Chapter Summary: After a rather unnecessary death, shit starts happening.
Warnings: Blood, Strong Language, Sexual references, and death.
Disclaimer: I own nothing
Sadiq's eyes went wide as the life left him. His last move was to reach for the boy he died protecting. His large hand reached his neck and tugged on the iron cross. The chain broke and the medal landed with a loud clank!
A dark pool of blood spilled from his chest, reflecting the moon and leaves' reflection. Feli stared at it, not registering what the substance was. Heinrich, however, was staring at Elizaveta. She laid on her stomach, aiming her gun where Sadiq used to be. There was a dead look in her green eyes.
"Ó Istenem . . ." She breathed, looking a pale white. The girl, in fact, looked ready to barf. It was her first kill and was not a pleasant one. " . . . Heinrich . . . I-"
"You killed him!" Feli made to lung at her, but the German held him back. Grief struck him like it did with Helen. He felt like Lovino: Unable to control any of his emotions. "You killed him!" The woman stared at him blankly, She had no idea what he was saying.
"Feliciano, that won't help," Heinrich said, holding the child back. The Italian lost his fire and burst into tears. He fell to his knees, sobbing loudly. His sobs, however, could not hide the sound of approaching Italians.
The blond turned to his friend, ordering in English, "Leave."
She shook her head. "No. How can I-"
"Get out of here!" The men were upon them. With one last hard look from him, Elizaveta picked herself off the ground and ran back to Felikstown. She unknowingly passed Antonio and Francis, watching from the safety of the trees.
"Are you going to do something?" The French envoy asked, watching Heinrich be roughly tackled by Italian colonist. He was bound and hauled away. Two other men picked the corpse off the ground.
The Spaniard shook his head. "I was told to never support what I didn't believe," he said, watching a few men try to ease Feli away. But the only thing the haunted child could do was stare at the iron cross, laying in the pool of blood.
Francis looked at him, curiosity in his eyes. He asked, "What do you believe in?"
For a long moment, he was silent. Feli left the glen, leaving the blood to be its only occupant. Antonio emerged from his hiding spot and walked to it. Francis trailed him like a lost dog. The man observed the scene coldly. The tip of his boots touched the blood pool's edge.
As if noticing it for the first time, he scrutinized it carefully. He bent down and pulled Heinrich's iron cross from it. Even covered with red, the silver was able to shine in the moon. Antonio gave his answer: "I believe in the ripples."
Death, in any culture, is not welcomed company. It often meant heartache and days, possibly years, of numbed conscience. If you loved someone enough, surely it was not possible for the one you loved to leave you forever? Romulus was no stranger to that feeling. His precious wife had died, leaving him with two sons to raise while leading a village. In short, he was unforgiving to those who would cause the pain he had felt onto others.
Knowing this, imagine the moment his men brought forth the limp body of Sadiq Adnan. The shrill crying of the ones who loved the Turk made the rage in his heart swirl into his hot blood. Brown eyes alive with furry, he glared at the crowd. "Who did this?" he demanded, clenching his fist.
Two more men approached the leader. They kicked and dragged along Heinrich, who (to his credit) was bearing the bruising and beating with only a mild grimace. Throwing him to the ground, the men stood at an erect attention, arms strictly at their sides. "Feliciano was out in the woods," one of them promptly reported. "Sadiq went to find him and this Englishman attacked them."
Romulus pressed his lips. For an instant, he felt a curt fear- A fear that his youngest son could have possibly died. It only made his blind ire worse. Using his staff, the Italian pointed the prisoner's face upward. The full moon illuminated the features of his pale physique. "Your weapons are strong," he told him, speaking a growling Italian. "But now our anger is stronger." He looked at Heinrich.
There was a knowing look in his vivid blue eyes, one that told him that the white man knew everything he had just said. Yet, the boy just frowned and said nothing to help himself.
It was that silent rebellion that scared him.
Snapping up, his gaze glanced over all of the colonists he had sworn to protect. In a voice like thunder, he declared, "At sunrise he will be the first to die!"
It was met with immediate conversing. Men and women exchanged equal concern over it. The first to die? They were very much going to war. If anyone had any objection, it was not heard over the noise of Feli's.
Said boy pushed his way through the crowd until he was up front. His breath was scarce and panicked. Eyes shifting over his father and his lover, his lip began to tremble. "But Papa-"
"I told you to stay in the village," Romulus scolded, furrowing his eyebrows. His normal carefree, patient attitude was gone. Now, it was replaced with a cold shell. "You disobeyed me. You have shamed your father."
The tears- once again -began falling. He cried, "I was only trying to help!"
"Because of your foolishness, Sadiq is dead!" The boy froze. Never in his life had he heard his father use such a tone. It sounded like wolves on the hunt, poised and ready to attack.
For a moment, Romulus's eyes softened. "Perhaps," he figured. "I'm being too hard on him." The thought quickly disintegrated when his gaze found Heinrich again. Growling, he turned on his heel and returned to his hut. "Take him away." The men wasted no time in lifted Heinrich to his feet and painfully dragging him to his prison.
For a millisecond, Heinrich and Feli's eyes met. The blue eyes shone with accepted sadness before turning away.
Feli felt weak. Crying thicker tears, he fell to his knees and buried his face into his hands. Boisterous sobs escaped his mouth as he felt himself drown in sorrow and anguish. To him, it was all lost. Heinrich was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it. And, like his father said, it was all his fault.
Among all of his crying, he barely noticed his older brother slowly, timidly approach him. Immediately, Feli spilled one of the few thoughts on his mind. "Sadiq was just coming to protect me," he sobbed, feeling unable to breathe.
Lovino, meanwhile, was struck with a grief of his own. In his mind, he was at more fault. Was it not he who sent the 'Turkish Bastard' to his death. Was he not the murder, not ever-innocent Feli? He should be the one confined in guilt, not his little fratello.
Taking a deep breath, he swallowed his pride and did his best to confess. The words stuck to the sides of his throat, making each syllable spit painfully from it. "Feli . . . I . . ." His brother never looked up at him. Lovino scowled and quickly spat, "I fucking sent Sadiq after you."
The younger brother finally looked up. His face was flushed and his eyes were red. "Vee, you what?"
Lovino took another breath. "I was worried about you," he admitted, shifting his amber eyes to the ground. The moon was bright enough to create a shadow for him to kick at. "I thought I was doing the damn right thing."
There was a small silence between them. Neither one of them wanted to speak. Feli just wished that the dawn could come and pass. Just go to a time when he did not have to think of such lamentable undoings.
Still sniffling, he rubbed his arm under his nose. "All of this happened because of me," he said, feeling the compass beneath the folds of his dress. It felt heavier than the largest weight in the world. His tears fell from his eyes and landed softly on the green cloth. "And now I'll never seen Heinrich Beilschmidt again." His voice hitched. "I wish I never met him, that way . . ." He trailed off when Lovino suddenly hugged him.
It had been a long time since it had happened. The last incident had been on Helen's funeral day. Feli had been such a small child, clutching his papa's hand with fright. The very thought of the woman was making him sob loudly and incessantly.
In a blink of an eye, Lovino had his arms around his younger brother. He embraced him tightly, pressing his small frame into his own. It was desperate and silent; A way of begging, "Never leave me."
And now, he was doing it again. The sheer thought of the action showed the weight of the situation before them.
Feli melted into his brother, digging his nails into his back and burying his face into the other's neck. Many of the villagers scattered at the sight, giving them some privacy. The brothers did not part for what felt like a long time.
When they did, a surprising sentence left Lovino's mouth. "Come with me."
Feli tilted his head. "Why, fratello?"
He scowled and looked down again. A tinge of red laid on his cheeks as he tried to convey the reason. Angrily, he asked, "You want to see the white bastard again, right?" The younger one nodded. "Then get your ass moving and come with me."
Still unsure, Feliciano had no other choice but to accept his brother's hand and follow him. He was led to the far side of the village, to the hut where all prisoners were kept. It was rarely used, but when it was, it was mostly for people who were too drunk to be in public.
For the first time in both of the boy's lives, there were guards posted in front of the entrance. Seeing them, Lovino bit his lips. He had not anticipated that. He considered for a moment, turning back and not bothering at all. However, the feeling of Feli's hand in his made his stubbornness show.
Gaining an air of superiority, Lovino held his chin high and approached them. "Feliciano wants to look into the eyes of the bastard who killed Sadiq," he said, glaring at them.
The two guards looked at him, the sniffling boy, then back at each other. "I'm sorry kid," one of them said. "But you're both too young to be going in there."
He curled his lips. "Do you bastards dare defy the will of your future leader?" he demanded, a vein popping in his forehead. "If you want to keep your fucking jobs, then I suggest you let Feli in."
"You're just a kid," the second one pipped. He sounded tired and exasperated. "What are you going to do? Cry to Romulus?"
"And knowing the Old Man, he'll listen." Reluctantly, the guards sighed again. Stomping his foot on the ground, Lovino snapped, "Are you letting him in or not?"
The first guard pulled back the deer skin slap. "Make it quick," he ordered, glaring at the kid who bested him.
Feli continued to cling to his brother's arm. As far as he could see, the inside of the hut was completely dark. It looked like the mouth of a hungry monster. Whimpering, he hid his face in the other's back. Scowling, he yanked him away and shoved him forwards. Stumbling, Feli gave shifting looks to the looming guards before entering the abyss.
Surprising, the inside was much better than he originally anticipated. There was a large hole in the ceiling, allowing the light on the moon to illuminate the room. Stuck through it was a large wood pole. Tied to said pole was Heinrich.
In a flash, Feli had his arms fiercely around him. Heinrich stiffened (he was lost in thought about the situation at hand) before melting into it. "I'm so sorry," The younger boy muttered, keeping his voice low. Even he knew that the guards outside might hear him.
The German laughed, attempting to bring the smile back upon the other's cute face. "For what, this?" he asked. "I've gotten out of worse scrapes than this, like . . ." A lie failed to hit him. "Can't think of any right now, but-"
Feli shook his head, saying, "It would've been better if we'd never met, none of this would've happened."
"Feli, look at me." The Italian obliged. He stared in awe at the man. His lips were drawn in a soft smile whereas those blue eyes seemed to glow with knowledge. "I'd rather die tomorrow than live a hundred years without knowing you, do you understand?"
"I feel as though my whole life has a purpose just because I met you," he said. "Because if I never knew you, I would have no inkling of how precious life can be."
"Feli?" They both saw Lovino at the hut's entrance. Amid the Italian's permanent scowl was a look of true concern. "We have to go now."
The brother held his temper when Feli affectionately cuffed the pale man's cheek. He whispered, "I can't leave you."
"You never will." Heinrich closed his eyes and pressed his cheek into his warm hand. "No matter what happens to me, I'll always be with you. Forever. Now go."
Hesitantly, Feli rose. He kept his hand on the other's face until his legs painfully moved him too far away. His brown eyes never left him until Lovino finally dragged him out into the open.
Alone again, Heinrich leaned into the pole. He did not have to lie; everything he told his love was true. He was so grateful for filling up an empty hole in his life he never knew existed.
Eyes closed shut, he resigned himself to his fate.
"Help! Somebody, help!" Kirkland glanced up from the book he was reading. That voice sounded a lot like that stupid wench. A small, devious smile drew on his lips. "I wonder if she did as she was told." Placing the book, Romeo and Juliet, on the desk, he motioned for Tao to join him at his tent flap.
Outside, Elizaveta was surrounded by concerned colonists. In millions of different accents, they repeatedly asked her what had happened. "Heinrich," she panted, trying to catch her breath. "They got him."
Kirkland raised a thick brow. "An interesting turn of events."
Gilbert roughly took her shoulders. A look of panic shone in his red orbs. "Where's mein bruder?" he demanded, shaking her lightly. "Who has him?" It took the combined efforts of Berwald and Vladimir to pull him away.
Looking remorseful, the green-eyed Hungarian defeatedly shook her head. "The Italians captured him and took him North. There was at least a dozen of them." she said, resisting the urge to cry. The murder she had committed was still fresh in her memory. "Gilbert, I'm so sorry, I-"
"We have to save him!" The Prussian declared, the panic gone. Now, there was nothing but rage possessing, controlling him. "Mein bruder would do the same for us."
Kirkland saw his moment. Believing the gold to be as good as his, he stepped out into the open, ordering his servant to grab his gun. "And so we shall!" Strutting to the front of the crowd, he took a torch off of a post and swung in front of him, illuminating his audience's faces. "I told you those savages couldn't be trusted. Beilschmidt tried to befriend them, and look what they've done to him. But now I say it's time to rescue our courageous comrade. At daybreak, we attack!"
The men cheered, immediately agreeing. The governor could not help but to smirk. How easily he was able to bend these idiots to his will. His acid eyes gazed over his fighters, pleased to see all of them arming themselves.
That is, everyone except Elizaveta. She was glaring at him, drawing her emotions in and only showing her hate. Her eyes told her whole story- they said that the Brit was the guilty one. He frowned and returned her gaze. It silently read that she was the idiot to have fallen for it. They held.
She broke her gaze and reluctantly grabbed her gun. Kirkland smiled again. Peter was going to be proud.
"Where is Antonio?" Romulus demanded, looking over their supply of outdated muskets. All around him were his fighters doing the same thing. Lovino and Feli were in a corner, staring at them. One with protective anger, the other with haunted fear. Their father was worried for them, but at that moment his concern had to be for the village, "I have not seen him in a while."
Heracles blinked, slowly processing the words. "I . . . have . . . not. . ."
He sighed and started cleaning the barrel. Without Sadiq- their best fighter -they were at a serious disadvantage. The English men significantly outnumbered them and wielded better weapons. They had little chance for success, but that did not matter. Romulus was not going to let his people be the doormat to these white demons. If they were going to be defeated, he was going to go with a fight.
Suddenly, Heracles was nudging at his shoulder. Discreetly, he pointed a finger across the room. "Look . . . he's . . . up," he yawned, absently petting one of his many cats.
It took the leader a few moments to realize who he was talking about. Gupta was stiffly and painfully weaving his way through the crowd of men and to the pile of weapons. The white bandage around his leg and the grimace on his face was enough indicator of the poor state he was in.
Romulus sighed and placed his gun on the ground. Swiftly, he made his way to the injured man, frowning at him. "What are you doing up?" he asked, forcing his arm over his shoulder. "You are in no position to be moving about."
Gupta's face remained its usual stone visage. "Heracles told me what happened to Sadiq," he said. Romulus looked at him with sympathy. A form of condolence rose to his throat, but the Egyptian cut him off. "I want to fight."
"You are in no condition to do so," he said. "You are far too weak and-"
"Sadiq would have done the same thing for me." The injured man's dark eyes were set with determination and stubbornness.
The village leader was silent. That was the most he had ever heard the man say. It only showed the severity of the situation. Reluctantly, the Italian sighed. "The minute it grows too dangerous, you are to run away," he ordered. "Understand?"
Gupta did not even allow a smile to form. "Yes sir."
Lovino watched the exchange intently. His papa was never going to allow Feliciano and him there. Thank goodness, he did not believe that neither he nor his brother would be able to survive.
Looking down at him, the boy observed Feli's heartbroken gaze. His thin lips trembled and his face was a dead pallid. The older one gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's going to be dawn soon," he said, soft enough for only Feli to hear. "Let's go to Signor Jones."
He only continued to stare out blankly. "But fratello, you hate him."
"I know," he deadpanned, resisting the urge to angrily lash out. "Now get your ass moving before I change my mind."
With a little more convincing ("Damn idiota! I'm trying to be fucking nice!"), the two brothers were rowing to the glen. As Lovino paddled the oars, he noticed the stars were fading and the sky was slowly growing brighter. A somber line drew on his face. They had maybe an hour left- give or take.
When their canoe knocked on the ancient willow's roots, Feli numbly crawled onto the solid surface. Neither of the boys expected to see Francis and Antonio on their hands and knees, cleaning up the remains of Sadiq's crimson blood. Lucky for the boys, more of it was gone, soaked in the used-to-be white clothes in their hands.
Lovino jumped onto the root and groaned. "What the fuck are you bastards doing?" he asked, rubbing his sweaty hand over his face.
Antonio smiled happily, calling out to his 'little tomato'. Meanwhile, Francis smiled as softly as he could. "We're just making this place tres belle again, non?" Standing, the blonde gathered the rags and threw them far into the forest. Proudly, he flashed Feli a large smile and placed his hands on his hips. "All done. What do you think of-"
Feli suddenly wrapped his arms around the pale man's waist. Burying his face into his chest, he sobbed all of the tears we was trying to hold back. Francis looked down at him, unsure of what to say or do. Lovino was shooting him envious glares, snapping his own brotherly instinct into action.
Petting the child's auburn hair, he cooed comforting words in French. "It's alright," he said, his Italian only half-way decent. "Big brother Francis is here for you."
"Dudes, what's going on?" Signor Jones's face formed in the bark's cracks. It was frowning, wood-eyes miraculously showing worry. "What happened to Heinrich?"
Standing by Antonio, Lovino growled. "The stupid bastards think he killed the masked bastard," he reported, entwining his hand with his fiancé's. At that moment, the only thing he truly wanted was his own chest to bury himself in. But a hand could do. "They're going to kill him at dawn."
The three in the dark gasped. Antonio felt his breath grow shallow. "We have to do something!" he exclaimed, running to grab his ax. "Heinrich didn't-"
"We can't!" The two older men looked at Feli. The boy looked at the two tanned skin males with red eyes and tears stained face. His disconsolate frown and hopeless eyes made his furry seem just.
Signor Jones was the only one to regain his composure. "Feli, dude, remember your dream?" it asked. "It is pointing you down your path-"
"I was wrong!" he yelled, collapsing to his knees. Francis knelt to his height and wrapped a comforting arm around his shoulders. "Signor Jones, I followed the wrong path." He buried his face in his hands. "I feel so lost."
Francis forced a smile. "Now, now. It's not all hopeless," he said. "We all lose our ways at one point of time, but sometimes we need little reminders to keep us on track."
Antonio nodded happily. "Si, like a map, or a compass, or-"
Lovino smacked him. "Stupid bastard! That's not what he meant."
An idea hit Feli. Looking up, the boy once again became aware of the compass in his pocket. Quickly pulling it out, he held the brown device in his small hands. "The compass . . ." he muttered, staring at the face. The arrow on it was spinning, trying to decide where north was.
France raised an eyebrow. "Mon cher, that are you doing?"
". . . the spinning arrow!" Feliciano jumped onto his feet, excited.
The tree grinned broadly, realizing the boy's train of thoughts. "It's the arrow from your dream!"
Lovino smacked his forehead. "You're telling me that the fucking arrow was the fucking compass this whole fucking time?" he demanded.
Antonio laughed and slapped his back. "It would seem so, mi amor."
Meanwhile, the youngest was jumping up and down excitedly. "I was right!" he exclaimed zealously. "It was pointing to him!"
Everyone there noticed the sudden increase of light. They all- even the tree -froze. The sky was turning into a light orange with a pale blue at the edges. The night was gone; morning was upon them. Francis cursed in French. "Sunrise."
"It's not too late, Feli," Signor Jones hastily said. The boy concentrated back down at the compass. The arrow was still spinning incessantly with no sign of stopping. "Let the spirits of the earth guide you!" The arrow stopped, pointing him northward. "You know your path, dude, now follow it!"
Feliciano Vargas ran as fast as his small legs could carry him.
Antonio grabbed his ax, looking determined and deadly. "Follow him Lovi; make sure Feli gets there in time," he ordered, turning into the leader he was. His fiance took a moment to gawk before quickly chasing after him. "Francis, you find your men and make sure Gilbert does nothing stupid."
The white man nodded. "Oui, oui. But Antione, what will you do?"
He lifted his ax over his shoulder. "I'm going to find Romulus and make him stop all of this," he said. "Now get going!"
The forest of the New World was alive. From the south, Kirkland lead his army to the believed location of their Italian enemies. Victory was so close in the Brit's hands. Meanwhile, in the North, Romulus ordered his men to bring the prisoner outside. Heinrich grinded his teeth together as he was dragged across the ground and into the new light. With little reluctance, the leader ordered his men to follow him to the cliff where all punishment- executions -were held.
Feli and Lovino tried to beat the rising sun. The younger brother muttered Italian prayers under his breath, hoping that he was not too late. After a long whole of harsh breathing and pounding feet, they came upon the cliff.
Already, there was a crowd of soldiers gathered around, intently watching as Heinrich was forced to kneel, head bowed. Feeling his heart shake in fear, Feli pushed through them, trying to reach him before Romulus put the gun's barrel to his lover's head.
At the forest below, the Englishmen were emerging. At the sight of their captured comrade, many of them were too stunned to even raise their guns. Governor Kirkland smirked, feeling joy of the coming together of his well-oiled plan. Something like this would surely motivate his men into killing every last Italian.
Gilbert blazed with a protective rage. He raised his musket high, aiming for Romulus's head. Before he could fire, Elizaveta strongly grabbed his arm. He glared at her, demanding that she let him kill the bastard. "Trust me," she hissed.
Fully aware of his new audience, Romulus took a long breath and raised his gun. He was going to make an example of the kneeling German before him. Somberly, he pointed the weapon at Heinrich's head and tightened his trigger finger.
Romulus stopped before the trigger could be firmly squeezed. He stared at his youngest son, unsure that what he was seeing was real. Feli stood in front of the prisoner, hands stretched far and shielding him with his body. Nothing in his small frame spoke of defiance. The boy's brown eyes gleamed with a strong normality. Romulus looked down at him, begging to now the reason why.
Panting heavily, his son said, "Papa, if you kill him you'll have to kill me, too."
The Italians exchanged glances and raised their guns. They could sense a fight coming a mile away. The English raised their guns as well, but they were more hesitant. None of them- Gilbert being the exception -could understand what was being said. Still, they did not want to fight. Shooting just might get their captured comrade killed.
"Gilbert." Said man looked at the woman restraining him. Her green eyes were alight with awe and something deeper, something he could not place. "What are they saying?" she asked.
Gilbert pressed his lips. In preparation for taking over his vatti's company, he had learned most of the Romance languages. "That girl told him not to kill Heinrich," he relayed, unable to fully grasp what he was hearing. "I think she might be his daughter."
Romulus furrowed his eyebrows together. Creases dug into his forehead. "Figlio, stand back," he ordered, gripping his musket's butt tighter.
Elizaveta frowned, seeing her friend's eyes grow wide. "What did he say?" she asked.
"He just called his daughter his son," he breathed, looking a bit more than a little freaked out. "Gott, Italians are so unawesome."
Feli, concentrating only on his father, shook his head. "I won't!" he shouted. His breath was still shallow, but there was a strength that had never showed itself before. Francis and Antonio finally joined the ranks of the their men. Both of them had looks of pride in their awed visages. "I love him, Papa."
Romulus's eyes grew wide. That was why; that was the reason for his son's odd behavior. His grip on the weapon loosened slightly. "Look around you," Feli continued. "This is where the our hatred has brought us. Vee, is this really what you want?" The child turned slightly to Heinrich.
He was speechless, uncomprehending what was happening before him. Was the silly child he met by the waterfall really here before him? Feli wrapped his thin arms around Heinrich's neck. "This is the path I choose, Papa. What will yours be?"
The village leader was silent for a long moment. His son's spirit reminded him of himself when he was young. Flirting with every woman in Europe. The strong love he held for Helen . . .
Romulus glanced at him men. The motion caused the Italians to raise their guns higher. In return, Kirkland signaled his men to copy them. He noticed Antonio standing by Lovino, ax in the ground, shaking his head at him. Even the Spaniard did not want the violence. Standing by the lovers was the injured Gupta, struggling to keep his consciousness.
Making his resolve, Romulus took his gun in both hands and raised it above his head. Voice rising above them like a incoming storm, he declared, "My son speaks with wisdom beyond his years. We've all come here with anger in our hearts, but he comes with courage and understanding. From this day forward, if there is to be more killing, it will not start with me."
He snapped to the guards. "Release him."
Exchanging hesitant looks, they pulled out a knife and moved to the German. Efficiently, they lifted Heinrich to his feet and cut away the ropes. They fell away easily, revealing sore wrist. Looking happier than thought possible, Heinrich rubbed at them and smiled at his lover.
Without another word, he wrapped his strong arms around him and embraced him.
Kirkland's lip curled. His perfectly ingenious plan was falling apart before his eyes. Growling, he unsheathed his decorative sword and pointed it at the cliff. "Now's our chance," he yelled. "Fire!"
"Non!" The Englishmen turned to see Francis lurking behind them. He was covered in scratches, mud, and blood. In no way did he look fine, but there was an undying look of determination in his eyes.
The governor stared at him, mouth agape in incomprehension. "Francis, where have you been," he demanded, feeling a wave of relief crash over him. Now King Feliks won't hang him for starting another Hundred Years War. "We all thought you were dead."
He shook his head. "That does not matter," he replied. "The Italians do not want to fight."
All the euphoria Kirkland had previously felt quickly melted away. "Bloody git, why should I do that?" he snapped. By now, every Englishman was listening and watching this battle for dominance. "They're going to kill Beilschmidt-"
"They let him go."
"How do we know that they aren't going to turn and kill us?"
"In his speech!" Francis pointed a finger at Romulus. "He said that he was not going to hurt anyone, right Gilbert?" All eyes focused on the Prussian. They all wanted verification, proof of what the Frenchman said was true.
The albino sighed reluctantly. "The Italians are being awesome and letting mein bruder go," he said. He gripped his gun tighter before snarling and throwing it to the ground. "If they aren't going to fight, then neither should we!"
"It's a trick, don't you see?" Kirkland frantically exchanged glances at all of his men. Every single one was frowning and shoot him glares. Desperately, he pointed his sword higher. "Fire!" No one moved.
Kirkland saw everything fall into the fray. His gold, his glory, his son . . . it was all gone . . .
Acid eyes blazing with fire, he snatched Gilbert's gun off the ground. "Fine, I'll settle this myself." He aimed at the tallest and closest person on the cliff.
Still hugging Feli, Heinrich heard the words. He quickly looked at the gun and, with his eyes, trailed up to the target: Romulus.
"No!" In a split second, Feli was thrown to the side and Heinrich was falling to the ground in front of the father. A flood of dark red blood flowed through the cracks between his fingers. Immediately, Feli leaped to his side, crying and begging him to stay alive. Meanwhile, Romulus searched for the source of the bullet.
He was pleased with the sight at the cliff's base.
"Du Schwein!" Gilbert screamed, lashing at the shooter. His fist made painful contact with Kirkland's face, sending him to the ground. Not a second later, he was straddled on top of his, wrapping his hands around his victim's throat. "You shot mein bruder!"
Kirkland gagged and choked, trying to make distinguishable words. After a few moments, Francis rose to the governor's defense. "Gilbert, that's enough," he ordered, pulling him away. "Heinrich jumped in front of it; it's his own fault."
The albino snarled. "That bastard should not have been firing in the first place!"
Rodderich stood by Elizaveta. He was more than happy that the fighting was finally over. Still, the brunette could not help but to say out loud. "You know, even if it was an accident, Kirkland could still be charged with murder."
The Hungarian looked at him. "Really?" A devious smile drew onto her lips. With more force than the blond, she yanked Gilbert to his feet. "Enough of that," she ordered, sounding like an angry mother. Before the man could lash out, she shoved him towards the cliff. "Go make sure your brother is still alive."
Completely forgetting his rage, Gilbert ran to do just that. Frowning, she turned her attention back to Kirkland. He had a hand over his throat, coughing and regaining his breath. Smiling cruelly, the brunette knelt to his height. "You've been a slipshod sailor and a poor excuse for a governor." she quoted, no longer feeling fearful of him. "Even for a man. You wouldn't have the opportunity to disappoint me again. You are under arrest for the shooting of Heinrich Beilschmidt. Men, arrest him!"
Berwald and Matthias were more than happy to do so. As they quickly bound the Brit's hands, he glared at her, barking obscenities not fitting for a 'gentleman'.
All Elizaveta did was smirk. Show no evil, show no fear.
Quickly, she hurried to the path at the side of the cliff, prepared to join Gilbert and Feli at Heinrich's side.
"Do you think he's going to make it, Elizaveta?" The Hungarian paused in her work. It had been nearly a week since that fateful shooting. Things had been hectic. All of them- English and Italian -did their best to heal the invalid, but their efforts were going to waste. It was only the day after did Heinrich suggest to go back to England. With a debate, they agreed to prepare the ship.
Trying to return to her duty of loading the luggage, she concentrated her attention to the speaker, Gilbert. "The sooner he gets back to England, the better," she replied somberly. She would have liked to leave it off at that, but his crimson eyes were yearning for an elaboration. "He's injured really badly, Gil," she said, placing a hand on his shoulders. Even as she spoke, tears were welling in her eyes. "It'll take a miracle for him to make it."
The Prussian nodded, looking down at the ground. His white hair was greasy from days of bad hygiene. "Well the awesome me is going with him," he said, trying to sound confident, but even that was failing. "I'll make sure he makes it!"
She could not help but to smile, saying, "Heinrich is lucky to have a brother like you." She returned to her job, securing a few cloth bags on a row boat to shore. A pale hand touched hers. Looking up, she saw- to her amazement -Gilbert full of seriousness.
"Are you staying here?" he asked, holding her hand in his. The Hungarian nodded. "I'm going to be going with mein bruder." He took a long breath. "We'll probably never see each other again."
"Yes, I know." Elizaveta placed her other hand over their joined ones, protecting it like a precious speck of gold dust. She couldn't say exactly what was on her mind, but she knew Gilbert could live never hearing those words. "It'll be a lot quieter without you."
"Ja, I know." They were both quiet for a long moment. At last, Gilbert gently raised her hands and pressed them to his lips. Even she could not help but to blush at the gentle kiss. "Elizaveta, promise me that you'll forget the awesome me and hook up with someone? Preferably Rodderich." She looked at him as if he was crazy. "What? He told me once that he really liked you-"
Fiercely, she yanked her hands away. "What made you think that I even care about you?" she demanded, still blushing a vivid shade of red. "You've been nothing but a pain in my ass!" Folding her arms over her chest, she added, "And that's why I'm never going to forget you!"
"What are you two talking about?" Rodderich asked, completely oblivious to their topic of discussion. "I heard my name . . ." He was rightly ignored.
If Gilbert found some form of comfort in the girl's words (he did), he did not show it. "Fine, be that way!" He snapped angrily. "Just go ahead and be an arschloch."
"Fine then, you fattyú!" The Hungarian marched away angrily, muttering about how much of an headache he was. She barely heard the Austrian ask the albino what they were talking about.
Trying to forget Gilbert Beilschmidt, Elizaveta scanned the bustling shore for a distraction. A few yards away, she noted Kirkland being thrown into an empty row boat. He was being guarded by Berwald and Vladimir. The Brit, gagged and bound, yelled incoherent insults and threats.
His once faithful servant, Tao, stood at the side, sighing with melancholy. "And he, like, came so highly recommended."
Shaking her head, the girl further searched for a source of entertainment. She found it a few feet away where Heinrich laid on his stretcher. Tino and Vash were tending to him, reminding him of every danger to infection. The German, however, barely paid them any heed. His eyes were concentrating on the forest behind them.
Sighing, she came up to him, shooing the other men away. Tino and Vash were happy to oblige, giving their hero one last goodbye before leaving them alone. Elizaveta knelt down to Heinrich, smiling softly. "The ship's almost ready," she told him. "We'd better get you on board or we'll lose the tide."
"Nein, not yet," Heinrich begging, still gazing wistfully into the forest. "He said he'd be here."
The woman ran her hand over his blond hair, biting her lips guiltily. She could see the bandage around his stomach from under his white shirt. There was a small trace of blood among the crisp white. A foreboding feeling overcame her. "Heinrich, why are you doing this?" she asked suddenly. "You'll have a better chance at survival if you stay here. So why are you . . ."
"I'm going to die, Elizaveta." She gasped and covered her mouth. The peaceful smile on his lips only brought tears to her eyes. Heinrich rested his head on his pillow, staring up at the sky. "There is no way I'm going to ever recover from a bullet wound like this," he said. "But I don't want Feli to experience the pain of my passing. I'll rather leave suddenly and leave him wondering then have him crying for the rest of his life. He deserves better."
Elizaveta heard the Italians coming before he did. A hand still over her mouth, she silently pointed a shaking finger at them. Heinrich strained his neck to see a dozen of them breaking through the forest line. Led by Feli, they all held baskets of perishable food. Among them were Antonio, Lovino, Romulus, Gupta, and countless others.
In an offering of peace, they all gently placed them on the soft grass.
By now, every Englishman had noticed their presence. They all stared in awe, unsure of what to think of the display. Feli pulled a small cloth bag from his basket before skipping over to his lover. Elizaveta, unable to take the sight, ran away to Rodderich's arms.
"I brought you something!" Feli sang, pretending not to notice the dire wounds. He planted himself by Heinrich's side all while smiling brightly. Placing the bag in his hand, he said, "Here. It's from Signor Jones's bark. It'll help with the pain."
"Having you here is enough for me," he replied smoothly. With a smile, "But I'll make sure to use it."
Romulus and Lovino came to his other side. One was smiling while the other one was looking away with a scowl. To Heinrich, it was a charming sight to see the whole Vargas family together in peace. "You saved my life," Romulus said, placing a folded blanket on the German. As he spread it over the stretcher- instantly warming him -he said, "You are always welcome among our people. Grazie, my son."
"I can't believe you're leaving!" Francis cried, supported by Antonio. Feli, Romulus, and Heinrich could not help but to chuckle. Lovino just snapped for the 'wine bastard' to shut up. They both stole the empty spots by Feli's sides.
Grinning brightly, the single Spaniard nodded. "Si, it'll be lonely here without you."
Heinrich chuckled again. "I don't understand why you're both staying here," he said. "You guys have promising careers in Europe."
The blond shrugged. "Antoine is assigned to be here-"
"But I still wouldn't leave my fiancé behind!" he leaped over to the boy. "Come here, Lovi~!"
The Italian fell back as he was hugged and ravished by the man. "Get the fuck off of me, bastard!" He screeched, begging for his Papa's help. The man only laughed.
Francis continued, "And I rather like it here. No stick-in-the-mud rosebiffs to worry about. Plus-" He leaned in and whispered, "How can I ever pass up on an ass like Antione's? Which reminds me . . ."
Feli's brown eyes watched intently as the Frenchman theatrically reached into his pocket and pulled out a necklace. From it hung the Beilschmidt family's iron cross. "Ta-da! All fixed!"
The Italian boy clapped excitedly, squealing compliments and amazements. Heinrich delicately took the necklace and held it in the air. "It looks as good as new," he breathed, watching the sun glint off the old metal. It felt good to hold it, but . . . "Here." The German extended his hand to his lover. "I gave it to you so it's yours."
Feli looked ready to accept it, but a look from his father told him otherwise. "Vee, you should keep it," he said, pushing his hand back. "You said that your papa gave it to you, si? You want to him see it again when you return to England."
Heinrich laughed. "He's such a serious man; he'll love to get a load of you."
The boy jumped in his spot, saying, "I should come with you!"
The white man paused. As much as he wanted to be with Feliciano Vargas, he could not let the boy live in such despair. Feeling weaker than before, his cold hand cupped the boy's cheek. "Your family needs you here," he said. "And you need to stay where you're needed."
Feli frowned. "But I love you."
As his brother freaked out, Heinrich smiled. "And I love you too and that's why I want you to stay here where you're safe. But . . ." Feli leaned in, anticipating something important. Taking a long, painful breath, his lover said, "If I don't return in a year, I want you to forget about me. Find someone else to love, understand?"
Every person but the boy felt the weight on those words. Many took their hats off and lowered their heads. The Italians made the sign of the cross. It was so clear: The German was planning on leaving this world and never coming back.
Not reading the atmosphere, Feli lightly pecked his lips. "You'll be with me forever," he said. "With Mama."
Feeling ready to cry, Heinrich did the one thing he could think of. He placed his hand on the back of Feli's head and brought his face closer to his. They kissed for a long moment, tangling their hands in each other's hair. Warmth passed between them as both of them felt their love grow stronger.
At last, they parted for air. Almost immediately, Gilbert nudged his brother's shoulder. "We have to go now," he said softly. "We're going to miss the unawesome tides." With a numbed nod, the Prussian had the right to carry him away.
Together with Rodderich, they lifted the stretcher and carried him to a row boat. The whole walk, Feli held his hand, silently begging for him to stay. They placed him in the boat and kicked off into the water.
Feli stayed on shore, watching with tearful eyes as they rowed to their ship. He barely noticed Romulus placing a strong, reassuring hand on his shoulder. "It's for the best," he comforted.
The boy didn't answer. He only stared out, barely listening to Antonio tease Lovino for crying silent tears. "Aw, you must have really liked him, mi amor!"
"I don't like him, damnit!" The other Vargas snapped, wiping away his tears. "I'm glad the bastard is gone!"
For a moment, Feli turned to see his brother fighting away his fiancé's hug as Francis seeked a way to touch it. He saw Elizaveta crying and hugging Rodderich for comfort. What a sad, sad scene. But, during that moment, the ship Heinrich and Gilbert stayed on started to sail away.
When his brown eyes returned to it, a wave a panic seized him.
Before anyone could stop him, Feli was running after it. Through the thick trees and brush, he ran as fast as his thin legs could carry him. They ached, but he was determined to stay at pace with the 'strange clouds'. Soon, his legs were aching but he did not care. He had to beat that ship.
At last, the land inclined upward and the trees died away. Open air surround the cliff looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. Feli stopped right at the edge, seeing the ship sail away from him. Tears fell from his eyes as he desperately yearned for it to turn around.
But the feeling soon disappeared. The wind- Helen Vargas -blew around him, wrapping her comforting arms around his lanky body. Along with the leaves, his tears were carried out into the open and to the boat.
On deck, Gilbert sat next to Heinrich's stretcher. He looked up, noticing the wind blowing into the sails and making them depart faster. Nudging his brother, he exclaimed at the beauty of their 'awesome' colors.
Heinrich gave a wry smile and looked at the slowly shrinking New World. He could see the cliff and a small figure standing at it. He didn't need to be told who it was.
Remembering their first meeting, Heinrich pressed the tips of his fingers to his lips and blew a goodbye kiss to him.
Little did he know, a crying Feli was doing the exact same thing.
Yet, they both could feel each other's lips on their own.
As the wind continued to blow and his green dress continued to flutter around him, Feli realized something. "I'm never going to see Heinrich ever again." The thought only made him cry more.
Later, long after the boat was gone and Heinrich Beilschmidt with it, Feli sat on that very same cliff with his drawing pad. Diligently, he drew his face over and over again, promising his heart to never forget.
If he never knew him, Feli was sure he would have no idea of how precious life and love could be.
Many years had passed since that day. Feliciano Vargas was now a grown lad, past those awkward teenage years and into a full-fledged adult. But he never acted it. As Francis would describe it, "It's as if mon cher was stuck in the mindset of a little boy." No one really minded- Elizaveta adored the idea of having someone childish to play with her son, Heinrich Edelstein.
Lovino did a have few qualms about it. When he wasn't pretending not to be worried about his upcoming wedding, he was cursing about his brother's immaturity.
But Feli did not care. The years had been kind to him in many ways but one.
Every day, without fail, the Italian would travel to Felikstown for news from England. After rejoicing at the imprisonment of Arthur Kirkland, he was left wondering where his Heinrich was. Neither he nor Gilbert sent anyone any letters. A few years back, Elizaveta tried telling him that the boy was dead, but he refused to believe it.
After all, Heinrich would never do that to him. Right?
On that particular day in winter, the boy was in town seeking a present for Lovino and Antonio's wedding. Many people were already planning on giving them tomato plants, but Feli wanted to get something super special. He skipped through the growing fort- now a town filled with pale people -thinking about the possibilities. "Maybe I can get them a tomato flavored cake," he thought zealously. "Fratello would really-" He crashed into something hard.
"Ah, Mi dispiace!" He cried, rubbing the aching area on his head. "I didn't see you there! Please don't kill me! I have a cousin in Fra-"
"What in Gott's name are you talking about?" Feli paused and looked up.
Heinrich was staring down at him.
The Italian breathed in sharply. In a split second, he hand his arms around his neck. "You came back~!" He cried before kissing him sweetly on the lips.
The only problem was that Heinrich did not return the kiss.
Feli broke away and immediately realized his mistake. The Heinrich he knew had warm blue eyes. The man before him had blue eyes colder than ice and snow. "But everything fits Heinrich perfectly," he thought, jumping away from the glaring shocked man. "Even his hair feels like Heinrich's . . ."
"Why in Gott's name did you do that?" The tall stranger asked, trying his best to hide his small blush. "Is that traditional in the colonies?"
The boy could not help but to smile. "Si, of course! It's how we Italians say 'ciao!'" He replied, smiling brightly. "I'm Feliciano Vargas, who are you?"
A long sigh. "I'm Ludwig Beilschmidt." The boy's brown eyes went wide. He even had the same name. Before he could even dwell on the fact any longer, the apparent German scratched the back of his head. "I'm an envoy from Germany and I need to talk to the leader of the Italian colonies, your vatti. Can you take me to him?"
Feli pushed away his suspicions and smiled again. "Si!, of course!" He excitedly took his hand and started dragging him to his home. Along the way, he rambled on about his home life and how nice the food was.
Ludwig gave the occasional grunt.
Ludwig may not have been Heinrich, but there was a comfort in the familiar feeling in his heart and Feliciano Vargas had no plans of ever letting that go.