[personal profile] ceitfianna suggested Hetalia fic to the prompt Switzerland and either the hidden bunkers or internal language issues. So I thought of a steel door I'd seen in the side of a mountain, and the fact that Liechtenstein likely returned to her own house after the end of World War II....


The Fortress on the Rhine

They'd been walking in silence for several minutes along the old rutted road, and even though the autumn day was balmy with the last hints of summer Liechtenstein found herself wishing that she had brought a shawl with her.

Admittedly, it would have been strange for her to have brought a shawl in the first place, since she was wearing her old uniform instead of a dress. It wasn't the uniform's fault that she was cold; it was made of well-woven wool, and naturally she had kept it in good repair over the years. But the stout fabric and her careful stitching could never quite compensate for the chill that she felt while wearing it. Until that morning, she had hoped that she would never have to put it on again -- that it would end up at the bottom of a box, not to be found until many years later when she was tidying her house on some fine spring day -- but when Switzerland had asked her to wear it to meet with him that afternoon, her heart had faltered for only a beat or two before she went to retrieve it from her trunk.

You will need it for where we are going, he had said, in a quiet, serious tone of voice that gave nothing away over the telephone. Please wear it, and I will explain everything once we meet.

So she had dressed in her old uniform, as he'd requested, and met him at the Sevelen bridge, as he'd requested, and they had not walked very far before they came upon a group of his soldiers on foot patrol. Once the customary salutes were exchanged and they had gone on their respective ways, Switzerland had turned to her and said, 'Those men know who we are, and they know why I have brought you here. There is something you need to see -- something that you will need to know about, now that you are living in your own home again.'

She had nodded, because he was looking at her with his professional eyes, as impassive and unemotional as the rifle slung across his back. And when they came upon the steel door in the side of the mountain, it had opened at the touch of his hand, and without a word he had drawn her through it and into the darkness on the other side.

(For a wild, fleeting moment, she had thought of fairy tales told over slow-burning winter fires, of the unknown things that dwelt in their mountains, of great halls hidden beneath the fastness of stone and rock. Was she the wandering soldier or the lost princess, in this tale? Was he the holy hermit, or the demon lord?)

It was nothing so romantic as that, in the end. Switzerland had explained the fortification's design and construction as they walked down its echoing tunnels, weaving their way deeper into the mountain with each sucessive windowless room they passed through. He had named each area, explained its purpose in a few short words, pointed out where and how it connected with the others around it. Communications. Laundry. Barracks. Mess hall. The hewn stone steps leading up to the gun turrets, the observation posts. Munitions storage. Decontamination. Hospital. Mortuary. And she had looked, and listened, and stayed as close to his side as she could without clinging to him outright, and had only remembered how to draw a proper breath the moment they were back beneath the open sky.

Out in the sunlight once more, she was still struggling to reconcile the world above ground with what she had seen below. The farmhouses and fields around them looked strange to her, and even her beloved mountains to the east seemed unsettled, as if they were not quite comfortable with the thought of the hidden cannons pointed at them from the west. She wanted to rub her arms for warmth. She wanted a shawl.

She didn't know what she wanted.

'Well?' Switzerland's voice almost made her jump out of her skin. She stopped walking and looked up at him, and saw that he was studying her with an unreadable expression. 'What do you think of it?'

Liechtenstein bit the inside of her lip. It's nice would be an outright lie, and she would not lie to him. It's very impressive would be closer to the truth, but she knew that such a half-hearted statement would not be enough. He had trusted her with the secret of this place, and he deserved her honest reaction no matter how much it would hurt both of them to hear it.

'It frightens me,' she said at last, softly.

Even as she said the words, she regretted them, because she could see something go dark and distant behind his eyes. It was a retreat, taking him back into places where nothing would reach him, and without thinking she reached out to him instead, grabbing his hand with a boldness that startled both of them.

'Please don't be angry with me, please,' she said anxiously, clasping his hand between hers. 'I know why it's important, and I know -- '

'I am not angry.' His words stopped her own, but they were not harsh. He didn't smile as he met her gaze, and yet his eyes had lost the walled-off look that had made her so desperate a moment before. 'Not with you, certainly. There are more than enough to share the blame.' He sighed. 'Perhaps I should have told you more about it before, when you were living with me, but it was not something that you needed to know about then. If it had come to the worst and we were forced to retreat to this place, or to anywhere else in the Redoubt, we would have been together.'

Together. The thought warmed her a little in spite of the lingering chill. She relaxed her grip, though she did not let go of his hand. 'But now?'

'Now that you are in your own home again, I find that I am concerned for your safety.' Before Liechtenstein could respond, Switzerland continued, and this time he was the one who seemed apprehensive. 'I know that this is what you wanted, when the peace treaties were finally signed. There was no reason for you to remain in my house when your own people needed you more. And I would never have kept you from leaving -- believe me, I know what homesickness may do to us, even when we are not so very far from our own lands.' Memory clouded his face briefly, and when it passed it had hardened his voice. 'But I do not believe that this is peace, no matter what pretty words America or Russia might say to the contrary while they have our neighbours under their thumbs. And if the current situation were to deteriorate, or reach a new crisis -- '

'You want me to come here,' Liechtenstein finished for him.

For a split second, Switzerland looked intensely grateful that she had done so. 'It is your choice. But it is open to you.' He looked away from her then, out over the slope of the valley and the winding river that separated their lands. 'And for now, it is all I have to offer you.'

Liechtenstein followed his gaze, though her own thoughts were flying far beyond their borders. On the other side of her mountains, the world had changed, was changing, in ways that neither she nor Switzerland nor any of their neighbours could control. Austria, Germany, Prussia, Hungary...she had hoped and prayed that the war would not make them her enemies, but there was no guarantee that peace would allow them to be her friends and family again. And if Switzerland was even the smallest bit worried about what Russia and America would do to them, then it was no surprise that he was worried about her, too. She loved him for it all the same.

'I understand,' she said, and gently squeezed his hand. 'Thank you for looking out for me.'

Switzerland didn't turn to look at her, but she felt his hand tighten in hers. 'I can do nothing for them,' he said, his eyes fixed on the eastern horizon. 'I can at least give you this.'


Notes

Fort Magletsch, first built between 1939 and 1941 and expanded over the following decades, is one of the major fortifications of the Sargans (eastern) end of the Swiss National Redoubt, near the Swiss border with Liechtenstein. When it was built, it was meant to house about three hundred soldiers, and included a sizeable medical facility and mortuary, as well as disguised gun emplacements intended to cover the Rhine Valley border. Much of the fortress was gradually decommissioned starting in the mid-1990s, and part of it has been preserved as a museum.

(The steel door in question today, thanks to Google Earth. Grand-Hotel Magletsch indeed. As to where the above conversation itself may have taken place, this stretch of road seems as likely a spot as any, being a relatively short walk south.)


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genarti: ([misc] turn my face to the hills)

From: [personal profile] genarti


I always really love how you work historical details into your Hetalia fic, and simultaneously draw all the characters so clearly for those of us who don't know canon. This is lovely.
gramarye1971: Switzerland and Liechtenstein from Hetalia in traditional costume (Hetalia: Neutral Siblings)

From: [personal profile] gramarye1971


Thank you so much. ^_^ The ability to play around with history is certainly the main reason why I continue to enjoy writing in this fandom, and I'm glad that I've been able to make a story like this one worth reading for those who don't actually know the canon itself -- which, for the most part, is rather vague when it comes to these two, so I feel that I can take a few more liberties in tying them and their personalities to actual historical events. (They are a fun pair to write, in their caring-but-not-particularly-communicative way.) Much appreciated!
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