Genre: Drama/Angst/Romance/Humour(in places)
Pairing/s: (in this chapter) USxUK.
Characters: (in this chapter) UK, US, Poland, France, Iceland, Switzerland, Canada.
Rating/Warnings: Overall NC-17. This chapter PG-13. Some angst.
Summary: The year is 2438. A little over one hundred years ago, Russia finally cracked and nuclear warheads were sent flying to every corner of the world. No one had time to react. Some countries were wounded, some lost forever. The smaller nations suffered the most. Russia disappeared, never to be heard of again. Finally, the world is beginning to piece itself back together, and there is movement in the irradiated lands of Old Russia. Something is stirring, and only the rag-tag group of remaining nations can discover what it is. Ivan Braginski, or something far worse...
~ There is nothing good in war, except its ending. ~
‘You could map out every place that the land had been hit by the marks on our bodies. When London was decimated I was so certain that I was going to die. If I hadn’t been with Alfred at the time, I have no doubt that I would have been destroyed entirely. It hurt. I can’t even begin to describe the pain. I barely managed to get into the shelter underneath Alfred’s house before the earth began shaking, and all I could hear was screaming.
It was only when I ran out of breath that I realised the screaming was coming from me.
We healed, as nations do, though the scars still remain as slowly fading reminders of what we lost. I tried to hide them from Alfred at first, but he was quick to reassure me that he found me captivating no matter what I looked like. I know how lucky I am to still have him by my side.’
“Shit, holy shit, Alfred, why are you bleeding?!”
“I-I don’t know!” Alfred’s voice was high with panic as Arthur darted inside the plane and came out carrying a first aid box. The American took off his jacket, leaving bloody stains down his shirt as he unbuttoned it and slipped it off, mindless of the scars that he bore in the face of this new wound. “T-that one’s been healing, it was almost gon- ah!” Arthur pulled his lover’s hand away and pressed a thick gauze pad to Alfred’s shoulder, holding it down and grabbing the man’s arm to keep him from moving away.
“What happened?” Matthew asked, moving quickly towards his brother and taking his hand. “Alfred, is it Alaska?”
“Mm...” The American gritted his teeth and nodded, while Arthur deftly applied a tight bandage, his hands strangely steady despite the fear in his eyes. Matthew growled softly and got to his feet, only to sit down again and put his head in his hands.
“Matt...” Alfred began, but the Canadian cut him off with a gesture and a sharp sound, his expression uncharacteristically dark. “Matt, come on-”
“Don’t you dare, Alfred Jones!” he snapped. “That bastard is hurting you. He’s hurting my brother, and I can’t do a damn thing to stop him!” He got to his feet again and paced, like some kind of caged animal while everyone watched him silently. “I’m finally making a difference, even though it took a fucking nuclear fallout to have people finally realise that I existed at all-”
“Matthew, that’s not-”
“Shut up, Arthur!” the Canadian kicked at the remains of the fire, narrowly missing Vash as the Swiss scrambled out of the way. “It is true, and you know it! You all came to me and I took you in and I finally felt useful, not used, because you actually needed me, rather than bullying me over land and immigration and the fucking Arctic. And you know what, it felt good- no, it felt great, but now we’re stuck out here in the middle of this God-forsaken hellhole-”
“Hey!” Feliks protested. “That’s totally out of line.”
“-and now that fucker is hurting my family - my family, and there’s nothing that I can do except sit here and watch him bleed!” He dropped to his knees and gasped, his entire body shaking.
“Are you finished?” Óskar murmured. Matthew nodded mutely.
“Yeah...” he whispered, leaning against Francis as the older man put an arm around him. “Yeah, I’m finished.” He looked up as Óskar crouched in front of him and placed one hand lightly on his shoulder, the smallest of frowns on his face.
“It is not wrong to be angry, Matthew,” the Icelandic nation said calmly. “Your brother is injured, it is understandable that you would be upset, but this is not the time to be losing your control. I know how it feels, Matthew, to see your brother hurt, and I know how it feels to be angry about seeing it. I would like to give you some advice, if I may.” When Matthew nodded, Óskar smiled very gently and kept his voice soft. “Be angry, but save your anger for when you really need it. Do you understand what I am saying to you?” Another nod, and the Canadian lowered his eyes, missing the look that passed between Francis and Óskar as the man stood up.
“... Right,” Vash said then, pushing a hand through his hair. “Now Williams is done with his hissy fit, can we get moving? We only have so many hours of daylight.”
Alfred seemed about to snap something at the irritable Swiss but Arthur touched his arm and shook his head, checking the bandage around the younger nation’s shoulder and helping him put his shirt and jacket back on. The American was oddly pale, and Arthur was understandably concerned, slipping one arm around Alfred’s waist. Smiling faintly, Alfred kissed the smaller man’s temple and hugged him gently, before carefully drawing away.
“I’ll be alright, Arthur,” he murmured. “We’ve had worse, right?”
“Yeah...” Arthur replied softly, though he didn’t seem entirely convinced, watching Alfred as he headed back inside the plane and came out minutes later with a heavy pack on his shoulders. Sealing his lips against the protest that threatened to well up, Arthur fetched a pack of his own, and hefted it awkwardly, not looking forward to walking half way across Russia with this kind of weight on his back.
It felt strange to be carrying a weapon, though it was even stranger to see Matthew with one. Arthur hadn’t needed to be armed for years before the bombs dropped, and certainly not with a weapon as primitive as the one that he now carried, but these kinds of weapons had been all they had left. It worked, and that was what was important. They left the plane behind as they made their first steps across the wasteland, every so often coming across tiny plants desperately trying to grow up towards the dim sunlight. He expected Francis to begin complaining, even looking forward to venting some of his current frustration and anxiety off on the Frenchman, but when he looked over to him, Francis was simply looking straight ahead with a small frown of concentration creasing a line between his eyebrows. Every so often he would converse briefly with Vash in French, the Swiss man far calmer now that they were on the move.
“How do we know where we’re going?” Arthur asked.
“I know,” Feliks told him, his eyes narrowed on the horizon. Ahead of them, the ragged ruins of a town could be made out, the buildings half-collapsed though a few towers could still be seen reaching upwards. “I know Lithuania as well as I know my own country. I know where we’re going.”
“Of course you do,” Alfred said quietly, giving a small smile in response to the frown that the Pole sent his way. Seeming to relax slightly, Feliks nodded, turning his head forwards again. The American sighed, and winced, shifting his pack and ignoring the gradually spreading stain of blood seeping through the fabric of his shirt. Now and then, Matthew and Arthur would send each other concerned looks. Indeed, the only one who seemed completely as ease was Óskar, who walked quietly and spoke only when spoken to.
“Hé, Óskar,” Francis muttered after some time had passed, blue on blue as the pale Icelandic man looked his way. “Why did you want to come on this little trip, hm?” For a brief moment, Óskar looked almost amused, then he drew in a slow breath and began to speak quietly.
“I was always suspicious of Ivan,” he said. “Since he offered to help me financially, without asking for anything in return. I always felt that he was holding that over me... Then this happened. I...” He hesitated, stuttering uncharacteristically. “I did not believe that I would ever be free of him. Something tells me that I am not free of him yet... I need to be certain.”
The idea that Ivan was still alive was one that they all knew was a very definite reality, but still, the silence that settled over the small group as Óskar spoke was uncomfortable.
“Feliks, are you alright?” Matthew moved closer to the Pole, who had suddenly gone very pale, and took his arm as his steps faltered.
“I’m alright,” Feliks replied. “I just, like, feel a bit ill, that’s all.”
“Oi, look at that.” Vash had stopped, one hand shielding his eyes as he pointed towards the ruined town ahead of them. The nations peered to where Vash’s finger was indicating, and then Arthur made a low sound of mixed surprise and alarm. Small figures were moving between the buildings, unarmed, stopping now and then to speak to one another.
“People!” he gasped. “There are people there!”
OoooOooooOOoooo... or something. Thanks for sticking with me, guys! It means a lot =)
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