17: Expectations

Upon hearing the words, England frowned and wondered whether getting bandages for Russia was such a good idea. The east wing bathroom was where everything began, but it also meant passing the library which America had been brutally locked inside. However, Russia was looking considerably paler at this stage. He was sure his arm wasn’t the only thing broken, either, especially after the impressive catapult from the window, as well as England landing on him with the ladder.

“We’ll take things slowly and carefully,” he told the wearing down Russia. “There’s no need to rush. The important thing right now is ensuring your survival.”

“What about getting to the loft?” Russia asked, watching him pace as he himself leant against his desk.

“That can wait a little bit,” England replied. “You have the key to the loft. Besides, I’m not one for abandoning someone in need. Even if you collapse, I’ll drag you that loft.”

“What? Why?” Russia looked surprised.

“Because even from the start I didn’t think you were behind these attacks,” England admitted. “I was the one who talked everyone out of the idea. I didn’t think you’d attack other countries because everyone would point the finger at you, and you’d have many other countries against you that wouldn’t be worth it. I’ll admit I was suspicious as to what you were up to when you sent those invites. Which leads me to the question all of us have been wondering. Why did you organise this?”

“I wanted company,” Russia admitted. “Belarus and Ukraine were coming over as well because it was Halloween, but Belarus scares me, and you can see why. I wanted other people nearby, because she often tones it down when there’re others nearby. It was selfish, but in a way, I wanted a subtle security just from hanging out with all of you. However, everything started going horribly wrong when Italy went missing, I didn’t know how to react. I locked you all in the room to keep you safe from Belarus, because she was mad at you and might have inflicted harm if she’d wanted to, but also because I didn’t want them attacking me for something I didn’t do. I wanted to bring Italy’s killer to justice and prove that it wasn’t me. However, I went off in a rant and never got to the bathroom in time. Everyone started disappearing and now I’ve lost my sister, Ukraine.”

He looked miserable. England truly did feel sorry for Russia in that moment.

“We should go,” he decided. “I suggest you lean on my shoulder. You’re limping.”

Russia nodded wearily. Awkwardly, he put an arm across England’s shoulders and the two started walking. He wasn’t light, but England could bear Russia’s weight. He could tell walking was causing strain on him at this stage, because he had look of a wounded soldier trying to carry on for the last mile.

Carefully, they edged out of the study in that fashion, walking humbly down the hallway. England never would have thought it would be just him and Russia in the end. In his mind, he had believed that everyone would make it out and that it would turn out it was just Italy getting lost in Russia’s unfamiliar house. He also never would have thought that he’d be supporting a country he had always been suspicious of, as they struggled along the west wing on their way to the east wing.

He desperately hoped Russia could make it. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if Russia collapsed and wasn’t able to continue. He didn’t want to leave Russia on his own, for fear of either America or Belarus finding him, and he didn’t want to encounter Belarus along the way. Both of them were in danger, but there was also something in England’s mind that wouldn’t go.

Who was the attacker?

It had come to the point where he just didn’t know who to accuse. The attacker had to have been America, Belarus or Russia, because he was sure he wasn’t doing it. However, he had been with America the entire time, and they had never split up. It wasn’t America. Which meant it was either Belarus or Russia. Russia insisted he wasn’t the one doing it, and England strangely couldn’t help but believe him. The obvious choice was Belarus, but why would she endanger her brother’s reputation in that way?

“Who do you think it is?” Russia asked dully, as if reading his mind.

“Hmm?” England glanced at him. “I don’t really know.”

“I’m not sure I entirely care anymore,” Russia admitted, as they passed by the armoury in their slow pace. “So much has happened that I don’t care… I honestly just want it to end one way or another, even if it means I suffer at the end. I brought this upon everyone and myself. I wonder if karma actually exists?”

He had a strangely vacant smile on his face and a wistful expression in his eyes. England, choosing to remain rational despite everything, ignored what Russia was saying and pressed forwards. He didn’t want to face the end, he didn’t want to surrender, and he most certainly didn’t want to die at the hands of the attacker when he and Russia had gone through so much just to get to the place they were currently walking. It would be too much to lose at this rate. England refused to believe they were at a disadvantage, he refused to believe it could end so miserably, and he refused to think that something so light hearted could turn dark so quickly.

“If I collapse, would you leave me, England?” Russia asked, dazed.

“No,” he replied resolutely. “I would drag you along by your feet if I had to get you to the bloody bathroom. Now, cut this sentimental crap, because I’m really not good at it. We’ll make it out of here and the other nations we call to help us can deal with the attacker.”

Russia nodded as they finally turned the corner. The hallway looked so long, but England was determined, and Russia was still able to continue. They weren’t moving quickly. In a place where they were heavily threatened by Belarus’s presence, England wanted to move slightly quicker, but was aware that Russia was no longer capable of doing so.

They weren’t quiet anymore. The ladder kept rattling on his back as he supported Russia’s unsteady movements. His footsteps were loud and clear, and Russia seemed to be dragging his feet along the floor, barely lifting them. Not only that, but they left a slight trail. There was a thin line of blood running down Russia’s leg from the knife wound, and England could tell it had been a deep wound. The blood had run past his boot and some had run over it, meaning there was a faded, bloodied print of the heel of Russia’s boot. There was no more time for subtlety. England hadn’t even bothered to remove the helmet from his head.

They moved along through the main entrance hall. There was no sign of Belarus. England worried she was already somewhere down the east wing, and that their route was blocked. However, Russia seemed oddly unconcerned and strangely serene. Perhaps the danger had sedated him and apathy towards the situation had developed? England wished he could feel that way, since his nerves were scattered and his heart was racing from the fear.

The storm had suddenly died. Although there was still too much snow to fly a plane away, England knew Russia wouldn’t be able to make the walk to the planes. Ideally, they could camp out there and hide until the snow melted a little and they could contact others outside. However, England was aware that the “ideal” situation was beyond hope at this point. The east wing bathroom was their best chance.

They passed into the east wing. They were almost there. All they had to do was turn round another corner, walk halfway down the hallway and then they were at the bathroom. It seemed too simple and easy after everything that had happened that England strongly believed there was a catch or something would go wrong. There was a terrible suspense that was suffocating England, but he was desperate to get to the bathroom.

They turned the corner and faced an empty hallway.

“Maybe the attacker got America,” Russia whispered hopefully, and England couldn’t help but agree with him.

There were no sounds of gunshots. The alternative was that he had been crushed by the bookshelves and had died, but England didn’t want to think of that. They paused before the library and saw that the lock had been entirely blown away, and that the door was left wide open.

“He’s somewhere,” England answered, but forced them to keep walking before Russia made a comment or did anything.

They were so close to their destination that England was sure something would happen. Beforehand, when they’d been close to salvation, he hadn’t expected anything. It was possible he was so highly drawn that he would be disappointed if nothing happened. The expectation was there, and it seemed to be with Russia as well, because he kept glancing around.

They stopped before the east wing bathroom. The door was shut, the light was off, but it was there. England pushed open the door and turned on the light. It was empty. With a sigh of relief, Russia closed the toilet lid and sat down, stretching his legs out before him. England closed the door.

He opened the medical cabinet and located the said bandaging they’d so desired. There were even some scissors. He approached Russia and started wrapping some around his knee where the bullet had entered.

“Wait, did the bullet pass through your leg?” he asked, and Russia shook his head. “Alright, roll your trouser leg up.”

Russia did exactly as told and England inspected the wound. He could see the bullet was still lodged in the back of Russia’s knee.

“Brace yourself.”

He held Russia’s leg firmly with one arm. Russia looked up at the ceiling with a clenched jaw. England stood and rummaged through the medical cabinet and found a pair of tweezers. He turned towards Russia, who was still refusing to look at him. Approaching, he resumed the hold on Russia’s leg, and then jammed the tweezers into the bullet wound. Russia made a noise of complaint from his throat, but England pressed on, clasping the bullet with the tweezers and firmly pulling them out. Russia gasped from the pain, but held his ground. England discarded the bullet and tweezers in the bin, and swiftly bound the bullet wound with the bandages.

For the knife wound, England deemed it would be fine if he tightly wrapped the next bandage round Russia’s trouser leg. He did so, and there was little complaint.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about a broken arm,” he admitted, and Russia waved a hand.

“That should be fine,” he said and rolled down his trouser leg. “I’m sure we can make it to the loft now.”

“Oh, Russia, did you come down here?” they heard Belarus from outside.

Instantly, they both fell silent and allowed her to pass. Fortunately, she didn’t notice the light from the bathroom. They watched her footsteps move past.

“Russia’s sister,” they heard America say from further down the corridor, and Russia’s expression morphed into one of concern.

“You?” she sounded confused. “And there I was thinking Russia had gotten rid of you… I guess not.”

“Your tricks end here,” America replied.

“Is that a gun?” Belarus asked.

“Yeah, it is.”

They heard a gunshot. Russia opened his mouth to speak, but England jammed a fistful of his scarf into his gob. He tried to stand, but England brought his elbow down on the knife wound. Russia’s agony was muffled by the scarf, and more gun shots were heard.

“I’m sorry,” England gawked. “I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do. Absolutely nothing. He has the gun, he has the advantage.”

An awful silence followed. Russia’s shoulders shook. England glanced at him to see he was taking shuddering breaths, but there was a look in his eyes that England preferred not to see.

They looked as someone stood before the door, the shadows of their feet just visible.

This is it, England thought, and braced himself for what was coming next.

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