Spain found France exactly where he expected to find him.
The old house had been absolutely gutted during the battle of Berlin and in an area of the city where the fighting had been particularly heavy. Most of the damage seemed to come from shelling, ruining the inside with sheer percussive power and a crucible of fire.
France was sitting on a fallen, charred beam with his back to the entrance, staring into what used to be the living room. He did not turn his head to acknowledge Spain’s presence, his only movement the lifting of the silver flask to his mouth.
Spain sat beside him for some time, staring into a home darkened by night.
“He lived here for years,” France commented, voice forced and flat, a little loud as he tried to fight his way through the influence of the alcohol. “He moved here after Napoleon and I marched on Berlin.”
“He hasn’t lived here for some time, though, if I’m correct. Not since World War I. That was when he moved into Germany’s house…” Spain treaded carefully, wanting to keep France talking but afraid to scare him away with a line of thought.
France lifted the flask to his lips again to the sound of liquid sloshing around inside. He kept staring at the ruined home, as if he was seeing the way it used to be. “We spent so much time here…” Not all of it had been good, but Spain could see laughter, dancing, and drink in the tragic expression in France’s eyes.
France ran a hand through his hair. “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“I couldn’t miss it,” Spain said softly. “I needed to see him one last time.”
Next to him, he heard France choke on something. He went on anyway. “I can’t describe it but I simply felt a terrible…absence…at about 7 yesterday.”
“It was over by then,” France said softly, still speaking away from Spain. “I watched him die, Spain. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing even as I watched.” A pause, a horrified gasp followed, “I felt nothing.”
Spain flinched, suddenly not sure he wanted to hear this. “You felt something,” he replied with absolute confidence.
“I miss him already. I’ve given him too much of myself and now it’s gone.” Spain couldn’t see France crying in the dull light, but he could hear the sloppy desperation in his voice.
“Is there going to be a funeral?”
“No,” France replied simply. “He’ll be buried on Wednesday.”
“I wasn’t going to, but the Allied command wanted a witness to confirm. Russia volunteered me.” The tone in France’s voice implied that he didn’t know whether this was supposed to be a cruelty or some kind of kindness. “Better myself than some human.” Quickly, desperately, France turned to look at Spain. “Spain, you’ll be there, won’t you?”
Waiting a long moment, Spain freed his hand from France’s grip and put his palm on the back of France’s arm. “No, France, I won’t be coming.”
An expression of utter panic and horror shot across France’s face at those words. He smiled weakly. “Spain, please, I need you there. You can’t tell me you don’t want to say goodbye to him.”
“I said my goodbyes to Prussia,” Spain smiled weakly. “I need to remember him like that, and I cried my tears the day he died. Please understand, I loved him dearly, but whatever is being put in the ground next week? That’s not him.”
His words seemed to hit France like electric shocks. “Spain, I can’t do this without you.” His other hand was coming around to Spain’s collar, grabbing at it clumsily. “Please, you must be joking.”
Spain took the hand in his and held France still, except for the rising speed of his breaths. “You saw what was happening. France, did you at any point do anything to stop it? Did you make every effort to save him?”
The silence and whimpering was his answer.
“Don’t worry, I don’t blame you, not really. It’s my place to miss him, not to judge you. But…you had a hand in this. Don’t try to tell me you didn’t.” Spain let France see that his words were genuine, but he was unrelenting. “You watched it happen alone, and you need to do this alone, too.”
“What is it but pain?” France spat out. “There is no closure. Just him. In a box. And Germany looking like he’ll never stop torturing himself. Austria and Hungary’s judging. And me watching it happen like I didn’t have a say in the matter.”
“And you need to face that.”
France looked thin and scared, overwhelmed by things he’d tried to suppress. “We should be together one last time, all three of us.”
At those words, Spain felt something snap inside of him, a realization that brought the original pain to the surface again. “But France, there aren’t three of us anymore.”
The other nation looked like he’d been hit. When the expression of shock faded, tears formed and fell with great wracking sobs. They reached out and held each other, mourning the ruins.