Awesome All Along

Series: Axis Powers Hetalia

Rating: T for Gilbert's gratuitous cursing. Rating may increase as the story goes on.

Genre: Romance, Humor, Drama

Characters and Pairings: Austria/Prussia, hints of Spain/Romano, Germany/Italy, US/UK, also France/Everyone. Appearances by Hungary, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

Summery: Prussia has hated Austria for centuries. Mostly because he stole Gilbert's best friend and turned her into a girl, but also because Roderich was a weak, prissy, totally unawesome aristocrat who deserved to have his vital regions invaded. But when careful observation begins to prove otherwise, Gilbert starts to wonder if maybe he was wrong. PrusAus.

Notes: This was originally going to be a Porn-With-Plot (or maybe not so much plot) one shot, but it kind of morphed into a Plot-With-Porn and then the porn got pushed back to make way for more plot, and now it's a multi-chapter story with eventual porn, maybe. I know, I'm disappointed too, but actually not really because this is going to be awesome, as Gilbert would say. It ended up being more serious then I expected at some points as well, but still pretty funny and not even remotely dark at all. And I'm not entirely sure where this is going, but I have a few ideas. Also the prologue jumps around a lot. The rest of the story won't really do that, this is just set up.

I actually did do some research for this story, but European History is pretty damn complicated, and I may have taken some artistic license in parts where it's mentioned, for the sake of the story if not outright confusion. Also, like I said, took out most of the stuff that would imply dark bits.

Awesome All Along

by NoirGrimoir

(Story told from the POV of Prussia)

Prologue: What do you call this feeling?

Before Austria moved in with me and bro, I hadn't even known he'd existed.

Okay, that's a lie, I'd been trying to conquer his ass for centuries after Elizabeta married the bastard, but it's not like I actually thought of him as a person. He was just that annoying guy who lived next door and always had nicer stuff then me, even though he didn't deserve it because he was nowhere near as awesome as I was, and he was a friend-stealing home-wrecker who always made me look like the bad guy on top of that. So not cool, right? That's what I thought!

So basically when I say I hadn't even known he'd existed, it was more like I tried to pretend he didn't exist in between thinking up ways to enact painful revenge for the fact that he stole my one and only best friend from me and had her wearing fucking dresses all of a sudden. (Seriously, that was totally uncool! He girlified her!) I can safely say I didn't want anything to do with the guy unless it involved something sharp and stabby and meant to inflict fatal injuries.

So it was totally cool when my boss let me invade Austria! Never mind that my boss was Austrian, for some reason, and kind of a lunatic. That wasn't really important. What was important, was that I was totally getting that prissy asshole back for all the annoying shit he'd done to me in the past: namely, bossing me and everyone else around, looking down on me and steeling Hungary from me. So it kind of pissed me off when instead of getting to leave him battered and broken on the fields of war, he'd just given himself to my brother, just like that, and now suddenly I had to fucking let him live with me! What was with that shit?

"Bro, this is total bullshit!" I said to Ludwig. Because it so was.

Ludwig sighed in exasperation, massaging his temples. This was about the fiftieth time I'd said this exact line to him, but what can I say? He kept giving me unawesome responses! I was just presenting him with the chance to redeem himself, because I'm such a cool guy like that.

"Gilbert, I'm just doing what the boss told me," Ludwig explained, again for the fiftieth time. He had to shout a bit because behind him Feliciano was running around like a maniac, yelling something about...something. Maybe pasta. "I know you don't get along with Austria, but he's going to be a valuable asset against the allied forces. You'll just have to put up with him, I'm sorry."

"My ass is a better asset than that lame aristocratic pansy!" I argued, my red eyes flashing. "I mean, what's he going to do? Bore the enemy to death with his shitty piano playing? I don't think I've ever even seen him fight. I bet he just tries to hit people with his violin bow, keseseses ~ !"

Ludwig shook his head at me. "Gilbert, you've seen Roderich fight. Multiple times."

"I don't remember. Probably because he sucked."

"He fought with you in the First Great War!"

"Nope, doesn't ring a bell."

Since I'm such a nice person, I gave my brother a few more chances to change his mind after that, but in the end he wouldn't budge. This pissed me off, but what could I do? Ludwig was following the boss's orders, and he was just doing his part by making me follow them, too. So in the end, I was forced to give up my plans to pillage and burn Austria to the ground, (so uncool, bro!) and I was really frustrated at the fact that not only was I not allowed to kick Austria's scrawny ass, but I had to fucking live with the guy and be all nice and shit! The Mighty Prussia would not suffer this quietly!

In the end, I decided that I just had to get back at that bastard somehow, even if it meant going behind my brother's back (which considering he was babysitting Feliciano twenty-four-seven in those days, wasn't actually that difficult. Feli is freaking adorable, but he's a total spaz who needs constant supervision. A lot like a puppy, really). So I had to be covert, subtle, cunning.

That's right, I had to lurk in Austria's periphery, using creepy stalking tactics to slowly drive him insane—perfect, Gilbert! You're a strategic genius! You will definitely succeed in your mission.

Or that was what I thought, anyway. It didn't really work out quite how I'd planned it.

I mean, in the very first week, I realized I needed to scrap my stalking strategy and develop a whole new plan of action because, quite unexpectedly, the pansy-ass Roderich turned out to be completely fucking unflappable.

Yeah, I definitely hadn't factored this possibility into my plan of attack. Because seriously, how was I supposed to know the prissy loser was some kind of hardcase with an impenetrable shell of composure? That was so outside my mental image of a sucky Austria who was a total wimp and went running to his girlfriend at the slightest sign of antagonism. This calm exterior was a trait reserved for badasses, like me or my brother. If he had been anyone else, I might have even called Roderich 'cool' after discovering this fact about him.

But I couldn't believe it, I wouldn't believe it! Roderich was not cool, okay? He was a lame and prissy good-for-nothing fallen noble who had no redeeming qualities whatsoever! And I hated him, I absolutely hated him!

Unwilling to give up my mental image of a lame Austria, I dutifully continued to hover at the corner of his eye day-in and day-out, casting him glaring-eyes-of-doom (!) and sending him mass hatred vibes. But he wasn't remotely affected! He should have had friction burns from my heated staring, but no. He just tuned his violin methodically, completely disregarding my presence, carrying on with business as usual. He was ignoring me—that's right, me, The Awesome Prussia!

This sacrilege would not be borne!

So I glared harder, repeating my mantra: I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU!

Once, I think he looked up (I might have started saying my mantra aloud) and noticed me staring him down. Our eyes met, (passionate, awesome crimson and totally lame violet), and I narrowed my gaze to extra menacing status, willing curses and all sorts of unpleasant things to befall the man. Especially spiders, since they're icky. Roderich stared back calmly, watching me in that proud and aloof way of his, appearing maybe a bit perplexed. I was close, I could tell, I'd definitely crack him this time...

Then Roderich sneezed and went back to tightening his violin strings without a word.

I let out a scream of blood-curdling rage. ("Gilbert, quiet down!" Austria snapped without looking up. "It's quite rude to make such a loud noise where it might disturb others.")

Ridiculous, this was absolutely ridiculous! He was clearly mocking me at this point, and that was not cool at all. How could Roderich do this to me? I thought we were sworn enemies, didn't I deserve to be payed a bit of attention to? I thought what we had was special. Had he forgotten all those good times we had, trying to maim each other? I'd thought that meant something to him...

Okay, that came out a bit weird. I mean, it wasn't as if I was grieving over the fact that I'd lost a cherished opponent, or anything, and he wouldn't even acknowledge my desperate bids for conflict. That would just be silly. Definitely. Definitely silly. Especially since I'm the awesome me, Mighty Prussia, who doesn't need anybody: not friends, not enemies, not nothing! I'm too cool for all that stuff. Yeah, totally...I loved being alone, it was the best...

But anyways, I didn't like it. Not one bit. Where had this dispassionate exterior come from? Had Roderich always been like that? I...couldn't really say. I think in the past I was paying more attention to how awesome I was, and how much I was totally kicking Roderich's ass all over Europe, to really notice one way or the other. I could probably have sifted through my memory and come up with some kind of definitive answer, but that seemed like too much work.

In other news, I wasn't the only one who was finding Austria impossible. My brother was quite possibly more affected than I was by Roderich's serene manner and subtle snobbery, and I have to be honest—it was kind of hilarious.

Because watching Roderich piss off my high-strung brother was fucking gold. It got to the point that Ludwig would walk into the same room as The Priss and immediately Roderich's poise and aristocratic demeanor would make my muscle-bound, rough-edged brother feel totally insecure. (He didn't really have a reason to be insecure, I don't think, but that's Ludwig for you. He was concerned about appearances and shit. Not like me, I'm too cool for that!)

I could literally watch in real time as Ludwig tensed up and began to look self-conscious and anxious. My bro's face would twitch, he'd tug at imaginary strings at his hem, scratch at the back of his neck (then stop himself), shift from foot to foot, and eye Roderich in terror wondering whether or not he was secretly judging him.

All while Roderich was just sitting there doing nothing but airily sipping coffee (or sometimes tea) and reading a door-stopper with exactly the type of pretentious title you would expect from something that belonged to him. He didn't even have to do anything. Just the visual comparison was enough to see that Austria was so much more refined and high-class than my bro.

But what really made me bust a gut, was when the Austrian ordered my brother around like a servant. Oh my God, I could just die from the funnies!

Ludwig (who was a neurotic mess every time he was in the same room as Mr. Prim, remember) would be doing whatever, trying and failing to pretend Austria wasn't around, when Roderich would suddenly look up and say something totally presumptuous like, "Fetch me some more tea, would you please? I'm rather thirsty," as if he were the master of the house and my bro was his servant.

Of course my brother was flabbergasted at this treatment. "W-what? Why are you asking me? That's something you should do yourself!"

Austria just looked at him, composed and self-assured. Ludwig turned pale and twitchy.

"I see," Roderich said at length, pushing up his glasses. "I'll summon Italy then."

Cue Ludwig jumping up to bring Roderich his tea, or whatever.

For some reason suggesting Italy do something always got Roderich what he wanted from my brother. I don't really get it. But I guess it's true Ludwig is really protective of Feliciano. It was actually a brilliant move on Roderich's part, I don't know how he came up with it. (Not that I think Roderich is brilliant—because he's totally not!)

But even without having to mention Italy, just asking politely almost worked half the time, and did work the other half. ("Absurd! I'm not going to hold your sheet music while you practice the violin because your stand broke—oh, all right, damn it!")

I think it had to do with that natural Austrian 'master' tone of voice. Pretty poncy and annoying, if you ask me, but it somehow hypnotized you into doing stuff for him. (And I totally did not fall for this a few times myself, no, that never happened, I can't believe anyone would suggest otherwise, they're lying!)

Having been given a request, Ludwig would start complying with Austria's absent-minded order, and then suddenly realize that this was his house and Roderich was supposed to be doing things for him! So then Ludwig would get all flustered and annoyed and attempt to order Roderich to do whatever task it was himself, plus a bunch of other things just to drive the point home who was in charge. It never really achieved the desired effect, though.

Like one time, Roderich expressed a desire for gänsebraten, (basically roast goose), and bro was all, "Don't make those kinds of demands!" and shot him down flat. Probably because Ludwig doesn't even know how to roast a goose in the first place. (I do, though, I learned in Silesia!)

So Roderich gave him that I'm-very-displeased-with-you downward quirk of his lips, which did it's job and bro was kind of freaking out for a second, before he hedged, "But if you wanted to make one yourself, you could...," and then winced, ready for the snobby backlash.

Austria tilted his head in consideration while my brother held his breath. Finally he nodded, content with the compromise and Ludwig sighed in relief.

Since Roderich usually at least pretended he wasn't a complete asshole, (and he couldn't really eat a whole goose himself, anyway) we all got gänsebraten for dinner! And I got to tell you, that was the best fucking bird I've ever eaten. Completely, indisputably awesome. It made any similar attempts in the past performed by myself look like...well, like shit. Which also made me feel like shit.

I began to see a pattern: if you made Roderich do anything himself, it only resulted in making you feel even more inadequate because he ended up performing the task with such perfection that it was frightening and not a little ego-shattering to observers. It was amusing to watch when it happened to others but having it happen to me freaking pissed me off. I'm the Awesome Prussia, the coolest of the cool! What reason did I have to feel inadequate? I was the most amazing being in existence, lame Austria should bow before me like a king! This was obviously some kind of ploy to screw with me.

Finally I was just fed up of it. I would not be jerked around by pansy-assed, loser Austria!

I don't really know what set me off, but it happened one evening while I was lurking in the hallway outside the library where Roderich was reading something that probably had a long, snooty title. It wouldn't be the same one mentioned earlier, because he read wicked fast. It just seemed like Roderich had an endless supply of super-stuffy leather-bound tomes meant to give you esteem-issues. (Not that I was feeling dumb or anything, I could read long books if I wanted to!)

He sat in the great chair, his back so straight that it made me feel like a spineless amorphous blob-monster, his clothing so immaculate it made me look like a slob (and this is without servants to do it for him, mind you, which just added another layer of inadequacy because he seemed to be so perfect—perfect!—at everything that it was just unreal) and his expression was so self-possessed and oblivious to his demeaned circumstances that it seriously pissed me off! He was captured, okay? Never mind that he'd offered to be absorbed instead of getting the shit kicked out of him, (which now that I thought of it, was pretty damn cowardly of the bastard—or was it smart?)

I know he didn't want to freaking be here. So why was he acting as if nothing was wrong? It was confusing!

But back to the library incident. He was drinking coffee (he drinks a lot of coffee, I understand it's an Austrian thing, they think they invented it, or something stupid like that), sipping it so daintily, being so damned refined (more refined than I could ever hope to be in my life) that it made me physically sick to look at him. I just had to say something about it. The awesome me does not take that kind of thing sitting down, alright?

So I stormed into the library and pivoted on my heals, stopping right in front of him to glare down at the aristocrat menacingly as I summoned all my presence as the former Prussian Empire—all-around badass and super-cool Emperor of Awesome—with the intention of intimidating the shit of this weak-willed pansy.


Roderich immediately held up a hand, forestalling my words—and for some fucking reason I actually shut up!

"A moment, please," Roderich said airily in that clipped, precise voice of his, continuing to read his book while completely disregarding the fact that I was about to go Mount Vesuvius on his ass. After a few seconds, he marked his page and closed the book before finally looking up at me, his expression coolly composed as he adjusted his glasses. The reflected light temporarily turned the lenses into malevolently glinting white rectangles. It was kind of creepy, actually.

"You may proceed," he told me with a curt nod. As if I needed his fucking permission!

My white brows snapped together and I stabbed an accusatory finger at the man, which for some reason I couldn't fathom, didn't immediately send him cowering behind his chair. In fact, he didn't really seem to give a damn one way or another. "I'm on to you, Mr. Oh-So-Prim Austria!" I informed him. "Don't think I haven't figureed out what's going on around here, you can't hope to fool The Awesome Prussia!"

"I beg your pardon?" he answered me politely, for all the world as if he didn't know exactly what I was talking about.

I scowled, my face starting to develop a tick. 'I beg your pardon'? What the fuck kind of response was that? Stupid prissy asshole...

"I see what you're doing, okay?" I repeated. "And it's not going to work!"

Roderich crossed one leg over the other and carefully folded his hands on his knee as he tilted his head to regard me owlishly, wearing a mask of confusion. "To what are you referring? I'm afraid I'm not understanding you, Gilbert. You must be clear."

"I mean, this prissy attitude of yours! The politeness, and spiffy clothes, and piano playing, and ordering people around like you own the place—you're purposefully trying to piss me off, aren't you? Don't piss off Prussia! It won't end well for you!" I may have cackled evilly after this statement.

Roderich raised his dark brows and lifted his chin, somehow managing to look down on me when he was still sitting in a chair. (How does he do that? Must be an Austrian thing). With a hand on his chest in (fake) shock, he affected a slight, noble pout, setting off the beauty mark just beneath his lips. It was so damn demure, it could hardly be counted as a reaction at all. Grrr, frustration!

"What a thing to say, Gilbert," he said, jamming his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "I'm quite offended that you would think me capable of something so underhanded..."

Of course as he said this, one end of his mouth quirked up into a smug, self-satisfied smile. My eyes boggled at the sight. Proof! Fucking proof!

"There, right there! Your screwing with me!" I shouted.

"I would never!" he insisted, still wearing that amused smile, now a bit sinister.

We engaged in a heated staring contest. Roderich maintained a superior air of aloofness throughout, narrowing his eyes only slightly, not the least affected by my intense glaring. After about five minutes, he suddenly broke contact and I had about a millisecond to think, "Victory goes to the awesome me!" before my win was pulled out from under me to be replaced by puzzlement as Roderich suddenly sighed, squirming in his chair with a faint blush of embarrassment to his cheeks. What the fuck.

"I'm really not trying to antagonize you, Gilbert, but I'm terribly sorry if you think I've been a tad, hm, overbearing," he said apologetically—apologetically! After that shit-eating smug grin just now, he even had the nerve to looking freaking sheepish? "I'm having as many, erm—," Roderich's mouth became a line as he tried to find the best word, "—difficulties adjusting to our cohabitation as everyone else in the household. Perhaps if I baked you some sweets in recompense?"

"What! Don't think you can distract me with—can you make sachertorte?"

He nodded gravely. "If you wish." Rising from the chair, he joined his hands elegantly behind him and led the way to the kitchen with perfect fucking carriage. Like a freaking ballet dancer, or something.

I pumped my fist in the air in glee as I followed Roderich to the kitchen, desserts chasing all else from my brain. Great Fritz, I was getting sachertorte! The most amazing, sinfully delicious double-layered chocolate cake known to man, split by a layer of exquisite apricot marmalade, and covered in an irresistible chocolate of the fucking gods, my friend! (Even if it was Austrian.)

It was only as I was happily eating the absolutely awesome cake that Roderich had made just for me (I got a whole cake and I didn't have to share it with anybody!) that I realized I'd been duped.

Oh, he was good...

I decided I must remember that 'conversation derailment via confectionery distractions' tactic. The awesome Prussia would not be drawn in again! Next time, things would be different. Next time I would make Roderich confess the truth: that he was purposefully trying to drive my brother and me insane with his prissiness!

But it happened again—the very next day. And you know what? It happened again the day after that.

Arrg! How did I keep falling for this? It happened every freaking time!

"Damn it, just confess already!" I would scream. "Confess, you Austrian bastard!"

Roderich would push up his glasses, expression calm and unaffected by my outburst. "Oh my, Gilbert, did you want another treat? You have quite the sweat tooth, don't you? That's quite bad for your teeth, you know, be certain to brush extra before going to bed tonight."

Yeah, that was seriously all it took to make me crumble like that freaking apple-crumble stuff on those delicious muffins he made for me that one time...mmmmm ~ !

Shit! Every time I confronted him, he offered me some kind of dessert and my willpower evaporated! He wasn't even bothering to be subtle about it any more. Every time any kind of conversation wasn't going his way, he'd just offer up desserts and the conversation would end, just like that. It would have been freaking brilliant if it wasn't Austria, my eternal rival, most hated enemy in all of the world, doing it.

Just god damn that fucking sachertorte! (And apfelstrudel and kaiserschmarrn and marillenknödel, oh Fritz, marillenknödel...) I was useless against his Austrian desserts! It made me wonder why he didn't just throw germknödel at me during the War Of the Austrian Succession, he totally would have won. (The sneaky bastard probably just hadn't thought of it at the time, or realized it would be such an effective weapon against me).

"Damn it, Feliciano, I just can't get it out of him!" I complained. I was sitting on a stool in the kitchen, bitching to North Italy while he cooked dinner for everyone. I wasn't really expecting him to understand what I was talking about, mostly I was just venting. "How is it that weak, aristocratic pussy Austria can so easily thwart the awesome me at every turn? It's those damn desserts, there's no defense against them!"

Feliciano gave me his squinty, air-headed smile as he started pulling out pans and ingredients. "Veh ~ ! Mister Austria is very good at making desserts, they are very tasty! He made desserts for me, my brother and Spain a long time ago when I was little!"

"So that's how he roped Spain into an alliance that one time!" I deduced. Feliciano looked confused, but he always looked like that so I ignored him in favor of apologizing to an imaginary Spain in my head. "Antonio! I'm sorry, I would have warned you if I knew!"

"Veh ~ ?" Feliciano said, tilting his head like an idiot. Such a simpleton. An adorably cute simpleton.

"But that doesn't help me at all!" I continued. "How am I supposed to ignore Roderich's desserts when they're so ridiculously irresistible? I swear he puts crack in that shit!"

Feliciano tapped his chin in thought (I know, I thought this was hilarious, too. Feliciano, thinking? Pure silliness).

"Umm, if you really want dessert that bad, I could make you something, Mister Prussia!" he suddenly offered cheerfully. "Veh ~ ! Maybe if you're already full of dessert you'll be able to say no, because you've already had some! Though I don't know why you think Mister Austria is being mean to you, he's always stern like that, but he's really a nice guy! Actually, didn't you used to do mean things to him all the time? I don't really know why you would do that..."

"Bullshit, 'he's a nice guy'!" I (awesomely) pounded my hand on the kitchen counter (for emphasis). "You're just too young and oblivious to realize it, Feliciano, but he's a ruthless, friend-stealing bastard, not worthy of your very misplaced regard," I informed him angrily, then switched over to my nice voice. "Though actually you had a good idea there. Make me a dessert, will you? Then I'll definitely be able to resist the siren call of his stupid sachertorte. Keseseses ~ !"

Feliciano seemed confused. (What else is new, right?) "That doesn't really sound like Mister Austria...but I guess I'll take your word for it." So then Feliciano made me a chocolate cake, and I ate the whole thing. (Though I got to really wasn't as good as Roderich's cake...)

Anyway, later that night I confronted him again.

I burst into his room without knocking, throwing his door wide open and shouting, "Austria, you son of a bitch, don't think you can escape me this time, I'm proof against your dessert temptations!"

Roderich blinked at me with wide violet eyes, his dark hair mussed and Mariazell dripping and limp. Water droplets clung to his exposed skin, perfect and pale, and he was wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. Obviously I'd just caught him getting out of a bath or shower or something.

I stared, unable to look away as a blush bloomed on Roderich's cheeks. I felt...strange. Confused and uncoordinated, not really able to think or remember what I had been doing or what I should do next. My eyes roved over his body for lack of anything else to do and I turned red as my breath quickened and an unexpected warmth coiled beneath my stomach at the sight of his muscles, way more defined then I would have expected from an aristocrat, and how much younger and more vulnerable he looked without his glasses...

Wait, this...this wasn't what I came to do. W-what was I...?


I fled the room.

Back in my own space two seconds later, I curled up on my bed with the door closed and my dresser pushed in front of it to keep out the world. Sucking in breath like I'd just run a mile, my eyes were wide and panicked as my mind raced furiously.

Fuck, fuck, fuck! That wasn't—I couldn't...f-fucking shit!

And then I went to sleep and pretended it didn't happen. Because I didn't like Roderich, okay? I hated him, and the feeling was mutual. And that wasn't ever going to change. We didn't get along, and that was that. Repression was definitely the way to go here.

The next day I acted as if nothing had happened and so did Roderich (thank Fritz). I never thought about it ever again. Except when I did. Which mostly just made me anxious and frustrated and translated into me being more pissed off at him. But meanwhile, I was still annoyed as hell by the Austrian prissy-boy.

"I am sick and tired of this snobby aristocrat!" I bitched to my brother. I was perched on the edge of his desk while he was trying to work. "He orders everyone around in between being stuffy and composed, and so freaking perfect. Shit, I want to just toss him in a ditch and watch him squirm because his jabot got dirty!"

My brother pushed my ass away unceremoniously to pull something out of a drawer. I pouted, but he ignored me. Freaking stoic bastard. He's lucky I love him as my little bro.

Ludwig sighed wearily. "That's just how Austria is, Gilbert, he can't help it," he explained to me. "You should have some consideration for the circumstances he's in."

My eyebrows shot to my hairline. "What freaking 'circumstances'?"

Ludwig scowled and I could just sense him thinking annoying things like: "Gilbert, behave yourself!" and "Gilbert, stop being so rude!" and "Gilbert, use your brain for something other than invading vital regions!" He was always thinking those sort of things about me. It made me a bit sad.

Looking away from his paperwork, he regarded me, saying, "Austria has had to give up his home and live in a drastically different manner than he is accustomed. How would you feel if you were taken away from your home and made to do things you weren't used to doing?"

This...made me think a little. Okay, maybe I'd been a bit hard on the guy. I mean, he was still a total sissy, but that just meant I couldn't expect him to be as awesome as me. That just wouldn't be a fair comparison. Yeah, this was just his coping mechanism, it wasn't like he was being a pompous dick on purpose (even though he totally was). I should probably give him a break. Yeah, show Ludwig I could be mature and shit.

So I walked out of Ludwig's office prepared to be nice(ish) to prissy-Austria. To be 'understanding of his circumstances' because he just 'couldn't help it'. And not a minute later my resolve was tested when I ran into Roderich in the dining room, shining silverware. That's right, shining silverware. Manual freaking labor. The heck kind of warped alternate dimension had I fallen into on my way out of West's room?

"The fuck are you doing?"

Roderich gave me his courtly, enigmatic face which, despite being completely neutral, managed to seem annoyed to me. I'm never really sure I'm actually picking up on slight differences in his nobleman's poker face or if I'm just imagining things, because no one else seems to notice this stuff like I do.

Jamming his glasses up the bridge of his nose with the back of a knuckle (his finger tips were covered in cleaner) Roderich informed me, "The state of the silver in this house is simply atrocious. No one seemed to want to rectify the situation so I took the task upon myself." He put down a gleaming spoon and went to work on another. "And such crude language is unbecoming of a respectable nation, I should advise you to speak with more regard for the sensibilities of others."

"Oh, I'm sorry, did I 'offend your sensibilities'?" I mocked him. "Because we can't have anyone offending royal Austria's tender little aristocratic sensibilities, now can we? He might just cry like the a weak little pansy." Yeah, my self-control isn't so good. Sue me.

Austria narrowed his eyes at me, pausing for a moment in his work, but in the end he didn't respond and resumed rubbing the spoon in his hand for all it was worth. I started to kind of, maybe...feel a little bad.

I scratched the back of my head self-consciously. Shit. "Do you, uh...want some help?" I asked.

"No. Thank you," he said automatically and put down the now clean, beautiful silver spoon to pick up a tarnished candle stick. He worked fast. Just another instance of perfect Mr. Austria, the guy who was good at everything (except war, thankfully).

"Are...are you sure?" I asked him again.

Roderich released a sharp sigh and looked up from his candle stick, his expression stoic and cold. "Gilbert? I can do this myself, I don't need your help, especially if all you're going to do is use it as an opportunity to insult me. I know you don't think well of me, but I do have my pride."

"Yeah, we all know about Austria's pride." I just had to say it.

Now Roderich visibly frowned, looking away. A cloak of grim determination settled over his features. "Yes," he said gravely as he stared at the candle stick in his hand, not meeting my eyes. Then he attacked the silverware with increased vigor. His haughty noble mask once again in place, he completely dismissed my existence.

There wasn't really anything to be said after that.

Yeah, I'd screwed up, okay? I always screw that stuff up. I hadn't even really meant to, either, it just... it just came out. Damn it, why does shit like that always happen to me?

But this was when something occurred to me. Something...pretty phenomenal, actually.

Austria might have been weaker than me in terms of combat abilities, and to my memory, I don't think he's ever defeated me in a war. But when it came right down to it I could never truly claim to have beaten him, because to do so I would have had to take away his pride, and Fritz knows I've tried—tried and failed. This annexation-thing had come closer than anything else I'd ever done to taking it away, but he was still fighting me. That's what all this high-and-mighty aristocratic bullshit was, his passive-aggressive way of fighting back, and as of right now I'm not really certain I can win. In fact, at this point I thought he was beating me, as loath as I was to admit something so fucking shameful.

I mean, think about it. Roderich didn't have to do anything but act cultured or refined or whatever—he didn't even have to lift a finger!—and the prissy boy had single-handedly managed to make my and my brother's lives miserable, thus enacting vengeance on his conquerors in a way that gave us no way to fight back or punish him. I mean, that's fucking genius.

Now, I acknowledge awesome when I see it, and that sort of thing? Not only was it awesome, but it took some balls. Balls I totally hadn't thought that pansy ass had. Discovering all of this not only surprised me, but raised a serious question: when did that flouncy useless noble Austria become such a hardcore badass?

So I thought about it. I couldn't stop thinking about it, actually. It seemed so unreal that that loser could transform into such an awesome guy while I wasn't looking. When did the metamorphosis take place and how? What could turn the piano-playing pansy I'd known for centuries into this cool, refined, ultra-brilliant dude who glared my super-strong brother down without flinching and made him feel like the little upstart he was? I was determined to figure this out, and in going over all my history with the guy, trying to puzzle out when he got so cool, I realized something mind-screwingly crazy...

He'd been this awesome the whole time.

I'll lay it out for you, so you get my reasoning. In the War Of The Austrian Succession, it was Austria versus me, (The Awesome Prussia!), and Spain and France (and Bavaria and Saxony, but no one gives a shit about them). All Roderich had on his side was that rat bastard England who totally ditched him half-way through (Arthur used to be a total dick back then. Actually he's still a total dick). Roderich was ridiculously outnumbered, with a weak military and like no allies (and that was totally my doing, too. I convinced Antonio the guy was an unawesome dork, not good enough to associate with the Spanish Empire. Before my asshole intervention, they used to be pretty tight. At the time I thought this was fucking hilarious).

But betrayed by his friends and completely surrounded with little hope of victory, Roderich never lost his cool. At most he was a bit indignant and oh-so-very-disappointed in his attackers for being such uncouth ruffians lacking in class. He didn't break down and cry, didn't give up or beg for mercy...shit, he knew he was fucking toast and he showed up anyway. Now that was gutsy!

I remember that battle: me and my gang on one side, Roderich on the other, all alone. Seeing Antonio there at my back hurt him, I could see that much, but he pursed his lips and stared me dead in the eye, ready to martyr himself for honor or some stupid shit like that. It had pissed me off. Austria was supposed to bow down before my immense awesomeness and acknowledge his defeat! That was the plan. I thought it would be easy, thought that Austria was a total pussy, that all I had to do was show up and he'd fold like a house of cards. Me and my crew against measly, cake-eating Roderich? It was a done deal, man, you could set your clock to that action.

But he just would not give in.

Even after he'd been trounced, and beaten and bloodied, the nation was nothing but calm and proud in the face of what should have been his humiliation. There was never a hint of despair, never desperation, even when things were at their worst for him. He never wanted to fight, I could see that much but upon being forced to do so, he wouldn't abandon his dignity, and neither would he stoop to my level. I would be looking down on him, but somehow it always felt like I was looking up. Really frustrating, I have to say.

It was probably about this time when I should have realized there was more to this guy than fancy clothes and a violin.

I totally didn't though, because I was too busy being pissed at the fact that his noble-heroism stunt impressed Elizabeta so much she fell like madly in love with the guy, and then proceeded to run me out of the country with a bloody gusto that I hadn't seen before or since (I totally stole Silesia on my way out, though). I mean, she was crazy over Roderich! And this confused the shit out of me, because I knew how much more awesome than him she was. I had thought that girl could do so much better.

So it was at that point when what started off as me kicking doors down for shits and Silesia, turned into a stone-cold grudge.

Over the course of the next century we proceeded to do this over and over and over. I stole his friends, invaded his lands, started fights, joined anyone who was against him...I was fucking brutal to the guy, I'll admit it. I took every opportunity to beat him up, but the constant abuse hardly even seemed to faze him. Every time I tore him down, he managed to get back up as if it hadn't even happened, even as outnumbered as he almost always was, and as abandoned as he must have felt when all his allies turned on him (because I could always convince them to). The fact that I just couldn't stamp him out griped my ass! I just couldn't understand it.

But this was all so perfectly explained once I realized Roderich was an honest to Fritz, balls-to-the-wall, total fucking hardass.

He wore nice clothes, acted the consummate gentleman, baked heavenly pastries and played more instruments than God, and underneath it all was one badass mother fucker who routinely took on the most powerful empires in Europe, more or less alone, without flinching, and then made them look like total douche-bags for screwing with him, because as soon as you signed the damn treaty that got you what you wanted, he'd taken it back somehow, probably through some spiffy marriage or something, and didn't seem the worse for wear. That or he was just so cool about the whole situation that it didn't even feel like a victory, you might as well have lost and saved yourself the effort.

I mean, I still hated him. Yeah, I definitely hated him, but...I guess I couldn't really call him a loser anymore. Maybe I even kind of, almost, respected him a little bit? (But just a little!)

So after that I stopped trying to make him confess to being a passive-aggressive asshole, since I knew he never would and I guess it didn't really matter, anyway. Even if I could prove it, it wouldn't change anything. My brother seemed pretty damn set on just dealing with the bastard. Mostly because the bosses told us to. (But they didn't have to live with him!)

Well, okay, I did bring it up whenever I wanted Austrian desserts, but I considered that my toll for putting up with his bullshit. And I'd really love to say I was totally pulling one over on him here, but he seemed to catch on annoying fast that I wasn't really interested in exposing him anymore, and was just using him as my own personal pâtissier. He didn't seem to mind much, though. Maybe he just liked cooking or something.

I had to admit, Austria was a really smart guy. Like sneaky-smart. I guess his relatively weak country wouldn't have survived to control half of Europe otherwise, now that I think of it, but it was still kind of surprising to me every time he proved just how cunning he could be. I just didn't really expect it from the piano-brained, aristocratic Austria I thought I knew before all this. I don't know what I did expect, but that wasn't really it.

One morning I'd goaded Roderich into making germknödel for me, but we were missing some ingredients and Feliciano wasn't around to help him shop (the Italian had been drafted by my brother for 'training'—which was more like a crash course in common-fucking-sense.)

The priss tossed a fit.

"Hmn, well, I'm afraid there's nothing to be done about it, then," he stated firmly, upon being informed by me that Feli was busy with shit and didn't have time to hold his freaking hand while he walked two blocks to the store. Having said this he calmly, efficiently, began replacing the ingredients he'd taken out back to their rightful storage places.

Okay, so his version of a fit isn't very dramatic, but as far as I was concerned this was a fucking tantrum, alright?

"What? Come on, just get it yourself! It's not like you don't know where the stores are," I whined, pissed that I wouldn't be getting my sugary jelly-donut-like dumpling dessert covered in vanilla icing and infused with poppy seeds. Mmmmm ~ !

Roderich flashed me a scolding eye, and jammed his glasses up his nose snootily as he said, "Out of the question. If you really want germknödel, then you'll simply have to wait for another day."

Uh oh, that was his stern voice. They were all stern, actually, but this was the special one. The one that meant No, no and hell no! This voice, I'd come to realize, could not be argued with. There would be no germknödel for me. My dreams of eating Austrian desserts were (elegantly, and with a clipped, aristocratic tone) dashed.

My expression wilted. No germknödel. I was crushed. I think I might have actually shed a tear. Real one, too.

"But-but...germknödel...," I pleaded uselessly. There may have been sniffles and sad, puppy eyes involved. It's definitely a possibility.

Roderich scowled at me—scowled! Like the cruel, heartless bastard he was. The type who promised desserts, and then went and changed his mind, like it meant nothing! You just couldn't do that, okay? This was an agreement between men. It was serious business. How could he so willfully deny the awesome me like this?

"Stop whining," he snapped, his mouth pursed into a scornful line. "I can go to the store when Feliciano has finished his training with Ludwig, and you can have germknödel tomorrow evening." He rolled his violet eyes. "It won't kill you to wait a day."

"I don't believe you," I pouted. "I'm already dying inside, and it's completely because of your lies! You totally went back on your promise, like an unawesome bitch—you said you'd make me germknödel, and now you're saying I won't get any and I should just deal with it? Pfft!" I spluttered in disbelief. "You're a horrible, horrible man, Austria. Seriously. You're evil," I informed him.

"I never promised you anything!" he shot back, tone growing waspish. "I merely said I would check if we had all the proper ingredients, and as it happens, we do not. I'm sorry, but that is the way it is."

"Details!" I countered. "It was implied!"

Now he visibly looked furious. Roderich grit his teeth and clenched his hands, his spine rigid with tension. "Stop being a melodramatic child!" he shouted.

I stuck out my tongue. "No! You can't make me!"

He stared. I glared back petulantly.

Then, bizarrely, the tips of his mouth quirked upwards, almost smiling. Austria quickly covered the lower part of his face with a modest hand and by the time he removed it his features were once again composed. "I didn't mean to disappoint you, Gilbert. But I simply can't make your dessert without ingredients," he said, calm once again.

I pouted. "Couldn't you just go by yourself to get them?"

Roderich hesitated, emotion leaking into his normally serene features. He appeared uncharacteristically vulnerable and uncomfortable as he nervously adjusted his glasses. "No...but I suppose you could go with me," he said, his violet eyes expectant as he waited for my answer.

I blinked, surprised at the suggestion. I was under the impression Austria wanted nothing to do with me if he could reasonably help it. I mean, I was an ass to him enough, I well knew. Who the hell would want to put up with that?

For a second I didn't know what to say. Doing chores and shit, like going to the grocery store with Roderich without being ordered to by Ludwig, or having my own ulterior motive (well, I guess in this case my motive was Austrian pastries, but still) was not the sort of thing that was acceptable to the awesome me. Why would I do that? I can't stand that priss Austria, so why would I shop at the fucking store with him?

And yet...

The idea that Austria might rely on me for something, that he wasn't perfect, that I might be able to do something for him that he couldn't do filled me up somewhere inside that I've always neglected and denied, preferring to let lie empty. No, that's wrong, I'd barricaded it closed, so nothing could come inside. It just wasn't allowed, everything in there was so fragile and not like the awesome me I usually was, and I hated that. No one and nothing should be in there. This...I didn't like it.

I scowled and looked away, feeling suddenly pissed off and weirdly conflicted. I mean, I didn't want to go to the fucking store, but I...ugh, I don't know!

"I-I, well, I...," I wrung my hands, nervously, not looking at Roderich. I was sure if I looked at him I'd do something fucked up like agree, or spit in his face or...I don't know, just something fucking stupid. "Well, uh...for that germknödel I might...but I got a stupid meeting in like," I checked my wristwatch, "five minutes ago. Those stuffy bastards will be pissed if I don't at least show up for the end of the dumb thing." I wasn't lying, either. I had totally ditched the first part of the pretty important meeting to beg Roderich for Austrian confectioneries. I'm so bad.

Roderich's expression remained as enigmatic as ever while he waited patiently for me to finish my sentence. I watched him after doing so, looking for...something, I don't fucking know, but when I didn't see anything but his usual unflappable aristocratic calm, I suddenly felt like tearing out of the room.

Crossing my arms and furrowing my brows, I snapped, "So, yeah, I got better shit to do! I can't believe you asked me something so damn stupid. It's not like mingling with 'commoners' is going to freaking kill you, Austria, jeez, just suck it up and go, you stuck up, pansy-assed priss!"

He narrowed his violet eyes, hot with indignation and fury. A vein appeared on his forehead and he pursed his lips, eying me with stuffy disdain, as if I were the most detestable creature on the face of the earth. "Fine," he said, practically snarling. "Since you're being such an ass about the matter. I...I suppose I'll...just go alone, then."

"Finally!" I bitched, and stomped out of the kitchen towards that meeting I was supposed to be in, practically desperate for something that would keep me away from goddamn Austria.

The meeting was boring as fuck, and about ninety percent of it was shit I already knew. Normally I would just take a nap in this kind of situation, but I kept feeling guilty for no reason that I could figure out, so I forced myself to pay attention, just to distract myself from thinking about it too deeply.

After the meeting ended, I did some paperwork type stuff I'd been putting off, messed around doing some other stuff and then wandered around looking for people to bother. It was late in the afternoon when I realized I had gone most of the day without seeing so much as a wisp of brunette hair or ruffle of jabot, and I started to get a little confused. Usually I couldn't get away from that bastard. Or, you know, I was specifically stalking him just to screw with him. I don't think I'd gone a day in this house since Austria had moved in without running into the annoying aristocratic at some point, especially when it would be most embarrassing or tedious for me to do so (the universe just hated me like that).

So what the heck? Was Roderich avoiding me? I'd actually kind of been avoiding him earlier, or trying to, but I suddenly realized I couldn't actually locate him to avoid him (which was somehow unsatisfying even though the result was more or less the same). He wasn't in his room, wasn't in the office, wasn't in the library or the music room, and the kitchen was empty and unused. Also, I was getting pretty hungry for sweets. Where was my damn germknödel, already?

"Hey, bro, have you seen The Priss anywhere?" I asked Ludwig. He was trying to drill Feliciano in battle tactics in the yard. It totally wasn't working. I could have mentioned to my brother that he was wasting his time with the Italian, but it was funnier just to let him keep trying.

Ludwig thought about my question. "No, I—Feliciano, that's not the way you throw a live grenade, I've told you this! Are you trying to kill us all?—haven't seen Austria since early this morning."

"Veh ~ ! Ludwig, I'm tired can't we go in now?" Feliciano whined. "It looks like it's going to rain and I think I've gotten the hang of this grenade throwing thing!"

"No, you most certainly have not 'gotten the hang' of it! And a bit of rain never hurt anyone, keep training!" he barked back at the Italian.

This was a normal thing around here, so I completely ignored it. "Huh," I said, displeased. Where the heck was Roderich? Had he even come home? And what about my germknödel?

"Why, is he missing?" Ludwig asked, concerned. Behind him, Feliciano was juggling grenades. They were dummies, thank God. I don't think he knew that, though.

I shrugged. "Haven't seen him since he went to the market to get ingredients for germknödel—after bitching to me about it, at length." I rolled my eyes.

Ludwig frowned. I thought he was going to scold me about eating so many sweets being unhealthy (again) or how it was very selfish of me to keep hording said sweets all to myself (again) but it seemed he was annoyed about something else. "He went to the market? Alone?"

"Well, yeah," I said, confused. "Threw a freaking fit over it, too."

My bro cursed, knocked the training grenades out of Feliciano's hands and started tugging him to the house. On his way he close-lined me, hooking an arm around my neck and dragging me off, too. I let him because I'm such a cool brother like that.

I wrestled out of his hold but dogged his heals to the closet, where he started bringing out scarfs, jackets and umbrellas, wrapping Feliciano up like an Eskimo. "Whoa, what's the deal, West?" I demanded, completely clueless as to what the fuck was going on.

"We're going out to find Austria. All three of us," he answered soberly.

I started to become concerned. Not that I actually cared about Austria, or anything.

Something occurred to me and I felt my blood boil in my veins and I wanted to grab someone and shake them down. "You don't think the enemy captured him, do you?" Ooh, they better not have, because that shit just would not fly. Austria was mine. No one could screw with him but me, that was how eternal rivalries worked! Francis especially better keep his damn molesting mits off him. This was an exclusive fucking club, membership available by invitation only via the awesome me. And good luck with that one, buddy, I don't even write invitations.

"No," Ludwig said, handing me an umbrella. "I think he's gotten lost."

Wait, what?

I frowned, feeling disoriented from the sudden mood whiplash. "Huh? Lost? What is he, a freakin' dog?"

My bro shook his head at me as Feliciano fell over behind him. Somehow he'd gotten himself so tangled in a scarf that it was strangling him. "Mmf! Veh ~ Ludwig? I'm stuck, eheheh ~ !" Feliciano said, laughing apologetically.

"Austria has no sense of direction," I was informed as Ludwig shoved my coat at me and pushed me out the door. "You start looking while I sort out Feliciano. Search in the area north of the market. Italy and I will follow you, looking in the other directions, hopefully he hasn't strayed far. We'll meet back here in two hours if we don't find him, and come up with a new plan."

I shrugged on my coat, annoyed at the prospect of looking for that priss Austria when I had so many better things to do. And to top it off, it was cold and a steady drizzle was developing outside. It could start pouring at any minute, which would be really unpleasant. Luckily it was still daylight (ish, it was so gray and overcast the feeble sunlight filtering through the clouds only vaguely qualified as such). Looking for him in the middle of the night would have been double the pain in the ass.

"Ugh, fine," I said with a roll of my eyes and started walking the streets of Berlin with my umbrella under my arm and my coat pulled up around my neck, puffing out hard breaths just to watch the air come out in frosty clouds.

I was so angry. Stupid Austria making me do stupid things. What was he, four freaking years old? How the hell could he get lost just going to the goddamn market? And why didn't he just fucking say something about this 'no sense of direction' crap, instead of just complaining like a whiny bitch? Fucking Austrian Pride. I mean, if I'd known what the issue was, if he'd just confided in me, then I would have...I might have...

I shook my head. Fuck, it was chilly out here.

It wasn't long before, (predictably), it started to come down hard enough that I was forced to pop open my umbrella or risk drowning. Reaching the open-air market quickly, now mostly clear of the morning crowd and everyone else too as they fled the rain, I aimlessly roamed the slippery streets which were gleaming from the wet and already accumulating massive puddles ready to fuck up my day. It wasn't five minutes into the downpour that my socks were soaked. So not awesome.

Man, what was with this? Austria was usually pretty smart, as far as such things went, I could admit that much. So how the hell could he have 'no sense of direction'? Could you really be born with 'no sense of direction' or something? If he was that bad, then had he even made it to the market to begin with? He could be anywhere out here, would I ever be able to find him? What if something had happened to him? What if one of the Allies had showed up? Those dickwads, they'd pound him into dust! If we got him back at all, he'd be broken and hurt and...and...

I was starting to get worried and angry and cold and fed up of all this shitty rain, and maybe even a little turned around myself, considering I'd been walking for nearly two hours without a glimpse or clue that I was even looking in the right direction for the man. When I saw someone who wasn't madly dashing for cover, I would stop them to ask if they'd seen Austria, and then describe a snobby dark-haired guy with glasses, if they didn't know what he looked like. Nobody had.

As I searched and the time to regroup grew closer, I was actually starting to get a little, well, panicked. I was running down streets, not really caring that I was splashing up gallons of water every time I dashed into a puddle, most of it going directly in my shoes. I freaked out pedestrians by running them down to see if they were Austria, and then interrogating them ruthlessly for his location if they weren't. Crowding my brain were images of Francis groping Austria's vital regions maniacally, or that shit Arthur ruthlessly kicking him around and laughing about it like a madman, or America insulting his aristocratic sensibilities with his obnoxiousness, or that fucking Russia! Oh hell, what would Russia do? Just the idea of it made me shiver.

It was starting to get dark, the rain was coming down heavier. The temperature began dropping and if I didn't find him soon, I'd have to meet back up at the house and hope my bro or Feliciano had had better luck. I think if they'd found him they wouldn't let me keep running around in the rain with water soaked into my pants leg up to the knees, but...well, I just hoped they had any way. (Even though that totally would have been a dick move.)

Coming upon a park that was pretty much deserted, I was almost too preoccupied with anxiety to notice the lone figure sitting on a bench.

He hadn't noticed me, I don't think. He was just staring at a puddle on the ground, his glasses spattered with raindrops. His hair and clothing were dark with moisture, completely soaked through from the rain. Water dripped from the end of his nose, joining with the rain and his breath formed white clouds as he exhaled. It all reminded me of something I didn't really want to think about, but I thought about it anyway and I could feel my cheeks turn red even though this wasn't really the time for that, assuming there was a time for that at all.

I sighed in relief and nearly collapsed to the ground under the weight of it, but that would have been totally unawesome, so instead I got mad and grit my teeth, approaching the bench.

"Hey!" I called out, ready to give him a piece of my mind, but then Austria looked up at me.

His expression was so naked with misery that it took me back. His shoulders were heavy and slumped as if he were carrying some immense weight, and I suddenly remembered he was actually older me. His normally vivid violet eyes were dark and hollow, shadowed with something I couldn't name. This was the most I'd ever been able to see beyond his dispassionate exterior. Anyone else would probably have been sobbing uncontrollably with that kind of emotion inside him, but this was Austria. He was a hardass. He didn't cry.

I'd never seen him look that way, not even when I was beating the shit out of him and raiding his borders. This was totally, completely fucking wrong. This wasn't the Austria, the Roderich, that I knew, and...well, it kind kind of freaked me out. It also pissed me off, because this wasn't how things were supposed to be, I was supposed to yell at him and be pissed that he'd made me tromp all the way out here. How the hell could I say that when he...when he...fuck.

I didn't like it when shit went and changed on me without notice. I wasn't sure if I wanted to kick him or I wanted to...I don't know, do something comforting, or some shit like that. The two opposing feelings whirled inside me confusingly, but my emotions were always pretty confused at the best of times, so it didn't slow me down too much. Scowling, I walked right up to the dark-haired man, looking down at him as he avoided my gaze.

Clamping my hand on his arm angrily, I yelled straight in his face. "The fuck are you doing all the way out here? I've been trudging around in the rain for hours looking for you!"

Roderich looked away from me silently, possibly in shame. I noticed he wasn't wearing his coat, it was draped across a brown grocer's bag protecting his purchases from the rain as best it could. Roderich himself was wet to the bone and shaking almost violently. Shit, obviously I'd overestimated the guy's intelligence.

"Fritz!" I cursed, not really thinking as I tugged off my coat (awkwardly, since I was still holding an umbrella) and threw it at Austria, who barely flinched when it hit him in the face. I held the umbrella over both of us and the groceries as best I could and went to town forcing Roderich into my coat like a freaking child once he stared at it like he didn't know what the fuck it was for.

"You crazy fucking aristocrat!" I shouted at him, not really even hearing myself. "Shouldn't you know better than this shit? What the hell are you doing, sitting in the rain with no coat? Idiot. Total fucking idiot."

Finally I seemed to jerk him out of his fugue. He frowned at me and tried to shove the coat back. "W-what are you doing?" he objected indignantly.

"Giving you my damn coat, you dumbass noble!" I said as we wrestled over the stupid piece of clothing. He was actually stronger than I'd thought he'd be and I was seriously having trouble manhandling him how I wanted to. I would have been embarrassed at this fact—god, was I losing my warrior's touch?—except I was too annoyed to really notice. Fuck, why was he being so difficult?

"I have a coat," Roderich protested, pushing my offering away forcefully enough that it almost knocked me over. I shoved it right back and nearly pushed him back down into the bench he'd jumped out of to defend himself against me.

"That thing? It's got more water in it than the Havel-fucking-River, I'm not letting you wear that! As it is you'll probably catch hypothermia, ya pansy."

I made a go at shoving his hand through a sleeve but he jerked it away, nearly flicking me in the face. "Fuck!" I shouted in frustration and stamped my foot into the ground angrily, which really did nothing but splash both of us with mud. "Dammit, Roderich, you are being seriously unawesome right now!" I shouted at him.

This stopped him struggling, for some reason. He hesitated as I glared at him, the priss looking concerned as he eyed the coat in my hands. "But...what about you?" he asked me nervously.

"You think something like this can affect The Awesome Prussia? Think again!" I scolded him, jabbing a finger at him that nearly poked him in the nose. "Besides, I've got an umbrella, and I haven't been sitting out here for half the day exposed to the cold and rain like a moron. I'll freaking manage for the twenty minute walk home. Fritz, I'm not freaking delicate, like you."

This was apparently the right thing to say because a smirk tugged at the edge of Roderich's mouth and he accepted the coat, letting me help him into it with no more annoying protests. It was a little big, but not by much, so I didn't have to do anything as embarrassing as rolling the sleeves back for him. His skin felt like ice though, and while I knew that nations (even sissy Austria) were pretty resilient, I wasn't too keen on letting him stand out here much longer...

Not because I was worried about him or anything, though. I...I just didn't want to get scolded by my big-hearted, big-muscled little brother, yeah! That was all, it was an avoidance tactic!

I grabbed the grocery bag (which by some miracle had managed to stay mostly dry) and shoved it in Roderich's hands. I wrung out his sopping coat after handing the umbrella to Austria to hold onto for me, then tucked it under my arm and took the umbrella back, pulling Roderich underneath with me by forcibly slapping his hand around the lower part of the umbrella-handle, below mine.

Roderich eyed me skeptically.

"So you don't run off on your own," I justified, then hurriedly looked away as a blush inexplicably started forming on my cheeks. I mean, that really was the reason I'd done it, but...look, I don't know why I was blushing, okay? Just leave me alone!

I tugged him along in the right direction and we began to walk in mutual silence. Just because it was mutual didn't mean it wasn't awkward, though. He watched his feet, mostly, expression contemplative, but at least it wasn't that melancholic face that tugged at my chest and made me want to punch something. I snatched glances at the Austrian priss every minute or so, suppressing the urge to pull my jacket tighter around him. He still looked white as a sheet and shivered slightly. Ugh, pain in the ass Austrian, making me worry like this. This wasn't me, and it was all his fault. All his fucking fault that I was acting like this. Shit, I was definitely going to need alcohol after this messed up day. Pints and pints of it.

In the midst of thinking this, I suddenly heard a whispered, "I'm sorry."

"What, huh?" I blurted out, confused by Roderich's sudden confession. He looked up at me, stone-faced and somber, but only met my eyes for an instant before he looked away again.

"I'm sorry, I...probably won't be able to make you germknödel tonight."

Only the fact that my hands were full kept me from slapping the idiot in the face. "You dumbass, I don't care about that!" I shouted, without thinking. He opened his mouth to say something, but I didn't give him the chance. "And why didn't you tell me you were some kind of idiot who could get lost in a walk-in closet? I wouldn't have pushed you into going, I thought you were just being a jerk!"

Austria narrowed his eyes at me and snapped, "And let you insult me over it? Don't be absurd, why would I give you that kind of opportunity? It isn't as if I enjoy being berated!"

I blinked, surprised by this explanation. Feeling ashamed, I hesitated as I said, "I...wouldn't have insulted you." I totally would have. Fuck, I'm such an ass. The withering, accusatory glare Roderich shot me communicated he didn't buy it for a second, either.

I felt really bad now, horrible even, and I wanted to tear my hair out in sheer frustration with myself. I'd done it again, screwed things up. Why did I have to be such a jerk to people? I mean, I didn't want to be, it just came out of me whenever I opened my big, stupid mouth. How did anyone stand me? Half the time I couldn't even stand me!

I'm not...I'm not good at anything but being a badass, okay? I'm just no good at it, I never learned all that manners shit, or feelings stuff, or even how to be a goddamn decent human being. Since I was born, I've been fighting and fighting and fighting, non-stop. Me against the world, don't need anybody. It was all I was, all I had. And then suddenly I have to actually interact with people, and I...I don't know how, you know? But I can't just admit it, what would people think? What would Roderich think, if he knew I was this emotionally underdeveloped child who didn't know the first thing about conversation or friendship or...or feelings? He'd think I was weak, and that was just unacceptable, because weakness means opening yourself up to attack. It means being invaded and pillaged and stolen from. It brings pain and loss and humiliation, and as awesome as I am, I just can't deal with that.

But...walking back in the rain under a deafening cloak of silence, I was truly aware of just how crippling this weakness of mine really was. Roderich was walking right next to me and yet I couldn't communicate. I didn't know what to do to make him understand what I was thinking, what I was feeling, and even if I could, I would never dare to. I was a coward, a total fucking coward, and it hurt.

I...I didn't want to be like this anymore...

"Oof! G-Gilbert?" Roderich suddenly exclaimed in confusion and concern as I let go of the umbrella and wrapped my arms around him without warning, squeezing for all I was worth. I could feel hot tears leaking from my eyes but I wouldn't let Austria see. Burying my face in the jacket I'd forced him into wearing, I hugged him close, reacting on some strange desperation. I was probably crushing the groceries, but I didn't even give a shit. "What—?" Roderich began, but I cut him off.

"Don't go out alone anymore," I mumbled as best as I could through a stuffy nose and layers of fabric. It sounded like I was talking from the bottom of a bucket full of water, gurgling and gross. No fucking way he couldn't tell I was crying. It was so uncool of me.

"I...alright," Roderich promised. He rested a hand on my shoulder in a returned half-hug, and I swear just that was probably the most comforting touch of my entire life. I never had anyone to hug me before, if I was feeling sad or lonely. And what the hell, but Austria was the one who was giving it to me for the first time.

I wasn't really secure enough to stand like that as long as I would really have liked to, so it wasn't long before I stepped out from Roderich's arm and turned away from him to wipe the tears from my eyes. It was totally blatant, but better than just leaving them, I guess. Prussians had pride too, you know.

Sniffing, I turned back to him and did my best to pretend nothing weird had just happened. "Come on," I said with feigned casualness, tugging Austria along. This wasn't really how I spoke to Austria when I was being casual, though. Rude-asshole was my default mode when interacting with him. Or it used to be. "Let's get back before Ludwig goes ballistic on us," I said, mostly just to have something to say. "Cheh! Bossy little bro. Who the hell does he think taught him everything he knows? The Awesome Prussia, that's who! That bratty upstart..."


Upon hearing my name, I turned to look back at Austria even though something told me it was probably a bad idea. Obviously I did it anyway, though. I'm just an idiot like that.

I found Roderich looking at me thoughtfully, in a way he usually reserved for a new music score or a recipe he'd never attempted. I didn't know what the fuck this meant. I was sort of terrified to hear what he was going to say next.

But all he said was, "Thank you," and then he clarified with, "for coming to get me."

I felt my face turn red for no logical goddamn reason and I hastily turned away before he could see (but he probably did anyway). "Y-yeah, sure," I responded. "Just... don't make me have to do it again." And then because that sentence was way too normal, I added, "And you better be grateful, you directionless aristocrat, because...because the awesome me wouldn't do this for just anybody, you know?" Fuck, I'm so retarded.

"I see," Roderich said in something approximating his normal drawling tone. I sighed in relief, though I don't really know why. Ugh, I just wanted to go home!

When we got back to the house, my brother yelled at Austria for going out alone knowing full well something like this would happen. Then he yelled at me for worrying him because it was almost an hour after the time we had agreed to regroup and he'd thought he would have to send out another search party after me, on top of Austria. I was starting to wonder who was the big brother around here, Ludwig was getting so bossy. That over with, everyone went to change out of our soaking clothes, taking hot showers to warm us up. Feliciano started dinner (consisting of pasta), and Austria went to work on making germknödel, even though I hadn't said a word about still wanting it. Still, I was really happy when I saw him bringing out the ingredients, and it turned out to be as delicious as ever. I had to share it, though, which was a little disappointing, but not really since Roderich made enough that I got about my usual amount even with everyone else hogging it all, those greedy bastards.

After dinner and dessert, Roderich played the piano for everyone and Feli annoyed my brother while he was trying to do paperwork. I finally goaded Ludwig into giving up on it entirely when I brought out the beer and challenged his ability to hold his liquor. My bro is so easy like that.

This was turning out to be a weirdly normal evening after all the hassles and worries of earlier, and yet it was a weirdly perfect version of our normal evenings. Roderich was halfway through Franz Schubert's Piano Sonata no. 960 in D, Feliciano sitting next to him on the piano bench watching his fingers fly across the keys in rapt fascination. Ludwig and I were pretty close to drunk off our asses, sitting across the room on a couch with mugs of beer in our hands, saying whatever dumb thing came into our heads as we were slumped over.

"Dinner was good," Ludwig mumbled, staring at Feli with a weird sort of dreamy look in his eyes. This was the fourth time he'd said this. Or maybe the fifth.

"Mnyeah, dessert was good, too," I answered similarly, downing the rest of my beer in one gulp. "No thanks to you damn dessert thieves."

My bro rolled his eyes. I'd been bringing this up since dinner, no alcohol needed. The treat had been that awesome though, and totally worth being branded a dessert thief, so obviously Ludwig didn't give a damn about my accusations. Taking another gulp of his liquor, my little bro said in a thick slurred voice, "I don't like that we're at war right now but...this type of isn't so bad."

I thought about this, suddenly taking in the homey, comfortable atmosphere. How we were like a family in a way that I'd never been a part of before. With just me and Ludwig, it had been all fighting and training and drilling. I had made him into a warrior, like me, and though I cared about him a lot, more than anything, I probably didn't show it as well as other brothers do. I'll admit, it's most likely my fault he's so brusque and serious all the time, I could only teach what I knew.

But with Austria and Feli here there was laughter and music and comfort...things were different. They were different. I didn't want to lose them. Either of them. Even prim and proper Austria, who was almost as uptight as my bro and a hell of a lot more of a nag. Maybe even especially I didn't want to lose Austria...

I dropped my eyes. "Yeah, it's not so bad," I admitted, my cheeks flushed with more than just inebriation. I looked over at my brother.

He'd passed out and was now snoring on the couch. Huh.

I looked back at Austria, listening to his stupid Viennese sonatas (couldn't he play something by a German?) wondering how things had turned out this way. Why and when had he suddenly become so important to me? And why the hell had I wasted so much time hating his guts for stupid reasons that didn't really make any sense to me anymore? I...I liked him. He was smart and clever and elegant and he knew all kinds of things about stuff I'd never payed attention to before, like music and art and literature and good food.

I wanted him to know I liked him. I wanted him to like me to.

What do you call that sort of feeling?