APH and its characters © Hidekaz Himaruya

Pairing: Russia & China. =D


"It's the first of July," Hong Kong says softly. He extends his hand out and asks, "Play firecrackers with me."

China blinks up at his little brother's stoic face. Another year has gone by already? He has hardly noticed it. He pushes himself up and dusts the coat of sand off his pants. He makes sure his hands are devoid of sand before he casually ruffles Hong Kong's hair with a brotherly grin. Hong Kong moves his head slightly in protest, telling his brother that he isn't a child anymore. Still, the older man persists and keeps his slender fingers roaming through his little brother's deep brown hair. He pulls his hand back and realizes that Hong Kong has gotten a little taller. It feels like it wasn't so long ago when he could carry the boy in his arms and rock him to sleep.

He eyes Hong Kong's hand and takes it with a sly smile. He feels Hong Kong squeezing his hand shyly and they walk, hand-in-hand, toward the shoreline. The temperature has been dropping gradually since the sun set a few hours ago. The ocean breeze ruffles China's hair; unruly strands of hair tickle his nose. The plastic bag in Hong Kong's hand rustles when a gust blows past them.

There is still a bit of natural light but the sea is unfathomable blue and the sand beneath them is black and yellow. They settle for a quiet spot on the east side of the beach, where a lone seagull gazes longingly at the receding tide. In a few hours, the beach will be crowded with people to celebrate the reunion of the brothers. But for now, it belongs solely to them.

Hong Kong sets down the bag and takes out a small pack of red firecrackers braided by strings. China kneels on the sand and watches his brother retrieve a lighter from the bottom of the bag. He has the urge to tell him to be careful but decides against it. Hong Kong is old enough to take care of himself now; he doesn't need a smothering older brother. He keeps his mouth shut as he watches Hong Kong walk away and drop the firecrackers on the sand. The dim lighter does little against the growing darkness but it does lit up Hong Kong's face for China to see. His little brother is a man now and he can't help but feels old. Time is moving so far ahead so quickly. China feels like he is running out of air but if he takes a break, he won't be able to catch up with the rest of the world. And it's not like anyone is going to stay with him; they will all leave him behind. Japan did. Korea did. And Russia did too.

China flinches at the thoughts of his former comrade. He shifts and sits on the sand instead of kneeling. He pulls his legs up and places a hand over his nose and mouth. Hong Kong is hurrying back to his side with his fingers plugged in his ears. He returns just in time for the series of thunderous cackles as the powders explode little by little and the bright flashes that accompany them. He regrets not covering his ears as the loud boom hurts his eardrums. But it's nothing he can't handle. After all, he has played with firecrackers for many, many years now.

A string of six firecrackers does not last long and it's quiet on the beach again. China turns his head to his brother with a smile. Hong Kong pulls his fingers out of his ears and reaches into the plastic bag again. He takes out a stand-alone firecracker and holds it out for China. The cracker is chubbier than the string ones and with a longer wick.

"You light it," Hong Kong says.

"Sure," China answers and takes the firecracker. He places it away from them and flicks on the lighter. Though he has done it hundreds of time, he is still careful in igniting the firecracker. He backs when the wick hisses. They watch the bright splashes of sparks shot up toward the grey sky before they slowly parachute to the beach floor. The cracker explodes with a quick boom, leaving only a faint layer of white smoke in its place. Hong Kong picks out another pack of the red tubes and China watches him go to light it.

He taught Russia how to play firecrackers once. It was years ago. He doesn't remember much of it, but he remembers…

He remembers the wind blowing Russia's scarf and how Russia had to pin it to his chest to keep it out of his face. He remembers thinking the scarf looked like a broken bird, struggling to break free from Russia's tight hold. He thought it was amusing because it felt true. He remembers how tight Russia was holding his hand. As if he was afraid that if he didn't, China would fly far-far-away and never return.

He remembers Russia's abandonment issues. The only comfort he could think to give was to hold Russia's hand equally tight, silently letting him know that he was there and he wouldn't let go. That night, he never would've imagined that Russia would be the one to let go first.

He remembers settling for a quiet spot just like this one. He remembers Russia kneeling on the sand and watching him attentively. He remembers showing Russia the skinny tubes of firecrackers with a wide grin. He told Russia to cover his ears and Russia did. He used matches back then. He remembers Russia keeping his eyes wide open as the tubes popped and flew off to different parts of the beach. He remembers Russia's slightly parted lips and the amazement on his face and how he only blinked when the flash was too bright.

He remembers letting Russia lit a firecracker. A stray spark lit Russia's scarf on fire, he remembers that; he saw it first. He remembers yanking off the scarf, nearly strangling Russia while he was at it.

Russia's eyes, he remembers them. They are some beautiful shade of purple. He remembers them changing in intensity depending on the amount of light present. He remembers the wavering glow from the firecracker made them sparkle like exotic gems.

And Russia's smile - he can't forget that; it was so full of deception, shrouding his true intention. But he remembers loving it when Russia smiled; when he smiled at him, with him, for him, because of him.

He remembers the tiny grains of sand gliding the air as Russia dusted his scarf. He remembers feeling them between Russia's fingers when they clasped their hands together.

"It's beautiful," he remembers Russia saying. He remembers agreeing.

Boom, he remembers the firecracker exploding and how Russia distracted him with a shy kiss on the corner of his lips. He remembers kissing back. He remembers Russia's careful and gentle kisses, like he was afraid his kissing could hurt China. He remembers running his fingers through Russia's hair – they were silver but dry and hard. He remembers Russia pulling off his hair tie, as he always did. He remembers having to stop Russia from going too far. He remembers saying he didn't want sand in his clothes. He remembers promising to buy Russia a new scarf. Russia said no, he remembers that.

He remembers the split a few years later. He remembers Russia saying the people didn't want Communist rule. It's time to move on, he remembers. He remembers wanting to shout the most malignant words to Russia – he doesn't remember what they were because he didn't say them. He remembers walking away with his broken heart and his dignity. He didn't speak to Russia for years. He remembers the confusion and hate, and the anger and the sorrow.

He remembers understanding why Russia was so afraid to be abandoned.

He remembers promising himself, "Don't cry over Russia. Don't cry over Russia."

He can't remember if he kept that promise.

"Brother," Hong Kong says quietly.

China blinks up again at his little brother. A firecracker that Hong Kong has lit exploded to their left. In the flash of light, China sees the deep concern on Hong Kong's face. It is a rare sight as Hong Kong doesn't have an array of expressions. Hong Kong scoots over and sits next to him on the sand. The impassive man reaches over and takes his older brother's hand in his. China frowns at Hong Kong's display of emotion. He hopes his little brother isn't upset because he hasn't been paying attention.

"What is it?" he asks, squeezing Hong Kong's hand. Hong Kong is too skinny, he notices; his fingers are all bones.

"You're crying," Hong Kong responds, casting his eyes downward.

"It's the smoke." China laughs half-heartedly as he wipes his cheeks with the back of his hand. "It's making my eyes burn."

He is grateful that Hong Kong doesn't say anything. His little brother only holds his fingers tightly and keeps his eyes on an unlit firecracker. China swallows the dryness in his throat and grabs the lighter. He lights up the firecracker and digs the heel of his palm into his eyes. He watches the glowing sparks with hazy eyes, counting in his head how many seconds before the flame will swallow the wick and sets off the flammable powder.

The firecracker chokingly hisses, like an anguished mourner, wailing for its lost love, before it explodes with a vibrant boom. A brisk blast of brightness illuminates the brothers.

Then it is quiet and dark again. And all China has to hold on is Hong Kong's hand.


Boyue's Note: I told myself not to write angst for this pairing… but yeah… This turned out a lot different from what I've originally planned. Hopefully it's still good. Reviews are appreciated and loved! =D


5:09 AM