Eden, All Faith is Lost (Italy), The Decision of the Love (Germany), Soldiers (Magic Idiot).


Final Loop

Japan Can't Scream


They were reading the journal, page by page, line by line.

They had to understand what had happened, they had to know why it ended like that.

Just like he'd said, Italy had torn out the pages that gave the journal its power over time. England had confirmed it after their journal was taken and destroyed: there was no way of undoing what had been done.

"'Everyone is sleeping now. I can hear them breathing...'" Korea's voice was a weak, breathless thing fluttering down from the podium: like a dying bird falling amongst scattered leaves. Japan didn't wonder why there were tears running down his brother's face, or think too hard about the tremors visibly running through the other nation. Japan just kept his seat with his arms folded and tried desperately hard to keep breathing.

"Japan-" Breathe, breathe. Standing up was not required as he spoke and they had been here for hours- all the nations of the world. "Japan would like to request a motion."

Where was Austria? Oh- there he was. He'd slipped out of sight while Korea was speaking, or perhaps Japan just couldn't see the tall brunette very clearly.

"State your motion." His accented voice: that too felt very far away.

"A recess of some five or six hours." Not enough time, but how could he ask for more? To change clothes, to eat- could he eat? To sleep, perchance without dreams...

"Is there a second?"

"Greece seconds it." The deep voice at Japan's right, the solid presence that had not moved or tried to get his attention as the hours slipped by and the reading dragged on.

"By show of hands, those in favour? ...Those opposed? ...The motion passes, we will reconvene in six hours, breakfast will be served before we resume at eight in the morning." It was two in the morning. They should have kept reading but Japan knew he was already long past his limit for today.

Japan pushed his chair back without comment. He stood without comment. He did not look at Greece and he saw China's shoes but did not make eye-contact. He left with the hope that he would be followed, and when only one set of footsteps kept within a few paces of him Japan automatically moved through the building towards his destination: the room he had kept during the original conference. The red carpeting mocked him, the creams and golds of the walls were glaring.

"Not that door." Greece's voice was just as deep and controlled as before. Japan stopped in front of the room he'd kept and tried to understand the phrase. He touched his pocket briefly and discovered the answer: after everything that had happened, he had lost the card-key. "This way."

He followed the tall brunet down another carpeted hall, past a cracked vase of tall fake flowers. His vision did not clear up as he followed Greece's blurry outline: it just got worse with the smell of cleaning agents and abandoned food trays. Voices drifted through the building but he couldn't translate their meaning just now. Greece was being kind to him; he was speaking the broken Japanese he had learned over the years.

The card whispered through the reader and there was the sound of the door's mechanism unlatching. Japan flinched without meaning to, quickly moving inside as Greece held the door open for him to go ahead.

"Lock it." He didn't want to say it, he knew it wasn't necessary but it had to be done. You always had to lock the door behind you, always. Every single time. Whenever you forgot to lock the door, the Thi-

No.

No he wouldn't think of it.

"It's locked." Thank you, thank you, thank you... "Turn around." No, no, no... "Japan."

He couldn't see. Japan kept his hands down where they were, aware that his fingernails were biting into the palm of one hand while the other was resting heavily on the hilt of his sword. He should take the weapon off, but he couldn't make his hands move. Undo the clasp, remove the belt, set the blade aside. He couldn't do it. He wanted to but he couldn't breathe.

"...May I touch you?" Japan did not like to be touched, he did not enjoy having people run up and hug him, or put their hands on his face or arms. He did not like standing too close to strangers.

"...Please." Greece was not a stranger, Greece knew to ask first. A strong, secure presence standing behind him, powerful without being overbearing, lingering out of sight but keeping itself in mind. Japan sensed the hand before it touched his hair, felt the fingertips stroke his cheek as the black strands were pulled away and gathered behind his ear.

Contact made you aware of boundaries, it told you what was inside and what was out: his insides needed air and Japan's eyes blinked suddenly to push away the outside tears. The sound his lungs made as he inhaled was like a gasp and a sob mixed together, his eyes open again and blurring just as badly as a touch on his shoulder made his body turn.

"You're shaking." He couldn't see. He blinked and all he could make out was the blue of Greece's shirt and the brown sleeves of his jacket. Warm hands cupped his cheeks and thick thumbs brushed back and forth under his eyes, gathering up the water as it fell. "Breathe."

"No..." His lungs hurt, one breath wasn't enough. He'd have to do it again before the pain in his chest grew. But that was just one kind of pain, the other one was much worse. "No..."

"Breathe."

"I'll scream..." To weep such tears was disgraceful, to lose his voice was disgraceful, to know that he would scream if he brought enough air into his lungs was incomprehensible. His mind asked him what screaming now would accomplish, but his swollen heart didn't care. He would scream, and scream, and scream if he could.

"Then scream."

"No..." It was better not to breathe.

Greece leaned in close to him and Japan felt warp lips brush over his forehead. He felt small, his hands slowly creeping up as he tried to stop the shaking, grasping the hands holding his face and pressing on them so they wouldn't move. He still couldn't see; there were so many tears that Greece's hands were growing wet with them as he kept on trying to wipe them all away.

Japan's feet moved a little on the carpet, his shoulders coming forward to try and find contact. He didn't like touching, but if he stood alone now he would scream and the sound of it would break him into tiny pieces, his own breath would scatter him. He couldn't get as close as he wanted to be, but Greece's touch on his face didn't go away and he felt the caress on his forehead change into a nuzzle that moved back into his hair as he came up.

But then it stopped. And it was sudden. And Japan felt one warm hand leave his face and that arm curl around his head slowly. There was a gentle touch on the back of his head, Greece's fingers pawing at his unwashed hair before Japan thought he felt something strange. His body seized up and he couldn't stop Greece from saying it:

"...There's blood in your hair."

Italy-

-No.

He pressed one hand over his mouth and then used the other to help clamp it down. He pushed his head down under Greece's chin, masking the blood under the smell of mint and olive branches. He'd thought the tears had been unmanageable before but now they were just streams of distress pouring from his eyes. Greece's shirt was already damp and Japan couldn't do anything to bring himself under control.

But his lover understood, somehow, and just enough to know what to do. Japan couldn't have told him what he needed even if he'd known, so when Greece's hand fell away from his hair and his arm looped over Japan's shoulders instead, that was good. And feeling his lover's other arm hook under his shoulder and cross his back tightly was just as good. But it was nothing more than that, it was only temporary relief: it couldn't get beyond the point of 'good'. There was too much bad in the way of it, too much blood.

'Italy, Italy, Italy... why?'

"You're angry." Anger? Was this anger? No, no this was nothing like oranges and eggs; this wasn't UN payments and hidden fees. "Scream, Japan, no one will judge." Which was not the same as saying 'no one will hear'; why did that give him comfort? Not much, but somehow knowing that someone would hear him if he screamed... that was good.

Greece was taller than him, it had never been a problem before and he didn't know why it would be one now. Japan pressed his face against his lover's throat and then reached up with both arms to wrap them around his neck. Greece's embrace grew tighter and it told him just how much of himself there was, how he wasn't physically coming apart the way he was on the inside. He wasn't lifted up at all, but he stretched until he was cheek-to-cheek with Greece, his lips hovering just below the other man's ear.

"I need to forget..." He'd already forgotten so much, he probably didn't know half of what he needed to in order to understand what had happened to them. But what he did know, what Japan could remember, he had to get rid of. "So much blood, I need to forget his face..." Even when he closed his eyes the tears kept coming.

'Italy... Veneziano...'

"Then think of mine instead." He liked that alternative. It was hard to pull his face away so he could see Greece again but he was helped along by the lips touching his throat, the gentle caresses that hardly qualified as kisses. His eyes had barely opened by the time he felt a light touch under his chin, leaning up slowly to take the comforts Greece gave him, catching kisses like manna from the sky.

He curled his hands in the collar of Greece's jacket, images flickering through his mind that didn't belong there. He hadn't seen the events described in the journal, they hadn't happened to him yet, or near him, and Italy's voice refrained from giving details throughout- why could he see those things? Why could he remember Germany dying in the underground? Why did he remember the horror of being trapped, all alone, in the music room?

Japan didn't object to Greece's large hands undoing the buckle around his waist, his sword dropping to the floor with a thud.

The Italy of the notebook wasn't yet the Italy they'd seen in the mansion.

He let his hands fall from his lover's face just so Greece could finish removing the blood-stained jacket Japan had been wearing for days. Maybe longer. He didn't know. He didn't want to remember.

The notebook's words were too hopeful in their red ink, too full of life instead of poisoned by despair.

Kisses were interrupted by the need to find more skin, Japan losing his shirt up over his head before he convinced Greece to do the same. But then, again, there was something bad.

The warm hands running up his exposed sides stopped abruptly when their touch brought pain instead of comfort. He didn't understand the ache in his body until he saw his lover's face again and the troubled look in his dark green eyes. Japan looked down at himself and...

The shame of it just-

Bruises, cuts, shallow marks, chafing sores and weeping gouges. The mansion had done something to weaken them, to make them less than nations. What was this body that had shirked the weight of its country? What were these arms all scratched and weak? Greece reached to touch the bruise spreading down his back that curled around his ribs and Japan flinched away- how could he not? If his emotions were all beyond his control, then perhaps it made sense that his body was all broken and wrong.

"I'm sorry..." How could this have happened to him?

"Don't say that..." Could he have not done something to prevent this? The journal itself confirmed it: Japan had dismissed clear, direct warnings from a close friend. He should have done so much more than just get himself killed. Killed over and over again... "Come closer." Like this? How could he do that? Was Greece blind to what was in front of him?

"Look at me..." Look what had happened to him...

"I am." And there was a gentle touch on his cheek to confirm it, a soft brush of fingertips moving back around his ear, fingers tangling in his hair as Japan closed his eyes and let Greece tell him, without speaking, that everything was alright now. That he was safe now. That they were all, but one, okay now.

It was a lie but it was a good lie. When mixed with the kisses and the touches, being told everything was okay was a good lie. It let him slip into a place of comfort, out of the memories. It was an escape, an escape that led to freedom-

'Why...?'

-freedom for some, maybe...


Greece didn't wake up the way he wanted to, but he understood that that was probably how things were going to be for the next little while.

There was no enigmatic, worldly little nation next to him on the bed. Greece usually slept deeply but last night had been troublesome, and today he woke up at the sound of the suite's shower turning on. The clock said five-thirty and he was vaguely sure that waking up before six was a crime in his country... But he timed Japan's shower just the same. Greece decided that there was nothing to worry about so long as the other nation turned off the water before thirty minutes had elapsed: his lover usually only needed a few minutes of water, half an hour would be unusual.

Just like the unusual tears. And the unusual touches. None of that was like him.

But Japan could be coaxed into touching: by subtle remarks, fleeting glances, close proximity. There were signs to his personality that indicated when to touch, when not. A tilt of the head that asked 'do you like me?', a turn of the lips that begged 'kiss me', or, his favourite; the complete lack of direct acknowledgement that invariably meant 'I love you, please stay with me.'.

Japan was sunlight shining on a white wall. The wall itself was always the same no matter how you looked at or measured it, the white paint was engineered not to fade or peel, the foundation it was built on wouldn't fall or crack under any circumstances. But the light moved across it in smooth, beautiful ways. You never saw the same sun-sets, the same afternoon shadows, not quite, but you recognized them just the same. Greece didn't know what the sun-rises would look like: he always slept right through those.

But Japan could be brought to tears too: radioactive fall-out, having every bone in his body shattered, being left unable to feed himself or speak with his own voice for years after the war... Japan could be brought to tears, but he had to walk through valleys of starvation and death first. You had to damage something in him, something valuable, something vulnerable. It couldn't be his integrity- he'd defend that with his life. And it couldn't be his life either, because he'd forfeit it for something he truly believed in.

Someone, something, in that journal had found one of those vulnerable points in Japan's wall. And then that Thing had painted it bright red. That Thing had changed all the colours of his light...

Japan's shower took twenty-five minutes. It was another fifteen before the island nation stepped out of the bathroom, gauze wrapped around his arm and tied over his chest. Greece closed his eyes again to doze as his partner made a quiet call to the front desk about having his room unlocked so he could access his spare clothes.

The uniform from last night was still bloody, its pieces scattered on the floor. When the hotel service arrived Japan ordered the soiled clothes bundled up as they were and returned to his suite. Greece didn't ask why, it felt obvious: he wanted to forget but he couldn't let go of the memories.

"Last night didn't help much, did it?" Greece only spoke once the seven-o'clock hour came around. Japan had been slow getting dressed, methodical in his grooming where usually he was trim and efficient. His lover was seated on the edge of the bed, lacing up his boots when the silence was finally broken. Japan's hands went still just at the end of the double-knot he was tying, Greece didn't have to be watching him to know this: he just didn't hear the final sigh of the nylon as the strands were pulled.

"...I'm sorry, no." He'd thought not. It was unusual for Japan to curl up close to him like that, to repeatedly wake them both up throughout the night...

It was even rarer for Greece himself to have nightmares. He usually never remembered his dreams.

"You don't have to go to the reading today." The next part of the journal would be read aloud, starting in an hour. "No one will judge you."

"I would judge me." A pause, and slender fingers finished tying the knot. "When I hear the words, I-" See the pictures? See all the things not actually written on the page?

Yes, Greece understood that.

He'd never seen the mansion, and Greece had no intention of ever going to check it out. But he knew the layout, would recognize the sparse decorations and the strange toilet anywhere. He could hear the broken clocks ticking in the corner, could catch the distant sound of piano keys drumming without a melody.

Greece could see the crimson pattern of the one he loved most staining the ivory keys. He knew the smile the journal never mentioned and could smell the blood that had flooded out past his straight white teeth and thin, peach-coloured lips. Greece sat up on the bed as the image painted itself in his mind, looking at the real thing instead of wallowing in the memory.

"Japan." His lover didn't look at him, his eyes were off someplace else, but his attention was focused on Greece and he would never know how Japan managed to do that. "If you ever smile at me like that, I will never find the strength to forgive you."

It was all he had to say and it was quiet after that; there was no verbal reply from the one he cared for. Japan's response was to stand up carefully and proceed to belt on his sword again, fixing the blade to his side with the ritualistic care that meant so much to him.

Finished with that, Japan moved to stand over by the window and watched the sunlight filter through the trees and cut through the sheer curtains. With him standing out of the way like that Greece was free to get up and get ready in what little time was left before the conference would resume.

Even when he stepped out of the bathroom and started getting dressed, Japan was still standing by the window.

Japan's 'I love you' was in the sunlight refracted by the layered browns of his eyes, in the glow of his white suit and the smooth lines of his pale face.

Greece's 'I'll never leave you' echoed in the tremor of Japan's hand on his sword, resonating with the bloodshot look that stained his eyes.

Something had tortured his Japan, and Greece wasn't going to settle until he knew how. Until he understood why.

They left for the conference. Together.


Reposted: June 2013