His Garden

Oct. 19th, 2009 12:38 am
pyrrhiccomedy: (Default)
[personal profile] pyrrhiccomedy
Title: His Garden
Originally posted: At [livejournal.com profile] hetaliasunshine, for [livejournal.com profile] mizumimi! Thank you [livejournal.com profile] erueru_2d for answering random questions like the magic fact fairy you are.
Length: 1,800 words.
Characters/Pairings: Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.
Premise: The world's strangest family spends a lovely, peaceful day together.
Time period: Modern.
Smuttiness: 2/10? For Belarus's weirdness? XD
Funnyness: 2/10
Wrist slashiness: 3/10
Lolhistoryness: 2/10
Violence: 0/10
Man, I should really put a baww-meter on here.

Would I like it?: To be honest, I'm not sure this qualifies as "fluff." I'd call it "sweet, but poignant?" Look, it's Russia's family. That should tell you what you need to know.


"I will bring it to him."

Ukraine stopped, her sister's hand on her wrist. Sunlight poured through the kitchen window and spilled over the counter and tile floor and the brimming pitcher of lemonade. Ukraine held a glass in her other hand.

"Bring--?" she questioned.

Belarus's fingers tightened, and she stared up at Ukraine. "I will bring him his drink."

Ukraine sighed and looked out the window. Russia worked in the garden, with a shovel and next to a wheelbarrow full of compost, with his pants rolled up to his knees. "Belarus…" she sighed, and set the glass down.

Belarus snatched it up, quick as a starling, and seized the pitcher. She poured with the squared-off stance, and the brow-furrowed expression of fierce concentration, of a surgeon performing a heart bypass. Then she shoved the pitcher between Ukraine's hands and marched out through the back screen door.

Ukraine sighed, reintroduced the pitcher to the refrigerator, and wiped her hands with a tea cloth. She wondered if other families had to deal with things like this.

Outside was sunlight and sunlight and spring. It covered everything, like honey spread on toast, made it gleam, made it slow and sweet. Bees startled out of the blackcurrant bushes to drone across the air, and bump and fumble against the windows of the house. All three of the siblings were barefoot, short-sleeved, pale skin and hair shining. Bright days came to them infrequently enough, and never stayed as long as they wanted them.

Light shot through the lemonade glass as Belarus held it up to Russia; for a moment, it looked like a cup of sunshine. Russia smiled at her and accepted it. Belarus nearly smiled back. It made Ukraine's heart warm, so long as she didn't think too hard about it.

She watched her sister retrieve the basket of fresh-cut camomiles from the corner stoop; Belarus selected one, hung the basket from the crook of her elbow, and fed the little white flower through one of Russia's button holes. Russia was still smiling, but his shoulders had gone…a little stiff. And then Belarus selected another flower and handed it to him. Russia looked from it to her: asked a question. Belarus's frock had no buttons. And then she pointed to her cleavage. Russia's smile froze into a rictus.

Ukraine decided that it would be a good time to intervene.

"Vanya!" she called.

Russia's head snapped towards her, his eyes breaking with relief. Belarus scowled.

"We need to do the sunflowers before it gets dark!"

Russia dropped his shovel (and the camomile) and came towards her. Belarus trailed behind, spilling white flowers in her wake. Ukraine interposed herself between them (earning her one grateful look and one murderous one) and they linked arms as they set out for the sunflower plot.

It was a beautiful garden. That, at least, had never changed, from the early days when they were growing up together, through their long separation, through the Empire and the cold and hungry Soviet era, until the present. It was Russia's garden; it was something he could care for. The smell of flowers and the sounds of bees and birdsong wrapped around them like a second atmosphere. Black loam and dark, wet grass tickled up between their toes.

Ukraine had seen her brother scramble out of bed at three o'clock in the morning, as if the smell of an early frost had driven him from sleep: he would run outside barefoot, hair rucked, and lay blankets across his terraces and planting beds. She had seen him sit outside in a thunderstorm for an hour, using his body as a shield for a fragile viburnum sapling, cupping his hands around a tulip bud to protect it from the wind.

Belarus tugged them away from the vegetable garden and its neat rows of cabbages and turnips and beetroots, and Ukraine's shoulder collided with Russia's.

"Oh, sorry--" she started.

He smiled at her and shook his head; squeezed her elbow in his massive hand. There is no need to apologize, it said.

Ukraine loved her brother's garden, but it made her sad, too. Because Russia loved it so much; because he tended it so well; because it was full of things for him to protect that would never try to run away. Because he cupped blossoms for hours in his hands. Because flowers were simple, and the people he loved were not.

Sometimes she looked at the well-trimmed raspberry and strawberry bushes, the lines of yellow tulips, the cheery snowball blossoms of the viburnum tree, and she wanted to ask, is this what you thought the Soviet Union would be like, Vanya?

She spun a quick glance up at him. He was smiling and his hair hung too long in his eyes. He cradled the crook of her arm like it was a newborn kitten gone fast asleep in his hand. She felt herself smile at him, softly. He didn't see.

They came into the sunflower clearing; for now, it stood empty.

"I checked the seeds myself," Belarus said, peeling away from them to attend the nearby picnic table. It was covered with a damp cloth, on which rest lines of sunflower seeds, germinating already, little green and white heads poking through their shells. Belarus had done this every year since Russia had told her how: lain the seeds between two damp cloths for several days, to see which of them were eager to grow, and which ones would lie dormant.

"Good," Russia smiled. He turned his scarf over his shoulder. "I can always rely on you."

"The seeds that will grow under harsh conditions will make the strongest and most beautiful flowers," Belarus said seriously.

"Yes," Russia confirmed. He was the one who had told her that.

It was true of sunflowers, but Ukraine wondered if Belarus really heard what she was saying.

"May I use your spade?" Russia gestured at the hand spade Ukraine carried in her smock.

She blinked. "Oh, I don't mind digging the--"

"No." Russia frowned at her. "You forgot your gloves. You will ruin your beautiful hands. Let me."

Ukraine handed the spade to him, abashed and flushing to the back of her neck. Then she protested, "But you're not wearing gloves either!"

Russia exhaled on a laugh and ruffled her hair in answer. Ukraine blushed deeper.

Russia crouched by the line of tilled black earth, and Belarus raked the seeds into her hands and darted in beside him, her ponytail streaming out behind her like a kite tail caught in a breeze. Russia flinched all over as her knee snuggled against his. Ukraine bit her lip to keep from laughing, and collected the watering can.

"On second thought," Russia cast wide eyes up at her, "Would you mind--?" he held up the spade.

Belarus's hand clamped on his wrist. She glared up at her sister. "But Vanya," she ground out, "Only you know how deep you should dig."

Russia had a glassy, panicked look on his face that made it clear that he didn't want to talk about digging deep with Belarus, ever, at all, in any context, but Ukraine knew that he was safe (for the moment) and anyway, she didn't want to be dodging Belarus's attempts to impale her with a fork all through dinner. So she raised the watering can to her chest like a shield, and mumbled, "Ah, no--this is…this will be fine…"

Russia's head dropped in defeat. Belarus beamed.

Tension fell away between them, though, as they worked; as Russia spaded out the holes; as Belarus leaned in too quickly to drop in the seed and cover it over, which now and then made her bosom brush against his arm; as Ukraine followed them down the rows, watering the dark earth and sighing to herself. The late afternoon sunlight and the droning of the bees and the heady smell of Belarus's basket of camomiles on the picnic table worked their magic in spite of all their family's troubles.

They began to chat, in little spates: to tell jokes they had heard (though not Belarus), and eventually even to laugh, first at the jokes and then at nothing at all. Ukraine realized by the third row that Belarus was swishing her skirt demurely back in place for every six-inch shift to the side they made, and it occurred to her that this was funny, and charming, and something she loved about her sister. She giggled. Neither of the others challenged her, maybe because they also looked at each other, smiled, and chuckled now and then.

"It is good to have family," Belarus announced suddenly.

"It really is," Ukraine agreed immediately. Then she blushed when she heard herself.

Russia screwed up his courage and kissed the top of Belarus's head in answer. Belarus looked so awe-struck that Ukraine doubted they would hear another word out of her for the rest of the day.

The sun had begun to set by the time they finished. Russia and Belarus stood, knocked the dirt from their hands and knees, and the three of them stood side by side by side to watch the red and golden light fall across Russia's garden.

He fed an arm around each of their waists. Belarus tipped her head against his shoulder, and Russia didn't even look like he minded. "These will be the best sunflowers in years," he sighed, in that soft and happy voice Ukraine had never heard from him enough. "Because my beautiful sisters helped me plant them."

Both girls found themselves smiling.

"They will help me remember you when you are not at home," Russia added with a flicker of sadness.

Belarus looked up at their brother, and without a word she hugged his arm. Ukraine, after a tiny hesitation, did the same. She rest her head on Russia's shoulder, and thought about a warm, sweet feeling that trembled when she breathed.

Russia exhaled. "I love you, Ukraina, Belorussia." He squeezed them in.

Ukraine blushed her deepest yet, and nuzzled against him. "We love you, too, Vanya."

Next would be dinner, and bed, and then the girls would both go home in the morning. But for now, the sunset bathed their white skin golden, and the evening breeze stirred the asters, and sent trembles through the clusters of apple blossoms. For now, Russia's large hands rested on their waists, and the girls rested against his shoulders, and all three let the world just be sunlight, dark earth, and sweet air.

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