Austria wasn't one for holding grudges. As a nation who had lived for several centuries he found it not only childish but extremely inconvenient. Nations really didn't have any say in any action they took for or against one another, and if he had held a grudge against every nation that had done him wrong he would never be able to accomplish anything. History was a complicated tangle, and it was fairly likely that a nation that had wronged you in one century would be your closest ally the next. That wasn't to say that letting go was always easy, but as a rule it was what they were expected to do, and in almost all cases it was in everyone's best interest.
But this issue between him and Prussia was painfully different. He'd chalk it up to the ex-nation being an idiot and leave it that, but Austria knew that he rose to Prussia's taunts a little too often for it to be entirely one sided. It wasn't as though he wanted to be stuck in this never ending dance, but he was a proud nation and as long as Prussia insisted on bringing up the invasion and successful stealing of his 'vital regions' Austria knew he was going to snap back just as quickly.
And everyone knew the world would stop spinning before Prussia halted his teasing.
This was one grudge that neither of them were likely to let go (although it was less a grudge on Prussia's part and more a sort of satisfaction gained form seeing him suffer), and so Austria counted it as his one and only exception to his 'don't hold grudges rule'. It was a bit embarrassing to break a rule he had made himself…but really, what was the alternative?
When Prussia had started to show the effects of fading away permanently, Austria had found himself somewhat conflicted. He and Prussia had never done anything other than fight, but it was a fight that had spanned over centuries and the idea of a life without the constant banter between himself and the ex-nation was, surprisingly, a bleak one. It could be said that Austria had come as close as he could to grieving the ex-nation's imminent death.
But seeing Prussia now, with red eyes that didn't hold even a whisper of his previous illness and a smirk (oh, that smirk!) that was no longer forced or heavy with exhaustion, sent any thoughts of pity, sympathy, or almost grief out the window, and coupled with the confusion he now felt (He was healthy, why, how, this wasn't supposed to happen), he felt himself growing angry.
And it felt good, because it was familiar and comfortable.
"Prussia." Austria murmured lowly, the name scraping through is lips in a hiss, but the named nation didn't turn to face him. Instead, Prussia had turned his red eyes and attention onto Hungary, and his smirk, if possible, grew bigger.
"Well, look at this." Prussia chuckled, his eyes lighting up as he raked the other nation's body. "And to think you said you'd never let yourself be domesticated, Hungary. And here you are, on the arm of a man and dressed up like a doll."
He let out another throaty laugh and Hungary stiffened, her eyes flickering with a fire reminiscent of the war she'd fought for him. Her fist curled at her sides, but to her credit she did nothing, perhaps internally recognizing that this wasn't a day and age where one could start a fight because of words alone. Even so, the aura around her was intimidating, and Austria felt the sudden urge to duck around Prussia and flee into the house if only so not to be caught in the cross fire that was slowly building.
Unfortunately, the ex-nation was unaware of, or simply too cocky to knowledge the change in atmosphere, and didn't halt his jabbing.
"Guess you finally realized your place in the world, huh? Making yourself pretty for us guys and keeping quiet. Only took ya a couple few centuries, but hey! Better late than never, right?"
In that instant several things happened at once. Prussia started laughing again, Austria opened his mouth to give Prussia some sort of warning because it was only fair, and Hungary let out a hissed "Oh, fuck it" before drawing her arm back and punching Prussia in the face.
He shouldn't have seen surprised at any of these events, but Austria found he could do nothing but stand there dumbfounded as Prussia stumbled backwards, hands over his face while Hungary stared at her own raised fist in a look that could only be described as mild surprise. Before either of them could say anything, Prussia straightened, putting on a smirk even as blood began to flow from his nose down his face, and started walking past them.
"I'm just so fucking awesome it brings tears to my eyes!" he proclaimed, laughing almost maniacally as his rounded a corner of Germany's house and disappeared into the forests behind it. He didn't stumble, or limp, never paused to cough. He was…
"That was…surprising." He finally mumbled, turning back to Hungary as she finally lowered her hand and looked at him. She looked a bit embarrassed, but he couldn't find a trace of regret anywhere, and found that didn't surprise him. What did surprise him though, was when she titled her head back and let out another full laugh, louder and deeper than the one she'd had at his expense a few minutes before.
"You are the only person I know who can laugh like that after punching someone" he remarked dryly, but even so he smiled as he moved back to her side and placed a hand on her quivering shoulder. "Alright, enough."
She nodded in response and tried with mild difficulty to quiet her laughter. When she had lowered down to a few chuckles that escaped her mouth every now and again she smiled and crossed her arms, staring at the spot Prussia had vacated. "That felt good."
She cupped the guilty fist in her other hand and cracked it with a satisfied grunt.
Austria winced at the sound and looked at her strangely. "Should I be worried that you think it 'feels good' to punch someone like that?"
"Punch who like that?"
Both nations startled and turned as Germany rounded a corner inside the house and came into the foyer, giving a nod and the barest hint of a smile to both of them, although the confusion in his eyes suggested had heard the last few slices of their conversation. He was dressed in the same green army uniform from long ago, the jack open and hanging from his shoulders and green hat tilted awkwardly to the left on his head. Why he was dressed for war when the world had been at pace for decades, Austria could not guess.
But then again, it was Germany.
Hungary let her hands fall abruptly too her sides, looking slightly embarrassed, but still not regretful. "Oh, I…well…I punched your brother. In the face."
An awkward silence spanned out amongst the trio after Hungary's confession.
Austria watched with an inward sense of amusement as Germany's face contorted oddly. He didn't look angry, but he didn't seem to know how to react to the news.
Although, Austria figured it wasn't the first time Germany had heard that particular sentence.
"Ah, well…" Germany let the sentence hang, rubbing the back of his neck. "Knowing him, he probably deserved it. Come on in."
Germany moved aside and Austria stepped forward, tugging on Hungary's arm when it looked like she was about to start laughing again. The foyer wasn't lit, but he knew Germany liked to save money where he could and would turn on lights in a room that wasn't in constant use. The pair followed Germany down the long hallway and as they turned towards the sitting room Hungary spoke up.
"Germany, why are you wearing military clothing?"
He couldn't really tell, but Austria was pretty sure Germany was blushing.
"Ah…Italy and I were out training today. I wore this out of habit."
Ah of, course.
And speaking of Italy…
Germany pushed open the wooden door and almost immediately the pair were near blinded by the brightness. Germany's sitting room had windows that stretched from ceiling the floor and spilled sunlight over the hardwood floors and rugs laid under the coffee table and sofa. The table itself was glass supported by an iron frame and had been polished to perfection and set with pastry plates and cutlery. The room, not unlike his music room back home, had been hung with paintings, all of which had been framed and seemed to be in mint condition. The door leading from the sitting room to the kitchen was open, the sweet sent of chocolate and fresh fruit radiating from the doorway.
Sitting several feet away from it was Italy, lips pursed together in a rare and remarkable show of concentration, paintbrush suspended in midair as he alternated between looking out the window to back onto his canvas. Austria couldn't see the painting from where he was standing, but if he were to guess he would assume Italy was attempting to transport the beautiful garden view one could see through the largest window onto the canvas before him. For a moment the trio was content to watch the nation work, until it became apparent that he wasn't going to notice them anytime soon.
Germany cleared his throat, attempting to break the serious, rare as it were, mood in the room. "Italy, Austria and Hungary are here."
Italy gave no indication that he had heard, only pressed his brush against the canvas and made a few tiny strokes in the upper right hand corner, gnawing on his lower lip.
Here it comes.
"ITALY!" Germany bellowed, and only then did Italy startle out of his thoughts, leaping up to attention so fast that he knocked over one of the small buckets of mixed paint set around his chair. German groaned and all but leapt from his original spot to contain the mess while Italy, realizing that they weren't actually training, relaxed and caught site of the pair in the doorway.
"Big sister Hungary!" he cried, nearly knocking over his canvas in his haste to reach them (Germany groaned again and managed to steady the piece of work before it was ruined completely). Italy flung his arms around Hungary's waist, the other nation's arms already open and waited to receive her hug. Hungary let out a pleased cry as she crushed the other nation against her, looking all too happy to have her adoptive son/little brother in her arms again.
"Look at you!" she cried, pushing Italy back so she could get a better look at him. "You've grown so much since I last saw you!"
Germany and Austria exchanged amused glances as Hungary continued to fuss. Of course Italy hadn't actually grown since the last time he and Hungary had spoke, but perhaps out of habit she remarked of his growth each time. Italy never seemed to mind, on the contrary he seemed to bask in the attention from his self proclaimed big sister.
Must be an Italian thing
Even so, Austria mused to himself, he couldn't deny that seeing the pair together brought back warm memories of a time when they had lived together as something like a family. They'd been considerably younger then, Italy hardly bigger than the cats he would try to sneak in the house as pets during his youth, Hungary wearing her traditional dress yet lacking any of the grace and poise she'd be forced to gain when they were later married.
But he's not here…
And that fact alone muddled to otherwise perfect picture the image created.
Austria's suddenly solemn face did not go unnoticed by the other three in the room, and before he could school his features into something more appropriate, he found himself too locked in one of Italy's hugs, his arms pinned down to his sides before he could prepare to return it. He blinked and blushed, at a loss of what to do with his arms immobilized.
In the back of his head he realized it'd been a while since he'd been hugged like this.
"Ve. Austria came too!" Italy cried into his chest, bounding light on the balls of his feet in barely suppressed joy for the company. "Germany said we were having company but he never said who! I thought maybe he'd invited big brother Romano over because he was in a really bad mood when I called him last night and he always yells and swears more when he has to talk about Germany, but then again he's always in a bad mood when big brother Spain has to meet with his boss and he can't come with, but even if you're not Romano I'm glad you both came over! Not that I don't love Romano, I do! But you two don't swear as much, ve…"
And Austria would have had to possess a heart of stone not to smile at his ex-charge's adorable tangle of words and explanations. Italy was no fighter but someone who could worm his way into everyone's hearts, carve out a place for himself, and curl up there safe and tight. Austria knew he was no exception, he had been something of a father to the nation, after all.
"We're both happy to be here too Italy." He replied, and he would have patted the younger nation of the head if he had free use of his arms, which were slowly beginning to ache from blood loss. "Although I'm sorry to have interrupted you during your painting. What were you working on?"
Italy's head jerked back and he released Austria abruptly. "Oh, I forgot the painting!"
He spun around and jogged back to his workspace, quickly scanning the area and looking satisfied when he realized that nothing had been disturbed too badly. "Ve, Germany, did you clean up the spilled paint already? Thank you!"
The named nation signed and fixed Italy with scolding, though slightly indulgent look. "It's fine, just be more careful next time."
"Of course, of course." Italy hummed, waving his hand in a way that suggested he already forgotten them request as he took his seat in front of the canvas again. "And it's really not that good since I'm painting from memory. I wish I could do better memory paintings…"
Austria gave his arms a few quick shakes to encourage his blood to flow normally again, Hungary taking note of the action and chuckling quietly. When he was satisfied Austria shot her a mock irritated look before walking over to see the painting, while Hungary only chuckled louder.
And he stopped.
Well…if this was what Italy considered 'bad', Austria would never attempt painting again.
It was not the garden that Italy had captured on his canvas, but a scene from the famous Venetian canals, several centuries ago judging by the clothes the few people in the picture were wearing. The main focus of the piece appeared to be gondola. It was a beautiful thing, elaborate and rich looking, obviously belonging to someone of high standing. But it was sitting awkwardly in the canal, titled on its side, and it appeared to be too large to pass through. The sky in the piece had yet to be painted, but judging from the gold cleverly painted in with the swirling dark blue water and the gleaming cast on the boat, he would guess the image was meant to be cast in the light of the setting sun. A mother and daughter in longs skirts and headscarves were walking away from the scene while a man on the other side was leaning over to get a better view of the titled boat. Every detail of the painting so far, from the man's expression of absolute bewilderment to the little girl's arms thrown up into the sky as she tried to catch sunlight between her hands, was flawless.
"Italy…this is…" Austria let the sentence hang as he stared at the beautiful artwork, trying to find words that properly captured the painting's quality. "This is all from memory?"
"Yep!" Italy replied, unaware of the awe in which they were regarding his work. "A long time ago back when I was doing some checking around the canals, some old rich guy was complaining that his boat had gotten stuck and wanted me to do something about it. I told him it was too big and he needed to make it smaller and I wouldn't budge on the subject, not even when he offered me sweets! Eventually he agreed to make it smaller."
Germany hummed in response, and although his eyes were trained on the painting his mind seemed to be elsewhere. He had his chin cupped in one hand and seemed to contemplated something, and only when the oven alarm went off did he snap out of his head, straightening up and turning towards the kitchen without a word to see to them cake.
"It's gorgeous!" Hungary insisted, giving Italy a hug from behind as she looked at the painting. "I don't care what you say, I think it's one of the best you've done."
"Ve~. Then when I finish it, I'll give it to you!"
"Oh Italy, you don't have to do that."
"But I want to!" Italy insisted, turning around so he could awkwardly return the hug (spilling another bucket of paint in the process). "I like giving my paintings to people who like them"
The two continued their banter as Austria straightened and decided to leave the pair alone for a while. Germany had already removed the cake from the over and set in on a rack to cool while he reached up to grab a bottle of wine from the top of the cabinets where it had been resting.
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Hm? Oh, you can take the cake in once it cools. Italy brought some desert wine too, to drink with it. I've never tried it before, but he assures me it's one of the best." Germany's lips were pressed into a thin line as though he weren't sure whether to believe his words or not. He wasn't one for wine.
"I think Italy will understand if you chose to drink a beer instead."
"No no, I'll drink it. If Italy recommends it, it must be good. He has a good taste for these things."
"True. Oh, and Italy spilled a bit more paint"
"What?" the man groaned, slapping a hand to his forehead in exasperation and he stalked out of his kitchen, muttering angrily to himself. "Why is he so careless? I don't even know…"
Austria chuckled quietly to himself as he walked over to where the cake was sitting holding his hand hesitantly over the chocolate and strawberry desert. Judging it cool enough to move, he lifted the cake and brought it into the sitting room for the others, but not before stealing a few chocolate smothered strawberry slivers from the top for himself.
What could he say? He had moments of weakness like everyone else.
It had been a very pleasant afternoon. Between bites of a delicious strawberry filled chocolate cake and sips of a sweet strawberry wine the four had managed to hold conversations on several topics ranging from the weather to whose national dish was the best tasting. Anything involving politics, economy, or the strange happenings of the nations was carefully avoided, and when he and Germany had gotten locked into some sort of conversation concerning beer, Hungary and Italy had simply nodded, even though Austria realized later that they had been speaking German the whole time. It had been an unnerving realization, but neither of them had felt brave enough to bring the subject up.
We think if we ignore them problem, it'll go away.
When Germany had begun to clean p the dirty plates and glasses, Austria had gone to talk to him under the guise of helping. When the pair where safely in the kitchen Austria had carefully stacked the dishes beside the sink before turning to face the younger nation.
"I don't know." Germany answered before he could say anything, leaning against the fridge and resting his head in his hands. "I really don't know Austria. This past week he was so exhausted, he couldn't get out of bed on his own. He could hardly crack a joke about it. And then I come downstairs to cook breakfast for him and all of a sudden he's just sitting their, chatting with that silly bird of his while something was burning on the stove and looking healthier than he's been in months. I don't know how or why, even Prussia doesn't know how or why."
No one knows why this is happening.
There was no reason for Prussia to be well. He had no country to tie him to existence.
I'm not sorry that he's well. But he shouldn't be.
He let out a sign and sank back against the pillows, staring at the ceiling through the darkness of his room. He was tired and wanted nothing more to sink into sleep, but the thoughts continued to circle in his mind and keep him awake.
Have I really become so lazy from lack of war that I'll grasp onto anything out of the ordinary to entertain me?
All of sudden he was starting to feel really tired.
He was standing in the middle of a green, hilly field underneath a bright blue sky. The sun beat down on him, but it didn't feel as hot as it should have. On the contrary, it felt abnormally cool. The land was empty, he could see no other sign of life save for himself. It was a pretty place, but not unique in any sense of the word. Green glass. Blue sky. Yellow sun. It might have been a picture from any child's coloring book.
He could hear footsteps behind him, light on the soft grass, and he stiffened instantly. He couldn't say why, but somehow he knew that whomever was behind him was nation like him, but much more powerful. Austria was a small country, and compared to whoever was behind him, he knew he was almost insignificant.
"Turn around and look if you want to know!" a voice called out. It was deep and powerful, but he could sense laughter behind the tone and it calmed him, although he did not allow himself to relax. Slowly, stiffly, he turned to face the stranger and stared.
He was taller and more built than him, dressed in gold and leather with a blood red, tattered cloak flowing in the non-existent wind. His face was handsome and a smile nearly cut his it in two as he approached Austria. He looked familiar, but Austria didn't know why or where from.
Until he noticed the curls arching up familiarly from the dark brown hair.
Impossible! "Nope! Nothing's impossible here. At least, most things aren't. But I'm glad you actually recognize me! The last time I went to visit one of Germania's descendants he tried to shoot me with one of those guns of yours! You're a hot-blooded lot, you are. Pretty attractive though!"
"Nope! Nothing's impossible here. At least, most things aren't. But I'm glad you actually recognize me! The last time I went to visit one of Germania's descendants he tried to shoot me with one of those guns of yours! You're a hot-blooded lot, you are. Pretty attractive though!"
Austria froze and went pale as The Roman Empire slung an arm around his neck, pulling him close in a one armed hug. "Yes, you're not too bad looking. Don't have his eyes or hair though, but then again you aren't as closely related. Austria, huh? A pleasure to meet you!"
Austria blinked once twice, trying to figure out the best reply to that statement. He was currently head locked by one of the most powerful nations the world had ever known, and he had no idea what to do about it.
"I…thank you. It's very nice to meet you as well."
"And he's polite!" Rome exclaimed, finally releasing him and clapping him heartily on the back. "You're no Italian, but you've got some charm. I like you!"
Another clap on that back (those were really starting to hurt) and Rome finally turned to face him, grinning all the while. "But I'm not here to pile complements on you, not today. Austria, you've lived for a long time, haven't you?"
One eyebrow went up. "In truth, I think that's a bit of an understatement"
"Of course it is!" Rome answered back, laughing. "No, I don't doubt it. I led that life, I know how it is. That's why I'm kinda jealous about the opportunity I'm about to offer you. Back when I was alive this could never happen. The world was too chaotic."
"I...I'm sorry to hear that."
"Nah, don't be. The place where I am isn't all that bad, I can annoy Germania all day and the women are all gorgeous. But I'm happy to be the one to give it. Tell me Austria. Are there things you want to do? Things outside your duties as a country?"
"I've never allowed myself to think like that."
"Aw, humor me! It's just us guys here, after all. Not like your boss or anyone else'll hear us."
Austria wanted to say no, wanted to walk away and wake up from this strange dream (because it had to be a dream, the Roman Empire was dead). He wanted to pretend the question hadn't struck him, wanted to pretend he'd never wondered what he could do with his time if it belonged to him completely. But something in those imploring, bright eyes gave him pause, and he let out a frustrated sigh.
"I suppose if I didn't have the duties of my country to think about, I'd be able to focus more on piano. Maybe I would teach, or compose something for an orchestra. Maybe I could learn to play other instruments. I could have time for baking or visiting other places in Austria, actually be able to interact with my people instead of keeping away from them. I don't have any grand plans."
"That's not surprising. How many wars have you fought in? I think you deserve to kick back and relax a bit." Rome took a seat on the grass and after a few minutes Austria reluctantly sat down beside him. "And would you do it alone?"
"Got your eye on anyone special? Or maybe a good friend you'd like to do some of those things with?"
It took all of his willpower not to imagine green eyes sparkling with amusement and in the end he still failed. "I do have one good friend of mine. We've only be able to reunite recently, so I can't say I'm eager to part from her just yet."
"Ah, a girl huh? I know how that works. Well, I hope you take full advantage of my opportunity then! You don't look like a guy to waste things, Austria. You're like that other descent of Germania's who likes to shoot people. So I'm not worried that you'll take advantage of what's going to happen and that you'll make the best of it."
Austria felt his stomach lurch, and not because he'd just been compared to a trigger-happy Switzerland. "I…I don't understand. What changes?"
"Oh, I'm not going to be the one to tell you! I'll leave that to my grandson. Even as we speak he's trying to call you, so I'd better let you wake up."
Rome chuckled and stood, pulling the dazed nation with him. "You're dreaming Austria. I couldn't talk to you otherwise. But I gotta go and talk to all your other nations friends and prepare them because trust me, this is gonna be the shock of your life."
"My life? I don't understand!"
"But you will!" Rome insisted, laughing. The laugh didn't sound normal, but high pitched and screeching, like an alarm. "See ya Austria!"
And suddenly the ground disappeared beneath him and Austria was falling…falling…falling….
"Or should I say, Roderich Edelstein"
Austria snapped upright, letting out a few chocking coughs as sweat beaded and ran down his forehead. He took a few deep, harsh breaths and he ran his hands through his damp hair, trying to get his bearings. He was in a bed, his bed, in his room.
It had all been a dream.
But his phone was ringing. The same loud, irritating ring that had echoed in Rome's laugh.
Did that mean…?
With shaking hands, Austria reached down to answer the phone, lifting it to his ear.
"Austria!" Italy let out a wail as the other nation finally lifted his phone. "It's horrible!"
"What is?" he asked in a whisper, though he realized with a sinking heart that he already knew the answer.
"Because trust me, this is gonna be the shock of your life."
"Something's happened Austria, we aren't nations anymore!"
I have a feel this won't shock anyone, but I'm glad I finally got to this point. Finally things can start happening! I'm sorry this chapter was a bit later than usual, my laptop has been broken for a while so I've needed to use my mother's. Until I can get it fixed, updates will continue to take a bit longer. Sorry! ):
I'm sorry this chapter was a bit later than usual, my laptop has been broken for a while so I've needed to use my mother's. Until I can get it fixed, updates will continue to take a bit longer. Sorry! ):
As always, thank you so much to those of you were kind enough to read/favorite/review this story. It's always encouraging to get feedback/see people enjoying my work. For Americans, I hope you had an awesome fourth, and for any of you outside the U.S, I hope things are awesome for you in general. See you next time! :D