I'm a little late with this, but my inspiration is a fickle creature. Even so, I still had to write it. It just fits so well with my headcanon I couldn't resist.
Hetalia does not belong to me. I know, shock horror. Also, Lee Myungbak belongs to Lee Myungbak, and the same goes for every other name I may mention. They belong to themselves, I mean, not Lee Myungbak. *coughfaildisclaimercough*
(A note on honorifics: sshi is roughly equivalent to 'Mr', 'Miss' or 'Mrs'. Ajusshi is used for a middle-aged to old man.)
On the 17th of December 2011, South Korea woke up with a jolt.
For a moment he was too disorientated to do anything but grab at his chest in an attempt to stop the sudden stabbing pain, but by the time he'd managed to scramble up into a sitting position, it was gone.
He sat in bed for a moment, trying to control his racing heartbeat. Then he twisted to one side, then the other, feeling for anything at all out of the ordinary. Nothing. Not even a dull ache where the sudden jolt of pain had been. He undid the buttons of his pyjama shirt and looked - the skin over his heart was unbroken and unbruised. Aside from his panic, there was nothing to suggest there had ever been anything wrong at all.
But there had been. He was certain of it. That pain was too sharp to have been a dream and too severe to be shrugged off. The last time he'd experienced something like that had been in 2009, when his president had died. But his current president wasn't even sick! He couldn't have... could he?
It was only eight thirty and he'd been looking forward to sleeping in this weekend, but he still leapt out of bed and ran for his living room without even stopping to change out of his pyjamas. He ripped his phone off the hook and dialled the Blue House so fast his mind could barely keep up with his finger. He held it to his ear with shaking hands, waiting as it rang once, rang twice rang three times...
"Hello, you've reached the Blue House reception desk. Please state your business and we will put you on to-"
"I need to speak to Myungbak-ajusshi right now! I want to check he isn't dead!"
There was a moment of stunned silence. South Korea waited impatiently as the phone was held away and the receptionist whispered, "It's just Yongsoo."
Someone sighed. "What does he want?"
"He wants to check that the president isn't dead."
"Oh, for the love of... just put him through."
He had to fight the impulse to punch the air as the receptionist said, "Putting you through, sir," and the phone began to ring again.
One ring... two rings... "Hello, Lee Myungbak speaking."
"Myungbak-ajusshi! Is that you? Are you sure?"
"Oh, Yongsoo-sshi. It's you. I thought I told you not to call me ajusshi - you're much older than I am."
"Whatever. Listen, are you absolutely sure you're alive? Be honest."
He could practically feel his president rubbing his temples on the other side of the phone. "Yes, I'm sure. Just because you insist on calling me ajusshi does not make me an old man. Last time I checked, I was definitely still breathing."
South Korea's knees gave way and he collapsed onto the couch in relief. "Thank God."
"Is there anything else, or did you just want to assure yourself of my continued survival?"
"Just one more thing, sir. Have there been any... disasters? Anything gone wrong this morning? Anything at all?"
He held his breath as his president considered this question. "Not to my knowledge. Why?"
For a moment, South Korea considered telling him. But what would he say? He'd had a nightmare and overreacted? The last thing he wanted was to worry everyone when there was nothing to worry about. "No reason, sir."
"Very well, then. Enjoy your weekend, Yongsoo-sshi."
"You too, Myungbak-ajusshi."
His president hung up. South Korea let his phone fall from his hand and lay back on the couch, staring at the ceiling. That had been the right thing to do, hadn't it? Surely it couldn't be a good idea to stress everyone out. If something bad had happened then the Blue House would already know about it. Yes. Everything was fine.
Even so, he left the phone on the kitchen counter and put the news on while he made breakfast. It was no use going back to bed - he had been hoping to sleep in, it was true, but he was too wide awake now. Despite his constant self-assurances that it had been a false alarm, he was unusually jumpy that morning. He kept a constant eye on the TV, watching for any sudden newsflashes, and made a grab for the phone every time the news programme he had running made a sudden noise. But by the time he'd finished breakfast and the morning news had finished, he found himself much more relaxed. If something terrible happened in his country, he was one of the first to know the details. The fact that he hadn't found out anything by now meant that he probably wasn't going to. Perhaps it was some sort of economic thing - he had never quite understood economics - or maybe it was just a nightmare. Whatever the reason, it was definitely a false alarm.
His hopes were confirmed over the rest of the weekend. Life continued as normal around South Korea, and he spent his time off playing StarCraft and catching up on the latest dramas. He barely left the couch for the whole of Saturday - being a country was tiring, after all - but he spent his Sunday wandering around Seoul, shopping and visiting a newly-opened cafe he'd been curious about. There were no riots, no collapsed buildings, no bombings or shootings or sudden outbreaks of disease. He couldn't even hear anyone complaining about an economic crisis. As far as he could see, there was absolutely nothing wrong.
That evening, he ate rice cake soup and kimchi, flipped through a few magazines and prank-called China until he got bored. Then he stretched out on the couch and watched television, feeling pretty good about the world. His weekend had recovered from its rather shaky start to become one of the best and most relaxing he'd had in a long time. Maybe I should take time off more often. I could go on a holiday. I haven't visited Jeju Island in years...
He fell asleep that evening with a smile on his face and K-pop in his ears.
At half past eleven on Monday morning, South Korea sat in his office and watched in disappointment as yet another paper aeroplane nosedived and crash-landed in the middle of the room. That one was the twenty-sixth failure so far - he'd been tweaking and adjusting the design as he went but still hadn't made one that flew all the way to the rubbish bin. Aeroplane-shaped documents were scattered across the carpet, remnants of his previous endeavours, but he couldn't quite find the motivation to get up and clear then away. I'll do it later.
That was the problem with working from home. There was no-one to pick up his paper for him. Come to that, there was no-one to do anything for him. He got a maid in once a week, but that was it. If he wanted a drink or some pot noodles or a packet of biscuits, he had to get it himself. Back at the Blue House, all he had to do was press the emergency button under his desk and someone would come running. Ever since they'd politely suggested he move his office back to his own house, those days were over. If being a country doesn't mean you get someone to pick up your rubbish for you then what's the point of going to all the trouble?
The phone rang, and South Korea tried valiantly to convince himself that moving was worth the effort. After the fourth ring, he sighed and picked it up. "Yeah?"
"Hanguk, is that you?"
South Korea sat up ramrod straight. His feet came down from the tabletop so fast he almost knocked his keyboard to the floor. Hanguk. The only time his president ever called him Hanguk was when something really serious was happening. "It's me. What's wrong?"
"Turn on the television. Now."
He didn't even hesitate. He launched himself to his feet, ran to the living room and jabbed the power button on the TV. The news was on, which struck him as strange considering that that programme should've ended hours ago. The realisation dawned slowly, opening an icy pit in his stomach. It was the newsflash he'd been waiting all weekend for. For the second time in three days, his knees gave way and he sat down heavily on the couch, his eyes still glued to the screen.
The newsreader looked almost as shocked as he did. Without giving any details, she introduced a video broadcast just this morning on North Korean state television. The video contained just one woman in a black hanbok sitting at a desk in front of a solemn forest-themed backdrop. He recognised her - Ri Chunhee, the Voice of North Korea. But today, her delivery was not forceful or authoritative like usual. It was subdued, even melancholy, and she was holding back tears as she spoke. And did she speak... South Korea sat stunned on his couch as she made her announcement.
She gave plenty of details, all of them irrelevant and clearly fabricated and most of them just lists of his so-called accomplishments during his life. He didn't care about any of them. All he truly heard was one fact: at eight thirty AM on the 17th of December 2011, North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jongil had died.
"Hanguk?" South Korea jerked out of his trance; he hadn't even realised he was still holding the phone. "Are you there? Did you hear?"
"Y-yeah..." he breathed. Speaking had suddenly become very difficult. Words seemed to be dancing around his head, refusing to let him find them. "I heard."
"We've put the military on high alert and intelligence is working to find out more details. As for now, we're holding an emergency cabinet meeting in an hour's time. You need to get down here right now; we'll give you more information when you arrive."
"Of course, sir."
Before South Korea could put the phone down, his president spoke again. "One more thing."
"On Saturday, you called me almost exactly at eight thirty." He was hesitant now, as though unsure if he wanted to say this. South Korea felt icy tendrils of dread begin to creep up his spine. "You... asked if I was still alive."
He swallowed hard. "So I did, sir."
"My question is..." he paused, uncertain how he wanted to phrase it. "Did you have any reason to suspect I'd be... well, dead? Did you... did you feel it?"
South Korea didn't answer immediately. The truth was, of course, yes. He'd felt it. He had experienced almost the same sensation he had done when any of his previous leaders had died. Only this time it wasn't his leader - it was his brother's. The implications of that ran far deeper than he liked to think. It was true that years ago, back when he and Yonghwa had been close, before... well, before everything, they had been the north and south halves of the same country. South Korea was more aware of the goings-on in the south than in the north and vice versa, but if Pyongyang suffered an attack then he would know about it. He wouldn't feel it as acutely as North Korea, of course, but it was still very much there. They were two Koreas, but united as one country.
Ever since their split, South Korea had convinced himself that being two separate countries meant that he had nothing to do with the north any more. The sudden hunger pangs and sharp pains were explained away with the fact that he was perpetually stuck in the body of a teenager, and everyone knew that teenagers ate a lot and experienced growing pains. It wasn't just for his own comfort - if his own government suspected he was connected to North Korea by anything more than a common border then they'd never trust him again. He'd be lucky to escape prison, let alone remain as an advisor to the president. Yongsoo was South Korea and Yonghwa was North Korea and that was the long and the short and the whole of it.
Except for when it wasn't.
"No, sir," he said. "I didn't feel it. I just... got worried. I had a bad dream, that was all. It was irrational. I had no justification for it."
His president sighed audibly. "Thank God. I'm sorry I had to ask you that. You understand why, though. I just had to check you weren't... that he didn't..."
"Don't worry about it, I understand."
"Good. I've to go now, lots to do before the meeting starts. I'll see you in an hour."
"See you in an hour, sir."
South Korea sat stunned on the couch for a full five minutes after he hung up the phone. He had felt North Korea's leader die. Not his leader, his brother's. At times like this, they were a little too close for comfort. He hadn't spoken more than a few words to North Korea's face since 1950, but that changed nothing. They were still the north and south halves of the same region. Yonghwa had been invented in South Korea, after all; as much as everyone tried to deny it, they weren't supposed to be separated like this.
If he was going to get to the Blue House in time for that cabinet meeting, he had another ten minutes before he had to leave. Before he was even aware what he was doing, he was staggering back to his computer and opening up one of the scarcely-used confidential channels of communication between his country and his brother's country. Sometimes being a nation has its advantages. He paused, wondering what to send. Condolences? Encouragement? Yonghwa was sure to be shocked, sad and scared, after all. From what he knew of his leader's successor, he was untrained and far from ready to take his father's place. Advice? No, he'd never listen. So what should he say?
The question was, what did he want North Korea to know?
There was only one thing.
And so, with strangely numb fingers, South Korea found himself typing only three words in a cipher he and Yonghwa had invented back when they were still at war with Goguryeo. The message read simply: 'I felt it.'
He only had to wait two minutes for a reply. Channels of communication were clearly being monitored and his brother had to be nearby. The message was even shorter than his own and in the same cipher. 'I know.'
He stared at it for a moment, then set about getting ready for the cabinet meeting with a solemn, mirthless smile. Sometimes it was easy to forget just how similar they were. They couldn't possibly be more different on the surface, but at the end of it all they were still Korea. Still twins. Back in the old days, before the war that changed everything, before Russia and China and America got involved, they had always been on the same page. They had got there in different ways, of course - logic or emotion, plans or gut instincts - but he could count the number of serious arguments they'd had on the fingers of one hand. Perhaps that hadn't changed quite as much as everyone believed.
A few days later, North Korea released statements that everyone had sworn allegiance to the new leader and told the world not to expect any change within the isolated regime. In Seoul, everyone took them at their word. But South Korea knew differently, and he was sure that his brother did too, however much he might deny it. North Korea couldn't continue like this forever. It might take six months or sixty years, military defeat or revolution or just plain poverty, but one day soon it would collapse. And he already knew what he was going to do. No matter what his government said, he would take responsibility for Yonghwa. He would take him in like the brother he was, rehabilitate him and shield him from the hateful glare of the rest of the world. It was hopelessly idealistic, but perhaps the world needed a little more idealism these days.
They would be together again. North and South, Choson and Hanguk, Korea.
All he had to do was wait.
Reviews = love. They also make excellent food for the Muse Monster, and it can get very enthusiastic on a full stomach. ^_^