Ever since they have moved in together, they have all noticed a few quirks in the others. A few things that always makes them smile. That never fails to raise their mood. A few things that have transformed this house into a home.
They all have little ways of showing affection apart from the obvious and usual.
Gilbert and Antonio have always known that Francis loves clothes, loves fashion. They both admit that his sense of style (no matter how extravagant ) is always impressive, classy or just simply lovely.
And for a while, every time they go out, Francis is always there to add a scarf, a jacket, a pair of glasses, or a different pair of shoes to their outfit. England has told them that they should be offended. But Gilbert and Antonio aren't. Because Francis doesn't mean anything by it. He isn't trying to belittle their sense of style. He just loves seeing them at their best, loves taking care of them in this way. Knows that they trust him enough to let him do this, and he revels in it.
Lately, more and more often, Francis picks out their entire outfit for the day. He gets up in the morning and heads for their wardrobes without hesitation. They both watch him flurrying around, eyes open wide, trying to take in all the details, fingers running down fabric, feeling and testing. And for some reason, this little morning ritual warms their chests, tugs at a few heartstrings and they look at each other and smile.
They all love physical contact. But none more than Antonio. Francis and Gilbert have been feeling it more and more as they have gotten comfortable in their new home.
In the beginning, it's never anything really noticeable. It's a hand on the small of their backs. It's a squeeze on their shoulders. Then, it's arms linking. Sometimes it's fingers intertwining, thumb rubbing soothingly along the back of their hands. Other times, it's one finger lightly skating around their face, over their eyelids, down their noses, over their lips, on the shell of their ears, circling their cheeks... Tracing the lines of their faces, memorizing them.
It's like Antonio is making sure they're here, that they're alright. That they haven't vanished. That wars haven't changed the bodies he knows into something else. It also feels like he's trying to reassure them. There is warmth and comfort in his touch. Francis and Gilbert always lean into it without thinking anymore. Sometimes they close their eyes, feeling at home, feeling protected. Something that this world doesn't often offer.
Francis and Antonio know, that for all of Gilbert's rudeness and immaturity, he was raised to be a gentleman. This part of Gilbert is so deeply ingrained in him that he often doesn't realize it's still there.
They know, because Gilbert is always the first one to jump in front of them and keep doors open. He pulls their chairs back in restaurants, he hands over his coat when one of them is shivering. He always walks on the outer part of the sidewalk, he is always there to assist them with little things, anything. His eyes always look for little things to make them more at ease. He is always alert for any sign of discomfort and always tries his best to fix it.
Of course, if asked about it, Gilbert denies it all. But Antonio and Francis know better. Know that it's basic instinct telling him to do these things. Telling him to protect them and take care of them. They are not women of course. But they are objects of affection and that is enough to trigger Gilbert's hidden side. Yes, they both know. And it makes them feel loved, looked after. It makes their eyes sparkle every time.
Ever since they moved in together, each and everyone of them has changed the house in some small and unique ways.
With Francis, the smell of pastries is never far away. Every morning, the man gets up at the crack of dawn to start baking. Gilbert and Antonio don't understand this obsession to do it before sunrise, especially as Francis is not a morning person. But no matter what they say, he always replies with a small smile that this is the only way. (*) When they wake up, the warm smell of fresh bread is always there, comforting and just so much like home.
And now, every time Antonio or Gilbert are walking alone in France, the smell wafting from bakeries always has them instinctively searching for Francis.
They love coming back to the house at the end of the day. Some days, they find little plates with a macaron or two waiting for them. Some days it is an éclair. Other times it is a millefeuille, or a figue, or a meringue. Every day it is something else. And Francis will always be in an other room, smiling as they come in,
"So it tastes nice, oui?"
Antonio spends a lot of time in the garden. It didn't start out as much. In the beginning, it was a simple patch of dark brown soil. But with time, toil and love, Antonio coaxed a wonderful garden out of it. And except for tomatoes, it is mostly flowers that grow everywhere in the garden. Flowers of all types and colors. But they have one thing in common, they all smell delightful. And as they grow and bloom, Antonio chooses a few every day and places them in the house.
Gilbert and Francis look for the new fresh, bright blooms every morning.
One day, it is violets in a bowl at the entrance. Another day, it is a bag of dried lavender in their wardrobe. It is a bouquet of roses on the dining room table. It is sprigs of Sweet Alyssum in the living room. It is Jasmine in their bedroom. And it is Lily of the Valley on May 1. Francis is so touched by this he doesn't know how to respond. (**) The flowers are always perfect, sweet smelling and add life to their house. And Antonio is always delighted to see his friends smiling at his hard work.
Gilbert has this little habit of keeping everything. Anytime they go somewhere, he keeps the museum tickets, the restaurant cards, the city maps. Movie tickets and broken friendship bracelets always stay with him. (yes, they have friendship bracelets.) When Francis decides he's tired of using a certain ribbon to tie his hair back, or when Antonio decides his gloves are too worn out to be any more help for gardening, Gilbert always takes the unwanted objects and stashes them away.
Lately, Antonio and Francis are starting to see things that make them smile.
After leaving the objects alone for a few months, Gilbert brings them back out and arranges them around the house. They now have a whole wall filled with all sorts of tickets and postcards. In the hallway, a frame proudly presents all the broken friendship bracelets, another one Francis' ribbons, and Antonio's gloves in one last frame. (Some dating back to when he was a child.) There are artifacts from their many travels all over the shelves, all of them bringing back memories.
"Reminds you of something?"
They have all developed a little ritual.
Every night, Francis sits on the edge of the bathtub and brushes his hair. He spends awhile at it, until his long locks are glowing and perfectly soft. Gilbert and Antonio aren't quite sure how to explain it now, but Francis brushes their hair as well. He had just been finishing up one night and their eyes had locked. Not a single word had been said.
They do this in the bedroom now, the bathroom tiles being too cold. They both sit in front of Francis, and he starts. It's meticulous, the hairbrush tugging through their much shorter hair. Francis never says anything, just works with patience, slender fingers going through their hair every few strokes. It's soothing, and although they would never say it, it makes them think of the mother none of them ever had. Wondering if children in the world get as much comfort as them from a soft touch to their head, a little tugging at their scalp.
It's something new and different, but Gilbert and Antonio adore it. They love the sleepy atmosphere that always surround them at that moment, the feeling of Francis pampering them in a way no one has before.
And Francis? Francis loves it too. He has done this before. To Canada, to Seychelles, to Belgium, Monaco, Netherlands... It is something that he feels is quite intimate and hasn't done in awhile.
They all sleep better after it.
Antonio doesn't say that much during the day. But once the lights are turned off and they are in bed, his tongue loosens and he talks. Sometimes he talks English, sometimes he says a few words in French or German. But mostly, he babbles in Spanish. They all know the others' languages pretty well by now and don't have any problem understanding each other.
Antonio talks about a lot of things. He talks about the weather, he talks a lot about his garden. He talks about the little river he saw while taking a walk in the forest. But he never talks about other people. It's always about little nothings, about them. How he likes the croissants that Francis made this morning. How he couldn't believe Gilbert kept those old gloves. Antonio speaks softly, his voice low, the vibration of his chest comforting. He goes on about little things, talks about stars, about love, about birds and rainclouds as they all drift off to sleep.
Francis and Gilbert never say anything, just huddle closer and listen, lulled comfortably by Antonio's voice until his words blur together from sleep. Until they fall asleep feeling warm.
And Antonio? It gives him some sort of closure. To what? He's not really sure. All that he knows is that saying meaningless sentences while his friends breathe slowly around him in the dark is very comforting.
They don't have as many nightmares as they used to.
Gilbert doesn't think that he has a ritual like Antonio or Francis. The other two know otherwise. Just like his brother, Gilbert likes things neat. Fortunately, he isn't as obsessive as Ludwig. But this little obsession made him pick up a habit that has the other two laughing quietly. Gilbert leaves little post-it notes around the house.
It might be in the kitchen, for Francis, "Don't forget to clean those pans when you're done!" Or it might be on the backdoor for Antonio, "Wipe your boots when you finish gardening!" Gilbert seems to instinctively know when his friends are going to do something that might mess up the house a bit too much. These little notes are scattered around the house, some in unusual places that make Francis and Antonio laugh when they happen upon one. Like on Francis' shampoo bottle "You leave too many beauty products on the sink." Or even inside Antonio's hoodie, "Wardrobes are very useful, you should use them."
It always makes Antonio and Francis smile at how well he knows them. How Gilbert just knows what they will do. So they do what he says and add the new note to a notebook that they're planning to give to him.
And Gilbert? He tries not to think too much about it. He just keeps making the notes and signing with "The Awesome Prussia" and Gilbird doodle. Just in case they don't know it's him.
People are always surprised at how clean their house is.
And then there are things they all do that they will never admit to.
They all love singing, they love music. It's rare to enter their house and not hear at least one of them humming or a CD playing.
They taught each other their own classics, keep each other updated on the new hits that appear in their countries. They discuss for hours about what they do or do not like about certain types of music, about foreign music, who were some of the best singers and so on and so forth. Their CD collection is monstrous. And they know it all by heart.
Embarrassingly enough for them, what they enjoy sharing the most are songs for children. Little tunes that they grew up with and that never changed, charged with emotion they can't really explain, so comfortingly familiar. These songs are intricately linked with them to the point where singing them always makes them feel more at home.
Sometimes as the night falls, one of them will start singing one of these songs softly, the others joining in.
They will never admit to any of this during the day of course, but the moon is a very good secret keeper and they trust her with this part of themselves.
They love to cuddle. They love to be tangled up until they can't tell their arms and legs from the others'.
Other people would probably feel slightly awkward doing this, uncomfortable. But these three draw comfort from the proximity of loved ones. They feel warmest when sharing body heat. They sleep best when next to each other. Sure, Gilbert snores, Antonio moves around too much and Francis sleep talks too loudly but none of them really care anymore. In some twisted way it just reminds them of their differences, their individuality.
When they are huddled together, they feel stronger, know that they will get through it all if they stay with each other. When they are together, they can laugh and joke more easily, feeling cut away from the world. They can also heal better when one of them starts falling down. They can wipe away tears whenever Francis' hard outer shell breaks and all the insults he gets destroy him inside. They can soothe and reassure whenever Gilbert's anxiety of being forgotten surges from deep inside him suddenly and makes him feel like he's drowning. They can bring life back into Antonio's dead eyes whenever memories of the past and fear of the future devour him from the inside.
Together, they can be each others' crutches and together they can try to be whole and walk again.
(*) In France, we say that the best bread is made before dawn.
(**) On May 1st, it is tradition to give a sprig of Lilies of the Valley to loved ones. People sell them everywhere on the streets on that day.
So, I know there's a lot more detail about french culture but... uh, I'm french so... ^^'
Hope you enjoyed!