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The Prince's Grace

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“Ich heiße
der reichste Mann in der getauften Welt;
die Sonne geht in meinem Staat nicht unter.”
I am called
the richest man in the Christian world;
the sun in my dominion never sets.

- Friedrich Schiller, Don Carlos

 

            Falling together again was almost sinfully effortless.  There had been times, long ago when it had all began, where things had been halted and awkward, before they had figured everything out, but those instances had long since melted into history.  Two hundred years of a ring resting coldly on his finger and of fighting side-by-side had granted Austria the ability to know this man like he had known no other since, not even Hungary with her fierce temperament and eyes that shifted from quiet understanding to unmitigated frustration, and he used that to his advantage now, murmuring low encouragements and other such nonsense.

            Spain’s hands skimmed across his skin with deceptive gentleness, his movements familiar, and Austria moved to meet them in a way he had so many times before. Were it not for the new scars criss-crossing both their bodies Austria thought they could have been in the sixteenth century again, when they’d both been naïve and foolish.

            Austria paused, glancing up at Spain with half-closed eyes. Spain’s hand stroked his flank, his skin moist against Austria’s own hand, and when Spain noticed the lull he glanced up, panting, hair curling against his forehead as he met Austria’s level gaze with his own. Were they human Austria would have been able to read the lines of experience in Spain’s face, but here his expression was smooth and the picture of eternal youth. He could easily see him as he had been three hundred years ago, and he wasn’t sure if that worried or comforted him.

            He lifted one hand, trailing it down the side of Spain’s face, his fingertips coming away with traces of sweat on them. Spain watched him carefully, his mouth half-open as he struggled to pull air into his lungs, and when Austria shifted to kiss him softly on the forehead Spain all but mewled, leaning forward as if desperate for the touch, chests pressing together for a brief moment. In his eyes was a hunger Austria had once been accustomed to seeing, the all-consuming need for control that had once forced Europe to its knees. The sun never set on the British Empire, but before the sun had even graced the British Empire it had shone fiercely on Spain until it had become too much to bear; the burden of God too much to uphold. He had taken the sun into himself, let it fuel the smile he was so famous for, but with the sun had come the hunger, the ambition, and the sharp teeth that lurked behind innocent words. Austria looked at that hunger, reached for it, met it, and as he had once before he made it his own, twisting and pulling at the invisible strings to get to the very heart of what held Spain together.

            Spain hungered for control, longed for it, but here there was none to be had. They were, as they had always been, equals.

            Spain hissed against the skin of Austria’s neck, muffled words in an old language, and Austria tilted his head back insofar as he was able, arching his back slightly off the sheets, a hand reaching up to tangle in Spain’s damp hair.

            “Spain,” he said, his voice a low murmur, and Spain shuddered against him, the hand at Austria’s waist gripping tight as he continued to bury his face against Austria’s neck, breathing and moving and feeling as Austria shifted to accommodate, to reciprocate, knowing exactly what Spain wanted (needed) as so few others did.

            “España.” His tongue slide with fake ease over the word, a language he hadn’t used in so very long, but the effect on Spain was instantaneously, and Austria slid his hands down Spain’s back as the man he had once called husband snapped his head up, the hunger from earlier blazing in his eyes, a hunger he transferred into a kiss that had Austria revert to breathing through his nose even as Spain lightly grabbed one of his hands and pressed it to his cheek.

            “I see you,” Spain hissed, turning his face into Austria’s palm. “I always see you.” And for a moment Austria couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, his own control fragmenting as he desperately tried to grab the stray pieces of it, feeling the ancient hurtsorrowanger well up in his chest as he remembered learning Spain, loving Spain, and ultimately losing Spain, and France might as well have ripped the ring off of Austria’s finger himself for all the difference it would have made in the end. He hadn’t, though, and Austria had removed the ring himself, tying it to a chord that he had wrapped around his neck, a reminder of what it felt like to lose and a warning to never become so attached to another that their leaving would affect him so. Immortality was not eternity in all things, but even with the Habsburg ring burning a hole into his chest he had clung to the old ways until nothing remained but the aged palaces, shells of their former selves; old and obsolete.

            Much like they were.

            His free hand was shaky now, and he wasn’t fool enough to think that Spain’s sharp eyes hadn’t picked up on it. He said nothing, however, only smiling softly, secretively, as he leaned in for another kiss, gentle and hungry, and Austria moved in time with him as he always had—as he suspected he always would, in one way or another. Time hadn’t allowed Austria to rid himself of this man, and he carried Spain with him in his very demeanour, the old ceremonials etched so deeply into his bones that it would take nothing short of absolute destruction to rid him of Spain’s influence completely.

            “You were always a fool,” Austria managed to say, and he felt rather than saw Spain’s smile, knowing and accepting. There were no more words after that, and as he fell back and let Spain seize some of the control he so desired he could feel Spain’s hand return to his waist, gripping tight once more, projecting through skin what he never would through words.

            In the absence of meaningful sound, it felt like a promise.