Between the Lines
Series: Axis Powers Hetalia
Characters: Greece, Japan
Warning: Possible sap and pointlessness.
Summary: Japan comes to visit Greece and shows off his new camera. Shenanigans ensue. A picture is worth a thousand words (and that camera was worth a thousand dollars, most likely.)
Notes: Written for the summer fic-a-thon for giripan. I realized after claiming the prompt "the contents of Japan's camera", it would have been the perfect prompt for an artist. So I apologize for any artist out there I may have unknowingly taken this prompt from. ;_;
Edited as of January 14, 2010, to correct grammatical errors.
Greece was waiting for him at the airport, one cat draped over his shoulder and a small smile in greeting. He walked over towards Japan as he pulled his suitcase off the baggage claim and turned towards Greece. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a digital camera, and snapped a photo of Greece as the European approached.
The smile faltered and he blinked in confusion at Japan. “Ah?”
“Hello,” Japan greeted with a smile. “I’m sorry, the plane was delayed. Did you wait long?”
Greece, still eyeing the camera, shook his head. “I slept late. I thought I wouldn’t be in time.”
“Then it worked out well,” Japan agreed, slipping the digital camera back into the pocket of his pants. He adjusted his tie and leaned down to grab his suitcase and briefcase, but Greece was too quick for him, seizing his bag and lifting it effortlessly.
They walked through the airport and towards the parking, where Greece’s car was waiting. Unlocking the doors, Greece turned around to take Japan’s briefcase from him, only for him to see that the digital camera was out again and snapping a picture of Greece with his car.
Greece shifted a bit self-consciously, hand instinctively rising to pat down his unruly, bed-mushed hair. “Um…”
Japan laughed lightly, and opened the passenger side door, setting his briefcase on the floor as Greece shook his head, hoisted up Japan’s suitcase and deposited it into the backseat. He slipped into the driver’s side of the car and closed the door with a snap. Instead of starting up the car, however, he sat there in silence a moment, fingers strumming against the steering wheel before giving Japan a sidelong glance.
“I got a new camera,” Japan offered, when he realized that Greece was staring at him. He felt himself flush with a mixture of embarrassment and pride. “Because my other one was getting a bit old.”
“I thought you got that one last year,” Greece questioned.
“I did,” Japan agreed. “The photography industry has been upgrading very rapidly.” He showed the digital camera to Greece, though did not let go of it, holding onto it protectively. “It’s more compact and the shutter delay isn’t very long at all, almost instant.”
“Oh,” Greece said and didn’t sound as if he particularly cared, but was listening because it was Japan and when Japan was passionate about something, he liked to listen to the rapid pace of his voice, even if he didn’t pay much attention to what the words meant.
“And it’s brand new and has a lot of memory space,” Japan said and couldn’t restrain himself from sounding just as pleased as he felt. He smiled widely up at Greece. “I love taking pictures.”
“I know,” Greece said and he sounded amused. He turned the key in the ignition and the car hummed to life. He gave Japan another sidelong look before nodding. “I hope the lighting will be nice during your visit, in that case.”
Japan’s expression softened as he smiled. “Thank you.”
Greece focused on driving back to his home and Japan spent the car ride looking out the window and snapping picture after picture of interesting cars, interesting buildings, and interesting people. The drive back to Greece’s house was spent in this manner—Greece trying not to get too angry at slow drivers, and Japan taking pictures of the slow drivers.
When they made it to Greece’s villa, Japan took a picture of it.
Greece dipped the paddle into water, rowing the boat through the slightly unsettled water of the Mediterranean Sea, heading back towards the marina. Japan sat at the stern of the boat, watching Greece (and snapping a photo of him,) and continually offering to row should the other nation grow tired. Greece gave him a lopsided smile and shook his head.
“You’re the guest, it’s the least I can do,” he kept saying. Japan, who didn’t want to be rude to someone offering him such hospitality, was torn between accepting it or insisting. He settled on fiddling with his camera strap, biting his lip.
“The weather’s nice today,” he said, eyeing the clouds in the distance that threatened possible rain in the coming days. The wind chopped along the water, swirling the water, creating eddies, and tide flows.
Greece nodded. “You came during a good time of year.”
“I always enjoy visiting your country,” Japan admitted and missed the way Greece looked away with a small smile, and if his cheeks were pink it was simply because he’d been under the sun all day.
Japan had to look away, and focused on the marina in the near distance. He snapped a picture.
“You should be careful,” Greece warned. Japan looked at him curiously, and Greece shrugged. “It seems very expensive.”
“I’ll be careful,” Japan said with a nod. “It’d be bad if I dropped it… it could be damaged.”
“Hm,” Greece said and rowed towards the dock. As they approached the marina, the choppy water seemed to reach its zenith, as it began to shake the boat almost violently. Japan’s eyes widened in surprise and Greece frowned, face scrunching up in his concentration as he attempted to navigate the boat properly without losing an oar or capsizing. One rogue wave in particular shook the boat and nearly knocked it perpendicular to the water’s surface.
“A-ah…” Japan gasped and gripped the side of the boat.
“What is it…?”
“The wind is making the water choppy today,” Japan murmured. “We should get to the dock as quickly as possible.”
“Yes,” Greece agreed and tried to move the boat.
“This time, I insist,” Japan said firmly, seizing the oars from Greece’s grip, and shifting so he was sitting beside him. Greece stared at him in surprise and Japan nodded towards the stern. Banished, Greece slumped at the back of the boat and watched Japan as he rowed with a bit more ease towards the shore.
“Japan is good at boating,” Greece remarked once they safely made it past the rough waters and into the gentle waters of the marina.
Japan flushed. “Because I’m an island nation…”
Greece laughed lightly as he stood up in the boat and slung the rope around the dock’s anchors, using the rope to tug the boat closer to the ladder leading up to the wooden planks. Once he was sure it was secured, he offered his hand to Japan and helped the other nation stand, leading him to the ladder and letting him climb up first.
Once on the dock, Japan pulled his camera out again and took a picture of the view of the water from the dock, and then the small boat they’d left behind, and then the crusty old fisherman sitting in his boat and staring at the foreigner with cautious curiosity.
“It’s good that it didn’t fall in the water because of the waves,” Greece said.
“Yes, I’m very thankful as well, because—” whatever Japan was about to say was lost, however, when the camera slipped from Japan’s slightly wet hands and went tumbling to the dock. Japan gasped in surprise and launched to catch it, just as Greece reached out his hand to grab it as well. They both collided with one another and the camera bounced on the wooden dock before falling over the edge and into the water with a rather sickening plop as it hit the water.
Japan cried out in petrified shock and scrambled to the edge, Greece behind him. They both stared as the camera let out a few feeble bubbles as it sank down into the sapphire blue waters and disappeared from view.
When Greece turned his attention away from the water and towards Japan, the other nation looked stricken. He didn’t turn away from where the camera had fallen and clenched the dock as if it were a lifeline. He stared so long Greece feared that perhaps the other nation was debating diving down into the water and trying to find the camera.
“Oh…” was all Japan managed to say after a lengthy, depressing silence.
“Japan,” Greece called to him later that evening, while Japan sat out on the stairs leading down to the street from Greece’s house. Japan watched as the other man climbed the stairs, approaching Japan at the apex. “Here.”
Japan was about to ask him what it was he needed when Greece handed him a disposable camera.
“Ah…” Japan watched him in surprise as Greece placed the camera in Japan’s hand, and offered the Asian a lopsided smile. Japan started and stared at the small, yellow camera that fit snuggly into the palm of his hand. “This is…”
“I know it’s not as good as yours, but…” Greece rubbed at the back of his neck, face coloring slightly in the early evening darkness.
He looked up at Greece before looking back down at the camera again, frowning. “Thank you…”
“It’s just until I can buy you a replacement,” Greece dismissed, shifting from foot to foot.
Japan’s frown deepened. “It wasn’t your fault that it fell into the water. It was because I was careless.”
“But if I hadn’t gone to catch it, too…” Greece trailed off with a shake of his head. “I want to buy you a new camera, Japan. This one will have to do for now.”
Japan sat glumly a moment before lifting the camera up and snapping a photo of Greece.
A few days later found Japan back in his home, watering his plants and waiting for his rice to cook. He heard the phone ring inside and he looked over.
Setting down his watering can, he retreated into his house and picked up the phone.
In Japanese he asked, “Hello?”
There was a pause over the phone before someone spoke in Japanese with a thick Greek accent: “Japan? Hello…”
“Greece-san,” Japan said with a sigh of recognition, smiling despite himself and shifting his hold on his phone so it sat more comfortably against his ear. “It’s nice to hear from you.”
“… Yeah,” Greece said after a moment.
“Is something the matter?” Japan asked.
“It’s not that,” Greece said and Japan could picture the other man shaking his head from side to side vigorously. The image made him smile. “It’s just that…” Greece paused and collected the proper words, always happy for a chance to practice his Japanese, “You left your camera.”
“Oh,” Japan said in surprise, recalling suddenly the little yellow camera he’d left on the bedside table of Greece’s guest bed. He remembered distinctly telling himself the night before his flight not to forget it. “I’m sorry… I was so rushed to get my plane in the morning that I’d forgotten.”
“You left your toothbrush, too.”
“Yes, I’d noticed that. Thank you,” Japan said, flushing in his embarrassment.
“I’ll send you the camera…”
“You don’t have to do that,” Japan was quick to insist. “I never got the chance to take many pictures with it, and the shipping cost from your home to mine would be rather expensive.”
“I don’t mind it.”
“Ah…” Japan trailed off, frowning. “Please, don’t feel you have to for my sake.”
“It’s fine.” Greece paused and Japan could hear the smile in his voice. “It’s fine, I promise.”
The package arrived in the mail some time after that and when he saw it on his doorstep Japan knew who’d sent it. Kneeling down to scoop it up, Japan released a rather fond smile as he thought of Greece, thousands of miles away, wrapping the camera (and toothbrush) up very carefully and sending it to him.
Coming into the front room of his house, he pet his dog, removed his shoes, and moved over towards the table, where he set down his bills and letters and moved to open the package.
Japan opened the package and it was the camera. There was no note, just the camera. And the toothbrush. Japan quickly chucked that into the rubbish bin, having already purchased a new one. Besides, who wanted to brush their teeth with a toothbrush that’d traveled through the mail service?
He studied the camera and was rather surprised when he discovered something was amiss with it.
There was one picture left.
“I only took a few pictures, before,” Japan mused to himself. He frowned. “Perhaps I was mistaken… or Greece-san must have taken some pictures, too.
With a sigh he hoisted himself up again, holding the camera before slipping it into his pocket.
“I suppose I should go develop it.”
Walking towards the film developing store (after it’d taken him some time to find one and its location; thank goodness for the internet), Japan studied the world around him and sighed, moving down empty streets, hands in his pockets and eyeing the clouds above that threatened rain in the following days. The wind blew in a way that reminded him of that day on the water with Greece. Aside from the loss of his camera, that had been a good day. He smiled.
I guess I should thank him, somehow, Japan thought. For sending the camera and allowing me to visit his home in the first place.
Waiting at a crosswalk, Japan watched a cat skirt across an alleyway, meowing softly when it caught sight of Japan. It padded over, tail swishing and eyes begging for attention.
Japan knelt down and pet the kitty, scratching it behind the ears softly. “Hello, cat-san.”
“Meow,” said the cat.
“Greece-san would like you,” Japan said as he curled his hand around her tail and tugged. The cat meowed happily and purred, rubbing against his hand.
An idea occurred to Japan in that moment.
He took a picture of the cat. He pet the cat for a little bit after that and walked away, intent on developing the twenty-six pictures rolled into the film in the small disposable camera. He’d make the last picture into a thank you card for Greece, he thought with a tiny smile.
“He’ll like that,” he determined.
An hour later found Japan paying for the newly developed film and leaving, walking back towards him home. He didn’t see the cat on the way back, but it was just as well. It was staring to rain now, and he hoped that the kitten had found her way back to her owners.
Once he returned home, he pet his dog again, boiled some water for tea, and sat down to look through the pictures that Greece had undoubtedly taken.
The first picture was the one of a concerned Greece on his steps, looking up at Greece as he insisted to buying him a new camera. Japan studied the other man’s face a moment before having to move on to the next picture.
The second picture was the view from his window in Greece’s spare bedroom (he’d ignored Greece’s invitation to share a bed back then, with dignity and respect, of course). The lighting was very good that day, capturing all the little houses—white and blue and pink and white again, dotting the hillside and stretching on for what seemed like miles, the mountains in the distance piercing the cloudless sky.
The pictures continued in this fashion, taking pictures of the locals, some of Greece, some of the food, some of the sky, some of Greece’s car.
But it was towards the end, as he was leafing through the pictures, that he noticed something was off. He hadn’t taken these pictures.
“It must have been Greece-san, then,” he decided.
But the first picture was of Greece. But it was a self-picture, Japan realized, as the picture was crooked and very clearly one of Greece’s arms was moved off the frame, as if holding something up—the camera. The people behind him that managed to get captured in the frame were carrying bags, and the tiles stretched off the picture’s boundaries.
He realized, dimly, that Greece was in the airport and putting on a rather fake confused expression.
“What is he doing?” Japan wondered.
He flipped to the next picture. This time, it was Greece with his car in what looked like a parking lot.
Japan realized, dimly, that this must be the airport. But why were these pictures here?
The next picture was of Greece driving, one handed, the other hand occupied with taking the picture. The picture was horribly off-centered, so bad that half of Greece’s face was missing from the picture.
Japan realized in that instant what Greece’s pictures meant.
“He’s recreating the pictures I lost!” he gasped in amazement, studying the half of Greece’s expression in the picture. He was smiling.
The next few pictures were of random cars, people, and buildings.
The pictures after that were of the marina, the view of the sky that day (it was cloudier than the day they’d gone on the water.)
The last picture Greece had taken was of Greece in the boat, taking a picture of himself rowing (or at least trying to, Japan realized, as one of the oars was in the water and floating away during the picture). He was smiling lopsidedly into the camera, and everything above his eyebrows was cut off.
“Greece-san…” Japan murmured and realized he was touching Greece’s face, tracing his jaw line with one fingertip.
He jerked his hand back and cleared his throat, face red.
The last picture was of the cat from that morning.
He felt his heart clench and felt ridiculous immediately afterwards.
“He’s a good person,” he decided to himself, studying the pictures of Greece, where he’d tried so hard to recreate what had been lost, face set in determination or in quiet study. Japan ended up framing the picture of Greece in the boat, simply because it was such an amusing picture.
Two weeks later, Greece received a thank you note in the mail, created from a photograph of a small cat rubbing against legs he could only assume were Japan’s.
On the back it said, “Thank you.”