Disclaimer: I cannot own a country, therefor it only stands to reason that I own nothing here. Bless.

It might be worth mentioning that Norway's new sweater was quite comfortable, but, really, that wasn't the first thing on his mind.

Not even close.

Rather, as it was, he had a natural panorama to appreciate. Quite a spectacular one, at that: a quaint—though the largest in the fifteen islands and nearby mainland—port-town known as Heimaey, where, in and around the harbour, cooled lava met the sea and connected waves to a volcanic cone still puffing a thin, thin plume of steam. Beneath a late-night sun, various shapes and outlines could be seen reaching, or clawing or emerging, up from the hardened earth stuff. And--what captured Norway's attention the most—there stood what looked to be trophic lava gardens which, if anything, had to have attracted at least one kind of the hidden people.

Norway was guessing trolls.

Though somewhat recent—and still warm, if dug into—lava field produced such a very captivating sight, it really wasn't the reason he was there. As it were, it laid more in the craggy cliffs jutting up all around (even if they were rendered less conspicuous by his own towering rockfaces at home).

And, sitting upon one of the impressive-but-not-awesome cliffs, not too far away from town, he waited. Not in silence, for there were many peeps. And, too, he heard footsteps half-muffled by the little-bird sounds.

In a moment he looked up, and he saw Iceland, dusted with white and black down, his domesticated puffin on his shoulder. Iceland sat down.

"It's going well enough," Iceland started simply. He too was gazing at the lava-scape. "Though there could be more."

"Maybe it is too warm," Norway suggested, in a tone that suggested he was resigned, and accepting, of the changing temperatures.

Such a thing was bound to affect Iceland in an entirely different way. Though he had a cold, warmer weather would not help. Maybe even have the opposite effect and make him sicker, changing fish patterns, changing entire paradigms of his ecosystem.

But it wasn't falling fish stocks that worried him the most, not really (though it had become a point of contention between him and Norway). No, because the eels were moving south. And the because they did, the puffin population had scattered, and so many had seemingly abandoned their ancestral breeding ground this year, having not returned to build a nest.

"Maybe they had to move south," Iceland said, nodding, more to himself than Norway as he considered this. "Like last year, like next year."


"Yes?" He was still a bit caught up in his pondering.

Here, looking a bit amused-but-serious, Norway looked from the scene across the harbour to the country sitting next to him. His gaze was met, then. "If it comes to it, the sisters can return the chill."

The smaller nation paused for a moment, attempting that kind of smile that shows gratitude. At least it was genuine. "Thank you, Norge."

"It is simple," he said, and then they lapsed into a peep-punctured lull.

And, just like that, for a moment everything seemed like it was going to work out. Ignoring the fact that the three sisters of time hadn't been seen for a few years, the inexorable climate changes, the guttering of his eon-old traditions. Iceland still was concerned, to be sure, but the way it was said made all the difference.

It had come from Norway. Probably that was all that mattered, the unique phlegmatic and disconnected quality of the other.

Of course it would be all right. The figures from the stories of their fathers had this one—a modern problem—covered for them.

And so it was only to be expected when Iceland, after hesitating for a thrice, leaned up against the other's shoulder. He could relax, naturally. He gathered his puffin from his shoulder and then closed his eyes. His puffin made a small cooing sound as it settled in the crook of his arm.

Then they sat like that for a while.

The peeps of the surround pufflings continued, as they stumbled to find their ability of flight.

Eventually Iceland coughed. He tried to cover his mouth, but more or less he ended up coughing into Norway's arm. Not that the other really minded, though he did turn his body a bit. Without a word—or a hint of annoyance—he picked a piece of down from his shoulder.

"Must have a bit of the stuff in my lungs," the smaller nation explained quietly. He almost looked to the side. For effect, he brought a hand up to his chest and touched it with his fingertips.

Norway just shrugged. "Like a featherball? Anyway, you probably should have put on an extra coat. Or sweater." And here he looked at his own new sweater, blue and hand-knit. Though he had more than a few dozen at home, he never would turn down a sweater the other made for him. Besides, there was something special about Icelandic wool.

"I'm good, really." And, to prove it, Iceland tried to look utterly convincing (which he didn't, though he did look cute). A stray feather floated by, so he brushed it out of the air.

"Maybe," Norway said. Maybe it was a concession. He wasn't sure. Nor was he completely sure why Iceland was more worried about the state of his puffins than his own state, though he figured it was perhaps something like how he himself worried about his folklore. That is, though he had known Iceland for so many years now, he really didn't have any idea what to think. It probably had to do with his own thoughts and concerns.

Simply put, he wished something of Iceland, but he wasn't sure what.

And before he could say anything else—before he could realise that Iceland had gotten up—there was a tug on his back. He turned around and stood up next to Iceland, and watched as a covey of pufflings stumbled towards them.

Already the sun had begun to sink on the horizon, so this was naturally the next part; the town was beginning to become illuminated by the hundreds of electrical lights. The resulting effulgence acted like a kind of unwholesome beacon, and drew the pufflings towards it.

Though most of them would be safe, once they got to town. And released, to be sure.

Standing near Iceland, Norway remained quiet, simply observing. He plucked another piece of down from the other, released it to the wind, and then tilted his head. With a nod from the other, he bent over and began collecting the tiny birds who really didn't try all that hard to get away from him. A particularly daring puffin tried to get a hold of his hat, but he was quick to manoeuvre the bird out of the way, pushing it down from his shoulder and into his arms.

Once their arms were full, they set off towards the the town. It wasn't a long walk, but by the time they were there the first stars had begun flashing in the sky. They stopped a few metres away—by a good chunk of lava rock—and allowed the pufflings to waddle the rest of the way to the nearest residence There, undoubtedly, children would gather the birds and hold overnight them, release them in the morning.

He felt like their job was done, then, so Norway leaned against a good-sized rock and began to brush himself clean of the tiny feathers. Especially stubborn were the clusters around on the backsides of his arms, and it took him a few moments to feel that he had done a satisfactory job in removing them. He missed most of the feathers.

Not that he really cared, anyway.

Instead he found himself impelled by a kind of old urge, and wanted to pick some more feathers off of Iceland. Help him. In this small way. Or something like that.

But, as he turned, he found his thoughts quickly taken elsewhere. There really wasn't a good, compelling reason why. He was just taken by this sight: Iceland holding a puffling up, letting it test the air as it sat beneath a pink-blue dome of waning lights and twinkling stars. Without a word he stepped close, closer, to the other and reached up, twining their hands and arms together. Nothing moved for a time.

Then, together, they pushed up, and the puffin took off, flapping newly and awkwardly into the gloaming.

Left behind, the two of them watched it as it disappeared. For some reason, neither one was really worried about potential nocturnal threats. So it went unspoken that a friend of Norway's would watch over the fledging.

Iceland turned to Norway, and Norway turned to Iceland. They regarded each other.

"Thank you," the smaller nation said. It didn't need much more explanation than that.

"Welcome. Not a big deal, really."

"Still, coming all the way out here..."

"You asked," Norway said simply, "so I am here."

And then they feel silent again; Norway because he felt that there was nothing more to say, Iceland because he wasn't sure how he felt about what he wanted to say. Or, at least he knew how he felt and what he wanted to say. The two just weren't working together. So he said nothing.

He acted, instead.

So Norway found Iceland holding him, and he did his best to accommodate him. It was a good chance to keep Iceland warm, too, so he was sure to hold him extra well.

"You need to take better care..." Norway said softly as he pulled Iceland just a bit closer. He leaned back against the rock, too, and perhaps the dividing line between gratitude and sensuality wavered for just an instant.

And Iceland didn't answer, because he had no words. He knew that he had to take care of himself—he heard it all of the time from the other. But that simply wouldn't do. There were other things that he needed to take care of.

He would never admit that his passions—out of order priorities—were in the least bit destructive.

Maybe that was why he kissed Norway, then. It's hard to say, really, since Norway did kiss him back, lightly.

And because it didn't last long, the intervening silence didn't either. Norway was looking down at Iceland, really looking, but there didn't seem to be any kind of judgment, or feelings, beyond his strange mix of care and oneiric confusion.

Then he took another bit of down from Iceland's hair and let it go, to be captured by the wind. Only Iceland could have appreciated the delicacy with which this was done, and so he buried his head once more.

"Thank you," he breathed.

"If you mean that, get better."

His answer was silence.