Matthew took a shuddering breath and coughed, feeling his throat tighten to stop his breathing altogether. His fingers gripped the railing tight, too tight, and his knuckles turned snow white. The feel of cool metal against his sensitive fingers burned distractingly like the quick flare of his razor's path.
In the shadows, Matthew could see the light from his villa playing out the party, outlining his cheerful guests perfectly.
Arthur was arguing mildly –what a surprise!- with Francis, both sipping their drinks.
Alfred was doing something ridiculous until his stick broke.
My hockey stick. Matthew realized bitterly, and the beat of his vulnerable heart became a stabbing pain. With no supplies on hand, Matthew quickly licked his blade-torn wrists and pressed the wet skin to the icy railing. He waited, counting under his panting breath, and braced himself to rip them away from the metal. Yes! He thought, frantically as the lump in his throat grew. Tears stung his eyes and he gasped,
"Make it hurt! Yes, it needs to hurt!"
"Kanada?" Matthew froze, terrified.
No! No, I can't let anyone see! Quickly, the blond fixed his stance and tried to hide his dirty secret as the Russian came to his side.
In the gentle moonlight, Ivan's silver snow-laden hair gave him a glowing halo and his violet eyes, crinkled in the corners by his smile, beamed at him happily.
"Vhat are you doing out here, little vone?" Ivan asked, tilting his head. "Taking a… breazer? Is zat how you say it?"
"Yeah," Matthew nodded quickly, "just a breather. I needed some… air." His wrists were cold –so cold- and the chill seemed to claw up his veins like a savage beast, gnawing at his flesh. Even without the heat of blood or swelling, the pain made it to the receptors in his brain and soothed them.
He sighed, "That's better…"
"Vhat's better? Are you coming inside?" Ivan was watching him with an uncommonly gentle expression. Matthew nodded and stood, but the pull on his wrist-flesh brought him back from his dreamy pain-land. "Kanada?" A hand touched his forearm, spreading burning heat, and Matthew flinched away before he could stop himself.
Skin tore and, to the little man's alarm, blood poured down his fingers to stain the snow. Matthew whimpered, barely managing to stop himself from tearing the other wrist as he stumbled against it. The Russian was horrified, his drink falling from his hand as he dove to grab the Canadian firmly.
"Kanada!" he cried in alarm, holding the blond as he struggled to get out of his grasp. "Vhat happened, comrade? Vas it Amerika? I'll-"
Matthew whimpered and pressed his bleeding wrist to his thigh, torn to confess or run while Ivan accused his brother. As the Russian turned to leave, Matthew caught his coattail in his bloody free hand, holding him back.
"No…" he mumbled, and Ivan turned back to face him. He forced it out: "it's my fault."
Ivan knelt down in the snow, as oblivious as Matthew to the snow soaking his clothes, and whispered to him.
"Mattvey, you did this? On purpose?" The Canadian couldn't meet Ivan's eyes, so he lifted Matthew's chin with one hand.
Blue and violet clashed –tears on fears- and Ivan let out a shaky breath. His eyes wandered to Matthew's right wrist, which was now pressed to his red Olympics hoodie, and then to the left one still stuck to the rail. "Ah…" the Russian murmured, "I see."
Matthew's breath hitched in surprise and Ivan carefully pulled a silver flash from inside his jacket.
"R-R-" he stammered,
"I vill break ze ice, and zen ve'll talk, da?" said Ivan quickly, lifting Matthew to his feet. He popped the cap with his teeth, the flask's contents steaming, and he poured it onto the frozen skin expertly, rubbing the edges of the ice to melt it with the friction.
Inch by inch, drop by drop, Ivan slowly got Matthew's wrist free and left it feeling raw and sore. He rubbed it, his other wrist crusty and throbbing now, then murmured a quick 'thank you'.
The Russian took his uninjured wrist and led him around to where the men had all parked their vehicles. Matthew reluctantly got into the passenger seat of Ivan's car, smelling vodka and musk.
He sighed, settling into the familiar smell. "Mattvey… vhat is going on?"
Opening his eyes again, the Canadian met Ivan's with hesitation and licked his lips.
"I…" Looking into the pools of purple in Ivan's face, he could see the accusations he feared and lied. "it helps."
"Lie." Ivan growled, smacking a hand against the wheel angrily. "Lie! How does… zat help anysing?"
Matthew recoiled as if he'd been struck and gasped,
"Vhat?" Ivan muttered, not having heard him.
"The… the-" Matthew pressed a shaking hand to his chest and clenched it in his soggy hoodie. "it stops…"
"Mattvey," Ivan groaned, "nyet, little vone! It doesn't!" he pulled at his own hair, eyes distant, then focused on the little blond man in frustration. "Vhy?"
"…" The Canadian just bowed his head and held back a sniffle. "Well, I'm always-"
"You are scared, you are sad, but you are not invincible, da?" Ivan shouted, "Vhat makes you sink you are?" Matthew jumped and looked up in time to see the man's hands pin him to the door. One massive limb was on either side of his face and he met angry violet eyes in terror. "Do you sink zat you are ze only vone?"
"No," Matthew whimpered, "i-it happens to lots of people." He held back a sob as tears burned his again. Matthew resisted the urge to claw at his crusty wrist. "I'm… just weak." The Canadian spat his last word with venom, hating to admit it aloud. "I'm no goo-"
"Nyet, Mattvey," Ivan said, his hands pulling away to cup his face. "You're not. Everyone feels so."
"Not you…" Matthew pouted tearfully, hanging his head until Ivan lifted it again.
He smiled, "Da, even Mother Russia." He sat back and took off his scarf carefully, unveiling hundreds of little scars as he pulled off his jacket and shirt. Matthew stared in horror, caressing the shiny scar tissue with his eyes until he saw the blotches at the Russian's wrists. Ivan slowly peeled off his gloves and Matthew's breath stopped at the mangled flesh of the giant's hands.
"I-I-" He gasped.
"Even Mozzer Russia." Ivan said seriously, taking the young man's wrist and exposing his train-track scars to the light. "No more, da?"
The blonde's fingers shook, revealing his fear, and Ivan sighed as the young man began to cry.
I'm sorry…" he hiccupped, "I'm sorry! Je suis desole!" Covering his eyes, the Canadian wept.
"Let it out, da?" Ivan suggested, "Let it all out, little vone… Russia is here…"