Summary: After receiving a harsh emotional blow, Gilbert is wondering if he really belongs anywhere. Looking for somewhere to disappear for a while, he finds himself in Canada. Matthew is not used to people seeking him out, but when Gilbert arrives, he finds a friend to cure his loneliness and, just maybe, much more… PruCan, Human Names used (obviously). Please read A/N.

(Edit 1/26/17: This story was written over the span of several years so please be aware of style changes as I developed as an author. Additionally, starting next week this will be cross-posted on AO3. While this will hopefully be the last edit I do on this version, it seems like the coding changes for some words the longer this is up, so apologies. I'm really cutting down on the notes at the end since this is now complete, and they mostly serve to remind me how my 19 yr-old self embarasses me.)

Prologue: Catalyst

Roderich Edelstein was at his wits end. For the past month, he had put up with constant chatter, nonstop gruffs, and incessant cackling. He had cleaned spaces in his house he had no idea could get dirty. He went from an aristocrat to a maid/cook/parent for an unwelcome house guest. But he could handle all that. Roderich was a nation, much stronger than a mere human. He could put up with annoying, obnoxious presences. No, it wasn't Gilbert Beilschmidt's upkeep that was making him go insane.

It was that look.

The look the personification of the now dissolved Kingdom of Prussia kept sending him when he thought Roderich wasn't looking made the Austrian nation's eye twitch. It took two weeks to understand why he felt strange when Gilbert suddenly went silent; it sure wasn't because he enjoyed the man's narcissistic tone. Then, when facing the antique silver mirror above his fireplace, he looked up when his hair rose in the wake of Gilbert's silence and saw something that deeply disturbed him. Prussia's visage was one of intense longing, showing an unfulfilled need that had been denied for too long.

And he was looking at Austria.

What was troubling for the nation was not the sexual nature of the gaze; it was the unspoken devotion that made his skin crawl. It was quite clear that Gilbert loved him and had loved him for some time now. Roderich could entertain the idea of having sex with Gilbert. Indeed, he had thought about it more than once (and, truly, you had to be more straight than Roderich to not fantasize about a man that hot), but any passion Roderich felt for Gilbert was cooled the second the Prussian opened his mouth. To entertain the thought of having something more with Gilbert other than disgusted tolerance and occasional lust…the Austrian shivered just thinking about it. To have to deal with the man's ego for a month was trying enough but for the rest of his life…no. Just, no.

But Roderich did have a heart. He's seen a side of Gilbert that was always hidden beneath the proclamations of 'awesomeness' and the loud antics. As a week went by, Roderich began to see the interruptions of his piano playing and the outrageous messes as desire for attention from someone that matters (No one could possibly be that unintentionally annoying, Roderich thought, forgetting Feliciano). At first, he became more tolerant of Prussia's actions out of pity; Roderich understood unrequited love all too well.

Unfortunately, the Prussian seemed to take the decrease in protestations as encouragement and began to get a bit touchy. It started off as a brush of an arm in the kitchen, then a light touch of fingers when they walked somewhere together. After a week, Prussia was outright hugging him when he entered a room, ignoring the way the Austrian stiffened every time he did so. Roderich did not want to lead Gilbert on. This had to stop, but in a dignified way, Roderich decided.

Of course, he forgot who exactly he was dealing with.

"Hey, Specs," Gilbert said, striding across the music room to where Roderich was playing Beethoven's 5th. His hands were slightly shaking as he quietly draped himself over the Austrian's shoulders. He was so happy to finally be able to touch the man he loved for centuries, so relieved to have some release to the internal struggle he had fought for so long that Gilbert failed to notice the silence in the room as Roderich ceased to play. This was a sign that something was greatly troubling the Austrian, if he could no longer bring himself to play the German (not Austrian, no matter what Roderich told himself) composer's music. But Gilbert was so focused on what he was going to attempt to do that he was oblivious to the Austrian's mood. As he silently inhaled the scent of Roderich's mahogany hair, he said earnestly, "I need to talk to you."

"What now, Gilbert?" Roderich was on the edge. He had waited too long to tell Gilbert that he didn't return his feelings and was still agitated from cleaning up the aftermath of the Prussian's attempt to cook breakfast. The tension in his body and mind only became higher when he noted the serious tone in Prussia's voice. He was ready to snap.

Gilbert was never good with words. Whenever he tried to express his actual feelings, he ended up spitting out some bullshit about how awesome he was. Don't get it twisted: Gilbert was awesome and he knew it. But he always used his ego as a mask for his intelligence and feelings, living by the idea that the more distance he kept from others, the less likely they would be able to hurt him. Gilbert's attitude certainly helped him create an empire for his brother in the 1800s. Even Francis, one of his best friends, had underestimated him when they went to war. But now he wanted the man sitting stiffly in his arms to understand him better than anyone. So, instead of speaking, he acted.

The kiss was so innocent and sweet that it sent Roderich into shock for a moment. The contrast between Gilbert obnoxiousness not a minute ago and the sentiment behind that kiss, placed so lovingly at the corner of his mouth, was jarring. It also pushed the aristocrat, poised to snap, over the edge.

Later, he would say that he blacked out. Later, he would say that the Prussian had it coming. Later, he would be ashamed and hate himself, just a little. Later, Roderich would be relieved that it was finally over.

Breath left Gilbert in a rush as an elbow hit his solar plexus. Stumbling back, he gasped in some breath, just enough to say, "Oh, come on, Specs. Don't be-"

Gilbert didn't see the fist coming in a fierce right hook until it was too late to avoid it and only had enough time (and practice fighting) to angle his body so that it hit his shoulder instead of his temple. The blow sent shock waves down his arm, betraying the quiet strength of the musician. Shocked at the display of violence, Gilbert backed up, automatically falling into a fighting stance. It took him a second to remember who he was fighting, causing him to drop his guard. He could never hurt Roderich, Gilbert acknowledged. Of course, Gilbert thought to himself as he dodged another punch, I'm not going to let myself get beaten either.

Roderich was shaking with long suppressed rage he wasn't even aware of until now. It got through his brain that he was never going to hit the nation that once lived on war after a few more physical attempts of violence. So Roderich used the words that Gilbert was so horrible at expressing to harm him more than his fists ever could.

"How dare you touch me? How could you, a kingdom without a nation, a freak of nature, think you were worthy of touching me?" Roderich took in Prussia's stricken expression and laughed. "Don't like to be reminded how far you've fallen, do you? Or are you surprised by my animosity towards you? You shouldn't be, considering how I have only ever shown you the disgust I feel in your presence."

Prussia stumbled, thrown by the hatred in Roderich's voice and bespeckled violet eyes, forgetting to mask his face with arrogance at the sight of the often pale face flushed. How had he not seen this? Austria continued, sadistically loving the growing pain in the other's eyes, walking towards the man. His lip curled in distaste as he scoffed. "What? You thought that I would actually be able to love you back? You think my standards so low as to stoop to your level? Please."

On some level of consciousness, Roderich told himself to stop, that he was being too harsh and not entirely truthful. He fought himself to recall civility, but his rage managed to bite out one last sentence. Leaning into the man, he snarled, "I would have been happier than I am now if you had died with your nation."

Prussia reacted like he had been slapped, flinching away from the Austrian as tears stung his red eyes. He didn't think, couldn't think. Gilbert ran out of the room, missing the shocked expression of the Austrian. Roderich, now silent, sunk to his knees, wondering what he had just done to the only one who had ever selflessly loved him.

Gilbert ended up in the room that he had been staying in for the past month. He saw his clothes strewn about the floor, obscuring the crimson carpet that matched his eyes. His eyes flew the yet unmade bed, where he had thought for hours over how he would confess his feelings for Roderich, about how happy they would be together when he accepted him. So many thoughts and moments that he shared with Roderich flew threw his mind, torturing him with their togetherness. It was too much.

Collapsing as his knees gave out, Gilbert gasped at the sudden pain in his chest threatening to crush him. So heavy, he thought as his black dots started to dance in his vision. Can't breathe.

A small chirp brought him back to himself and brought him from the brink of an episode. A flash of yellow flew towards the albino, the cheerful color of the bird clashing with the anguish of its master. But, as a part of Gilbert's public face, the nation conjured a slight smirk for his pet, rebuilding his mask and suppressing his feelings. He had taught himself long ago how to be numb when things got too hard; it was how he survived all his wars, loneliness, and the loss of his nation. The numbness was a shield that would allow him to function and he cowered behind it. The real trick was not being consumed by it, not again.

"Hey, Gilbird," he said, conjuring a cocky tone from the depths of his being. He was a survivor, dammit. Fuck everyone who thought otherwise. "Let's blow this joint. It's become far too unawesome to contain my awesomeness." The bird chirped and flew up to nestle in his master's silver hair.

Gilbert didn't bother with packing his clothes. His near-breakdown moments ago told him that he would never wear the clothes in here again. He grabbed his wallet, passport, extra cash, and leather jacket and then left the room.

He walked through the opulent house without really seeing it, focused on reaching the front door with single minded determination. Movement out the corner of his eye stopped him, turning him to face his reflection in the same silver mirror that betrayed him only two weeks ago.

Gilbert took in his leanly muscled frame, clothed in a black t-shirt and jeans that hugged him just right. In one pale hand was his wallet and passport while the other held the jacket loosely at his side. What would strike others as a frightening combination of red eyes and silver hair was natural for him. Of course, he thought bitterly to himself, looking at his silver hair as Roderich's words echoed in his mind, I had to inherit a mutation of albinism on top of the unusualness of the condition itself. The last thing he noticed about himself was the shininess of his face. Transferring the jacket to his other arm, he tentatively touched his cheek. It wasn't until then that he noticed he was crying.

Blinking at himself, Gilbert wiped away the moisture and continued towards the door. He put on his jacket and boots as he pocketed his keys and other essentials. Gilbird moved to his shoulder as Prussia put on his black riding helmet. Opening the door to a bright, sunny day, Gilbert cursed. Why is it that every day I feel like shit the weather is beautiful?

Shaking off bitterness towards the weather, he walked to his black-on-black Ducati Streetfighter. The model was a few years old, but was custom built for him and rode like a dream. Swinging his leg over the bike, Gilbert spoke to his avian companion. "Meet me at West's house, Gilbird."

The little bird chirped then zoomed away, far faster than any bird should be able to. Smirking, Gilbert started up the bike, enjoying the vibrations and noise coming from the machine, completely unaware of the Austrian running through his house at the noise. After revving the engine once, Gilbert sped through the gate of the Austrian's estate, unable to hear his name being called regretfully by the man who broke his heart.

Prussia did not look back.