Yay, I guess I am continuing this. Well, for now at least.
This chapter is really angst, and melodramatic. It may also be kind of redundant (bleh bleh) and such, but I've only slightly re-edited it. So yeah, it'll be messy. C:
You guys have been warned. ^^
It had been Katyusha's idea to get the house. She liked the enormity of it, the wide expanses inside and outside the archaic building. There were numerous rooms, numerous acres of land surrounding them, enough space- she claimed- for them to live contentedly forever. So Ivan had bought it for her. For them. Even if he thought the old, weather-beaten mansion was more cold then comfortable. Even if he thought all that space, all those rooms no one ever set foot in, only reminded him of how small of a family he had.
He knew nothing would go right. Stepping into the house on that winter morning, dragging along a few suitcases with his sisters trailing behind him, he'd never felt more frightened. Something is wrong with this place.
But Katyusha had been bouncing around, happily exclaiming over this and that, while Natalia calmly explored every nook and cranny the mysterious and odd building had. He saw the awed and glowing expressions on their faces, something he hadn't witnessed since the death, something he never thought he'd see again. Ivan had smiled, warmth in his heart, and shook off his fear. It was going to be fine…as long as they were here.
The first few weeks were bitterly cold. Winter raged outside them, constantly tugging at the window and trying to sneak in. He had tried to plant sunflowers on the miles of acre around them, but the chilling temperature stunted the flower's growth. So he thought he could try another plant- anything else, just to see life sprouting through all that dead, barren snow. He bought dozens of evergreen trees and though they did grow, the brittle and stiff forms staring at him through the window only made him feel worse. They were the very epitome of winter, harsh and merciless winter.
It was a surprise when, the day after, he woke up and saw outside the frosty window- a new and strange flower. Shrub after shrub of them planted in front of the trees, a subtle yet bright pink peeking out from the immense green foliage. And then- Ivan had laughed at the sight of them- taped around those flowers were hand-drawn, crudely colored pictures of sunflowers. They were wrapped around every shrub, overshadowing the bland evergreen trees with a warmth that far surpassed its paper material.
His eyes softened when he found his two beloved sister in that icy cold, planting and digging, coloring and taping beautiful flowers all around. Ivan ran out to them, pressing himself closer to the scarf Katyusha had given him as a child, and pulled the two into his arms. "Ivan!" Kat had flushed, looking completely flummoxed. "You're not supposed to be here until we're finished!" And Natalia had only hidden her face into his chest, embarrassed, her hair tickling his chin. They were bright red, rosy from both the cold and his discovery. Ivan smiled. "Спасибо," he murmured, squeezing them tight. He didn't want to let them go, didn't want that warmth and happiness, that love spilling from his heart, to leave.
There was a second of silence, and then Katyusha hugged him back. "We only want you to be happy," she whispered and kissed him. Natalia nodded from her place nestled in Ivan's scarf. "We love you."
I love you too.
After that day, the mansion didn't seem as ominous as before. Katyusha began decorating the place with trinkets and ornaments, sunflowers and her own favorite flowers- carnations. She bought out old sketches and pictures Ivan and Natalia had drawn and colored when they were children, and hung them- much to the two's embarrassment- everywhere on the walls and rooms. And then Natalia had- much to their surprise- suggested painting the wall another color. Something brighter and less oppressive. "Purple!" the youngest exclaimed after they agreed to her plans and considered 'what color.'
"I was thinking more of blue," Katyusha said apologetically.
"And I wished for yellow."
"How about all of the above?" Natalia grinned.
It was decided then. They bought the paints, got dressed in overalls and clothes prepared to get messy, and went all out. Natalia ran around the living room, flinging violet all over the ceiling, walls, ground, shouting and giggling her brother's name and how beautiful of a purple it was. In turn, Ivan streaked yellow where her purple missed, so that the two looked like a strange mixture of tie-dye, clashing with the brown they still hadn't managed to completely cover. When Katyusha suddenly burst into the room, after her rampage in the kitchen (now a tidy and sky-blue), they both flung paint on her, and laughed when she retaliated. She was usually a cry-baby, and Natalia was usually a quiet and solemn girl. Now, staring at this wild scene, with his two sisters so out of character and having this much fun, Ivan had never felt happier. He closed his eyes, keeping the image locked in his mind.
He wanted it to stay forever. The comfort and warmth of his small, but immensely large family. The feeling of his heart, for once, being half-full instead of cold, half-empty. He wanted it forever.
The day the Baltics came into their lives, forever changed. Ivan had welcomed them almost instantly, never expecting them to break apart his "perfect" family. They just needed a home, somewhere to stay, and he had more than enough room in the huge house. He thought their presence would add to his growing happiness and fill up the space not even Katyusha and Natalia could furnish at times.
At first, that was what it seemed like. He found Lithuania a very helpful and friendly person, Estonia could help him repair anything in the house, and Latvia… Well, Latvia was just so cute. Katyusha got along with the three immediately, and after a few weeks, even Natalia began to tolerate them, taking a special liking to Lithuania. Their residence became a familiarity around the house- no longer did Natalia stick close to her brother whenever one of the Baltics came near him, no longer did Ivan feel uneasy with them being around his sunflower "garden" in the front, no longer did he have to worry about the three disliking their new home or wishing to leave. Everyone seemed content, and seeing them walking around the house, filling it with noise and laughter, he was content too. The mansion had expanded, light burning every night, the smell of actual- living, breathing humans- ever present in the dark hallways and the empty rooms.
A perfect family.
It was not until mid-October, 4 months after their guests arrived, that the change began.
On that early morning, he woke up to the chirping of birds and icicles tapping on the windowpane, and instantly knew. Something was wrong- there was too much silence. Usually around this time, Lithuania would be in the kitchen, cooking and humming, or Latvia outside in the snow with Estonia. Either Katyusha or Natalia would come into the room to wake him up, and then the day would start. But…there was no one.
No one in the snow-garden, no one in the kitchen or living room, the guest and bedrooms. He checked and double-checked to make sure…nothing. All the beds were neatly made and cleaned, the house like a still-life on canvas, frozen in perfect reality and yet surreal at the same time. When he went back to the kitchen, there was only a small note on the counter, along with Lithuania's homemade breakfast. Enjoy! the note said. He stared at it in disbelief, the strange and familiar feeling of panic mounting in his chest. Enjoy? Was this a joke? How could he enjoy, when they weren't there to enjoy it with him?
How could he enjoy, when he had no idea where they were…?
He began an almost crazed sprint around the large mansion, frantically calling out every one of their names, slamming open doors and shoving anything that came in his way. Grappling, dizzying pain weighted him down, fear overtook his chest. It was so difficult to breathe, staring left and right down the deserted hallways, the darkened rooms, and out into the blizzard of snow. It had always been there, those things- hiding in the shadows and background, trying to frighten and pull him into its deathly grip. They haunted him, clawed at him until they ripped his skin dry, until his heart seem to fall out on its own. The monsters had never had a chance to strike yet. Not even when he first arrived in the mansion, feeling their chill and creeping presence- because, well, he had been too happy, too content to notice and succumb to them. He had been surrounded by the ones he loved, who loved him back. He hadn't been alone.
Like he was now.
The house was empty. There was no one. The wall seem to stretch sky-ward, the wall colors of paint now turning a dull and sickly green. Paintings, pictures- leering down at him, his warmth gone as swiftly, as silently as the wind.
Ivan felt his legs go weak. He glanced once at the clock on the wall- 5 hours had passed already- before gazing back to the ground. No light leaked into the room so all he saw of the floorboards was a smear of black and brown. His eyes blurred, wavering slightly as he tilted his head forward, burrowing into the scarf. It was unusually cold and stiff- and it surprised him. He brought a hand to the smooth fabric, caressing it slowly. A present from his lovely sister Katyusha, who had made it during one of their worst night in the Siberian cold, during a harsh winter spent huddling together to save body heat. During one of his most painful moments in life.
Death. He was so tired of seeing death. Standing in the black snow, eyes growing dull, that was all he saw. When it is nighttime, the moon is supposed to raise into the sky, to replace the sun's aura. It is supposed to illuminate the land, providing the only light in utter darkness. That night, there was no moon for him. Nothing but ebony, touching him everywhere, making him shiver and shake with fear and loneliness. In the barren field, frost could cover the tracks and trails of the injured. It could hide what had happened here, on this very land; it could try and erase all the evidence… but it could not erase the horror. Once the snow drifts, once the wind blows, once someone walks again on those lands, see the trees all uniform in the perfect stillness of winter- even then, the feeling won't go away. The tracks will be revealed, the bodies laying to decay in open space. Anyone walking across could feel. Would know, right away- that something was wrong. They would feel, underneath their feet, the sorrow of those people left to die. They, like him, would see death.
Why did people have to die? Why did people have to hurt? Why did they have to suffer alone?
"Why do I have to suffer alone?"
Ivan shivered, hugging himself and closing his eyes against the snow. So, so cold. So, so dark. So much death. He took a step forwards, into the blind winter air, through the place he was forced to again and again, and almost fell. There was a lump on the ground and, squinting past the canopy of black, he could just barely make out dark hair flowing from a bloodied mass. Unexpectedly, unwillingly, a single tear slipped from his dull eyes, falling on top of the head and sliding down its face. What was the Tsar doing…? How could he leave his people to suffer, to be buried under snow- icy freezing snow- while he was safe in his own home? How could a ruler be so oblivious to his people's pain? How could the world still be spinning, people carrying on with their lives as though nothing was happening, when in fact they were ignoring the very truth and horror of reality?-
The voice came from behind him, gentle and soft. Hearing it brought him out of his stupor. A second later, something warm touched his head and face, winding itself around his neck. He turned around, surprised, and met his older sister's blue eyes. Beside her was their youngest sister, who was a head shorter than Ivan, with irises as equally bright as Katyusha. He brought his gaze back to the object spilling over his shoulder and almost to the ground. Touching it hesitantly, Ivan whispered, "What…?"
"It is a scarf, Мой маленький брат," Katyusha smiled and hugged his arm. Natalia took the other one and swung it back and forth, her solemn eyes glowing. "It is so cold out tonight, and we have nothing but a small fire to scold the frost away. I thought I'd finish the scarf early, so you could have something warmer…"
"What about you two?"
Natalia shook her head. "We are fine, Ivan."
"No arguing," Katyusha said sternly and pulled closer to her brother. "It's okay. As long as you're fine."
" We know how much you hate the cold, " Natalia finally smiled. She fell into the Russian's arms, letting her head rest on his scarf.
Ivan felt them trembling against him, their coats barely enough to withstand General Winter's chill. He stared at the scarf, and back at his siblings again. Slowly, he lifted one end of the cloth, wrapped it around Katyusha's neck, and then the other end around Natalia's. When they looked up at him in unison, shock and confusion on their faces, he could only smile.
"Now we are all comfortable, da?"
He pulled them closer to him, closing his eyes. Yes, the scarf was very warm… but not as warm as the bodies, the hearts beating, so close to him. Telling him that he didn't have to endure alone.
Now… now they weren't here, and the house seemed so odd without their presence. Without anyone running around, laughing or talking, without the soothing voice of Katyusha or Natalia's loud and animated one.
He sank to the ground, pulling the scarf to his face, breathing in the familiar scent and letting it soak up his tears. No, he could not recall a time when this had happened. They had never left him by himself before. Not since her death, not since the uprisings against the Tsar, or the murdering of thousands of people. Not since they wandered through the land of Russia, soaking up all the memories- the pain- and letting it torment their minds… not even when they had moved to this very house and let slip their protective coat around him. Never, never.
His sisters knew- they knew how fragile he was. They knew, that if he was left alone, his mind would break. The darkness, the memories, would come. And they would ravage him…
But the Baltics.
They didn't know.
Ivan's eyes suddenly widened, dark with revelation and hatred. The Baltics didn't know him. He remembered, only now, the way Lithuania had commented, four days ago, on their living style: "Is it quite alright to stay locked in this house, without going anywhere?" He remembered the longing look on Natalia's face as she stared out the window, with Lithuania holding tight on her hand. He remembered the way Katyusha lingered in the snow, inching closer past the gates that separated their land and the world, could see her whispering to Estonia with eyes so small and sad. Ivan had never seen those expressions, those desires, in his sibling's eyes…until the Baltics came.
He thought this had been enough for them. He thought that being together, having this large family was enough to make them happy.
Ivan slowly got his feet, staring down the corridor and to the front door.
I was wrong.
He walked to the living room, and stopped when he reached the sky-blue door. The Russian forced himself a glance back and only smiled at what he saw: a perfect home. A colorful, warmly lit house- decorated with brilliant blue, purple, yellow, all of their names stretched across the ceiling and wall. Ivan, Katyusha, Natalia… His eyes narrowed. Toris, Raivis, Eduard were directly underneath. They had no right, being there.
He turned, staring down at the ground with a burning craze, before yanking the door open and stepping out into the blizzard.
They have no right…taking my family away.
Мой маленький брат - My little brother