Ivan sighed wearily, patting the small box in his pocket. It had taken him most of the summer to find the perfect one, but now he was ready. Or not.
It had seemed so simple back at home, but now, standing outside Yao's front gate, all of his courage, liquid or otherwise, seemed to desert him.
Just as Ivan was about to give up and go home, a small, black-haired form ran into him and bounced off his chest and onto the ground.
Ivan starred impassively at the fallen form, trying to remember which one of Yao's siblings it was. It didn't take him long to remember after the other nation stood up, however.
"Falling was invented in Korea you know?" The overly happy nation cheered, eying Ivan with obvious suspicion.
Ivan nodded quickly, not wanting to deal with his boyfriend's crazy family right now. However, Im Yong Soo apparently had no intention of letting him go unmolested, as he planted himself firmly in front of Ivan, putting his "interrogation face" on.
"Why are you standing here da ze?" Im Yong Soo asked, ready to kick the larger nation back to Siberia if he didn't like the answer.
As Ivan struggled to find an answer that wouldn't aggravate the shorter man and make him stick around longer, his salvation appeared in the form of MeiMei, Im Yong Soo's younger sister.
"Im Yong Soo! Why are you still here? We needed that kimchi an hour ago!" The female nation exclaimed, her usual nervousness lost in huge amounts of stress.
Quickly, shooing a protesting Im Yong Soo away, MeiMei took a look at Ivan, pointed around the side of the house to the back garden, then quickly ran off, muttering something about lemon floor polish.
Ivan quickly set off in the direction the frazzled nation had indicated, trying to shake off the growing sense of unease at seeing so many of Yao's siblings around. Im Yong Soo he could understand, but last he checked, MeiMei hated Yao, preferring to hang around Kiku's place and read his perverted comics.
Rounding the corner of the house, Ivan couldn't help but smile at the sight that greeted him. Yao was busy sweeping the back porch. The Asian nation had adopted a bandanna and an apron in order to keep the dust out of his hair and clothes, and to Ivan, he looked like a busy housewife waiting to welcome her husband home.
Yao was too caught up in his work to notice the taller nation sneaking up behind him. Ivan crept along quietly, just about to pounce until...
"AIYAH! DO YOU KNOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO CLEAN THAT ARU!" Caught off guard by the normally calm man's explosion, Ivan was to slow to dodge the broom being swung at his head, and ended up being flung off the porch at the impact.
He thought he saw a brief flash triumph in Yao's eyes, but it was gone as soon as it came, replaced with worry and guilt as Yao leaped off the porch, and knelt down beside him, soft hands reaching out to probe Ivan's head for bumps.
"I am so sorry Ivan. I thought you were Korea aru. He's been bothering me all day and it took forever to get the dust off that porch aru." Yao fussed, mentally chiding himself for being so unfocused as o mistake his long-time lover for his annoying little brother.
Ivan chuckled softly, any irritation he might have felt at being hit vanishing at Yao's fussing. Honestly, the smaller man could be such a mother hen sometimes. Not that Ivan minded. He found it endearing really, how Yao would baby him despite being a little over half his size.
Ruffling the Asian's man's soft hair to reassure him, Ivan got to his feet, ignoring the ache in his skull. He was going to need some serious vodka later, but right now he had more important things to do.
"I'm ok little Jao, really." Ivan said, smiling as the Asian man bristled at being called little. The smaller nation's reactions never failed to amuse him, and Yao quickly forgot his worry, instead huffing indignantly before hopping back up on the porch and beginning to sweep again.
Deciding that now was as good as ever, Ivan slowly reached for the box in his pocket, only to find his fingers closing around empty air.
Panic quickly set in as a quick search of his other pockets revealed nothing but some lint and a small GPS locator. After finding Natalia's flag on the locator, Ivan crushed it quickly, making a note to sweep his house and the rest of his clothes later. It would explain how she always knew where he was.
But, back to the point, the box was gone. Ivan couldn't go on with his quest without its contents, and it was gone. For the first time in a long time, the vodka-loving nation felt like crying. It had been expensive to fill that box. He had even cut down on the amount of vodka he was drinking to save money, and now it was gone.
Turning back to his lover, Ivan was just about to offer to help when the door to the back porch opened, and Yao's younger brother Kiku emerged, balancing several large stacks of red paper.
"Where do you want these Aniki?" the Japanese man asked, struggling not to drop the stacks when he talked.
Seeing Yao's worried glance, Ivan quickly walked over to the struggling nation and grabbed several of the stacks, balancing them much easier in his larger hands.
Yao smiled at him gratefully, and directed his younger brother to show Ivan where the craft room was, and what phrases should be cut out of the papers.
Casting one last longing glance at his lover, Ivan resigned himself to an afternoon with Kiku instead, ruining multiple sheets of paper with his clumsy attempts to write in China's graceful characters.
Night came on quickly, and when it was fully dark, Ivan was released from the craft room (or the room of unimaginable torture as he now dubbed it), hair and clothes covered in bits of red paper.
Although he wanted nothing more then to go home and drown his sorrows in vodka, Ivan refused to leave without at least one kiss from his little Jao. So, he resolutely turned away from the door and began searching the large house for the beautiful Asian man.
Just as Ivan was ready to give up, he heard noises coming from a door to his left. Opening the door, he found Yao and his siblings clustered around a table full of food.
The younger nations all glared at him as Ivan stood in the door awkwardly, but Yao smiled broadly and beckoned him in, shoving Im Yong Soo over a spot to make room for the violet-eyed man.
"You're just in time." Yao said happily, pulling Ivan down to sit next to him. "We were just about to have dinner aru."
Despite not wanting to spend anymore time around Yao's obviously hostile siblings, the prospect of eating his lover's cooking was too much for Ivan to resist, so he sat, eating what he could get in between having dishes snatched out of his reach by a bunch of angry Asian nations.
Throughout it all, Yao remained oblivious, forcing himself to cover up his fatigue from cleaning all day with happy chatter and animated stories about pandas.
After what seemed like the second longest dinner of his life (the first being the time Natalia drugged his vodka and got him to agree to marry her), Ivan, Im Yong Soo, and Kiku were shooed into the living room, by MeiMei that she and Yao would take care of the dishes.
The three men sat as far from each other as possible, glancing around awkwardly while waiting for something to happen.
The explosion finally came in the form of Im Yong Soo making a grab for Kiku's breasts, leaving Ivan to duck behind a chair as Kiku went gundam on the poor Korean's ass.
Just as Ivan was beginning to "worry" (and by worry, I mean hope) that Yao might have one less brother to deal with, the brunette walked into the room, took one look around, and proceded to run back into the kitchen and return with a wok.
A sound wok beating later, and Kiku and Im Yong Soo were once again sitting on opposite sides of the room, both nursing their bruised heads and egos.
Having Yao there made the time pass much quicker, and the next thing Ivan knew, the clock in the hallway was chiming midnight.
Figuring that Yao would want to go to bed, Ivan was preparing to get up and leave when MeiMei cam bustling in, holding a tray of dumplings.
Curious as to why dumpling would be eaten so late, Ivan retained his place, but no explanation was given as the rest of the nations all took a dumpling and ate them happily, obviously pleased about something.
Finally, realizing that no one was going to explain, or even give him a hint, Ivan reached for the last dumpling, only to have it snatched away by Im Yong Soo, who quickly stuffed it in his mouth, grinning triumphantly.
That triumph was short lived, however, as Yao had seen him that time, and was quick to scold his brother before sending him off to the kitchen to make more dumplings for their guest.
Im Yong Soo soon returned with a small plate of dumplings, and grudgingly offered the plate to Ivan, sitting down sulkily once the plate was accepted.
Ivan picked up one of the dumplings, noticing its squishy texture as he ate it whole, just as the other nations had done.
The only things he knew after that were a burning pain in his mouth and throat, and then sweet, unfeeling black.