Of Rue and Powdersugar
The strange girl is a china doll with a child's wide eyes and straight fair hair. She's simply there, a gangly preadolescent wrapped up in skins, something left behind by the Mongolian hordes of the East in the snow to languish and die. Although she must be bitterly cold she stands with her back rigidly straight and face to the wind. Lithuania walks up to her.
"Where is my brother?" she demands of him in juvenile seriousness, eyebrows perfectly straight and features stunning in their pale face. She barely reaches Toris' waist, but her voice is as cold as thousand Siberian winters. "Where is my sister?"
Toris isn't sure of whom she means. He is sure that if she stays here any longer she will freeze. So he takes her home with him, covering her with his cloak, sitting her down in his kitchen and unloading a steaming plate of sweet blynai in front of her.
She doesn't speak. She doesn't eat. But Lithuania catches her sucking the icing sugar off of her finger out of the corner of his eye.
When the sugar gets up her nose and she sneezes, Toris feels his heart swell and smiles.
It pains him to have to leave her alone so often, but Poland needs his help at the Battle of Grunwald. She doesn't say goodbye to him, ever the silent child, but she stares after him through the windows of their house for long minutes after he is gone. The library is well stocked. He hopes it is enough.
Feliks cocks an eyebrow at him, seeing his vacant smile. Sitting down beside him, he draws out a long satisfied sigh. Killing Teutons always makes Poland more amiable. "That kid's really something. You're like, totally out of it."
Toris catches himself blushing at his friend's teasing. "She's beautiful," he finally replies. "She loves playing near the creek, you know. The other day she called me Lith. " Poland hums in response, playing with his sword. Despite his appearance, Poland loves kids. He had been the one to spend hours goo-ing and gaa-ing with the Royal Couple's children after they were born, not Lithuania. "Kievan-Rus."
Poland's face draws a little tighter. Then, almost like magic, the expression is gone and Feliks rests an arm over his shoulder saying something about alus and celebrating their victory with a feast.
Lithuania brings a slice of cake back wrapped in a napkin and tramps through the woods singing under his breath, mood jolly from Polish beer. As he approaches his estate, however, there is a surprise waiting for him crouched shivering behind a tree.
"Hello." The teenager squeaks and tumbles forward in the snow. Lithuania laughs kindly and helps her up, but she flinches a little from his touch. "What are …well, what are you doing here at this time of night?" Lithuania suddenly has to avert his eyes and flush. The girl is obviously no older than 16 or so, but she nevertheless has the biggest pair of breasts he has ever seen.
She babbles a little for a moment, turning red herself, but through the nonsense they both spout Liet understands the words 'sister' and 'Kiev'.
"You know my little White Rus?" he says as if talking to a small child, although he is really not much older himself. She nods furiously.
"I've been looking all over, and I'm such a bad big sister, but I can't-"
"I have cake," Toris offers shyly. "Come inside and I'll make some hot chocolate and pancakes. Bela will be happy to see you again."
Ukraine looks at him uncertainly for a moment, then takes his hand and walks into the house with small steps.
Poland can keep the Royal Princes and Princesses. Ukraine takes her sister in her arms, despite her half-hearted struggles. Lithuania sees their smiles as he hands them steaming, warming mugs of cocoa and thinks that siblings are more than wonderful enough.
"Did your…" Poland pauses for a moment, about to say kid but correcting himself. His Bela-Rus is now as tall as his elbow. "Did Bela ever, like…mention a brother?"
Come to think of it, he thinks that she has. Why is Feliks asking?
Just the thought of being an older brother (of sorts) to the achingly beautiful girl who sits and reads in his house is enough to send Toris into a fit of foolish fidgeting. Poland shuts his mouth.
There is a booming series of knocks of his front door in the middle of the night. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Toris pulls the great doors open. Then, he pales in shock.
"…This is the house of Lithuania, da?" The man in front of him is a brilliant giant in a white overcoat. He towers over Lithuania, his face young and handsome because of it. His stance and eyes and sheer size reek of royalty and power and sunflowers. "I am Ivan."
Lithuania, practical and amiable but unendingly plain, can't help but be drawn to this man, just as he is horribly afraid.
There is a dull thump from behind him; he turns to see Belarus standing on the staircase looking at the two of them with wide eyes in her nightgown. She scurries away without a word when he meets her gaze.
After the man is gone, he creeps up to her bedroom and opens the door a crack. The light falls directly onto her wide awake eyes.
"Are you alright?" he asks, not knowing what to say.
She stares at him uneasily, then turns her back on him. "…You are so very small, Lithuania." Her voice is young and troubled and steeled.
Lying in bed, Toris tells himself that it's just a phase she's going through. The next day he plants more Rue in the flower beds, but the smell of sunflowers hangs heavy in the air of the house regardless.
Belarus barely acknowledges him at breakfast, speaks to him only in passing as the months go by. Ukraine, never really as close to him to begin with, begins to withdraw into a shell of worry over her sister. He tries. He tries as hard as he can, lump forming in his throat, because he's abruptly aware of how beautiful his not-sister really is, behind the ice in her eyes, and he doesn't want to lose her.
It's not a phase. He stands at her bedroom window and stares after the three figures walking away in the snow for a few minutes until the emptiness of the house becomes too much. He had never expected silence to cut.
Poland lets him stay the night and thankfully doesn't ask questions.
The next time he sees her he is no position to appreciate it. Ivan, perfect and tall and golden, is pointing a knife to his face with righteous concentration and it's die or surrender. Toris likes the lives of his people. That's why he folds, not because he is a coward.
At the discussion table, the Tsar sits before them, Russia standing behind. Poland is not with him. Not this time, and maybe that is why the way Ivan keeps a hand on his leader's shoulder seems a little creepy. He leans forward to whisper in his ear, but his lips brush too close. The Tsar doesn't notice it, but Lithuania isn't sure whether Ivan loves his bosses a little too much or if he wants to choke them dead.
He joins the Russian Empire (what else can he do?). Ivan smiles and shakes his hand and tells him that his family is happy to have a new member. "We are brothers. You will be most welcomed, I am being sure."
As he gets lost in his new house trying to find his rooms in the Western wing, a door in front of him opens a crack, and out steps a woman in a blue dress and a blue ribbon, dressed in the highest of court fashion. They stop and stare.
Toris' clothes are stained and thin and ragged and his hair is pulled out of his face in a ponytail, but the woman still seems to know him. Then, his eyes widen and his stomach falls painfully out of place.
"Kiev?" he whispers, a dark hidden part of his mind ripped open and making him shake.
"Natalia," she corrects in a high, hard voice, face still carved from ice. She strides past him and doesn't give him a second glance.
Lithuania remains in the corridor alone, feeling his heart throb dully in his throat, mind full of a girl-woman-child he barely recognises anymore.
"She scares me." Estonia flicks his eyes away under his glasses. "She's always following him."
She used to follow me, Toris thinks.
"…I wish I had siblings. Brothers."
Neither of them respond. A panicked look comes over Latvia as he repeats himself more desperately.
Lithuania doesn't trust himself to answer, because he knows that siblings aren't always what they're meant to be.
Instead, he hides a stick of chocolate under Latvia's pillow that night with a note that reads 'I'm sorry'. Estonia sees him do it and he sits with him together under the stars as they sip vodka late into the night.
Elsewhere in the Empire, the Russian Revolution is stirring.
Ivan's not moving. He sits in his chair and talks under his voice to no one in particular. He seems torn between compulsions: one moment his eyes are clearer and he tells them all that they will rebuild and the people have won their freedom; the next, he plucks sunflower petals from decapitated brown heads and watches them shrivel between his fingers. Liet does not know what to do. The man in white stands at the front door again, but this time he is in Russia's mind where they can't reach. Change knocks and Toris still cannot do anything but stay dumb and watch as something walks out of Ivan and never comes back.
It's about this time that he comes back to his room to find Belarus sitting there and holding his military uniform in her lap. His breath catches and he splutters nothing and nonsense, then becomes silent.
"Brother is going to build the greatest land there is. That's what the Bolsheviks say." These are the first words he hears from her in a long while. He eyelashes are long and flutter palely when she blinks. Nobody else could be so captivating in moonlight blue and silver. His Belarus is not his anymore, but her dark gaze pulls at his love for her lingering in his throat. His hand has reached out to touch her arm before he knows it.
Natalia lifts his hand off of her with firm but surprisingly gentle fingers. The tingle from her touch lingers on Lithuania's palm in a way that makes him feel like a criminal.
He chokes. "Excuse me?"
Russia's eyes are dead and deadly serious. "That's what you want, isn't it?"
Toris would blush if the situation was remotely funny, but it isn't. Ivan claps him on the shoulder and doesn't let go, leaning his head into the nape of his neck as he continues to speak. "Lithuania has always liked Belarus, yes? Has always wanted to be one with her. Has tried so hard." Air rasps its way out of his lips in frozen fear as Ivan smells his hair like a lover. "Russia is happy to be helping, happy to help, always happy to help brothers, hmmm?"
"Ru…Russia…please, this is some sort of joke-"
The hand on his shoulder slides up to his Adam's apple and presses. Lithuania starts to tremble, trying to twist his head back. "Is Russia really telling joke, Lithuania?"
He awakens in the middle of the night sweating and gasping and afraid, adrenaline prickling underneath his skin. Two pairs of eyes look back at him an inch from his face and he yells, trying to push her off, but she holds on tight with her nails and fingers and he is powerless against it.
Yes, he wants her. He has always wanted her. But not like this. Not when her face is expressionless and her mouth twisted in determination and a touch of fear. Not when Lithuania feels the Soviet hanging over them.
He wants to become one with her because she loves him, not because she loves her brother.
"Please," he begs. "Please, this isn't how it's meant to be-"
Belarus slaps him. "Don't you realise?" she hisses at him- angry child, angry child with powder sugar on her breath. "This is why. You never stand up for yourself. If you wanted me to stay then you should have stopped me leaving. If you wanted…if you wanted my brother to stay the same then you should have fought."
She sits on the end of the bed, naked and perfect in everyway except for the conflicted emotions in her eyes. They end up sleeping side by side, Toris fighting the urge to hug her like when she was just a child, and Belarus fighting her love and fear and love for her brother as he slips further and further into insanity.
It doesn't last long. Lithuania bolts for freedom. Whatever Ivan may do or say, it cannot be worse than this.
Lithuania bleeds into the snow, crouched over and retching, his vision swimming. Then, another crack across the back, the head of the tap digging deep into his spine. Another to the back of the neck and everything makes him sick- another and another and all around him is pain and pain and pain.
Once, Ivan had impressed him with his culture and his magnetism and his sheer scale. Somewhere, Lithuania had envied Ivan, because a little girl had walked through the snow just to be with him.
Now, in 1944, Russia laughs like an adult turned child and walks the Baltic with his pipe and swallows everything in his wake.
Home again, Lithuania thinks, defeated, as he stands on the sprawling red carpets of Russia's house. Outside there is war, but here as ever there is silent disrepair. He finds her sitting at the window in a chair in a room full of draperies. Half afraid, somehow now used to it, he stops behind her.
"Hello," he says through his split lip, wishing there was more to voice between them. She watches soldiers dying through the glass and doesn't speak. "It's me. Again." Nothing. As always Toris is assaulted by the sudden desire to be bigger and stronger and maybe even blond, but he knows now that it wouldn't change anything. Instead, he glances at her hair. Frowns.
"…you aren't wearing your ribbon."
Natalia points westwards with a dispassionate finger, still not looking at him. "I lost it. Out there."
It does not surprise him to hear that Belarus is shooting enemy soldiers on the German front. "You were fighting."
"For Brother Russia," she spits, trying to hurt him again. Hoping, desperately, that she still has the power to do that, at least. Hoping that the two of them haven't changed, in spite of a world that spins further and further out of their control.
Lithuania is meant to wilt, sad and quiet; he should splutter something stupid, anything, just to be the awkward reserved person he is supposed to be. He is supposed to just stand there and not know what to say, because then Belarus can laugh and sneer and tell him just how much more of a man her beloved Russia is. "I fought for him. Poland can't do anything against us."
Lithuania swallows and looks at her and feels his chest grow heavy. "I know," he says. "I know."
In a different time, somewhere else, Ivan watches the people running through the Gate. They're all together this time, Latvia and Estonia and Ukraine and Belarus, and they all adjust their threadbare red scarfs around their necks against the cold. The cries and shouts and tears that fill the air around them envelop them like a cloud of sound. Lithuania sees the colour returning to the Prussian next to him as he fidgets and trembles; he hears the small sounds that Ivan is making in his throat with every man who crosses through to Germany's open arms, and for the first time in years Toris feels something new and tentative stirring within him.
A woman is embracing her family mere metres from where they stand after years of being separated by concrete. Her children hug her and then pull away to run back and find their aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and teachers. She remains for a moment, wiping tears from her eyes, and smiles when she sees them. "It is wonderful to be together again, true?" she calls to them, overcome by emotion as she melts into the crowd.
In the minutes of silence that follow, Latvia mistakes choked throats for confusion at being addressed. Eyes darting between Russia and Belarus and Prussia, he attempts to offer them an explanation.
"…Maybe she mistook us for a family."
There's a dull thud as the pipe falls to the snow covered ground, slipped through slackened fingers. Ivan lowers his head, casting his face into shadow. Lithuania thinks that he sees him shaking.
"Go," Ivan whispers to the German standing on his left. "Go. Go home."
Prussia doesn't believe him at first. Doesn't dare. But then he casts off his scarf, face alight with a million different emotions, and runs with barely a backwards glance.
Estonia and Latvia stand and gaze at the coat-tails as they disappear. Ukraine closes her eyes and turns away. Natalia doesn't move as her brother's eyes dull that little bit more, clockwork unwinding and dying and seizing.
Toris reaches to take her hand, and, for the first time, she lets him.
One year later Lithuania packs his bags and walks through his prison for what he hopes is the last time. Ivan is standing at the doorway. "You are leaving me?" he asks, not really a question.
There was a time when Toris would have quailed at these words, but that is not today. "Yes."
Russia doesn't croon under his breath as he once did. His pipe stands lonely watch against the wall, metres behind them. "If you are leaving, the others will be wanting to go too." Russia's childish voice is lower and older than he remembers, his eyes less luminous. "Ukraine, and Estonia and Latvia and…"
"…Yes." It's odd that now, of all times, Toris feels some kind of emotion welling up inside of him as he watches the Russian blankly staring back. He knows what he is condemning this man to: he has seen the Prussian whirlwind in and out of their lives, has seen the Great Bear walk, head down, from Berlin back to Moscow without a word. He knows that he will step out of the doors of the Soviet Union and unwittingly take the others with him, and Russia will be left alone.
Lithuania knows the pain of an empty house. But he also knows, now, to take what he wants when he can. "I'm sorry, Ivan."
Deep down, he thinks as he walks out the door and leaves the Motherland behind, he means it. Belarus doesn't say goodbye.
When Feliks sees him standing on his doorstep he pulls him roughly into an embrace, laughing all the while.
"He made me leave."
Toris serves the coffee with a vague sort of smile on his face. He fills her cup with rock sugar and a long dash of cream, stirs it with a silver spoon. "…Maybe he was trying to tell you something," he offers.
Belarus lifts her saucer and raises an eyebrow, not amused. "You are wrong, as usual. My boss is talking long with my brother. Soon I will be back and my brother can be happy again."
The steam rises in calm eddies above his cup. Lithuania doesn't know what to think, but the look on Russia's face the night he walked away is still fresh in his mind. He turns his cup in his hands, once, twice, three times and he sees his own reflection staring back.
"I…I hope so." And he does. He hopes that it is possible for Ivan to be happy again, but at the same time, he wonders if Natalia is able to do it. Belarus may not be Latvia's fairytale idea of a sibling, but she is not as unfeeling as she would like to believe.
Natalia brings her hand down from the windowpane after she looks out at the Lithuanian landscape around them. She lowers her gaze to the rue flowers sitting in the vase between them.
"Do you think…do you think it will be alright, Lithuania?"
He looks up at her, and thinks of Feliks and Ukraine and Latvia and Estonia, about families and races and almost-wives and almost-brothers and almost-brothers-in-law, and somehow nothing seems so black and white anymore. His hand takes hers on the table. It's cold from the window. His is hot from the coffee and he decides to meet her halfway at lukewarm.
"Yes," he says. "I think it will."
Original written for kink meme request: Litbel
Did you know?
What would eventually become Belarus was originally called Kiev, or Kievan-Rus. When Russia was invaded by the Mongols in the 13th century the region was badly affected. At this point, the principalities were incorporated into The Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
On February 2, 1386, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland were joined in a personal union through a marriage of their rulers. The two countries became extremely close, fighting the Battle of Grunwald together; in 1569 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was formed.
After this, the Russian Empire attempted to invade the Commonwealth specifically to regain the regions of Ukraine and Belarus. The first of two campaigns was lead by Ivan the III. No joke.
...The second campaign succeeded.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was ended under duress from Austria, Prussia and Russia in 1795. The Lithuanian lands were annexed by the Russian Empire.
The Russian October Revolution, in which the Soviets seized power, occured in 1917, while the Russian civil war extended about from then until 1921. It was during this time of turmoil that the Litbel Soviet Socialist Republic was made (1919). It lasted all of 9 months before the Polish-Soviet War tore the country in two, and Liet ran away.
In 1944, Russia invaded Lithuania again (pushing away the German forces therein), this time as the Soviet Russia of WWII that we all know and love.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
One year later, on March 11 1990, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its renewed independence.
Belarus declared its independence one year later.
The Rue flower is Lithuania's floral emblem.
blynai- Lithuanian crepes
alus- a form of Lithuanian beer/ale