Author's note: And now for something completely different! Sorry to anyone who is waiting on tenterhooks for the newest chapter of La Vie en Rose, but I was attacked by a rabid flying mint plot bunny and this idea refused to leave me alone until I had begun it! I've always always wanted to try something like this, as this is my guilty pleasure. Oh yes, you know what I mean. YES. Supernatural romantic comedies. Yeeeees. You know, Just Like Heaven, Defending Your Life, Ghost Town, that kind of thing! I eat that shit up and I am unashamed to admit it. So here goes my version, Fruk style! I also wanted some lighter fare to work on on the side while I contended with the srs bsns and dramus that are sure to come with La Vie en Rose.
This is also a reupload after I reworked this a bit after some early reviews pointed out a big glaring oversight on my part, but I'm much happier with it now so I shall leave it this time X3
So sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Que Sera Sera
Evening victoriously fell that day over the rooftops of the picturesque city of Applewood. The vanquished sun sank in the west and the giddy storm clouds that had been barely kept at bay by the warmth of its rays began to gather their strength from the approaching darkness and washed the horizon in swaths of ruddy light. The sky had looked simply dreadful all day, angry and stubborn like a caged beast, and with the obligatory retreat of the warm sun it finally succumbed to the ominous cloak of grey that swallowed the twilight. Street lamps flickered on in protest of the darkness one by one down the verdant streets lined with lush trees just beginning to flush and tinge with autumn gold, but a chill blew through the air and distant thunder sounded over the quaint metropolis nestled between verdant hills. If it portended a hint of fate swirling in the cold April air, no one seemed to notice, for it was the end of the day and not a single mind was attentive to anything but freedom.
Office lights blinked off in every window as businesses retired for the night, and the roads filled with bustling cars, bright headlamps, and the busy denizens of Applewood flooding out; all rushing to be anywhere on earth other than work until the next obnoxious jangle of the alarm sent them back to the grind. Caught up in the same routine day in and day out, few even paused in their races to get to wherever it was they wanted to be next. Even fewer stopped to consider the day that had just slipped by even while they survived it, lost in a careless puff of nothing but dust and hazy memory. The storm gathered, the earth spun obliviously on its axis as the heavens watched and time ticked on blindly past with its steady and deliberate pace, immutable and calculating despite the chorus of wishes of the mere mortals to the uncaring sky for it to speed up and slow down all at once.
All made their wish, but all knew on some level, depending upon their degree of intelligence, just how painfully insignificant they were, and that whatever pompous powers that were could not possibly be bothered to notice just one soul among the sea of them teeming through existence on Earth. However, one Francis Bonnefoy in particular, French born professional chef, businessman, and philanderer, proprietor and owner of the popular French bakery 'Le Lapin Doux' could scarcely wait for time to get move on already at his whims to get to where he himself wanted to be next. The tall, handsome blonde stood lost in thought at the end of that long work day in the kitchen of his quaint corner establishment near the tree-lined downtown streets, staring wistfully out the window at the busy sidewalk and half listening for the sound of any of his various timers and ovens clanging to announce perfectly baked new sweets. The hands of the clock hung over the ovens slid torturously slowly across its cheery pink face, the rhythmic ticking mingling with the muted strains of French pop from the stereo drifting through the fragrant air. The last batch of croissants and baguettes for the day, with a few rounds of cookies for whimsy's sake, plumped and crisped to a golden brown on the racks while the mixer beside him hummed as it beat a sweet mixture of cream and color into the perfect icing.
Feliciano, his unofficial sous chef and star decorator of the bakery, stood behind him at the opposite counter, smiling vacantly as he finished the custom floral design on a birthday cake to be picked up that evening. Elizaveta, best shopkeep in a 100 mile radius, Francis was certain, was manning the counter with her usual precision, all smiles and warm greetings in her mint greet dress, hair kerchief with customary pink flower pin, and apron as she doled out colorful and beautiful pastries, his famous buttery croissants, and boxed up cakes for eager customers stopping by on their way home. Normally Matthew would be in the back crunching the numbers and balancing the books, but he had granted him a leave of absence a week prior. He had said something about his brother, the hospital, and an accident, Francis couldn't recall exactly, it was often difficult to remember what he said, but he had been more than willing to grant his beloved bookkeeper the time off he had tearfully requested. His devoted employees were always perfectly content to whittle away the last few open hours of business doing their jobs, and ordinarily he would be too, but all Francis could manage to do was watch the clock and periodically glance over at his maddeningly silent cell phone.
All day at work he had been distracted, anxious, and impatient for the usually pleasurable toil to end, for his routine would be something far out of the ordinary once the proverbial whistle blew and he was free. His mind had been preoccupied with visions of crystal emerald eyes beneath a fiendishly thick brow, a positively kissable pout, and the usual adorably unsexy sweater vests that he so loved hurling in an unceremonious heap to the floor. Two years of his life in fact had been consumed with very similar thoughts, though just as often they were more violent than tender, and all day he had been returning in loving nostalgia back that very object of his frustrations, day by day, minute by minute, every high and every low and every boring, monotonously gorgeous lull in between. Two years which just so happened to have begun on the very same night two years prior with a single disastrous date that had changed his life forever. The Eighth of April. It was that infuriating date he would celebrate the second anniversary of at precisely seven o'clock that evening, and two years of being passionately, hopelessly in love with the most bullheaded, arrogant, vexing nymph he had ever had the pleasure of hating. That night, he had reservations at the finest restaurant in town at an intimate table for two- window view, a crisply pressed snow white suit still in its dry cleaning bag waiting in the back of the bakery, and a date with Arthur Kirkland.
He also had the finest six-inch heart-shaped cake he had ever created in all of Arthur's favorite flavors and colors, complete of course with a tiny glass unicorn topper he had purchased from a frilly downtown boutique with a private smirk. Store bought gifts were very well and good, but nothing ever got the stammering, blushing, adorably cross reaction of being genuinely touched like a handcrafted gift he had spent all day making with only him in mind. Not that Francis ever thought about anyone or anything but Arthur, or so he liked to tell him just to get a rise out of the bristly Brit. The thought of his typical and all too predictable reaction brought a smile to his lips, and he finally glanced down to the icing in the mixer that had blended to a rich shade of red and the perfect creamy texture. Francis stopped the motor, filled a pastry bag with the sweet concoction, and began smugly piping the vicious red dragon coiled around the intricate fantasy cake that reminded him colorfully of his beloved who spent his days poring over brightly illustrated children's novels filled with the very creatures he crafted in frosting and editing them to perfection.
It had been a tumultuous two years; of that much Francis was certain. They had come away from their explosive first date absolutely reviling one another, after all, but after a chance run in at a coffee shop downtown which had begun with a quips and slights and ended in near fisticuffs, they had soon discovered they couldn't bear to do without one another. At the very least, neither could stand not getting the final word in. Another date to continue the fray had followed, and soon then another, and their rivalry turned out to be a thrilling game that neither minded losing, so long as the other looked so blissfully happy when they won. They were perfectly perfect in their functional dysfunction, and while the outside world looked on with raised eyebrows and disdainfully shaken heads, they thrived in their own world of lengthy wars ending with Arthur not speaking and Francis openly flirting with other men and women exchanged for periods of fiery passion unrivaled, they quite were certain, by any creature, mortal or otherwise, that had ever existed.
It was unlike any relationship Francis had ever experienced. Truthfully, it was the only relationship he had ever experienced. Up until he had met Arthur his life had been a scandalous reel of beautiful women, handsome men, exotic affairs and secret trysts balanced with finesse and lust. He often made a game out of how many lovers he could juggle at once until he invariably was caught, and other than the occasional slap or drink to the face, keyed car, or other defaced, demolished personal property he never spared his discarded lovers a second thought. It had only been Arthur; infuriating, smug, beautiful Arthur with his aloof mystery and the unique ability to fend off his beauty and charms and see right through him, who had ever kept him coming back for more. He had come back again and again until he found himself suddenly caring a great deal about seeing Arthur again.
Francis smiled to himself as he ran the pleasant and bitter memories through his head and decorated his cake. It enraged him and took his breath away all at once, and truly, he had never been happier. Francis had decided that long ago. No one had ever kept his emotions running so hot and his attentions so focused. A man who had spent his entire life flitting carelessly from one gorgeous thing to the next when he invariably grew weary of them, no one had expected he would finally settle down. Especially not with one that outwardly seemed to drive him utterly mad. Except he hadn't. Not really and truly anyway, and he preferred it that way. He and Arthur had been together for two years unofficially after their six month long courtship to get there, but had each been too stubborn to give up their apartments and simply move in with one another, despite the fact they both owned both keys. The subject of marriage had not once been brought up in polite conversation, not even in reference to people completely unrelated to any of their affairs. They shared nothing but their relationship and neither bothered to talk much about the past or the future. But it hardly mattered. They were perfect, and they had all the time in the world.
The moment Francis decided that was the moment his cell phone finally decided to ring, heralding the call with the bubbly strains of Doris Day reminding him that, "Que Sera Sera." It was a favorite song and saying of his, as flippant and carefree as he was, though Arthur always insisted it was merely an excuse to impose his foppish dramatics on the rest of the world. The screen also lit up with a rare treasure; a picture of a drunken Arthur laughing at something neither remembered until there were tears in his eyes. He took only a moment to smile and remember the momentous event. It was the only picture of Arthur he had allowed him to capture on his phone, being that he was so deliriously drunk, and he cherished it among his dearest possessions, but the longing to hear his voice after the endless day without him quickly won out over gazing at the tiny beautiful portrait. Francis put down his piping bag, wiped his hands on his pink apron, and promptly picked up the phone.
"Bon soir, mon petit lapin! I thought you would never call!" he crooned in his richly French accented English, twirling away from his cake to look longingly out the window, "I have counted the very HOURS until I could see you again, hear your voice, touch you… The furies themselves could not have conjured a worse torment than today!"
He could almost feel Arthur's wince on the other end, and he grinned at the agitated growl that preceded his annoyed voice.
"Damn it all, Francis. Must you always answer the phone with some sort of hysterical poetry?" the Brit snapped tersely.
"My dearest Arthur, would you have it any other way?" Francis purred in reply.
There was a moment of begrudging silence that was more of an answer than an actual answer would have been, and then Arthur cleared his throat before continuing.
"It's utterly ridiculous you twit, how difficult is hello?" Arthur went on, frustration clear in his voice.
"Très difficile, certainement. You should know this by now! How can I greet the love of my life with anything less than poetry?" Francis swooned, cradling the phone close to his ear.
"You can start by just bloody saying hello! Before you annoy me so much I forget why I even rung you!" came the reply in a voice increasing in volume and fury.
Francis merely giggled.
"Ahhh, well if you did not call to hear my poetic words of l'amour, then why did you bother?" he merrily inquired with a habitual flourish of a floury hand.
"I rang because I am not entirely confident that tonight's engagement hasn't fallen out of that rusty old sieve you call a head," Arthur informed him stonily.
The sheer absurdity of that statement nearly made Francis laugh out loud.
"REALLY, mon cheri?" he chortled, looking back to the nearly completed confection that had consumed his entire day sitting complacently on the counter, "Really and truly? You honestly think I would forget tonight after all the plans and all the fuss you have been making? Why, you must have reminded me three times before you left for work just this morning!"
He had spent the night in Arthur's apartment the night prior, so there had been ample opportunity between inappropriate morning affection and breakfast to do so.
"I know! But don't you dare tell me you don't have a nasty propensity for forgetting things, even after I've gone blue in the face reminding you!"
A teasing grin coiled Francis' lips, even though he knew Arthur could not see it.
"Mmm, I only forget something when it means nothing to me," he answered flippantly.
The sound of ire Arthur emitted on the other end was almost too hysterical for Francis to stifle any more laughter.
"You worthless bloody twat!" he spat, "Are you insinuating tonight means nothing to you?"
"Of course not! In fact, I spent all day making something special just for you, I shall have you know," Francis countered loftily.
The line went silent for several moments. So long, Francis pondered inquiring whether or not Arthur was still there, but his bleak, horrified voice sounded just in time to avoid embarrassment.
"You made something? At work you mean?" Arthur deadpanned.
"Oui! And quite possibly the most magnifique something I have ever crea-"
"And you did it TODAY?"
"Oui. But I do not see how that would possibly-"
"You did forget, didn't you?"
Francis gasped, the sound and his face both so aghast Feliciano started with a squeak and ruined what was shaping up to be a flawless white frosting chrysanthemum on his cake.
"Forget? Forget? I could never forget! I was joking you humorless oaf!" he spluttered, stricken, "How could you even say such a horrible thing? I planned this weeks ago!"
"Oh please, Francis. Are you daft? You really expect me to believe that a cake or whatever you just pulled out of your arse today was planned beforehand?" Arthur snarled in retort.
"Of course it was! Would you not want a freshly baked culinary wonder rather than one that has been in my freezers for days? Not only that, but I had to design it myself, I went through hundreds of sketches, and then make certain I had every color of frosting to complete what I wanted to do, AND I shall have you know I actually got my favorite suit dry-cleaned just for this occasion and I-"
"FRANCIS," Arthur finally cut in with a groan, "Look I… I don't want to have a row with you over this right now. I really just wanted to make sure you remembered and that you'd be there on time for once tonight. It's important."
The tone in his voice was so transformed, so sincere and almost timid, Francis forgot all his annoyances for the moment and smiled tenderly as he leaned a hip against the counter and crossed his legs at the ankle, at ease.
"Bien sûr, Arthur. I promise you. I will be there at 7:00 sharp looking so devastatingly handsome you might just completely forget about a present at all," he purred.
"You mean it? Do you really mean that? Because I swear, Francis, if you are more than fifteen minutes late I'm leaving. I won't be left sitting there in my finest at a table alone with everyone staring at the poor chap whose date must have stood him up," Arthur growled.
Francis merely chuckled at the image of a brooding furious Arthur alone at a table, drumming his fingers and checking his watch while onlookers shook their head in pity.
"Well, look on the bright side. If they feel sorry enough for you they might just take care of the bill!" he joked.
"Don't you dare even joke about that!" Arthur snapped venomously, "I'm being serious!"
"So am I!" Francis countered with a grin, to which Arthur sighed heavily on the other end of the phone.
"I highly doubt you've ever been serious about a single thing in your entire life, Francis…" he lamented.
"Ah well… Take me or leave me as I am, non?" Francis said lightly, taking the liberty of swiping an elegant finger through some leftover icing in the mixer and suckling it rakishly.
"You sure you want to give me that ultimatum? You might not like the answer," Arthur quipped back, and Francis could sense the slight smirk he knew was on his lips.
"Que sera sera, mon amour. But at least if you leave me I shall have this glorious cake all to myself," he teased in return with a smack of his lips, "And I must say, it is DIVINE."
Much to his relief, Arthur actually chuckled.
"I should hope it is the most magnificent thing you have ever made then, but… You will bring it to me… At seven, at the restaurant? I mean, it is mine after all," he continued.
Francis smiled and closed his eyes, cradling the phone close as he relished the uncommon sweet and hopeful tone in Arthur's voice.
"Oui, of course I will. I had planned on closing up shop early anyway. I shall meet you there at seven o'clock precisely," he promised.
Arthur's relief and renewed cheer was palpable, even over the phone.
"Good, now quit jawing on with me and finish up whatever it is you do in your silly little shop," he ordered, clearly in better spirits.
"I will I will! And I shall count the minutes now until I can leave and gaze into those limpid pools of green once again, never to return from the depths of-"
"Goodbye, Francis," Arthur cut in amusedly.
Francis ceased his effortless stream of prose with a soft laugh, cerulean eyes glittering as he looked out of the window into the brightly lit street.
"Au revoir, Arthur," he breathed in reply, letting his next words chime effortlessly into the still air, "Je t'aime."
There was a long, poignant pause, during which Francis knew Arthur was flushing, struggling with the words, and grappling for a reply, even though it was always the same thing.
"I don't speak frog, moron. Figure it out."
And then the line went dead with a neat click, as it always did after the retort Arthur always gave.
Francis sighed in the ensuing quiet and tipped his head back, pressing the phone against his chest wistfully. No matter how many times he expressed words of love and adoration, Arthur's reply was always the same, or some nasty variation thereof depending on his mood. He had come to accept it was the best he could do, not being one adept at expressing his feelings, and it was good enough. Their phone conversations were always some sort of joust of rhetoric and spite, but it always left him wanting to shove Arthur forcibly to any suitable flat surface to kiss his venomous words away and reduce them to naught but wanton moans. A wicked grin coiled the Frenchman's lips thinking about what might come later that scandalous evening, and he quickly set his phone back down, twirling merrily around to finish the cake for the occasion. Upon opening his eyes again for the task, however he was startled to find Feliciano's chestnut brown eyes gazing up at him pitifully, filled to the brim with tears and all too close to his. With a yelp he jerked back into the counter, laughing nervously and holding an arm up in defense.
"Feliciano!" he cried in surprise, "You look so, um… Close. What ever is the matter?"
Feliciano sniffed and clasped his hands desperately, the expression on his face almost as if Francis had just informed him a beloved pet had passed.
"I-Is everything okay? He sounded really, really mad this time!" he sobbed, "You're not getting a divorce are you?"
Composing himself with a smirk, Francis laughed merrily and turned back to his cake to finish the job with a flip of his hand.
"You have to be married to do get a divorce, you know," he informed his fellow baker as he picked his pastry bag back up, "Which Arthur and I are not, thank God."
Not comforted in the least, Feliciano only wailed louder and wrung his hands.
"B-But you're still not going to break up are you?" he persisted, sniffling and hiccupping.
Francis opened his mouth to answer, but a smarmy, smug female voice with its familiar Hungarian accent chimed in for him unannounced and uninvited from the front of the store.
"No way, they totally get off on fighting like that. You can tell. They're made for one another," Elizaveta snickered, suddenly appearing in the kitchen doorway and leaning against it.
She looked so dainty and innocent in her mint green dress, apron, and kerchief and flower in her long brown hair, Francis often forgot the catty comments that could so effortlessly lash from her sharp tongue. He didn't allow it to interrupt his cake decorating, however, and kept his focus on finishing his dragon.
"And here I thought… What was it you said when I first brought my Arthur around, mon cheri? You gave us a month? Tops?" Francis retorted warmly.
The young woman laughed and gave a noncommittal shrug.
"Well, it's only going to be a month longer for you two, if that even, if you don't finish that cake on time, sounds like," she quipped in amusement.
"Ah, oui…" Francis lamented, frowning slightly, "And perhaps pick up a little something extra on the way to dinner. Mon petit lapin seems dissatisfied with my current token of affection."
His two underlings both frowned, cast each other a mournful glance, and then regarded Francis with scathing pity.
"Damn, I'm sorry, Francis. You worked really hard on that for him," Elizaveta said with a wince, irony and sarcasm now gone from her words.
"Yeah, yeah! You put your heart into it! Once he sees it he'll have to know how much time and effort it took and how you were thinking about him the whooole time and how good it is and fresh and beautiful and delicious and made with love and-"
Feliciano rambled on, while Francis, meanwhile, seemed completely unfazed and at ease with the situation, and shrugged it off with a smile.
"Oh don't act as if this is the end of the world you two. Arthur is always on about something or another. I will just go out after we close up and pick him up this beautiful little pocket watch he has been eyeing for ages at the jewelers down the street!" he decided cheerily, "And if that still does not please him, well… There is always later tonight to atone for my sins…"
The Frenchman trailed off with a suggestive snicker, leaving Elizaveta and Feliciano to glance at one another again, wondering just how on earth Francis and Arthur were celebrating two years together the way they went on. Luckily for the both of them, the chime of the bell on the door to the shop tinkled whimsically and nullified the need for any reply at all. Feliciano went happily back to his cake and Elizaveta dusted off her apron as she trotted out to greet the customer. Unfortunately for her, the patrons boisterously entering just so happened to be a tragically familiar white-haired German and his ever present, ever smiling Spanish companion.
"Good evening and welcome to-" Elizaveta began, only to grimace in recognition and cross her arms over her chest, "Great. You two. Just great."
Francis' frustratingly ever-present partners in crime, Gilbert and Antonio, entered in a kinetic, laughing, rowdy whirlwind dressed in their glitzy, scandalous, clubbing finest and descended upon the bakery and a hapless Elizaveta. They slathered themselves over the counter as if they owned the joint, and as usual, Gilbert felt more than free to slide his hips onto it, and right over the Napoleons innocently sitting on their doilies in the case at that. He was all smiles and cheer, as usual, and as per his usual began his interaction the same way he always did.
"Evenin' sugartits! Is Francis around?" Gilbert queried noisily in his thick German accent, leveling his crimson gaze predatorily at Elizaveta, "We were gonna ask him to come party after work but-! I guess you'll do if he's otherwise occupied!"
He cackled and reached out to stroke her cheek, or hair, or worse, Elizaveta couldn't tell and cared very little, only to have his hand violently whacked aside.
"You know that sign by the door?" Elizaveta growled, lower lid twitching, "The one that says 'We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone'? Yeah, I think I'll have to invoke that right about now. So kindly piss off and have a nice niiiight…"
She finished with an eerily pleasant singsong, belying the belligerent fires in her green eyes. Nothing the duo hadn't fended off before, and Antonio gracefully countered with his usual jocular carefree demeanor.
"Don't be like that, Señorita!" he chirped with an undauntedly radiant smile, "We would love it if you came along! I'm sure Francis would, too! We're going to his favorite club!"
Elizaveta wondered why she even bothered trying to tell Francis' precious goons to leave with a heavy sigh, but made a last effort at it anyway.
"Well," she snapped, "Too bad for you. It just so happens that Francis is-"
"Horribly, unavoidably, irrevocably detained tonight!" his rich, silky voice suddenly sounded, penetrating enmity between his friends and his employees.
And with his proclamation Francis himself materialized from the double kitchen doors in the back with a flamboyant flourish, laughing as he breezed over to embrace his closest companions.
"You should have told me you were stopping by! I could have saved you the trouble of coming to pick up no one," he chuckled, patting Gilbert on the back fondly.
The German squeezed his friend a little harder than truly necessary, and barked his grating, booming laugh altogether too close to his ear as they pulled away.
"Don't fuckin' tell me you're going out with the old ball and chain AGAIN…" he snorted derisively, "Didn't you already go out like, a week ago or some shit?"
Francis rolled his eyes good-naturedly.
"Yes, I'm going out with Arthur," he reproached as if speaking to a petulant child, "You should have known that. It's our anniversary tonight! I told you about it!"
Gilbert only blinked cluelessly, cast Antonio an inquisitive glance, got an equally flummoxed shrug in reply, and then turned back to Francis with an incredulous smirk.
"Anniversary? Don't you gotta be married to have-" he began.
"No," Francis interrupted tersely, "You do not. People who are dating have anniversaries as well!"
A smug, knowing glint flashed through the German's crimson eyes.
"Ja, uhuh, sure. But then what happens when you DO get married, huh? It's a different date, so then the first one don't mean shit anymore! So really, tonight's just another night, right? Fuck Sir tea-and-crumpets-and-sweater vests-my-sense-of-humor-died-back-in-the-dark-ages! Come out and LIVE a little again! Find a sweet piece of ass or pussy or whatever you want that'll treat you RIGHT tonight! Like you used to! Remember how it used to be? You're so goddamn pretty you could get ANY sexy thing to bend down and suck you off and give you a foot massage while they did it!" Gilbert goaded.
"Arthur could come, too, if you wanted!" Antonio offered happily, earning a caustic glare from his undermined companion.
"That is… Unusually logical persuasion out of you for once, Gilbert," Francis mused, thumbing his beard sardonically, "And a temping offer. Truly. However, that life is behind me. Mon petit lapin and I have had tonight planned for a long time and we both are going to make it perfect. So, you two have fun. I have got to finish the cake I made in time, and go out and get an extra gift or I may be joining you after all."
Francis and Antonio laughed, but Gilbert remained deeply unsatisfied with his friend's reply.
"Verflucht noch mal, Francis!" he scoffed, "When are you going to get over that asshole? All he does is make you miserable anyway! Look, maybe this is a sign! You sure as shit ain't finishing a cake on time, and whatever you buy he's gonna hate like he always does. Tonight is gonna be doomed, so just come out with your friends! Remember how much FUN we used to have? Staying out all night, drinking, buying out all the biggest condoms in the store, pissing off the side of the freeway? Picking up whoever we wanted? Making West pay our bail in the morning? Like that night we drove up into the hills and broke into that cabin with those chicks- or dudes, or whatever they hell they were from that freaky costume bar downtown and-"
"No, Gilbert. NO ONE remembers that night," Francis cut in, finally soliciting at least a short bark of a laugh from the white-haired German.
Antonio's eyes shifted away, actually looking a little scandalized. Elizaveta seemed to perk up, wondering if any more of the story would come to light.
While Francis was flattered his best friends were clearly missing him and wanting him around, he had already solidly made up his mind that he was going to enjoy the evening with his beloved. Arthur did make him miserable, some of the time, but the other half of the time he made him blissfully happy. Gilbert in particular had never understood it, longing for the days where all three of them enjoyed bachelorhood full of all manner of debauchery and the drunken haze of club going and waking up in a different bed every morning. Then Antonio had been introduced to Feliciano's short-tempered brother Lovino and fallen head over heels, and all too shortly afterward Francis had met Arthur, and neither felt much like picking up inebriated club rats any longer. Only Gilbert had been left single and resentful of the frequently bitter and angry significant others that stole his best friends from him so often. Francis smiled understandingly at him, even after his outburst, and reached out to put his hands on his shoulders.
"Désolé, mon ami," he continued softly, "I cannot tonight, but this weekend I will free up an evening to come spend just with the two of you having some fun. No Arthur, no Lovino. Just us. Whether Arthur likes it or not. Alright?"
That promise seemed to bring a smile back to Gilbert's face, though it remained a cautious one.
"Really? Serious? You promise? Cross your heart and hope I kill you myself? I don't want any last minute, 'oh wait, Arthur has to come or I won't get laid for a month,' pussy-whipped bullshit," he warned with a crooked grin.
"Non, non," Francis laughed, shaking his head, "I promise you, my dearest Gilbert, that this weekend we will have the time of our lives!"
The Frenchman slid his elegant hands up and cupped his best friend's cheeks, leaning forward and kissing his forehead affectionately.
"Now, go and have a glass of fine cabernet in my honor."
Gilbert smirked and swatted Francis' hands playfully away.
"I am way too awesome to be seen drinking any of your faggy wines," he scoffed.
"A petite sirah, then," Francis offered with a wry grin that quickly turned serious, "And do you have your inhaler? If you leave without it again…"
Gilbert twitched visibly in annoyance, but on this, Francis would remain firm. He had suffered from asthma his entire life, and on more than one occasion Francis and Antonio had the misfortune to witness how quickly it could fell the usually boisterous and irascible white-haired young man. Since the first time he had seen it, Francis always took it upon himself to be the unofficial inhaler-bearer, lest he be forced to resort to phoning an ambulance to a busy and hot nightclub, for which his friend was not liable to forgive the embarrassment.
"I don't need the verdammt-"
"I've got it! Don't worry about a thing, Francis!" Antonio piped up, pulling the offending blue device out of his pocket and showing it proudly.
Gilbert glared at the thing as if his mere glower could melt it and rid him of it for good and Francis smiled in relief.
"Bon, then you have my blessing to go. So go already!" he said, waving his hands at the door, "I need to finish my cake and get on the road!"
He shooed his friends away from his counter lovingly, looking forward to having an evening of fun with them the way he used to and then still going home to bed with Arthur. If he wasn't banished to the couch for being too drunk or smelling like some strange perfume, that is. No matter what he said or did the Brit had remained fiercely suspicious and jealous for the duration of their romance and was all too quick to remind him of his past and the reputation that continued to linger about him. Gilbert headed straight for the door, plowing into it and waiting impatiently, but Antonio turned over his shoulder and cast Francis one last brilliant smile.
"I hope your evening with Arthur goes well, too!" he called, raising a hand in farewell.
"Are you kidding?" he chortled, putting his hands on his hips, "Nothing at all could spoil it! God himself has smiled upon this intimate, romantic evening with the man I love!"
And rebelliously punctuating his very thought, a clap of thunder sounded outside, the flash of lightning lit up the room, and the rain finally began to fall in thick sheets. Everyone present in the bakery grimaced, cast a wary look at Francis, and then uncomfortably went back to their business. Francis stubbornly kept the grin on his face, his hand waving idly, wondering just what else could go wrong to make him late, ruin the date and subject him to Arthur's wrath.
"Scheiße!" Gilbert swore furiously from the door and turning his crimson gaze on the rain, "I knew it was gonna rain! Didn't I tell you it was fuckin' going to rain? Come on, Antonio, let's get the hell outta here and to the club before YOU look too shitty to get in!"
Gilbert's mirthful cackle echoed through the bakery, followed by the slam of the door and the frantic jangle of the usually cheery little bell.
"Tschüss, Francis!" he called.
"Adios!" Antonio echoed, and both of them vanished out the door and sprinted down the street through the rain to the BMW Gilbert always pilfered from his younger brother.
"Adieu, mes amis!" Francis piped after them, watching their silhouettes rush past the windows and out of sight a moment with a fond smile.
Then he promptly turned, clapped his hands and ordered everyone back to work, double time, so he could close his beloved Lapin Doux and make his seven o'clock deadline. Elizaveta was more than happy to go back to serving the last few guests and closing up the register, while Feliciano's earlier fears had to be assuaged and his tears dried yet again before he could focus on finishing his own project. Yet somehow in the midst of it all, Francis managed to put the finishing touches on his cake, write, 'Happy Anniversary,' in flawless looping cursive, and in English for Arthur's sensibilities, and get the kitchen cleaned to his satisfaction for the next day. Leaving his employees to clean the counters, draw the curtains, cash out and lock up, Francis finally retreated to the restroom in the back.
There, he could freshen up as quickly as he dared, take the ribbon out of his hair and brush out his wavy golden locks until they shone and fell in gleaming tendrils around his shoulders. He changed into his finest and favorite white suit; the one that was tailored to perfection and gave his statuesque body every flawless angle and masculine definition that never failed to turn every head in the room and coax something enchanting back to his apartment for the night. He coupled it with a sinful red silk shirt underneath and a matching midnight tie, and finished off his ensemble with a subtle, but intoxicating spritz of his favorite cologne. It just so happened to be his favorite because it was Arthur's favorite on him, but Arthur was unaware he knew and that made it all the more special when his lover would bury his face into his neck just to breathe him in.
A grin played over his handsome face as he finished primping himself, and he blew himself a kiss with a playful wink before dashing out into the kitchen for his coat and his cake. Much to his pleasant surprise, he found Feliciano had already wrapped the fantasy confection in an ornate box with a curled ribbon and Elizaveta was waiting by the back door with his coat over her arm. They both cast fondly supportive smiles at him, and he went to embrace them both and kiss each of their cheeks one last time.
"Merci, merci," he breathed to the duo with each kiss, slipping into his coat and taking his cake carefully, "You two are the finest employees and friends anyone could ever ask for."
Elizaveta smirked and slipped a perfect red rose into his lapel for a final touch, patting it down and dusting him off gently.
"Igen, we know, you're damn lucky to have us," she replied, "We'll finish things up and we'll see you tomorrow, bright and early. But… No sordid tales of tonight, please. At least… Not in front of Feli."
Francis swore he saw her grin turn lascivious for just a fraction of a second, while Feliciano looked oblivious as usual and simply continued to smile radiantly.
"But I want to hear all about fratellone Francis' date!" he sang, flailing his arms eagerly, "I want to know if it was the best date they ever had and if Arthur was nice and he smiled like Francis likes him to and if the food was good and if he liked his present and if maybe they'll get married now!"
Francis chuckled as he picked up his car keys from their usual hook by the door.
"Keep dreaming, cheri, and we shall see tomorrow!" he announced as he readied himself to dash out into the rain and bidding the final farewell to his friends, "Adieu! And say hello to Roderich and Ludwig for me too!"
"Viszlát!" came the simultaneous pleasantries in return.
The last thing either Elizaveta or Feliciano saw of their friend was his amorous, mischievous grin and his elegant fingers as he blew them both a kiss and breezed gracefully out the door. He made a point to run as fast as he could through the pelting rain to his sleek red sports car parked outside, and not just because he was getting wet already. Arthur still needed and deserved that pocket watch he had resolved to get him. Ordinarily he would have just forgotten about it and insisted his planned cake was all the gift he needed and much more romantic than anything else he could have just carelessly purchased, but Arthur had sounded so sincere and so shyly eager to be with him that night it would be well worth being late and enduring the punishment to surprise him with an unexpected gift. So he strapped the cake into the back securely, hurled himself into the driver's seat and peeled out of the back parking lot into the busy, shining wet streets.
When Francis entered his car, the time on the dash read exactly 6:16 pm; just enough time he reasoned to make a quick purchase of the watch, and if he sped just a little, make it to the restaurant in time to be calling Arthur and pulling into a parking space while making his apologies and excuses on the phone. Hopefully then his transgressions would all be forgiven when his lover opened the much coveted watch his stinginess and necessity had not permitted him to purchase, enjoyed a fabulous meal and then finished it off with his heavenly cake. Arthur would be so touched, perhaps he would not even be able to find the nasty words to sling at him, and instead fall into his arms, adoration in his eyes, and be utterly, devotedly his for the entire night. Francis was reasonably certain his plan would pan out, reasonably, but just in case he drove as rapidly as traffic would allow down Applewood's Main Street with his windshield wipers swaying frantically against the steady downpour, grinding his teeth and knuckles white on the wheel.
The nimble little red sports car swerved into the parking lot of the jeweler's with an uncharacteristic screech of rubber on wet asphalt and rammed itself forcibly into the closest spot to the door. Francis leapt out and made the mad dash to the entrance with his coat over his head, only to discover with a wrenched expression on his face that the store had closed not even half an hour prior at six. Dumbfounded, the blonde stood there in the rain, blue eyes blazing with hellfire until his senses returned and so too did his determination to let nothing else stand in his way. There was a flicker of movement near the back of the shop, clearly the last vestiges of the staff making their way home for the night and Francis banged on the glass door until he finally caught the attention of the delicate, sweet looking salesgirl still in her prim suit dress and pumps.
She flushed and hurried to the front of the store, opened the door just a crack to apologize and tell the tall, handsome Frenchman they were closed, but a rakish smile and a low, sultry greeting in purred French and a plea for her help coaxed her to invite the strange customer in. She easily fell prey to his wiles and his charms, and was quick under his charismatic flirtation to reopen her register and ring up the expensive pocket watch in the window, all while giggling and gift-wrapping it especially for him with all the finest paper and ribbon in the store, free of charge. Francis handed over his credit card as she shyly rung him up, and thanked her with a wink. Out of habit and afterthought, he left her his cell number on the receipt, just in case Arthur decided to make a pointedly Arthur scene about things and cancel the date, leaving her standing breathless, heart racing, watching as the beautiful, mysterious spirit of a man walked briskly out into the rain and into the shadows.
Francis cradled his precious package in his arms and under his jacket, feeling smug and victorious as he leapt back into his car and started the engine. The watch was a beautiful piece of engineering worthy of a maritime captain of old, an artifact that could have come straight from the ships Arthur so lovingly kept in his apartment in antique bottles. He'd loved it from afar and denied himself the pleasure of owning it so long, to finally have it in his hand would make the evening the romantic, momentous occasion Francis knew his beloved wanted it to be. He had always been tragically and mercilessly romantic, and would be damned if he didn't give everything in his soul for the sake of love. It was all perfect at last; until of course the dashboard came back to life and revealed he had spent well over half an hour finagling his present out of a closed shop and a naïve young girl. A stream of French oaths poured from his lips as he stashed the gift on the passenger seat and tore out of the driveway back into the crowded streets.
The restaurant where he was to be meeting Arthur that evening was a fancy affair on a hill overlooking the entire verdant valley in which Applewood was nestled. Unfortunately for him it was also a good distance away and across an often gridlocked and busy stretch of highway that was nasty and infuriating even when the weather was kind. Nevertheless, he forged on, but the trip from the city proper took much longer than expected and by the time Francis even waded through the mire of street traffic to the winding, scenic road up toward the hills it was already five minutes past seven. The elegant French obscenities continued with even more venom, flung unheard along with uncouth, frustrated hand gestures and sharp honks at drivers being too cautious, too slow, and altogether rude.
Francis bobbed and weaved his way in and around cars, gripping the steering wheel and scowling into the growing storm. The clouds roiled and teemed overhead, thunder boomed as the rain fell harder, and time ticked mercilessly on, minute after cruel, smug minute. The trees whipped past as he sped, heedless of the speed limit signs, a red streak followed by a flume of blinding water through the dark evening down the last stretch of road. The radio hummed some muffled, meaningless love song too low to hear over the pounding rain and the whine of the windshield wipers. Street lamps flashed in eerily ephemeral ghosts of colorless light over his face, sky blue eyes narrowed and focused intently on the road ahead. The familiar cheery jangle of a text message arriving on his phone sounded from his pocket, and Francis swore again as he wrenched the device out and hurled it unceremoniously it on the seat beside him. He didn't need to look to know whom it was from, not did he wish to inflict the frustration of reading the predictably incendiary words upon himself.
"Merde," he spat to himself, "Just WAIT two seconds, Arthur you impatient, stubborn, bourrique. I'm coming!"
The first text was soon followed by a second a few minutes later, then a third. The fourth time the same monotonous tone sounded Francis growled in frustration and almost gave in to the temptation to send something snide in return, but a quick glance at the clock reminded him it was only 7:10 and he still had five minutes before Arthur said he was going to give up on him. There was no need to exacerbate the situation with a response that would only incite his lover further. It was only when his ring tone blared to life and his beloved song became an infuriating cacophony piercing his ears with its intrusive, needy caterwauling that he turned his head away from the road and reached out for it. His fingers just brushed the sleek black phone to pick it up, but his vision flooded with sudden blood red from the corners and blinded him in a haze. He snapped his head back forward, eyes wide, just in time to see the brake lights of the car in front of him blazing far too close.
The little red sports car lurched and screeched as he too slammed on the breaks with a yelp, grunting as his seat belt locked and his tires skidded on the soaked highway. At the last moment he swerved to avoid plowing headlong into the back of the other vehicle into the second lane, kicking up a dramatic spray of water and getting a chorus of horns in reply. He still made a point to tell the other driver just exactly what he thought of their driving in a colorful mix of enraged French and English as he passed, despite the fact they were in separate cars, and stomped forcefully on the accelerator. The engine roared to life, hurtling the car headlong into clear and open road before him, hissing and grumbling and leaving all the other drivers behind in his wake. Francis was finally able to heave a sigh of relief and sink into his seat, goal in sight and only a few more miles away. The plan of calling as he was pulling into a spot remained intact, with the additional possible tongue lashing, but he would nevertheless end up dancing to a string quartet under a crystal chandelier, drinking French wine, looking into Arthur's beguiling emerald gaze, holding his beloved in his arms and making love to him all night long.
His peace would have been complete had his cell phone not rung a second time, and then, Francis was chagrined to discover, from the dark depths of the floor beneath the passenger seat where it had tumbled. That was the final knell. The last bastion of hope for any glimmer of happiness left in an otherwise disastrous chain of fate. Arthur never tolerated two missed calls, ever, and he knew full well if he ignored him again even after all of his ire, his agony and effort, the evening would be utterly spoiled.
"Mon petit lapin… I adore you, but you really are a piece of work," he muttered, and leaned down below the dash to grope for his phone.
The cold wind of fate that had skirted about the entire day, moved its pawns and cast its shadow over the wretched night blew once more.
Down the opposite stretch of road a trailer truck bounced and skidded precariously down the steep grade. The tires fought against the heavy weight and the slick, treacherous asphalt, twisting and hissing, the sopping chains rattling ominously under the carriage. The brakes screeched in protest every time pressure was applied to their frayed, blistered nerves, and their dying cries rang shrilly through the turbulent air. The only sound that managed to ring clear and true above the desperate grind of the pads against the wheels, the driving rain, and the percussion of thunder was the sound of the cables as they snapped.
Without them, the crippled truck spun wildly out of control. The cab swayed and swerved, horn blaring to warn the hapless drivers ahead and trailer fishtailing behind it. The rain soaked road offered no reprieve, no kindness, and its decent into ruin was unmercifully swift. It frantically dodged what cars it could, but momentum seized it and the destroyed machinery could be controlled no longer. The cab plowed over the median in the center of the wooded highway, scarring the tender grass, and skidded on only one set of wheels into the opposite side, sparks flying against the flashing sky.
Francis heard the ghastly moan of the dying vehicle from rooting around for his elusive cell in the dark and he sat bolt upright back into his seat to gaze into a wave of blinding headlights, twisting metal and burning hellfire. He frantically slammed the steering wheel to the side, but his tires scraped and clung to nothing, hydroplaning into weightless, helpless terror as the semi plowed solidly into the side of his car and flung it effortlessly through the guardrail and off the side of the road. It toppled and flipped down the torturously long and shallow embankment and Francis heard the hideous sound of glass shattering all around him with a sickening chorus of crunching metal, before the airbag deployed with a loud concussion of air and everything went black. Heedless of its unconscious driver, the red sports car tumbled through the mud and met a violent end to its trek when it crashed abruptly into a tree and stopped on its roof, sagging defeatedly into the mire.
Somewhere in the blackness, Francis knew neither how much later, nor where he had ended up, but he heard and felt, somehow, the sound of his tires spinning uselessly in the air. It was followed by the steady, mournful drum roll of the rain on the ground just outside, and the frenetic jerking and scraping of his demolished windshield wipers still twitching feebly against the remnants of glass. He then became painfully aware of the blood rushing to his head, his arms sprawled awkwardly against the crushed roof below him, and the intensely uncomfortable tightness of his seatbelt keeping him strapped firmly into his seat suspended upside down. He screwed his eyes shut tighter as his senses returned sharply to him, alerting him to a blinding pain somewhere in his lower extremities and something scalding hot and wet dripping up his neck and trickling through his golden curls.
Glazed cerulean eyes finally fluttered open and the ruins of his car spun and shifted dizzyingly before them. The battered Frenchman groaned softly, but forced himself to move as much as he could in his demolished car, ensuring each and every part of his body still responded and functioned. Every single inch of him seared with unimaginable pain, so he was reasonably certain everything was at the very least intact despite the blood. Slowly, the memory of what had happened percolated into Francis' frazzled mind and he writhed in protest against the seatbelt and the buckled chassis trapping him into place. The first thing he thought of then was Arthur. Arthur who would be sitting alone at their romantic table, fuming as he checked his watch obsessively and glared at his phone. He would wait for his call that would never come, hating him so intensely in that moment it would surely destroy him later that night to know why he had not kept his appointment. Moving, even despite the powerful thoughts of his beautiful, fiery lover, proved impossible, and no matter how hard Francis clawed and struggled, hands groping for the seatbelt catch or something, anything at all to free himself, it was all in vain.
Above the wreckage in the roadside ravine, the felled semi still dangled precariously over the edge, its massive bulk suspended only by a few flimsy shreds of the metal guardrail. The creaks and groans of failing infrastructure pierced the already tempestuous night, and the truck tipped ominously lower over the edge. If Francis heard it, it did not register in his desperation to free himself. The only thing that did, the only thing that could, was the sound of Doris Day's clarion voice as it filled the cabin with song and faint light. His cell phone lay on what was once the roof, a trifling few feet away, and Arthur's smiling, beautiful face illuminated the cracked screen. Francis gazed at it, his heart wrenching inside his chest, and reached a trembling bloodied hand feebly out toward it with a whisper only he would hear.
His fingers could not reach, and high above him, the last vestiges of rail crumbled and failed. The broken truck plummeted down the ravine with a banshee wail that pierced the storm and sounded clear to the heavens. It thundered down the side of the hill and barreled through the mud, carving a black, murky path of destruction as it headed straight for the wreckage. In the end, the headlights illuminated the cabin and filled it with a bright and blinding light that filled Francis' vision until it was all he could see. His last thought was of was Arthur's smiling face, the sound of his laughter, and the touch of his hands and his lips on his as the distant strains of a much beloved song reverberated mournfully into the final impact.
"Whatever will be, will be… The future's not ours to see. Que sera, sera…"
Fate rears its ugly head, and Francis is left to contend with the unknown of the afterlife, which may not be all clouds and halos and pearly gates as he might expect… What is waiting for him on the other side? Well certainly not a chorus of angels and harps. Sounds a little more like something he's used to; the halcyon sound of bickering…