Starvation, I Have A Story, Motherland, Live Together Die Alone, Fight For What You Believe.
I've got a lot of headcanons surrounding how the historical end of WWII effected the Hetalia characters, so I wanted to explore the most interesting one here with Italy. I haven't finished it yet, but here's the first chapter for a bit of fun.
Tell me what you guys think?
July 25th, 1943...
"Go to Rome. Something's happening down there and whatever it is, I want you to put a stop to it."
His boss's words were still ringing in Ludwig's ears. The German Fatherland was frustrated as, for once, he was being ordered to go to Italy's aid instead of responding to desperate, screaming pleas over a telephone line. Skirting Switzerland's territory to prevent an incident, the heavily armed convoy he left Berlin with made good time cutting down the Italian peninsula towards Rome.
When he arrived, Ludwig understood why he'd been sent. It was uncanny: the streets of Italy's largest and most beloved city were empty, completely silent, and it wasn't the good-natured calm of everyone turning in for their afternoon nap either. The July air was tense and hot, waves of heat distorting the light as Ludwig's jeep took the front position in the convoy. Perhaps it was dangerous to drive out in the open like this, but he wasn't afraid of the silence.
He knew Italy had been faring poorly in the war; the Balkans were a mess, he'd lost his colonial territories in North Africa, half his men on the Eastern Front had died, and now the Allies were invading Sicily, but this silence was unlike him. He should have been bawling his eyes out and throwing his cities into fits of hysteria and pleas for help. Not silence. Not the strict control Ludwig witnessed as the only other vehicle they saw was a military jeep much like his own. Two Italian Blackshirts were standing with machine guns in hand, watching the quiet street for any sign of movement and keeping a wary eye on the German convoy as they passed.
'So he does know how to run a Police State...' Ludwig thought approvingly, still put off by the strange environment, but they were almost at the Presidential Palace when-
And a distant boom-
"There are no planes!" Not an air-strike, but they heard another explosion and a plume of smoke began to build over the rooftops, the white froth cutting across the blue sky.
"Move!" He bellowed, his driver slamming the accelerator and shooting them down the winding, cobbled street between the tall buildings. Ludwig didn't have to give orders to the rest of the convoy, the radio in front of him crackled with German voices as they broke apart and turned down different lanes, all prepared to enter the same square from different directions.
Two minutes later Ludwig could see the freely burning bodies of two military vehicles- one jeep and the other a tank that had been set up for show and intimidation. The smoke was riding the wind and filling the square so it was hard to see what was happening, but his driver stopped once they heard gunfire. Ludwig jumped from his seat and into a crouch on the ground, pistol in hand as someone went sprinting by in the white glare, the smoke hiding whoever it was so he didn't know whether to shoot or stay down.
A spray of bullets from the palace steps answered his question, and the man in civilian clothes fell screaming to the ground.
"Long live the King!"
"Drive them back!" Furious Italian followed the bullets, Ludwig half-convinced he knew the voice, but he couldn't place it. "Traitors! Shoot them!"
"For the Führer!" Ludwig bellowed, looking across the plaza as the wind opened a brief gap in the smoke: he saw one of the armoured jeeps from Berlin burst into the square and run down a second retreating figure. Another runner burst through the smoke and this time Ludwig squeezed the trigger, missing with his first two shots before someone clipped the rebel in the shoulder, allowing the German to put a bullet in his chest and head.
From somewhere, maybe an alley, or a rooftop, or even one of the windows looking down from across the square, bullets rained down and peppered the front of the jeep, Ludwig shouting for his men to fall back. Another car from their convoy roared up next to him to block the assault, the machine gun mounted to the back swinging around and unloading several clips in their enemy's direction.
The reinforcement didn't stop the molotov from flying through the air at them. A bottle of alcohol with a burning cloth stuffed down the neck, it shattered and spread fire all over the rescue vehicle. The gunman flailed and screamed before dropping out of sight to escape the flames eating him alive.
'Italy, what are you doing?' The thought made his heart feel tight with rage, but with the chaos filling with screams and more gunfire, Ludwig heard something else break through the noise.
It wasn't the same voice as before, but a short burst of Italian stopped the gunfire coming from the palace. Ludwig stood tall and pushed forward between the two vehicles, motioning for his men to stay down out of sight in case someone started shooting again. For himself, he wasn't afraid of a few bullets and moved until he could see around the burning tank and through the white smoke.
Someone came running again, but before he could bring his pistol up to shoot the man stopped running and spun around, whipping the hat off his head and letting his dark hair soak up the sunlight.
"VENEZIANO! Monster! Look at me!"
'Romano?' It was South Italy. Ludwig couldn't remember seeing Romano in civilian clothes before, but his uniform was gone and he was standing there in simple brown and black attire. His hat was still on the ground and he was holding a pistol up and pointed at someone Ludwig couldn't see, the bleeding Italian panting for breath.
"Coward!" That was the voice Ludwig had heard before. Feliciano wasn't speaking English or German so the onus was on Ludwig to translate the enraged Italian words as they came at him. Thankfully, there wasn't much talk. "So you choose your king over your own brother? Again!"
If he hadn't been able to see Italy as he shouted, Ludwig wouldn't have been able to connect the voice to the speaker. But there he was, forming out of the smoke the way Romano had, an identical pistol in his hand and mirroring his brother's position, his other hand clenched in a fist at his side. Ludwig couldn't remember seeing North Italy with such a dark expression on his face, and they'd charged into battle together on numerous fronts as the war carried on.
There was no stuttering, no screaming, no wandering thoughts or simplistic distractions. Ludwig knew Feliciano was different behind closed doors than out in public or with his friends, because there was no other way to explain how plans he slept through conceiving were carried out in Rome. The Italians were next to worthless on every front, but they always showed up and their failure to perform was never the result of not knowing where to go or what to do. Italy was Fascist, and he'd been that way for years before Germany had adopted it too...
This was just Ludwig's first time seeing it.
"I choose my king over the monster you-"
North Italy's gun went off and South dropped his with a yell, Ludwig watching his friend take off at a run after shooting at his own brother. The space between them was gone in an instant and Romano took a fist to the jaw before losing his balance and hitting the ground, swinging his leg out and knocking the younger one's feet out before Italy could shoot him- because that was what he nearly did.
So Italy did have the mettle to shoot someone, and Romano had the courage to pull a knife and lunge with it, the blade held by a fist that powered down toward his brother's chest. The officer stopped it with a hand on his wrist and another punch that hit the rebellious south in the middle of his chest, winding him and forcing Romano to fall back as his brother pushed himself up.
Against humans, Nations fought like anyone else; they bled, they shouted, and they struggled, but against one another it was different. Italy hit his brother with the gun so hard it should have cratered his skull, but Romano just responded by wrenching his hand free and carving the knife across his sibling's shoulder, scoring the blue tunic before the abrasive cloth caught the blade and wouldn't let him pull it free. They were swearing at each other, screaming even when Romano kicked his brother off of him; he almost took a bullet in the chest before Italy's gun was empty and he tossed it aside in favour of the abandoned knife.
The conflict came to Ludwig in pieces: the south was rebelling and the king had thrown out their boss, but the north wouldn't hear of it. The north hated the king, he'd always hated him, he'd never wanted him to begin with. The names of battlefields came up and blows were traded to match each defeat and loss: mistakes in the war that they blamed on each other. Both halves of Italy accused each other of corruption: Mafia bribes, Nazi gold, Jewish diamonds... the list went on.
Ludwig had taught, but had never actually seen Feliciano perform, the move that broke Lovino's wrist. It was that kind of violence that kept him back, because the German officer was too stunned by what he was seeing to dare get between the two. Nations could fight each other for hours without giving up or choosing a winner, and Ludwig had never seen either Italian brother get into one like this. Lovino bit his brother's hand so hard there was an audible crunch, Feliciano roaring back in pain before he used the same hand to slam the other man's head into the paving stones.
He'd never seen his ally fight like this before, and it was as wrong as it was rewarding. Did this signal a change then? Would Italy fight like this against the Allies now? Because if he did, then-
Then it would be England choking on blood when Italy hit him that hard in the gut. It would be Russia struggling to get away from the furious man straddling his torso. It would be America with Italy's strong hands wrapped around his throat, gasping for breath as the life was squeezed out of him. France would never make another move again if he knew Italy was waiting for hi-
The sound of several guns firing at once snapped Ludwig out of his thoughts, just like they snapped Italy's hands up off Romano's bruised throat. It took all three nations a moment to process what had just happened, but it was a moment that ended with Feliciano coughing red before touching the bullet holes riddling his chest.
"Shoot him!" Ludwig bellowed, remembering himself and screaming the command to snap his men back into action. Romano shoved his brother off with two hands and Italy hit the ground without moving, the south scrambling to get away before finding his feet and taking off at a run.
"Don't let him get away!" Italian voices joined German shouts, the men Italy had been commanding opening fire through the smoke-screen, only to have Romano's hidden allies return fire and send Ludwig himself ducking for cover.
"Go after them!" The firefight was short lived: the rebels were in retreat and Ludwig roared at the scattered members of his convoy to make haste. Two black jeeps bearing the flag of the regime tore off down the streets of Rome, and a brigade of Italy's own Blackshirts was already on the move as well.
All of this left Ludwig and a handful of his men, some of them injured, standing in a Roman square with two smouldering wrecks and a bleeding Italian nation. And questions. Dozens of questions. Like where was the regular army?
Ludwig expected screaming. He expected terrified shrieks and panicked eyes. He expected begging and whining and tears and for Italy's hands to grab the first person to come near him and beg them for whatever relief or safety he could get. That was what Ludwig expected as he marched across the square to the bleeding man, but once again, Italy surprised him.
One of the Italian Squadristi, a Blackshirt as Italy's boss and Germany's affectionately called them, was kneeling next to his nation with the gun he'd been using slung over his back, one hand on Italy's throat feeling for a pulse. It was a useless act: of course there was a pulse, Italy was a nation and his head and heart were still both attached to the rest of him. Ludwig didn't know why his friend seemed so calm, but when Italy reached up to the soldier with one bloody hand, his rough, half-choked words were a simple request.
"Move me back... I hate lying... in my own blood..."
'Hmph.' So here was the answer to the question he had asked Ludwig so many years ago in a forest in Southern Germany. What would happen to Italy if he was shot by the enemy, but they missed every vital organ, and he was left lying in a slowly expanding pool of his own blood? Ludwig watched the Blackshirt take the nation by the shoulders and drag him until he could rest his head back on the first stone step leading up into the palace. It left a grizzly trail over the ground, but a pleasant answer in Ludwig's mind: 'You'd take it like a man and wait for it to heal, Italien.'
After four years of war Ludwig had begun to actively fear the worst about his southern ally, but for the first time in just over two decades of work and friendship, Ludwig finally felt proud of Italy. It was difficult to be brave when facing one's enemies, but to go so far against his own brother? Now Ludwig understood why Prussia had encouraged their alliance. Finally Austria's comments about the Italian Unification wars made sense.
"Germans..." Italy's coughing voice.
"They showed up just when you started fighting, sir." With the sun high overhead Ludwig understood that it wouldn't be easy for Italy to make out his face right away, but he'd figure it out soon enough as he approached the two, folding his arms with a smile. Putting aside the issue of South Italy for just a moment, Ludwig was pleased with what he'd learned today.
"Shit..." At least, he was until he heard Italy stress one of the few cusses he'd ever uttered in Ludwig's presence. The Italian officer reached for the switchblade his brother had plunged into his thigh and pulled the slim blade free, keeping his hand around the silver handle as his breath hissed through his teeth with the pain. The knife had gone back and forth between the two of them while fighting, but it looked like Italy was claiming it for his own now.
"You fought well, Italien." Ludwig stated, reclaiming some of his good cheer as he crouched down next to his bloodied comrade, getting a good look at him now.
Italy's uniform was close to his usual one, but not quite the same; a bit dressier, slimmer pants down his legs, a neater fit in the shoulders and waist, and a small collection of medals over his breast that had been blasted away by one of the bullets. Just by looking at his uniform, Ludwig knew that the North half of the Kingdom of Italy had been meeting with his boss today, or at least he'd planned to.
As for the rest of him, bloody and sweating from the fight, he was only breathing in short pants while blood bubbled up and soaked his shredded shirt and tunic. He kept moving one booted foot as if he could regain his mobility already, flexing both hands just to prove he could. His tanned skin was washed out from blood-loss but also flushed in the cheeks- he wasn't blushing though, because as soon as Ludwig looked in his brown eyes and Italy actually recognized him, the Italian nation stopped moving and went deathly pale.
Not the reaction Ludwig expected.
"How much- what did you see?" Italy choked, his lips scarlet with blood he'd been about to spit out but now thickly swallowed. Reaching down, Ludwig swept his thumb over Italy's full lower lip, wiping away some of the blood and almost scolding him for trying to swallow what would only make him sick.
"Everything." He tried to re-enforce the answer with a smile, even if he wasn't very good at it, but there was a strange look in Italy's eyes and it only grew stronger the longer they stayed on the ground like this. Ludwig couldn't name it, but he could tell it was by no means positive.
"Captain, we have to get out of here." The Blackshirt whispered quickly, and Ludwig couldn't help but give Italy a curious look. The nation didn't look at his soldier, but he answered just the same.
"I know..." His voice was not going to come back to him until he'd had time to rest and begin to recover. For now, Italy tried to take a deep breath before saying anything else, but that only led to coughing and more blood leaking freely from his body. They needed to take him inside so he could- "Get the others. A truck. Anything."
The order was vague but it sent the man running, shouting to his comrades and sending them off trying to find something of use. Ludwig noticed then that none of them had calmed down or relaxed with South Italy's disappearance, and he turned a harder look than was probably necessary on his confusing little friend.
"What's going on?"
"Later." Italy swallowed blood again, then clenched his red-washed teeth and tried to lift his head, Ludwig watching in surprise as the Italian actually managed to prop himself up a little bit before lifting a hand for help. He wanted to stand? Like that? What was going on here? How much had changed since they'd last spoken?
"Italy." He said firmly. "What did I just see?" It was not a rhetorical question, it was not Ludwig talking down to him saying 'You just had a big fight and now you're injured so where do you think you're going?'. No. He wanted to know what that had been, and Ludwig wanted to know now.
"Treason." Italy grunted, Ludwig finally taking his hand and helping him sit up- he wasn't surprised when Italy struggled to cry out from the pain of moving. He gasped and coughed, choking on blood and scraps of flesh as his front and back were both coated in red. He couldn't speak again after that, but Ludwig waved his hand to bring his waiting men roaring up in what remained of their original convoy. He'd have to radio the others back before they were too far out of range.
"What are you talking about? What treason?"
"My brother-" Ludwig didn't know, but he could guess that the tears that finally pricked Italy's eyes were as much from the burning agony in his flesh as they were from mentioning Romano. He couldn't finish his sentence because of it all, and two of his Blackshirts returned in a hurry and coaxed Ludwig to move back. Together, they gingerly hoisted their nation up in their arms before Ludwig could fight to understand him, the German nation looking around again, wondering where the official Italian army was. The Blackshirts were para-military, where were the rest?
Before Ludwig could put the question to any of them, one Blackshirt, a man who had a very bare understanding of German, quickly stepped in between the two nations and spoke in fast, clumsy bursts.
They had to get out of Rome.
They had to get North Italy to safety.
They had to find their Leader.
And they needed Germany's help.
Just barely on the road back to Berlin, and only in full after several weeks of Ludwig fighting on two individual fronts, was the situation in Italy finally explained to Germany and the Führer.
Italy's Boss of twenty years had been overthrown by his own Fascist council. Italy's king had had the man imprisoned somewhere in the north. The new Italian government wanted to surrender to the Allies now before things got any worse for the Axis. The one spear-heading the entire operation was a familiar politician and Resistance Leader named Lovino Vargas.
When Ludwig finally asked his best friend why Feliciano had fought against his brother, not with him, his answer was decidedly childish and simple:
"Ve~ don't be silly, Germany. I haven't had a king in years!"
Ludwig didn't question him. Instead, between reports and command positions and patrols in his occupied territories, Ludwig ate the pasta Italy made for him, attended meetings with Japan, and wondered if he would ever have another chance to see that hard-eyed, knife-wielding warrior from Rome again.
Meanwhile, Italy kept Romano's knife.
This story was a lot more awesome before I fact-checked it against what really happened in Rome in July of '43. I totally thought that the king tried to overthrow Mussolini, but he was like "LOLNO." and chased the king out before taking over North Italy (which is why Romano ran away, because I'd already written the end of the fight when I looked it up).
THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED. I HAD TO KILL A BEAUTIFUL SCENE BECAUSE THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED.
So this is now a multi-chapter and not an epic one-shot. Bleeeeh.