Hero (Skillet), Merchant Prince, Ocean Princess, Invincible, The Chosen Ones, Lost in hopelessness, The Change, New Way to Bleed, Jillian, Higurashi, God of Melodicspeedmetal, Black Blade, Master of Shadows, Fire Nation, 1000 Ships of the Underworld, started with Memories and ended with Memories because this song is incredible.
"Italy has called, yes!"
Repost: April 28th, 2013
L'Italia Chiamò, Si!
"Please let me help them..."
The voice is soft and pleading, it tugs at his heart but he just purses his lips and looks on calmly.
Down, down, down. His gaze falls steadily, watching the aerial formation break apart as one of the four jet fighters suddenly bursts into flame and loses one wing, electricity arcing around the cockpit and frying the struggling human inside. The war machine shoots across the property like a comet, leaving a smoking white tail behind as it comes roaring down on the pillars marking the edge of the evil magic.
In some ways the speed of the plane is a good thing because it moves so fast that it breaks free from the mystic influence, but it's still terrible to watch. The nations on the ground try to scramble and get out of harm's way, but with a full payload of rockets and fuel coming down on them it's a futile effort.
He can't hear the explosions, can't feel the heat of it as it ripples through the air and strips the branches off the trees, or the force as it carves an ugly back hole in the landscape, but he can see it.
"It stole my name, grandpa... please... please let me do something..."
He can see what kind of pain it's causing.
"Then do something."
There's nothing else he can do except keep breathing, and it's the hardest order he's ever given himself to follow. It's not even the will to live so much as it is the inability to die: he doesn't want this, he just wants to let go, to slip back, to fade away and go to sleep- a sleep so deep not even the Devil will be able to wake him up again. A slumber so dark and dreamless that not even the call of God will reach him.
He can't even remember his name, how can God hope to call on him again if he doesn't even have a name?
And yet he's still breathing...
His eyes open slowly and even the creases of his eyelids are sore, the skin irritated and burnt from something hot and unexplained. His lashes flutter against the stones and dirt under him, damp weeds sticking to his cheek when he can't feel his arm anymore- it doesn't even hurt. His legs don't feel like they're attached, so maybe they aren't? Maybe he's breathing but all he's doing is waiting to die? To die for real this time?
But he can see the yellow dirt and the grass blowing in the wind. He can hear the whispers reaching him as the ringing in his ears dies down and he realizes that he does still have his arm. He has both arms, actually, because they're attached to his shoulders and the shoulders are connected to the trunk of his breathing body. And legs? He shifts his foot inside the tight boot holding his ankle and calf and confirms it: he still has both legs.
'No...' Run. He has to run now- 'No, no please no more...' He has to run, he has no choice in the matter he has to- 'Let me die, please just let me die...' No choice- 'I have choice: I choose death!'
The thought makes it hard to breathe, his lungs hurt and his eyes blink shut. Pain attacks his sinuses from inside as his ribs squeeze close before a sound- a sob, wracks his body. Instinctively he breathes in again as soon as the first sob passes, cursing the reaction that makes him prop his weight up on one shoulder, now struggling to bring his working arm around so he can brace himself on his elbow.
"Italy..." He heaves again, choking on the sour-smelling air as everything above ground-level is smoke. Something is burning- chemicals? It's not rocks and trees and grass anymore, this smells bitter and twisted, nauseating as he drops his head again and sobs at the ground.
Why the hell is he resting on his knees? It was so much easier to stay-
"Look at me, Italy..." No... No he has a choice and he refuses to answer the voice. "I loved you for so long, and yet-"
"YOU'RE NOT HIM!" Does he scream the words, or does he just scream? It doesn't matter: "HE WOULD NEVER DO THIS TO ME!" The smoke, where is it coming from? What's going on? Where is he?
"I just want to end the pain..." Make it stop, make it stop, make the voice stop speaking... "All these memories, so many centuries spent in suffering. So much humiliation and rage; the anger, the sorrow- why do you want to be Italy?" Be what-? "Oppression, betrayal, assassination, rebellion-" S-stop! Those memories, he can't- "I've done nothing to you... that someone else hasn't done in the past..." N-No... "I just want to make it end."
Then for god's sake, just let him die...
He can't remember what happened, it doesn't make any sense anymore. Running was the last thing he was doing and for the life of him he doesn't know where he was going or why it was so important to get there. A voice was calling to him, but he dropped it- how? How do you drop a voice? Does that mean he just left them behind?
No. No, that can't be what happened. He can't leave anyone behind. W-Where was he running from if he knows, if he completely and undeniably accepts, that he can't leave if someone else has to stay behind? No. He can't do that. Who did he leave behind? What were their names? Faces? How did he know them? He left someone behind. No. He has to go back. No. He can't leave them behind. No. They have to get out together. No. They have to escape together.
No, no, no, no...
He has to go back.
He has to keep running.
But he has to go back.
Someone told him to keep running, no matter what; just keep running.
But he has to go back.
Someone told him "it's not him".
Who's not him? He can't remember who or what they were talk about.
He can't remember anything...
Make it stop...
This can't be real, all he can see is black smoke and grey clouds, static filtering into his ears...
Just make it stop...
"ITALIA ONE!" Just make it stop- this- this isn't...
"ITALIA ONE! ITALIA- SHIT! CANADA!"
The air is filled with screaming, that's the only thing France can hear through his radio: America is swearing and screaming at the dead air.
"Canada! Canada do you read me? Matthew saysomething!" He's getting desperate; France can hear it in his voice: "Arthur! Yao! Antonio! Anybody!" This isn't getting them anywhere!
"Istres this is Commandant Bonnefoy reporting one man down! Istres, Italia One has crashed! Istres- Istres?" France's radio, it- "Istres can you hear me? Please respond!" No- no! This is not happening!
"Damn it!" But it is happening, and now France has to think through the noise and flashing lights assaulting him instead of fussing with the radio. Keeping his hands on the controls in front of him, France glares down at the spiralling gauges and the mad dials screaming on the dashboard. According to his tilt meter he's banking right at almost fifty degrees, he's also only six feet above sea-level and as the Frenchman checks outside the cockpit for the second Italian fighter- he's apparently going almost over a thousand kilometers an hour. The machine holding him is in a panic, and as the alarms continue to blare at him he hears America's voice through the chaos:
"Italia Two, return to base!" The French aircraft banks left and pulls up into the clouds again, cutting a wide arc through the sky as France stops paying attention to his instruments and focuses on the feel of the jet under him. The controls are out of sync but the engines are not, and except for the alarms the fighter sounds no different now than it did when they were making their approach; it's handling just fine and responds when he lowers the throttle gently. "Italia Two that's an order! Get out of here!"
It's a good call: get the human as far away from the danger as possible before something else goes terribly wrong. France's head is spinning just trying to separate the feel of the aircraft from the dials in front of him, and he's been flying planes for over a hundred years! If the human in the other aircraft can't-
"No." Agh... The hardest part of any joint tactical operation is nations dealing with human citizens who don't identify with them. America walked right into that refusal, and France isn't surprised by the Italian pilot's response: "With all due respect, sir."
"Italia Two that was not a suggestion!" Now is not the time for this.
"Italia Two what is your status?" France asks, cutting through the argument before anyone can try bringing rank into this. America knows better than to threaten a patriot with something as simple as a court marshal for insubordination- Romano will skin him if he tries that anyways. If they survive. "Italia Two are you having technical difficulties yes or no?" Nothing shot at Italia One, there was no kind of physical attack as far as they can tell... but France is sure all three of them heard that voice scratching the static before the other plane dropped out of the sky.
The Italian pilot doesn't reply. It's not surprising. Except for that one refusal the man hasn't said a word this entire time. However...
If France hears the monster's voice come through the radio again, he knows he'll shoot the AMX down himself... If he can find it first in these damn clouds.
"Disengaging all non-essential flight and weapons systems." Damn it, there's his answer.
"You idiot you're not in a fucking glider!" Jet fighters are still planes and all aircraft operate on basic principles of flight and direction, but flying dark is still- "Do you even know where you're going without-!?"
"Very well. Disengaging all non-essential flight and weapons systems." France repeats, finally looking at his control panel again and striking several switches, inputting commands and over-riding a series of critical protocols as he shuts off alarms and feels the jet resist his attempts to take full manual control. "Italia Two increase altitude to fifty meters above cloud cover. Maintain a five kilometer radius from that smoke column and we'll use it as a landmark." The smoke of Italia One's remains... "Are you coming or not, Alfred?"
More silence behind the static. Canada still hasn't answered them. No one on the ground has answered them. And then:
"Stay as far away as you can while still getting a clear shot." Canada! He sounds- "-leave it! Wait- Francis, what the hell happened?"
"We should be asking you!"
Canada suppresses a groan as France fires the question back at him, his head throbbing both from the heavy blow he took when the truck flipped, nevermind the overwhelming amount of feedback he's given up on sorting out through his headset.
It's impossible to breathe down here. The air still feels like it's burning up from the heat of the explosion and the house is completely obscured by black smoke. Something big and powerful slammed into the ground and cut a deep gouge across where their ranks had all been assembled, pieces of shrapnel warped and black still steaming a few yards away from where Canada's crouched down.
There's a bloody patch on the road under the flipped truck, showing where Estonia was trapped and crushed before he simply vanished.
"Some kind of explosion. Estonia's gone, China, Korea-" Gone, not dead, just gone. Incinerated or crushed or split into bloody chunks of bone and meat. Human bodies have died, but National Spirits still live. "Radios are trashed-"
"It was Italia One." Alfred explains, and Matthew holds his breath listening for the rest. "He just panicked and hit the ground." It was a plane? He must have been too close, damn it- "We were barely at the edge! I don't know what the hell he was thinking but- hey! Italia Two if you don't get back to base in that death trap you're in then-"
"Will you just shut up?" Canada blinks as an Italian voice he doesn't recognize bites through the chatter. It must be Italia Two..? "Fly with me or fly away, American, but stop acting like you're running this operation." Woah, he- "I am an officer in the Italian Air Force, I am a professional soldier and I have earned my wings! Do not tell me where or how I should fly, do not act like you can over-rule my orders, and don't you dare act like the man who just died in front of me did so for no reason!" Ever since they crossed into Swiss air-space it was Italia One doing all the talking, but this-
"This is Italia Two, Ground Control, and I am telling you that in seven minutes I am unloading everything I have into that fucking target so you either finish your extraction or watch it go up in flames!" Err- that, what?
"It's about time you remembered your fucking orders, damn it!" S-South Italy?
Romano has no idea whether or not the pilots in the air can hear him through the radio sparking at his shoulder, but he just does not fucking care. There are only two things that matter to him right now, and those are the fact that Norway looks like he's about to fucking pass out on the ground next to him, and he can't see Veneziano anymore.
"You!" Germany is still here and shouting into the smoke, and so is Japan, but they're too busy screaming across the burnt, smoldering ground separating them from the crumbled pillars to notice him. The half-light of the monster's barrier is still standing, that British magic flickering wildly before it begins to stabilize again. Romano actually owes the stupid Norwegian bastard for casting another spell just in time- the shield that means he's still here instead of waking up outside the fucking Tomb of the Unknown back in Rome, or worse yet standing in some ancient quarter of Naples wondering what the fuck just happened to him.
But that's about as far as his gratitude is going to take him: simple fucking acknowledgement. He gets his hands on the front of Norway's combat vest and jerks the glassy-eyed Scandinavian up to look at him, swearing to God that if Norway croaks and vanishes on him right now he'll make sure the bastard never hears the end of it. Romano has no fucking clue where England is in the chaos, so the sorcerer is his only option.
Everything that was anywhere near the edge of the property has been burnt or blasted to pieces. The pillars are nothing but charred rubble and voices are just slowly beginning to call to one another through the thick smoke. No one can see more than a few meters in any direction and Romano only knows that the strike, if that's what it was, missed the house completely. If his brother was caught in the blast then Romano sure as fuck didn't feel it, so his only option is to hope that Veneziano was just blown back by it, not killed.
But if he was blown back then that means he has to run forward again to make up for it, and Romano is not losing him again!
"Connect us! Do it right fucking now!" He shouts. "That spell you keep using on every one!" But this damn Italian has lost his mind. "Norway!"
For someone who, six hours ago, was in serious danger of having the entire world come marching straight through his house, Norway finds South Italy's attitude irritating at best. The Italian is asking for something Norway's not even sure is possible, and with his body feeling like it's weighed down with lead he's not exactly happy to try it.
The Legilimens spell is not his, it's England's, and Norway still doesn't know the magic nearly as well as he'd like before tangling with the forces operating around the mansion. Yes, he's used it on several other pairs already; Denmark and Spain, the four parts of the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, Sweden and Finland... but every one of them was already on the same side of the line, and that barrier spell was not easy to throw together just now. He's exhausted...
"Open your eyes, fucking damn it, Norway!"
'If it was Iceland running...' Norway has had that thought several times already and the effect is still the same as before. South Italy is suddenly a lot less annoying and the sorcerer finds himself using Romano's grip as a way of levering his heavy body up off the ground. His chest is numb and standing up is beyond him, but from one knee he can look down through the smoke and understand the other nation's fierce panic.
Iceland isn't here, but if he was the one lost down there then Norway would never settle for someone saying the target was too far away. It's magic, for Christ's sake, if he can't make it work then what's the point of having it to begin with? It'll hurt to stress himself that far, but he's not the only one who'll suffer for it if it works...
"If he's as hurt as you say..." Norway can't even see North Italy, but the spell-book he dropped is open in front of him, his gloved fingers pressing down on the rune-scrawled pages. It's already getting hard to breathe. "The damage will transfer... You'll both feel it..."
"That's the point: I'm not the one who needs to keep running!" Now that Norway's up Romano isn't even looking at him, he's too busy staring through the clearing smoke trying to find his little brother. Norway wants to call him an idiot, but he just closes his eyes instead as he squeezes the last few ounces of power out of his system.
He can do this, he just needs to focus... just needs to feel out where he's going...
It's the same thing his target needs to know: where is he going?
He can't get up off his knees, he doesn't know where he's supposed to go. Is he even facing the right way? The ground is slanted back and it makes him feel like he's being pulled somewhere, but right in front of him is the ghost- the monster- the thing that has been doing... doing something. He can't even remember what it was that kept making him so afraid. Why was he scared? Why is he scared?
Something about the ghost, about the black cape and the wide hat. The way it won't open its eyes to look at him, the way it smiles as if there's nothing wrong with the world around them. It's like a dream, some sort of twisted nightmare.
Behind the ghost there's nothing but smoke, thick plumes of black and grey all pouring into the sky and obscuring the pale daylight filtering through the clouds. What's beyond that smoke? Does he even want to know?
The creature's face, it... he knows that expression, he wants to say the smile looks lost- sad? Forlorn? Why? The knowledge doesn't bring him joy, he's not happy to see it there, but there's still a sense of triumph. He's not able to sympathize with that face, to look kindly on those steely black eyes when they open in a face he knows he should be able to recognize. The monster looks defeated, but he can't think of why...
"Go." The monster says, and he doesn't understand the command. "If you think you've won, then go. Run away." What? But that sounds just like- "Don't you trust what he said? Sixty-five minutes, Ita. He said that seventy minutes ago." He?
He remembers the words, but he can't remember who said them- the voice he left behind? Was that who made the promise? Five minutes ago something happened- there's smoke, rubble, heat. Something happened and now the monster is looking at him with such a defeated face, like it can barely manage to keep standing while he's sitting here on his knees feeling lost. Someone kept their promise but he can't remember who or why or what it even was...
'Where am I?' He can't remember, he can't remember anything... 'I have... I have to keep running.' He doesn't remember where, but if he can trust his senses then... then he can guess. Guessing isn't good enough but it's all he's got. He's got to run away.
Trust. Trust his senses. Hope for the best. He weight shifts and he pulls his body around, turning his back on those glassy eyes and that sad smile. He turns away from the smoke and the fire and the crumbled stones.
Run away, past the trees, down the hill, run all the way to the-
Italy hits the ground on the other end of Switzerland's scope before the blond nation forces himself into a roll, voices flaring up over him before a heavy military boot slams the burning ground right where his head was sitting a moment ago. Moving like that brings nausea and vomit up after the pain in his charred back is reawakened, but he keeps the rifle in his hands and sets up again as soon as Austria and Prussia get in the way of his attacker.
"West, calm down!"
"He shot him! He just shot Italy!" It was the only opening Switzerland could get and he took it, the smoke parting just long enough for him to get a clear line of sight across the bent landscape to see what the hell was going on. "Filthy maggot I'll rip you apart with my bare hands!" There's no apology in him as Switzerland stares through the scope again, hands resting on the rifle trying to get another glimpse at what's going on down the hill from their position. He tries taking smaller breaths but all he can manage are shallow gasps, rough and ragged, the kind that jar the gun and send the barrel wobbling pitifully from side to side.
He listens to Germany's boots scuff the ground while Austria shows an uncharacteristic amount of strength trying to push him back. It's up to Austria and Prussia to explain while Switzerland tries to focus:
"He was going the wrong way, West! Stop!"
"If he runs back down the hill then he's lost! Calm yourself!"
Better for Italy to take a bullet in the arm than to go running off back down the hill towards the house. Switzerland can't exactly focus with the stomping and snarling next to him, but as another set of footsteps comes trampling across the charred ground at least Finland has something positive to say.
"Did you stop him?" Of course he did, but that doesn't keep Finland from dropping onto his belly next to Switzerland and setting up his rifle with a series of sharp, definite clacks. The other shooter is still speaking as he preps the gun: he can probably see how unsteady his grip is so a little bit of talk won't make a difference. Switzerland took a lot of damage when that plane came down on them, but vanishing back to Bern isn't an option when this is all happening on his land. "I couldn't get a shot from over there, that hat-"
That fucking hat.
"It keeps getting in the way." There's something down there wearing a gold-edged hat and a long black robe. Switzerland's shot it at least four times but it won't shift or go down, and the one time he's seen the face, or the profile, it almost looked like-
"It's Holy Rome!" ...What? For a moment Switzerland can't remember what he was doing and he just looks up at the three nations standing over him. Germany is shouting at Austria, and Prussia has his arms hooked under his brother's shoulders holding him back, but what did he just say? "He kept calling it Holy Rome- some dead empire, so shoot him instead and leave Italy alone-!"
"That is not Holy Rome." Austria is quiet and Switzerland almost says the words instead, but then the former Empire finds his voice and speaks up. "Absolutely not!" His brother? Switzerland won't accept that kind of talk. "The Holy Roman Empire would never-!" Holy Rome is dead! He has nothing to do with this!
"England!" Switzerland's body is burnt and in pain, his uniform sticking to his skin where it hasn't just burned away across his back. One of his legs is missing from above the knee thanks to that explosion, and he can't feel enough of the other to know what's going on with it. But he forces himself to twist in the ground and shout across the slowly calming battleground. If he were any other nation- if they were over anyone else's borders, Switzerland would have been ejected off the battlefield by his wounds and sent home to recuperate in an instant- just like China, just like Korea, just like Lithuania and Poland and maybe Hungary too. But he is Switzerland and this is Swiss territory, and he will not-
"Kill my partner, monster?" The sharp, decisive rattle of the Finnish rifle swallowing another bullet. "I'll take that hat to Sve and see what he says..."
"England I want that barrier down now! Break through that fucking magic!" He is Switzerland and he has had enough of this bullshit!
"We're trying!" Scotland belts back, blue energy crackling around his legs as he lifts one hand up over his head. A cold wind comes swirling down over the patch of ground where his brothers are standing- or crouching, trying to clear away the toxic gas pooling from the crash site. Wales has his head down and both hands wrapped around the hilt of his sword to keep himself up, and Ireland is leaning heavily on England's shoulder where the youngest is braced on hands and knees. But they're all still here, and they're all still breathing, so-
"Too slow." Russia is disappointed with how slowly everyone is working, and not impressed at all with the four Germanic nations shouting at each other at the edge of the crater. They're saying something about a brother of theirs and Russia just isn't interested right now, swinging his pipe-sword around between his gloved hands and feeling the metal grow cold as it moves. "No more radios and little bullets, brute force is better."
Ah, everything hurts as he steps forward. Russia's careful footsteps avoid the deep scars cut into the smoking ground as the wind Scotland is manipulating is drawn into his own circle of influence. His body did not appreciate being tossed about like that, his shoulder is badly bruised and he knows there are broken bones inside his chest, but he doesn't care right now as ice forms in the air and begins to blow around him in sharp gusts.
"Kumajiro!" Canada is not happy either, which in a way makes Russia want to smile. The burning sensation everyone always associates with the other nation's artillery is not the result of heat, like with America's temper, but the paralysing cold that cripples the mind along with the flesh when he is truly upset. When Canada's polar bear lets loose a chilling roar and a build-up of white light and 'heat' comes screaming towards Russia from behind, the other northern power simply allows himself to be overtaken by the magic.
"General Winter..." Because if you go all the way down to Absolute Zero, you encounter a pain so unimaginable it blossoms into pure pleasure. Russia wants to know what happens when you push beyond that pleasure: will the monster scream if they freeze its soul instead of just that black hat and cape?
"Get up, Wales!" England shouts, forcing himself to stand upright with his shoulders back, head still down as he keeps his burning eyes on the ground. He can feel the dice in Ireland's hand flaring with brilliant green magic and doesn't have to look over at where the middle Briton is still braced on his red sword. "I said get the hell up!"
Wales grunts and answers the call, the sword scalding hot in his hands as Ireland yells and lets the dice fly through the air. They rattle like pig's knuckles and strike the ground with sharp bursts of power and sound, the numbers irrelevant as Wales feels the corrosive power surge through his body and wrap itself around his mind like a twisted vine.
"Follow the General!" Scotland orders, grey and blue mist spilling from his pipe and robing Wales with a mantle of cold vapour that spares him some of the fierce pain from the burning blade. "Strike where he does! Go!"
'Hail Britannia-' The Welsh nation thinks, the roar of a golden lion filling the air behind him from his youngest brother, an earth-shattering force channelling itself into the stressed sword he'd still clutching in both hands. He opens his burning eyes and all he can see is shadows of figures- the gold shield of the Austrian and white cross of the Swiss, the red Norwegian mantel, the grey of the Russian General leading the charge into the abyss, the red and green tatters of the Italians standing one in the real world, and one beyond the edge.
The black eagle of Rome, soaring above them all?
The word pain has lost all meaning for him, it's not even the change in his arm that makes him open his eyes again. He doesn't feel pain anymore, he just felt a force from behind that threw him to the ground and centred itself on an already crippled limb. He isn't alright with it but he's so far beyond being capable of responding anymore, so he just doesn't, he just lays there. But he... he was hit from behind- how? Why? The monster?
'That's all I can do.' What is? There's someone here, another heart, another soul- 'I'll see you in Oslo.' Where..?
Are his eyes open or closed? He shifts from one to the other and sees someone with pale white hair standing in front of him, but only for a moment until the person closes his blue eyes and drops back against the darkness surrounding them. His heart stops beating- not his heart, but the heart of the man who just fell. There's screaming and distress somewhere far away, someone screaming a name he can't hear, and then that sound is gone and everything is filled with only darkness.
So he changes again so he can see the dirt and the grass and the trees, but he still doesn't know where he is anymore. He doesn't even know which one is real- is one of these supposed to be a dream? A nightmare? Has he died?
'Hey!' The voice, the familiar voice that he left behind, the one he doesn't know- 'Over here, damn it!'
Back to darkness, but darkness with a face he doesn't recognize but wants to know. Darkness with a voice he wants to hear keep calling to him. Green eyes under a mop of dark chestnut hair, a curl winding around the right side of a round head with a long, Roman nose. Not tall, but not thin or birdlike- firm, stiff, rigid in posture with dark hands on straight hips and heavy feet planted in black boots. Military dress, rough and cheap and durable, not pretty, doesn't have to be-
Blood running down the left arm, burns on the cheek and neck, short of breath and pale from pain.
'Veneziano!' A name, whose name? 'Your name, you asshole! I told you to keep running!' His name? But it's not the one the monst- 'I know your fucking name, Veneziano! I'm not about to fucking forget it! Now get up and run already!' Run... Run where? 'HOME! We're going home, damn it!'
"Home!" Romano screams the word because it hurts too much to keep silent. Hunger and exhaustion were one set of challenges, but the fresh pain ripping down his left arm is impossible to cope with. He can feel Spain's hand on his back where he's doubled over on the ground, and Denmark is cussing loudly where Norway's lifeless body is draped in his lap, but Romano can't look at either of them right now.
He was warned about the pain, but that's not what's important right now. With his eyes closed he can see his brother standing in the darkness, and when Veneziano opens up and looks around Romano can see right through him; the road, the trees, the smoke, the monster-
"I said fucking run already!"
It doesn't matter if it's a thought or a shout, because Veneziano is facing the right way again and he tears straight up the hill. The monster is right there but the noise Romano can hear screaming at the barrier is working its way down the hill. Right before the knife or a hand or any kind of beast can launch itself at his brother there's a great wave of white ice and raw, natural power, and the threat is blasted away by it.
'I can move again-?'
'I know you can, so move!'
'You did this?'
'GO!' His body isn't reacting the same way it was before, as he slams one foot down on the beaten path his knee doesn't collapse and the weakness in his hip doesn't bring him crashing to the ground. He can feel something hot running down his left arm but it's almost nice, something warm whereas the rest of him is cold in the wind. He can run again, he can pull himself through the air and push against the ground.
He hasn't been healed, but something is taking away the pain. Something is reinforcing his body and giving it back the ability to function on its own.
'LEFT!' Don't question it, his left foot makes contact with the ground and he swings his shoulders back to pivot, turning and letting his momentum continue to carry him back and away from the slim blade of the knife that comes streaking through the air at him. He should be scared and sobbing and crying, but he's not: he just gets his other leg in place and takes off with the next step, running without looking back again.
When another tree on the property explodes, he doesn't question the sound of a shattering clock or the grunt from the monster chasing after him. He just keeps his eyes open and charges up the hill, going as fast as he can and wondering why he can't see beyond the piles of rocks settled at the edge of the property. He has no idea where he's running to, but-
'Just trust me, you bastard- jump!' Jump means dive: it's the only way he can keep moving forward with his right leg as damaged as it is. 'Fuck the technicalities just do it!' In the air, head tucked, shoulders hit the dirt before his back makes contact and he pulls his legs down in front of him. The roll is sloppy but complete, and he doesn't know what he was trying to dodge but- 'It didn't get you, that's all that fucking counts!' Right.
These directions, the cussing, the warnings...
'We've done this before-'
'No we haven't!' Yes they have. The encouragement, the yelling, the frantic voice- 'Veneziano this is the first and only time!' No it isn't. 'Yes it is!' No, because there was a promise the first time, the promise of something in an hour that didn't come, something that was supposed to happen that didn't- 'It's fucking coming! Please for the love of God just run!'
He doesn't know how many times this has happened already.
'Please, please, please, little brother...!'
But he's confident that the voice has never begged before...
"Where's my fucking air-strike!? America!"
"Shut up!" Too much static, America can't hear shit between that and the alarms blaring in front of him. As soon as he powers down or turns off or over-rides whatever's interfering with him, something else starts going insane on his dashboard. If he hears that whispering voice one more time, he-
"America where are you?" He's in shit but he's not about to say so to France. The more they circle around in the sky the more fuel they burn and time they lose. These planes aren't made for endurance and if they don't get their job done they're not gonna have the power left to make it back to any base, let alone one in France or Italy.
"I'm right here, coming in for the final approach."
"Roger that." The Italian in the other fighter hasn't popped off at him again after that first and only blow-up, but as soon as America's jet breaks through the clouds and into the pure blue sky he catches sight of the AMX diving back down. Flying a machine like this without instruments is hard as hell, one wrong move and any of them could go falling out of the sky...
As America ups the throttle and tears after the other two pilots he knows he's either gonna have to give the human hell or a medal when this is all over.
Their radios crap out with each other until they're more than six kilometres from the mansion, but all communication dies with the ground with unless they're within three: if they're close enough to talk to the ground forces then they're way too fucking close for anything else. Even America's compass starts flipping out if he's close enough to half-make out what Canada keeps shouting through the air-ways.
Approach from the north, blast the annex. Of all the wings and rooms in that mansion, the annex is the one America hates most...
"If something goes wrong-"
"Don't stop for anything." Use the plane as a fucking rocket if you have to. There's a sharp cuss through the radio before France's voice fades to static, the interference coming back strong and cutting them off from one another for what ought to be the last time. They've talked their way through this and now all that's left is the final performance. America is only paying attention to the noises the engines beneath him are making, controlling the dive he enters behind the Italian pilot and just ahead of France.
There's a screaming whir building up in the machine. It's a bad sound and it means something's going wrong, but America's not about to pull up and fly away: he doesn't have the fuel left for another run so this is his only chance. The hero doesn't just give up and run home because the monster is screwing with him!
"You're too low! Someone's too low!" The clouds rip away and it's just the dark green of the forest surrounding the mansion, the property screaming towards them as England's voice breaks through the static. The engines keep roaring and America pushes the throttle as far as it'll go without causing something to explode, his other hand struggling to hold the machine steady in the air as he feels it trying to buck and roll into the ground. He's low, he just needs to keep it steady.
Most of his screens and gauges are black to keep the interference down. No tracking, no honing, no calibration, nothing. All the three of them can do is point in the right direction and hope for the best. Good luck is not enough, but it's all they've got as the V formation they're holding has the Italian poised at the front and roaring through the air several meters above America's right wing.
"Whoever that is, pull up, damn it!" The closer he can get to the target the better chance he has of actually landing a hit on the annex. Treetops shoot past the corner of his eye and the jet rips apart anything caught in its wake as it tilts just so to the starboard side. "France- AMERICA!"
"And you shut up!"
White appears through the trees and the F-16 lurches again as a new alarm starts going before America jams his thumb over the red switch next to him. He just grits his teeth and hopes that the first three maverick missiles released from the undersides of his wings are close enough to do damage without his Head's-Up or the usual protocols guiding them. He knows he input the correct information in the air, but even the radio isn't working, so there's no way to know. Without hesitating, he fires again and feels the roar of the other two jets tearing away into the sky after launching their own payloads.
The new alarm isn't one he can turn off, but with his hand on the side-stick at his thigh and his body strapped in tight against the raised seat, he knows he's in trouble even before the fighter reacts against him. He can smell smoke and knows the electronics are fried, pushing down on the controls as if he can pretend manual force has something to do with dog-fighting the devil.
He made it once so he can-
The nose of the aircraft pitches forward and the tail comes swinging around over-top, the wings ripping away as something cold hits America's body and the air fills with the sound of shearing metal and whipping wind. Something gold streaks his eyes before the forces ripping the jet apart send him spiralling into noise and darkness.
"England!" Scotland turns before the gold wave has even finishes passing him, Ireland hitting the ground with his hand over his heart as the connection between the four of them is shaken by England breaking out of it.
The youngest brother has his hand in the air and the fading traces of yellow magic are wrapped around his wrist like threads of sunlight tugging him towards the sky. His entire body is shaking, and as Scotland takes a step to reach him a crippling pain brings the other to his knees with a weak cry. Mint-Bunny is screaming over England's head as he bows it against the burnt grass, energy sparking off his shoulders and back before Wales is there to tip him over onto his side.
When England opens his mouth to scream, none of them can hear it.
Scotland can't hear anything. The air is filled with the explosive noise of two fighter jets roaring straight over their heads and carving their paths across the landscape en route back to base. He can't hear England screaming, he just knows his little brother broke the connection between them so he could do something stupid without hurting the rest of them by over-extending the range and power of his own magic.
Scotland knows this, and he knows that England did it for the American who just went down in flames on the lot behind them. But he'll be damned if he knows what to make of it.
Germany can't hear anything either, just the loud, piercing cry of an eagle somewhere in the distance before the sound of too many rockets colliding with not enough brick and mortar blasts a shockwave across the property. Trees are torn up and walls are ripped down, sound and metal and light detonating against indestructible white walls and glaring florescent lights. The world goes dark without the sun and the building light of the explosives can be seen through the barred windows and the open door.
And then everything slows down... And time begins to crawl...
Romano can't hear anything, but he can feel the air raging out of his lungs as he screams in the noise. He can't see the house or the soldiers or the planes or anything, just his brother. Veneziano is the only thing Romano can make heads or tails of, and what he's seeing right now is killing him.
His brother is there, his brother is so close. They can see each other, they're looking right at each other and if either of them could hear it they could speak at this distance- five yards? Three? Less?
But Veneziano is not moving.
Or he is, but suddenly it's so slowly that Romano doesn't understand how this can be real. The hair over his brother's eyes won't fall and he only has one foot on the ground, his knee up with his foot hanging over the path. His shoulders are twisted around and slanted back in mid-stride, even his wounded arm is bent so it can pump and try to keep his momentum going. But he's not moving anymore-
The look in his eyes-
The look on the monster's face, rising behind him-
NO! He is not losing his brother again!
The fear in Veneziano's eyes doesn't recede, it just grows deeper and more self-aware as the agonizing slowness begins to reach a new extreme: one of reversal. The toes planted on the ground roll back so the ball of his foot is touching the yellow dirt, and then the flat of his boot and the base of his heel both follow. His elbows swing the wrong way and his shoulders unwind and push back through the air instead of cutting forward like before.
It's so slow, but like the hands of a watch turning back it's too easy to see. Time is not on their side. Time is the monster's weapon- the only one it needs.
Even Veneziano knows what's going on and his mind to Romano is just a blank tone of fear. His eyes are dark and the only thing left in them is a silent plea to let him die before it all begins again. One yard becomes one and a half, one and a half slowly creeps back into two-
If the monster takes him now it will mean another loop. Because every loop that ever happened was real, and in each of those realities a nation died and the world couldn't stop it. So if the monster takes him now it will mean another loop, and another loop will leave this one with a destroyed mansion- and what? A dead Italian and a vanquished monster?
But if the monster goes back in time to before the strike, can they really say they've killed it?
And in the next loop, in the next one how long will it take that Romano to figure all of this out again? And when he does is he still going to make the promise that his attempt is ' the last time'?
How many times has Romano already promised an air-strike to his brother in sixty-five minutes or less? How many times has he told his little brother 'you leave with me or you leave in a pine box!'?
They're fighting something that looks at the flow of time in the world and accepts or rejects events as they happen. It's something that can pluck radio waves and cellular calls out of the air by re-arranging their frequencies through time. Its influence isn't very big, but it doesn't have to be, so long as it can control the clock- the main clock, the big clock, the heart-beat ticking on and on in the trauma, then it can keep going back. It can go back again, and again, and again...
Romano, he... he's failed? Is that what this is? He's failed and now all of it is just going to end in a haze of smoke and gunfire? He's failed his brother and there's nothing he can do, and it's all going to begin again, and it's going to take Veneziano away, again?
"Make time wait!"
"ROMANO!" Spain's hand can't catch Romano as South Italy sprints towards the line. As soon as Japan and Prussia turn to look, Germany breaks away from them and tears the final few smoking feet from where they're standing. With no alternative, the other two follow.
And all four cross Italy's line.
He doesn't know what's happening, he doesn't know what they did, he doesn't know who they are, he doesn't know where he is or where he was going or why he keeps running. He doesn't know why he's so scared and he can't stop himself from crying.
He just knows that he was running into the smoke and he knew something had gone wrong. He knew that something was so sadly, desperately wrong. And he knows now that he is going to die, because there is no time, because there is no way to make time wait before spiralling back and taking him away with it. Someone has made a mistake and that's all he knows.
But suddenly there are people, there are men in uniforms with guns and screams, and the one with black eyes ("Your actions have brought this upon you-!") moves so fast with the sword in his hands that he can't see where he's going, and the tall one with white hair is screaming back over his shoulder ("I'm with West, damn it!") at something through the smoke and distorted light. And there's an eagle's scream and a man he can't see ("How dare you steal my face for your games!") before he suddenly isn't running anymore-
"Either I take you home or I stay here with you, damn it!" His chest connects with something hard and warm and there are arms wrapped around his torso from in front, dark chestnut hair touching his skin before a hand is there to cradle the back of his head. And they're moving: they're not running but he's being moved, his legs are limp under his body and all of his weight is flung over the shoulders his arms are thrown around from the impact, and this person is moving back. The voice is right up against his neck where the other man is holding him so tight it almost hurts- but it doesn't hurt. And they're moving back- to him it's forward, they're moving in the same direction he was running.
Two yards becomes one and a half, one and a half becomes one...
"He can slow time, Veneziano, he can't stop it! Stay with me!"
Stay with him. Stay with him because crossing the line did something none of them can explain. It created an instant paradox: how do you jump into a pocket where time is being rewound, and now you exist where you weren't before?
It interrupts the monster's manipulation, and in the time it takes Japan to bring his sword down over the human wrist holding the knife, the blade strikes grey skin and severs off a hooked talon instead of pink fingers. Germany's fist collides with rotten red teeth and the cape and hat disappear from sight, a third cry of that black Germanic eagle cutting through the air as Prussia calls for the other two to move back; and as soon as they do a grenade bursts at the monster's feet and forces the inhuman beast to stagger back.
Does it all take minutes, or only seconds? To the two remaining pilots streaking away from the battlefield it's all over in an instant: the rockets are fired and they strike before either of them is even out of sight over the trees. The mansion is rubble before either the nation or the human responsible for the destruction even realizes that their third member is missing.
To the forces on the ground, they just can't tell. The planes are gone and their friends are across the line, but they just don't know what's going on anymore and following the few could kill the many. The ones whose hearts have stopped but their bodies will wake up again are gathered up and hurried away- Norway, Sweden, Hungary. The ones left behind try to keep the chaos from overflowing: the Netherlands knows that Canada won't stop staring at the smoke billowing from the trees where America crashed, and Spain's outraged screams have both Russia and Portugal holding him back from joining the fray on the other side.
Romano won't let go of his brother and Veneziano hasn't said a word. The older brother can't control his voice and he doesn't know what he's saying. Italian bubbles past his lips as he backs away as fast as he can from the fighting, almost tripping twice, but he keeps going. He won't stop moving towards the line and he won't stop trying to escape, because he doesn't know how long it will take. The planes are gone but the house is still standing, the explosives have detonated but the clock is still ticking. Romano doesn't know how many seconds or minutes or hours it will take for the monster to run out of time, he doesn't know, and he doesn't care.
He doesn't care about what it takes, he just wants all of this to end...
One thousand meters away, fires bloom inside the mansion as the explosions are slowed down to a crawl. Glass panes crease and bubble before flaking away, shingles drifting from the rooftop like scattered petals.
Piano wires unravel as wooden doorways splinter, white walls burning black as the first round of French explosives hits the annex, the second round flying wide and striking the west-wing bathroom and bedrooms above it. Water sprinkles from pipes as they're split open, electricity dancing between the droplets as wires are exposed and come to life in the walls. American missiles tear through the kitchen and land higher up in the library, shredding papers and ripping spines to pieces. They fill the air with black words and dower grey confetti. The clean kitchen counters hit the floor and the wooden panels break apart, peeling away like wood shavings and landing against the buckling walls.
One Italian missile finds a room on the fifth floor that rests at the end of a bloody hallway, its white walls decorated with messy numbers. Red blood and white tile mingle with the noise and the light that fills the air with change, force erasing the log and shattering all the precious trophies.
Tucked in a corner of the annex, hidden under the floor of a potential sanctuary, he doesn't want anyone to know he's down here because he knows his grandfather will be upset if he's too reckless. But he wants to be reckless, which is what makes this so hard. He would rather be outside with the wind and the shouting than down here in the dark with the explosions and fire. But the ghost with his hands pressed to the face of the clock knows it's important right now not to act out on his emotions: he has to focus on this right now, and only this.
The clock is an ornate, beautiful thing, but only in the dark, and only at first glance. The solid oak is stained a violent and garish red, the colour a result of all the blood spilled to worship it. A yellow face and weights, a pendulum decorated in silver with brass braiding all up the sides to increase the weight. Sharp black wire hands twisted in elaborate fingers symbolize seconds, hours and minutes, two smaller faces set up in the tainted backing to indicate the day of the week and month of the year.
The ghost is holding the calendar faces with his fingers, ignoring the bite and pinch of the wire hands as they struggle to slip back and take the moment and all the captured souls away with it to another time. They will stay in this week of this month of this year, and he won't let the monster wearing his clothes and using his name change that. His other hand is gripping the minute-hand of the large face, jaw locked in place as the ghost won't let the pretend pain of his fingers splitting open distract him. The second hand keeps ticking, but the hours and the minutes remain where they are: only when the second hand counts sixty does he let the minute hand move by one- holding tight to keep it from spinning out of control when he lets time inch ahead instead of tumbling back.
The wooden handle of a push-broom has been jammed up into the gears above the pendulums, and the soft pink cloth of a pair of child's underpants is stuffed up there as well, tying knots and jamming teeth. He can feel the house groan and scream as the fire strikes and the metal explodes, concrete walls giving way as brick columns list and fracture. The annex rumbles from the American explosives, but there's still one more round that hasn't come through yet.
And it's coming. Holy Rome can't destroy the monster's clock, and he can't stop the ticking, but he can still stand here and keep the magic from doing any further harm. Even when the Monster tries to hurt him, it can't: his soul is already bound to someone living, his memories are already something that have a safe place to stay. He is just a ghost, a ghost with his hands on the clock and a familiar to guide the last Italian missile through the burning annex. The missile that detonates when there is no time left, that explodes in an instant and all that's left to do is burn...
The shock-wave from the explosions knocks Romano off his feet, the ground pitching and quaking under him as he keeps his eyes shut and one arm locked around his brother. His legs kick and work them both back before his head is filled with white noise and just a little bit of pain: the Legilimens spell snaps, the monster screams, and South Italy is South Italy and his brother the North is laying limp on top of him.
And Japan is the State of Japan, and Germany is the German Federation, and Prussia doesn't care what Prussia is so long as he's more than just human again. And all five of them are standing on Swiss territory- except for the Republic of Italy, because those two are still laying on the ground as Spain quickly runs up and tries to lift North Italy up- but South Italy won't let him. So Spain takes them both, and Austria is there to help.
And Canada is sprinting across the property towards the smoke in the trees, Russia and the Netherlands both following close behind, looking for America. Ireland goes with them because it was the last thing England said before he lost consciousness, and he can feel his little brother's magic still lingering near the wreckage.
The air is filled with chatter and as he flies France can't sort through all the voices pouring into his ears from everywhere: the Swiss air force at Locarno keeps demanding updates while Istres is frantically trying to establish America's position. Istrana is repeating Italia One's call sign, resorting to his actual given name until Italia Two changes frequencies to explain. Both of them immediately request an emergency landing at the closest run-way, they don't care if it's military or civilian, they just need to land and they need to do it now.
China bursts through the radio waves and Russia can't remember the last time Poland found the nerve to shout at him and demand information, at least not in that tone of voice. Demark is there to wave the human forces over to them when a Swiss convoy arrives, and Portugal takes over coordinating everything in Canada's place.
"You're safe." Romano can't hear and isn't really aware of any of this. "You're safe." He responds just enough to get himself up onto the flat-bed of a military jeep, but his mind is blank and the only thing he can make himself do is keep his arms wrapped tight around his little brother. It's hard to blink, and harder to breathe, and he can't take his hand off the back of Veneziano's head for fear that he'll lose him again if he's not pressed close. "You're safe..."
Veneziano doesn't say anything. Veneziano's body is limp and heavy on his shoulders and chest, not moving. But he's breathing. Neither of them responds when someone in the jeep tries talking to them, and Romano almost pulls a gun on the human who reaches out to touch his brother- but he stops himself. The jeep starts moving and he thinks he hears someone shout: "Drive until you reach the border!", but he's just not sure anymore. He lets the human reach for Veneziano's left arm, the one Romano doesn't want to think about, and the engine makes the tires spin and the entire vehicle lurches twice before finding the road and speeding off under the grey sky.
The smoke from the fires and the rockets and the two plane crashes mingles with the dirty clouds hanging over-head.
It's beginning to rain.
Romano isn't even sure what's happened, it like he's suddenly lost touch with the world. But, with his little brother cradled in his arms and Veneziano's head tucked under his chin, and his lungs breathing, and his heart beating...
Title: HetaOni: Final Loop
Genre: Hurt/Comfort/Mystery. Originally Angst. Includes Family.
Main Characters: N. Italy.
Word Count: 98,234 (minus all ANs)
Page Count: 192 (minus all ANs)
OST: Memories, Utopia, Jillian, MaruKaite Chikyuu (England, France, HRE, Chibitalia, "Dark"), Higurashi Opening Theme, Desert Rose, "Dark Hetalia", Evanescence Delux CD, HetaOni OST (The God of Melodic Speedmetal, All Faith is Lost, Lost in Hopelessness, Eden, Vanity, The Decision of the Loved, Soldiers, Scorpion Fire, This is Where I Fall, etc.), Here Without You, Rest Calm, Zun Da Da, Message for the Queen, Norwegian Pirate, Get Out Alive, The Chosen Ones, Don't Mess With Me, Empty, Bad Apple English Dub, the German National Anthem, the Italian National Anthem, Hero, Never Coming Home, Merchant Prince, Ocean Princess, TSFH "Invincible" Album.
I give a bow to keliathewolf for her feedback on several pages of content, of which I think I only used one here... whee. But it was still helpful!
Thank you all for reading, and if you're interested then I'll see you in HetaOni: Recovery!