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 U.
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 wouldn’t believe the kinds of things you have to learn to do to survive in this kind of world. I’d never had my hands in a car engine in my life before, but now I can take an engine apart and put it back together. It was all thanks to Ludwig, and his considerable talent with anything mechanical. He even managed to teach Feliciano a thing or two.
It was strange, at first, to have all of us living together. Nations that we would never usually see for more than a few days out of the year were suddenly our constant companions, and I would be lying if I said that there weren’t arguments that would have shaken the political world had there been one to shake. The humans took to a kind of chaotic law, primitive yet surprisingly effective, though it threw us into disarray for a while until we got used to the change. I snapped at Alfred so much in those years, it’s surprising that he put up with it.
Though, we became used to each other. You would think that being kept in such a small space would be hell for all of us, but with all bickering aside, we became closer than we had ever been. It is only a pity, I have always thought, that it took something like this to see how similar we really are.’
“Oh, I am totally hung over,” Feliks groaned as he joined the other nations the next morning. Arthur’s jacket was wrapped around his shoulders, though the frilly shirt had been abandoned. He dropped into a chair, and Óskar pushed a glass of water towards him, which he eyed suspiciously.
“Is it, like, safe?” he asked, picking it up and sniffing the liquid. At the Icelandic’s nod, he took a sip and swallowed, pushing one hand through his hair and leaning on table. “You, uh, wanted me for something last night, yeah?” Placing the glass down, he shrugged Arthur’s jacket off and handed it over, a smile on his lips as he did so. “Thanks for that, Arthur. It was, like, totally cold in there.”
Taking his jacket back, Arthur pulled it on and couldn’t help but smile back. It was good to hear Feliks acting a little like his old self.
“What has you so cheerful?” he asked, a faintly amused smile dancing on his lips. Feliks looked at him, then away, and then he leaned one elbow on the table and rested his chin on the palm of his hand.
“I woke up this morning, yeah? And what you said to me last night totally came back to me, and I thought, you’re right, you know?” The Pole pushed a hand through his hair and worked out a couple of snags. “I’ve spent like, years stuck in this rut of thinking I’m alone, but you were right. I’m totally not, ‘cause I have all you guys!” He grinned, and settled back, draping one arm over the back of the chair. “And it’s like, well, I finally thought properly about Toris, and he totally wouldn’t want this. He warned me so I’d stay alive, and he wouldn’t want me living as a dead man, right?”
“Right.” Feliks’ endless optimism had always both frustrated and cheered Toris, and they could only hope that he’d manage to keep it up – they needed as much good humour as they could get. “You’re right though, Feliks, we did want you for something last night... I’m amazed that you can recall that.”
Taking another sip of water, the Pole cleared his throat and made a small, suspicious sound. “Yes,” he said. “I also totally remember someone dunking my head in freezing cold water!”
Óskar could not have looked more innocent if he tried, and Feliks couldn’t keep up his expression of overly-dramatised annoyance for very long before he grinned, and the Icelandic man smiled graciously. He had needed that cold shock, and nobody knew it better than he did. Leaning back, Feliks cracked his fingers and looked expectantly at the other nations. There was a pregnant pause, then Arthur seemed to suddenly remember that he had been speaking, slapping his hand lightly against the top of the table and making Vash jump.
“We did need you for something,” he said briskly. “Matthew found an old truck – I think we can get it working again, but we need permission.”
Feliks frowned, swallowing the rest of the water in one mouthful. “A truck? Like, seriously? It must be like, awesomely old to have kept this long.”
“It has wheels,” Alfred interjected excitedly, then he gave a soft pout. “But Artie won’t let me drive it.”
“Good decision,” Feliks said, getting to his feet, a quiet groan escaping him as he pressed one hand to the side of his head. “Like, omaigawd, hangovers totally suck. I’m never drinking again.”
“Ah, do not say that, mon cher,” Francis told him seriously. “It is the beginning of a long and dangerous road.”
Feliks blinked, as if not quite comprehending what Francis had said to him, one eyebrow slightly raised and lips parted, the response that hung on them not quite making it out before he gave a light snort and tossed his head. “You’re weird, Francis.”
A sigh. “Oui, oui...”
“Nous aimons toujours vous, Francis,” Matthew said kindly.
“Je n’aime pas,” Vash commented. Matthew gave him a hard look, but Francis was cheered regardless, and Vash gave a faint, amused smile. The Canadian appeared taken aback for a moment, but quickly recovered when Feliks shook himself and announced that he was ready. They did not all go, since, as Óskar quietly pointed out, it would look very threatening. Vash returned to his work on the weapons that he had yet to repair, with Francis accompanying him while Matthew and Feliks approached the leader of the community. Arthur, Alfred and Óskar remained in their seats, though it was not long before the Icelandic excused himself and left the American and Englishman alone.
“Do you believe it’ll work?” Alfred murmured after some time had passed in silence, the two of them simply sitting, clasping each other’s hands on top of the table. Arthur stroked his thumb over Alfred’s knuckles in a soothing manner than he knew never failed to calm his lover, hearing the worry behind the words and refusing to allow the seeds of doubt to be sown in his own mind.
“I have to,” he replied, squeezing the American’s fingers. “I have to, for myself, and for you.”
“For me?” Alfred turned his hands over and clasped Arthur’s, rubbing his thumbs over the soft skin on the backs of his hands. “Why for me? I’m supposed to be the hero here, Artie. You know you don’t have to look after me.” He smiled, and Arthur could see the weariness there, but it was a true smile and the kind that he shouldn’t have been capable of any longer, after everything they’d been through... but there it was.
“But I do,” Arthur said gently. “I do, because you’re all that I have.”
“And you’ve always been all I’ve ever needed.” His gaze was unwavering behind his glasses and Alfred lifted one of Arthur’s hands to his lips, kissing the back of it. He was treated to a warm blush racing over the Englishman’s cheeks, the shy side of him that he rarely saw nowadays, and he took the opportunity to draw him close and into a loving kiss, ignoring the cheers of the few villagers sitting nearby.
“Oh, Alfred...” Arthur sighed as they parted.
“There’s something I want to tell you,” the American began, moving one of his hands from Arthur’s to cup his cheek. “I know that everything you’ve done – everything you’ve ever done for me – was all because you thought it was best... and... I know that I’ve not always lived up to what you expected, and I know I’ve hurt you in ways that can never be forgiven-”
“Let me finish.” Alfred interrupted swiftly, and Arthur fell silent, his green eyes slightly wide. “What I’m trying to say is... you’ve done all these things, so many thankless tasks, and I know I’d not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for you. So... my point here is...” He paused, as if trying to think of the best way to say it, and then he gave a small smile, and clasped both of Arthur’s hands in his. “I know that I’m your hero and all,” he said. “But you’re mine.”
The Englishman’s eyes sparked with tears that hovered just short of falling, dampening his lashes, and at the door of the building, Matthew held out his arm to draw Feliks to a halt, turning him around and pushing him back outside. When they entered again ten minutes later, Arthur had composed himself and was shuffling a dog-eared pack of playing cards.
“Good news,” Matthew said as he dropped into a chair across from his brother. “We can do what we like to the truck. They don’t use it and they’re really pleased with the work Vash has done so far.”
“Fantastic!” Arthur enthused. “Someone up there likes us.”
“If there’s someone up there watching us I’d hope he’d give a little more help than a beaten up truck,” the Canadian responded good-naturedly. Feliks frowned, and sat beside Matthew, leaning on the table.
“That reminds me,” he said, his voice taking on that serious tone that they had become so used to over the years. “I keep feeling like something’s following me.”
“Something..?” Alfred looked concerned. “Something, or someone?”
“I don’t rightly know,” was the low reply. “But ever since we got here it’s been like, something has its eyes on me all the time. It’s totally weirding me out!”
“Is it Ivan?” The question was anxious, knowing that if Ivan found them now, they were as good as sitting ducks. Feliks shook his head.
“No, I’d know the feel of that creepy guy from ten miles away. This is like, something different...”
“We’ll have to be on our guard,” Arthur said, then he stood up, and after a moment of hesitation, the others did the same. They made their way from the building, and to the rickety garage where Feliks’ first reaction was an unimpressed ‘hm’ at the state of the truck. At some point it might have been blue, if the few remaining strips of peeling paint were anything to go by, but now it was a mottled combination of a dull metallic grey and a deep rust red. More modern cars had been simply too fragile to stand up to the years of post-nuclear weather conditions, but this... this was made to last. Arthur walked over and, with some difficulty, pulled the bonnet up. The hinges complained and he was immediately showered with rust, but inside, the engine was intact.
“It’s in pretty good condition,” he muttered, his fingers moving deftly over the more essential components, picking the rust from them and finding clean metal beneath.
“Sure, but will it start?” Alfred asked, leaning over his shoulder and brushing metal flakes out of his hair.
“We’ll have to see, won’t we? Fingers crossed.”
Alfred grinned, and crossed his fingers.
... Did you miss me? :3
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