On Rainy Days

The following night was just as unpleasant for Francis as it only could be for one whose hopes had just been crumbled. Besides, it was rather a new feeling for the Frenchman; usually it wasn't him who had got his hopes too high, and those few times it really had been him, his pride had been more hurt than his heart.

Antonio had received another phone call, and the Spaniard had regretted that Francis' potential affair – love, as Francis had sadly uttered – had miserably ended in record time. But at least comfort offered by his friend made the Frenchman feel a bit better, even if it didn't cure his aching heart.

However, regardless of how long and unpleasant the night was, eventually it came to the end, giving way to September morning light. It was a pretty Saturday morning, and the café Francis was the head chef at would open at nine o'clock; the Frenchman had better get ready soon and be on his way to his workplace, no matter whether he felt like it or not.

The morning was pretty chilly even though it wasn't even mid-September, but Francis didn't mind; he wasn't cold in his dark jacket and fresh air (as fresh as the air could be in a grand city such Paris) was only good for him. The air cools down along with my heart, he though, well acknowledging how dramatic the thought sounded and liking it.

The walk from the Frenchman's flat to the café took about twenty minutes, and halfway was located the Englishman's boutique. It was closed, of course – Arthur would hardly open his shop at eight in the morning on Saturday – but as Francis passed it, he had nonetheless almost expected to see the the shopkeeper behind his desk, reading a book with a distant look in his eyes or whittling new toy soldiers to his collection with a concentrated face. Raising his eyes on Francis with the beautiful smile of his on hearing the Frenchman entering. The familiar sight would have been soothing – almost like nothing of the previous day had ever happened, like everything was like it had been until that moment.

Francis shook his head and continued his way to the café. Well, everything would go on like it used to; Arthur had said he wanted to be friends, and Francis had no intentions to avoid the Englishman, despite his feelings. The only thing was that he would have to flirt less – other than that, everything would go according to the familiar routine.

Only that the routine was broken as soon as Francis reached his workplace. Because it wasn't included in the routine that Arthur would be standing in front of the front door of the café, hands in the pockets of his beige jacket, shifting from one leg to another and glancing inside, as if waiting for the lights to switch on any minute possible. The Frenchman frowned a bit – he wasn't sure how to approach the Englishman after the previous day, and it didn't seem like the shopkeeper had noticed him yet.

"Silly Englishman," he muttered as he walked closer to the waiting figure. "On seeing that the café is about to open only in an hour, one would expect him to leave and come back to the opening time..."

Francis hadn't really bothered with hushing his voice, and apparently the said silly Englishman had ears of a rabbit, for he spun around and spotted the approaching Frenchman. He seemed to start a little, but quickly regained his composure and adopted a scowl on his face, folding his arms across his chest. Deciding to go on like nothing had happened, Francis raised his eyebrow at such appearance. "Bonjour, Arthur," he said airily. "What a surprise seeing you outside your little kingdom and at the gates of my palace. What about your shop?"

Arthur snorted, keeping up the stern face, but momentarily Francis saw some hesitance in those green orbs. Hesitance, however, was immediately replaced with haughtiness. "I'm the owner, I can do whatever the hell I want with it," the proud shopkeeper uttered, and Francis smirked, despite himself. "That one you got from me," he laughed and ignored the grunt he got in response. "Very well. Since you seem to be so eager to come inside, however, follow-"

But he never got to finish his sentence – he was cut off by Arthur's hurried words, all but spat out. "When I said 'the two of us', I meant myself and Alfred."

Francis blinked, taken aback by sudden outburst, and stared at Arthur. The Englishman stood right before him with his arms protectively across his chest, cheeks flaming scarlet and eyes alternately observing their surroundings and, cautiously, the Frenchman.

"Quoi?" was all Francis could say while processing the words in his mind.

Arthur, instead, started to look almost furious. "Are you deaf?" he asked (rhetorically, Francis assumed) and slowly repeated as if speaking to a child. "When I said yesterday that we were just friends, I meant myself and Alfred, you bloody retard."

"Oh," Francis said, the message finally sinking in. "Oh?" he repeated, immediately changing his tack. "Hmm, and what of it~?" Because happy or not, Francis was always Francis.

Arthur stared at the Frenchman, flustered, as if trying to deicide whether he was playing with him or not. Rather correctly coming to the conclusion that Francis indeed was teasing, the Englishman frowned. "You always refuse to take the hint, do you," he muttered and, just as Francis was coming up with a most brilliant retort, grabbed the collar of his jacked and pulled him close, pressing his lips against the Frenchman's. It was a very brief kiss, if kiss at all; more like it was merely lips pressing against lips, quick and chaste – but the errand of it was more than clear.

Francis smirked at Arthur when he withdrew; he was flushed and embarrassed and yet at the same time so determined that the Frenchman couldn't help himself. He laughed.

Needless to say, that didn't improve Arthur's mood. "You- Stop that!"

Francis wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, shaking his head. "Oh, Arthur," he managed to say, "This hint I'm more than glad to take."

That evening Antonio received the third and the happiest phone call concerning the matter 'Arthur'.

(xXx

Arthur's flat was not at all stale and dusty like Francis had expected on first hearing about it. It was small, yes, almost tiny, but even so clean and well kept. Arthur had only one room aside kitchen, bathroom and the shop premises, and somehow Francis was fascinated by the fact that whole his property lied within those walls. Arthur had a bed, desk, a couple of chairs and two quite big shelves, made of oak – fine work, Francis had marked. And everywhere around could be seen different tools for whittling, drawing and so on – visibly it was a craftsman's home.

As Arthur busied himself with tea in the kitchen, Francis carefully sat on the bed and continued observing the cosy room – it was always interesting to see other people's homes, as home told a loud story about their owners.

"I just can't understand," Francis continued their conversation while taking in the contents of the room, "why you were so flustered about Alfred getting to know about our, hm, relationship."

The Frenchman heard a snort coming from the kitchen. "You don't obviously know Alfred." Teacups clung together. "You tell him something, and be sure he will announce the whole world all about it. Besides..."

Something on the bedside table caught Francis' attention. He gave Arthur an absent hum encouraging him to continue while taking a small wooden object in his hands.

"Well..." Arthur's voice was a bit quieter now, and Francis heard water being poured into cups. "One never knows about Frenchmen."

But Francis didn't reply. He stared at the wooden thing in his hands, observing it closely and uttering a quiet, amazed laughter. The paint work was indeed impressing.

It was a toy soldier. A toy soldier with blond locks and blue eyes, and it had a light stubble on its chin. The uniform was French. On the bottom of the figure was carved the date of its completion; the date that located a month back in mid-August, and the Frenchman was pretty sure he remembered the cause Arthur and himself had bickered about that time.

Not only the soldier in the Frenchman's hands was French, but Francis also was quite sure he was holding a soldier made after himself.

"Fran-?" Francis raised his eyes to see Arthur with two teacups halting in the doorway to the room. Lifting one of his eyebrows significantly, the Frenchman pointed at the soldier in his hands.

Really, watching the red colour creeping up the Englishman's neck and spreading on his face was indeed most amusing. And now Francis could enjoy the sight to his heart's content.

xXx)

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