When Berwald got the phone call, he didn't think he'd ever felt so many different emotions in his life all at once: Tino was coming back from Russia, and he was to pick him up at the train station at the end of the week. It had been so long since he'd seen Tino, so long since he'd been able to hold him, so long since their last kiss.
Berwald knew something was wrong the instant Tino stepped off the train onto the slightly crowded platform. He didn't come running into his arms, happily crying and talking and hugging, like Berwald had expected. No, his little wife didn't even smile at him. Instead, Tino got off the train carefully, slowly, looking around with a scared expression. His gaze met Berwald's but the eyes were almost foreign to the Swede. They were so far away and devoid of the light Berwald had remembered always being there.
Tino's lips twitched up into the nervous half-smile-grimace that Berwald hadn't seen in years. Decades. Not since the night they ran away from Denmark. Not since Tino had been afraid of him.
The ride home had been in unusual silence. Berwald attempted a conversation or two, but he was never really good at those anyway, and Tino just seemed to want to stare out the window.
Berwald made dinner and Tino had stood in the doorway of the kitchen, looking torn about what to do.
"Could ya set th' table please?" Tino jumped even though Berwald asked gently, quickly responded with "yes, sir," and hurriedly set the table. Berwald just stared at his wife; Tino had never acted this way around him before.
Their dinner was also in silence, and the moment they had finished, Tino had stacked up all the plates and rushed off to the kitchen to wash them. When they had gone to the living room like they used to every night, Tino didn't sit close like he always did. He perched himself on the edge of the couch cushion, only after Berwald had insisted that he sit.
And when it came time for bed, Berwald followed Tino into their bedroom hesitantly. Obviously, Tino didn't want to be around him. He would gladly sleep on the couch if that was what Tino wanted, but he really wished to see some familiarity in his wife. Tino stood by the bed for a moment, then looked up with a lost expression. Berwald pulled back the covers, sat down, and watched Tino's face carefully. The Finn sat on the very edge of the bed, then scooted a bit closer after a moment.
"Do ya want me t' sleep on th' couch?" Berwald asked quietly, causing Tino to flinch again.
"No, sir," he whispered back and after a pause, moved the tiniest bit closer. Berwald sighed and turned off the light, pulling the covers up over them and hesitantly tucked his arms around Tino. He wasn't sure whether to feel sad or relieved when he received no reaction.
Tino had fallen asleep almost instantly, but Berwald lay awake for hours. A small whimper came from the Finn and he started shaking. Berwald tried to comfort him, but Tino wouldn't wake up. Berwald settled for holding Tino in a hug, his own tears falling silently to the pillows.
And their pattern began.
The physical form of Tino was back, but it wasn't really him, because mentally and emotionally, he was still gone. Whether lost in the recesses of his mind in protection or reliving the horrors of his past, Berwald didn't know.
Tino talks less than Berwald does these days. The Swede finds himself looking into Tino's eyes that used to hold such happiness and life, because they kept him hopeful and sane for all the years they'd been together, but they're almost empty. There's a tiny spark still there but it's far away, so far away that Berwald fears it won't resurface.
"Forgot your socks," Berwald said with a soft smile the first time they do laundry together again, because maybe Tino remembers, maybe his old habits are coming back.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Sweden," the Finn mumbled and took the folded socks as the smile fell from Berwald's face.
It physically pains Berwald to see Tino like this; he knows the Finn is stronger. Was stronger. And he tries to convince himself that Tino will make it through.
The longer Berwald waits, the harder it gets. Sometimes the days just feel like a routine, but sometimes...sometimes it's unbearable. Unbearable to think that Tino may never come back to him.
And sometimes it's harder. It's so hard. And Berwald doesn't think he can handle it, can last through this. But for Tino's sake, he'd try. For Tino, he'd do anything.
Berwald wants nothing more than to take Tino's pain, fears, and sadness away so that he'd never feel them again. And he knows he would gladly endure whatever his wife had gone through a hundred thousand times over if it would prevent Tino from having to bear it once.
He misses the way Tino would curl up next to him on the couch in front of the fire. He misses the way Tino would always forget to put his socks away. He misses the licorice candies Tino used to always eat. He misses the sound of his voice, the feel of his touch, his scent, his smile, his eyes.
Berwald often thinks of their last kiss, before Tino was taken away from him, from their love. And he cherishes that kiss, so full of love and desperation. It's one of the memories he holds onto most, seeing it in his dreams whenever he closes his eyes. And he hopes that one day, Tino will have their memories again.
He wonders if Tino can see how much it hurts when he responds to Berwald's questions with "yes, sir," or "no, sir,". He wonders if Tino notices the loss he feels whenever Tino acts afraid of him, flinching away from the gentle, innocent touches and jumping at most noises.
And he feels his heart break every time Tino looks back at him with his lifeless eyes, so far away from where they are. Because Tino is his heart, and he sees that Tino is broken. Tino is breaking and lost. He often tries to think of ways to guide Tino back to him, to the life and love they once had.
Some nights Tino doesn't move at all, like he's locked himself so far away. Most nights, though, Tino's face is rarely peaceful like it used to be. He trembles and whimpers in his sleep, heedless of Berwald trying to calm him down with tearful whispers and gentle caresses. It makes Berwald's heart ache to hold his little wife and be unable to comfort him when he's in so much pain and turmoil. And it hurts that Tino doesn't hold him back, feeling almost lifeless in his arms.
And then there are the nights when Tino cries in his sleep. Terrible, gut-wrenching sobs that tear from his throat. And Berwald hates himself when he almost feels relieved. Relieved that Tino is showing more signs of life. But he can't ever seem to calm him down.
But every night, when it gets too hard, too insufferably sad, Berwald cries. He weeps into the still soft, used-to-be-golden hair of his love as he clings desperately to his tiny frame, holding him to his chest as tightly as he would dare. He begs and prays to anyone listening that Tino would come back. And that is the only thing Berwald wants in the world. Not for himself, but for Tino. Because it wasn't fair for someone that was so full of life and happiness to have that taken away.
Only then, the first time Berwald doesn't cry himself to sleep since his wife's return, does he calm down enough to whisper Tino's name into his hair, repeating his love, praying, begging desperately and quietly for Tino to be the one he once was, for Tino to make it through. "I w'sh ya could remember. Please try," he murmurs as his sobs turn into a quiet stream of tears. "I m'ss ya, Tino. I m'ss ya so much."
He feels a slight twitch in Tino's right hand as the Finn curls his fingers into Berwald's shirt, almost as if he remembers what they once had. Almost as if he remembers that Berwald loves him. And it gives him the sliver of hope that keeps him holding on, because Berwald knows that Tino will need him to be strong for him to help him get through this.
Days pass. Weeks pass. But Tino still doesn't seem to remember and Berwald's tears have no effect on him. And Berwald has almost given up. Everyone else has: their friends that had stopped by once or twice, the other Nordics, even Tino's best friend, Eduard. But Berwald finally gets another sign of life from Tino.
Months after the night Tino had barely touched Berwald back, he sits by the fire as Berwald adds more logs. Their eyes meet and there's something different about Tino's violet irises that has Berwald staring as he walks back over across the room.
"Sve?" a quiet, broken whisper pierces the night air. Berwald doesn't remember how, but he finds himself collapsed at Tino's knees, clinging to them and crying, because Tino might be back.
"D-don't cry. Please don't cry," Tino whispers, shaking hands moving to hold Berwald's face and carefully wipe the tears away.
"Tino," Berwald mumbles, because that's all he can do, he's too overwhelmed with emotions to speak properly.
"...Berwald..." Tino whispers after a moment, lightly running one hand through Berwald's hair as the other gently caresses his cheek.
"I love ya, Tino. Shoulda told ya more."
Tino's only response was a weak smile and the ghosting of a kiss to Berwald's hairline.
"I'm trying," the Finn whispers, "don't give up on me," the words are almost inaudible, but Berwald absorbs every one of them.
"'s'ok, Tino. It'll be alright." Berwald says frantically, sensing Tino drifting away from him.
"I'm sorry," Tino's eyes lift from Berwald's, becoming slightly less focused and far away once more.
But the tiny spark is a bit closer than it was before, and Berwald knows he'll wait however long it takes for Tino to come back to him.