A/N: ...I swear this was built randomly at 2 am around one fact and one opinion. That fact being that America, according to his profile, "can read situations but chooses not to" and the personal opinion that Russia is a sneaky manipulative son of a bitch. In a good way. Ish. You know. Don't get me wrong, I love Ivan, but... seriously. He's not cute and cuddly, dammit. I don't care how much he looks that way- THAT'S WHAT HE WANTS YOU TO THINK. And he's damn good at it. I don't particularly approve of the evil rapetruck version of him either... because, frankly, no. But someone with that many political intrigues under their belt is not innocent and naive. Same goes for America, come to that. America's one of those people that I think it's just... impossible to get an accurate read on. Unless you know exactly what you're looking for. Point being: They're both snakes in the grass. At least, they are in the interpretation I used for this fic. Now that the annoying monologue is done with, perhaps the story may be gotten to...

Disclaimer: Axis Powers Hetalia is a creation of Hidekaz Himaruya, who I am not. These are not accurate portrayals of countries, nor are they meant to be. This story is just for fun.


It was something they could recognize in each other. Like in that saying, "It takes one to know one."

It wasn't something they talked about. Then again, what was? Conversation wasn't a strength in either of them, one tending to ramble on without heeding the responses of anyone else, the other perhaps listening a little too well. They didn't really talk about anything. It was all looks. Looks, glances across the room, sharp stares, something hidden in the eyes, caresses in seedy places dark rooms cheap bed sheets twisting like the noose of a hangman wordless heavy breathing no talking just movement and the touches-

Who needs words when a picture is worth a thousand? A picture perfect smile.

Ivan always thought he was alone, because he was. No matter what he did, in spite of the countries he managed to seize control of, that feeling of abject loneliness persevered. When he lost them, it hurt, but only just... because it wasn't real loss, was it? How can you lose what you never had? He owned them, controlled them, bent them... but he was still alone, because none of them understood. His greatest pain was one of his greatest strengths, that no one ever really knew him.

And then in waltzes this child with a smile like a sunbeam and eyes like pieces of the sky, this mere boy with ideas bigger than he is, bigger than Russia is, and... sees right through him with a glance. Their eyes meet for the first time, and just like that Russia knows that he knows. Because it's the same. Damn. Look. It's just got a smile underneath it that could put a permanent glaze on someone's retinas.

There's something powerful in recognition. When it's something you've been both searching for and dreading your whole existence, and it just strolls through a doorway unannounced and grins at you like it's the most natural thing in the whole wide blasted world. There are intense emotions there, and Russia can't tell if it's love or hate or some mixture of the two. So he smiles back.

America smiles like the sun, bright and hopeful and warm and if you stare at it too long it will blind you.

Russia smiles like winter, cold and beautiful, pure and unforgiving, his smiles can freeze.

Russia watches and listens, and he understands more than he lets on. Then again, he thinks it's funny, hilarious even, to play with words like dynamite. He'll light them, and it looks so pretty, but when the line is finished there's an explosion. It's so funny, seeing their faces, when he speaks his mind and they still don't catch on. And America, oh America, he reads them like a book while pretending he can't see past the cover, which of course means none of them see past his. Except Ivan.

They end up on opposing sides, somehow. It's freezing all the time, but Ivan's used to that. Alfred isn't, but damn if he doesn't adapt fast. It's terrifying. It's exhilarating.

It's impossible to tell when they're faking. They make a game of it. This is real, but is that? Did you see me see that? I saw you. Smile, quick, and they won't notice a thing. Is that real? What's real? Skin on skin and sweat and teeth and tongue and whispers in nonsense syllables and creaking mattresses and the crack of a bedframe as control takes a raincheck.

And then it's morning.

The sunshine splinters through the blinds, illuminating dust motes and making the air murky. The sun is so bright, as bright as Alfred's smile, which shines through a room and makes it murky and hard to see. Ivan thinks maybe he's the dust motes, the thing the brightness reflects off of, the little floaty bits in the air that help distort vision.

It isn't romantic. It's dangerous, and Ivan knows, knows because he knows himself and he knows Alfred and Alfred knows too. And even though they aren't a part of each other, though neither controls or owns the other... Russia doesn't feel alone when he's sharing those smiles with America. They were alone together, different together, keeping their secrets together. They know each other like no one else does.

You can't con a con man. But you can smile and watch him con others.

Ivan wanted to see their faces when they figured it out.