It was nearing the end of the war, and the Allies- and how strange it was to refer to themselves that way, after so many years of fighting each other- were running out of options. Russia, Japan, North America, the rest of the EU, himself... The nations who'd been the major powers for decades had finally been united by a common cause. A decade ago, he'd have thought they'd be unstoppable. But the Coalition was getting more powerful by the day, and eventually, even stubborn, proud Germany had no choice but to admit that the tide was turning.
But America... America refused to be convinced. It seemed sudden to him; he'd never really paid the kind of attention that he should have to the happenings of the rest of the world, and when the first few attacks came, they'd taken him completely by surprise. Even now, most of the fighting had taken place far from his homeland, in countries whose names he couldn't pronounce. He might know the statistics, but his eternal optimism and determination would keep him from accepting the outcome until it was far too late. The boy was too proud, too sure of himself, too sure of the rightness of his cause to try to negotiate, and his fingers were edging closer and closer to the nukes. He hadn't been supposed to keep them, not when the rest of the world was disarming, but England found he wasn't surprised. America, sweet and genuine as he sometimes was, had never really trusted anyone but himself.
It was tempting, he had to admit, pointing a missile straight at the heart of the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, Latin America, and blowing them all to hell. But ethical concerns aside- and he had been a peaceful country for too long now to let them slide that easily- in the end, even destruction on the scale that America was planning would only postpone the inevitable. Anyone who'd been paying attention (and he had to admit, this group had only recently included himself) had known for years that something was coming; after centuries of the short end of the stick, the former third world had had enough. Now that the dam had broken, there was no going back.
It was with a growing sense of desperation that England watched the talks proceed. The outcome was predictable; the boy had never learned how to lose a war, and he didn't know how to compromise. It was becoming more and more apparent that none of them- not harsh Germany, or sweet little Matthew, or pontificating France, or even chillingly pragmatic Russia (who, he suspected, had also kept more arms than he let on)- would be able to reason with him. But England... England couldn't stand aside, and watch this happen. Not this time.
When he heard that America had officially given his government permission to detonate his hydrogen bomb, he went to Switzerland, and made a request. The nation, taciturn as he always was these days, complied without asking questions. When the handgun came, he went to the flight pad at their conference center, with nothing but his briefcase; he didn't intend to be gone long. When he stepped up to the plane, looking for the pilot, he found someone already there.
"Ivan," he said, shortly, not in the mood for conversation.
The man smiled. "Arthur. It has been a long time." He was looking skinnier than the last time they'd talked, fatigued—but weren't they all?
"It has," he agreed. "Were you planning to use the plane?"
"Yes," he said. England internally sighed. Now he would have to rent a jet, and—"Switzerland told me you might be here."
England blinked, thrown by the change in subject. Apparently Switzerland wasn't as close-lipped as he seemed. And he had chosen Russia, of all people, to tell? "Did he."
"Yes," the man replied, pleasantly. "It seems that you are paying a friend a visit."
England's heart turned to ice in his chest. "It's a business trip," he said, shortly, pulse thumping.
"Yes," said Russia. "Difficult business." England said nothing. Finally, Russia continued. "Do you think he will die?"
It took him a moment to decide how to reply. Finally, he settled on honesty. What did he have to lose? "I don't know," replied England flatly. Of course, nations had gotten hurt before—you didn't live for millennia without running that risk- but intentionally killed? He didn't think, even at the height of their hatred for each other, any of them would have dared. "But all I need is to sow internal division among his people. It's... it's a chance."
"Yes," said Russia again. He was quiet for a moment. "It will be easier for you if he dies, you know," he continued, conversationally. "If he lives, he will never trust you again." England shivered at his casual tone.
"I know," he replied, tersely. A moment of silence, while he waited for the other man to finish his lecture and leave.
"Well, then. We'd better get going." The man's open smile said he had no idea that he'd said anything strange.
"We?" asked England, incredulously.
"Of course," said Russia. "You didn't think you could overpower him on your own, did you?"
"I've done it before," said England, with gritted teeth.
"Not in centuries. And when was the last time you used one of those?" He nodded at the bulge in England's briefcase.
England didn't answer. The man was right. And if he failed...? "Very well," he said, and signaled to the pilot standing by.
The first hour of the trip was tense and silent. England had taken the handgun out of its place in his bag, and was methodically loading, unloading, loading, unloading, trying not to think about what was coming. Russia's smile didn't waver. "You will break it," he finally said.
England shook his head. "Don't be a fool. Besides, I can't imagine you didn't bring a spare." He didn't look at Russia's face, but he knew that if he had, he would have seen teeth in the smile.
Russia began to hum vaguely; the tune was familiar. England was so distracted, it took him nearly ten minutes to recognize it. Yankee Doodle. He shot the other man a venomous look. Russia smiled wider. A few moments later, his nerves wound to the breaking point, he snapped. "Russia, I swear to God, if you do not stop this instant, I will blow your brains out and devil take the consequences."
The humming stopped. "Oh?" he said, looking genuinely interested. "You will shoot me with that little gun?"
England stood up suddenly, taking a two-handed shooting stance. "Try me," he growled.
Russia stood, slowly, hands in the air, and walked over to him—close. Too close. "Try you?" he asked, hips shifting closer.
England grabbed the man by the hair, shoving his gun under his chin. "Your innuendo is not appreciated, Ivan. You had your chance."
The man's eyes were dreamy—truly, truly insane by now, England thought with a shudder, if he hadn't been before he'd lost all that territory in the south. "When I had my chance," he said, voice nearly singsong, "you were not holding something nearly so nice."
England shook his head, looking at the gun in his hand, then back at Russia. "You are one sick man, you know that?"
He didn't answer.
"Fine," he said, and threw him across the plane, careful to aim away from the seats. The thud he made against the curved wall was immensely satisfying, never mind that Russia had lost about thirty percent of his body weight in the past few years. The man got to his knees, and England, as disgusted with himself as he was with Russia, hit him about the side of the head with the barrel of the gun. The safety was on. There was only so much homicide one could take.
Russia's head was bleeding; he hadn't meant to hit that hard, but he found he wasn't sorry. The man was looking up at him with dilated eyes, breathing short. Unfocused anger took him over again, and he kicked him, hard, in the ribs. Russia just laughed, and England felt a chill. "Your little shoes will do nothing to me, not after China's boots."
"Fine," he said again, clipped, and took another swing at him with the gun.
This time, Russia caught it. "Not fast enough," he sang.
In the time it took Russia to draw a breath, England was kneeling in front of him, blade at his throat. Russia gave a breathless laugh. "You are as fast as you were," he whispered. England shook his head, and wrenched his gun hand out of Russia's grasp.
"You clearly are not."
Russia's smile widened, and England couldn't help an unsettled feeling. "Are you going to hit me some more?" Russia asked, in his best little-kid voice. England shuddered.
"You want me to knock your teeth out?"
England couldn't quite look away from the other man's eyes, as he whispered, "I want you to try."
"Then you're shit out of luck," said England, folding the knife up, and putting his gun down. "I don't want to play this game with you."
"You don't want to play this game with me..." Russia repeated, forlornly. "It is a nice game, England. It will make you feel very nice. And it is a long, long flight." England watched him, worried, as he shimmied out of his coat and scarf, and held his arms above his head, wrists crossed. England knew what that pose said. The man rolled his hips forward, and England started at the incongruity of the gesture; it was something he would have expected to see from France, or even Spain, not this clumsy giant of a man. "You can do anything you want to me," Russia whispered.
England felt goosebumps break out on his arms. "Why?" he asked.
Russia just smiled.
England noticed absently that his heart was beating fast. If he'd known that a little handgun would turn Russia into a kitten, he'd've... well, he would have gone out of his way never to meet him while armed. But today—could normal rules even apply today? He looked down at the gun and then over at the sweet face of his fellow passenger. Fuck it. If he did this, it wasn't going to be what he remembered about this day.
"Fine," he said finally, voice clipped. "Take off your shirt."
England knelt in front of him, running fingers up all that white skin. The man was even paler than he was. "Anything I want?" he said, quietly.
"Anything," Russia agreed with another dreamy smile. "As long as you touch me with that."
England looked down at the gun in his hand. "You are one fucked-up bastard," he said. Russia just nodded agreeably. He held the gun up to Russia's face. "Suck."
Russia's expression went misty. "Make me," he said.
England shrugged, and hit him with the thing, across the other side of the face. The thud made him feel sick.
Russia was breathing faster. "Again," he said. England complied, with a little more force.
When Russia looked back at him, his eyes were full of something dangerously close to adoration. There was blood running down his face from a cut on his forehead, and more from his nose. Sickly fascinated, England reached to trail a finger through it. Perversely—terrifyingly—he felt himself starting to get hard.
He slid his palm over Russia's cheek, shuddering at the slick feeling of the tepid blood. When he drew his hand away, his hand was smeared with a red that was brighter than he'd expected. Drawing his hand back, he smacked Russia hard across the face. The man keened, and the sound went straight to his cock. The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach grew.
Russia ground his erection against England's thighs, saying "Please, please," in a high voice, like a mantra.
England smacked him away. "I don't want to feel your cock, you sick fuck." The puppy face Russia gave him made England shudder.
He took off his belt, juggling the gun and the buckle. Then he threaded one end back through to make a loop, and slipped it over Russia's head. He wanted to see the man gasp struggle. He had a feeling he'd hate himself for this tomorrow, but at this point, who gave a damn? He pulled.
Russia closed his eyes, smile blissful. That was not what England wanted. He pulled, harder, tighter, wanting the man to thrash and beg. Still nothing. The fuck?
He stood up, dragging Russia with him by the neck. The skin around the leather turned white and then red, but Russia's body stayed relaxed, the expression on his face calm. Inexplicably furious, he lay the gun down, and smacked the man across the face. In an instant, he was pinned to the floor, an arm across his throat. "You put it down," said Russia, tone sounded childishly disappointed. "I asked you not to do that."
England elbowed him in the sternum, and used the moment of slack to get his hands back on the gun. "I don't understand the boner you've got for this thing. It's a hand gun. Surely you've seen them before."
But Russia's face was close to his, and he was whispering. "It reminds me, England, of how you used to be—back when you mattered."
England, expression unchanging, pulled Russia's head back by the hair, and shoved the gun into his mouth, deep enough for his trigger finger to hit tongue. He found himself wishing he'd brought something with a longer barrel; deep as it would go, the Browning barely hit the back of the man's throat. "I've head enough of your prattle," he said, evenly. The man smiled, eyes half-closed, and let the thing slide another fraction of a centimeter in. England wanted to close his eyes; it was sick, it was indecent. It was so damn hot.
"If you let this fall out of your mouth," he said, "I'll send you back to your seat, and we'll ride the rest of the way over watching a documentary." It was mostly a bluff—he wasn't sure he would stop now if Russia begged—but the other man seemed to take him seriously enough. When he took his hand away, his cheeks were hollow with the suction it took to keep the heavy gun in place. England was almost impressed.
Russia had been more-or-less cooperative until then, but frankly, it made England nervous to see his hands free. Hunting around in the overhead racks, he came up with a piece of rope- he chose not to speculate about why it was there- and bound the man's hands quickly and efficiently above his head. It wasn't as familiar as the knots for binding someone's arms behind their back, but it wasn't the sort of thing one forgot how to do. Russia didn't fight him.
Anything you want, he'd said.
England ripped the gun out of his mouth, and grabbed him by the hair, sending him crashing into the floor of the plane. Still no noise. Fast as he could move, he had a knee in the center of the man's back, yanking up on the end of the belt, gun against his skull. There was a small sound of pain, but instead of the rush of adrenaline and arousal that he expected, he felt an intense pang of disappointment. It was just a sound.
He sat up, looking at all that white skin. He fingered the knife in his pocket. Could he...?
He could. "I'm going to cut you now," he said. Russia hummed, like a man tasting a fine wine. He flicked the blade out and traced down the man's spine, hard enough to break the first layer of skin, not hard enough to draw blood. He got no reaction. Again, over the same line- again, nothing. A high pain tolerance, then; France would have been blissed out and panting by now. A felt a pang. He hadn't told him where he was going.
He took a deep breath to clear his thoughts and, careful to keep Russia's head pinned against the floor with his gun hand, he drew the knife over the man's skin. Still shallow: He was content to watch the lines, white and then red, and listen to Russia's breathing. Calm, still. Either his pain tolerance was naturally high, or he did this a lot. England shook himself. That was not something he wanted to think about.
Russia shifted his hips impatiently; England shoved his forehead back into the floor by the point of the gun. "Anything I want," he reminded him. "Stay still." Russia let out an impatient sigh, but obeyed.
Harder now. He remembered this feeling of waxy resistance. But… but against skin that he'd touched a million times, that he'd traced with fingers and tongue until he knew it like his own. Never angry, never scared, never like this. The tip of his knife broke through, and he watched the little indentation fill with blood with sick fascination. He leaned in to lick. Lukewarm—salty. Strange. Like come, but less bitter. He resisted the sudden urge to spit. He didn't want Russia in him like that.
Russia whined, and England hit him about the head with the pistol. It wasn't hard enough to crack the skull, but it did start a slow spread of blood in his white hair. Russia moaned. England felt sick.
He held the knife above the man's skin again, distaste warring with some kind of compulsion. The distaste won out. He began to sit back. In a second, Russia had flipped him over, was pinning him by the throat to the floor. When had the fucker even gotten his hands untied? "You are having doubts, I think," said Russia. "It is too late for doubts." England flinched at that, like he'd been hit. He didn't know which doubts Russia was talking about, but he didn't need to. "I will help you. I will help you not to doubt." He touched his cheek with his free hand, tenderly, like a lover. Then he drew back his arm, and slapped him hard across the face.
England went still, the blood beating hard in his throat and his cock. Then he started to struggle. He wanted out—he wanted it as bad as he'd wanted anything this century. But a moment later, there was a knife at his throat. He froze. "You will do what I say now," said Russia, tone conversational again. "I will hurt you so nicely. Then you will trust me when I say 'do not have doubts.'"
England was frightened to discover that he understood what Russia was trying to say. He was terrified to realize he was going to go along with it. "Alright," he whispered. "Hurt me."
Russia smiled kindly, more like a father than a lover. "Yes," he crooned. "That's good." And he slapped him again. England gasped, and the blood pounded in his ears. "Does it feel so nice?"
England glared up at him. He would not play that game.
Russia leaned back, grinding his ass against England's cock. England shuddered, and tried to pull away, only to realize that he had no place to go. "Does it feel nice, I said. So nice?"
"Yes, yes, nice," said England, whatever it took to get the man off him.
"Hurt me, Russia," Russia said, voice high in mimicry. "Hurt me, please?"
Oh hell no. "Don't be—" And then Russia was against him again, rubbing like that, and God but it felt wrong... "Please," he said finally, voice as low as it would get.
"Hurt me," said England, looked away. "Please, hurt me. Please."
Russia turned his face back up with two fingers. England looked him in the face, and the expression there terrified him. He remembered... He remembered a time, when Russia—Ivan—hadn't been like this. Decades, centuries ago, before the tear of his civil war, before his house was filled with angry, scared satellite states, before it slowly emptied again. "Yes, England." And the grip around his throat tightened. England's whole body wanted to fight it; he was trembling with that want. "It will help you if I tie your hands, I think," said Russia. England nodded, eyes inexplicably filling. "Tie me, Russia," he said, in that awful, high voice.
He closed his eyes. "Tie me." There was no answer. He opened his eyes, and said "Tie me, Russia. Please." And he felt something in him crack.
Russia hummed, and stood. England closed his eyes while the man rummaged through the overhead rack. Why bother, when the rope...? Then England heard the distinctive ripping sound of duct tape being unwound. "You have got to be shitting—"
"I think you should not speak," said Russia, sternly. England wasn't sure how to go back, now- he wasn't even entirely sure he wanted to. So he said nothing as Russia taped his wrists together and then over his head to the plane wall, never mind that it would hurt like a bitch to get out. Never mind that no one in their right mind trusted Russia.
The man took a step back, and opened the small suitcase he'd brought on the plane. England saw a metal-tipped whip, and shuddered. Good Lord. What had he gotten himself into?
Russia ran the hideous thing through his fingers, humming vaguely. "Are you ready, England?" he asked, and the tone was playful. England shuddered. "Are you ready, I asked."
What could he say? "I'm ready," he said, and tried to inject it with every ounce of assurance and detachment he had.
Russia smiled, so kindly. "Good." And then his arm was moving, the whip swinging, and he felt a white-hot flash of pain. It was a moment before he remembered to flinch. "It is good, yes?" England couldn't bring himself to answer. And the thing was swinging again. This time he jerked, body trying to avoid the pain. Of course, there was nowhere to go. A third time. He couldn't stop the noise that forced its way out of his mouth. "Four." Crack. "Five." Crack. "Isn't this fun?" England said nothing. "Isn't this fun, I said," and he swung the thing centimeters from his face.
England took a harsh, fast breath. Good Lord. "It's fun," he answered, wound tight as a bowstring.
"Then I'm not hitting hard enough," said Russia, still sing-song. Crack. England bit back a sob. Crack.
Russia halted, suddenly. "What was that?" he asked, expression politely interested.
"Yes, that's what I thought," he said, and the whip was swinging again. This time England couldn't stop himself from coughing out a sob. He was mortified to realize that his cheeks were wet. "Yes. It's good. You will remember what it was like not to doubt."
England went still. Because he did remember those days, if he was truthful with himself- when his navy was the biggest in the world, when he thought he'd never fall. When he'd been the one holding the whip. He remembered China's face twisting with rage and helpless hate during the Boxer Rebellion. Mandinka— whose name they wouldn't even bother to learn until centuries later—screaming and tearing her hair as she watched her children dragged away on ships to lands she'd never seen. India's face turning to stone as he blew captive rebels to bits in front of his cannons.
Once it started, it wouldn't stop: The sense memories, the faces of the colonies, his and others'. They'd brought civilization, he reminded himself. Christianity. Sanitation. Technology. But faced with a hundred accusatory faces, a hundred economies handicapped by decades of primary exports, millions of other people's children, poor and starving... all the old mantras felt hollow. In that moment, he realized that they—he, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Belgium—they'd brought this upon themselves.
He felt a trickle on his chest, through the haze of pain, and realized he was bleeding. He should hardly be surprised. "Do you remember?" the man whispered.
England closed his eyes. "I remember," he said.
"I don't think you do," Russia answered, looking concerned.
England's whole body shook with the impact of the next hit. It hurt twice as badly when the metal pulled out of his skin. He felt a building nausea. "I'd never forgotten, Russia. It's just—" he took a breath, and winced. "The world isn't like that anymore, you know that as well as anyone. Maybe it never was."
Russia tilted his head, and appeared to be considering it. "Perhaps you're right," he conceded, and England breathed a sigh of relief. Then Russia's hand hit the middle of the bloody mess that was his chest, and he hissed. "Perhaps I'll simply continue because... it's fun."
He realized that he didn't want that. "Let me go," he said, meeting Russia's eyes.
"Let you go?" he asked, face blank and tone inquisitive.
"Let me go," he repeated, eyes closing against the tears. "Please."
"You don't want to play anymore, England?"
"I want—I just want to rest, Russia. I'm worried. I'm... I'm scared." He was in too much pain to be anything but honest.
"There's no reason to be scared. With the two of us, we'll have no trouble overpowering him." England flinched, eyes still closed. "Or is that what you're afraid of?"
"Yes," he said. Honesty again. "That's what I'm afraid of."
Russia shook his head. "You don't want to do this," he stated.
"No. I don't."
"But you will do it anyway." It wasn't a question.
"Because you love him."
England shook his head at the incongruity of that statement. "Maybe, but that's not the reason. I'll do it for all of our sakes."
"If that were true," said Russia, sounding the sanest he had in years, "you would be here with France, not me."
England shook a little. "Don't," he whispered, voice hoarse.
"Don't—don't mention him, not here."
"France?" England nodded, throat thick. "I see. He doesn't know."
"No, he doesn't."
And Russia smiled. "I couldn't have designed this better if I'd tried," he said, and England didn't ask him to explain.
After a long moment, Russia put down his whip. England flinched when he took out a knife, but the man started sawing at the tape around his wrists; it was going to hurt like a bitch getting out of there, that was for sure.
He sat limply, and let Russia remove the tape, too hyped up on adrenaline to even wince. Free, he didn't move. Russia looked at him curiously. England shook his head. They passed the rest of the trip in silence.