Genre: Drama/Angst/Romance/Humour(in places)
Pairing/s: (in this chapter) USxUK, SwedenxFinland (hint of N.ItalyxGermany).
Characters: (in this chapter) US, UK, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, France (briefly).
Rating/Warnings: Overall NC-17. This chapter, T for shower fluff and Matthew's cussing.
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. ~
‘Antonio was never the same afterwards. Losing Lovino and Roderich took its toll on him, and he became more like the man I remembered... harsh, a little cruel. He reminded me painfully of myself back in the old days. As for me, well, I can’t say that I handled Adelgonde’s death easily, but I coped, as she would have wanted.
We had to find strength in each other. It wasn’t how we’d wanted to achieve world peace.
The one who changed the most was Feliciano. After losing his brother, his former master, and his friend (we all miss Elizabeta, but Feliciano was devastated), it was as if he became a completely different person... far more serious, far quicker to anger, that trademark Italian passion turned to a swift temper that even Ludwig sometimes fails to control.
Though, at least he is still sane. Czech was not so fortunate...’
The Nordics. They stuck together like they always had, even with the loss of Denmark, whose small landmass had simply not been enough to withstand the bombing and subsequent flooding. Iceland would have suffered the same fate, were it not for his suspicion of Ivan, and his partnership with Greenland that allowed him to save himself. Still, they all looked more than weary, Tino leaning heavily on Berwald as Arthur and Alfred walked towards them. His eyes were half closed and Berwald’s arm around him was possibly the only thing that was holding him up. It only took a look from Berwald to bring Francis, who was simply passing by, running with a chair, and the small Nordic nation sat down gratefully, Berwald’s hand resting on his shoulder.
“I hope that your journey was pleasant,” Arthur said, knowing how difficult it was these days to travel between continents. Fuel was a hard thing to find, and they had to rely on the brief moments that the sun would break through the thick clouds to store solar power, which was used sparingly. Though, the years of campaigning by many nations to try and get their people to save energy had hardwired automatically turning off a light upon leaving a room into all of them.
“’S much ‘s it could be,” Berwald replied gruffly, and Arthur smiled a little, offering his hand, which the taller nation took. The Swedish nation had suffered more than it would appear, clearly keeping a strong front for Tino’s sake. It was strange to not see Denmark there, but Iceland and Norway were a sight for sore eyes.
“Óskar. Aleksander.” Arthur nodded, greeting both of them in turn, looking over to Alfred as the blonde crouched in front of Tino and offered him a cup of water. On the sidelines, Matthew appeared, quietly watching them and clearing his throat softly to attract their attention. Aleksander gave a small wave, and moved over to him, speaking to him in a low voice.
“How have you been, Tino?” Alfred asked the Finn, closing the smaller nation’s fingers around the cup and helping him lift it. It had only been thanks to Berwald’s protection that Tino had survived as well as he had, far too close to Russia to have escaped entirely unscathed.
“I’ve been alright...” Tino murmured, looking up as Óskar gently ruffled his hair. He looked over to Matthew, who felt his gaze and turned to him with a small smile. “Thank you, Matthew, for your hospitality...”
When Tino was rested enough they moved through to the meeting room, and the four Nordics sat down across from Arthur and Alfred, who clasped hands beneath the table. Matthew sat beside his brother as Óskar leaned forwards, shaking his silver hair out of his eyes before he fixed the three of them with a steady gaze.
“There’s been movement in Russia, up in the north of Nenetsia,” he said.
When Russia had pressed the metaphorical ‘big red button’, at least half of the warheads had failed to launch thanks to rusted or broken mechanisms, and had detonated on his own soil. It had been a saving grace for the rest of the world, but practically everything in Russia had been destroyed. They hadn’t found his body, and perhaps that was best. Arthur would never be able to forget the image of Roderich’s bloody, torn corpse sprawled across the charred remains of his piano. It had been so surreal, and he would never forget Vash’s words as he walked in behind him... ‘I hope he wasn’t playing Chopin’, and then he’d laughed, because it was either that, or break down.
“Nenetsia...” Arthur murmured, fiddling absently with the ring on his left hand, twisting it around his finger with the tip of his thumb.
“That’s right,” Aleksander replied, casting a glance over to Tino, who looked tiredly back. “We think it might be Ivan.”
“Or worse,” Berwald added, the matter-of-fact tone of his voice settling a chill over the group. Under the table, Arthur tightened his grip on Alfred’s hand, and felt the younger nation squeeze his fingers.
“I’ve been feeling something,” Tino muttered softly, fidgeting. He leaned against Berwald and shut his eyes for a moment, drawing in a few slow breaths. “It’s creeping over the land, pushing at the borders of my country. I’ve felt it once before... I think that Ivan is alive... and I think the empire is returning.”
A long silence followed that statement. The Nordics, already aware of their brother’s thoughts, kept their heads bowed as Alfred, Arthur and Matthew took in what they had just been told.
“Fuck,” said Matthew, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his face. Alfred snorted, still not used to hearing his little brother swear (though hearing Feliciano swear was stranger, and damn that man had a foul mouth these days), then he blinked, and watched as Arthur pushed his chair back, stood up and walked out. All of them knew the possible consequences of the re-emergence of the Russian Empire, and Matthew remembered all too well the feel of it pressing at his own borders. It had been fortunate indeed that Alfred had taken that burden from him when he had purchased Alaska. Matthew and Alfred shared a look, and the Canadian saw something flicker in his brother’s eyes that he hadn’t seen in so long he almost didn’t recognise it.
Alfred was afraid.
“I’ll go after Arthur.” The American stood, and left the room, and Matthew sighed, looking down at his hands.
Hot water was a luxury, but right now Arthur didn’t care as the scalding liquid pounded down on top of his head. He remembered the Empire, its humble beginnings and how it had spread over the world like a virus, sucking the life out of everything that it touched, and now, with the world in such a weakened state, no nation alone could hope to stand against it.
Arthur remembered how it felt to be an Empire.
He turned his face up into the spray and hissed, fumbling for the tap and turning it until the water cooled. Hitting one closed fist against the cracked tiles of the shower wall, he rested his forehead beside it and a quiet curse escaped him. The shower door slid open and then Alfred was there, and Arthur made a sound – soft, desperate – and pressed himself close to Alfred’s chest. The American didn’t speak, having learned a long time ago that there were no appropriate words for a time like this (Francis often said that Arthur had made Alfred boring), he simply stood, running his fingers lightly up and down the shorter nation’s spine. When Arthur drew away, his chin was tilted up by a single finger beneath it, and he closed his eyes against the kiss pressed to his lips. He let out a gentle sigh, grasping the taller man’s shoulders, feeling Alfred’s touch tracing every deep scar and raw bruise on his skin as the kiss deepened and he rose up on his toes to move closer.
It was passionate, but not the burning lust that could only lead to other things, rather a simple need to touch, to be close to each other and be reassured of the other’s existence. Arthur broke the kiss, his lips lingering on Alfred’s for a moment before he pulled back, and tilted his head, smoothing his hands down Alfred’s arms.
“You look better,” he said quietly.
“That scar’s gone...” The Englishman ran one fingertip over his lover’s right shoulder, tracing the now barely visible line of what had once been a livid purple scar.
“Mm.” Alfred caught hold of Arthur’s hand and kissed his knuckles, stepping back and drawing the smaller man out of the shower, reaching past him to turn off the water. He picked up one of the thin, worn towels and wrapped it around Arthur, rubbing his shoulders lightly.
“Do you ever regret it, Alfred?” Arthur said, casting his eyes up to meet the other’s clear blue gaze.
“You know... Marrying me.”
Alfred’s hands stopped, and he just looked at Arthur, a faint frown on his young, weary face. He smiled (that beautiful, heartbreaking smile that Arthur loved so much), and shook his head, returning to lightly chafing the towel up and down the Englishman’s arms.
-waves- I hope this was okay for you all! There are supposed to be things still left unanswered, so don't worry if things are still confusing. I'd like to invite you to make queries, about what you think is happening and so on - it helps the writing process! =D
<| Chapter One | Chapter Three |>