Chapter 2

"Alfred … he's cheating on me."

"Alfred … he's cheating on me."

"Alfred … he's cheating on me."

Francis flexed his fingers. His hand was held aloft in front of him as his eyes studied every possible feature. It was the only thing he could do to stop himself looking at Arthur who was laid buried deep under the thin hospital sheets, the top of his head poking out of them slightly. Francis chewed his lips as he remembered how he had entered the accident and emergency.

Francis gathered Arthur into his arms. Arthur by this time was unconscious and despite Francis trying to make him regain consciousness, he remained limp as a rag doll in his arms. Fear and frustration clawed at Francis. Time was most certainly not on his side. Using his behind to close the car door (again, not locking it because quite frankly he couldn't care if someone stole his car while Arthur was dying in his arms), before taking off at the speed of a mad man across the hospital car park.

Arthur groaned lightly with the vibrations originating from Francis' heavy steps. Francis was usually very agile and light on his feet, quite the opposite of the definition of 'heavy footed', but with Arthur's weight in his arms and his constant battle to keep his panic beaten down in to submission, his footsteps had become heavier to the point that even Francis flinched. Also, Arthur seemed now to be flitting in and out of consciousness. This worried him greatly and brought tears of worry to his eyes.

The hospital wasn't very busy when Francis half walked, half ran in. He sighed, the only expression he could think of to show his gratitude at that time. It took the receptionist to take one look at Arthur before the call went out for immediate medical attention. Francis was a little reluctant to hand Arthur over at first, but as he laid his unconscious friend down on the bed that had abruptly appeared next to him, Francis knew he had to. It wasn't like they were junior doctors he was handing over his dear friend to, or university students, no; these doctors with their care worn faces and knowledgeable eyes were professionals. Additionally, Francis had run into one of them several years back when Matthew had fallen ill unexpectedly.

Arthur was wheeled away from him, leaving him to collapse into a chair and try not to let his emotions get the better of him. What would he have done to have that infernal Englishman's ability to buries unwanted emotions at that moment in time?

After what seemed like forever, but was actually only a few hours, a kind looking nurse appeared next to him and offered him a cup of coffee. Francis received it greatly before asking after Arthur. She said she couldn't tell much at that moment in time, but he was welcome to go and sit with him for a while. Francis had given her a weak smile in gratitude. He had honestly believed that he was going to be sent away till at least the next day, or the day after that.

Hospitalized twice in one year.

Francis was sure that on the third he would start tearing his hair out by the roots.

When he had first stepped into the hospital room, the doctor had just finished giving Arthur some antibiotics. Penicillin if he was not much mistaken. He also gave him something else by injection but Francis could not recall the name. Arthur was in a fitful sleep and his lips had been cleaned of the blood he had coughed up, giving him a worn and ghostly look.

Francis' keen eyes spotted a subtle movement from Arthur. His head appeared from beneath the covers and rolled to one side before his eyes opened ever so slightly, allowing them time to get use to the light. The hospital lights were too bright for him at that time, and he did not feel best pleased that he should wake up to blaring lights above him that only made his headache even worse.

Yawning lightly, Arthur blinked a few more times as his eyes became accustomed to the brightness of the room. For some reason he could smell cinnamon, not that he was going to complain about it, but where was he? He tried to sit up and, though he struggled at first, did succeed in getting himself propped up slightly without calling for assistance. Leaning back heavily against an ill placed pillow, Arthur looked over to his side and saw Francis.

"Where am I?" Arthur questioned, his throat raw making it hard for him to speak without grimacing. He could just barely remember a hazy outline of the Frenchman in his memory, though no time was attached to it.

"Hospital." Francis answered only to get a dazed expression in return from Arthur. "I found you on my porch in the rain. They say you have pneumonia. Arthur, what's happened?" Francis asked in hope of clarification. He knew Alfred had done something, but he needed to have his facts straight for a court of law so that when he had killed Alfred, he could plead he had committed a crime of passion. Also, he wanted to see, without hinting at what he wanted to know, if Arthur could remember anything at all about how he got to his porch.

Crestfallen was an understatement for the expression Arthur has engraved across his face. Francis watched awestruck as Arthur fought back all the emotions that sought release. He watched as the blonde Englishman did battle to keep them locked up deep within him so no one would truly know the pain he was suffering. Francis wished that Arthur would, just for this one time, not do that and just let it all out. He would feel better after it, or at least Francis thought so, but by keeping it under lock and key until the dam didn't just over flow, but instead became fractured and torn apart by the escaping assortment of problems, emotions and life's complexities that Francis believed that it could not possibly be healthy for anyone to carry on in such a way.

"It's Alfred. He's cheating on me." Arthur's lips were pressed together hard, his emerald eyes staring straight ahead of him, never once turning to look at Francis.

"Are you sure?" Francis felt he had to ask, though Arthur's first words were good enough for him to go on already.

"How bloody sure do I have to be! I walked in on them; in my own fucking bed!" Arthur spat venomously.

Francis was aghast.

Alfred seemed to have a short memory.

"So you came to me as your first place of call?" Francis asked, trying to hid his fury by entwining his fingers.

"You're familiar." Arthur whispered, more to himself than to Francis. "You can't let me down, I know you, and because I know you I have no expectations you can let me down on!" Arthur's shoulders sagged in defeat. "I … I don't understand it."

"L'Angleterre," Francis spoke as he sat on the bed next to Arthur, causing Arthur to look round at him, "you're strong. You will bounce back from this, though right now it probably sounds like I'm talking rubbish."

"Not half." Arthur commented dryly.

"We have both lived long enough though to know that time heals and you will find that the pain you feel today will not be felt as strongly next year, or the year after that. I know it sounds like I have no concept of time, but it will pass, and it will pass faster than you think right now. All you have to do is let time heal you."

Arthur sat and listened, transfixed. Francis studied Arthur's face to see if his words were sinking in. He witnessed Arthur's bottom lip tremble slightly before Arthur regained control. No tears fell, and only a few deep calming breaths could be heard. Francis pulled Arthur into an embrace that Arthur relaxed into without persuasion, desperate for some human contact.

"Next time, ring the bell." Arthur allowed a small smile to rest on his lips for a few moments before his eyes closed once more. Francis continued to hold him until he was certain that he had fallen asleep. Lying him down on the bed and pulling the covers up over him, Francis left his side and pulled out his phone. He had to unburden himself onto someone.

It was still early morning in France, but time zones didn't cross his mind. Pressing in the numbers, Francis held the phone to his ear.

Gilbert rolled over and, balancing on his elbow, sent a 'death to the phone' glared at the phone. You had to be kidding. This time in the morning? Grunting most unenthusiastically, he picked up the receiver and held it to his ear while yawning in the process.

"Okay, listen up here you freaking moron!" He greeted, which was the polite, remodelled version of what he had been intending to say. "Do you know what fucking time it is? It's still fucking dark! And you've woken up my damn bird!"

"Gilbert?" Francis was stunned. He had been expecting Matthew. Wait … oh yeah. Those two were still together? Well, just goes to show that the couple who should not have worked out in the end did, (much to everyone else's confusion).

"Francis? What the fuck, man! This is not awesome." Gilbert crashed back down onto the bed, his spare hand clamped across his crimson eyes.

"I know and I'm sorry, but can you please put Matthew on?"

"He's asleep." Gilbert chuntered. "As so should I."

"While wake him up." Francis replied.


"Why not?"

"Because it's uncivilized, barbaric … and I won't get my leg over in the morning."

"Are you trying to tell me that you getting your leg over is more important than what I have to say to him?"

"In a matter of speaking, yes!"

"Gilbert, if you don't wake Matthew up and put him on this phone within the next ten seconds, I'm afraid I'm going to have to come over there and kick your skinny Prussian ass several time zones west!" Francis shouted, causing several patients and three nurses to look at him in shock, each appearing from the doors that lined the corridor. Francis smiled an apologetic smile at them, waving his free hand to show he was but only joking.

"Okay," Gilbert huffed, "give me a moment."

Francis stood with his phone plastered to his ear, inwardly cringing about the size of his phone bill at the end of the month. However, the banter he was hearing made it worth the money.

"Hey, Hey! Sleeping beauty, that damn frog you call a parent is on the phone."

"Wha …?"

"You know, the one who smells like wine and thinks he's a sex god. "

"Oh, you mean Francis." Francis pulled a face when he heard the sigh hidden behind the words. He didn't think he was a sex god, he knew he was a sex god!

"After can we ..." The sound of a hand making contact with someone's face sounded out. It was so loud that a nurse walking past Francis jumped.

"Lovers tiff." Francis smiled.

"Francis?" Came Matthew's groggy voice. "What's wrong? Couldn't this have waited until the morning?" Francis was about to reply when he heard a loud yelp and quickly pulled the phone away from his ear. "Do that again Gilbert and I will handcuff your hands to the head board!"

"Is that a promise?"

Francis couldn't help but smirk at that one. Well played, my friend, well played.

"Do that again and you're on the couch!" Matthew warned. Clearly the threat had been carried through before because all the shenanigance at the other end stopped immediately. Francis could just imagine the pouting Prussian with his arms folded across his chest, trying to make Matthew feel guilty and thus open for suggestion.

"Arthur's in hospital." Francis got out before anything else happened. He was expecting a tap on the shoulder from some butch, man looking lady nurse for using his phone in the hospital. Enough people had seen him on it by this time.

"What?" Matthew asked, now fully awake. "Why? Does it have anything to do with ..."

"Alfred's cheated on him and he's made himself ill … in typical Arthur fashion." Francis tried to joke but failed. "He's okay, but I just had to tell someone. Also, it sounds like Alfred has moved into his house."

"I'll be on the next plane over to England - Gilbert get off me!"

"Can we go in the morning? Please?"

"Stop fluttering your eyes at me you sexual deviant and get dressed."

"Sure thing, gorgeous." Gilbert placed a quick kiss on Matthew's lips. "You can just take them off again later." The last statement caused Matthew to rolls his eyes. Gilbert had missed it as he had been swaggering out of the room. "With your teeth, perhaps?"

"Can you hear half of this?" Matthew asked Francis. "I'll give you a call when we're in the air."

"Matthew, I'm in France." Francis told him, still a little confused as to why Matthew was going to England.

"I'm getting to Alfred before you do." Matthew told him flatly. "Though by the sounds of it I'll be more than pleased to let you tear him apart. I'll see him first, do my brotherly duty of punching him in the face before warning him to hide, then we will make our way to France. Sound good?"

"Yeah, tell him from me to vacate Arthur's house before I get there." Francis growled.

"I'll tell him, speak to you again soon." The phone went dead. Matthew sure did sound different now that he was with Gilbert. Perhaps the Prussian was good for something after all.

Francis put his phone back in his pocket, his aggression having melted away when he turned and saw Arthur's still, sleeping form. So peaceful, so tranquil, so angelic. Francis moved back to his side and touched Arthur's cheek lightly and affectionately.

"I am so sorry L'Angleterre." Francis whispered, "If only I could have prevented your heart from being broken."