TO A STEADFAST HEART

Disclaimer: APH belongs to Himaruya, and the countries factually belong to themselves. Or their bosses and the people that live there, rather.

Summary: A collection of one hundred SuFin oneshots, showing the many sides of Sweden and Finland's relationship. In war, in peace, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse.

A/n: This used to be a 100 Sentences thing, which I got from a friend who is doing Ladonia/Kugelmugel drabbles for the 100 prompts (for those of you who can speak Italian, I strongly recommend her work: Love Art by Lady H.K). I owe three very special people fics, and most of you a finale to the first part of Last Chance. These will arrive eventually, I've just had some very unhappy months, lately, and my writing has suffered for the hard times. Forgive me for that.

Also, the title is part of a line from Sleeping Beauty: But a hundred years to a steadfast heart are but a day.

1. Introduction

Sometimes, Sverige doesn't understand why they take him along with them. He's shared between longboats like some sort of baggage no one wants. If they would just leave him be, let him run wild and free like Norway can, then he would not feel so useless, like such a burden.

So he kicks the ground, dark and damp from the chill of early spring, and half-listens to stilted transactions and haggling over furs and spices in a language he doesn't understand. These people they trade with and occasionally plunder aren't his own, they belong to someone else, although he knows not who this 'someone else' is. He knows Norway, he knows Denmark, and he knows England… He's seen Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well, and he doesn't like them. But the one these people belong to… He's a mystery.

In the end, bored like only a young boy can be, Sverige wanders off. He knows that, on the cusp of puberty as he is, he should pay attention and learn trade and the skills he will need to refine it, but… he can't bring himself to be bothered, not today. Not when he is restless with sea travel and youth. So he takes to the woods, wandering among the tall, pale trees and humming along to the birdsong.

It is then that he sees the shadow flitting ahead.

He stops, he watches, alert, a hand on the hilt of his sword. His eyes, blue as the sea, are narrowed, gazing around. For a long, still moment there is nothing but the twittering of birds and the immobility of the forest itself, the silent thunder of growing trees. Slowly, warily, he takes his hand from his weapon, but his guard is not let down. There could be anything in these woods. Näcken and Huldra prowl the forests, waiting to snare the unwary traveller with music and beauty – although Sverige doesn't think much of the huldra. She doesn't seem very tempting at all.

It is only when he turns to leave, for one can never be too careful, that he notices the spear point in his face. He freezes, and looks beyond the sharp, pointed metal.

His breath is taken, his heart flutters, and he wonders whether this is a näcken come to whisk him away. He doesn't think he would mind very much, as he loses himself in eyes the colour of heather. He's never seen anything so beautiful before.

And, with a thrill along his spine, he also understands that this boy is like him. Deeper than human, built of culture, language and people. He cannot move, cannot speak, all he can do is remember to breathe, helpless as his heart is stolen.

The boy shouts something, demanding, angry, but Sverige doesn't understand. He begins to raise a hand, and the spear is pointed at his throat by pale, sweet fingers. He stills, swallows and slowly lifts his hand to point at himself.

"Sverige," he mutters. The boy glares, eyes narrowed in suspicion, until he nods.

"Suomi," he says, indicating himself. They gaze upon each other, Sverige enraptured and Suomi wary, like an animal easily startled, ready to bolt at the slightest movement. The air is still, the forest still quietly alive around them, but everything seems brighter, clearer, as a ray of sun through a storm cloud.

There is a call of his name, Sverige turns, and by the time he turns back Suomi, beautiful, cryptic Suomi, is gone, fleeting like frost in spring.

Sverige watches where he has gone, deep into the shadows of the woods, heart pounding, filled with a longing he cannot yet begin to understand. With a strange certainty born from something only the gods can fathom, he knows he will see that pretty will-o-the-wisp again.