The Taste Of Tea
Day Two; Iced & Slightly Sweet
A/N: Concerning the last chapter and Francis' name, first of all, I'm the writer and I can do whatever I please, second of all, he's French and Francis to me has always been an English adaptation of his name, so it makes sense to me that François would be his real name. I personally do not give two shits if you don't like my point of view on this, if Matthew can be Mathieu then Francis can be François, end of story. I did it for a reason. It plays into the story. Now please enjoy the rest of the story.
Arthur was wary with François, he seemed so fragile and he didn't want to offend him or put him off in any way whatsoever, especially seeing as he now had nowhere to go back too. He eyed him as they rounded the bend of the road. Traffic was busy and horrid as always, but it didn't seem to faze the other man, honestly nothing so far had except for his boss, though Arthur understood why, the man seemed menacing and abusive.
"François, are you okay?" He asked gently hoping he wouldn't startle the other man, but the only thing that greeted him were watery cyan eyes. Arthur swallowed.
"Alright, stupid question… Did you need anything back there?" He asked redirecting his line of questioning to the less emotional, well hopefully anyway. The other man shook his head slightly.
"Non, nothing of worth." He responded softly. Arthur nodded.
"In that case you may borrow anything you need from me until we can go shopping for you, do you mind that?" He asked eyeing him again as traffic pulled to a stop.
"Non, I do not mind, you're already doing so much it'd be rude to object." His voice was a bit strained and Arthur quickly ruled that talking was out of the question.
"You can turn on the radio if you wish, François." He stated before letting his tongue dart out to wet his lips before turning his attention back to the rode.
A small smile slid onto his face when the radio was turned up and changed to some pop station that François began singing along with softly. His voice was nice and smooth, but had a bit of a catch to it as if it hadn't been used in a while or if it were strained and maybe even sore. The corner of his mouth turned down as the words of Francois' boss washed over him again.
''E's my worker'll treat 'em how I please. 'E's jus' a 'hore 'n' ways.'
At the time it seemed like a derogatory remark, but the catch in his voice was concerning. What if it weren't just a derogatory remark? What if there were some merit to the statement?
He swallowed. That could be problematic though the man honestly didn't seem like that. He didn't act like a whore, so maybe his head was just trying to solve a puzzle that didn't even exist. He'd been known to create things out of thin air, that's why his last relationship didn't pan out properly.
His eyebrows knitted together and a sour taste filled his mouth at the thought of his last failed relationship. It wasn't exactly a pleasant parting, in fact it was rather violent and ended with a restraining order against his ex. Apparently he got tired of hearing about how he was looking at other men or hanging onto them too much. Apparently he was all the problem because he kept making up stories and putting too much thought into every little thing. Apparently he was annoying and clingy and… and… needed a brow waxing!
"A-Arthur?" François said softly gripping one of his wrists. He looked over and was surprised to see the blur around the edges of his eyes. Since when did that happen? And why was François looking at him like that?
"What?" He snapped which would've been sharp if it hadn't been for the watery edge to his voice. He sounded so weak. He snapped his mouth shut, turned forward, squeezed his eyes shut, drew in a breath, and hit the gas to pull forward closing the gap between his car and the one in front of him.
François let go of Arthur, something told him that now was not the time to address the fact that he was losing it in a car with a relative stranger. He frowned a little placing his hands in his lap opting to look out the window instead of singing. Something told him it was probably his own fault that the other man was so torn up. It was always his fault, everything was, he knew that, but it still hurt to admit, that no matter what he would always do something wrong to fuck up whatever it was that he had. He sighed softly feeling a little relieved that traffic was finally letting up and that they were moving continuously for once. Putting space between him and the other man would probably be good anyway.
A frown had worked its way onto his face and Arthur was concerned, but didn't say anything about it, not yet anyway. He didn't want the other man to feel trapped inside a moving car or anything of the sort. That wasn't his purpose nor intentions. He didn't want the other man to feel obligated at all. He didn't want anything in return. He just wanted to help this man out the best he could. He pursed his lips and looked over at him. He was probably hungry, but Al- he always said he couldn't cook and making the other man cook isn't something he wanted. That would be very rude, and rude definitely wasn't a trait Arthur wanted to be associated with. He glanced over at the other man.
"François?" He asked gently wanting his attention. François looked over at him through his hair not even moving his head.
"Oui?" He replied softly attempting to quell his own curiosity.
"Would you like to get something to eat from somewhere?" He looked at Arthur full on unsure of how to answer him. Would that be acceptable? He frowned.
"I-If that's not too much trouble, yes…" His soft voice barely came out over the radio, and though usually he'd be bothered by such a soft voice he found himself not caring. Arthur smiled at him warmly.
"It's not any trouble at all. I wouldn't want you to be hungry, not exactly the best way to start off, eh?" He asked his eyes back on the road, but the smile still clear in his voice. François shook his head.
"Non, I imagine not…" Arthur glanced over at him again smiling.
"So what would you like to eat then?" François frowned slightly.
"I-I don't really know…" Arthur pursed his lips.
"What kind of I don't know? Like you don't want to be difficult or…?" He trailed off not really seeing anything other than that for being the reason.
"Well… Monsieur Paggart only ever fed me leftovers from the shoppe. I hardly earned any revenue because of my lack of grace with china. And he didn't pay me much anyway because of boarding there…" He trailed off not really wanting to finish his story. It was a bit too early for that. He'd throw him away as soon as he knew. That much was painfully obvious to Francois. Arthur nodded.
"Very well. I suppose I have to treat you to a proper meal to make up for all of those stale muffins, now don't I?"
Francois opened his mouth to protest, but was stopped by the playful and happy look overtaking Arthur's features. Usually they were icy and cynical, hardened by the world, it was nice to see a change, especially this close up where you could see the twinkle in his eyes and the warmth in his cheeks. Francois laughed and nodded knowing that was probably the desired reaction. He didn't quite get English humor, but he was getting there. It was just taking some time like most things did.
Arthur pulled into a spot at a cozy diner, it wasn't anything special; if anything it looked a bit ratty and rundown, but this was the place Arthur had chosen and he wasn't about to complain about something he'd surely enjoy. At least he hoped he would. Arthur smiled warmly at him.
"I know it doesn't look like much, but they've got the best fish and chips in town." Francois nodded smiling.
"It looks nice… May we go in now?" He asked hesitantly. His stomach certainly was getting the better of him. Arthur nodded his cheeks coloring a bit, but he was not blushing damn it!
"Of course!" He said quickly exiting the car almost catching himself on the seatbelt. Francois smiled and got out himself a smugness over taking his features.
"You don't have to hurt yourself." The 'for me' part was obviously implied by the smugness dancing over his French accent. Arthur huffed.
"I wasn't!" He protested before turning and marching into the diner his ass swinging deliciously the whole time.
Francois had a triumphant smirk on his face when he entered the diner. Not only had he made a little banter with the other man, but he'd got to watch his angry ass sway away. Needless to say he felt rather accomplished as he sat down at the table. By this time luckily Arthur had cooled down some and was sipping on a sweet looking brown liquid with cubes of ice clinking together as he tilted it into his mouth, the clear glass clouding from his breath, and the liquid disappearing past his pink lips. It was a pleasant sight, but Francois was curious as to what this mysterious brown liquid was.
"Arthur?" He piped up curiosity clear in his cyan eyes. The other man hummed in response his mouth occupied with the drink.
"What are you drinking?" He asked with his head tilted. Arthur set his glass down on the table and looked at Francois.
"You've never had iced tea?" He asked in disbelief. Francois shook his head.
"Non, my family was more coffee not tea. I've never had a glass in my life. Ma mère always said that it stained your teeth so I never tried it." He said with a slight shrug. Arthur hummed again and took another sip, this time he noticed the fixated stare as the glass pressed to his lips and clouded, and of course –of course!— he just had to blush. A smirk curled onto Francois' upon noticing the pinkish-red blush.
"Are you hot, Arthur?" He asked an edge to his voice. Arthur swallowed with a bit of difficulty and shook his head his shaggy hair flipping about, fortunately the waiter stepped up to the table and smiled at them warmly.
"'Ello Arthur! An' who's this?" Arthur cleared his throat.
"This is Francois and he'll be staying with me for a while." The waiter nodded.
"My name is Edwin and I usually wait this whole place all the time. And well this one he's always here so I'm hoping to get to know you very well, Francis." Francois looked away uncomfortably.
"His name is Francois, Edwin." Edwin frowned.
"Yeah, no, I can't say that… It's okay if I call you Francis, right mate?" Francois looked up at him uncomfortably and shrugged.
"Anyway, Edwin, we'll have two orders of fish 'n' chips and another glass of sweet tea." He nodded and turned on his heel whistling an unidentified tune. Arthur turned to look at Francois.
"I'm sorry about him, unfortunately once he gets to calling you a certain name it's hard to get him to stop. It took him years to stop calling me Artie." He left out the horrible break up part because he didn't really think it was necessary to share that kind of thing yet.
"I see, well, not everyone can pronounce my name, it might as well be Francis with the way everyone butchers it or just decides to change it." Arthur smiled sympathetically and reached across the table giving his fingers a squeeze before recoiling quickly upon sighting Edwin, luckily he was busy focusing on the tray of food or he would've noticed that, and well, that certainly wouldn't be good for their relationship seeing as it was just kicking off.
A heavy thunk signaled Edwin's arrival with their food and Francois' drink. He placed the ordered items down and refilled Arthur's glass. He smiled at them widely.
"Anything else I can get you two?" He asked warmly. Arthur shook his head.
"We're fine, Edwin. Remember you have other customers." He said softly motioning slightly to a very irritated looking couple fuming at their table throwing impatient glances towards them. Edwin just smirked and was on his way after giving Arthur a wink.
Arthur just shook his head and laughed a little brushing off the gestures as he always had. He wasn't interested in anyone. He hadn't been since the split. It'd taken a lot out of him and he certainly wasn't ready for anything, especially with a good friend like Edwin. It wouldn't end very nicely. He sighed softly taking a bite of the fish enjoying it fully as he usually did. He didn't even notice the adoring gaze he was getting from his table mate.
Francois stared at Arthur, he'd clearly saw the advance the waiter was attempting to make on the other man, but obviously it hadn't worked in the slightest. The fish was getting more love the waiter ever would. His nose crinkled a little. He wasn't exactly fond of fish, but it couldn't be that bad from the dreamy look on Arthur's face. He picked up the breaded plank and took an experimental bite. His eyes widened as the spices in the batter melted into the soft, flaky texture of the steaming fish. It wasn't especially crunchy or fishy like he'd come to expect of fish in general, but instead it was lightly breaded, spicy, and delicious.
"Enjoying it, Francois?" Arthur asked and immediately he blushed as he swallowed. He dabbed at his mouth with a paper napkin before answering.
"It's… It's definitely much better than I thought it would be." He answered fighting away the blush. Arthur nodded.
"Now try the tea." He urged gently.
Francois picked up the glass with one hand and pressed the cool surface to his lips taking only small amount of the brown liquid into his mouth. He pulled the glass away from his lips holding it uncertainly over the tablecloth as he let the liquid wash over his taste buds. Somehow the drink complimented the fish just perfectly. He took a bigger mouthful this time. Sweet and spicy, he liked it.
"I take it you like it as well?" Francois nodded and Arthur smiled.
"Good. I'd hate to have gotten you a dinner you didn't like." He said before finishing off the rest of his fish and starting on the fries.
They ate in relative silence and Edwin refilled their glasses frequently looking a little flustered at how two men could drink nearly two pitchers of sweet tea and neither of them getting up to go to the restroom. Of course, they did need to, but that didn't mean they were about to take a break from one another's company. They were enjoying the dinner far too much for anything like that. In fact it was almost closing when a very tired and weary Edwin approached them with pleading eyes.
"Arthur, it's almost closing…" He almost whined, actually was a whine, but he'd never admit that. Arthur chuckled and looked over to Francois.
"I guess we should go then. You ready, Francois?" The other just nodded and looked a little uncomfortable as Arthur handed over the payment for their food as well as a hefty tip. He rose shakily and excused himself to the bathroom practically sprinting out of the room.
Arthur frowned and excused himself as well following Francois at a slower pace. Whatever had upset him he probably wanted a little bit of time to himself over it. He wasn't sure what it was, but he was definitely worried. The man seemed a bit fragile and frightened, not that he blamed him, he really didn't, but did he have to run away like he had the plague? He sighed pushing the door open and cringed upon hearing a wrenching sound. He strode up to the only closed stall and rapped on the door.
"Francois? Are you okay?" He asked the concern clear in his voice.
"F-Fine!" He managed though it sounded painful.
"You don't sound okay… Did you throw up?" He asked gently, but was surprised when the door flew open and he was shoved roughly out of the way.
"I'll be by the car." He hissed on his way out.
Arthur stood there stunned. His mouth hung open and he just stared blankly at the door. It was only when Edwin came in that his mouth snapped shut and he leaned into the stall flicking the handle to flush the toilet. He marched out of the loo and straight to the parking lot. He unlocked the car and watched the other man slide in with a sigh. He looked miserably tired and Arthur felt his rage melt away. The poor guy probably felt overwhelmed and his stomach couldn't take it. He nodded and got into the car turning it on.
The car ride to their home was spent in silence with the radio barely playing and Francois staring out the window almost sulkily. Arthur threw glances his way the whole time, but was ignored by the stubbly, blonde man. He sighed as he pulled into the driveway and looked over at Francois.
"Francois?" He blinked when he didn't receive an answer. He lightly shook the other man's shoulder and was swatted at. He smiled.
He was sleeping. The smile grew wider. He actually trusted him enough to fall asleep around him. Arthur got out and went around to the other side of the car. He didn't particularly want to wake the other so he opted for carrying him into his flat. Of course Francois would take the bed and he'd rough it out on the sofa.
Francois clutched him and whimpered a little as the cool night air wrapped around them. He curled into Arthur for warmth. Arthur held him tightly as he went up the steps and opened the door sighing as heat enveloped them. He kicked the door shut with his foot and walked into his bedroom before setting about getting the other man into his bed comfortably. He smiled and flicked off the lights after grabbing himself a blanket and pillow. He'd sleep well enough on the couch…