The Summit went terribly from the very beginning. Russia only barely agreed to show up at the last minute, and even then, he refused to let the nations under his control actually participate in the meeting, no matter how much England and America requested that he do so. It ended up being America, England, Canada, Belgium, and Norway sitting around one end of a large table, representing NATO, while Russia sat at the head of the other end, staring them all down with a cheerful look on his face.
A respectful distance behind him stood Lithuania, clipboard clutched to his chest, eyes downcast. Whenever anyone tried to directly address the SSR, as Italy seemed to repeatedly do in complete innocence, Russia would cut Lithuania off with a harsh word before he could answer, and then continue as though the exchange hadn't occurred. Occasionally, America would manage to meet Lithuania's gaze and the two would share a surreptitious smile.
Otherwise, the whole room was doing their best to ignore the small country, a state of affairs that America hated, but decided was better than what Russia could be doing.
"Toris, can I ask you something?"
"Yes, Mr. America?"
"I told you. Alfred."
"Alfred." Lithuania repeated with a small smile.
America smiled briefly, then said more seriously, "Why don't you talk to anyone about what happens to you? I mean, with Russia?"
Lithuania regarded America over his coffee cup. He took a thoughtful sip, then took a seat across from the larger nation at the kitchen table. "I don't want to trouble anyone," he said finally.
America rolled his eyes. "Y'know, Toris, not everyone minds being troubled. Or… whatever, you know what I mean."
Lithuania smiled somewhat sadly. "I know what you're saying. But, it doesn't really matter anyway. I mean, there's nothing that can be done."
"Hey," America said insistently. He reached over and placed a firm hand on Lithuania's shoulder, fixing the green eyes with an intense look. "Don't you ever believe that. There's always something."
England sighed and scrubbed at his eyes. "We can't let this keep going on, Ivan," he said. "You have no right to control the actions of Gilbert and his people."
"You shouldn't be talking," Russia countered, his words caustic, but delivered in that same pleasant, childish singsong. "You've been controlling countries for years and years and years…"
England blanched and his ground his fists into the table.
"This isn't about Arthur," America interjected angrily. "This is about you and what you've been doing to Gilbert and the others."
"Others?" Russia asked innocently.
"Poland, Ukraine, Belarus," Norway listed methodically. "… Estonia, Latvia…" His eyes flicked almost imperceptibly up to Lithuania, before continuing, "Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan…"
"You misunderstand," Russia interrupted. "I do not mistreat them. We are all together as one." America wondered if he was the only one who saw Lithuania flinch at the word 'one.' Russia seemed to have noticed it as well, because he continued, "Lithuania is happy." The look on Lithuania's face made America's stomach churn. The Baltic's mouth was set into a hard, determinedly unemotional line.
Lithuania was beautiful when he smiled.
America observed this as he pressed kisses reverently all over the smaller country's bare, supine body. Lithuania's fingers gently stroked and petted America's hair as he went about his task. When America's tongue flicked out to catch his bellybutton, Lithuania laughed out loud, his knees automatically drawing and knocking against America's side.
America drew back to observe his handiwork. Toris was still chuckling faintly, his face flushed and surrounded by disheveled silky brown hair.
"Thank you, Alfred," he said breathlessly, using America's personal time for the first time that the younger country could remember.
America shook his head, then leaned down and captured the smile in a kiss.
"You're saying they're all willing to be with you?" Belgium challenged.
"Da," confirmed cheerily, as if this was the most natural thing in the world.
"Like hell!" America erupted. England shot him a warning look, but America ignored him. "You're as much a tyrant as anyone else. You're pathetic!" Lithuania's head had jolted up and he was staring at America with a mixture of surprise and fear in the shiny green eyes.
"Alfred!" England hissed.
Russia's expression was inscrutable. He and America stared each other down for few long, long minutes in which everyone seemed to hold their breath.
"…Maybe we should take a break for a little while," Canada suggested in a whisper, but everyone either didn't hear him or ignored him.
"Back on the subject," England said firmly, emphasizing each word as its own sentence. "We at NATO are asking that you cease the violence against Gilbert and his people and, again, consider the possibility of reunification with Ludwig in the West."
Russia cocked his head thoughtfully. "I need to defend myself," he said, as if explaining the concept to children. "Perhaps if Ludwig and Gilbert joined me…? Or agreed to stay out of the whole thing…?"
"Ludwig is joining us," America said flatly. Out of the corner of his eye, he observed that Lithuania wasn't looking at him anymore, instead focusing intently on his shoes. "We want Gilbert to be with him."
Russia let out a deep belly laugh. America felt a chill shoot up his spine and thought that he could see a similar reaction in the Baltic nation. Incredulously, Russia stated, "You are asking me to add to the strength of my enemies, by turning over valuable resources?"
"None of us wants another war, Ivan," England said in a voice that was desperately trying to be as reasonable as humanly possible. "Eastern Europe can't be your personal playground. There are irules/i, which you agreed to when you signed the United Nations Charter."
Russia shook his head, like an impudent child not getting his way. "You do not understand," he insisted. "I am not oppressing anyone."
"Mr. Russia, please…" Lithuania said suddenly, in a polite, suppliant tone. He broke off as Russia spun around and fixed him with a mad glare.
"I didn't allow you to speak, Toris," he barked.
"Please don't." Belgium appealed, a hopeless, pleading note to her normally even voice.
More forcefully, America half-stood and growled, "Let him talk, Ivan!" England grabbed his sleeve and forced him back down into his seat.
Russia acted as if he couldn't hear either of them. He continued staring icily at Lithuania. "You are the one who wanted so badly to observe our negotiation. You promised that you wouldn't interrupt."
"Yes, sir," Lithuania said quietly, eyes down and head bent forward submissively. "I'm sorry sir."
America clutched his pencil tightly, imagining how good it would feel to drive the wood through one of Russia's eyes and up into his brain.
Russia nodded approvingly. "Fine, Toris." He picked up a pen and a stack of papers covered in smudged Cyrillic typing. "Transcribe these for me. I want it done by the end of the meeting. And do not interrupt me again, when I am attempting to speak in your best interests."
"Yes, sir." Lithuania accepted the pen and papers, then hesitated a moment. Russia nodded his head towards the floor. Lithuania swallowed visibly, glanced quickly over at America, then dropped to his knees by Russia's chair.
"You're pretty tall you know that, Toris?"
Toris snorted at America's words, as he pulled on his boxers and pants. "It's all right, Alfred. My self-esteem is healthy enough without your pity."
America propped himself up on his elbows, as he lay prone on the bed, naked as the day he was born. "No, I mean it. You're taller than I remember from before you came to live with me." Lithuania stopped dressing and looked around at America, his expression softening.
America continued, "Usually, when I see you standing next to Russia, you seem so small. But, you aren't. Now I know that."
Lithuania slowly sat down at the foot of the bed, and placed a hand on one of America's legs. "Really?"
America grinned and then let out a whoop as he jumped forward, tackling Lithuania into the mattress. "You're gigantic, Lithuania," America said as Lithuania attempted to stifle a series of noises which could only be described as giggles. "And I love you."
Lithuania curled up into near-fetal position, knees pressed to his chest, elbows on the ground, his nose almost brushing against the papers he was arranging in front of him. From where America sat, Lithuania appeared to be praying. A sheet of brunet hair obscured his face from America and the rest of NATO, as Lithuania began to scribble intently on a blank legal pad.
Russia looked up at the meeting, all of the darkness and quiet danger gone from his expression.
England opened his mouth, but didn't say anything.
"Ivan," Canada began quietly.
"This isn't appropriate," Norway said in a voice of forced calm.
Russia blinked at them.
Cold anger welled up in America's chest. "Toris—" he began intensely, addressing the kneeling nation.
"You are talking to me, Alfred," Russia interrupted matter-of-factly. Lithuania shivered and paused in his writing for a moment, before recommencing without looking up. Russia went on casually, "What was it you wanted?"
"I want you—," America growled.
England grabbed his shoulder and forced his head in close. "This is not fucking helping, Alfred," he whispered angrily. "Making Russia angry isn't going to help anyone. Not you, not me, not Lithuania. We need to be diplomatic if we want to keep things from getting worse."
America opened his mouth to argue, but England cut him off. "Alfred, do you need to leave this room?"
America's eyes slid over to Lithuania's bowed form. He swallowed and nodded faintly. England gave him one more warning look, and then released his shoulder. They turned back to Russia, America curling and uncurling his fists and trying not to look down at Lithuania.
A few long, silent moments passed. Finally, Belgium cleared her throat. "If we could get back on topic, Ivan…"
"Yes," Norway added. America thought he noticed Norway's voice rising to cover the sound of Lithuania's pencil. "We were talking about Gilbert and Ludwig. We want to cooperate peacefully to prevent more bloodshed."
Russia ignored him. His eyes were fixed on America in blank curiosity. "Why is it," he said, "that you are so bothered by seeing Lithuania punished?"
"Ivan, this isn't going to be productive," England said miserably. The two superpowers pretended that they couldn't hear his plea.
America opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't find anyway to channel his anger into words. Russia began speaking again, "You do know that Lithuania lives with me now, not you."
"I know that," America said lowly.
"Lithuania belongs to me," Russia continued. Slowly, he reached over the side of the chair and placed a proprietary hand on Lithuania's head. Lithuania stopped for a moment, but quickly began writing again, as if he were ignoring the hand on his forehead. America only barely noted the slight quiver of his hand.
America paused and looked down at the small nation beneath him. "Toris, you're shaking."
Lithuania shook his head. "It's fine, Alfred. I'm just—I'm fine."
"Are you sure that you want to do this?" America asked, slowly massaging Lithuania's bare hips with his thumbs.
Lithuania smiled. "Yes, I'm sure. It's just…it's been a long time since I've done this with anyone other than…" He faded off and America let it drop. There was one unspoken rule to their relationship: never talk about Russia. Lithuania took a deep breath, than continued, "I want to do this, with you, and to actually really want it. Please, Alfred, please…"
"Alright, Toris." He leaned down and kissed Lithuania's forehead. "Just tell me if you want to stop."
"Just, get on with it."
America's grin widened. "Okay, okay." He slowly began to slide his hand up between Lithuania's thighs.
"He doesn't belong to anyone," America said in a louder voice than he probably should have used.
He realized that, as Russia's fingers tightened in Lithuania's hair, causing the smaller country to suck in a painful breath. There was a slightly dangerous tint to Russia's voice as he said, "Does it bother you that he is with me now?" He pulled up on Lithuania's hair. Lithuania didn't make any sound and kept scratching dutifully at the paper. "Do you want to make me give him back?"
As soon as the challenge was out of the superpower's lips, America slapped down his hand and half-rose from his chair. England grabbed his wrist; America was about ignore him, before he heard a small, wobbly voice say, "Al…"
He glanced over to see Canada—was Matthew here?— looking up at him with large, somewhat frightened violet eyes. England just appeared exhausted, while Belgium and Norway were doing their best to not betray a single emotion on their faces.
Lithuania was shaking slightly as he wrote, his face still hidden.
America took a shaky breath and dropped back to his seat again. He stared into Russia's ice blue eyes, detecting just the tiniest hint of smugness there. Russia slowly released Lithuania, letting him drop back to the floor.
"…Alright," England said after a moment. "Let's just… go back to that issue of arms limitations."
Belgium and Norway gave sighs of relief and began shuffling their papers papers. "Yes," Norway said. "I have a study here…"
America had trouble concentrate on Norway's rattling off of figures. Russia was slowly stroking Lithuania's hair, almost gently, like one would a pet. The cruel parody of affection made America's stomach lurch. He twisted a pencil around his hands until it snapped; he pretended it was Russia's wrist.
Lithuania wrapped his arms tighter around America's shoulders and sobbed achingly into the other nation's shoulder.
America held the country in his lap, trying not to panic as Lithuania's tears rolled down his back into warm rivulets. America's fingers were pressed firmly to the raised ridges of Lithuania's scars.
He had been lying in bed with Lithuania, curled up under the comforter, pressing lazy kisses to the back of the half-asleep country's neck. He eventually moved lower, pulling down the other country's thin undershirt to get better access to his pale skin. Accidentally, his lips happened to brush against the edge of a prominent scar.
Lithuania pulled away like he had been burnt. He quickly turned his back from America and pulled the covers close around him, babbling incoherent apologies. Startled by the sudden outburst, America grabbed Lithuania's wrists to stop him trying to cover himself. "Toris, it's okay!"
Lithuania stopped struggling. He stared at Alfred with large, frightened eyes, like a cornered animal. Then, the eyes filled up with tears and Lithuania began to cry hopelessly.
America had seen Lithuania silently suffer uncounted horrors over the years, but he had never seen the Baltic outright cry. He pulled Lithuania into his lap and rocked him slowly back forth.
"It's okay," he repeated. "It's okay, it's okay…"
It was another tense quarter of an hour before negotiations fell apart completely. England and America drew their lines in the sand clearly, while Belgium, Norway, and Canada did their best to achieve varying degrees of compromise. Russia met it all with meaningless responses, that would have seemed like his usual childish insanity, if not for the painfully obvious presence of Lithuania by the side of his chair, still steadily working his way through the few hundred sheets of paper.
America broke all four of the pencils he had brought to the meeting, trying not to watch his friend being humiliated in front of him. He tried hard not to think of what Russia would do to Lithuania, once they were away from the meeting.
Belgium was in the middle of an impassioned speech about East Germany's severe food shortages, when Russia sharply got to his feet.
"You will understand one day," he said quietly. He grabbed Lithuania's collar and tugged him up to his knees. "Come."
Lithuania quickly gathered the papers up to his chest, and then got shakily to his feet.
"Don't you dare leave, Ivan," England warned, as he and the others rose from their chairs as well. Russia snatched Lithuania's wrist and pulled the other country towards the door, all of the gentleness of before gone.
"You will regret your foolishness," Russia fumed. America couldn't help but take a miniscule sliver of pressure in having finally cracked Russia's cool exterior. "You cannot resist us forever. Right, Toris?'
America thought he was the only one in the room who detected the little movement of Lithuania's shoulders that was his equivalent of a sigh. "Yes, sir."
"Good. Now." He started off again towards the door. Lithuania cast one look over his shoulder and met America's eyes.
Time lurched off in a sideways direction as America briefly had his lover back, the warm green eyes greeting him every day with a warm cup of coffee, a peck on the cheek, and a sincere "how was your day?" He iwanted/i that back, with a desire that was almost physically painful.
Fuck diplomacy, he knew exactly what he was going to do. He would throw back his chair, run over, and push precious Lithuania away from the Communist bastard. He would punch Russia square in the jaw, then pull out his pistol and train it on the prone superpower. Russia would burst into tears and beg for mercy like the coward that America knew he really was. Then, America would take Lithuania back to their house, away from all of the bombs and barbed wire, where nothing would ever hurt him ever again.
Because, he was the hero. And when a hero loved someone, they could save them.
America clutched the table so hard he thought his fingers would break, but he didn't move. He watched mutely as Russia snaked a hand around Lithuania's waist and led him out of the room.
Neither of them ever said good-bye.
America watched him go with a word of thanks, an appeal to Russia to take good care of him. Take good care of him…
Lithuania was carried away with large, questioning eyes. "Mr. America…?" It was Mr. America again. Not Alfred, Mr. America. Mr. America, why are you letting him do it to me again?
America didn't have a good answer. Russia was taking Lithuania away because of the Depression, because America couldn't feed his own children, because Russia had a tiny edge of strength over him and he was using it to go after what hurt America most.
Lithuania was going away because America had failed.
There was no reason to continue the summit once the one of the primary belligerents was gone. No one was really keen on speaking to each other afterwards as they gathered up their papers, nothing accomplished.
He imagined he couldn't be the only one feeling cold and slimy inside.
Canada quietly agreed to clear away the meeting room. Everyone nodded thanks, and then filed out into the hallway. England muttered something about scheduling another meeting later; America was only half-listening, though, in the back of his mind trying to decide how he was going to describe the meeting to his boss.
Once he reached the hotel phone and dialed up the White House, he ended up just briefly saying that Russia had been too stubborn in his position for them to even commence serious discussion. The President's voice was thick with the mix of resignation and disappointment that comes from having already low hopes dashed. He shortly told America to get back to DC, then hung up.
America placed the phone back into its cradle and leaned across the reception desk, wondering how much alcohol from the hotel bar it would take to burn the image Lithuania's eyes from his brain.
Scratch that; he wanted to get to the airport. He wanted to be out of here, out of Europe, away from all of the old alliances and pains. Turning, he started back up to the stairs towards his room.
He was in the middle of searching through his pockets to find the room key, when he heard someone running down the hallway, shouting, "Alfred!"
He looked up just in time to see Canada skid to a stop in front of him. His suit jacket was open and his chest heaving. He leaned on his knees and panted for a moment, before holding out a sheet of crumpled paper.
"This… was… under… the table," he said in gasps. "Got… your name… on it. Think it's… Lithuania's."
America snatched up the paper. "Did you read it?" he demanded.
Canada shook his head, straightening up and returning his breath to normal. "Of course not."
America clutched the crumpled snowball tightly in both hands. "Thanks, Matt," he said quietly.
Canada smiled and stuck his hands in his back pockets humbly. America turned to unlock his room.
He turned back around, in time for Canada to pull him into a hug. "I'm sorry about the meeting," he said quietly into America's ear. "That was—"
"It's okay," America said, wrapping his arms around his brother's shoulders.
"I hate this war," Canada said in a tired monotone.
America smiled and clapped Canada hard on the back. "What war?"
He pulled away and finished unlocking the door. "Thank you, Mattie."
He walked inside and locked the door behind him. He jogged over to the couch and pulled open the paper.
It was written in dull, faded pencil on typing paper. The neat, flawless hand was clearly Lithuania's.
You're probably about to beat Ivan to death with your bare hands right now. I'm fine, Alfred. Don't worry about me.
I miss you. You know, whenever I see stars, I think about your flag. Or does that sound ridiculous?
You don't have to tell me anything or try to get any message through, because I don't think you'll be able. But, just think about me every once in a while. Promise you won't forget about me.
I'm going to be independent someday, after all.
He read the letter three times, ran it through his hands, put it to his nose, like he could smell some trace of Lithuania on it. Slowly, he smoothed the paper out on the coffee table as he reread the two big words in the center of the paper.
Of course, Lithuania would say that. He would never admit that anything was wrong. America used to find Lithuania's reticence annoying; now, he wanted that back, more than anything.
He curled up on the sofa, clutching the message to his chest.
I'm going to be independent someday.
As he remembered Lithuania bowed by Russia's feet, pointlessly scribbling, while even America stood by and did nothing, America wondered whether or not that would ever be true.