Characters/Pairing: Prussia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, France; PruHun
Warnings: Sex, sap, and death.
Summary: No longer an official nation, Prussia is dying and he knows it. Before he goes, though, he wants to make peace with his two best friends, his lover, the person he's been antagonizing for centuries and most of all, his little brother.
Notes: Kink meme de-anon. The original prompt is pretty much cut/paste the summary, except I moved it around because I kinda focused on Germany a lot. More notes at the end.
One—Francis Bonnefoy and Antonio Fernandez Carriedo
For a while, his vision was emblazoned with the image of his grandfather. Even while he was sitting on Francis’s back veranda, leaning back in a plush lawn chair and drinking various different alcohols, all he could see was the last time he ever saw his grandfather. The older man, all weathered and grey, had been sitting underneath a tree behind their house. He normally sat there, contemplating things or thinking about recent turmoil. He’d gone outside to tell him something (what, he doesn’t remember now) and his grandfather had been asleep. Until he touched his shoulder and the man didn’t move.
Gilbert took another swig from his glass. He’d lost count of how much he’d had to drink until this point, but he didn’t care. All he wanted was to be as drunk as possible as often as possible. Antonio was curled up in his chair, cheeks rosy and flushed, his eyes sparkling as the sun threw red and pink and yellow light over his face. Francis was grinning slyly, eyes narrowed, leaning somewhat sideways.
Gilbert didn’t have as much to drink as he used to. It made him too tired nowadays. But they were too drunk to notice.
He wondered, this may be the last time I get to see them like this.
“Hey,” Gilbert spoke suddenly, even though the trio had been silent for some time, soaking in the alcohol and the sweet country air.
“Yes?” Francis asked and Antonio just gave him a lazy sideways glance before throwing his head back and drinking more. Prussia clicked his heels as he propped them on the table.
“You guys love me, right?” Francis raised an eyebrow and Antonio gave a shrug.
“I wouldn’t do you, but—“
“—that already happened, Antonio—“
“—okay, I wouldn’t do you sober, but yeah, I generally enjoy your presence in my life at times,” Antonio offered. A rare introspective into his drunken thoughts. Gilbert couldn’t help but smile.
“Why do you ask?” Francis inquired. Gilbert shifted and listlessly lowered his glass to the table.
“Just, well... all this dissolution talk... I’m still awesome, y’know?” Gilbert said. He grinned at them. “And you two have always been there to reaffirm that.”
“I wouldn’t call fighting you a dozen times reaffirmation, but whatever makes you sleep at night,” Francis offered. Antonio’s eyes were closed and his mouth was open unceremoniously. “Antonio, pretend to have some sort of tact.”
“Nuh-uh, not with you two,” Antonio responded. “Mis amigos.” Gilbert chuckled and Francis laughed. Gilbert sipped from his glass, wondering if they’d notice how pale he was this late in the season.
“Why, would you prefer I frame a photo of us and hang it on the mantel?” Francis asked. Gilbert scoffed and rolled his eyes.
“Of course not, that’s retarded, Francis,” Gilbert said. “Don’t be such a woman about it. I was just, y’know. I don’t know.”
“Gilbert,” Francis said, his tone becoming more serious, “we already discussed the war. What we said then holds true now; put it behind you.” Gilbert breathed deeply through his nose. He was struck with a sudden moment of tenderness, and his heart was beating up in his throat. Should I tell them the truth? He opened his mouth and made eye contact with France. France raised his eyebrows a bare centimeter and leaned forward, placing his wine glass down on the table. His lips pursed into a thin line and his brow furrowed. Gilbert was one of his best friends, he could tell when something was wrong. Even Antonio noticed.
It was on the tip of Gilbert’s tongue. It was stationed there, waiting for the command to move forward and spill forth from his heart.
“I....” Gilbert swallowed. “I love you two.” Francis blinked in surprised and Antonio attempted to sit up, but became tangled in his own limbs and fell to the ground below him. He hissed in pain and cursed for a moment before climbing back into his seat, holding the back of his head. Francis looked from Antonio to Gilbert in bewilderment.
For a moment, solemnity was etched into every feature Gilbert had on his face. It was an expression that, double with his steely eyes and angry core, could shake military leaders to the ground. There was a reason he was a conqueror, an emperor. But all of his normal anger was gone from his face, and for that brief moment, Antonio and Francis saw how pale he had become, the bags under his eyes, how wan and gaunt his face was. The only thing that seemed to pop were those very same eyes, crimson and bright and glowing like fire.
And then it was gone. Gilbert made a face, and looked down at his glass, drinking the rest and putting it down with a satisfied wump and a smack of the lips.
“Wow, am I a pussy tonight or what?” he said, leaning back and crossing his ankles on the table. “Must be this prissy wine. Francis, next time we get together, you’d best have some Rauchbier or I’m kicking your ass.”
“I will if you bring it, this is just what I have, no one told me the plan was to get wasted tonight or I wouldn’t have wasted such a good wine,” Francis said. Antonio sniggered.
“Oh, uh, it may be the alcohol talking, Gilbert...” Antonio began, “but, nosotros también te quiero.”
“Oui,” Francis offered, and Gilbert gave them a wry smile. Francis stood and grabbed the near-empty wine bottle, pouring the rest into the three of their glasses. He held up his glass and motioned to them to do the same.
“What say we, my friends, toast to our greatness?” Francis said, and Gilbert leapt to his feet as Antonio followed. Grinning like madmen, they clinked the glasses together—hard—and threw their heads back and swallowed the rest of the wine.
“To being awesome!” Gilbert cried after he swallowed, and he let out a laugh that was more of a cackle, and he fell back into his seat and watched the moon as it rose into the sky, wondering if it were possible to bottle the sky and bring it to the grave.
Two— Roderich Edelstein
Roderich didn’t suspect anything might be wrong when Gilbert appeared at his house. Roderich had been enjoying a nice cup of tea on his back veranda, listening to the radio from inside play softly. It was midday, and Roderich was spending it his normal way since the divorce: alone in his backyard. Of course, he’d been alone until Gilbert scaled the wall of his house and hopped down onto the veranda, sitting right across the table from him. Roderich didn’t bat an eyelash; he merely sipped from his cup and placed it on the saucer.
“Good afternoon, Gilbert,” he said, and he looked up at the other man. Gilbert just gave him a semi-scowl and leaned back, his hands pinned to the arms of the chair.
“Having a ‘cuppa’?” Gilbert asked mockingly. Roderich scoffed.
“Why yes, I am. Rationed tea is awful, you know,” Roderich said as he took another sip. He replaced the cup and leaned back himself, eyeing his visitor. “What brings you here, aside from the usual?” Gilbert shrugged, although he rung his hands in his lap. His heart was thudding against his ribcage; why did he feel so terrible? But he knew why. And Roderich knew as well.
In Roderich’s opinion, Gilbert had taken Elizabeta away.
In Gilbert’s opinion, Elizabeta had been his long before Roderich had even been in the picture.
“Sooooo... what do you think the Allied Control Council is going to decide?” Gilbert asked. “Y’know, about our land and stuff.”
“I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care, so long as they don’t touch me,” Roderich replied sternly. “Although my borders were never mentioned so I’m not too worried about it.” Gilbert bit his lower lip. The air became strained and tense. How was he supposed to do this? Gilbert cleared his throat and breathed carefully through his nose. Even during the war, when they were on the same side, Roderich acted like this towards him. Even when their lives could depend upon each other.
Gilbert wondered how much time Roderich spent thinking about Elizabeta.
The silence was near unbearable, with oppressive tension squishing Gilbert from inside to out. Roderich lifted his gaze after nearly a lifetime, his cheeks pink, brow furrowed, tilting his head to the side as if examining Gilbert.
“You’ve said nothing,” Roderich said. He didn’t even hide the fact that he was suspicious, his tone said everything. Gilbert licked his dry lips, trying to form thoughts and words, but he was tired again. So, so tired. So instead, he just grinned, and Roderich all but threw down his teacup and stood, his lips pressed into a thin line. He could practically hear those pristine molars grinding together in Roderich’s jaw.
“What is it? What do you want from me?” Roderich spat at Gilbert. “I’d rather have your incessant chatter about nothing than your—your silence and you staring at me like I’m some—“ he made a frustrated noise and turned around, kicking at the wall of his house. He stood there, breathing heavily, hands tangled up in fists. Sweat dotted his forehead, and he just put a hand to his face, rubbing at his temples.
“...I don’t know what’s going to happen to us,” Roderich said in a new, softer tone. “This is an entirely new situation for me. For all of us. I, I don’t—“ he sighed and turned back around. Gilbert was sitting in his seat, leaning back, observing Roderich. Roderich just stared back, thinking about how serious and adult he looked when he wasn’t acting like a child. He had fine wrinkles around his mouth and nose, and a tired gaze. He looked sick, sicker than he’d ever seen him. Each breath caused his shoulders to heave just slightly. The circles under his eyes were larger than even during the war—but of course, Gilbert had been at his physical best while fighting.
“...I knew, you know,” Roderich said suddenly. He placed one hand on the back of his seat. If Gilbert wasn’t going to say anything, but wasn’t going to leave, he might as well take the opportunity to say the things he’d wanted to say. “The entire time. I saw the way she—she looked at you. She cared about me but it was never the way she cared about you. And she’d told me about the letters, once before.”
Gilbert found his voice.
“When you two were married, she was faithful to you,” he said suddenly. “We never did anything. Don’t get me wrong; I really wanted to, but she wouldn’t. She’s Hungarian; she’s loyal.” Roderich removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Still.” Roderich looked up. Gilbert was grinning at him. Roderich wanted to smack him. “She was always loyal to you. She still really cares for you, you know. She misses you.” With that he stood, shoving the chair into the table and pocketing his hands, that same deviled grin gracing his cheeks.
“Just thought you should know, Roddy.” And he walked over to the back door, opening it to head inside Roderich’s house and leave through the front door. Roderich spun around, grabbing the door and Gilbert’s shoulder simultaneously.
“I will not have you go in and—“
“I’m not going to do anything to your precious little shack,” Gilbert said, but any force behind the statement had vanished. His shoulders slumped, and Roderich took his hand back. The air shifted.
This wasn’t the Gilbert that Roderich was used to.
“Do me a favor, Roderich?”
“Don’t stop playing that stupid piano.” And he was gone.
Just like in old times, he slipped the envelope into her mailbox when he knew she would be out. She had been wrapped up in meetings and whatnot with the end of the war, and he wasn’t even sure she would show up.
But, as always, as Gilbert sat on the couch in the living room, Berlitz’s head in his lap, there was the tell-tale whistle as the back door opened just slightly. Blackie, who was lying on the floor, perked her head up and clicked her way over to the door, where Gilbert heard a soft voice greet her.
“Jó estét, Blackie,” the voice said, and Gilbert couldn’t help but crack the beginnings of a smile. He waited in silence as Elizabeta walked across the house with Blackie in toe; Berlitz looked up in surprise, and then lowered his head again as Elizabeta walked over to the sofa. Gilbert looked up, glad the lights were dimmed so she couldn’t see the circles under his eyes, and gave her a smirk. It was hard for him though, as he was struck by how... how perfect she looked. Long auburn hair, as beautiful and wild as always, flowers, a dress that reached her knees under a long coat. She dismissed conventional fashion and went with whatever she wanted, bright and colorful and unmistakably Hungarian.
She bent down, hands on her knees, and came to eye-level with him, getting so close to his face their noses brushed. Gilbert took a breath and was filled with her scent, and it calmed his nerves.
“I found your letter,” she said, and she knelt down on the floor and put her elbows on his thighs, propping her head up and looking up at him with a matching grin. “It felt like 1860 all over again.”
“1860 to 1867,” Gilbert said, and he put his hands on either sides of her face and drew her into a kiss. They hovered in silence, eyes closed, and Gilbert relished in Elizabeta’s taste. Oh, how he’d missed it. How he’d missed her. Elizabeta opened her mouth to grant his tongue access and she turned her head, still leaning on her shoulders and her elbows as if they were having a conversation. She pulled away abruptly, however, and Gilbert opened his eyes in surprise, lips still pursed. She smiled at him.
“And, when was it, the day after Christmas in 1918?” Elizabeta asked in a whisper. Berlitz had moved by this point, annoyed with the lack of attention Gilbert was lavishing him with and went over to cuddle by Blackie and Aster, who joined them from upstairs.
Gilbert pulled her into his lap instead, and she roped her arms around his shoulders and pressed her forehead to his. They sat in silence for a while, listening to their breathing and the sounds of the clock ticking behind them.
Elizabeta released one arm from his shoulders to bend down and unbuckle one of her boots, causing her low collar to slip and reveal a large part of her neck and collarbone. It was so white and pristine, and Elizabeta let out a small gasp of pleasure as Gilbert laid a solid kiss to the crook of her neck. She rolled her head back and around as she sat up, kicking one boot off idly, and placing a hand on his wan cheek.
“You are so—“ she started, but was cut off by a swift kiss to her lips. She reared back a little bit but held fast, as Gilbert held her waist solidly, sliding an arm underneath her knees, swinging her hips around and standing up. She broke the kiss and grabbed onto his neck in surprise, letting out a high-pitched noise. Gilbert grunted and wobbled a little bit (his strength, oh it was failing every day) but held fast, and took a little spin, watching Elizabeta’s skirts flail out into the dusk. Night had almost fallen.
“Put me down you brute, so we can go upstairs,” she said, ringing her hands around his neck and smiling. But Gilbert refused, he held her higher, and took his first wobbling step towards the staircase. Each step was a labor, with his combined waning strength and Elizabeta’s weight, but he was determined to carry her, bridal-style, all the way upstairs.
And he did.
He reached the landing while Elizabeta was in the midst of yelling “put me down!” for the umpteenth time, and he swiftly went to his room and kicked the door closed. There was a single lamp on, on the desk by his bedside, and he—as gracefully as he could muster—lowered her to the duvet. Elizabeta was stunned into silence by the tenderness he showed her as he sat down beside her.
“Gilbert,” she said, her voice soft, “you didn’t have to do that.”
“I did,” he said, in a rare moment of solemnity. He just stared at her, with the light from the lamp illuminating the auburn streaks in her hair, causing the ribbon on her dress to shine. Elizabeta just stared at him, bewildered. A nervous shiver ran through her—something was wrong. Gilbert didn’t act like this for no reason—
But then he was the same, as his solemn expression broke into a wide grin, and he pounced on her, tickling her stomach and her sides and causing her to shriek with laughter. Her head hit the pillow and he was above her, hands on either sides of her head, straddling her hips and smiling down at her. Elizabeta returned the smile and it warmed her cheeks, and Gilbert bent down and pressed his lips to hers. As he kissed her, he used one hand to reach underneath his shirt, and pull a thin chain from around his neck, over his head, and over Elizabeta’s. She broke the kiss, propping herself up on her elbows, and touched the warm metal that had settled against her breast.
“What... Gilbert,” she said, as she sat up and looked at the pendant. It was his Iron Cross, his prized emblem. She looked up at him, turning it over in her hands. “Gilbert, why did you just put this on me? What, do you have a fetish or—“
“No,” Gilbert interrupted her. That solemn look, a look so unnatural on his face reappeared, and it frightened Elizabeta. She bit her lower lip and looked her lover straight in the crimson, glowing eye.
“Tell me what’s going on,” she said in a voice just above a whisper. Gilbert reached out and held the Cross in his own palm, the familiar crevices and nicks acting as an extension of his own hand. He took a deep, heavy breath.
“I want you to have this,” Gilbert said softly. “Please, Elizabeta.”
“Why?” she asked, staring directly at him. But he avoided her gaze and stared at the Cross in his hand. “Gilbert—Prussia, answer me. Why do you want me to have this? You never give me—people—anything!”
“Gilbert!” At that, he lifted his eyes to meet hers. The corners of her eyes were shining now, and it spread across her bottom eyelid, like a pool, and then the tears started. They were slow but deliberate, staining her rosy cheeks. “What’s happening to you, Gilbert?” He placed his hands on both of her shoulders and smiled at her. It wasn’t a grin or a cackle—it was a genuine, face-creasing, dimple-creating smile. He moved his hand from her shoulder to her cheek, rubbing his thumb over her high cheekbones. She studied his eyes. He wasn’t going to tell her the truth, was he?
“What is it?” she asked again. She placed her own hand on top of his over the Cross. “What’s happening to you?”
“I—“ he stopped. She sat there, waiting, her hair every which way, her gaze both terrified and determined.
He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t tell her.
Instead, he leaned forward and drew her into a rare hug. She shook gently in his arms and gripped his shirt, running her fingers over every inch of his chest she could find, as if she were memorizing every contour of his body. He became lost in his thoughts, staring at the headboard, the wall, the photos he hung on the wall above his bed. The lantern. The curtains, the windows.
“If we must build up one kingdom, it should be Germany; for what use is the Free State of Prussia?” The words sunk in like poison and stung his body. He heard the snippets from the Allied Control Council; he knew. He was starting to lose himself in his thoughts; but he was brought back to earth by Elizabeta tilting his head down and giving him a forceful kiss. She leaned back, kicking her legs out underneath him and he straddled her hips, hands on her shoulders, returning every ounce of love and passion she was pouring into her kiss.
It wasn’t long before blouses were untied and trousers were shucked, and low moans and heavy breaths replaced the sound of laughter reverberating around the empty house. Elizabeta wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him closer to her, into her, around her and through her, as if trying to soak up every bit of him. She kissed him over and over, each kiss lasting longer and becoming hotter, his fingers carding through her hair and holding her neck, her shoulders, her head.
She pushed herself up and back, so she was half leaning against the headboard, bringing Gilbert with her, and he broke their kiss to focus on her neck, trying to maintain his head, trying to make each thrust follow a slow pattern of kisses down her neck and around the Iron Cross. Elizabeta crossed her arms around his neck and buried her nose in his hair, mumbling things in a mix of Hungarian and German, almost trying to make sense of something but failing. Her body was trembling with the amount of pleasure coursing through her; every single nerve was on fire.
“Mmm.... G-Gilbert?” Elizabeta stammered, suppressing another moan from deep in her throat.
“...I love you.”
Gilbert didn’t reply. He didn’t have to. It was Elizabeta that liked to make these things vocal, but Gilbert was such an odd, antagonistic fellow that his words couldn’t be trusted. It was his actions that explained him. And ever since they were teenagers, his actions had both hardened her and enamored her. The older they became the more tender he was, until his words would say one thing and his actions would tell an entirely different story.
And his actions that night told the only story Elizabeta needed. If she was trying to soak him up then he was trying to do the same, and he became lost in her scent, her touch, her taste. His heart pounded against his ribcage and his breaths were suppressed by heated gasps, and he lost control of his own movements as Elizabeta leaned her head back, digging her nails into his shoulders, hair askew over her shoulders and sticking to the sheen of sweat that now covered her body. Hips against hips, head against wall, hands on legs and waists and behind knees, tongues running down slick necks and over old chains and down breasts, nipples, patterns of ribs and the dip of navel.
Elizabeta’s entire body convulsed and shuddered and she let out a sound of need that was almost animalistic, but Gilbert heard her native Hungarian babbling about in her vocalizations. He followed soon after, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and kissing her shoulder as it happened. For a moment they lay there, breathing heavily, and Gilbert never wanted to move. Elizabeta wrapped her arms around his neck, rubbing tenderly at the scratches to his shoulders.
“Sorry,” she murmured, although she sounded pleased with herself. Gilbert snorted.
“No you’re not. You do this all the time.”
“I know, I still feel like I should be courteous, y’know?” she replied. Gilbert turned his head so he was facing her neck, his head resting on her shoulder. A hand lazily drifted into his hair, stroking his head. Elizabeta closed her eyes and pulled the comforter over both of them, not even bothering to clean up.
It was that moment that Gilbert pushed himself up just a bit so he was level with her left ear, and whispered,
“Ich liebe dich.” Elizabeta opened her eyes and turned to him, mouth agape, shocked at the words that tumbled from his mouth.
In all the years they’d been meeting secretly, from when it started as sex to when it grew into real emotion, Gilbert had only told her he loved her once.
And it was when he thought he was dying.
Gilbert leaned in and kissed her neck and she closed her eyes, tilting up his chin and meeting his lips, running a hand through his hair again. He was still regaining his breath, although Elizabeta had calmed by then. He closed his eyes and nuzzled her neck, clearly exhausted.
As Elizabeta drifted off to sleep, she wondered when the bags under his eyes had become so big or when his skin started resembling the color of parchment.
Ludwig knew his brother well. He had such an intimate relationship with him that he could practically sense the air changes around Gilbert.
So he knew something was wrong.
Ludwig opened one eye at the sound of the front door banging open, and footsteps dragging along the carpeted floor. Ludwig shifted and opened another eye, gazing into the dark, trying to make sense of what he was hearing. He heard a voice, low and rough, and the scittering of claws along solid wood as the dogs seemed to react to the late-night visitor. (When Gilbert had unofficially moved into Ludwig’s house, he wasn’t sure; it wasn’t like Gilbert didn’t have his own house to go to.) But he always ended up here, especially when drunk.
As carefully as possible, Ludwig slid from beneath the covers, wiggling out of Feliciano’s grasp, and took light steps into the hallway and down the stairs to the living room, where there was a solitary lamp lit and three sleepy, confused dogs mulling about at someone sitting on the couch.
He saw the back of Gilbert’s brilliant white head, tipped slightly to the side. Ludwig, wearing nothing except his trousers walked sleepily over to the couch and walked around to face Gilbert—only to find him asleep.
He was laying with his head on the edge of the couch cushion; dark circles decorating his eyes with his jaw slacked in sleep. He was breathing deeply, although every once in a while he gave a small noise.
Ludwig stood before him, hands in his pockets, gazing down at the once proud empire. He walked over and gingerly sat down beside his brother, moving slightly so his head hit the edge of Ludwig’s shoulder. It was the only contact they made.
“I heard today that the Allied Control Council is making some amendments to the occupations,” Ludwig said softly. Gilbert snorted in his alcohol-induced slumber. “We’ll hear the final word at the meeting next week in Berlin. I think... I think the Soviets are takin’ a lot, Gilbert.” Gilbert took a deep breath and opened his eyes, staring straight ahead, but then tilting his head up to look at his younger brother. His skin was pale, save for the rosiness of intoxication, and the bags under his eyes had gotten larger and darker. His skin seemed to stick to his skull like a wet bandage, taut and barely functioning as a cover. Gilbert didn’t move from that position but he breathed deeply, flaring his nostrils every few moments as Ludwig looked back at him.
“ ‘m drunk,” he mumbled. Ludwig bit his lower lip and nodded.
“Yeah, yeah you do fuckin’ see,” Gilbert responded, and he attempted to sit up straight but succeeded in just slouching over in the other direction, sprawled against the aged couch. Berlitz, who had been sitting at his feet (oh how Berlitz loved Gilbert) got up and walked back to where the other two were sleeping, and although he lay down, he kept a reproachful gaze on Gilbert. “So, what, the Soviet Union? What’re they be doin’ eventually? Or something? Pah,” Gilbert muttered. Ludwig just looked at his brother sadly.
“Taking a lot more than we first thought,” Ludwig responded. “I mean, I guess it’s for the best for now... Being under America sure hasn’t been terrible, we have food now. Lots of it.”
“And beer, fuckin’ finally,” Gilbert said. “Fuck, I thought I’d have to drink Francis’s shitty-ass pansy liquor for the rest of my ill-fated life.” That comment struck a chord in Ludwig’s heart, and all the fears he’d been stewing over rushed back in a tidal wave of emotion. But he was a German, and he kept himself composed.
“Y’know, it’s funny,” Gilbert commented, pushing himself up straight on the couch, but sliding down the back cushion, “how it’s—get this—you’re fuckin’, crazy Austrian boss who fucks all this up—“ he uses one hand to wave about the house—“and it’s me who gets punished.”
“What do you—“ Ludwig started but Gilbert continued.
“It should be Austria if you ask me. Roderich, that arschlock, just getting’ off scott-free.”
“...he’s probably going to be occupied by the Soviets as well,” Ludwig murmured. Gilbert locked his eyes on Ludwig’s, and Ludwig became unnerved by the stare. His eyes, normally a blazing red, had, at some point, darkened to a more crimson, purple-ish color, and Ludwig watched as his pupils dilated as they fixated on Ludwig’s own eyes. Their eyes were the same shape, along with their jawlines, their chins, and their noses; even their skin tone was near even. They were truly of the same flesh.
“I hear what they say, West,” Gilbert said. “Y’know, after the fall of the empire after the Great War... this whole ‘Free State’ crap just isn’t cutting it anymore.” He put one pale, bony hand to his face and rubbed his temple, closing his eyes. Ludwig let out a breath, relieved to have a break from his unrelenting stare. “And I guess, y’know, you’ve been gettin’ so powerful, might as well help you out, y’know? It’s not like—not like anyone’ll miss me, right?” At that comment, Gilbert looked very surprised with himself and let out a hoarse laugh. “West, you can tell how slaughtered I am, y’know, I think someone spiked my beer or somethin’—I’m sitting here waxing fucking poetic about my life, as if I didn’t leave some legacy behind. I’mma leaving you behind, and you—“ Gilbert reached out and placed a heavy hand on Ludwig’s shoulder— “you are a great legacy.”
“Gilbert, bruder, what are you talking about?” Ludwig asked. Gilbert’s lips curved up into his telltale grin, and he poked his tongue out from between white teeth.
“I’m dying, Ludwig,” he said, that grin still painting his face. He laid his head down on the couch cushion and twisted it back slightly, still staring straight at Ludwig. He tightened his grip on Ludwig’s shoulder. “I’m gonna be gone real soon.” Ludwig just stared back at him. Prussia turned his head and looked towards the wall, although he left his hand on Ludwig’s shoulder. “And no one’ll even care I bet.”
“I care,” Ludwig responded. Gilbert continued to stare at the wall, and Ludwig watched him close his eyes. Ludwig put his hand over Gilbert’s on his shoulder. “I will care, Gilbert. You’re my big brother.” Gilbert took a shuddering breath and turned his head back. The grin had disappeared, and was replaced by something Ludwig couldn’t place. Ludwig nodded gently at his brother. “I don’t want you to die, Gilbert.”
“Neither do I,” Gilbert replied. He licked dry lips.
“How long?” Ludwig asked. Gilbert shrugged.
“As soon as the ink is dry? I know it’s comin’,” he insisted. “I know it’s comin’ soon. They’re gonna, I don’t know, split me up and give me away. Not occupied like you, chopped up into little pieces and distributed—“ he pointed to an invisible group of people standing before him—“like I’m being rationed. And then I’ll be all gone and they’ll have to deal with the little bits they got left. Maybe they’ll give you a piece,” Gilbert said, and his eyelids began to sink over those crimson eyes. Ludwig just shrugged at his brother.
“We have that meeting in Berlin next week. About all the occupation finalizations, and timelines, and... and all that,” Ludwig said again. Gilbert closed his eyes and nodded, but Ludwig could tell he was falling asleep.
“Mmkay,” was all Gilbert responded before his head flopped over and he drifted off. Ludwig sat for a moment, his stomach doing flip flops and his heart pounding, before leaning forward and leaving a chaste kiss on Gilbert’s forehead. It was fleeting but reminiscent of the ones Gilbert would give to him when he was a little boy, when he was scared or hurt, and needed reassurance. Ludwig hovered for a moment, his chin to Gilbert’s forehead, both hands on either of his shoulders, and he closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, and the familiar, calming scent of his brother filled his senses. And then he lay Gilbert down on the couch, pet each dog, and retreated back to his bedroom.
Ludwig wasn’t sure what to expect, really. The week came and went, and he went to the meeting held at the Allied Control Council’s Berlin headquarters. They sat and had deals dictated at them, who was taking and rebuilding what, and for how long. Ludwig was relieved to discover that the occupations wouldn’t be forever, they’d only be to help get Europe back on its feet. Ludwig had to admit, he didn’t mind having Alfred around.
But then, the bombshell dropped. Law number forty-six of the Allied Control Council: Prussia was to be officially dissolved. Apparently, it was something that the Allies had discussed as the war drew to a close. The land was split between what would become all of Germany, and the Soviet Union, down an invisible line dividing the land in two. It hurt (like hell) but it was a start.
When Ludwig returned home, after long, long meetings, his brother was nowhere to be found. Gilbert had been commanded to attend the meeting but he had vanished long before, and he never showed up. Ludwig had a paper copy of the Laws instigated by the Allied Control Council, and he dropped it onto his kitchen counter as he searched for signs of his brother. The dogs were walking around and whimpering, which meant he hadn’t been in the house lately. They were lonely.
Ludwig wandered the streets surrounding his house, wondering if maybe Gilbert had returned to his own house (unlikely.)
The year was 1947. Ludwig re-entered the house, his eyes boring into the calendar on the wall. 1947. Only ten years ago, he was embarking on a new era, and then boom, it came tumbling down. Although he wasn’t altogether heartbroken over the demise of his empire, it’d been harrowing his soul for quite some time.
“Gilbert? Are you here?” Ludwig finally called into the empty house. No one responded.
Ludwig took all three of his dogs over to Gilbert’s house two days later, at the insistence of Feliciano, who suggested their superior sense of smell could tell if he’d been there. Feliciano was just as anxious as Ludwig to know how his brother was faring, especially with the occupation zones going into effect and the land being divided up.
When they walked through the door, Berlitz was the first to pick something up. Ludwig wasn’t surprised, for Berlitz had always loved his brother. Berlitz strained on his leash and began barking at the door leading into the kitchen. Blackie began making similar sounds, pawing at the floor and then nudging Berlitz’s side, although Berlitz paid no heed to her. Ludwig bent down and unhooked his leash, and Berlitz burst through the kitchen door and wiggled through the back door, which was ajar. The kitchen door swung shut with a soft creak and the other two dogs began whimpering in protest. Heart pounding in his throat, Ludwig unleashed the other two dogs and followed them as they followed Berlitz’s lead into the back of the house. Ludwig approached the back door and tenderly pushed it open, looking out into the vast array of green and wondering what he would see.
What his eyes landed on was the single, large oak tree that had always been in Gilbert’s backyard. It was a tree Ludwig himself was very familiar with, and remembered all the time he had spent in it reading as a child when he lived with Gilbert. Gilbert was sitting beneath it, head back against the tree trunk, Berlitz laying his head in Gilbert’s lap. Ludwig smiled and crossed the green to where Gilbert sat.
“You know, you can’t hide forever,” Ludwig said as he approached Gilbert. Gilbert didn’t respond; Berlitz looked up at Ludwig with round eyes. The other two dogs were standing by Ludwig, looking apprehensive. Ludwig’s heart tripled in pace.
“Gilbert?” he asked slowly, and it dawned on him that Gilbert hadn’t once moved. Not even to touch Berlitz, which was unusual. “Gilbert...?”
“Ludi?” Gilbert mumbled finally, and his eyes opened partially and his mouth twisted up into a tired smile. He tried to move his body but he couldn’t, so he just straightened up against the tree and placed a hand on Berlitz’s head. Ludwig said a silent prayer in his head, praying to every got and deity he could think of. Gilbert was still with him. “How’d you know I was back here?”
“Berlitz,” Ludwig answered. He sat down in the tall grass in front of his brother, stroking at Berlitz’s back. “He came to find you.”
“Mmhmm,” Gilbert sighed. He rolled his head and closed his eyes; his chest was heaving as if breathing were the most difficult thing in the world.
Gilbert was still with him, but Ludwig had managed to catch him at the bitter, bitter end.
“Our grandfather planted this tree,” Gilbert said suddenly. He didn’t open his eyes but his mouth curved into a sly smile. Ludwig looked up, eyes drifting past the brambles and branches dappling warm sunlight in the stark February air. It was then that Ludwig noticed Gilbert wasn’t wearing a jacket. “This tree has been here for literally as long as we have.”
“Nature is amazing like that,” Ludwig commented. He wished he didn’t have to be alone, and that his brother didn’t have to be alone, and that all the people who meant something to him—Antonio, Francis, Elizabeta, maybe even Roderich—could be here as well.
“Eliza has my cross,” Gilbert said (although it came out more as a mumble.) “So don’t go looking for it.”
“C’mere.” Gilbert had one arm outstretched and he opened one crimson eye, and it was softened and filled with,.. something. Ludwig wasn’t entirely sure. Regardless, he accepted the offering, and leaned forwards, wrapping both arms around Gilbert’s torso and drawing his head into his neck. Gilbert slid his arms around Ludwig’s back, although the grip was painfully weak, and Gilbert held Ludwig like he did when Ludwig was just a tiny, terrified child, plagued with constant sickness and a befuddled brain. Ludwig nearly wanted to cry as he felt the familiar stroke of Gilbert’s hand through his hair, something he hadn’t felt in years.
They stayed that way, Ludwig using all of his bodily warmth to keep Gilbert warm, and a light snowfall began around them, dusting everything in white. It was a slow dusting and it made Ludwig think of one of his fairytales. They stayed this way, getting covered in snow, until Ludwig no longer felt the rise and fall of Gilbert’s chest, and his fingers grew slack on his back, and his head became heavier on his shoulder. Ludwig tightened his grip on Gilbert and clamped his eyes shut, trying as hard as he could not to cry but it was a fruitless effort as his eyelids stung from the tears bubbling from underneath. Berlitz barked beside him and whined, sensing something had gone wrong.
Finally, Ludwig let him go, laying him gently against the tree trunk, cushioning his head against the bark. Gilbert’s face was completely neutral now, eyes closed, mouth parted just slightly, his skin white as snow and cold as ice. Ludwig was still kneeling where he had been, and he picked up Gilbert’s right hand and placed it on his own cheek, trying to preserve the waning warmth from his lifeless limb, and he pressed both of his own hands over Gilbert’s and closed his eyes and pretended that this one last action was of Gilbert’s own volition.
The next time Ludwig was before that tree, it was four days later, and a heavy snowfall had covered the grass and the tree branches and the edges of the broken fence and the remains of what was once a proud garden. Ludwig was standing before the old oak tree, wearing a black wool pea coat, face stern and serious, hands in his pockets. He stared at the tree, not really seeing what was before him, lost in thought. There was a slight crunch of snow and Feliciano was beside him on one side, Elizabeta on the other, the wind tossing her hair every which way. Feliciano delicately slid his arm through Ludwig’s and squeezed his arm, but Ludwig didn’t return the motion. Elizabeta’s eyes were drawn to the tree, her head tilted, hands folded in front of her. She looked surreally beautiful in her long, wool swing coat, covering her black dress and tall leather boots.
Feliciano let go of Ludwig and took a tentative step forwards, a small bouquet of cornflowers in his hands. He crouched at the base of the tree and laid the little bouquet down, the bright blue of the buds contrasting the dark wood. Feliciano stood back up and walked backwards until his back was against Ludwig’s side, and he felt Ludwig slide his arm around his waist and tighten his grip on him.
Elizabeta sniffed loudly and used a gloved hand to wipe at her eyes, but seeing the bouquet was just tugging at her heart in all different directions. Her lower lip quivered and she turned away—only to be caught in Ludwig’s other arm, and she was pulled into his shoulder and she curled against him and cried. It wasn’t sobs but, it was enough, quietly sniffing and crying, that Ludwig had to close his eyes and turn them all away before he lost control as well, and they returned to the house.
When springtime came, Ludwig planted an entire field of cornflowers (with Feliciano’s help) around the tree, leaving a small open space for the cross he placed in the ground, adorned with the words suum cicque, identical to the one in the cemetery.
Suum cicque, to each his own.
1. Rauchbier: a smoked German beer made with malted barley dried over an open flame.
2. 1867/1918: 1867 was the year the Austro-Hungarian empire formed, and 1918 was the year it dissolved. Headcanon says Hungary and Prussia had a relationship just before she was married, not during the marriage, but then afterwards.
3. February 1947: When Law 6 of the Allied Control Council declared that Prussia was to be dissolved.
4. Cornflowers: Germany's national flower.
5. Suum cicque: "To each his own", the motto of the Kingdom of Prussia.
I really enjoyed developing and writing this story, because Prussia is such an interesting character. I hope you enjoy :)