We Will Laugh At Gilded Butterflies

A/N: Okay, so I am no writer but the idea wouldn't leave me alone! Reviews/constructive criticism would be much appreciated. =]

France always appears so confident, no matter what. But everyone has moments of insecurity, and he is no different.

For as long as England remembered, they had been fighting. From back in the days when they were trying to kill each other to now, merely arguing about whatever the other said, it is how they have always been. Or is it?

You never know what your mind might find.

"Ve~ you missed, fratello." Snickers resounded at the table.

"Shut up, all of you, bastards."

"That was lame, dude, you suck."

"Kesesese, almost as sucky as Francis in a battlefield!"

"Don't listen to them, mi tomatito~," the Spaniard cajoled reassuringly.

"Everybody, I've got the drinks…"

"Nothing, nobody I tell you, could suck as bloody much as the Frog! …Not that way, you pervert!" More laughter followed. "No, I am serious, Frenchie is just pathetic!"

Francis slammed the bottles on the table and left the bowling alley.

"What's up with him?"

"Germany, Germany, I think Big Brother France is angry, ve…"

Arthur caught up with other blonde-haired man, just as he got to the parking lot.

"What is wrong with you, Frog?"

"What is wrong with me? …You know what, it does not matter. Why don't you just go back and enjoy the night."

"Seriously, what is wrong? Did someone say something to upset you?" Realization hit Arthur. "You cannot be mad about that comment, surely. It was merely a joke!"

"Oh really, then, care to explain to me what is so funny about it?"

"Come now, Francis, it is hardly the first time we argue or insult each other. You make fun of my cooking, -which is fine by the way- and I call you a frog, how is this different? I have called you pathetic all the time." He rolled his eyes.

Still, the other did not seem placated, refusing to meet his eyes.

The Brit mentally prepared himself to answer to all the accusations that the other would launch at him, but he did not expect what he heard next.

"Yes, you do! And maybe that is why it hurts." The last part was almost inaudible, but Arthur heard, and was momentarily speechless.

By the time he regained his senses, the other had well reached his car and was driving away.

The door suddenly swung open, followed by Alfred's impatient face. "Dude, what's taking you guys so long? You missed your turns, but since I'm the hero, I've already played for you both! But still… Hey, where is Frenchie, I thought he was with you?"

"Tell the others to continue without us, I have to do something." Without waiting for and answer, he hurried to his car. Somewhat on autopilot, his thoughts wandered. He never knew his words could do this much damage. They always bickered and even fought with fists from time to time, but it was considered 'normal' for them. For as long as he remembered, they were at odds with each other, although he had to admit, nowadays, their fighting was more a force of habit as opposed to actual spite for each other.

...All right, here I go. He told himself as he came to a stop and looked up to the last window of the third floor. There was no light, but the familiar blue Peugeot confirmed his guesses that Francis would have chosen to retreat here, his closest quarters.

"Please, I need to talk to you." Still, the silence greeted him and he looked around nervously, remembering it was late and hoping he did not wake the other occupants of the building. Just when he took his cell phone out, the door opened and he found himself face to face with the subject of all his thoughts.

Blue eyes were cold but not as cold as the voice. "What do you want?"

Not to be as easily deterred, Arthur willed himself to meet the stare. "Look. I wanted to, I...May I come in?" He was aware he must have sounded less than intelligent at that very moment, but someone must have taken pity on him and Francis stepped aside to let him inside.

The apartment was just as he remembered. The decoration was simple yet elegant and the living room was mostly bare, as Francis usually spent his time in his Parisian flat or in his villa in the south of France. The man in question had closed the door and was presently standing in front of him, looking somewhat expectant, if annoyed.

"Right, well, what I wanted to say was that... Listen, what I said, I didn't mean it. I'm sorry." He mentally slapped himself and cursed the Frog for rendering him about as eloquent as a donkey. Moreover, now that he was there and had the other's full attention, he did not know what to say nor where to start. It was a if his mind just blanked on him!

"I just..." he stammered, looking back up at Francis. He must have been making a very peculiar face, because the next he knew, Francis was laughing, actually laughing at him! At first, he was quite lost and confused, but before he could inquire about the cause of this hilarity, he found himself joining in, without knowing why. The laughter died down when they both needed to breathe and he saw, incredulous, that tears of mirth were making their ways down both their faces and everything seemed so absurd he didn't know what to make of the situation.

It was Francis who broke the silence. "I'm sorry."

"I beg you pardon?" Arthur was beginning to wonder if the other had simply fried his neurons, somehow, during their laughing fits.

"For laughing at your face, you just looked so...There, you're doing it again! I'm sorry."

"You know what, that's it. Stop making fun of me, I was actually trying to tell you something, Fro-Francis." Arthur caught himself halfway, unsure of where he stood. But if Francis noticed, he chose not to comment on it.

"Were you, now? Very well, I'm all ears." His eyes were still shining, and he had a small smirk on his face, which encouraged Arthur.

"I didn't know you would take it seriously, you know I didn't mean it, don't you?" He studied the other blonde, who had lost his smile, anxiously.

"I know, it's just..." He sat down on the couch. "Hearing it so many times, I can't help but wonder if that's not what you really think of me, what everyone thinks of me, after all... I know it is just a joke, but sometimes.. Sometimes I guess I simply have difficulties convincing myself that they do not truly mean it, that you do not really think me so..."

Without thinking, Arthur reached out to lift the stubbled chin up. There was a time, he would have relished in bringing the man's spirit down so, but that time was long gone and he could not bear to see that crestfallen look. The nation that was always so confident, feeling so small, thinking so little of himself.

"Francis, you are not. Not weak, nor pathetic. I... in truth, I have always admired you." There, he'd said it. He received a confused and incredulous look in return. "I'm very serious, so hear me out. When, even when I hated you, I always wanted to be like you... Well, not exactly like you -who'd want to be a lecherous wine bastard after all? Hey, let me finish would you?" the Britton added as Francis opened his mouth indignantly to protest. At least, he had lost that distant pained look, which was good. "What I wanted to say is, you may be a sissy sometimes, what with your manicures and love for fashion, your stupid ribbon and long hair, your perfume..." All right, all right, the point is, you are strong, you may not be renowned for your battles but you know what you want, you carry yourself with poise, you stand up for yourself and those you love and...and I guess I respect you for that." He couldn't believe how he had basically proclaimed his undying admiration like that. But what surprised him most is that he truly meant it.

Apparently, sometimes during his little speech, he'd come to stare at the carpet and now he was almost too mortified to meet the other's gaze again. Suddenly, arms wrapped around him and he was too stunned to push the other away, as he normally would have done. A few strands of stray hair tickled his face a little, but it felt soft and he could discern the faint smell of coffee, as well as something else that was so uniquely Francis. It was a new and yet familiar feeling. Flashes of something distant and forgotten came to him. Dreams of sunny afternoons in the woods. A river flowing gently, wet pebbles, daisies crowns, a smile, something pretty and golden and warm and soft...The memory eluded him once more and he was brought back to reality by Francis' voice.

"Merci, Petit Lapin" The last part was said so softly, he wasn't sure if he truly heard it or not. He was released, -Francis disappearing into the kitchen, muttering something about preparing supper and how English tastebuds were going to thank him- but the warm feeling stayed.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ― Maya Angelou