"Oi, Specs, where do you want me to put this monster?"

Roderich looked irritably up from the careful study of his cake batter, eyes widening in horror at what Gilbert was attempting to drag through the backdoor of the kitchen.

Gilbert stomped the worst of the slush off his boots, before grabbing a better hold of his prize.

"Gilbert…" Roderich said with a strangled noise. "What is that thing?"

The albino snorted, pulling it fully into the kitchen with a mighty heave. "Geez, clean off your specs, Specs. It's a Christmas tree."

"Its – but – its huge!"

"Awesome, huh?"

Gilbert snickered. Not even three in the afternoon and Roddy looked as if he were about to faint. Not bad. He continued toting the pine through the kitchen, barely noticing as its sweeping branches knocked butter and bowls and a pitcher of eggnog off the counter.

"Watch it!" Roderich fumed, rescuing his batter and cradling it close to his chest. "Come back here and clean this up!"

"No can do. Gotta decorate this baby before the party tonight. Remember - Feli and West are coming over early and I wanna make this thing look awesome, or at least as awesome as something that isn't me can be."

"Gilbert!" snapped Roderich.

"Aw, get the girl to clean it up," Gilbert called back, wrestling the plant into the living room. "Where is Lizzy, anyway?"

"I haven't the faintest," Roderich sniffed.

Gilbert froze, then ran back into the kitchen. "What?" he squawked.

Roderich looked irritated. "I've been here all day baking. How do you expect me to know?"

"She's been alone all day? Decorating?"

"I don't know, Gilbert, probably. What are you on about –"

"Mistletoe."

Both (adult, male) nations stared at each other with something frightfully like terror on their faces. Roderich gulped, attempting to regain his composure.

"I was hoping to avoid that complication this year," he murmured weakly.

Gilbert snorted. "Yeah, maybe if we locked her up or something."

Roderich shook his head, unwilling to admit Gilbert may have been correct on that account.

The doorbell rang.

"G-Gilbert, go get that, its Ludwig and Feliciano," Roderich murmured, attempting to instill his voice with authority as he turned back to his cake batter. The man in question only snorted again, pointedly plopping down into a kitchen chair.

"I ain't walking out into that minefield. What if I had to kiss West?"

"Nonsense; he's your brother, I'm sure Elizaveta would not – yes. Yes, she would. Fine, I'll go," Roderich muttered, defeated. "But you have to go with me and keep a lookout, do you understand?"

Both nations crept out of the kitchen, gazing worriedly around the quiet house. Elizaveta was nowhere in sight; neither were sprigs of that damned plant. That did not mean they were not here, though; it just meant that she had hidden them well.

Roderich also noted that Gilbert had left the Christmas tree – all twelve, dripping, snowy, dirty feet of greenery – sprawled on his living room rug. Seeing no immediate threat from Elizaveta's decorating, he straightened and sighed. "Gilbert, it is clear. I'll answer the door, but you must do something about that towering herb in my living room."

He didn't wait to hear the Prussian's (no doubt rude and obnoxious) reply, hastily moving to let in his guests.

"Ve~! Buon Natale!" Feliciano purred as the door opened, clutching a glass serving dish against his chest. Ludwig, pink-cheeked with what may have been cold, stood behind him.

"Hey, let us in!" Roderich blinked in surprise; Romano and Antonio had come early as well. It seemed that the party was going to start now.

He could do little more than stand aside and plaster on a vaguely pleasant smile as Romano barged through the door – and into an utterly-too-pleased Elizaveta, standing with her hands folded across her chest.

Roderich looked up above the doorjamb. Verdammt. Hanging innocuously over the entry way was a sprig of green leaves and white berries. And he and Romano were right underneath it.

"What the fuck is your problem?" grouched the little Italian, glaring up at Elizaveta's unholy smile.

"Look up," she prompted.

Romano did.

"Hell no," he said flatly.

Roderich waited. Sure enough, a large, cast-iron frying pan had appeared in Elizaveta's fist.

"Are you sure?" she asked, stroking her cooking implement gently. She peered demurely through her eyelashes.

It was scary.

"I s-said, hell no am I-I kissing a k-kraut…" Romano's voice was shaking. Elizaveta seemed to glow.

"Are you entirely positive?"

"Ay, Eliza! Let me kiss him instead!" offered Antonio with a bright smile. I'll make it worth your while~~"

Her grin became noticeably less evil, and more rapturous.

"Oh, of course, Antonio!" she bubbled.

"Che, tomato bastard – mmf!"

Roderich quickly moved out of mistletoe range as Antonio promptly dipped Romano into a very intimate kiss. Involving some serious tongue, presumably. Eliza sighed in complete ecstasy. As she was distracted, Roderich removed the offending plant, heading for the trashcan.

"Veliciano, you can bring that food into the kitchen," he said, turning back to the room to find his unfinished cake batter. At least the path back to the kitchen was safe.

Maybe.

In the space between Roderich leaving to answer the door, and Elizaveta's well-(ill)-timed appearance demanding sexual assault, she had managed to tape a sprig of greenery to the splashboard of the counter. Roderich sighed, untapped it, and threw it away before it could cause trouble.

"Ve~, Hungary nee-san always has such a fun treasure hunt for us!" Feliciano remarked with little guile. "And if I find them, Ludwig has to give me a kiss!"

Roderich smiled ruefully. "I believe that you are the only one who finds this 'fun'. Besides Elizaveta."

"No, no, Ludwig likes it too, I bet, because he gets to kiss me! And I bet Prussia-nii is happy when he gets to kiss you~~!"

Roderich shook his head. "Italia-chan, its not quite like that – for one, we don't always get to kiss our preferred –"

But Italy had already bounded from the kitchen, on the hunt for more mistletoe. Roderich watched him go, silently jealous of the Italian's lack of concern, and feeling distinctly sorry for Ludwig.

He poured his batter into a pan and slid it into the oven. When he straightened, ether was someone leaning in the kitchen doorway.

"Oi," Gilbert grunted, smirking and heaving himself off the doorframe in order to advance on Roderich. The Austrian moved to the sink to wash his hands off.

" 'Oi' yourself," Roderich sniffed. "That's really an entirely inappropriate greeting."

He felt Gilbert wrap his arms around his waist and stomach, and leaned back slightly.

"Y'know, I totally don't mind the whole mistletoe thing. In the right situation," Gilbert said lowly into his ear. Roderich shivered unconsciously.

"Is that so?" he managed.

"It is. You know, when it's just you and me, and no one is watching ~ …"

Warned off by the tone in Gilbert's voice, Roderich looked up. Sure enough the (infuriating, childish) ex-nation had a sprig of something decidedly familiar dangling above their heads. Before he could react, the albino had captured his lips in a very soft kiss. Sighing, Roderich relaxed into it, lulled by the smell of baking pastry and the feel of Gilbert's strong arms.

From the kitchen door, a camera clicked.

Merry Christmas to me! Elizaveta thought happily.