Okay, here it is. ZE GRANDE FINALE! I sincerely apologise for pushing back finishing Cosa Nostra for so long! There is an explanation in the after-note at the end! So, without further ado, enjoiiii~~~~
January 17, 1963
The night was cold. Chilling winds whirred past their ears like an invisible monster, howling with laughter as it sped past. But Romano was glad it was the monster. And not a fusillade of bullets. His freezing hands clenched the submachine gun tightly. It felt as if a layer of ice had sealed his palms to the cold metal. Glancing down, he half-expected his hands to have turned blue. But instead, they had turned a bright-reddish colour. An icy red.
And so they went. Creeping along the crumbling alley walls, three tall, dark shadows faded against the weathered concrete.
"It's freezing," Romano shivered as they paused at a corner. His cheeks were battered a vivid scarlet by the scathing wind, seeping through his suntanned skin, visible even in the dim, flickering streetlights.
"Awn, Roma is so cute!" Spain whispered from right behind Romano's head, "You need to come over to my house more often during the winter. Then you'll get used to the cold weather. Or you can stay all year. That'd be nice, too…" Romano did a double take, not expecting the Spaniard to be breathing down his neck.
"Shut up!" Romano growled as threateningly as possible in a subdued tone, "I'll shoot you!" Now's not the time to flirt, idiota!
Germany shushed them sternly, then peeked his head out around the corner again. After a few moments, Romano began to grow impatient.
"Hey, what're you looking at? It's been almost two minutes!"
Germany shushed him again, more urgently this time. Then he asked in a lowered voice, "Is there always a gang of boys hanging around this street at night?"
Romano frowned and shook his head. A gang? What gang would be insane enough to be out at night with the mafia engaged in a violent guerrilla war with each other? He looked around the corner, too, and found a few youths in thin, patched-up trench coats, barely eighteen, loitering against the wall down the street, smoking cigarettes. They appeared rather shady.
"What the hell…" Romano grumbled to himself. They were a strange bunch, their eerie faces lit by the occasional on-off of lighters. One stood leaning against the wall, cigarette in one hand and the lighter in another. Another sat on the ground, drawing something on the concrete with the remnants of a burned-out cigarette. There were two others, one standing and one crouched next to the one drawing. They didn't look like mafiosi, but that didn't rule out the possibility either.
"Do they have guns?" Germany asked.
Romano squinted in the dark, but all he could make out were the cigarette lights and a hazy image of their figures. "I don't think so...and even if they did, it would be a hand-sized pistol. Not much of a threat. But somehow, I don't like where this is going…"
"Is there an alternate route?" Germany asked, "We can't just stand here and wait for them to leave. The plan is time-oriented."
"This is the only route that can get us there in time, especially now that we've wasted an entire five minutes standing here holding our guns like a few pubescent soldiers too afraid to fight," Romano answered cynically.
"But we can't shoot them without proof that they're a threat," Spain quickly reminded him.
Boom. And a flare of orange in the far distance, lighting up the dark horizon composed of shabby rooftops for a short moment, then fizzled and faded into the howling wind.
"That must be Netherlands," Germany noted, "We're already behind schedule. We've got to hurry."
Romano thought he could hear the storm of bullets ringing out through the entire city on the other side of these walls, carried by the whispering gales. So what were these boys doing here, smoking nonchalantly as if the fire and bullets were none of their concern?
"Oh, for God's sake…" Romano grumbled, and leapt out onto the street, pointing his gun at the gang of boys.
"Freeze! Put your hands over your head, and I won't shoot!" he yelled over at the boys down the street.
Startled, the four boys immediately slapped their hands over their heads. Romano scowled and rolled his eyes, feeling deeply annoyed that they wasted a whole seven minutes on these kids. Germany and Spain had joined his side—Germany aiming his submachine gun and Spain his revolver. The three approached the boys slowly, forcing their targets backwards.
"That's right," Romano said in a commanding tone, "Just go home. It's the wrong night to be playing outside."
Romano ventured closer to the boys and cocked his machine gun towards an intersecting alleyway, indicating for them to leave this instant. He was now close enough to see the four boys in detail. The one who seemed to be the leader of the gang had a mop of untidy, dishwater blonde hair, his figure awkwardly lanky. The other three were quite reserved, retreating behind the raised collars of their coats. But for some reason, the boys had stopped backing up, though Romano was closing in on them with the gun. Suddenly, a glint in the lanky boy's eyes. In a spit second, his hand flashed, and sent a blur flying through the air.
"Watch out!" Romano heard Spain scream.
Boom! Smash! Wavering white, black, white again, losing focus. Then, the images came flowing in again, shaking with the shock to his head. Germany and Spain had pulled him back just in time, but the inertia of the explosion had managed to throw him back onto the ground, where he smashed his skull into the concrete. He instantly sat himself up and felt the back of his head with his hand. Warm liquid flowed onto his fingers.
"Vaffanculo!," he curse. He tried to focus the images swimming around in front of his eyes, but they were shaky and unstable. A blur of colours taking the form of fuzzy blobs, confused further by the smoke that concealed their assailants.
But the surprises weren't over just yet. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Four shots. Followed by four thumps as four bodies hit the ground. But none of the three had made a move to pull the trigger, and the shots emanated from down the opposite end of the street. Romano struggled to his feet, hanging on to Spain's arm as he did so. He squinted and managed to focus on a spot of lighter colour among the darkened shades, which was evidently the back of Germany's head.
"Romano, are you alright?" Spain gushed, unable to hold himself back. He put an arm around the shocked victim protectively, as if shielding a fragile boy.
"I'm fine!" Romano seethed through gritted teeth, pushing the Spaniard away to stand on his own, albeit with difficulty. It was embarrassing, having Spain guard him like he was still a spoiled child. He squinted hard, and the images finally came into focus, though they still wavered as he swayed a little unsteadily on his feet. Germany stood aloof in front of Spain and himself, aiming his gun at an invisible target hidden behind the huge smoke cloud. Romano's grip on his own gun tightened, though sweat was beginning to seep out from his palms. Germany must see something I can't. It's rumoured that his brother trained him to be able to see a black dot on a wall all the way from the opposite side of a 15 by 15 metre room after all. I really hope that's the truth…
"Show yourself," Germany commanded in a steady but rather unnatural Italian.
After a few moments, a figure slowly emerged from within the hazy smoke, as if formed by the dust particles morphing together into a dark humanoid form like a ghost in the night. As it neared, Romano made out a tall figure, with broad shoulders and long legs.
"So you're a foreigner," came a familiar voice. "I've always had the feeling." The figure that slowly approached was becoming more and more recognizable with each step. Then it suddenly struck him.
"Moretti?" Romano's eyes widened in alarm. The man himself finally came into the clear a few metres away from the three nations.
"Who is he?" Spain immediately asked, sensing the tone of urgency in Romano's voice.
"My stalker. The Don's dog," the Italian replied bitterly. He harboured no particular hatred towards Moretti, other than the fact that he was a slippery, sly, and untrustworthy man. He was too unreadable.
Germany aimed his gun with closer precision at this reply, preparing to shoot any moment. But somehow, Romano suddenly found himself feeling the tiniest prick of guilt at the idea of killing Moretti. Spain, meanwhile, glared at the man with increasing hatred.
"He's the one who trapped you here, isn't he? Bastardo!" he spat, "What do you want with us?"
All three waited for an explanation, but to their surprise, he suddenly raised his hands over his head, then slowly leaned down to place his pistol on the ground. "I mean no harm to you. Quite the contrary, actually."
Romano's eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Explain yourself," Germany ordered stonily. He was experienced with this kind of situation. A negotiation.
"With all due respect, sir. I must explain to Signor Vargas myself." A sudden graveness had come over his gaunt, angular face. Furthermore, Romano had never heard Moretti address him as "Signor Vargas" before.
"It's your choice," Spain said to Romano, but had already extended an arm over in protection. Germany waited for an answer.
Silence. The dust on the night street cleared, along with the buzzing in Romano's ears caused by the shock. He could now once again hear the distant shooting that seemed to bounce back and forth along the walls of alleyways. It was like a virus that ran through the city's veins. Two more explosions. They were running out of time.
"Fine," Romano finally uttered. "Let him approach."
Germany moved to the side and allowed Moretti to walk up to Romano with about two metres between the two of them, but Germany never lowered his gun. Moretti was unfazed, however, and stopped in front of Romano, holding a steady gaze. Then, he spoke.
"Allow me to assist you."
Romano blinked, taken aback. Assist me? His frown deepened. "Clarify," he said, then added, "Quickly."
"Alright. The truth is that I've knew about Signor Carriedo's comings and goings for quite some time, now. It's difficult to miss a new face around here, especially someone so distinctly unfamiliar with this area and so strangely willing to help the poor," he explained calmly, nodding at Spain politely. Spain almost doubled over in shock. Well, he was never so discreet to begin with... "I had a feeling from the beginning that Signor Carriedo had something to do with you," he continued, fixing his unwavering gaze on Romano once again, "You're both different. All three of you. I can't quite describe it, but I just have a feeling." Damn, why is he so sharp... "But I am also sure that you are not a threat. So I would like to offer my help in the overthrowing of the La Barbera brothers."
Romano's eyes narrowed at this succinct explanation. It wasn't anything rare for a member of the Mafioso to desire the overthrow of those in power, but they always had their own dirty motives. Always. "What's in it for you, then? A direct overthrow won't assure your rise to power. In fact, Greco is breathing down our backs right now, so I'm not surprised if he'll take this opportunity and swallow Palermo Centro in the blink of an eye. Don't tell me you're Greco's dog, too."
"No. In fact, I am nobody's 'dog.' My motive is nothing other than revenge on the La Barbera brothers. They tore our life apart, my brother and I. We've been planning our revenge ever since. The only reason I obeyed them for so long is to learn their secrets. It is not an uncommon story,Signor Vargas. Many families have been devastated by this organisation. I'm sure you understand. And unfortunately, my brother and his family did not survive..." A twinge of forlorn in his stony eyes. "But that does not matter. There is little time, and you need my assistance. I know the specific locations of each gang Salvatore La Barbera had stationed around the city. Instead of waiting for them to fire at you as you cut through the city, isn't it easier to ambush them before they have a chance?"
Romano considered his story for a few seconds. It was credible enough. The Mafioso had torn apart the whole of Sicily. It was entirely possible that Moretti was just part of the collateral damage. But somehow, he found himself baffled. Drawing a blank. Moretti. He had never thought much of Moretti. He had always been too caught up in himself. Meanwhile...meanwhile all this time...I'm such a fool, thinking that I'm the only one who was fighting. As this nation's Keeper, I should know that my struggles equate to the struggle of my people. Or rather, their struggles equate to mine. How could I have been so selfish? So human? However... "How do I know I can trust you?"
"I have had many opportunities to harm you if I meant any harm. Many chances to turn you over to the Don. Do you seriously believe that no one knew you had gone to Florence until the following day? I was watching the entire time, but I didn't say a word until later when I knew the Don needed you for a job. I've always had a hunch that you could save us somehow, Signor Vargas. You are merciful and I know for sure that you will not hurt us. I don't know who or what you are, but you and your comrades," his dark, onyx eyes skimmed over the three of them, "don't think like the rest of us."
Romano shared a look with Germany, then Spain. Both urged him to make a decision with an encouraging nod. He took a deep breath and said, "Alright, then. I need you to do your best to clear a path for another...comrade of mine. Signor Bonnefoy. He should be near the ghetto right about now, towards the residence of Angelo la Barbera. I need you to guide them. My ally here," –Romano gestured to Germany—, "Signor Beilschmidt will also join you shortly. But for now, we need to get to the centre of town. We don't have much time to waste."
A flicker of a smile across Moretti's face, but it disappeared as quickly as it had come. Romano could not be sure whether or not it had been his imagination. "Grazie," Moretti whispered, barely audible, and then he was gone, absorbed into wind-blown night. Then, Romano turned to his two companions.
"C'mon. We're behind schedule."
The two nodded and they sped off again, following the alleyway with frenzied footsteps as their military boots tread the uneven, pebbled ground. Bullets. Bullets back and forth. Closer and closer.
"Watch out!" Bam! A bright explosion before his eyes, as Romano was yanked back by Spain. The two tumbled back on the ground and landed, skidding roughly to a stop on their knees. The wall right behind where Romano was standing a second ago crumbled and collapsed in front of them with a crash. Then, in his peripherals, a blur of shadow. Faster than his assaulters could react, Romano swung his gun around, aimed, and released a merciless barrage of bullets at his target, the black machinery heating up in his calloused palms. The deafening tack-tack-tack of bullets, then, three thuds on the other side of the alley as his assailants fell. And Romano's finger finally freed the trigger.
"Come on, let's go. No time to waste." He continued on in wide, brisk strides, hand tight around the cold metal. Spain and Germany followed.
As they turned the corner in the ally, Spain caught up to his side and suddenly spoke, sounding distressed, "Romano, you didn't have to kill them so cruelly, you know. You could have just scared them off or injured them."
Romano frowned. "Of course I had to kill them. They almost blew me up."
Romano grew unsettled at the disappointment in Spain's familiar voice. Had Spain ever talked to him like this before? No. He didn't think Spain had. For all these years, when all he did was let his guardian down again and again, Spain had never spoken to him harshly. Never shown any sign of displeasure. But now...why now? What was different? "What do you mean 'I changed?' I've been through two World Wars and countless other wars before that. Don't you think I'd have the common sense to shoot whoever tries to blow me up? They'll come back and try to blow me up again if I let them go."
Spain fell silent for a while. A long, long moment. Somehow, Romano's heart raced erratically. Anxiously. It was disconcerting, this silence. What was the matter? "People like us. We were born for battle, weren't we?" he pursued, glancing at Spain uncertainly, but the Spaniard said nothing. Only averted his eyes. Romano looked over his shoulder at Germany, who was covering their back. Germany didn't respond either, but gave him a meaningful look. Meaningful, but Romano couldn't quite decipher the meaning. What was that in his inscrutable blue eyes? Cold disapproval? No, not quite.
He looked forward again and tried to shake off that unsettled feeling. Meanwhile, the winding alleys grew wider and wider as they continued down the path, expanding to feed into the main street near the centre of town. They were about to enter the heavy danger zone.
Romano stopped at the corner where the alleyway ended, opening up the wide boulevards flanked by grey multi-story buildings. He flattened himself against the wall as he peered out into the quiet, wide square. Germany took to the opposing wall, scrupulously exploring their surroundings with the tip of his gun. But oddly, it was quiet. Soundless. Still. Too much. Too abnormal. Romano was sure it wasn't just his imagination. Those shots moments ago. But...
"An ambush," Germany whispered, his voice low. Romano heard Spain cock his revolver from behind and his grip on his own gun tightened in response. His eyes locked on his target across the square. The grey, worn office building. It emanated an eerie atmosphere as the winds howled down the dust-blown streets. Damnit...there's nothing we can do but simply sprint across. We'll be free targets, and we have to save up the Molotovs. I only have two on me, for burning the headquarters building when I do get there. And I'm pretty sure Spain has none. Germany can't use his because he's saving them for when he meets up with France...Romano ground his teeth in aggravation. For some reason, he felt as if a ball of fire was burning in the pit of his stomach. Faster and faster, stronger and stronger, its flames licking the inside of his chest cavity. It was dangerous, the flame. It made him want to demolish everyone who stood in his way.
Suddenly, he heard Germany disengage his magazine*. Then, another click, as he inserted a new one. Romano looked to Germany with a growing frown on his face. The tall man was inching forward, his eyes darting around the scene lightning fast. It was almost as if...
"Listen. We don't have time to waste. I'm going to act as decoy and make a run through. We have superior weaponry, so nothing should go horribly wrong," Germany instructed, giving both the Italian and the Spaniard a solemn nod, "Then, I'll change direction and head straight to meet up with France. That should give you a window of opportunity. Make good use of it. I'll go on three. One, two..."
"Hey, wait, potato bastard-"
And he dashed out into the middle of the square. A storm of bullets lashed out at him from all directions. The left, the right, behind walls, on rooftops...Cazzo...so many of them! Where did all our people go?
"Romano! Now!" he heard Spain shout, as he was tugged forward violently by the arm.
Pelted. Barraged. Like a thousand small beams of lightning were cracking down onto the centre of the square. Slash! Romano felt a bullet scrape past his face, missing it by less than a centimetre. An icy frisson travelled through his veins, but he didn't stop running. There was simply nowhere to aim the gun. He could only run and run and run. If they were using machine guns...we'd both be struck down within seconds... He could feel blood trickling down the back of his head again. The wound had reopened, and he was losing focus of the images before him. He tried to concentrate on the fountain in the middle of the square but...blurring. Double. Triple...So many lines and colours. Then-
"Oof!" Falling. Right in the face. He had tripped over something in his frenzied sprint.
"Romano!" He heard Spain call his name, then felt himself being dragged along. He blinked hard a few times as he regained some visual acuity, gripping onto Spain's arms as he pushed himself up to sit. Only then did he notice that they were crouched between the back side of the fountain and a large piece of broken marble that was lying on the ground. Romano squinted a little closer at the piece of marble and realised that it was half of a statue from the northern side of town. Then, he twisted his head around to find what he had tripped over. It was a leg. A human leg.
"Is that..." he began, eyes growing wide in fear.
"I believe so," Spain nodded sadly, then turned around and began to pull on something Romano could not see. But soon...soon, Romano knew. Before the leg emerged, and the arm, and the head, Romano knew. It was a dead body, of one of the men he personally had sent on this death mission. The men whom he had lured so effortlessly with that enticing sapphire, tucked away neatly in his coat right this moment.
Spain brought the body between himself and Romano, gazing at the dead man's face with half-lidded eyes. The sporadic flashing of bullets bouncing off of the marble and fountain illuminated Spain's features in an odd way. Romano blinked, unsure of the idiosyncrasy that he had glimpsed for the fraction of the second a bullet bounced close to their heads. But it had grown dark again, too dark for him to discern the strangeness that had been in Spain's countenance. Romano shook his head. He could only fix his eyes down at the man's face, too. But...The man? No. He was a boy. He was so young, with a long nose and long eyelashes. Romano reached down to touch his cheek. Cold.
"How old do you think he was?" Spain suddenly asked.
"...Twenty...at most," Romano choked. It was so hard to utter those words. Twenty years old. Only twenty years. "How...m-many?" He was afraid to know. But he had to know. Because...it was his fault. He did this.
"There are...maybe around thirty." Spain made a vague gesture to around the corner of the fountain, where he had found the body. "I think...they hid the bodies behind the fountain and this statue so they could ambush us."
No...thirty? Thirty young men...thirty lives...and how many more? How had it come to this? "Mio Dio*... mio Dio..." Romano heard a nervous, trembling voice mumble. He only vaguely noted that the voice emanated from inside his own mouth. Almost psychotic. Over and over again, as the shower of bullets continued."Mio Dio..." He felt his throat cracking. Breaking. His rib cage collapsing in on his heart. But somehow, it still beat. Badump, badump, badump. Nonstop. How long had this heart beat? How many centuries? And yet, he killed in cold blood. So cruelly. So grotesquely. So why didn't his heart just stop? Why didn't his blood grow cold like this boy's body? "Mio Dio...they're...they're just...they're only babies! They're children! And I did this to them!" An anguished scream. He crouched over on the ground, fingernails scratching the rough, uneven cement, his forehead scraping the concrete until it bled. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks, dripping onto the ground. He knew what Spain meant now. He had changed. He had become caught up in this cycle of crime he so loathed. He had drowned in hatred and his own ruthless drive for revenge. It had swallowed him up whole when he realised he had the chance to put a bullet through his enemies' hearts. He had become cruel. Just like them. He had so wanted to help his people...but he had forgotten. These poor souls who had lost their ways were also his people. Just as much as any other. He had forgotten that it was not alright to simply kill. He had forgotten order and morals. He had forgotten mercy.
He felt a warm, comforting hand on his back, and then another hand pull him into a tight embrace. He let out another cry of agony and fell into Spain's arms. Why did Spain show him so much kindness? He was a wretch. He was undeserving. But instead, he heard soft, reassuring words.
"It's not your fault, Roma." Not my fault? After I manipulated all of those...children!
"How can you...say that? Not my fault? I've lived for over a millennia and never did my fucking job! Never! And when it comes down to something like this, I still mess it up! It's all my fucking fault! I messed up this fucking place and I couldn't protect anyone!" He felt all the words spill out of his mouth. Only then did he realise that they had already been formed. Stored in the back of his throat all this time.
"Don't say that...it's not your fault. Any one of us would have done the same as you did and lured them with incentive."
"No. That's not true. You wouldn't have done it, Spain! You wouldn't have!" he screamed. "Not you! Not Germany! And certainly not my brother!"
He felt Spain breath a deep sigh. Then, "You know that we wouldn't have done it because we don't hate them like you do, Roma. Every one of us have done countless things to seek revenge. The Second World War perhaps would not have happened if not for revenge, would it? You know that. I know that. France and the German brothers both knew it as well as we do now*. But they went on with it, blinded by hatred. And me? As for me..." A slight chuckle. "I've discovered long ago that I am a failure as an avenger. Around the end of the 16th century, we built an armada, Philip* and I. Of course you know that. But what I've never told anyone...is that I was so blinded by religious fervour and personal hatred5. And to this day, I regret the number of men I sent to their deaths...But you have to know that these things can't be undone. So we can only look forward and try to do better tomorrow. And right now, these people need you. So you need to get yourself together, Romano. Everyone's counting on you." As he whispered his last words, he squeezed the sobbing man even tighter. Gradually. Gradually. Romano's tears dried. And all was silent. Even the wind was calm.
"Spain...why are you so kind to me?" That question he could never answer, no matter how many hours, days, weeks, months, years he spent pondering it, tossing it back and forth in his mind.
"Because I love you." So simple. So easy. Spain's words resonated in his ears. 'Because I love you...' How did he say it so effortlessly, as if it were a trace of nature that he could breathe through his lips? And yet just four little words could hold such potency. Strength that unfroze the blood in Romano's veins and allowed it to flow again. He clenched and unclenched his fists a few times, as if feeling his own hands for the first time, then finally pushed himself up to sit again. Spain was right. This wasn't the time to be hysterical. He closed his eyes, concentrating hard on the beating in his head, in his chest, bringing it back to steady and level. Right now...right now, he needed to concentrate, so these men didn't die in vain.
And he finally noticed. The bullets had stopped. He opened his eyes. Everything seemed lucid, like his senses had heightened somehow. The tenseness in the atmosphere, mixed with the gunfire in the air, was so thick he could almost reach out and break it with his fingers. His eyes met Spain's luminescent green ones, and his lips parted. "Grazie..." he whispered. Spain nodded with a smile, a twinkle in his eyes. Then, Romano turned his attention back on the empty square before him and the grey, industrial building sandwiched between two smaller ones. The camouflaged headquarters. Peering out from over the broken piece of marble, Romano's eyes scanned the surroundings, the spaces between the buildings, the rooftops...he knew that in every one of these nooks and crannies was someone waiting to shoot him if he tried to make for the door.
"Spain," he said in a low voice, "If I get shot down, you have to finish my job for me."
Spain nodded, and gave Romano's hand a tight squeeze, then, as Romano made a lurch to stand up-
"Wait." Unexpectedly, Spain dragged him down again by the arm.
"Wha-?" But before he could finish, Spain had already pulled him into a deep kiss. And there was electricity. Just electricity. Shocking. Rejuvenating. Bestowing life.
They broke apart, gasping for their breaths. Romano glowered menacingly at Spain, though secretly thanking that the darkness concealed the scarlet colour of his face.
"Now's not the time, bastardo!" The wind had started up again, and his screams were carried away by the gales. He covered his mouth to keep himself from spluttering any further.
Spain gave him a big grin and said, "C'mon."
Romano could only nod, then take out a Molotov from his rucksack. He would never tell Spain, but the kiss worked. Too well. He was abruptly and witlessly filled with thoughts of charging head-on into the gunfire, all his fear numbed and forgotten. He tried to clear his head, blinked, then tossed the Molotov straight into the square, between the fountain and the door.
It shattered, and the flames roared to life. Climbing higher and higher. Immediately, gunshots. But their aims were blind. The fire blurred their vision. Meanwhile, Romano and Spain made a sprint for the door, ducking below the fire's protection, holding their breaths to fend off the black smoke as they passed dangerously near the burning flame. Finally, they reached the other side, both choking for air. But their relief was short-lived, Their assaulters began sending bullets towards them the moment they stopped near the door, even more malicious than before. Romano heard the shots from behind and quickly yanked the door open, shoving Spain in as he fell inside himself. As the steel door shut from behind, he heard the denting of the door on the other side as the bullets embedded themselves into its surface.
He heaved a relieved sigh, leaning against the door. They had only scrapes, cuts, bruises, and burns. Nothing severe. But before the two could catch their breaths...
Suddenly, two strong hands caught his arms from behind. "Let go! Ahh!" Romano wrenched and struggled in vain, stomping, snarling, trying to bite his captor's arm. Meanwhile, he glimpsed Spain fighting off another man next to him, but was just as unsuccessful.
"Don't move." Cold metal against his temple. Gunpoint. Romano froze. His heart was beating out of his throat. He clenched his jaw, chipped fingernails digging into his palm. It can't end like this. I can't let La Barbera escape! It can't...And at that precise point, an idea struck him like lightning.
"Kneel," the thick, gruff voice breathed down his neck. He did as was told, and began to tremble and shake all over. The man took his gun and his rucksack and threw them on the floor.
"L-look. I give up, okay? J-just don't...k-kill me..." Romano pleaded fearfully. He saw the alarm grow on Spain's face in his peripherals, but ignored him.
"Tch," Spain's assailant snorted. "Another useless one. And I thought he would've had a little more resistance."
"All of these grunts are useless. Look at this one," the man holding Romano down laughed as he gave Romano a hard kick. "Scrawny as a stick."
With an oof! Romano fell to the floor on his face, nearly breaking his nose on the hard cement. "Ahahaha! Completely useless!" Another kick to his gut. He flopped a little on the floor, coughing out a mouthful of blood.
"Romano!" he heard Spain scream. He turned his head slightly on the ground and gave Spain a quick wink. Shut up and watch, idiota.
"You know..." Romano began slowly, twisting his head around to fixate on his captor's shoe. The man was standing over him, a position of complete superiority. "The number one rule of taking someone captive..." Romano continued, "...is to know your enemy."
"Huh? What did you say, punk?"
A flash as Romano elevated himself off the ground with his arms and swept his leg at the his captor's. A loud thud. The man fell to the floor with a startled exclamation. The man holding Spain, distracted by the sudden turn of events, fell, too, with a pained grunt. Spain had elbowed him in the stomach. But Romano's opponent was fiercer than he had expected, and had quickly lunged at Romano, seizing his legs before he could walk away. Romano spun around, surprised at first, then seethed, "You brought this on yourself. In one smooth movement, he swiped out a small, glass bottle from inside his pocket and sprayed its contents, a clear liquid, at the man's face.
"Aaaaahhhhh!" A deafening scream filled the empty building, acid burning into the man's face. "Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!"
Spain, meanwhile, had the other Mafioso under a headlock. He looked up at the scream and raised his eyebrows at Romano. "Cyanide?" he asked.
"Si. It's cruel, but it won't kill him. I really don't have time to waste."
"You go ahead then. I'll deal with these two."
Romano gave his guardian, saviour, and all the other countless things Spain was to him one last fleeting look, then sped into the depths of the building.
Grey. Grey walls, grey stairs, grey railings. Grey cement dripping with water at the corners of ceilings. The sound of his footsteps echoed clearly through the greyness. It was too empty. Romano descended the stairs two by two, his footsteps heavy. Clunk, clunk, clunk. I have to get there before he escapes.
Clunk, clunk, clunk. Then, pause, as he reached the door to La Barbera's office. Tentatively, he pushed the door open, gun at the ready. He felt beads of sweat drip down from his temples as he slipped into the grey office. The office where he had suffered humiliation of the utmost kind. Where he was beat and kicked and conquered, like a dog. He glanced at the centre of the room, where a dark bloodstain remained from the day when Paolo died. The dark crimson spilling out from his head. And the vacancy in his eyes. A chill swept over the room. It was as if his ghost still remained.
But the office was empty, the single, armchair vacant and the lamp unlit. Romano could hear his own breathing, heavy with effort, as he crossed the room cautiously, minding each step as if he were in a minefield. But there was nothing. Simply nothing. How could he have escaped? There was only one exit out the building, and that was the entrance. What if he'd known beforehand...maybe he set up an empty trap. But how could he have found out?
Suddenly, the steel door caught his attention. The one he had been incarcerated in when he had first been captured. Romano frowned. It was slightly ajar. But it's just a closed, cramped space. There's no way La Barbera would hide in there, awaiting his own death... He carefully nudged the door to open wider with the tip of the gun. Nothing. As bare as the rest of the room. Romano heaved a sigh in desperation, but something told him to inspect the room further. This little closet held no pleasant memories for him, but he stepped in anyway. It was barely wide enough to fit him with the submachine gone and rucksack and all. He made a motion to step out, then-creak! The floorboard beneath his foot. His brows furrowed once again as he bent down to examine the floor. It was grey with dust and scattered marks of footsteps where he had tread. But...why would there be so much dust in a closet that was used almost every week for storing captives? And it was at this point that he noticed something was odd. If he squinted closer, there seemed to be another man's footprint in the dust other than his own. One that was slightly bigger and not of the military boots he wore. He brushed his hand over the floor, heart beginning to race, and traced a distinct crack in the floorboards with his finger. He quickly wiped away the rest of the dust to discover a shoulder-length, square trap door. His eyes widened in excitement as he hurriedly pried the door open. It was heavier than he had thought, and led down to...he couldn't see. It was completely dark. No time for hesitation. I'll have to risk it.
He sucked in a deep breath and jumped. Thud. He didn't have time to brace himself as he hit the floor. The fall was unexpectedly brief, and when he picked himself up, he noticed that the tunnel he was currently standing in was barely high enough to allow him to stand straight. A flicker of light to his left caught his eye, and Romano immediately sprinted towards the light. I can't let him get away. That sly bastard...he can't have gotten far. Knowing him, he won't ever leave behind his precious money. It would've taken him quite a while to gather all that cash, and by the looks of it, he hadn't had warning prior after all. It's just that we wasted too much time getting here. The tunnel soon began sloping upwards, becoming narrower and narrower until he had to duck his head.
The night air pierced his skin as he charged out into the open. He found himself in the back alley directly behind the building. The wind had calmed, but the clouds were still stirring in the dark, black sky. Romano turned around to face the headquarters building, fished out the last Molotov in the rucksack, and set the building aflame. Burning, crumbling, spreading. By morning, it'll be burned down to ashes from top to bottom.
He turned his back on the fire and was about to leave when he realised he was standing in a puddle of sticky mud. He swore, lamenting the fact that he had dirtied the boots. He hadn't had a nice pair of shoes for four years. But his eyes soon traced the puddle of mud to...muddy footprints. Similar to the ones in the steel room. Frenzied and splattering, dashing down the alley and turning right at the opening ahead. Romano whooped in joy and instantly sped off, following the footprints. After a few minutes of wild chasing and the violent drumming of blood in his skull...
A blur. A single blur of motion around the corner ahead. But there was no mistaking it. It was Salvatore La Barbera.
Romano jolted forward instinctively, speeding up even more. It had been a while since he was in military training camp, but his strength and agility was slowly coming back to him. He turned the corner, skidding over the dirt floor with his heels. He could see him now. La Barbera's running figure. He had a large, metal suitcase in his hand.
After nearing the target a little more, Romano took out the pistol strapped to his belt and shot at the alley wall directly next to La Barbera. Bang, bang, bang! Three resounding shots. With a startled exclamation, La Barbera jerked to one side and fell.
Perfect! Romano dashed over and faced him, a gun pointed at La Barbera's face. The face that he found so repulsive, with its monstrous eyes full of malice. So conniving and wicked that Romano wanted to shoot him right there, a hole straight through the forehead. It would end everything. Bring peace to Romano's perturbed mind. But the images of dead bodies flashed across his mind. No. The memory was too fresh and too deeply carved into his brain. The young men he had sent to their deaths because of this insatiable thirst for revenge. He had to control himself. So he merely pointed his pistol at the glowering Salvatore, who scrambled for his own gun and pointed it up at Romano.
"Give it up, Don." Romano spat out the words like it was filth. "You have nowhere to run."
"Why didn't you just shoot me?" he snarled. "With that?" His dark eyes flickered to the submachine gun strapped across his shoulder. Yes, it was true that La Barbera couldn't have possibly stood a chance if Romano had simply opened fire at him through that narrow alley with a machine gun. He would have fell to his death with a fusillade worth of bullet holes embedded into his back. But Romano hadn't, and he didn't regret it.
"Don't think I'd lower myself to the likes of you," Romano said coldly, then cocked his pistol. "Now stand up. You're coming back to Rome with me."
"And what?" he spat menacingly, "Turn me in to the authorities? Put me on trial?"
But with icy indifference, Romano replied, "Exactly."
La Barbera's eyes narrowed, the lines on his face twisting his countenance into a cruel sneer. Slowly, he got to his feet, never breaking with Romano's cool, calculating gaze. Then, his lips widened to a grotesque grin. It sent a cold shiver down Romano's spine.
"Did you think..." he began, taking a daring step forward, gun still steady in his hands. "...that I'd actually just go quietly without a word?" Romano lurched forward in alarm, but it was already too late. La Barbera suddenly pointed his gun at the window above Romano's head and fired a shot. Bang! The glass shattered. Followed by a woman's startled scream that pierced the night.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING? THOSE ARE CIVILIANS, BASTARDO!" Romano's scream cut through the fabric of the night, shredding it open layer by layer as his voice echoed out from the epicentre. He cursed himself for letting his own fears distract him.
La Barbera sneered in triumph, gun still pointed at the window. "I think I've made myself very clear. Now, Signor Italiana, if you will kindly let me go. I don't want to kill the pathetic, snivelling scum either, but my bullets don't have eyes."
Romano took a step backwards, sweat dripping down from the tip of his nose, jaw clenched desperately. A million different strands of thought, a thousand different fragments, were whizzing through his head, confused and conflicted. Merda...I can't...let him escape...but I can't just let him shoot down innocent people. Even if I shoot him right now...his bullet might take another civilian's life. And I can't let that happen...
But before he could make his decision, their stand-off was broken by footsteps. Swift footsteps suddenly skidding to a stop behind him. "Romano!"
Bang! Bang! Two gunshots, one right after the other. And then, everything seemed to happen too quickly. The first bullet whizzed past Romano and found its target. With a loud thud, Romano heard Spain fall to the ground behind with a scream of agony, while simultaneously, Romano let out a wail.
Meanwhile, the second bullet, the one Romano had shot, missed its target just, gracing the side of La Barbera's face. Romano spun around in panic to Spain clutching his bleeding leg, kneeling on the ground. Then, he twisted back to find La Barbera's running figure already growing smaller and smaller in the distance. But before he could react-
Another gunshot. Then, a defeated thud. La Barbera crumpled to the ground like a rag doll right before his eyes. And Romano was stunned to find none other than Moretti standing on the opposite side of the alley, gun pointed straight at where La Barbera used to be standing. And for a moment, everything was silent. As Romano helped Spain to his feet. As they approached La Barbera's body. As their eyes glanced off of the bullet hole on the left side of his chest. As they watched the crimson blood spill out onto the dirt ground. As the ground soaked up his filthy blood. And only one thought occurred to Romano. How awful he was in life, and how pathetic he is in death. I wonder if I ever died, I would be just as pathetic?
Then, the moment passed. And Moretti's low voice pulled Romano out of his thoughts.
"You are merciful, Signor Vargas," he said unwaveringly, "But I'm afraid I cannot be as benevolent."And the shadow of a smile passed across his face.
Romano softened slightly and replied, "Grazie, Moret-... Signor Moretti."
Moretti nodded in acknowledgement, then turned to the direction of an ocean breeze that had began to pick up. "This isn't the end." he stated, as if contemplating.
"No, it's not," Romano agreed, "But it's time for me to leave." A pause, in which everything seemed too quiet and calm. "Would you like to come with us? I'm sure you could make a living on the mainland."
"Thank you, Signor Vargas. But I still have to find my nephew. He's the only remaining member of our family alive, you see. And he's only barely eight years old. But of course, I shall see you to the docks."
And with that, the three men began gradually towards the sound of stirring, ocean wave, Spain leaning on Romano's shoulder. The sea had calmed and mellowed. The wind had subsided. All was not well. But all was tranquil for that single moment in time.
January 18, 1963
The little yacht swayed lazily to the gentle caressing of the waves. The moon had finally peeked through the clouds, shedding its misty rays upon the ground like a mistress of the night. Romano and Spain stopped in front of the yacht to find Netherlands and Belgium already waiting for them. It was evident that neither escaped unscathed. Netherlands was helping his sister with a rather ugly bullet wound dangerously close to her rib cage, while Netherlands himself had sustained a few less dramatic injuries on his shoulders and chest. France and Germany had yet to return.
"Not another one," Netherlands groaned, rolling his eyes at Spain's bullet wound. "Come 'ere, idioot*." Then, he continued to grumble about how they couldn't even defeat a few stray grunts without getting themselves shot.
Romano heaved a relieved sigh, then turned back to face Moretti. The man's features seemed oddly defined under the moonshine. A tall, long, and slight-crooked nose, dark brown eyes, and slightly-creased face covered in bruises, dirt, and cuts.
"Your friends Signor Bonnefoy and Signor Beilschmidt should be relatively unhurt," he explained. "But I can't guarantee they'll be able to catch Angelo La Barbera. No matter how cruel Salvatore was, his brother was always the more slippery one."
Romano nodded and gave him a wan smile. He was so exhausted he could fall asleep right on the spot.
"This is where I leave you," Moretti said politely. "Good luck, and thank you. All of you."
But, as he turned around and began to walk away, Romano suddenly stopped him on impulse. "Wait! ...It'll be extremely dangerous for you from here on out, especially now that you're a rogue. Come with us. You'll be safe on mainland. I can even arrange a job-"
"Thank you, Signor Vargas, for your kindness. But to be frank, I find you and your friends to be...too different. Different, and also dangerous. I don't know if you're trained soldiers or government agents, but the way that you handle weaponry is quite frightening. And also, forgive me, but I don't make it a habit to indebt myself to others." A pause, then, "But I do intend on leaving this place, once I find my nephew. It's not safe here."
Romano chewed on his bottom lip, but finally gave in. "Fine. But at least let us treat your wounds. They won't be able to heal properly if you keep exerting yourself like this."
Before Moretti could respond, Romano heard the sound of laughter. A child's laughter. Coming toward the docks. And soon, France appeared, followed by Germany, carrying a boy on his back. A laughing boy, who was trying to learn French from whom else but France himself? But Romano's attention was trained on the boy. Elpidio. Romano cracked a smile. Hope, the boy had said. He was named after hope.
Elpidio saw them as he approached, and waved with a big grin on his face. "Signor Vargas! Signor Carriedo!" he called.
Romano chuckled with relief. The boy hadn't been hurt in the crossfire.
"Hey! Little tyke," Spain yelled from behind Romano, waving back.
"Stay still!" Romano heard Netherlands snap at Spain as the two struggled with bandages.
Then, Romano noticed something was wrong. It was Moretti. He seemed dumbfounded, his eyes fixated on the boy on Germany's back. Romano frowned.
Then, as the two nations and the child neared, Elpidio abruptly asked for Germany to put him down. Germany obliged, and the moment Elpidio's feet touched the ground, he sprang over to Moretti and gave him a quick hug.
"Zio*!" he exclaimed in surprise. "What're you doing here?" Even in the dark, Romano could see that his eyes had grown big with joy. But...Zio? So when Moretti said he needed to find his nephew...
"Dio Mio, Elpidio!" It was the first time Romano had ever seen Moretti make any type of interjection. Or show so much emotion, for that matter. "I never expected to see you here! Where have you been hiding? I wasn't sure you were alive..."
"Well, Paolo hid me real well. He said not to find you because it would bring you trouble."
"Oh, my...you're so thin. You haven't been eating well..."
France and Germany joined Romano's side as they watched the happy family reunion. The two were indeed less injured than Belgium, Spain, and Netherlands, but exhausted nonetheless. The rips in his clothing and cuts on his body aside, France's usual luscious, blonde curls were tousled like a bird's nest caked with what Romano strongly suspected was mud. Meanwhile, Germany had what looked like a burn on one forearm and a few nasty cuts on his calves.
"Sorry, Angelo La Barbera got away," Germany informed apologetically. "It seems as if he had had warning beforehand. Or perhaps he was planning his escape tonight."
Romano bit his lip at this news. Angelo La Barbera, still on the loose...But that was everything they could do for now.
"So. Lots of surprises, then," France yawned at the happy reunion before him. But he couldn't help but smile. "Makes me feel lonely sometimes, you know."
"Si...It really does feel a little lonely..." Romano agreed.
"Hey, you should really come with us," Spain called out to Moretti from the dock, where Netherlands had just cut out the bullet in his leg. "There's nothing holding you back now, is there?"
Moretti gazed down fondly at his little nephew and cracked a rare smile. An expression that Romano had never seen him, in the four whole years, make before.
"I suppose so," he said, and even laughed a little when Elpidio whooped in delight.
And so they got into the yacht. All eight of them, one after the other. Once they entered the cabin, Belgium and France both immediately sank down into the sofas and went to sleep. Elpidio snuggled up next to France (whom he had taken a real liking to, against all odds). Romano settled down in an armchair, too, feeling as if he was going to fall part by the joints. After all, it had been four years since he had had a proper meal or a decent night's sleep. And before he knew it, he was dozing off into oblivion. He vaguely noted Spain's hushed voice as a blanket was pulled over his shoulder. He heard Germany start the engine, and soon they were speeding along smoothly in the water. The last remnants of thought that occupied mind his mind was the notion that he didn't want to see Palermo or any part of Sicily for a long, long while.
January 18, 1963
Romano rubbed his eyes as he climbed out onto the white deck.
"Buenos días*, Roma," Spain greeted as Romano joined his side at the deck's white railing.
"Buongiorno*," Romano yawned. Spain grinned back. His grin matched the peeping sunlight, Romano thought.
"So what're you going to do once you get back?" Spain asked, inching his face unnecessarily close.
Romano glared, but answered, "I'm going to first of all get my hands on the bastards who sent me there in the first place. Then, I'm going to fire a lot of people. And after that...well, I'll have to file a report...and then hopefully convince my boss to organise the police to take action. It's a whole bunch of crap...but it can't be helped."
"...Okay. But...what else are you going to do?" Spain urged. Romano shot Spain an irritated look. Why the hell are you looking at me like that?
"Um...what else? I'm going to...make pizza and pasta with Veneziano." But Spain's grin had softened to a mesmerizing smile, highlighted by clear, brilliant green.
"And...what else?" Romano felt the root of his ears heating up.
"What's with that face?" Romano panicked, leaning back as Spain leaned in. The tips of their noses were getting dangerously close.
Spain abruptly seized Romano by the waist and tried to steal a kiss, but the Romano quickly covered Spain's mouth, trying to push him away.
"Get...off...! There are children on board! You pervert!"
"Come on! Just one!"
"Come on! You owe me four years of love!"
"No, I don't! What the hell? Don't just decide that by yourself!"
"Romaaaa..." he whined.
"For God's sake, act your age! Oh, wait, then you'd be dead!" Romano retorted. He prayed that Spain couldn't hear his heartbeat drumming against his chest. It was going too fast, and it was all Spain's fault.
"You're so cruel to me..." Spain finally released him. And they just stood, enjoying the comfortable silence. The sea breeze stroked their cheeks, whispering sweet words in their ears, as they gazed out into the distance. The clear, dawn sky met the ocean, tinted red by the orange glow of the horizon. The sun bled out onto the undulating blue, its resplendent rays discreetly splendid. After over a millennia of walking these lands and travelling these oceans, the sun had never deserted them. Never disappointed them once. That great big ball of fire was like a quiet guardian, watching over their days, smiling quietly to himself as he shone on all that was evil, sad, joyous, or beautiful. All that was human.
Romano found his fingers involuntarily intertwined with Spain's as they breathed in the salty sea. He didn't let go. And soon enough, a grey line appeared down the horizon. As they slowly approached, Romano could discern the geometric corners of buildings that formed one long line.
When they reached the docks, Romano found Veneziano waving excitedly at them from on shore. They got off one by one, glad to have solid ground under their feet again after a tiresome night of rocking.
"Ve! Fratello! Ben Tornato*!" Veneziano greeted. "Everybody else is back, too! Why are you all hurt? Aaahhh! Germany, why is everyone hurt? Ve..."
There was a lot of chatter, a lot of laughter, and a lot of scrambling to make up explanations for Veneziano. Eventually, Veneziano ran off with Elpidio to catch a butterfly. The rest of them were too tired to stop them. But as everyone else rushed to get into town and into a real bed, Romano trailed behind on the docks, Spain perched beside him. He still had not let go of Spain's hand. And as they gazed off in the direction of Sicily, Romano knew that this was not goodbye. Not really. One day, he'll set foot in that town again. And hopefully, that day, the town will be free.
On January 17, 1963, both the La Barbera brothers disappeared.
Salvatore was never heard of again. It was suspected he had fell victim to lupara bianca (a method of killing used by the Mafia in which the body is hidden). His body was never found.
Angelo La Barbera reappeared a few weeks later in Milan giving a press conference. He was shot and severely wounded, then caught, put on trial, and sentenced to death.
On June 3, 1963 a bomb exploded in Ciaculli and killed seven police officers and military men sent to defuse the bomb. This incident became known as the Ciaculli massacre. General outrage at the Ciaculli massacre prompted the first anti-Mafia actions taken by the government since the end of WWII.
The Sicilian Mafia have long had relations with powerful figures in politics and control over cocaine trade. By the 1990s, Cosa Nostra had been significantly weakened, thus yielding to other crime organisations, most notably Ndrangheta from Calabria. Today, illegal drug trade and organised crime continues in South Italy.
1 Magazine- I've mentioned this once before in earlier chapters, but just in case you forgot, a magazine is the ammunition storage in a gun.
2 Mio Dio- My God (Italian)
3 The Second World War...both knew it as well as we do now- The explanation for what Spain said here is controversial and only part of a complicated truth. The reparations demanded of Germany after WWI was so large that it was impossible for him to pay it back, especially with the post-war economy. England took mercy and said "don't pay us," but France held a grudge (for many, MANY reasons) and tried to force the Germans to pay him back. This conflict continued, so America stepped in and enacted an economic plan that would circulate American money to help the European economy, especially the Germans. However, the market crash of 1929 led to the collapse of this entire system, and Germany was hardest hit in Europe. German unemployment rate soared to above 30% (an IMMENSE amount. American unemployment rate is currently around 8 and 9 and we're having issues...), which gave the Nazis a chance to take power by using the unfairness of the conditions forced on Germany after WWI (Treaty of Versailles) to motivate the discontent people into blind support of the party. And it went from there...
4 Philip II of Spain (21 May 1527 – 13 September 1598)- Spanish king famous for being ruling Spain in its Golden Age, fighting the Spanish-Dutch Wars (For Dutch independence), and also the Spanish Armada's attempt on an English invasion.
5 The Spanish Armada of 1588- The famous attempt by Philip II to take over Protestant England and unite Europe under the Roman Catholic Church ended in failure. The English protected their homeland gallantly and the Spanish Armada ended up smashing to bits on the shores of England thanks to a very unfortunately-timed storm.
6 Idioot- quite obviously, idiot in Dutch.
7 Lo Zio- Uncle. But I was also told that you can call someone like your father's close friends "Zio."
8 Bueonos días- Good morning in Spanish, though that's quite commonly known.
9 Buongiorno- Good "morning," though it could be used all the way until evening apparently.
10 Ben Tornato- Welcome back in Italian (male singular)
Phew! By God, that was a whole lotta work! First, a disclaimer: Hetalia belongs to Himaruya Hidekaz, who is just amazingful down to his core. Also, my portrayals of historical figures is conjured purely from my own imagination! Do NOT use as a reliable resource! And to elaborate on that note, I have never in my life set foot in Italy, much less Sicily, so forgive me for cultural errors! From the geography of Palermo to the descriptions of the historical events that took place, it is MY impression to make everything fit the story! Furthermore, I have just RECENTLY (less than a day ago) discovered, to my utter chagrin, that submachine guns, especially back in the day, are NOT considered light weaponry, thus the amount of chasing and movement described in this chapter would be quite impossible for a normal human. Please forgive me for this discrepancy and pretend that since they're countries, they have superhuman strength (especially Germany with a MG4 O.o) And with that said...
I'm glad (and sad) that I'm done with this fic. So since this is the last chapter, I'm going to make a few shout outs!
To The Strawberry (who is the Spamano-obsessed person who I dedicate this fic to. My best friend!) who is always so worried over stuff that I'm worried over her! HAVE CONFIDENCE, STRAWBERRY, YOU ARE AWESOME! Prussia agrees! ;)
To my friends at Yahoo! Answers who seriously are a huge help, since there's nothing like getting accounts of cultural habits/language from natives!
To my hero (not you, Alfred) Himaruya, whom I hope is doing okay! He's been MIA since early January! Oh, no! Stay strong, Hima-papa!
And lastly, to my awesome reviewers/subscribers/followers/readers who have stuck with this 'till the end, or have just discovered this now! I really hope you liked it! Please review and critique because when I have time, I DO go back and re-edit.
And as an apology for this super belated chapter/ending, I will offer an explanation for my short hiatus. I had been at first busy with final exams, and then busy with another HUGE Hetalia Fanfiction project I had taken on, The Art of Being Young and Beautiful. *Hold as I shamelessly advertise* It is NOT historical, unlike my other fics, and written in a more modern style. It consists of two main storylines, PruHun (my OTP) and USUK (a close second), and have side pairings of Spamano (haha, lots of love for those two) and Swissaus. It is a real world AU, set in modern day London, about a rather unique restaurant called the Hub, in which all our favourite Hetalia characters, here reincarnated as uni students and graduate students from all over the world, work, live, and love. (yay! Finally, just romance and no bother about historical accuracy!) If, that is to say, IF you are interested, please click on my username and it'll lead you to the stories I've written. You can find it there. Sorry, there's no way I can insert a link here! By the by, thank you for reading!