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Those Easy Days

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His first memories were hazy blurs of warmth, the smell of good soup, and expressionless eyes.

"You're awake." A deep voice, void of emotion. "Here, can you sit up? You should probably eat."

He was on a couch, covered in a wool blanket. Pushing himself up, he looked around, taking in the sparsely decorated farmhouse, before fixing his attention on the other person in the room.

"You can't eat like that. Sit up properly." The man stood from where he had been crouching to look him in the face. Though he had a slim build, it was clear there was wiry strength in him. A farmer?

"Where—" he started, but his tongue was clumsy, as if he wasn't used to speaking. Struggling to form a sentence, he tried again slowly. "Where is this?"

"This is my house," the man said as if it was a stupid thing to ask. When he continued to look puzzled, the man went on. "In Fosnes. In Nord-Trøndelag." That still didn't mean much to him. Emotion entered the man's voice for the first time, as he said with exasperation, "In Norway."

"I'm sorry," he said, awareness of something very wrong slowly seeping into his consciousness, "I still don't know where this is, but I don't think I'd know where anything is. I can't remember anything."

The man frowned a little, then shoved the soup bowl at him. It almost sloshed up over the edge, but settled after a few moments. "Eat," the man commanded. "I found you out in the cold and brought you in here so you didn't freeze to death."

"Thank you," he said between spoonfuls, "I appreciate it." The soup was heavenly, though that could have been because he was starving.

"You don't remember anything before waking up here?"

"No," he said, surprisingly numb to reality. It probably should bother him.

"Then I guess you'll have to stay here."

His head shot up to look at the man's face, but his expression was serious. "But— I couldn't impose."

"Where're you going to go, then?"

He didn't have an answer, so he went back to the soup.

"It's not altruism. I've needed some help around here for a while. Just until you get your memory back."

"Yeah, alright," he grudgingly agreed after a moment. He couldn't deny the man was making sense.

"You got a name?"

He thought for a moment. "I suppose I do, but I can't remember it."

"How about Kjell?"

"Kjell," he said, testing it on his tongue. "Sounds good."

"You can call me Aksel. Aksel Irgens." The man held out a hand, and he shook it.

Looking back on it, it was strange. Everything had happened so fast. But he thought maybe it was fate helping them along. He wasn't going to question it.

* * *

As it turned out, Aksel wasn't a farmer. He said it had been a farm at one point, but it was too much work for one man alone, so instead he owned a small coffee shop. It was quiet, but they had enough customers to get by, and Kjell enjoyed chatting with the regulars as he tended the counter.

"Mornin'!"

"Mornin', Per," Kjell greeted as he looked up from where he was wiping the counter. "The usual?"

"If ya please," Per said sliding into one of the tall counter seats. "Five years, and yer finally startin' to lose yer city boy accent."

Kjell laughed. "Suppose I am." Setting a mug on the counter, he began grinding the coffee beans.

"Ya ever think o' goin' down to Oslo and seein' if ya can't find someone who knows who ya are?" Per often asked if Kjell had remembered anything, but it was more curiosity than an actual desire to see Kjell go looking for his past.

"Why would I?" Kjell asked. "I'm happy here. Good job, good friends, someone who loves me." He glanced over at Aksel, doing their books at a table by the front window. "What more could I want?"

"Damn right! This is the best life, right here."

Giving him a warm smile, Kjell set the warm coffee in front of Per. "Enjoy."

It was a normal day, a sleepy day, until the sound of a car pulling up and stopping had Aksel out of his seat by the window and pushing him none too gently toward the storeroom. It wasn't unusual for his husband to be startled by cars or regard strangers cautiously, but there was an urgency this time that had never been there before. "What?"

"Do the inventory," Aksel commanded.

"But—"

"Please."

Kjell nodded slowly, flabbergasted at hearing such a pleading tone from his husband. "Okay."

* * *

Kjell had picked up coffee-making pretty quickly, and was making friends with the people of Fosnes soon after his arrival there. After a little while, he'd actually been invited to a community celebration, and the warm feeling of belonging to the community was almost better than the fun of the party itself.

He was in high spirits as he walked back home with Aksel, the two of them a bit buzzed from a night of drinking and dancing. That night's party had been Kjell's first real town event, and his head was still spinning a little from being introduced to so many new people, as everyone he knew from the coffee shop and the grocery had introduced him to friends and family. It had still been only eight months, but he was really beginning to feel like a part of the community.

"You didn't tell me you were so popular," he teased Aksel as they reached the edge of the farm. Contrary to what his closed personality would suggest, he was clearly the town darling, the older ladies doting on him as if he was their son. Pleased at getting to learn something new about his friend, he ignored the way Aksel scowled at him and grabbed him by the waist, spinning in an irregular waltz. "Don't think I didn't notice how full your dance card was."

Aksel had no choice but to follow Kjell's wild lead, putting a hand on his shoulder to keep from tripping. "That was obligation," he protested.

Kjell laughed heartily. "Everyone in town loves you!"

"Everyone?" Aksel asked softly, and something in his tone made Kjell stop dancing. Surprised, he looked Aksel in the eye and saw a mix of vulnerability and determination he couldn't quite identify.

"Aksel, I—" he started, but his voice was stuck in his throat. He hoped he wasn't reading things wrong out of wishful thinking, but as the other man's face drifted closer, or maybe it was him moving, it was the most natural thing in the world to fit their lips together in a kiss.

One kiss turned into two turned into more, and Kjell began to think he hadn't been the only one harboring feelings for his housemate. He traced his tongue against Aksel's lips, trying to deepen the kiss, and once they did, it was like something snapped inside his partner. Pressed back, back, he stopped when his back hit something hard: the wall of the old barn. Aksel kissed him there, drinking him up like a parched man in the desert, before maneuvering them toward the entrance.

The inside of the barn was empty, a few rusting tools the only indication this had ever been a working farm. Their breaths were loud in the silence, as if they were in a secret world just for the two of them. Aksel steered them deeper into the barn, pushing Kjell down into a pile of hay.

"Just as planned?" Kjell snarked between gasps for air, and for a moment a fearful expression appeared on Aksel's face. Reaching up, he stroked the back of the other man's neck tenderly, as though trying to smooth away the hesitation. "I've been thinking about this too."

Never one for words, Aksel attacked his mouth with renewed vigor. Too impatient for things like shedding clothing, he just unzipped Kjell's trousers and then his own, taking them both in a calloused hand.

It was over too fast, but when Kjell reached over and cradled Aksel's cheek as they both lay in the hay, panting, Aksel actually smiled a genuine smile, bright and precious.

* * *

The entire storeroom had been inventoried twice, and still Aksel had not come to retrieve him. Kjell was a fairly patient person, but curiosity got the better of him as he peeked out of the back.

Per had since left, leaving only Aksel and two men Kjell had never seen before having a tense conversation at the table where Aksel had previously been attending to the accounting. One of the visitors was very tall, probably taller than Kjell himself. He had short hair and glasses, the expression on his face forbidding. His companion was shorter and stockier, and looked like he had a much more pleasant disposition even as he argued with Aksel.

Deciding two against one wasn't a fair fight, he cleared his throat softly, stepping fully into the room. "Sorry to interrupt," he said, "but can I get you some coffee?"

Three sets of eyes shot up to look at him, and something about the attention made him uncomfortable. The shorter man looked uncomfortably between the other two, before answering, "Please." Standing, he came to stand in front of the counter. "Why don't you join us?" Both the tall stranger and Aksel made noises of disapproval at that, but he ignored them. "I'm Tino Väinämöinen, and that's Berwald Oxenstierna."

"Kjell Irgens," he said, grinding the coffee carefully. "You know my husband?"

"We're old friends," Tino said simply. "We've come a long way to see him."

"They're going to stay with us tonight," Aksel said, as though he was giving in.

Kjell's wariness evaporated at Aksel's words; there was no way he'd let people he didn't like stay in their house. "Well then," he said cheerfully, "Any friends of Aksel's are friends of mine!"

"Let me help you with that," Tino offered when the coffee was made. He grabbed two mugs, leaving the other two for Kjell to carry. They sat in silence for a few moments, Tino stirring some sugar in Berwald's and his cups before offering the bowl to Kjell.

"Ah, no thanks, I take it black."

Tino looked surprised at that, but recovered quickly. "So we heard from Aksel that you're an amnesiac."

"I suppose so," Kjell conceded, "but I don't really think about it that way."

"You mean, you're not trying to get your memories back?"

"Why would I? I'm happy here." He punctuated the sentiment with a kiss on the temple, and for the first time since the visitors had arrived, Aksel seemed to relax just a little.

Tino didn't seem to look very happy at that, though Kjell couldn't imagine why. No one spoke for a beat, and then Berwald spoke. "Kjell's a Norwegian name."

That was even more confusing, but from Aksel's reaction, it seemed there was some kind of meaning Kjell didn't understand, and it put him on edge. "I live here, don't I? Speak Norwegian, married a Norwegian. What else would I be?"

Berwald opened his mouth to answer, but Tino put a hand on his arm, and he thought better of whatever it was he was about to say.

The clock on the wall tick-tick-ticked steadily as they sipped their coffee. Kjell felt lost, not sure what to think of their two callers or the fact that his husband seemed to be fighting with them about something. They were friends, weren't they? It made his head hurt a little.

"It's getting late," Aksel said finally, as they drained the last drops of their coffee. "Why don't we close a little early?"

"Alright," Kjell said, "Let me just clean these up really quick."

It was like it was choreographed, the way he and Aksel worked in perfect harmony to close the coffee shop. The routine was comforting in the midst of the chaos introduced into their lives in the form of Tino and Berwald, and Kjell appreciated every little bit of familiarity he could get.

* * *

Things weren't always perfect between them, of course. Like the night Kjell had found out he was a jealous lover.

It wasn't something he'd ever really thought about before, but tracing the lines on Aksel's face as he hovered over him in bed, he actually put words to the stray question that popped into his head. "Why do you always wear this hairpin?" he asked, fingertips skating along Aksel's hairline.

"Someone gave it to me," Aksel answered, writhing at what Kjell's other hand was doing beneath the covers.

"You mean, like a family member?" he asked, gently pressing kisses down Aksel's neck.

"No," Aksel said, "Someone important to me."

Aksel never talked about his past, and it had never occurred to Kjell that there might have been someone else in his life at some point, but the he could read between the lines of Aksel's answer.

Anger started to bubble up at the thought that Aksel would wear that other person's gift in his hair even now, and his attentions turned from gentle to aggressive, determined to make Aksel forget whomever had come before just as thoroughly as he had.

He'd apologized in the morning, but he knew Aksel couldn't have been happy with him, forced to wear turtlenecks to hide how Kjell had marked him.

* * *

Dinner had been pleasant enough, but Aksel seemed determined not to let Berwald talk at all. It was odd, his normally quiet husband, talking so much whenever it seemed like Berwald wanted to say something. He and Tino actually dominated the conversation, something Kjell never would have imagined.

Afterward, Kjell asked for Tino's help with the dishes, hoping Aksel and Berwald could sort out whatever it was between the two of them. Handing a plate into Tino's waiting hands, he asked, "So you two came a long way?"

"Yes," Tino answered. "I live in Helsinki and Berwald lives in Stockholm."

"You're Finnish?"

"Yep."

"Ah, that's cool. I've always wanted to go there. What's it like?"

"Helsinki?"

"Well, Finland in general. Or is that too hard a question?"

"A little," Tino said with a laugh.

"Sorry."

"How do you know you haven't been to Finland?"

"Huh?"

Tino finished drying another plate and set it on the counter. "You might have gone to every country in the world, and you just can't remember it."

Mouth twisting into a frown, Kjell recognized where the conversation was heading. "Or maybe I haven't. Look, I know it's a fascinating subject when you first hear about it, but I have to live my life, and chasing after something I may or may not ever find, or want if I do find it, is just not an appealing idea."

"But what about the people you left behind?" Tino's voice had a hard edge to it.

"How would I find them, huh?" Kjell demanded. "And if I don't remember them, what's the point? I reckon they think I'm dead by now. And they're right, whoever I was before is gone."

Tino looked a little like he'd been slapped, and Kjell wondered if he should regret what he'd said, but he was too proud to apologize for telling the truth. He wanted to stay here, in this farmhouse, with Aksel.

* * *

The only time he really thought about his life before coming to Fosnes was when he and Aksel would curl up together in front of the TV, and a program about a far away country would come on. Every place looked so fascinating, and the images seemed so real despite being on the other side of the screen. He wondered if he'd used to travel the world, actually fulfilling the wanderlust he pushed down in favor of his domestic bliss.

The place he most wanted to visit, though, was Denmark. Aksel had gotten up to get something, and when he came back, Kjell was completely engrossed in the narrator's description of the sights and sounds of Copenhagen. "Look," he breathed when he felt the couch dip next to him. "Doesn't that look like an amazing place?"

Ever difficult to read, Aksel didn't seem to share his enthusiasm. "Let's watch something else."

"Huh?" Trance broken, Kjell turned to gape at him.

"We always watch travel shows. What about something with a plot?"

"Okay," Kjell reluctantly agreed. He changed the channel, but in his mind he went over those few minutes again and again for the rest of the night, until they were seared in his memory.

* * *

The attic was dusty as always as Kjell made his way up to get the spare bedding for their guests. Pulling out a small mountain of sheets and blankets, he couldn't see where he was going very well, and accidentally knocked into one of Aksel's many piles of keepsakes and antiques.

"Shit," he swore, putting the blankets down, and stacking the fallen things back up. To his dismay, an old wooden jewelry box that had been at the top of the precarious pile had cracked, scattering its contents everywhere. Strangely, it wasn't bracelets or earrings, but papers scattered across the floor. He gathered them up quickly and went to put them back in what was left in the box, intending to take it downstairs and glue it back together, but on top of the pile still inside was a Danish passport.

Letting curiosity get the better of him, he picked it up, wondering what Aksel could possibly be doing with such a thing. His heart stopped when the picture smiling up at him was his own face.

It didn't make any sense. He grabbed the next thing, an old wallet, and inside were more cards with his face. But... he hadn't had a wallet or any kind of identification with him when Aksel had found him. A dark thought occurred to him, as he realized Aksel had known all along his real name and had kept it from him. Had he found the wallet later, or had he taken it from Kjell himself while he was still unconscious? Bile rose in his throat, and he dug through the rest of the wallet, trying not to jump to conclusions. The large pocket held small sum of Danish kroner, and most perplexingly, a picture of himself with Aksel, Tino, Berwald, and a white-haired boy Kjell didn't recognize.

Looking in the box, the next item was a Norwegian passport, and Kjell took it hesitantly, beginning to get an idea of what he might find. Aksel's face was on the first page, but the name next to it wasn't his, nor the birthdate.

He didn't know what he was feeling, everything a jumble in his chest. Tears began to rise in his eyes, but he fought them back, knowing he couldn't stay up here forever. Deciding to pretend he hadn't seen anything, at least not until he knew what to do, he shoved everything including the broken sides back in and hefted the blankets, wishing he really hadn't ever found that box.

* * *

Two years after Kjell had woken up on Aksel's couch, and there was no sign of any memories returning at all. The time had passed without much fanfare or notice, but the milestone seemed important to him, like maybe he should start planning for a future he could actually see instead of chasing after a past that remained elusive.

It wasn't a hard decision to make when he looked at Aksel, closing the register as they tidied up to go home for the night. "Marry me," he blurted from the other end of the counter.

"What?" Aksel asked, "You'll make me lose count."

Kjell crossed the space between them in broad steps, ignoring Aksel's complaints. "Marry me." Aksel gaped at him. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you," he went on, "I know we can't really get married, but we can have a small ceremony, invite the people from town..."

"Kjell," Aksel interrupted in a low voice. Kjell's mouth snapped shut, nervous babble halted. Slowly, he put down the things he was holding, then launched himself into Kjell's arms. "Yes," he said, "Yes. Yes. Yes."

In an echo of the first time they had been together, Kjell was taken by surprise at Aksel's enthusiasm, tipping over backwards and Aksel landing hard on top of him. After a moment, they burst out laughing. Aksel tried to bury his face in Kjell's shoulder, but he gently pulled him back up, wanting to catch every second of his new fiancé's precious laughter.

As their chuckles died down, Kjell waggled his eyebrows. "Want to continue this at home?"

Aksel got to his feet and offered Kjell a hand up and a smile as they stood next to each other, just happy to be together.

* * *

Kjell barely slept that night, thinking about what he wanted to do. It was tempting to run away from the truth, but he couldn't escape that Aksel had known. He needed to hear that reason, needed it desperately, or else he didn't know what to do but leave him. The thought of parting from Aksel made his heart hurt, so he decided to ask.

Giving up on getting any more sleep, he wandered downstairs early in the morning to find Berwald already in the kitchen, staring out the window.

"Morning," he greeted, heading over to their automatic coffee maker and pouring himself a cup. "Coffee?"

"Please," Berwald said, though it was half a grunt.

Refilling his cup and setting the carafe back down, Kjell sat down opposite his guest and leaned forward. "You know who I am, don't you." It wasn't really a question.

"What makes yeh say that?" Berwald's poker face was excellent as he nonchalantly took a sip of his coffee.

"This," he said, drawing out the picture from "his" wallet. He'd gone back to get it, thinking it was the best way to get answers without revealing he knew about the passports.

Berwald's eyes flicked to the photo on the table, but his expression stayed neutral. "Yer husband doesn't want me talkin' t' ya 'bout it."

"My husband," Kjell pointed out, "is in that picture."

Sighing, the Swede picked up the photo and looked at it for a long moment. "He thinks it's fer yer own good."

"What?"

"Yer happy here. Anyone c'n see that. Happier than I've seen ya in a long time."

Kjell took that in, nodding slowly. "But you and Tino don't agree?"

"No," Bewald confirmed. "Tino seems a little more 'ndecided, but I think it's wrong, not lettin' ya make the choice fer yerself."

"Who's the kid?" he asked, if only to give himself something else to think about than decisions he'd have to make.

"Someone ya left behind," Berwald said simply. He offered no elaboration.

Kjell stared into his coffee as if maybe it had the answers he didn't.

* * *

Aksel had several peculiar habits, but the one that puzzled Kjell the most was how, when he got sick, instead of laying in bed upstairs, he would settle on the couch and turn the television on. He'd ask Kjell to make sure he was awake for the news. And the first thing he asked for wasn't soup or juice, but the newspaper. For the entire duration of his illness, he'd watch current events like a hawk, but as soon as he recovered, he'd go back to paying the barest attention to them.

He'd even come downstairs one night, fever broken, in search of some water and found Aksel on the couch, watching the news just like he always did when he himself wasn't feeling well. Kjell wondered what exactly he was watching for, maybe news of a local epidemic or something, but either way it was a sliver of familiar comfort in those nerve-wracking times of illness. He found himself adopting Aksel's routine, settling on the couch with a blanket and a box of tissues to wait out his own colds.

"Here," he said when Aksel came down, bleary eyed, to find him on the couch, up all night with chills. "The paper. I finished this section already."

Strangely, Aksel didn't take the offered newsprint. "I need the international section. I'll wait until you're done."

Kjell was sure he'd seen Aksel reading the domestic news when he was sick, but he didn't question his husband's bizarre routines. Shrugging, he went back to reading about the record cold temperatures in Jutland.

* * *

Aksel froze a few feet away from the table, eyes fixed on the picture still lying out. "You promised," he accused Berwald a moment later, taking a step closer to the table, but Kjell put a hand on his arm, and he fell silent.

"I found it in the attic."

The color drained from Aksel's face, and Kjell wished he could force his features into anything but grim. "You found everything," he said, voice flat. Aksel supposed he recognized the photo; it was well worn, as if the old him had taken it out to look at it often.

"Sit, have some coffee." Kjell pulled him closer with the grip on his arm. "Let's talk."

Tino, who had joined them without a word half an hour earlier once he'd seen the picture, got up and poured Aksel a cup of coffee, setting it in front of him and smiling warmly, if hesitantly. "Now that he knows, you might as well tell him the whole truth, right?"

"I was afraid," Aksel admitted, eyes not leaving the table. "You weren't right, after the war, and I couldn't be with you. None of us could."

"I fought in the war?" Kjell pinned his age at somewhere in his early thirties, but even the youngest veterans were in their fifties by now.

Aksel didn't answer. "I thought it would get better. We were all getting better, stronger. But you seemed to be getting worse."

"We were all worried. Ya weren't eatin', weren't workin'. Ya tried t' hide it, but we all knew. Pretended not t' know t' let ya keep yer pride."

"All but one, anyway," Tino said with a bitter smile.

"The boy in the photo," Kjell said, beginning to see the pieces of the puzzle, but not how they fit.

"He came to me and begged me to do something," Aksel said. "Said if I'd ever loved you, I'd help you."

Squinting as though it would help him him understand, something still didn't line up. "Why you? And how did I lose my memory?"

"Aksel is the only one of us who can do magic."

Kjell's eyes fixed on Aksel, still staring sullenly down. "You did this to me? On purpose?"

Aksel squeezed his eyes shut, then looked up at Kjell, defiant. "I'm not sorry."

Looking at the emotion on his husband's face and imagining what it must have been like for him, suddenly the confusion cleared and he knew what to feel. He grabbed Aksel in a tight embrace, holding him close. "I'm sorry," he said against Aksel's hair. "I've caused you so much pain, haven't I?"

"What?" Aksel seemed honestly confused. "I erased your memory without your consent. I lied to you every day for five years."

"It's not fair you had to carry the burden all by yourself," Kjell insisted. "It hurt you to wait for me to fall in love with you again, didn't it? You were terrified I'd find out the truth, weren't you?"

Slowly, Aksel's arms came up around Kjell's back, returning the embrace. "You were supposed to be angry, stupid."

Shaking his head, he tried not to let the tears in his eyes spill over. "Not at you. Never at you."

* * *

If there was one thing Kjell was sure of, it was that he wanted matching rocking chairs. He and Aksel would grow old together, swaying peacefully in their matching rocking chairs in their twilight years and talking to each other. When he told this to Aksel, however, he seemed a bit skeptical.

"It'll be great," Kjell insisted, laying with Aksel in the grass under the summer sky. The stars were a treat this time of year, unlike winter when he quickly found himself sick of them. "We'll die peacefully together in our sleep."

"That's morbid."

"It's what I truly wish. I couldn't live without you, and I know you'd kick my ass if I died before you."

"I'll kick your ass now if you don't shut up about dying."

Kjell propped himself up on one elbow. "Everything ends, Aksel, even the things we wish would last forever."

Aksel pulled him down for a kiss. "I said shut up. Either do it yourself, or I'll do it for you."

"That's not much incentive to stop talking, then," Kjell teased, laughing as Aksel pushed him back onto his back and made sure his mouth was too busy to do anything else.

* * *

Berwald and Tino had left around midday the day before, and Aksel and Kjell spent a long time talking about what they should do, Kjell turning to kisses and caresses to comfort his distressed lover after he made up his mind. Aksel had informed him it would take the better part of the day to prepare the spell, and he'd gone to the coffee shop mostly out of a lack of anything better to do. It was better than wearing a groove in the floor, he supposed.

He was just pulling the keys out of the door when Aksel walked up, looking graver than Kjell had ever seen him. "Walk you home?"

"Thanks."

Silence stretched between them, doubly awkward because they were so used to comfortable silences.

"We could still stay here, afterward," Kjell offered.

Aksel shook his head. "You won't want to. The pull of your land will be even stronger. I've seen the travel books you tried to hide under the mattress."

Embarrassed at being caught, he ignored that he didn't understand what Aksel meant by "pull". "It was just a little daydream."

"One you'll be able to make come true. Your government will be ecstatic to have you back, I'm sure."

"Well, then, you can come with me."

Stopping in the middle of the road, Aksel looked truly frustrated. "No, I can't. Don't you understand? I'm bound to this place just as much as you're bound to Denmark."

"Well, then, I'll call. I'll write. I just can't hurt the people I left behind anymore now that I know you're one of them."

Aksel took a deep breath, then shakily let it out. "I know. I know. Just give me one last night, please?"

"Of course," Kjell said, never able to deny Aksel anything. They stood there for a few moments, but eventually they had to start walking forward again.

* * *

Norway pressed his forehead against the glass of his office window, reveling in the chill. He thought about going north, escaping the hectic modern pace of life, but nowadays with laptops and blackberries, it wouldn't be much of an escape.

The ringing of the phone was a reminder of just that, as he snatched it off his desk before turning back to the window. "What?"

"I heard you just got a big law passed at your place," Denmark's voice came over the line.

"Which? Oh, you mean the same-sex marriage law?"

"Yeah. Congratulations."

Shrugging even though he knew Denmark couldn't see him, he said in an unimpressed tone, "It's been a long time coming."

"I was thinking," Denmark drawled, and Norway could just picture him spinning in his chair. "Maybe for our 30th wedding anniversary, we could get married."

They rarely spoke of the years they'd spent in Fosnes living lives that weren't their own. It had been a long, hard road to pull Denmark out of his depression afterward, and all their history had returned as baggage messing up their relationship. It was tempting to call those days a long dream, so disconnected were they from the harshness of reality.

But as Norway reflected on coffee and dancing and matching rocking chairs, he couldn't help but smile. "Yes," he said. "Yes. Yes. Yes."

"I don't remember what I said next," Denmark admitted.

"Well then, I guess I'll have to help you remember."

"I'll be there as soon as I can," Denmark promised.

Hanging up the phone, he reaffirmed to himself that he had been right all those years ago in the grass. Some things, not many but some, were for forever.