They still had time.

His boss wouldn't, couldn't be there immediately. With his nearest contacts gone it would take a while to reestablish his influence, even if he had his suspicions about who had done it or from where. How long, though, Ivan didn't know.

Not for the first time he cursed his lack of connection.

He did have means to remedy that, loath though he was to use them. But it wasn't for his sake, was it? And that made it easier to bear.

He brought this up to Matthew over breakfast. "I must visit your brother."

Matthew gave him a quizzical look.

"He has...resources that are not currently available to me." Like a properly-functioning government that didn't consider its own nation an enemy. "Would you prefer to come with me or to remain here? This location is still a secret, though I do not know for how long it will remain so."

Matthew looked down at the table, considering, and Ivan noticed the worried lines in his forehead, the tense set of his shoulders, and half-regretted asking the question. Then again, what choice did he have?

Finally, "I'll stay here."

He had his misgivings about that, but the look on Matthew's face made it clear that there would be no discussion.

Ivan rose from the table. "I will see you tonight."

He made it to Alfred's nearest location, gambling that the proximity to his brother would mean that Alfred was doing his work from there. Once he'd arrived he spent nearly an hour arguing with a bunch of people in uniform who knew him only as someone extremely high-ranking and top secret, and finally found himself standing behind a stupid desk covered in paperwork and important plaques and enduring the silly smiling pleasantries by gritting his teeth and thinking of diplomacy. At long last, when he and Alfred were alone in the room and all the idiotic small talk had been exhausted, he admitted,

"I need communications."

Alfred eyed him suspiciously. "What for?"

"What do you think? I have angered my boss, and I know that he will be moving into the area soon, and his files are not open to me."

Alfred busied himself with the papers on the desktop. "I'm not just handing my classified reports over to the Soviet fucking Union!"

He leaned in, pinned the reports to the desk with one massive hand, and reminded himself that violence was not diplomatic. "Russia."

"What?" Alfred finally looked up at him, eyes narrowed and suspicious behind his spectacles.

"Not the Soviet Union. And you can censor whatever the hell you like. I simply need to know if any of my boss's agents are coming here, and when, and I know that your intelligence officers will know that." His voice softened. "I must keep them away from Matthew."

"Knew I should have fucking taken him with me when I had the chance." But his expression had eased, and even as he said it, he was gathering papers from filing cabinets, from the desktop.

"He will not go. He would not come with me today."

Alfred sighed heavily, wearing a look that Ivan recognized as the same one he wore when he was reminding himself of diplomacy. "Fine. Look, get the fuck out of my office before I change my mind. Go make sure he's okay. I'll keep you informed."

When he returned there was no immediate sign of Matthew. The front room was empty, and he looked closely at it - no signs of distress, nothing out of place. There was still time, he told himself. There had to be. "Matvei?"

No answer, either.

He went into the kitchen and found his answer - Matthew standing at the stove, stirring, kitchen implements and groceries laid out around him. "Matvei?"

Matthew jumped, and spun around to face him, grabbing the nearest thing handy, which happened to be a bottle of vodka. His breathing was fast, uneven. Panicked.

Ivan moved into the room slowly, calmly. "Matvei? What is wrong?"

The look of terror on his face changed to recognition, and the words tumbled out, rushed and breathless. "I'm okay."

"I would say that that is not an accurate assessment." Ivan took care to stand on the opposite side of the room, hands held up and open. "But I commend your reflexes, although I would have chosen the knife. It is easier to use at close distance."

"I -" Matthew looked down, seeming to realize that he still had the vodka in his hand. He gave an almost sheepish smile, and set it down carefully on the counter. "Sorry."

He gestured to the stove. "I'm making dinner. It'll be done soon."

Ivan dropped his hands, but didn't come closer. "It smells good."

The hesitant smile on Matthew's face grew a little brighter. "Thanks." He turned back to the counter, and picked up a loaf of bread and a knife. Ivan saw his hands shaking badly and was about to step in when -


He'd cut his hand.

Ivan had a fleeting sight of red as Matthew jerked his hand away from the knife. He stared at it, transfixed, and after several seconds had passed and Ivan realized he wasn't going to do anything more about it he stepped forward. When he gently took Matthew's hand in his own it was still shaking. The cut wasn't very deep. Ivan guided him to the sink and held his hand under the faucet. The water seemed to startle him back into awareness, and he fixed Ivan with a wide-eyed stare.

"It is not so bad," Ivan said, letting go. "Rinse this. I will bring you a bandage, and you will tell me what the problem is, da?"

When he returned Matthew had taken his hand form the sink and had a paper towel pressed over it, trying to stop the bleeding. He allowed Ivan to bandage the cut, and said, quietly, "I'm okay."

"Matvei -"

"I'm okay."

"I do not think-"

"You don't understand. I have to be okay." He looked down at his hand. "Thank you."

Ivan let the matter drop.

Dinner was tense and mostly silent, but Matthew relaxed little by little and by the time they went to sleep he seemed more or less normal again. Or at least, as normal as Ivan had seen him. He even had an almost-peaceful night, with only one bad dream that quickly passed.

He was still asleep when Alfred knocked at the door the next morning.

Ivan answered it, and the expression on Alfred's face told him that he wasn't going to like what Alfred had to say.

"How much time do we have?" he asked.

Alfred shook his head. "It's not that."

Ivan stepped aside to let him in. They sat down at the kitchen table, and Ivan poured two mugs of tea. He'd never seen Alfred look so weary.

"If my boss has not found us, then what is the problem?"

Alfred drank some tea without so much as a disparaging grimace, though he hadn't even put any sugar in it. Clearly this was serious. He adjusted his glasses, and finally said, "It's Canada."

"What do you mean?"

"There's a...situation." He glanced toward the living room, where his brother was still sleeping. "It's the same people that hurt him."

He pulled a sheaf of papers from his briefcase. "Here. You can see for yourself."

Ivan read them, albeit slowly. 'A situation' didn't begin to describe it. Two kidnappings, possible insurrection, military intervention… "This is not good."


"What's not good?" Matthew asked form the doorway.

Alfred gave him a strained smile. "Hey, Matt."

"Hey." He sat down, and repeated, "What's not good?"

Alfred glanced at Ivan, who carefully said, "There is… bad news."

Matthew looked from one of them to the other, expression unreadable. "How bad?"

In response, Alfred slid the stack of reports across the table, looking at it rather than at his brother. Ivan, by contrast, watched Matthew as he picked up the papers and began to read.

A frown formed on his face and grew deeper and deeper until finally he threw the reports down and slammed one fist on top of them, tears at the corners of his eyes.

"Matt-" Alfred reached out to put an arm around him, but Matthew ignored it.

With one shuddering breath he leaned forward and buried his face in his arms. His breath hitched in a nearly-silent sob, and his shoulders started to shake. Ivan put a hand on his arm, trying to comfort, but Matthew didn't respond.

Ivan and Alfred stayed with him, as his breathing gradually evened out and quieted, his shoulders stilled, but even afterwards he simply stayed as he was, unmoving.

No one said anything for quite some time, until finally a small whisper broke the silence.


It was so soft Ivan wasn't sure he'd heard him. "What?"

Slowly, deliberately, Matthew straightened up, and picked up the reports again. "This."

His voice shook, his hands shook, but his eyes burned brightly and Ivan realized that this time it was rage. "Not in my country. Not to my people. No."


"No." It was nearly a growl. He stood. "I have to go."

Half an hour later and he stood in Ivan's doorway, coat zipped up and hood half-hiding his face. Alfred waited for him outside.

"Are you certain about this?"

He smiled, although waveringly. "We do what we must."

His smile might have faltered, but his voice was rock-steady. He held out a hand, and Ivan shook it. Neither of them trembled.

"Thank you," Matthew said. "For all you did for me."

Ivan smiled. "Ne za shto."

Matthew headed out into the snow, closing the door softly behind him, and Ivan was left alone with his books. We do what we must, he thought.

We do what we must.

He could have hired a plane, traveled in secret and tried to pretend he was in Russia all along, but he would not hide. He had nothing to hide. He would live in the open and let them try to hide it.

When the flight ended and he stepped off, the guards were already waiting for him. Which would it be this time, he wondered. Lubyanka or Magadan or Voronezh, oh, Voronezh. If only Anna were still alive, he'd have told her…

He held his head high and stepped forward.