly and Austria pursed his lips, hand tightening on his briefcase. "I do believe that's our signal to head to the meeting room. They're probably wondering where we've wandered off to."

"Probably. I guess we spent more time talking than we'd realized." was the reply as Hungary stepped to his side, both of them turning to face the direction of the meeting room. "I left my files in the meeting room while I left to wash up. I'm seated at the far end of the table, so maybe it won't be as exciting as sitting up closer to Spain…but will you come and sit with me? We really didn't get much time to just…talk."

He turned to look at her, a bit surprised at the slightly tentative voice she had used to voice her request. Hungary did not turn away, and he looked into her eyes, wondering if he could find the answer to her caution within them. His country might have been wealthy and high in standard, but his was small and he had no real need to sit upfront where the larger and more prominent countries were apt to sit. Surely it would be obvious that he would prefer the advantage of her company over listening to Spain ramble and fall off topic again and again?

He had missed her, after all.

"I'd be a foolish man to turn down an offer of your company after so long." He answered, favoring her with a little smile and feeling inwardly satisfied as he saw the caution flee her eyes to be replaced with the relaxed confidence he had grown accustomed to finding there. "But we really should get going now"

He offered his free arm to her and answered her smile as she linked hers through it. Together, the pair began to walk down the hallway back to the meeting room, both inwardly pleased with running into each other once again.

At least there was one positive outcome to getting so lost in thought earlier today.

Little did he know how much more complicated things were going to become.

x-x-x-x-x-x-

And with that, we begin my first foray into Hetalia fanfiction, as well as my first chaptered fanfic in about three years. As you can see, I'm still trying to get a feel for the characters and so chances are there will be some (or a lot) or OOC moments. I hope despite that you'll give this story a chance. I'm not entirely sure why my first Hetalia story is AustriaxHungary, they probably rank third on my list of favorite pairings. But this idea kept bouncing around in my head, so finally I gave in and started it. I'm curious to see where it will go.

A few chapter notes and such. When I searched the Prussian language on Wikipedia, I found that, while it's considered a dead language, there's a small group of people trying to revive it. Old Prussian, or Prūsiskan as it was called back in the day, was actually not a Germanic language, but Baltic. I'm assuming then, that Prussia would have adapted German language and culture because his own has pretty much been destroyed.

I'm a German major, so any German you see (be it standard German, Austrian, or Swiss) will be from my own knowledge. Anything else will be provided by the totally accurate Google Translate (lol). With these sources there will probably be a lot of mistakes, so please feel free to correct me if you see something that needs correcting and I'll correct it. This story also has no beta, so any English that needs correcting, please point that out to me as well. I'm not an English major and really can't call myself a writer either, so please go easy on me :)

Thanks for reading!
~KS