A/N: Please note that this fic contains history as interpreted by me and Himaruya Hidekaz; if anything offends you, I'm sorry, and if anything is glaringly wrong, be it historical detail or typos, please tell me, as I'm happy to correct.

The last time Lithuania was here, it was a quiet city. The people stayed in their houses after dark, afraid of the night and the powers that be and the future that was just starting to slip away. The last time he was here, he walked confidently out of Russia's house and into the night, expecting to be followed, but sure that he could escape whatever was coming and be free, in his own land once more. He crossed a darkened street and, hearing no footsteps behind him, turned to see why Russia had ignored his departure, after fighting him for so long. He caught a glimpse of the man through the kitchen window, partially obscured by faded ivory drapes, slumped over the table with his head in his hands. Something pulled at him - sympathy, beckoning him back, compelling him to stay. But Lithuania would never give in to mere sympathy, not after suffering for years like he had. He steeled himself, turned, and ran.

Lithuania doesn't remember exactly how he got home that night. He only remembers waking up the next morning, a free nation for the first time in 50 years, feeling completely liberated though he knew that the road ahead would not be easy. But he remembers what happened before, everything he said and did that got him the worst beating of his life, and then so miraculously freed him.

He was afraid that coming back to those same streets would reawaken old memories. He was afraid that he wouldn't be able to stand it. But it turns out he didn't have to worry. Because these aren't the same streets.

Everywhere he looks, lights are blazing. A fantastic variety of people flood the sidewalk, from wild-haired punks with body piercings to slender, well-groomed socialites in clothes that probably cost more than most people's yearly salaries. Looking around at the streets (glowing multicolored from a million neon ads and club windows) Lithuania wonders: is this really Moscow?

But he immediately answers his own question. He is surer of it than he has ever been sure of anything in his life: this is that place, the place he decided to return to. It may have changed, but it is the same location, the same latitude and longitude on the spinning Earth. Russia's house is still there. And he might be crazy, but he can't go back now. He has given himself a mission. He hugs the bundle he's carrying tighter to his chest, breathing steam into the bitingly cold air. The cold – what Russia always hated most – at least that hasn't changed.

He pauses at a crosswalk – something he never had to do before, because almost no one was out this late at night. But now he has to wait for cars to pass. As he is about to step out, a motorcycle roars by – no, a whole gang of them, going 10, 20 miles above the speed limit, dodging around cars, unmuffled engines ripping the night in half. Lithuania takes a moment to recover from the shock, then steps out briskly into the street. He never thought he would see people like this loose on the streets of Moscow. If things were as they were before, these rebels would surely be in jail – or worse. Now they own the streets. Whether that's better or worse is not for him to say.

To avoid the unusual clamor and the blinding lights, Lithuania ducks onto a quieter street – not perfectly quiet, of course, but a bit darker and gentler than the one he was on before. He walks past one building that's refreshingly dark, with just a few lights on in the higher windows. Probably an office building, judging from the glass-doored lobby and plant-lined plaza outside. And just off that plaza, on a small rise overlooking the buzzing city below, there's a young couple kissing under the stars. What a beautiful place for a romantic outing, Lithuania thinks, averting his eyes so he won't be privy to their intimate moments. He doesn't want to think about love for himself anymore, content with the happiness of all the human couples in his land and others. Because no matter what, people always find a way to be happy together, even if their countries do not.

Lithuania had a few good experiences in his youth – messing around with Poland in the rye fields, for example – but now whenever he thinks of romance and the physical behaviors that go with it, he can only recall Russia's tongue forcing its way into his mouth, the overwhelming taste of vodka, hands urgently ripping off his clothes with no consideration for him, and his body's unwanted response to it, every time.

It wasn't always bad, of course. There were times when Russia was gentler, even what you would call affectionate, holding Lithuania softly, stroking his hair, tenderly kissing his cheeks and the back of his neck. But even then, Lithuania was always paralyzed with fear, because that was what was scary about Russia: you never knew when he would be cruel, when he would be kind. The first time Russia called Lithuania to his room (it feels like so long ago; it must have been around the turn of the 20th century) he didn't know what to expect: he'd seen Russia's cruelty before, been punished for disobeying, but he'd never imagined that he would be used this way, for no purpose but another man's sadistic pleasure. For a while, living as part of the Russian empire hadn't seemed so bad. After that first night, Lithuania wanted out.

Lithuania used to wonder why Russia was so cruel to his own people, to the empire under his protection. He wondered why – and how he could stop Russia from doing anything worse. He wanted to do something. But he never had the courage, at least after that day –

"We don't want children . . . who can't play nice, do we?" Russia says, his face twisting in an expression Lithuania has never seen before. He lifts his gun and fires a shot.

"Russia, what are you doing?! They're your people! Have you gone mad?"

Another shot, and screams echo off the walls of the palace as panic sets in among the crowd.

"What they're saying isn't unreasonable! Shooting will only make it worse!" Lithuania rushes forward and takes hold of Russia's gun arm, pulling him back. Russia tries to shake him off, but he holds on tightly until the butt of Russia's rifle slams into his head, quickly ending his protests.

It didn't take long for him to figure out why. But as for what he could do, he waited a long time before he even began to see it. The pieces of the puzzle came one by one, over years and years of life owned by Russia, owned by the Soviets. He has put them together now – his mind is clear enough. Had he figured it out earlier, he would have changed what was then the future, now the present. Things would probably have come out better – but what's done is done, and Lithuania is focused on what he's going to do now.

Author's Notes: My images of Moscow at night were informed by the article "Moscow Never Sleeps" in the August 2008 issue of National Geographic. Yes, I'm that much of a nerd. The article has a pessimistic view of the city, but the photos of the bikers and bright lights and clubs inspired me, so I decided to include them in this story. I do have some other sources to back up its information about Moscow's nightlife, but that one started it all. That first flashback is, of course, related to the Hetalia strip about Bloody Sunday - 1905, when citizens bringing a petition to the Tsar were shot at by the guards at his Winter Palace. After this, many Russians lost faith in their leadership, and it was the start of the schisms that led to civil war and revolution. I won't go into more detail because I lazily assume that most of you have read the strip.

I have all of this story written out -- it just needs to be edited. So chapter updates should come quickly.