Notes: Written for pyschoxbreaker at spasibodedmoroz, the Slavic Siblings Winter exchange on livejournal.

For birthdays in Russia, pies with words carved into them are often served.

Bilberries are a type of berry found in parts of Europe, including Ukraine. They're quite expensive!

S dnyem razhdeniem means 'Happy Birthday!' Spasiba means 'thank you.'

Unconditional

By Everything is Magic



Ukraine hummed lightly under her breath as she closed the great wooden door behind her. It creaked on its old hinges, and one last gust of frozen winter wind whipped in behind her, sending a shiver down her spine. She shifted, placing her coat on a stand by the door and adjusting the large paper bag in her hand as she walked across the foyer of the old mansion. The house was enormous, but she knew this place like she knew her own hands and feet. Every nook, every cranny, every cabinet and closet. It had been her home for so long, after all.

She shook her head. But today was not the day to dwell on that. Today she would celebrate with him, her brother, and even though it cost her money that she did not have to buy the baking supplies, and even though there were those out there (other nations and more), that wondered why she kept coming back, why she kept doing this, she would. Russia was her younger brother and would always be dear. What could be dearer than family?

The sound of Mary Janes clattered across the floor and Belarus entered the main entrance hall. She was already here, of course. Any excuse to spend time with her beloved brother. Ukraine smiled softly at her. "Good afternoon, sister."

The house was dark, lit only by the muted winter sun, wane and weak. Ukraine switched on a light, illuminating her sister. Belarus was standing in front of her, black dress immaculately pressed and a package under her arm. "I was hoping big brother was here."

Ukraine nodded. "He'll be here soon, but in the meantime, we need to prepare the birthday pie."

Belarus merely walked toward the kitchen, Ukraine following. Their footsteps were the only sound that broke the deafening silence of Russia's house.


Once upon a time, Russia's kitchen had been a vibrant place. Russia rarely cooked himself, so Lithuania would enlist the other members of the union to assist them. It was bright and sometimes there was even music and dance as they watched the fires and lit the stove and cooked to feed their very large household. Ukraine remembered some of those nights as being amongst the best of times she had under her brother's rule.

Belarus never agreed though. Her lips would tighten as she observed the frivolity, and she'd storm out the room and notify Russia more often than not of what was occurring in the kitchen. Strangely, he did not scold them for it. "As long as the meals are delicious and delivered in a timely manner, I am not angry, da?"

It was a sliver of freedom that he allowed them, and they cherished it.

Ukraine flipped on the kitchen switch, and with it came no life, just the appearance of light from harsh and slightly too bright bulbs. She walked over to the counter, Belarus following, and they silently began their work on the birthday pie.

Flour stained the front of their aprons and bilberry juice covered the counter as Belarus and Ukraine worked to cook. Ukraine began humming as she rolled the dough, pausing to turn the oven on to preheat. The song was familiar, one they'd sang in the kitchen together all those years. Belarus froze in her actions and shot her sister a frosty glare.

And there was silence again, Belarus pattering away at one point to get herself a glass of water. "When will brother be home?"

"Soon. Be patient," Ukraine replied. She held up a bilberry and rolled it between her fingers. "I picked these myself."

"Hmm?" Belarus looked mildly interested.

"There's no way I could afford them otherwise," Ukraine explained, and she sniffled, her eyes welling up ever so slightly. Belarus shifted and turned away at that, but Ukraine tapped her shoulder. "Do you remember when we used to go out and pick these with brother?"

Belarus nodded, and when Ukraine offered her a berry, she took it and slid it under her tongue, savoring the sweet flavor. "I remember." There was a hint of a smile at the corner of her lips. "Back then… it was… nice."

Ukraine nodded and put the finishing touches on the pie, preparing to put it in the oven. "What would you like to carve on the pie?"

Belarus did not hesitate. "To our Dear Brother."

Ukraine shook her head in agreement. Despite the double meaning behind Belarus's words, it was an appropriate choice. She pulled out a knife and wrote, in Russian, then Ukrainian, then Belarusian, those five words.

Belarus placed the pie in the oven.


Ukraine and Belarus turned every light on the bottom level of the house on, with the exception of those in closed bedrooms or closets. She knew to open some of those bedroom doors would be a bad idea, dusty from disuse, dark and dank and forgotten. After all the lights were on, and after the two sisters had started an enormous fire in the main living room, the mansion looked almost… hospitable. It was still beautifully decorated, with trophies spanning hundreds of years of Russian history filling the rooms, and the fire gave it an aura of warmth.

The pie was then removed from the oven and Ukraine glanced at the clock, about to register the time when the great wooden doors opening interrupted her action.

She darted into the front foyer, but Belarus had gotten there first. Her arms were wrapped securely around Russia's waist, and he was smiling weakly. "Good evening, sister." His large gloved fingers gripped the handle of the laptop case he held. Belarus pulled away, leaning up and planting a kiss on his cheek. Russia shuddered, and removed his coat and gloves, his scarf shifting but staying firmly in place.

"S dnyem razhdeniem, big brother."

She didn't do anything else, and Ukraine was secretly grateful. "S dnyem razhdeniem," Ukraine repeated.

Russia's lavender eyes widened slightly, and a genuine, gentle smiled crossed his lips. He placed his bag on the table closest to the door. "You wish to celebrate with me?"

"Yes, you are our brother," Ukraine answered simply.

Belarus nodded in agreement.

Russia's smile grew, and his eyes slid closed. "I see, and you are my sisters. My home is brighter when you are here."

The younger of the two sisters blushed at this, but Ukraine simply smiled, quickly walking to the kitchen to grab the pie.

Every year it was the same. Russia would be surprised at their presence, be shocked that his sisters had come to celebrate with him, to make his huge house a little less lonely, to ignore everything that had occurred between them and pretend they loved and cherished each other as if they were still children; three young nations huddling in the cold together, creating warmth from one another's presence.

It had been almost twenty years, but she came. She came for him and she came for her, and Ukraine would never stop, no matter the warnings or the words of disagreement from others. There were things so much deeper than politics, deeper than a past that many others would be unable to forgive,things she treasured close to her heart, kept alive by the warmth of cherished memories.

Russia was sitting in the living room, blazing fire lighting his pale complexion and brightening him, when she came back in with the pie and utensils. Belarus hopped up next to her, insistent, as usual, on presenting the pie alongside her sister. They repeated "S dnyem razhdeniem!" in unison and handed it to him, his shock apparent at the words they'd carved on its surface.

"Spasiba, it looks delicious."

They sat down next to him, one on each side, and shared the pie, the sweet juice of the bilberries staining their fingers and their mouths, as when they had harvested them as children.

What they had was unconditional.