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: In which Alfred is no good at timing and Arthur finds a new favourite cook.
There is no charm equal to the tenderness of the heart - Jane Austen
The feeling of Alfred's body next to his was almost unbearably warm.
And Arthur loved it.
He loved how hot he himself felt and how, even then, his toes were still half stretched in pleasure even though he's been pulled against the American's chest, face becoming very familiar with his collarbone.
Their breathing matched and all at once they sunk lower into the blankets, finding the cotton to be as tangled and damp as their bodies are, stretched and coiled between them. Alfred pushed away the unwanted block between them, one arm managing to straighten the cover out before pulling it over them.
Arthur's world was a mix of tanned skin and white until his tired hand pulls down the sheet, letting it rest on his chest while he drags his fingers over the broad shoulders of the American, to his chest and the chains there, letting his joints knot into the golden chains.
Finally, Alfred speaks. His voice is still breathless but Arthur can hear the smile, ever present, on his face and feels it in the breath that ruffles the top of his hair. "I think… I need to go back to America for a bit."
The Brit frowned and the pleasure sunk out of him. Carefully, he moved up the bed, toes brushing Alfred's shins, staring into the blue eyes. At foot of his bed, the balcony door was half opened and the rain was gone from the sky, instead tiny fireflies from the park floating near the open window, swirling in the breeze like bright motes of dust.
"You've really got to work on your timing Alfred." Arthur murmured, lifting a hand, flicking his forehead before brushing some of the golden hair away from his face, letting the back of his fingers rest against the American's warm cheek.
Nuzzling up against the hand, Alfred smiled, lifting his own, much larger one, covering Arthur's, curling his fingers around it.
"Don't worry, I'll be back before you know it."
But before Alfred could seal the promise with a kiss to the Brit's knuckles, Arthur's eyes had opened and he was staring up at the ceiling of his apartment, the sunshine across the ceiling nearly three years older than the dream.
Or was it a memory?
He sighed, rubbed his face. It was more of a dream than a memory. Alfred was fading from his mind, harder to remember, harder to pull from the depths of his mind. Only in dreams did he seem to recollect anything. Well, at least he had his journal, which would always perhaps provide the tiniest of insights and always serve as a reminder that, indeed, Alfred had been real.
Getting ready for his meeting with Francis took no time at all and within the half-an-hour, Arthur was on the Tube to Piccadilly line and getting out at the Green Park station, walking along the busy street, on his left was the sprawling grounds of the park, the trees lush and rustling in the light breeze while on his right stretched the busy heart of London, flashes of the red double-deckers passing by every few seconds.
Arthur found himself turning away from the green (how badly he wished to stay and sketch the gates and how those would be nothing more than a crumbled ruin with vine overgrown, building more of the gate than the corroding iron would be) and losing himself with the high buildings.
Finally, Arthur found it and stood outside the Frenchman's blue door for a good few minutes, simply staring at the brass numbers of the front. For a moment, he felt like walking away, sitting down in a café and sulking over a tea -and perhaps alter make a trip down to the pub and continue his moping there.
This was, however, a business trip and that not-so-tiny part of Arthur that had work ethic and a need to see things all the way through was lifting his fist and knocking it against the blue door.
A call, muffled, came from the inside and within a minute, Francis had opened the front door, beaming at Arthur. He was elegant as always (save for the fluffy slippers he had on his feet) and smelt of spices and sweetness, and Arthur took a deep breath. The smell of cooking was undeniable but unlike Elizaveta's homely and warm, this was spicy and unpredictable. Arthur's nose couldn't guess what it was and he found himself drawn into the house by the smell.
"What is that?" he asked, finally giving in as he slid off his coat, hanging it up, picking up his messenger bag and gesturing at the kitchen.
Francis smiled, hurrying back over, brushing his hands off on his apron before pulling Arthur over with a mere curl of his finger. The Brit hovered while Francis took the top off a pot. Steam curled like smoke from the dragon's mouth and the red inside bubbled and filled the air with spice and… fish?
Leaning closer to take a deeper small, Arthur found himself met with a spoonful of the red liquid, a large piece of congre floating in the middle. He looked to Francis who gave an encouraging nod. Taking the hesitant bite, and burning his tongue on the spoon, Arthur hummed in approval, giving Francis a nod.
And just perhaps his cheeks heated at the smile the Frenchman beamed at him.
"I'm glad you like it," he said, setting the spoon aside and picking up a wooden one, stirring the mix, adding a few spices that Arthur only caught whiffs of before they disappeared into the boiling red mass. "It's called bouillabaisse, it is my mother's recipe and I found it while cleaning up a little and thought I'd try it. And if I can impress an Englishman-"
"Oy," Arthur said quickly, glaring a little, "we're not terrible cooks! Well, not all of us. I know a good meal when I've had one."
Francis smiled. "And my bouillabaisse, she passes your little test, oui?"
"That remains to be seen," Arthur said, leaning against the counter, folding his arms against his chest "Do I get a bowl if I say yes?"
Those brilliant blue eyes rolled a little and Francis mumbled something under his breath that Arthur didn't quite catch, but it sounded light-hearted and Francis gave a small nod. "But- ah- let me show you were I would like ze tank."
Leading Arthur out of the kitchen, Francis pulled him into the living room and Arthur looked around. There were no walls separating the kitchen from the sitting area, giving the entire place a very open feeling. It was mostly white, the walls, furniture and finishing all bathed in a creamy white. The only hints of colour came from knick-knacks, photos, pillows and the light brown of the hardwood floor.
"I would like it in ze middle," Francis said, gesturing where a table was, "like a table- but with a turtle… So we can see through where 'e will be."
Arthur plopped down onto one of the couches, settling down and nodding. "I can do that… I have some people I can put you in contact with too for this kind of thing." He smiled, taking out his sketchbook, "And you're right, being here makes it much easier to draw things… Is there a time limit for how long I can stay?"
The Frenchman hummed with thought as he wandered back to the kitchen, taking down a bowl. "Not zat I can think of… You can stay until Antonio gives me a call, oui? That usually mean that 'e is on 'is way and will be 'ere within minutes."
Nodding, Arthur lifted his feet, tucking them under his person, opening to a fresh page, brushing his hands over it before starting to sketch. The process of drawing an aquarium in the middle of a room should've taken an hour at most but Arthur was finding himself more and more distracted.
Francis insisted on feeding him, poking through his other sketches, asking him about where he studied, where his exhibitions had been, his family, friends, nearly everything about him and Arthur would feel obliged to answer, pencil slowing on lines as he forced himself to answer questions properly.
And he found that he didn't mind. Usually he'd focus all his time on his sketches and be done with it but Francis would sit and watch him as if he were the most important person in the world and each word he said was of vital importance. Perhaps it was that French charm, but Arthur was talking more to Francis than he had to anyone besides Roderich in the last three years.
He wasn't the only one talking either. Francis was indeed a fascinating man, whose passions seemed to spread all over the map. Not just cooking, but a keen eye for photography, the man was absolutely in love with travelling. "I simply love seeing the world," he'd told Arthur while picking through one of the Brit's sketchbooks, fingers tracing fingers over the swirling designs of an airship docking on the edge of the Thames, "she 'as so many secrets for me, and I want to see as many of them as I can before I pass away."
One hour had turned to two, and then to four, and Arthur had moved on from the spiced fish soup to a cream slice (though Francis called it a mille-feuille) and a bottle of wine that Francis insisted would be the best Arthur would ever taste. His sketchbook aside, the sketch finished and ignored as they spoke.
"Ian is my older brother, up at Glasgow University, teaching English," Arthur said, poking the cherry Francis had placed on top of the pastry around his plate idly, "Dewi is my second eldest, bit of a drama queen, wants to star on the West End. Says he looks like David Tennant, but I don't see it, I think he's just full of himself. Then there's Mirien, she's probably the toughest of us all. Off in Ireland, working at a pub I believe, but we don't hear form her very much. I don't think she's every forgiven me for cutting off the hair of her dolls when we were kids."
Francis laughed, lifting the glass of wine to his lips, taking a long sip, finishing it off and pouring himself another, topping Arthur's as well. "I miss my sisters very much," he said, stretching an arm, yawning lightly, "One is ze very successful 'ead of a casino in Monaco and ze other, well, she is my 'alf-sister and is in ze Seychelles, doing work on ze fish down there or something."
"What are their names?" Arthur asked, placing the cherry in his mouth and putting the plate aside to pick up his wine.
Francis stood up, walking over to a table near the windows, which were now grey with dusk, picking up a photo and giving it to Arthur. It had two young girls, both very pretty, those only one was smiling, her dark pigtails tamed by red ribbons, while the other appeared a little surly, sharp eyes behind large glasses.
"Grace is ze pouting one," Francis said, sitting down next to Arthur, leaning against him slightly, "And Lucy-Marie is ze smiling one. I believe they are about… eleven 'ere. I was just leaving for university and they wanted me to take a picture of zem."
The sudden close contact caught Arthur off-guard but instead of moving away as he would usually do when someone got this close, he leaned against the Frenchman, watching as their shoulders, sides, legs and knees all lined up. It was the more intimate contact he'd had with someone since Alfred.
Francis didn't seem to notice that Arthur was nearly tingling with electricity as he took the photo from Arthur, not moving from his spot, long fingers tracing down the faces of his sisters. The Brit watched quietly, the hand around his wine glass shaking slightly. Christ, he could smell the Merlot and cologne on the Frenchman…
"I suppose it is them I must thank for starting my passion for ze camera," he said, standing suddenly as if pulled from a memory. Arthur almost fell over upon losing his support, "They made me take zis photo… But I 'ave bored you enough for one night, non? And you are done your sketch, you can leave if you'd like.
But Arthur didn't think he'd like to leave. He wanted to talk more socialise, just be with someone. Even if he knew he could never have the Frenchman in the way his body yearned -three years of no partner was also getting to Arthur, another reason why he was acting a little like a blushing school-girl-
The phone rang and Francis looked over towards the machine, rushing over, picking up quickly. "Bonjour, Francis ici-" a small smile broke across his face and he mouthed a single word at Arthur.
Well, when God was kind enough to give a sign that clear to leave… Arthur nodded, quickly packing up his things, tucking them into his bag carefully. Picking up his glass of wine, he finished it in one gulp, which earned him a rather reproachful look from Francis. Silly Frenchman, didn't know that in the end alcohol was alcohol to a now-sulking Brit.
Arthur reached for his coat beside the blue door, ready to leave and perhaps spend the rest of his night curling up with a good book in his bed and falling asleep with the words merging together with his face if he was stupid enough to fall asleep with the book on his face.
Before he even had his right arm into the sleeve, he was faced with worried-looking Francis. Even though the man had looked uncomfortable the entire time Arthur had sat and sketched, now the true worry was written across his face in plain, so plain that even the Brit could read it. He straightened, coat half on his arm, eyebrow inviting the Frenchman to speak.
Perhaps he was being fired… That wouldn't be so bad, at least he'd stop seeing Francis and stop wishing they could have something deeper.
"Ah- Arthur," Francis said, nervously wringing the phone between his hands, fingerprints marking up the smooth, black surface. "Antonio 'as just told me zat 'e will be out of town for another day or two."
The Brit nodded. Francis had mentioned something that night about Antonio doing a lot of work in Italy with a large family, Vargas or something. "Would you like me to stay?" He asked, not all that hopeful. Or maybe this way Francis hinting that he'd like a good shag- What the hell is wrong with me today?
Francis shook his head quickly and Arthur felt his shoulders sink. The Frenchman didn't miss that. "Not zat I 'aven't been enjoying your company zis night. You 'ave been a wonderful guest," he smiled, quiet and warm, not a trace of a lie within the pink lips, "but I 'ave another favour to ask of you. It is quite a big one and I understand if you cannot do it-"
"What is it?" Arthur asked, sliding his other arm into his coat.
"An art show- well, not exactly," Francis said, running a hand through his head, "I was going to have my photos exhibited at an art gallery nearby, and there was an opening party tomorrow night and… well my date just cancelled on me for some little Italian-" The Frenchman cut himself off before his words got anymore poisonous. Arthur was almost shocked at how angry Francis had sounded when he mentioned the Italian. The man was usually so relaxed, the anger behind his words was unsettling.
And then something clicked in his head.
Arthur blinked, poking himself in the chest. "Are you asking me to go?"
Francis nodded, looking possibly more pathetic and pouty than a lost puppy.
"I'd love to go." Arthur said without hesitation. "Just tell me when and where, I hardly do anything on the weekdays anyway." Or the weekends for that matter, but Francis didn't need to know that.
Another wide smile, the same one Francis had when he'd answered the phone and heard Antonio's voice, broke out across his face and he ran off to write the information on a post-it while Arthur buttoned up his coat, slipping his bag over his shoulder.
Francis took his hand, pressing the note into his skin, holding Arthur's hand with both of his for a moment. "Merci beaucoup," he said, "You do not know 'ow much zis means to mean, I 'aven't really gotten out to meet many people since we moved 'ere…"
"It's not trouble," Arthur said, pulling his hand away, tucking it into his pocket and clutching the note tightly. "Really, I'm just flattered you'd ask me to come. I'll see you there."
Moving to the door, Arthur opened it before Francis spoke. "And there is an open bar," he said, leaning against the wall, smirking, "I 'ope you will not be throwing back ze wine there like you did with my Merlot."
Arthur grinned, looking over his shoulder. "Well, it's not an art show until someone gets embarrassingly drunk." His tone was neutral and Arthur could tell that Francis wasn't sure if he was kidding or not. He was glad he wasn't the only one who could be thrown off-guard. "I'll see you tomorrow. Goodnight Francis."
Closing the blue door behind him, Arthur allowed himself to sink against it for a moment, pulling the note form his pocket and staring at the numbers. Above him, a streetlight was flickering into life and he smiled to himself.
"Date with an already-involved man who I'm attracted to," he said, shaking his head, stuffing the note into a pocket, "Brilliant work Arthur. Bloody brilliant."
Dewi is the brainchild of a friend of mine at LOLocracy, so I can't any credit for his crazy-awesome.
Also... This is totally my 100th post! HURRAY~! Let's hope for another 100 <3
Chapter 1|Chapter 2|Chapter 3|Chapter 4|Chapter 5|Chapter 6