It was a good thing that Estonia and Latvia had come over to take Sealand to the cinema, Finland thought. He would have created havoc in the attic, and very little clearing up would have taken place at all. Finland opened yet another box to discover it was full of wire coat hangers. Honestly, he thought, it was all very well being frugal, but Sweden never threw anything away. He pushed the box towards the trap door. One more down, most of the attic to go. Sweden was rummaging round at the far end, no doubt trying to come up with a reason to keep the centre of toilet rolls or something. Well, while his attention was diverted - Finland surreptitiously moved two boxes marked "Receipts, 1100-1350" to the "dump immediately" side of the attic. He'd cleared quite a few boxes before he paid attention to the way Sweden was still rummaging in the big trunks at the other end.
"What have you found?" he asked, coming up quietly.
Sweden jumped, making as if to hide something behind him. He blushed, then pulled out a helmet, oiled steel still bright over thick leather. "Just s'me old stuff," he said. He pulled the helmet on. It looked ridiculous with his glasses, and he smiled as Finland laughed. "Lots'f old stuff here," Sweden said, picking up a tangled belt. "How's this go on?" he muttered, working a knot free. "Oh, yeah." He slung it round his hips, the empty scabbard hanging loosely, then unearthed a carefully-wrapped sword, sliding it home. A dagger went into the smaller sheath, and he pulled out a huge bear-skin cloak, slinging it round his shoulders and securing it with a bronze and amber brooch. "What d'you think?" he said. "All still fit?"
"You look just like a movie Viking!" Finland said cheerfully. "Um. I mean, it all looks very nice, and you've taken good care of it and there isn't a spot of rust on your blade," he babbled as the little smile fell off Sweden's face.
Sweden rolled his shoulders, and picked up the spear and shield propped against the wall. He turned quickly, spear up and ready to strike, and yelled a war-cry Finland found he remembered perfectly well. He took an involuntary step back, shaking and regretted it at once as dismay washed over Sweden's face. He doesn't mean to be that scary, Finland thought. He doesn't realise -
"Stupid rubbish," Sweden muttered, dropping the spear. "It c'n all go out."
"Oh, no," Finland said. "It's part of your past, it's not rubbish. It's - I like it. Really." He laid a hand on Sweden's arm. "I was just surprised, that's all." He looked up at Sweden's stricken face, marvelling how the helmet made it even more forbidding than usual. "You look very imposing."
"Huh," Sweden said. "Imposin'." He hefted his spear again. "Wonder if I c'n -" He flung it down the attic to thud into one of the roof beams. "Outta practice," he said, though the spear seemed perfectly firmly embedded in the wood to Finland's eyes. Sweden laid down his shield and started to pull off the helmet.
"Wait," Finland said. He reached up and gently pulled off Sweden's glasses, laying them aside. "It'll sit better now," he said as he reached up to settle the helmet back on Sweden's head. "Very imposing," he said, glad that the little gleam of pleasure came back into Sweden's eyes.
"Old-fash'ned n'nsense," Sweden said, tripping a little over his scabbard as he stepped forward, but then he put a hand on the hilt to balance it and paraded for Finland as if he was used to wearing a sword every day. "N't much call t'go vikin' these days."
"Pity," Finland murmured, watching as Sweden got more used to the clothes and weapons. "You always looked so - " He stopped as Sweden looked at him in amusement.
"Um," Finland said, feeling the blush start.
"Cool," Finland said, before he could regret it. "Coming back from other countries or from the Varangian Guard, with interesting things, all swagger and stories."
"Y'sure y'r not mixin' me up with Denmark?" Sweden said, laughter in his voice. "Y'should have said y'wanted t'come along."
"Oh," Finland said, "I was never much good at that sort of thing. I'm more the kind of person who got caught up as part of the souvenirs - I don't mean I didn't want to go away with you!" he added quickly, "Or that I didn't want to live in your house! I just meant - " He fell silent as Sweden unsheathed his sword in a neat move and put the flat of the point under Finland's chin, forcing his head up.
"B'n a long time since I had a pretty little thing all quiet 'nd wide-eyed at swordpoint," Sweden said. He walked forward, leaving Finland no choice but to back up.
"I'm not telling you where the monastery's treasure is hidden, you brute," Finland said, the mischief in his tone matching that of Sweden.
"Y'r a nun. Huh."
"I was thinking more of a young priest," Finland said. He shrugged. "Nun will do." His back hit the wall. Sweden laid the sword aside carefully.
"If y'don't tell me what I want t'know," he said, "I'll have t'take somethin' else I want."
"Beast!" Finland shrieked as he was pinned against the wall. Sweden's kiss was rough and demanding, and the nosepiece of the helmet felt like it was going to cut into his skin. "Ow," Finland said, pulling back and rubbing at his nose.
"S'rry," Sweden said, pulling the helmet off, leaving his hair tousled and wild.
"You can leave it on if you like," Finland said, a little disappointed. "Just be more careful."
"S'not that comf'table for me either." Sweden took out his dagger, and flattened himself up against Finland once more. "So, Sister," he whispered in Finland's ear, "How about showin' me some of that love y'church folk like t'talk about?" He slammed the dagger into the wall beside Finland's head, making him gasp. "Don't scream."
"I won't," Finland said, mouth dry, though not from fear.
Finland clattered down the attic stairs, followed by Sweden, still wearing his old cloak. Finland waited for him on the landing, and flung an arm round his waist, snuggling under the heavy furs. Sweden blew at the cobwebs in his hair and wrapped the cloak round him more tightly as they came down to ground level.
"We'll h've t'get this dry-cleaned now," he smirked as they staggered, laughing, into the kitchen.
Estonia, Latvia and Sealand looked at them in surprise.
Finland felt himself go scarlet, and sneaked a sidelong look as Sweden drew himself up stiffly, a ferocious expression on his face that signified imminent death from embarrassment.
"Oh," Finland said weakly. "You're back."
"Hello, Papa!" Sealand said. "That's a cool cloak!"
"We did say we'd be back by five," Estonia said, taking out another two mugs and dropping teabags in them. He waved at the cake on the table. "Cake? You still like chocolate cake, right?"
"We, we must have lost track of time," Finland said. Sweden was being no help at all, he thought in desperation.
"What was all that noise?" Latvia asked, grabbing another slice of cake before Sealand could eat it all.
"We were moving things in the attic," Finland said.
"It sounded like you were very busy," Estonia said, dead-pan. "The others wanted to help, but I'm sure we'd just have been in the way."
"I've got t'go to th'shops 'nd get more milk, 'nd maybe some eggs, 'nd it's b'n a long time since I rang m'brothers, 'nd I have t'go, bye," Sweden said suddenly in a rush, backing off and then fleeing.
"Oh," Latvia said. "He spoke."
Finland smiled brightly. "How about some salmiakki?" he said in a cheery voice, taking a tin from the cupboard. It was hard to make embarrassing remarks when one's mouth was full of chewy liquorice. Thanks, he mouthed at Estonia as Sealand and Latvia dived into the candy. Estonia rolled his eyes and handed him a cup of tea.
"Never tell me the details," he said sotto voce. "Sister."
Finland tried not to splutter his tea, then was forced to pretend some salmiakki had gone down the wrong way when Estonia piously folded his hands in an attitude of prayer behind the boys' backs, casting his eyes up to heaven.
Oh well, he thought, enduring Sealand thumping him on the back with rather too much enthusiasm, it didn't make the afternoon any less fun.