Title: Only Light and Momentary

Author: tatterdemalion

Characters/Pairings: The relationship between Canada and the Netherlands will take centre stage - however, other characters involved in their relations will also appear.

Rated: It varies. PG-13 for now.

Summary: A chronicle of Matthew's relationship with Lars, from 1611 to present day.


The first time Matthew Williams meets Lars Van Rijn, it is 1611. Back then, some of Alfred's lands inter and overlap with Matthew's - back then, they were barely and fuzzily distinctive from another, two small boys growing golden under Europe's reaching hands. The charming blonde European who swings Matthew in his arms when he visits, gives him gifts and in return kills his animals for their coats, settles in the East; the stiff, proper man with the large brows has joined him out in his "new found land"; and the darker skinned European who smells of sun and fruit prowls around Alfred's lands, down south where Matthew's snow does not go.

Matthew sees another European (he looks like one from the rainy island) in 1609. He keeps an eye on the foreigner as he lands on his soil, twice, encounters shallow water up north, and leaves.

His name is Henry Hudson, Matthew learns later - and in 1611 more ships arrive, bearing on them a man like Matthew.

He looks older than him - Matthew is in the gawky adolescent years, face still round and child-like, limbs long and soft like a colt's - the cuffs of the trousers which the Europeans gave him periodically needing to be hemmed. He compromises being forced to wear trousers by letting his hair hang, untrimmed, around his face, something that annoys the Englishman, Arthur, greatly. But his hair is blonde now, like gold, and he misses the days where his body was browner, his hair darker and sleek like a polished nut.

This man looks older, like a young man, though Matthew knows he is anything but - his hair is tied back like the charming European, Francis's, though it is pale blonde like spider silk. His eyes are dark grey, like the storms and winter skies that drive Matthew into tipis to hide from the noise.

He does not say anything to Matthew at first, but Matthew can tell, can just tell, that this man is the same as him - that, like Matthew, he does not stop breathing after many years of walking on the earth; that he is not hurt by weather or animals or hunger pains; that he too suffers for a people, a land that is himself and separate at the same time.

The man talks with the explorers for a while in a same thick, unfamiliar language. Matthew watches their ships from shore, sitting cross legged on a rock, dirtying the seat of his trousers with sludge from the sea - if Arthur finds out he will box Matthew on the ears.

The man catches his eye and makes his way over; he stops in front of Matthew, puts his hands on his hips and grins; bears his teeth in an expression that should frighten Matthew but doesn't.

"What's your name?" the man asks - his voice is almost melodic, a low hum that makes Matthew's ears colour in pleasure.

"Matthew." he answers, remembering the name the Europeans gave him - Arthur and Francis could never agree on anything but his name, and even then Francis pronounces it differently every time he is around Arthur until the Englishman grinds his teeth to the point of pain.

The man laughs. "Not that one." he chides, as if Matthew has made a faux pas. "That one can come and go with age. What do your people call you?"

And Matthew thinks - and he thinks that name can come and go too, like the people who flow in and out, but he will always be called one thing by his people.

"My name is Home." he proclaims, and the man gives him an incredulous stare. Then his whole face lights up, and he laughs, extending a hand to help Matthew to his feet.

"I guess we'll stick with Matthew for now." he concludes, then adds, "My people call me the Netherlands. My name is Lars."


Lars stays for a few years, the first time, as his people chart and map Matthew's land. Arthur on his rainy island across the water, has caught wind of this and sends a long, convoluted letter to Matthew that challenges his mediocre English, expounding the dangers of associating with the Dutch, but Matthew likes Lars. He particularly likes watching Lars's face, how he lights up and laughs, how he brightens when he converses with his men, tongue going a mile a minute, how his face darkens when he is presented with a tough situation, and how his expressions are so varied and clear. Matthew spends as much time as he can with Lars. The other nation is nice enough to let Matthew sit with him by the fire, converse with him, teach him basic Dutch words - in return, Matthew leads this intriguing European into heavily wooded areas, showing him the vegetation, mapping areas the Dutch explorers could easily get lost in.

One evening Matthew creeps into the Dutch camp, hearing the songs the Dutch men sing when they are drunk, boisterous and loud, gathered around the fading fire. When Matthew inquires after Lars, the men chuckle, point off to one of the tents.

Matthew draws the tent flap to the side, bows his head to the figure lying prone on the cot inside, as he was taught to do when addressing the other country.

"Nederlands." he murmurs respectfully, and Lars sits up in his cot unsteadily.

"Matthew." he replies in a low, hoarse voice. "You're just like a little rabbit, you know. You always come back to kindness."

Matthew pauses. "A-are you all right Nederlands?" he asks.

Lars smirks - Matthew can see it in the dim light of the tent.

"I'm leaving tomorrow." Lars announces, suddenly, and it is like someone has grabbed Matthew's heart and plunged it into cold water.

Matthew steps forward, but Lars raises a hand. "Wh-why?" the young nation asks, voice cracking.

"I'm fighting Spain." Lars tells him, and Matthew vaguely remembers talk of Spain, the sunny, dangerous country that prowls and takes and clashes with England. "Back home. My people need me. I thought if I took a break from the fighting and came here with my men that everything would all right. But I need to go back." the man's shoulders shake once, twice, and then Lars straightens them.

"Come here, schatje." Lars beckons with a careless flip of his hand and Matthew gladly crosses the tent floor, sinks onto the cot, flings gangly limbs around the other country. Lars nearly tips off balance - he has had too much to drink, and his body is flushed. Matthew presses his cheek against Lars's neck and feels the heat.

Lars's arm slides around his waist, draws him close. "I plan on winning." he says bitterly. He rocks Matthew as if soothing a child, and Matthew's eyes flutter closed. "And I'll come back for you. For this land."

To Matthew, it does not sound ominous - rather, friendly, and a promise he hopes the other will keep. If there is one thing Matthew is afraid of, it is being alone. Francis and Arthur have both passed through, leaving him with more people but feeling more lonely than ever now that he knows that there are others like him across the blue expanse some of his children call samqwan.

Lars squeezes him tighter, presses lips to his ear in what was a half-hearted attempt at a chaste kiss, and mumbles Dutch into his ear, an unfamiliar pitch and tone. Matthew vows to learn it the next time Lars comes to visit.

"Ik beloof." Lars murmurs, and Matthew curls up next to him and stays there, until the sun rises and Lars sails off across the samqwan that has already taken so many promises from Matthew.


Translations:

Schatje = Dutch for "baby"

Ik beloof = Dutch for "I promise"

General Notes: The title is part of a line from Brooke Fraser's "C.S. Lewis Song" : If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary, then of course I'll feel nude when to where I'm destined I'm compared.

"growing golden under Europe's reaching hands" - In my personal headcanon, I believe that Matthew and Alfred would of originally resembled their native people before colonization. Then they would have changed in appearance over the years to represent the "shift in power" happening in the New World towards the white Europeans.

Right, so, at this time....France had "New France", England had a bit of "Newfoundland" as well as a town called "Jameson", and Spain was popping up down near the Caribbean, South America, etc...

Henry Hudson, an Englishman, explored the Hudson River for the Dutch East India Company in 1609 (he was trying to find a passage to the Far East).

In 1611, more ships were sent to find a passage to China. Then, between 1611 and 1614, an area that is now in present day United States was explored, surveyed and charted by a man named Adriaen Block.

During this time the Eighty Years War was going on, which started off as a revolt against Philip II of Spain but eventually turned into a bit of a mess for the Netherlands. It's kind of implausible to have Lars in the Americas when there's a war going on in his country, but I'm taking a leap of faith here.

Samqwan is the Mi'kmaq word for "water".