Genre: Drama/Angst/Romance/Humour(in places)
Pairing/s: (in this chapter) USxUK, implied FrancexSwitzerland (can whoever asked for FrancexSwitz please remind me? I can't remember who you are!)
Characters: (in this chapter) UK, US, Poland, France, Iceland, Switzerland, Canada.
Rating/Warnings: Overall NC-17. This chapter PG.
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. ~
‘How do you put a price on the loss of millions of lives? Even after the bombs had stopped falling, the death continued for years. It didn’t hurt like the first wave; it was more of a deep ache that slowly eased over time, but that didn’t make it any easier. Waking day after day, always knowing that something wasn’t right and becoming aware of that pain, knowing that more people were dying and you were feeling it. We lost so many in those first years, those who hadn’t been destroyed by the bombings succumbing to the decay of their countries. I feared that I would be one of them, but I pulled through, and while I know that I have Alfred to thank for that, I will be eternally grateful to Matthew for all that he did for us.
I think that personally, I felt the absence of my brothers the most. Even though we had always bickered, we had always been together, and to suddenly be without them... well, I think the phrase goes something like ‘I felt like one of my arms had been pulled off’.
It’s strange, though. Lately I’ve been feeling... well, I suppose you could call them ‘stirrings’. Familiar sensations, as if for a brief moment one or more of them had come back. I haven’t told anybody. The last thing I need is for people to start thinking I’m crazy. Again.’
“I don’t know how you think that pile of rust has any hope of starting,” Vash said two days later as he watched Arthur and Francis tinker with the truck’s engine.
“I wish we’d brought Ludwig with us,” Arthur sighed, straightening with a quiet groan and rubbing the small of his back, brushing his hair out of his face and leaving a smudge of grease across his forehead. “He would have had it up and running in no time.”
“You know full well that Feliciano would have had a fit,” said Matthew, his distaste for the nervous Italian’s dramatic nature all too clear.
“Sometimes I wish he’d gone along with his brother,” Vash muttered darkly. All eyes turned to him in a mixture of horror and disgust. Immediately he raised both hands, as if to fend off an attack. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“You should not say such foul things, Vash,” Francis murmured. “It is most unbecoming.”
“I said I was sorry,” was the grudging reply, and Arthur was certain that he caught a shamed blush on the young man’s cheeks as he stood and left. The Englishman’s gaze slid between the door and his brother, who suddenly seemed very occupied with the fan belt in the engine, and he nudged Francis’ shoulder.
“What’s the story there?” he asked, one eyebrow raised. Francis cleared his throat and stood, pressing the heel of one hand into the small of his back. He shrugged then, almost modestly, in a manner which was quite unlike him.
“There is no ‘story’, mon petit frère,” he replied. “Not yet.” He cast his brother a smile and the younger man shot him a grin in response, shaking his head.
“You be careful, Francis. Vash isn’t like one of those floozies that you took such pleasure in using as playthings.”
“Oui, je sais, but we should all be able to have a shot at happiness, non? Even if it is only fleeting.”
“Hmm,” Arthur didn’t approve, and even an idiot could see that in the way his heavy eyebrows lowered over darkened green eyes and how his arms crossed over his chest. “I swear, Francis, if you hurt him, I’ll make sure you never-”
“Arthur?” He turned, his eyes growing wide as they located the source of the voice.
“Alfred, I told you to stay in bed and rest!” he chastised, though he made no effort to force the man back, simply helping him to a chair and sitting him down, looking him over carefully, not failing to notice the tentative way in which he held his left arm. "How are you feeling?"
“Probably better than I look,” was the glib response.
“You look pretty shocking, Alfred,” Feliks piped up, promptly withering under the dark look that he received from Arthur and returning to his attempts to balance a two-inch iron nail on the end of his nose.
“Maybe Arthur’s right,” Matthew said, moving over to them and meeting his brother’s eyes. “You look worse than Kiku did. You should get some rest.”
“I’ll be fine,” the American assured him, managing a courageous smile and squeezing Arthur’s hand. However, rather than pacifying the Canadian’s concerns, something in the way he brushed them aside seemed to infuriate the younger man, and his shoulders tensed. It was a small thing, but Francis noticed it, and his eyes widened a fraction.
“Well, if you’re sure,” Arthur murmured, pressing a gentle kiss to his lover’s pale cheek. A pleased blush worked its way across Alfred’s face and he watched Arthur move back over to the truck, entering into a debate with Francis while the Frenchman kept one wary eye on Matthew. In the meantime, the Canadian settled himself beside his brother and appeared to be working several things over in his mind, the absence of his glasses still noticed by the way he would rub the bridge of his nose every so often, as if he felt that something was missing. He cast a glance over to the American to find Alfred watching Arthur with a soft expression on his face, and cleared his throat softly.
“He’s worrying about you, you know,” he said quietly. “More than he’s letting on.”
“He doesn’t need to worry about me,” was the American’s distracted reply. “I’m America. This isn’t going take me down.”
“Alfred, you look like hell. Please won’t you rest like he asked? It’ll make him feel better.”
Alfred looked at him then, as if only just realising that he was sitting there, and in that moment each brother was struck by how tired the other looked. If anything, that only seemed to strengthen Matthew’s resolve, but after he urged his brother a second time to get some rest like he knew Arthur wanted, Alfred called across to the Englishman.
“Artie? You’re okay with me staying here, aren’t you?” he asked, quite obviously itching to get his hands into the engine of that truck but knowing that Arthur wouldn’t tolerate his getting in the way. Arthur glanced at him, and though his tone was uneasy he attempted a smile and nodded, and Alfred shot Matthew a triumphant look as if to say ‘see, I told you’.
“Do you even care about what he thinks?” Matthew hissed then through gritted teeth. The American blinked at him.
“Of course I care. I just don’t want to be cooped up all the time ‘cause of-”
“Because of the great gaping wound in your shoulder, Al. Don’t think I haven’t seen it.” His voice was a little louder now, though it appeared that Francis, Arthur, Feliks and Óskar either hadn’t noticed or were trying to ignore it. Alfred frowned, his attention now fully on his younger brother as the Canadian fumed silently.
“I’m fine, Mattie. I don’t need you worrying about me, too.”
“Yes, yes, because you’re America, aren’t you,” was the irritated reply. Whether he was annoyed because of Alfred’s persistent hero complex or his apparent lack of regard for how much everyone was concerned about him, it couldn’t be said. Perhaps it was both.
“That’s right! Now you’re getting it!” Alfred said cheerfully, only to have the Canadian turn on him, a faint pink flush rising to his cheeks.
“You don’t seem to be getting it, Alfred,” he said in a low voice, a voice that Alfred recognised very well from the few times that Matthew had lectured him to the point of tears. “You seem to be quite happily ignoring the fact that you’re getting worse every day, well I have some news for you, Alfred, it isn’t so easy for us to ignore it, and it certainly isn’t easy for Arthur to ignore it. Why don’t you just get some rest like he asks? What’s so hard about that?”
“Jeez, Mattie, chill ou-”
“Ow! Mattie, what the hell?!” An astonished American was holding one hand to his cheek, a slowly reddening mark showing the outline of fingers against the pale skin.
“Je ne peux pas croire jusqu'à quel point tu peux être stupide! Comment... comment tu ne semble pas du tout t'inquiéter de ce que nous ressentons! Mon Dieu, ne pense-tu jamais à personne d'autre que toi-même?!” Matthew was livid, his hand momentarily raised as if to deliver another blow but instead falling to gesturing wildly as he continued to shout and swear in French. Despite his physical condition, and his inability to understand French, Alfred began to shout back. He may not have spoken French but he certainly knew what ‘stupide’ meant. The others could no longer act like they hadn’t noticed, Arthur and Francis watching in a kind of bemused confusion as they realised how much the pair suddenly reminded them of themselves.
It was only when Alfred shifted his weight and lifted his good arm, his fist clenched, that the two older nations stepped in with twin cries of ‘Alfred, don’t!’ and ‘Mathieu, arrête!’, moving together as they separated the younger men. While Francis went about scolding Matthew in quick, heavily accented French, Arthur turned a disappointed look to Alfred and saw the younger man wilt.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Arthur snapped. “Fighting with your brother like that? This is the worst time and place to be-”
The Englishman didn’t get any further than that, as Alfred batted his hand aside and pushed past him, smacking the iron nail out of Feliks’ hands on his way out.
“Hej, to było zupełnie nie będący na miejscu!” Feliks complained, retrieving his ‘toy’ from the floor as the door slammed shut. The silence lasted for several long moments, only broken by Feliks’ quiet humming, then Arthur’s shoulders dropped and he sighed softly.
“Bugger,” he muttered, rubbing one hand over his face. “Feliks, give Francis a hand with the truck. I better go after Alfred before he does something stupid.”
“Aye aye, captain,” the Pole replied, hopping up out of his seat and pushing the nail he had been playing with into the pocket of his jacket. He gave the older man a small salute, and Arthur managed to smile before darting outside and catching sight of Alfred.
“Al!” he called, breaking into a run, a trail of small dust-clouds stirred up behind him as his feet hit the ground. “Alfred, come on!” It didn’t take him long to catch up, and he moved in front of Alfred, stopping him in his tracks. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Do you enjoy treating me like a child? Have you forgotten that you’re only here because of me?”
Arthur hadn’t expected that. This kind of argument hadn’t come up for longer than he could remember and any response he might have made stuck in his throat. His green eyes widened slightly as he watched Alfred utter a frustrated sound and push one hand through his hair.
“I’m not going to say I didn’t mean it,” Alfred said then. Arthur looked down, nervously fidgeting with the ring on his left hand, then a warm arm wrapped around his shoulders and he blinked, glancing up in time for a kiss to be dropped on his forehead. “I do mean it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy about it... I’m glad you’re here because of me.”
It was a clumsy explanation at best and for most wouldn’t have been enough to dig out of the hole that had been created by the previous statement, but Alfred had never been good with words, and Arthur knew how to find the meaning behind the silly things that his husband said.
“We’re okay, right..?”
“Yeah, Al, we’re okay,” Arthur told him with a small smile.
“I... I’m gonna go rest-”
“Y-you don’t have t-”
“No, I... it’s alright... I mean, you’re right, I should be resting... I do feel kind of...”
“Yeah...” Another smile, a little brighter, worked its way onto Arthur’s face and he shifted up onto his toes to kiss Alfred gently. “You get some rest. I’ll be over soon, we’re nearly done here.”
When he returned to the makeshift garage, he shut the door behind him and pressed back against it, shutting his eyes. A low noise filtered into his mind, and he looked over to the truck, unable to hold back the sound of disbelief as Óskar poked his head out of the driver-side door and flashed a rare smile.
“How does that sound, Arthur?”
Miss me? -3- I know I did! (wut) I'll hopefully be updating a little more from now on, but to those who are still with me, thanks for reading!
Oui, je sais - Yes, I know
Je ne peux pas croire jusqu'à quel point tu peux être stupide! Comment... comment tu ne semble pas du tout t'inquiéter de ce que nous ressentons! Mon Dieu, ne pense-tu jamais à personne d'autre que toi-même?! - I can't believe how stupid you are being! How ... How you don't seem to care at all about what we feel! My God, do you never think about anyone but yourself?
Hej, to było zupełnie nie będący na miejscu! - Hey, that was totally uncalled for!
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