“There has been word on the street, that our comrades have seen a Lithuanian male out after curfew.” The prime minister looked up at the Russian nation, “Do you have any idea whom this person may be?” Ivan’s eyes narrowed slightly but his face remained neutral, “I assure you prime minister that I have no knowledge on whom this person may be and can assure you without doubt that none of my staff would be foolish enough to step outside these walls after curfew. “ His tone was light but the threat was there behind his words. Toris swallowed thickly standing outside the meeting room, holding his tray of tea, knowing full well that Ivan knew of his presence. The prime minister leaned back in his chair, “I will be stepping up patrols in this area, we can’t have a spy in our midst not now, not while our victory is so close.” His eyes flicked as the board room door slowly opened revealing the Lithuanian in question. Toris kept his head level but his eyes lowered as he slowly moved towards the table. His grip firm on the tray as his nerves shivered through his body. With only a sideways glance to the tall artic nation, a piercing stare his return, he gingerly set down the tray. With a small smile towards the prime minister Toris straightened to leave. Ivan shift his weight just enough to keep Toris from passing there was only a seconds pause in the movement but Toris knew that he would be spoken with later, with a slight shift of his own body Toris made his way to leave gingerly shutting the door behind him.
Toris moved down the hall towards the room he shared with his brother, the gunt wrenching cough’s echoing through Ivan’s large manor. His brow lined with worry as he stepped inside the room, “Raivis…” He whispered softly moving to his bedside. The Latvian boy had been sick for weeks, coughing up blood from time to time, now unable to move himself from their shared bed. The pale boy smiled weakly looking up at his big brother.
“Hey….” He said softly gently wiping a bit of blood from his pale lips.
Toris gave him a soft smile and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. “Hey yourself…” He replied softly, his worry and fear at his brother’s condition shining in his eyes. “You weren’t at breakfast…or lunch…” He said softly picking up a clothe gingerly wetting it in the bedside bowl. “You know Ivan won’t let you eat…unless you come to the table…” He said as he placed the clothe on the younger’s forehead.
“If I’m not strong enough to make it to the table, then I’m not strong enough to eat….” Raivis quoted.
Toris’ lips pursed in a thin line, he knew that every speck of food in the house was accounted for and that there was no way on heaven’s Earth that he would be able to squirrel some away. His mind turned slowly as he looked down at his brother. “Rest.” He said simply as he placed a gentle kiss on the other’s feverish forehead. “You know I will take care of you.” He said with a soft smile. Raivis returned with a weak grin before his eyes slid closed once more. Toris let out a deep sigh and slowly stood.
Toris sat slowly looking down at the head of the table where Ivan had placed himself. Their meager meal, of rice porridge, vegetables and bread lay out before them like a feast. Though there was barely enough food to be had; Toris always made sure to make a presentation of what there was, much to Ivan’s enjoyment. The Baltic state glanced up at Estonia as Raivis’ ragid coughs reached the dining room. Still Ivan’s face remained passive and possibly a little content. The Lithuanian looked down at his meal swallowing thickly knowing that he would have to eat to survive his trip. With guilt upon his brow he slowly tucked in keeping his eyes away from Estonia, who on protest of Raivis’ condition, was refusing to eat. Toris could feel the stare of his brother and the heat of his anger inside as he lift his spoon to his mouth.
The entire meal completed in silence, with only Raivis’ coughing echoing throughout the room. Ivan as usual, excused himself to his study locking himself inside. It was then that the Baltics had their free roam of the house. Estonia having returned to Raivis’ side and Toris finishing up the chores; until finally, the entire house was quiet.
Toris looked up through the window gazing at the pale moon, the thick snow covered the ground making it shine in the moonlight. Slowly and without a second glance, he wrapped his coat tighter around himself and carefully stepped from the house. Smart enough to use the wood gathering trail to cover his tracks Toris moved to the estate gates. Without a second glance he gently pulled them open and disappeared into the streets.
Slowly, cautiously, around ever patrol, around every guard post, Toris moved leaving only distorted foot prints in his wake. He knew what he had to do. It wasn’t long before he was at the baker’s house and store. The kindly elder man had offered him a small job in exchange for bread earlier that week knowing full well the repercussions of giving out food without a coupon. Toris gently knocked upon the back door sighing in relief when the warmth flooded upon him from the light inside. He gave the man a gentle smile and stepped inside.
“It’s good to see you again Toris.” The man said kindly as he moved aside, “I feared you weren’t going to make it with all the patrols around.”
Toris shook his head a little and gave him a gentle smile, “I made you a promise.” He said kindly, “One weeks work for a loaf of bread.” He rubbed his bare hands together trying to regain the feeling. It was then he noticed the worried look on the man’s face.
“I fear we may have to use snow to clean the dishes tonight…” He confessed, “Our comrades have set limits on how much water we’re to use a day. “ The man started to move towards the backdoor with a load of pans in his aging arms.
Toris shook his head a bit, “Don’t worry…I’ll be fine.” Toris quickly moved to take the pans, “I’ll take care of these, it shouldn’t take long.” He said with a kind smile moving back out into the frigded cold.
“I’ll have a cup of tea waiting for you.” Replied the kind old man as he shut the door behind him.
“Thank you.” Toris slowly bent down glancing down the back ally. His ears perked for any sign of trouble. Slowly he started to pile snow into one of the baking pans using a rag he’d brought from home and started to scrub. There weren’t many pans tonight, the rations of bread having been decreased even more but by the time Toris was finished he could no longer bend his fingers. He took a shaky shivering breath as he attempted to restack the pans and with all the strength left in his trembling, frozen, body he gave a gentle knock on the door. Quickly enough, the door was opened.
Toris looked up at the person behind the sihulette and his heart skipped a beat. For a flash of a second he swore he saw Ivan’s face staring back at him. With a careful blink and a trembling shiver, he was carefully guided back inside by the kindly old man.
Toris’ body was too stiff to really move well enough and his mind had hazed as he tried to clear his thoughts. Slowly he felt the warmth of a tea cup around his frost bitten fingers and his shoulders started to relax.
“I can’t thank you enough Toris.” Said the man as he moved to wrap a loaf of bread in a towel, “I never could have survived long enough to get those clean…”
Toris gave him a weak smile, “It was no problem at all. “He whispered taking a small sip of his tea. His eyes shot upwards as he heard the cough of a small child.
“It’s a shame these days…what with the war and we all trying to do our part. I barely have enough ingrediants to make bread for myself.” The elderly man turned his eyes up towards the sound, “That’s my grandson.” He said with a soft but sad smile, “HE’s caught the cough I fear.” He shook his head a bit. Toris finished up the rest of his tea as the man handed his bread towards him.
Toris wrapped his hands gingerly around his prize, a gift of sorts a full loaf of bread, and still warm. His eyes turned towards the elder again, “I can’t thank you enough for this..” He said as he slowly unwrapped it, slowly he tore the bread in half and offered it out to the man, “I want you to have this…for you and…for your boy.”
The elderly man felt the tears grow in his eyes and he took back his half. He sniffled a little and slowly moved in wrapping his arms gently around Toris. “You’re a kind soul….” He said softly into his jacket, “Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.” Toris gently wrapped his arms around him gingerly returning the hug. He gave him a strong but small smile and a nod of his head and moved towards the back door.
“Thank you so much Toris.”
With that, the Lithuanian man slipped back out into the fridged cold moving slower than before. His muscles screamed as he forced them to move, his eyes darting out everywhere for any sign of patrol. He clutched the bread tightly to his heart under his jacket. He could hear the footfalls of soliders moving in and out of the streets laughing and talking about nonsense.
It wasn’t until the clock struck 11 did Toris make it to the gates. Panting heavily on trembling legs he clung to the iron bars. He was so close.
“Hey! You there!” Suddenly, a light shined upon his back and his heart ground to a halt.
Footsteps, orders, hands grabbing and pulling, the Lithuanian gasped in pain as he was pulled around by the officers attempting to question him, the only word able to pass his cracked lips, “Ivan….Ivan….” The blow that landed first almost seemed dreamlike. His body doubling over onto his knees cracking against the ice covered street. He coughed harshly as the soldiers barked. His hand never leaving his heart where he had hidden the bread. Finally, Toris was able to get enough fridged air into his lungs to speak, as his head was ripped back by its hair and a light shone into his eyes, “I live here….Ivan….Ivan’s my boss….” He managed in weak Russian. More commands, more questions filled his ears but his teary eyes couldn’t see, and his frozen ears could hear. Finally, there was quiet and the light was removed from his eyes.
Ivan stepped towards the window looking out over his estate grounds. Standing there pondering his next move upon the German’s his eyes spotted his patrol officers. A slow grin grew on his face as he noticed just whom they had captured. He stood there and watched the Lithuanian crumple to the ground and didn’t even make a move as he watched the officers ‘interrogate’ him. It wasn’t until a rifle was aimed at the nation’s head did Ivan make a move. With swiftness known only to nations Ivan arrived at the front gates just in time to hear the bolt be pulled back.
“Ah Comrades.” He spoke in that sickly sweet tone, “I see you’ve found one of my friends.” He grinned down at the soldiers in question. “I fear I may not have calculated his trip correctly.” He said moving a bit closer, “I do know it is past curfew but perhaps we can let this go…on me?” His grin widened even more as the soldiers slowly released their grip on Toris. There was a small silence before a ‘Yes sir’ resounded from the troops.
Toris gasped as he felt the iron grip upon his arm and his stomach lurched as he felt himself being pulled back onto his feet. His head turned slowly to look into the cold steel eyes of his oppressor. With no words Ivan turned, half dragging the Lithuanian up the steps and back into the manor.
Once the door was closed Ivan released the panting and shivering nation to the floor; watching with a small grin of distorted pleasure as Toris pant and gasped for breath to fill his frozen lungs.
“You really shouldn’t be out at night. It can be very dangerous. “The Russian drawled.
“I’m…I’m-“ The boot that landed on his back quelled any more words of protest.
Ivan looked down at the weakened man beneath his boot, weakened, but not broken. A problem he would rectify. Tonight. Quickly, he took hold of Toris’ collar and wretched him up from the floor, holding him inches from the wood beneath until finally setting him none-to-gently upon it.
Toris knew where his feet needed to lead him and still clutching the bread to his chest shakily started to move forward, the iron grip upon his lapel marking his pace as he lead himself down into the cellar.
As soon as the bolt slid closed he felt his fate sealed. Without even a second to stutter an explaination he felt the first blow to the back of his head. The cold steal sent him sprawling forward onto the frozen stones and he let out a sharp cry.
“What were you thinking?” Came the Russian’s harsh voice as he moved over him, it was then Ivan noticed the hand still clutching it’s heart. With a sneer and a growl he took hold of Toris’ wrist trying to wrench it away. It was then that Toris started his struggles.
The Lithuanian leaned up clutching onto Ivan’s sleeve with all the strength left in his weather beaten body. Refusing upon threat of death to release his grip. Ivan snarled over him, “What have you taken?!” He growled into his ear struggling to pull Toris’ hand away now sitting on the other’s hips using his weight to try and pull. Toris shook his head weakly kicking out his legs trying to dislodge the man on top of him. “What have you stolen from our comrades!” He commanded hitting at the other’s hand still to no avail. Toris continued to shake his head. “Release it!” Ivan growled finally just lifting the other up and slamming him into the ground with a sickening crack.
Toris’ eyes unfocused a bit and slowly his hands released allowing Ivan to throw them to the sides. He took no care as he ripped open Toris’ only winter jacket and uniform shirt. Toris’ chest rose and fall frantically trying to bring in air as the larger man pulled the, now bloodstained, half loaf of bread from inside his jacket. He paused just looking at what the Lithuanian had been guarding so protectively. With a low growl in his throat he tossed the bread aside.
Toris’ body jerked as he tried to reach for the discarded bread but Ivan’s hands kept him in place. “Who have you stolen from!?” Ivan demanded fearing not only for his own safety but for the image and what may happen should it get out that one of his protectorates were stealing from the Russian people.
Toris’ head slowly turned looking up at the man, no child really, over top of him, “Didn’t steal…” He whispered softly slurring his Russian words.
“Don’t I feed you enough?” Ivan said almost with care in his voice, “Don’t I take care of you enough?” He questioned leaning down more. “You should be grateful for all I do for you…” His words like poison.
“Worked for…” Toris interjected still panting softly his hands slowly coming to rest on top of Ivan’s neither pulling or pushing simply resting as his eyes pleaded with the other to understand.
“If you wanted more work Toris…” He said with a grin slipping across his lips. “I would have happily given you more.” He glanced at the loaf before his eyes looked back at the weakened man, “Raivis…” He hissed as he shift his weight moving off of the smaller nation. Toris took in a few deep and welcome breaths slowly turning his head watching as Ivan moved to a bench in the corner.
“I have tried Lithuania,” He said solemnly, “I have really tried to give you all that I have.”
“Ne…..” His Lithuanian tongue betrayed.
Ivan’s eyes flashed as he heard the other’s native tongue, knowing full well it was forbidden to speak anything but Russian in his house he turned looking down upon him.
“Now you insult me Toris.” He said slowly moving over towards him, “I have given you a wonderful life Da? Full of warmth and joy.” His voice sounded hypnotic as he followed the Baltic who had started to slowly move away on the floor. “Full of warmth and joy.” He restated his voice turning to ice.
Toris leaned back on his hands his eyes watching with fear as he approached, “Ny-Nyet!” He tried to correct but it was too late. With only his forearm as a shield to block the first blow, his lips let a strangle cry slip. The second blow hurt worse than the first as the cold metal pipe struck down on his shoulder. Still he managed to struggle and even move enough out of the way to dodge a passing blow. But his body was tired and worn. His shirt now hanging open and his jacket on the floor he put his hand up in a final surrender, “Please….” He whispered softly, he wasn’t begging, no, he was asking for understanding.
His words fell upon deaf ears as the next blow connected with his head. With a soft groan Toris lay crooked upon the stone floor his eyes unfocused staring at those heavy boots.
Ivan moved slowly over to the crumpled nation, weakened but not broken. He set his pipe against the wall before slowly pushing, with his boot, Toris’ frame onto his stomach. Slowly he moved over him once more gently and slowly pulling him onto his feet. Ivan guided him towards the wall pressing him against it with his frame knowing that the Lithuanian could no longer stand he pressed his leg between Toris’ to keep him up straight, “Toris.” He whispered into the other’s ear soft like the devil himself. His hands slowly pulled the tattered and blood stained shirt from his shoulders. His cold finger tips tracing the lines of scars of battles long since fought. His touch gentle and almost caring, “No matter how much he eats. It will never fill the stomachs of his people.”
Toris shivered at those words, knowing full well why Raivis was sick and who exactly was to blame. He had taken so much for his brother’s and protected them all he could, but he was only one nation. His eyes slowly closed as warm tears burned down his cheeks. He could feel Ivan’s breath against his ear and the warmth from his body pressed so tightly against his own.
Slowly Toris’ body sagged as he could take no more. His head rolled back against Ivan’s chest and the larger man gingerly laid him down onto the ground. Staring down with emotions the nation couldn’t put into words, his eyes turned to the loaf of bread long since forgotten laying in the corner. Slowly and carefully he stepped over Toris’ unconscious form and picked what had been so fiercely protected and with only a passing glance moved out of the cellar.
His footsteps were light as he ascended the stairs towards the Baltic’s shared room he could hear Raivis’ coughing before he even opened the door, though as he did his face returned neutral as he loomed in the doorway.
“T…Toris?” A groggy Raivis called out slowly turning his head towards the frame. His heart shuddered as he saw just whom was looming.
Without greeting Ivan stepped into the small room and to the bedside, holding out the blood stained bread, “Enjoy.” He said with almost a kindness in his tone, “You’re brother went through a lot of trouble to acquire this for you.” Without even waiting for the Latvian to full grasp the bread he turned and moved back out shutting the door firmly in his wake.