I really should have been doing my chemistry homework instead of writing this, but this is way too much fun. If only the chapters came out better. Indeed, last chapter ended in a cliffhanger. Will China agree to dance? Will love conquer all? Will I stop failing at building tension with series of questions? Let's find out!

By the way, this chapter is written extra-special for roxett-, who's a super-awesome reviewer and (in my humble opinion) an epic friend. I hope that you'll like it in all its emotional messiness!

Love Hurts

It was like something straight out of a fairytale, where a prince would reach out for the hand of a princess. The setting was perfect. The timing was right. With every particle of his being, Yao wanted nothing more than to be with the country that danced into his heart. China hesitated momentarily, cursing his loud heartbeats for muddling his thinking and his common sense so badly. He knew he was about to dance with the one nation that struck terror to his people, but he honestly couldn't care less.

He's my friend. After all these years, he's still my friend.

A smile formed delicately on his pale face, and he slowly drew his hand up and felt the tips of his fingers brush the old gloves that Russia always wore.

It was in that exact moment that the silence was broken.


Ivan grunted like a beast in pain as Korea burst from the trees and flung him at his chest, taking the larger nation completely by surprise. Yao stumbled back in horror, landing on his rear as his youngest sibling tried to choke Russia by pulling on his scarf.

"Stop it, aru, you're hurting him!"

"Hurting him? I'm saving your life!"

Japan ran out from the forest behind Yong Soo and, upon sight of the chaos, stopped dead in his tracks. "What is going on here?" he asked Ivan, "What are you doing to my brother?"

Russia snarled, unable to form a coherent answer with his breath being taken away by Korea. He was growing weaker without air and fell to his hands and knees. China struggled to yank Yong Soo off of Ivan's back, but his little brother would have none of it. "He's brainwashed Yao!" In an attempt to get China off of him, Korea kicked his oldest brother in the stomach, causing him to fall over, completely winded. Russia grunted, reaching towards Yao, which only caused Korea to yank on his scarf all the harder.

"Brainwashed? That's unacceptable!" Kiku hissed. He began to draw out his katana, placing the tip of it before Ivan's nose.

Yao's brain had difficulty registering what was going on. He had landed on his head, and everything he heard sounded like fireworks. The world was blurry and dizzy as if every atom of the landscape had decided to fly free in a chaotic mess of color.

He managed to register the pain in Russia's eyes, though. The anger and the sorrow. The worry. When he met Ivan's eyes, China could practically feel the man's thoughts being transferred directly to his head. He's worried that I got hurt? The fool! He's the one who's choking and about to be sliced by Kiku's katana.

Wait… what?

As Yao's brain registered that Japan had drawn out his sword and was ready to attack Ivan, all his senses kicked back into overdrive. In spite of his dizzying pain, he lunged at Japan, grabbing his sword arm and yanking it backwards. "Don't hurt him! Please, let him go, aru! He didn't do anything to me!"

"You should listen to him."

A new voice. Cold. Harsh. Undeniably female.

Ivan was nearly unconscious due to lack of air, but something had changed dramatically in the scene. Belarus had one foot on her brother's back and one arm around Korea, dagger poised in a cutthroat fashion right next to Yong Soo's neck. Natalia's violet-blue eyes were glinting with a hatred so powerful that it could freeze General Winter to death. The Asian brothers stopped moving entirely, Yao and Kiku locked in place and Yong Soo out of fear for death.

"Put the sword away or your annoying brother gets it."

Japan's dark brown eyes narrowed. China knew it was a rarity for his brother to feel anger, but he could tell that something in Kiku's normally calm demeanor shifted dangerously south. Very slowly, as if it used up every ounce of his willpower, Japan drew the katana back in its sheath. Yao let out a soft sigh of relief.

Belarus nodded. "Good boy. Now," she rumbled, addressing Korea, "let go of big brother's scarf."

Yong Soo immediately dropped it. As soon as he did, Russia took a big, trembling breath and collapsed entirely onto the snow, eyes gently lulling closed. His body came to a complete standstill.

Time stopped for one second. Two.

Mortified, China ran over to Ivan's side, ignoring the horrible pain in his head and gut. "Ivan… Ivan, are you alright? Speak to me, Ivan!" Every sentence grew more and more desperate. No. He couldn't be. Russia couldn't be… oh no. No, no, nonononono. No! That can't be! The tears Yao was hiding earlier poured from his eyes with such force that his head felt more pain than ever before, but he didn't care. He placed an arm around Russia's upper back and rested his head on the crook of his neck, sobbing like a child who lost his father at war.

He didn't care that everyone around him was staring in shock.

He didn't care what his brothers would think.

He didn't even care about how brutally Natalia would murder him for this.

All that was on his mind amidst all the sadness, pain, and heartbreak were the memories of him and Russia as children, dancing together, laughing together, promising they would stay together. "I'm sorry, Ivan. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Yao sniffled, repeating his apology over and over again to the country that lay soundless and still in the snow.

Belarus stepped away from China's youngest brother and drew back her dagger, heading over to the opposite side of Ivan's neck. If possible, her air had grown even colder.

"Ivan?" Korea whispered. Yao looked up from his crying to see the sadness and confusion clouding Korea's eyes. The normally happy and bouncy nation was reduced to silence. He looked towards Japan, who had a similar look on his face. "You… call Russia by his first name?"

Oh, shit.

Countries only called each other by name if they were related or if they were really close friends. In that moment of weakness, Yao had broken the unspoken promise to never reveal his and Russia's old friendship.

Oh, shit.

"N-no…" China stuttered, finding it more difficult than usual to lie under the circumstances. "I didn't mean to… I… I'm…."

Kiku bowed his head in shame, his expression unreadable. Yao could easily see, however, the hurt in Yong Soo's eyes. His youngest brother looked like he wanted to say something, but he held it back in a rare display of maturity. China had a feeling of what Korea wanted to ask, and was grateful that he decided to hold his tongue around Natalia.

"He's unconscious," Belarus murmured. "Unconscious, but alive. He should be fine after some rest."

In spite of himself, Yao breathed a sigh of relief. A little delirium washed over him, and although he was still crying, China found himself laughing shakily between sobs. "D-did you hear th-that, I-Ivan? Y… You'll be okay!"

He reached over to hug the nation, but Natalia quickly drew her dagger and pointed it at China's chest. "Stay away from him!"

Japan reached for his katana, quietly threatening to draw it. Korea backed away a few paces.

China felt more heartbroken than ever before.

It was worse than when Kiku scarred his back with his katana as he declared his freedom. It was worse than any rise and fall he had ever seen in his empire. It was worse than the Sino-Soviet Split that ate away at his conscious every day.

Seeing Russia lying broken in the snow after nearly dying sent a new wave of realization throughout China. The blushing. The warmth. The desire to always stay by Ivan's side, in good times or bad, in rain or sun. The longing for Russia to reciprocate his feelings. The countless hours China spent every night beating himself up for letting duty get between them.

Yao loved him. Far more than a friend or a brother.

He loved him.

And there was nothing he could do to help.

Not a fucking thing.

Japan and Korea approached China in silence. Yong Soo placed a hesitant hand on Yao's shoulder, his eyes damp and sad and glittering with guilt. Kiku grabbed China's hand and motioned for his brothers to follow him. His heart tore completely in two at the sign. He had to go, whether he loved Russia or not.

Goodbye, Yao thought quietly in his head, hoping that the message could somehow be conveyed to the other.

After fifteen minutes or so, when the Asian brothers found themselves safely in China's territory and far away from Belarus, Korea asked, "Yao… why didn't you tell us that you were friends?"

"We would not have thought of you any differently," Japan added. "What I mean to say, China-san, is that we know you were on okay terms for some time, but after the Sino-Soviet Split, we thought that you became enemies of each other. You told us that you hated Russia. So, when we saw you together, it concerned us."

How can he say that? I could never hate Russia. Never!

Not ever. What I said at the Split was a lie. I could never hate Russia. No, no, no…

"I didn't tell because… well… aru… I don't know… I sort of…."

China stopped mid-sentence and shook his head rapidly in an attempt to clear it, only making the throbbing migraine increase in intensity. Unwanted tears were freshly brewing at his eyes. "I should have told you. I really should have. If I did, then this might not have happened, aru."

"It's my fault," Korea whimpered, looking at the ground guiltily. "I'm the one who attacked him. I'm so sorry, Yao."

Despite his misery, Yao couldn't bring himself to be mad at Yong Soo. He smiled consolingly and rubbed his youngest brother's back. "It's okay, aru. You didn't know, and you acted out of fear for me. For that I'm proud. You're growing up well, Im Yong Soo. Misjudgment happens without proper information, aru. Don't worry about it."

Japan nodded quietly. "I will pray for Russia-san's quick recovery."

"Me too," Korea nodded, putting on a playful smile and gently punching China in the shoulder.

Yao grinned at his brothers. "Thanks, aru. I don't know what I'd do without you." He gave Korea a little hug and flashed a grateful expression at Japan, knowing all-too-well that the middle brother wasn't fond of personal contact.

You'll get better soon, Ivan. I love you.

~ Two Halves of a Whole ~

Natalia kept a careful eye on the three trespassers as they disappeared into the forest. As soon as she was sure they were out of sight, she looked frostily at her brother, who was beginning to show the signs of shallow breathing on his bed of white.

At any other time, she would have been all over him. She would have chased away the invaders with her pure ferocity rather than with stealth. But something had been different this time. Oddly different.

His eyes were different. The way they were locked on China as if he were a solitary light in the darkness.

And then China referred to him by his first name. This wasn't a good sign.

Belarus might have been known amongst the countries for her psychosis, but that didn't make her an idiot. Not remotely. She could piece two and two together.

"Now I know who's been slowly stealing you out of my grasp," she breathed, placing an icy hand on Russia's warm face. Her eyes melted slightly—only slightly—upon seeing her brother so weak. So hurt. She gently tilted his head, only for her eyes to freeze again instantly when she saw tear marks on Ivan's scarf. That thief's tear marks.

"Don't worry, big brother. He won't be in our way for long."

To be continued…

Dun dun duuuuuun!

Holy mother of Jesus Christ, this was an angsty installment, wasn't it? Feel free to throw bricks at me. I probably deserve it for doing that to Ivan and Yao. Yes. I'm an ass. I should get a hat that says "ass" on it so I can have an asshat! Won't that be wonderful?

If you have questions, comments, or anything to say, please review or PM me. Thanks for reading!