Author's note: Currently living in France, so this was something different to write, being in the country I'm writing about. What French I felt needed translations I wrote after in italics. I'm pretty sure it's all correct, but I've never really gotten to use that kind of French with somebody. So, without further ado...
Francis can feel the blood trickling down his back. His head is pounding. His arms are too heavy. Arthur looks torn between feeling victorious and pitying the sad creature before him. For once, Francis doesn't care what Arthur thinks of him.
"Arthur," he whispers, though there's no one around to hear.
The English nation stiffens at the sound of his given name.
"Arthur," he repeats, trying to stand up. But he puts too much weight on the gun, and the ground shifts. Arthur catches him, though Francis can tell it's out of instinct and not from any care in his blackened heart. Maybe Francis's heart is just as black as his. But he knows there is one part that is still alive, and that's the part that makes him beg.
When Francis is standing, Arthur steps back, and they both know to pretend like he didn't just help him. "What do you want Bonnefoy?"
"Allow me to say goodbye, s'il vous plaît."
It's a simple request, but he's afraid it's too much. He doesn't expect Arthur to look him in the eyes, to nod and to turn, to lead the way.
He hears the door close behind him but doesn't care. All that matters is Matthew, curled up beside the window. Matthew, his face stained with tears. Matthew, the only person left that he loves.
When the lock clicks the Canadian's head snaps up, catching sight of Francis. They had stopped at the doctor first, his bandages tight beneath the change of clothing. But his arms are still too heavy as Matthew runs to him, holding him close. He tries not to let on to how much pain he's in, the grip too tight around him.
"Papa," the young boy cries, over and over. "Papa, Papa…"
Once upon a time, Francis loved that Matthew called him that. But now the younger nation is too old for such childish things; he's 16 now, turned 16 during the war. Francis sent him candies from the battlefield, sweets for the sweet, though he knew they would never make up for all the birthdays he had missed.
"Mathieu," he murmurs, stroking the boy's hair.
There was something else too, something wrong about being called such a familial name by this boy, this soon-to-be man. The little boy who used to run to him, Francis would scoop him up in his arms and kiss him on the cheek, telling him he loved him and had missed him. Now he wanted to hold the boy close, kiss him on the lips, tell him he loved him and never wanted him to go. Perhaps any other nation who had been paying attention would have noticed the shift, from loving Matthew to being in love with Matthew. But for once the nation of love didn't see it.
Those eyes look up at him, large and round and full of tears. He wants to grab his face, pull him close, feel his mouth. Francis tries to restrain himself, but it's so hard.
"Papa," the boy repeats.
"Do not call me that Mathieu. You no longer belong to me. You are a man now; you may call me by my proper name."
Matthew takes a step back, Francis's arms falling heavily back to his side. Those eyes take him in, and he knows the Canadian can see the scars, can see where the bandages pull underneath his jacket.
"Francis," he whispers, and it's almost too much for his heart to take.
They stand in silence. Francis wants to tell him he loves him, wants to kiss him, just once before he leaves. Arthur will not let him see his beloved nation again; he lost the war. This is his punishment, these tears and the separation that is to follow. He wonders what Matthew is thinking.
"How long-" Matthew starts, then falters, looking at his feet. His toes point in, they always have when he stands. "When will he make you leave?" he finally manages, his eyes still cast down.
Francis sighs. "I do not know. But I will stay as long as you want me to Mathieu." He makes to reach out, then stops himself. But before he can pull back, a hand grabs his, pushing it to Matthew's face. He moves against Francis's delicate hand, calloused for the first time.
"I am sorry I was not stronger." Francis was afraid of this, and tries to shush the teenager, but Matthew simply shakes his head and continues. "No, Francis, I was not strong enough. You have lost so much, because of me, and I am sorry. I wish I could have protected you, the way you have always protected me."
With a grace he didn't know his now-former colony had, Matthew pulls Francis close, burying his face in the larger man's chest. Francis wonders how tall Matthew will grow without him, how mature he'll become and how handsome as well. He's always been beautiful, both outside and within. Francis wishes the world didn't spoil such beauty, but he can't protect him anymore.
He feels the chin dig into his chest, and looks down. Matthew is watching him, his eyes still large but the tears drying. He brushes a hand against that soft cheek. "Francis?"
It's not the words but the tone that makes Francis's breathing hitch. Matthew is the one to reach up, pulling the Frenchman's face down to his. He had missed his own feelings change; how did he miss Matthew's as well?
"Francis?" Their lips brush as he whispers the name.
"Oui mon cher?" He doesn't flinch as Francis's stubble rubs against his chin, yet there is a blush. It's slow, creeping, as Matthew tries to find the words. This Francis doesn't miss; he knows what the boy is trying to ask. But he needs to hear the words, he needs to know this is ok. Part of him hates himself for loving a boy he raised, but part of him knows Matthew was never his boy. He belongs to the world, belongs to the desolate wilderness that bore him. Arthur would never understand that, but Francis does. He didn't fight that war to keep Matthew for his own: he fought it to keep Matthew free.
The first thing Matthew says is « Aime-moi », love me. The second is « Fais-moi l'amour », make love to me.
In his mind he screams to be gentle, to handle with care this delicate creature. But deep down Francis needs this, and so he grabs Matthew without care, crushing their lips together. Matthew meets his needs with his own, as Francis tries to memorize the feel of this Canadian wonder beneath him.
Too soon he feels the boy's body bend as he meets the bed that has always been too big for him. Matthew tries to scramble up as Francis watches him, taking in the sight. He knows the boy is inexperienced, knows he's only ever kissed a few girls. But when Matthew looks up, he can see a fire in those eyes that overcomes the lack of experience. He can see the need he feels in himself, a need that's all French.
Every part of Matthew is soft, lips trailing after each article of clothing as it is removed. His chest is so pale beneath French fingers, his arms so skinny, his legs so lanky. But the breeches he leaves on, a bulge already present there. Francis pulls back to take in the sight, and through Matthew's flushed face he sees a blush.
"I am overdressed," Francis states. Matthew laughs a little, his legs still wrapped around the older man's waist. They fall to the side as Francis steps back, undressing slowly. He feels no shame in his body, in the old scars and new ones. Matthew sits up, watching with anticipation.
"I-" Matthew starts, then falters. Francis looks up from where he had been unbuttoning the breeches at his knees. "I've always liked your legs." It's such a simple statement, as the buttons are removed from their holes, but it reminds Francis why he loves Matthew. Back in Paris there is a code for everything, the court dancing a complicated minuet. But here in Quebec, life is simple. Matthew is honest, always has been. It's refreshing.
He makes to pull off his shirt, tugging the extra fabric from his pants, but pauses. "Here." He takes Matthew's hands in his, kissing them, before bringing them to the the fabric, encouraging him to remove the shirt instead. Dutifully Matthew does, slowly but steadily. Francis pulls it the rest of the way over his head, pulling the ribbon from his hair and tossing both things aside. They pause, Francis watching Matthew, Matthew taking in Francis's chest. Then those hands move to his breeches on their own, and soon Francis is completely naked before his young lover.
While he knows it is meant well, he cannot help but stifle a laugh as Matthew stares at his body, his erection large and visible. One of those sweet hands reaches out and brushes it, causing Francis to roll his head back, eyes closing, and groan.
The hand is quickly pulled back, but Francis stays as he was. "Mathieu," he moans. "N'ârrete pas, Mathieu." Don't stop.
With that vote of confidence, the hand returns, becoming braver with each stroke. Soon enough he grabs the cock, his hand moving up and down, slowly, speed building. Francis grabs Matthew's shoulders, whispers into his ear encouragements. He doesn't want to startle the boy but he needs to steady himself, needs to know the boy is ready for this. Francis was a year younger than Matthew when he lost his virginity, but he had been much more flirtatious, much more daring. Matthew is none of those things.
French hands come to encircle the Canadian neck, his breathing shallow. "Mathieu," he says between deep breaths.
"Est-ce que je devrais ârreter?" Should I stop? Even as he asks, his voice too high pitched, his hands keep moving.
"Non. But I am... going to…" He had tried so hard not to thrust into those hands, but as he came he did once, holding Matthew's head to his chest, groaning as he came. To his credit, he realizes that Matthew kept stroking him until he was finished.
His breathing slows and he pulls back, taking in Matthew. Matthew looks at his sticky hands, then up into his deep blue eyes, smiling. "I didn't think I could make you come." There's a pride to his voice.
"You did wonderfully," Francis coos, kissing his forehead. "Here." From the pocket of his jacket he retrieves a handkerchief, helping Matthew to wipe his hands. Finishing, Francis throws it back to the ground, Matthew looking up with anticipation. Francis can't help but kiss him, softly, as he forces the smaller man back on to the bed, laying him down. "Let me take care of you now," Francis mutters, and Matthew smiles, nodding his head.
Francis realizes, as he removes the boy's breeches, the last article of clothing between them, that Matthew is bigger than he expected. He's still young, but for a boy of 16 he's more impressive than his French lover would have expected. He steps between Matthew's legs, his hands under the knees to lift them above his hips.
"Mathieu," he says playfully, "I wish to ask you something embarrassing."
"What?" Matthew's eyes had been closed, but he looks at him when he asks it. Ah, there's the blush, coming already in anticipation.
"Mathieu, have you ever touched yourself?"
"What?" He sits up at that, making Francis laugh. His small chests rises and falls in indignation at the question.
"I told you it would be embarrassing. Come, tell me, Mathieu, do you ever masturbate?"
Matthews mutters something, but Francis doesn't catch it. So the nation repeats it again, his voice still small. "Oui. Sometimes."
He hadn't been expecting that. "And who do you think of?" Francis has never cared if his lovers have loved others. He doesn't mind sharing; he just likes to know.
The Canadian reaches up, his hands on both sides of Francis's face. "You," he whispers, before leaning up and stealing a kiss. Francis freezes in place as Matthew lays back down, wrapping his legs more securely around Francis's naked body.
All these years Francis has spent feeling guilty for thinking of the boy like this. Since Matthew was 14, Francis has tried to suppress thoughts of a naked Canadian, his body pressed into the bed, screaming for Francis to take him. Just remembering those thoughts makes Francis harder, and he realizes that his hands are now gripping Matthew's thighs, that magnificent Canadian member standing in attention.
All these years they could have had, and Francis never thought Matthew would feel this way. He tries to push away the thoughts as he grips Matthew's erection, sliding one hand up and down with practice. Matthew's hands curl in the sheets as Francis continues teasing, both hands working every trick he's ever learned to please a man. He wants this to be special, he wants Matthew to remember how much Francis loves him. Why did it have to be like this though? If he had known, they could have had months, years, together before Arthur tore them apart. Any moment that bastard Englishman could walk through the door, and Francis would have wasted this precious borrowed time being pleasured instead of giving pleasure to the one he loves. When would he next be able to touch this sweet and beautiful angel? He can't bear to think of it.
His mind reals as he comes to, trying to focus on the job at hand. Any other lover and he'd go down on him, licking and sucking until he came. But he knows he can't do that to Matthew; the boy is too inexperienced, and their time is too short. It's selfish, but he wants the boy to come with Francis inside him.
Shit! He could have smacked himself; he never thought to bring lubricant. But Matthew seems to read his mind, one hand coming up to point at the night stand on the other side of the bed, just over Matthew's blonde head. Francis leans over the lithe body, stealing a fiery kiss, before crawling over the bed, yanking open the drawer and removing the secret bottle. His eyes quickly take in the other items he never would have suspected Matthew of possessing, other sex toys, small portraits of Francis. He realizes there are so many things he doesn't know about Matthew, so many secrets they've kept from each other. One day he hopes to know them all.
But now, now he returns to his post, and as gently as he can he prepares Matthew. The boy cries out with each finger, with each move inside of him. Francis kisses away the tears, whispering soothing words. Matthew wraps his graceful arms around Francis's neck, and he knows the boy understands. If he could take away the pain he would, but in this they have no choice.
When Francis positions himself at Matthew's entrance, the lover kisses him. "Je t'aime, Francis." It's all the encouragement he needs as he takes Matthew, takes something he never deserved but will always cherish. He takes and takes, over and over, Matthew's cries moving from pain and discomfort to pleasure and lust. Their lips meet over and over, Matthew's hands roaming over Francis's chest and back, Francis's hand coming between them to stroke Matthew. Too soon he feels Matthew tightening, shifting, trying to make the inevitable wait.
"Je t'aime, Mathieu," he whispers in the boy's ear as Matthew comes, shouting his name. Any other lover and Francis would keep going, satisfying himself more. But the sadness comes back, the knowledge of an inevitable parting. What does it matter anymore? He grabs Matthew's hips and thrusts quickly, finishing with a scream, the name of the boy he watched become a man.
Lying atop Matthew, Francis feels the beating heart through that chest and knows his own is beating just as quickly. He gathers Matthew up in his arms, lifting him and placing him down under the sheets, joining the boy there to hold him and kiss away the tears that are now starting. If he doesn't see Matthew for years, at least they will always have this night to remember.
In the morning Arthur throws open the door. One of Francis's arms has fallen asleep under the weight of Matthew, and somehow the boy is on the other side of his body from where he fell asleep. Francis sits, groggy, as Matthew stirs, groggy as well. One nice thing about visiting Matthew was always that they take the same amount of time to wake up in the morning.
"Bonjour," Francis mutters, taking in the indignant Arthur, and Matthew chuckles, sitting and wrapping his arms around Francis. Francis puts one arm around him, kissing his forehead, before making to stand. The time has come.
"You… are…" Arthur struggles for words as Francis pulls on his clothing, which a servant has neatly folded and placed on a chair. "How could you… to a child you raised?"
Francis stares lazily back, trying not to betray any of his own inner turmoil. But as he pulls on his shirt, he looks at Matthew, who smiles shyly. There is no guilt in that.
"You simply do not understand love," Francis states, pulling the shirt down over his naked body. Behind him Matthew notices how Arthur has not reacted to the naked Frenchman, while pulling the sheets up over his own body. Perhaps he should tell the boy that he has had Arthur, that for all the Englishman's airs, he too has laid on his back and begged Francis to take him. Francis was never as kind to Arthur as he was to Matthew; he'd like very much to say that.
"Disgusting." Arthur drags out the word as Francis slowly dresses, handing Matthew his own shirt to pull over his body. Francis has no intention of sharing this lover with any other.
But now Matthew has become quiet, his body stiff. He knows the Canadian feels the weight of what they are about to do, but tries to smile through it for his boy. As he sits on the bed, pulling up his stocks and placing on his shoes, Matthew wraps both arms around his neck, that small chest pushing into his back. Arthur tuts.
When he turns, Matthew's face is red, tears already rolling down. He kisses each one away, slowly, not caring that Arthur is watching. Perhaps it's better that Arthur has to watch them part, has to know what pain he has caused the young nation.
Two defeated hands take Matthew's face, pulling him into a deep kiss. His tongue wiggles and teases inside Matthew's mouth, warranting a small giggle. He pulls the boy close before pulling away. "Je t'aime, Mathieu," he whispers. He loves this boy, who can speak French and is just as groggy in the morning, who has always made him smile and always wants just one more story.
"Je t'aime, Francis. Je t'adore, je t'aime, ne me quitte pas." Don't quit me, don't leave me.
But those two defeated hands remove Matthew's arms from around his body, the boy falling back onto the bed. He curls in on himself, tears falling freely. He pulls at his chest, and Francis can do nothing but watch, etching this image forever in his mind. Matthew, the boy he could never love enough.
As Francis turns his back, Matthew cries out, a French « non! » echoing through the room. Francis pauses besides Arthur, but doesn't look at him, those deep blue eyes set on the wall before him. "Do you see those tears?" he whispers for only the English nation to hear. "Now you must dry those tears, or I will find you and kill you. Mathieu is not to be ignored."
He walks proudly from the room, down the hall, and out a door. Dark clouds rumble as a few drops of rain fall. Inside, he imagines Arthur still standing, awkward, watching. Matthew is probably screaming at him to leave, his words French; he hopes he hurls the bottle of lubricant at him, makes him feel that much more ashamed of what he is putting this younger man through.
Francis's heart blackens just a little bit more, but there is still a part filled with love. A single tear escapes, joining the rain drops on a French cheek, as he makes his way to the carriage, snapping the door closed behind him.
They will always have that night.