Liechtenstein tiptoed very carefully through the hallways of the conference center, trailing her brother.
He was having a meeting about security this afternoon. He'd told her it was okay, and she didn't have to worry about it, so she should go out and enjoy the city, but she would show him how helpful she could be! She would listen in and then later she would tell him everything she'd learned, and maybe even offer suggestions. Then he would know that she was also capable of debating world policy, and maybe he'd even be proud of her.
She just had to make sure he didn't see her, first.
So far, it was going well. He was walking down the hallway ahead of her, and she was well behind, and definitely unnoticed, until -
-oh no! He was turning around. He'd see her! She couldn't let herself get caught - after all, that would mean she wasn't any good at strategizing and then he'd never let her help. She looked around the hallway, frantically trying to think of a plan.
Aha, a closet! Perfect! She'd just hide in there until he passed by, and then resume following at a safe distance.
Without a moment to lose, she opened the door and jumped in, clicking it firmly shut behind her and breathing a sigh of relief.
It was only then that she noticed that this particular closet seemed to be rather… squishy.
"Excuse me," said a voice from high above her. "But I believe you are standing on my foot."
Switzerland stopped his daydreaming.
He'd absentmindedly been thinking of possibly getting a sandwich - only possibly, because these meetings always gave him indigestion - but now he broke into a run.
He knew that scream.
"I am sorry. Did I frighten you?"
She craned her neck, looking up, and up, and up, and finally, by the tiny sliver of light that the doorway let in, saw - "Mr. Russia? What are you doing in here?"
"I was napping." He peered down at her, curious. "What are you doing in here?"
"I was going to spy on Brother, but he almost caught me, so I had to hide."
Russia considered this for several moments. "Spying is tricky business."
She heard footsteps pounding down the hall, followed by a familiar shout.
"Liechtenstein! What happened?"
Her eyes widened. "Oops. That's him."
Russia said nothing.
"I guess he caught me. I'm sorry for waking you up." She grabbed the doorknob, twisted it, and pushed...and the door didn't open.
She rattled the knob. Nothing. "Uh-oh."
"What is the problem?" He loomed over her shoulder, investigating the doorknob.
She looked up at him. "It won't open. I think it's stuck."
"Here." She felt one gigantic hand land on her shoulder, and he gently moved her away from the door, trading places. "If you will allow me…"
He rattled the doorknob once, twice. When that didn't work he tried to shove the door open, and when that failed he directed her to stand back, and slammed into it with his shoulder.
It didn't budge.
"Hmm," said Russia. "I believe that we are trapped."
Switzerland had slowed to a walk, carefully searching the rooms that branched off of the hallway. "Liechtenstein! Are you okay? Where are you?"
"I'm in here, Brother."
It was very muffled, but he recognized that voice. It seemed to be coming from...a closet?
He sighed. What had she gotten herself into now? "What are you doing in a closet? You come out of there right now!"
"I can't." The knob rattled. "The door's stuck."
He sighed again, more heavily, and resisted the urge to smack his palm against his forehead. "Here, let me do it."
He reached out, twisted the doorknob, and...nothing.
"It is stuck," said another voice. "Neither of us can open it."
Wait...he knew that voice too. He didn't like it. "Russia! I don't know what you're planning but you'd better let my sister go!"
At the violent pounding on the door, Russia only gave a self-conscious smile.
"I would if I could," he said, matter-of-factly, "But the door is stuck, and we are both trapped in here. Please do not worry. I am sure she will come to no harm."
Switzerland's scream of incoherent rage could be heard clear across the building.
"Well," Russia said, sliding down to sit on the closet floor, "I suppose we ought to settle in. I think this will be a long afternoon."
After some frantic searching, and a lot more yelling, Switzerland managed to find a maintenance worker - someone who knew the building, and knew how to fix it. However, any hope this might have given him was quickly dashed.
"What do you mean you don't have the keys?" Switzerland was trying to be reasonable, really, by not ripping out his hair or throttling anyone. He just wasn't sure how much longer his self-control would last.
"I've never seen this closet before. It's not even on the building plans! How am I supposed to find keys to that?"
Reasonable, Switzerland told himself. Well, shouting was reasonable. "I don't know, but you'd better start trying!"
The worker scurried away, leaving Switzerland to anxiously pace the hallway, wishing for his assault rifle. "Leave the guns at home, they said. Gesture of goodwill, they said. I'll show them goodwill!"
Meanwhile, conversations in the closet had taken a much more constructive turn.
"You see," said Russia, "You are small and unassuming, so you would be a good spy, but you are also a nation, so you should not take the risk. It is best to form a network of others to collect the information for you, or to engage in indirect methods of surveillance. Today, you could have put...how do you say… bugs? In the room where conversations are taking place, and retrieved the tapes another time. But, most of all, you must make sure that absolutely nothing can be traced back to you.Do you understand?"
Liechtenstein nodded. She'd joined him on the floor - it was better than standing, even though the lack of space mean that they had to sit with their knees touching each other. "So...I think I could have bribed Miss Hungary to do it for me. She's always saying that she's jealous of my stamp collection, and she has lots of microphones. And I know she wouldn't tell anyone because then I'd tell about those magazines I saw hidden under her bed. Would that have been better?"
Russia grinned approvingly. "That is how you gather intelligence."
She smiled back, shyly, and leaned her head against the wall, trying to get comfortable.
Something was tugging at her hair. Slowly, she reached a hand up, and felt it brush against - legs, wriggling legs -
She tried to cry out and only achieved a panicked squeak.
Russia leaned forward, brow furrowed. "What is wrong?"
She managed a whisper. "A spider."
By this point, Switzerland felt that he deserved a medal. After all, he'd managed to not commit homicide, which, under the circumstances, was a certainly grand achievement.
Just barely, though.
"No screwdrivers? What kind of a maintenance man are you?"
"Look, mostly what I do when you guys show up is replace the shattered lightbulbs and mop up the blood. Disassembling doors ain't exactly on the list."
"Well, there's gonna be a lot more blood to mop up if you don't get that door open soon! My sister's trapped in there!"
A medal. He definitely deserved a medal.
"H-Help! It's in my hair!"
"It is only a spider. He will not hurt you."
She didn't agree with that, but said nothing - what if she opened her mouth and it crawled in? Instead she buried her face against her knees, and made a panicked noise.
"Here." Russia stretched out an arm, and she briefly felt his fingers joining the spider legs in her hair before he pulled them both away. "You see? It is okay."
She shook her head, and chanced uncovering one eye as Russia held up his hand. She saw the spider - a daddy longlegs, the worst kind - crawling over it, and quickly hid her face again.
Russia chuckled, kindly. "He is harmless. And because he is not an enemy of the people, we can let him go." He held his hand to the crack under the door, a small smile on his face. "Do svidaniya, pauchka."
Once she was sure it was well and truly gone Lechtenstein looked back up at him. "Th-thanks."
"You are welcome." He said, and then frowned. "Oh. I have disarranged your hair ribbon. I am sorry."
"That's okay," she said, pulling it out of her hair. She couldn't fix it without a mirror. "Thank you for getting rid of it. I don't like spiders."
A thought occurred. "D-does that mean I'm a weakling?"
"On the contrary. You are small, and it has been my experience that the smallest nations are the most dangerous."
She didn't really know what to say to that, so she nodded. She didn't want to be dangerous. "I'm only really scared of spiders. I used to be scared of dogs, but not anymore. I like cats better, though. The lady across the street has a cat that just had kittens, and Brother says we can have one, maybe. Do you like cats?"
"Many years ago I had a cat named Begemot. He liked to eat pickled mushrooms."
Liechtenstein frowned, puzzled. "I always thought that cats ate fish."
"So did I."
They sat in silence for several minutes, and Liechtenstein began to wish that she'd worn her woolen uniform today. The chill from the cinderblock walls was seeping too easily through her dress. She shivered.
Russia looked concerned. "Oh, are you cold?"
After some artful contortion, and an apology for almost elbowing her in the face, he extricated himself from his coat and handed it to her. "Here. You are small, so you must stay warm."
She had to roll the sleeves up five times before she could see her fingertips, but the coat was indeed warm. "Thanks."
As she turned the discarded ribbon over in her hands, an idea occurred to her. "Trade you!"
All of Switzerland's screaming had finally attracted a crowd. Instead of having a global security discussion in Room 15A, the nations were having a how-to-fix-a-stuck-door discussion in the hallway. And achieving about as much success as they would have, had they been discussing global security. Possibly a little more.
America shoved his way to the front of the crowd and struck his best hero pose, as behind him, Canada whispered something sensible that everyone ignored. "I'm telling you, man, I can totally kick it down for you, no problem!"
Neutral, Switzerland told himself. You're neutral. Neutral countries don't junk-punch the United States of America. He settled for more yelling. "For the last time, no! You'll crush her! No one is hurting my sister!"
America pouted. "Fine. You're no fun."
With a glower directed to no one in particular, Sweden crouched down to inspect the door hinges. "'S shoddy construction that's th' problem," he concluded, looking genuinely upset.
Finland put a comforting arm around his shoulders. "There, there. We'll build a nice sturdy bookshelf when we go home tonight, okay?"
China sighed, impatient. "Why not simply blow it up, aru?"
The door to the nearest conference room burst open, and England stormed out. "For heaven's sakes! I have been trying to drink my tea in peace and quiet, thank you very much, but you lot just have to go making a commotion! Here!"
He muttered something under his breath, waved a hand, and with a rusty creak the door swung open, a fraction of an inch. "There, are you bloody well happy now?"
Switzerland decided that actually yes, yes he was, and gave a silent nod. The other nations followed suit, and with a string of muttered curses England stormed away, eyebrows in the lead.
Once he was reasonably sure that England was gone, Switzerland yanked open the door, one fist raised and ready to strike. "Unhand my sister, you -"
Nothing there. He stopped, confused.
A movement from ground level caught his attention, and he looked down to see Liechtenstein wearing Russia's coat and waving up at him.
"Hello, Brother! Doesn't Mr. Russia look pretty?"
Oh dear God. He was wearing her hair ribbon.