Today (January 7) is Russia's Christmas celebration, and this is a gift that was promised to my lovely kittyebony13. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift, but things got bogged down and, hey, it still technically is a Christmas gift. Thank you, Ivan! Anyway, Kitty, I hope you enjoy.

Incidentally, I recently read the book A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. And in it, there's a Russian woman character who always adds "like bear" to the end of her sentences. "This food will make you strong, like bear." "The wind is harsh, like bear." "This dog has big paws, like bear." It was really tempting to stick a "like bear" in here somewhere... but alas I'm a good girl and don't give into temptation easily.

Chapter One
Russia: Freezing Balls

Ivan's house did not yet have a fancy electric doorbell, nor was he planning to install one anytime soon. Instead, visitors announced themselves with the big brass knocker (the main part of which was shaped like a snarling bear), and its pounding reverberated through the walls of the empty and slightly dilapidated mansion. It was this noise that woke Ivan that winter's night, and though he lay in barely controlled panic for a few moments, his heart beating an ill-timed staccato in his chest (artillery, guns, mortar, they're shelling the place, the Germans at Stalingrad, can't let them-), he soon realized that he was no longer on the battlefields of World War II or any more recent war, and stared at the ceiling.

The faintly glowing hands of the clock on his wall informed him that it was somewhere in the vicinity of one o'clock in the morning. It was dark, too late at night for a visitor, and the halls of his house were almost freezing. (Outside, it really was freezing.) No hour for a visitor, a decent visitor. Ivan got up anyway.

He turned on the single light in the entryway by pulling the thin metal chain hanging down from the lamp on the ceiling, and unlocked his door, stifling a yawn. The bitter wind of late winter had died down, and outside was simply a dull, bone-chilling cold that crept in through the crack in the door, making Russia wonder where he had put his old house slippers and whether it was worth it to go look for them at all. It also let in something even less welcome, a loud, almost strident voice that could only belong to one person.

"Hey, Russia! What's up?" Alfred said loudly, grinning through the crack in the door.

Ivan was used to occasions like this by now, though he couldn't say they were particularly welcome. Nations barging in and out of his large, half-empty house all hours of the day and night - night, because certain nations had no concept of different time zones. Back when the house had been always full and always clean, when he was known collectively as the U.S.S.R., things like this didn't happen. Nations were too afraid. Ivan wondered if he had fallen in their esteem - probably - or if they had come to realize he was not half as powerful as he had always seemed - probably that too.

Alfred was still chattering. "- and so I figured, 'Hey, I'm near Russia's house and it'll be real easy to drop by, he probably misses me loads after that business with Georgia - and I don't mean my Georgia - so why the hell not?'" He gave that easy grin that Russia had so loathed all through last century, and rubbed a sheepish hand at the back of his neck. "I forgot there's a time difference. It's only ten-thirty back in London." He gave a nervous laugh.

Ivan looked down at him, tempted to shut the door but also cognizant it would probably get broken down if he did so. Alfred - America had the habit of being a little too earnest, a little too sincere... Making doors when he couldn't find his own, not caring what he broke. "You do know it's one o'clock in the morning," he said pleasantly.

"Yeah, I know, I know," Alfred said, and there was exasperation mixed with sheepishness in his voice. "I was just dropping by and my plane out doesn't arrive until tomorrow afternoon..."

"So I am expected to entertain you here until you leave?" Russia asked pleasantly.

Alfred nodded. "Yep! And boy, it'll look great for the press; superpowers getting along like best friends after the Cold War, no hard feelings..." With his face tilted up slightly at just that angle, and that ridiculous, little-boy grin on his face, he looked rather like a dog. And not a wolfhound or a husky; rather, one of those large, blond shaggy dogs. What were they called again? Ivan wondered. Golden... golden something.

The pause stretched out between them and Ivan's thoughts strayed from dogs to an idle curiosity about just how Alfred would react were the door shut and locked in his face. Even if he broke it down, Ivan wouldn't get out of bed. He could stay warm and comfortable underneath his covers while Alfred tried to fix the damage he had done without causing an international incident, there, that would be it. Even if America didn't have any hard feelings about the Cold War... Or pretended not to, anyway.

"Speaking of cold," Alfred began as the silence grew chilly and awkward. He shuffled his feet on the doormat, which had once read Welcome in Cyrillic characters, the letters having long since faded and been worn away by generations of feet. "Can I come in?" He gave his best ingratiating smile, which, in the end, was merely widening his usual hapless grin. "It's freezing balls out here and -"

"Da, da, fine," Ivan replied, cutting Alfred off before he could elaborate on how, exactly, it was 'freezing balls.' His skill with foreign (English) idiom was not the best, but he had a good idea what the statement implied. There was a similar expression in Russian, anyway. Reluctantly, he broke off his thoughts about language to step aside and hold the door open. It creaked rather horribly. "Come in. There is food and vodka in the kitchen. Stay away from the liquor on the top shelf; that is mine only. I am going back to bed."

"Right," Alfred said briskly, dusting a few flakes of snow of his old bomber jacket. So it was snowing outside? Hopefully it wouldn't pile up too much by tomorrow afternoon, Ivan thought with a yawn, otherwise who knew how long America would stay? Invasions into Russia tended to get rather bogged down, especially in the wintertime...

He had turned back around and was almost out of the entryway and into the long, dilapidated hallway when America's voice stopped him. "Hey, Ivan," he said, using the nation's given name for the first time since he arrived. "What kind of color would you say your pajamas are?"

Ivan turned back halfway, giving America his best insincere smile. "Pink," he said (even though they were really more of a pale peach color), and shut the living room door behind him.

So like, I really want to find a Russian phrase that is the equivalent to "It's freezing balls out here," because, I mean, they've got to have one. This is also the section where I admit my sad ignorance about Russian culture (though I have researched a bit) and enjoin you to correct whatever you feel is necessary. Since this fic has rather short chapters, updates should be fairly frequent, but I'm a busy girl so don't hold me to that.

Do svidanija (goodbye) and see you next time!