When the Ink Refused to Run Dry
When Arthur Kirkland travelled to Boston in search of a muse, he expected to find it in the form of a French chef. But do the stone walls of St. Botolphs's hide a more sinister secret?
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia, if I did…well, for starters, my country would exist in the show.
Chapter 1: Towards our stage shall we hurry forth
White was the color of purity and innocence. It signified newness and cleanliness, a blanket of virgin snow draped over the brown soil in winter, sweeping across the harsh landscape, like thick fleece. Any object that was seen against this splendid backdrop presented a stark contrast and could easily be considered a miserable impurity. White was the color of fluffy puffs of cotton that hung in the sky, so very close to the brilliant sun. It was the color of the faint wisps that seemed to have been brushed on the azure roof of the world, thinly stretched so high above us all. Wfhite was the color of a bride's gown, clean and elegant, yet radiant and eye-catching in its simplicity. Yet, this was also the color of loss and sorrow, of death and despair. It meant loneliness and emptiness. It was one of the marvels of the world really, how many things a single, simple color could represent. But to Arthur Kirkland, white was a symbol of his frustration.
The blank white pages lay on his lap, their gleaming faces mocking him in the morning light. He let his fingers brush across their crisp edges, wishing he could fill the sheets with his untidy scrawl. Shutting his tired green eyes against the dull ache of hopelessness that washed over him, he sighed. It had been two months since he had been able to churn out anything that wasn't substandard. Oh, of course, he still wrote for the weekly magazines and submitted articles for the newspapers, but his heart wasn't in the matter. He longed to be able to write a novel, to create a world of his own once more. He desired the freedom that came with his creation, the inimitable ecstasy that resulted from inspiration. Glancing at his clean fingertips, Arthur let out another sigh. He could easily remember a time when his fingers had been perpetually stained with ink, when you would have been hard-pressed to not find him with his nose buried in a book and a pen in his hand.
"Those were the days, eh, Flutter old girl? Look what success and the promise of a career have done to us," he remarked idly to a seemingly empty railway carriage. But, the carriage was only empty to those who could not see. Arthur had a gift of being able to see beyond that which was clearly visible. To him, faeries, nymphs, gnomes…these were not creatures that resided on the paper of a story-book, they were real. His first set of novels, entitled, "There's a Fairy in My Tea" had dealt with the life of a young English boy who was cursed with the ability to see magical creatures. The press had called it a work of art, stating that it was, 'one of the finest pieces of modern British fiction of our ages.' Arthur had never bothered to correct the reports' accounts that it was fiction. He was satisfied instead to have reached a level of popularity that he had never imagined possible. Granted, his novels were written under a pseudonym, Arthur could not have asked for more. Writing was his life, it was his passion. As his elder brother Iain used to joke, "Th' lad's got ink fur bluid in his veins."
All around him, the busy crowds of London bustled back and forth, the familiar sounds, sights and smells wafting into the carriage through the windows. Arthur watched as a pretty young lady accompanied by what appeared to be her brother argued in front of a vending machine, a harried woman struggled to manage her laden luggage trolley and four small energetic children, while in the corner, beneath the gleaming chrome clock, a policeman stood reprimanding a pickpocket. The familiarity of the situation warmed his heart; he had after all been living in London for the last five years. But after a second week of his grumbling, Iain had finally grown tired of his bad mood, and had finally snapped at his younger brother, irritated by his annoying habit of ritually tapping the pen against the china tea cups when he was uninspired. The Scotsman had decided that it would be good for everyone if Arthur got out a bit, took a holiday. And so, here he was setting off to Boston which agreeably wasn't all that far off but he looked forward to meeting his old friend Antonio, who would be vacationing there as well for a month or two. Last he had heard, the Spaniard had taken up a job as a historian. He chuckled under his breath at the thought, yes; Antonio had always loved his bit of adventure.
Arthur's musings were cut short as the door to his berth suddenly slid opened violently. He stared at the intruders, the drowsy state he had slipped into was doing very little to help his thought process along. In the doorway stood a young man, who couldn't be more than two years Arthur's senior. There were two small boys, presumably his sons with him, both blond like their father. He held one precariously in his right arm, while the other clutched onto his pant leg. His left arm was preoccupied with carrying three bags, one of which he had slung across his forearm and he had a bulky duffel bag on his back. By the looks of things, he had kicked the door open which certainly provided an explanation for the din.
While Iain had persisted that Arthur had the social etiquette of a garden gnome, he had prided himself in being somewhat of a gentleman. He darted to the unknown man's aid and grabbed two of his suitcases, muttering, "Let me help you with that." As he set them down on the seat opposite to where he had been dozing off before, the man called out to one of his sons, "Alfred, mon chéri, let go of papa please, so I can put Matthieu down." The boy, who seemed to be attached to his leg, Alfred as he was called, released the now slightly crumpled pant and hopped onto the seat, swinging his legs back and forth while humming a tune under his breath. Next, the boy in his arms, 'Matthieu,' was set down beside his brother. Arthur noticed the stuffed bear that he held in his arms. The boy was exhausted and quickly curled up next to Alfred, using his brother as a makeshift pillow, drifting back to sleep almost instantaneously.
Let out a relieved breath, the man wearily raked a hand through his messy blond locks, gracing Arthur with a tired smile. "Merci beaucoup monsieur. Je m'appelle…ah je suis désolé….je ne suis plus en France. My name is Francis Bonnefoy and these two angels are my sons, Alfred and Matthieu. And you are?" Arthur tried to ignore the faint warmth that sparked in his cheeks when Francis fixed him with his warm gaze. The man's eyes were a rich shade of blue, somewhere between cerulean and Prussian, drawing you in and captivating you. He stuck his hand out, "Arthur Kirkland. It's a pleasure to meet you. And…" he added uncomfortably, "for what it's worth, I know some French, so you can go ahead if you need to."
The unmanly squeal he let out was completely justified. One does not expect someone that they have just met to gently take your outstretched hand and then kiss it with an "Enchanté." Arthur snatched his hand back and cradled it near his chest, giving Francis a look that clearly indicated he thought the Frenchman was some sort of psycho. "Bloody hell! What in the devil is wrong with you? If you didn't have children with you, rest assured things would be entirely different." He sat down, resolutely willing the fierce crimson that stained his cheeks away, ignoring the thought of how soft the Frenchman's lips had been and the smile Francis was sending him as he sat down next to his sons, apologizing half-heartedly to the Brit. Arthur fixed his gaze instead on the scenery that they were passing. He watched, entranced as the golden beams of sunlight bounced off the trees, highlighting the brilliant green swatches. He would occasionally catch a glimpse of a few faeries and once or twice he had seen a sprite hovering near the branches. Through the corner of his eye, he noted that Francis had fallen asleep and he loathed admitting that the Frenchman looked rather fetching in his sleep. He hurriedly put such unprofitable thoughts aside, preferring instead to look at his changing surroundings. True, the land was more agricultural than the forest that he had grown up in, but there was a welcome lack of concrete and metal that cheered him up immensely.
Then the trees gave way to a lake and his breath caught in his throat. The sunlight seemed to dance on the crests of the waves, the water appearing like an enormous gleaming bowl of liquid sapphire, alive and breathing. Birds flew past; beating their wings as they gracefully swooped and swerved in various directions. Arthur could already sense the headiness seeping through his every pore, the one that he associated with inspiration. As he nodded off, he realized that he'd have to thank Iain for this later…
Arthur woke up with a start and glancing out of the window, he realized that they were about ten minutes from Boston. Francis and his family were still fast asleep, obviously more tired than the Frenchman had been willing to let on. The Englishman tried coughing into his hand, clearing his throat and rustling his bags around, but the three remained dead to the world. Reluctantly, he reached out his hand and shook the other's shoulder. Bleary blue eyes peered at him questioningly. "You might want to wake up; we're only about ten minutes from the station. Not that I care or anything." Judging from the warmth in his cheeks, he was sure that he was flushing again but avoided Francis' gaze by putting his things in order, twitching violently when he heard Flutter giggling in the background. But as he watched Francis prepare to once again juggle the entire load, his compassionate side won out. "Where are you staying anyway?" trying and failing to appear nonchalant.
"C'est un hôtel, by the river," Francis said, "I am not too sure…I am…comment vous dites, new to the area?" Arthur racked his brains, the last time he had been here was around seven years ago and back then there hadn't been many hotels and other places to stay. He hoped things hadn't changed too much since his last visit. Fishing out a visiting card from his coat pocket, he asked, "This one?" Francis' blue eyes lit up in recognition. "Ah…oui! Then you are also staying there?"
Nodding he picked up the Frenchman's duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder, before picking up his own suitcase and one of Francis' as well. "Yes, I'll be staying there for about a month. Shall I help you with these since we are heading in the same direction?" "There is no limit to the feeling of happiness that my heart feels. I must be truly blessed indeed to have the good fortune of meeting such a kind and handsome man." "Shut…shut up! Don't say such foolish things! Push your luck and I'm off." He scowled angrily as Francis chortled, before hoisting Matthew onto his hip with Alfred clutching his free hand. The railway was loud, crowded but not quite as much as London's busy platforms. The tantalizing aroma of fish and chips wafted over to Arthur and he could feel his mouth beginning to water. Beside him, Francis was trying to keep Alfred in check. The boy's batteries were recharged after his nap and he was now darting about hyperactively, narrowly missing an old man. "Alfred!" scolded Francis, but it was to no avail and the boy was lost in his own make-believe game. As Francis called out to his son again, Arthur noticed that while Francis spoke in French quite freely to Matthew, he tended to use more English when speaking to Alfred. Arthur also noticed that the song that Alfred had been humming under his breath was the Captain America theme, and he mentally reminded himself to ask Francis about it later. But for now, they had other problems on their hands…
Setting aside his suitcases near Francis, he placed a hand on his hip and raised his voice, "Alfred. You stop that instant and march yourself back here right now. Do you hear me young man?" Sheepishly, Alfred walked towards Arthur and after a moment's hesitation; he placed his own pudgy hand in Arthur's. Arthur smirked at Francis' bewildered expression calmly picking up his luggage again before saying, "Shall we carry on then?"
Deciding to stroll down, the four amiably walked past the quaint homes enjoying the late afternoon sun. "Mon Dieu," said Francis, softly so that only Arthur could hear him, "How did you manage that? It's nearly impossible for me." "I have a younger brother myself, who was quite like Alfred at his age. I used to look after him when we were little. I suppose I've become rather accustomed to it." Francis grinned, "Ah Angleterre, you are full of surprises!"
Quirking a thick eyebrow, he asked, "Angleterre?" "Oui, unless you would prefer mon petit lapin instead?" Flushing angrily he sputtered, "What? Certainly not! Now see hear you daft fool…" What exactly Francis was supposed was supposed to see was cut off by Alfred's exclamation. They had reached the Witham and the blue-eyed boy tugged on Arthur's sleeve, "Can we go see the river please?" he asked, using his best, butter wouldn't melt in my mouth expression. Matthew looked interested at the prospect too and before Arthur knew, he was acting as a tour guide and telling the three about the river. He clutched Alfred's hand tightly in his own, Francis holding Matthew safely while the bespectacled boy excitedly told his father that the river was, 'très belle!'
Arthur looked on as Francis kissed his head fondly, when suddenly Alfred interjected, "What's that?" Glancing up, he said, "That's St. Botolph's parish if my memory serves correctly. It's known for its rather interesting architecture and size. You can see the spire from a good distance away." He couldn't help but think that when the Frenchman wasn't trying to be an obnoxious flirt, he actfually made good company, not that he'd ever admit it.
"So, who's that lady at the top?" Alfred pressed on. Arthur followed the direction in which he was pointing at, "I'm afraid I missed it lad. I can't see anyone." "Nonsense Alfred, your mind must be playing tricks on you, you are tired after the journey here. That is all." Arthur flinched at the unusual flint in the man's tone. He tried to defuse the situation, "Perhaps you saw one of the construction workers? The church itself has been closed for renovation, so no one is allowed in unless it's under special circumstances."
"No way!" he said, shaking his head vigorously, "She couldn't have been a construction worker. She was wearing one of those frilly dresses, like the black and white movies!" "Alfred that is enough!" Francis said sharply, "Now, viens! It is late, we have seen the river. Allons à l'hôtel. Je suis certain que monsieur Arthur est fatigue." "But…" "Enough Alfred!"
Arthur had the sneaking suspicion that he was missing out on something. But he was all too familiar with the feeling of people not believing in what he had seen with his own two eyes. He gave the hand clutched in his own a reassuring squeeze and smiled warmly down at him, "I'll tell you what, let's get a last look at old Witham and head of before it gets dark. Tomorrow, maybe we can find out a bit more about the church. How does that sound?"f
Brightening, Alfred beamed at him and returned to making faces at his reflection in the water. While he was sticking out his tongue at the reflection of Matthew, Arthur caught the look of weariness that had settled onto Francis' face. Deciding that it didn't suit him, he rested his free hand on Francis' shoulder. "Chin up then. Give the break eh? Anyway, I don't suppose you would care to join me for tea after? I could murder a cup right now." Laughing, Francis looked back their reflection in the water, "We look like a family, non?" "Eh…I suppose." "Oui, then that makes me le père and you are la mere."
"What? You blasted pervert!" Through their antics, neither of them noticed the curtains at the top of the church slowly move aside, before drawing themselves shut tight once more.
Author's notes: St. Botolph's is a real place and so are most of the places mentioned here. The story is more or less based on a photo that was taken here awhile ago. But if there are any glaring inaccuracies, please let me know! I've never been to Britain and I'm working on this story using Google Earth and maps.
Also, Iain is Scotland here, and according to the online translator (that I have a feeling may be wrong), he's saying that the lad has ink for blood in his veins. Feel free to correct any errors in the French as well.
Merci beaucoup monsieur. Je m'appelle…ah je suis désolé….je ne suis plus en France.- Thanks a lot sir. My name is..ah…I am sorry, I am no longer in France.
C'est un hôtel- It's a hotel.
Mon petit lapin-my little rabbit.
Allons à l'hôtel. Je suis certain que monsieur Arthur est fatigue.- Let's go to the hotel. I am sure that Mr. Arthur is tired.
Edit: The Boston in the story is in the UK, not in America.
That's about it for now. Hope you all liked this, please do review even if it's a smiley face or you want to correct my attempts at French.