2: How To Start a Party

Although it had never been discussed, an overall decision to use their own planes seemed to have settled amongst everyone. America didn’t want to use anyone else’s plane because he believed his own superior, and England couldn’t help but feel the same way about his own, as well as a reluctance to allow anyone else onto his plane. China preferred his own handicraft because it was cheap and easily mass produced, therefore economically efficient, and Japan had been adamant not to share any vehicle of any kind with Italy. France had wanted a plane ride with England, but had been bluntly (and brutally) refused. He took it rather well... Italy and Germany seemed to be the only ones willing to share a plane to Russia’s house, and England had overheard the reason was because Germany didn't want Italy bailing and flying back to his home as a last minute decision. Overall, it was complicated, the results weren't exactly environmentally friendly. England had been horrified to discover all kinds of hidden weapons America had been planning to stow away. After they’d wasted time dealing with all of those, it was already quarter past four. Although there had never been a specific time mentioned, England felt late.

England always forgot how temperatures in Russia were generally below freezing and good cause for miserable attitudes. If the Brits could complain about English weather, Russian weather would be on a whole other level.

The first issue was landing one’s plane. There was so much snow that there appeared to be no actual place to physically land. He ended up following Germany, who managed to steer towards drier areas that were covered dangerously in ice.

The second issue was definitely the freezing temperature. When one did the best thing within their power to avoid another person – as England did with Russia – it was easy to forget what it was like to be with them or the area they lived in. As soon as he stepped beyond the warm protection of his plane, he was blasted with the freezing tendrils of cold air that wrapped their icy fingers around him, sinking into his skin, his hair and in between the layers of his clothes. He wrapped his arms around himself, feeling the blood rise to his cheeks and seeing the cloud of warm air that puffed before him every time he exhaled. Not far from where he stood, he saw Italy tumble out of Germany’s plane, looking aghast.

“It’s freezing here!” he exclaimed, rubbing his shoulders with his teeth chattering.

“I knew it!” America whispered hoarsely as he approached. “He’s gonna freeze us to death!”

“Who is?” someone said warmly from behind them.

“Oh, you know-” America began, only to stop dead halfway through his words, eyes widening as he stared briefly into space.

The pair of them turned around with fake plastered smiles and saw Russia beaming at them. He probably didn't feel the cold in the slightest. England would do almost (yes, almost) anything to have a thick winter coat just like his, as well as the thick scarf around his face and neck accompanied with gloves that appeared unaffected in the slightest by the snow. He even wore boots that looked impenetrable by the cold.

“Jack Frost,” America said emphatically. “That guy… He’s really… really… um…”

Russia tilted his head, still smiling, his eyes closed in that over-friendly “I actually despise the ground you’re walking on but I pretend to be nice because I enjoy seeing your discomfort” way. Or, at least, that's how England interpreted it...

“Cold,” America finished flatly, and an awkward silence ensued, if you ignored the disdainful shrieks of Italy getting snow in his boots in the background.

England dared to glance at America, just to see what he was doing, but the other had his eyes completely trained on Russia, who stood completely still, just smiling.

“Good,” Russia finally said, just as England was about to start talking about the weather. “For a moment, I thought you meant me.”

What?” America laughed loudly and the vast landscape sorrowfully absorbed the sounds, his laughter having the slightest of echoes. “I would never insult someone inside their own home.”

“You would insult them outside, though, da?” Russia nodded.

“Err… no… I mean…”

“I was only kidding,” Russia chuckled and looked past them. “Hello, Germany and Italy.”

“Hello,” Germany said bluntly, trudging through the snow. His cheeks were also red from the cold, but he showed no indication of being affected, whereas Italy, trailing miserably behind him, was shaking like a leaf, although that could've been for fear of Russia.

“Welcome,” Russia said politely as Japan and China neared. “Where is France?”

Blankly, they all looked around. There was no sign of the Frenchman, although England was sure he’d seen his plane on the way there… However, there was no mysteriously irritating laughter echoing around the empty wasteland, and there was no ridiculously blatant blue cloak in sight. England wouldn't have put it past the frog to have ditched them.

“I could’ve sworn…” America frowned, looking around and squinting through the cold.

“Maybe he changed his mind,” Italy shivered. “Maybe he knew how cold it was and decided he’d rather not freeze his-”

“It’s not that cold,” Russia laughed. “Maybe he crashed his plane.”

All heads jerked towards his direction, but he had already raised his head to the sky to point upwards to a plane circling in the air, attempting to find a place to land. They watched as it awkwardly made its way in a distant area, landing behind and beyond what looked like a thick, dense forest.

“He’ll be a while,” Russia commented, still smiling. “I think I’ll send Lithuania to bring him indoors. In the meantime, we should go indoors. Fortunately, I've had plenty of time to wait for your arrival, because waiting is fun, and I already have everything ready.”

“Can I just ask what this party is in aid for, aru?” China asked. “It just seems so sudden…”

Russia stopped in his tracks, Italy walking into him and turned to the group of them. “Did someone say anything?”

Although there wasn’t a direct threat, an eerie silence followed suit, and China didn’t press the matter further, nor repeat what he'd said. They were buffeted by cruel winds along the way. Halfway across, England stopped feeling his toes, which worried him, but he was reluctant to express disdain of any kind. Finally, they reached Russia’s house, a fortress surrounded by a vast world of snow and dense forest in the distance. England had to marvel at the fact that he had never actually been here before.

He noticed Russia’s strange behaviour once they arrived. As they neared, he saw him glancing from side to side, as if expecting something, but when he followed his gaze, there was nothing to be seen. Also, just as they reached the front door, he displayed the slightest of hesitations before pushing the door open, his movements terse, but then he flung the door open after a moment’s silence.

Russia’s house was surprisingly warm. It had the same cosiness that England would expect when he returned to his own home after a rainy winter’s day spent in the cold, and then to enjoy a warm cup of tea and some afternoon cakes, perhaps even a hot shower or bath to soak in to wash away the cold. They all wandered inside, glancing at the walls, the ceiling, the floor, as if expecting them to be lined with blades, shotguns, weapons of mass torture, spears, or even the bloodied heads of Russia’s previous victims. It was actually a beautiful, well-kept house. The curtains were drawn across the windows, but England was sure they were floor to ceiling. He didn’t want to marvel at Russia’s house, so instead he admired it silently. It seemed everybody had the same opinion, because they were all looking around in astonished wonder, but no one said a thing.

“Hello, Mr Russia,” three voices chimed and everyone turned their heads towards Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, standing in a line, their hands behind their backs, quaking with fear at the very sight of Russia.

“Oh, hello,” he said pleasantly. “Lithuania, France is still outside. Perhaps you should go find him, da? He should be just beyond the forest.”

“The f-forest?” Lithuania’s eyes bugged out. “O-of course. Yes. I’ll find him.”

He hurried off, without waiting for another word to be said, the door closing right at his heels. The door closing, for some reason, felt like the barred gate of a prison cell sliding shut. Italy was eyeing the door up, half hiding behind Germany, still shaking in his boots.

“Estonia, makes us all drinks,” Russia ordered. “I’ll be having tea. What do our guests want?”

He glanced over his shoulder at everyone.

“I’ll have the same as you,” Italy blurted out.

“We’ll all have tea,” Germany added, gesturing to the entire party.

“Do you have coffee?” America challenged, folding his arms and scrutinising Russia.

“Nope!” Russia laughed. “Tough luck! Looks like we’re all having tea.”

Estonia scurried off with a nod of terror, disappearing into the depths of the house. The last to stand there was Latvia, his brow furrowed.

“What am I meant to do?” he pointed to himself.

Russia looked at him with a straight face. “Check the food.”

“O-of course,” Latvia frowned, and hurried off in the same direction as Estonia.

“Follow me,” Russia gestured, and they made a silent procession through the house.

The blizzard outside looked lethal, and England could only feel grateful that it wasn’t him outside there. The way they walked hollowly down the hallways made England feel like he was participating in a funeral walk. America opened his mouth to say something, but England nudged him, assuming it was something Russia wouldn’t want to hear. They were brought to a lounge that looked like your ordinary, everyday lounge. Once more, there were no lethal weapons within sight, and if this had been England’s house, he should’ve enjoyed dusky afternoons sitting on the sofa, an alcoholic beverage within reaching distance and a newspaper, as well as the view just a glance away. If there was one thing England had to credit, it was that the treeline in the distance with the slowly lowering sun would probably look fantastic.

“I would just like to say thank you for all coming to my party,” Russia said, once again smiling. “I hope France makes it; although I’m sure he will; but right now I have to go and get something. This room will be where we’ll be staying for the duration of the party. Did I mention you were all staying over?”

“Wh-what?” Italy’s head jerked to look at Russia, standing in the doorway, about to leave. “Overnight?”

“Yeah – did I forget to say?” he tapped his head and chuckled. “Silly me! I’ll make sure you’re provided for. Although, stay in this room, da?”

He left the room abruptly, swinging the door shut behind him. There was a long pause, Germany holding his hand up, blue eyes trained on the doorway as they listened to Russia’s receding footsteps. He lowered his hand once the sounds had become too distant to hear, and looked about the room.

“I have no idea what we’ve gotten ourselves into,” he declared in a rough whisper. “I can’t tell if he’s up to something, but he’s adamant to keep us in this room.”

“He can’t be trusted,” America loudly hissed. “He probably wants to lock us up in here and hold us ransom. Or worse – kill us. I bet he sent Lithuania out there to silence France!”

“That’s ridiculous,” England rolled his eyes. “Lithuania probably wouldn’t do that anyway. Think about it. It's Lithuania.”

“I don’t like this,” Italy shook. “What if I never see my home again? When will I see a pretty lady again?”

“Shut up, Italy,” Germany snapped. “That’s not what’s important right now…”

“I bet he’s hiding weapons of mass destruction in this house,” America stated boldly. “I bet that’s what he’s getting.”

“That’s stupid, aru,” China folded his arms. “Otherwise, why would he make us drinks? Anyone else notice how tense he is, aru?”

“Yes, actually,” England added. “He was.”

“I bet it was-”

“Quiet,” Japan whispered, and America frowned.

They all inclined their ears and heard footsteps, accompanied by a strange rattling noise. Italy swallowed and once more hid behind Germany, a white flag somehow in his hands. They all stood, crowded in the middle of the room, watching as the door slowly opened and Estonia elbowed his way in. He stared at them, staring at him, and swallowed nervously. In his hands, he held a tray balanced with cups and a large boiled kettle. The tray rattled as he moved, the cups wobbling on their spot. He carefully laid the tray on the coffee table and poured already brewed tea into their cups.

The silence seemed to be wearing down on the poor nation. England knew he had to say something.

“Hey, Estonia,” America beamed. “How’s your blog going?”

Estonia turned towards the loud mouthed fool, but looked relieved at the sound of him. “Very well, thank you. Although, it's rather difficult when I have to be constantly watching out for Mr Russia...”

“That’s great,” America grinned, flashing his teeth and offering the thumbs up. “Thanks for the tea!”

“No problem,” a more relaxed Estonia said, gratefully leaving the room once more.

He left the door open. They all watched, and then huddled back into the middle of the room.

“It’s OK,” America whispered. “I managed to smuggle a gun in.”

There was a horrible silence as they all stared at him, whilst he smiled to himself proudly.

“You idiot,” Germany looked horrified. “What the hell were you thinking when you did that?”

“Um, hello? Dude? We’re in danger here, and I seem to be the only one who sees that.”

“Oh, I see it, too,” Italy nodded, terrified.

“What are you going to do, shoot him, aru?” China folded his arms. “In his own home? I don’t think so. And anyway, I've heard of Russians who can take several bullets before they hit the ground – and I'm talking bullets to the head, aru!”

Here, China was talking about Rasputin, who was murdered by conspirators who believed he was the cause of the First World War. He was invited to a party, where he became drunk off of wine which was supposedly laced with a large amount of cyanide. Afterwards, he was shot, and deemed dead. However, he awoke, and actually ran upstairs. His murderers followed him, and shot him once more. Both shots were fatal, but he still managed to reach the gate outside...

“Wow,” America suddenly seemed hesitant.

“Let’s not worry about that right now,” Germany sighed. “If Russia finds out America has a gun, that will be bad. For now, he doesn't even have to know.”

“True,” Japan nodded. “I usually agree with America, but it was pretty stupid to bring it in the first place.”

“Hey, c’mon dudes,” America frowned. “I was just being cautious about-”

He cut himself off as someone staggered into the room, violently shaking. It was France, his face reddened from the cold, with a panicked Lithuania not far behind.

“My,” France exclaimed. “That was awful! I thought I would never make it!”

He flopped dramatically down on the couch, and lifted a warm cup of tea to his lips, closing his eyes and seemingly indulging himself on the rich warm liquid.

Magnifique!” he sighed, sinking downwards.

“Glad you think so!” Russia beamed, walking into the room, holding a box without a label, its ornately carved surface giving no indication as to what was inside. “Goodbye, Lithuania.”

“Oh, of course, Mr Russia,” Lithuania seemed eager to leave.

“Unless you want to play?”

“We’re playing a game?” the life was suddenly revived in Italy, who had been unusually quiet. “I love games! What game are we playing?”

Russia smiled warmly. “I'm glad to hear that.”

He sat down, and for some reason, they all followed, seating themselves in a circle. Lithuania hesitated, but sat with the rest of them when he received a glance from Russia. They watched, tense as he opened the box.

“This is always a fun game to play,” Russia explained, rummaging through the box, with strange clinking sounds. “I've always been especially good at it – although sometimes you have to be!”

“What is it? What is it?” Italy couldn't stop fidgeting excitedly.

Russia lifted a gun and loaded it with bullets. “Russian roulette.”

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