January 2011

European Union business usually happened at Belgium's house, but tonight's meeting wasn't exactly business. Estonia had just adopted the euro as his currency, and France had immediately offered to throw a party in his honor. Hungary would have stayed away if she could—France was not the most gracious of hosts—but she held the rotating EU presidency, and so she needed to be there for politics if nothing else. Besides, Austria was going.

The affair was lavish, despite the recession, and typical of France: a chamber ensemble in the corner, playing 19th-century music; plenty of wine and fancy snacks; and, as France assured his guests with a wink, "the guest bedrooms upstairs are open for anyone who wants to make use of them." He never misses an opportunity, does he? thought Hungary. Sighing, she took a glass of wine from one of the half-dozen identical waiters, and went looking for Estonia to congratulate him.

As the night wore on, people drifted into the groups they were most comfortable with. Italy, uneasy in such a large group, stayed close to Mr. Germany. Finland never left Sweden's side, though as Hungary passed him, he looked desperate to be anywhere else. France and Britain, a little drunk, argued over something minor. Hungary, chatting with Belgium, heard the tail end of it.

"You're getting tense, mon ami. Why don't we go upstairs and sort this out?"

Britain sputtered. "You think I'd—with you—you? Pervert." He turned around, started to walk away.

"You did, once." France spoke more quietly, almost pleading. "Remember?"

"Ah, go sign a treaty with Poland!" Britain spat, and stormed off. Hungary shook her head. France played a dangerous game. That's not to say she didn't enjoy watching.

Around eleven local time, someone began calling for Estonia to make a speech. The band stopped playing, and Estonia was shoved forward as the waiters handed out full wineglasses.

Estonia cleared his throat nervously. "I'd, ah, like to thank everybody for coming…who'd've thought, when I belonged to Russia, that you'd all ever come to a party in my honor…" He trailed off, and Lithuania elbowed him. "Anyway, thank you, and thanks to Mr. France—" he scanned the crowd—"well, wherever he is, for hosting…and I'm happy to be here, in the European Union; may we all stay strong together." He drank hastily, and his fellow Union members raised their glasses to their lips—

And three sharp knocks on the front door two rooms over drowned out the band, which had just begun to play again.

The knocks were followed by a shout: "Eesti, are you there?" and a laugh, a low cackle that made everyone who recognized it freeze in terror.

The voice again: "Eesti? Latvija, Lietuva? I've come to take you home." Then a splintering noise.

The ballroom was suddenly filled with anxious muttering and general panic. "My god, he's broken in!" "He can't take them back!" "Germany, what do we do?"

Italy's nervous question prompted Germany to take charge. "Everyone remain calm!" he bellowed. The whispers stopped. "Belgium, go call Switzerland and report that Russia has violated international property conventions." Belgium rushed off to find a phone. "Hungary—" Germany came closer and spoke more quietly. "Go find France. I know you can make him act responsibly; do it. And—" he glanced over his shoulder at the quivering Baltics—"hide those three upstairs while you're at it." The sinister laugh came one room closer.

Hungary seized Estonia's arm and led him to the stairs at the back of the ballroom. Latvia and Lithuania followed silently.

There was no sign of France in the upstairs hallway, nor in either of the empty bedrooms that Hungary shoved Latvia and Lithuania into to hide. Still leading Estonia, Hungary reached the master bedroom at the end of the hall and knocked on the door.

"Qui est là?" someone called from inside. Hungary opened the door and dragged Estonia inside.

The room was arranged so that anyone coming in would look directly at the four-poster canopy bed. On the bed, Hungary saw France, naked, and…

"D'you, like, mind?" said the other Nation in the bed. Hungary remembered France's argument with England, and for a moment didn't know whether to be amused or appalled. Appalled finally won, as did her mission.

"Get under the bed," she hissed to Estonia, who hesitated, then obeyed.

"What is the meaning of this intrusion?" France asked self-importantly.

"Put some clothes on, you idiot," Hungary snapped. "Russia's invaded your house, and he's looking for your guest of honor. Now get up and do something about it!" She glanced around for something blunt to menace him with. The lamp might work.

She didn't need it. At the mention of Russia, France's eyes widened.

"Invaded?" he echoed. "Here? Sacreblu, do I have to do everything myself?" He jumped out of bed and ran from the room, still naked.

Poland sat up, covering himself with the sheet and looking around cluelessly. Hungary sighed, shook her head, found a pair of pants on the floor and flung them at him.

"Dude, I can't wear these," he protested, "they're, like, France's! Not my size…" Hungary glared at him, and he shut up.

Everyone had a different story about what happened next. France, when he returned to the bedroom, announced that he had triumphed. "I reminded him of our fight over Georgia, and the coward fled into the night!" Poland slow-clapped, and Estonia, crawling out from under the bed, exchanged skeptical glances with Hungary, who promptly threw the pants at France.

"Nice work," she told him. "Now get dressed."

Britain's version of the story was a bit less dramatic. "He ran in stark naked, yelling 'Sarkozy! Sarkozy!' It was quite the spectacle. Everyone was looking at him, and then Switzerland was there, handcuffing Russia. It was like the Flying Snake Circus." He laughed as if he had said something immensely funny. Hungary was confused. Maybe the joke just didn't translate.

The three Baltics came downstairs, made nervous apologies, and left in a hurry. Hungary stayed a bit longer, to be polite.

Perhaps this year would be a good one after all.

A/N: By the way, January 1, 2011 marked Estonia's adoption of the euro and the beginning of Hungary's 6-month term as president of the EU.

France's "you did, once" refers to the years leading up to 1000 CE, when he and Britain lived in relative harmony because they were afraid of the world ending.

"Eesti, Latvija, Lietuva" = Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

"Qui est là" is French for "Who's there?"

The "fight over Georgia" refers to when Russia and Georgia fought over the semi-autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, resulting in a Russian invasion of Georgia. French president Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a ceasefire, so France remembers himself as the hero.

The "Flying Snake Circus" Britain refers to is Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British sketch comedy in which many sketches end with the actors getting arrested for being silly. (And Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a movie featuring the same actors.)