A/N: 'Ragi here. This is it, my lovelies. I'm so sorry it took so long to put up on Fanfiction. I could blame my sister's upcoming wedding or my graduation but those are just excuses. In all reality I've been terrified to do so because I'm afraid it won't be good enough. I can't even count how many times I've redone this and I'm still unhappy about it. It didn't turn out as well as I had hoped and I'm so sorry if I disappointed anyone with how the story went. And there are so many things I would have rather done than what I wrote. I tried. Anyways! I should stop being so depressed about this. You guys have all made me the greatest reviews and supported me throughout this whole ordeal. So here is the final chapter of "Safe & Sound." (Song is Sora by Shouta Aoi)
Disclaimer: As I have said through this entire fic, I do not own Hetalia or anything else.
The café's sign says closed but the lights are on inside. It's roughly nine o'clock at night but muffled sounds are spilling out onto the streets. Through the darkened windows, a passerby would see the silhouettes of many people inside. There is an air of festivity and excitement spilling onto the street. It's as if the café is rested in its own world and the people inside of it are their own species. Nothing on the outside is worth thinking about. However, there is a single person that this foreign world is centered around: Feliciano.
Antonio joined up with Ludwig and Lovino in order to create a party for their Feliciano. Ludwig picked out the place, deciding that Lovino's apartment would be too small. Iryna was more than happy to comply with Ludwig's request and closed up the café in order to host the party. Natalia, however, is still sulking about it. Lovino grudgingly worked with Iryna and Natalia in order to make Feliciano's favorite foods for the party, often saying that they wouldn't be able to make the food correctly without him. Antonio decided to decorate the café with streamers and table decorations all revolving around ridiculously cheesy hearts and a banner that displayed Feliciano's name. All three of them secretly spread the word around to friends and supporters of Feliciano of the party.
Now, it is in full swing. Everyone who is anyone is there. Toris has found a friend in Eduard, bonding over the fact that the Russian man known as Ivan is thoroughly intimidating. Said man keeps chasing after Yao who won't stop yelling obscenities at him. Natalia eyes refuse to leave Ivan's form. It's no secret that she wants Iryna's brother. However, she can't move from her place behind the counter because Iryna has practically locked her back there, saying that someone needs to keep all of the prepared food ready. Therefore only Natalia's eyes can reach Ivan. Iryna is flitting around the room, making sure everyone is happy.
The only one who refuses to smile is a certain Italian. Lovino is trying to push away a clingy Antonio. "Lovi~ why don't you want to dance?"
"Idiot! No one else is dancing. Besides, why would I want to dance with you?"
"Hey Lovino! I'm glad to see that I'm an epic matchmaker!" Alfred appears with an overly cocky grin plastered on his face. No one seems to have noticed him coming in the café which is unusual seeing as Alfred likes to be the center of attention.
Lovino's heart turns to ice, immediately disregarding Antonio. "What the hell are you doing here? Last I knew you were getting chummy with that albino bastard."
All at once, that grin fades from Alfred. "Look dude. I know what he did wasn't right but he's not a horrible guy. Believe me when I say he feels bad about it."
The two banter around for a minute before Antonio stops them, saying how it'd upset Feliciano if he noticed them arguing. Sure enough, the person of honor was looking at them with fear in his eyes. No matter who they are or what they did there is no need to argue and start a fight. Right now, Feliciano can't stand any sort of violence. His eyes are forced away when an arm wraps around his waist and turns him. Ludwig has promised to keep him safe and happy and he intends to keep that promise.
The party draws on and voices grow louder and more lighthearted. Elizaveta and Roderich have retreated to a quiet corner where they can converse without being bothered. Even Alfred and Lovino have stopped quarrelling. Everything seems to be going smoothly when the front door opens and two new people enter.
All at once, the café is filled with silence apart from the soft hiss of the background music. Illuminated in the doorway is a certain albino. His eyes gaze upon the party, unwavering and brave. There is no anger or fear behind them. There is a strange solemn acceptance as well. However, he is still not completely healed. His lower arms are bound. He has several visible bruises coloring his face. He's in no condition to fight or get into trouble. The people that look back at them have either a look of animosity or confusion. There is no question as to how he figured out they are there but it's the question of why that is concerning.
Beside him is Francis. He too has his head held high but he seems slightly more apprehensive. The first person to approach them is another blond, one that no one realized had even entered the café. Matthew goes up to Gilbert, grabs his wrists, and gently pulls him into the café. No one says anything. No one moves. All they can do is stare at Feliciano's assailants, wondering why they have appeared.
The second person who approaches them is none other than Antonio. Despite this situation, they have been friends for an immeasurable length of time. He knows without a doubt that they did not come here for trouble. They had to have been here for a much more generous reason. One that could threaten to re-situate everyone's relationships once again. Be it good or bad, Antonio doesn't know. What he does know, though, is that both Francis and Gilbert have taken the risk to actually come here. They will need as much support as possible.
The four of them make their way to the center of the café, just before Feliciano and Ludwig. Feliciano latches on tightly to Ludwig, unsure about the whole circumstance. Thus begins a silent conversation. A voice has finally risen above the music but no one pays attention to it. At the moment, Lovino's anger towards Antonio is irrelevant. It isn't until he quiets down when Gilbert decides to speak.
"Feliciano," he addresses. Feliciano visibly stiffens. "I know what I did was wrong. I know it was painful. I just wanted to let you know that I'm sorry and I won't ever do something like that again."
Surprising the company, it's Ludwig that responds. "An apology won't fix months of torment and hurt."
"Well it's better than nothing, Lud… What else can I do?"
At this there is no response. What could he do? Send Feliciano flowers? Gifts? Serenade his sorrows? In reality, there isn't anything he can do that could make up for all that he has done. He can't turn back the clock and reverse the events. There is no amount of pain that he can inflict upon himself that could equal what he put Feliciano through. There is nothing he can do.
"Luddy…" Feliciano clings tighter onto Ludwig's arm, not really knowing what he wanted to say. All that comes to mind are the images of every single moment of abuse. The verbal slander and the physical pain are overwhelming. His dreams have been his only escape for the longest amount of time. It was a safe haven in a world of hate. He had questioned if anybody had truly loved him. Is there nothing that Gilbert didn't do to him?
Well… for one, Feliciano is alive. He is able to breathe and eat. And despite feeling unloved, it is not truly the case. He is actually very loved, as shown by the support given to him by the people he is surrounded by today. Any doubts he might have been given by Gilbert are now distant thoughts. All of the pain has long faded with the bruises and cuts. There may be scars but it will help him remember all of the people who have healed him both mentally and physically.
Feliciano takes a shuddering breath before stepping away from Ludwig and towards the object of his nightmares. "Are you being honest? Are you really sorry?"
Gilbert locks eyes with Feliciano. "Believe me. If I could take everything back, I would. Without hesitation," he affirms.
The person of honor gives a shaky sigh once more before extending a friendly hand towards Gilbert. If he can't get over what happened, no one else will be able to. Of course, what he's done is unacceptable but Feliciano isn't the type to hold a grudge. All he wants is for everybody to get along. He needs to set an example for everyone else.
Gilbert accepts Feliciano's outstretched hand and although he's glad he's been accepted, there is a heavy weight that drags down Gilbert's hand. He can't count the number of times that he's hurt Feliciano with it. How many bruises and scratches has it caused? How much pain did it inflict? Now… now Feliciano is reaching out for it in friendship. How could one person do that? One would have to be either naïve or idiotic. Gilbert is guessing the former.
Feliciano's grip is shaky but he doesn't let go for a strong three seconds. "If you want, you can join the party." Feliciano's eyes cast around to the people staring at them. "Everyone here will treat you nicely!"
"That sounds awesome!" Gilbert begins to say, only to be elbowed harshly in the side by Francis. The Frenchman casts a dark glare at his best friend. "Ugh. Never mind," he hisses, casting an equally dark glace back at Francis. "I've been here too long already."
"Damn right you've been here too long!" Lovino shouts from the crowd, before being shushed and pulled back by Alfred. He tries struggling out of the grip of his friend's arms but they are too strong.
Dumbstruck by his brother's outburst, Feliciano loses any formality he had. His throat locks and sound refuses to escape passed his lips. Seeing this, Ludwig steps a bit closer to Gilbert. "Thank you for coming today," he voices firmly. It is as if he is formally dismissing an employee from his workplace, not like telling his brother to leave. It is too stiff. They are nothing more than strangers with a shared history now.
Gilbert exits the building without so much as anther word, Matthew and Francis trailing after him. He has been reduced to a horrible person who needs to beg for forgiveness and grovel for acceptance. Nothing will be the same. He won't be able to see Ludwig without having him cast deadly looks at him. He's sure that he and Antonio will have a strained relationship as well for a long time. Everyone will look down on him.
Was it worth it? Was it a good price to pay for what he did to Feliciano? What did he truly hope to gain out of beating Feliciano anyways? It didn't make him feel any better and it drove away his two closest friends. He hurt more people than just Feliciano with his actions. What possessed him to even begin his beating of the redhead? It all seems so pointless now. Was it ever worth it?
Though it takes a little while, the party resumes its activities, although a bit more restrained than before. More whispers pass between the partygoers but none of it reaches Feliciano. He has tucked himself into a corner where no one could bother him. Even the obscene shouts that rise above the noise that belong to Lovino fail to stir Feliciano. His heart feels as if it's about to shrivel up and wilt away. So many things happened in such a short amount of time. Is this really reality? Maybe he's in his other world where nothing seems to make sense anyways. Perhaps he'll wake up in ten minutes to find out that there isn't even a person named Ludwig in his school. Maybe he'll wake up and find out that there is no such thing as an "albino" person and all of those beatings were nothing more than nightmares.
"Feli?" asks a blond headed German, sitting beside Feliciano. "Are you alright?"
"All I've ever done is run away," Feli spouts without warning. "Whenever I was little and got scared, I'd run and hide underneath my bed. Usually Lovino would drag me out, yelling, and I'd get even more scared. I could never face my fears. I'm such a coward. When I realized I didn't really like girls, I locked myself in my room for two weeks. I was so ashamed of myself. I didn't want to see anybody, talk to anybody. Even Lovi got worried. I finally got out of my room because I had to but if I could, I would have stayed in there until I died. All I've ever done is avoid my problems." Feliciano takes a steadying breath. "Then I met you and was able to talk about everything. I felt better not running away anymore. I did that today too. I confronted my fear rather than taking off. I figured that if I couldn't forgive Gilbert then no one else could. All I want to do now is run. I want to go as far away as possible. I still don't know if I'll be able to face him."
Ludwig grabs Feliciano's hand. "You don't have to face him if you don't want to. At least not any time soon. And no one here is expecting you to get over this so fast. We are just glad you are here, with us, safe and sound."
Feliciano sighs, closing his tired eyes and resting his head on Ludwig's shoulder. "Thanks, Luddy."
The two remain undisturbed as the people filling the café grow louder even as the night grows old. Lovino keeps cursing at Antonio about his actions earlier. Ivan succeeds in catching Yao, causing him to thrash about, hissing obscenities. This angers Natalia to point that she escapes from behind the counter to tear Yao away from Ivan. Everyone seems to be doing fine despite the earlier occurrence, almost accepting of it. Things won't go back to normal for a long time but the path of recovery is in sight.
Ludwig casts a lingering glance at the resting Italian by his side. This single person has brought so many people together without even trying. He doesn't seem to realize his influence on others. Ludwig doesn't really know what to do now. He's been taking care of Gilbert up to now but Gilbert can handle himself now. The one who really needs his support is Feliciano. Will Lovino allow him to stay with them? Their place is small… not even big enough for the two Italians already, nonetheless a German. Could Ludwig really be with his brother again?
Feliciano shifts in his rest, sighing. Ludwig smirks. None of that matters at the moment. He is with the one he loves. Yes. Loves. He will do anything to protect his childish, idiotic, dense little Feliciano. For the time being, all he needs to be worried about is his happiness. He deserves nothing less. He loves Feliciano with all his being.
At this time, Ethereal Feliciano stands atop a grassy knoll facing a standing mirror. His image is reflected in it but something seems different than before. The soft smile on his face doesn't seem so pained and forced. All of those worry lines have faded away. Even the dark circles beneath his eyes have vanished as if they were never there in the first place. Perhaps he's been looking at everything wrong since there very beginning. Perhaps he was loved by others because they actually liked who he was. Maybe there was something about him that was able to draw people together in kindness. Maybe the world he so often escapes isn't really as bad as he thought it was in the first place.
Ethereal Feliciano reaches out to the person reflected into the mirror. He clasps the person's hand and pulls him from the mirror's shimmery surface. As Feliciano is pulled out of his weird reality, the ethereal version of him begins to flicker. It isn't very noticeable at first but it soon grows to be a dull shine emanating from Ethereal Feliciano's body. The person who Feliciano thought he was, who he thought he should be, begins to fade away from the feet up until only his head and hand remain. It gives a farewell smile as it finally disappears into the sky, leaving the real Feliciano to himself.
He really is going to miss this beautiful, fake world.
Feliciano opens his eyes.
A/N: *confetti flies* There you have it! I, 'Ragi, has finally finished "Safe & Sound" after waaay too long. I hope I was able to end it well enough for you, readers. Please review and no flames. I don't know if my weak little heart can take it. *dramatically clutches chest* Thank you for staying with me for so long.
I'm considering making a sequel because I feel like I can create more with this, maybe focusing on another relationship. There are so many characters that I didn't have that you guys would probably like to see. However I have no idea what to write about so if you have an idea for me, PM me or leave a message in a review. Anything is welcome and greatly appreciated!
For anyone interested in a new anime that as short and hilarious as Hetalia I would suggest Senyuu. It is absolutely amazing! There are only 13 episodes out at the moment but it's worth it! (Second season airing in July! So excited!)
And I'm also considering making a Katekyo Hitman Reborn fic next, revolving around my favorite pairing: Belphegor and Fran! So if any of you are KHR fans, stay with me for more! And don't forget to check out my co-writers work. We share the same account so look out for any stories written by Teru!
Thank you again! I love you all!