Tales from an Artificial Country
Rome named her. Well, not exactly. He didn't give her her first names, or her human one (not that she really uses that) – he probably didn't think that much about her, truth be told. But he gave her the name she uses now, and that will do.
"Huh," he said as the little girl looked up at him, smiling. "I dunno what to call you... Hey, how about Belgae? That's a nice name, right?"
She considered it, and grinned. "Yeah, I like that name."
"Good!" He seemed such a happy man. Belgium's always liked happy people. "So, uh... Belgae... who are you, anyway?"
She considered again, and frowned.
This one could take awhile.
She likes Spain. Her brother gets annoyed about it, but given how many times he's kidnapped the poor man for whatever reason, she thinks he may be protesting too much.
"Ah, Bel? Look, I brought you tomatoes!"
"Thank you!" She's not a massive fan of tomatoes – she likes them, but not to the extent Spain and Romano do – but it's best be courteous. She takes a bite.
Tomatoes. He got these from Peru, didn't he? Oh, she knows about South America – she likes Spain, but he did awful things there. But they have tomatoes now, right?
She shakes her head. She's been so morbid about things lately.
"Hey, Belgium? Are you okay?"
Oh, crap. If Spain's noticing she's acting strange, she needs to snap out of it. "Huh? I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
Spain looks... concerned. Oh dear. "Bel, if there's something wrong, you can talk to me, si? Is it Flanders and Wallonia again?"
She cringes. Did he have to bring it up? "Oh no, not that. Well, not right now. We're actually getting better; got our government together and everything!" She's smiling, and he smiles back, but he doesn't seem honest. There are things seriously wrong with this picture. "I was just... thinking."
"Tomatoes." He seems perked back up by this sentence, grinning again, which should be her cue to shut up. Key word: should.
"These came from Peru originally, right?" she asks.
"Huh, oh yeah. Them and potatoes." Spain laughs a little. "It's pretty funny when she gets in front of Romano yelling at Germany!"
Belgium's quiet again. Spain seems confused. "Okay, Belgium, are you going to tell me what's wrong now...?"
"We screw things up."
"Everywhere... We hurt each other, and things happen, and we... I don't know, I've been a little depressed lately."
"Oh." Spain frowns. "Would you like me to present you a cheer-up charm?"
She laughs, "That won't be necessary." She runs her fingers along the table. "You used to own me."
Did you think I'd end up like this? But he probably didn't think about that much at all. "Why am I... the way I am?"
Spain pauses. "Bel... I've done bad things in my time, but I'm not really responsible for your troubles. That's, well... the boundaries fell where they did, and now you're dealing with that."
She blinks. But you made the boundaries fall where they did. Maybe if Flanders went with the Netherlands, this wouldn't be a problem, but she knows she's being unfair. There would have been issues regardless.
She sighs. "So much for that plan then," she says with a smile.
He smiles back.
She and Austria get along fairly well. They have no reason not to, after all. Admittedly she did rebel against him for independence, once, but that was a long time ago and it's not like said independence lasted.
He sighs and pours her coffee. "I can't help you, you know."
She blinks. "Pardon?"
"With your current problems," he says. "There is nothing I can do or say that will in any way help you to reconcile the two fragmented halves of your country."
"...Oh." Was that absolutely necessary? she thinks, rather annoyed at him.
He leans forward. "Look Belgium. I ran a multicultural, multilingual empire for centuries, which you were part of–"
"I'm no empire. Not now, at least," she says, mouth quirking into a smile. He shakes his head.
"Not the point," he says. "The point is, beyond all that, I still had my own land. Something common that was me; not something I controlled." Calmly, he sips coffee. "And I'm not sure you have that. I'm sorry."
"Well that was... optimistic..." she says, confused. "Do you really have that little hope for me? Think I can't pull it together?"
"I'm not really certain you want to," he says. "I do know you, Belgium. Maybe not as well as I ought, but at least a little, and enough to know... you're a little bit of an anomaly."
"All that time, getting invaded by whatever army showed up? I remember how many wars France and I fought over your territory. Really, it's a miracle you became your own country at all."
"Has anyone ever told you you're really patronising?" she asks. He smiles slightly. "Beside – if it is such a miracle, shouldn't try and keep it that way?"
"I never said stop trying," he says. "I just don't personally believe it will work."
She's beginning to realise she's being stupid.
"Hello, Turkey," she says as he opens his door, blinking wildly at her.
She doesn't blame him for being confused.
She peers slightly into the house, still wearing her trademark smile. "May I come in?"
"Uh, sure," and he steps aside, letting her in. His house smells like spices and sweat. "Sorry I ain't that covered up," he says, indicating his bare chest, "but I didn't know you were coming, and it was fucking hot last night, so y'know."
"It's fine," she says. "It's the Middle East. Weather like that happens."
Everyone's a little cautious when they talk about his geography. He probably notices, but nevermind.
"Right," he says. "Can I get ya a coffee?"
"No thanks. Your coffee is literally an intoxicant."
He nods. They stand in awkward silence for a few more seconds. "So, what is this about...? It an EU thing, or...?"
"What? Oh, no," she says, smiling warmly. "It's – actually, now I think about it it's probably a very stupid question," and she looks away, embarrassed. You shouldn't waste his time.
He shrugs. "Well, if ya came all this way to ask it, it can't be that stupid."
"...It's not even a question so much, just a vague area of your life." She sighs and attempts to rub the sweat from her brow. It really is hot here, or maybe that's just her nerves. "Sorry, I'm being stupid; I should go–"
"Oi. From the look on your face, it seems like you wanna ask things for a reason. So spill."
She pauses. He's not letting her get away with running, and maybe she's a little grateful. "Do you remember... right before the Ottoman Empire fell, when you were... uh..."
"The sick man of Europe?" He snorts. "Vaguely."
"What's that mean?"
He shrugs. "Well, I was sick. Pretty much dying. Your memories get a bit messed up."
"...Oh," and she can't help but be relieved. Well, that's one thing I'm not going through.
He raises an eyebrow at her. "What? You think with all your problems, your like me? The sick – woman of Europe, now?"
He sighs. "I dunno. Maybe you are. Maybe you're about to fall apart." I already got that from Austria, she thinks. "But you ain't like me. You're not scared enough."
"...I'm pretty scared, truth be told."
"Okay, I didn't phrase that well," he says. "Yeah, you're scared. Really scared. But at the same time – some part of you wants it to happen, right? Wants Flanders and Wallonia to hurry up and break apart, so you don't have to bother with it anymore?"
"...If that happens, I'll probably die. Unless I represent something else..."
"It doesn't matter. 'Cause it's what – at least a fair few – of your people want, and so you can't help but want it. Right?"
"...Right," she admits, quietly. I want it over, she thinks. Turkey, for whatever reason, doesn't seem like he's judging her.
"See, when I was in that state – when my country was falling to bits and I was weak – I didn't want it. Not a bit. I was fucking terrified and would have done anything to stop it, and you wanna know why?"
"Because your will is just that strong?" she snarks. Now she's just being spiteful, and she really shouldn't because it does seem like he's trying to be helpful, but still she's just... tired.
He shakes his head. "'Cause I wasn't the people trying to get away," he says. "I was the man running the empire, the Turkish Empire – they called it that too, remember. So they weren't my people, not really, and I didn't want 'em to go. But you... You girl, you're not any bit. You're Belgium, nothing more or less, and when that's gone you'll have nothing to stand for anymore. It's pretty sad, truth be told."
She sighs and looks away. "You don't need to patronise me."
He rolls his eyes. "Don't be like that. I was trying to help." He moves in closer, pushes her head so she's looking at him again. "It ain't fair. You're a sweet girl, you've got all the right to exist; just too many internal divisions to make it work. Fuck," he says.
My thoughts exactly.
"...You never know, I might survive. You did, and no-one thought you would." She tries to make sure her voice doesn't falter, though it doesn't really work. "They say Brussels might remain independent – it's not really like Flanders or Wallonia. And then there are those German-speaking regions to deal with... Plus we are the ultimate European federalists, so it could be something to do with that? Just... don't give up on me yet, okay?"
"Okay," he says quickly. She blinks. "You're probably right. No-one'd know what to do if you weren't there anymore. You're a damn sight more important than you look, I'll give ya that."
"Thank you," she says, collecting her things. "In any case, I should probably go. I have work to do."
"Right," he says, and gives her a little wave as she makes her way. "Oi, Bel?"
"Mm?" she asks, pausing.
"If ya do suddenly turn into the EU, or become Brussels as it's capital or something... Are you ever gonna let me in?"
She sighs. "That really wouldn't be my choice. Everyone still has to agree on such things, you know."
"Right," he says with resigned half-smile that probably means so that's a no then? "I haven't changed that much, I suppose?"
She's very uncomfortable. "None of us can change that much... We all have our good points and bad points to deal with. You just need to sort out some of the latter."
He nods along, probably not buying it. "'Kay. Hey, maybe if we're weighed down enough by baggage, it'll keep us together."
"...Maybe," she says as she heads out the door.
She broke his record. How she managed that one, what with him having civil war, terrorism, America, and the fact he had been under a dictator for decades to deal with. Iraq has entirely more right to fall apart than she's ever had, so the fact she's come to him with all her problems is probably a little unfair.
"You're very special, huh?" he asks. "I still don't really know why you're here. I don't get many tourists."
She shrugs. "I've gone into this mode where I'm just asking lots of people about my current struggles keeping my country together, and you came up on the list. Thanks to that 'longest government formation' thing." A pause. "Although I do think you're pleasant company."
"Glad to hear it," he says with a smile. "Though I know nothing about your current problems, so I don't see how I'll help."
"Right. Well, put simply... I may or may not be dying."
He sighs. "Well that sucks," he says. "Any particular reason?"
"The two halves of my country more or less hate each other. We can barely get anything done. Many people have said it's likely we'll split in half eventually."
"And where will that leave you?" he asks. "I see. And now you're just desperately searching for advice to handle the situation?"
"Something like that," she says. "I'm sorry. Am I wasting your time?"
He shrugs. "It's fine. I don't have much advice though."
"It's a never-ending circle of fineness," he says. "Do you have anything holding you all together?"
He laughs. "I see," he says. "Well I don't drink, so maybe I don't see the significance there."
Her likes her, although being Romano he's terrible at admitting it. Sometimes she fares better in regards to this thanks to being a pretty woman, but then again he actually knows her so the effect can only go so far.
"I don't know what you want from me," he grumbles at her in the hot Italian sun, handing her a cup of coffee. "Isn't Prussia the resident, 'Hey, why are you still alive' guy?"
She shrugs. "I know you better. I just thought..." she sighs. "I can go if you like. As soon as I finish my coffee."
"What I – no! Ah! Stay, stay dammit!" He huffs angrily, and she giggles a little. He's so easy to wind up. "I was just saying, jeez."
"Ahh," she says. "And anyway, you and Veneziano unified a lot less recently than the Germanies did, so..."
"Pff, yeah. Stupid potato bastards." Belgium wants to protest that statement, but that's just Romano and maybe she's not meant to care for the Germans either. Or maybe she really is, giving at least part of her is German-speaking as well. Or maybe that's why she shouldn't care for them. Truth be told she's forgotten.
She sighs and nurses her brow. "Well, it's not completely outrageous I'm here, right? I mean..."
"Big industrial north, resenting its poorer south, probably gonna break the country in half one day? Yeah, makes sense you turned up here."
"Feliciano doesn't resent you, Romano," she says. "It's Feliciano. Is he even capable of resentment?"
He scoffs. "Okay, he doesn't. But North Italy certainly fucking does. And maybe we're not and your level yet, but I don't think we're exactly strength through unity ei–"
"Get over yourself! Flanders has told me he wants to wake up one day and find out I'm dead; think about that!"
He seems stunned by her outburst. She's embarrassed by it, finding she's being needlessly dramatic. "...Jeez," he says.
She blushes. "It – it's not as bad as it sounds. It's based off something one of his politicians said. We were talking about the EU and such. And dead was not the word he used."
"Still," Romano says, gawping. She cringes. "...Shit."
She rubs her temples. "You never had someone like me, right?"
"You know, someone representing the whole country, not the halves. I mean, Veneziano represents you internationally but that's because he's politically dominant; when it comes down to it he's North and your South and it's all very clear, right?"
"Yeah. Yeah it is." He shrugs. "Well, if you were gonna be one half of your country, which would you be?"
"I – I don't know! I mean, Wallonia was dominant for such a long time but then Flanders just..." She shakes her head. "I feel like I am them both. Maybe I'm just Brussels. Can I be just Brussels?"
"Sure, as long as Brussels doesn't just wind up as one of them."
"...I could still be Brussels."
"But you'd be one of them too. Choosing."
"You're right." She slumps back and sighs heavily (again, overdramatic). "Then what should I do? With all this happening – how the fuck am I meant to stay alive?"
He looks uncomfortable. "Uh... maybe you're not?"
She blinks. "...Gee, that helps! Thanks so much Romano!"
"Fuck, that's not what I meant!" He's buried his head in his hands too. "It's just... I'm not a country, I'm only half a country, but it's been like than for a century and a half now and it's fine. I don't have a problem staying alive. You... you're trying so damn hard to stay. Feels like you're fighting a losing battle, right? Maybe... God's telling you to move on."
"Ha," she says. "God. That used to be what kept us together. Good little Catholics. Now... I can't do this."
"...If it makes you feel better, I'll miss you."
She snorts. "Well, I guess that's something."
"Everyone's heard, you know."
Okay, this is a bit of a shock. She might have been going around asking everyone's opinions on her predicament, but that doesn't meant she expects to be just confronted with them when she's out drinking with a friend. It takes her a minute to respond. "I... be specific, please?"
"You're panicking. Asking for advice on your impending partition." Czechia shrugs and takes another sip of beer. "I was wondering why you hadn't asked me yet, really."
"We're friends. It would be awkward."
"Most of the people you've asked have been your friends. That's a terrible argument."
It's a good question, really; why she hasn't asked Czechia if she has gone all the way to Iraq. Their friendship seemed simpler than this really. Built on beer, femininity and to some extent having been owned by Austria. She supposes she didn't want to bring it up.
But now it's been brought up.
"Well do you have something to contribute?"
Czechia sighs. "Well I have some experience in these things. Slovakia and all that."
She has a point. "Well... again, you never had a country like me. It was Czech and Slovakia, so it was pretty easy for you to split."
She snorts. "Well, let's be honest; everyone always knew me better than him," she says. "I think that's why he needed to leave so badly. He needed to... be someone, I guess. I was holding him back."
"Do you miss him?"
Czechia laughs. "I've drunkenly rambled about him abandoning me enough to answer that question," she says. "Besides. Life is less awkward when people don't put the word Republic in your name."
"Hey, if you think you have it bad, what about the Dominican Republic? Since Dominica is someone else entirely." Czechia laughs at that. "It's just... Sometimes it feels like I'm hurting them. My people, just by still being here. But it's not fair, because hey – I don't really want to die. That's the difference between me and everyone else. Most other partitions or unifications or whatever in the world – they won't kill one of us. Aren't I special?"
"Eh, there's probably someone in the same predicament," says Czechia. "Always is. After all, you're hardly the first person whose borders were randomly drawn after some war or another. Fucking Austria."
"I'd be more likely to blame that one on Spain, really."
"Yeah, but blaming Austria is my response to everything."
Belgium nods, thinking quietly. "I think Flanders is the one who really wants to leave. He's the successful one, after all; he thinks Wallonia's dragging him down. And given how long Wallonia was dominant..."
She trails of, tracing patterns on the bar. Czechia sighs. "Well, that's where my experience runs out. Slovakia was the one who wanted to leave, and I was the successful one. Make of that what you will."
Belgium closes her eyes. "It's been a long week," she says.
"This ain't gonna end well, is it?"
"My situation or this conversation?"
Prussia snorts. "Both. Well, come in. West is out, so..."
She sighs and steps inside. They stand face to face, awkward in an entirely too small hallway. "Dear lord, how does Germany fit in here?" she wonders aloud.
Prussia chuckles. "Hilariously. Come in then, you wanna beer?"
She shrugs. "It's one in the afternoon. Some of us have actual work to do. Plus I already have a killer hangover since I was out with the Czech Republic last night, so you know."
"Right, work. That thing I used to do." She refrains from obviously cringing. "You don't look hungover."
"I'm good at covering these things up."
"Huh." He folds his hands under his chin. "Wait, when you said you 'went out' with the Czech Republic, you wouldn't happen to mean–"
"Alas. Purely innocent feminine friendship."
He pouts. "Oh well. Anyway, I kinda doubt you're here to give me the juicy goss on your not-a-date with Czechia. And apparently you're not here for a drinking buddy. We were talking about...?"
"My political problems. I... I'm sure you've been asked this before, but – why are you still alive?"
He blinks. "Uh, yup. Definitely been asked it before."
He shrugs. "Don't really know. People kinda have their own theories. Way it's been put to me it's 'cause the reunification wasn't that long ago and there are still major differences between East and West, but the theory seems... incomplete, somehow. I mean, when do I go away then? 'Sides, never really knew how I wound up as East Germany anyway. After Preussenschlag, I thought I was gonna die."
She smiles. "Let me guess, you're just too awesome to do so?"
"Good theory; I like that one," he grins at her. "But I dunno."
"...Then how can you change anything? I mean, if you're going to die, you have no idea when or why, and... I mean, what can you to stop it?"
He shrugs. "Nothing really. But you know, I'm cool with it." She's stunned by this statement. "I mean, if I die, I die. Sucks, but I can't really complain – I've had a good run, and if I've got nothing left to represent, well, I guess it's fair. And yeah, I've kinda gathered this ain't you're attitude – don't get us wrong, Belbel, we all love ya, but you haven't exactly been graceful 'bout this whole thing have you?"
She's even more stunned by the accusation. "I – sorry?" She gapes and he just smirks. "I have been remarkable calm and composed given the circumstances! So, um, excuse me if I just want to save my own life–"
"Exactly. That's the problem." You know, she's never realised how frightening he can look. Red eyes, white skin, sabre-toothed grin. He seems like Death himself. "You're fucking terrified of dying."
He smirks again. "I'm not."
England is... tiring. She likes him, but he tends to treat her as the personification of Europe, and hence blame her for anything that goes wrong continentally. Which, she supposes, is what she asked for.
But it's still annoying.
"It's another absurd law from Brussels that's interfering with my Westphalian right to sovereignty and if you had any shame whatsoever you would rescind it this second–"
"England, could you please shut up?" She snaps. He seems shocked. Then again, it would be shocking enough for her to respond with anything other than 'Hmm,' or maybe 'We'll consider your concerns and contact you shortly.' "I'm sorry, you may not have noticed this, but it is really not a good time for me to have to put up with your whiny bullshit. And I'm not actually Europe itself, so go yell at France or Germany or someone, since you enjoy that enough, and leave me alone."
She actually expects it to work. She expects him to storm of in a huff, complaining about her lack of manners or something. She forgot to accommodate for one factor:
England's self-declared 'gentlemanliness.'
She sees the concerned look settling on his face and focuses down on her paperwork. She hears him pull the seat out and sit, and tries to ignore him further. After about ten seconds it becomes obvious he's not going anywhere, so she sighs and looks up.
He frowns. "Belgium – are you feeling alright?"
She snorts. "No. No I am not. I very rarely am, so unless you want to set up an obligation for yourself to listen to all my worries which you will never be able to fulfill, I suggest now would be a good time to go."
He doesn't. Well that's annoying. "Belgium, I have heard. When you've asked half of Europe to help with your giant existential crisis, well, word spreads. I want to help too."
She shakes her head. "No, I... I don't think you could. It's not really your area of expertise. Thanks for offering, though – and sorry for snapping like that before."
"It's quite alright; I was being intolerably rude, and you have every right to rip my head off in that case." See, this is the sort of England she likes. "However... Well, given all my problems with my brothers, I thought I might be able to help?"
"It's not really the same," she says. "I mean, you took over your brothers more than anything. That's a rather different dynamic."
England pouts. "Do you have to put it like that?" he mumbles, which makes her want to giggle. "Well, wasn't Wallonia dominant over Flanders for centuries anyway?"
"...True. But it's not quite the same from my perspective, since I'm – to be honest I have no idea what I am."
"...Hmm." And there's an awkward pause as Belgium thinks of something, remembers where all this came from to begin with.
"This is your fault."
"You and France. I – I remember." She smiles. "You wanted a neutral power in that place, someone who couldn't side with Germany. You came up with me."
"Oh god, she's having an epiphany," mutters England.
"You made me up. I'm an entirely artificial country, and the only reason I ever existed is because I served people's interests. That's why I'm still here too, huh? Nobody likes the precedent it sets if I split in half, least of all me; it would impact the rest of Europe. So I keep trudging along. The Powers that Be still generously extend to me the right to be alive."
"Belgium, I advise you not to be so cynical," England says, which seems a little hypocritical of him. What is he, if not constantly cynical about the political machinations of Europe? "Yes, it would not be a wonderful thing politically if your two halves separated, but we would all get by. We do genuinely not want you to die. Or at least I do. I mean, I did enter World War I to defend you, did I not?"
Belgium thinks on this. "True, but were you doing that for me, or did you just want to put Germany in his place?"
He can't answer her that.
She can tell who it is just by the awkwardness in his voice. "Hello Germany," she says without even looking up from her computer monitor. "Hold on a second, I'm almost finished, I just need to–"
He unceremoniously switches the monitor off. She frowns and looks up at him.
"I'm sorry, did you want something?"
He sighs and nurses his brow, which makes her feel a little guilty. She's usually one of the few people who doesn't inspire that reaction from him.
"Belgium, are you alright?" he asks, obviously trying to look as compassionate as possible (but he still looks more awkward than anything). "I think you've been working too hard lately. By that I mean, you've been working harder than me. Nobody works harder than me."
She chuckles. "Oh, I'm fine. Just – you know, with all these financial problems and such, the more hands on deck the better?"
"Hmm." He pulls out a chair next to her and settles down, weakening her hope to shorten this conversation. "I have a feeling that's not it. Is there something you're trying to avoid?"
She scoffs. "I'm always trying to avoid things. No offense Germany, but I don't exactly think you're the one to be lecturing me about my personal problems."
Awkward silence. Germany averts his eyes, and she feels guilty yet again. "Yes, you're probably right," he muses quietly; she can barely hear him. "I apologise. I only wished to help."
He stands to leave and she changes her mind. "Wait, stay!" she says. "I... I'm sorry. That was rude and unnecessary. I've just had a bad week."
He tilts his head to the side. "You have?"
She sighs. "I'm sure you've heard about my unending questionaire to half the world. I mean, everyone else seems to know about it."
He smiles slightly. "My brother did mention it." He takes the seat again. "Do you really think you're going to die?"
"Well it makes as much sense as anything, right? If my country's about to split in half, and I'm not either side of that equation, what would I stick around for?"
"...A unified spirit between the two, even if they're politically separate?"
She snorts. "Please. They barely pay attention to each other now, let alone if they..."
"I see. Well, there's still Brussels."
"And the German-speaking community," she says, which makes him frown. Is she making him uncomfortable? "We still haven't figured what we'd do with him. We might give him to Luxembourg, we might hand him back to you; we're not sure yet."
Germany cringes. Under normal circumstances, this would be her cue to stop before she starts something she'll regret. But really, she hasn't been under normal circumstances for decades now. "Actually, why don't we get you to invade us again? Might be a unifying force! It's worth a try, right?"
"Belgium," Germany coughs in that way he does when he wants to pretend he doesn't have emotions. "I'd rather you not say things like that."
She snaps out of it. Of course she shouldn't say things like that; she knows how many problems he has with, well, everything. "Oh... sorry," she says, then sighs. "I'm just so tired of it all. If I'm going to die, then I'm going to die. Does it have to take so long?"
"Isn't that a good thing? The longer you're left, the longer you have a chance. There is something keeping you together after all."
"The fact the world doesn't want me gone yet?"
He shrugs. "It will do," he says. "You'd be surprised what you can bounce back from."
She frowns at him, puzzled. "...What do you mean?"
It's his turn to look puzzled. "I'm – I'm not sure," he says, bringing the whole conversation into question. "It's just... It could be worse for you. It could be far, far worse."
And she thinks. Long ago when she was just a child, when she was with Austria and Spain – there was such a war, a terrifying war, a war that scarred Europe. Spain was there to get her brother back, she remembers that. But there was... a boy, the poor boy, torn in pieces; if he had ever been whole to begin with. He died then, or at least they thought so.
A few hundred years later, however, suspicions were raised.
"I suppose you're right," she says, sliding files back into her bag. "It can always get worse."
"Ah, Belgique! Salut ma cherie, je–"
"Hello, France," she says, shutting him down. He sighs.
"I see. Reports of your foul mood have not been exaggerated." This is what happens. Whenever she's panicking like this, distraught by her political problems, she refuses to speak her national languages on an international level. Most of the time one speaks in English on the international level anyway, as a lingua franca, but with France it means he becomes annoyed at her. Well, he can deal with it. She has to express her wanton self-destructiveness somehow.
"No." She sighs and rubs her temples. "Is there something you want?"
"I was hoping merely to catch up and make small talk, but I have a feeling this will not happen. No, you will be irritable and aggressive, and probably attack me for my role in your difficulties. Well, I am looking forward to this conversation."
I'm not that bad, she thinks, even though he probably is. She waits for him to sulk off in a fit of drama (see, she gets it from him). However, he doesn't leave.
"...I was expecting you to walk out about now."
"And abandon a fair maiden in distress? Never!"
She has to laugh at that. He outstretches a hand, and hesitantly, she takes it. "Sorry. I shouldn't have been rude like that. I was the same with England, really."
"I think you'll find I don't disapprove of that."
"Of course," she says dryly. "But I'm still not speaking French."
She withdraws her hand, drums her fingers against her thigh. She doesn't look him in the eye. "But you have a point about you having a role in all this. You convinced me to rebel against Austria, after all."
"Erm, if I recall correctly that didn't exactly stick." Okay, true. "Not to mention, he and I were fighting for so long. Largely in your territory, in fact. So it shouldn't surprise you."
"But I started French. Up until the sixties, I was French," she says. "I don't know if things were simpler then or if I've just forgotten about them."
"Probably a little of both. But really, if their linguistic rights weren't there – does that mean you oppressed Flanders? In which case its no wonder he wants to leave you."
She cringes. "I don't oppress them, either of them. It's not the way we work. And besides, Flanders wants to leave because he makes more money than Wallonia. It's not very complicated."
"And now you sound very Walloon." She frowns. She didn't think of that. "Are you sure my presence does not sway you?"
"...Maybe..." And maybe she's been swayed all along, all these people she's talked to, they all change her – if she has little identity of her own, she might as well appropriate others'. "But... no. I'm not Wallonia." She straightens her spine. "Not even when I speak French; I'm... different. And I'm not Flanders either, not speaking Flemish, not speaking standard Dutch. I'm certainly none of the Germans. And – despite everyone saying so, I don't think I'm Brussels either. I – I have these connections. When something happens to one of them, I feel it, equal to everyone else. I feel at home in Brussels, but just as at home in Antwerp or Liège or – or in fucking Bruges. And I can't lose all that."
France is looking at her softly, paternally almost. She wonders what he thinks of her – she's always been a little like his sister, she thinks, but he doesn't call himself her brother and he's usually awfully generous with that title. So does she really have anything to do with him? Or is that just Wallonia? But Wallonia doesn't even like him; he makes fun of her and hence she gets annoyed. Then again, the only separatist Walloon party wants to unify with France. Become one! And it's funny because being one is what they have this whole problem with in the first place.
"...You really are falling apart, aren't you?"
He smiles. "Not politically. Psychologically." Okay, now she's confused. "May I be frank with you, dear? You have divisions. However, you are not the only person to do so. Many nations have to overcome deep-seated ethnic and linguistic divides, and I think many nations do. I myself am strewn together ramshackle from various medieval kingdoms, and look at me! No-one will ever say the French nation is under threat."
How can you– No, she won't be blamed for this. She is not putting up with that. "You're like that because you had a revolution, before that you were a mess! And you won't give anyone any form of recognition; not the Brittany, not the Provence, no-one! So don't act all smug at me, because I am not like you!"
She realises she has jumped up and started yelling. Well, oops. France sighs. "Do you feel better?"
"...No." And now she is sulking. "It's just – I'm not French. I can never be French. And I could never be Dutch. So what exactly do you think I am?"
France opens his hands, and raises himself up. "You are Belgium, dear," he says. "A quaint little country thrown together by very external forces, with no real reason to exist." He brushes a lock of hair behind her ear, ever the good brother. "But aren't all countries, in the end?"
They've actually been planning this dinner for weeks, before Belgium went the slightest bit insane. She's thought about her behaviour recently, and decided it hasn't help; it's just made everyone more aware of her problems. Which in retrospect she feels slightly guilty about; there are worse things in the world, so she shouldn't demand attention like that. She's not even planning on bringing it up, but her brother, ever forthright, doesn't let her get away with that.
"So," he says barely bothering to finish chewing. "I've heard you've been talking to people?"
She does bother to eat properly, and sets her cutlery down before answering (this also gives her a few more seconds to think). "I talk to people all the time. What do you mean?"
"You're talking to people about your issues. With Flanders and Wallonia and stuff."
Her brother can have a very intense gaze when he wants to. She looks away, uncomfortable and darting her eyes all over the place. "Brother, I don't want to discuss this with you. Can't we just have dinner?"
"Why not?" He's still staring at her intently, and she can't get away with not looking at him forever. "You've asked everyone else in the world."
She rolls her eyes. "Don't exaggerate. Or... be jealous." Sometimes she simply does not know what goes through his head. "I was... experiencing some psychological difficulties, and wanted to discuss that with people I thought may help. I didn't want to force it upon you. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry," he says. "I want to help."
Can you. "Brother, it's just..." she sighs, wonders how to phrase this without annoying him. "Remember when I used to belong to you?"
"...Yeah. What about it?"
She smiles and shakes her head. "You're involved brother. If Flanders left, he might just go with you, and I don't know what that would do to me. I need them both... I didn't go up to France to discuss this either, he came to me. It gets harder when my problems start actually affecting people."
"They affect you," he says.
"Yes, but I'm Belgium; I don't really count."
He keeps staring at her from across the table, before he stands up and moves beside her. "Why not?" He places a hand on her shoulder, and it feels warm and comforting; she forgot what family could feel like. "You think you don't matter?"
"...Not really," she admits. "I matter to myself, obviously. And to most of Europe, though in varying degrees of vagueness. But I'm not really anything, and most of the world would be fine if I were gone. The artificial country's strange formula, it proved unstable and could not be sustained."
"I'd miss you," he says. She smiles.
"That doesn't surprise me. But it doesn't change anything either."
His hand rescinds. She drums her fingers on the table and examines the carrots on her plate. They're orange, not purple; her brother made all carrots orange, because orange was his colour; it's the sort of thing she could never do.
"...You're my little sister."
She smiles sadly up at him. "I'm not. Just Flanders is your little brother."
Even the great Roman Empire came to an end one day. Before it did so, however, it split in half; the East and West. The East remained for a thousand more years, before a wandering people from far away came and took it over (and that Empire fell apart, yet the nation remained). The West, however, was overrun by tribes; the land that had been the Empire was divided into many lands, kingdoms, empires.
In these states, there were lowlands, with more Germanic speakers than Latin. They were ruled by other Latins, however, until most of the Germanic left slowly and bloodily; an eighty year war of two men clinging to different gods. Those who remained went to other Germans, who later wouldn't be Germans; these lowlanders rebelled one but had to come back, until they were reunited with the Germanic – Deutsch was the word, which became Dutch – lowlanders who had left before.
But it did not work, and the Latin-German lowlanders – they left again, blessed by other great Latin and Germanic powers. They became a new nation, not Latin – not French; not German – not Dutch.
And so came into the world, a nation for the Belgae.