Title: under the linden trees
Character/Pairing: America/Liet, mentions of past Poland/Liet & Russia/Liet
Author's note: kink meme: cooking fluff with Liet teaching America how to cook before he has to go. Except the timeframe made it end up really angsty. Whoops.
It should be noted that I and members of my family have done all of these. I personally did the milk one several years ago on Father's Day.
I can't cook. I use a smoke alarm as a timer.
Alfred had a smear of flour on his cheeks. Toris wanted to brush it away and kiss the bridge of his nose. It was only just recently that Alfred had convinced him to no longer refer to him as 'Mr. Jones' and 'sir's. He claimed it made him sound old, stodgy, and possibly English. Toris had to smile at that. But then, a lot of things made him smile here. He'd broken a dish by accident, and expected punishment, but only received a distracted I didn't like that plate anwyaysresponse from Alfred.
"Is it ready yet?" Alfred said. He verged between being eager to see the results and bored by the amount of time it'd taken to reach them.
"I'll check," Toris said.
He peeked into the oven. The cake was a sludgy mess. His brows furrowed as he checked the recipe. No, he hadn't misread it. The timer had been set correctly, and he had put all the ingredients in just as instructed.
Alfred looked over his shoulder, and seemed just as perplexed as he was. "I don't get it. I just added two cups of milk to make it more creamy."
"Uh...Alfred... Cooking doesn't work that way. You have to follow the instructions."
"That's so boring," Alfred said.
Toris sighed. "It's ruined now, we'll have to throw this out and start again."
"Can't we just order in?"
Toris pointed a spatula at Alfred. "The point was for you to learn. You'll never get the hang of it if you always order in."
"But I don't see why I have to learn. You're here. Your cooking is great."
But he wouldn't always be here. Time waned. Toris turned away to hide his expression, the frozen, constrained, sad smile this knowing brought.
"Well, there's still the roast."
Toris rushed over to the oven, and opened a lower compartment made especially for cooking meat. The meat was burnt black. Smoke poured out of the oven. He coughed and tried to wave it away with his oversized striped oven mitts.
"How high did you put it?"
"I don't know, I set it to broil?" Alfred said.
"...Y-you put it on broil for forty minutes?"
"Yup! Arthur always said that the charcoal was supposed to be there, that it was 'good for you'"
Toris studied the disaster that Alfred had made of their dinner. After so many lean winters, it was hard for him to throw out food, but this wasn't even fit to feed a dog. It was hopeless. In the end, Alfred seemed to have gotten all his cooking knowledge from Arthur, so such a result was to be expected.
"...we'll order in."
Alfred burst into a bright grin. "Hamburgers?!"
"If you want," Toris said. "You're the boss, after all." He smiled up at Alfred. In an impulsive gesture, Alfred embraced him, spun him around and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. When Alfred had moved on to the telephone, Toris busied himself in cleaning to hide his blush. He was scrubbing up the mess from the preparations when Alfred peered around the corner.
"But what do you want?"
"I have no preference," Toris answered automatically, as he always did and always had before.
"Really? None at all?"
"None. Choose whatever you wish for me."
"Alright, more hamburgers it is!"
Alfred's enthusiasm was infectious. For a moment, Toris found himself humming and coming into this transient life.
He was greedy for this life, for Alfred. He coveted it, this blissful ignorance of poverty and hardship.
If only he could stay just a little longer. But then he would always become greedy, and any longer would only make the break that much harder.
When Alfred returned, he absently slipped his arm about Toris' waist. His worries abated, but were cast so they were only far off shapes on the horizon, waiting to swoop in and return to pick at his thoughts.
Alfred always fell asleep right after sex, so Toris had taken that chance to slip out of bed and start his plan. It was obvious that teaching Alfred how to cook wouldn't work, so the only choice was to cook as much as he could before he could leave. It was his long goodbye.
He hadn't washed himself, instead letting the lingering scent of sex, and Alfred's soap on his skin.
Toris' thoughts drifted as he worked. Time waned. Toris held the moment tight. He'd been balancing Alfred's accounts recently, and he knew that his days were numbered. Toris found himself waiting for the inevitable. When he'd first come here, and sat under the linden trees picnicking and noting the dappled sunlight falling on Alfred's golden hair.
It was so warm here Alfred assured that there were bad winters in the northern sectors, but Toris had yet to see any that rivaled his winters. Here the houses did not have the nooks that let in the cold, here everyone was so safe and warm huddled up beside their fireplaces.
Alfred had gone into hibernation then, while Toris had exalted in how unseasonably warm the winter was. Toris smiled at the memory as he cut the vegetables. If he didn't make an effort, Alfred probably wouldn't eat them at all. It wouldn't be as good as a fresh salad, but it could be put in a soup, added with the stock he'd collect.
He heard the sound of something being knocked into, almost falling and set back in place. Toris started. He nearly dropped the knife as he whirled around to find not the memory he had responded to, the brush of Ivan's hand, but simply Alfred. No Ivan, no coldness, only the flicker of a candle across Alfred's sleepy face.
Alfred rubbed at his eyes. "Mmgn. Whateryadoin'?"
"I'm just catching up on some work before I go to sleep," Toris said. He laughed to cover the tremor in his voice. Alfred didn't notice, though. He rarely noticed such subtle things, like how Toris' hands would tremble as he was being undressed.
"Come back to bed," Alfred said sleepily.
"I will be in just a little bit," Toris said.
"It's cold without you there," Alfred said. His voice took on a pleading tone. Alfred was so childish, and yet so endearing. Without a word, Toris acquiesced. He put away the food and padded off to bed. Tomorrow he'd start filling it up again, frozen cutlets and dinners ready made. Things that could be heated, and so easily done that hopefully, hopefully even Alfred could manage them.
Time waned. He knew this would not last forever. Soon, soon he'd be back in Ivan's house. He thought of rye fields in the winds, and the clean scent of Alfred's soap. In his mind was the contrast of the vodka scent of Ivan's breath on him, and the soap smell of Alfred after a long day. The soft touch of Alfred's kisses against his stomach, and the pressure of Ivan's hands over his wrist with the repeated word mine. It was inevitable that all the good things in his life would fade. First Feliks, and now Alfred. If life had taught him anything, it was that all things ended, so too perhaps one day Ivan's rule would end as well.
Would Alfred fight for him? Alfred always seemed ready to fight for any cause that attracted his inner sense of heroism. Feliks had protected him and taken on the scars for his troubles. He didn't wish the same fate on Alfred. Alfred was too impetuous, too childish in his rivalry towards Ivan. If he spoke a word, then there would be a war. It would not be the swordclash battles of the years before, but with guns and missiles. He knew of the weapons Ivan had gathered, made unto himself and knew that an attack at Ivan would be a death sentence for them both.
No, when it ended he would politely thank Alfred for the help and go as if he had really missed Ivan's touch and bitter vodka kisses. As if he'd never lain beneath Alfred, arching up to his touch, his breath rising with every movement.
Alfred muttered in his sleep. He turned towards Toris without waking and draped his arm across his waist. It was so warm here, so safe and so easy. Alfred took this sort of life for granted, but Toris had never had the heart to even remotely dislike him for it. It was his way, after all. It was charming, his innocence.
Toris stroked the golden hair and added linden trees and failed cooking lessons to the rye fields and summer days of his memories. There he would keep them to cling to for warmth when the winter got too cold, when Ivan came to bring him back.
He only hoped that Alfred would remember him fondly.