let the summer rain bring you rest and shame and love.
hetalia ( c ) hidekaz himaruya
French mornings dripped with white sunshine. The mismatched coloured houses (one tall and green, one small and yellow), sat in their villages just as they had at night (windows cracked open, dust by the porch), but by dawn, they were no longer breathing with sleep but exhaling coffee fumes and cigarette smoke and last night's stale perfume. Scents that slowly poured themselves down the street, past crisp red-yellow trees and the churning, twirling, multi-coloured cafe umbrellas. Harbours sprang to life with the coming of the sun - striped sailors gathered, dog-walkers walked, boats with gaudy sails embarked upon rivières of otherworldly cobalt. And underground, the trains yawned themselves into motion with passengers who squeezed themselves into the carriages; shiny-black trousers, shiny-black shoes, shiny-black angles to shiny-black angles. And thus, another French morning would begin.
However, Arthur never saw such mornings.
Francis knew this because he'd wake up to the sound of crumpled fabric and clumsy limbs knocking wood. So he'd wake, curtains undrawn, definite night-sky draped over his head.
The middle-of-the-night events were executed as follows - a sigh, a frustrated yawn, a whispered 'Where is my bloody tie-?', a jingle of a belt buckle, a stomach moan and a newly awoken Frenchman turning in place.
"If you stay till morning," Francis half-muttered into the cold side of the pillow, "I'll cook you a proper breakfast, mon cher."
Arthur scoffed at the misguided use of a pet name and didn't answer, hoping Francis would drift back to sleep in the silence.
"Why are you leaving so early?" No luck there, then. "You know you're very welcome to stay the entire night - just as long as we can go again when it's mor-"
"I'm leaving so early," Arthur snapped, tugging socks over and onto bare feet, "So that nobody sees me leaving here and thinks anything of the matter!"
"Come now, Arthur," Francis laughed, "It's ridiculously self-involved to think everybody will be watching, never mind be interested at all, in what you are doing or who you are doing it with, hmm?"
All quiet in the bedroom. An English glare and a French stare.
"I'm leaving now" Shoelaces tied, Arthur stood up. A khaki shadow of the after hours. An off-green blur in the night.
"Mmm, suit yourself." It was a sleepy mumble that led to a second glance.
A door open. (Same door shut.)
The phone rings. Francis thinks it must be the sun telling him that it's almost dawn. The messy state of sunrise that meets his shutterboxed eyes tells him that isn't so. He stays beneath the covers (or more, half-sleeps and lays still) listening to the unrelenting rings. 'The phone is stubborn' he thinks slowly, and pulls his hair up and ties it in a lavender-navy ribbon. He breathes in; glances at the world reflected in his window - the glassful of buildings and bridges and skyscapes. He breathes out; glances at the world reflected on his floor - his folded raincoat, his secret-keeper shirt and Arthur's cufflinks on the floorboard by the corner. He picks them up. (The cold-as-new-glass, silver-chrome cufflinks. The still-ringing phone.)
"Francis?" It was Arthur (New alias being 'Clothes-Collector in the dark'), so, of course, Francis mused, it wasn't the phone that was being stubborn at all. "I- I'm wearing odd socks!"
The panic in his voice at so silly and trivial a situation made Francis laugh.
"It's not funny!" Arthur yelled through the receiver.
"I'm sorry," Francis apologised, trying hard to sound earnest, "But what do you want me to about that?"
"You don't get it do you, you complete simpleton, if I'm wearing odd socks, it means I'm wearing one of your socks, which means if people will see, people will know."
"Don't be so paranoid, Arthur," Francis tossed the cufflinks into the air; two single drops of rain indoors, "Nobody's going to be checking out your ankles when you've got an ass like-"
"Will you please!" The phone blushed in Francis' hand, "Will you please just bring my sock to me?"
"You want me, the person you left all alone in the night, to come all the way to wherever the hell you've gotten to by now, and bring you a single, and ugly I might add, sock."
An amused half-laugh. (The other half was a sigh.)
"As you wish, mon cher."
British mornings dripped with rain; rain spilling out of grey, pasted-on-the-skyline clouds like hot water leaking from a broken faucet. The red-brick houses (one covered in graffiti, one covered in ivy), sat in their cities just as they had at night (windows locked, honeysuckle by the fence), but by dawn, they became tea-making factories - kettle on, two sugars (meaning four), and a splash of milk. Alarm clocks smelt of butter on burnt toast, rain on grass and strained tea leaves. Scents that slowly poured themselves down the street, past sour rocks in rivers of the most unfathomable of unfathomable greens and past the grinding, swirling, white-dust chalk on the menu of the all-day restaurant. Docks sprang to life with the coming of the sun - waterproof fisherman gathered, dog-walkers idled-along reading newspapers damp from the rain, boats with white sails and strange names embarked upon rivers of driftwood and blue. And on bridges, some people would wait for some other people to deliver them their lost items of clothing.
"Here you go." Francis handed Arthur a wrinkled, brown-beige paper bag and smiled, elbows perched on the side of the bridge, his back to the water.
"This is a," Arthur furrowed his brow at the contents of the bag, "This is a pastry."
"Correct!" Francis nodded, "But not just any pastry - a French pastry with homemade raspberry jam. I made it for you myself - for breakfast."
"Well, I don't want your ridiculous food, Francis. What I would like,is my article of clothing back, thank you very much."
"Why? Hand it over."
"But, I'm wearing it."
"What? Why in buggering hell are you wearing my sock?"
"Well, that's simple, because you took mine."
"Oh for the love of- alright, here's what we're going to do, we're going to go over to that cafe and switch."
"Mon Dieu, non! People will, wait for this, Arthur, see us, you know, together? Think of the-"
"Be quiet! Then- Then we'll just have to go into the toilet and-"
"This is sounding very promising."
"Shut up! Why don't we just switch here, then?"
"I have a suggestion."
"Come on, then, let's have it."
"I suggest that we go on a date."
"Yes, I know a charming little cafe just over there - nice toilets, apparently."
"As if I'd go on a date with-"
"Are you that embarrassed to be seen with me, Arthur?"
"Even when you wake me up - disturb my sleep twice in one night, if I may be so bold to say, leave me because you're too ashamed to be seen leaving my house and then make me travel to see you first thing in the morning all for the cause of an old and ridiculously hideous sock? A request I obliged with no objections but rather, with pleasure?"
All quiet on the bridge. A French glare and an English stare.
"It is not a ridiculously hideous sock."
"Plain hideous, then. Or- you know what? It's every sort of hideous. Take your pick."
"If it's so unfashionable, then why are you wearing it? Give it back this instant."
"Give me a date."
"Give me the sock back and I'll consider it."
"Give me a date and consider the sock yours again."
The bridge creaked, sighing in relief. The cafe door opened, bell jingling, a welcome in. A hand-hold that was strangely unfamiliar yet familiar.
A debatably odd couple.
"You are going to love what you're going to have to do to get your cufflinks back."
Yes. A definitely odd couple from the ankles up. Or was it just an odd couple from the ankles down? (Who could tell?)