✎ Fel's Creative Journal (tinfoiltennis) wrote,
✎ Fel's Creative Journal
tinfoiltennis

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✎ fanfic - hetalia - this ruin of a world

Title: this ruin of a world
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Characters: Portugal [OC], Spain, England, France
Pairing?: Implied England/Portugal
Rating: PG-13
Summary: After the Lisbon disaster of 1755, Spain and England are forced to temporarily put aside their differences to help someone dear to the both of them.
Timeframe: 1755
Word Count: 6171 THIS THIS IS EPIC LENGTH FOR ME
Notes: Oh Lord, I just. If I end up offending anyone with this, I apologise, so, so badly. But this idea developed slowly and wouldn’t let me go until I turned it into a fully-fledged fic. Also, this is my first time seriously writing Spain and France, so if I fail at them, feel free to whack me over the head. A lot of this was my attempt at trying to balance characterisation and history together, so… orz.

Also! I got a lot of my information for this fic from an amazing book by a historian called Edward Paice called Wrath of God: the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, and if you’re interested in Portugal or the events of the earthquake at all, I’d definitely recommend it – it’s amazingly well-written and researched and manages to be an engaging and educational read. :> /plug plug plug
Warnings: A Hetalia OC, swearing + possible trigger content; a natural disaster, talk of religion, symbolic injuries, a few historical slurs against certain countries. And angst. A whole bucketload of it. Also I'm still iffy about the ending, but meh. :|; Don't judge me too much guys ;;

✎ ✎ ✎


"Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of vice
Than London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?
In these men dance; at Lisbon yawns the abyss."
- Voltaire, Poem on the Lisbon Disaster

Late November, 1755
Lisbon, Portugal

The city was in ruins by the time he finally got there.

The most awful thing about it was that that wasn’t an exaggeration. In fact, it wasn’t even close.

If anything, it was more like a horrifically gross understatement. Because the sights that greeted England’s eyes may just as well have physically knocked the breath clean out of him.

Entire buildings – entire streets, districts – reduced to little more than rubble and dust and ash and the charred, blackened husks of what may have once been timbers, or furniture, protruding from the ruins like twisted, skeletal limbs. Debris scattered everywhere, if it hadn’t already been looted or burned or drowned. The first few tents squatting on the outskirts of the city, frightened faces peering out while some still shivered without any means of shelter whatsoever, nursing badly-tended injuries.

And as for the dead…

Perhaps it was simply better not to go there.

It was something which couldn’t be reconciled with the way things worked, the way things should be. During his lifetime England had fought in wars, seen people die at the hands of plague or the sword, cities and ports pillaged or razed, his own capital city ravaged by fire, but this – this –

No man could create destruction on this scale. A city which little more than a month ago had been known as one of the liveliest in Europe was simply… gone. Churches, opera houses, homes, monasteries – which pile of rubble had been which? It was impossible to tell, now. A wasteland. When the first hastily-scribbled reports had reached him saying that the city had been destroyed, he hadn’t been able – couldn’t have been able – to quite believe it, but now…

The thought, the sight, made his both his throat and his heart constrict painfully. Because if this was the state of Lisbon – collapsed, scorched, drowned – then what about the nation whose capital it was? What about Portugal? Lisbon was Portugal’s largest city, his heart, and England could remember what the fire in London almost a century ago had done to him, and this devastation was at least ten times worse if it was anything, surely. So where was he? Outside of the city with the rest of the people who’d fled? The suggestion was so ridiculous that England would have laughed, if there had been anything to laugh about. If anything, Portugal would have refused to leave, would have stayed in his city even despite the danger and whatever awful state he must be in, stubbornly trying to salvage something from the disaster. Or what if he simply wasn’t in any condition anymore to move anywhere, stuck on some ruined street where –

Fuck. He wasn’t helping anyone thinking something like that. If there was one thing he needed to do, it was to keep his head, because his oldest ally needed help – and of course England would send him as much as he could spare as soon as it was possible to. But right now, England had no doubt that his friend needed help of a much more immediate sort, because if there was one thing he was certain of, it was that Portugal would not be taking care of himself right now.

Besides, he had to see him. If only to reassure himself that even after everything, Portugal was still…

The silence in the burnt-out shell of the city was deafening. Here and there, there were a few people walking about – looters, mostly, England imagined, although he could see a few small groups of people, few and far between, who were working to clear the rubble, making some attempt to start trying to pick up the pieces.

But the face he most wanted to see wasn’t among any of them. And with the ruins of a city that was once so large –

“What are you doing here?”

A voice. Speaking English, but not an English voice. England half-turned at the sound (because who else could this person be talking to other than him?) to find Spain, striding towards him through the rubble with an uncharacteristically tight expression on his face, annoyance and worry vying for an equal place behind his eyes.

England scowled, instinctively shifting slightly to a more defensive stance. He didn’t have time for this, it had taken him long enough to get here anyway… “What the hell do you think I’m doing here?”

“You tell me,” Spain countered, his hands clenched into loose fists near his side. “My brother’s –" his voice caught for a moment in his throat “ – My brother’s heart is lying in ruins and you’ve suddenly shown up, how do I know you’re not here to take advantage somehow?”

England bristled – how dare Spain of all people suggest something like that? “Don’t be such a fucking idiot! I’m probably the only Englishman left here, in what way could I possibly ‘take advantage somehow?’ Besides,” he added pointedly, “That’s more what you do.”

Spain flinched, looking as if someone had just slapped him in the face. “That wasn’t anything like that and it has nothing to do with this!” he protested. “He’s my brother, I just want to help him!”

“Well why do you think I’m here?”

There was a long silence. Then Spain looked away, his expression trembling. “He doesn’t need your help,” he muttered bitterly, but his voice was a little unsure.

In answer, England snorted, indicating the devastation around them with his arms. Even if he had had the best will in the world towards Spain – which he didn’t by a long shot – there was no way that Spain alone could help. Not with something like this. And if he was helping then…

“How long have you been here, anyway?” And if you’ve been here longer than I have, which is likely, then why the hell haven’t you found him yet?

Spain mumbled something indistinctly, still not meeting England’s eyes. England folded his arms. “Forget it,” he said impatiently, turning to leave. “I’ve got something more important to do right now rather than wasting my time talking to –“

“Four days!” Spain said suddenly, his voice desperate. “I’ve been here four days, alright? And I can’t find him anywhere, I came as soon as I had finished in Sevilla – " oh, of course, England realised, Spain would have felt some of the earthquake as well, what with being so close “ – and he’s not anywhere, I’ve been looking, his house is still standing but he wasn’t there so I’ve been looking out here but –" He cut himself off, taking a few deep, semi-panicked breaths. “I can’t find him,” he repeated in a more level voice, “but it’s not because I haven’t been trying to.”

“Did I say anything?”

“I know that you were thinking it!” Spain snapped. “I don’t care what you think, I don’t want him to – “ Spain’s mouth snapped shut suddenly, as if he’d thought better of finishing that sentence.

… to die, England’s mind supplied for him, and backed away from that thought as soon as it had appeared.

“… Well, whatever we think about each other, we’re obviously after the same thing here,” he said instead, and Spain looked suspiciously at him. “And neither of us are having much luck searching on our own.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that for now we should put aside how much we both despise each other and do what we both came here to do.”

“So we’d be working together.”

“Only for his sake.”

After a small, brief pause, Antonio nodded slowly.

“Fine. De acuerdo.

✎ ✎ ✎


It took them hours to find him.

They asked as many people as they could, anyone they passed who was still down there risking the danger for one reason or another. The answers were confusing at best. Some people had no idea who they were talking about; some did, but hadn’t seen him for days; he’d been seen near the remains of the Rua Augusta, he’d helped one group begin to clear rubble only two days ago near the Santa Cara da Misericordia, he’d refused one man’s offer to be helped to safety despite looking as if he needed it. Spain was quiet – almost completely silent – the whole time, becoming quieter and quieter with every new place they searched that was deserted, every new person they asked, until he was only speaking to correct England’s mistakes in Portuguese. England would have said that he wouldn’t have minded normally, even that it was preferable to Spain’s normal blathering, but Spain being so quiet was unnerving, and as the hours dragged on it only served to make the dark thoughts in England’s own head and the worry gnawing away at the pit of his stomach grow more and more insistent.

It was almost completely dark, the last light clinging on stubbornly on the edge of the horizon, when Spain very suddenly threw out a hand and gripped England’s arm tightly.

“What is it?”

“It’s him. Over there,” Spain said, almost as if he hardly dared to believe it. England’s eyes flicked over to follow Spain’s gaze, and he started. There was someone leaning heavily against the remains of a nearby wall, and even though there was precious little light left, England could still make out enough to realise that Spain was right – it was Portugal.

Spain was already running towards his brother, his near-invisibility of the rest of the day forgotten, and England quickly followed – not running, but hurrying all the same. Hearing their footsteps sounding loud and heavy on the ground, Portugal looked up wearily, his eyes widening with something like surprise when he saw just who it was coming towards him.

“Goodness,” he said faintly as they drew closer, his voice wavering slightly, “the two of you are together and haven’t torn each other apart yet?” There was a small, bitter, desperate chuckle. “Perhaps the world really is ending.”

Spain’s face was stricken as he stood next to his brother, tentatively reaching a hand out to rest on his arm as if he was scared he might break him. England really couldn’t blame him; close to, Portugal looked nothing short of awful. It wasn’t only how completely exhausted he looked, or how his skin had a worryingly grey pallor, or how much he was obviously favouring his right side (and England didn’t want to think about the injuries he must be hiding beneath his clothes). It was in his eyes; although somehow, impossibly, that same stubborn strength of will was still there, it was desperate, cornered; he looked as if someone had stretched him thin until he was a hair’s breadth away from breaking.

The sight was truly frightening. But at least he was alive.

“Good God, Portugal,” he found himself saying softly, the shock temporarily stripping him of his ability not to say the first thing that came into his head, “you look like a mess.”

Spain scowled, shooting him a dirty look that still managed to carry contempt even past the worry that was currently making itself a permanent part of his expression. “Ignore him,” he said to his brother, and although his voice was mostly steady, his face was drawn as though he was holding back tears. “We looked everywhere for you, but you weren’t anywhere.” Spain’s voice trembled slightly, his hand tightening involuntarily on Portugal’s arm. Portugal winced. “I’m so glad we found you, hermano, I was so worried.”

Portugal let out a sigh that was dangerously close to a sob, and England was just about ready to pull him close and hang the fact that Spain was there and would probably start another war with him for it right there and then, because that sound twisted painfully right at his heart.

“What are you doing here?” Portugal said, his voice listless, and England half-fancied he could hear there’s nothing left, there’s no reason for you to be here behind his words. Spain opened his mouth to reply but England got there first.

“We came here for you, obviously,” he said, letting a bite of impatience enter his voice to cover up the worry lacing his words. “And it’s just as well that we did, because you clearly haven’t been looking after yourself. ” He frowned, biting his lip slightly as he leaned across slightly to lay his palm across Portugal’s forehead. His skin was hot and clammy against England’s hand, and he blinked, eyebrows furrowing in concern. “You’re burning up.”

“It’s the fires,” Portugal explained, voice wavering at the memory. “After the waters went down they broke out everywhere, all over the city and there was no way to stop them.” He drew in a breath. “My city is gone,” he whispered, so softly that England only barely caught it.

“You need to rest,” he said, as gently as he could manage. Portugal laughed, and it was wild and bitter and made Spain wince at his brother’s side.

“Inglaterra, how can I possibly when there’s so much that has to be done? My people are homeless at the very least if they’ve not met some worse fate, I have to rebuild. I will rebuild,” he added, and he sounded so determined that England moved his hand to his friend’s shoulder and squeezed gently.

“I know, and we’ll help,” he said. “As much as you need to get back on your feet, I swear to you.” Spain raised his eyebrows disbelievingly. England ignored him. “But if you’re going to carry on running yourself into the ground like this, you’ll just make it worse.”

“As much as I hate to say it, he’s right,” Spain chimed in, his voice taking on a pleading note. “Please rest, hermano, you’re hurt. I’ll look after you, I promise –“ at this, Portugal shot his brother a wary look “– but please, stop hurting yourself more.”

Portugal was staring straight ahead, not meeting either of their eyes. “I can’t,” he said.

“Lusitania…”

“Don’t, Antonio,” Portugal said dangerously. “When, God forbid it, it’s Madrid that’s lying in ruins then maybe you can lecture me, but until then –“

“The work that people have started doing can carry on without you for a few days,” England said, cutting him off. God and the King, he understood, he honestly did, but he’d be damned if he let Portugal finish himself off completely just from sheer bloody stubbornness. “Please, Portugal, for your own sake listen to some sense. You can hardly stand.”

There was a long silence. Finally, Portugal sighed. “I can’t convince either of you, can I?” he said, his voice filled with a sort of bitter, defeated amusement.

Spain shook his head, exchanging a glance with England before sliding an arm around his brother’s middle to pull him into a gentle half-hug. Portugal didn’t resist, let his head drop onto Antonio’s shoulder.

“Of course not, hermano.

✎ ✎ ✎


Had it not been for the now-familiar aching, bone-deep weariness in his body when he awoke, Portugal would have almost fancied that he had surfaced from some sort of terrible dream. Or perhaps had fallen into a more pleasant one; he wasn’t entirely sure. But he remembered England and Spain being there, of that much he was certain. Remembered them appearing in his – no, he thought with a stab of pain through his heart, appearing in what was left of his capital city, so suddenly that for a moment he had thought that he was hallucinating; remembered them all but frog-marching him to his own house, although perhaps that description was slightly unfair, and redressing his hastily-tended-to injuries with considerably more care than he had bothered to give himself.

Really, he didn’t think he had ever encountered such a pair of mother hens. The thought almost made him smile for a second. The two of them were quite the formidable force when they actually saw fit to put aside their animosity.

… But then, he hadn’t wanted to see either of them. Or any of their kind, really. Not like this, not in such a state as the one he was in. Antonio’s face when he had seen him had been bad enough – and he didn’t want his brother to make that sort of face, not over him – but apart from that…

He was weak, now, and vulnerable, and he knew it and hated it, because this was exactly the sort of situation which one of the others could take advantage of. He couldn’t take losing his own lands to someone else, not after his city, his people –

He closed his eyes, trying to drag his mind away from those thoughts. They’d been plaguing him enough as it was. Slowly, his fingers found the crucifix around his neck, brushing the image of the crucified Christ that hung there.

Avé Maria, cheia de graça, o Senhor é convosco…

There was always prayer. There was solace in prayer; or at least, there always had been.

Bendita sois vós entre as mulheres; 
bendito é o fruto do vosso ventre, Jesus…

But then, he felt as if he had been praying a lot, recently.

Santa Maria, mãe de Deus, 
rogai por nós, pecadores…

“Portugal?”

Portugal’s eyes flew open and he shifted slightly, carefully so as not to put too much pressure on his left side. England was standing in the doorway, one hand on the door, a worried look hovering around his features, and it was still so strange, so surreal, to see him standing there in the flesh looking the same as ever. Portugal managed to summon a small smile – at least, he thought so – and he pushed himself up slowly, thankful for the distraction.

“There’s no need to linger in the doorway, Inglaterra.” England came into the room properly at that, shut the door gently, and pulled up a chair next to the bed awkwardly.

“How are you feeling?”

He smiled thinly. “The same as I have since it happened,” he said, a little shortly. Then, he sighed and relented slightly. “Perhaps a little better since you and Espanha decided to play at being my nurses.”

England flushed, the colour rising quickly in his cheeks. “Well – you didn’t particularly give us much of a choice!” he said defensively. Portugal smiled ruefully, looking down at the bedspread, and England gave one of his short, impatient sighs. “I’m just – I’m glad you’re alive and in one piece, that’s all,” he said softly, his voice thick with awkwardness. Portugal didn’t have to look up to know just how red England would be right now, how he’d be looking down and away to the side. “When I heard that it was you, I…”

Portugal looked up, feeling a flash of amusement upon seeing he’d been right. “Sorry for worrying you.”

England’s head shot up comically at that, green eyes wide and indignant. “Bloody hell, Portugal, don’t apologise for being injured,” he grumbled. “It’s not your fault that the sodding earth moved.”

“I don’t know…” Portugal said softly, eyeing the silver gleam of his crucifix in his peripheral vision. “Isn’t it?”

“Don’t start,” England said sharply, a fierce frown on his face. “Don’t you even dare start getting Catholic on me, Portugal. You have done nothing to deserve something like this and you know it.” He reached out and took Portugal’s hand, squeezing it. “For goodness’ sake, don’t start feeling guilty for no good reason. Bloody Papist,” he muttered.

“But then…” Why? he wanted to say. Why did something like this happen, if God is not angry with me?

England looked at him for a few moments, that indelible frown still etched on his face. Then he sighed and leant forward, gently pulling Portugal into a light hug. “Look,” he said softly, his breath ghosting over Portugal’s ear, “the rest of us felt some of it too, so if it was some sort of – divine punishment or what have you, I’d say that it was pretty badly aimed, wouldn’t you? Besides, if there were any of us that was a likely candidate for that sort of thing, I’d say that given my track record I’d be the one and not you.”

Despite himself, Portugal laughed softly, wrapping his own arms around the other nation. “Perhaps.”

“There’s no perhaps about it, you daft sod,” England said, his voice softening his harsh words. Portugal made a small sound, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and for a few long moments a peaceful silence fell within the room, their breathing the only sound.

It didn’t last. All of a sudden, Spain’s voice could be heard from elsewhere in the house, downstairs, clearly agitated even if it was impossible to make out any words. Both of them started out of their quiet state suddenly, and England frowned in annoyance as he glanced towards the door. Portugal’s forehead creased in confusion.

“What on earth is that about?”

“I’m not completely sure,” England muttered. “Although I suppose I should probably check that nothing too untoward is happening.” Reluctantly, he pulled away from Portugal completely, straightening up as he walked briskly towards the door. Pausing there for a minute, he turned to glance back. “Don’t think about getting out of bed, by the way. Apart from anything else, if that idiot downstairs finds out, you know that it’ll somehow end up being my fault.”

“Because you’re such a bad influence,” Portugal said wryly. “The thought never even crossed my mind.” A brief, fond smile crossed England’s face for a second, and then he was gone. Portugal sat back against the headboard and tried not to think too much.

A distraction wasn’t long in coming. It had barely been a few minutes when he began to hear the sound of raised voices moving towards his room. He frowned as he listened.

“You honestly have confined him to bed, haven’t you? I hardly would have guessed that the two of you were such strict nursemaids!”

“Come back here, you bloody frog, no one ever gave you leave to walk round as if you own the place –“

“Francia, stop it, he’s not well –“

“My dear Espagne, why all the fuss? You and Angleterre came here to offer him help, non? Incidentally I must confess myself amazed that you’re letting them stay within a hundred miles of each other, but I see no reason why I can’t come and extend the same sort of offer.”

“Oh, I’m sure that that’s all you came here to do.”

“Angleterre, that suspicious face really doesn’t suit you. I assure you, my intentions are completely pure!”

Inside his head, Portugal groaned, unable to stop himself pulling a face. France could be trying enough to deal with in the best of times – their currently strained relations notwithstanding – but dealing with him now would be nothing short of a chore at best. At worst…

“This is his room, yes?” There was a knock at the door, and it opened without waiting for an answer. France stood there, a worried and irate-looking Spain and England flanking him on either side a little way behind.

Portugal nodded his head slightly, keeping his expression carefully neutral. “França.”

France nodded back, his face uncharacteristically sombre. “Might I have a few minutes of your time?” Behind France’s back, England’s frown became more pronounced. Portugal shrugged carelessly.

“I suppose I don’t see why not. I have plenty of it right now, after all.”

France turned to the other two, who were looking increasingly unhappy with the situation. “There, you see? It will be perfectly fine, mes petits choux. A few minutes is all that I ask. Now, if you would excuse us…” With that, he shut the door gently before turning back to Portugal, who merely looked at him expectantly.

“I’m glad to see you alive, mon ami,” he said first, settling not into the chair next to the bed but on the edge of the bed itself. His face was completely serious. “What happened was…”

“What happened defies words,” Portugal said simply, but there was a hint of an edge to his voice – he would not discuss this, especially not with France of all people. “What is it that you wanted?”

France threw his hands up placatingly. “There’s no need to be so suspicious! I only came to offer you my help. You must admit, chéri, you need it.”

Portugal fought to keep his expression as neutral as possible, but he could feel his eyes narrowing. He would admit no such thing – not to anyone, let alone France. Let alone a France that was daring to presume that Portugal needed his help.

“You’re presuming a lot, Francis,” he said lightly. France raised an eyebrow and sighed, scooting along the bed closer to Portugal and sliding an arm around his shoulders.

“Luís, this is no time to be proud,” he said gently, and Portugal felt a flare of annoyance run through him. “Although I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised considering that Espagne told me that you’ve been refusing his help as well.”

“Antonio’s idea of help isn’t always helpful,” Portugal replied coolly. France blinked at him, looking genuinely confused.

Mon Dieu, are you still sore about that?”

Portugal’s only answer was to glare at him, and France at least had the grace to look suitably chastised for a moment, giving way to an awkward silence. France studied the wall, a tiny frown forming between his eyebrows as he pursed his lips.

“Angleterre offered his help as well, did he not?”

“Is this going somewhere?”

“It is only that you seem so quick to shoot all other offers of help down, including that of your own brother, and yet I don’t see you jumping to refuse his aid with the same enthusiasm,” France shrugged, looking slightly put out.

“I don’t mean any offence, França, but I hardly think that it’s your business who I do and don’t accept aid from,” he said coldly. “And I wouldn’t mind it if you’d be kind enough to remove your arm from my shoulders, either.” France sighed dramatically and complied, running a hand through his blonde hair.

Mon chou, why do you stay with that ridiculous rosbif?”

Portugal raised his eyebrows. “Is this another kind of ploy for you to attempt to make an alliance with me?”

Mais non,” said France, shaking his head, even though they both knew very well that that was more than likely part of it. “I’m just concerned for you.”

Portugal almost snorted in bitter amusement but managed to hold it back. Frankly, he thought he had more to fear from France himself than England.

“Concerned?”

“For you, yes. Your dependence on him is honestly worrying.” Portugal balked, staring at France in thunderstruck disbelief; dependence? On England? “I don’t think any of us want to see you truly become one of England’s colonies –“

“França, get out.” Portugal cut across him, his voice sharp. His hands clenched in the bedsheets were trembling with suppressed anger. “Since you clearly only came here to insult me, I think it may be wise for you to leave.”

France regarded him silently through slightly hooded eyes for a few moments, and Portugal met his gaze, his eyes narrowed. Finally, France sighed and stood, smoothing out his coat as he did so.

Pardon,” he said softly. “But think about it, cher, would you?”

France.” His voice was low and dangerous, and France seemed to recognise it, because he nodded slowly, seemingly in agreement, and left the room without another word.

The sound of the heavy door closing seemed to echo long after he had left.

✎ ✎ ✎


France almost tripped up over England on his way out of Portugal’s room. Quite literally, as it happened, because the island nation had apparently been eavesdropping right next to the door. France blinked at him as he passed, raising an eyebrow in slight annoyance.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that listening at doors is a bad habit, Angleterre?”

“Oh, shut it,” England scowled. He followed France down the corridor. “You can’t tell me that it wasn’t a good idea.”

“Really, England, I knew that you were uncouth, but even I wouldn’t have said that you were rude enough to eavesdrop.”

“Although apparently you would say that my oldest ally is little better than one of my colonies,” England said bitingly, a touch of righteous indignation in his voice.

“Are you telling me that that isn’t how you treat him?”

“Of course it’s not how I treat him!” he protested, appalled. Really, coming from France, he didn't expect much better than that sort of blatant bollocks, but that particular load of tripe was something else completely. Especially when dealing with someone who was, more than anything else that might be between the two of them, a dear friend. “For heaven’s sake, is this really the sort of time for this? I might be uncouth but that’s just bloody tasteless.”

“Is it, I wonder?” France hummed, seemingly unconcerned.

“Considering what’s happened to him on top of the fact that there’s no way in hell that I would ever consider something like that, yes, it is,” he said fiercely, his fists clenched tightly as he walked. France paused half way down the wide staircase, his hand resting lightly on the banister.

“But it is what you want, non?” he said lightly. “To make it so that he can never leave your side?”

Behind him, England stopped dead mid-step. “I – bloody hell, no!” he said, even though there was a little voice at the back of his head that he wasn’t quite sure he liked the sound of saying Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I want, what’s so wrong with wanting him to stay? But he shoved that thought away angrily. France chuckled, glancing back over his shoulder with a mirthless smile.

“Methinks he doth protest too much.”

England growled in the back of his throat, abruptly stepping closer to him. “Don’t push me, France,” he snapped. “Since you’re supposed to be leaving, and good fucking riddance as far as I’m concerned, piss off already and cause trouble somewhere where you actually belong.”

“Angleterre,” France said breezily, starting down the stairs once more, “I was already on my way to the door. It’s you who insisted on following me.”

“Oh, just leave, would you?!”

“I was just going.” He paused by the door, glancing at Spain, who was hovering in the hall looking somewhat nervously between England, who looked about ready to declare another Hundred Years’ War right there and then, and France, who other than a slight line of annoyance between his eyebrows, looked completely unfazed. “Espange, mon chéri, make sure to take care of your brother, won’t you?” Spain blinked, and in a moment, France had gone.

Typical, England thought, scowling after him. He had to create a fuss on his way out. The very nerve…

Spain looked up at England, puzzled. “What was that all about?”

England sighed, his eyes straying to one of the windows and the sunlight streaming in from the ruined city outside. “Nothing,” he muttered.

✎ ✎ ✎


Spain frowned pensively as he stared into the saucepan unseeingly, absent-mindedly stirring what was inside. Cooking was something that usually took his mind off things. He enjoyed it, he was good at it, and it was something he could do to make other people feel better.

“Other people” in this case being his brother. Now that they’d found him, definitely alive, and Spain could look after him properly, he was a lot less worried than he had been. But even so, there was so much damage after what had happened that…

Spain shuddered slightly. Just thinking about it made his heart ache for his brother, and he knew better than anyone just how much Portugal dwelled on things. Which was why he needed Antonio there, to help, even if he was acting so cold about him being there. But then, that was just his brother’s way; he didn’t always mean it.

And it wouldn’t stop Spain from helping him. Portugal would see sooner or later how much he just wanted to help, nothing more or less, and things would be okay, they’d rebuild his city –

Well, he thought with a sigh, taking the pan off the heat, rebuilding might take a long while. But they’d do it, they would. It wasn’t completely hopeless.

Right now, the important thing was that his brother was able to get by. Spain was even willing to put up with England (of all people) being here for that. Just for now, anyway.

If he tried anything funny, Spain wouldn’t have any problems with making sure that he paid somehow for it. Whatever England said, Spain didn’t trust him at all.

Even so, Spain grudgingly had to admit that at least for the moment, England was preferable to France. He hadn't thought England and France arguing was anything special – those two were always fighting for some reason or another – but when he had talked to his brother earlier and asked what had happened, all the answer he’d gotten had been a curt “França offered his help. I turned him down.” And while Spain wasn’t good at reading the atmosphere, he knew his brother. So that meant that France had obviously done something.

At least despite everything else that the island nation was capable of, Spain could be sure that England wouldn’t declare war on his brother, he thought with a frown as he spooned a little of the food into a dish and headed up the stairs.

Really, he shouldn’t be thinking things like that, though, not right now. How was he supposed to try and make his brother feel better about the situation if he did? Pulling himself together and smiling as brightly as he could, he pushed open the door to his brother’s room. “Hey hermano, if you’re feeling up to it then –“

England looked up from the chair beside the bed, blinking a little in surprise, and shook his head. Spain stopped in his tracks, more than a little surprised himself.

“He fell asleep quite a while ago,” England said simply, a little tiredness creeping into his own voice. Spain’s eyes strayed to where his brother’s hand was entwined with England’s on top of the covers. England caught him looking, and stared back as if he was daring Spain to say something about it.

Spain didn’t. He made his way over to the bed and set the dish down on the floor carefully, nudging England slightly with his elbow.

“I’ll sit with him,” he said awkwardly. “You need to sleep too.”

England raised an eyebrow at him, and for a moment Spain thought that he was going to put up some sort of fight. But then he sighed and shrugged, gently untangling his fingers from the other nation’s. Portugal shifted slightly in his sleep but didn’t wake.

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to get a few hours,” he said stiffly, standing up. Spain took his place quickly, sliding into the chair. England rolled his eyes slightly but didn’t say anything as he moved to leave the room.

“England?”

He turned at the door, looking puzzled. “What is it?”

Spain shrugged, feeling a little foolish. “… if you’re hungry at all, I made something,” he said, somewhat reluctantly – there was no way that he could bring himself to thank England after everything that lay between them, even if they weren’t fighting right now, but for some reason, he still felt like he had to do something. “It’s still in the kitchen, I don’t mind.”

England looked almost as awkward as Spain felt. “I’m not really that hungry right now,” he said haltingly, almost as if he was unsure of his words. “Still – thank you. I suppose. Since you offered.”

“You did help,” said Spain in reply. The atmosphere in the room was so awkward by now that even he wasn’t having any problems reading it. England opened his mouth to reply, shut it again when he thought better of whatever he was about to say, then finally sighed.

“Yes, well. I’m off to bed. Keep an eye on him,” he added, leaving the room, and Spain narrowed his eyes at England’s back – of course he was going to keep an eye on him, he thought in annoyance, that was why he was here.

Spain glanced at his brother. He looked almost peaceful asleep, and Spain found himself relieved by that small blessing. He’d been through enough the past few weeks; he deserved some real rest, he thought fondly, softly running a hand through his brother’s curls.

And he’d recover. Antonio was sure of that if he’d ever been sure of anything, Portugal was too strong not to. It might take him years, but he’d do it.

It was only a matter of time.

------------------------

Historical Notes:

- The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755: Lasting for 7-10 minutes and at an 8.75-9 on the Richter Scale, the earthquake, which was followed by a tidal wave and the outbreak of fires throughout the city, happened on 1st November, pretty much completely destroyed Lisbon and dealt serious damage to many other parts of Portugal. Its effects were seen and felt in places such as Spain, Switzerland, England, and even as far away as the Caribbean, and aftershocks rocked the city for months after the initial quake. The exact death toll is still not known even today but it’s estimated that 40,000 people in Lisbon perished and a further 10,000 in Portugal, Morocco and Spain.

It was a major contributing factor to the slow decline of the Portuguese Empire and also to the ideas of the Enlightenment; Voltaire’s poem “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster” and his novel “Candide”, written in response to what had happened, attacked the notion of optimism and the belief in a benign and yet omnipotent/omniscient God.

- Spain, France, and England: Immediately after the earthquake happened, Spain opened up the border between him and Portugal and pledged as much aid as Portugal needed; although at first Portugal declined, later on he accepted the help. SOB, Spain, why so frikkin’ adorable and why aren’t you my baby brother >: England also sent what amounted to £100,000 worth of aid. France offered help but was apparently “politely turned down”.

- “That’s more what you do”: England’s referring here to the Iberian Union of 1580-1640. Basically when Portugal had a succession crisis and was in a really serious bind, Spain saw his chance and pretty much took over the country. :’D Philip II of Spain (Philip I of Portugal) was half-Portuguese and did have a claim, and at first Spanish rule was quite fair and kept the Portuguese cortes and nobles. But as time went on the control got tighter and tighter and Spain was kind of, uh. Wrecking the Portuguese Empire big time. Which resulted in Portugal staging a rebellion in 1640 to get his country back. A-actually, the fear of invasion/annexation by Spain has been a pretty major part of what’s directed Portuguese foreign policy throughout history. :’D It’s very much a case of “bro, I love you, but for the love of God stay on your side of the border”.

- “One of England’s colonies”: Not even joking, this was pretty much how the French saw Portugal back in the 18th century. Stay classy, France, seriously. As far as I can tell, this view had a lot to do with how Portugal was using England’s navy to deter either France or Spain from invading (I am not even joking, we had boats parked in the Tagus on a permanent basis and everything >_>), and also the economic relations between the two countries (England bought a pretty huge amount of Portugal’s exports). But still, STAY CLASSY FRANCE. =3=
Tags: canon: hetalia, character: england, character: france, character: portugal, character: spain, fannish, fic
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