Luxuries of Morning Toxins
The acrid smell of gun powder burned down his throat, remaining for days long after the battle had pushed west. Remaining even when there was no smell at all. Of course, that smell wasn't quite as putrid of the scent of charred, rotting flesh, corpses scattered in collapsed trenches, the unidentifiable ones. His fingers shook with the horror of it, face set in marble, eyebrows drawn to glare at the rising sun.
Francis lay in his lap, heavy, warm, a welcome distraction. A bitter sweet beauty that was wilting under the stress. His eyes were closed, dark bruises underneath warning him of the nights Francis spent tossing and turning, wracked with night terrors and insomnia, nearly screaming in his agony. His lips, once an appealing pink, were parted to take breath, the air wheezing through his lungs.
His clothes hid the scars that dug deeper, tearing great chunks from him as more died. As more suffered. As land was trampled beneath German feet. He wasn't fairing much better than the previous night or the night before that. This was the only sleep he had gotten in days. And Arthur wasn't eager to wake him from it.
Arthur shifted minutely to find the silver lighter in his breast pocket, engraved with his initials, a gift from Alfred. With great regret he dug until he found a slightly crumpled cigarette box, pulling out his very last cigarette.
"You had better share." Francis whispered, blue eyes cracking open to look up at him. Arthur didn't reply, lighting the cigarette and taking a deep drag, blowing out the smoke to watch it curl and disappear on the wind. His fingers tangled in blonde hair, gently easing out knots, surprised that Francis could keep his hair so soft and clean in the middle of war. Francis hummed softly at the comforting touch, fingers tracing around the buttons of Arthur's uniform.
The smirk he gave him was painfully suggestive.
"Go back to sleep. You look like shit." Smoke puffed out of his mouth as he spoke, flaring orange at the tip as he breathed in. Francis laughed, the sound not nearly as deep and charming as when the war had began. "Besides, I don't have another." Francis smiled thinly and sat up, leaning against the mound of up turned dirt, plucking the cigarette from Arthur's lips.
For a moment, he looked as sensual as always, sunlight gracing his skin with the color he hadn't had for months, hair lit on fire, eyes giving him that practiced expression of lust as he pressed the cigarette into his mouth, taking a long slow drag. Francis sighed contentedly, resting his head against his shoulder, taking another drag.
"I'm so tired." He broke the spell over them, and Arthur was hauled back to reality. Even if Francis had looked like one of those glamourous actresses in the movies. Even if Arthur had never wanted to kiss him more. Even if, for a moment, he could pretend they were not in a goddamn field of corpses. He stole the cigarette back, watching Francis withhold the smoke in his lungs before blowing it out in a slow steady stream.
They were both distracted by the crash of bombshells, too far away to be of any danger to them. Even more distracted by the swoop of birds over the obliterated land. Francis took a moment to pluck the cigarette from his lips again, taking a drag and pressing their mouths together, his fingers, thin and crooked and bruised, fisting with surprising strength in his hair.
He sighed softly, a hand finding Francis's hip, tempted to drag him closer, as always. Tempted to let him do what he wanted. Tempted to push him down and kiss him harder and make his wounds reopen because that's how it had always been between them. He crushed the primal rage that told him to kill Ludwig when he saw him. No one was allowed to harm Francis, scar him, but Arthur himself.
Francis flicked the remainder of the cigarette away, watching the smoke swirl upwards. He was just tired. Very tired. With a sigh, he lay back down in Arthur's lap, eased by the warmth radiating from him, his mind avoiding dark places with Arthur so close, like a shield. "When are we going back to camp?" He whispered, locking away the images that flared at any mentions of the war, the pain that had dug into his body and taken root, throbbing through his bones.
Arthur wanted desperately to tell him 'never'.