If you haven’t read our series of Putin Fan Fiction yet, I recommend doing so, and then this will make (slightly) more sense. Just explain to your family that they’ll have to postpone celebrating Christmas for another five or six hours, because you’re reading fan fiction about Vladimir Putin.
It’s the night before Christmas, and you are alone in your apartment, drinking wine out of a gingerbread house that you’ve fashioned into a very leaky wine glass.
You hang a final ornament on your Christmas tree, nibble off a piece of wine-soaked gingerbread, and step back to admire your handiwork. You just bought the tree this morning from a stall down the street, but after dragging it for two blocks and up a flight of stairs, it was looking a little shabby. You addressed this problem by wrapping it in tinsel until it began to resemble a giant silver cone. (Which is to say, it looks amazing!)
Next it was time to tackle the ornaments. This was a little trickier, because you don’t actually have any Christmas ornaments. When you moved to Russia six months ago, you had to choose between bringing your Christmas ornaments and bringing your Fourth of July Decorations, and most days you don’t have any regrets. But you needed something to hang on your Christmas tree, so you went through your apartment and grabbed anything that could be hung from a hook—a half-empty tissue box, a piece of toast, other hooks, etc.
You’ve just finished mounting an index card with the word “star” written on it at the top of the tree when you’re startled by a knock at the door. It’s probably just your downstairs neighbor, coming by to complain again about the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album that you’ve been playing on a loop since 7am. Just in case, you turn down the volume before going to answer the door.
You swing the door open and feel your heart freeze in your chest. It’s Vladimir Putin.
He looks just as compact, bald, and handsome as you remember him, bundled up in a fur hat and long black scarf. In spite of the below-freezing temperatures, his black overcoat is unbuttoned, revealing his naked, muscled chest underneath. His eyes meet yours, and his gaze is so piercing that find yourself unable to look away. It’s a moment before you notice that he’s carrying a large cardboard box.
“Hi,” you gasp, finally finding your voice.
“Hello,” he says softly, an unfathomable sadness in his eyes. “May I come in?”
You know that you should tell him no. It will be easier for both of you if you just say “no” right now. But instead you nod and step aside, holding the door open for him.
He enters the room slowly, looking around as if he’s searching for something. His eyes lock on your Christmas tree, and suddenly he’s suppressing a smile.
“Is there a tree underneath all of that tinsel?” he teases gently.
“I’m not a huge fan of trees,” you admit.
“Hey, is that my sock?” he asks suddenly, stepping over to examine one of the ornaments.
“No,” you say. It is his sock, but you really like that sock and want to keep it.
“What’s in the box?” you ask, deftly changing the subject.
Putin looks down at the box he’s holding as if he’d forgotten about it, then sets it down on your coffee table. “These are just a few things that you left at my place,” he says, sounding somber again. “I thought you might be missing them.”
You walk over and peer inside. Ooh, it’s your toothbrush! You were wondering where that went.
“I’m sorry I didn’t bring it by sooner,” he adds. “I’ve been out of town.”
“I know,” you say before you can stop yourself. “I mean, I saw it in the news.”
“Right. Of course.” There’s a long pause. “So…what are you up to right now?” he finally asks. “I was about to go get a cup of hot drinking broth. Perhaps you’d like to join me?”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” you say.
“Why not?” he demands. “Hot drinking broth is delicious.”
“You know that’s not the reason,” you say, staring at the floor.
“This whole thing is so stupid. I don’t even remember why we broke up!”
“Seriously?” Your head snaps up, your face flushing with anger. “I broke up with you because you hacked the U.S. election!”
“Oh…right. I do remember that now.”
“I think you should go,” you say, storming over to the front door to let him out.
“I just don’t see what the big deal is,” he says, reluctantly trailing behind you. “If you love America so much, then why are you living in Russia?”
“Just because you love something doesn’t mean you need to be around it all the time,” you say. “That’s why I sent my cat to boarding school.”
“Honestly, if I had known how much tampering with the U.S. election would hurt you, I wouldn’t have done it. Or…well, I still might have done it, but I would have done a better job of concealing it from you.”
“Good to know,” you mutter, leaning back against the open door.
“Why didn’t you come to the company Christmas party?” he demands, taking a step toward you. Now his face is only inches from yours. “We held a vote there, and 98% of Kremlin employees thought that you and I should get back together!”
“So? You probably tampered with that election, too.”
“Of course I did!” he sputters. “Look, if you break up with me every time I do something reprehensible, then I don’t see how this is going to work.”
You just cross your arms stubbornly and glare at him.
“OK,” he sighs after a moment, his shoulders sinking in resignation. “I give up. I guess…I guess I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
“Wait, what?” you ask. “Tomorrow is Christmas.”
“How many times do I have to tell you this? In Russia we celebrate Christmas on January 7.”
“OK, but tomorrow is also Sunday.”
“The office is open on Sundays! I keep telling you that, too.”
“Fine,” you groan.
“Fine!” he snaps, and then he stalks out of your apartment.
You slam the door behind him, and it feels good. It feels good to be angry at him. You stomp back into the living room and grab a tissue from the tissue box that’s hanging from your Christmas tree. Then you turn up the music and wipe the angry tears from your eyes.
The next day at work, you do everything you can to avoid running into Vladimir Putin.
First of all, you stay as far from the mailroom as possible, in case Putin comes there looking for you. It’s a shame, because you spent the whole last week decorating it for Christmas. Specifically, cutting everyone’s mail into paper snowflakes and hanging them from the ceiling. And now you don’t even get to enjoy it. Your first Kremlin Christmas, ruined. Sometimes you wonder why you even took a job at the Kremlin.
Instead you pass the day pushing your mail cart around the building, delivering whatever mail you can scrounge up that hasn’t been turned into a snowflake. When it’s time for lunch, you avoid the cafeteria and instead go out to eat at a cafe a few blocks away. Since it’s Christmas, you treat yourself to something called a “cake basket,” which turns out to be exactly what it sounds like.
After lunch, you resume wandering the building. By now you’ve run out of letters to deliver, which means you can ride inside the empty mail cart and pretend that it’s a boat. Eventually it’s almost time to clock out, and all that’s left to do is drop off the mail cart back in the mailroom, and then you’ll have avoided Vladimir Putin for the entire day. You board the elevator and press the button for the basement.
You’ve only made it one floor when the elevator dings open, and there he is—Vladimir Putin. For some reason he’s dressed up today, wearing a suit jacket and necktie. (Still no shirt.) He gives you only the briefest glance before stepping into the elevator and positioning himself as far away from you as possible.
The elevator doors close, and his distinctive scent swirls around the enclosed space, making you dizzy. Your heart is pounding wildly, and wonder if he can hear it. You feel this urge to say something to him—something to break the ice. You really want to know why he’s wearing (part of) a suit today.
You are just getting up the courage to say something when there is a loud, mechanical screech and the elevator lurches to a stop. You lose your balance and topple forward, but before you hit the ground, you feel Putin’s arm wrap around your waist. You don’t know how he made it across the elevator so fast—he must have the reflexes of, I don’t know, something with really fast reflexes. Maybe a cat?
“Are you OK?” he asks, his face only an inch away from yours.
“Yes, I think so,” you say shakily. “Just startled.” Your heart is still pounding furiously, and you suspect it has nothing to do with the elevator.
Putin lets go of you and starts pounding the buttons on the control panel, but nothing happens. Then he tries to pry the door apart with his heavily muscled fingers, but it won’t budge.
“I’m afraid we might be stuck here for a while,” he says, turning to you.
You’re still feeling a little unsteady, so you sit down in the middle of the elevator floor, stretching your legs out in front of you. Putin sits down beside you. You are both silent for a moment.
“Well, this is ironic,” he says finally.
“Actually, the definition of ‘ironic’ is—” you begin, but he interrupts you with a loud groan. (Which is good, because you don’t really know the definition of ironic. You just like telling people that they’re using it wrong.)
“Actually,” he says, “I’ve been looking for you all day. You weren’t in the mailroom.”
“I just don’t see the point in arguing anymore,” you say quietly. “We’re never going to agree about whether or not it was OK for you to meddle in my country’s election.”
“I wasn’t coming to start a fight!” he protests. “I just wanted to give you something.” He reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a small, flat box.
“Vladimir…” you say. “Whatever it is, just take it back. I don’t want it.”
“Too bad,” he smiles. “I bought it for you before we broke up. I don’t like having it around, and I can’t give it to anyone else. You’ll see why.”
Reluctantly you open the box. Inside is a delicate, gold charm bracelet. You lift it out of the box, and feel a smile creep across your face.
“A hockey stick?” you ask, examining one of the charms.
“Yes,” he grins proudly. “It is to commemorate the time you visited my vacation home and got to watch me play hockey extremely well.”
“And…is this a helicopter?” you ask, holding up a tiny helicopter charm
“That’s for the time you were kidnapped by my helicopter pilot. Remember that?”
“Yes,” you say. Your face feels hot. “What’s this one?” You pick up the last charm and examine it. It’s a tiny replica of Putin’s head.
“This is beautiful,” you say breathlessly. “Thank you.” You put it in your pocket, because you don’t want to look at it anymore. It’s making your heart hurt.
“Oh, hey. Look at that,” Putin says, pointing at the elevator’s ceiling.
You look up and see a sprig of mistletoe directly above you, dangling from a red ribbon. You turn back to Putin, and he is slowly leaning in toward you.
But something about this doesn’t seem right. You spring to your feet.
“Why is there mistletoe hanging in the elevator?” you demand.
“I don’t know,” he groans, reluctantly getting up. “It must be part of the Christmas decorations.”
“But…there aren’t any other Christmas decorations in the rest of the building! That’s kind of strange, don’t you think?”
“I guess so,” he mutters, pressing one of the elevator buttons. The elevator whirs to life, moving about half a floor before stopping. The doors open with an obedient “ding.”
“Wait,” you say slowly. “You staged this whole thing. Didn’t you?”
Putin already has one foot out of the elevator, but he turns back to face you, leaning against the door to keep it from closing. Before have a chance to react, he grabs your arm and pulls you up against his chest.
“I am going to win you back eventually,” he says in an throaty whisper. “So prepare yourself for that.”
He lets go of your arm, turns on his heel and walks away. The elevator doors close and you are left alone, wondering how exactly you are supposed to prepare yourself. Should you buy walkie talkies? Because you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy walkie talkies.
It’s dark when you get back to your apartment. (It’s actually been dark since like 2 o’clock. Russia!) You turn on all the lights and switch on the TV, to make it feel a little less lonely. Then go into the kitchen to make yourself dinner.
You were going to cook yourself a special Christmas meal of toast cut into the shape of a Christmas tree, but you feel so tired and numb that and all you want to do is crawl into bed. You are just pouring yourself a bowl of cereal when you hear his voice.
“Hello,” Vladimir Putin says.
You drop the box, spilling cereal everywhere, and dash into the living room.
It was just the TV. Of course, you should have known that—Putin is on TV all the time. That’s probably why he was wearing a suit and tie earlier today.
You scoop up the remote and and feel for the power button with your finger. You can’t bear to look at his face right now.
“Wait!” Putin says from the television. “Don’t turn off the TV! In case, you know, any of you viewers out there are about to turn off the TV. I promise I’ll be brief. Also we keep track of who turns off the TV when I’m speaking. Just so you know.”
You hesitate for a moment, and then lower your arm.
“I’ve called this press conference today,” he continues, “because I owe someone an apology. Someone named the United States of America.”
Wait, what? What is going on? You feel dizzy all of a sudden, and you drop onto the couch.
“I meddled in America’s recent election,” Putin continues. “I thought that if I installed an easily manipulated and mentally unstable narcissist as their president, then maybe our two nations could finally be friends. And then we could do what good friends do, which is weaken NATO and allow Russia to subjugate Eastern Europe. But I see now that it was wrong for me to interfere with American democracy. Even if it is not a system that I believe in, I had no business meddling with it. Also, very candidly, I am starting to have second thoughts about putting an impetuous and thin-skinned man in control of a massive nuclear arsenal aimed at my country.
“I know that because of America’s bizarre election laws, there is no way to right the wrong I have done. But still, I hope that the people of America will accept this cookie cake that I baked myself.”
Putin reaches behind the dais and pulls out a cookie cake that has “Sorry!” written messily on it in blue icing.
“I’m also sorry that there probably won’t be enough to go around, because Americans are so fat,” he chuckles. “Anyway, that concludes my press conference. Are there any questions?”
The crowd of reporters in front of him starts shouting wildly, waving their microphones in front of him.
“Ha ha,” he laughs. “Just kidding! I do not answer questions.” Then he walks off the stage.
You sit there, staring dumbly at the TV. You feel a swelling in your heart. You have to see him. Also, you wonder if any of that cookie cake is left.
You have no idea how you are going to find him, of course, but you grab your coat and race out the door. Then, like an amazing Christmas miracle, you run right into Vladimir Putin (because he had been standing there with his ear to your door).
“Oof,” he says, catching you. “Even if you’re still mad at me, there’s no need to resort to physical violence!”
“I heard your speech,” you say, looking up at him.
“I’m glad. But there’s something I need to tell you,” he pauses. “I didn’t decide to apologize to America just to get you back.”
“And I didn’t come back just because you apologized to America,” you say (which is a lie).
“Hey,” he smiles. “Look up.”
You glance up to see a bunch of mistletoe hanging from your doorframe.
“Ugh. You know, I was going to kiss you anyway. Why do you always have to be so tricky? Is mistletoe even a thing in Russia?”
Putin tightens his grip around your waist, leans in, and kisses you. This has been your best Christmas ever! (Except for that year you met Santa at the mall.)