Now, for a little of that backstory that was stowed away in favour of watching Arthur elbow Francis in the ribs. Arthur Kirkland was born and raised on a steady diet of The Beatles, Stones and Clash and was rocking The Invasion long before it was considered "in" again (he wasn't very popular in his younger days when "I Love You" a la Barney was far more well-known than "Anarchy in the UK". It didn't take long for him to pick up his dad's old Stratocaster and start teaching himself how to play. Lessons were hard to come by but Arthur seemed to be somewhat of a natural.
It also didn't take long for him to grow bored of the Invasion. Soon he was listening to whatever he could get his hands on from Bob Dylan to Europe to Red Army Gregorian Chants. While not admittedly a fan of the church incant, it didn't matter because everything was absorbed into his brain. Instead of excelling and getting the grades that would guarantee him a position in the House of Lords, Arthur was in his basement, listening to music, his ever increasing repertoire coming out in the quiet riffs he played.
Having the World's Greatest Guitarist living in a small town (Pagham, West Sussex) meant that he didn't go unnoticed. Not that Arthur was signed by a record company and made millions before he could legally drink -he drank anyway, just discreetly. No, he was picked up by someone much more… awesome. Gilbert Beilschmidt, in a moment of divine intervention, opened his ears and listened to something other than the sound of his own voice talking just as Arthur was testing out a new solo based on Tank! by the Seatbelts.
Since then, the duo has been somewhat inseparable. Inseparable as in those moments where they were apart, the Shaolin monks would stop their training and look up into the sky, animals of the Serengeti would pause in their ancient migration to stand restlessly and even Canadian political parties would stop bickering among themselves all long enough to recognize that something was wrong in the world.
In an effort to save migration patterns and the political integrity of Canada, Gilbert and Arthur tried to stay together as often as possible. But they had creative issues as all bands do. While Gilbert had his roots engrained deep within German/Swedish Symphonic-Metal, Arthur wanted to try everything, leaning towards a more rock-ish/Blind Melon feel.
This is where Mathias Køhler fit in perfectly. Stern, yet exuberant, he brought a more levelheaded and unbiased voice to the band and soon practices were scheduled, money was saved, venues were sought after, dreams were formed and an Estonian somehow managed to find his way as Roadie/Band Manager.
Even as they entered SPQR Academy (known as the "srs bsns" school among the youth of London) the three could often be found under a stairs case, Arthur strumming on his guitar, Mathias tapping his sticks against any surface that created a noise and Gilbert mumbling quietly, eyes shut in concentration.
While his history was not near as exciting, braggable or windswept as Francis', Arthur Kirkland has what someone might call a history. But, as stated before, Arthur would not start his memoirs at his birth at Chichester Nuffield Hospital or the first day he met Gilbert or the first time he picked up a guitar. He would start with Francis Bonnefoy's hugging him while he became very well acquainted with Katya's chest because that is the root of all Arthur's problems and dreams.
Two hours before the show
Risque let out its last customer, closing its doors for the next hour and a in half, after which they would open again. Instead of letting in the fine dining crowd it was used to and it would be finding itself filled to the brim with Londoners, students from the Academy and punk-rockers trying to a find a new indie band they could cling to in a vague hope that if the band would go big, they could brag about seeing their first show.
Gilbert was meanwhile trying to fit his small 1950 restored, bright crimson, Beetle through the alley beside the restaurant, unable to see out the back window due to the drums blocking his view. Arthur and Mathias were trying to direct him but the Prussian refused to hear anything. For fifteen minutes his vocabulary consisted of nothing but "Scheiß Auto! Verdammt. Halt die Fresse Arthur und du auch, Matthias. Verfickter Däne und scheißt britische Idioten. Verpisst euch- Scheiße!"
Eventually the drums made it inside swiftly followed by Arthur's amp and a microphone. By this time Eduard had arrived, adjusting his glasses as he scanned down his checklist. "Is Gilbert going to set up the microphones? And please tell me he remembered his guitar." He asked, eyes scanning the small venue slightly disappointed.
Sitting down on the small stool behind his drum, Matthias tested them. "He's over hitting on that old brunette lady. I think the foreplay is calming him down." He gestured with a stick while his other hand adjusted a cymbal. Arthur glanced over his shoulder for a moment, watching Gilbert lean against the bar, chatting to a very unimpressed-looking Elizaveta, "And is anyone gonna be able to see us? We're stuck behind all these tables."
As if summoned, Toris appeared, Feliks clinging to his arm. "We'll move the tables for you." He said, but no one really registered what he was saying as all attention was focused on the black lipstick, bright plaid miniskirt, pigtails with pink streaks and the numerous chains hanging around Feliks' neck (it was as if he was trying to bluff having a chest when really he was just hiding his lack of one.)
"Like, totally!" The Pole flounced over and started tugging the tables to the side, clearing a space. Meanwhile, Arthur had grabbed the Lithuanian's arm, pulling him away and talking in quiet and quick voices.
"I thought you said he wasn't going to dress up!"
"I thought so too. B-but he insisted."
"Can't you say no?"
"Well, as long as he does his job, the crowd should be drunk enough not to notice that a man dressed up as a fucking Britney Spears music video is bartending."
One hour before the show.
Gilbert had finally returned to the stage (his right cheek was stinging from a serious blow from the hostess) and was behind his microphone, tapping and talking into it while exchanging looks with Eduard who was in a corner, a small board covered in dials and sliders, glasses reflecting his laptop's screen. Sitting on top of a chair, beating his sticks against the back of Toris' head while the headwaiter was trying to convince Feliks to not show so much skin, was Matthias.
Curled in a corner, fingers sliding along the thin wires on the neck of his guitar (Elizabeth), picking absentmindedly, Arthur stared out into space, his mind obviously not with him at that moment in time. Which is why Francis was able to sneak up on him without too much trouble. "You look nice." He said, bending over, grinning at the Brit. Arthur looked up in time to see the blue eyes roam over his tight, fire engine red pants.
"Thanks." Arthur said, immediately bringing his splayed legs together, knobby knees knocking together, "You're not bad yourself."
Straightening, Francis laughed airily, flipping his long hair over his shoulder. "I do not wear a chef's uniform all the time." He said, tugging at the cuff of his black jacket, "Want to play me something?"
By now Arthur had a mild comprehension in the realm of reading Francis - which was quite the ordeal involving a lot of quiet night spent behind the bar, watching him with Elizaveta as she whispered things in his ears, educating him. Standing casually, hands shoved into tailored pants but that smile… no matter how Arthur stared at it, he couldn't get anything from it. "You have to wait for the show."
"Aww, no private shows for ze boss?" Francis pouted.
Arthur got to his feet, sliding the guitar around his back so that his hands were free. "I doubt Roderich wants to hear my guitar." Starting to walk towards Gilbert and Matthias who were both on stage, roughhousing (he intended to pull them apparent before they managed to break something) the Brit stopped as there was a sudden pressure at his back.
Looking round, he caught the Frenchman's fingers trace up the neck of his guitar, plucking on a string. "She is beautiful," He whispered into Arthur's ear, grinning. This expression Arthur could read and it made him swallow hard, "I cannot wait to see how you use her."
In the stunned moment that follows, Matthias managed to crack a chair leg and Gilbert leaves a long black streak on the hardwood floor with the heel of his boot.
"Break a leg Sourcils~"
Five minutes before the show.
"Arthur. C'mon man, you can't bail out now!"
"I think he's actually died."
"I dunno, he's breathin' and shit…"
"Maybe we weren't yelling loud enough. Shit, you don't think he's gone deaf have you?"
"I'll check. ARTHUR KIRKLAND, CAN YOU HEAR ME? IT'S GILBERT. YOUR AWESOME BEST FRIEND." Gilbert shook Arthur violently but still no response.
For the last fifty-five minutes, the Brit hadn't moved, staring ahead, cheeks red. Currently the Dane and Prussian were trying to snap him out of it as they had an opening gig to play. Risqué was filled with people. Which in itself was unexpected and even Gilbert, who never got butterflies, was feeling nervous. The only one calm and collected (besides the living-dead Brit) was Eduard.
The Estonian appeared, squeezing between the crowds, a glass of water in his trembling hand. Shoving the two older boys away, he approached Arthur shaking his head. "Idiots." He muttered, dipping his finger into the water before shoving it into Arthur's ear.
The yelp made the crowd look around and gave them time to size up the night's entertainment. An albino with a too-confident smile who looked as though he was about to have a paroxysm, a tall Dane who was currently fixing his nose piercing, eyes crossed and tongue stuck out in determination, a small bespectacled Estonian and a raging Englishman clutching his ear.
Definitely a winning combination.
"Show's about to start." Eduard informed genially, "Just a few more minutes." Passing the glass to Gilbert, the small boy walked away, sliding behind his computer and soundboard, looking immensely pleased with himself.
Staring into the glass, Gilbert frowned. "You just got wet-willy'd by Eduard."
Arthur glared. "Oh really? I hadn't fucking noticed!" He let his hands fall from his ear and stared at the other two. "Wow… I guess this is it."
"Our big show." Matthias said.
"The start of our career as rock stars." Gilbert added, nodding.
"Gil… Matthias… I just want you to know, it's been a great run. So if we bomb tonight, we bomb."
"We bomb being the most awesome thing London's ever seen." Gilbert's pale hand hovered in the air in front of them. "For the band?"
Matthias put his hand in next. "The band."
"Please don't tell me that's our name… The Band." Arthur said, but still putting his hand in anyway.
"Oh don't worry." Gilbert said, slapping his other hand on top, grinning and looking a little less green, "I've got a plan."
Thirty seconds before the show.
Funny how the name could be fixed with one single word.
"Hello Londooooooooooooon!" Gilbert's voice echoed, the mike whined with feedback and the small crowd turned to the stage, "We are The Pathetics!" there was a quiet murmur and a few people gave whistles. Arthur walked on stage, frowning slightly at the lights, trying to see past the glare. He caught sight of Matthew and Alfred, grinning a little as he fumbled with his amp chord, plugging it in.
As Arthur pulled his hand back, he noticed that he was shaking and that his feet were awkwardly shifting from side-to-side. Suddenly, he seemed to have forgotten everything he had ever played and all he could do was stare out at the blurred crowd, swallowing. He couldn't do this; he was going to mess up. Life as a hermit wouldn't be too bad, right? That was if Matthias and Gilbert would let him live.
"Arthur… dude, count us in." Gilbert hissed.
Wide green eyes flicked to the Prussian who was staring expectantly at him, his hands gripping his microphone stand tightly. Arthur's mouth open and he saw the flicker of a smile and blue eye wink at him from a corner.
Five seconds before the show.
He gripped his guitar, set his feet and gave Gilbert a small grin. "A five, six, seven, eight…" The drums started, a low and fast beat and Gilbert's strums soon join as he turns back to the ground and Arthur can see that he isn't a scared little girl anymore.
Then it's his turn. He flows in easily alongside the other two but just as soon as his guitar hums along, it's playing it's own melody. Tension relaxed from his shoulders as he got into the rhythm, watching Gilbert move to the microphone and start singing into it.
"Well, the room was pink and the sign were serious-"
It all happened to fast and before Arthur knows the chorus from the bridge, their song is over. The three stand all shivering and panting slightly, looking at each other in the hush that follows. Someone claps and Arthur his gut seize. Were they that bad?
As God decided that he was done playing with The Pathetics, the throng of servers, kitchen staff, faux-punks, schoolmates, restaurateurs who came for dinner, instead getting a show and other random assortment of riffraff the odd venue seemed to have pulled in.
One setlist later, Arthur, Gilbert and Matthias were drenched in sweat but high of the exuberance of the crowd that had not died down once during the entire show. Thanking them and bowing, they walked out of the hard lights, sneaking into the backroom. They stared at each other before Gilbert started to laugh, pulling the other two into a loose hug.
"We fucking did it!" He half-screamed, "We did it! Did you see them? They thought we were amazing! Christ, that was awesome! And- and-" His voice trailed off into a lengthy and too fast German speech of made up of enthusiasm that made Arthur and Matthias laugh.
Grabbing a bottle of water and throwing it down his parched throat, Arthur let out a long sigh, rolling his neck. "Can you believe it? We just played our first show."
"Today, some little French restaurant," Matthias said, taking the bottle from Arthur and finishing it in one gulp, "Tomorrow, Madison Square Garden!"
Laughing the three tried to clean themselves off a bit before exiting. The crowd had settled a bit, food having appeared on tables and the lights more ambient. A small girl was talking to Eduard who seemed utterly flustered while Feliks was showing off his bartending skills to a group of Arthur's classmates.
While the Dane and Prussian walked towards their own families, Arthur stood for a moment, his eyes searching for Alfred and Matthew.
"You were magnifique Sourcils." Turning around, Arthur stared at Francis. The Frenchman had been stripped of his black jacket, revealing a deep scarlet shirt underneath. Arthur's eyes were immediately drawn to the pale skin revealed beneath the few undone buttons. "You look hot-"
Arthur stared at him.
"-Per'aps you want to go outside?" Francis finished.
"Oh." The Brit nodded and followed Francis out to a small balcony. The London street below rumbled with movement. Arthur clenched the railing tightly trying to appear calm and collected like a disinterested rockstar but the Frenchman's gaze on him was making him feel more like an inadequate, seventeen-year-old boy who had just played his first show.
Francis propped his chin on his hand, watching Arthur carefully. "You really love it. Don't you?" He questioned easily.
Leaning against the railing, deciding that his knees were going to support him much longer (why? He couldn't be that tired from the show), Arthur nodded. "It's just something I've always done."
"Ah, I understand. Cooking 'as always been ze same for me."
"Right." Arthur bit his lip, "So… you liked the show?"
"Oui. It was better than expected."
"Should that be a compliment?"
"I do not know. Do you think it is one, Sourcils?"
Was it just him or was the chef starting to gravitate towards him?
"Okay..." Arthur said, wondering why his words were coming out too hesitating and quiet. He also wondered why he was…. Wondering so much. Surly he would be more self-confident after playing an entire show.
A hand found it's way onto his shoulder. "Sourcils? Are you alright? You are still red, per'aps I can get you some water?" The warm fingers toyed at the edge of his throat, grazing the edge of the thin scar around his neck.
"Don't ask. It's a long story." Arthur said, but not pulling away. After all, the chef was just feeling… his pulse, obviously. To make sure he was still alive. "Rather... awkward, I mean it was-"
Warm lips pressed against his for only a moment. It would take about three days for the fact that Arthur had just had his first kiss to really register in his mind. Right now, high on the thrill of performance and the coolness of the night, Arthur barely noticed. Later, when he would lie in bed at night, fingers feeling his lips, he would remember the sweet and acid taste of too-much wine, the tentativeness he had never seen before with Francis and he would wonder if it had all been a drunken mistake.
"I was only feeling your neck Sourcils." Francis whispered, grinning at him, "Forgive me, you are too adorable to keep myself away from. I believe that you will continue to prove too much for me too to 'andle if you continue working 'ere."
Did someone really have it in their master plans that the French chef kissed him was trying to fire him at the same time? "Well that's too bad." Arthur responded, pulling away but finding himself backed against the steel barrier. "Because I really need to payoff my debt."
"Then allow me to start convincing you to leave." Francis whispered, kissing him again.
Perhaps if Arthur had been paying more attention he would've noticed Matthew getting to know Gilbert, Alfred taking in a low voice to Ludwig and the quiet amber eyes of Yao watching everything from the corner, something close to longing in his gaze.
Until then, he would focus on the fact that Francis was kissing him, warm arms wrapping around him, pulling him flush against him just as they had the first time they had met and how they somehow seem to fit together.
Arthur would later write in his memoirs, "It was by far one of my more memorable moments because I couldn't figure out for the life my me why I wasn't fighting back. It was also the moment that I realized that Francis Bonnefoy was going to be in my life for a very long time, whether I wanted him there
"And somehow, that realization didn't bother me at all."
As far as I know, Gilbert's rant is basically this: Fucking car! Dammit. Shut the hell up Arthur and you too Matthias! Fucking Dane and Brit idiots! Piss off- FUCK!
The song that they were playing is "My Friend John" by The Fratellis.
I never write a speedy romance between these two but I like to think that they were both a little drunk that night (Francis on wine; Arthur on performance) and merely acting on impulse… we'll see, won't we~?
The thing with this 'verse is that the other stories will branch off from this one, winding their way through the different families/groups I've managed to squeeze in here. It's mostly a side project to my other stories but I want something I can work on whenever if I get stuck with another story.