Author's Note: I forgot to mention a belated Lest We Forget for Remembrance Day. AND Veteran's Day!
SIX MONTHS LATER...
The bell above the door rang and Matthew Williams looked up from the till he was fiddling with. "Good morning!" he said sweetly to the couple who had just entered the bakery.
Matt's original plan had been to go back to school, but he wasn't fooling himself - he barely had the money to move here, even with the selling of his apartment, and though Francis had offered time and time again to pay for his schooling, Matt didn't want to accept his charity.
Lars, ever the entrepreneur, had suggested that they open a bakery together. There was a little place not far from his apartment that was for sale, and the Dutch man had taken a couple of cooking classes before.
Matt was, as always, dubious of any plan that came out of Lars's mouth that seemed hastily planned, but for once his Dutch friend seemed to be on to something.
Plus, it helped that Noah, who lived down the hall from Lars and also happened to be starting a tenuous relationship with the Dutch man, had just graduated from culinary school.
Not four months later, Cambriolage (that was Matt's idea - he thought it was fitting) opened its doors to the public. It was a small bakery with sort of a homey, throwback style - airy windows, pastel colour scheme - but the locals had quickly taken to it, and Noah made a mean chocolate mille feuille to keep newcomers interested.
As the couple linked arms and leaned with interest over one of the glass display cases, Matt shut the till gently with his hip and looked over his shoulder, into the back. Lars was leaning against the baker's table, talking excitedly to Noah. The brunette was trying his best to ignore the Dutch man, folding pastry with patient hands. On the counter, right beside the giant refrigerator, was a blue ceramic vase full of brightly coloured tulips. Matt hid a smile. Noah had proved a prickly customer, throwing off Lars's advances with firmness, but the Dutch man was persistent in his "wooing" - every day for the past two weeks he'd been bringing in flowers for Noah, and Matt could see that the brunette was slowly, but surely cracking. Even now, a dusting of pink was visible on the baker's face as he kneaded.
Somewhere in the back the phone rang. Lars spun on his heel and, seeing Matt already looking at them, gave him a wink and hollered, "Phone!"
Matt rolled his eyes and pointed up at the front, indicating that Lars should stop flirting and start working. Lars complied, leaving Noah alone and squeezing Matt's shoulder briefly before striding up to the front.
"Hi!" he chirped to the couple. Noah and Matt exchanged glances as the Canadian passed - Noah's face was a mixture of fondness and exasperation.
"Salut," Matt rushed as he picked up the phone. "C'est Cambriolage..."
"Salut, Matthew!" he heard Chelles say perkily. Matt grinned.
"Hi, Chelles!" he greeted. "How are you?"
"I'm fine!" the girl replied. "Listen, I've sent someone over to pick up some bread, but I want to make sure you still have what Liz wants."
"The bread you always get?" Matt asked - at Chelles' confirmation, he said, "Yeah, there's some left. I'll put it aside for...who did you say was coming around again?"
"I didn't!" Chelles trilled. "Bye bye, Matthew, see you soon~!" then she hung up. Shaking his head, Matt put the phone back and went out to help Lars up front.
The late morning passed into early afternoon, with a rush of people before lunch and another rush a little bit after lunch. Matt was just wiping the counters down with a clean cloth when the bell jingled again.
Straightening up, the Canadian turned 'round to greet the customers but found himself just staring with a fond smile.
"Bonjour, Monsieur." he greeted. "Are you new to the bakery?"
Francis Bonnefoy closed the bakery door behind him, giving the younger man a smile.
"It depends," he purred. "Are you single?"
Matt gave a laugh and, since there were no other customers left in the bakery, wrapped his arms around Francis's neck, bringing the Frenchman in close. "As a matter of fact, I have this guy I'm seeing." he said casually. "Though I suppose if you wanted to take me out, he doesn't have to know about it..."
"Ah, I suppose he would get jealous." Francis sighed against his neck, and Matt couldn't help laughing and catching Francis's lips in a kiss.
"What are you doing here?" he asked. "I thought you had a meeting...?"
"We were finished surprisingly quickly," Francis explained. "Also, Michelle insisted on sending me on an errand to pick up some bread."
Matt smiled. So that's why Chelles was so eager not to reveal who was coming to pick up the bread.
"I have it in the back, just hold on." he told Francis, and nipped behind the display shelves to retrieve the loaf. Lars was waiting for him with a knowing look in his eye.
"Hey, Mattie." he said. "If you want to take your break now, go ahead. Noah and I can hold down the fort."
"Really?" Matt asked - the bakery was empty for the moment, which was a good sign, and Francis did come all the way here... "Are you sure you won't mind?"
"Oh no, believe me, I won't mind!" Lars laughed. Matt smiled at his friend.
"Thanks, Lars. I owe you."
"Of course you do." the Dutch man confirmed, flippantly. "All these favors are building up, schaat, and one day I'm going to employ them all at the same time to make one giant, massive favor."
"I shudder at the thought." Matt told him, only half-joking as he slipped out of his apron and folded it on the baker's bench. "See you in an hour."
Lars waved him away with a grin.
Handing Francis a bag with the bread in it, Matt suggested, "You want to go back to my place? I'm taking my break."
Francis's smile got wider. "Of course." he said.
Matt had gotten an apartment in the same building as Lars and Noah, so it didn't take the two of them long before they were at Matt's door. The Canadian fumbled in his pocket for his key - all the while Francis leaned up against the door frame, watching Matt with a soft look on his face.
Embarrassed with the hold up, Matt cast a shy glance at Francis as he opened the door. "S-sorry!" he apologized. "I - do you want some tea?"
Francis lifted a hand to stroke Matt's cheek as the Canadian moved past him. "Yes, please Mathieu."
As Matt made noise in the kitchen, Francis dropped his bag on the couch and surveyed the apartment with a little bit of fond annoyance. Despite his suggestions that Matt get a larger apartment, the Canadian had seemed set on this one, a small, one bedroom space with a window that overlooked a market street. The big white dog known as Kumajirou looked up from his place on the couch when Francis put the bread down - and then was immediately sniffing at it, tail wagging. With a chuckle, Francis pulled the bag away.
"Non, my friend, nothing for you today, I'm afraid." he told the dog, who looked at him with quizzical eyes and then settled himself back on the couch, letting a little snort out through his nose.
Francis instead placed the bag down on the side table, which held Matt's keys and a stack of mail from downstairs. On the top of the pile Francis glimpsed Cyrillic letters, and frowned.
"Are you and that Russian fellow still writing each other?" he asked, placing fingertips on the stack of mail. Matt's head poked out from the kitchen.
"Uh, yeah." Matt nodded. "Yeah, I'm learning a lot of Russian from talking to him. It's a pretty regular exchange for us."
Francis's frown remained. A couple of months ago Matt had gotten a hold of Ivan's address from Alfred and had written a letter. Francis didn't know what it entailed, only that Ivan had, eventually, sent one back. And Matt had returned it. And Ivan had returned that, and before long they had a regular pen pal exchange going on. When asked, Matt would brush his questions off with answers like, "He likes to talk about all sorts of stuff. We don't really have a subject we stick with. His sister's back home though! The older one. He's really happy."
Matt came fully out of the kitchen when he saw Francis still standing there, hand on the letter.
"Francis?" he asked. "What's wrong?"
Francis shook himself and smiled at his boyfriend. "Nothing." he affirmed. "Absolutely nothing, it's just funny how you still keep in touch with them after..."
Matt tilted his head. "They're not bad people." he said. "Besides, I like hearing what everyone's up to, now."
It had been hard, at first - after hearing Ivan had gone home to Moscow, Matt had set about trying to find the team's whereabouts. With a little help from Alfred, he had learned that Kiku was back in Beijing, doing work for Wang Yao, a notorious Chinese businessman. Gilbert and Ludwig had formed what Alfred could only describe as a "brother team of assassins", and were currently in Rome on a job.
As for Alfred....well, the last Matt had heard, his brother had called him from the airport, letting him know that he was going to London for a bit.
"Artie has a break in his work so he promised to show me around!" the American had said into the phone, voice unexpectedly soft and tender, and Matt had felt so happy for his brother he didn't even remember to remind him that he was supposed to be coming down next month to visit and do you have your flights booked, Al?
Knowing his brother, he probably didn't.
With a sigh, Matt wrapped his arms around Francis's waist, drawing him close. "We don't have to talk about it." he said sincerely.
"Non, I am sorry." Francis turned in Matt's arms to run a hand fondly through the younger man's hair. "Who am I to judge who you talk to? I must admit I can't help but be a little jealous whenever that Russian's name is mentioned."
Which was funny, Matt thought wryly, considering Francis never actually said Ivan's name - he was usually "that Russian" or "Russian brute" if he was feeling particularly irritated.
"Well. You have nothing to worry about anyways." Matt declared, catching the hand that was tangled in his hair and squeezing it briefly. "I'm yours, and I always have been. And talking to Ivan won't change that at all."
Francis bent to kiss him, firmly and sweetly. "Good." he said, and as the kettle whistled he placed his hands on Matt's hips and walked the both of them over to the couch. Kumajirou jumped off as Francis settled his boyfriend down and climbed on top of him.
"Now, mon cher," he said teasingly, stroking Matt's cheek with his thumb and chuckling at the way he could still make Matt's face heat up. "What shall we do with your hour of break, hm?"
Matt tilted his head back as Francis began applying his tongue and teeth to the sensitive part of the Canadian's neck.
"I can - ah - think of a few things." he huffed, gripping Francis's shoulders.
Smirking rather triumphantly into Matt's neck, Francis cooed, "And pray tell, what would those few things entail?"
Suddenly Matt had upturned him, sprawling the Frenchman on the couch, and the Canadian sauntered back towards the kitchen with a cheeky smile on his face.
"Well, I know the water's getting cold for the tea." he remarked. "So why don't we do that?"
Francis pouted, pushing his hair back and draping himself over the back of the couch. "Mon cher, you are so mean to me." he lamented. Matt, pouring hot water into the teapot, turned his head to roll his eyes.
"It's tough love, Francis." he reminded him. "If I followed your suggestions all the time, I'd be late to work. And then Lars would have fodder to tease me for months."
Francis considered this. "True." he agreed. "What if I promised to make it quick?"
Matt shook his head in amusement. "Francis, you're horrible." he told him, bringing the tray with pot and cups into the living room.
"You are always so quick to point that out," Francis countered. "But you never seem to be complaining when I - "
He was cut off by a kiss. Matt pulled back, face still red. "I can't believe you." he complained, placing the tea tray on the living room table, and Francis reached up to hook an arm around Matt's neck, bringing his face back down.
"Believe me." he said huskily, before their lips met again. When they parted, Matt touched his nose to Francis's.
"I love you." he said firmly. "But I still don't want to be late for work."
Francis groaned. "You are killing me." he complained, as the little tease took a comfortable seat on his lap and reached over to pour the tea.
"You're a big boy." Matt quipped sarcastically. "You'll live." he placed the two cups in front of them. Francis ignored his tea in favor of wrapping arms around Matt, pulling him back against his chest.
"All right," he agreed. "But after work am I allowed to come over and cook you dinner?"
"Hmm?" Matt settled against his chest, fingers wrapped around his cup of tea. "Is it only going to be dinner?"
"Well." Francis rested his chin on Matt's shoulder and dared to nibble at the younger's earlobe. "I'm sure I could be coerced into...making some dessert. If you ask nicely."
"O-oh." Matt's voice wavered and he subconsciously pushed back against the Frenchman. "That sounds great."
"Good." Francis kissed his ear, and then gently slid out from under Matt, sitting next to him on the couch. "Drink your tea, or you'll be late."
Matt glowered half-heartedly at him, looking a little too hot and bothered to be thinking about anything except this evening. Bingo.
"N-no fair." he huffed, taking a sulky sip of tea. Francis laughed.
"Come, Mathieu, you know I love you."
Matt's lips curled into a smile around the edge of the cup. "Yeah. I know."
His hand twined with Francis's and for a minute the two simply sat there and drank their tea in the comfortable silence of Matt's living room.
Something came to Francis's mind and he laughed a little to himself. "I still cannot believe," he declared, "that you named your bakery Cambriolage."
Matt's grin was so wide it threatened to split his face. "I thought you'd like it." he admitted. "Besides, if it wasn't for everything that happened, I would never have wound up here."
Francis studied him for a minute. "And do you regret any of it?" he asked solemnly. Matt caught his stare and held it, violet eyes open and honest.
"If it ended up like this," he motioned vaguely with his hand but Francis knew he meant more than the apartment, "then I can't regret a single thing. I am very happy."
"The feeling is mutual." Francis assured, and leaned in for another kiss.
Matt was late for work anyways.
It's true, I do imbue my blue unto myself, I make it bitter. Baby, lay your head on my lap one more time...Should I change my mind, I can't decide, there's too many variations to consider...You're all I need - and maybe some faith would do me some good." - On the Bound by Fiona Apple
END ON THE BOUND
Cambriolage - the French word for "robbery" or "heist". Lars thought Matt was crazy for naming their bakery that; Alfred thought it was hilarious.
Author's Note: There we go! This is a really weird feeling for me. I started this in August while at a young writer's camp. I still have the first three chapters in my old Biology 30 notebook I used while at the camp. Now it's November, with over 100 000 words and 500 (500! HOLY SHIT) reviews. This story took me on an amazing ride, and I'm pretty surprised I managed to finish it!
Thank you to everyone who read it, and especially everyone who reviewed it. Your reviews seriously kept me going when I felt dried up and unproductive. I had a lot of fun answering your reviews and talking to a few of you who replied. Special thanks to Twilight Rose2 - I met her at the writer's camp and the fact that she was into Hetalia too was what inspired me to start writing this. And also the fact that she is an amazing writer. Like, seriously. Also special thanks to Beboots, for being, well, awesome and teaching me about random stuff and mummies in universities; and Puffi The Insane, who cheers me up like crazy just by telling me about her life!
This fandom is fantastic and I will definitely be sticking around for a while. I hope to start working on a fic about Ukraine circa WWII, as well as some accompanying pieces to OTB. I will be going back over the next month and revising this as well, in order to make it a little more tense-friendly.
Thank you so much to everyon again, I hope you enjoyed reading On The Bound as much as I enjoyed writing it!