Author's note: Oh dear god. There are not enough words for me to say how sorry I am for taking so long to update. My only excuse is that my muse for this story went away for a very long time and I had part of this chapter written but had no clue where I wanted to go with it. And then suddenly, a few days ago, I got my inspiration and muse back and I've made notes and now I honestly know how many more chapters there will be and how I want the story to end ;w; I've been bouncing ideas off my friend and typing these new chapters like crazy. I want to finish this story So, without any further adieu, enjoy chapter 8!
They met at nine at the same café the next morning. Arthur told himself the guilt for lying to Jean would go away. He had lied to humans before so there was no reason for feeling guilty this time. And it wasn't even one of his own, so it shouldn't have mattered anyway.
Jean kept smiling at him and asking questions about his childhood. Arthur continued to fabricate stories and excuses. "I lived with my siblings in England for a very long time," he said. "Francis'...father had business to attend to there sometimes and so he would bring Francis along. We met that way."
"I see." Jean took out a notepad and scribbled something down. Good Lord, is he going to write down everything I say?Arthur groaned in his head. "Was Francis always so, hmm, nervous?" He was smiling again.
"Nervous?" Arthur scrunched up his brows. "No, he was, and continues to be, the complete opposite of nervous."
"Oh," the Frenchman mumbled, looking suddenly very downhearted.
Arthur shifted uncomfortably. "But perhaps he's only nervous when he's with you?"
Jean looked up at him with wide blue eyes. "But why just me? Do I scare him that much?"
"Of course not, Jean." Arthur placed his hand on the other's. "He loves you. When Francis is smitten, his demeanor changes."
"He has…been in love before then?"
Arthur swallowed hard, remembering a time, centuries ago, where Francis was so deeply in love with a human girl. "Yes," he whispered. "He was young; foolish. He let her bewitch him. In the end, she passed on."
Jean was silent. "I…had no idea," he finally said. "Francis doesn't talk about his past, or anything really."
"It was a very hard time for him. He…He blamed me for her death."
"What?" Arthur jumped as Jean slammed his hands on the table. "W-Why would he blame you for something you had no control over?"
But I did. I watched her turn to ash before my eyes."Because I did not approve of their relationship."
Jean shook his head in disbelief. "Still. That is no reason to blame someone for another's death."
"We've gotten past that, fortunately. Though if he is angry enough at me he will reopen old wounds."
"Which is why I am going to help mend your friendship," Jean said determinedly.
Arthur rested his chin in his palm with a solemn smile. Poor fool.
When Jean returned home, Francis was waiting for him and looking very angry. "Where were you?" he growled as the brunette hung his coat up.
"I was out having breakfast with a friend," Jean said. "Why?"
"You didn't tell me you were going out."
"I didn't think I had to, Francis. I figured you had plans with some of yourfriends, whom I've yet to meet." Jean glared, not liking the way Francis was using the accusing tone with him.
Francis' face turned pink in embarrassment. "Sorry," he said softly. "I just…I woke up and you were gone and I—"
Jean's expression softened. He placed both hands on the blonde's face and leaned down to press a kiss on his lips. "Francis, I would never leave you."
"I know. I was just worried."
He smiled. "Well, we have the whole day to ourselves. What should we do?"
"Actually," Francis said with a grin, "I wanted to introduce you to my friends today. If you were all right with it."
Jean's smile widened. "Of course I'm all right with it, Francis!" He threw his arms around the other man in a warm embrace. He's finally opening up,he thought happily.
Francis was excited and nervous to introduce Jean to Gilbert and Antonio. His friends weren't the type of people he wanted his lovers to meet often. But Jean was special.
Antonio greeted them with a smile. Gilbert gave a salute before lowering his voice to Francis' ear, "What the hell is this about?"
"I wanted him to meet the both of you," Francis hissed back.
"Are you an idiot?"
Before Francis could reply, Antonio was already talking loudly and animatedly about various things. Jean was laughing, obviously enjoying himself. Francis smiled and sat down. Gilbert was still giving him the evil eye.
"So...Jean…what do you do?" Gilbert eventually grumbled out.
"I write children's books," he replied.
"Really?" Antonio seemed to bounce in his chair. "That's so cool!"
"Aha, it's not really…"
"Don't be so modest." Francis poked him with a grin. "Jean's created several best sellers."
"Wow!" Antonio's eyes were wide with delight.
Gilbert just rolled his eyes while Jean flushed pink. "I-It's nothing," he said. "Just something I enjoy."
"And are very good at," Francis added with a wink.
Jean smiled back at him. "Thanks. So, um, how do you all know each other?"
All three shared a quick glance. "It's complicated," Francis blurted out.
"We met in university," Gilbert grumbled out. "These two," he pointed to Antonio and Francis, "were in an on again off again relationship when I met them."
Francis choked on his drink, while Antonio gently patted his back. "It was a long time ago," Antonio said with a sheepish smile.
Jean's eyes were wide and he suddenly looked like he was regretting asking anything at all. "It sucked, 'cause they were my roommates and so I'd always come back and see them doin' it on the couch—"
"Gilbert!" Francis nearly shrieked, ready to throttle the Prussian.
Gilbert smirked back at him. "I'm sure Jean can handle knowing you were with someone else before him, Franny. Right, Jean?"
The brunette avoided Gilbert's teasing grin and frowned.
"It really didn't mean anything," Antonio added. "We were different people then."
"Yes," Francis said as he cleared his throat. "It's all in the past now."
"But you're still friends?" Jean asked innocently. Francis could tell he felt a little hurt by this knowledge and inwardly started kicking himself for not being more honest.
"Antonio is one of the best friends I've ever had, regardless of our past together," Francis said, touching Jean's face gently. "I'm sorry I never told you sooner but, I did not think it was important enough to bring it up. Are you angry?"
Jean shook his head. "No. Just a bit shocked, I guess. I don't exactly have a clean record myself."
Francis smiled. "There. You see? All is well." He glared at Gilbert. "Can I have a word with you, Gil? In private?" Gilbert rolled his eyes but nodded. Francis pulled him towards a corner of the room and shoved him against the wall where no one could see or hear. "I know what you just tried to do," he hissed.
"What? Lighten the mood? Tell the truth?" Gilbert glared right back at him, though was a bit surprised Francis was so strong.
"You wanted him to feel jealous. You wanted him to doubt my feelings for him."
Gilbert shrugged with a grin. "Whatever you want to believe, Francis, go right ahead. Your relationship is doomed as it is."
Francis wanted to punch him, oh yes he did. But he knew if he did, Antonio and Jean would ask questions. He backed away and took a few deep breaths. "You're an ass," he finally mumbled.
Gilbert laughed. "Franny, I only said what I said to protect you. As much as I hate you, you're my friend."
"That is oddly sweet coming from you."
"I'm actually a pretty nice guy," he said. "Just don't tell anyone."
Francis smiled suddenly. "You have my word."
Arthur had not been expecting a call from Jean at the all that night. He'd barely been out of the shower before his phone began to vibrate and he picked it up.
"Arthur, can we talk?" Jean sounded like he was whispering, like he didn't want anyone to hear what he was saying.
"Um…all right. But why are you whispering?" He sat down on the bed and started drying his hair.
"I don't want Francis to hear."
"Ah…" He took a deep breath. "So what is it?"
"Well, I met Francis' friends today. I'm not sure if you know them—"
"Oh I know them," he grumbled. "More than I really want to, honestly."
Jean chuckled softly. "Yes, they're a bit odd. While I was there, his friend Gilbert mentioned something that confused and kind of upset me and made me realize just how much I really don't know about Francis at all. And since I know you've known him longer I was hoping you could maybe tell me some things."
"Is now not a good time?"
"Well, I…" Arthur really didn't have an excuse. What did he have planned for the rest of the evening? Reading a book? Wallowing in self pity? He sighed. "What do you want to know?"
"How many people has he been with, besides me?"
It was an odd first question. Arthur took a moment to respond. "You must understand something about Francis, Jean. He is a romantic. He loves to pursue people. Most of those people are flings and never last very long. You are honestly the first true relationship I've seen him in."
Jean was quiet for few minutes. Then, "So he basically slept around a lot before meeting me."
"He…well, I guess there's no denying it." Arthur couldn't tell how Jean felt about all this and wasn't sure if he should bother getting his hopes up.
"Did you and he…?"
Things were becoming very personal now and Arthur panicked. "Look, Jean—"
"Tell me, Arthur. Please."
Fuck, why does he make me feel so bloody guilty? "A few times," he muttered. "We were young, experimenting, unsure of ourselves. I-It meant nothing." Why am I trying to reassure him?
"I thought so. I sort of suspected this could be why your friendship is so strained now."
"Huh? What? No, that's not—"
"It explains a lot," he said, almost in relief. "You're both so hostile to each other because of this, right?"
Not exactly. I'm pretty sure the constantly being at war with one another caused a bit of it too."Yes. It must be."
Jean laughed excitedly on the other end. "Oh, this is exciting, Arthur! Now we know the root of the problem and we can fix it."
"You two need to have a sit down to just talk about your feelings."
Arthur groaned. Oh bloody fucking hell.
If it's not completely obvious, Arthur is kind of a jerk here. And Francis is too, as you'll find later on. The innocent one in all of this is Jean. I like exploring his character more because I want to make him likable to people. He's sweet and really cares about Francis and believes Arthur is his bff lol He has no reason to suspect otherwise.
So, yeah, I hope you enjoyed this very belayed chapter. Hopefully it won't take me so long to update next time orz