Title: Fireflies 3/18
Warnings: sex later on
Summary: In Arthur’s closet, tucked away in the back, next to his stash of cigarettes and whiskey, there are two things. One is an album of pictures he wished was empty and the other was of a leather jacket he swore to never keep. usuk/frukAU
Note: the memories that Arthur has of Alfred are warm.
Happiness seems made to be shared. Pierre Corneille
The water dripping onto the shell of Arthur's ear sounded rain. He shifted in his shower, rubbing the conditioner out of the shaggy blond, thinking vaguely that he would need a haircut soon. As his fingers slipped over the knob of the shower, the sound of the storm didn't stop, a small window above his showerhead streaked with water.
Crawling out and rubbing a soft towel over himself and through his hair until it was a mess of damp spikes, Arthur hung it up carefully, brushing his teeth only half-heartedly, as one usually did when they knew they would be receiving no company that day.
He opened the door of his bathroom, shivering at the coolness of the room, glad the window directly across from him opened onto the back of a large courtyard of a church which meant that no one would see him unless they stood on the roof of the abbey and squinted.
Feet slapping against the hardwood floor of his rather small bedroom, Arthur straightened the sheets of his bed, smoothing out the green comforter and fluffing the pillows. Glancing at the clock on his dresser and confirming that he has not spent hours in the shower, he walked over and pulled on work clothes (a t-shirt, sweater, jeans and very large fluffy socks).
Arthur paused after pulling his socks on before walking back to grab his glasses from his bedside table off the novel outlining the dead-end world of junkies in Edinburgh. He stepped out of the bedroom, briefly glancing at his sitting room before take the door right beside the bedroom one and slipping inside.
Hitting on the lights and illuminating the drawing board in the corner of his room, Arthur next hit the button of the stereo system near the door, listening to the whirl of his iPod as it clicked on and the soft song of a woman came through the speakers surrounding the room.
The Brit hummed along absently, walking across the small carpet he had in the middle of the room, past the wall bookshelves filled with art books, fairytales and travel guides. Above the stereo were the awards he had been given over the years along with a few signed copies of prints he had traded for.
The other wall had a large window, allowing the light form the outside to spill in and gave Arthur a very good view of the small abbey and the Sunday school children that would play football within the gated courtyard.
Dedicated to his drawing board and sketches, the final wall was covered in designs of creatures, places and items that Arthur had done and there was a clear progression from the first drawing to the latest ones; new places, new people and new feelings. It was a very clear map of Arthur's internal life and if anyone ever had the privilege of seeing them, they would learn more about the small British man from five minutes of browsing than five years of speaking to him.
The manila envelope and blueprints were on a small side table beside the drawing board. He had already spread the layout of the house out the previous night, keeping the edges down with a mixture of paperweights, rocks taken from beaches across the world and whatever crystals people got him when they got the impression that he believed in the mumbo-jumbo about magic crystals. He did have a very firm belief in magic, just not the kind with transferring power through the earth's sediments.
Looking over the floor plans again, Arthur reached over to a small shelf and turned on the kettle there -one of two in his home- glad that he had filled it last night and waited patiently for it to heat up.
The steaming brew now sitting beside the blueprint of Francis' living room, Arthur took his seat at his drawing board and quietly picked up the manila envelope. His hands tugged with the strings and undid it. His fingers slipped inside and pulled out the contents, spreading them out on the table to his left. There wasn't much inside; a few photos, a print-out and some kind of drawing.
Arthur put on his glasses before starting to pick through the pile, starting with the printout. His eyes scanned lazily over the text, which described some breed of turtle in detail and all Arthur could wonder was why in the world someone would want to own such a stunningly boring animal.
Tacking the picture of the creature up above his desk anyway, his fingers picked up the three pictures next instead. The first was of a very nice and creamy living room and Arthur squinted, able to see the outskirts of a park through the windows in the photo. So Francis lived near a garden, but which one? Arthur set aside that question with the picture, glancing at the next one.
There was a tanned man with curled chocolate hair and a goofy grin in the next one. He was holding up a turtle happily, green eyes sparkling at the camera and Arthur's instincts told him that he was staring at the source of Francis' date. He smiled back at the man, shaking his head. What spelt true love like getting your other-half an aquarium for his dull turtle?
Arthur turned over the picture and found something written on the back in a loopy and elegantly messy handwriting he could only associate with the Frenchman. Antonio + Philip à le Jardin des Tuileries. He looked back at the picture for a moment, frowning. Now was the turtle Philip and the man Antonio or the other way around? Again, Arthur saved the question for another time.
The final picture caught his attention because it didn't belong with the other two. It was of Francis, bundled up in a very cosy scarf, fingerless gloves closed around a small cup filled to the brim with a warm-looking drink. The blue eyes were looking outside the small café's window to the snow-filled street, half a reflection in the glass. A smile played at the rosy lips.
It was a few seconds before Arthur realised he was staring.
Carefully, he placed the final photo within the front page of his journal, closing it. Now turning to take up the final drawing, he had to pause and quirk his head in utter shock. Arthur had been to many elementary schools, showing off his drawings to children, telling them they had possibilities in the world of graphic design while knowing that only one or two would actually make it. These were lies he didn't mind telling, because as he told them, at that moment in their lives, the children were ready to believe and do anything. He liked that about kids.
The drawing Francis had placed in the envelope reminded him of the drawings these children would make. With what appeared to be only two colours of pencil crayons (from what he could tell 'Cosmic Cobalt' and 'Shamrock') Francis had drawn the crude outline of an aquarium with a small green blob in the middle.
A smile couldn't help but play at the Brit's lips. The Frenchman had given off at a refined and mature air, and yet here was evidence that deep down inside that tall and charming body was just a giggling and immature child. Tracing his fingers along the lines of the aquarium and the splodge of a turtle, Arthur carefully placed the drawing beside the printout.
Minutes passed in silence as he watched the steam roll off the top of his tea and the rain hitting his window. Reaching over, Arthur picked up his journal and quietly opened to the front page, past the photo of the Frenchman, and picked up his pen. Placing the date in the top left corner, Arthur's pen posed over the lines of the page, then he wrote a single sentence.The first time I realised that Alfred loved me was exactly five years ago.
He paused, looking at the line, swallowing and blinking. That wasn't as hard as he was expecting. Carefully, he let his pen glance over the details while his mind slowly drifted back to that warm July dusk.
Alfred was bright in this memory. The world around simply paled in comparison, even the sun fell pray to his wide grin, of sunshine, glee and absolute contagious warmth. He never walked in step with others, a beat of his own drum, his own path and never quite straight. He fascinated Arthur, and so Arthur followed, his own straight path, a calm and determined and yet individual path. He enjoyed it immensely when their two paths would cross and they'd bump shoulders.
So their shoulders bumped. "So when are you going back to America?"
"Don't know yet." Alfred said. He let their shoulders keep touching. Beside his blue eyes even the sky seemed grey.
Arthur snorted, looking around Kensington Park. He spotted the castle and promptly plopped down in the grass, sketching it. "You need to go back one day. I mean, what about your brother?"
Sitting down beside him, Alfred shrugged. Their shoulders touched again, this time the weight of the American on the small Brit. He grumbled slightly, moving and jostling until they fit together. Which was with Arthur's back half leaning on the broad chest, Alfred's hand resting in the grass near his side. The thumb teased the belt loop of the tight jeans. Arthur ignored it.
"Matthew will be fine." Alfred said, peering at the iron gates appearing under Arthur's pencil. "He's got Feliks and Tor after all and they take way better care of him than I do."
The Brit looked up at him, nuzzling closer. It was a little chilly and Alfred was so warm. "You know what?"
Alfred arched an eyebrow. "Yeah?"
Arthur looked back down at his sketch, humming. "You should go get me some tea. While I think of some more reasons you shouldn't stay here in… What did you call it again?"
Standing, Alfred laughed. "Limey-Land." He said.
"Right, you get tea and I'll think of more reasons you shouldn't continue to plague 'Limey-Land' with your presence." Arthur continued to sketch while Alfred did as he was told.
By the time a small cup of tea was dangled in front of him and he felt the dog tags that Alfred insisted of wearing bump into his head along with the silver cross among the name of the American's grandfather, Arthur had already finished most of the drawing. He put the pencil down, taking the tea and humming, letting the coils of the steam brush his face.
Alfred didn't sit down, so Arthur looked back up. "Thought about anymore reasons why I shouldn't stay?"
"Yes, I have," Arthur said, blinking at his upside-down face. "You never make my tea right in the morning. Which I think I am entitled to after spending the night in bed with you."
The American smiled and Arthur was glad the grin no longer threw him off-guard. His fingers absently tugged and curled into the chains, running over the cross with his thumb. "You're just grumpy in the mornings because I am so good in bed and you want more before I have to go to work."
Arthur's cheeks turned pink and he sipped his tea, looking back at the palace. He felt Alfred's knees in his back, lightly rubbing, fitting perfectly in his hunched shoulder blades. He relaxed.
"You really don't get it, do you Artie?" Came Alfred's voice from above him again and he tried to catch the blue eyes but they were looking away.
"Get what?" Arthur breathed.
"I'm staying. Here in England." The Brit barely registered the use of his land's proper name.
A pause. Arthur took the time to drink his tea, to sketch a few more details of the palace, of the windows and the trees beside it. "Idiot." He sighed, once again leaning his head back, "You're going to need a place to stay. And since you're utterly helpless on your own, you'll just have to stay with me."
Alfred bent over and kissed him. Upside-down kisses weren't really the most elegant of gestures and Arthur blinked at his chin before reaching up his hands and holding the American's face lightly, tips of his fingers curling under his jaw. The cool dog tags tangled in his messy hair.
Finally, Alfred pulled back just enough to speak. "That's what I wanted to hear." He murmured.
Arthur's drawing of the palace lay to one side, finished after almost an entire hour, while he was curled with Alfred, lying in the grass, just outside the halo of the streetlight that ran along the paths of Kensington Garden. The American's arm was a very good pillow.
By now, the large leather jacket that Alfred insisted on wearing was around his shoulders and he held it close, looking up at the starless sky absently, laughing as Alfred pretended the planes that flew in and out of Heathrow were first stars that simply had too many wishes and promptly disappeared. Arthur hand one hand on his chest, clutching to the t-shirt Alfred had on while his head rested in the crook of his arm.
He enjoyed how they never quite seemed to fit together.
"Hey…" Alfred's free hand raised and he pointed towards a small cluster of bushes. Arthur had to sit up on his arms to see. Small pinpricks of lights floated around the leaves. "And no, they're not faeries." The blue-eyed man teased.
The Brit frowned. "I know that," he snapped, poking the American's stomach and smirking at him. "But since you're obviously much more experienced than I am, why don't you tell me what they are?"
Alfred sat up as well, leaning against the Brit, nose tracing along his neck and lips finding his ear. He breathed the word and Arthur looked back at him, head quirked for a moment. The blue eyes were warm in the light of the small faeries. Arthur's fingers traced down his cheek and he pressed their lips together again.
Even though Alfred told me they were fireflies; in my mind they were faeries. Ones that belonged only to us.
Chapter 1|Chapter 2