[ Isn't it funny and lonely to be together? No place to go except close. ]

They make love in a non-descript room in a non-descript location separate from where the other beings of their kind sleep for the night. Their escapades would be too obvious if it weren't for their attempts to hide themselves away. Formidable as they are, the two lone superpowers of the Earth, the need to keep their relations secretive from the rest of the world proves too dire to risk.

( "Wouldn't understand," Alfred once said. "You know how they are." )

The lights are dimmed to the lowest low and Ivan lays on his side, face to the white washed hotel wall and back to the younger man in bed besides him. He pretends to sleep while Alfred stirs still, his ever reaching limbs over-saturated with the bountiful energy so associated with his demeanor. As Alfred moves and stretches restlessly, the shadows on the wall twist and grow and loom and the springs beneath the mattress creak like the tired wails of a hundred men.

Alcohol in his system dims Ivan's perception, warms his blood nice and warm in the contrast outside. The bed dips as Alfred musters the self-control to settle under the duvet and curl against his bare back. When skin touches skin, Ivan imagines the world on fire.

[ Shall we just love and love? ]

It's the best-worst relations they've ever had in their honest drunken opinions, this last half a century -- never mind world war two camaraderie or awkwardly forced détente diplomacy. Right now, in this moment, with their bosses in the other room talking of the searing pain in both their guts, with them entangled on a conference room table, searing mouth over searing mouth -

This is the best it's going to get for a long, long while.

Ivan grabs a hand full of blond hair and elicits white to appear in the back of Alfred's eyelids, turning the American's world to dots and heat and a single moan from clenched teeth: "Fuck." A word fit for super powers, a four letter definition of the state of both their existences, though Ivan murmurs in a different language against Alfred's cheek. Foreign eloquence and tongue that burns through his senses like vodka, like the hot-cold touch of Russian nails pushing past fabric and breaking through skin.

Rough hands, rough verbal blows of I despise yous and I remember whens; and Alfred finds himself sitting on Ivan's lap, fingers around the tie around Ivan's neck around the visceral tubes held inside that allowed him to live. Despite it all, the grin he's so infamous for remains plastered on his face, wild and defiant, in contrast to Ivan's dangerously taught smile.

How it's always been. Destruction and laughter and celebration go hand in hand - and their fingers intertwine when Alfred sinks down onto him, shoulders held high with that natural arrogance, Ivan on his back with hands on his hips, eyes wide, lips twisted lethally upwards at the tightness the American offers. The knot of his tie presses as an obstacle against the lump in his throat. Ivan inhales(pushes), Alfred exhales(pulls), and together they breathe and they survive and they hate.

[ Ah, but I love you the most. ]

It all goes smoothly until Ivan starts talking, spasms of breath against the nape of Alfred's neck, warm and heavy.

Nails trace shallow red rivers along the hint of his spine, nails no doubt grown out for his sake and his sake alone. Ivan smiles at that, wide and manic. Thankful. Smiles through the pinpricks, because Alfred is a giver, such a giver, always thinking of his Ivan. His dear comrade Ivan.

Beloved.

"I hate you," says Alfred, cheerfully, legs hooked around Ivan's waist tight enough to bruise. "I hate you so fucking much," he says, and with so much conviction that Ivan almost kisses him. On the mouth, where it matters. But he doesn't. He wants to see his expression.

Because Alfred's face contorts in the most delightful of ways when Ivan presses his nose against his neck, haunted eyes wide, watching, and tells him a secret.

"I remember the years of your Civil War," he tells him, and catches Alfred's hand in his larger one, feeling the callouses and wetness. Ivan's blood, sweat against testaments of work, of classless labor. The elation of staining Alfred's skin overcomes him, (red), and he pauses. For a second, the movement between them stops completely, and suddenly, Ivan is just warm, so very warm, pressed so deep within Alfred that they both tremble. Pleasure and pain, and Ivan, Ivan tells him, before he forgets, "I remember -"

"Shut up."

"Under the Virgina sky - blue. It was so blue that day. Like your eyes -"

Alfred bucks beneath him, nearly pushes the larger man off, but decides to wrench his hand back instead. Nearly effortless, as if Ivan were a child. Powerful, strength that can end the world. But Ivan is also strong. But Ivan is the strongest.

"Grass and sunflowers. Over our heads. So many years ago, and you were younger then."

A slow, deliberate thrust, and Alfred bites his curse to fist the sheets when Ivan also wraps a hand around him and pumps. "You told me a joke. We laughed. We stood together, in the goodness and sunflowers, and we laughed."

Ivan's dulled, crazed stare lands on the line of Alfred's jaw, at the anger that melts into something else. Something hollow and pained, and Ivan feels almost disappointed.

"Are you remembering, comrade?"

Alfred breathes. "No idea what you're talking about."

"The joke?" Ivan insists softly. "Are you remembering what you had been saying?"

"Stop it."

Ivan shrugs, leans down to press lips against Alfred's, but Alfred acts as if he'd rather tear Ivan's body parts right off with his teeth.

"Do you remember where I had been kissing you?" asked Ivan, and tilted his head. "And where? Are you remembering where?"

Alfred just wraps hands around his neck, smiling again, and tries to forget for the both of them.

[ and I can tell when you're away from me ]

"If we were in a horror movie, we'd be dead right now," announces Alfred, who aligns his body with the solid structure of the wet, tile wall behind him. Arms extended, the tips of his fingers stick to the ridges of scar tissue in the space between Ivan's shoulder blades, as if his blunt, bitten nails were thumbtacks holding up the map of Ivan's river bitten skin. "A slasher would have ripped through the curtains already. Hell, he probably would have gotten us earlier."

Near motionless, Ivan merely keeps his chin tilted towards the lukewarm tap water rain spewed by the showerhead above, eyes closed beneath the soaked mop of his hair. Ivan says nothing, too far gone in his secret nothing place, a place too distant and dark for even Alfred to follow. So, Alfred talks for him. Fills in the empty void growing within his diaphragm with the sound of his own voice. It echoes.

"Never have sex in a horror movie, Ivan, remember. You'll die. We were almost murdered, Ivan. Did you know that?"

He propels himself forward, uneven, almost falling, catches himself against Ivan and presses his lips on the notch of Ivan's spine. When Alfred speaks, his words slur together, drippy and drowsy in the evaporation fog caught within their five foot to five foot space.

"Ever think of it? You probably do. When you see a knife, doesn't matter what kind – when you see it, do you think, hey, I wonder how what important things that'd hit if I sunk it in right there." He touches Ivan's wrist, briefly squeezes, tight, way too tight. "Or here." Reaches around to the left kidney. "Or even here?" Cups his palms around Ivan's heart.

Lungs contract, "Sometimes I do," and Alfred breathes and continues to sloppily embrace the man in front of him. Hold up the man he helped break apart. "Just kidding. That's creepy."

[ even a little. ]

When Alfred, ten shots of vodka weighing heavy on the stability of his legs, crumples and folds into a giggling, mumbling mess, Ivan catches him. With a dazed blink and a vacant smile, Ivan acts as the bodily mass that Alfred clings to when he reaches and claws for someone, for something, for anything to hold him up and upright. Vulnerable. Strands of golden hair tickle the rim of his lips when he breathes in, so as he breathes out, Ivan adjusts. They adjust, together, though Ivan has to gulp around this empty, gaping hole in his gut with each thousandth brush of skin against skin.

He assures Alfred, the hero, he tells him, "It's okay. I'll be okay."

I forgive you.

"What?"Alfred asks.

Nothing.

[ I think it's wonderful to be just like everybody else ]

Blue grass and sunflower seeds. Ivan walks, bends and breaks the stems of daisy weeds, hands timidly folded around his middle. It's hot Kansas spring, feels and smells like summer; Ivan is used to neither. He sweats and he sweats, but smiles through his mask and the daze and welcomes the sun on his skin. For a moment, he is not Ivan, not Russia, just another living being with a(marginally)n upturned face, enjoying. Simply enjoying, like how he used to before times like these were saved only for long walks alone along the crumbling, abandoned wreckage of his old yet lingering name.

( Now, he is only the Russian Federation. Only Ivan. Now, forever, always: he strolls with his ghosts. )

Ahead of him, Alfred lays stretched out on a plaid picnic blanket, shirtless underneath a pair of faded denim overalls. His hair (golden grain) hides his face from Ivan's view. All Ivan can see are lips around a cigarette. Eyes as wide and blue as the cloudless sky above.

Something in his smile shifts, and suddenly Ivan remembers himself.

"You insist on smoking at a time like this?"

A flick of ash and a laugh. "I insist on what I insist."

Disgusting.

[ to reach out and find you ]

Alfred lays atop him, back to chest, comfortable in the crook of Ivan's arm. Alfred extends a hand up to the drab white ceiling above them, gray in the dark of the room. Ivan watches as he spreads his fingers out, splays them out like a blooming star. Long fingers, strong fingers.

He says,

"The loves I have loved,
and the loves I have lost,
can be counted within the breadth
of one hand."

Ivan breathes, unblinking. His mouth gravitates towards Alfred's ear, his pale beard brushing against reddening skin. Lets out a sigh. Merely closes his eyes and pulls Alfred close.

He says,

"And I have loved,
and I have lost,
more than the lovely bones beneath your skin
can ever hope to comprehend."

[ all warm beside me in the bed. ]

Clean sheets and bare skin. For the first time in a long time, Ivan feels smooth, soft almost, relaxed to the critical point of simply allowing himself to sink into the uncomfortably pliant contours of Alfred's overstuffed mattress. His waking comes abruptly, as it always does, but he keeps his eyelids shut, his respiration slowed to a dead man's pace. The duvet pools around his broad shoulders, but above the duvet, Alfred crawls atop him, sprawled out over him like a second blanket.

How curious.

"I know you're awake," whispers Alfred, the scent of his mint toothpaste heavy on his breath. "You are such a terrible fake sleeper."

Eyes still shut, Ivan merely raises an eyebrow. "And I know you have been watching me."

Through a laugh, "How did you know?"

"You have always been such a terrible spy."

The weight shifts off him, the blankets momentarily lifts, and Alfred's suddenly directly atop him now, cheek pressed to his chest. A smile forms against his skin, and blindly, Ivan reaches to smooth out the hair at Alfred's nape.

"Yeah whatever, sputnik."


Notes:

"Isn't it funny and lonely to be together, Dick. No place to go except close. Shall we just love and love? Ah, but I love the most, and I can tell when you're away from me, even a little. I think it's wonderful to be just like everybody else, to reach out and find you all warm beside me in the bed." - Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night

Man, Russia and America are pretty cray-cray.