Silver Birch

"Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose wanders at will." Alfred paused at the shore of the river, his hand resting on a young birch for balance, listening for the whisper of song carried on the crash of the rapids. It was a beautiful voice, and Alfred half expected to see a mermaid just like in the fairy tales Arthur always told him.

He saw nothing but a lone canoe, emerging from the rapids to glide over the water with belying ease. The one paddling with sure strong strokes was fair haired, the rising sun creating a gold outline for the profile of a fine featured face. 'What a pretty girl.' He thought, mouth slightly open. She seemed to look at him, eyes glittering a beautiful violet-blue before she looked away, singing louder.

"Follow the Wild goose flight, dip, dip and swing."

As silently as possible, Alfred followed, leaping over rocks, never taking his eyes off the girl, her whispered voice proud. His hair and clothes were dampened with mud and the puddles he splashed in, hair tangling in twigs that caught on his hair. Arthur would have a fit when he got home, but he didn't care. He wasn't to have even come this far, when he told Arthur he was going hiking. But he was glad he did. Glad to see a girl so obviously beautiful.

"Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more." The river was carrying her faster than he could follow, her voice was already faint, the water covering the sounds up. He wanted to know who she was, where she was going. With a powerful stroke, she turned a bend in a creek, following a different path. He was tempted to call to her, reach out and touch her.

He waded into the water up to his waist, unable to go any farther or he'd be swept away. The last lines traveled on the breeze, passed on by the trees to his ears as she disappeared into the undergrowth.

"Dip, dip and swing."

Alfred woke slowly to the smell of bacon and pancakes. 'A dream....' He looked around, not too surprised when he saw Matthew was not curled up beside him, cuddling Kumajirou to his chest. He wandered out of the room, combing his fingers through his hair in an attempt to tame it.

"My paddle's keen and bright, flashing with silver. Follow the wild goose flight, dip, dip and swing." Matthew deftly flipped the pancakes, a plate of greasy bacon already cooling on the counter near the stove. Alfred froze at the door as he watched him, fingers gripping the door frame. That song.

"Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more." Matthew added the pancake to the slowly growing pile, busying himself with pouring more into the pan. "My heart grows sick for thee, here in the lowlands. I will return to thee, hills of the north."
That song. A memory, or a dream, flitted through his mind. The constant crash of water, the muck from the river all over his body as he tramped back home, humming a song. A girl's pale face stained gold etched into his memory.

"Oh, you're awake. Breakfast is ready." Matthew grinned and greeted him with a kiss, his cheeks already dusted with a slight blush. For a moment, Alfred just stared at him, the shine of his hair, the outline of his fine featured face. For a moment, he thought he saw her, that girl in her canoe.

He shook his head and grinned right back, bending slightly to kiss Matthew's forehead. "Sure. Thanks."

Matthew nodded, frowning slightly as he wondered what was wrong with Alfred. He sung the song quietly to himself, his movements matching the beat of the song as he had been trained to do during many long hours in a canoe. "Dip, dip and swing."

"That song." Alfred said, taking a moment to swallow the bacon in his mouth. "I like it."

Matthew blinked, but Alfred wasn't looking at him anymore, just smiling gently as though going over a fond thought.

"It's a good song."

Somewhere in the back of a memory, a boy in a canoe sees another on the shore, watching him in awe. He sings quietly, fascinated as the boy runs to follow him, until he turns down a different creek, leaving the boy standing in the river behind him.

Matthew smiled, kissing Alfred once more on the cheek before sitting down to his own breakfast. "Yea, it's a good song."

Owari