Chapter 96

The steam of the shower felt almost better than the water and the water was gentle on his back. He still needed it to be. Long fingers slipped through dark hair as he pushed it back, leaning into the water and letting it drip down his face, off his chin, down his neck. He took a deep breath, the warm air filling his lungs. He brought his hand away from his face gently, moving his fingers and watching the water drip away from his fingertips, falling onto his wrist, running down his skin, bending over the scars. He looked over at his left arm. The scars were worse there, deeper and covering more of his skin. He touched them with his right thumb gently, watching the way the water slipped off of them. Some weren't raised, and only colored his skin with dark red-brown lines.

He moved his hand up his arm, touching the lean muscle there. And his chest, stomach.. he was getting stronger again. He kept his hand over his heart for a moment closing his eyes and taking another deep breath, a faint smile just barely tugging at the corners of his mouth. He could feel it. The passion, the fire, the drive to fight. He leaned back into the water again, letting it fall over his face.

"LET GO OF ME!" He struggled, trying to get away from the two soviet soldiers holding his arms. He was nowhere near strong enough and all three of them knew it. "Please stop…" he begged, reaching, trying to get to the truck where more soldiers shoved arrested 'criminals' destined for the Siberian labor camps. His eyes met those of a man who knew he was leaving to die. The world grew still for a moment that felt like an hour, the two just looking at each other before the man was shoved into the car.

Tears streamed down his face, and he didn't want them. He wanted to fight. His people were exhausted. He was exhausted. First Germany, now Russia. He grabbed his chest, screaming in pain as gunshots rang through his city. "Please, stop this! Ivan!?" He looked for him, trying to fight back as the soldiers dragged him towards the center of the city and threw him on his knees in front of the giant black boots.

"Myshka," the smile was clear in the voice.

Lithuania felt a strong hand under his chin, lifting his face to look up into violet eyes staring down at him. There was blood on Russia's face.

"You can come home now, da?"

Lithuania closed his eyes hard, feeling Russia's grip tighten just slightly on his face. He didn't want to cry anymore, but the tears weren't stopping. He winced hard, a shot ringing out next to him and the weight of another of his people dying hitting him in the chest.

"Did that hurt, Myshka?" There was concern in the voice?

Lithuania opened his eyes, looking up at Russia with as much hatred as he could drag through the pain.

Three more shots.

Lithuania's eyes didn't move from Russia's, refusing to back down despite the pain. He even managed, somehow, to swallow down the tears. He was going to fight back.

Russia smiled.

Lithuania felt sick.

"Not such a little mouse anymore, are you Myshka?"

"Wasn't it enough for you to watch Germany destroy me?" His hands were shaking with anger as he tried to steady himself on the stone, barely needing to with Russia's grip so tight.

"Don't you understand?" The smile grew, "I'm going to save you from all he did to you. And then you will be strong again, da? Strong with me."

"You don't make me strong…" He set his jaw, trying to fight back against Russia's fingers as their grip tightened.

"I make everyone strong."

"I was strong!" Lithuania looked up at him with fire in his eyes, grabbing Russia's wrist and trying to force him to release his face, "I was going to get stronger. I was going to live on my terms and I was going to be free! And then you had to come and f-" he blinked hard, trying to see. He was on the ground, his head swimming, pain shooting around behind his eyes making him blink in the dim sunlight. He saw the huge shadowy shape that was Russia's reach down and start picking him up by his collar.

"N-no…" the world spun, colors, shapes, and light blurring together. He tried to get to his feet, but they kept slipping from under him unable to keep up with Russia's pace. He gripped the bigger country's wrist still, trying to pull away.

Russia let go.

Lithuania stayed down.

The blur around him grew worse. He turned to barely see another car, hear someone screaming, begging. Another gunshot. His hand barely made it to his chest, almost too weak to lift its own weight. He didn't even wince. It hurt too much.

"Myshka?" He felt Russia kneel next to him and pick up his face, more gently this time. He could barely see him, "Myshka?" The voice grew louder with concern.

"Myshka? Myshka?"

Lithuania jumped, the knocking at the door making him blink hard. He looked back down at his hands, then up at the shower curtain like he could see the door past it.

"Myshka, are you all right?"

"Taip- uh… da."

"You worry me when you do this."

"Take long showers?" He knew that wasn't what he meant.

Silence.

"Da, Myshka, just… showers."

He heard Russia walk away from the door and sighed deeply, bringing his hands to his face. He closed his eyes, just noticing the feeling of the warm gentle water on his back. Slowly he opened his eyes, turning around and twisting the shower handle until the water stopped. He hadn't realized how loud the water was until the silence set it. No crying. No screaming. Just silence. There were still a few blood stains in the grout of the tile walls. They caught his eye. He stepped over the wall of the tub and towards the door, grabbing his towel and shaking it through his hair, which tried to stick to his face. He pushed it back out of the way and held the towel around his waist. He didn't think Russia was still in his room, but just in case. Besides, it was cold.

He stepped out of the bathroom and looked around at his room. It was cold.

Carefully he adjusted the collar of his dark green shirt in the mirror, looking down at the belt that was no longer on its last notch. He'd been so thin. He looked at his arms again. His people fought back. And it felt good. He closed his hands into a fist and grabbed an elastic band left in the pocket of his tan pants. He pulled his hair back at the nape of his neck, letting the shorter pieces fall back towards his face.

He took another deep breath and walked out of his room. He looked around. He'd expected Russia to be there waiting for him. He checked his watch. The car for him was going to be outside in less than an hour. A sliver of light caught his eye where Russia's door stood open. He turned away from it, walking towards the stairs even if meant going the long way around. He stopped, turning around and again and walking up to the door. He knocked.

"Russia?"

He got a low grunt in response.

Lithuania pressed the door further open slowly.

Russia sat at his desk, head in his hands, the weight barely hiding the way his arms were shaking. The shades were drawn, the only light from the small metal lamp on the desk at his lefthand. An empty bottle sat next to him, and paperwork was stacked at his desk. Lithuania noticed some of them had German seals on them as he stepped closer.

"Russia?"

"So you're going to Vilnius?" He didn't look up.

Lithuania nodded before realizing Russia couldn't see it. "Yes."

Russia exhaled, exhaustion clear in the tone of his breath, "Why?"

"I need to go home. I need to see home. My people-"

"Your people are rioting!" Russia moved his hand from his face but didn't look at Lithuania, tired violet eyes flashing with something like fear.

"No. My people are standing arm in arm, and calling my name against yours."

Russia faced him for a moment, then looked away with a dark scoffing half-laugh, "Your people? They're supposed to be my people…"

"They have always been mine, Russia. Always. Even I almost forgot that." He looked down at the desk again, all the papers, the empty glass, still shimmering with the remnants of Russia's vice and distraction in the bottom corners, and the second half-empty bottle he was trying to hide under his scarf in a drawer. His scarf. Lithuania followed Russia's arm up to his neck. He wore a turtleneck sweater that almost covered the bandages, or would if Russia wasn't leaning so heavily to one side against his right hand.

"Ivan…?"

"Hmm." It was barely a question.

"When's the last time you slept?"

Another dark half-laugh, "What do you care?"

Lithuania wasn't sure he had an answer, so he said nothing.

Russia sighed deeply, pressing his fingers against his eyes and rubbing slowly, "I can't sleep. I have too much to finish."

"Is that really why?" He dared to press it.

Russia looked up at him from behind his fingers, keeping his forehead pressed in his hand. There was pain in his eyes, mixed with frustration and loneliness. Lithuania had expected anger to be hidden in them too, but somehow it wasn't there.

"Nyet." Russia closed his eyes again.

Lithuania nodded, waiting for a moment to see if Russia would continue.

Silence.

Lithuania turned, walking towards the door before Russia's words stopped him.

"Natya lied."

Lithuania didn't turn around but looked back towards Russia.

"She's trying to protect you. I heard her crying in her room. She misses you. She told you to go so she wouldn't hold you back."

Lithuania turned to look into Russia's eyes. No anger in them. He felt the stab in his chest and the choke rise to his throat. The feeling in the pit of his stomach both twisted and relaxed a little. The thought had crossed his mind. He'd thought about going to her, talking to her. But her game would lead to more games. He was tired of games, no matter what he still felt for her.

"Then she knows I have to go." He turned away again.

He heard Russia stand.

"Lithuania."

The sound of his own name made him turn, meeting Russia's eyes again. The pain was worse in them, no anger, no words to try and trap him.

"Liet, don't go."

His hands shook, "You haven't earned the right to use that name for me,"

"Toris…Please."

The dim light caught Russia's eyes. Were those tears?

Lithuania's voice trembled a little, along with the rest of his body, "I have to, Ivan. I have to go home." He turned away again.

Russia looked down, putting his hand on a paper on his desk, "I will fight you, you know."

"I know," Lithuania didn't turn around.

"If your people fight I will crush them." Still no anger.

"I know." Lithuania closed his eyes.

"My soldiers are in Vilnius, they will stop the protests."

"I know."

There was silence for a moment. Lithuania didn't step forward, he wasn't sure why.

"Toris…I don't want you to hurt you again."

Lithuania closed his eyes, letting words he didn't need to speak hang in the silence. He stepped towards the door, half-hoping Russia would speak again.

Silence.

He walked out of the room, not looking back, and continued down the stairs. He looked at the door. It was simple, dark wood, just wallpaper around it. Nothing threatening. Nothing dangerous. It looked so simple, so innocent in a way. He touched the wall by the door before the sound of a car pulling up broke through his thoughts. Slowly, hands shaking, he turned the doorknob and stepped outside, not looking back at the house. He opened the car door and slid into the passenger seat next to the driver from Vilnius.

"How is it at home?"

"It's getting there. Parliament is meeting to discuss plans. Russian forces are moving in though. They're talking about a possible show of force. Some people want to fight. Others just want to stand still."

"We'll take it as it comes. For now… let's get me home?"

The man nodded, driving out of the long road leading to Russia's house.

"Lietuva! Lietuva! Lietuva!"

Lithuania didn't shiver in the early morning mid-winter air, arms locked next to two of his people. New plans were in place. New systems. New economics, new government officials, all voted on by his people. And they were broadcasting media freely, disregarding soviet control. He looked back at the television tower they were guarding, their way to fight back. He looked across the street at the soldiers

Soviet paratroopers stood with machine guns. Tanks stood against the unarmed men and women who did not back down. He looked around at his people. His arms weren't shaking. It had been a long time since he wasn't shaking.

He jumped, the sound of cannon fire ringing out across the city from tanks away from where he stood.

His people held their ground.

He held tighter to the arms around him, nodding to them all with a look of defiance.

"Lietuva! Lietuva! Lietuva!"

The chant continued to ring out around his city. He could feel it in his chest, blocking even the icy January wind.

Gunshots. Fired above their heads. He turned, watching them strike building bricks and scatter to the distance. Still, the people chanted. He turned to face the soviet soldiers, who stepped closer. Finally, there was a machine gun barrel pressed into his chest and he was eye to eye with one of the soldiers, who stared into his eyes with determination.

Lithuania set his jaw and said nothing, letting his people chant for him even if they didn't know who stood with them. He faintly heard a Russian order barked from the back of the line of soldiers. The butt of the soldier's gun hit him in the face and he fell back, nearly trampled as the soldiers rushed into the ground.

The world blurred. People screamed as gunshots cut through the ever-fading chant. Lithuania scrambled to his feet, feeling blood drip down from the blunt force cut above his eyebrow. He was too angry to stay down. He ran to the first person on the ground he saw, trying to help her. She'd been shot in the chest, and she was crying.

"Hey, hey, I'm here. It's going to be all right." He knelt beside her, trying to see her injuries. It wasn't good.

She couldn't respond. Only screaming in pain before they faded into too much pain to speak.

He pressed into the wound, trying to force back the blood he couldn't stop. "Come on…" he whispered, "come on please…" he felt tears hit his hands. He hadn't realized he was crying. She put her hands on his, begging for him to stop with eyes that clearly weren't sure where they were anymore.

He pulled her up, holding her, trying to keep her warm, feeling her shivering and her fingers go cold.

"W-Who are you…?" She asked, her voice weak and choked with blood that escaped her lips.

"Lietuva," he whispered, holding her.

She smiled weakly, resting her head against his shoulder, "M-me too."

He closed his eyes, tears slipping down his cheeks. He turned, still holding her and looking back as the tanks started to move forwards towards the crowd that still stood their ground. They weren't fighting back. They stood and still cried the chant that was barely above a whisper. But he felt it. He looked around at the people on the ground around him. An old man was trying to help a young one stand despite a clearly serious break to the leg. A woman lay dead on the ground, bleeding so badly from her head he hoped it was instant death. Two more men lay dead around him, both of them young. They were still locked arm in arm. He looked down at the young woman in his arms. She was still, eyes frozen looking at the sky. He closed them, his fingers still wet with her blood. He set her down, closing his eyes when he heard the tanks get louder, coming up behind him.

He couldn't stay there. He couldn't sit still. He stood, turning and facing the tank, then running towards the tower, grabbing the hands of some other young men who ran towards the building too. One of them held his flag.

They didn't make it to the steps.

"Hey, he's still alive, sir!"

"How-?"

Lithuania opened his eyes, pressing his hand into the stone ground, not able to sit up. He winced hard.

"Lay still, sir, please," a young man's voice called, a gentle hand resting on his shoulder.

An older man's voice spoke with the young man, too low for him to pick it up completely. He blinked hard. It was late, almost dark.

"What… where am I?" He whispered.

"You're by the television station, sir. You and your friends… there were tanks."

"Why can't I stand up?" He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer.

"Don't worry about that, now." The older man's voice reassured.

"D-Did we win?"

"I don't know if anyone's 'won' yet-"

Lithuania nodded, trying to sit up. He looked down at his legs - what was left of them. He winced, falling back onto his side with a low cry.

"We need to get you to a hospital, sir," The younger man said.

"Y-yeah…" He whispered, his breath shaking with pain a little. He opened his eyes again as he heard another soldier run to the group, whispering to the other. He barely caught it. Tens of thousands. Tens of thousands of his people were guarding the parliament building. Soviet soldiers were all around them and they stood their ground, even the children.

"W-what day is it…?" He asked, his voice shaking more than he wanted it to.

"January 13th, sir. Sunday."

"Sunday… a good day for new… new beginnings." He whispered, letting his head fall back against the stone, darkness creeping in behind his eyes. He faintly heard them call for more help to hurry to get him somewhere. He wasn't conscious long enough to hear where.

...

A/N I am fairly tired so this won't be a super long Authors Notes, but I had to say hello! Yes, i'm uploading again and it's not forever since my last upload lol, yay! Things are looking up on Liet's side of things... kinda. He still has to fight. And he is fighting with peace and standing his ground. His conversation with Russia was hard for me to write as well. they have SO. MUCH. history. And the two have been through so much "together" at this point it's hard to put it into words. And it's not goodbye, not exactly anyway. Goodbye feels wrong. But Liet can't stay, even if Russia tries his best to keep him. And in the end, Russia can't even manipulate him into it, he just asks. Because Russia's not doing well. More on that later.

Reviews are, as always and always will be, deeply deeply appreciated! All reviewers get virtual hugs, and some of my favorite cookies. Because cookies are always a good idea. I hope you are all well! I miss interacting with all of you so regularly! You became truly some of my favorite people a few years ago, and that still hasn't changed. I've often gone back to read your kind reviews and our messages together. It has helped me through some really tough times and for that I am deeply, truly, eternally, grateful. New chapters soon my friends!