MW: What is this? We're actually updating when we said we would? Alleluia!

SEK: Yeah, I think this is the first time in forever we've actually updated in about a week.

MW: And thank you guys so much for all the lovely reviews. Especially you, Megan. I'll give Alfred a hug for you, okay? I have another story starting, guys! If you like the Tomato Gang, serial killers, or just want to see Cuba and America bicker with each other, check out my new story, El Verdugo.

I don't really see a reason for me to stall this chapter any longer so here we go!

Chapter Summary: Larry struggles with what to do with Gilbert as he and the rest of the nations rescued return to Russia's ship.

Warnings: Strong language, sexual themes, violence, heterophobia, yaoi, and yuri.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but Larry because I licked him.


~Chapter 9~

Orion In the Sky with Diamonds

"But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more."

-Hans Christian Andersen, Danish Author


THE WAR: Day 13

We were farther out from the Romanov than what I had originally believed.

Our little boat had been traveling for hours without stop. The morning sun had already passed and sunset was upon us. Belarus kept a constant cool wind going to supply the sails, forcing me to stay in the sun to stay warm, but the sun was draining all of my energy. I was tired. Laying on my side, I delicately picked at Sokka's fur as I looked between the ocean and the sky. The two blues were so richly different that it took my breath away. In my delirious state, I could not help but to marvel at how soft the water looked.

The sea looked like velvet.

"A velvet sea," I muttered, rolling onto my back. I stared at the clouds and the birds that flew above. It must have been nice to be free to fly wherever you wanted. Free to escape the binds stupid contracts put you in . . .

"Erwin was right, he was right in front of me this whole time," I thought before banging my head against the deck. "Prussia is Gilbert." I could feel a dark hole bore its way into my stomach. It was bottomless. It felt as though it could never be filled. I rubbed the heel of my palm into my eyes. Prussia is Gilbert. I was not going to lie: I had no idea what to do. One part of me was relieved. I did not have to scourge the world for this guy. Another part of me, however, was filled with impending dread.

Erwin wanted me to take down Prussia. Prussia, Liechtenstein's boyfriend. How could I do that to her? She's already sacrificed so much for him. Who am I to go over and ruin the life they built for each other? "And what does that stupid vial do anyways?" I wondered. It was currently back on the Romanov, waiting in the pillow on my hammock. Still, I was not comforted. The black liquid inside sent shivers down my spine. It had to be poison; no doubt about that.

"Are you going to tell Alfred this?" Liechtenstein asked. She has also been very quiet- scarcely speaking above a whisper when she even bothered to say anything. I could feel her discomfort. She was anxious, sick to her stomach with the idea of losing her precious Gilbert.

I sighed, placing my head on the cool floor. "I'm not so sure," I told her honestly. "It would be smart to end this as soon as possible, but we can't do this to Gilbert. Also, I want to know what Erwin and Bud want with this guy anyways."

"So you're not going to turn him in yet?"

I shook my head. "Not yet," I thought. "Alfred still has time on his clock. Like Erwin says, we have until it strikes midnight to figure things out. We have time to spare." If we only knew when midnight was.I sighed and placed my hands under my head, looking up at the clouds. General Winter's wind was still chilling me to the bone. Poor Belarus- she has been bending the air nonstop for hours.

Liechtenstein was silent for a long moment. "Thank you, Larry. I know what this means to you." We both knew what she meant and it pained me. The longer I was here, the longer Stella was in trouble. More than anything, I wanted to go back to her and know that she was safe, but I couldn't just leave Liechtenstein and Gilbert like this.

I had to help them somehow.

I stretched a hand to the sky. Maybe, if I ran long and hard enough, I could reach the ends of this earth. Then this dream will end and I be back home with Stella and Jerry and Mom and Dad and Sherry. I blinked at the sky. Running . . .

I jolted back to sitting position. In my head, I could feel Liechtenstein shrink back just the slightest bit. "Larry, what are you-"

"Shut it," I ordered harshly, scrambling to my feet. "I have inspiration. I don't want to lose it." I didn't have a pen or paper on me. I should wait until we returned to the ship, but my fingers were itching and the words were at my command.

"To write?"

"Poetry specifically, but yes." I scanned the ship. Belarus was obviously way too busy for me to bug her. Turkey was huddled up in a corner, taking switching between looking out at the ocean and picking at his new curl. Alfred was perched on the rail, poised like a comic book hero as he gazed at the horizon. I could see the sun reflecting on his glasses. Neither of them looked like good candidates for a favor. Prussia was asleep, sprawled out on the sunny part of the deck, his white skin turning into a hot, rich red. That just left the Netherlands. He was still steering, looking bored as he puffed smoke from the cigarette between his lips. He offered a few times to replaced Belarus in air bending duty, but she had turned him down every time.

Sokka lazily yawned and stretched its fuzzy back before walking to him. The Netherlands didn't even smile when the cat sat on his lap, only place a hand on its back and delicately touched its fur. I took a deep breath and broke the ship's utter silence, asking, "Neder, do you have a pen and a piece of paper I can use?"

He raised a lazy eyebrow. He gave his cigarette a long drag, blowing a stream of white from his lips. "Why?"

I frowned. "Because I want to write," I said.

I fully intended on fighting this myself. I was going to get that paper and I was not going to stop until I did. But guess who had to open her mouth a defend me? "Netherlands," Belarus warned. Her platinum hair stuck to her face with sweat, making its vivid hue seem duller. "Do You a favor."

Something- I'm not sure what -came over me. Something about the way she treated me like a child pricked a nerve. Something about the way she refused to use my real name made my blood boil. Something about the kind look in her eyes made me clench my fists. Scowling, I shot her an evil glare as I snapped, "I don't need your help!"

Belarus didn't even blink. Her nonchalant face remained like a mask as she moved her arms in a fluid dance. It was like she didn't care- or worse, she was used to it. "I was only trying to help," she said, before engrossing herself completely back into her dance. If it was a way to make me feel guilty, then it worked marvelously.

The Netherlands sighed. He reached into his coat pocket, saying, "Calm down, princess. It's no big deal. I'm sure I have some somewhere." I watched as his long fingers slid into his pockets. He muttered something in Dutch under his breath as he pulled out a small and dull pencil. He handed it to me, saying, "Here you go. Now for some-" He pulled out a single piece of white paper. Without much thought, I reached over to take it from him. The tips of my fingers barely scraped the edge before he snatched it away. "I already used that one," he said quickly.

I blinked. For once his cool disposition was replaced by wide eyes and sweaty brows. His blond hair deflated a little, the ends sticking to the top of his forehead. He didn't bother to fix it until he silently shoved the paper back into his pocket and pulled out a new one. "Here, use this one," he said calmly. Calmly, but his chest was heaving.

My stare continued for a long moment. What the heck was that? What was on that other piece of paper that was so important? Why was he even carrying around sheets of paper anyways? Clearing my throat a little, I gave a small thanks and took it from him. I'll have to add that to my growing list of mysteries to solve: Larry Sue and the Mystery of Gilbert, Larry Sue and the Case of the Mysterious Piece of Paper, Larry Sue and the Agatha Affair, Larry Sue and His Life is Completely Fracked Up.

Spin off novel: Alfred F. Jones and the Case of the Ghostly Body.

I returned to a sunny part of the deck and laid on the floor. Sunset was just about starting and I only had so much light yet to write. Without much thought, I placed the pen on the paper and wrote the first line. Across the velvet sea. . .

"Hey there." I didn't look up- I knew well enough that Gilbert was the person looming over me, shielding the sun with his body. Hands folded neatly behind his back, he glanced around the boat, making double sure that no one was listening in on us. Belarus seemed to tense under his gaze, but she picked up a conversation with Alfred.

"What an obvious cover-up," I thought as I forced myself to continue with my writing.

Gilbert was not discouraged (not that I was trying to get him to go away or anything, I just wanted to write. Even Jerry knew that once my head was wrapped around an idea, there would be no way to stop me. Any chances to do otherwise would result in graphic bloodshed). He plopped himself on the ground in front of me, legs crisscross-applesauce. Sparking with attentiveness, he gave me a hopeful look as he asked, "What are you doing, Lar?"

I frowned. "Firstly, do not call me that in public," I said. "Secondly, I'm writing a poem. Lastly, what rhymes with 'faces?'"

He scratched his cheek. "Erm . . . places, chases, safest, mazes- why is this important?"

"Rhyme scheme, my dear Prussia."

He sighed, running a hand through his white hair. "Lar, I thought we agreed that my awesome new name is Gilbert," he said, groaning just the slightest bit. I mindlessly hummed in reply. 'Safest' was a nice word to use. He rolled his head on his neck. "And it sure as hell can't be a nickname unless you actually use it."

Gently, I placed the pencil on the paper. He had a point. If this was going to be the new name for him, I would have to use it. Heck, I wanted to use it! Any chance of using a real, human name was a good chance. The one problem was Alfred. If he heard it, then he would want me to go through with the contract right away. I drummed my fingers on the wood, taking a deep breath. I had to come up with a lie. When one came to me, I could not help but to grin wolfishly. I quickly switched to an innocent smile and batted my lashes, saying, "Well Prussia, Liechtenstein told me that she would love it if Gilbert was a secret pet name she got to use with you. You know-" I lowered my voice to a whisper. "-like lovers."

One of the last things I would expect to see in my lifetime is a squealing albino. Placing his hands on his cheeks, he released a small sound of excitement as he kicked his legs. "That is so cute of her!" He exclaimed, not caring who heard. "Liechtenstein, you have to stop being so awesomely cute!"

I turned red. "Keep your voice down!" I snapped, breaking my own rule. I could feel my embarrassment grow as I heard Turkey break into incessant laughter and rolled on the floor with a clenched side. I buried my face in my hands. Oh Liechtenstein- you better appreciate all of the crap I put up with for you.

Gilbert, meanwhile, gave the Turk a small huff. "Just wait; you're going to do the same thing when you see your precious human again." Turkey stopped laughing. With a frown, he wordlessly rose to his feet, gave him double middle fingers, and walked to another lonely corner of the boat.

I only felt the impending cloud above me grow heavier. Turkey and Agatha were quickly becoming a thing, Agatha was my sister, I was in Liechtenstein body, and Liechtenstein and Prussia are pretty much a couple now, but Liechtenstein has Denmark still trying to hook up with her and my hostile ways have (according to people like Hong Kong and the Netherlands) somehow attracted Belarus and Russia, who are in a incestuous relationship with each other.

Whoop-de-fracking-doo- how the heck did all of that happen?


THE WAR: Day 14

It took us another day to reach the Romanov. By the time sunset was over, Belarus had to stop her bending and gave herself a break. Alfred and the Netherlands tried to get her to let them use Russia's coat to keep the boat going, but she shook her head. "This is my brother's and I am not going to risk it," she said, which was basically a nice way of telling them to piss off. We took turns with watch that night, on the lookout for England and the rest of the Red Coats, and started out again as soon as the sun was up.

Once again, I passed my time sleeping and writing. It was a good combination; both gave me time to think. I racked my brain for a reason why Gilbert was special- how any of this was going to add up, but I came up with nothing. Freaking goose eggs.

Fourteen days into my adventures in a girl's body and we finally saw our ship on the horizon. Turkey, Gilbert, Alfred, and I rushed to the side of the boat, laughing and grinning in victory. Alfred ruffled my hair before engulfing Turkey, who was holding my cat, in a bear hug. That gave Gilbert a good moment to bend down and wrap his arms around me. I think a part of us had believed that we wouldn't return so soon.

The only problem was that the Netherlands and Belarus both had drawn faces.

"C'mon guys! Don't look so down!" Alfred yelled, strutting up to the scowling woman. He laughed obnoxiously as he patted (more like slapped) her back. "We're home and that's all that matters!"

Belarus growled and shoved him away. With every ounce of her hate, she sneered, "Don't jump to conclusions! Russia is going to be pissed at us."

Gilbert and I exchanged a glance. "Wait, did you do something to anger him?" I asked, letting my arms slip away from Gilbert's shoulders. He sighed, but said nothing. I resisted the urge to bang my forehead against the mast. For the love of God, Gilbert, please don't treat this like a tragedy! You know I'm not your girlfriend!

A nervous chuckle escaped the Netherlands. A second later, his visage shone with sudden despair. Sighing, he pulled out a cigarette and his box of matches. "Well, Belarus and I didn't necessarily leave with his blessing," he said, striking the match on the ground. The red tip lit up and he quickly lit his little lung-killing device. The blond closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, his muscles visually relaxing. "See here, we kind of fed him some sleeping medicine and stole the coat while he was out."

All four of us could not help but to groan. "Dumbasses, are you trying to get yourself killed?" Turkey demanded, smacking his hand on his forehead.

"There's nothing that can be done about it," Belarus snapped. Her locks of hair seemed to stick up with irritation, a fitting compliment to her reddening face. "The fact is that Netherlands and I did what we did and we'll have to face to consequences for it. What's done is done and that's the end of it."

I wasn't surprised when Alfred looked a little confused. "Wait- you guys left a note saying what you were doing, right?"

The Netherlands nodded. "Yeah. Taped it to his nose."

His blue eyes looked between the two blonds for a moment before he shrugged. "Well, he knows where you guys went so it shouldn't be that big of a deal."

Gilbert, for the first time ever, lost his cocky demeanor and sighed like a perfectly normal adult. "Alfred, have you ever angered an older brother before?" He asked, stretching his legs and placing his hands on his hips.

Alfred shot him a look. His eyes were narrow, silently reminding him of his past- that he is a ghost because of his older brother. Gilbert was not swayed. The Prussian continued to look at him with slight annoyance, crimson eyes demanding an answer. Slowly, my mentor relented and took a small step back. Closing his eyes, he pushed his glasses up his nose, saying, "No. I don't even have one."

Gilbert smirked. "I awesomely thought so."

I scowled. Where this sudden rivalry came from was a complete mystery to me. Something told me that it had something to do with being men, but (as I quickly reminded myself) I am a man too and I should, therefore, be able to figure out the cause. "Or having boobs is making you lose touch with your masculinity," a small, evil part of me whispered.

I kindly told it to shut up as I took a step between Gilbert and Alfred. "Knock it off, you two," I demanded, crossly. "Right now really isn't the time to do this."

Both of them looked at me, one with obvious annoyance and the other with obvious curiosity. Either way, they both silently called it a draw and took a step back. Gilbert shook his head, placing a hand on his sunburnt forehead. "Fine, whatever."

I released the smallest of grateful smiles. "Thank you," I said. He shrugged innocently. Alfred crossed his arms over his chest, huffed, and turned away. I clenched my fist. I was this close- this close to actually hurting him. He may literally have the mentality of an eleven year old, but he could try so much harder to not throw a petty, immature tantrum. Rolling my eyes, I changed the topic, turning to Belarus to ask, "So what can we expect-"

Thud!

"Meow!"

I jerked around to the guy who dropped my cat. "Are we just going to ignore the fact that Alfred's balls just dropped?" Turkey demanded, pointing a sharp finger at said man. "I mean- shit! I have never seen you so serious before in my life!"

Alfred buried his hands in his pockets and shrugged. "Eh, I'm trying for a new style," he said, sounding like one of those naturally cool and mysterious heroes. "Do you like it? I call it 'Turkey except much less of a dick.'"

I gritted my teeth. "Well you sure are being one right now," I growled, ignoring Sokka as it pawed at my leg. Alfred ignored me.

Turkey's jaw dropped and hit the ground with a deafening gasp. "The hell! What did I ever do to you?" he demanded as he marched straight up to him. He roughly grabbed the ghost's vest and pulled him up to his face, sneering, "You jackass, you're just asking for it-"

"Enough fighting!" Turkey hinged his jaw, not looking away from Alfred as Belarus approached them. We were all quiet, making the clicking of her heels against the deck seem more loud and ominous than it really was. She crossed her arms over her chest and gave them a narrow glare. "You two are both part of the same team. You need to stick by each other, especially with what's going to happen next."

Gilbert shyly raised his hand. He asked, "What's next?"

Belarus sighed, dropping her irritation for resignation. "Next we let my brother kill me for being an idiot."

Turkey dropped Alfred.

Belarus tipped her head, releasing the smallest of victory smiles. "Thank you," she said, looking through the angry glint in Turkey's eyes. She turned on her heels, her coat and hair reaching out like a ballerina, and strutted back to her spot. "Netherlands, bring us closer to The Romanov. Let's see if we can get dear brother's attention."

Meanwhile, Gilbert and I exchanged a look. Did she really just say thank you? What was this world coming to?

Our little boat steadily sailed closer and closer to the Romanov. We all tried to find better things to do besides staring at the sails and dreading our return, but every palm on our boat was sweating and I swore I saw a few veins popping. Of course, Hong Kong was the first person to spot us. I could see him at the top of the crow's nest, waving his arms around, yelling for the whole crew's attention. Person after person rushed to the rail, pointing and calling out unclear words. As Alfred sulked and Gilbert paced, I took Sokka into my arms and stroked its white and brown fur. "This is going to suck," I whispered, nervously twirling the fur between my fingers.

"There are worse fates to be dealt." The Netherlands appeared at my side, leaning into the rail as he took a long drag of his cigarette. His hair was falling a bit, his blond bangs shielding a bit of his eyes. He said, "And, unfortunately, every single one is going to be worse than the last."

I pressed my lips. This was coming from the guy who now had to properly face his ex -boyfriend. Of course he's going to be depressed. Still, I could not help but to offer him a lighter smile. "That's why you have friends," I said, quoting some long forgotten fortune cookie. "That way, there'll always be someone to support you."

He shook his head, making the tobacco smoke squiggles in the air. I placed a fist on my chest, coughing away some of the poison. It was hard to believe that Dad used to smoke these- even if it was long before Sherry was even conceived. The Netherlands took the cigarette from his mouth and tapped away the burnt butt. "What if your friends are the ones making everything worse for you?" He asked.

I opened my mouth, ready to offer some comfort, but the words never came. My fingers could not write the words and my brain could not think of them. I remained silent, balancing the cat between my chest and the arms that leaned against the rail. Even when Belarus and him went off to anchor our boat just inches from the side of Russia's ship, I could barely feel the words that I wanted to make: get new friends.

"Belarus! Liechtenstein!" Out of all of the yelling from the deck, that one was from someone I actually wanted to see. A small smile stretching across my face, I looked up and saw Ukraine leaning over the side. She looked distressingly down at us, sniffling and holding a handkerchief on her hands. "Are you two okay?" She cried, her voice rising above the rest. "I was worried sick about you both."

I opened my mouth, a reply brimming on the tip of my tongue, when a slim arm slung itself around my shoulders. "Everyone's fine," Belarus said, her voice like stone. "What about Russia? Is he-"

"He's, like, standing aside with his pipe," Hong Kong shouted, lazily twirling his finger in the air. He pretended to not notice the Netherlands as he looked up hopefully at him for a split second. He didn't even blink when his ex-boyfriend's face fell in realization of how serious this separation was. I don't think I ever hated Hong Kong more than I did at that moment. "Seriously, Belarus, he's going to kill you."

"That's already been established." She placed her hands on her hips and started to tap her foot. "Now can someone throw us a ladder now or something?"

Ukraine grinned and laughed nervously. "Well, you see here: we sort of don't have a ladder right now-"

"What?"

"-But we're going to toss you guys a rope right now. Here!" I watched as her face brightened considerably as some of the men threw an old, fraying rope over the side. The tip of it barely touched the deck of our small boat. I frowned. It reminded me of the ones they had at a martial arts studio I went to as a kid. I was too young to climb it then and I left before I could ever learn.

Belarus placed a hand on the rope and looked back at me. Her drawn face seemed to weaken when she saw the shifting nature of my gaze. "Have you ever climbed a rope before?" She asked quietly.

I gulped and manned up. "No, but I bet I can manage."

She was silent for a long moment. Eyes focused on the ground, she drummed her fingers on her thigh, sighing as she thought it through. It seemed like forever had passed when she finally looked up. "No, you can't. Liar." Then, without even asking for consent, she wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me close.

I yelped, trying to pull away as I asked, "Belarus, what are you-"

"Stop squirming and grab onto me!" She snapped. "I'll carry you up!"

My face turned a lovely shade of rose red (that was probably the most girly way to express something- My God, what have you done to me, Liechtenstein?). She wanted me to hold her? What? Why? I can barely get Stella to walk side by side with me! What the hell did I do to get her to think that this is a good idea? Heck, I would rather have Turkey be the one to hold me by the waist. Anything but her! I placed a hand on her shoulder and increased my attempts to push her away (kind of hard to when you got a cat in your arms), quickly shrieking, "No thank you! I can manage it myself so can you now let go of me because I-"

"Doitsu." Rolling her eyes, Belarus simply lifted me over her shoulder, her arm holding my legs in place. My chest and arms dangling against her back, I groaned. What was I- a damsel in distress? Did I look like Princess Peach?

I was forced to suck up my complaints and let myself be carried. Belarus was surprisingly strong for her size. That, or I was really light. Either way, she was able to support me as she climbed up the rope with very little difficulty. I think I heard a few of the crew members call out accusations of a sexy, lesbian affair in the making. I was both too angry and too focused on not dropping Sokka to care. Below me, I saw the boys start to make their ways up- Alfred first, the Netherlands last. Gibert was somewhere in the middle, trying to shoot me confident grins around Alfred's strong back. My mentor also looked as though he had returned to his usual, ditzy self.

I wondered how much of his vacant look was fake.

When Belarus planted her feet on the deck and placed me on the ground, I felt more relieved than a pooping man after a long battle with constipation. I placed my cat on my lap and rubbed my hands in my face, ignoring the people who asked me what I was even doing back here. I did not pay any attention to Belarus when she pulled off the coat and folded it neatly in her arms. I did not move when Alfred jumped onto deck and proclaimed that the hero had returned. I did not budge when Gilbert placed a hand on my shoulder and whispered a hollow joke. I did not notice the Netherlands when he swung his leg over the rail and took his place next to Belarus.

What I cared about was Turkey when he stepped onto deck. Rubbing his hands, he cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders. "Hey everyone, I'm back," he called, adjusting his shirt. "How's-"

"Turkey!" In a blur, Turkey was pushed back into the rail as a certain redhead practically glomped him. Agatha weakly pounded her fists against his chest, crying as she screamed, "You idiot! You fucking promised not to leave me! And you fucking did! Asshole! I was worried sick about you! Why the fuck- don't you ever fucking do that to me again you jerk face!"

Irritation pricked at me as I watch Turkey wrap his arms around her in a stiff hug. She immediately flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his chest and sobbing shamelessly. "I'm sorry," he said, stiff but soft. "I didn't plan . . ." He stopped himself. "I'm sorry."

I puffed my cheeks, trying not to break up the reunion. It was sweet and everything, but I'm her brother! She should be fretting over me! "At least she's not hurt," I told myself sullenly, stroking Sokka's back. It purred and rubbed its face against my stomach. How cute.

Even though I am seventy-three-percent sure that Greece was a quarter cat, he was not being cute. He folded his arms over his chest, yawning as he lazily sneered, "Straightie."

Turkey snapped his brother a sharp glare. He didn't let go of Agatha as he curled his lip, demanding, "What the fuck is a straightie, jackass?"

"It's what. . . you're being," he said, yawning again. I mentally groaned. If I learned anything about Hetalia, it was that Greece would talk very slowly if he was sleepy and it was rare when he wasn't. It was frustrating how slowly he spoke at times. I guess that's a reason why Turkey hates him.

Said Turk stood in silence for a long moment. His amber eyes scanned the crew, looking for someone to support him. Everyone either looked away or sent him a condescending look. No one wanted to be a straightie- whatever the hell that was. With a sigh, Turkey slowly released Agatha and took a step back. Whatever hard words he was going to deal her dissolved when he saw that there were two streams of tears going down her puffy red face. There was even a big wet spot om his shirt where her face had been. Agatha looked at him with a trembling lip. Turkey softened, finding it within himself to place a steady hand on her shoulder. "That's enough, don't be upset" he said gently, like a father to his daughter. "Hell, I'm not dead yet."

She sniffled. "You could've been."

He sighed and shook his head. "You're impossible," he muttered. He slipped his hand away and looked down at his wet shirt. Another sigh escaped him. "Great. Agatha, could you-"

The redhead puffed her cheeks and determinedly nodded. "Got it." Agatha quickly wrapped her arms around his chest one last time before turning around and running below deck. The whole crew sent the both of them judgmental looks.

Turkey placed a hand behind his head, regulating his breathes in short, tense spurts. "I need to get a boyfriend," he muttered, barely loud enough for me to hear. I didn't know whether I should be happy or sad. Happy since he was no longer going to be flirting with Agatha. Sad since he was now pursuing his gay interests and going to break her heart.

"Why does nothing ever work out the way I want it to?" I mourned, burying my face into Sokka's fur. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. It smelled a lot like the ocean, though there was another scent in there. Something a bit more . . . spicy.

Unfortunately, my respite was short lived. The instant I felt myself begin to relax, I finally heard Belarus speak up. "Brother, please face me." I could not help but to look up. She stood a few feet behind Russia, holding the coat to her chest. The Netherlands stood at her side, smoking as he waited for his punishment. Russia, dressed in a puffy white shirt and black slacks, had his hunched back to the both of them, leaning against the mast as he rhythmically tapped his pipe on the ground. His depressing aura made it hard to breathe.

Everything grew silent as we waited for his response.

Russia's only reply was the tapping of the pipe. Tap, tap, tap. . .

Belarus pressed her lip and took a delicate step forward. "I'm sorry for taking your coat," she said. "Here-" She held it out to him. "-Take it. It's safer with you."

Russia said nothing. Tap, tap, tap. . .

"I know that you must feel like I betrayed you, but I had to do it. I couldn't let England keep them. Someone had to save them and I know that you were planning on a collective attack, but exchanging Seychelles required a lot less bloodshed. Please Russia."

Tap, tap, tap. . .

Belarus pressed her lips. "Are you saying that you wanted there to be bloodshed?" She demanded harshly. "Are you saying that you wanted to end a nation's life? Russia, you are not a monster. You are more than what they say you are. Russia, you are kind and gentle and perfect and-"

Tap, tap, tap . . .

"You are not a freak! Listen to me, brother! I'm sorry! I was only trying to help you, I was-"

I couldn't take it anymore. Gulping, I abruptly stood, stomping my foot in the process. The silence that was given to Russia was handed to me as everyone snapped their gazes to me. Russia stopped his tapping. I took a deep breath. "Stop being a dick," I ordered, holding my cat closer to my chest. "Belarus and the Netherlands were only trying to do the right thing. And you know what? They did. They saved Turkey and Prussia from the Red Coats. They outsmarted England. They froze the Oberon in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. It is because of them that I am here now." I pointed to the arm that typically had the red band around it. "If you would stop sulking and face me, you would see that I'm not wearing a red armband. I'm no longer a Red Coat. I want to be a part of this crew now . . . that is, if you let me."

It was as if my words had turned everyone to stone. The crew stood in petrified silence, unsure of what to say or to feel about that. I pretty much just told their freakishly scary captain to get his head out of his ass and grow a pair. The Netherlands was even giving me a curiously humored look while Belarus sent me a deadly glare. The scale was tipped, however, when a certain voice spoke. "Why would you want to stay here?" Russia asked, still not facing me. "What do you have here that England can't give you?"

I dropped my shoulders. "Happiness," I said. "I'm happier here."

For a second, Russia did not move. He stayed frozen in his spot for a very long moment. Then, he very quietly placed his pipe on the ground and straightened his back. When he turned around, a large smile was stretching across his face, bigger and longer than the scarf around his neck. "It's settled then," he said, walking past his sister and straight into my chest. He placed my hands in his, bending down to my height as he declared, "Liechtenstein, you are now a part of the Brown Coats."

Applause immediately filled the air. I blinked. That's it? Gilbert laughed and clapped a hand on my back. "Aw man, this is awesome," he declared, engulfing me in a big hug. He ignored Russia and Belarus's glares. "We need to celebrate this!"

"We can have a party tonight," Ukraine hopefully offered, taking a step from the crowd. Her smile was white and pure as she said, "I have a few treats I've been saving for a special occasion."

Russia nodded enthusiastically. "That's perfect, Ukraine." He flashed me a childish smile as Gilbert released me. "I think we all deserve a little break from this whole WAR business anyways."

I suddenly felt very awkward. I didn't know why, but everyone's excitement for me was making me feel . . . embarrassed. I guess I deserve this in a way. I mean, I don't get that many compliments. Every good word is either directed to Sherry, Larry, or Stella. No one appreciates the middle child.

"Why did no one tell me that my sister was back?" Guess who had to come up the stairs? In a split second, I was ripped from my spot and into Switzerland's control. My back was erect with surprise (and, admittedly, a little fear) as he fretted over every inch of my body, checking for any signs of damage. Once the inspection was done, Switzerland wrapped his arms around me and sent everyone spiteful scowl. "Idiots, can't you tell she's exhausted?" He demanded. "Everyone here better let her rest before this stupid party of yours if you want her to attend."

I rolled my eyes. "Missed you too, big brother."

Russia extended a hand to the stairs leading below deck. "Go right ahead," he said. "We didn't touch any of your stuff, so your hammock should be ready to use. Now-" He turned and sent a chillingly childish grin to Belarus and the Netherlands. "-I think you both need to come into my office right now for a little chat." They exchanged a look as he swaggered past them. Russia plucked his coat from his sister's arms as he went.

Switzerland didn't give me much time to do anything else. He grabbed my hand and dragged me below deck, rambling about how much he missed and worried about me. As I went, I saw Alfred curled up by one of the crates, making faces as he slept. Was . . . was he with Erwin and Bud right now?

I closed my eyes in silent prayer. Be safe Alfred. Please, I know you're strong.

You're stronger than me.

I let Switzerland drag me below deck. There was a certain warm scent of nostalgia in the air as I descended the stairs and stepped into the kitchen. Two giant pots of stew were cooking on the stove, making the air smell of rich meat and vegetables. We passed by Agatha as we went into the sleeping quarters. She held up a green shirt to my face and asked me if it was a good color. "I don't know," I said. "Ask your boyfriend."

She puffed out her cheeks and lightly slapped my shoulder.

I sat on the edge of Liechtenstein's hammock and kicked off my shoes. Already, my eyelids were heavy. Even though I spent the whole ride over in a state of half sleep, I was about ready to crash. Switzerland leaned in a kissed my forehead in a totally brotherly manner. "Goodnight, Liechtenstein," he muttered, face turning pink. He hesitated for a long moment, before adding, "I missed you."

"I miss you too," Liechtenstein said. There was such a sorrow laced in her voice that I thought that my heart was going to break. Never had I heard her sound so sad before. Without meeting her brother's eyes, I repeated her words and curled up in the hammock. Sokka laid down in the crook between my legs and torso, purring as it fell into a gentle sleep. Even with Switzerland's green eyes boring into me as he watched me from across the aisle, I was able to quickly fall into a deep and dreamless sleep.

I was there for a long time- that much I knew for sure. I spent hours drifting in a weightless void of black, kept safe in a comfortable place. I liked it there. I wanted to stay. I never wanted to leave. It was the same old, familiar voice that called me back to consciousness. "Liech?" I grumbled and rolled onto my side. "Liechtenstein?" Shut-up, Gilbert. I'm trying to sleep. Suddenly, he tucked his hands under my armpits.

I shrieked, snapping to full attention as I fell off the hammock. Even though he had released me, I could still feel the tingle in my arms. Stupid tickle spots. I wiped my hand over my mouth, groaning as I stared at the floor. "What the heck-"

"I'm sorry!" A familiar voice said. I paused. That definitely was not Gilbert. I looked up and saw that standing before me, dressed in a stiff blue shirt, was Estonia. He looked a little taken back by my angered visage, but he can live. Hopping from foot to foot, he bent down to my height, frantically saying, "I'm so sorry, Liechtenstein! I thought that it would be funny if I pretended to be Prussia! I just- you're not hurt, are you? Oh man, your brother is going to kill me!"

I shook my head and brushed him away. Picking myself off the ground, I told him, "I'm fine. You just startled me." I brushed off my pants, glancing enviously at my still sleeping cat. It somehow managed to stay on the bed. "Though, I do have to say-" I gave Estonia a kind smile. "-You have a very good Prussia voice."

He flushed, scratched nervously at his neck. "Oh, it's nothing special, really. Prussia can do a really good impersonation of me too."

"I don't know . . . can you impersonate anyone else?"

He lifted his arms up in a shrug, suddenly looking much sadder than before. He said, "Actually, no. Prussia is literally the only person I seem to be able to do."

I nodded appreciatively and we stood in an awkward silence for a long moment. I picked at my nails, waiting for him to say something. He brushed the tip of his foot on the floor, watching the shadow the lamps made trail along it. I looked up, noticing that the light source for this room was not the sun, but all of the hanging lights. How long did I sleep for? Reaching over to pick up Sokka, I asked, "So Estonia. Is there a reason why you waked me up?"

He snapped his fingers, looking ready to smack himself. "Crap- of course there is! Why did I forget to tell you? Russia wanted me to come wake you up since the party is about to start." He flashed me an excited smile. "They're going to give you your brown band and everything."

I felt myself grin. I didn't know why, but I was actually pretty excited about this. Whether it was from the ceremony or the idea of hanging out with the crew I have no idea. "Let's get going then," I said, stroking Sokka's back as I led the Baltic to the stairs. Before I stepped onto the steps, I glanced back at my hammock. "Hold on."

Ignoring his confused look, I trotted back to my pillow. There, underneath the white cloth, was the glass vial. The black liquid inside was still intact, waiting for Gilbert to drink it. I swirled it a few times, watching it swish around silently. Maybe I should leave it here . . .

"Liechtenstein?" Estonia took a very small step towards me, though he kept himself small and compact. "Is something wrong?" he asked.

I covered the vial with my fist and shook my head. "Don't worry about it," I said. I stuffed it into my pocket and gave a huge grin. He peered at me critically, unbelieving. I needed to lighten the mood. Without warning, I held Sokka closer to my chest and ran to the stairs. "Last one on deck is a rotten egg!" I yelled.

"Wait!" Estonia jumped to the side, barely avoiding me as I ran past him and up the steps. The pounding of my feet filled the small corridor, nearly muting his voice as he yelled, "I can't run, Liechtenstein!" I didn't care. A small part of me wanted to relieve the bubble in my chest and crack up laughing. Another wanted me to spin around and dance like an idiot. All of me felt happy.

The scary thing was that I didn't know why.

My foot hit the top step and I emerged into the dining room. Here the lamps were on low and the flames were barely bigger than the nail of my pinky finger. Most of the room was engulfed in a brown sort of darkness, making even the most familiar shapes seem like ghosts. I started to run to the staircase above deck when I noticed something. At the far end of the room, something was moving.

I stopped. My panting filled the air, morphing with the sound of the crew celebrating on deck and Estonia slowly making his way up to me. Peering into the corner, it took me a moment to realize what I was looking at. "You shouldn't be up here," I said, bending my knees and holding my ground.

A could see the familiar, giant shape shrug. "What no one knows wouldn't hurt them," Denmark said. I could hear the grin in his voice. I watched his relaxed grow stiff as he straightened his back and held his arms to the side. "Please hear me out, Liech. I just need-"

Thud!

I screamed and jumped a mile when Alfred suddenly jumped down the stairs and landed right by my side. "The hell!" I shrieked, clutching my chest and searching behind me for support. Alfred laughed heartily and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. I could feel the bandage on his arm on the nape of my neck. "What are you doing here?"

Alfred's smile seemed to brighten the whole room. "I'm here to make sure that you don't miss your own party!" He yelled. I could smell the alcohol in his breath. "Estonia was supposed to do it, but he's being a little shit and doing it too slowly. You know, I remember this one time when he and I were cleaning the deck and he asked me how I got my heroic pecs. I told 'em that if he wanted these babies, he had to dedicate himself to freedom. And you wanna know what he said. The little shit looked me in the eyes . . ." At that point, I started to tune him out.

I awkwardly stood there, letting Alfred talk my ear off. My attention, however, was focused solely on Denmark. I could see it in the way he stood how frustrated he was. Like the ache in an old man's knee, I could feel him prepare himself for the moment he boiled over. I was prepared for it. But, he didn't do that. Instead, he stuffed his hands in his pocket and noiselessly crept to the stairs leading back to the prison cells. He disappeared down the case. Gone- just like that.

"Where is he anyways?"

I blinked, realizing that Alfred's blue eyes were brimming with anticipation. What was he saying before?

"I'm right here," Estonia said, finally emerging from the sleeping chambers. I'm not even going to ask what took him so long. "Sorry for-"

"Okay, cool story bro." Alfred laughed again, this time snatching my hand in his. "Let's go, slow pokes!" He yelled, dragging me up the stairs. "We're missing out on all the fun!"

The cool night air hit me like a whip. Stumbling over my feet, I took a small glance at the stars before looking at the crew. Everyone sat around a fire (don't ask me how they kept that going without burning down the whole ship), holding bowls of stew and glasses of rum. Upon seeing me, everyone cheered and shouted out a good tiding. I think everyone was just the slightest bit buzzed.

Russia, rightfully wearing his coat once more, rose to his feet. He smiled softly as he clapped his hands. "Gentlemen and ladies," he said, immediately silencing them all. "Our subject for the evening has finally arrived. We may now begin the ceremony" I felt my cheeks burned as everyone respectably clapped. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do or say. Alfred sure wasn't going to give me a hand.

Russia maneuvered through the people, not apologizing when they had to scoot out of the way for him. When he was barely a foot away, he took my hand in his and smiled. "Liechtenstein, would you like to be part of my crew? Through sickness and through health. Good times and bad? Life and death?"

I wasn't Liechtenstein. My mouth should have been filled with sticky glue and my words impossible to make. Yet, I felt myself giving a confident nod. "Yes. I swear."

He nodded and held my hand to his lips. He gently kissed the tips of my fingers. I tried my best not to shrink back or wipe my hand when he pulled away. The captain turned his back to me and faced the crew once more. "My fellow, I now must ask you: is there anyone here who objects to this fine principality joining our crew?" No one said anything. Russia clapped his hands together. "Then it is done! Liechtenstein, you are now a part of the Romanov!"

I blinked as everyone broke into enthusiastic cheering. "Wait, that's it?" I asked, knitting my eyebrows as I looked between Alfred and Russia. "I thought that this was supposed to be something more . . . formal?"

Russia gave a slight shrug. "We've actually never done anything like this before," he told me. "I made it up on the spot, which reminds me-" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a strip of brown cloth. "-This goes on your arm."

Before I could take it from him, Alfred greedily snatched it from his hands. "Here, I'll put it on ya," he said, obviously smiling as Russia sent him a dark glare. I grinned uncertainly, a silent plea to spare the ghost's life. Once it was tied tightly around my left arm, both he and Russia stepped back and let the crew see me. Once again, they clapped and cheered and hollered like wild animals. Even Ukraine seemed uncharacteristically pumped up by this.

Gilbert swung a beer in the air, shouting at the top of his lungs, "Hey Liech! You should entertain us!"

I scowled as everyone voiced some sort of agreement. "Like what?" I demanded, folding my arms over my chest. I was no performer- Stella is. She was blessed with such an ability to leave her stoic shell in order to give a breathtaking performance. Entertainment was not my forte.

Ukraine placed a hand over her mouth as she giggled. "Can't you sing, Liechtenstein?"

"I don't know," I thought, looking up at the sky. "Can I, Liech?"

I heard her sigh. "Yes I can. Just sing something you know. You'll be fine."

Fat chance at that. "I don't know any songs," I told them.

Switzerland nearly dropped the gun he had been cleaning. "What do you mean that you don't know any songs?" He demanded harshly. I couldn't tell if he was buzzed or not, but for the sake of my sanity let's just presume he was. "Austria and I have taught you plenty!"

"What's this?" I felt someone stick their hand into my pocket, the very one I stuck the vial in. Crap. I screamed and jerked away, realizing too late that my invader was the Netherlands. His slender digits drew away, pulling out his prize: the folded up piece of paper I wrote on during the boat trip over here.

My heart jumped. "Give that back!" I demanded, holding out my hand for it.

He shook his head and held it up to his green irises. "What is this?" He asked again, carefully unfolding it.

Like a thief in a market place, I swiped it from his hands. "It's a poem I wrote," I explained, stuffing it back where it belonged. "I'm still working on it, so-"

"A poem!" Gilbert shouted, falling over onto the floor as he laughed obnoxiously. There was no doubt about it- he was definitely drunk. For no apparent reason, he pointed a finger to the sky. "You can sing that!" Everyone voiced an agreement, nodded and beckoning me to sing. Even Russia and Alfred were giving me expecting looks. Traitors.

The Netherlands stuck his hands into his pockets and sunk into a seat between Switzerland and Turkey. "I love poems," he said as he pulled out a new cigarette. He held it out to the fire, lighting the tip. "Let's see how good yours is."

I frowned. That was a challenge. He was challenging my ability to write. Pressing my lips together, I pulled the poem out of my pocket. "I'll show him," I thought, unfolding the crisp page. "I'll-" I stared at my words. For a moment, my mind shut down. "Liechtenstein, how do you sing?"

"It's easy," she told me patiently. "Just close your eyes and do it. You'll be fine." I couldn't close my eyes (I had to look at the words), but I could try just doing it. It couldn't be any harder than singing in the shower. Not that I belted out Beauty and the Beast every time I used Head and Shoulders or anything. Burying my face in my paper, I cleared my throat, wiped the worries from my mind, and softly started to sing.

"Across the velvet sea,

Against the setting sun"

"I can't hear you," Gilbert called. I broke my concentration for a split moment, but quickly forced myself to continue. I made sure to raise my volume.

A soul hides locked away-

Captor on the run.

So sad- it yearns to become

An eagle in the sky

And high up it will go

Far 'way it will fly.

Agatha jumped from her spot next to Ukraine and rushed over to Turkey. "Do you want to dance with me?" she asked, batting her thin lashes.

Turkey hesitated. By the way he stretched out his hand to her, I would say that he really did want to spin her around in a waltz, yet something held him back. "I don't dance," he said quickly.

"What are you talking about?" Switzerland asked, taking a swig of his own beer. His buzz was making him lose his hostile visage, making him smile happily with red cheeks. "You're the best dancer I've ever seen. Especially that one time you and Spain belly danced-"

Turkey slapped a hand over his mouth. "Shut it," he ordered, but it was too late. Agatha was already widening her eyes and trembling her lower lip in a pout. He looked around at the crew again, seeking approval, but no one seemed to care. Sighing, he shook his head and rose to his feet. "Just this once," he said. Agatha clapped her hands together and squealed before dragging him by the hand to an open area to dance.

Turkey shot me an annoyed look. "Keep singing," he ordered. "I can't dance if there's no music."

I blinked, realizing for the first time that I had let my voice die away. I quickly stuck my nose back to the paper and continued singing, trying to ignore Turkey as he pulled Agatha into a slow waltz.

"To the place that is my home

To the normal faces,

To the arms of my love:

The one bright place safest.

Run, run across the ocean

With blessings of the wind.

To the ends of the earth,

There will lie my kin."

I glanced up and saw that Turkey was spinning Agatha. I was less amazed by how much better of a dancer she was compared to Sherry than the smile that laid on Turkey's face.

Fly, fly- escape from this place

Till the end of all time.

And I shalln't forget her:

The one love of mine.

Run from my captivity,

From that soulless captain.

To the land of my free

There will lie my kin."

My voiced died away and I lowered the paper. A small smile stretched across my lips. There, I did it. I sang for the world. Panting a little, I scanned the faces of each crew member as they started clapping. They generally looked pleased, though Russia was hiding his face in his scarf. I didn't want to know why. Instead, I focused on the Netherlands. A small wisp of white trailed up into the air from his cigarette. Taking a long drag, he gave me an approving smirk. He said, "Well Liechtenstein, it's a start."

I smiled. That was probably going to be the best compliment I was going to get from him. As others started to give me their regards, I glanced over to Agatha and Turkey. Now that the song was finally over, their dance ended and they were giving each other their bows. Once Turkey straightened back to full height, their girl pounced on him, wrapping him in a suffocating hug. "That was awesome!" She squealed. "You're a great dancer, Turkey!"

For a brief instant, he started to wrap his arms around her as well. But then he remembered where he was and who was around him. He carefully plucked her away, firmly grasping her shoulders with his hands. He chose his words carefully, pausing before saying, "Thanks. That was . . . nice."

Agatha smiled, straightening out his loose shirt. "You know, green is a nice color on you," she said. "I like it."

"Straightie!"

As Agatha shrunk away, Turkey snapped at the crowd, raising his fist in the air. "Who the fuck said that?" He demanded.

Russia sighed, revealing his face to the world. He gave Alfred and I a defeated look. "I think everyone here has had a little too much to drink," he told Alfred and me.

"Better call off the party then before the hangovers start," my mentor replied.

I watched as the captain clapped his hands together. This time, no one was sober enough to hush their voices for him. Not that it mattered- he was able to raise his voice above theirs. "Okay everyone, that's enough for one night," he announced. "Time for bed." A few people dared to moan. "Must I bring out my pipe?" The crew sprang to life and they all helped each other put out the fire and clean up the pots and glasses. My stomach growled. That's right, I didn't eat. Again.

When Alfred went to help the Netherlands carry a passed out Gilbert, Russia nudged my shoulder and leaned into me. I stiffened, feeling his breath dance along the edge of my ear. "Liechtenstein, what did you mean by the 'soulless' captain in your poem?" He whispered. "Do you mean-"

I saw where this was going. It was cute in a way- him being so concern about Liech's opinion of him. I pulled away from him and showed him a confident smile. "I wrote that when I was on England's ship," I said. "I was referring to him."

Russia face dropped in sudden embarrassment. "Oh." He quickly looked around his deck, watching as Ukraine and Hong Kong helped each other carry down the pots. "I best be turning in for the night," he said. A wry grimace appeared on his visage. "Hopefully my sister wouldn't be too mad not to sleep with me."

I knitted my eyebrows. Now that I thought about it, I haven't seen her since this afternoon. "Where is Belarus anyways?" I asked, double checking the remaining crew. There was no psychopathic blond mingling anywhere in the crowd.

"Oh she's over there sulking," he said, pointing to the other side of the deck. My eyes trailed down his arm and followed his finger. Sure enough, there was Belarus, pursing her lips as she threw a silver knife at the mast. I jumped when it embedded itself into the wood with an ear shredding thwack! "Don't worry about her too much, she's just mad."

Whether it was an irrational fear or my irrational interest, I didn't know. All I knew was that I could not tear my eyes away from her slim form as she marched up to the mast and ripped out the weapon before retreating back to her starting point. Then, with a tense breath, she threw the knife again. Thwack! I winced. "I'll keep that in mind."

Russia gave me one last look before wishing me good night. I returned the pleasantry, but did not watch him go back to his room. No, my eyes were glued on the first mate. Sitting on a crate, I watched her as I waited for the deck to clear out. It was a slow process- many couldn't seem to get their feet to work. Eventually, one by one, people cleared out and left the deck cold and empty.

Belarus and I were alone.

Picking at my nails, I searched my head for the words to say. What would start a good conversation, but not be misleading? When one popped into my head, I slowly placed my hands on my lap, asking, "Hey, Belarus?" She ignored me and threw another knife. I flinched. "What's a straightie?"

She flicked her hair, scowling as she marched to the mast. "A straightie is a slur invented by the Netherlands a few days ago," she said before she grabbed the handle of her dagger and ripped it out. "It's meant to degrade heterosexuals. Before then, it had no meaning."

"If it had no meaning before this, then why is everyone already offended by it?" I asked.

Belarus looked at me. A peculiar look was painted over her face, like a silent lament of how innocent I was. "You know how human nature is," she said, flicking the knife into the mast. Thwack! I closed my eyes and clutched my chest. "Once one person claims offence, then everyone else will too." I jumped, not having realized that she was by me until she was gently scooting herself next to me on the crate.

I pressed my lips, trying to suppress my anxiety. I could feel Belarus's leg against mine. Some invisible wind drove the scent of her hair to my nostrils. It smelled like something sweet. She was three feet too close to me and I sure couldn't breathe. I looked away, pulling at my collar as I tried to dry my sweat. I looked up at the sky.

Above me laid hundreds upon millions of stars. White specks in the black sky beamed down on us. Never in my life had I seen so many at once. Even when Dad took Jerry, Sherry, and I camping there were not nearly as many. A small smile appeared on my lips.

I remember that trip. We cooked s'mores in the fire I built all by myself. Sherry complained a lot about the amount of bugs. Jerry climbed trees and try to observe nature as closely as possible. During one of the nights, Dad pulled out a telescope and invited me to look up at the sky. "That right there is Orion," he said, brushing away the few wisps of hair that fell out of his pony tail. "You know Larry, Greek mythology says that Orion was killed by his lover, Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. You see, she was tricked into doing so by her twin brother. Artemis placed Orion in the sky as a way to immortalize him."

"That's kind of stupid of her," I said, not bothering to rip my eye away from the scope. The stars truly were fascinating.

Dad had placed a hand on my back. "Well Bucko, I think it was a noble thing for her to do. Orion was a mistake. She made a mistake. Artemis could have wiped her slate clean, pretend it never happened. Yet, she didn't. She chose to remember her mistake." He gave me a gentle smile. "I don't think that's stupidity. I think that's bravery."

Now, I found myself pointing up to the sky, attracting Belarus's attention as I said, "That constellation there is Orion's belt, part of the bigger constellation of Orion. Legend has it that Artemis-"

"Artemis killed Orion," Belarus finished. I watched as she nodded her head sympathetically. "Relax, everyone knows that one." She directed her light eyes to the darkness of the sky. "Have you ever heard the one about the shadow of the moon?" She asked.

I shook my head, beckoning for her to tell me. Belarus's face became somber as she placed her chin on her hand. "Someone told me this one a long time ago," she said, refusing to meet my eyes. "I can't quite remember if it was either Netherlands or Denmark, but that really doesn't matter. He basically told me that in the shadow on the moon, there is a person serving his prison time for some crime; I'm not sure what though. He's forced to sit in the darkness and look down upon the Earth at all of the happy people who have no idea that's he's there." She chuckled sadly. "Kind of makes you wonder how long he had to stare powerlessly until he was forgiven."

We were both silent for a long breath.

Belarus played with the fabric surrounding the hidden dagger on the belt on her thigh. "I'm not much better off than him," she added.

I gave her a confused look. "What do you mean by that?"

The blond tensely sighed and ran her slender fingers through her hair. "I think you know what I mean by that."

I shook my head. "No, I really don't."

I watched Belarus as she looked back at the sky, thinking through her response carefully. "It's what happened between me, my brother, and the rest of the world," she said softly. "Surely you remember that."

My back tingled, but not in the lover's delight so many dwelled on. It was like a warning, traveling up my skin and prickling the hairs on my arm. I didn't like the way she sounded now. She sounded so sad, so childlike. My brother was the only person I knew that could make that kind of pitiful sound. It didn't suit her face. I found myself scooting closer to her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, saying, "Actually, I don't. Switzerland, he kept me isolated and . . ." I shrugged, pretending not to notice her wide eyes and hanging mouth. "Can you tell me, please?"

Belarus looked down. Her chest rose and fell in a slow and painful manner. Her lips were pressed together in a tight seal. I felt my hand fall off her shoulder like crumbling stone. She didn't want to tell me. I get it. I placed my hands on my lap and looked back up at Orion. A mistake. . .

"Freak." I snapped my gaze back at Belarus. She . . . she was the one who said that, right? The woman carefully pulled her legs onto the crate and held them close to her chest. Her pale cheek was pressed onto her knees as she looked distantly through me. She was in another place now, a place far, far crueler than THE WAR. "The first thing anyone ever called me was a freak. Not Belarus, not Miss Country, not little girl, but freak. I really can't blame the man who said that. Not many humans realized that a little girl who could heal herself is a country, not a freak. The only problem is when I got older. My country's dependency on Russia increased and we were forced to spend more and more time with each other. Russia also has had a hard time. Many countries picked on him for whatever reason and he had a hard time relating to people.

"So many people attacked us. Called us cold hearted when it was just our weather. Europeans called us barbarians for having a Mongolian influence. Asians called us barbarians just for a way to smite us. 'Freak' became an even better name for us. Everywhere we went, we were branded by a single idea, a single concept that we could not escape.

"We were isolated from everyone else. We had been hurt so many times that we had no other choice but to draw closer to each other. Hell, we didn't even trust Ukraine- our own sister -to stay by our side! Russia and I were forced to realize that the only people who would accept us were each other."

She held her legs closer to her chest, saying, "We started to have sex then. When you were the only two people who accepted each other, what else are you supposed to do? Who else are you supposed to 'love'? Our 'romance' came shortly afterwards, but really we just . . ."

"You guys are only dating out of necessity?" I asked, numbed.

She nodded slowly. "Yes." Belarus switched cheeks, turning her face away from me. I thought I heard her sniffle. "I hate it, Liechtenstein. I miss my brother- I want him back."

For a moment, I didn't know what to say or to do. I knew that I had to comfort her, but I wasn't sure how. I was never in the position where people turned on me like that. Jerry had been- people picked on him for some reason. I shifted in my seat. That was terrible of me- people were picking on him and I never knew why.

Awkwardly, I started rubbing my hand in a circle on her back. I did that for a long moment as I carefully chose my words. "Belarus, I. . ." I took a deep breath. "If it helps, I don't think you're a freak."

She sniffled again. "You're lying," she hissed coldly, brushing my hand away.

"No. I'm not." Belarus stiffened, taken aback at the hardness of my tone. Something hot was in my stomach, making it hard for me to hold back my. "Belarus, you are amazing. The whole time I've been here, I've never once seen you give up. You're always in complete control of your situation. Just because some jerks are too stupid to realize how amazing you are doesn't mean that you have to believe them. You're only a freak if you let yourself be. Are you a freak, Belarus?"

She was silent for a long moment."No-"

"Good. Now believe it."

Belarus lifted her face off of her cheek and wiped her nose on her sleeve. She graced me with the smallest, but most sincere smiles I have ever seen. "Thank you, Liechtenstein," she said. "It's just- I get so scared sometimes that I actually am what they say I am."

"That's understandable," I replied, leaning back on my hands. I looked back at the stars and saw that Orion was smiling down at me. "A lot of the opinions we hold of ourselves come from what other people think. It's a common fear." I couldn't help but to quickly mutter, "Unlike mine . . ."

She did that girl thing where she brushed her hair behind her ear and gave me an interested look. Belarus asked, "Really? What's yours?"

It was my turn to be shameful. I really didn't want to tell her and face her ridicule, but Belarus had somehow managed to give me her life story. The least I could do is return the favor. Looking down, I scratched the back of my neck as I explained, "Oh, well its knives. I'm deadly afraid of knives."

Belarus regarded me with curiosity for a long moment, playing with the cloth of her skirt. Her eyes were intense as they searched for any hint of me fabricating a lie. I continued to look at the deck. It was dark like the sky, except there were no stars to light it up. "Come on!" In an instant, Belarus was sliding off of the crate, pulling me with her, and dragging me to the center of the deck.

My mouth hung open as I watched my small feet shuffle in an effort to keep up. "What are we doing?" I asked.

Belarus stopped me, placing two hands on my shoulders. Her eyes were brimming with a kind of determination that I have never seen before. It didn't help that the stars were causing her irises to sparkle with light. "Fear is the greatest weapon," she told me, reaching a hand for her skirt. "Not using other people's fears against them but using yours. You fear knives-" Suddenly, she flicked a silver blade in front of my face. I flinched. "Will make you excellent at using them."

I looked between her disturbingly happy face and my scared reflection. "I'm not sure," I said, taking a small step back. "I mean, it's a knife."

"And?" Damn her enthusiasm.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "It's a freaking knife, Belarus. I can barely use these things to cut my food. What makes you think that I'll be able to use that thing without hurting myself?"

"A knife is the extension of the body," she told me, taking a step back. Pretending as though I have already given my consent, she slipped behind me and positioned me so that I was parallel to the mast. "If you fear a knife-" she slipped the hilt into my hand and tapped my knees until they were bent the perfect way. "-then you'll fear yourself. And if you fear yourself-" She pressed herself into my back, moving my limbs in motion. Fluid like water, she had my arms pantomime a throwing motion. "-Then you'll never be careless enough to mess up."

I lowered my head, shielding my reddening cheeks. I couldn't tell if it was because her breasts were pressed right into my back or because she was acting like such a lesbian right now. Either way, pushing her away was not going to help my cause. After all, she had the freaking knife. Grinding my teeth together, I gave her a pained grin. "Extension of the body?" I repeated, letting her move my arms in another round of fake throwing. "Sokka said that once."

She frowned. "You're cat?"

"The person I named the cat after."

She stepped away from me. My body immediately felt so cold that I had to turn around to see what was wrong. Belarus was slowly stepping away from me, looking shamefully down at the deck. I didn't even notice that I was the one holding the knife now, not her. I tried to take a step towards her, but she took another larger one back. I took a deep breath. "Belarus, what's wrong?" I asked quietly. "You're acting. . ." I trailed off.

Belarus lowered her face even more, shielding herself with her bangs. We were silent for a long moment. Then, she finally gulped. "Liechtenstein, do you remember the other day when you were captured?" she asked. Carefully, I nodded. "Did you hear me?"

I thought back. Belgium struck me and I had seen Prussia and Turkey ambushed. My vision had been failing and I was losing consciousness. Yet, I did remember something. There, in the few seconds before my final senses disappeared, I heard a woman scream. "I think I did," I said, unknowingly taking a small step towards her. "Did you scream 'You?'"

She nodded stiffly. "I was scared, Liechtenstein. I thought that I had lost you and it wasn't until then that I realized how much I . . ." The country snapped her face up, revealing a hard look of determination. "I love you, Liechtenstein."

The next thing I knew, she was lunging towards me. I wasn't sure what she was doing or if it was even a threat to me, but I didn't think. I acted on instinct. The moment I felt her leaning in, I lifted my weapon.

Everything stopped.

For a moment, we both stood like statues, unsure if we even knew how to move anymore. I was panting, feeling my sweaty hands lose grip on the knife handle. Belarus had two hands on my shoulders. Her porcelain face was so close to mine that I could feel her warm breath on my lips. We were petrified like that for a long moment. Then, at last, I looked down. Her chest was a sliver away from the dagger.

I felt my body lock.

...did I just try to stab her?

Trepidation consumed my whole being as I slowly lowered the weapon, my feet hurrying to scramble away from her. I ran a free hand through my hair. No, no, no, no! Why did I do that? Knives are dangerous! I don't do things like this to people!

Something between a dry sob and a choke left my mouth.

I could have killed her. I could have fucking killed her. That fucking knife would have entered her chest and pierced her heart. Blood would spill from her body like a waterfall and no amount of first aid would be able to fucking save her. I would have murdered her. My God, am I a murder? Am I a fucking murderer?

What the fuck was I becoming?

"I understand," I heard Belarus say, trying not to sound hurt or betrayed. I dropped the knife with a clang! this time, fiercely shaking my head as I ran my fingers through my short locks. "You don't have to make it any clearer."

"I'm sorry!" I choked out. My legs gave out and I collapsed onto my knees. The only thing that was preventing me from crying distressed tears was my rational voice, ordering me to be strong and fight it. "Belarus, I didn't mean to, I-"

"Don't worry about it." Her voice was cold. The echoes of her clicking heels as she walked away were colder, lonelier. "It was a long shot anyways-"

"I'm sorry! I-"

"I'm going to bring Hong Kong up to start his watch now," she told me. Tinges of bitterness were seeping into her tone, making her words come out of her mouth in hateful spits. "Goodnight, You."

The music of her steps faded away and I was alone again. There was a cloud in the sky, covering up Orion's stellar form.

"You know, you completely deserved that."

I sniffled, lifting my face and looking into the far corner of the ship- one where there was barely any light. "Shut the hell up, Alfred," I sneered, wiping imaginary tears from my face. I flashed my teeth like an angered canine. "How long have you been hiding there anyways?"

He emerged from the spot, burying his hands into his pockets. The moonlight illuminated the white cloth around his arm. "Long enough to know that you need help," he said, pausing right in front of me. I looked up, expecting to see his warm visage of hope. But instead, I was disturbed by the glare in his eyes as he regarded me coldly. "Long enough to know that you haven't helped me at all."

"Alfred, what are you-"

"I know that you know who Gilbert is, Larry. If you're going to let me suffer here then I sure as hell ain't gonna help you out."

My jaw fell. Oh. Oh crap. He knew about Prussia. I felt the solid, safe wall I built around myself crumble away into pieces. I gulped, looking up at him with pleading eyes. "Please Alfred, you have to understand. I didn't want to-"

He shook his head and stormed past me, sneering, "Piss off, Larry Sue." I watched in shock as he retreated below deck in a dark, fiery air. Again, the deck was filled with silence and I was all alone.

I shook my head, cursing my stupidity as I buried my face in my hands. "This can't get any worse," I muttered. Maybe this is what Mom feels every time Dad leaves for work. She claims that she supports him- wearing a masquerade smile -but anyone could tell how torn she was. She wanted Dad to stay home and be there for Jerry and Sherry and I, yet she wanted him to live his life. Such a hopeless situation to be caught in. Anyway she looked at it, she was going to be at fault.

I felt something land on my lap. Then I heard a distinct meowing. Without looking, I placed a heavy hand on its head and scratched its ear, muttering, "Not now, Sokka. I just want to be-"

Sokka squirmed from under my hand before nudging its head on my leg. I paused and finally looked at my lap. There was a crisp, white letter. My heart jumped in my chest as I hurriedly snatched it and ripped it open. I did, however, quickly pause to look at the red seal: The emblem was a clock that read midnight.

"Again?" I whispered, pulling out the white letter. I quickly unfolded the paper and held it up to the lamp light. It read:

To She With My Name,

I apologize for neglecting in contacting you sooner, but I had faith that you perhaps heeded my advice. However, the events that unfolded minutes ago have brought to light an obstacle that I did not expect- you. She With My Name, you are my savior and my undoing. I beg of you, open your heart to Belarus. Open your heart to Russia. Forget any secular obligations and please listen to me. Love them or else someone is going to die.

Sincerely, He With Your Name

I placed the letter back on my lap, feeling the cold engulf my body. Never have words left such a gaping, contrite hole within my chest. Everything from Belarus, to Alfred, to He With Your Name was making me hate myself more and more. "If I was such a bad person to them," I thought. "Then how awful have I been to Stella?"

Without thinking, I grabbed the knife off of the ground and threw it at the mast.

It landed dead center.


MW: And there we go. I bet there were a few things in there that made you guys take a step back and go "say what". So last update until July when I get back from my trip. Maybe. I mean, I have no idea if I'll have internet (or enough time to update) when I get there. So that's it for the AN since I still gotta go on my nightly walk and get back in time to eat ice cream.

Thanks for reading, peeps!

Notes

"It was either Netherlands or Denmark, but that really doesn't matter" So the story that Belarus told is actually something that happened in cannon. If you look at her wiki article, it states that she's heard of this story and wonders if she's any better than the man on the moon. Google it.

Next Chapter: Larry dwells in self-pity as he tries to sort out Belarus, Alfred, and He With Your Name.

Merci Beaucoup, mes amours! See you in July!