A/N: Phew! Only slightly late! This is why I can't write giftfics... Anyway, I wrote this for Russia's birthday, since he's one of my favourite characters. It was supposed to be a lot angstier, but it turned out quite different.

Happy birthday, Russia!


Happy Birthday to Me

It was winter in Russia, a particularly harsh winter this year, and yet Russia was feeling quite excited and optimistic. He hadn't felt this way in a long, long time. The last couple of days had been busy for him, but he didn't mind. Who knew that decorating such a big house could be so much fun? Of course, it would probably have been even more fun had he had some company, but the thought that his house would soon be full of life again comforted him.

He paused in his work with a contented sigh and took one look at the calendar hanging on the wall at the kitchen. The 30th of December. His birthday. Not that he had actually been born on that day, strictly speaking. He didn't actually remember his true date of birth, nor did he care to; he didn't much like to think about his younger days. However, this date held a special meaning to him, and he had adopted it as his birthday years ago.

Back in the Soviet days, this had been such a joyful time. Both his sisters and all his comrades would throw him a party, shower him with lovely presents, sing to him... Of course, that hadn't happened ever since the fall of the USSR. He hadn't celebrated his birthday at all since then and would only spend this day wallowing in self-pity and drinking himself into a near coma.

Not this year, though! He'd already decided that this year would be different, that he'd got over the past and was once again ready to reach out for the rest of the world. Let bygones be bygones! He would even let go of his grudge against England. Surely then the other nations would respond in kind and want to be his friends?

Yes, he would throw a birthday party.

It wouldn't be just like his old parties, though. For one, neither of his sisters would be present. Ukraine had already sent him a birthday card, with a side note apologising that she wouldn't be able to come to see him because her boss was still forbidding her from it. As for Belarus, the poor thing was still too unbalanced and would certainly make this a very unpleasant evening if she showed up, so Russia sent her a letter saying that he would throw a party somewhere warm and exotic this year – in Pitcairn Island, a tiny volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Very picturesque. She would love it.

Everyone else was invited, even the nations that had never got along too well with Russia, like Poland and America. After all, by coming to his house, eating his food, drinking his drinks, and generally having a good time with him, they would be one with Russia, even if just for one night. Never let it be said that Russia was unfair; everyone had the right to become one with Russia, no exceptions. (Belarus would, too, as soon as she recovered her marbles.)

First he had tried calling them, starting with his neighbours. But after they had all failed to answer the phone, he had given up, figuring that his telephone must be broken. Thus, he had decided to send everyone personalised invitation cards. He had spent hours on them, making sure to word his invitation in the nicest, most non-threatening way possible. He had also remembered to add a postscript about how there would be lots and lots of vodka, because he knew that a party was only a good party when there was a lot of free liquor. And what better liquor than vodka, right? With nations such as England who loosened up with alcohol in their systems, this would be a really lively party!

He had only got one reply to his invitation, from Japan, who had very politely excused himself from attending the party for numerous vague reasons that Russia hadn't bother to read through. It was a pity that Japan couldn't come, but he probably wasn't good with parties, anyway. Too stiff and quiet. No big loss. Since no one else sent a similar note, he could only assume they were all coming, so Russia couldn't even bring himself to feel too disappointed about Japan's absence.

Now it was his birthday at last, and he was finishing the last preparations. He had decorated the entire house with Russian flags and sunflowers, making the place look unusually colourful and merry. There was an extensive supply of vodka ready – as well as soda for the younger nations, just in case – and all kinds of foods and sweets. After he was done with the preparations, he showered and put on one of his best set of clothes. They might not be warm enough for this winter, but he wanted to look presentable to his guests on his birthday. Finally, he also got some traditional Russian music playing and began to hum along with it as he sat down to wait for his guests, giggling and swinging his legs in excitement. They would soon be here... He couldn't wait!

After a while, all the waiting made him feel a little bored and he let his mind wander, thinking about what a great party it would be once everyone arrived. He also felt rather cold, so he fetched a bottle of vodka and began to drink. Surely his guests wouldn't mind if he took one little bottle before them, right? He drank slowly, allowing the vodka to warm him up and relax him. Between one gulp and the next, he continued to hum along with the music.

One hour passed. He began to wonder if the bad weather was delaying his guests.

Two hours...

Three...

Eventually, he gave up on glancing at the clock every five minutes. It seemed rather pointless, now; all he knew was that it was too late. The music had long stopped. He had put it on repeat, but it had finished replaying long ago all the same. He was on his third bottle of vodka and drinking less and less slowly. Rather than bounce excitedly on his couch, he now slumped over it very quietly, almost sluggishly.

For a good while, he had hoped that his guests had only been slightly delayed by the weather or something of the sort. But after all this time, he expected at least one of them to have already arrived, especially his neighbours. Bad weather or not, how long could it possibly take for Lithuania to come to Russia? Or Estonia? Or Finland?

He didn't want to believe it at first, but it seemed that he would have to accept it. No one was coming to his birthday party. Not a single nation. How was that even possible? He had invited all the nations he knew, and not one was willing to do something as innocent as attending a homely birthday party? It wasn't as though there was anything political about it. He knew he was rather unpopular even after the USSR had fallen, but not to this extent. Was he really that abhorrent?

After imagining how crowded and lively his party would be, the desolation and silence in his house now seemed to be mocking him. His house was always empty and quiet, but this was different; the decorations only emphasised how lonely he was, made it hurt even more. In retrospect, perhaps he really had been an idiot to think that throwing a party like this would be a remotely good idea. No one ever wanted to get near him, so why would it change now?

He was so lost in his increasingly depressing thoughts and haze brought on by the alcohol that it took him a while to realise that someone was knocking on his door. At first, he wondered if he was just hearing things, either out of wishful thinking or because he had drunk too much. However, the sound persisted and became louder and louder. Russia still didn't move for a while, though. It couldn't be a guest; not at this time. It was probably something stupid, like a neighbour coming to ask him if they could borrow his shovel so they could get the snow off their doorstep.

When the person outside kept knocking insistently, it occurred to Russia that it just might actually be something important, and besides, he had nothing better to do, so he might as well see what it was all about. Who knew, maybe it would help take his mind off the failure of his birthday party? He heaved himself to his feet and lazily staggered over to the door.

"Finally! It's freaking cold out here! What the hell took you so long?" were the words that greeted him upon opening the door.

Russia squinted. His eyes seemed to be seeing double – he hadn't realised he was so intoxicated – but it was quite obvious that this was not a neighbour. For one thing, they spoke English, not Russian. English with that familiar, annoying American accent.

"America?" he asked, his tone doubtful, because although this person looked and sounded like America, this was was the last person – either human or nation - he had expected to see when he opened the door. Also, he was still seeing double, so it was entirely possible that he was mistaken about his visitor's identity.

"Hey, Russia," he said casually as he stepped inside without waiting for an invitation. Oddly enough, his double's lips didn't move at all when he spoke. "Sorry I'm late and all. I mean, I did mean to get here fashionably late, but the weather was so bad that we almost couldn't make it."

"'We?'" asked Russia, his eyes darting around. He was quite certain the two of them were alone. Now that he felt more alert, the shock of seeing America sobering him up a little, his eyes had finally managed to focus on his former rival, who was peeling several layers of clothes off his body. He must have been wearing about six layers, and he still kept at least three even inside the house. "Geez, don't you have a heater in this house? I'm freezing here! It's almost as cold as outside!"

Russia didn't reply, for he was still too busy trying to figure out what America was doing in his house. He still could barely believe he was even there in the first place. America didn't seem to be expecting an answer, though; still with a very casual demeanour, he walked over to Russia and shoved something that looked like a piece of paper into Russia's hands.

"Happy birthday. Here's your present. It's a one-way ticket to Alaska, so you can see all that oil you pretty much gave to me and enjoy the lovely weather that will make you feel right at home." His tone was overly friendly, fake, with undertones of irony and derision. It was a familiar tone, which they had often used towards each other during the Cold War. America probably thought he was being very clever by making this payback for that one-way ticket to Siberia that Russia had given him for his birthday years ago.

Unfortunately, Russia was too confused to be either amused or offended by this. He barely spared the ticket a quick glance before he went back to staring at America, who was now heading to the table where all the food lay.

"Let's see if I can find anything edible here," he was rambling to himself. "There had better be, after I came all the way here and went through that blizzard!"

"Ah... America. What are you doing here?" Russia finally recovered enough to ask, with his usual smile.

America sent him a quick, odd glance, as though Russia had just suggested they dance the polka.

"You should lay off the vodka a little, Russia," he said, mouth already full. "Seriously, it's doing funny things to your brain. Did you forget you invited me to your birthday party?"

"I know I invited you. I invited everyone," said Russia, his voice almost cracking at the end. His smile still remained firmly in place. "I was just wondering why you of all nations showed up." Russia paused as another thought suddenly struck his mind. What if everyone else had also decided to come "fashionably late" and got delayed by the bad weather? Maybe America just happened to be the first one to make it here, and the others would soon follow!

"Well, you know I can't say no to free food," said America almost unintelligibly, since his mouth was full again. "Hey, where are the hamburgers?"

Russia froze. If he were dealing with any other nation, he would have thought that he had misheard him, but since this was America – blunt, dense, insensitive America – it was easy to believe that those were actually the words that Russia had heard.

"Wait, you're..." he faltered. "So, what you're saying is that you only came to my party because of the free food?"

America didn't answer – didn't even seem to have heard him – but he didn't have to say anything. One look at him made it obvious that that was exactly why America had showed up. He just wanted to gorge himself on Russia's food and he would certainly leave as soon as nothing else was left.

It was just too much. It was bad enough when his expectations for a great party had been broken, but to let a new sliver of hope grown in his heart only to crush it a moment later, all in the same evening, was too much for him to handle. For a moment, he felt a rush of anger and contemplated how lovely America would look with his skull bashed in, but the feeling passed as quickly as it came to be replaced with something else. It was hopeless. He couldn't even touch America in the state he was in. They might have been equals in the past, but now America was stronger, while Russia had been reduced to—to this.

His strained smile didn't so much fall as plunge, his eyes began to sting, and his chest constricted painfully. This. This was what he had been reduced to, and he was powerless to do anything about it. He had lost everything – his power, his status, his family, friends, allies, and now his hope and dignity as well. He was completely alone in the world, and the only people who would still bother visiting him were his psychotic sister and his former rival who was really only interested in his food.

He hadn't felt this pathetic in a long, long time.

"Hey, are you all right?" he heard America ask quietly.

Russia quickly turned to look at him, taken aback by the soft tone that was so unusual coming from the usually boisterous nation. However, to add to his confusion, America wasn't looking at him at all and was still mumbling to himself about hamburgers.

"Russia?" said that voice again, and this time he was sure it wasn't coming from America. He took a half-hearted look around, but there was no one else to be seen. Wonderful. On top of everything else, he was now hallucinating and hearing voices. He let out a loud sob, unable to hold it back any longer.

"What the—Oh! Um... Hey... Are you—you okay? What's the matter with you?" This time it was definitely America, who had finally deigned to stop eating and look at Russia. He dared not approach him, though, and looked as though he were dealing with a bomb that might explode any moment. He squinted his eyes at Russia, eyebrows rising in disbelief. "Wait—Are you crying?"

Russia sniffled, feeling utterly miserable and humiliated. "It's not fair..." he whispered. "No one likes you, either, and yet they all go to your party... so why can't they come to mine? Why can't they even pretend to like me for one day?" He let out another sob and wiped furiously at his eyes.

When he felt a hand touch his shoulder, he looked up to see that America had finally brought himself to approach him. He looked completely out of his depth and almost embarrassed as he patted Russia's shoulder in a way that was more awkward than comforting. It was such an unusual expression on America's face that Russia actually took a moment to stare in wonder.

"Um... There, there," said America, in a tone that suggested that he was saying it because he was expected to, not because he actually wanted to comfort Russia. It was obvious that America was beginning to regret coming here, and his pathetic attempt at comforting Russia just because it seemed like the right thing to do only disgusted him. Russia shook him off and turned his back on him so that he wouldn't see his tear-streaked face. "You know," America said and paused to take a deep breath, "having people pretend to like you isn't as nice as it sounds, really. At least you don't have to worry about them stabbing you in the back when you least expect it."

"You're right; I don't have to worry about that," said Russia, his voice laced with bitter irony. "Because it's already happened!"

"Okay, look, you kind of had it coming, right? I mean, if you weren't such a creepy jerk—"

"America, you are not helping."

Russia frowned. He wasn't sure if he had spoken out loud, but the voice sounded foreign to his own ears. In any case, America seemed to be having a conversation with himself now.

"What would help, then? Vodka? That always seems to make him happier." A small pause. "No, I think he's already had too much to drink. Maybe something to calm him down, like... tea?" Another very brief pause. "Oh, I know! I'll make some hamburgers! Hamburgers can make anyone feel better! You just sit down and I'll bring some in a moment!" He sighed. "You're not listening to me, are you?"

As a matter of fact, Russia was listening; he just couldn't bring himself to care what America intended to do, nor did he feel inclined to interact with him any longer. The suggestion to sit down sounded good, though. Russia felt as though all of his energy had been drained along with his tears.

Even though America had just said he would go and make hamburgers, he patted Russia's shoulder again, looking up at him with an oddly sincere, kind expression.

"It's okay, Russia. I—I understand how you feel," he said softly. "I know all too well what it feels like to be forgotten by everybody else... to feel completely alone in the world. But I can be your friend, for real." He fumbled for a handkerchief and offered it to him. Russia took it, but was too stunned to thank him. "Why don't we sit down?"

Russia nodded and made his slow way to the couch, wiping his eyes and blowing his nose in the meantime. He wondered if America was saying the truth. He did sound very sincere for once, but Russia had never imagined him to know what true loneliness felt like. When had America ever had reason to feel utterly abandoned? Was he talking about when he and England had fought? And had he really meant it about wanting to be his friend for real?

He sat down heavily on the couch, folding the handkerchief neatly, and looked around for America. He had meant to ask for a clarification and maybe return the handkerchief, but the other nation had apparently vanished into thin air. Then, he heard some clattering sounds coming from the kitchen and figured that America must have gone off to make hamburgers, as promised. With a mental shrug, he stuffed the handkerchief in his pocket and waited for him to come back.

A moment later, he thought he could hear a very soft sound, a bit like a wheeze. "Please..." a voice seemed to whisper in his ear. Russia nervously fiddled with the end of his scarf, his eyes watching his surroundings warily. There was no one else here. He was just hearing things again. It was the alcohol. He didn't like to admit it even to himself, but he really must have drunk too much. He should just ignore it. Maybe it would eventually go away.

Incidentally, his couch felt particularly comfortable tonight.

A few minutes later, America came back holding a tray with a mountain of hamburgers in one hand and three piled glasses in his other hand. He set them all on the coffee table in front of Russia and then quickly fetched some soda.

"There, they probably aren't as good as the ones I make back home, but I did my best with the stuff I found in your kitchen. Seriously, when was the last time you went out to buy groceries?" America babbled excitedly as he poured soda into three glasses. He set one glass close to Russia, took one for himself, and then looked around as if he had lost something.

"You brought an extra glass," Russia pointed out tiredly.

"Nah, this one was for Canada. I remembered it at the last minute. Where did he go, anyway?"

"Who?" Russia looked around once again.

"Well, never mind. Maybe he's gone to the bathroom or something. Anyway, um..." America looked awkward again, even as he scarfed down the hamburger he had just taken from the huge pile. "Look, I'm—I'm sorry no one else came to your party. That really sucks."

America didn't seem to know what else to say, and Russia wasn't sure how to respond, either, so a tense silence ensued for the next few minutes. Once upon a time, they might have been close friends who knew exactly what to do to make each other feel at ease and make this a companionable silence, but after all the things that had happened between them in the past century, they no longer had any idea how to have a sincerely civil conversation.

Then, when that mysterious wheezing sound reached Russia's ears again, he felt the urgent need to break the silence, "Um, did you mean it? About being my friend? Would you really be my friend, even for one day?"

For a moment, America looked like he had no idea what Russia was talking about, but then he smiled and nodded. "Yeah, sure. One day... Why not?" He cleared his throat and looked around as if seeking inspiration. "So, I see you decorated the whole place with sunflowers. Do you like sunflowers, Russia?" he spoke in a loud yet slightly monotonous voice, like a bad actor rehearsing for a play. Russia blinked, wondering what had happened to that soft, candid tone from before.

Still, he smiled back at America. At least he was trying to be nice. It was a vast improvement from their Cold War days.

"Yes, I love sunflowers," he replied, with a fond look at the decorations. "It's my favourite flower. It's—" Russia broke off, wondering if it was really wise to be so open with his former rival, but since they were supposed to be friends, at least for one day, he decided this was the kind of thing that he would like to tell him. "It is my dream... to live in a warm place, surrounded by sunflowers," he said, shyly fiddling with his scarf again.

"Are you serious? Huh. That's a strange dream, coming from you," said America bluntly. Russia could feel his face burning up, and he knew it wasn't because of the alcohol. He threw America a wounded look. "B-but it does sound like a nice dream!" America tried to amend, but Russia still thought he had been foolish to think that America would want to hear about his stupid dream.

"What is your dream, then?" he asked sullenly.

America hummed, deep in thought, and leant back on the couch. His gaze was directed at the ceiling, but focused on something far beyond. "Yes, well... Since I've already been to the moon, which used to be my greatest dream, I guess my dream now is to go to Mars."

If anything, Russia felt his mood darken even more as bitter memories from the Cold War and the Space Race came back to him. For once, America seemed to realise that he might have said the wrong thing and quickly changed the subject, "Er, so, what do you do for fun here? I mean, this is supposed to be a party, right?"

With just a hint of mischief, Russia smiled again and said, "Well, sometimes we put on a swimsuit and go out to play in the snow or swim in a frozen lake."

America stared for a second and then burst into laughter. "That's funny! You almost had me there!"

Russia's smile turned more innocent. "But I'm serious."

As America's laughter died down, he looked Russia up and down and grimaced. "You know what? I believe you. It's just like you to do something so insane and unpleasant for fun." He shuddered. "Don't you have any normal pastimes or games?"

"We could build snowmen?"

"That's better, but there's still a blizzard going on outside. Isn't there anything else? Something that doesn't involve snow or me dying from hypothermia? How about a video game?"

Russia thought about it. He wasn't much into video games, but there was one he had always been rather proud of. "Well, I have Tetris."

"Oh, I love Tetris! One of the best games Japan has ever made!"

Russia sighed and opened his mouth to correct him, but when he heard that creepy wheezing sound again, he just leapt to his feet and hurried to get the game.

oOo

Once his old Atari console was set up and the two nations had played a couple of rounds, Russia finally explained to America that Tetris was, in a reality, a Soviet creation, not Japanese. It was beyond him how America had remained oblivious to that fact after all these years, because it was just so obvious. To top it off, America had the gall to be doubtful.

"You're kidding me," he told Russia, his unblinking eyes never leaving the screen, which reflected brightly on his glasses.

"It's true, America. Tetris is mine," Russia replied levelly, his eyes also intently focused on the game.

"Tetris is too awesome to be yours. Everyone knows the best games are either mine or Japan's."

"Except for this one, which is mine."

"Yeah, right..."

"It's true."

"You wish!"

"Remember the Game Boy version? It plays a famous Russian song."

"That earworm? That's not a Russian song."

"It's a Russian folk song. It's called Korobeiniki." Even though that particular tune wasn't playing right now, Russia began to sing the lyrics, the Russian words rolling off his tongue without hesitation and in perfect timing. Even America would be able to tell that they weren't just random gibberish that Russia was coming up with as he sang. He actually knew them by heart – had learnt them a long, long time ago, before video games were even invented.

Before the song was over, Russia won that round.

"Well, I'll be damned," muttered America, looking around himself. "Where did I left my coke?"

Russia took America's glass, which he had surreptitiously taken some time during the game, while America had been distracted, to spike it with vodka. "Here it is," he said innocently and handed him the glass.

"Oh, thanks." America took a gulp, grimaced, and choked violently. He sent Russia a mild glare. "Oh, I see what you did there." Much to Russia's surprise, however, he took another sip. "It doesn't taste that bad, actually."

Intrigued, Russia decided to to fill his half-empty glass of coke with vodka.

After half an hour, they were still playing Tetris. Their success rates had dropped dramatically as the alcohol began to affect their sight and coordination, but they were actually having even more fun that way. Or, at least, Russia was having fun, and America also looked very amused. Every time one of them made a stupid mistake – which was every ten seconds or so, they'd burst into laughter, because for some reason it all seemed so hilarious.

"You know, it makes so much sense that this is actually one of your inventions!" said America, a little louder than usual. "This game is so damn addicting that it just has to be some kind of—some kind of brain-washing thing so you can take over the world!"

Russia laughed. From the moment they had started playing this game, they had been bickering, first about who was better at it, then about whether Tetris was really a Soviet game, and now these remarks reminiscent of the Cold War had come up. Usually, it would have annoyed Russia to no end and they would have already been at each other's throats, but for some reason, Russia had yet to feel the slightest bit offended. If he thought about it, he was actually enjoying this little bickering. He had forgotten how amusing America could be – either deliberately or out of ignorance.

The only thing that sort of ruined his fun was that whispering voice that kept saying, "Can I play now? Just a little?" It sent a shiver down Russia's spine.

"Did you hear that?" he asked America.

"Hear what?"

"A whisper... someone saying they want to play. It reminds me of the ghost of a sad child or something like that."

"A ghost?" The grin on America's face died a sudden death, his skin becoming visibly paler, and he swore under his breath. "Don't tell me your house is haunted! Oh, God, I hate ghosts!"

"Maybe it was just the wind," Russia slurred, more to himself than to the panicking nation at his side. Whether it was really just the wind, a ghost, or a hallucination, he had grown sick of this mysterious whispering. It was all because the house was so quiet! They needed to muffle the whispering with something loud, something other than their own voices.

While America continued to flail in mindless horror, Russia calmly staggered to his feet and went to get that traditional Russian music disc to play one more time.

"There," he said loud enough for America to hear him when the music filled the room, "now the ghost won't bother us any more. Ghosts hate happy music!"

"D-do they?"

"Of course! That's why they hang out in dark, quiet places like abandoned mansions and cemeteries, right?"

"Y-yeah, you're right! Good point!"

Russia couldn't hold back a giggle at the way America was acting. Such a strong, powerful nation who liked to act like a brave hero, and yet he was reduced to a quivering mess worse than Latvia at the mere suggestion of ghosts.

However, thanks to Russia's catchy folk songs and the alcohol consumed along with coke, America gradually forgot about the possibility of a ghost haunting this house and his good mood returned. Even the awkwardness he had felt around Russia before had disappeared completely. Who would have thought that America was so much easier to get along with when he was drunk? One would have rather assumed that he would become even more obnoxious, but...

On second thought, he supposed America had become even more obnoxious, but since Russia was also a little inebriated, it didn't bother him so much.

They spent the next two hours dancing clumsily – or rather, Russia danced clumsily and America tried to copy his movements, but he was so bad at it that he soon gave up on it and decided to go free style, which had nothing to do with the actual rhythm of the music. It was hilarious to watch. Eventually, America even began to sing in English, though the lyrics didn't make a lot of sense. All the time, they were drinking. Russia wasn't even bothered by the waste of vodka and the mess it made on the floor. At least not yet.

After the music ended, America happened to notice that the weather outside had finally improved a little. "We could build those snowmen now!" Russia suggested. This time, America approved of the idea and hurried to get his tons of coats and scarf back on before the two of them left, looking like a pair of overgrown kids high on sugar.

America was building some rather sloppy snowmen and claiming they were nations. He gave one of them think eyebrows and proclaimed it England. Then he got another blob leaning on "England" and said, "France, molesting England." While he worked on making another snow blob that was supposed to be Japan, Russia busied himself with making his sisters, and then the three Baltic nations.

"America, give me your glasses," he said.

"Huh? Why do you want my glasses?"

"To put them on Estonia," said Russia in a singsong.

"Nuh-uh. Texas doesn't belong in Estonia. It's too hot for Estonia."

"Aww, but Estonia needs his glasses..." Russia whined and turned to see America get started on a new snowman. Muffling a mischievous giggle, he sneaked up on America and snatched his glasses from his face, then hurried back to put it on his Estonia snowman. He surveyed his handiwork proudly – it wasn't his best, but it was much better than any of America's snowmen.

He was only a little disappointed when all America did to protest against his glasses being stolen was a feeble, "Hey, those are mine..." What a boring reaction.

Satisfied, Russia ambled over to one of America's snowmen, noticing curiously how it looked much better than all the others. It seemed to be a representation of Cuba – it even had a short, thick stick that looked like a cigar in a corner of its mouth. Russia felt a slight sting in his heart; even Cuba, his old comrade, hadn't showed up to his party. Then again, Cuba had never done well in the cold...

"Hey, this one is really good, America," he said, more to distract himself than out of a real inclination to praise America – even if he did deserve it, because it was true that this snowman looked very well done.

"Thanks! Uh..." America, having already retrieved his glasses, came to stand next to Russia and see what exactly he was being praised for. He frowned. "But that one isn't mine. I thought it was yours. I mean, you and Cuba were such great friends, right?"

"I'm sure I didn't make it. It has to be yours, America."

"Why the hell would I make a Cuba snowman? He hates me, and I can't say the feeling isn't mutual."

Russia shook his head and sighed. He was certain he hadn't made it; in all likelihood, America was too drunk to remember his own snowmen.

He felt that shiver again. Was it General Winter?

"Er—We had better go back inside. You must be cold, right?" he said to America, who nodded and grinned.

"Hey, it's almost midnight!" America pointed out once they were back inside. "It's time to sing Happy Birthday to You! Where are the candles?"

"I only got one candle. I don't even know exactly how old I am," said Russia, blushing a little at his own ignorance. "And anyway, all the candles would probably cover the whole cake, so I thought just one would do."

"Okay, makes sense," mumbled America, who was too busy trying to light up the one candle on the cake. "Um, okay," he said once he finally succeeded in lighting it. "So, how do you sing it in Russian?"

"It's okay, you can sing in English..."

"No, no, you're the birthday boy, so we should sing in Russian. Besides, it's more fun that way. Just say the words and I'll repeat them."

Russia did so, pronouncing the words slowly and carefully, but America still managed to garble them beyond recognition and the lyrics ended up as vaguely Russian-sounding gibberish mixed in with random English words that happened to sound a little like the Russian ones. It was actually quite funny, and halfway into the song, even Russia was unable to pronounce his own words, because he was laughing too hard.

Maybe Russia had laughed a little too hard, though, because when the song was about to end, his heart popped out and dropped messily on the cake.

"Oh, my God! Not again!" America burst out, staring at the still beating heart and the blood coating the cake. "Russia, that's so gross! Hurry up and put it back in!"

Russia fumbled with his heart, murmuring a quiet apology.

"Yeah, don't worry about it," America said and pointed in the general direction of the cake. "Just... I'm not touching that cake, okay?"

Once his heart was back in place and Russia managed to get most of the blood off the cake and eat a slice, they both sat back on the couch and drank a little more, feeling tired but contented.

It occurred to him that he hadn't had the chance to make a wish before blowing out the candle, but he tried not to let that bother him. It was a stupid wish, anyway. He was Russia; he would never be in a warm place surrounded by sunflowers.

"You know..." slurred America, waving his glass around. "You're not such a bad guy, after all. I mean, it looks like you've got better after... you know... that stuff that happened after World War II. I guess I wouldn't mind being your friend again. For real."

Russia hummed. He didn't reply out loud, but in his mind, he had been thinking the same thing about America. This birthday party wasn't anything like he had planned. It couldn't even be called a party, really, because that usually involved more than two people. But he wasn't alone. They had drunk, played, chatted, sung, danced, and built snowmen together, like... like friends. No one had ever done anything like that for Russia – only his sisters had ever played with him when they had been children, but that was different – and America looked like he was having as much fun as Russia.

At this point, he didn't even care if America was only faking it. America had done exactly what he had promised to do – be Russia's friend for one day. It might have been a silly promise for America, but it meant a lot to Russia. Even if it was only a façade that America was putting up, it felt real to Russia, and that was what mattered. He only regretted that by tomorrow everything would go back to normal and America would go back to being the self-centred idiot he was, while Russia would be alone again. He wanted this day to last forever.

And that was his last thought before he fell asleep.

oOo

When he woke up, it was morning – almost midday, in fact – and he was alone in the house. For a while, he wondered if he had dreamt the whole thing, but then he saw the spilt vodka on the floor and the remaining blood on the half-eaten cake, and he still had the one-way ticket to Alaska in his pocket.

Still, what difference did it make? Whether last night had been real or just a dream, it was over and it wasn't going to happen again. America had already left, having not even bothered to wait for Russia to wake up, and Russia was alone again, just as he had predicted before falling asleep.

At least the whispering sound in his ears had stopped, too.

Then, he saw a sunflower – a real one, not a fake decoration – on the table, over two pieces of paper. Russia took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the yellow flower and stroke the soft, bright petals before he picked up the piece of paper on the top. It was a ticket to the USA. To Kansas, to be exact. Intrigued, Russia took the other piece of paper, which turned out to be a card. It read:

Dear Russia,

Sorry we had to leave without

saying goodbye. Last night was

really fun, though. We should

hang out more.

We meant what we said about

being your friends.

By the way, the ticket to Alaska

was a stupid joke. Here's your

actual birthday present: a ticket

to Kansas. Now your dream to be

somewhere warm and surrounded

by sunflowers can also come true.

Happy Birthday!

Your friends,

America and Canada

Russia smiled at the card and at the sunflower in his hand, already imagining a whole field of them around him. Who would have thought? His birthday wish had actually come true. It wasn't perfect – his family was still out of his reach – but it looked like things might finally get better for him. For now, he had just been given the best birthday present in his life.

The End


ETA - A/N: Thank you very much for the reviews, everyone! You're all awesome!