When Matthew finally found Will in May of 1945, he was lying in a bed in a resistance safe house in Apeldoorn. He was exhausted and gaunt, made thin by his people’s hunger. Matthew had nothing on hand to immediately offer him except a canteen of water, a few ration bars and cigarettes. There were tears in Will’s eyes, joy and relief and pain, and his hands shook so badly that Matthew had to light the cigarette for him.
That memory is burned into Matthew’s soul forever; sitting on the edge of a rickety bed with a paper thin mattress, Will heavy and bony against his side, smoking and crying silent tears until he fell asleep.
It’s rare for a Nation to fall in love, for real. They love their people, their land, each other, but they do not fall in love. Falling in love hurts, and Matthew remembers being very young and France telling him that for humans, falling in love is possible because they live such short lives. Nations live too long, and love you fall into, you always fall out of as well. Falling in love hurts, because for Nations it always ends.
And yet, Matthew’s heart still turns over every year in spring when Will shows up on his doorstep with a bouquet of tulips from his personal garden and a bottle of wine. He’s pretty sure that’s love.
He asks Will once, when they’re standing in Major’s Hill Park, leaning against a fence and looking out across the river, shoulders just close enough to brush. Will stays quiet for a moment, then shifts closer, his arm sliding around Matt’s shoulders and lips just brushing his ear. Matthew feels himself flush, can’t help but press into the embrace a little bit himself, and his heart is thudding so loud he nearly misses Will’s quiet words.
“Sixty years is a long time to send someone flowers out of just gratitude, Matt.”
Matthew turns in his arms, catches him in a proper kiss. He can feel Will’s heart pounding under his hand and smiles, drawing back just enough to look up at him.
“I love you too.”