A/N: Thought I'd take a stab at some Poland and Lithuania. It's Poliet, if you squint. As an added note, this is an AU where Ivan and the Baltics are siblings. Dunno about Ukraine and Belarus; they're not important here anyway.

Originally written as an essay with the prompt: "The first sentence should be 'Many years later he remembered his first experience with ice.' Should also involve a spork, the five senses, and the University of Chicago."

Break Here

Many years later, he remembered his first experience with ice. More specifically, he remembered falling flat on the cold, unyielding surface while his brother giggled maniacally and skated in circles around him. Talk about a nightmarish experience.

"Liet. Your face."

Toris cut his eyes to the boy sitting beside him on the bus.

"What about my face?"

"You like, look like you're remembering something totally unpleasant. Or like you're having bowel problems."

Leave it to Feliks, Toris thought, to say something completely blunt like that in a public place. On second thought, don't leave it to Feliks. Leaving anything with him was a bad idea. He had left his cat, Mykolas, with the other boy once and had returned to find the poor animal traumatized and dressed up in a billowy red skirt.

"Like, it's totally the second one, isn't it? I am so not sitting next to you if you're about to—"

"Actually, I was remembering what you did to Mykolas," Toris cut him off. "So it was the first one. The something really unpleasant."

Feliks scoffed. "Yeah, sure, I know you already forgave me for that one, Liet. So what was it really?" Toris didn't answer but he could feel Feliks studying his features. He reached up and fiddled with his bangs, partially obscuring his face from his friend.

"It's your brother, right?" Feliks guessed suddenly. Toris winced; he'd been hoping they wouldn't have this conversation.

"No, of course not. What about my brother? There's no problem with my brother. He's great. I'm great. We're just being great together. Well, not together since I haven't seen him in a couple of years, but the thought is still there, you know? I think about him sometimes and how great he is, and it's nice knowing I'm being great, too, just in a completely different location very, very far away."

"Rambling, Liet."

Toris turned in his seat to glare at him, though it was more exasperated than stern. "I do not ramble."

"You totally do. Hey look, the Empire State Building!"

Toris didn't bother looking behind him. "That wasn't the Empire State Building."

"Like, how do you know?"


Feliks raised an eyebrow. "Because?"

"Because we. Are not. In. New York."


"So that's where the Empire State Building is!"

"Well like, how was I supposed to know? It was a big skyscraper; those things all look the same to me."

Toris got up and moved to a different seat. He was granted a few minutes of peace and silence, gazing out the window at the city, before Feliks decided to bother him again.

"So like, how was I supposed to know we're not in the Big Apple? This is just another big city; it could totally be anywhere."

Toris watched as a large sign reading UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO went by. Why was he the only person to ever notice these little ironies?

"Are you questioning my navigating?" he asked eventually. "I know where we are. I wouldn't just drag you halfway across the country with no idea where I was going."

"I'm not saying I don't trust your nav-skills or anything—"

"You just made that word up."

"—but I would totally appreciate you actually telling me stuff. Like where the F we are."

"I did tell you! I told you when we got off the plane! I told you when we got on the plane! I seem to recall saying something along the lines of 'Wow, it's great to be here in insert city name here' when we got on the bus!"

"Did you seriously just say 'insert city name here' in that quote?"

"And! When I first talked to you about coming here with me to meet up with my brother, you asked me where it was and I told you!"

Feliks seemed to think about it for a moment. He snapped his fingers, eyes lighting up. "Oh yeah, I totally remember that! We're like, in Detroit, aren't we?" He frowned when Toris didn't respond. "Liet? You're looking a little twitchy. Are you sure it's not bowel problems? I meant it when I said I wasn't sitting near you if you were; your farts are like, totally the worst-smelling things in the history of things that smell bad."

Toris couldn't stop the noise that came from his mouth—a kind of pained noise that sounded like a mixture of a shriek and the last cry of some animal dying a horrible death. He was suddenly aware that most of the passengers on the bus were staring at the two of them. Some were actually holding their noses in preemptive defense.

Feliks noticed, too. "Like, mind your own business!" he called out. Everyone who wasn't staring before turned to look at them.

"We're in Chicago," he said, trying to divert Feliks's attention away from the onlookers and back to their conversation before he made it even more awkward.

"Oh. Well, you totally could have just said that."

"You have the most selective hearing in the world," Toris replied after a pause.

"Hey, what's up with all the insults? Here I am with you on a bus full of really rude people who should know staring totally isn't polite, on your way to meet your estranged brother. Who, from what you've avoided telling me, is a total jerk-face." Toris felt a tiny bit of guilt. He really was grateful that Feliks had agreed to come with him to this meeting with such short notice. He'd been positively terrified of seeing his older sibling again, and the backup was appreciated.

"All right," he said. "I'm sorry." Feliks grinned.

"I knew you'd see it my way. So tell me, who's your best friend in the whole world? Huh? Huh?"

"You are." Toris rolled his eyes as he said it, but he was grinning, too.

"So in return for disrespecting your amazing and ridiculously attractive best friend, you should totally do my English homework."

Toris was about to agree, before he remembered they hadn't been assigned any English homework that week.

"Wait, what homework?"

"You know that project on the complete works of William Shakespeare?"

Toris stared at him. "You haven't done it yet? We were supposed to read that over the summer."

"Yeah, well, I had other stuff to do. It's so hard keeping up with summer fashions, you know. My wardrobe wasn't going to just buy itself. It would be totally uncool if it did; I mean, half the fun is shopping and trying stuff on."

"You have to have a presentation. A slideshow. A speech."

"I guess."

"How are you in the same grade level as me?"

"Insults again? Just like, help me out here, Liet!"

"No! I'm not doing your entire project!"

"Fine, I like, knew that was a long shot. How about buying me a new pair of shoes, then?"

"Why do you need more shoes? You have over a hundred pairs already."

"Because my feet are cold, duh."

"Then maybe you shouldn't have worn strappy heels to Chicago in the middle of winter!"

He didn't know why he had bothered coming. Maybe he'd been hoping that after seven years, his brother would be less of—what was the word Feliks used?—a jerk-face. Sadly, he'd been wrong, and his hopes of a movie-style joyful reunion (or at least a relatively normal, unintimidating one) had been crushed. He should have known when he saw the shirt his brother wore: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: WHERE FUN GOES TO DIE.

Ivan had taken one look at him and said, "Hello my dear Toris! Eduard and Raivis have not yet arrived. I will wait for them here, and you will go get me some food from that vendor, da?"

He'd shared a look with Feliks before his friend had waved him away, smiling wickedly.

Feliks might be one of the most annoying people he'd ever known, but he was also the best friend he'd ever had.

He laughed on his way back towards the two, food in hand. His brother's ever-present smile was strained, which meant Feliks was using his natural abrasiveness to his advantage.

Toris handed a snow cone to his brother.

"A snow-cone? In the winter?" he said, an evil aura beginning to emanate from his person. Toris stepped back, nervous.

"It was the cheapest thing they had, and you didn't give me any money…" Was it just him, or was that a kolkolkol he heard in the air?

"So anyway, like I was saying," Feliks continued, flinging one arm over Toris's shoulder. In his other hand he was holding a spork. "Airline food. It's crazy awful. Like, for serious, who eats that stuff? Who makes it? 'Cause they should totally be ashamed of themselves; that stuff is like, a crime against humanity or something. Tastes like crap. Maybe it is crap. That's why I took this spork, you see? It's like, a trophy. I, Feliks, have eaten airline food and lived! Honestly, sometimes it totally amazes me how amazing I am." He made a particularly extravagant sweeping gesture with his arm, which resulted in Ivan being poked in the nose with the small spork prongs and his hand to fly up in a reflex reaction and crash the snow cone into his own face.

Second experience with ice and his brother: not so bad. He was in Chicago with his best friend; the two of them were laughing so hard they were crying; his bowels felt fine and the Empire State Building was nowhere nearby. It was the middle of winter, but he could feel the warmth of Feliks's arm on the back of his neck. Take that, jerk-face.