SONGBIRD

Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia

Pairing: Prussia/Austria

Genre: vague horror, creepy romance, cardverse!AU

Rating: R

Disclaimer: APH belongs to Himaruya, and the countries factually belong to themselves. Or their bosses and the people that live there, rather.

Warning: yes, creepy.

Summary: Gilbert is the devil, the Joker. He skips through night and dances through darkness, torturing the inhabitants of the Four Kingdoms. But there is one mortal, his pretty songbird, that he cannot bring himself to hurt.

A/n: this became creepier as I wrote it. It was meant to just be a bog-standard cardverse!AU, but it turned into this somewhere along the way.

.

It is night-time in the Kingdom of Clubs. It is night, and the houses of the capital city are blanketed in darkness and shadow, the gibbous moon painting silver where shade does not fall.

Through these cool shadows darts a figure, also in black. His tread is light on cobbled streets, his feet making no noise as he skips from gloom to gloom, his jagged tail twitching as he goes. As he makes his way to his destination he makes entertainment for himself, his delight the misfortune of others. Schadenfreude, they call it.

He makes small mischief this night: men falling from beds and women tripping over carpets, children crying at monsters in their wardrobes. He sniggers at the sound of tears and curses, and spilt milk being wept over. His joy and wonder lies in disruption and devilment.

But tonight this imp has a place to be, and he cannot tarry to reap his merry crop. His way is the palace, tall spires and domes painted green. They would look better under snow, but it has been a warm winter, and for this the Joker is displeased. No early snow to make harvest difficult and to lock people up tight in their homes more efficiently than any gaoler. No late thaw to postpone the sowing and the animals being let out, paving the way to hunger and unhappiness. Mayhap he shall wait for drought in the summer. But for now, he must make haste. The night is his realm, and he shuns the burn of sunlight on his pale, moon-kissed skin. And he seeks different entertainment this night.

He takes to the rooftops, green tiles speeding beneath his nimble, quick feet. He leaps alleys and wider streets, surefooted and arrogant in his agility, dodging chimneys and sneaking past windows where unwitting lights still burn bright. He skips along in the moonlight, the palace looming ever nearer, almost dancing to the cold, silent music of a frozen winter's night. If anyone had the presence of mind to sneak a look from their window, they would have seen the most elegant and unschooled of dancers silhouetted against the silver hunchback in the sky, a dog's ears and a demon's tail upon him.

Finally he is beneath the palace walls, sheer partitions of emerald stone, and with an effortless leap he lands on the ramparts. He skips along the wall, sending a sentinel to sleep with a brush of his hand when he is seen, and he bounds from balcony to windowsill on the palace itself with no trouble at all. And finally, he reaches his destination.

The windows are locked tight, but this does not stop our imp for even a moment. His hands are canny, and make short work of the lock without so much as a touch. The fixtures creak as he opens them and creeps along the floor like a cat, red eyes glowing in the dark as he makes his way to the bed. Warm blankets of jade and viridian cover a sleeping figure, which stirs in the sudden chill from the window.

The Joker slides along the bed, his weight sinking down as he takes his place beside his quarry. Which opens its violet eyes and glares at him.

"The window, Gilbert," it says. The pale devil reveals white fangs with his impish grin, and with a wave of his hand the window closes. He then closes in to claim a rough, hungry kiss, every bit the predator. His kiss does not attain the reaction he sought, though. He is pushed away, and scowled at, and not even the rake of his pointed nails along a cotton-shrouded arm changes that expression. He mewls, petulantly pouting, and nips at the other's chin like a teething puppy.

"Really, Gilbert, if you're not going to speak to me then you can forget anything else."

He huffs, nose bumping a jutting Adam's apple. "No need for talk," he mutters, voice like cats on the roof in his impatience. He hisses when hands tug in his hair. No other thing is allowed to do this to him, only his pretty Violet Eyes, Violet Eyes that stole his soul and that blackened lump in his chest that goes thump-thump without so much as a magic spell.

At first, this demon thought it a witch. A witch with deep magicks, its incantations the pretty sounds coaxed from that grinning dead creature in the room. He'd hidden in the shadows, curious and irked by this thing that made horrid lovely noise from wood, metal strings and bone. Ever since that night, he'd returned come full moon come new moon, to listen to those sweet fingers pluck birdsong from cold ivory.

And then Violet Eyes had noticed him. The imp had hissed and backed into the darkness, eyes squinting garnets, pointed teeth twinkling. At first it had been terrified, backed against the wall and never taking its eyes off the wraith. Then, slowly, the Joker had slid forward, crawling across the piano without so much as a sound.

"Play," he'd demanded.

"What are you?" Violet Eyes had asked. The answer had been a quick grin, a skip across the room and a lick along a cheek.

"They call me Gilbert," he'd said, and in saying the name he'd not given out for millennia he'd sounded almost human. Then his pretty-fingered songbird had played, played until it could play no more, weeping with exhaustion.

At first, the petty creature had taken great joy in hurting Violet Eyes. He would gleefully hop about the room when it could no longer move its fingers, the joints bent and stiff. And then it had stopped playing, it had stopped coming to the music room and this angered the demon. He'd searched the palace top to bottom, and found his songbird's broken wings being tended to by some wild wood nymph, hair of tree bark and gown of spring leaves.

"Oh, Roderich, why didn't you tell me?" she'd asked, kissing his witch's fingers, and thick hot tar dripped through his chest. How dare she touch it? It was his! He would rip her heart from her chest and watch it thump its blood over his hand. He would pluck her eyes from her head and throw them to the crows so she could not lay eyes on what was his, and then bite her fingers off so she could not touch that which belonged to him. He'd cut her tongue from her head with scissors so she would not speak to his property, and then throw her in the dark woods as food for his brothers and sisters beyond the gloom he flitted through. Her soul would sit in the darkness, surrounded by his siblings and they would tear at her, and he would have his Violet Eyes all to himself.

He had done nothing of the sort, but slunk back into the shadows to wait, and when his pretty songbird had been alone again, he'd crept out, slid up beside it and terrified it. Violet Eyes had tried to fly away, movements jerky and stunted with fear, but the demon had only taken its fingers and kissed them, one by one, loved them until they hurt no more.

"You belong to me," he'd murmured, and he'd kissed that pretty face and that sweet mouth.

He visits when he can, when he is not spreading plague in the Kingdom of Spades, drought in the Kingdom of Hearts, or famine in the Kingdom of Diamonds. He skips merrily through the dwellings of the rulers of mortals, clapping his hands and cheering with glee at the desperation of King Francis, the anger of King Ludwig and the tears of King Alfred. He sends impotence to their Consorts and madness to their Advisors, and unending vats of woe he pours on their people. They do not see him, but they curse him.

But he always returns to his Violet Eyes, his Violet Eyes whose name is Roderich. Sometimes he comes only to sit in the shadows, crouching on the dark walls, eyes aglow, and watch it sleep. There is something mystical and beautiful in the way it sleeps, carefree and sweet like babes he's stolen the breath from, made of pretty innocence. He leaves before dawn, placing cold kisses on its forehead before he leaps from the balcony in a flicker of pitch.

And, oddly, the Kingdom of Clubs is always spared the worst of troubles.

With a flick of his tail and a low-pitched whine, he allows it to kiss him, and he melts into it, taking this strange human form he had never used often before now and drowning in its senses smell taste touch hearing sight as he becomes one with Roderich one more, again and again and again until he is lost in it. A maze of blurred pleasure he can make no sense of, petty logic has no places within the cage of his desire.

He leaves his pretty songbird asleep, drained, scratched and sated, with a cold kiss to warm lips and a flash of his tail across lovely fingers.

As he leaves, he hears tears, and follows them to the wood nymph's window. He watches her cry for her lost songbird, and he is joyous in his knowledge of her hurt. He sneaks in, a shadow beneath the windowpane, and watches her for a while. If the songbird had not spellbound him with pretty sounds, he may have gone to her, for she is beautiful in a way only living, breathing mortals can be, all thick white flesh and the red translucence of blood flowing beneath her skin. But his Violet Eyes is so much more beautiful, like silky paper and autumn leaves. This one lives too much. He sits in the gloom and smirks at her sudden fear, giggling silently at how she gazes around the room, eyes wide with terror, and then lies down and wraps herself in her cover, staring door-window-wardrobe-chair. He glides across to her bed and fits his fingers around her neck. She gasps for air, nothing but air above her, but she can see red eyes and a grin that takes childish glee in her closed throat and reddening face.

"He is mine," she hears hissed in her ear, and as soon as all begins to fade to black, the sensation is gone. She is alone, and there are only chills remaining on her skin and the fading feeling of choking left.

He leaves and pirouettes in the moonbeams, skulking behind chimney stacks and skating along drainpipes. He dances across tiles and leaps like a deer across alleyways. And all through his dance macabre beneath the winter moon he is thinking of his Violet Eyes, delicate as snowflakes and dainty crystal figurines, yet not so fragile, for it never breaks beneath his fingers that all destroy. No, it rises to him, draws him to it, takes as much as he does and leaves him drained and longing for more. Never has he felt like this, so drawn to those strange little trinkets that mortals are. They were all the same, faceless and fleeting while he remained to cackle at their woe, all the same before his songbird in its green cage. His dearest, his beloved, his one and only. He prances away, darting like a tricksy light, and the unhappiness of humans is the least of his contemplations now. All he thinks of is his pretty, violet-eyed songbird and when he can return to see it and hear it sing again.