and you know you're lying to yourself

1100 words | russia; belarus; ukraine; canada | belarus/russia; canada/ukraine | T

She says it once.

He gives her a strained smile and tells her his reply in a quick, practiced motion, and soon they can never stop.

Three come out of her mouth so smoothly, so effortlessly, as she stares at him under those dark, dark lashes.

He gives her a strained smile and says one, and that's enough to make her heart break all over again.

She walks around with her heart on her sleeve.

Katyusha knows what's wrong, and she flits around giving her sister trinkets and ribbons and dresses, and Natalia gives her sister forced half-smiles and thank yous but she knows that they cannot satisfy her. They cannot make her happy.

She hates the way she dresses. She hates the stuffy way the purple dress holds her waist, hates the puffy sleeves, hates the heat-trapping gloves, hates the high heeled boots. But she'll wear them if it would make her brother happy, because she knows he likes that style of dress. She wants to make him look at her, and say, sincerely, Natalia, you're beautiful, not with fear and terror in those eyes so like hers, but with happiness and pride, so she puts up with the long (stuffy) skirt and the buttons and the ribbons when she'd rather be wearing sundresses and broad-brimmed hats and flip-flops.

Ivan tries. He really does, and he sends his sister gifts and photographs and worthless little toys which she cherishes, which make her happy, somehow, but it's just not enough.

She says those three words with such ease that it terrifies him, driving him to say that one word.

She's only a little girl, they say. It's only a phase. She'll grow out of it. Don't worry, Ivan.

A phase stops being a phase after a few centuries, and she's no longer a little girl. She knows what she means when she says those three words with a well-practiced, elegant air, and she knows how it feels when he says that single one.

Natalia hates summer.

It reminds her of sun against her pale skin and sand in her toes and heat everywhere which she hates and god it reminds her too much of happy, sunny people.

Like America.

Her brother is of the winter, cold and cruel and unforgiving but is really just a slate wiped clean, ready to make a new beginning, and it's this thought she pontificates about standing outside the world conference building in Italy.

Katyusha comes out, hands intertwined with America's brother whose name she couldn't quite remember. And they're talking and smiling and Natalia's sister is laughing about something she can't hear and not for the first time in her life she's jealous of Katyusha.

Her sister sees her and bids goodbye to her companion, walking over to her sister in petite, scared steps. Natalia, she greets, just enough pink smattered across her cheeks to make her look just adorable. I thought you left hours ago.

Natalia glares at her, and she shrinks back. I was waiting for brother, she replies, with an air of finery and haughtiness. He told me to wait here while he gets something from the world conference building. He forgot something, she adds, almost desperately.

Katyusha looks confused. Ivan left hours ago, she points out. Did you not see him?

Natalia doesn't answer. Instead, her heart breaks all over again.

There's something on your face, Ivan says with a strained smile to his little sister.

It's winter now, and they're standing outside the world conference building after their fourth world meeting of the year. She's got her brother this time; no more jumping out windows and making for the nearest airport in a taxi just because she happens to be standing on the great steps out the entrance.

Is that so, she says, blandly – she's trying to control herself around him now, after her sister says her advances would never work if she keeps them up, and she tries to put up polite conversation.

Yes, says Ivan. Would you like me to rub it off for you?

The snow is falling all around them, Natalia thinks, and as a child she remembers she used to hate snow with all her heart, hated how it tormented her brother and sister. But now, it's almost magical, because it's giving her a moment with her dear brother.

Of course, thank you, she replies, trying to keep her cool, but inwardly her heart is hammering madly and she's trying to stop herself from blushing as her brother's hands approached her face.

Ivan's leaned in closer, and that's when she can't take it and she kisses him, madly, tries to make up for all those terrible, long years she's tried and failed to get his attention, wrapping her slender hand around his thick neck to keep him from running away, and lord, it's beautiful, it's everything she's ever dreamed of.

He struggles, then calms.

For a moment, he kisses back, as if he can't help it, and her heart leaps.

And then, as if the spell is broken he breaks free of her grasp; and backs away, slowly, staring at her like she's a predator about to pounce.

Ivan starts running away and leaves Natalia in shock, staring at what he's just done. In desperation she screams out those three words.

He pauses, and turns around so slowly it makes her heart break, and says one – just one word, and he's too far away for her to tell the expression in his eyes – was it anger? Sadness? Pity?

And he walks away, just like that.

She doesn't bother to follow him, just a little girl wrapped in an old scarf, standing alone in the snow.

That's why she hurls her brother's presents over the cliff with a frustrated cry, and she screams and she grovels and shakes her fist at the sky, but all to no avail, because she's sick, so sick of her heart breaking over and over again and she is just so tired having to find something to stick it back together again with, only to have it shatter once more.

She wonders if it's always going to be this way.

("I love you!"


A/N: I don't know. I really don't know.