There had been a moment, when Prussia had at last reached the wet and thick gardens of Sanssouci, swollen green and grey with rain, and come across the murmuring huddle of black-and-lace-garbed nations, who had not seen him upon the terrace wringing out his ruined jacket, muttering curses against unawesome clouds, and lame cops, and that dumb Serbische Mafia, when his heart had given pause; he had seen things like this before, on the cinema screen, when protagonists moved through the whole flickering film reel before it hit them; that they were no longer of this world – and he wondered, briefly, if he was perhaps dead.
But no – his heart was still beating, he discovered, beneath a hand that was most definitely not shaking, no, not at all – beneath the shelter of the terrace, beneath the heavy iron sky...and though he was not close enough to that still, sombre congregation for them to easily spy him, he could hear their words, carried like dry leaves on the wind, across the waterlogged lawns.
And he regained himself again, and tipped his chin up, and smiled. They thought he was dead.
They thought he was dead.
It was testament, he supposed, gazing out over the fantastical scene before him, pale eyebrows high beneath his rain-spiked hair, to his sheer awesomeness, that nearly the whole world (in a manner of speaking), had turned out to pay tribute to him; to remember him with love, and admiration, and fondness; to dress up in black and lace, and weep, and mourn his passing, when in actual fact he wasn't even the slightest bit dead yet.
His friends were all fucking morons.
He already knew that, of course – but here, in the shelter of the terrace, with the lawn and the black and the wet smudged across the grey pane of weather before him, this thought hit him harder than ever before – and his lips pressed together, turned up at the corners, and he bit dents into his cheeks, and the hiss of disbelieving laughter that escaped him shook his shoulders and his chest, and he had to clamp his teeth down on his tongue to stop himself making any more noise.
Yes; it was a funeral. His funeral. And he was there to bear witness.
Not that he was attending, as such; he was merely a bystander, a quiet ghost beyond the flower beds, and Fritz's grave, silently observing that sorry band of countries who struggled beneath the downpour with their umbrellas; clutching their dark coats tightly around their hollow chests and bent waists, drooping like old storm-beaten willow trees.
He watched them a while, shaking his head and grinning, and shrugging at Gilbird in a "Well, what're we going to do with them, huh, Birdie?" kind of way. And then he saw, at long last, through a gap between two hunched backs, a water-streaked portrait of himself, resplendent in crisp military uniform, and for a moment he thought it would have been more accurate had that pale figure within the frame been blood-smeared and cruel; not smiling; nor stood erect, shoulders back, chest out, medals glinting. But then again – perhaps that wasn't important.
He looked at the picture a little longer; squinted at it through the persistent drizzle; and the true surrealism of the situation hit him, in the chest and the head and behind his knees like a huge, blow-up novelty hammer.
It was his funeral; and if he hadn't been certain of it before, he was now.
There was no coffin, of course.
Prussia thought, with regret, of his brother's beloved Mercedes Benz SLR, crumpled and engulfed in flames. He had left the car behind; and he did not know whether the authorities had managed to salvage any part of it. This, he thought – this whole bizarre scenario playing out before him seemed to suggest not. How absurd, he mused, that they believed he had died in something as tiny as a car crash. Nations did not perish in car crashes. Nations were scratched in such things.
But then he was not a nation; not quite, not any more.
Not quite a nation; and not quite one of those thin, pale humans who withered and perished in the blink of their country's eyelid; in a lazy yawn; in a slow, languorous smile.
He smiled too, again, stood upon the terrace with Gilbird perched beside him, and shook his head. At least he would have something to write about in his diary tonight.
Today, I was so awesome I went to my own funeral. Kesesesesese! Oh yeah! Everyone was so glad to see me alive they made today International Prussia Appreciation Day. We all sing my national anthem, and I get presents and stuff! West admitted I was the best brother ever, and promised to be my slave for the rest of the month! He even said I could move out of the basement and have his room instead! And then Italy gave me a kiss, and that sissy Austria cried because he was so jealous! But I said there was plenty of me to go around, and he practically fell into my arms. Occupied his vital regions SO HARD!
Oh, got to go, he's begging me for round seven –
He sniggered again, rubbing a hand over his eyes, shaking his head, because really – how much dumber could these guys get? Honestly, they were falling to pieces without him!
The dark crowd in the rain before him stirred. One of those transient humans; a balding minister wearing robes and exceedingly thick glasses appeared at the side of his picture, and looked out over the wet assembly. Through the steady beat of the rain, Prussia heard a dry little sob. Perhaps Italy Venciano? How cute. He could pick out that wild flick of red-brown hair through the sad, slow storm; and there was Romano; and behind him, Austria; slump-shouldered and lovely and still.
Austria may have hated him; but at least he had the decency to show up.
He chuckled to himself; called his bird to his shoulder. Gilbird fluttered over; settled himself there; fluffed up his damp feathers, and began to preen.
Prussia had tried his best with Austria. He had tried and he had tried.
It was fairly disheartening, though, Prussia admitted to himself, reluctantly, gazing through the rain at the back of that shining head of dark hair, that motionless, drooping spine, those slender, gorgeous fingers curled ineffectively around the handle of his sissy umbrella, that the one person he would possibly think about maybe considering being in a relationship with (having regular sex with, he corrected himself, hastily, red-faced) was, a) a stuck-up, prissy-pants aristocrat, b) one of your best friends' ex-spouses (though Spain, whenever Prussia asked, in the smoothest, subtlest way possible, had just shrugged, and said, "but, mi amigo, it was, you know – political. I mean, we hardly saw each other, you know? He had a different bedroom to me! Besides," and at this point his eyes had taken on that stupid dreamy quality, "Roma is my one true love, si?" to which Prussia had replied, "you are so full of shit, Spain," and punched him on the arm for good measure.) And then there was, of course, point c) which was that Austria hated his guts. Prussia often thought that if he could just pound the object of his affections into a mattress hard enough, a) and b) would cease to matter, but point c), admittedly, would take some doing. Prussia had tried his best on this front, by turning up at his house, listening whilst he played the piano, and joking around with him, but Austria, for some reason, always seemed to take offence, and turned intensely scarlet, and tried his hardest to make Prussia leave.
"One day," France had said, on multiple occasions, patting his back encouragingly, "one day, he will see sense, no?"
So Prussia kept at it, never stooping quite so low as to buy him flowers, or any of that dumb girly shit, but had yet to see results. Stupid, stupid Austria, who wasn't even that good looking, or fun, or talented on the piano, or good at baking, had no idea what he was missing out on.
Usually, such thoughts would irritate Prussia; set him pacing, or scribbling away furiously in his diary, or heading for the nearest supply of alcohol. But here, in quiet, wet, Sanssouci, where he had spent many a glorious summer's day in his prime – here, today, with Fritz close by, somewhere – and these people wasting the morning away huddled around a grave that would, he knew, remain empty for a long time yet – here – he felt calm. He felt happy. He laughed; and it felt good, so he laughed again, until he was all out of breath – and had to go and sit on the steps for a moment to recover, still sniggering occasionally.
And then, on the grass, on the long carpet of lawn before him, the minister stepped forth; and the crowd's soft, sad murmurs fell, and fell, and faded into silence. The human's robes and smart trousers began to fill with water.
"'I,'" said the man, in a dry, quavering voice (and it seemed that even the clergy were shaken by his apparent passing!) "'am the resurrection and the life,' says the Lord. 'Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.'"
Somebody sniffed, loudly.
The rain beat down, and Prussia saw the thin pages of the Holy Bible the minister clutched wearing down in the onslaught. The ink, he thought, would be running. The little minister closed the book; folded his hands over it, in front of him, and gazed solemnly about at the mass of soaking mourners surrounding him.
"Now – let us say a prayer for Gilbert."
Oh, dear Lord. This time, he couldn't help the loud bark of laughter that escaped his lips. It was too funny, really; and the constant thud of rain drops on the roof above him quashed the sound; pressed it away from the dark men and women assembled on the squelching lawns. His little yellow bird squatted down upon his shoulder; tucking its spindly legs beneath that round, beating body, settling down to enjoy the show.
Out in the wet, in the grey mist formed by needle-sharp downpour, the congregation pressed their hands together; looked down at the ground; at the liquid ground, rising up to seize their feet.
"Lord," began the minister, "in weakness or in strength we bear your image. We pray for those we love who now live in a land of shadows," (and here there was a choking noise; a pained, pathetic crack) "where the light of memory is dimmed, where the familiar lies unknown, where the beloved become as strangers. Hold them in your everlasting arms, and grant to those who care a strength to serve, a patience to preserve, a love to last and a peace that passes human understanding. Hold us in your everlasting arms, today and for all eternity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
And they said amen, too; and South Italy crossed himself.
Prussia copied them mockingly, and snorted again, grinning as he got to his feet and leaned over the white, wet fencing. His arms, folded before him, supporting his chest, were bruised, only slightly; and the skin was just a little torn. Perhaps, he thought, if this spectacle continued, he would crack a rib. He could say it was from the crash. He did his utmost to stifle the burgeoning laughter in his throat and stomach.
The minister held the quiet a moment longer; then caught somebody's eye, in the audience before him; and moved aside. The hems of his black trousers caught in the sodden ground; swelled with water.
And Prussia thought about his brother's car, mangled; and about the long journey home; and the bank heist, and the escaped penguins, and the mafia, again, though with delight and a spinning head this time; and then, from the terrace, he looked out over the dull black and the froofy lace, and the picture of himself, spotted with downpour, and the oblivious backs of his fellows, and he cackled, because, really...
They actually thought that he, the awesome Prussia, had died.
A/N: The prayer ("Lord, in weakness or in strength...") is one I found online. I haven't been to Church since I was about eleven years old, so I wasn't confident enough to write my own prayer, nor was I certain of what sort of prayer would be read at a funeral, and I wanted to make it a religious service, given as Prussia (the character) was originally Teutonic Knights, so I hopped onto Google for that :P