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155 kilometres

Chapter Text


 

 

 

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

“Mending Wall” -- Robert Frost

 

 

The ceiling fan whirred diligently overhead, letting out the occasional muffled creak in the room where the cracked emerald green wallpaper curled at the corners with the humidity, summer-thick. Cigarette on the ashtray. Papers on the desk. The transistor radio crackled with a little static as it played a lilting jazz song with its volume low. Foot tapping along to the rhythm. Pen scratching with calculated flourishes. Quiet day.

East Germany was attacking the latest haul of paperwork methodically, too absorbed to be properly disheartened by the current state of affairs or by the small mountain of documents that seemed only to gain in height with every passing hour instead of the other way around. True, she often preferred – enjoyed, sometimes – pushing the work onto some lowly peon, but there was something to be said of the rote of bureaucracy. She would have been glad to make someone earn their salary, but she needed to touch base with some of the more pressing matters in her state. More specifically, she needed details.

Someone knocked on her door. She took her cigarette, tapping off the ash before taking a brief drag.

“Come in,” she called, shifting some of the folders around her desk with her free hand. Russia entered, a smile on his face and looking much less bulkier than usual. It was too hot for his token scarf and coat. His shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows and his tie had been shoved into his trouser pocket. It was likely the most casual she’d ever seen him. She reached down under her desk for her typewriter and hauled it onto the space she had cleared out for it, vaguely gesturing for him to take a seat.

“What is it?” East Germany asked disinterestedly, setting her handwritten notes beside the typewriter to refer to. As she rolled a sheet of paper and aligned it under the platen, Russia carelessly tossed down some letters. She glanced at them, recognising the script immediately. Without a second thought, she swept them off her desk into her metal rubbish bin, using her lighter on an old memo and dropping it in to set them alight. Russia watched with detached amusement as East Germany began to punch the keys of her machine at a sturdy rate, unheeding of the small fire in her admittedly quite flammable office.

“I’ll open a window then, shall I?” Russia suggested. Her response was a grunt.

He stood gracefully and walked to the other side of the room. “Shall I tell him you set them on fire?”

“Yes,” she replied sharply, “Maybe then he’ll know better and stop sending them.”

“Honestly, East Germany, the least you can do is read them, he writes so often—”

“Don’t care.”

“—after all it’s been nearly twenty years, surely—”

“Don’t care.”

“—and you are his older sister.”

“Don’t care.”

Russia let out huff of laughter, leaning against the opposite wall, crossing his arms.

“You do not think he would do all he could to apologise to his kin? If it had been the other way around…”

“It would never have been the other way around,” she growled.

“Well, hypothetically then. Not the exact same scenario. If you’d broken his heart.”

“If you’re so worried about his heart, you should have told him to stop writing twenty years ago.”

“Oh, I did, silly girl,” Russia said tenderly, “The boy won’t listen.”

“That’s his own damned fault then.”

“Mm, yes, he gets his stubbornness from you, I expect.”

East Germany slammed her hands down, the sound sharp in the confines of her office. She glared at the man as she dug her nails into the edge of her desk, fingertips whitening from the pressure.

“Are you done?” She asked tightly. “I have work to do without your endless nattering.”

Russia smiled, saying nothing for a while. He took a seat, reaching forward and curling a hand over one of hers, gently but firmly taking it and pulling it closer so that he could run his thumb along the ridges of her calloused knuckles. She blew out a frustrated breath, looking away from him and scowling at a nondescript folder in her OUT tray. She should apologise. She wouldn’t.

“Why do you even care?”

“Because you do.”

“Russia,” she pulled her hand away, “I don’t care.”

“Ah, but look here, you do care. If you won’t express it in words, it manifests itself in other ways.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Spit it out.”

“20 percent of the population gone, East Germany. It’s quite the number, don’t you agree?”

She straightened up, affronted, eyes burning as she spoke hotly, itching for a fight.

“So you’re saying that mass migrations indicate some sort of anti-communist undercurrent I may be harbouring, is that it? Listen you, you tell your high-minded Soviet pricks that their management is to blame, and just because—”

“What I’m saying,” Russia interrupted emphatically, earning a scowl, “Is that your people run to your brother when they are unhappy.”

She leered. “I will do no such thing.”

“Of that, I have no doubt,” he replied dryly, gesturing to her rubbish bin, “When you are quite demonstrative already.”

“Then what? What?

“You love him,” he said, detached but firm. “It is enough that your people still cling to him in the darkness, like the two of you used to in the thick of the war. It is a thing of nature now. It is subconscious. If you won’t admit to it, then I will not force you. But you must see that it is hurting you.”

“Nothing can hurt me,” she said, eyes flickering briefly. “Not anymore.”

He gave her a considering look as the words hung in the air between them, unspoken. Not after what he did, and she could war for centuries on broken bone and shield without knowing a pain so deep, so true.

“… Be that as it may, your economy is taking a severe hit. Your Berliners cross the border to work in the West. Setting aside the lack of engineers and construction workers and doctors and teachers, 40 percent of your population are unfit to work.”

“I know that,” East Germany interrupted. “You think I don’t? I can feel it.”

“We must institute something far more consequential than what we already have in place. Fines are not working. People willingly bankrupt themselves to pass that inner border into West Berlin, into what they perceive to be a better life. They are clinging for comforting abstracts, the way man pines for familiarity because change frightens him. Revolution frightens him. We need something tangible, East Germany, something grand, something…”

“Concrete,” she supplied.

Russia smiled at her, steepling his fingers. “Yes. Concrete.”

Chapter Text

“Wine, Ms. Beilschmidt?”

“Beer, if you have any.”

The waiter nodded and moved away to retrieve her request. She lingered by the punch bowl, watching the other guests make strained conversation with one another. It was charming, really. Low lights. White whicker chairs. Big Band music. She had been sent a white sundress with matching shoes to wear in attendance, and while she quietly promised vengeance, she had to admit that she looked rather good. She touched her hair briefly, felt the weaves of the single braid Ukraine had done for her now that her hair was long enough to sweep across her shoulders. To be beautiful, she had said. Beauty. How surreal. She swept her gaze along the garden dispassionately, greeting stilted smiles with a frown.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

“Your tie’s crooked,” she replied without turning.

Estonia glanced down in surprise, fingers brushing the knot before he loosened and redid it.

“Your eyesight is staggering,” he mumbled as he adjusted his tie.

“My spirit animal’s an eagle.”

“Ha. Of course. And your spirit musician is Johann Sebastian Bach?”

“Something like that.”

The waiter from before returned, a beer, a bottle opener and a glass on his tray. She took the beer without ceremony, expertly twisting the cap off with her hands before necking it. The waiter straightened, sniffing slightly but he minded his manners and nodded once before disappearing again. Estonia eyed the exchange wordlessly and leaned in to speak in an undertone.

“I think he likes you.”

“Oh, me too, he just has a hard time accepting his true feelings.”

“After all, there’s no shame in feeling attraction to an alcoholic megalomaniac.”

“Pity we can’t all be honest to ourselves, like you.”

Estonia paused, furrowing his brow. “Me? Honest? Towards... who, Russia?”

She shrugged.

He gasped, horrified, “Perish the thought! Is this you clever? I’m not sure I like it.”

“You were asking for it.”

“Well, I admit that he is an alcoholic megalomaniac too,” he said reluctantly. “But you will promise not to let that statement lead back to me, won’t you?”

“What are you doing here?” East Germany finally asked with a laugh. “Aren’t you supposedly independent of the Union?”

Estonia smiled at his successful endeavour in lightening her mood, tapping his glass once. “Free booze.”

“Hear, hear.” And they toasted their drinks, finally relaxing.

Estonia leaned in again, pointing at the crux of the party. “Doesn’t this seem strange to you?”

“We’re Communist. Be more specific.”

He rolled his eyes. “This party, for one, is stranger than usual in terms of its timing and circumstance. For another, the housekeeping staff and the guests were told the spend the night.”

“The staff?” East Germany looked at him. She paused to think. “That is strange.”

“Not to mention the somewhat… peculiar guest list.”

East Germany snorted. “You mean a whole bunch of nobodies are here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen half the people here do anything but execute orders.”

“Maybe it’s related to all the troops hanging about.”

“Yes,” she replied, eyes narrowing on a politician who was laughing tightly at a joke, an armed soldier visible beyond the wood. “I did wonder about that.”

They fell quiet.

“You don’t think it’s another Katyn, do you?”

Estonia blanched. “Goodness, I hope not. Practically the entire East German cabinet is here. Think of the power vacuum and the subsequent chaos. It would do things to the economy and you can bet that the rest of the Eastern Bloc would most definitely feel that.”

East Germany nodded in understanding. “I doubt anyone would be that much of an asshole to send me a nice white dress just to pump it full of lead.”

Estonia snorted. Her lips curled up wryly at the irony.

“… Point taken.”

“That being said,” Estonia jammed his hands into his pockets and leaned closer, dropping his voice confidentially, “Do you feel like skipping out for a bit?”

That earned him a once over. East Germany looked at him thoughtfully as she made her decision, scanning his appearance and trying to remember how size jokes went in the Baltics. She found she didn’t actually care. She was bored, besides. Why not? She drained the rest of her beer and placed the empty bottle down on the table, an indulgent smirk spreading across her lips.

“I assume you like the dress.”

“Oh, I love it,” Estonia grinned. “And who knows, maybe while we step out, we’ll potentially miss the second-coming of Katyn.”

“Mm. I can appreciate a man with a big… brain.”

Estonia snorted disbelievingly. “Keep that up and this man will keep his brain to himself.”

“Well, we can’t have that,” East Germany said reproachfully. She scanned the crowd quickly and took Estonia’s hand, leading towards the rooms. Hers was far down along the halls but near enough to gardens that a quick sprint was possible should someone call out for her. No one noticed them leave and the passages were empty. Her door shut silently behind them.

Estonia’s hands were warm and rough as he reached under her dress and slid along her thighs, squeezing urgently. He pressed his body close, rocking against her as he mouthed along her jaw, making an appreciative sound when East Germany reached down to undo his trousers and belt. Before she could slip her hands into his briefs, Estonia dropped to his knees and yanked her panties aside.

“Oh, yes,” East Germany moaned, fingers tightening in his hair as he kept her legs spread apart with a hand on her thigh. She panted, head thrown back and a hand on her own breast, squeezing and pulling in tandem to the motions as pushed two fingers into her and began to lick and suck with a wholly redeemable fervour. She felt him mounting pressure inside of her, moving his fingers faster and she gripped the back of his head harder. Oh, he had a talented mouth. She wanted to rip his clothes off and ride him to oblivion.

The click click click of heels sharp against mahogany was the only warning they had. Estonia and East Germany jumped apart as the door opened and she was incredibly glad that they were still clothed, forcing her breaths under control.

Russia eyeballed them both suspiciously, gaze lingering on Estonia before he finally turned to East Germany.

“There is something of an important announcement in the garden,” he said. “I came to fetch you.”

“Nice of you,” she said neutrally. “Let’s go then.”

East Germany walked to Russia and took his arm, not really looking at anything. She tugged him along but he didn’t budge, frowning lightly at Estonia who was turned away.

Finally, Russia smiled, patting the hand East Germany had in the crook of his arm. He leaned forward and pressed a peck against her lips.

“Do up your trousers before you rejoin polite company,” Russia said, closing the door behind him. From outside the room, East Germany could hear the hurried rustle and clank of belt buckles and zippers. She closed her eyes with a steadying breath as they walked back to the garden. Russia’s voice was low in her ear.

“I appreciate your closeness to the rest of the Union,” he said. “But that’s rather unfair to me, don’t you agree?”

“I wasn’t aware that I was,” she took a moment to halt the sudden spike of ire in her chest, “Beholden to you.”

“I would so love for you to be.”

“You want me to throw myself at you. That is something I will never do, not for anyone.”

“Alas,” Russia agreed with half-hearted resignation. “It is so difficult to sweep you off your feet when you’re not disposed to the conventional means of it.”

East Germany scoffed. “That is hardly my fault.”

“You want swords and war horses,” Russia sniffed. “Hardly romantic.”

“You’d be surprised,” she muttered.

“Hardly appropriate, either.”

She rolled her eyes, ignoring him. “Must you do that grotesque alpha-male thing near the Baltics?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, my dear.”

“Of course, you don’t.”

“Must you try me so? I spend so much time and effort wooing you tastefully, and not two minutes within meeting him, you’re spreading your legs with relish. Honestly, how am I lacking? I know you don’t dislike me, in the Biblical sense (even though we’ll pretend I never mentioned that) but I do wish you’d give some sort of clear indication of whether or not you’re amenable to closer diplomatic relations.” Diplomatic relations, spoken like the euphemism it was.

“I can’t decline any sort of relationship with you, lest you forget, you are the Soviet Union—”

“Really, East Germany, we all are the Soviet Union—”

“—so it’s not like I particularly like or hate you, or anyone else in the Union. And for the record, you assume I want some sort of slow courtship. I am neither amenable nor am I interested.”

“Explaining Estonia tonight, I see,” Russia replied drily. “Surely you are not so opposed to bilateral relations.”

“Ah, and there’s that Slavic hypocrisy I’ve been waiting for,” her lips curled mirthlessly. “There is no such thing as monogamy in a Union such as ours.”

Russia looked disapproving but did not argue. “Well, if you insist on it, I extend an invitation: My rooms, tonight? I’ll provide the vodka. Schnapps, if you prefer.”

She muttered something like ‘alcoholic megalomaniac’ under her breath but didn’t answer him as he opened the door for her. She strode into the garden with her chin tipped up as though she hadn’t just been caught in the midst of receiving oral sex.

The Politburo had rearranged themselves in her absence. They stood in the centre of the garden surrounding a seated Walter Ubricht who had a document settled before him on the table, fingers entwined as he wore his usual dour frown, spectacles balancing on the tip of his nose. He halted in the middle of his speech, looking up to nod tersely at East Germany. They had a stilted working relationship, namely due to the fact that they often found themselves yelling at each other (secretly because she knows his eyes linger on her thighs), that, though combative, was well-oiled all the same. She crossed her arms at him, casually defiant as per usual.

“Good of you to finally join us,” he said. “We are about to reach consensus.”

“Of course, we are,” she condescended. “What's this about, then?”

“In short, closing the sector border between East and West Berlin. I’m sure you’ve—”

“Yes, I and the rest of the Ministerial Council received the memo. Though a girl can’t help but wonder, an overnight party for such a cursory piece of legislation, Walter?”

Ulbricht’s frown deepened at her informality rather than her insinuation. “I enjoy a good party now and again, don’t you?”

“I suppose this has nothing to do at all with a certain ‘operation’, does it?”

He bristled slightly, gaze sharpening. “We can talk about that later. Now then, about the matter at hand – are we all agreed?”

A round of affirmative murmurs followed. Ulbricht rubber-stamped the plan and ended the meeting, offering coffee, alcohol and a stern reminder of the required overnight lodgings of those present. He scowled at East Germany, shooting her a warning glance.

“We’ll talk tonight.”

“I have a date tonight.”

“No one is permitted to leave the premises.”

“Who says I’m leaving?”

His expression hardened immediately. Jealousy doesn’t become you, she wanted to say but she bit her tongue. He glanced around briefly before taking a step closer.

“How did you know about it?”

She lowered her voice, “Operation Rose? Walter, I’m a bureaucrat, not an idiot.”

“If there is a leak—”

“I am fiendishly good at what I do. You’d best worry about keeping me in the loop rather than about potential leaks.”

“Your trustworthiness has yet to be ascertained.”

She levelled him with a glare. “Funny, I could say the same of you. Why are we staying overnight?”

“Why don’t you tell me? You seem knowledgeable enough.”

“Ha-ha-bloody-ha. Why this elaborate… everything?”

“We’re enforcing the recently passed plan effective immediately.”

“Surely it can be enforced while I am comfortably at home in my own bed.”

“This is neater.”

“Why are you being secretive with me? What are you planning? This is suspicious, don’t you realise that?”

“Goodness’ sake, woman!” Ulbricht finally lost his patience. “Tomorrow, you’ll see everything, everything you want to know. We’ll discuss confidentiality breaks back in the office, too, just leave me be this night. And for the love of all that is good, have some decency to cover up that bite,” he hissed, yanking up the strap of her dress over a hickey on her shoulder she hadn’t realised was there before. She ghosted her fingers over it as he stalked off, frowning thoughtfully.

Tomorrow, she thought later as (alcohol-warmed and touch-sensitive) she slipped naked under the crisp white sheets into Russia’s waiting arms, the burning bitterness of vodka on his tongue as he kissed her mouth and trailed his lips down along her throat, ignoring the sudden shudder in her heart as the tightening of his hands on her breast (slow and achingly sweetly painful as a clock chimed nine, ten, eleven, twelve and she cried out into his mouth). Tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Hello.

Prussia rubbed her eyes, the beginnings of a massive headache pulsing through her temples as a faint drum beat knocked dully in the back of her skull. Everything was a thick fog, over-bright and out of focus, and she couldn’t bring herself to sit up. She groaned, slowly rolling onto her side, pinching into the corners of her eyes in order to stave off the hurt that had begun to take a very real, very painful quality. All that vodka had been a terrible idea. She felt like throwing up. She buried her face in her pillow and groaned again.

Hello…?

She forced an eye open, peering blearily through the mess of her hair. Unfortunately, her vision was still distorted and sleep-heavy so all she could make out was the blurry outline of a… person. Fair hair. She felt the other side of the bed with a twitch of her fingers and found it cold and empty. Probably Russia or one of his goons. If bald, probably Ulbricht.

Hell—

“Heard you the first time, fuck’s sake,” she rasped, throat like sandpaper, tongue like lead. “Say you got water or coffee or something.”

Prussia felt the person smile, felt him shake his head. She groaned again.

“Whaddya want?” She squinted. “What time is it?”

Silence. Another slow shake of the head.

“Jesus fucking… You have something to do or don’t you? Why the fuck are you waking me up?”

Prussia grumbled as she rolled onto her back once again, brows knitted together irately and eyes closed as she began to wake herself up, limb by limb. Under the sheets, she wiggled her toes and shifted her legs, feeling the static itch of soft cotton slide against her skin. Her skin felt strange, tighter than usual. She grimaced lightly, recalling the night before. She was probably covered in dried come. Russia could be a great many (sickeningly, sweet, tender, soft) things when it came to the sack, but an attentive lover, he was not. She didn’t know what on earth they saw in each other but Prussia was pretty sure there was an adage that went along the lines of, ‘Use it when it’s useful, discard it when—

Her eyes shot open.

Prussia?

No.

No, no, no.

East Germany.

East. Germany.

Prussia—

“Stupid fucking inside voice,” East Germany ground out, “I just corrected you.”

There was a soft touch on her face and she almost recoiled from it. Instead, she turned her head, eyes focusing on the person who, as it turned out to be, was a child. A boy. He was familiar and he wasn’t familiar, but he had a calm face that made her feel ashamed for some reason. She suddenly remembered her nakedness then, hesitating to draw the blankets further along her body, but the boy didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he didn’t even seem to notice.

You need to wake up.

“You can’t make me,” she bit out of habit, though her tone was distracted. He stood silent, waiting patiently with a mild expression on his face. She thought she heard him whisper in her ear, wake up, but he hadn’t moved so it was probably her imagination.

“If you’re standing over there,” she finally said, “Who’s touching me?”

The boy smiled.

Like a shot of lightning, she grabbed the wrist of the hand on her face, gripping it like a vice. It was small, the wrist of a child, and she scowled down at it but the owner of that hand seemed to be just outside of her peripheral vision. She followed the line of that tiny arm and… it led to the boy. She stared at him. Both his hands were clasped behind his back. She looked down at the hand in her grasp. It led to the boy, but when she looked at the boy, he was visually not connected to her even though she could feel his wrist in her hand.

East Germany was obviously still drunk.

She let go of him, suddenly feeling tired, “Why are you here?”

Joy unto this city bringing, peace shall be her first glad ringing.

She stared at him. He cocked his head slightly.

Joy unto this city bring—

“I heard you,” she interrupted, “That’s Schiller. Why are you quoting him?”

I was reminded of it.

“Oh? And what reminded you?”

The bell’s toll.

“The bell? What bell?”

Don’t you hear it?

“I don’t know what you’re—”

She heard the chime of the grandfather clock, just then, aware that she hadn’t been paying attention to her surroundings since she started this weird conversation with the boy. East Germany counted the chimes (chimes, not tolls, chimes): Six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Ten o’clock in the morning. She wondered if she had a meeting to attend; she felt like there was something very important that she had to do but it escaped her there and then.

And so upon us falls the witching hour.

Witching hour. Cute. “It’s ten in the morning.”

The boy cocked his head again.

It is midnight.

“Ha. No. I heard the clock last night. If it rang twelve times, it’s noon.”

The boy, mild expression on his face, pointed across the room to the window. The curtains were drawn back. Outside, it was almost completely black, only a faint outline of the new moon visible against the night. Stars dotted the skies partially, obscured by slithering clouds that curled with the wind. She blinked. Inside her room, it was almost fluorescent bright, as bright as it would be on a hot summer’s day with the sun high in the sky. She couldn’t understand. When she tried to think, her head was still a mess. Alcohol. Sex. Exhaustion. All of it blended to this nauseating sense of surrealism, or that could just be the alcohol talking.

It is midnight.

“Right. Of course. Is that significant?”

Joy unto this city bringing, he said with a private smile, like they were sharing a joke. She didn’t know what kind of joke they were sharing.

“I must be dreaming,” East Germany finally mumbled.

The boy squeezed her shoulder without touching her.

You need to wake up.

“Oh, I guess I am dreaming,” and she’d be lying if it didn’t feel like a relief.

Wake up.

“Come on—”

WAKE UP.

East Germany rubbed her eyes, the beginnings of a massive headache pulsing through her temples as a faint drum beat knocked dully in the back of her skull. Everything was a thick fog, over-bright and out of focus, and she couldn’t bring herself to sit up. She groaned, slowly rolling onto her side, pinching into the corners of her eyes in order to stave off the hurt that had begun to take a very real, very painful quality. All that vodka had been a terrible idea. She felt like throwing up. She buried her face in her pillow and groaned again.

 


 

Steady clack, clack, clacking of pickaxes against asphalt and cobblestone. Thick-soled boots beating against the street in a run. Tinny sound of wire modulating. Snap and click of rifles. Rickety gasp of unoiled wheelbarrows. Heavy thuds of shovel against dirt. East Germany looked on with a vague sense of distaste, arms crossed. She watched the soldiers along the line demarcating the border turn away East German civilians with a sneer on their face and a twitch in their trigger finger as workers unraveled barbed wire and fencing. This was most certainly not what she had expected of the previous night’s resolution but she hardly found herself surprised. This was one way to close the border, certainly. Horrified as she knew some of her people were, she felt a tingling in her chest which she knew meant something was mending. The economy, likely. It usually always was.

Once she had addressed the issue of cutting off the Western and Eastern occupation zones for good through an albeit suspect means, East Germany had to admit with a certain swell of pride that, at the very least, her people were industrious to the bitter last. They’d begun at midnight and worked diligently throughout the hours to rip up the roads and put up anti-tank barricades. She wondered how on earth they’d managed to move forward with this plan without her really feeling anything, and she felt a familiar pang of guilt and disgust well up at the recollection of way too much alcohol.

She was about to mull over the lack of Western presence across the border (surely her people, her government, couldn’t have been so very efficiently discreet – they were practically tearing up the streets with tanks and military by then) when she heard frantic footsteps running down the road. Skidding up against the short brick wall. Keeling over. Panting.

She stood her ground, refused to show anything beyond cool disdain on her face even as she felt her insides twist at the sight of that dishevelled head of bright blond hair and disbelieving baby blues. He’d gotten a haircut that he hadn’t grown into yet and all that running had tossed his usually neatly slicked back bangs out of place. He had both hands firmly planted on the wall that was still in the midst of having its bricks laid so that it only came up to his waist. He looked aghast, and then his eyes found hers. The workers hesitated with him there, nervously glancing at the armed soldiers who had already unholstered their guns. They paused, bewildered, as East and West began to speak to each other.

“I… I can’t believe it’s true.”

“Can I help you?”

“But I, I thought you said, Prussia, you’re building a wall—”

“East Germany,” she said sharply, eyes narrowing. “Lest you’ve forgotten.”

“I’m sorry,” apologies tumbled from his mouth as they never did before. “But you’re building a wall.”

“Yes, I am,” she snapped. “What’s your point?”

“I,” West Germany gripped the front of his shirt, “East, I feel like something’s tearing me apart. It hurts.”

She told herself to be firm. “Unfortunate.”

“How are you,” he was breathing hard, face red, was he having a seizure? “How do you not feel it?

“Numbed by betrayal, perhaps?” She was gratified to see him wince at her sarcasm.

“Since last night, I’ve been hurting since last night, it’s getting unbearable now. I don’t understand, isn’t, isn’t Berlin part of you? Isn’t—”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. You have your part, I have mine. Frankly, neither of us want anything to do with each other, so I don’t think closing my borders should matter to you.”

East Germany had calculated to do as much damage as possible with the cold edge to her voice, and to see the expressions on West Germany’s face go through the changes was immensely satisfying. She raised her eyebrows as he opened and closed his mouth to speak, unable to say whatever it was on his mind. She realised, for the first time, she honestly, truly didn’t care. East Germany turned around to leave.

“Please don’t do this,” he pleaded, “I’m sorry, please, I don’t want us to be apart.”

East Germany’s gaze was stony.

“Well, I do.”

He continued to plead even as she nodded to the workers to continue laying their bricks. True enough, West Germany backed off from the wall to stare after her as she disappeared into a sea of soldiers and police and tanks. As the jeeps rumbled from afar and the sound of voices rapidly growing in volume began to penetrate the air, she thought, Ah, there’s the crowd I was looking for.

The commotion came from the Brandenburg Gate. Of course, it did. The key border crossing point. She walked there, watched from a distance an entire line-up of fully armed East German infantrymen making a human chain to seal off movement. The West Germans on the other side were starting to swell – angrily, she noted – and she glimpsed West Germany at the heart of it all, arguing desperately with a non-responsive East German guard.

Briefly, she touched her chest. The tingling was no longer there, had not been there for quite some time now. It was strange, she thought, that she hadn’t felt a thing; not throughout the night, and nothing even now. She supposed Berlin wasn’t her heart. Königsberg and Friedrich must have both taken it for ransom. It made her smile a little, the first time that day.

The Politburo seemed grimmer than usual. She walked to Ulbricht, a frown on her face.

“I seem to recall you saying, ‘Nobody intends to build a wall’.”

“Circumstances change,” he said. “And it was about time, too.”

East Germany recalled her meeting about mass defections and brain drain and rebuilding the country. The depleting economy. The lack of skilled workers. The ache in her bones.

Joy unto this city bringing.

She nodded to Ulbricht. “It was about time.”