A/N: My second 'Complete' Hetalia fiction… And it's another tragedy/horror one, what is wrong with me?
Anyway, before a bunch of bronies jump down my throat (yes, I'm a brony and if anyone else is give me a message. I would LOVE to see how many Hetalia fans are fellow bronies/pegasisters), this was inspired by the MLP:FiM flash-fiction (which I think is a different term for a short one-shot) 'The Cough'.
It was short, but very powerful.
And it was its succinctness that convinced me to do a longer, Hetalia version of it.
So, without rambling anymore, I now present… this.
Disclaimer – I don't own Hetalia or the work of Ebon Mane on dA.
In the darkness… there was a ragged cough.
Immediately, a panicked, angry voice snapped, "No. Uh-uh, turn on the lights!"
"TURN ON THE FUCKING LIGHTS!" The original voice screamed. It took a moment, a tense collection of seconds, before a dim glow of a light-bulb, barely enough to read by, flickered on. Soft footsteps crunched over the ground as a figure stepped forward.
At once, his short blonde hair shined like the golden rays of the sun; his skin a healthy bronze and his eyes the same hue of the sky above… But now, Alfred F. Jones, once the personification of the United States, looked around the small, cramped room he shared with eight other people. His eyes were wide and blood-shot, paranoia-induced insomnia keeping him up for days, as he snapped, "Who was it?" Everyone was silent. "WHO?"
America clenched his teeth before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a simple handgun: nothing extravagant, only black steel molded for one purpose. He whipped it around the room, first pointing towards the personification of the United Kingdom: Arthur Kirkland. America's father figure only gave him a pointed, grass-green stare before going reaching into his pocket and retrieving a weathered copy of Greater Expectations.
The gun then whipped to the one bed in the room where the French representative Francis Bonnefoy lay. His once-luxurious hair had gone dim and limp, his skin pasty from the dryness of the room. The romantic nation had been reduced to a bed-ridden state from a bad leg and the high-stress environment he had been confided in the past few… Who even knew how long they had been trapped in there?
America whipped the gun over again, seeing a muscular blonde with stern blue eyes that were keyed in on the young Italian who sat on the floor, softly twitching once: his face buried into a bag of semolina flour. Germany and Italy acted as if they hadn't even heard America's question.
Next in the line of fire, the oldest individual in the room sat on the floor. China's age was beginning to show, entirely due to the things he had been through… all leading here: occasionally getting the sweat and dust and, more often than not, tears wiped from his face via a small handkerchief that Japan, a medicine-mask over his face, managed to keep marginally clean by some unexplained miracle.
"Well?" America clenched his teeth, walking out of the weak light's range to where the tall, broad-shouldered Russian personification stood: staring into the nearby corner with such intensity that one would think he was able to see what was going on outside.
Why anyone would want to, was anybody's guess.
Finally, Alfred swung the gun: it's barrel pointing towards his twin brother… and the spirit of a nation long since disbanded. Prussia glared at America, his red eyes looking up at the young nation in stone-faced stoicism. The albino gently rubbed Canada's back, trying to get him to sleep and be free of all this if only for a moment.
The silence was deafening. And America desperately wanted, no… Needed for it to stop. "Someone needs to fess up!" He clicked the gun's barrel until it landed on the chamber that held the weapon's one and only bullet, "Or I start blasting, I swear to God!"
"There is no 'God' here…" Russia's voice rasped out from the corner of the room. Silence reigned. The only sound, if any, was what remnants of sound from the outside gales that could echo in through the room's thick walls.
The rank smell of unwashed bodies hung in the air, mixing with the air-born dust to make breathing almost impossible.
"Shut the fuck up!" Alfred clenched his teeth, "Nobody say anything unless it's to tell me who fucking coughed!"
"Oh, shut up you little brat!" Gilbert snapped, slightly regretting his action as he felt Matthew's hand try to keep him seated. The albino ex-nation ignored the silent plea, "What does it matter? Hell, what does anything matter anymore?"
"You are disrespecting your age, aru…" China spoke out, his voice void of life, almost creaking as he continued, "You have to think seriously about this…"
"He's right." England closed his book, the light too dim to read anyhow, "Better for eight of us to live through this than none of us. Coughing is the only warning we get."
A quiet voice tried to have an input: Canada asking, "Couldn't we try to wait and see? We haven't been outside in days, weeks… months…" He shook his head, lest his eyes leak tears from how much he missed the outside world; what he would have given to feel a simple breeze! "It could be dust… Heck, it could even be a common cold, eh? We wouldn't know unless we waited… Alfred, please?" America slowly shook his head,
"This ain't that easy and you know it. There's no going back once this thing reaches the final stage. God damn it, you saw what happened out there!" He spun the gun's barrel until it came back to that one bullet, "I will be damned if that happens in here!"
The air was tense, America glaring at Prussia and Canada: the gun still pointed towards them. But then, Japan spoke.
"You are right Alfred-san. But please… Put down the gun. This is no time for idle threats."
The sad truth of the matter was that with the outside world practically gone and the nine inside that room the only pathetic examples of life left, a single gun-shot wound to the head would end it all.
However, everyone in the room knew that the gun only had one bullet.
"Give me the gun Alfred." Arthur demanded. Instantly, as if rising from the dead, Francis shot up from the bed and screamed,
"Don't you dare! If I have to live through this hell, than so do you!" Alfred placed the gun back in his coat pocket, agreeing,
"No dice old man." England grimaced at the room's inhabitants before pulling out his book, trying to see if he could get enough light to read.
Italy was silent.
Everyone in the room also knew why the gun only had one bullet. Ages ago, when they had first entered the room, the gun had five-bullets inside due to America not having the time or thought to pack anymore ammunition. One night, as they all slept America was dragged out of his dreamless rest by whispers of "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord… my soul to keep…"
"Iggy?" America yawned, wiping his eyes as he looked over. "ARTHUR? What the hell?" England flinched, gun-barrel to his temple and tears streaming down from his emerald eyes.
"Leave me be boy!" The Englishman snapped, grief and rage causing his accent to become all the thicker: finger tugging at the trigger. However, before he could, America tackled him to the ground: reaching for the gun. "Let go!"
"Are you insane?" America yelled, the room's other inhabitants slowly waking up and seeing the two fighting on the floor. "Give me the-!"
"Let me die!" Arthur shouted, pulling the trigger.
Shot one embedded into the wall, barely missing Italy's head.
"Damn it England!" America tried to grab for the gun, squeezing his fingers too tightly…
Shot two hit the ground.
"Mein Gott," Germany roared, "The two of you will be the death of us!" Still America and England fought over the gun.
"This is ridiculous!" France hissed, walking over to try and get the weapon away from the two feuding males…
A pain-gorged yell mingled with the sound of the third gun-shot: Francis falling to the floor and clutching at his bleeding shin.
"Oh my God!" Canada screamed, rushing to his father-figure's side, "Papa! Are you okay?" Of course he wasn't, but it was natural to ask in those situations, wasn't it? Canada looked at the others in the room, his face filled with dismay.
They didn't have any health-supplies. And with the world's populations dwindling so quickly, any injury they sustained… would be permanent.
Everyone jolted as gun-shot number four hit the wall. However, America finally managed to get the gun pack in his possession…
Only one bullet remaining.
"They speak the truth. It is not contagious until the final stage. We have a choice to make…" Francis groaned from pain as he struggled to lie on his side so he could face everyone, "One death… or nine."
"No…" Prussia gritted his teeth, shutting his eyes: trying to shut everything out. "Nein, NEIN! Wasn't there anything we could have done to stop this? There has to be something! ANYTHING, I—"
A cold chuckle rolled through the room.
Everyone turned to see Russia turn from his corner of the room, revealing his cheek that had been marred by three, large, scarred over scratches. The last Slavic's lavender eyes were cold as he smiled, "Something could have been done." His eyes moved towards America, "He knows what it was."
"Fucking Christ…" The blonde youth sat down on the ground, rocking back and forth, "Don't start this again Ivan!"
"A whole continent worth of nations filled with the raw material that could have helped us find a cure…"
"Don't start this shit up again Ivan!" Alfred rapidly shook his head, covering his ears with his palms.
"Ghana could have helped. Maybe Cameroon. But the one who actually offered only asked one thing…" Russia chuckled, "And you refused… You arrogant little bastard."
"Please…" An airport in West Africa was filled to bursting with people trying to get out of the continent and the government officials trying to keep them in. Out on the tarmac, the personification of the United States stood in front of the representative of Nigeria: the earth-toned woman begging, "Please, I beg of you now!" She readjusted the boy who lay sleeping in her arms, "I can stay, I can try and find a cure. But please!" She held out the child towards the blonde nation, "Take him with you! Please!"
America sneered at the Nigerian child, asking with a raised eyebrow, "Why didn't you call England? He's closer to you people than I am." Nigeria's eyes went wide in rage as she screamed,
"You're here, aren't you? Take him!" Alfred ignored her, beginning to walk away. "America! America, wait!" Nigeria screamed after the moving nation. When it was clear that he wasn't coming back, she couldn't help but laugh: her wits rattled from the stress of the situation, "You cannot be England's child."
"Because as much as that man wanted land, money, and fame… He was never heartless." She shook her head, "How can you live without a heart, now?" She looked up, just in time for a speeding bullet to pierce her right between the eyes. Brown eyes rolled back as she fell; the boy rolling away from her.
"Ow…" He whimpered before drowsily looking around. "Mama?" He asked, seeing Nigeria face down in a growing pool of blood. "Mama?" He desperately tried to shake her awake, eyes filling with tears.
America walked away, trying to get to his private helicopter, ignoring a child's screams for their dead mother.
"DON'T YOU FUCKING START THIS AGAIN IVAN!" Alfred screamed, pulling at his hair. He quickly stood to his feet, asking, "What the hell did you want me to do? This thing was coming fast, killing people left and right! You wanted me to take some random bastard back to my home when they could be some type of carrier?"
"The African nations," England stated, "Had no traces of this thing until tourist season came around."
No one said anything, the inflection of that statement enough for Russia to laugh, "It is always so easy to blame the Africans, isn't it America? Blame them for HIV when it was your failed experiment. Blame them for their civil wars when you are the one giving them weapons…"
"Enough…" China whispered, not wanting to hear those two argue this same point again for the hundredth time.
"Yao is right," Germany stated, "You two are wasting the air in here with all your talking!"
Even with everyone else speaking, Italy was silent.
"I am sorry…" Russia sighed, running his fingers along the scars on his cheeks, "I cannot help but find it funny… Thanks to our mistakes, some of us more than the others—"
"I had to leave my sisters to die…" Russia continued on, remembering that day as vividly as it had happened ages ago.
"Big… brother…" Russia shook his head as Belarus crawled towards him. He winced, pulling a medicine-mask onto his nose and mouth as he watched her struggle to stand: her legs trembling to hold her slim body up.
It had reached the final stage with her. Her population gone and her refusing to leave reflecting in her sickly yellow eyes, practically gold, the color was so inflamed. "Everyone…." She broke into a series of ragged coughs, Ivan seeing the inside of her mouth a chalky grey with red caked in some places. "Everyone was saying that you wouldn't come back… That idiot Lithuania tried to get me to leave…" She chuckled, Russia stepping back as blood began to drip from the sides of her mouth. "Just look where he is now… That idiot, like I could even consider leaving you…"
"Natalia," Ivan stepped back again, "Go sit down…"
"I'm cold…" She clutched at her arms, ragged nails tearing through the fabric of her dress sleeves. She suddenly choked before vomiting out a splash of blood thick with chunks of what used to be organs. "It hurts…" She whimpered, reaching a hand towards Russia, "Big brother… Help me…"
Russia had been frozen to the spot from the sight of his sister practically falling apart before him, hence why he didn't realize when she had gotten close enough to the point of almost ripping away his mask –
"Sister!" From the hallway, Ukraine screamed in horror. The buxom nation rushed over and began pulling Belarus away from Russia, shouting between ragged coughs, "Let him go, please! He doesn't deserve this!"
"NO!" Belarus shrieked like a madwoman, "I want big brother! Let me have big brother!" Russia tried to pull himself free from his younger sister's grasp. Suddenly, he shouted in pain when he felt Belarus's nails rip through his cheek. It was then, all sympathy gone, that Ivan shoved his sisters away.
It was hard, but Ukraine managed to get a firm handle on Belarus before she called over to Russia, "I am sorry… I would tend to your wound, but right now…"
"Nyet, it is fine…" Russia shook his head, gingerly rubbing the bleeding scratches. However, Ukraine sighed, coughing before she stated,
"No, it is not fine. Vanya, you need to go."
"GO!" Ukraine screamed, coughing again from deep within her chest, "We are too far gone… You know this, I can see it in your eyes…"
"No!" Belarus screeched, trying to reach a hand towards Russia as he slowly backed away. He said four final words,
"I am so sorry…", before quickly leaving the small house: screams and coughs ringing out behind him.
"We tell our history through the scars that we bear, da?" Russia smiled in the present-day, rubbing the scars on his face. At that moment, China shook his head,
"Oh poor you! At least you didn't have to see your loved ones die, aru!" He pulled his hair free from its hair tie, his charcoal locks too brittle to look formal anyhow, "Damn it! I could have sat all of this out! But he had to come to my house!" He shook his head, sobbing, "Why did Im Yong Soo have to die in my house?"
Japan closed his eyes, not wanting to even imagine his younger brother in his final moments. How he must have suffered as it felt like the fires of hell were tearing through your body, your muscles falling apart and bones slowly shattering…
However, America soon had had enough. "Enough with the fucking trial-games!" He stood to his feet, "The point of the matter is that there's no cure for this thing! If you're a carrier, you have to die! If we have even the smallest chance of any of us making it out of this alive, we have to act!" He glared at Prussia, "You of all of us should know about painful decisions and the factor of time… Why the fuck are you stalling?"
Gilbert's mouth opened to make a retort, but his tongue fell silent. Nothing he could do or say could make things any different… He was just wasting valuable air.
Suddenly, breaking through the veil of silence, Canada's voice spoke up. "It… it was me. I coughed."
The effect was immediate, everyone in the room moving as far away from the meek nation as possible. Except for Prussia who shook his head, eyes wide, "No… No, it wasn't, I didn't… NO!"
But Canada stood, speaking hesitantly through a shaky smile: a sad attempt of reassuring the white-haired man, "It's okay. It'll be alright, eh? Besides, I couldn't live with myself if any of you died." He gave a sad chuckle, "Canadian hospitality at its finest." A nod, "It's better this way."
America dropped the gun, falling to his knees and whispered a single "No…" Germany's voice was grim,
"He's made up his mind." He gave the blonde youth a salute, "He may be gentle on the outside, but he has the heart of a lion to make such a decision."
Italy… was still silent.
"How can… He… I…" Prussia's mind was struggling to accept the reality of the situation, his words reflecting his mind's ruined state. Japan glanced towards everyone, asking,
"Who will do it?"
Francis was definitely out, the Frenchman not even able to get up from bed. England averted his eyes, insisting, "It's not going to be me chaps. China, you could—"
Yao shook his head. "Too tired. The energy I would exert into it would kill me, aru." Germany shook his head, and Italy…
Was still silent.
Arthur looked over and saw Alfred wordlessly mouthing out inane possibilities and plans to himself. He was such a child, this situation was making that painfully obvious. Then, England looked to Prussia, stating,
"It has to be you."
"WHAT?" The albino nearly choked before screaming, "I always knew you were crazy England, but this tears it! Why me? Why would you even suggest that?"
"Because," England began, grass-green meeting ruby, "You know damn well that you wouldn't just stand by while we hurt the one you cared most for." Prussia flinched. It was as if England had stripped any and all emotion from his being while he spoke, as if dissecting the lines of a poem, "Maybe intellectually, somewhere deep in your head, you'd know it was the right thing. But you would let your emotions take control. And don't try and deny, we all know."
"Fine." The ex-nation rose to his feet. "Just…" He shook his head, clenching his eyes shut as he walked away from Canada. "Is there anything in here that can—"
Germany shook his head, already knowing what his brother was trying to ask. Prussia flinched, realizing he was only armed with the tools God gave him.
"Wait." It was Russia. The large nation reached into his coat, pulling out a small brown bottle and a glass. He poured out a clear liquid from the bottle's lip and handed it to the blonde. "Too dull the pain… If not by a little." Matthew nodded and, not holding anything back, knocked back the alcohol: nerves too shot to sense the burning feeling rushing down his throat.
"And Matthew…" England lowered his head, "You should lie down on the ground. It'll make things a tad…" He choked back a sob, "Easier…"
"No, no, NO!" Like a bat out of hell, Francis forced himself out of the bed; falling to the floor as he forgot he was now missing one of his legs: gangrene had set in from the gun-shot wounds and the lack of medicinal tools. "I cannot believe you all are actually considering this barbaric act!"
"Papa…" Canada whispered as he was brought into France's arms.
"I won't allow it." France shook his head, "You will have to pry him from my cold dead fingers!"
"Papa!" The immediate shout cued in another round of silence. Canada shook his head, "Papa, it's okay."
"This is just how things have to be." The vodka that Russia had given him must have been taking effect already, it seemed like all of his thoughts were spilling out like spring rain. "Stop crying."
"Matthieu…" France sobbed, the younger nation pulling away from him with ease, "Mon bebe…"
"Okay then…" Matthew nodded, sitting over on the unoccupied side of the room, "I know it's eating up time, but can I just say something?" No one said anything, so Canada took it as a signal to continue, "It's just a few words to America. Things that I never thought I would say, but now…" He shrugged, "I'm never going to get the chance to say them otherwise."
"Go ahead baby bro." America whispered. Canada nodded,
"You're immature, you never listen to anyone's ideas, you always try to force your preferences and wants on others. You eat like a horse, you're trigger-happy, and you have the IQ of an earth-worm with Down syndrome." He sighed, "But you're still my brother. And I love you. No matter what you do, what mistakes you've made," He stopped a moment, the sound of America's tears drifting over, "And you're irreplaceable, eh?"
The golden-haired nation sighed, "I'm ready."
Prussia slowly, hesitant to the end, moved over to Canada. He was torn between not wanting to look at the face that would soon be lost to him… And wanting to see as much as he could before it was too late. Words, as meaningless as collections of sounds and letters are, fell from Gilbert's lips. "I'm sorry… Ich liebe dich… I'm so sorry."
"Shh…" Matthew shook his head, "There there." As Prussia laid him down on the floor, his voice became shaky, "I love you t-too. And I forgive you."
"I love you Mattie…"
"It's better this way. Just," Despite what was about to happen, Canada slowly chuckled, "Just make sure to feed Kuma-what's his name when this is all over, eh?"
"When this is all over. When everything is back to normal. Promise me." A shaky breath was released from the albino's nose before he whispered,
"I promise…", clenching his hand into a fist. He took careful aim, silently praying to a God that he wasn't even sure still existed that it would be a quick, single blow. This boy… This angel deserved that much at least. Tears began streaming from his eyes, hot, bitter, fresh, when France's voice slowly drifted through the room: singing a French lullaby to try and keep his child through this.
As he was sure that he would connect, the ex-nation demanded, "Turn of the lights Westen! No one should have to see this!" The light dimmed out.
Gilbert was a natural born warrior, he had to be to represent his people. Muscles built up from years on the fields of battle, he drew back his fist…
And surged down.
He connected, a cracking noise accompanied by the feel of warm drops splashing onto his knuckles and wrist: all over-taken by the agonized yelp from the body below him.
Gilbert winced as he realized that Matthew was still breathing, still suffering, still in this hell. He reacted by pure instinct: pulling his fist back and landing another blow, and another. As he moved, he shut his eyes: visions of their happier times filling his mind.
The pancake breakfasts…
There was an inhuman choke.
The camping trips…
France tried to force his voice to go louder, the sounds of Canada's suffering too much for him.
Finally, on the sixth punch, the noises stopped. The ex-nation stood to his feet: his eyes glossy and wide as he felt warm liquid and pulp seeping through his fingers. His heart was damn-near pumping out of his chest.
He openly wept his deed, knowing that even if he were to wash his hands a thousand times, he would still have the blood of an angel stained on him.
In the darkness, silence reigned.
In the darkness… There was a ragged cough.
Wow… Did I really just write that? Anyway, I would love to see people's thoughts on who was doing the coughing.
I… am thinking of writing a sequel to this. The sequel will be of my own imagination, mostly since the sequel to the original story was very… meh.
But it all depends on whether or not people like this so please review! Please? Come on, I'm begging here! The button is right down there and I allow anonymous reviews so there's really nothing stopping you. Please?
Thanks for reading!