To her great – and pleasant – surprise; it's Haldur that once again arrives in the morning to wake her. He doesn't meet her eye, but he stays in her room until she's finished getting ready – giving her the slightest hope he's not angry at her for being unable to remember something from when she was six.
However her hopes are quickly shattered when he disappears from sight the second she's seated in the kitchen for breakfast.
When she enquires about his whereabouts all she gets is a shrug and an unhelpful 'don't know' from the rest.
He only re-appears from thin air whenever either Norway needs him – or Anni needs to be fetched down for food.
It's been three days since Russia visited and she's only seen Haldur in the mornings.
Today she's determined to not let him out of her sight.
Walking downstairs with determination to get herself some lunch, she doesn't pay attention to her whereabouts and runs head first into someone's back.
Cranking her head backwards she first thinks she's ran into Denmark – it looks like him from behind; however, as the man slowly turns around she lets out a squeak of fright.
The tall and intimidating man from the other day is standing in the doorway to the kitchen – smoking his pipe as if he owns the place.
"Well hello there little Miss Zwingli" the man she recognises and remembers as Netherlands looks down at her with a smirk.
Dazed, confused and terribly frightened she slowly edges away until her back hit's another obstacle.
Spinning around she's met by a blonde woman smiling sweetly down at her.
"Oh my God! Is this really her?" the blonde woman asks excitedly as she claps her hands together.
A gruff sound of confirmation is heard from the spiky haired man.
"No wonder everyone is so protective over her. She's so cute!" the female adds before hugging Anni tightly.
"Knock it off Belgium." a cold voice commands as Norway steps into view, followed by a smiling Denmark carrying a crate of beer.
Belgium releases the petite girl from her grasp and puts in the Norwegian's direction.
"Awww, Erik! You're no fun!" she whines.
"Ignore him Zus, he's always been a killjoy." the tall Dutchman adds with a light chuckle as he helps himself to a beer from the crate Denmark is carrying.
"What..what's going on?" Anni looks back and forth in confusion at the two newcomers. A few days ago Finland and Denmark had a gun pointed at Netherlands – yet here he is drinking a beer as if he's part of the Nordic family.
"Preben! You mean you haven't informed this sweet little girl about who we are?" Belgium frowns deeply and delivers a swift kick to the Dane's shin - causing the taller male to flinch and almost drop the crate of beer.
"The less she knows at this stage the better." Norway cuts in before he grabs the crate of beer from Denmark's hands – allowing him to rub his bruised leg.
"Nonsense! She has a right to know." Belgium huffs. Anni can't help but smile at the other female's words – it's been a while since someone thought she should be informed about things.
Within minutes she finds herself in the living room next to Belgium – who after a while introduces herself as Margreet – with a warm cup of hot chocolate curtsey of Norway when she refused the bottle of beer offered to her.
"Living with all these vile men...you must be having a horrible time." Margreet states with a wicked grin in Norway and Denmark's direction.
"They've been nice actually." Anni softly replies as she warms her hand on the large mug of hot chocolate.
"Nice? You including Norway in that as well?" the older female stares in shock.
"Yes..." she replies with a hint of uncertainly. Form the corner of her eye she can see Norway's cold glare directed at Belgium – Netherlands and Denmark seem to be having a drinking contests, not sparing the other three people in the room any thought as they down bottle by bottle – laughing and joking between themselves.
"Since when did you do 'nice' Erik?" the blonde female turns to face Norway, a playful grin on her lips as she plays with the bottle in her hands.
"Since forever. But only to people worthy of it." he coolly replies before taking a large gulp of his own beer.
Belgium frowns momentarily before rolling her eyes, mouthing the word 'men' towards Anni – making the younger female giggle.
"Anyway, Mr Stick-in-the-Mud over here obviously doesn't like talking, so I'll do the talking for him." Margreet smiles warmly as she inches closer to Anni on the sofa.
"God knows you do enough of that already." the Nordic man mutters into his bottle with a blank expression.
"Oh shut up, warm up a little." Belgium blows a loose piece of hair from her eyes and waves lazily towards Norway.
Erik sighs but doesn't utter any more snide remarks, except one towards Denmark about not drinking too much in one go.
"Anyway, Anni...you must have so many questions."
"I do" she admits quietly. On one hand she wants to know more about everything – on the other hand she's worried that Haldur and Erik might be in the right in keeping her in the dark for the time being.
"Well, can't answer them all...not my place to do so and Norway would kill me if I said too much."
"And then I'd kill him." Netherlands interjects
"I'm not the one who gave us this 'mission'." Norway replies slowly, sending a glare in the Dutchman's direction.
Belgium shakes her head and tells the two of them to stop bickering like little children – Netherlands frowns before a new bottle is thrust into his hands by Denmark and all un-pleasantries are drowned by more alcohol.
"First of all; you might have gathered we're part of Spain's 'Family'..."
Anni nods – she heard Belgium mentioned and she saw Netherlands with the Spaniard and the Italians.
"...Well...a bit like how Finland worked on his own before joining the Nordics – my brother and I did the same. However, unlike Finland who joined willingly we didn't have as much choice," the older female sighs and reaches for a new bottle of beer.
"So we decided to carry out with our old jobs while under Spain's 'rule'."
"What is your jobs?" Anni asks curiously, it must be rather fascinating if it somehow allows them to be here when their boss is looking for her.
"Information." Belgium smiles
"And blackmail." Netherlands adds with a smirk and a low chuckle.
"We're loyal to who we please." Margreet laughs and takes a sip of her beer.
"For the time being it's still convenient to pretend to be Spain's 'lackeys', but once this whole thing blows over we'll disappear." the Dutchman waves his hands – almost hitting Denmark's head with the beer bottle.
"You could join us!" The loud Dane exclaims, waving his bottle around excitedly.
"In your dreams you idiot." Netherlands replies as he punches Denmark in the arm playfully.
"Awww, why not Willem? We'd have so much fun." the Dane replies with a fake pout.
"Because Margreet would eat your little right hand man with ease." Willem smirks in reply as he gestures towards Norway.
"That sounded more like an insult to her than me." Norway remarks smugly, earning him a pillow to the face from Belgium.
Anni is daunted by the scene in front of her, giggling as the older men and woman interact like the best of friends and the worst of enemies all at the same time.
Even if Margreet and Willem shed light on a few things – by the end of the siblings visit she's none the wiser about her role in this 'mission' or 'task' they all refer to.
Placing her used mug in the dishwasher she notices something move in the corner of her eye. Turning around quickly she blinks a few times before smiling.
Iceland is standing in the kitchen – a strange bird with a colourful beak perched on his shoulder as he's arm deep in the fridge.
The second their eyes meet, he turns away – his face burning as he tries to be as quick as possible with finding food for the bird.
Frowning she makes her way over to him, grabbing his sleeve tightly.
"You're avoiding me." she states flatly, she'd never imagine she'd actually be so angry about someone like him avoiding her – but she is – and she wants to get to the bottom of why he's avoiding her.
"I'm not," he mumbles as he manages to find a box of sardines with his freehand " I've just been busy."
"Busy with what exactly?" All the other members of the Family are often occupied with loads of work – but she still sees them all more than she sees Haldur.
"You know...gang-related stuff...you wouldn't like it."
"Try me." it's an upright challenge – and Iceland knows it.
"Why? Doesn't matter to you what I do...I'm one of the bad guys, remember?" even if his words are the truth, Anni can't help but loosen her grip on his sleeve in defeat. She said so herself that she couldn't trust him – that he was the enemy. Still she finds herself pained when he repeats the words back to her – the weight and reality of them sinking into her like a heavy burden.
"It's not true..." she whispers, her free hand clenched against her chest.
"Oh so you changed your mind? Well, guess I'll be your friend till you decide otherwise." he spits back angrily
"Shut up!" her hand flies to her mouth immediately after the words leave her mouth. Haldur seems to be just as surprised as her at her sudden loud outburst of anger.
"It's confusing. No one tells me anything – I don't know who to believe any more..." she releases his sleeve and stares at the floor solemnly.
Everything her brother taught her has more or less been contradicted. Sure enough the Nordics where terrifying at first, yet even after a short while she's gotten to know most of them fairly well. She can name both Tino and Berwald's home towns from their respective countries, she's learn what Denmark's favourite meals are (and discovered the leader of the Mafia is actually pretty good at baking pastries) – she even knows Norway's age. A fact that Denmark admitted took him a long time to figure out (and according to Sweden, the Dane needed a calculator.)
Haldur shifts his weight back and forth before the bird on his shoulder is pushed away. Anni doesn't move at all as he embraces her petite frame tightly, instead welcoming the warmth from his body as he holds her flush against him.
"You can believe me..." he whispers softly as she buries her head in the crook of his neck.
His breath is almost cold against her warm skin, making her skin tingle and her hair stand on end.
"I just want the truth."
"I doubt you'll like it."
"Do you like the truth?"
"About you? No..." he admits after a while
"Because you then don't need me..." he trails off as he pulls away from her, his indigo eyes meeting hers with a forlorn expression. For a second Anni swears she can see the traces of a young boy in those eyes – a child who knows something about her that she herself doesn't. It's unsettling and comforting at the same time.
"What if I do still need you?"
"Then I'll stay by your side...family's honour," Haldur smiles slightly as he places his right hand over his heart "If I break it you have the right to take my life."
Anni gasps in fear and pulls his hand away from his heart, grasping his larger hand with her elegant and delicate fingers.
"Don't say such things," she scolds "You're not allowed to say things like that... I don't want you dead."
"Telling the truth is kinda breaking the Omertà anyway..."
"Omertà?" the word sound foreign to both his and her native tongues
"The vow of silence, in-between families we have our own laws of conduct – we don't rat others out – it would be against the code of honour."
"Is that how Belgium and Netherlands can come here, yet Spain doesn't know?"
Haldur nods "Yeah, you're getting the hang of this."
Smiling triumphantly, Anni gets a glint of mischief in her eyes as she pulls him down for a soft kiss.
Awkward and uncertain at first - before their lips melt together with more confidence as both realise the other person wants this just as much as they want it themselves.
Pulling apart, Anni giggles happily as she leans into his chest. Haldur is sporting a prominent blush, and she's dead certain she has one to match. But she doesn't care – because she feels safe in his arms. Nothing is going make her change her mind now – even if the truth hurts she still wants to be with Haldur. Still wants to see his shy and rare smile every day and listen to his comforting voice talk about everything and nothing.
Stockholm syndrome or not – she's happy right here and right now. That's all that matters.
Omertà is fascinating – yet it's mostly just a code of honour to not tell cops about fellow criminals – but let's pretend it applies in this situation too. (I can claim it's artistic freedom 8D )
Also, not sure If I hinted at NorwayXNetherlands or NorwayXBelgium in this chapter... maybe both. oops