Important note: This is an incomplete version of the last chapter. The real version has a sex scene in it, but I took it out because I felt it was too explicit to fall under this site's rules. If you want to read the version with smut, you can find it by going to my profile and clicking the link that will take you to my Hetalia fanfiction masterlist on Livejournal. I recommend doing that because the scene also includes plenty of dialogue and wraps up some of the emotional threads of the story.
Prussia watched Germany walk back into the memorial hall and stop to stand before the flowers and the photo of him. He just stood there, not doing anything, but the tightness of his shoulders told Prussia that he was close to his breaking point. He had no doubt done his best to keep himself together when the others had been there, but now that he was alone, there was little holding him back.
He didn't want to see that. This was going to be awkward enough as it was.
He followed him into the room and stopped to stand a safe distance behind him. His first thought was that he should say something witty to lighten up the mood, like "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" or "My, West, you look awful! Did someone die?", but he knew it would have been cruel. And to be honest, he wasn't really feeling like joking.
"Hey... Hey, West."
Germany whirled around, eyes wide. He stared at him, mouth slightly open, and didn't move.
"Prussia," he finally muttered. "Is that you?"
"Do you know anyone else who is this handsome?"
Germany took a step towards him, then another, but he wasn't looking where he was going and bumped into a chair. He stumbled, and Prussia rushed forward to catch him just as he would have lost his balance.
"Hey, easy there. You're too old to stumble over your own feet anymore," he said.
Germany wrapped his fingers around Prussia's arms to tightly that it almost hurt, but Prussia didn't complain. His brother was still staring at him with that startled look in his eyes. He was beginning to think that he was in too much shock to do anything, but then Germany pulled him close and buried his face against his neck.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry."
"About what?" Prussia asked. That wasn't really what he'd been expecting.
But Germany didn't answer. He let out a shuddering breath and wrapped his arms tighter around him until Prussia was sure he'd suffocate or at least crack a few ribs. Damn, it should have been illegal for kid brothers to ever grow that big and strong, he thought as he began to struggle.
"Come on, you can let go now. I'm not going anywhere," he said.
Germany straightened himself, but he refused to let go of his arms, like he was afraid he'd just disappear into thin air if he did.
Crap, Prussia thought when he saw his brother's face. He was crying after all. And he had been so sure they could avoid that if he showed himself in time.
"Hey, don't cry, West. It sucks see you like that."
"I'm sorry. It's all my fault. If I had known, I'd have – "
"What are you talking about?"
Germany wouldn't meet his eyes. "It's my fault you had to die. If I had done something differently... I can't apologize enough, and I don't expect you to ever forgive me, but..." He shook his head and closed his eyes. "Romano said I shouldn't expect you to visit, and I was sure you'd never come. Because why would you ever want to –"
"West," Prussia cut him off and wrenched his arms free from his hold. "Stop babbling. I'm not dead."
"Really, I'm not dead! I have no idea why you all think I am, but I'm not."
Germany stared at him with such startled eyes that Prussia wasn't sure if he'd heard a word of what he had said. Damn, his brother wasn't usually this slow.
"You aren't dead?" Germany asked.
"I already told you I'm not! Do you really think I of all people could die? That's an insult to my awesomeness, so you had better believe me or I'm going to drink all the beer in the fridge!"
"You do that anyway."
"Yeah, well, from now on I'm waiting until you come home before I finish the last bottle so that you have to watch!"
"But... but how are you not dead? How could... Where have you been all this time?" Germany asked. He grabbed the closest chair and sat on it, like he wasn't sure if his legs were going to keep on carrying his weight.
Prussia in turn jumped to sit on one of the tables.
"I went on an awesome road trip." The blank expression on Germany's face told him that a little more elaboration was in order, so he swiftly continued, "I was kind of feeling like crap, so I figured I needed some time alone to sort things out. I went to all sorts of places where I used to hang out back when I had a kingdom."
"You went away for three weeks without telling anyone."
"Hey, I left a note! Didn't you read it?"
Without a word, Germany slipped his fingers into his pocket and pulled out a crumbled piece of paper that had been taped together after someone had torn it apart. He handed it over to Prussia.
"Oh, so you did read it? So what's the problem?" he asked once he realised what he was holding.
"Do you even know what you wrote there? Do you have any idea what it sounds like?"
Prussia looked at Germany's serious face and then back at the note. He shrugged. "Well, I guess it's a little vague..."
"Vague? It sounds like you were dying! We all thought it was a goodbye note!"
"What?" Prussia sputtered. "That's totally stupid! It's... it's... Why would you think that?" He glanced at the note in his hand once more. Well, he supposed that one part was a bit misleading. And maybe that one as well, but seriously, how could they have jumped to that conclusion?
"You disappeared for three weeks. You didn't even take your phone with you," Germany said.
"That was so that you wouldn't call me and nag! And so that you could finish your work and stop being so busy all the time!"
Germany let out a groan and covered his eyes with his hand. He remained motionless for so long that Prussia was starting to grow restless.
"You aren't mad, right? You won't put me under house arrest or anything like that?"
"I thought I killed you."
Prussia squirmed on the table. He didn't like how tired and defeated Germany sounded. Everything was peachy, so why was he being like that? Surely even someone as stoic as he could have mustered up a small smile by now?
"Come on," he said. "Don't worry about that. It was –"
"For three weeks I was sure that I had killed my brother with my mere existence. That you had been dying a slow death since the reunification but hadn't trusted me enough to tell me." Germany turned to look at him, and Prussia was momentarily startled by the haunted look in his eyes. "Do you have any idea what that feels like?"
Prussia briefly thought of Hannover and many others who had vanished after their countries had joined his, but he pushed such memories away. That was the way of the world, and Germany needed to understand that as well.
"If it was meant to go like that, then we'd just have to suck it up. Ask any of your friends and I bet they used to know someone who's now gone. It's just the way it goes. It wouldn't be your fault."
"No buts. You can't control the way the world develops. It sucks, but you just have to deal with whatever your people decide to do. If it means that I have to kick the bucket one day, you can bet that it's going to be a death you'll all remember!" Prussia said, flashing Germany a confident grin.
"Don't say that. Don't ever say that."
"I didn't say I'm going anywhere! It's obvious that you guys wouldn't be able to tie your own shoelaces without me. It's my duty to stick around and inspire you with my awesomeness!"
Germany leaned back on the chair and let out a faint chuckle. The smile Prussia had been hoping to see still wasn't there, but he was sure he'd get his way sooner or later. Even such a stick in the mud as his brother couldn't resist his charms for too long.
"How did you know to come here?" Germany asked.
"The crazy witch next door told me you were here. I scared her witless when I showed up home."
"I hope you weren't rude to her."
"Yeah, she complains enough as it is."
"You should try to mind your manners a little more. But never mind." Germany paused to think. "How come you didn't run into anyone on your way in?"
"Oh, that's easy. I got here right after you left the church, so you were all seated and didn't see me."
He saw Germany's eye twitch. "You were here for the memorial?"
"And you didn't say anything?"
"No, but I have good reasons! First, I didn't want to cause a scene. And... I kind of wanted to hear Austria's eulogy."
"But why? Didn't you see how upset we all were? How could you just stand there and watch? Didn't you see France and Spain? Or Romano? Or me?"
"Yeah, I saw you guys," Prussia said, swinging his legs over the edge of the table in an attempt to ignore his guilt. "I just wanted to find out if you really missed me."
"Of course we missed you! How could you even for a moment think we didn't?"
Prussia laughed. "Yeah, pretty stupid, huh? So let's just forget about it."
But Germany was staring at him with that irritatingly serious look in his eyes that was always there when he insisted that he emerge from the basement and take out the trash or help him sort their laundry. In other words, he wasn't giving up before he'd had his way.
"I've been talking with Romano," Germany said, and Prussia couldn't have been more surprised even if he had suddenly announced that he was no longer sorting his files in the alphabetical order.
"What? Is that some kind of code for him screaming his head off at you or what?" he asked. There was no way Romano would ever have a normal conversation with Germany. No way. In order for that to happen, something really drastic would have to take place. Like, someone would have to –
"We thought that you had been dying for a long time and that we just hadn't noticed anything. It made us realise that we should have acted differently. We shouldn't have taken you for granted. We should have included you more in our lives as nations," Germany said.
"You... what?" Prussia couldn't decide which was harder to believe, that Germany and Romano had agreed on anything or that his no-nonsense brother who breathed rules and regulations would ever admit that a former nation had any place in the world's business.
"Why do you look so surprised? Isn't this what you were always telling us?"
"Yeah, but... But I'm not a nation. I mean, I'm still the best, but I have no king or government or military or..." He wasn't sure how to finish. He had nothing. It always stung when he recalled just how much he had once had and how he had lost it. Or when he saw the others busy with their work and felt like they didn't have the time to remember he was still there. That was why he had decided to spy on the funeral, to see if they'd notice and miss him even now.
"I don't care! Maybe you aren't dying now, but I'm not taking the chance that it could happen. I'm putting you in charge of the matters of Brandenburg whether you want it or not!"
Prussia could only stare at his brother, several things going on in his mind at once. But one was above all others.
"Wait... Does that mean I have to work? Like, get up early in the morning kind of work?"
"Yes! You'll get up at five every single day, including Sundays, if that's what it takes to keep you alive!"
Before Prussia could decide how he felt about that or the sudden militaristic, nearly frightening determination Germany was showing, a new voice reached his ears.
"Germany! We got tired of waiting so – "
The brothers turned to look at the entrance at Italy's voice, seeing him and Japan standing there with bewildered looks on their faces. Even the normally withdrawn Japan appeared startled.
"Prussia!" Italy called out. "You're back! I'm so happy!"
And the next thing he knew, Italy had jumped at him, sending them both tumbling to the floor. He groaned as Italy landed on his chest, seemingly not caring at all that he was crushing him. He figured that was easy to ignore since he had provided him with a soft landing.
Italy sat up on top of him and looked down at him with the widest smile Prussia had ever seen on his face.
"I thought I'd never see you again! Japan! Did you see that Prussia is back?"
"Yes, I noticed," Japan replied with a smile. "And I'm glad as well."
"How long have you been here? Did you hear the song Austria composed for you? Wasn't it beautiful? You should visit him and thank him later today! And what do you think of the flowers? Romano picked them."
"I'll answer when you get off me so that I can breathe," Prussia said.
"Oh, sorry." Italy hurried to stand up. "I didn't think it mattered since you're dead."
"I'm not dead, Ita-cakes."
"Huh?" Italy turned to look at Germany. "Germany! Prussia is not dead!"
And then Italy was on top of him again, nuzzling his cheek against his chest. "That's even better! Now nobody has to cry anymore. And Romano can smile again!"
Prussia laughed and pushed the enthusiastic nation off him, sitting up. "Where is he anyway?"
"He didn't want to come back here, so he decided to stay in the car," Japan replied. "But if you don't mind me asking, how come you aren't dead?"
Prussia gave Japan a hearty pat to the shoulder and ignored the way his smile wavered at the physical contact. "I'll tell you all about it later today, but now I've got something else to do. I have to break Romano the news that he's not single after all."
"Of course," Japan agreed.
"Prussia," Germany called out after him when he was already at the door. "Be nice to him. He was very upset."
"Don't worry. I know how to deal with him."
And with that, Prussia stepped out of the memorial hall and braced himself for an encounter that he suspected would match up to some of his fiercest battles.
It wasn't difficult to spot Germany's car. The parking lot was nearly empty when Prussia arrived, and he would have recognised that shining, spotless silver beauty anywhere.
There weren't many things the brothers agreed on, but one such issue was that cars were fantastic. If Germany was really going to make him do something with Brandenburg, maybe he'd get to buy his own. It was an exciting thought, but Prussia pushed it to the back of his mind. He wasn't sure what he thought of Germany's idea, if it could ever work or if his brother would even go through with it once he got over his emotional high and began to think straight again.
Besides, he had more important matters to consider, he mused as he got close enough to make out Romano sitting on the backseat. The southern half of Italy had to be pretty occupied with his thoughts and glaring at his hands because he didn't look up when Prussia approached and stopped to stand right beside the car.
He knocked on the window. At once, Romano turned to glare at him, but the murderous look in his eyes disappeared right away and was replaced by shock. Anticipating what was to come, Prussia took a step back just in time to avoid being hit when the car door was shoved open so hard that it was a surprise it didn't fly off its hinges.
Romano staggered out of the car. He looked terrible. Prussia had no idea what he had been doing in there after Italy and Japan had left, but judging by his messy hair, loose tie and red eyes, it was probably something akin to throwing a private temper tantrum.
"Hey there," Prussia said and attempted an encouraging smile.
"You're... You... What..."
"Yeah, I'm back. And before you ask, no, I'm not like your grandpa or anything. I'm not dead. I'm just as alive as when you last saw me. This whole me dying thing was just one, big misunderstanding," Prussia said. Hopefully this would all go faster if he just summed up the main points.
"Yeah, can you imagine? I just went on a road trip to search for myself, and in the meantime you guys decided that I've kicked the bucket."
"What?" The volume of Romano's voice rose close to screaming. "You're alive? This... this was all just a mistake because you... you..."
"Decided to go on a journey of self-discovery? Yup, that's right! But I'm back now. I'm totally alive!"
"Then I hope this fucking hurts!"
The next thing Prussia knew was that he was staggering backwards from the punch Romano had aimed straight at his jaw. The sky did a somersault before his eyes, and suddenly he was lying on his back on the pavement.
"Ow," he groaned as he tried to sit up. Damn, he had known that Romano could pack a punch, but he hadn't been prepared for that. It was a wonder he hadn't dislocated his jaw.
"You bastard!" Romano snarled, and in the next instant, he was sitting on top of him, just like his brother earlier. He grabbed the front of Prussia's shirt and lifted him up so that he had to look him in the eyes.
"Hey, calm d–"
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Romano drew back his hand, and Prussia winced, expecting another punch. "How the hell could you just leave like that and not tell me? What kind of idiot are you? Do you have any idea what you made us all go through?"
"Uh, I'm sorry."
"No, you're not! You're never sorry! You don't give a fuck that I thought you were dead and had to pick flowers for your funeral and go through your stupid photo album with your asshole brother and listen to that godddamn Austria talk about you and wake up every fucking morning without you! Goddammit! I just... damn... "
The hand holding him up began to tremble and let go. Romano collapsed against his chest and buried his face into his shirt as a sob shook his body.
"Bastard, bastard, bastard!"
Prussia wasn't sure what to do about the crying man on top of him, but after a while he opted for reaching out and pulling him closer against him. Romano didn't fight back, but he kept yelling muffled profanities against his chest as much as his sobbing allowed him to.
"Yeah, I'm a total shithead," Prussia muttered in what he hoped was a soothing tone.
"You're the biggest piece of shit I've ever met!"
Prussia ran his fingers through Romano's hair, carefully avoiding the infamous curl. "Love you, too," he muttered with a chuckle.
Romano sniffled. "Fuck you."
For a moment, neither of them spoke. Prussia looked at the sky above him and listened to how Romano slowly calmed down in his arms. Maybe he'd now dare suggest that he be allowed to get up.
"The pavement is getting a little uncomfortable. Let's get into the car and continue snuggling there."
"We aren't snuggling! And we aren't moving. I'm staying right here, and if it hurts, good! You deserve it!"
"Well, if you want to stay on top of me, I'm not going –"
"Shut the fuck up. And now I expect a damn good explanation for all this bullshit."
"What if I don't have one?"
"You don't want to find out."
"Okay, I actually do have a really good one. So, I noticed that you guys were kind of really busy, and it made me feel like shit for a while. That's why I decided to go and look at all the places where I've been awesome – and wow, there were a lot of them. That's why it took so long to come back."
Romano lifted his head to glare at him. "And why didn't you take your phone?"
"I figured that then we'd spend all the time just calling each other and having phone sex or something, and then it would have been totally pointless that I was gone. Because I was kind of hoping you'd get all your work done when I wasn't there to distract you with my awesomeness and that we could do more stuff together after that."
"Oh, no, no, no. Don't even try to make it sound like you were being considerate! You're a selfish asshole! You promised you'd never disappear from my life, and then you pull a stupid stunt like that!"
Prussia decided it wouldn't be a good idea to mention that he had written a note. Romano's reaction to it would no doubt be far less pleasant than Germany's.
"Hey, I'm sorry. But it's all okay now, right? I'm back."
Romano said nothing. Worry began to gnaw on Prussia's insides. Surely he wasn't so angry that he'd do something stupid, like dump him or something? He was Prussia! Nobody dumped him! Especially not Romano because then he wouldn't really know what to do next.
"Hey?" he asked. "Say something."
"I'm running out of insults."
"You could go for round two with all of them. You can call me anything you want. I can take it. Keep them coming."
"I'm thinking of new ones. I'm going to have to write a book about all the insults I have to come up with if I stay with you."
"But you are staying with me, right?"
"What fucking choice do I have? It's not like I can release a total asshole like you into the wild and let you make someone else's life miserable," Romano grumbled.
"Yeah," Prussia said with a relieved laugh. On second thought, it wasn't so bad to lie on the pavement with Romano pinning him to the ground. For as long as he was there on top of him, things were probably going to be fine.
"But don't think for a moment that I'll just let you get off the hook. You'll get what's coming to you."
"And what's that?"
"I don't know yet, but you won't like it."
Well, that ruled out a lot of things that Romano usually did to him when he was angry, but Prussia knew better than to say that out loud. Right now he didn't want Romano to start yelling at again.
They probably would have stayed there on the ground for much longer, but that was when the sound of approaching steps reached their ears. Romano looked up, and the frown on his face deepened. Instantly, he climbed off Prussia and began to brush dirt off his suit.
"Sorry, Romano! Did we interrupt something?" Italy asked as he, Germany and Japan arrived.
They got into the car. Italy took the front seat by Germany's side, leaving the remaining three nations to share the backseat. Prussia was sitting in the middle, which was usually his least favourite spot. It was now as well, but then he felt Romano's hand sneak closer and grab a hold of the sleeve of his shirt.
Prussia cast a questioning look at him, but Romano kept staring out the window and refused to acknowledge him. There was no way he would ever go further to admit that he wanted to hold his hand, especially when they weren't alone. It was such an adorable gesture. Prussia decided to reward him, so he undid his seatbelt and started climbing onto Romano's lap.
"What the fuck? Get off!"
"I'm just giving Japan here some personal space!"
"I'm fine. Do not worry about me."
"Prussia, fasten your seatbelt again! Now!"
"Aww, can't you let him sit on Romano's lap this one time? We're almost there anyway."
"It's against the law! If the police stop us –"
"Nobody will stop us, West! Just keep driving!"
In the end, Prussia had to get back to his seat and fasten his seatbelt once more because Germany drove to the parking lot of a Lidl and refused to keep going until he listened. But he took the damage back by leaning as closely against Romano as he could.
"Clingy bastard," Romano muttered and glared out the window, but he didn't shove him off. His face was the cutest shade of red.
That night, Prussia woke up in the middle of the night to the feeling of thirst. He blinked in the darkness and rubbed his eyes, trying to decide if having a drink was worth leaving the warm bed. In the end he decided that it was, and he tried to move as quietly as he could so that he wouldn't wake up Romano.
He tiptoed to the stairs and climbed up to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water. He wasn't expecting anyone else to be there, so he had to look twice when he noticed Germany's frame in the light of a street lamp that stood outside their window.
"Did Ita-cakes kick you out of the bed or what?"
"I couldn't sleep."
"Why? Nightmares? Do you need me to come and tuck you in?"
There was no reply from Germany, so Prussia went to grab a glass. He decided that water wasn't good enough, so he moved to open the fridge to get some juice. He had to slit his eyes against the bright light, but he managed to catch a glimpse of Germany staring at him when he turned to ask if he wanted anything.
"What's up? You don't look too good," he said.
"Everything is fine. It's just that... Never mind. I should go back upstairs."
"Don't be like that. Something's bugging you if you're just hanging out in the kitchen in the middle of the night. What happened?"
Prussia took a seat by the kitchen table and sipped at his juice. "So, it was a nightmare, huh?" he said after a while.
"It doesn't matter."
"Yeah, right," Prussia said with a snort. "I learned how you deal with nightmares back when you could barely reach my waist. You can't lie to me. But I hope it wasn't about the monster under the bed again because you're a little too old for that one now."
There was a half-hearted chuckle from Germany. That was enough to tell Prussia that something really was bothering him. Normally, he would have told him to keep his nonsense to himself and be serious for a moment.
He took another gulp of the juice. He didn't really want to prod Germany into talking about whatever was on his mind. His brother could be just as stubborn as he was, and things would soon develop into an argument if he kept bugging him.
For a moment, it appeared as if Germany couldn't decide if he wanted to stay in the kitchen or return upstairs, but then he took a seat opposite Prussia. He crossed his hands on the table and stared at them.
"It was about you," he finally said.
"Me? But then it can't have been a nightmare! Don't worry. Sure, you're my brother and all, but it's perfectly natural to have dreams about me."
He chuckled at the chortled sound that came from Germany's throat.
"It... It wasn't that," Germany said through gritted teeth. "You weren't even in it. I woke up in my bed, and everything that happened today had been just a dream."
"Oh." Well, that was a little awkward. And here he'd been thinking that he'd get a great chance to tease his kid brother a little, but he didn't really have the heart to do it now, not after the whole funeral incident. "Well, it was just a stupid nightmare. Don't worry about it."
Germany rubbed at his eyes and sighed. "These past few weeks, I used to have dreams in which you hadn't died. Then I woke up and realised that you were gone after all. When I woke up tonight, I couldn't tell what had been a dream and what not."
"Hey, forget about dreams. Dreams suck. They aren't real," Prussia said. He paused to think. "Is that why you're in the kitchen in the middle of the night? Did you want to take a peek into the basement to see if I was really there?"
"It's so silly, isn't it?"
"Nah. I'd call you cute, but you're a little too tall and muscular for that."
"Can't you please take this seriously? I don't think there's anything funny about this."
"You're taking it seriously enough for the both of us. But okay, if you insist."
And then they sat in silence. Prussia kept lifting his glass to his lips even after it was empty so that it would look like he was occupied with something. He wasn't sure what to say. He guessed it was great that his brother cared so much about him that it messed up his sleep, but at the same time it brought back the guilt form earlier. And he hated feeling guilty. It ruined all the fun in life.
"I hope you aren't expecting me to say anything sappy right now," he said.
"I don't know. Like that I'm your big brother and will always watch out for you, no matter what happens, or some crap like that. Because it would be awkward as hell to say it."
"No, you don't have to say that."
More uncomfortable silence followed.
"You know, I'm surprised you felt the need to check up on me. I'm sure you all heard what awesome sex I and Romano –"
"Please don't talk to me about that."
Prussia laughed. "I'm just saying that I bet you all know where I was tonight."
The sigh from his brother told him that he knew it with more clarity than he had ever wanted.
"I should get back to bed," Germany said and stood up.
"Nighty night. I'd invite you to mine like back in the old days after you'd had a nightmare, but I'm afraid the spot is taken."
"I think I can manage."
Prussia remained alone in the kitchen for a while longer, staring out the window. The day certainly hadn't turned out the way he had expected. It had been reassuring to know that he was important to so many people, but he was beginning to wonder when was the last time he had done anything to deserve it.
Maybe he should be a little nicer to France and Spain. He could help Germany out more. He could try to go at least a few days in a row without pissing off Hungary. And maybe he should leave Austria in peace and – fuck, who was he kidding? That piano was getting a new coat of paint as soon as he had the time to drop by for a visit. But he'd pick something that was easily washed off this time, just as a thank-you for the nice eulogy.
Yeah, that was a great idea. He figured that as awesome as he was, the others could never have enough reasons to miss him in case something happened, so he might just as well start giving them a few more. It wouldn't do if anyone forgot how amazing he was.
That thought gave him some of the determination that he had been lacking recently. He was humming quietly to himself as he returned to the basement and crawled back under the covers, careful not to wake up Romano.
As usual, Romano had taken over the bed and lay sprawled on it with his limbs pointing everywhere. Prussia tried to find a position that wouldn't require moving Romano's legs on his side of the bed. It didn't quite work, and he got a kick as a reward.
"You're so lucky I decided to be a little nicer from now on, or I'd be kicking you right back," he muttered as he finally settled down.
Romano mumbled something in his sleep, but Prussia couldn't even begin to understand it. Then he felt him lean closer until his head was resting against Prussia's side. Romano's arm flew over him, and he soon had Prussia trapped between himself and the bed.
"Yeah, yeah," Prussia said with a content sigh. "I'm right here."