He found Austria ten minutes later in the parking lot, leaning on his car with a hand still pressed hard against his mouth. His shoulders were shaking, and even from a distance Prussia could see that his eyes were tightly closed. He hesitated, somewhat loathe to interrupt the other in such a private and vulnerable moment.
Prussia squirmed internally. How fucking embarrassing. Deep in the recesses of his brain a little voice was telling him that he had no right, really, to hope for anything pleasant to come from this situation – that he certainly didn't deserve Austria's forgiveness after this, after everything, after every single facet of their lives spent together, utterly apart – but another voice, a slightly louder one, the one that Prussia preferred to listen to, and which was frequently heard issuing at quite a volume from between his lips, told him to stop standing there in the rain, in a parking-lot filled with empty, wet cars, and to move; to go towards Austria and apologise, and explain why he didn't call, and tell him that he liked the speech, and...and...
And here was where things became tricky, because Prussia wasn't good at feelings, and tenderness, and being gentle with other people. He liked Austria – oh, God, he loved Austria, he adored him – but Austria didn't like him, Austria liked women, for fuck's sake, and Austria clearly had no desire whatsoever to waste any more of his time at a funeral for a man who a) existed to do nothing but irritate him, b) wasn't actually a proper country anymore, and c) couldn't even die properly. So, in reality, Prussia supposed that it was the quiet voice he should listen to this time. He should, he thought, just turn around, give it up, go back to his brother and his friends, and get absolutely hammered.
Which would be a fairly decent plan – except for the fact that Austria was still stood there, in the pouring rain, leaning back against his car with a hand clapped to his mouth and his eyes closed, sobbing, apparently...and suddenly Prussia's feet were moving again, without his head's permission, and he really had no idea what he was going to say, and Jesus Christ, his heart was fucking pounding...
Austria did not realise that he was there until Prussia was practically on top of him; and when he did he jumped, violently, his face draining of all colour, and he made a horrified, desperate sort of noise, and half-turned in an effort to get away.
"Wait," said Prussia, and he reached out and grabbed the other man's wrist. "Please." He stopped. He didn't know what else to say. The rain continued to fall down on them, poker-straight and relentless.
Austria ran his hand beneath his glasses and over his eyes quickly, fixing the other with a fierce scowl. "Let me go."
"No." Prussia had not planned this far ahead, and was already beginning to struggle.
Austria stared at him for a moment; then violently wrenched his arm from Prussia's grasp. He did not run away. He did not speak, either.
"Please," Prussia tried again, "Just – let me explain...I...I just want to talk –"
"I have nothing to say to you."
"You had plenty to say earlier," said Prussia, with venom – and the other man's cheeks turned red, and he cast his gaze down to the ground.
"I...shouldn't have said it."
Prussia would have laughed at him, bitterly – it was almost a reflex response, by this point – but instead his mouth opened, and, unbidden, words crept out swiftly, surprising him.
"I'm...I'm glad you did."
Austria stiffened beneath his hand.
Prussia waited for him to say something. He didn't.
"It was...nice," he added, weakly, and felt rather sickened with himself.
Austria's eyes flickered his way quickly, surreptitiously, and he seemed to relax somewhat. Prussia slowly released his grip on the other's wrist, though truly he was loathe to let that warm, slender limb go. He wondered, his heart flickering weakly within his chest, what the aristocrat would have done if he'd slid his palm downwards and wrapped their fingers together.
They stood there against the car, side-by-side in complete silence. The roof of the vehicle spluttered hollowly as it was steadily pounded with raindrops, and the gravel beneath their feet crunched and coughed wetly against their shoes. In a tree somewhere behind them, Prussia knew Gilbird was sheltering. He chanced a quick glance towards the man at his side. Austria was staring straight ahead, his eyes unfocused, his lips and cheeks still pale.
"Did you really think I was dead?"
It felt almost blasphemous to speak; to tear through the quietness of the soaked air and lawns and the palace and the parking lot.
Austria moved, just slightly. Prussia heard his breath shudder within his lungs, or perhaps his throat before he answered.
"This has been one of the hardest weeks of my entire life."
Which was an answer, and wasn't, and really, after all this time, Prussia needed something far more concrete than that. He likes women, said the voice in his head, And he doesn't like you anyway, and then it said, You don't deserve him.
Austria turned to face him. Up close, Prussia could not miss how sallow his skin looked; how unkempt his hair was. He saw the deep brown and grey and purple rings staining the area beneath his eyes, and the little dents in his lower lip where teeth had caught and ground and shredded. A vein stood out at his temple.
"You know," he said, softly, "when the Wall went up, and you were gone for...nearly thirty years...it felt like such a long time. Everything does, with you."
He lifted a thin hand, pushed his fingers beneath his glasses, and rubbed his eyes.
"This still feels like a dream. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and you'll be...you'll be gone." His voice cracked slightly.
"Sorry," said Prussia. "Not for a long time yet."
Austria looked back at him. His eyes shimmered behind the lenses of his spectacles, and Prussia's chest tightened strangely. "I don't want you to."
A silence fell. Rain crawled down Prussia's back, beneath the collar of his shirt, plastering the material to his skin. It teased his hair into melting spikes and flattened it against the curve of his skull. At his side, the other too was waterlogged and still, anchored by feelings and the pressure of the weather.
Prussia studied him, that elegant profile...the even sweep of his nose, the dip and fold of his damp lips, his eyelashes, clumped and damp, and the weak fall of those tired eyelids, reddened with something that tied his stomach in knots and shot a stopper into his windpipe. There was something that needed to be said, something he had to ask the other man, but he really had no idea how to form the words, how to ask for what he wanted, what had been hinted at when Austria was wading, wet-eyed and tongue-tied through his speech, but couldn't possibly be the truth...
He inhaled slowly and deeply, steadying himself, rooting his body in the world because he was alive, no matter what he had seen, no matter how long he had stood and watched on the terrace, he was still there, breathing and feeling and seeing –
"Why did you say it?"
It took a moment – the rain continued to pound and pitter and patter down – and then Austria's head turned, slowly, and he said, carefully, his voice thick as though he was suffering from a bad head cold: "Why did I say what?"
"What you said." Why did it have to be so fucking difficult? "About...me. In your speech. Why did you say...all that stuff you said...why didn't you just – just do a poem, or – or just – say goodbye, like everyone else did?"
Austria's cheeks turned scarlet.
"No, seriously, I want to know."
Another silence stretched tightly between them. By this point, every item of clothing on Prussia's body was soaked through, clinging to his chest and arms and stomach and legs. Austria was shivering, his glasses were streaked and smudged, and rainwater was dripping steadily from the pointed tip of his nose.
For a moment, Prussia thought he wasn't going to get a reply. Then Austria shifted – he felt it, felt the lethargic, sorrowful movement against his side – and Austria murmured: "You really don't know why?"
Prussia said nothing. He was very still, and very tense.
"You really don't know why I said you were wonderful? Or beautiful? Or why I baked all those – those damn cakes for you? Or...or why I let you dirty up my home, or sleep on my sofa? Or why I loved seeing your boots, and the dirt, and the mess so much? Or why I made no effort, none at all to make you leave my house whenever you came to pester me, even though I complained about it so much? Or why I made that – that ridiculous speech in the first place? You really don't know? After...after all this time?"
His back felt very strange; very rigid, and very cold, all at once like a solid block of ice, and as though it was crumbling like ancient yellow paper. His heart was beating very fast – or perhaps it wasn't beating at all – and his head was spinning and his eyes were half-blinded by what may have been nothing or might have been everything.
And he thought about the crash, and the Wall, and that very first meeting with the violet-eyed, dark-haired child, and the end of Germania, and the marriage of his beloved to Spain, and the futile training of his little brother, and the night before Hungary took his darling away from him, stole his heart, and about France's arm around his own lost, amnesic sibling, and the red flags with the flipped black and white symbols which may have once meant peace, and the wheelchair, and the night before his exile, and the crusade – all the crusades – and the funeral, and about how, even though it was completely illogical and mad and so fucking girly, how, above all else, he loved and adored his young master.
He turned, slowly, stiffly, to meet the other man's gaze. Austria's lips and eyes were swollen with unconquerable sadness, bright red, and his nose was red too, and running. His eyes were sunken, and his cheeks were snow-white, and he was shaking –
And Prussia could count every raindrop and every salty tear caught in Austria's eyelashes...
And Prussia could see every twitch of those swollen, chewed-up lips...
And Prussia could see, and feel, the clouding curls of warm, white breath in the narrow air between them, and against his own face...
And that air was becoming thinner, thinner, thinner...
When they touched – when their lips touched, so lightly it could have been a dream, a dream of somebody else, retold to them – it was cautious, and they were both stiff with fear. Their bodies hardly moved; hands remained clenched tightly down at their sides, and though their eyelids lowered, they did not close, not fully, and they did not press against one another...not at first.
They moved in, and out, and in again, painfully slowly, cupid's bows and the round jut of their lower lips brushing tentatively, their mouths hardly moving at all, just coming together, bumping like acorns or leaves fallen and floating upon slow water...
Austria's nose tickled his, cautiously, politely, and the frames of his spectacles knocked against Prussia's cheeks. They pulled apart, gradually, saying nothing, because there was nothing to say, nothing they could possibly say, now...and their silver, shining breath stretched out between them, taut like a tugged thread, and drew them back irresistibly into one another, time and time and time again.
Austria kissed him, again and again, pressing little tender, shaky, mouthing pecks to his lips and his cheeks, and that space between there and his jawline, his spine drawn up high with fear, his hands hovering close to his stomach, afraid to rise up any higher.
Prussia did not move.
Prussia could not move.
It was rather difficult to work out what, exactly, was occurring, because his brain seemed to have spluttered to a halt the instant that Austria had turned towards him, tilted his wet, exhausted face upwards, and touched their lips together. He felt as though he was sinking into the earth; or perhaps melting away through the rain, like a sagging, grey mist, because there was no way, no way this could possibly be happening...
The insuperable weight of history fell across the breadth of his shoulders, and forced all the oxygen that sat stacked up within his lungs out, and across the other man's lips. They parted, and Austria looked up at him, slowly, speckled with rain, bruised by fatigue.
"Pr-Prussia..." He tried to continue, but made not a sound.
Their heavy breathes continued to condense in the cold, water-pierced air between them and before them and all around them.
Prussia realised he would have to say something. It was, however, very, very difficult to do so when Austria was stood there in front of him, those tempting lips working slowly, anxiously, and really, all he wanted in that moment was that mouth on his again, properly this time, gaping and closing in desperate licks and hard sucks rather than light, half-formed bumps of nose against nose.
His chest tightened – and the words overflowed and spilt out, messy and painful.
"B-but...but you like girls!"
Austria blinked up at him.
Prussia felt very out of breath, and ever-so-slightly un-awesome.
"I – I beg your pardon?"
"Girls," he said, and he felt like a fucking idiot repeating himself. "You like girls! You – you like Hungary!"
Austria's mouth was open, and his narrow, neat eyebrows were furrowed. "Wh– what? Girls?"
Prussia was feeling extremely confused and conflicted, and very fucking lovesick. How lame.
"What on earth gave you that idea?"
And suddenly it felt as though some giant being with giant hands had seized the carpet of gravel beneath his feet, and given it one long, hard tug, and sent him tumbling through space.
"Why on earth did you think I liked – women?" Austria's mouth was wide open, and so were his eyes, and there was so much flickering in them that Prussia felt slightly dizzy trying to watch.
"Prussia, I bake fairy cakes." And then Austria was smiling, and his eyes were shining, and his head was tilted to the side, and he was looking upon Prussia with something like pity, and something like affection...except...except that couldn't possibly be right...and he was suddenly stood right in front of him, gazing up at his face, his slender, lovely hands closing gently on the sodden fabric of Prussia's shirt. "I wear a jabot and a waistcoat. I style my hair with straightening irons and I wear glasses for aesthetic purposes. Prussia, I have window boxes." He laughed, and Prussia saw small, round tears beginning to gather in the corners of his eyes.
"B-but...I mean...I'm a very...modern-minded man! How am I supposed to know –"
"You said that playing the piano was 'gay'!" Austria exclaimed, his smile widening even further, and oh, how long had it been since Prussia had seen that? "If my music is gay, what are all the flower arrangements I have in my house?"
"But...but Hungary –"
"Hungary is my best friend!"
Prussia spluttered mindlessly, torn between tossing the stupid, namby-pamby, fucking wonderful aristocrat over the front of his car and just ravishing him, and punching him in the face for all the centuries of woe he had managed to cause him.
And Austria just laughed some more, and raised a shaking hand to cup his jaw.
"I...I..." he said, because he couldn't say the words he really meant – they were so damn soft – but Austria just smiled, and pressed even closer.
"I tried to tell you," he said, softly, his fingers working with the material of the other's shirt, "so many times how I feel about you..."
"I'm sorry," Prussia said, because he really couldn't think of anything else to say, and everything hurt, so much, but he was smiling, too, and his heart was pounding, really pounding, and it suddenly occurred to him that he was really, really, happy –
"Wait a moment," Austria said, and he was so beautiful when he looked at Prussia like that, all trembling, half-concealed smiles, his hair knotted and his glasses wet, "did the awesome Prussia just apologize to me?"
"Uh – no!" Prussia wanted to laugh, to shout with joy, and oh, stupid prissy-pants, what was he doing?
"You did. You just said 'sorry.'"
"I definitely didn't."
"You most certainly did!"
"If you hadn't interrupted me I would have been able to finish my sentence. What I was going to say, before you forgot all your dumb, prissy manners, was 'I'm sorry you've always been too much of a wuss to tell me how you feel.'"
Austria rolled his eyes – but he was still smiling. "Actually," he said, suddenly, "I think it is you who is the 'wuss' here. I made my speech. You haven't said anything."
Prussia opened and closed his mouth several times, struggling, whilst Austria moved both of his hands to Prussia's shoulders, smirking a little.
Austria's lips were trembling. He was trying so hard, Prussia thought, not to laugh.
"Stop giggling, priss!"
Austria raised his eyebrows, still smiling. "Well? Are you going to say it? Or are you going to finally admit defeat and accept that it is you who is the 'wuss'?"
"Not on your life."
"Go on then," said Austria, leaning up and wrapping both of his arms around Prussia's shoulders. "Say it. Say it now."
And then Prussia leant down, and Austria craned his neck up, and all at once the past eight hundred years, and Germany's mangled wreck of a car, and those escaped penguins, and the Serbian mafia, and every single member of the funeral party, all of them no doubt wondering what the hell was going on right now, everything, simply faded away with the dying rain...
And as the downpour finally ended, leaving only fat droplets of water which had grown too heavy for the leaves on the trees they had insistently clung to plopping down meekly to the soaked-through ground, Prussia wrapped one arm all the way round Austria's back, and positioned his other hand on the back of Austria's head, and pressed his lips against Austria's left ear.
"I love you, stupid priss," he said. "Always loved you."
And, properly, fully, deeply this time, finally, at long, long last – they kissed.
And there you have it :p I hope nobody's too disappointed with it! Thank you all so much for reading, favouriting, watching, and commenting, it really does mean a lot to me, so thanks again. I try really hard to respond to every message I get, so if you have any questions about Lazarus, or about any of my fics, please don't hesitate to PM me!
Thanks again, and hopefully see you soon in another fic :p