The Last Three Days
"Ich schau zurück auf eine wunderschöne Zeit; warst die Zuflucht und die Wiege meines Seins."
February 22, 1947
February 22, 1947
It’s dark when Prussia gets home.
The sun has long since vanished and the gold, pink, and orange hues that had once set the sky on fire before Prussia entered the meeting have melded into an inky blue. There are no stars out tonight; it’s boggy and overcast, and the air is cold in a way that Prussia has never experienced it before. Inside is just as desolate – the lights are all off, the window shades drawn, and the radio silent. He wonders if Germany turned down the heat to save on money, because the air is bitingly cold, too. How uninviting.
Not bothering with his uniform, he tromps through the house and into the living room. He’s still wearing his boots and he knows Ludwig will have a fit if he finds mud trails on the ground, but he can’t really bring himself to care at this point. My whole body will be covered in mud soon, he thinks, face twisting in a grimace. He isn’t sure what happens to countries when they die; whether they’re buried like normal humans, or vanish in a poof of dust or whatever. It never really occurred to him that countries can die. He’s been living for several hundred years, has seen the rise and fall of many a nation, and has fought in his fair share of battles. But it had never struck him that at any possible moment, he too could die, just like all those men before him.
Prussia collapses onto the couch. The material sinks beneath his weight and he rests his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He’s feeling stretched beyond his limits. The Allies had all looked so relaxed when discussing his dissolution, and he wonders if they ever really stopped to think about what it would be like if they were in his situation. Probably not. They are narrow-minded fools who care little about anyone but themselves; destroying governments and cultures and murdering a country just because they don’t share the same views as him.
And he still can’t believe they think the Nazis originated their tyrannical rule from him. Ha, what a joke! It must have slipped their minds that when the Nazis came into rule, Prussia lost all his federal power and had been subject to being the puppy-dog that followed his newly-empowered brother around. He was basically just another part of Germany throughout the war, only contributing when his brother managed to talk his boss into allowing him say. Yes, his country is, perhaps, very rigid in structure, militaristic, illiberal, an obstacle to the spread of democracy, and a seemingly perfect place for the Nazis to make base. But that doesn’t mean the Allies have the right to abolish him. He may not be such a great power anymore, but he is still a nation with a long history and the very core of Germany. He doesn’t deserve to be tossed aside like yesterday’s trash.
He’s so frustrated. It’s prejudiced and imprudent to decide so easily on the destruction of another. It’s easier to understand that mere mortals like Churchill, Truman, and Stalin don’t see the significance in destroying an entire nation; they are selfish and human, after all. But for even his fellow personifications to look so unperturbed by the decision… it makes him nauseous just thinking about it.
Digging the tips of his fingers into his face, Prussia sighs heavily and attempts to block out anymore of the vexing thoughts. He already understands the unfairness of it all but he can’t bring about a change by moping. Actually, he can never bring about a change.
Wow. That hits hard.
With a groan, Prussia presses his face further into his hands, hoping the pain of his crushing nose will help him forget everything. He’s scared that if he keeps brooding over it he’ll end up crying. Won't that be a surprise to his brother. The last three days of his life spent tormented by Germany because he caught him crying? No thanks.
“There you are!”
Prussia jumps a foot in the air and drops his hands, head whipping around. Germany is standing in the door of the living room, hat, coat, and boots still on, and he is staring at Prussia with an eyebrow rose. In his hands are a pile of documents and he’s tapping them against his palm, almost impatiently, wrinkling a few of the crisp papers’ corners.
“Oh, West,” Prussia murmurs, blinking and pressing the heels of his palms into his eyes until his cloudy vision returns to normal. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Only a few seconds,” his brother replies, crossing his arms and leaning against the threshold. “How long have you been here?”
Prussia runs a hand through his hair and sighs, shrugging as if it were no big deal. “Ten minutes, at the most. The meeting ended at–” he pauses and looks at the clock. His eyes bulge. “What? Is it that late already?” he exclaims, not believing what he sees.
He’s been sitting in that same spot for over an hour!
“Thought so,” Germany says, knocking his head from side to side as if he were trying to crack his neck. “You always get so mopey after meetings.”
“I wasn’t moping!”
Germany snorts. “Ja? Care to share why you’ve been here so long and yet the lights are off, the fire isn’t started, and the heat is still low? It’s freezing in here – don’t tell me you didn’t at least notice that.”
No, Prussia won’t tell him that he didn’t notice the cold… That would basically admit to him sulking.
Instead he places his arms behind his head and sinks back into the cushions, trying to look nonchalant. Most of the time his facades easily slip past people, but not with his brother; no, Germany can see through every mask he puts on, no matter how thick it is. And by the look on Germany’s face as he eyes his stoic brother, he knows there is something going through Prussia’s head that he’s not sharing.
But unlike most people, he doesn’t press the matter. He understands his brother well enough to know that when he is ready to talk, he will. Pestering simply makes him clam-up. Not that that the German is one for pestering, anyway; if his brother doesn’t want to talk then fine.
Prussia appreciates this about him.
“Hey, do you want to go grab a beer?”
Germany pushes himself from the doorway and begins to tap the papers against his palm again. “That would be nice, but I have work to do.”
Prussia tries not to let his frown show. It’s not like Germany knows about his abolishment, so he can’t blame him for putting work over having a beer with his brother. But it hurts nonetheless. He always has a way of choosing work over family; it was just one of his rigid brother’s many attributes that causes the two of them – unified or not – to speak less often the more they get older.
“C’mon!” Prussia insists, hopping up from the couch. “Spend some time with your big bruder!”
Germany scowls, looking adamant, but Prussia can easily see the falter in his paper-tapping and a flicker of longing in his eyes. No German man could turn down a beer; the world just didn’t spin like that.
With a sigh, Germany drops his arms and closes his eyes. “Fine.”
“Good! I would be worried if my little brother didn’t want to drink beer.” Prussia straightens his coat and runs a hand through his hair. He shoots Germany a wide, toothy grin – obviously not receiving one in return – and heads towards the door. “Well, let’s go!”
“Just so you know, I’m not doing this for you; I’m doing this because I need a break und having a beer is the perfect way to relax,” Germany says, following him out the door.
“Ja, ja, whatever you say.”
Prussia doesn’t really care if his brother wants to spend time with him or not, he’s just glad they get to go out together and drink like they did before the world wars. And honestly, he’s simply thankful Germany agreed to go with him at all. A little time together before his dissolvent.
“Hey, thanks for doing this,” Prussia says. And he means it.
He glances at Germany from the corner of his eye, face devoid of emotion but chest swelling with the fact that he finally – even if it is before he dies – gets to spend time with his brother. Germany pauses with his beer halfway to his lips. The clinking of glasses from the bar counter and the raucous laughter of the men around them seems to grow louder, but Prussia continues to stare and Germany continues to sit there, frozen. Then, as if recovering himself, he continues in his movement and takes a swig.
“I don’t know why you’re thanking me,” he mumbles, setting his bottle down.
Prussia knew he was going to say this. It can never simply be a, “you’re welcome” or “it’s not a big deal”; he always has to make it sound like he doesn’t care. But Prussia knows he does and it’s just his roundabout way of saying so.
With a smile, the albino takes a sip of his own drink. He pinches the mouth of bottle when he’s done and swings it sideways indifferently.
“You know, we always used to do this back in the day,” he says conversationally. “You know, before everything happened.”
Germany nods and cradles his beer between his large hands, staring at the glass as it catches the lighting of the bar.
They’re sitting at a two-person table far away from everyone, sideways so their backs are turned towards the door, trying to blend in with the walls and shadows of the corner so they’re not noticed by any federal officials. Technically, Germany isn’t allowed to have “breaks”. No matter the time of day or night, if he’s needed, he has to be there. It’s funny, really, being the personification of countries and all, one would think it would be them to have the power; apparently, however, they’re just as soundless as their terrain. No say, no power, no ability to control anything happening or choices being made… Prussia wonders if things would have turned out differently had they been allowed to make the decisions of their own futures, rather than they’re big ol’ bosses manipulating their every move. To an extent, perhaps. At least things would have been less confusing without the political turmoil.
“We did, didn’t we?”
Prussia gazes sidelong at him, a soft smile tugging at his lips. “Ja, we did.”
It probably doesn’t really matter to the German what they used to do. But for Prussia, sitting here at the bar, a couple beers in front of them, not really talking but just being… It is exactly what he has wanted for a long time. And for these final three days, he will try and be with his brother as often as possible. Even if it drives the blond insane.
Germany shifts in his seat to look at Prussia. His face holds its usual stern look, almost like someone etched it out of stone, but his blue eyes are soft. It’s something Prussia has only seen a handful of times, and he can tell that Germany wants to know what’s going on. He knows something’s up.
“Hey, what happened at the meeting?” he asks, leaning into the back of his chair at an angle so he’s facing Prussia. The beer is still in his hands but it’s half full, like he forgot about it. “We’ve been here twenty minutes and you’ve barely spoken.”
Prussia glances down at his own drink and sees that the liquid is still touching the neck of the bottle. He must have dazed off again.
Hesitating, he wonders if he should say something. Maybe not about his dissolution, but perhaps that the Allies weren’t going to return him to his previous power. He knows that if he tells Germany about being abolished, all hell will break lose. And he also knows that his last days will be spent in a dim atmosphere; for him to be upset is one thing (and obviously a given) but for his brother to be… Well, ignorance is bliss. Prussia doesn’t want any more suffering placed on his brother’s shoulders. Most especially if it’s because of him.
Prussia spins his bottle around and leans back in his seat as well, but facing the wall rather than his brother. He might as well play it up, just to keep his façade real and Germany from pressing any further.
“They won’t return me to my original power,” he mumbles.
It’s not a lie but it’s not the truth.
“What?” Germany demands. “Who gave them the right to– well, never mind. But what makes them think they can just leave you hanging?”
Prussia shrugs. “Wish I knew.”
“Bastards,” Germany growls, lifting his beer to his lips again. “Now I see why you keep moping.”
“I’m not moping!”
The beer bottle hits the table with a dull thud and Germany runs a hand through his hair, pushing some of the pieces that had escaped back into place. “Well, things will eventually go back to the way they were. It will take time, but eventually…”
“I don’t think things will ever go back to normal… not after everything that’s happened…” Prussia murmurs, frowning. “I don’t really blame the Allies for hating us so much. Even France…” he cuts off, remembering the vengeful look his friend had given him, condemning him to dissolution. He swallows thickly and looks down at the table. “Well, we did a lot of terrible things, West.”
“I know.” Germany taps a finger on the table, looking pensive. “It may take many years but eventually… eventually things will be smoother. Maybe not the same, but not as rough, either.”
Too bad I won’t be here when that happens…
They’re silent again and finish their drinks. Germany doesn’t seem to suspect Prussia of hiding anything anymore, so the rest of their night goes smoothly. They talk about things here and there; the debt, the damage still being repaired, Hitler killing himself… They skirt around the touchy topics, however, like the concentration camps and the Nazis, both too ashamed and too regretful to really know what to say. They don’t reminisce about old times nor do they bring up nostalgic memories. Discussing present events seems fair enough to both and with Germany sunk knee-deep in after-war efforts, Prussia thinks it might relieve his mind to talk about it. He does with little prompting, and they share hearty discussions about politics, the Allies, and something as frivolous as military attire (both are very pleased with the current uniforms but there have been discussions about reformations, as per usual in any military setting).
By the time they finish their beers (one, of course, leads to two, which in turn leads to three…) it’s well past midnight and their eyes are heavy with sleep. Neither complains, however, with the late hour; they are both pleased and find the time well-spent. (Most especially Prussia, who had regained his good humor by the second beer, much to the pleasure of his brother who, by the end of the night was rosy-cheeked and cracking tiny smiles.)
The walk home is cold – icy wind cuts through their uniform jackets and their leather boots do little to keep their feet warm. Their hats are useless in protecting against the chill, and both are shivering. Yet Prussia’s smile remains and even Germany’s face is softer, lips twitching upwards when his brother says something particularly funny. He even lets out a chuckle when Prussia slips on a patch of ice and nearly smacks his face onto the ground. Not that Prussia finds this funny. Because it’s not.
Prussia is thankful that Germany turned on the heat before they left, because the house is warm and inviting and he’s able to strip off his damp coat, hat, boots, and scarf without worry of freezing to death in his own home. Clearly Germany feels the same way because as soon as his outer garments are off, he takes a deep, contented sigh and stretches his arms over his head.
“Well, it’s late,” he says, grunting as he grabs his left elbow with his right hand and pulling the muscles until their loose. “I have another early day tomorrow. Gute Nacht.”
He begins to walk towards the stairs, swinging his arms back and forth in a lazy sort of way, flexing his fingers as he if had just done a serious workout. With a shake of his head, Prussia decides to head towards the kitchen before bed; he’s starving and there’s nothing better than wurst after a couple beers. He’s gonna die anyway. Might as well binge while he can.
Prussia stops and turns his head. Germany is standing at the bottom of the stairs, hands in his pockets and face turned away. The albino can swear he sees a bit of pink on his brother’s cheeks, and it most definitely isn’t from the alcohol.
“I just… wanted to thank you,” he murmurs, still not looking at Prussia. “I guess I needed the break. And it was…” he pauses, cringes, and then clears his throat. “Well, it was nice spending time with you. I guess.”
Prussia blinks. Did he just hear… what he thought he heard?
Did Germany just… thank him and say he had a good time?
Surely, surely he was dying at this very moment. Yes, he can swear his heart has stopped in chest.
Sensing his brother’s baffled silence, Germany coughs and lifts his shoulders, putting on an appearance of disinterest and turning back towards the stairs. “Ja, anyway…”
But before he can move, Prussia is standing next to him and his hand is in his hair, ruffling the blond tresses until they resemble something of a rats nest. Prussia catches the elicited groan that escapes Germany’s mouth at the feeling of his hair being mussed but ignores it, grinning widely. It’s not something he would ever think Germany to do – thank him. Even when Germany was little the closest “thanks” Prussia ever got was a grunt and a scowl. (Not that much has changed.)
Prussia lets his arm drop as he walks off and towards the kitchen, chuckling all the way, deciding to spare his dear brother any further embarrassment. Although it is thoroughly entertaining to watch Germany becom flustered. Not soon after Prussia steps into the kitchen, the thumps of Germany’s heavy footfalls echo through the house as he makes his way up the stairs.
Once the wooden floors are creaking above Prussia’s head – signaling Germany is upstairs and in his room – he lifts the hand he had patted Germany’s head with and observes it, eyebrows pinched together.
Funny, he doesn’t really remember Germany being so tall.
The cupboard squeals as he opens it, searching for something to eat. All the cupboards are empty, reflecting impeccably on the current state of his brother’s economy (economic crisis’s had a way of finding their way into the personifications’ homes). Prussia pushes onto his tip-toes and stretches a hand far above his head to feel the topmost cupboard for something to eat. His hand brushes against the empty wood of the cupboard.
And it hits him.
He freezes in his reaching, eyes wide and mouth hanging, as a nauseatingly forlorn feeling makes its way into his gut like a chunk of iron. Because now it makes sense.
Germany is tall.
Taller than him.
Before both of the wars, they had been the same height. He remembers because he had found it difficult to ruffle is “little” brother’s hair like he had when he was young; having to stretch his arm just to get his hand on the blond head, it had occurred to him at that time how much his brother had grown as country. He was so proud. But just tonight when he had ruffled Germany’s hair, it had taken every ounce of muscle to reach the top of his head. It didn’t hit to him until now as to why it had taken a deal of effort to reach.
Prussia lost his power. He is now nothing more than a simple part of Germany, hardly a personification of a once great nation. His brother, however, is much, much more. So while Prussia remains the same height, Germany grows with his nation. He’s not only taller than his brother but is also stronger, more capable, and independent.
A sad smile twists his features until he’s pretty sure he’s not even smiling anymore, simply grimacing. He pulls his arm back down, not feeling hungry anymore, and shuffles off and towards his room.
That’s right. Germany is bigger than him now.
He doesn’t need Prussia anymore.
Big brother’s job is done.
“I’m looking back to a wonderful time; you were the anchor and the cradle of my existence."