Matthew hadn't cried as he was crying now in ages. Not since Alfred's revolution, and before that, when Francis had left him to Arthur. He hadn't cried so painfully in years. His face was blotchy, he knew. His eyes puffy red and hot. The bones of his fingers creaked from being held so rigidly for so long. He was sore, tired, upset.
The entire world was crashing down around his ears, and he couldn't do a thing to stop it.
He was alone in the dark closet, crying bitterly, needing something to hold. No one had noticed he had run off, so he didn't have to worry about anyone finding him here. He didn't want anyone to find him like this. He looked pathetic. He felt pathetic. He wanted to curl up and die.
That was how Ivan found him, curled in on himself in the small closet hugging his legs, tears staining his cheeks and spilling out fresh. Matthew didn't bother to wipe them, staring up at Ivan who stared back with childlike innocence. Purple eyes looked at him, glowing deviously in the dim lighting of the hallway outside.
"What's this? A little mouse curled by himself?" Ivan's smile grew as Matthew looked up at him, breathing hard and shoulders shaking with misery.
"Hi Ivan...." his voice cracked, but he continued. "I'm sort of busy, so if you'd just close the door...?" He tried to smile hopefully, but Ivan shook his head, coming into the closet and closing the door behind him.
"Why would I do that? I've been looking for you." He sat down easily next to Matthew, facing him. "Now tell me why you are crying." Matthew couldn't. His throat was too tight, and his heart hurt too much. He sobbed. Making quiet hushing noises, Ivan hugged him. The Russian was large and warm, his fingers playing in Matthew's hair as he rocked them both back and forth, humming a song in Russian.
Matthew didn't speak again for a while. He was contemplating Ivan. He was there. When no one else had noticed, Ivan had followed and found him, looked for him, comforted him. And never once asked who he was. "Thanks." He whispered, attempting to move away. Ivan held him closer, smiling.
"Matvey is done with crying, yes?" Matthew nodded, realizing that Ivan wasn't willing to let him go. So he snuggled into the warmth, taking in Ivan's scent. He smelled good, a hint of snow and sunflowers and the lingering smell of vodka. "Good. Now Matvey will tell me why he was crying."
The care was enough. That Ivan asked was enough. Just the comfort was enough. He didn't need anything more than that. "Nothing, it doesn't matter." Ivan was silent, didn't stress to him that yes, it did matter. Matthew wasn't sure if he was grateful or disappointed. Didn't know why he should feel either. Ivan was a strange and unpredictable person.
"Doesn't feel good, does it? Whole world is on other team, and you're on your own." Ivan's words were soft, lacking cruelty, just pointing out the problem, the way Matthew felt inside. Matthew felt fresh tears bubbling to the surface. With his hand, Ivan raised his face to look at him, brushing away the tears. His smile was gentle. "I will tell you secret."
"What kind of secret?" Matthew sighed softly, melting into those large hands as they comforted him, petting hair, rubbing his back, stroking his face.
"The secret is, not to let yourself sink. When everything is going wrong, just laugh, and keep moving." He was speaking with a wisdom the younger nation didn't, and never would understand. "Now, what has made my Matvey so sad he would cry by himself in a dark closet?" He took Matthew's hands in his, unclenching them, holding them protectively.
"It's just..." He was about to tell Ivan it was nothing once more when the other gave him a dangerous smile. "Alfred...." He didn't want to talk about it, it hurt too much. Ivan nodded in understanding.
"Him and Arthur." He supplied helpfully. Matthew nodded, burying his face back in Ivan's chest where it was safe and the rest of the world, his problems, his life didn't matter. "Don't kill yourself over that, Matvey. Alfred has always been stupid. If he can't see how wonderful Matvey is, then he should leave Matvey to someone who does." It was such a cliched line, but coming from Ivan, it meant something.
If perhaps, Ivan could be that someone. If perhaps, Ivan could love him in the same simple way, he could.... move on.
"Remember Matvey. Just keep laughing." He kissed him then. Nothing overly romantic. In fact, it was more sweet and awkward, gentle and simple. And something in the pit of Matthew's stomach fluttered helplessly with excitement. He giggled softly and Ivan's smile widened, their hands entwined, in a closet, the scent of moth balls overpowering everything else. What a weird way to confess love.
When there was nothing left, just laugh and move on.