Genre: General/ Slice of Life
Characters: Australia, Germany, and Prussia.
Word Count: 7,327
Summary: After his landslide victory in the FIFA Group Elimination matches, Germany seeks a conversation with Australia. In turn, they find out a little bit more about each other and their own selves.
Disclaimer: Hetalia and all of its characters all belong to Hidekaz Himaruya, and no monetary profit whatsoever is gained from writing this piece of fiction.
They arched across the sky; ornate steel ribbons that framed a wide, all-seeing eye of blue that opened up into the heavens.
Germany saw infinite blue above and viridian below, with shades of white dappled in between. More colors swam in and out of his vision. They came as streaks, like tiny rainbows. Swipes of gold darted on the fields.
The stadium was a true work of art, Germany thought.
Its whitewashed walls and the high-rise beams that stretch and loom above billowed slowly like ivory water. Sunlight poured in generously from the open sky, creating that dazzling yellow green spark at the field beneath. Germany drunk in every bit of detail; he appreciated the magnitude and enormity of it - the atmosphere. The crowd breathed and gasped and cheered as one. Germany tasted the adrenaline - bittersweet and strangely intoxicating like amber beer.
It was nothing like he ever experienced back at his home. Germany was truly astounded by it. The game was like a peculiar battlefield. Certainly there were two sides (blackredgold, steadfast and unyielding; shimmering bluewhitered, reminded Germany of the turbulent ocean), but Germany felt that they are united as one at the same time, cheering in earnest for the same thing. Strange, really.
Once again, Germany was caught off guard. The crowd breathed and roared again in a unified frenzy. The entity’s life and energy never dwindled. It churned, bubbled, and burst in intervals Germany never expected. (A battlefield, indeed...)
From the looks of things, it seemed that his team scored again. At the field below, the men clad in white exchanged pats and cheers of exhilaration. Definitely German pride at its finest!
Germany heard the adrenaline pumping once more, so close that he felt the crowd’s heart race with that excited desire. He looked at the person at his left – a burly male right that seemed to be around his human age. The young man’s face was flushed with pure joy, laughing and bouncing like a child that received an overdue birthday present. His face was painted with the German tricolor – the ubiquitous black, red, and gold.
Black. Red. Gold.
Germany rarely chanced upon such a gallant display of patriotism. He was a country that had been full of strife, a nation with dubious parts in its history that made the world avert their eyes on him. Trudging to live on forever was hard, knowing there was something terrible that you can never change, no matter how much you willed it away.
He was very much pleased that such an event could bring out the budding pride from his people. A tiny, tiny part tucked deep within him still wondered if he was still worth it, despite all the mistakes he made.
At Germany’s right, Prussia was screaming himself hoarse, toting and pumping his vuvuzela in the air as the German team darted in and out at the field.
“West! Did you see that goal? Fucking awesome!” Prussia took a deep breath (At this point, Germany thought that his brother was becoming all too young again.) and prepared to blow a powerful gust of air into his vuvuzela. Knowing what was coming next, Germany covered his ears before it was unleashed.
The unholy sound it emitted made Germany press his palms to his ears just a bit tighter. His attempts were futile; the buzzing continued its relentless assault. The chorus of the vuvuzelas engulfed the entire coliseum under the sound of a cataclysmic horde of horseflies. Germany gritted and ground his teeth; his eardrums would never be the same after this match.
It was a miracle that he still managed to hear Prussia braying over all the hellish humming.
“Goddamnit, show some enthusiasm, West! Clap! Jump!” - Prussia did a little jig in his seat. - “Cheer! Your vuvuzela needs some blowin’ action!” He motioned to the sorely ignored instrument by Germany’s feet.
Germany clapped his hands a little bit too forcefully to get away with feigning. It seemed enough to placate Prussia, though. His attention swiveled back to the game, settling himself to those satisfied, confident smirks. (C’mon, kick their asses to kingdom come!”)
Of course, Germany was thrilled at the prospect of their team’s victory. But he would be damned before he jumps up and down and making those silly waving motions with his arms. Germany shuddered at the thought; Prussia would never let him live it down if he witnesses him doing that. In genuine German fashion, Germany cheered for his team his own way – reserved, collected, and pretty much void of any overly dramatic bodily movements and sounds.
“Pssst, hey!” Prussia was now nudging Germany in the shoulder with his elbow. He had that look in his eye again – that malicious glint that usually spelled a lot of mischief and headaches on Germany’s part.
“Now’s a good time to use that drill sergeant voice of yours, Captain. Give a pep talk to those Australians so they’d give us a good fight!”
Germany snorted. “I don’t think they would appreciate that. Nor Australia would, for that matter.”
It was Prussia’s turn to scoff. “Please. We can take him on any time.”
“Stop picking fights, brother.”
Prussia raised his hands in mock defense. “West, West, West. Are you accusing me of being a little delinquent? It’s called healthy competition!”
Germany decided to join in Prussia’s little charade. “Do what you want. Just remember to call me when you’re in the hospital, moaning and dying from an animal-inflicted injury. You know Australia has plenty of those dangerous monstrosities.”
Prussia rolled his eyes for great effect. Under the pretense of mock fear, he covered his face with the palms of his hands. One crimson eye peered through a crack in his fingers, a tiny beacon of red that exuded a little lunacy. “Oooh, I’m quaking in my widdle sneakers.”
Germany chuckled dryly to chide Prussia's little performance. Once Prussia looked satisfied, he snapped his attention right back into the match. His boys were in the lead, still - three versus nil. Victory is most definitely at hand; there was simply no way for the other team to catch up right now, given the elapsed time.
The German team was utterly ruthless – a perfect synchronization of head-on offense and an airtight defense. On the field, the ball sliced through the air like a black and white comet. Feet, hands and heads scrambled to get it. He commended his team on such an excellent display of nimble footwork and staggering movements that awed every spectator. There had been a lot of close calls that made him grip his seat in anticipation. Despite those, they still managed to keep on top. Truly, his team was a force to be reckoned with this time around.
Once again, the stands erupted in a unified crescendo. From the looks of it, Team White managed to score another goal.
Prussia looked about ready to explode in his seat.
“Hell yeah! Who’s your daddy now?”
Germany clapped automatically with more heartfelt vigor this time. And without Prussia’s prodding. The years of battles in trenches and open fields were long gone; but the feeling of victory never changed. It never lost its novelty, even if it was just a victory derived from a mere sport.
Before Germany realized it, the game was over. Banners decked in blackredgold flutter in the breeze. The crowd’s cheers rose to a feverish pitch; Germany felt the excitement, the sudden spike of the tempo. It crawled and vibrated through the soles of his feet – just that tiny electric tingle that seemed to course on his skin.
Germany reveled in it.
A timely blast from Prussia’s vuvuzela snapped Germany out from his little reverie.
“West, we sure cleaned up that one easy!” Prussia thumped Germany’s back with enthusiastic vigor. Prussia’s eyes were more alive than ever; his face was shining with the thinnest sheen of sweat, radiating with that special brand of brazen youth.
“Ready for a beer or two? A case? I’m not being stingy right now.” Prussia fished for his wallet from the back of his jeans. There was a considerably large wad of bills in it.
Germany surveyed the inordinate amount of money. “Have you been participating at those betting pools again?”
Prussia scratched his head sheepishly. “Well, yeah, I might have … ” He shriveled once he caught that infinitesimal flash of annoyance in Germany’s eyes.
“Fine, my treat then!” Prussia acquiesced. Germany decided that it was best not to prod the matter anymore; it was a lost cause.
A cool summer breeze drifted over Germany as he stepped out of the stadium. He noticed that thick tension again, settling once more onto the crowd - stifling, blissfully choking. It waited with bated breath once more, its chorus of a million voices just lying dormant until it exploded once more with a force of a bomb.
Prussia now insisted that they drink themselves silly in the light of their “awesome” victory, as he eloquently put it. Since it seemed that Prussia had some extra cash to spare, Germany indulged. His brother was right about one thing – events like these that entail a celebration only happened once in a blue moon.
“I’ve done a little bit of research.” Prussia huffed his chest in pride. “Florida Road’s the best place here to get drunk.”
“Research?” Germany raised an eyebrow in astonishment. “I certainly didn’t expect that from you. You can’t even be convinced to skim over the pertinent data I’ve been sending you, let alone interpret it.”
“There’s a simple explanation for that.” Prussia’s eyes glimmered with all that vibrant, reckless confidence of his. He tucked his hands into the pockets of his jeans ever so casually. “This is important.”
Sometimes, Germany did contemplate why he even bothered to ask.
Nothing notable happened en route to Florida Road. Prussia’s decidedly animated renditions of the highlights of the match provided a nice enough distraction. He did say that it was wholly necessary to recall the experience in all of its vivid glory, since it was “freakin’ awesome”, though the whooshing sounds and the awkward random kicking did ruin the effect a little. Prussia remarked that it is indeed a beautiful day.
For once, Germany couldn’t agree more.
The city of Durban seemed to be in a festive mood, too. Amidst Prussia’s unusually detailed match analysis of how the “Australian team sucked”, Germany heard the gentle pitter-patter of feet from brightly colored rickshaws; the huckstering cries of street merchants; the high-pitched wailing of rubber tires on asphalt. Germany noted that everything looked chaotic and topsy-turvy at first glance.
It was certainly nothing like Berlin or Frankfurt. In his home, history quietly whispered through the sweeping castles, the majesty and courage (Ruthlessness, Germany sometimesalways reminded himself.) of soldiers from long past. Rolling knolls spoke of a certain silence, secrets that shouldn’t be told, a certain disquiet that was impalpable.
Durban had a different life to it. Gleeful ruckus punctuated the air, a strange kind of cacophonic melody that Germany can’t fully grasp. Everything was so disparate and interspersed – the people, the noises, the places - and yet a single string of coherence seemed to tie them into one at the same time. Germany saw everything live in the present, carefree and unbound.
They were now passing through a cluster of trees that surrounded the stadium, Germany noticed. It was a nice, tiny refuge from the overbearing gray of cement and asphalt that seemed to build up most of the cities nowadays.
Something caught his eye between the foliage.
It was definitely something his eyes wouldn’t catch if he wasn’t surveying the surroundings with a steady eye. A person appeared to be nestled between the tree trunks, lying. From a distance, Germany concluded that it must be a guy; a rather taut, muscular thigh poked out into the open. The surrounding bushes made it almost impossible to spot him. A telltale flash of gold from his clothing distinguished him out of monochromatic shades of green shrubbery.
For the most part, the colors looked unusually familiar even from afar. Germany crooked his head to the left just a little bit to get a better look. From that angle, he spotted a smatter of brown among the bushes – a familiar mop of hair that was slicked back, much like Germany’s. Judging by the way he was still, he appeared to be sleeping there of all places. Germany already had an inkling of who it might be. Not many people were too keen on the idea of sleeping outdoors in broad daylight.
The Land Down Under certainly knew no inhibitions.
Even though he already had a well-earned reputation as one of the tougher Nations, Australia should really be more careful with his lounging spots.
In times like this, Germany knew better than to get himself entangled in possibly awkward (dangerous) situations. Goodness, he knew that he already had his fair share of those with Italy and Romano. Another side was nagging him to do so. Mr. Better-Be-Safe-Than-Sorry always rose from the recesses from the very back of his mind, sibilantly whispering until his chest ached.
After all, there was nothing wrong with a simple conversation. It would only be a courteous gesture after that game.
However, there were infinite possibilities.
Scenario One was the most visually placating. He could talk to Australia now and leave with all of his limbs intact. There were rarely any opportunities for Nations to have a small chat; Germany supposed this was one such chance to take. It could even strengthen diplomatic relations! Australia was one of his primary trading partners, after all.
Scenario Two was far more disconcerting. He could talk to Australia and have himself mauled by some rabid animal. Australia did have a unique penchant for taming creatures. It would be no task for him to sic a snake or something equally dangerous on Germany. He didn’t know much about Australia in the first place, so anything could happen. Australia didn’t speak that much during world conferences, and everyone there rarely knew everyone else. He didn’t have much to go on to gauge Australia’s character.
Prussia did a little double-take. “Hmm?” A raised eyebrow. “Why d’you stop, West?”
If Prussia were to accompany him, the chances of achieving a sane and peaceful conversation would be drastically reduced. Germany could see it in his mind’s eye; Prussia would strut in that suave swagger of his, stare right into Australia’s eyes, and would say the only thing that came into his mind: “Germans rule, Aussies drool!” Fists would soon fly, and Germany could only do nothing but sigh and witness it all unfold with bleary eyes. So much for diplomatic relations.
But that was not going to happen.
Germany decided that it would be best not to involve Prussia in this. It was one of the basic rules of rational methodology. The less factors that were involved, the better. It would be easier to think, to grasp the situation at hand without worrying about anything or anyone else. World meetings were a prime example of that – it was difficult to take action when you have to worry about another or hundred or so opinions that needed much compromise.
“I’ve just remembered.” Germany felt his collar tighten a little. He hated lying through his teeth, even if it was to Prussia of all people. “I need to make some calls. Business matters.” Yes, Prussia would definitely buy that excuse. After all, he never really felt the need to meddle in such inane exchange of words, of agendas that were never fully attended to.
Prussia’s scowl could have looked comical if not for the situation. His forehead and cheeks crinkled and crumpled like pasty cream-colored dough in mortification and disgust. “What business? This is the fucking World Cup, West. Nobody goes on business.”
Germany tried to fabricate an excuse from the forefront of his mind. “I-”
Prussia clapped a hand onto Germany’s shoulder. “Stop. If I hear another lick about GDPs and more finer details about how the production sector is going downhill, I think my head will explode.”
Prussia was acting quite predictable for once.
“I’ll just go on ahead and reserve some seats for you. I’ll call you once I find a nice enough place.” Prussia waved a hand lazily and winked. “I might even score a couple of dates for you, West. You need to get laid, you know that?”
A hot, embarrassing shade of red rippled up to his cheeks. Heat rose to them in a simple blink of an eye. Germany was surprised when Prussia didn't even catch that reaction. His brother would have been pleased with himself. Germany really didn’t need his brother of all people to tell him that. Even though he acknowledged himself as a bit socially challenged, he perfectly knew that he could get a date on his own. He just didn’t want to. Yes, that was certainly it.
“And you need to relax. Seriously, you’ve got to cut yourself some slack, you know? I don’t want you getting a heart attack or anything like that.” Prussia huffed and looked at Germany straight in the eye. Germany was taller in comparison, more muscular, more dominating, but he couldn’t help but squirm a little at Prussia’s glare.
Germany sometimes forgot that Prussia was his older brother still. And brothers were supposed to look out for each other. Prussia definitely was not the doting type – the kind of person who would be up for a game of ball or camping on the weekends – but he was there when you needed him. And when you didn’t, to be brutally honest.
Germany wordlessly opened his mouth for quite a few times before making coherent words. Not wanting to sound anything out of the ordinary, he cleared his throat for good measure. There was nothing else he could do now. “Thank you. I’ll be sure to remember that.”
Prussia turned to leave with a strange finality. His sneakers squeaked and grated against the asphalt as he spun on the balls of his heels, facing the streets ahead that were gratuitously embellished with noise and boisterous color.
That was unusually easy for Germany’s tastes.
Now, for the matter at hand. Diplomatic relations. All for diplomatic relations. Germany kept replaying that mantra as he walked into the gardens. Dead leaves crunched beneath his footfalls. The breeze had stopped flowing. Not very encouraging omens, to say the least. Every step was accompanied with an intensifying dread.
Reaching the area where Australia was sleeping almost took forever. This always happened when he was apprehensive about doing something. Then again, this was Australia, Germany reminded himself. England’s ex-colony may be more attuned to the wilder side, but was he still approachable by all means. Or so Germany heard.
Peering from behind the tree trunk, Germany was much pleased to see that it was Australia. He was sleeping under the canopy of branches overhead. Soft snoring whistled on the breeze. Australia was lying sideways to the left, using his crooked left arm to pillow his head. This surely was a strange place to sleep. Germany barely knew Australia – but now he was sure of one thing – Australia’s relaxing skills can potentially rival Greece’s.
Seemingly popping out of nowhere, Australia’s koala peered up curiously from its owner’s exposed leg.
The koala looked at Germany with bloodshot eyes. It appeared to be angry. For a creature that had earned a renowned reputation of being cuddly, it was certainly intimidating. Using its stubby legs, it teetered over to Germany, keeping that red-eyed glare all the while.
It stood and stared at him for a good minute or two, gaze never dropping or wavering. From the looks of it, it wasn’t afraid of humans or Nations alike. That must be the reason why Australia was comfortable in staying in such an exposed area. He had an astute bodyguard at his disposal. Very clever. Clearly, appearances could be deceiving.
Once it decided that Germany was no threat to its master, it raised a paw and began to drum Australia’s belly. It occurred to Germany that it’s trying to wake its owner.
There was no reaction. More heavier pats this time around.
It looks like it worked for the most part – Australia began to stir. A choked and frustrated grumble. He turned to his right side, away from Germany. Raising a hand, he made shooing gestures - like he was swatting a particularly insistent mosquito. The bothered flapping reminded Germany of Prussia; his brother made the same ridiculous actions when Germany came to wake him in the mornings.
The koala’s ministrations were not effective in the slightest. Its eyes were now reduced to narrow slits. Germany stepped back a little – this was clearly a danger sign. It raised the hem of Australia’s jersey about halfway up his torso, revealing a really distracting amount of skin.
Raising its furry paw once more, it poised for a fatal strike. Germany realized that sharp claws now adorned the ends of its stubby paw. They shone like little jet-black daggers against the afternoon sun. It was too late before Germany could stop it. In one quick swipe, the koala dug its paw lightly on its master’s tender, velvety skin.
Australia woke with a sudden jolt of his limbs. For a second or two, his arms flailed in thoughtless panic. His head swiveled left and right, comically attempting to find the intruder. After a few moments of fruitless leering, he finally bore his glare on the culprit. The creature stared right back at him. Fear was probably one thing that it was immune to; it didn’t even cower under its master’s scrutiny.
“Fuck, that hurt!” Australia muttered, rubbing his tummy gingerly. “If you’re going to maim and stab me, just do it more gently, aye?”
He grabbed the koala by its stumpy little arms. “Don’t tell me that you’re hungry again. You just ate three helpings of euca-”
Their eyes met. There was a telling pause as Germany and Australia stared at each other. Apart from being a little peeved, (Anyone would be annoyed after a rude awakening like that, Germany thought.) Australia looked collected for the most part.
Australia broke the awkward silence first. “Hey, Germany.”
Germany didn’t know what to say at this point. He swallowed the invisible lump that inadvertently lodged itself in his throat. “Greetings.”
Well, this surely was awkward. Germany inwardly winced at the turn of things. He did have an unusual penchant to land himself in such situations. Things definitely wouldn’t be jolly between them after that match. Perhaps he didn’t think this through well enough. A rational lapse, if you may.
Australia surveyed him with steady eyes. It was probably the last dregs of sleep that fringed on his eyes and cheeks, but Germany thought that Australia seemed glum and unusually tame.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
Germany doubted whether Australia would accept ‘diplomatic relations’ as a valid excuse to be there with him on the stadium outskirts. And after a football match.
He ventured with a different tactic. “Why are you lounging here of all places?” Distracting the predator sounded like an excellent course of action in his mind.
Still, Germany knew that question was wholly unnecessary. From the looks of things, Australia’s koala played the role of some sort of bodyguard. Clearly, Australia was more sinister than he showed himself to be. The claws of that koala were sharp enough to gouge someone’s eyes out. Its cuddly appearance was deceiving, too. No one would dare attack a koala. That was until it leapt and latched itself onto your face.
“It’s not fair to answer with a question, Germany,” Australia snorted. “Well, if you really want to know, I went straight here after the match. Those vuvuzelas are killing me.”
He massaged his temples for good measure.
Germany silently agreed. The echo of Prussia’s last vuvuzela attack was still resounding inside his head.
“And I’m feeling like shit right now,” Australia added, without much preamble. “Your team beat me bad, Germany.”
It was neither a denial, nor a sugarcoated rendition of what happened. Germany was taken aback by the frankness. Australia didn’t sound angry. Judging from that childish scowl and the way he clapped his hands over his nape, he looked like a harmless little boy who just spectacularly lost a fistfight on the local playground.
Germany avoided looking at Australia in the eye and decided to focus on the tiniest hint of the ocean visible on the horizon.
Australia’s hand suddenly shot up and clasped itself around Germany’s arm, pulling him down a bit forcefully. It was certainly not the caliber of America’s strength, but Australia’s grip still made Germany reel on his heels just a little bit.
“Sit down, mate,” Australia said. “Let’s have a little chat.”
With a fluffy thump, he sat beside Australia. The phantom heat of Australia’s touch still lingered peacefully, comfortingly on his arm – a genial warmth. (Or perhaps it was Germany’s imagination.) Italy’s physical contact left something similar, but milder. Something akin to the first caresses of sunshine in the mornings. Australia’s was more intense - raw heat, but not enough to burn.
Germany hadn’t had the faintest knowledge on how to give or appreciate physical contact, but he thought it was particularly great to be the recipient of it.
Australia’s current expression distracted Germany from his thoughts. He could be best described as pensive, somehow drowned deep in thought. Germany guessed he was probably ruminating on where he went wrong in that match. Australia didn’t seem to be genuinely upset. Just a little frustrated, that was all. Germany’s conscience nipped at him, (a tiny devilish whisper that smiled on the very back of his mind which he couldn’t control) knowing that he caused some degree of distress to another Nation.
“I apologize,” Germany blurted.
Australia lips pursed in unspoken disapproval.
“Thanks, but no thanks, Germany. The last thing I need is a pity party.”
Germany didn’t answer. Finesse was something Germany hadn’t mastered down to a tee, but he never wished to be offensive.
“You don’t need to be sorry. You did what you had to win.”
Germany knew that. It was a game; no more, no less. There was always a winner and a loser. That was just how things were. There would always be someone who is vanquished, and there would be a vanquisher. (Shameful, shameful – Germany no longer wanted to see things as battles.)
Australia looked at him with flinching and defiant eyes. It was a fascinating combination.
He sighed deeply and smiled, as though releasing a highly convoluted knot in his chest. “I wanted to win today, you know? Kick things off to a good start.”
“You seem hell-bent on winning,” Germany proffered. “Why is that?”
“’Cause everybody expects you to win,” Australia answered. That tone of his. He could have been reciting a grocery list with that kind of nonchalance.
Germany certainly did not expect that kind of response. As logical as he is, he couldn’t quite fathom the reason for that.
“I’m not sure that I see the connection.”
Australia laughed dryly, an awkward chortle that hid a soft sardonicism. “Bloody hell. I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you of all people.”
“You don’t have to if you’re not comfortable,” Germany suggested. It wasn’t his intention to turn this little conversation into an interrogation of sorts, but it seemed that he wasn’t breaching uncharted waters as of yet.
Australia shook his head. Strands of his hair mussed up a bit. “Hey, no worries.”
“Hmm, how do I explain this?” Australia rhythmically tapped a finger on his cheek, chin resting on the heel of his left hand. “I get all huffy and riled up when somebody puts down the underdog, which is me in this case.” A certain light dawned on Australia’s eyes. Something fierce, a humming undercurrent that simmered before it detonated in surprise. “It makes me wanna prove them all wrong.”
Apparently, America wasn’t the only Nation with the hero complex, even if it was slightly different in Australia’s case. England surely had the strangest raising methods.
Literature was one of Germany’s fortes. It didn’t take him long to realize what Australia was trying to say. Every fairy tale had a certain formula, after all. There was always the underdog, the hero. And when there’s an underdog, there would be a -
“If you’re the underdog, then am I that evil villain with the cackling laughter?”
Australia’s smile was like the sun emerging from morose rainclouds. “You could say that, Lord Grumpygills. Except that you’re not much of a laugher. But you do have a voice that scares small children.”
Germany involuntarily huffed at the thought. Certainly he wasn’t that level of intimidating. He knew better than to let such shallow jibes get to him, but he guessed it could not hurt to play along. “You’re passing me off as some lonely recluse who doesn’t have a sense of humor. Which is not true, I might add.”
“I don’t know, Germany. You fit the bill, pretty much! Seeing you preside all those conferences is one-hundred percent proof.”
Australia laughed, a soft baritone that slowly inched inside Germany’s head, then rumbled inside his chest. The Australian accent definitely lives up to its name. No wonder people fell prey to it. Perhaps it was Australia’s trademark strine, or that silky intonation of his words, or that transparent way he presented himself. Germany felt his guard slip, slowly and steadily.
“You were really intense back there!” Australia remarked. “No wonder I was blown away so badly.”
“It must be awesome to be in your place right now, mate,” he added as an afterthought.
It was, at first glance; Germany knew as much. Battles were battles. (He still didn’t, couldn’t, think of it as just a game.) Victories were victories. He couldn’t deny that it had its special allure - amorous and addicting. And when it had ensnared you in its clutches, its grip tightened and tightened around your neck like a noose. Before you knew it, you were already stiff, coughing and spluttering for release.
Germany felt it was his turn to speak. “Winning isn’t everything, Australia. You should know that.”
Australia’s eyes widened a little. He preened just a bit; it was almost invisible. Germany trained himself to read the subtlest bit of body language and he was very much familiar with it; Australia looked much like a young boy who had just been lectured by a haughty adult.
Compared to Germany, Australia was still a very young Nation. Of course, Australia already had his fair share of tribulations as a human, as a Nation, but everything was now only a tinge of discomfort for Germany. When you’ve already hit rock bottom, everything already seemed so trivial.
Australia’s eyes still shined with that naïve hope and optimism that Germany lost a long time ago. Germany liked that about him. He was partly jealous of it.
Australia nodded and reeled back. “’Course, I do.”
“I’ve been in that position countless times. The higher you climb, the harder you fall. I’ve learned that through the direst of circumstances.”
Australia snorted through his nose. “You sound like an old fossil.”
“Perhaps I am one,” Germany went on. “When you’re high up there, people will always look at you. Stare at you. Expect a lot from you.”
His voice sounded hollow and dead, a flat and somber monotone that seeped with fatigue. Germany almost didn't recognize it. “They’re just biding their time, waiting for you to make a mistake. And you’ll feel betrayed when that happens.”
Australia raised a bushy eyebrow. He looked slightly jilted. “Why do I get the feeling that you just told me something important?”
“I just did. Experience tells a lot of stories.”
The palm of Australia’s hand somehow found its way onto Germany’s forehead. Australia was all smiles again.
“Mate, did England jinx you or something? You’re sounding even more prehistoric than you were five seconds ago,” he chortled.
Germany couldn’t help but indulge a small grin at the statement. The dry humor reminded him all too well of England – that subtle pompousness mixed with a touch of steely pride. It was also reminiscent of America, coated with childish naivety and cheeky grins that harbored good intentions.
Australia scooted a little closer. “Is this still about that game?”
A heavy hand squeezed Germany’s shoulder. Germany was never the person who displayed gratuitous amount of physical affection. He didn’t particularly condone it, but he just didn’t have any idea on how to go about it. The gesture was somewhat comforting, nevertheless.
Germany cleared his throat. Speaking in length turned out to be more than a chore than he initially thought. “Do your people like you, Australia?”
Australia was unfazed. “Me? Sure, they do! The ladies can never get enough of me! Some guys, too, actually. You know, I don't actually mind -”
Germany waved his hand in disagreement. “No, that’s not what I meant. You as a Nation. Not as a human.”
“Oh. I guess I haven’t really thought about it. Maybe, maybe not.”
“Why d’you ask? What about you?”
That was the question that Germany dreaded the most.
He wasn’t sure what to reply. Australia probably won’t understand.
“I’m taking your silence as a ‘no’, mate.”
This was definitely the time to speak up the inner turmoil that had been brewing inside of him for some time now. Perhaps only a fellow Nation could understand him. Germany needed a third-party opinion.
Since Australia was not hesitant on sharing personal thoughts, perhaps he ought to do the same.
This was harder than he thought. It was like resurrecting an old foe from within. Digging and whispering a taboo that was known among all their kind, but didn’t speak about it. Germany decided to skirt around the specifics. He figured that Australia was sensible enough.
“I have done things that I’m not proud of, Australia.” A cold shiver slithered through his throat, an icy nausea that made him sick to his stomach. “Rather, of the things that I didn’t do. Things that I have failed to foresee. To stop. They may not tell it so upfront. But my people -”
Germany took a deep breath. This was the hardest part to admit. He had a hard time reconciling it to himself, but maybe admitting it to another person would be much, much easier.
“They are still ashamed of me.”
Looking Germany straight in the eye, Australia listened on.
“This World Cup. I’m doing my best so that I could gain something for my people to be proud of, even if it’s just from a simple sport. I don’t want to disappoint them anymore than I already have.”
Memories flashed and whirled back like they always do, cold and imposing, a gray blizzard of unspeakable terror that nightmares were made of. The stares of his people crawled on his skin, like the scribbles of a thousand insects that he could never shake loose or swat away for as long as he lived.
Winning the game had been an extraordinary tonic, a nice change in the pace of things. Euphoria had simmered in him. He delighted in the fact that his people took pride in themselves in just being Germans, an uncommon occurrence if Germany may say so himself. If there was a way to make them stay like that forever, Germany would do anything to get it in a heartbeat. That was why he treated these games as battles - there was so much more at stake than a mere gold-plated trophy.
“I was sitting beside a young man during the game. He looked so happy, so proud. I don’t want to let him down, too.”
Australia’s face was stricken with blatant confusion.
“So, what d’you really want, Germany? You were prattling on and on about winning is not everything, and now you're the one who’s saying you must win at all costs.”
“I’ve already gone through many highs and lows in my life. This will certainly not be the last. Someday, I’ll fall again, but it will not happen here.”
“You’re taking everything seriously. It’s not healthy. You’ll have a heart attack.” Apparently, Australia thought it was absolutely necessary to place his hand squarely over the middle of Germany’s chest. Germany never felt his heart jump that high before. “See, it’s already palpitating!”
Of course, it was.
“I-” Germany realized that he was doing a lot of stuttering lately. His face burned again.
“Loosen up, Germany. Slow down. Appreciate the present and don’t dwell in the past.”
Australia finally lifted his hand away. Thank goodness.
“That, Australia, is very much easier said than done.”
“C’mon, don’t feel down now!” The energy in Australia’s voice was downright admirable. “I know. Close your eyes, Germany.”
Quirky mischief danced in Australia’s eyes, like those of a child that is about to perform a particularly nasty prank. Germany just hoped that the joke was not on him this time around.
“And what is this about, pray tell?”
“Germany, I just lost the damn World Cup game big time. Humor me a little.”
Closing his eyes, Germany decided that he didn’t really have a choice in the matter. There was something in Australia that beckons Germany to comply to everything that he says; a sorcerous charm radiated off of him, warm and inviting. It was something novel. Germany found it titillating.
Australia’s voice was uncomfortably near Germany’s ear. “Now, take a deep breath and stretch your arms as high as ya can now.”
Feeling utterly foolish, Germany complied and stretched his arms as high as he could. Suddenly, something gritty and warm clasped both of Germany’s hands at the same time. Much to his coy embarrassment, he realized that Australia’s hands were firmly clutching his own.
“Imagine that you’re flying with me, Germany. Like a bird!” Australia’s voice washed over him like a siren’s song, chastely seductive and seemingly innocent at the same time. His imagination went along into overdrive; smears of the clear blue sky crept on the corners of Germany’s vision.
Australia hoisted him up to his feet. His legs appeared to have fallen asleep; he stumbled and fumbled with his footing a little. Enveloped in inky blackness, Germany was glad Australia never let go.
The scent of freshly clipped grass and cool mint suddenly wafted in the air. He didn’t have to open his eyes to know that it was Australia’s. Logic was Germany’s ultimate maxim, the only tenet he had ever relied on; however, something more primal that defied it stirred within him. An infinitesimal moment where he didn’t want to think – he wanted to just feel for once.
Germany sucked in another deep breath. The scent made his blood thrum under his skin.
His collar felt ten times tighter now.
“You can open your eyes now. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
A flash of white, white teeth and forest green eyes greeted Germany when he did. They were gazing at each other at eye level, with their arms raised still. From what it looked like, Australia tiptoed to match Germany’s height.
“You can’t fly away from your past if you’re always insisting on keeping yourself planted on the ground like that. Learn to let go.” Australia pulled back his hands slowly. Germany blanched at the loss of contact. The touch still burned on Germany’s skin, licking. Tempting. No matter how much he denied it, he couldn’t help but helplessly crave more of it.
Australia set Germany’s arms down next. “I think you need just a little bit of help with the lift off.”
Germany was perplexed. “Where did you learn this?” Australia didn’t really look like the type of person to preach pieces of advice.
Australia laughed that special bray of his. It stapled itself onto the air, right over the treetops. Germany's guard slunk lower and lower. He was very much aware that he's already beginning to fling all pretenses right out of the window. He didn't know what prompted that inside him. Trust was something hard to gain for him, and this man just simply barreled through his barriers.
“I don’t know if you’d believe me, but from England.”
He stared off into the distance, tugging a deep, deep memory from a while back; perhaps something that should be immortalized in a book because of its apparent enormity. The sunlight made his tanned, young face shimmer with a dream-like quality, akin something from a flashback.
“I was a ‘nasty runt’ back then. I always wanted to run away from home, just to go back out into the open -”
Australia paused. It was clear that the recollection made him uncomfortable. Germany had long since learned how to read people like an open book. It scared him sometimes. There were things he would rather remain hidden and opaque. Things that were better left unsaid.
“England. He was expecting too much from me. Wanted me to be a ‘fine gentleman’ like he was. I couldn’t even hold a fucking teacup like a sophisticated member of society.”
“And when plan number seventeen failed, England just grabbed me when he found me. Hugged me and told me to close my eyes. He said that I couldn’t run away, that it was for my own good. Even if I couldn’t run away physically, I could always escape away inside my mind. To let go of my worries and just, you know.” A lax, almost noncommittal shrug of the shoulders. He waved his right hand once in a flamboyant manner. “Fly.”
Germany’s lips crinkled at its corners, furrowed in a small, unnoticeable smile. “I never thought England could be paternal like that. It is hard to imagine.”
Australia scratched the back of his neck. He was grinning again; Germany supposed it was Australia's expression most of the time. Not that it was a bad thing, of course. “He was a crummy guardian. But he did care.”
“Thank you for the advice. It certainly was an unusual metaphor to use, but it was effective. I’ll remember it,” Germany said succinctly.
One last thought lingered on Germany’s mind, something he couldn’t quite shake off or let go. Perhaps it was his touch of perfectionism that made him so, so vulnerable to these kinds of thoughts. The ominous flashes of things that were bound to go wrong; that they always happened when your back was turned.
He said it before he could even ponder its repercussions. “What if I still lose, Australia?”
Australia blinked. “Doesn’t matter in the end, really.” He shrugged in an exaggerated manner, causing the hems of his jersey to bounce and flutter in the breeze. “You already made them proud with the way you thrashed me. That’s already good enough, aye?”
Germany decided to take it as a compliment. It was hard not to, given Australia’s words.
Australia winked. He looked younger still, just like Prussia did. “See, it’s not always you old fogeys who have all this wisdom business.”
He continued. “And for what it’s worth, Germany; I like you. You got some mighty big balls to come down here and to talk to me. I thought you were going to gloat, but I guess it’s more of your brother’s thing, I reckon.”
Shirking back a little, Germany didn’t know how to respond to such a claim. Should he answer that he liked Australia, too? He most certainly did – he knew that much, but he couldn’t foresee what Australia’s reaction would be.
He decided to go with the most neutral response he could muster. “Would you like to have a beer with me later?”
Australia slung his arm on Germany’s shoulders. “Sure, I’m fancying a little bit of a pick-me-up. A coldie would be sweet!”
The pair settled off to where Prussia was. Germany was very much pleased at the turn of things. It looked like he earned himself a new friend to talk to – an energetic and charismatic one at that. He could use a little bit of those in his life right now.
Australia suddenly paused in their tracks. “Mate, your shoes are untied.”
Germany bended over to tie them. When they appeared in view, he saw that the knots remained perfect and symmetrical, just like the way he left them.
“They are not -” A sharp rap suddenly thwacked Germany’s rump that made him stumble a bit forward onto the sidewalk. The burning pang of pain jolted him upright. Regaining his constant poise and composure, Germany stood up ever so slowly. “Did you just slap my -”
Australia burst out laughing. “Now, I feel much better. Sweet, sweet vengeance!”
Of course, Germany was sure that it was an old-fashioned prank. He just continued walking with that brusque, leisurely way of his, with Australia’s arm slung on his shoulders again once more.
A smile that was as bright as Gold; a timid, young Red of embarrassment.
Germany just wished for the sight to never fade in Black.
- The Germany/Australia match was held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Its roof glows when the entire stadium is lit. Quite a sight, if you ask me!
- Florida Road is one of the most sought after tourist spots in Durban, South Africa. It's a coastline filled with an assortment of bars and clubs.
- According to The Xenophobe's Guide to Aussies (a must read!), the tall poppy syndrome remains to be a pillar of Australian culture until today. People always resented the successful, thinking that they must have used underhanded methods to get to their current status. In turn, Australians have always had an affection for the underdog type of people, wanting to see them rise in the ranks. Our Australia follows the same line of thinking. I've based most of Australia's characterization from this book. It gives a well-rounded overview of the Australian culture and norms.
- Germany's inner turmoil. Up until now, a good deal of Germans, particularly the older generation, are still reluctant to exhibit national patriotism due to Germany's history. Definitely a heart-breaking turn of events.
- Real-life sentiments between Germany and Australia drastically improved right after the match. The Germans were impressed with the Australians' tenacity and heart, earning a positive boost from both sides. The Australians took their defeat in stride and promised to wholeheartedly support Germany in its future World Cup matches. It's bromance and you know it.
- Australia's little cuddly pet. Beware!