"Hast gekämpft und jeden Moment mit mir geteilt. Ich bin stolz auch jetzt bei dir zu sein." -Unheilig
February 23, 1947
February 23, 1947
“You do realize what this means for Germany… don’t you, Prussia?” Churchill murmurs dangerously. “He will be the enemy that everyone wants to see’s head on a silver platter. He will spend the rest of his years as a nation in misery, torment, and blame. He will be hated. Despised. The Nazi Country that children have nightmares about."
Prussia bows his head and clenches his jaw until he thinks his teeth might shatter from the tension. Adrenaline pumps through his veins as millions of thoughts and scenarios spin through his head, each one just as terrible as the next and sending his heart into a frenzy. He feels like he is going to vomit.
“Ja. I understand.”
It’s a forced answer, taut and choked, but Churchill seems pleased with it despite.
He blows air through his nose loudly and leans back into his chair, the wooden structure groaning in protest and echoing through the vast, empty room. It’s just the two of them. Prussia almost forgot. He is so used to the silence of the Allies as they watch him spitefully during meetings that he nearly forgets no one else is with him and Churchill today.
He hates being alone with him.
The Brit’s staring through him again. Prussia hates when he does that – it’s like he can see through his soul; like he can read his very thoughts and feel his deepest emotions, using every single pain and bad memory against him.
He hates it so much.
“I will make a deal with you.” Churchill’s voice rings through the silence, causing Prussia’s pulse to quicken. His voice is steady, firm, almost flirtations, like he’s offering the most delicious option to the agony-filled personification before him. “It will save your brother, if you’re interested.”
This makes Prussia’s entire body freeze. His mind momentarily lapses; his muscles, lungs, and heart stop working. His breathing is silenced, his vision clouds over, the ringing quiet grows louder in his ears, and his head spins out of control.
Save his brother?
He can save his brother?
But Churchill’s voice is precarious. Like his tongue is coated with a poison; a poison that is fatal yet desirable, beckoning Prussia in a sweet, murderous way, and Prussia wonders if the Serpent sounded like that when he tempted Eve in the Garden.
It’s bad – he knows it’s bad but he can’t help it. He’s dancing with the Devil and yet he cares little about the consequences. He can’t stand the thought of his brother spending the rest of his life in torment because of a stupid mistake; a mistake that Prussia, inevitably, had a part of.
Squaring his shoulders, he lifts his head, looks Churchill square in the eye, and answers the Tempter without a quaver in his voice.
“What’s the deal?”
“Well, someone looks chipper this morning.”
Prussia turns a nasty scowl onto his brother, eyes half-lidded and bags the size of Berlin hanging underneath them. He looks frighteningly akin to the dead.
“I feel like I want to kill everyone. Shut up.”
Germany grabs a beer from the counter and pops it open. “We’ve tried that and it doesn’t work.”
Germany actually looks like he’s trying to fight back a laugh, despite that the joke was rather twisted and vile. Usually one doesn’t make light of the fact they nearly caused genocide.
“That’s not funny,” Prussia growls, eyes drilling into Germany’s profile.
“You’re right. It’s not funny.” The twitching of Germany’s facial muscles tells Prussia he thinks otherwise. He takes a swig of his beer and settles into the chair across from Prussia with a sigh. “But it’s truth.”
Prussia snorts and lifts his own beer to his lips. The familiar drink dances across his tongue and settles into his stomach, and he closes his eyes to relish in the taste. Germany sets his bottle down with a clank, causing the uneven kitchen table to wobble beneath the extra weight of his drink. Prussia peeks an eye open and watches his brother mindlessly spin the bottle around, cheek pressed into his hand that’s supported by the table. Prussia lifts a brow in question.
“Something wrong?” he asks.
Germany’s eyes flicker up to the albino. He shakes his head. “Just tired.”
Prussia hums thoughtfully and taps his finger against the tabletop. He feels less grouchy now that he’s gotten some beer into his system. Memories and nightmares (although it’s hard for him to differentiate between the two) had plagued him the whole night and he had gotten very little sleep.
“I will make a deal with you.”
Pain shoots through his jaw and Prussia realizes he’s grinding his teeth again. Unlatching his throbbing mouth, he wipes a hand wearily down his face and tries to clear his head.He doesn’t regret his decision – will never regret it – but to condemn one’s self to die… Well, it’s something that haunts a man.
Despite his best efforts, the haunting must be evident on his face because Germany is looking at him with the smallest hint of concern. His brows are pulled together and his beer is resting between his palms, the liquid still touching the neck of the bottle.
“How about you?” he asks.
Prussia rolls his neck in an attempt to look unperturbed despite that every muscle screams in agony at the movement.
“What do you mean?”
“You look exhausted – are you alright?”
“Oh.” Prussia runs a hand through his hair and lifts his shoulders. “I’m good. Just didn’t sleep well, is all.”
“I see,” Germany murmurs, but he doesn’t look convinced.
They sit in silence, both unsure of what else to say.
It’s clear they are equally beset by their thoughts, but Prussia knows they will never share their apprehensions aloud. Instead they sit and enjoy – to the best of their ability, anyway – their drinks and the company of each other.
Prussia forgot how much he longed for something as simple as sitting at the kitchen table with his brother; they had spent so much time in silence through the years that it had escaped Prussia just how much he liked being around Germany.
Taking a glance at the blond, Prussia’s eyebrows shoot up when he realizes that he’s not wearing his usual attire. Rather, he’s adorning an old pair of pants, a white shirt with his sleeves rolled up halfway, and muddy boots that look long since abandoned. Germany must not have touched the things since his days in the war. Prussia wonders if they’re still caked with mud from the battlefield and if so, then there must be blood wedged in between the grainy brown, too.
He tries not to think of his own that are buried in the back of his closet.
“Don’t you have work today?” he asks, gesturing with his beer to Germany’s clothing.
Germany looks down at himself. He shrugs. “I decided to catch up on some training today.”
“Ah,” Prussia murmurs thoughtfully, taking a gulp of his beer. “You wouldn’t mind if I joined, would ya?”
The questions seems to catch Germany off-guard. He stares at Prussia with a look of mild surprise. Prussia can’t really blame him – it’s been a few years since they’ve trained together, after all. And it was Prussia’s fault that their sessions together stopped in the first place. (It’s rather easy to hold a grudge when your brother’s boss takes away your power.)
“Nein, of course of I wouldn’t mind,” Germany finally says, blinking dazedly.
“Gut.” Prussia nods his head and stands. “I’ll get changed then.”
He makes it way to the kitchen door, stuffing his hands into his pockets and trying to ignore the obvious gaze drilling into his back.
“Don’t take an hour,” Germany calls after him, and Prussia throws a look of confusion over his shoulder. “You don’t need the status of ‘grandmother’ to match with you hair.”
The albino is unable to quell his laughter at his brother’s teasing. For a fun-sucker, Germany is certainly in a jaunty mood today. Not that Prussia is complaining – it’s just out of the ordinary and he isn’t sure how to react.
Most especially when Germany’s cracking Holocaust jokes.
“What the heck is wrong with him?” Prussia mumbles to himself, although he can’t wipe the grin from his face.
It’s been thirteen years since they’ve trained together. Funny what the prospect of death will make you do.
Prussia collapses on the ground with his chest rising and falling painfully.
“Meine Güte!” he chokes out, running a sweaty hand through his equally damp hair. “I forgot how much of a monster you are when it comes to this stuff!”
Germany stands over top of him, blocking out the hazy sun that glares at them from the sky and casting him into a shadow. He’s breathing heavily too but not nearly as much as Prussia. Perspiration drips from his face and darkens his shirt –coat having been discarded in the middle of their four mile lap– and his cheeks are flushed from the cold and exertion, but he doesn’t look the least bit ready to quit.
Unlike Prussia who feels like he’s dying.
“You can’t be tired already!” Germany says in disbelief. “We’ve only done a hundred sit-ups, a hundred and fifty pushups, ran four miles, sparred three times, and sprint raced twice!”
Prussia scowls. “I lost all three times we sparred.”
“That’s because you’re out of shape!”
“West, you kicked me in the testicles every match and then proceeded to step on my face.”
He receives a deadpanned stare.
“You’re so out of shape,” Germany growls, shaking his head and stepping back from Prussia. He extends a hand. “It’s all that beer you’ve been drinking. Not to mention you spend most of your time sitting around like a bum.”
Grumbling about how “encouraging” Germany is, Prussia reaches up and allows Germany to haul him back onto his wobbly legs.
Although he’s a little more than offended, he can’t argue – it’s obvious his lazy beer days have dragged his physical health down. During the war he had been in excellent shape; the top man in his unit, and still to this day his good friends (the ones that survived, anyway) call him the Tank Man. (Which is really only two – the whole rest of his unit was wiped out. But he tries not to dwell on that.)
Germany unlatches the towel he had suspended from his neck and wipes his head and face. When he pulls it back, the linen is darkened with perspiration and the white is smeared with grime. He tosses it to Prussia –who, caught unawares, fumbles to snatch it from the air– and then stretches his arms above his head.
Wrinkling his nose, Prussia gingerly lifts the dirty towel and clears his sweaty face as well. He’s just thankful Germany showers on a daily basis, otherwise sharing the cloth could be really disgusting.
“Hey, how about lunch?” Prussia asks indifferently while rubbing his moist hair with the towel.
Germany –who is stretching his legs and torso– pauses and cranes his neck to shoot Prussia a look.
“What?” Prussia asks, eyebrow quirked.
Germany quickly looks away, dropping his gaze to the ground as he straightens his back and gives his arms one final swing.
“Actually, I was going to ask you that,” he mumbles, still not looking up.
Prussia looks pleasantly surprised.
It was perfectly normal during the old days to have lunch together, but even then it was Prussia who asked – not Germany. The stiff-backed man was either too prideful or gruff to ask his brother to lunch. Not that it stopped him from accepting the invitation (because it never did) but he usually never agreed happily, just mumbled something about not being busy and having nothing better to do.
His blue eyes land on Prussia's stunned face and he scowls. “What's that look for?”
“N-nothing,” Prussia replies, blinking rapidly as he turns his face away. “Just didn't expect you to say that...”
The only response he gets is a grunt.
Germany takes his coat from the ground and shakes it out, knocking off any debris before slinging it over his shoulder. As he makes his way to the house, Prussia finishes scrubbing his face and follows with a skip in his step. He's a little more than excited to go out to eat and the grin on his flushed face is enough to show it. He’s even happier that Germany had been planning on asking him to go first.
Prussia has to fight back a very unmanly giggle.
Sauerbraten, Apfelstrudal, beer… His mouth waters just thinking about the piping hot food with a stein of his favorite drink being slid in front of him. They may be in a recession, but Prussia really has no use for his money considering he’ll be dead in two days. He might as well splurge on delectable food while he can. And he knows Germany won’t have any complaints when he offers to take care of the bill – after all, Germany’s wallet is just about empty at this point.
“I’m going to get changed, ja?” Prussia says, practically hopping up the stairs. “Then we can go for some lunch.”
“Changed? How about a shower. You smell terrible.” Germany says with an expression of disgust.
Prussia lifts his arm and takes a whiff.
“Oh meine Güte,” he chokes. “My awesome went and died under my pits!”
“That is called work, you dummkopf.”
Prussia gives a cheeky grin before bounding up the stairs and into the bathroom.
Before closing the door he shouts, “Hey, West?”
There is shuffling, the sound of something being dropped, and then cursing.
“Was?” Germany snaps.
“You smell like work, too!”
They're both silent as they walk to the pub.
Germany doesn't bother hiding his appearance and neither does Prussia; a small vacation is perfectly acceptable whether Germany's superiors want it to be or not. (Which is probably the latter, but Prussia could care less.) Germany has been working day in and day out since the war ended to make amends and he deserves a break. If he wants to go out to lunch on his break then by goodness, let the man eat.
But Prussia begins to regret the decision of not covering his face the further they get into town, wishing he had, at least, worn glasses. A lot of stares are cast their way and Prussia tries not the meet the eyes of lingering passerby. He bows his head and stares at the ground, but he can still hear their whispers.
“Isn't that Prussia and Germany?”
“I heard it's all Prussia's fault that the war happened.”
“Really? I heard the Nazis originated from Prussia.”
“Königsberg was all but wiped out because of the Soviets.”
“Serves him right. Stupid Nazi.”
He tries to pull his hat further over his eyes in an attempt to conceal his face. His usual cockiness had vanished after the meeting with Churchill, and although he plays it up when he is around Germany, he can't seem to muster his usual facade with the eyes of so many wanderers’ glued to him.
During the war, Hitler posted pictures of Germany's “handsome stoicism” as well as Prussia’s “cocky smile” on every street corner and curb for the disheartened German civilians to see. Hitler knew his people were losing faith in his ideals and talks of triumph, so he took matters into his own hands to rekindle the hope of his people. The posters spread like wildfire through every street in Germany and Prussia, and soon their faces became the very definition of war propaganda.
But back then, back when they were still fighting the Allies, things had been okay. People would stop them in the streets, thank them, sometimes even give them gifts, and then continue on their way looking delighted. It was a nice feeling.
Prussia can still recall the warmth that spread through his chest when he had been on his way to the Front and a young boy pulled him aside. It had been a little tug –just small enough to gain his attention– on the back of his coat, and he had bent down so he was level with the red-eyed child. He was asked for a handshake (his was much larger than the boy’s) and a pat on the head. Nothing more and nothing less. Prussia can vividly remember what the boy looked like even now: pale skin and white hair just like his own, but the kid’s arms and legs were peppered with bruises. When Prussia asked who did it, the boy shrugged and said he was picked on because of his looks. He was albino too.
With a gentle smile, Prussia had stuck out his hand, firmly gave the boy’s smaller one a shake, and then dropped the same hand to ruffle the boy’s white hair. Then he reached up towards his head and grasped the brim of his hat.
“Well,” Prussia began, slipping off his hat and dropping it onto the boy’s head. “If those bullies hurt you again, Mr. Prussia will personally deal with them. Make sure you to tell them that, ja?”
The hat was far too big for his head and it slipped down and over his eyes, his cheeks reddening in delight as he pushed the brim up to stare at Prussia with a twinkling gaze and a broad smile. Prussia couldn’t fight the lift of his lips in return, almost as if the grin bursting forth was a reflection of the boy’s.
Soon Prussia was back in the front ranks beside his brother and marching off to war. His hat was gone but he cared little for the missing garment – it was now a symbol of hope on that child’s head, and that was more than enough for Prussia. Because to someone he was a hero.
And maybe that was all he needed to keep living.
But all good things must come to end. Prussia’s joy was short lived as the war escalated and the continuous causalities and battle losses (Germany was still reeling from Normandy) piled one atop the other like corpses. Italy abandoned the Axis and regrouped with the Allies, too much of a coward to face War in its ugly face and plow forward. The people continued to lose hope and no amount of posters stoppered the piddling optimism that was quickly replaced by despair.
As soon as the Allies besieged Germany –the Red Army massacring and raping, the Americans and British bombing civilian homes, and the Polish and Czechs and Yugoslavians slaughtering every person in their country of German descent– the people’s view of their personifications changed significantly.
It was like everything had been turned on its head – admiration turned to disgust, love turned to hatred, pride turned to shame. The warmth that had filled Prussia’s chest despite his loss of federal power was replaced by a ball of ice and a profound sense of despondency.
He never saw the boy again.
Their loathing for him and Germany still has yet to die, and if anything, has only grown into a root of animosity so thick and deep it’s as if someone has driven a stake through Prussia’s chest. For Germany their feelings have neither dissipated nor intensified, but for Prussia their disdain has become too much to bear. Although he had agreed to take this burden upon his shoulders with the greatest sincerity (he can see Churchill’s face flash through his mind and he cringes behind his hat), he can’t help the wrenching in his chest.
“Everything is his fault.”
Something slaps him on the back and he has to draw in a breath before titling his head to the side. Germany is staring at him with a brow rose, arm extended with his hand placed on his brother’s shoulder, and there is a mild look of unease that flashes across his face as he takes in Prussia’s pensive sulking.
“We’re here,” he says, jerking his chin towards the pub.
Prussia blinks. He hadn’t even realized they’d arrived.
He forces the faces of the sneering people from his mind and instead focuses his gaze on Germany’s back as he follows him. He just has to remember that he’s doing all of this for his brother’s sake. Once everything is said and done all of the mass killings will stop, Germany will be free of the Ally tyranny, and he will have a brighter, healthier future.
That’s all that matters.
A delightful scent crawls up Prussia’s nose and he sniffs the air.
Well, that and Apfelstrudal. That matters too.
The pub is full when they walk in. Prussia had been secretly hoping it wouldn't be, and he hesitates in the doorway as Germany makes his way to an empty table. More prying eyes. More dirty looks. Animosity is thick in the air already and he hasn't even stepped foot into the building.
But he won't let them ruin his time with his brother. Prussia sets his jaw and strides in with all the confidence he can muster. A couple men turn their steely gazes on him, but they look away and resume their meals and drinks when he returns their stares with an icy one of his own. Two can play this game.
Germany pulls back his chair and falls heavily onto it. Some blond hair escapes its well-kept hold when he removes his hat, and he pauses to run his fingers through it and back into place before reaching to pull off his coat. Prussia follows his example and leans comfortably back into chair as the heat of the building engulfs him.
Scanning the room lazily, he notes that most, if not all, of the other customers are too busy with their meals to pay him heed, and he grins happily at the prospect of a peaceful lunch.
A menu is slid in front of him and he glances up at the waitress as she moves to put one in front of Germany as well. She is small, perhaps not more than five three, with a rounded face and pleated blond hair. She is adorable in every aspect of the word. Prussia gives her a pleasant smile before turning his attention to his menu (he doesn’t miss the pretty blush that covers her cheeks as she offers him a tiny smile of her own, however, effectively boosting his ego).
"What will it be?" she chirps sweetly and turns her face from one to the other.
Prussia hums in thought and leans over his menu. He taps the beer of his choice. “This.”
She looks at Germany who mumbles out his drink –some kind of strong ale that Prussia never really had a taste for–and nods before flitting off towards the kitchen.
The moment she is out of sight, Prussia leans forward on his hand and stares off dazedly in the direction she disappeared.
“She’s cute…” he murmurs with a grin.
“And mortal,” Germany points out dryly. “Which means she’ll grow old and die long before you do, leaving you to remain alone for the rest of your pitiful existence until someone comes along and destroys your country and kills you.”
Prussia gives his brother a long, hard look. “Did you have to ruin the moment?”
“Ja, actually, I did.”
The waitress returns to their table with two steins in her hand. She gives them each their respective drinks before asking about their food. They both order and she skips off, her braid bouncing with every dainty step.
When she is gone, Germany looks at Prussia with his brow rose as if to say, “Still think she's cute?” Prussia snorts and shakes his head. His interest in her is no longer. Leave it to his cynical brother to crush his romantic attitude.
They both settle down as they wait for meals. Prussia sighs in contentment and folds his arms behind his head.
"Did I ever mention this is my favorite place to eat?" he asks, tone light and airy.
"I would have never guessed considering how much you leave the house," Germany replies evenly, brushing his hand down his shirt to smooth out the creases.
"Spare me your sarcasm," Prussia says irritably.
“Well, you’re certainly full of sass today, aren’t you?”
“I think you might have given me yours, actually. You’re abnormally silent today. Well, as silent as you can get.” He pauses. “Something eating you?”
“My mind is just preoccupied.”
“Penny for your thoughts?”
This makes Prussia smirk as he replies with as much wit as he can muster, “Sorry, but I don’t accept American money.”
Germany swirls the beer inside his stein quietly for a moment. His forehead is scrunched and his blue eyes fastened to the drink in his hands.
“How about a Reichsmark?” he asks, brows lifted.
His tone is light but there’s a flicker of uncertainty that makes its way across his face when he glances up at Prussia. The albino draws in a breath and lowers his head. A small fraction of him (the selfish side, he supposes) wishes he could spill his guts out to ease the pressure off his chest; sometimes things are better handled when more than person carries the burden.
But he shakes his head, mouth hitching as he forces a grin, and he brings a hand up to scratch his cheek.
“It doesn’t seem like nothing,” Germany says, and Prussia can feel the crystal gaze drilling into him. “Does this have to do with the meeting?”
Prussia opens his mouth and then snaps it closed.
If he says no, Germany will see right through him. But if he says yes then it will certainly rouse Germany’s anger, and he will confront the Council personally to discuss Prussia’s loss of federal diplomacy. And that, most unfortunately, will not end well for anyone.
Debating his options, Prussia runs a thumb down the side of his stein thoughtfully and pauses when his knuckle hits the table. He stares at the clear strip he created by cutting through the condensation on his mug.
“Ja…” he finally says. “It has to do with the meeting.”
Their silence is filled with Sing, Nachtigall, Sing by Evelyn Künneke at it plays quietly in the background; the soothing tune is mixed with the hum of a baritone voice belonging to someone in the pub, the low octaves swinging with the melody.
„Sing Nachtigall sing, rühr mein müdes Her...“
Prussia brings his thumb back down his glass, tracking another path through the dewy side and leaving two lines parallel to one another. He begins to tap his finger absentmindedly on the table in wait for his brother’s reply.
„...Bring, Nachtigall, bring mir mein Glück zurück, mir mein Glück zurück...“
"I thought so. You always sucked at lying.” Germany finally says, cutting off Evelyn’s last trill just before the song ends. He hesitates before continuing, "I’ve decided to discuss your current state with the Council. Perhaps with a little persuading…” He pauses. “Well, with a lot of persuading… they may reconsider your charges of offense–”
Prussia slams his stein on the table with such force that the wooden structure wobbles and cricks.
Germany trails off. He looks taken aback; his mouth hangs open with unfinished words and the rest of his speech dying on his tongue. Some of the nearby men turn to see what the commotion is about.
Prussia, realizing his outburst a little too late, flushes crimson and relinquishes his grip on his mug. He had been sincerely hoping his brother wouldn’t start this topic, and he had accidentally ended up slamming his drink with more force than was his original intent. He averts his gaze in embarrassment.
“S-sorry…” he mumbles quietly, shifting in his chair. “It’s just… well, I’m in a tricky situation and I would rather you not get involved. I mean, you have enough on your plate as it is already; I don’t want you to worry about me, too…”
Germany purses his lips. "I wasn't going to do anything rash, just talk to them.”
"Ja, I know, but–"
“Someone has to say something. You’re a country for Gott’s sake – you can just let them kick you around!”
“I get that but they’ve already made up their minds–”
"So what if they ‘made up their minds’? Are you just going to take this sitting down?" Germany demands.
Prussia chuckles awkwardly at this, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well, if you're being literal..."
"I'm not joking, Prussia! You're entirety of a country is at stake! This is serious!"
“You’ve been around longer than even England! You have civilians to think about – families and children–”
"And you think I don’t know that?” Prussia snaps, silencing Germany. "You think I don’t know that I have people to take care of? I am very well aware of my situation, bruder. But unfortunately, there's not much I can do about it, is there? Thanks to the war I’m stuck under Ally tyranny and I have little choice in what happens to me or my people.”
“Then let me help!” Germany insists.
“Nein. I don't want you sticking your neck out for me any more than you already have.”
“Don’t be stubborn,” Germany growls. “It’s my job as your bruder to help you, whether you want it or not.”
Prussia passes a hand down his face in exhaustion. He had hoped this conversation wouldn’t come up; Germany is just as stubborn as he is, if not more so, and there is no means of escape once Germany’s made his mind up on a matter.
Prussia decides to take a sharp left with his words in hopes of ending the argument in a whole before it can escalate and before Germany actually does end up going to the Council.
“Well I don’t want your help,” he retorts nastily. “So drop it.”
Germany’s eyes tighten.
“Do you think you can lie to me?”
Prussia opens his mouth. He closes it.
The reply startles him and for once in his life he doesn’t know what to say. He hadn’t expected Germany to say something like that.
It feels like something shatters inside him.
He’s always hated how his brother could read him like a book; those calculating blue eyes surveying him so easily it’s like being see-through. Vulnerable. Open. But there is something different about him this time and how he actually seems to care. Prussia feels overwhelmed.
He wants tell him. He wants his help. He wants to fix everything and keep living.
He doesn’t want to die.
But he can’t.
He closes his eyes. “I’m not lying.”
Before Germany –red-faced and clearly irritated with Prussia– can retaliate, Prussia is suddenly forced around by a gnarled grip on his shoulder.
He doesn’t have time to register anything –or even blink– before his world is tipped upside down by a hard, painful, blow to the face.
A loud crunch resonates through Prussia’s skull and his entire body is thrown back into the table with such tenacity that it knocks the wind out of him. His elbow knocks into his beer and tips it over, the contents gliding all over the table and floor and soaking into his coat.
Spinning, black, pain.
He’s gasping for breath and trying to blink the darkness away. There’s an unnatural ringing in his ears that’s blocking out any other noise but his pounding heart, and he’s pretty sure that if he could hear himself, his choked heaves would sound like he is drowning.
It takes him a few moments of dazed, blurry vision, his head swimming and his face throbbing, his gut shivering to regulate itself, and his lungs struggling to retain their oxygen to realize what had happened.
He had just been punched.
Warm liquid trickles from his nose and over his lips, dribbling onto his uniform shirt and pants. He wants to wipe it away but he’s too stunned to move – his face is in pain, his clothes are wet with blood and beer, and he still can’t breathe right.
"Serves you right, Nazi," someone sneers from behind him, and there is a collected murmur of agreement that sounds like a dozen buzzing flies to his scrambled brain.
There is a silhouette before Prussia –just barely in the mangled shape of a man– that sounds like it’s breathing heavily. Prussia can’t see its face with his spinning mind, but he can practically feel the repugnance and loathing from its gaze as it drills into him.
Instincts kicks in.
The overwhelming urge to move out of his seat as fast as he can takes over his body, but his muscles aren’t working correctly and the most he manages is a slide of his boot.
He knows from years of fighting that when you’re hit once, expect to be hit again. Because your enemy isn’t going to wait for you to get your head on straight; he’s going to whap you a good two or three times until you’re out cold.
But unfortunately for Prussia, he’s not going anywhere.
The silhouette shifts and he can just barely make out an arm raising, a balled fist, and then it moving rapidly towards him.
He squeezes his eyes shut to brace for the impact–
There is shuffling.
Something tips over – glass shatters.
A grunt followed by a deep, thick growl and the sound of rustling clothes.
Still… nothing hits him.
Prussia peeks through his lids just at the very moment Germany grabs the blob silhouette by the collar. With one heave, Prussia’s attacker is sent across the pub and into a pair of tables, empty glasses and steins shattering to the floor around the man's furled body.
Prussia stares wide-eyed at the broad shoulders of his brother, head lifted high and not a hair out of place.
He vividly remembers that it used to be him that would shield his brother; taking the punch or throwing one back when another nation would try and bully the newly formed Germany. He would fend off brutes like Poland and Russia who were power hungry and simply wanted land, Sweden who couldn’t seem to stop picking fights, and any others foolish enough to mess with Prussia’s littler brother.
But now it was Germany protecting him.
A mixture of self-disdain and pride swells within his chest as he watches the heavily muscled shoulders of his brother rise and fall along with his breathing, and it occurs to him once more that Germany really doesn’t need him after all; that he’ll be fine even when Prussia is gone.
Really, it was stupid to think that his brother needed him in the first place.
“What the hell was that?! Explain yourself!” Germany yells at the figure as it fumbles around clumsily after its tossing.
The blur in Prussia’s vision is dissipating too slowly for his liking; he can just barely make out the color of the man’s shirt and hair (which, he believes, is a distinct brown) and although he can’t see them, he can feel that there are others standing around. For a former soldier, the situation screams dirty.
The man doesn’t reply, simply chuckles.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!” Germany snaps. “Explain yourself!”
The man lets out a choked laugh as he grabs onto the table behind him in an attempt to hoist himself up. The table tips beneath his weight and he collapses back onto the floor.
“Y-you stupid Nazis. It’s all your fault that this war started. All your fault. All his fault.”
Prussia doesn’t need to see to know that the comment is directed at him.
Germany’s shoulders tense visibly, even to Prussia’s screwed eyesight, and he takes a threatening step forward.
“This has nothing to do with meine bruder,” Germany growls lowly, voice rumbling in his chest. “I suggest you keep your mouth shut before I shut it for you, bastard.”
A voice cries in outrage and a few others join in. The man is still trying to get up but it’s clear from his movements that he’s had one too many drinks to accompany his enraged state, causing him to stumble and slip with every movement like a dog trying to walk on ice.
Prussia is rather flattered that Germany would stand up for him, but he doesn’t think it’s such a good idea to rouse hot tempered men with bellies full of alcohol and minds brimming with the past war any more than necessary, most especially when they are surrounded. Melees are all too easily started inside bars. And It doesn’t help smother the flame when the topic of their current loathing is sitting with a bloody nose and fat lip against his table, ready for more beatings like a piñata at a party.
Their protests against Germany’s words continue to fill the air, every once in a while an insult slipping through and pounding into Prussia’s head like a two-by-four. He squeezes his eyes shut and breathes out a plea for Germany to leave. There’s no point in sticking around anymore; he’s pretty sure they’re not getting their lunch. Prussia’s drink was spoiled when his arm smacked into it and for all he knows he could have knocked Germany’s over as well.
But Germany’s booming voice slices through the chaos and cuts Prussia’s words in half.
Everyone falls quiet.
“I have had enough of everyone,” he hisses, hands clenched at his sides. “Enough!”
The sound of a coin landing on the floor echoes throughout the room.
“Cowards. That’s the only thing you are – cowards! People like you–” he shoves a finger at the man still struggling to get to his feet, “–who were the bloody dogs of our military, our government, and who idolized Hitler like he was some god. You trailed after every power you could and barked orders to all those who were underneath you, but the moment the Allies came marching in you whined and cried like the spineless fools you are, running away with your tail between your legs, and you blamed everyone but yourselves for the mess we were in. You need a scapegoat just to sleep at night for the injustice you’ve committed; the blasphemous thoughts that have gone through your heads towards your fellow brethren and all the men you’ve slaughtered in the name of Socialism, Hitler, and your country. You have to point fingers at everyone else because you’re too cowardly to take responsibility for your actions and realize that your country is falling apart because of you!”
His ending note is so loud it reverberates from the walls and makes Prussia’s ears tingle.
Every breathe he takes is ragged and heaving; his face is contorted with rage and his hair has fallen from its perfect uniformity and cluttered against his forehead. He looks ready to speak again – to spew every pent up sentence, every livid word that resides within him, but Prussia can already hear the nasty murmurs and he knows it’s time to stop.
Germany isn’t supposed to be the one that’s hated.
The blond opens his mouth.
“Every single bastard in this room–”
Germany breaks off and whips around to stare at Prussia whose fist sits heavily on the table, empty glasses shivering along with the wood beneath them. He forces his still-bleary eyes to focus on his brother, a scowl tugging at his puffy, crimson lips.
Clenching his jaw, Germany turns his face to the floorboards.
He already knows what’s going to be said. He knows he went too far.
It’s time to go.
Prussia shakily pushes himself to his feet while using the table to support his weight as he teeters, head spinning, away from his chair. He blinks away the spots that obscure his vision and lifts his sleeve to press into his nose. Warm liquid soaks into his shirt but he ignores it, trying to stem the flow of blood that continues to gush from his nostrils. Definitely broken.
He grabs his coat and hat and maneuvers, to the best of his rickety ability, around the table and out from behind Germany. Placing his hat on his head and slipping his tacky arms through his coat sleeves, he takes a moment to button up his coat with a still dribbling nose until each brass knob is perfectly in place and his Iron Cross is front and center and his uniform is crease-free.
He still has a visage to maintain, and he won’t let a broken nose stop him from accomplishing it.
In the ringing silence his boots on the floor sound like thunder, a steady thump, thump, thump as he tromps towards the door of the pub. He’s lucky no one tries to sock him again – he is so close to a few men he can smell the alcohol on their breath. Yet he makes it to the door without incident, and it’s not soon after that Germany is behind him with his hat on his head and his coat buttoned tight, still silent as death, even when Prussia shoves the old door forward and steps out into the cold.
Just before it swings shut behind them, one last stinging insult is hurdled at Prussia (and he knows it’s meant for him because he refuses to admit it has anything to do with Germany) with such copious hatred that it’s like a punch to the gut.
“Burn in hell, Nazi!”
And he can’t help but grin bitterly at it.
Because that may just happen.
Germany had thankfully stuffed a handful of napkins into his pocket before leaving the pub. He deftly gives Prussia a new one when the one Prussia is using becomes too soiled to hold any more blood, and Prussia, whose nose is still bleeding profusely, takes it without a word.
With a napkin pressed to his nose, Prussia grumbles continuously about his face being ruined by some drunkard with rage issues and how it will take days for his nose to re-right itself now that it’s crooked. (He really hates to think about it too much because it really is bent.) He hopes his blubbering will ease the tension between him and Germany as his brother hasn’t looked, spoken, nor shown him even the slightest hint of acknowledgment since they left the pub (aside from aiding him with a napkin). Unfortunately, his efforts do not appear to wield any results. Any positive results, anyway.
Germany's face is strained. Although personifications do not age, he looks twenty years older. A sting of guilt hits Prussia once more, this time harder than it ever had, and he has to look away from his brother's sullen expression. The whole point of him taking Churchill’s offer was to save Germany from having to look like... well, like this. Yet despite his best efforts, Prussia still cannot erase the blatant pain that is now etched into every one of Germany's features. It is like the war happened all over again.
Fidgeting guiltily, Prussia sticks his free hand into his pocket and feels around for the familiar pack of cigarettes.
“Got a smoke?” he asks nasally, cocking his head to the side so he can glance at Germany with the napkin still pressed to his nose.
The blond is silent for a moment before reaching into his coat and pulling out a box of cigarettes and a lighter. He hands a white stick to Prussia before taking one out himself and bringing the lighter up to his face. Prussia balls up the napkin and sticks it in his pocket. Placing the cigarette between his lips, he leans over so Germany can light it for him.
How long has it been since they've last smoked together? A year? Two? Maybe three?
He can't recall.
He takes a long draw on the cigarette and blows out a lungful of smoke. The taste is bitter and he wrinkles his nose in aversion. Geez, how long has it been since he's smoked at all? Not since he was on front lines, most likely. But then again, everyone smokes out there. When you're teetering on the precipice of death, watching your friends and comrades get their limbs blown off, a bullet through their head, and shrapnel tearing their gut to shreds, you tend to need the distraction, however fleeting and repulsive it may be.
He takes another puff and exhales, feeling both thankful for the stress-reliever and disgusted that he's using it again. Germany's face remains strained. He's staring ahead as he smokes in an almost frantic sort of manner, his cigarette already half gone. Prussia doesn't realize he's smoking just as much until he finds the butt of his cigarette staring at him between gloved fingers. He's tempted to ask for another but decides against it. He already smells terrible – he doesn't need to add to it.
Prussia starts and turns to look at Germany. “What?”
“I hate them,” he says simply, turning to look at Prussia with cold eyes. “All of them.”
Prussia sucks in a breathe and reaches up to adjust his hat. He doesn't know what to say.
Sometimes the people of his country bother him as well, but he cares far too much about them to speak ill of a single person. It was just like that for a personification. The people were the country's stability; without them there would be no country and therefore no personification. They love their people. Not hate them.
“You don't hate them,” he corrects, turning his gaze up Germany's stony one. “You're just... betrayed. Let time heal wounds. Their clouded animosity will blow over along with the hurt of war.”
But Germany's face does not lose its enmity. Rather, the edges of his lips tug down and his eyes narrow until blue is hidden by the shadows of his lids.
“Do you think they're going to forget?” he snaps, drawing the attention of a few passerby that scuttle hurriedly away. “That they're just going to let a pointless war, mass slaughter, and rape go like it was all just a bad day? That what the Allies did to us was nothing?”
“We did some atrocious things too, West,” Prussia murmurs, frowning.
“That does not justify what they are doing!” Germany practically bellows, and if Prussia didn't know any better he could have swore it looked like Germany was going to cry. “That is no excuse for their.... their...” He breaks off, slamming his jaw shut and looking away.
“Nein, it doesn't,” Prussia says. He tucks his hands into his pockets and adds a little more sternly, “But if you're going to start a war, expect the monsters to come out and play.”
And they both know there is no argument for this.
The blond turns his head to stare at the buildings on his other side, avoiding his brother’s calculating gaze. He’s clenching and unclenching his jaw in agitation and Prussia, for once in his life, feels like the older brother. Somehow it's a bit scary.
They begin walking again but this time the air is so thick Prussia feels like he might choke on it. The smell of tobacco has long since departed and they are left with nothing but the crisp winter breeze, the distant aroma of baked goods, and their own heavy thoughts.
“Don’t you ever just want to disappear?” Germany asks quietly.
“Don't ask something like that,” he counters, jaw cricking as he shoots a glower at Germany.
This time it's silent the rest of the way home.
The dining room table is littered with papers and in the thick of the mess sits a disgruntled Germany. He has bags tugging at his eyes and his face is pale. He is visibly exhausted. The first thing he did when they got home was work; the only thing he did before, during, and after dinner was more work; and even still, at well past midnight, he is doing work.
Prussia folds his arms and leans against the door frame to the dining room. He watches as Germany pushes his falling hair from his face and signs another document, flipping through it robotically to make sure he didn't miss anything, and then slides it across the table to a cleared area. He pulls another one towards him with a yawn.
Prussia knows that Germany won't be able to handle this kind of work load much longer. It's been going on for years – long before World War II and long before World War I. Some days were better than others, but as of late, Germany has been swamped from dusk till dawn with mountains of inexplicable paperwork. Admittedly it is Prussia's fault that his brother has been working until the early hours of the morning; had he not dragged Germany out of the house, the blond could have been home or at work doing what he needed to do. Alas, in spite of Prussia's most avid attempts to spare his brother from misery after misery, it feels like he is just adding to them.
Shoving himself off his post, he moves to stand beside Germany to look down at the papers. His brother is so drowsy he barely notices Prussia's presence, and the only acknowledgment he gives is a grunt. But even that sounds forced.
Prussia grimaces. Usually Germany would swat at him to go away and tell him to stop “being a nuisance”.
“Hey, how about you go up to bed?” Prussia says, nudging his brother. “You look terrible. You could really use some sleep.”
Germany shakes his head. “Nein, I have a lot of work that needs to be done by tomorrow.”
Prussia hesitates for only a second before murmuring, “I can do it.”
Blinking up at Prussia, Germany gives him a questioning look. Yeah, Prussia is surprised at himself too, honestly. Paperwork is the one thing he does not and will never miss. Yet here he is: asking his brother to let him do it for him.
“Really?” Germany asks, looking genuinely shocked.
“Ja, just get your sorry carcass up to bed and let the awesome me do this unawesome stuff for you.”
Germany narrows his eyes. “Are you sure...?”
“Of course I am! I wouldn't have offered if I wasn't!” Prussia snaps.
Still looking skeptical, Germany slowly pushes back from the table, eyes never leaving Prussia, and then stands. He doesn't need to ask if Prussia knows how to handle the documents; he knows full well that Prussia spent many, many years doing just this. But he, more than anyone, knows just how much Prussia hates it. For him to offer to do Germany's... well, it's weird. So much so that Germany doesn't even seem to care that it means Prussia will have to forge his signature.
“If you're sure...” he says hesitantly.
“Ja, ja, I am! Just get up and stop wasting precious time, would you?”
Germany reluctantly obeys.
Before heading up the stairs, however, he pauses and sets a fresh beer down in front of Prussia. The albino's eyes flicker up to his brother's, but Germany is staring at the ground with pink cheeks.
“Thanks...” he murmurs.
Fiddling with his hands, he spins around and exits the dining room without another word. His footsteps echo through the quiet house and Prussia can't help but smile.
“Of course,” he murmurs to himself, picking up Germany's pen and getting to work. “What are big bruder for?”
The light is still on in the dining room.
Germany doesn't know how many times he's told Prussia to turn off lights. They lower the heater and freeze themselves out every night to save on money and energy (two things his country is seriously lacking in at the moment). If they are willing to sleep in such a state of discomfort then why does Prussia have to stupidly leave lights on and waste their valiant sacrifices? Being counterproductive should be a crime.
Had Germany not come downstairs for a glass of water, he would have never noticed the light in the first place. He surmises Prussia was probably too tired to think of shutting it off. After all, he had been up late working on Germany's papers.
Remembering this makes Germany instantly feel guilty. What time had Prussia finally gone to bed? Probably just a few minutes ago. There were a lot of papers to sign and Prussia wasn't the kind of person to just walk away from a job, no matter how tired he may be. Perhaps Germany could forgive him, just this once, for leaving the light on.
As he shuffles into the dining room with numb feet, he decides that he'll turn off the light on his way back through. There is no reason for him to blindly get a glass of water when the dining room light is already on. He might as well make the most of it.
Just when Germany is about to pass the table and step into the kitchen, he pauses. His face softens as he gazes down at the end of the table.
“Oh, Prussia...” he murmurs gently.
Sitting there with his face pressed into one of his arms and the other resting beside a discarded pen and an empty beer bottle is a sleeping Prussia. At the far end of the table is a single stack of papers, tall and neat, and the very topmost document has a perfect forge of Germany's crisp signature.
Prussia finished all the paperwork.
Shaking his head, Germany gives a quiet laugh before walking out of the dining room. Never has he seen Prussia's sleeping face. It is different from the usual mask of callousness and cheerful apathy that he usually puts on. He looks... serene. Calm. Almost happy.
Germany snatches a wool blanket from one of the couches in the living room and then shuffles back into the dining room. He drops the blanket over Prussia's shoulders, tucks it in like Prussia used to do for him when he was little, and watches as the albino's bruised nose twitches and his brows pucker together before burying his neck deeper into the blanket. He looks like a child.
Germany drops a hand lightly onto Prussia's head and ruffles the white hair affectionately. He loves his brother more than anything. Prussia means the world to him. Perhaps it's a selfish thought –a nation should care about his people more so than another country– but he doesn't care.
They are brothers and that will never change.
After getting his glass of water, Germany throws one last look at his sleeping brother. A rare, tender smile pulls at his lips.
“Ich liebe dich, bruder,” he murmurs, and he could have sworn that Prussia's mouth twitched upward just the slightest.
Then he flicks off the lights and heads back up to bed, a warmth present in his chest that he hasn't felt in a long, long time.
"You fought and shared every moment with me. I am proud to be still with you now." -Unheilig