Title: Only Light and Momentary
Characters/Pairings: The relationship between Canada and the Netherlands (OC) will take centre stage - however, other characters involved in their relations will also appear.
Rated: It varies. Probably PG-13 for this chapter.
Summary: A chronicle of Matthew's relationship with Lars, from 1611 to present day. In this chapter, modern day, the end of the chronicle, as well as a brief epilogue set in the near future. No historical context in this, either!
Matthew has decided, within twenty minutes of arriving, that he is never doing the "meet the family" charade again. Ever. What was the point?
"Oh Arthur, Francis, do you remember Lars? He beat up your troops once, tried to elbow his way into the New World?"
It would have helped, Matthew thinks sourly, if Belgium didn't have such a big mouth. If she hadn't chatted up Arthur during one world meeting, squealing about how his little once-colony was running such a "fine country", and how pleased she was that Matthew was dating her brother, and, "England? What's wrong, you've gone all red!", none of this would have happened.
Arthur wouldn't have confronted him in front of several startled nations demanding an explanation and responding to Matthew's bewilderment with a, "Well yes I had suspicions, but I never thought you'd actually be - " accompanied by some indignant spluttering. The news had moved quickly to Spain, to France, to Seychelles, to America, to even Australia, for God's sake, Matthew barely talked to his cousin because of time zones but suddenly everyone and their neighbor was phoning him up and he had felt at the time that an appeasement dinner was inevitable.
They meet at a nice restaurant in London. Matthew's entire family (well, not entire family, that'd take up at least three tables!) is shoved into one side of the booth, leaving Lars and Matthew on the other side to be examined. Arthur has a strained sort of smile on his face, more of a grimace, really, and he is leafing through the menu with the sort of intense concentration one has when they'd rather be elsewhere. Francis is staring at the two of them with a rather despairing look on his face, chin propped up on his hand with a hang-dog pout.
Even Alfred, who Matthew had expected not to care in the slightest who his baby brother was shacking up with, had arrived at the restaurant, shrugged off his jacket, took one look at Lars and exclaimed, "This guy? I remember him! Really, Mattie, this guy?"
Lars, for his part, has a look on his face like he has swallowed something unpleasant and it is attempting to crawl back up his throat. His knee is jammed up against Matthew's as if to convey his great dislike of the situation.
Matthew can sympathize.
The waiter arrives, and as Francis and Arthur start arguing over what to eat, Matthew takes the opportunity to lean over and murmur into Lars's ear, "What did I promise you if you came here with me, again?"
"That I could eat Stroopwafels off your various body parts." Lars replies, a reluctant grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Still worth it?" Matthew asks, as Alfred shoots them a suspicious look.
Lars chuckles. "Oh, yeah." he confirms. "The mental images are pretty much the only things getting me through this."
Matthew flushes red and is about to say something back when Alfred throws a menu at them.
"Your turn to order, Mattie!" he says loudly. Lars looks like he doesn't know whether to laugh at Alfred or smack him. Under the table, Matthew squeezes his knee reassuringly as he orders.
Once the waiter has left, Arthur fixes them with a stern, parental, "I'm going to kill both of you if you don't tell me what's going on" sort of look. Even Lars, who has never had the misfortune of being Arthur's colony, loses a bit of his bravado.
"So how long, exactly, has this been going on?" Arthur asks - when Matthew makes a move to answer, he adds, "I'd like it if Lars answered, thank you Matthew."
Uh-oh. Matthew knows how to deal with Arthur, and he knows the answer he should be giving is "any year after the Constitution" unless he wishes the island nation to become very, very angry in a very short amount of time.
Lars, however, didn't know this, and Matthew wouldn't put it past him to try and rile England up.
"Oh, I don't know," Lars says, glancing at Matthew. "It was sort of a gradual thing."
Thank God, Matthew thinks silently, but then Lars adds, "Francis, you remember that letter you sent me...?"
Francis's stare could kill kittens. Matthew sinks lower into his seat.
"You had better not be insinuating what I think you are insinuating." Francis says in a very low voice that is unlike him. Lars grins.
"And what exactly would I be insinuating?" he asks cheerfully. Alfred looks confused.
"What letter?" he asks Francis, but the Gallic nation has seized Arthur's arm and is shaking him.
"I told you we should have had "the talk" with him sooner!" he hisses. Arthur looks appalled.
"I think I chose a very good time to do so!" he maintains. Matthew waves his hands at them.
"No, no, we didn't...do anything then!" he exclaims frantically. "Papa, please be reasonable."
Francis crosses his arms over his chest, frowning. No dice.
"When'd you guys do it then?" Alfred asks curiously, leaning over the table. Matthew blushes and avoids answering by taking a drawn out sip from his water glass.
"1870." Lars tells him proudly, as if recounting an accomplishment. Matthew groans. Arthur looks furious. Alfred laughs.
"Were you a virgin that long, Mattie?" he asks, and both Arthur and Matthew splutter at the same time.
"Wait a minute!" the island nation shrieks. "What do you mean that long?"
"I, uh..." Alfred looks elsewhere. Arthur rolls his eyes heavenward.
"My God." he groans. "I'm a horrible parent."
"I know." Francis says cattily, and is kicked under the table by Matthew.
"No, no, Arthur," Matthew soothes, reaching across the table to pat his father figure/imperial influence awkwardly on the shoulder. "You didn't do anything wrong, eh? It's just, it felt right, at the time."
"At the time." Arthur repeats with a snarl. "At the time, you were only three years into your Constitution. You were a child."
"I was old enough to make my own decisions!" Matthew exclaims.
"You can't blame the boy for being star-struck in his early years." Francis says to Arthur, laying a hand on his forearm. "Anyone who takes advantage of a country when they are that young and influential should be the one receiving the blame."
Ouch. Lars's eyes narrow. "Your ways of subtlety are astounding, Francis, truly awe-inspiring." he drawls. "Your well-placed sense of irony, too."
"Please!" Matthew says over them. "I just want to have dinner with all of you without this turning into a big argument. For once. Okay? I love all of you and I'm staying with Lars regardless of what the three of you say, but I respect you enough to come here and let you know. So let's just..." he searches for a topic. "Talk about something else."
There is silence. Alfred starts, "My boss - "
"I've heard enough of that, thank you!" Arthur snaps and Alfred stops, startled. "That is not the issue I want to discuss now."
"This isn't an issue, Arthur." Matthew corrects sternly. "This is a discussion. A friendly discussion. It's 2009, you're not colonizing anything, so there's no need to hold onto your past animosity."
Francis mouths something at Lars that looks suspiciously like, "You still owe me furs." Matthew despairs. The waiter hovers as if he has missed something.
It is like watching a playground fight - as the food arrives, Lars, Francis, and Arthur exchange heated glares. Matthew sends a helpless glance Alfred's way. The expression on Alfred's face reminds Matthew that he is not the only one "in deep shit" - he imagines that once they leave the restaurant Alfred is going to get the third degree about why, exactly, the 19th century was "too late" for one to lose their virginity (Alfred can't help it, Matthew thinks, if Spain was particularly amorous that century...)
Matthew grasps desperately for a conversation that doesn't end in thinly veiled jabs at other people's expansion attempts - when Lars's food arrives, a brightly coloured chili dish, Matthew expresses interest in it, if only to break the silence. Lars tries to feed him some, holding up his fork with a teasing smile, but then Arthur "accidentally" upturns his water glass, effectively ending that strand of conversation. Matthew sends him a tired look from across the table.
Lars has mellowed over the years, but the younger nation can see the glint of irritation growing in his lover's eyes. This worries him and he sets a calming hand on Lars's knee. The Dutch nation covers it with his own.
Arthur finally stands up halfway through and announces he is going to the washroom. Lars looks a bit better until Matthew says he needs to go, too.
Arthur has not, he discovers, gone to the washroom - instead, he has gone out the back door, fumbling around in his jacket pocket. Matthew, slipping out behind him, spots a crumpled pack of cigarettes in the island nation's hand.
"I thought you quit?" Matthew asks gently - Arthur still jumps, guilt on his face, stuffing the pack into his pocket. One cigarette dangles, unlit, from his lips.
Arthur snorts. "Once in a while, if I get too stressed, I feel it's fine to indulge." he replies, fingers slipping over his lighter. He lights the cigarette and takes a deep inhale, blowing smoke out the corner of his mouth. Matthew watches him, leaning up against the side of the restaurant.
"Is the dinner really that horrible, that you have to sneak out the back in order to have a smoke?" Matthew asks, no accusation in his tone. Arthur's eyebrows furrow in embarrassment and he looks off to the side.
"W-well," he grumbles. "I admit it's not the most comfortable dinner I've ever had..."
Matthew sighs; Arthur bristles. "Look," the island nation continues, "It's not the situation...I mean, he isn't the type I would have thought you'd go for.." Arthur pauses, choosing his words. "And I'm not exactly sure I like your choice, but I suppose I'll have to get used to it. You know I'm not really partial to change, Matthew."
"I know." Matthew smiles. "Thank you for trying."
Arthur turns red, and he drops his barely started cigarette to the ground, scuffing it out.
"I would hope," he says gruffly. "That I raised you well enough so you can see what, exactly, you're getting yourself into." he shakes his head, waves his hand above him as if clearing the smoke away.
"You did raise me well," Matthew agrees. "Better than I could ever hope for."
Arthur now resembles one of Antonio's tomatoes; he runs an awkward hand through his hair.
"Well, of course I can't be held responsible for any...adolescent lapses of judgement," he harrumphs. "But rest assured if he ever does anything to upset you, I will personally take responsibility for his immediate castration."
No one has ever offered to remove someone's dangly bits for Matthew. He feels touched, in an odd, "my family is messed up" sort of way.
"Thank you, Arthur." he says. "I mean it, I really appreciate you coming tonight..."
Arthur is waving away his words like he did with the smoke. "Don't think anything of it," he dismisses. "I only want to see my boys happy."
It is Matthew's turn to flush.
When they return to the table, Lars and Francis have ordered drinks, which is not a good sign, and look ready to down them, which is an even worse sign. Alfred looks simultaneously eager for the contest to begin and embarrassed to be seen with the two of them.
When Matthew slides into the booth he hisses at Lars, "What are you doing?!"
"Relax, konijn," Lars answers him with a very tight smile. "It's just a little friendly competition."
"Friendly comp - we're in public." Arthur jabs Francis with his elbow as he talks.
Francis swats him off irritably. "It is not the most sophisticated of competitions..." he admits grudgingly.
"I suggested mud wrestling." Alfred chimes in.
"You would." Matthew mutters under his breath, then asks Francis, "Look, what do I have to do to convince you that I've made the right choice for myself?"
"It is not you that has to convince us, cher." Francis assures. Lars bristles; Matthew grabs his shoulder before the Dutch nation says anything nasty.
"But you're sort of insulting my judgement too, eh?" Matthew adds quietly. "I like to think I choose my friends wisely."
Alfred mutters something that sounds like, "Cuba" and Matthew turns on him with an affronted look.
"Alfred, Cuba's gotten better recently! Just because you and he have a bit of bad history..."
"He harbored missiles for Russia!" Alfred exclaims.
"Are you going to hold that above him forever??" Matthew demands. The three others at the table turn their heads back and forth between the brothers like a fucked up game of ping pong. "You tried to invade me in 1812, you think I still hold that against you?"
Alfred splutters. "That is not the same thing and you know it, Mattie!"
"Why not?" Matthew demands. "We're old, we've all had things happen to us that were less than fair, and at times we've participated in things that were less than fair, too! G-God, I couldn't even look Kiku in the eyes for ages after the war! We have all the time in the world to let go of our grudges but we insist on holding onto them anyways. I'm sick of it!"
It is only when the silence stretches uncomfortably across the table does Matthew realize his voice has gotten progressively louder. All four of his companions are staring.
Matthew stands. "Excuse me." he mumbles, and leaves the table.
Lars watches Matthew worriedly, ready to stand to pursue him, but Arthur reaches out to stop him.
"Wait," he says hesitantly. "Let's...I think we should have a talk."
Reluctantly, Lars settles back in his seat and examines the three men across from him.
"All right, listen." he says. "I know you don't like me. Frankly, my feelings towards you are lukewarm at best. But I really want to try and make this work, for Matt if nothing else." he turns to look at Arthur. "Sorry about that whole Orange thing. To be fair, it's not like I really invaded you, with pillaging and raping and stuff. And it was still legitimate."
"Barely." Arthur mutters, but his face is softer than his words, which gives Lars hope.
Lars turns to Francis, who looks unimpressed. "As for you..." he trails off, thinking. "I'm not actually sorry for anything I did to you. But I think we're pretty much even now."
"Even - ?" Francis scoffs, before he is elbowed once again.
"And I helped you smuggle tea." Lars reminds Alfred, who flushes.
"T-that was a long time ago!" the blonde laughs, avoiding Arthur's eyes.
"And yeah, I'll admit it, I did some shitty things in the past," Lars admits, leaning his elbows on the table. "It's not like I'm hiding that fact. I know you don't trust me and that's fine - but Matthew does, and that's all I care about. So I want to offer you a truce. I want to be as civil as I can, for Matthew, if nothing else."
Alfred is the first to speak up. "I'll do it, for Mattie." he says. Beside him, Arthur nods. Francis tucks his hair behind his ear and sighs.
"Oui, you make a good point." he admits. "I suppose, bien sûr, if Mathieu is happy that is all I can ask for."
They shake hands - a gentleman's agreement.
"Don't think I won't be keeping an eye on you." Francis adds afterwards.
"Noted." Lars replies cooly.
There are a few seconds of silence before Arthur rolls his eyes and points in the direction Matthew went.
"Well don't just sit there." he says primly. "Go get him, for Christ's sake! Dessert's about to arrive."
Lars has never been so eager to follow Arthur Kirkland's orders.
Matthew is in the men's washroom, doing what Lars calls his "Level Two Passive Aggressive Rant" - i.e., he is running the water in the sink with no consideration of whether other people would like to wash their hands or not, glowering at his reflection in the mirror and muttering things under his breath in French, none of which sound very nice.
Lars leans against one of the stalls and their eyes lock in the mirror. Matthew's jaw tightens and he looks away, turning off the sink in the process.
"Matthew, I'm sorry." Lars says, coming up behind him - Matthew lets the Dutch nation wrap arms around him. "I know you really wanted this dinner to go over well, and I kind of fucked it up by being petty. All of us did."
Matthew exhales, and shakes his head. "No, it's okay." he assures. "Really. I guess - I guess I was just embarrassed because I had met your siblings and nothing like this happened. And I just get angry because - " here Matthew pauses, bites his lip. Lars rests his chin on the younger's shoulder, silently urging him to continue. " - because usually they never care about anything I do, and it sucks that they chose this moment to act like they have a say in my l-life."
Lars spins him around and kisses him soundly on the cheek, ignoring Matthew's strangled yelp.
"My poor konijn." he murmurs. Matthew lets out a frustrated, teary laugh and tries to slip from his arms. Lars holds fast.
"It's not important," the northern nation insists, pushing at him, face bright red. "I know it's stupid to think that, and I'm being silly and Lars get off, stop kissing me - !"
"I think you don't see how much they love you." Lars tells him, arms around his wriggling lover. "They want what's best for you, and if that means harassing your suitor than that's what they'll do."
Matthew looks everywhere but at Lars. "...You're hardly my suitor anymore." he mumbles. Lars grins.
"But I feel bad that they're acting like this!" Matthew adds after a few seconds. "I mean, your siblings - "
"Are you kidding? I was mortified when Lux got drunk." Lars admits. "I thought you'd never want to see my family again."
"But that was funny!" Matthew protests, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"And I think it's funny that England is getting all up in arms about us dating and how you could do better when in reality he would never approve of any nation because he knows none of them could ever be good enough to date you."
Matthew pauses. "He said that?" he asks hesitantly. Lars smiles and kisses his forehead.
"It's obvious," he replies kindly. "It's a pity you can't see it."
Matthew laughs, softer now, and nuzzles his shoulder with tenderness.
"What would I do without you, Lars?" he asks. Lars shakes his head, smoothing back the wispy curl of Matthew's hair.
"A lot more, I think." he sighs. At Matthew's quizzical glance, he shakes his head, finally releasing the younger nation. "Never mind. I just think that Arthur and I finally agree on something. No one could ever be good enough for you, Matt. Not even me."
"Sh-shut up!" Matthew shoves Lars's shoulder, blushing. "That's not true, you moron. I'm lucky to have you, if anything!" he turns back to the mirror, running a hand through his hair, fixing his collar absently. His reflection smiles at Lars, violet eyes bright, and it makes Lars's heart swell with happiness.
"I love you." Lars says, and Matthew looks over his shoulder at him.
"I know." he teases, adding, "I love you, too."
The dinner ends much better than it starts, when the two of them return to the table - Matthew seems delighted at the truce that has settled over his four guests, and that seems enough to keep the peace.
Lars waits by the car while Matthew says goodbye to his family. He kisses Francis's cheek, hugs his brother, and looks surprised to receive an embrace from Arthur.
"Thanks for coming," he tells them sincerely. "I really appreciate it."
"Don't thank us!" Alfred crows, clapping his brother on the back. "You know we have to approve all your boyfriends, right?"
"No you don't!" Matthew exclaims, horrified. Francis chuckles and runs a hand through his former charge's hair.
"Mathieu, you be careful," he advises. "If you ever need to call, my phone is always on."
"Th-thanks, Papa." Matthew smiles, and Francis coos at the title as he tries to fix his hair.
Arthur clears his throat and pats Matthew's shoulder. "We shouldn't keep you," he says. "Good luck, Matthew. Sorry for any trouble we caused."
"No trouble at all." Matthew assures. "You are my family, after all."
After a few more goodbyes, they separate. Matthew approaches Lars with a tired look on his face.
"I feel drained every time I get together with them," he admits as they embrace. "But it's a good sort of drained. They're all so...energetic, I guess is the word."
"That is one word you could use." Lars mutters. Matthew muffles his snort into Lars's lapel.
They take the car back to their hotel - Matthew keeps a hand entwined with Lars, letting go only when the Dutch man absolutely needs it in order to drive. Lars collapses on the couch when they arrive, watching Matthew put the chain on the door. When the northern nation turns, Lars pats the couch.
"Sit down for a minute, Matthew." he urges and, rolling his eyes fondly, the blonde obeys, lying down on the couch with his head in Lars's lap.
Lars runs his fingers through Matthew's hair a couple of times, following the natural waves of his hair. Matthew gives a little sigh and his eyelashes flutter sleepily.
"S'nice." he yawns, reaching up to stroke Lars's face. Lars looks down at him with a smile.
"Getting sleepy, lieverd?" he asks. Matthew grins tiredly, and nods.
"Hmm." he agrees. "I'm really tired...sorry, I should probably..."
Lars laughs and kisses his brow. "Don't worry, we can do something tomorrow." he assures. "Come on, just stay awake for a couple more minutes and we'll get you to bed."
Matthew is a bundle of tired limbs and relaxed muscles, and he flops down on the bed with a dreamy smile on his face, laughing at Lars as the Dutch man attempts to remove his shoes.
"Just leave 'em, I don't care." Matthew says, twisting his body to nuzzle into a pillow. Lars unbuttons his slacks and tugs them down.
"I care." he argues, and slips an arm under Matthew, pulling him up. "All right, konijn, arms up..." he pulls Matthew's shirt over his head, and pauses to look over Matthew's sleepy form with something akin to adoration.
"All right, now you can sleep." he tells him, smiling when Matthew grabs at his sleeve.
"You should sleep too." he suggests. "So we - " he interrupts himself with a yawn. " - so we have lots of time to see London."
Lars thinks that he wouldn't mind doing anything as long as Matthew is there, but he nods anyways and curls up next to the boy, shucking down to his boxers and sweeping a hand across his forehead.
"Under the covers, Matthew." he orders, and Matthew obeys, wriggling under them, pressing close to Lars when he joins him.
"Night." Matthew mumbles into his shoulder. Lars nuzzles his hair.
"Night, Mattie. I love you, sleep well."
On July 1st, 2011, Matthew is woken up by someone pressing kisses to his throat. Groggily, he flings an arm out for his glasses but that someone catches his wrist and pulls it back.
"Hey, it's okay, just lie back and relax," Lars whispers, before returning to his neck. Matthew squirms under the touch. He remembers, now, that Lars arrived last night from the airport so they could celebrate Matthew's birthday. They had stayed up late into the night talking, and Lars had brought some alcohol with him to celebrate. Matthew supposed since it was his birthday the next day, he was allowed to celebrate.
"Lars..." he protests, but shuts up when Lars trails fingers up the leg of his boxers.
"Happy Birthday." Lars murmurs. "I hope you like my present."
Then he hands him his glasses and Matthew slips them on.
His entire room is covered with tulips - red and yellow and orange and it is so bizarre that Matthew starts laughing. Lars is straddling him, and he is grinning too.
"I first laid eyes on you in 1611." he tells him. "That was four hundred years ago and I've never regretted meeting you for a second. Through everything, Matthew - the wars, and the distance and the years, I feel so lucky to have you. Happy Birthday, konijn. "
Matthew has the sudden urge to tear up - he settles instead for wiping at his nose with the back of his hand and laughing. "Did you seriously go out and buy four hundred tulips, wait until I got drunk enough to pass out, and then put them all in my room?"
Lars laughs in return, though he looks a little less sure of himself. "Yeah," he admits. "...If it's too much, you know, I could get them out of here. I mean, I know we don't have a formal union, not political or anything but I really wanted to - "
Matthew surges upwards so Lars is sitting in his lap, and cuts the Dutch nation off with a kiss. It is slow and sweet and Lars inhales with delight, wrapping his arms around Matthew's neck, leaning in so Matthew is forced to lie down again. Matthew boldly probes with his tongue, coaxing Lars to respond, which he does gladly.
"Thank you." Matthew breathes when they part, resting his forehead against Lars's, their noses touching. "This is the best birthday present anyone's ever gotten me."
Lars flushes with pleasure and leans over his lover, hands on either side of his shoulders, looking into violet eyes that are irrevocably his, and this thought brings a rush of warmth through his body.
"Four hundred years," he sighs, "Here's to another four hundred, konijn."
The way Matthew pulls him down for another kiss tells Lars that he agrees.
"For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we had better breathe it.
And I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me" - C.S. Lewis Song, by Brooke Fraser
Lieverd - Dutch petname
"I couldn't even look Kiku in the eyes for ages after the war" - The treatment of Japanese Canadians, especially in the pre-war/war era is not one of Canada's greatest moments...
"Sorry about that whole Orange thing...And it was still legitimate" - William of Orange (a house of nobility in the Netherlands) led a "revolution" in 1688, kicked James II off the throne of England, and ascended. He was married to Mary, James's daughter, and was actually in the line of succession to the English throne, though not as high up on the "line" as Mary. However, he still had some legitimate claim to the throne, which made some people at the time happy and others less so. I would imagine Arthur being a stickler for the rule of succession and therefore being a little bit grumpy that William took over, especially as easily as he did. Especially since that meant Lars had a bit of gloating time.
"And I helped you smuggle tea" - When Britain was taxing its colonies, the Americans found it was way cheaper to purchase smuggled Dutch tea (because the Dutch didn't charge export fees) than pay the crazy amount of taxes the Brits wanted. After awhile Britain was like, "All right, so we'll cut down on the taxes, just please stop buying Dutch tea", and it turned out it actually became a little cheaper to buy British tea. But the Americans were all like, "Well, now we just don't like you so we are going to CONTINUE to smuggle in Dutch tea. So there." And then Britain was a pissed off for a bit.
Author's Note: It's done. That's amazing, I never would have thought that I could finish this. This story challenged me a lot but in the end I'm glad I saw it through. Thank you so much to everyone who read this story and especially those who reviewed it. Your comments helped a lot at times when I just wanted to give up and go sleep or something. Thanks again (maybe this means that I'll update On the Bound more frequently) (...that is a lie)