Stops and Stations
Disclaimer:I don't own any of the characters from Axis Powers Hetalia, nor do I own Dus Kahaniyaan.
Summary: A chance encounter on the train which may or may not help him figure out his life while train strikes leave Alfred stranded at the station. Just great. AU US/Canada, FrUK
"Look, I appreciate the offer, but I really do think I should just go back to my hotel."
"But mon cher," he smirked in amusement as the other visibly cringed at the over-familiar endearment. "My boss insists that you let me give you a tour of the city; it will make a good conversation topic at tomorrow's conference, non?"
They both knew that it was a lie. They both also knew that neither would turn back to the conference room they had just left to confirm whether or not such a request had been made.
He smiled as the shorter man huffed in annoyance, running a hand through his sandy locks. His tone was resigned, yet it seemed as though he could not bear the prospect of not having the last word. "I've been to Paris before, you know. This isn't necessary."
Of course, giving him what he wanted was no fun at all.
"Not to worry, mon cher. I'll be sure to show you the quaint side of Paris which your tour guides will have neglected to mention!"
Blue eyes blinked owlishly as someone slid into the seat across from him, apparently completely unaware of his presence. Francis tilted his head to the side to survey the one who had interrupted his thoughts.
Troubled eyes which rivalled his own in shade of colour were framed by glasses, partially concealed on one side by blond bangs which were slightly darker than his own honeyed tresses. One stray lock seemed to stand at angles to the rest, looking almost like an antennae, though it, in accordance to the youngster's – for he seemed barely twenty – temperament, seemed to droop a little.
"So young and yet so very troubled! Tell me what eats at your heart; I assure you, you will feel much lighter having done so!"
The young man started, visibly jumping as he finally spotted the man sitting on the other side of the table.
"I- Wha- When did you… huh?"
"I'm sosorry," the other began again, apparently pulling himself out of his confusion. "I can move if you'd rather be alone; I didn't even look and just sat dow-"
Francis held up a hand, stopping the rapid flow of words mid flow. "It's quite alright; in fact I would appreciate the company. Call me Francis." He reached across the table. The other gripped his hand and gave it a firm shake.
"Alfred F Jones."
At this point, Alfred spotted the conductor making his way down the aisle and scrambled to find his ticket. It was a Tuesday afternoon – the train before rush hour began – so the train was only sparsely populated. It did not take long for the conductor to reach them.
Alfred finally produced the ticked from the back pocket of his jeans, and the conductor moved on, leaving the two men in silence.
"Was it really that obvious?"
The abrupt question took Francis by surprise but he quickly gathered his wits and realised the meaning of the enquirey. "Is the sky blue?" he answered, his tone kind and sympathetic. "You seem unable to hide your distress, just as you seem as though you would be unable to supress your happiness."
Alfred studied the other for a moment before nodding to himself. The nhe looked down at his linked hands on the table between them. "I guess I'm feeling guilty… I mean, telling lies is completely unheroic."
Francis raised a brow at the choice of words used, but gestured the other to continue.
Alfred took a deep breath. "You might have noticed that my accent is American?" Francis nodded. "Well, when I was four my dad adopted me in America. We stayed there for another year but then got transferred back to England. He's the one who's always look after me, and he'd probably smack me upside the head if he heard this, but I wanted to repay him."
He paused for a moment. Francis reached forward to take one of his hands and pat it in encouragement.
Alfred ploughed on, "That's why I started this business degree. So I could follow in his footsteps and make him proud, y'know? But I'm a year into the course and my heart just isn't in it."
"And what is it that you yearn to do, mon ami?"
Alfred glanced up. He didn't even know why he was telling this to some random stranger he had never met before. Perhaps it was the very fact that they most likely would never meet again? He wasn't sure. But now that he had begun to tell his tale he couldn't find it in himself to stop.
"I want to be a pilot. I think I always have wanted to, in the back of my mind, but I never really took myself seriously. A friend of mine from when I was in America is in the UK at the moment; we've been e-mailing each other like pen pals for forever, and he looked into the application process for becoming a pilot there. That's actually who I'm going to meet now, but my dad thinks I'm going to some seminar related to my course… I just couldn't tell him, when I'm not even sure whether to go through with this. I don't want him to be disappointed in me." Alfred fell quiet as they passed through a tunnel, the carriage darkening for a few moments before bursting into daylight again.
Francis regarded him seriously, silently, fingers steepled and brows furrowed. Then his expression cleared. A slight smile touched his lips.
"Let me tell you a little something about myself – perhaps it will help you come to a decision on your own dilemma?"
Alfred inclined his head – he was in no position to turn down freely given advice. The sooner he figured this out, the sooner he'd return to being his normal, enthusiastic, slightly overbearing self.
"I had been given the task of arranging a meeting for my supervisor and the man of the equivalent position in the London offices of the company that I worked for. For this, I had to liaise with our British counterparts through e-mail." Francis' gaze had wondered to the window, but he seemed to see something beyond the view of countryside that danced by. To Alfred's eyes, he seemed to look younger as he continued to speak. "A meeting date was set and they arrived in Paris for a series of conferences which would last for approximately a moth. We, who arranged the affair through internet correspondence, were not required to be present for many of these meetings."
Francis turned back to the American. Alfred seemed to be fascinated by the story, unconsciously leaning forward to hear more.
"While our e-mails had been strictly formal on a professional level, I was able to get to know the man who had been on the other side of the computer. He was quite charming in his own, roundabout way, and I never had so much fun as when I was arguing with him. We grew close."
Francis' eyes had softened as a fond smile tugged at his lips. "Of course, I was the first to identify our amour for what it was. He would deny and turn the loveliest shade of red but he would not push me away either..."
He seemed so lost in thought that Alfred had to prompt him to go on. "...What happened after that?"
Francis blinked. He had completely forgotten that the other was there as he had reminisced. "It was half way through the last week of his stay in France. I had resolved that I would never let him go, and so I proposed to him. I had anticipated his response and he did not disappoint in terms of my imagined scenario; his face had frozen in shock and he began to stutter how it was nonsense and that I was out of my mind." Francis' sigh was not one of sorrow or regret. Rather, he recalled this with mild amusement. "I proposed to him every day. I could feel his resistance crumble."
One hand rose to thread its fingers through wavy, shoulder length hair. "Two days before his planned departure I was called away to Nice. One of my juniors had made a blunder and I was to go back immediately to see what I could do to remedy it. I was not able to return before his flight. E-mails addressed to him bounced. His work phone would not connect. I had no personal details to go from and was unable to investigate the matter as deeply as I would have liked to as I had other responsibilities that I could not shirk. He made no attempt to contact me, and I began to convince myself that he must have moved on and forgotten about me."
"What a jerk!"Alfred's outburst startled both of them. Francis chucked good-naturedly and Alfred coloured, smiling sheepishly.
"It seems that I lost my opportunity with my Jerk," his eyes sparkled with amusement so Alfred guessed that he had caused not offence. Francis' words also held specific significance to him, showing his stance on Alfred's quandary. "Having fulfilled my responsibilities in France, I have come to see what became of him."
"... Have you any clues to his whereabouts?"
Francis' hand moved from his hair to rest beneath his chin as he considered the question. "I have visited the London branch of the company that we worked for and they informed me that he had been made redundant soon after his return from Paris." He replied slowly, and his free hand sank into the bag in the seat between him and the window (Alfred hadn't even noticed it there). He pulled something out and placed it on the table between them. "I also have this."
Alfred studied the object with interest. It seemed to be a white, ceramic figure of sorts. He reached forwards to inspect it more thoroughly. His eyes grew wide.
"... Your other clue is a saltshaker." The statement was delivered tonelessly as Alfred tried to get over his surprise. The saltshaker, approximately three inches in height, was modelled after a cartoon styled angel which wore a Union Jack dress and held a wand with a star on the end.
"I had it made by a friend while he was still in Paris. As you might have guessed, its counterpart is with the one I seek, and they are the only two of its kind in the world."
Alfred regarded him sceptically, but did not voice his unconvinced thoughts. The train was slowing now, as it reached the final stop on the route. Alfred stood, gathering his belonging. He had notice that Francis had not moved at all despite the compartment crawling to a halt. People began to surge towards the doors to hurry to their eventual destinations.
"I wish you luck with your dilemma, mon ami!"
"Thanks for putting up with me, man." He slapped Francis' shoulder as he walked by him to get to the door, throwing "And good luck to you too! It was nice to meet you, Francis!" over his shoulder for good measure.
'Ah, to be young again,' thought Francis briefly, falling back into his contemplation as though he had never been disturbed in the first place.
"Mon cher, I have a gift you!" The other looked particularly irritable that day. In Francis' humble opinion, it made him look all the more adorable.
"What do you want, Frog?"
Francis grinned mischievously. The other regarded him reproachfully before continuing to rifle through the papers in his briefcase. "Now, Arthur, is that any way to treat your kind benefactor?"
Francis was resolutely ignored.
"You do not even want to see what it is?"
"Oh, give it here." Arthur reached out, muttering under his breath. "It had better not be something perverted, giving it to me out here in the hotel's foyer..."
He had obviously not meant for Francis to hear it.
"So you would not mind something of that nature if given elsewhere? I'll make sure to remember that." He didn't bother avoiding the predictable punch that he felt land on his arm, instead choosing to eye the other man as he opened the plain box in his hands. Bushy brows furrowed as a small frown tugged at Arthur's lips.
"... You're giving me a pepper shaker."
"But mon cher, it does not contain pepper!"
Arthur sniffed the top of the shaker suspiciously. He didn't sneeze, instead inhaling the aroma of a mixture of spices again.
Francis continued cheerfully, "I cannot possibly allow you to poison yourself further as it is in my best interest to keep you alive and well, so add a little of this seasoning to whatever you are cooking until I am able to rescue you from your own culinary inability."
This exchange was followed by a brief silence and an indignant squawk, but Francis noted that the gift was placed back into the box with utmost care before its new owner chased its previous one out into the car park.
x X x
"Sir, today's train strikes have been all over the news for the past two days! There will be no trains entering or leaving this station until tomorrow. Now, as your ticket was booked in advance online we can exchange your current ticket for an early train tomorrow, but I'm afraid that's all I can do for you."
Alfred scowled darkly as he trudged away from the kiosk. Not only would he have to catch an early train when he should have been sleeping, he now also had to find somewhere to spend the night.
Cursing to himself softly, he pulled his mobile from his pocket and found the number marked as 'home'. Although he was meant to be elsewhere, Alfred could bluff that a friend in his situation had asked advice on where he could stay cheaply (he was on a student's budget after all) but still within a reasonable distance of the train station.
A part of him was relieved when the call went unanswered, ridding him of the need for a falsehood. It also saved him from having to hear the groggy complaint of "this sodding cold is your fault!" again.
Alfred really wanted to kick something in his frustration. Instead, he punched another number into his phone, informing his friend of the change in circumstances whilst assuring him that he would still be present on time the next day.
Sliding his phone back into his pocket, he found a bench and slumped onto it, trying to solve this predicament. As he sulked, he attempted the sums that would indicate just how much he could afford on securing some accommodation for the night.
Alfred looked up, pausing his depressing calculations to search for the source of the soft voice, and finding it – or rather, him - hovering over the bench. He looked as though he was slightly shorter than Alfred was, dressed casually with a camera slung around his neck and a tripod in one hand. The other hand had reached back to scratch the nape of his neck uncertainly, His hair was tied back into a ponytail with one curl escaping the bond to fall into the pale blue eyes that surveyed Alfred.
Alfred returned the gaze with curiosity. "Can I help you?"
The other shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Actually... I was wondering if I could be of some help to you." His voice was still quite soft, and Alfred had to strain his ears to hear it over the din of the train station. "I happened to overhear you speaking on the phone earlier... I mean, you seem like a decent sort so..." Apologetic, he looked down to study the laces of his shoes as he ploughed on. "What I mean to say is, I live within walking distance of here and I'd be willing to put you up until tomorrow."
Alfred stared. He blinked once, but no, the other was still there looking tentatively down at him. A slow smile spread across his features as he held out his hand. "I'd like to take you up on that! Alfred F Jones. It's a pleasure to meet you."
His saviour took the proffered hand into his own and surprised Alfred by giving it a firm shake. "Matthew Williams, and the pleasure's all mine."
A/N: And thus ends part one! This is based on one of the short stories in the Hindi film Dus Kahaniyaan, though it may vary since I haven't seen it for quite a while and I've tweaked it to suit this story (and its character's) needs. Actually, I meant to post this yesterday, but was having trouble (as usual) thinking of a title.
It's my first time writing France and America, and also my first time including a flashback so I'm hoping that that turned out okay.
I hope that you've enjoyed reading this, and that I see you in the next part of this story (I think it'll only have one or two more parts in total). Until next time! ^.^