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[fic] Rags to Dance in

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For the nordic5_xmas exchange.
Title: Rags To Dance In
Author: stalkerbunny
Recipient: tinediserp
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Language, sex, references to colonialism and its consequences, descriptions of serious illness and other morbid stuff. Oh, and it's 9381 words.
Summary: In which blood is thicker than water, but even that might not be enough, and Netherlands is a (mostly) neutral spectator helping bros with trouble with other bros.

Notes: Prompt asked for Netherlands, Denmark, and something involving Sinterklaas and/or Sinterklaasfeest. It...sort of has all of those things. Except I decided to set most of it on 1790s, when that traditions was in a very early stage, and then the muses ran even further with the whole scenario...so, the story still sort of references the christmas traditions of different countries, but in a pretty veiled way. Besides that, certain unnamed character you'll probably recognize much sooner than his actual name is given kinda stole the limelight. I hope it's at all enjoyable to read despite all that.
Lastly, thanks to kainoliero for invaluable beta work, saving the story from nigh tables and other such hilarious typos. ♥ All remaining mistakes are my own.



In this room, time seemed to stand still. The decor would have been quite fashionable some hundred years back, but now the gilt on the lion heads decorating the chairs and the once luxurious fabrics had grown worn and frayed. The large printed map on the wall was badly yellowed, and uneven from water damage. And of course, the picture of the Dutch dominions it painted was a lot more widespread than their current sorry state.

Still, Netherlands didn't mind all that much. He was rather fond of the austere look created by the straight lines of the wooden furniture against the white walls. It was peaceful, and reminded him of better times.

He took a puff of his clay pipe, and blew out the smoke slowly, watching how it blended with the dust motes dancing in the cool winter sunlight streaming in from the leaded windows. Netherlands was leaning lazily onto the arm of the sofa, piled high with pillows to soften its hard wooden hand rest.

He closed his eyes, listening idly to the distant sounds from the street. These might have been bad times, economically, but it was still a beautiful winter day, the sky powder blue above the snowy streets. On the canal, there would be people skating, he could just hear the delighted cries of the younger ones...

Netherlands was pulled out of his daydream by movement from the other end of the sofa. He opened his eyes to see that his younger companion was dangling a bit of sausage tied to a string over the edge of the sofa, trying to attract the attention of a striped cat that was eyeing the movement in predatory fashion.

"Fishing, are you?" Netherlands asked, and a face covered by a black mask turned his way. It might have been eerie if he wasn't already so used to it. Somehow he got the feeling the expression behind the mask was just as blank. "Or catting in this case, I suppose." he added, jokingly.

The boy snorted softly and turned his attention back to the feline, dangling the string until the cat finally rushed it, and then pulling the piece of sausage up suddenly. As the cat batted at air, Netherland frowned slightly, suddenly recalling something.

"Oh, the cook complained... said some of her smoked sausage had disappeared. Know anything about that, Duveltje?"

The boy turned towards him again, absently lowering the string enough that the cat managed to get hold of it and promptly proceeded to execute the piece of sausage.

"Dunno." the boy mumbled, in his soft, roughened voice, "Trolls?"

"But of course. Always the trolls," Netherlands agreed magnanimously.

"Well, there're lots," the boy replied, before he was hit by a coughing fit, hand clutching at the front of his shirt as if to keep his small frame together.

Netherlands listened, noting the way the coughs seemed to tear out deep from that narrow chest, leaving the boy shaking even after they finally subsided.

"Sounds better than before," he remarked idly into the silence. "Any blood?"

The boy didn't answer, his attention suddenly caught by the noise of someone at the door, and the muted sounds of his servant conversing with whoever it was. Netherland's companion tilted his head as if puzzling out something, before suddenly going rigid and unfolding himself from the couch.

He swayed, having to lay one hand on the armrest for balance. Such a pale thing, that hand, with spidery thin fingers, with all the veins blue under skin that seemed nearly translucent.

"You know, if you were hungry, all you had to do was ask nicely," Netherlands said, only to get another expressionless look from the black mask. The boy shook his head and then lowered it, the colour of his hair a sharp contrast against black velvet.

"Always. But 't won't stay down 'nyhow," he mumbled.

The following silence was broken by the sound of approaching footsteps. Boot heels clacking on the tiles at a fast, heavy pace, and then the door at the far end of the room was unceremoniously flung open with such force it slammed against the wall and caused a nearby Vermeer to clatter dangerously and settle back crooked on its nail.

"God dag, my friend!" the new arrival called out, everything about him boisterous from the scarlet jacket to the dramatic upsweep of his white cravat and collar, which the man's hair seemed to be emulating. It rather looked like he'd attempted to curl it, as was the current fashion, but had merely succeeded in creating wild spiky forms.

Netherlands grinned and stood up, gesturing towards the door and the painting hanging unevenly.

"Denmark, you bastard, watch out lest you break the whole house down," he said, not entirely unfondly.

Denmark laughed, loud and brash as always.

"Yes, I know, I'd have to pay for it, and probably twice the price it was worth, you old fox," he said, eyes glinting, before they caught something behind Netherlands and he paled suddenly as if he'd seen a ghost.

Turning, Netherlands saw Denmark was staring at the boy, whose presence he himself had almost forgotten. He was somehow easy to forget, as barely there as he was. The boy seemed to be equally frozen to place. Netherlands couldn't have said what feeling it was that kept the boy there, hands clenched into fists at his sides, whether it was fear or anger or something else entirely.

He blinked, wondering if he should say something, before turning back to Denmark.

To his surprise, the Dane tore his eyes away from the boy, and offered Netherlands a wide, glaringly fake grin. Netherlands blinked again. This close he could see the unhealthy pallor on the other man's face, and the deep shadows under his eyes, as if he hadn't slept well in a while. The bruises and the recently broken nose he had noticed the moment he stepped in, but such injuries were hardly unusual for their kind. And Netherlands had heard Denmark had recently had some scuffle with... who was it again? Probably Sweden, if no one else. Weren't those two always fighting over something?

"Say..." Denmark's voice came out hoarse, and he coughed, before continuing again. "Talking about breaking the house down, it's been far too long since we last tried that, huh?"

This time, his grin had a maniacal edge to it, made almost macabre by the broken blood vessels in his left eye. Oddly he now seemed to be intent on ignoring the boy, who Netherlands knew was still standing next to the sofa. Well, whatever, he didn't make a habit of meddling into business that wasn't his. Not unless it was likely to be profitable.

Netherlands shrugged.

"Fine. But lets start at someone else's place, why don't we."

And with that he gently but firmly steered Denmark out of his home and towards the nearest tavern. Not that he was exactly resisting, rather the opposite.

*

Later that night they were stumbling along one of the streets after visiting a number of increasingly seedy taverns. The cobbles under their feet were treacherously slippery under a light coating of wet snow, but this didn't seem to hamper Denmark much, drunk as he was. In fact, he was getting ahead of Netherlands, who was more concerned with falling and cracking his head open... it was going to hurt badly enough in the morning as it was.

Denmark was singing rather loudly and not entirely melodiously some drawn out song with staggeringly tragic lyrics, as far as Netherlands could follow the Danish. Netherlands could only hope he wasn't going to get all maudlin on him...or, he thought with sudden clarity, that might actually be better than the sharp, desperate cheer the Dane had been projecting all evening.

Maybe it was just as well that he was some steps ahead, Netherland decided as a particularly loud note scattered his line of thought. With all the noise he was making it was only a matter of time before someone threw the contents of a chamber pot at his head. That, or he would... right.

Denmark had predictably slipped and fallen flat on his back and was now lying in the middle of the dirty snow like a landed starfish. Before Netherlands had time to get to him, though, a thin shadow flitted out of a narrow side street.

"Oy, you ok, mister?" the girl asked, kneeling down to poke at Denmark's prone form, which groaned pathetically.

"'m 'live..." he mumbled, as she started trying to help him up, mostly ineffectively, only barely managing to prop him into sitting up. When Netherlands finally reached them his appearance caused the girl to look a bit panicked, even if she didn't quite let go of Denmark, who would have most likely just fallen right back at that point if she had.

The girl's face was a pale, smudged oval in the flickering light of the nearest streetlamp surrounded by brown curls, her teeth nearly as black as the gaps between them as she smiled nervously.

"Just helping your friend, Sir," the girl simpered, her rag bound feet shifting in the snow.

Netherlands just grinned at her.

"Sure lassie...but I'd bet the old oaf is a bit heavy for you, so why don't you let me take over?"

With that he unceremoniously hauled Denmark to his feet and pulled one of his arms over his shoulder to make sure he stayed that way.

"Now run along home, if you have one," he advised the girl.

"Thank 'u, 'ngel." Denmark mumbled into Netherland's shoulder, and the girl let out a peal of laughter, the smile suddenly transforming her young-old face into that of the child she should have been.

"I'm just but a poor seller of matchsticks," she declared, smiling innocently, then pulled out a bunch of boxes tied together with string with a more mercantile gleam in her eyes. "Would Sirs like to buy some? They're good matches, never let you down."

Denmark looked up, his eyes bright from drink, peering at the girl drunkenly, his flippant sympathy clearly woken by the girl's words.

"I'll take all ya got!" he declared, "Now where's m'..." he started rummaging ineffectively for his wallet, while the girl suddenly got an apprehensive look on her face and Netherlands rolled his eyes.

"Oh for... I'll pay. How much for a pack?"

The girl made a moue of consideration, tapping her finger against her lower lip.

"And don't try anything, I might be drunk but I still know the going rate of a box of matches," Netherlands warned her.

The girl nodded with feigned seriousness and named a price that was twice over the reasonable. Netherlands snorted, but paid it anyway, just for the smile on her face. Sometimes, one just had to encourage the mercantile efforts of one's own people.

"And now little, er, 'angel', go fly back to where you came from," he said once the transaction was done.

"Yes yes... don't let your friend fall into the canal, Sir, it's frozen!" the girl called out cheekily over her shoulder as she disappeared into the night, her form melting quickly with the shadows, as if she'd never been there.

Netherlands shook his head, setting onwards with Denmark half draped over his shoulder.

"Someone made a profit tonight... I wouldn't bother looking for my wallet if I was you, it's in better hands now," he told the barely conscious man, who muttered something indistinct in answer, his alcohol-laced breath tickling at Netherlands' neck. Then he started singing again, thankfully under his breath this time, in blurry gusts of verse.

"Stop distracting me," Netherlands groused at him, suspecting Denmark was now clinging to him more as an excuse to be close that to stay upright. The hand wandering over his body and sneaking inside his coat rather confirmed that suspicion.

"This is a public street you know," Netherlands told him, not quite able to keep the amusement out of his voice.

Denmark just let out a dismissive huff, and an obnoxiously slurred: "Thatda problem? Never was before..." he added in a softer tone, leer reminding Netherlands of past excursions to convenient side streets.

"In winter, yes. And your hands are cold," Netherlands snapped, earning a soft laughter from Denmark, smothered into his neck. Netherlands just patted his back companiably. "Patience."

So they travelled the rest of the way to his house in this manner. When Netherlands closed the door behind them, Denmark promptly took the opportunity to catch his face between two cold hands, and lean in for a kiss, his lips chapped enough from the cold to be almost scratchy, for the short moment Netherlands paid attention to such things. In comparison, the inside of his mouth felt infinitely soft and wet, opening welcomingly.

There was something in that, how uncommonly pliant he was being, that struck a match of desire in Netherlands, a tingling spark that prompted him to push Denmark against the nearest wall and then to utilize that advantage.

It was only after Denmark gave out a rather loud moan, that Netherlands recalled he wasn't in the habit of scandalizing his own servants...not while living in this house, anyway, and that the bed would, in any case, be far more comfortable for this.

He drew back and for a moment Denmark just blinked at him, looking absolutely wrecked, his face flushed, lips wet and dark from kissing.

Netherlands smirked at him.

"Bedroom," he said, and set off towards it, trusting Denmark to follow. Which, judging by the sound of uneven steps a moment after, he did.

When he reached his bedroom, Netherlands started to undress in his usual pace, opening each button and tie efficiently but without any particular hurry. Denmark, on the other hand, after half-heartedly ridding himself of his overcoat and shoes, just fell down on the bed, throwing his arms back like an overgrown child. Netherlands shook his head at him, before advancing himself, already down to his shirt and trousers.

He kneeled on the edge of the bed, leaning down over Denmark, who was giving him a ridiculously trusting look, oddly innocent. The soft glow from the lamp on the nightstand softened the bruises on his cheekbone and under his eyes, catching more on the white of his shirt and cravat, slightly loosened during their earlier revelry, but still wrapped around his neck and the starched collar.

Netherlands wormed his fingertips into the complicated knot of the cravat, knowing just how to pull it apart. There was a certain pleasure in this as well, in undressing an unresisting lover, like one might open a beautifully wrapped present. And Denmark seemed set on just letting him do as he please, his eyes half-lidded and following Netherlands' movements lazily, only moving to help when it was absolutely necessary.

When he'd finally uncovered his upper half, Netherlands surveyed the revealed skin neutrally, noting the marks scattered over it. Nothing looked particularly serious...if anything, his face seemed to have met the worst of it. Interesting, that.

Instead of pondering about that further, he leaned down and bit down gently on the place where Denmark's neck met his shoulder, where he knew the collar would chafe against it. He grinned, thinking about that as Denmark arched under him, letting out a soft whimper. Netherlands laved his tongue over the spot to tease him further and then continued downwards, rediscovering spots he'd already exploited in the past, spots that allowed him to play Denmark like a well tuned instrument... if he so wished, and if the Dane allowed him.

That night, it seemed he would allow anything. Netherlands reached his hips, tracking the sharp line of muscle leading downwards with his mouth. He leaned back on his haunches to watch Denmark, boneless with arousal and legs spread most generously. Netherland drew a hand down his chest and stomach, just gliding over the muscles there, and the Dane shivered, his breaths already fast and short.

"You're very lazy tonight, huh?" Netherlands said, his voice coming out as a low, soft rumble, and the other man closed his eyes, lashes fluttering over them.

Then his eyes opened, just a little, and he smiled, a slow grin with just a bit of the usual mischief in it.

"Like ya don't like 't," Denmark mumbled, his grin fading into a secretive, almost rueful expression.

Netherlands gave him a narrow-eyed look. It wasn't untrue, and yet...

"Dunno. If it'll be worth my while, that is..."

Denmark's expression grew serious and he reached up a hand to grab his wrist, as if he was afraid Netherlands would leave him.

"Look, just...I'm just so..." his voice faded suddenly, and he glanced aside, clearly discomfited. Perhaps he had been unfair, Netherlands thought. After all, there was voluntary vulnerability, and there was pressing on that advantage too far. Right now he had a feeling Denmark was on the brink of either calling the whole thing off, or actually begging, and Netherlands wasn't sure which would be more grating.

"Never mind," he decided, pressing one hand on Denmark's chest, hard enough to be comforting. His muscles were tense under Netherlands' hand, all the work he'd been doing undone, and Netherlands wondered what on earth had prompted him to speak at all...except for the fact that Denmark was acting very oddly, but their kind were seldom graced with a peaceful existence. So why not take and give pleasure when one could?

Despite the interruption, they soon found the thread again. Denmark was more awake now, eyes bright and greedy. He even half sat up to push first his own and then Netherlands' trousers out of the way, snapping at him to get on with it when he took too long for Denmark's liking.

In general he now seemed to dislike the earlier slow pace, hissing for more and faster as Netherlands prepared him, until he actually stopped, raising an eyebrow at the Dane.

"Do you want it to hurt, idiot?" he asked, exasperated.

The other man just stared back at him, his mouth set at an almost rebellious angle...hell, it was almost a pout. His eyes were dark, and unreadable in the low light.

"Dun' care," Denmark mumbled glumly, and Netherlands shook his head.

"Too bad," Netherlands told him, and then made sure to take his time, until Denmark's complaints melted into wordless whimpers, his head thrown back and mouth open and wet. Until he was hard enough to be dripping and without even the coordination needed to do anything about it.

And then Netherlands took him, hard and fast, not caring at all anymore whether he was scandalizing the maids or the damn neighbours for that matter. Not that he was ever loud, but Denmark more than made up for that, Netherlands thought with an almost vicious grin.

Denmark came first too, with just a few strokes of his too long neglected erection, and then lay under Netherlands, dark eyed, shivering, come stained and far too pretty... and that was the last conscious thought Netherlands had before his own orgasm swept through him.

Next thing he was aware of his surroundings again he was lying heavily on top of Denmark, who pushed him on his side and promptly curled around him, never mind how sticky they both were. That'd be unpleasant in the morning, Netherlands thought, but he couldn't really be bothered to do more than pull some covers over them.

As he reached out to turn off the lamp, however, his gaze fell on the door of the room, slightly open. Strange, he was sure he'd closed it, Netherlands thought even as his fingers continued in their planned motion to kill the flame. He only had a fleeting image of a figure in the deeper dark of the hallway, a faint sense of movement in that shadowed gap. What he was sure was not imagined, was the soft creek of the door closing. Nevertheless, he lay back in bed, unwilling to leave it's warmth to investigate, so he just let himself drift to sleep.

Later something roused him, a gust of cold, stale air, but almost as quickly there was a brush of fingers on his face and a sweet, soothing voice, telling him to sleep, sleep, and he fell back into dreaming as heavily as a stone thrown into deep, black waters.

*

He was walking through a plain, the distant white-hot disk of the sun beating down on his head while the colours of the bushes and flowers growing on the sandy terrain burned his eyes. Bright, deep green and acid yellow...and the cool blue mountains, seemingly close but unreachable.

Somewhere behind him he could hear the distant hum of the sea, the waves striking onto rocky shore. He looked behind but could only see the ground drop away some way back, sharply enough it hid the sea from view. So he walked but the mountains came no closer, nor did the sea grow any more distant. In the dream he didn't wonder about this, it was simply as it was. At some point the sun sank behind the mountains, quickly and suddenly like a dropped coin, and for a moment it was dark until the moon rose, painting the landscape in shades of silver and deep black shadow, outlining each bush and plant.

And it was then he saw a figure standing in front of him, walking towards him at a slower pace than he travelled. A man, Netherlands saw as he drew close enough, shorter than he was, but lean and wiry like steel rope, leading a thin cow with perfectly curving horns.

As they met the man said nothing, merely smiled at Netherlands, and his eyes reflected the moonlight, bright on his dark face. He held out a golden chalice, richly decorated with diamonds and filled to the brim with deep red wine, almost black in the moonlight.

He realized suddenly how thirsty he was, his mouth dry as a desert, and reached eagerly for the proffered goblet. It was heavy, and he had to hold it with both hands as he tipped it up to drink. The taste... it was bittersweet, with the salty metallic tang of the sea, and he couldn't get enough of it, gulping down more.

"Drink, drink it down to the bottom," the other man told him, and he tried, but it the chalice was deep, seemingly as unending as the sea, until he was drowning, yet he still wasn't ready to stop drinking. And still, he could hear the sea at his back, pounding...

*

Netherlands woke up to a pounding headache, and a disgusting taste in his mouth, like something had died and rotted there. As the strange, unsettling dream slowly bled away from his memory, he threw a hand over his eyes to hide them from the morning sun, but his elbow knocked into something that groaned pitifully and then turned away, stealing the covers as he did so. Netherlands tried to tug them back, but as it proved ineffective he cursed and sat up, looking blearily around him, and then wincing again at the ache in his head.

The room was freezing cold without the covers, the fire in the grate having long burned down, and Netherlands was soon forced to find his clothes and pull them on, having difficulty with the ties and buttons, as his hands were shaking from the cold and his sight blurry.

Breakfast. That might improve the way he felt, and it could hardly get much worse, he thought as he strode towards the dining room.

Indeed, the servants had set it out at the table. They knew his habits well enough to do so... and right, this was the reason he tried to keep them here. The cook made a damn good roast. Not quite as good as the one made by the cook Duveltje had scared away, but almost.

And speaking of the devil, there he was, curled up in one of the chairs and nibbling on a date. Netherlands nodded at him absently and set out to gathering his own plate, and pouring mulled wine from a jug, still steaming warm. Then he stopped suddenly, staring at the red liquid. Usually he preferred red wine, but somehow, that morning the sight turned his stomach.

"Oy, someone get me some white wine!" Netherlands called out, and waited impatiently while a bemused looking servant came in with a new jug.

"Something wrong with it, sir?" he asked, but Netherlands waived the question away.

"Nothing, just felt like having white today..." he mumbled.

After eating and drinking some of the wine Netherlands found he did indeed feel marginally better, even if there was still a slight headache remaining. He leaned back in his chair, taking out his pipe and lighting it with unhurried motions.

The boy had finished what little he'd eaten, and was leaning on the table, his head pillowed on one bony hand, as he drew invisible pictures into the tabletop.

"It's not very nice to spy on people," he remarked vaguely, waving away a bit of smoke.

The boy didn't exactly jump but his masked face rose a bit, attentively.

"You were being noisy, I woke up," he countered, almost as offhandedly, and with just a hint of defensiveness to it. Netherlands smirked lazily, not even looking at him.

"Curious, were you? Not that I'd blame you, living all by yourself--"

"It's not like I've never seen...that stuff." the boy interrupted him, sounding rather irked, and below that, tired. "I've probably been around longer than you. I just..." he shrugged sulkily, thin arms wrapping around his chest. "... don't get it," he finished in a small voice, sounding like he wasn't quite sure that had been what he'd wanted to say.

"Well, you're...not grown. So it's no wonder." Netherlands said, for once not trying to tease him, his voice almost kind.

"Hmph." the boy replied, thoughtfully. "I wonder if I ever will...grow up I mean," he said quietly.

"Maybe, if you can stay alive... or, you know what I mean. Keep existing," Netherlands replied neutrally.

When he'd found the kid... in Algeria, wasn't it? Far away from home, in any case, and the boy even further from his, he'd already been half dead. And he had died since, more than once. Of fever and starvation and of painful, relentless spasms, sides of his mouth discoloured an eerie bright yellow.

"I almost thought you were done for that one time, you were gone for so long...and in summer too. Really, you owe me for stowing you so long... that and not being a bit more subtle about returning. They probably still tell stories about the man with the living corpse in his cold cellar around those parts."

"It's not like anyone believes them," the boy noted, and Netherlands gave him a half hearted glare.

"Right, like none of those people in the crowd we had to run from did? I think I saw pitchforks in there."

"People forget fast."

"Not fast enough. I liked that house."

The boy just hummed in answer, his head on his hands once more, like it was too heavy for his neck to hold it up.

"I wish it'd be the last time, sometimes" he said ruefully.

"Dying can do that to you," Netherlands agreed. "Say, how's your face these days? Still prone to scaring the servants?"

The boy touched a hand to the black velvet, almost as if he'd forgotten it was there.

"It's... ok, I suppose. Less scarring now. But it's--"

Netherlands never found out what it was, because Denmark stepped in that moment, looking worse than Netherlands had felt before. If anything, he was paler than the previous day, and the shadows under his eyes deeper.

"So...I forgot to ask yesterday, who managed to get close enough to wallop you in the face?" Netherlands drawled. He had actually been curious about that. Slightly.

Denmark turned towards him, seeming to take a moment to process the question. His hand rose to his bruised cheek, the gesture oddly similar to the boy's just a moment before. As if he'd forgotten.

"Oh, that...that was Norway," he said, rubbing at the bruise absentmindedly and then wincing.

"Norway...oh, right, that guy. What'd you do to piss him off, besides the usual?"

Denmark didn't meet his eyes for a moment; his gaze wandering around the room like it was looking for a way out. In the end he turned that haunted look to Netherlands, chuckling unhappily.

"Well, I just...lost something that used t' be his, that's...all."

Netherlands pondered how again, while Denmark had been looking at everything else in the room just before, he'd pointedly not looked at the boy even once. It was like his gaze had flinched over him, each time.

Duveltje had noticed it as well, Netherlands gathered, as they shared a quick glance while Denmark wasn't looking. The boy shrugged, sitting straight backed in his chair now, arms crossed stiffly on the table in front of him.

"I see," he said.

Duveltje started to hum, very softly. Maybe he was testing Denmark's ignorance of his presence. A muscle on Denmark's chin spasmed as he gritted his teeth together, but he continued to act as if he couldn't hear or see the boy...until he started to sing, and Denmark suddenly turned a faint greenish colour and then promptly ran away from the room.

"Well well," Netherlands said drily.

*

For the rest of the day Denmark continued to be in turns sulky and obnoxious, either talking too loudly with a brittle, not quite cheerful edge, or falling into long, dark silences. Usually, Netherlands might have been more patient with behaviour like that, or else just drawn the truth of the matter from his quest, but the headache from that morning lingered. It was a niggling sort, more annoying than truly painful, but it made Denmark's strangeness more trying than usual. Perhaps there was even a part of him that resented being practically ignored in his own home. A very small part, but nevertheless.

In the late evening, as Denmark was once again expounding on some uninteresting subject, he finally snapped. Not literally, as Netherland's voice still came out relaxed and urbane, but in reality he was quite annoyed.

"So, what exactly is your problem?"

Denmark stopped mid-rant.

"What?"

"All this..." Netherlands waved his arm in a gesture that encompassed Denmark's entire body, from his pale face to his hand that even then tapped a nervous rhythm onto the arm of his chair. "This. Did you only realize now that if you make someone weak so you can better rule over them, then that's what they are, vulnerable. Isn't that what you want in an underling?"

Denmark stood up, red spots of anger burning on his cheeks, his eyes thrown into inky shadow by the light from the fireplace.

"I'd never hurt m' family!" Denmark shouted at him, his hands balled into fists at his sides.

"Didn't your 'family' used to be bigger back in the day?" Netherlands said, his voice cutting through the silence after the shout like a knife.

Yes, it was unfair of him. Hypocritical, even. But Netherlands had never claimed to be fair and maybe he hadn't slept that well either. Denmark was quiet, this time. Then he laughed, a bitter, mirthless sound. His eyes were suspiciously bright as he spoke again.

"Fine, you're right, I'm..." he spread his arms in a helpless gesture.”I screwed up. As a brother and...Whatever. It doesn't matter now. None of them will ever forgive me anyway."

Then he walked away, presumably towards the bedroom.

"Well, damn," Netherlands said to the empty room, wondering just what had got into him. He was so busy thinking about it he was startled by the sudden appearance of Duveltje. For someone so sick he could be pretty sneaky sometimes. He fumbled his pipe, almost dropping it to the floor, which would have probably shattered the fragile clay.

"Be a bit more careful," Netherlands groused, cradling his pipe in his hands.

"Sorry," the boy answered blithely.

He was startled almost as badly as there was a sudden weight on his shoulder. He looked down, and saw the pale head, leaning onto him. Duveltje wasn't usually one for touching. He only did this every once in a blue moon, and Netherlands had never been able to figure out exactly what prompted it from the strange kid.

He patted his head awkwardly with the hand not holding his pipe.

"I'm angry," the boy remarked, in his usual bland tone. "He claimed to be my brother...and then first made sure I wouldn't have any say in it, and then just ignored me. It's..."

From the corner of his eyes, Netherlands saw the small, thin hands ball into fists.

"I hate him for that." he continued in a low, quiet voice. "I wasn't even worth enough not to let someone steal me away. And how long until he noticed?"

"It sucks," Netherland said, and the masked face whipped in his direction.

"You're not even any better, are you?" Duveltje asked, sharp and perceptive and Netherlands laughed.

"Did I ever say I was?" he answered calmly.

The boy pondered this.

"Why did you help me, anyway?" he asked finally.

"I don't know. I just felt like it," he answered, after a moment's consideration.

"So is that it?" Duveltje asked bleakly, "We're either weak or utter devils...or both?"

Netherlands shrugged.

"That's a question for wiser people than I am. More or less, perhaps. All I know for sure is that power...or sometimes just influence, there are all sorts of power, you know. It's a heady thing, like sex, or the best kind of wine. Taste it once, and you'll be left craving for more...makes it far too easy to forget other things."

"I won't forget," Duveltje said, with the conviction of a child.

Netherlands just raised his pipe to his mouth to hide his rueful smile behind his hand. He'd learn if he lived long enough.

He didn't know how long it was that they just sat there, him smoking and the boy leaning on him, thinking perhaps, or dozing. In the night time, time passed differently, without the changing light to measure it by.

All he knew was that the logs in the fireplace had burned down to embers when there was a sound. Not a particularly loud one, even in the quiet of the night. Not even a proper shout, more like a loud whimper, and from some ways off.

But at night and the house was quiet so Netherlands heard it. So did the boy, judging by his head rising from where it had been resting on Netherland's side.

"Denmark?" he asked, and the boy hesitated, before nodding in agreement.

"A nightmare, I suppose," Netherlands said neutrally, settling down again, feigning utter disinterest. He noted that Duveltje remained straight backed, listening. There was another sound, fainter, and his fingers entwined in his lap, clutching tightly together.

The boy was worried, despite everything. That was...

Netherland's eyes narrowed.

"Do you think it's just that?" Netherlands asked, with just a hint of challenge. Because it seemed unlikely the boy would actually be worried enough to show it, unless he thought it was something more serious. But whether he'd be willing to say that... that was another thing.

He still didn't reply.

"Should we check on him?" Netherlands asked. He didn't ask, how much do you hate him

The masked face turned towards him, blank as always, and he'd never know what the boy saw, exactly, but after a moment's hesitation, he nodded.

"Let's."

It was strange. The boy took his hand, another action that was unlike him as far as Netherlands knew. He was usually fiercely independent when he wasn't at death's door...and to some extent even then.

But then, he wondered as they walked through the rooms towards the hallway and the guest room, which of them was the gesture supposed to make feel better? This was his house, old and familiar like a worn glove, and they were only going to check up on a man sleeping in one of it's guest room, and yet.

Somehow, that night, the shadows seemed deeper than usually, turning familiar rooms strange and faintly threatening. Netherlands told himself to get a grip. Whatever was wrong with the Dane couldn't possibly be dangerous to anyone else. Well, unless it was a contagious disease but...surely he'd have heard about something like that? Surely? And he'd seen no mark of physical illness on the man, beyond his bad humour and generally pallid countenance. He was only feeling this nervous because Duveltje knew something he didn't, or thought he knew.

As if he could hear his thoughts, the boy spoke out softly:

"See, I know it is a nightmare. I saw."

Netherlands was about to ask what he meant, but they were already at Denmark's door, and Duveltje was pushing it open.

At first, after the dark hallway, the room seemed brightly lit by the lamp on the night table. But after just a moment, Netherlands realized it was dimmed somehow. The sensible part of his mind said it was running out of oil, but... at the same time he could feel his hackles rise. Something told him it wasn't the lamp, it was the very air in the room that was darkened and dimmed. There was some dank smell barely at the edge of his perception, the smell of dry rot and black mould, creeping into the structures of a house, weakening them bit by bit...

He shuddered, and told himself it was just the winter cold, that there was nothing unnatural about the low temperature in the room.

"Netherlands, look," Duveltje said, his voice serious and almost commanding.

He almost asked at what, but the boy was pointing to the bed. To Denmark, who was not making any sound anymore, laying quite still, his only movement the fast flickering of his eyelashes as his eyes moved below them, and his twitching of his tensed muscles.

He was partially obscured by the curtains tied to the bedposts, and for a moment Netherlands only saw their shadow on him.

"Look," Duveltje said again, in that same compelling voice.

Slowly, like seeing a trick image in a painting, the kind you have to squint to see, but once you've seen it suddenly becomes obvious, he saw her. A woman, with matted grey hair hanging down over her face and her clothes grey rags, was grouched over Denmark, sitting on his chest with her fingers tangled in his hair. She looked thin and brittle as a dead bird, and yet Netherlands got a feeling she had some power over Denmark, that she was dangerous. She was whispering, something he couldn't quite hear, but only the sound sent a cold, skittering feeling over Netherland's back, like the claws of a black rat.

She turned to look straight at them, eyes open wide, and her mouth...oh God in heaven, was she smiling? Through his horror, Netherlands noted distantly that she might have been beautiful, a long long time ago. Something about the bone structure, despite the skin now spread too tight over it, scarred by deep bitter wrinkles.

Her eyes were sunken in her head, but mad and bright like a hawk's, or like a person's who has forgotten how to sleep. She tilted her head at them, still wearing that rictus smile, and then giggled, in a voice that sounded rusty. She lifted one claw-like finger to her thin, cracked lips.

"Shh, the prince is sleeping," the woman crooned...if there was anything human about it, Netherlands wasn't so sure. He glanced at the boy, but as far as he could tell his gaze was glued on the...creature. As he turned back to face it himself, he found those mad eyes suddenly very close, peering into his, and took a step back with a shout that lodged in his throat, unwilling to come out.

"Please leave him out of this," Duveltje said quietly.

The woman looked at him with an unreadable expression, and then shrugged.

"He's a wolf just like the rest of them. And why would you interrupt my work here, little brother?"

Netherlands only then realized which language they were speaking. He understood so many languages fluently he usually hardly noted which was spoken at a particular time unless he didn't understand it. This one was not one he'd heard in a while, but neither was it one he had particular trouble following despite that.

"I...what quarrel do you have with him?" The boy asked, his voice shaking only slightly.

The woman grinned again or perhaps this one was supposed to be a grimace.

"What quarrel...what quarrel does the ground bear to those who trample and drain all life out of it, those who take and take and never give anything back but misery," she hissed, anger sparking in her eyes, and then, like a lamp turned down, they grew dark and ancient, brimming with grief.

"And the one person-- he was so kind, so good, so of course they sent him away, to be ruined and slaughtered for the sake of nothing, just for his glory," at the last she flung a hand towards Denmark, who was still lying on the bed, his breathing shallow. The woman's gaze wandered, her arms curling to her front, as if cradling something invisible.

"Wolves, all of them..." she muttered, seemingly speaking more to herself now than anything. "And all those wretched children, so loud, so greedy...oh, poor things." she wrapped her arms around herself and swung from side to side. "But they lie, I never hurt them," she addressed them again, her face smooth and calm suddenly. "No, I just hid them, where they could sleep quietly and never be hungry. I hid them very well indeed, my invisible little children."

She laughed, bright as a bell, and Duveltje nodded.

"They can't hide from me now, though, no one can hide from Lilit," she said conversationally, "I will ride them until they are mad or dead, and then we shall be even."

"Him as well?" Duveltje asked, his voice not betraying any feeling.

"Yes. Aren't you glad, little brother? I know him, you know...of course I know him, my own land, and he has suffered too. But not to worry, he will rest soon enough, rest under the ground just like--"

"No! You mustn’t...you can't hurt him," Duveltje's voice started out as a shout, but petered into an uncertain whisper.

Lilit smiled.

"Can't I? Perhaps...perhaps we will see, once I am done with the other. Everyone is ruined, all but the ones who die young enough. It is far better for a good person to be gone from this rotten world. So don't stand in my way, child."

Duveltje shivered, and when he spoke his voice was still quiet, but with a compelling certainty to it now.

"I know what it's like, to suffer, and to hate those he caused it...but." he made a gesture towards Denmark. "He, he's my brother. Mine to hate or forgive or take vengeance on."

Lilit stared at him, unblinking, and Duveltje stared back at her, a battle of wills.

"You dare to claim that, little brother?" Lilit said softly.

"I do. He might be...Denmark, but he's also a man, and that man is not for you to touch."

"Oh," Lilit whispered, "We'll see about that."

With those words she stepped back into the shadows crowding the corners of the room and melted into them, disappearing like smoke.

After a drawn out silence, Netherlands cursed soundly.

"What the hell was that?" he asked.

"That was a mara...a nightmare, if you will," Duveltje answered, sounding very tired suddenly, his shoulders sloping. He walked heavily to the bed and slumped onto the edge of it, looking at Denmark who was still sleeping unnaturally heavily.

"She's...just a human, really. Simply very bitter," Iceland added quietly.

"Really," Netherlands mumbled disbelievingly. Just human, that? Then again, he'd seen stranger things...

Slowly, the boy reached up to untie his mask, and allowed it to drop to the ground. Indeed, the scars from before had healed almost entirely, leaving behind white stripes and light pockmarks here and there. Perhaps it was only the firelight, but even his skin seemed to have a healthier colour.

He reached out and laid a hand on Denmark's chest.

"Did you mean it?" Netherlands asked after a while.

"I'm...not sure. Maybe."

The boy turned to him, pale and blue-shaded all over like freshly fallen snow, except for the firelight reflected in his eyes.

"I'm still angry at him, but...hate is a sort of poison, isn't it?" he said, frowning thoughtfully.

"That it is," Netherlands agreed softly, stepping closer to the bed. He frowned down at Denmark himself, noting how he still hadn't woken, and how ill he looked.

"Is he...going to be all right?"

"I think so, if she can be kept away." Duveltje said, and then seemed to ponder something. "...I suppose I could ask Norway, since she's from her place but...

Deftly, he reached down and pushed Denmark's shoes under the bed, with the toes pointing outwards, and then took of his own shoes and did the same with them before climbing into the bed and under the covers.

"That's a start," he said in clipped tones, glancing at Netherlands with the smallest frown. Clearly daring him to say anything.

Netherlands swallowed his smile and sat down on the bed on Denmark's other side, leaning his back onto the headrest.

"I suppose we had better watch over him too, huh?"

"Mm," the boy agreed stoically, arms crossed over his chest.

*

Neither of them probably meant to fall asleep, but that was what happened. Netherlands woke up to a small hand shaking his shoulder, blinking at Duveltje's face, pinched with some emotion that might have been worry or annoyment.

"He's gone," the boy said.

"Who...Denmark?"

Now it was definitely annoyment marring that face.

"Who else," the boy snapped at him, taking his shoes from under the bed and pulling them on. He turned back to Netherlands impatiently.

"Well, come on, we have to find him, don't we."

"Sure, kid," Netherlands agreed, yawning and trying to shake the sleep from his eyes. Glancing out of the window, he could see it was still dark out. The window that...damn.

"Why is the window open," he asked, at the same moment as the boy flew to it, throwing it wider open and looking down, his breath puffing out as white steam into the freezing night. He pulled back, turning his serious face towards Netherlands and shaking his head. The boy looked shaken, his mouth pressed into a serious line.

"Nothing," he said.

They couldn't find Denmark anywhere in the house, but after going through all the rooms something occurred to Netherlands.

"Vines," he said suddenly, earning a strange look from the boy.

"Outside the window, all the way to the roof," he clarified.

"He wouldn't," Duveltje said blankly.

"I hope not...but there's stairs up there too, wouldn't hurt to check..."

They clambered up the narrow staircase leading to the attic of the house, from which a hatch opened to the roof itself for repairing purposes. Netherlands had to put his shoulder to it to get it to open, and when he finally did snow fell in from the crack, blown in by a cold gust of wind. Duveltje shivered but stepped out onto the low sloping roof nevertheless.

"...I can see footsteps," Netherlands heard him say as he himself squeezed through the narrow hatch.

Indeed, he could see them himself soon. It was still dark, but for a thin line of pale yellow at the edge of the horizon and dim grey light heralding dawn. In that light he could see the footsteps leading away on the snow covered tiles.

They followed them wordlessly, over Netherland's house and onto another that was connected to it. That one had a far steeper roof, which left them balancing precariously on the ridge. But it was also there they found Denmark.

He was sitting on the edge of a low chimney, dropping coins into it.

The boy was leading the way so he was the first to see him, stopping so suddenly Netherlands almost ran into him.

"Oy, Denmark!" the boy called out, and the Dane's head snapped up, his eyes visibly bloodshot even in the gloom of early morning. He rubbed his hands over his face, leaving black sooty marks from the chimney's edge on it.

"Hey, Iceland...l-look, I'm sorry about killing you, didn't mean t' do that. Trying to make up for it now, I really 'm..." Denmark's voice sounded thick, like he'd been drinking or crying.

"Idiot," the boy huffed. "You didn't. And you don't get to go insane now, you hear me!"

Denmark stood up, wavering in the icy breeze blowing over the rooftop. The idiot wasn't even wearing anything but his nightshirt, Netherlands realized. Had he even noticed that himself?

"Oh," he said, and then fell, hitting the roof hard on his side and sliding down the steep incline, just on the last moment grabbing hold of the edge, hands scrambling on the icy stone. Before Netherlands had time to react, Iceland cried out and slid down the roof after him, hopelessly trying to pull the much larger man up.

"Iceland, don't--" Denmark began to say, except then his precarious hold on the tiles slipped, and they both fell over the edge.

Netherlands winced, waiting for the sound of two bodies meeting a tiled street...but the only sound was the wind whistling over the rooftops. What the...

And then, a cry, in two voices:

"Norway!"

*

Netherlands never quite found out how those two managed to survive a three storey fall without injury. He gathered the sudden appearance of Norway had something to do with it, but all Norway would ever say about it was that he'd called in a favour, whatever that meant.

All Netherlands knew for sure was that by the time he managed to find a way down, both Denmark and Iceland were safely on the street, with no sign of their fall as far as he could see.

Duveltje had pressed his face into Norway's shoulder, and the Norwegian had an arm around him, while his other hand rested on Denmark's shoulder. The Dane was kneeling before them like a man at an altar, the repentant sinner with ash on his face. He was presumably apologising, although Netherlands stayed back far enough he could neither hear the exact muttered words nor see his face.

"Look, the last thing anyone needs is you falling apart," Norway told him, sounding gruff but not unkind while he patted at Denmark's shoulder awkwardly.

It was a touching reunion, in some ways. The wayward head of a family being reunited with his...whatevers, and being granted clemency. And yet.

The sun had risen at last, although the tall houses still shadowed the street, so Netherland could see the expression on Norway's face very clearly. He could see the strain there, the shadows of a long, slowly weakening illness. As long as he had as little power over his own fate, as long as his was tied to Denmark's as it was...what choice did he have but to forgive him, or be destroyed along with him?

Denmark might not realize it, But Netherlands could see that Norway did.

As he stood there, that bright winter morning on the 6th of December, Netherlands wondered if this story would end in tragedy or not.

Epilogue, year 2010:

The harbours of Amsterdam were crowded on the last Saturday of November, waiting for Sinterklaas' arrival on his steamer from Spain. Iceland was jostled by a family with several overexcited children, but Norway steadied him by the elbow.

"Why are we here again," he muttered, earning a faint smile from Norway.

"Because Netherlands invited Denmark and whoever he wanted to bring, and he wanted to bring everyone, and he has no sense of diplomacy" Norway said in the tone that meant Iceland knew this and they both knew he knew it but Norway was humouring him anyway because that's what elder brothers did.

"Hn."

Iceland really hated that tone.

"And he had to include me too?" he asked, aware he was being a bit whiny, but he couldn't be bothered to stop it. He was still feeling rather ill from the bad economy, and being pushed around by the crowd didn't help. Neither did the fact Denmark had taken him on a surprise trip to an unnamed location and it turned out to be the place of a guy Iceland owed a lot of money. A guy who was notoriously serious about money.
"I should have known better..." he muttered darkly.

"About what?" Norway asked.

"About Denmark being an idiot...or a bastard, if he did it on purpose. What do you think?"

Norway seemed to think about it a moment.

"Just an idiot. Probably," he decided.

"And where is everyone now?" Iceland asked, peering around nervously.

"Well, I think I saw Finland and Sweden and their kids heading towards the edge because Sealand wanted to see the steamer, and Denmark...is over there greeting Netherlands."

They both looked at them "greet", and then Iceland shook his head disgustedly.

"Seriously those guys, there are how many children around here?" he groused, while Norway smiled in a mysterious way he did when he was feeling lecherous. Iceland took a moment to appreciate how unfair it was he knew that.

"They do look rather nice together though, don't they," Norway said, and Iceland poked him sharply in the ribs, having momentarily forgotten how lousy he was feeling.

"Jeez, you're not supposed to be the pervert in the family," Iceland complained. Then he sighed.

Suddenly, Norway's hand settled on his shoulder. When Iceland glanced at him, he was still looking towards Denmark and Netherlands.

"Don't worry, I'll be here," Norway said quietly.

"I'm not scared 'f him!" Iceland answered at once, reddening from embarrassment and shaking his shoulder to dislodge the hand on it.

"Of course not."

Later, after Spain dressed in a fake beard and sumptuous red and gold cape and bishop's hat had ridden through the crowd on a white horse led by a fuming Italian with his face blacked with paint and Tino had muttered something about showy Romanics, they all returned to Netherland's house. Iceland took that as a chance to sit down on a sofa and just take a few (slightly congested) breaths in peace.

He loved his family, really, but after all that time being essentially alone, all of them at once and then some could be a bit overwhelming sometimes.

He opened his eyes, and looked around, frowning slightly. Somehow, he could swear he'd been here before...the furnishings weren't familiar, but something about the dimensions of the room...he stood up, walking over to a dresser to pick up the antique looking pipe lying on it.

He almost dropped it when Netherlands suddenly appeared at his back.

"The guys wondered where you were. Careful with that, it's my favourite," he said, taking the pipe from Iceland's hand and laying it back on the dresser. "Denmark was starting to get a bit fussy, so you should rejoin them soon," he added, but leaned on the dresser, not seeming particularly in a hurry himself.

Iceland gave him a wary look. Their last conversation hadn't been nowhere near this pleasant. He should have stuck to Norway after all, or even one of the others, now it was just him and Netherlands...

Perhaps he saw the panic rising in Iceland's eyes or something but Netherlands smiled, only a hint of something sharp in it.

"I-I just needed a moment alone, 's all."

"Mm. I heard you haven't been feeling so great lately." Netherlands commented bluntly.

What was he playing at?

"Um, I...look, what do you want? Ok, I screwed up but I still don't have the money and--"

Iceland took a deep breath to continue but Netherlands interrupted him.

"Jeez kid, relax. It's christmas, I'm not going to eat you...yet," the last was said with a little laugh that left Iceland less than settled.

"Really," Netherlands assured him. "We'll talk about it later."

He picked up the pipe himself, turning it in his hands contemplatingly.

"And I guess... I guess I see your point. Everyone screws up sometimes, eh? Make no mistake, I still want that money back, but don't kill yourself over it. Too much. So, because it's christmas and I'm being a polite host, how are you feeling," the last he said almost in the tone of an order.

"Well...I've had worse," Iceland mumbled, still unsettled yet also relieved, because it seemed like Netherlands meant what he'd said, as far as he could tell.

"I remember," Netherlands replied, grinning ruefully.

Oh. That was why the house had seemed so familiar...

They spent a moment in almost companiable nostalgic silence, before Netherlands straightened up and pat Iceland on the shoulder, hard enough he almost stumbled under it.

"I'm glad to see you all figured things out in the end, you and your... family." he said, smile widening a bit.

Iceland smiled back, tentatively.

"It took a while... but I guess we did."

Netherland just inclined his head in something that might have been a nod or a small bow, and then they both turned towards Denmark's voice, explaining loudly how Iceland might have fainted and hit his head, while Sweden's lower tones replied something indiscernible and Norway didn't say anything at all but Iceland recognized his steps, following the two others.

And for the most part, all was well. For now.


*[link to reference post, contains spoilers for the story]

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
tinediserp
Dec. 23rd, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
;ALKFJAD
title or description

Hi hi hi oh my goodness watch me freak out right now ohhhhh this - I'm just - like literally rolling around so hard soooo hard.

So I saw the rating and then the warnings and freaked out, then I saw which prompt you picked I totally didn't think that would get written aa;aldkfa this isn't even making sense.

And now I'm kind of dead and not even coherent and also really ill, that may have a little to do with this disjointed nonsense. But - whoa man. What you turned this into is amazing, and I'm very very glad you followed your muses.

I promise I'll leave a better/more thorough/less keysmash/more coherent comment later, after I've read this again and again and again and gone to the doctor &hearts
stalkerbunny
Dec. 23rd, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
I'm so relieved glad you like it~ ♥ (As you might have noticed) I did some espionage before choosing the prompt and not only did it seem like you might like this one especially...well, I already have piles of sufin fics (especially unfinished ones) so I reckoned it was a good opportunity to challenge myself to try something different. And then...yeah, not sure exactly what happened. =3=; But it was interesting to write anyway.

I hope you feel better soon. :'3 ♥

yaoi_rox_me_sox
Jan. 2nd, 2011 09:04 pm (UTC)
HOLY CRAP I JUST HNNNNG GIVE ME A MOMENT TO SOAK UP HOW AMAZING THAT WAS ASNDFKASLDFNHAD.

....Ok, I think we're good.

Seriously, that was gorgeous to read. You painted each scene so beautifully and set the atmosphere of it so well. I loved your characterizations to death, because they were just so perfect and beautiful. I loved the melancholic feel. And each little dusting of fairytale and the supernatural into it... it was perfectly executed. I felt like I was reading Dickens or something. It was just... perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

Thank you so much for writing this gorgeous story. I will no doubt be rereading it many, many times.
stalkerbunny
Jan. 10th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
Finally have time to reply, yay
: > ♥

...eeh, thank you for such a nice comment...! >//<
There seems to be something about Iceland as a central character that really brings out the angsty epic muses for me. At least I feel this one is somehow... thematically related/similar to Cool which also has Iceland as a central character. But I digress as usual. Thank you again for the comment, it makes me happy when people enjoy something I've written. :)
ravn90
Jan. 2nd, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
I..I...I'm speechless!
this was beyond ammazing! I think I'll have to jsut bookmakr this page so I can read it again and again!

The way you charachterise them all is just genius.
the story being funny, cute, dramatic and all so very engaging
I take my top hat off to you
pip_kin
Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
Oh

/OH/

Holy hell in a bottle to sell. That. Was. EPIC

I gleefully recognized the mare-creature before it was explained too XD Used to read about them when I was a kid since they kinda belong where I live as well (a Norway-Denmark thing with the similar creatures, I suppose?)

This was... beyond great, you guys. I loved your characterization of the Netherlands; he seemed so incredibly... spot on to me somehow, it's kind hard to explain, but more so from the Dutchmen I've known or encountered whenever they come up here on vacation. It just seemed so much him to be acting the way he did.

Iceland truly surprised me. I was trying to figure out who the boy was, and only had a faint sneaking suspicion, though I was never really convinced by it myself before it was mentioned at the last bits and I felt like the realization hitting me like a ton of bricks XD;;

Anyways, I'll stop rambling now. This was truly one of the perls of fanfiction I've had the pleasure to read in regards to Netherlands. Great job! <3
stalkerbunny
Jan. 10th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you x)

I'm actually kinda dorkily delighted I managed to keep Iceland's identity hidden so long. :D I mean, on one hand I intentionally gave some clues and was hoping he'd be in character and yet I also hoped it might add some mystery into the story if it wasn't totally obvious (so some of the clues I tried to make a bit misleading/ambiguous too ;3).

Mare/mara/etc... from what research I made it seems to be a pretty international thing, although the details differ of course.

Lastly...Netherlands was in character, really? ¤3¤ I'm so glad~ I'd never written him before, or even read hardly any fics where he appears, so I'm almost surprised to hear you liked him so much. Thanks for letting me know ; 3 ; ♥
fablespinner
Jan. 11th, 2011 08:59 am (UTC)
Oh this was wonderful! A very compelling read indeed! (was the mask on Iceland's face due to the volcanic eruptions of 1783-ish Not sure the actual year) I knew they had a really bad eruption that killed almost half of everything on the island.)
stalkerbunny
Jan. 12th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
I had some ideas for exactly why that happened (what with all the problems on Iceland around that time) but in the end I couldn't really choose, so I decided I'd just leaveit up to the reader's imaginations. >3>;
fablespinner
Jan. 12th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Well good call on your part because it left it very intriguing. :)
banshee_tao
Jul. 11th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
THIS.
This was wonderful and awesome and beautiful and EVERYTHING.
lovelylurker
Aug. 13th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
Wow so that was... really awesome. I'm kind of lacking the words to express how awesome that was as I sat here and made myself late for work reading it. I'm shocked you only have like five comments! Sheesh. I had no idea that was Iceland the entire time until the name slip toward the end and then suddenly everything made sense.
yuuago
Jan. 2nd, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
This has been on my reading list for ages, but I just hadn't gotten around to it until now.

It's lovely. The atmosphere, the characterization - everything. It was an absolute pleasure to read.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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