Author's note: Well hello thar, and welcome welcome to my very first Hetalia fan fic! It took a lot of balls and failed attempts at one shots that will never get to see the light of day again to really get moving on this piece, but I like where it's going and I'm pretty comfortable writing for a fandom of a series I just love to death! This is sort of an experimental fic for me as well so we'll see how it goes :T A little Moulin Rouge, a little of another movie that inspired me that will remain anonymous for now since it would ruin a lot, a lot of shameless anachronisms and slapdash history research and voila! Here we have this. Please do enjoy! And leave me lots of lurves should you enjoy! 3
La Vie en Rose
For as long as he could remember, Arthur Kirkland had lead a perfectly ordinary life.
It began in a quaint little cottage at the end of a cobblestone drive in the countryside just outside the metropolitan borders of London, affectionately dubbed Faerie's Grotto by its eccentric initial owner and contractor. Tea was always held promptly at four in the afternoon in the rose garden gazebo, and there were always exactly three ladyfingers, two strawberry tarts, or one scone with clotted cream and homemade preserves for each member of the family to go with the fat-bellied silver pot of none-too-hot Earl Grey. The milkman left their bottles on the stoop without fail once a week, and the postman arrived every day on the dot at one o'clock PM and greeted his mother with the same pleasantries as she tended her flowerbeds. Bedtime came every night when the grandfather clock in the foyer chimed eight, ushering in the clockwork routine of donning pajamas, brushing teeth, a teaspoon of cod liver oil, and ended at last with the story of his choice from the coveted leather bound tome of fairytales handed down the Kirkland family for generations. Every subsequent morning he dressed in his steel gray uniform, knee socks, blazer, and black-striped tie to walk the same misty trek of precisely one and one half mile with his lunch box always in his left hand and his briefcase in the right to the boys academy in town. Every term he brought home perfect marks, and every summer holiday he spent roving the moors and hills around his home in various costumes and weaponry. One day he would be skiffing the lake in the old rowboat as a pirate captain, the next in the mystical verdant woods surrounding Faerie's Grotto as an intrepid adventurer Prince in search of dragons and unicorns.
Though as all young boys must do, Arthur grew into a young man, and his life remained perfectly ordinary even as it changed. Bedtime no longer came with fairytales and cod liver oil, and slowly moved back to nine, and then even ten o'clock, but always stayed the same. Stuffed mythical beasts, knight's swords and pirate hats were gradually replaced with the same classic books, all the latest records, prints of popular films and rugby gear that filled his boyhood friends' rooms. He graduated from the academy, and then moved on to the same secondary school all his classmates did further away from home. There, he continued to earn perfect marks and spend his summers at home, interrupted only by the occasional rugby injury and late night excursions with adventurous friends.
The only thing to truly disrupt the perfectly ordinary life he enjoyed up until his teenage years was the shadow of the Second World War that loomed high over all of Europe. Luckily, he remained young enough, and far away enough from the epicenters of destruction and pain that it seemed like no more than one of the epic conflicts in the fairy stories he continued to take solace in despite his apathetic teen age as his family listened huddled together to the reports of troops advancing, retreating and clashing on the wireless. If anything, it only made his life even more predictable and ordinary, as every week there would be precise rations on food and other essentials that reduced even shopping to a precise science. The wireless broadcasts were even always on at the same hour of the evening, though unlike many boys his age, Arthur preferred to leave the room after a few moments of highlights of the day's happenings and go upstairs to his bedroom where he would translate his fears and trepidations into drawings of a bold and noble unicorn that would be the savior of his fairy kingdom. He called the courageous beast Keiran, and alongside an often belligerent and cranky phoenix they rid the world of evil and brought a sense of peace and harmony to all. He never showed his creations to a soul, and, embarrassed as any young lad of his age, he bound all his drawings and manuscripts in butcher paper and stashed them under his bed, never to be heard of again. He banished all notions of fantasy and folly from his ordinary, logical mind and applied himself fully to school and taking out his aggressions on the rugby field instead of on paper.
So it went on, the warring and schooling and rugby tackling, until at last the drudgery of grade school had evaporated. Arthur was class speaker at his perfectly ordinary, dull, and far too long graduation ceremony, and gave a perfectly prim and proper, artfully composed speech. Despite the climate of war, at the end of that last summer holiday just as everyone had expected of him, he attended Oxford University and spent a rather uneventful four years studying classic literature. He read every book in the canon, no more, and no less, studied the masters of every culture and learned their craft in all of their subtle flairs and nuances. He had a brief, and fruitless affair with a plain brunette one year older than him, and spent most of his time in the ancient library, surrounding himself with the words of wise souls long since past.
Once he was awarded his prestigious degree in literature, Arthur Kirkland returned home to Faerie's Grotto where life was as it always had been. Tea was always at four, the post came at one, his mother always left precisely ten perfect buds on each of her rose bushes, and the milk arrived on the doorstep once every week. He moved back into his old room, filled with all his old things, tacked up his Oxford pennant, his framed diploma, and sat down on his old bed, wondering just what in the hell to do with his life. By then, the war had ended, and though the Allied Forces had eventually triumphed, England was not left without scars. War had taxed the whole nation, financially and emotionally. London was still in shambles, food was rationed even more harshly than ever, and everyone seemed many more years older and more exhausted than the years the war had taken to win. Arthur took a step back, looked at it all, looked back on his perfectly ordinary life and realized just exactly what he could do with it. England needed a hero to raise it from the gray soot of their living grave of wartime. It was time to revisit Keiran the unicorn.
Much to Arthur's surprise, pleasant as it was, the timid little bundle of paper was still shoved in the darkest, dirtiest corner of his bed. He brought it out, read through his old thoughts again, and with his new, sharp and brilliantly trained literary lens, he repenned and reillustrated the story for the children of Britain and beyond with all the fiery passion in his heart. From start to finish, he created a lavish, cunningly crafted world in word and stunning art alike with deep loyalties and even deeper resentments. He painted his valiant heroes pitted against the stunningly sinister villains against a backdrop of intricate, innovative lands in the first novel of what he knew could be the answer to what so many people were seeking. For months, Arthur created his masterpiece, and the moment it was finished he hurled it into the post to England's premiere publisher of children's novels for their consideration.
A few months later, a raving letter of congratulations arrived in the post box at Faerie's Grotto at precisely one o'clock.
The Sabrehaven Saga, as he had called it, was an instant success. Children and their parents alike were snatching it greedily from bookshop shelves, and many establishments were backordered for weeks. Keiran the noble, brave, and goodhearted unicorn and his beautiful kingdom of Sabrehaven were, indeed, exactly what a suffering nation needed to absorb themselves in to forget the world they lived in, and to enter a world in which good always triumphed and even in the darkest hour there was always light. That was how Arthur had escaped from the cold, indifferent fog of war that mercifully never touched his life, and he was thrilled to be able to share it.
After the first book he wrote several more, all of which were just as readily snatched from shelves and coveted. His fame only continued to grow and spread, his books turned into comics for the Sunday paper, even dramas on the wireless right after school hours for children to listen to when they arrived home. All of England held its breath while renowned author Arthur Kirkland brought them time and time again into the world of his imagination and at last to the final installment, where Keiran finally vanquished the lord of darkness and brought freedom and prosperity to his kingdom once again in the most thrilling war of heroes and vast armies anyone could remember reading. It was hailed as a masterpiece, a marvel, a truly great piece of fantasy literature to be held against such greats as the works of Carroll, Lewis, Potter, or Barrie. Reviews and fanmail poured into the editor's office in a deluge of love and admiration, and once the initial celebration died down, he turned cheerfully to Arthur and had asked him what he planned to write next.
Arthur was horrified to discover he had absolutely no answer at all.
He had little idea what to do with his life when he had returned from college, and it was only in half madness that he had ever decided to write down Keiran's story at all. It was a story borne from childhood fears and uncertainties, shaped with a more mature mind on literature, but other than that, Arthur was faced with the all too horrific realization once more. He had lived a perfectly ordinary life. He could no more tease a titillating novel out of daily teatime than he could out of brushing his teeth in the morning. There was simply nothing left in his heart to write about. He had adored the fantasy stylings of the brothers Grimm and Hans Christan Andersen, but they had already taken just about every other story he could think of. There was nary an original thought left in his skull, or so his frazzled and frustrated editor had brutally told him after he had once again brought him a thinly veiled copy of yet another fairytale.
And just like that, Arthur Kirkland was just another man once more. His well of inspiration ran dry, his muses returned to their home on Olympus, and the drabness of post Second World War England slowly began to seep into his bones as well. Winter had come and brought with it the icy gray rain and clouds that seemed to steal the color from an already wan and washed nation. Arthur confined himself to Faerie's Grotto, sitting miserably by the fire and sketching scene after scene of not his beloved cast of characters, but rather the fat, old family tabby cat who was prone to often hilarious bouts of senility and gluttony.
The entire winter he sat brooding in his favorite flannel robe, which was infuriatingly ordinary, furious with himself and furious with the kingdom of Sabrehaven for being his only comfort and his only curse. The whole of England, along with his editor, was waiting anxiously for what the genius author Arthur Kirkland had in store and his mind was a vast, barren wasteland, a dry sponge he wrung again and again only to tear the thing to shreds. Inspiration stubbornly refused to come, for all his life he had done absolutely nothing else to possibly inspire him. Everything he had created he had done so by drawing on the sacrifices and hardships of others to craft his story, snatches of words read by a stranger on the wireless, drawings of heroes in books, and ideals he had never had to uphold. He personally had not the foggiest idea of what it really meant to be honorable, to be courageous, to fall in love. Yet there he sat, purveyor of virtues and adventures that were nothing more than a figment of his imagination. However, the day he realized everything he had ever written was a fraud, was the very same day he realized the answers to all of his woes as well after a smashed teacup, a terrified cat, and a startling epiphany.
Arthur Kirkland was bored, and had been for quite some time.
All he had to do was make his life perfectly unordinary and alleviate it. If the one thing out of the ordinary in his life had inspired him before, it would only stand to reason it could all too easily happen again. A change of scenery, a change of lifestyle, experiencing something he had never experienced before, it was all so simple he could have kicked himself. He needed to get out of Faerie's Grotto, and fast, the only question was where.
Arthur loathed the idea of going anywhere on the British Isles, so they were definitely out of the question. Though all he knew of any other lands of the world he actually lived in, rather than the fantasy one, was a distant memory from history and geography class, so he ventured out at last into town and bought a travel brochure to aide in his decision and crossed out his homeland's pages in thick black ink right away. In post war Europe there were several more places he had to eliminate for reasons he knew all too well and he spent a rainy afternoon in the parlor inking them out and perusing the rest.
Countless pages flipped and turned and rustled into oblivion as Arthur scowled and rejected each country. Austria, Denmark, Switzerland; all of them were filled with rich history and beautiful landscapes, but nothing of that fabulous, interesting, inspiring spark he was looking for. Every page was filled with ancient castles, verdant forests, and quaint cityscapes that were all too like the small village in which he had lived his entire ordinary life. Not a single page enticed his senses or made his heart race the way he knew it should, until at last he turned past one, and was instantly transported to a lush photograph of the Eiffel Tower at night with all of Paris rambling beneath it, twinkling with wild, flirtatious lights.
Paris; the city of Light, city of cabaret, burlesque, and the original center of all things sensual, scandalous, and lascivious and located in France, a country of cuisine, of beauty and art and music where love was the only law and anything at all was possible. For years he had scoffed and denounced it, mocked the French and their strange ideals and loose morals, but the more he stared at that page, the more he envisioned the smell of fresh baguettes in the air and the sound of musettes crooning on the banks of the Seine, the more appealing it became. Paris was legendary for its mystique and its rich history steeped in tales of love, war, betrayal and passion that had woven an intricate and beautiful tapestry of culture and experience over its history even older than his mother country. If there was nothing to stimulate him there, he decided, there was no hope for him at all, and he promptly booked a ferry and train ticket straight into the pulsing heart of France and all its colorful flair.
Arthur only looked back once at his childhood home the day he left with all his earthly belongings in a bulging leather suitcase, for he vowed not to return until he had found himself at last. He waved just once to his parents who held each other in trepidation in the doorway and bid him farewell, not quite understanding the boldly foolish move their son was making, but supporting him nonetheless. When Arthur made up his mind to do something, he was never one to be dissuaded and on the matter of Paris, his mind was soundly made up. He knew not what on earth he was walking into, but for once, it was a good feeling. It was time for his perfectly ordinary life to become extraordinary, and not only in ink and paper. And so it was that famed author Arthur Kirkland walked down the cobblestone path to the bus stop one final time, leaving everything comfortable, safe, and familiar behind him, and set foot at last on the first step of his very own real life adventure.