A/N: Please keep in mind while reading this that it is rather old (four months, at least), so it probably isn't very good in comparison to my other stories.
"Daddy, remember the story about the birds?"
"Which birds, Alfred?" Arthur ran a hand through the soft hair on top of his son's head as he pulled the blankets up to his chin, ensuring that he was warm and comfortable.
Alfred paused for a moment to think. "The...uhh...the bright ones?"
"Peacocks!" Mathieu piped up from his own bed, rolling over to face them with a gentle creaking of bedsprings.
"Yeah! Those!" His exuberant nodding caused his blanket to rustle quite loudly. "Tell us that one tonight. That one's my favourite!"
"Oh, yes..." It was Arthur's favourite story as well; to tell, to hear, and to know. "Of course. Your glasses are off, right? Both of you?"
"Yes, daddy!" The brothers replied in unison.
"You've brushed your teeth?"
"You were with us, daddy. You were standing in the doorway," Alfred told him, growing impatient.
Arthur smiled, chuckling quietly to himself. "Very well then, shall I begin?"
"Yes, please." Ever the polite one, Mathieu intervened before Alfred could do something stupid and lose them their bedtime story privilege again. (Yes, this happened to be a frequently reccurring issue, as evidently Alfred could never learn his lesson.)
"Once there was a young bird. He was, from the day he was born, different from other birds. Not because he was a peacock; there were plenty of those around. He didn't think he was any different. But he was confused by the way the other peafowl behaved. When they were looking for partners, they would talk about finding someone with 'bright colours' and 'beautiful plumage'. He didn't understand what they meant by that. He wondered for a long time what bright meant. The word was everywhere. The others described the warmth on his feathers during the day as bright. They told him that his feathers were bright. They talked about things that they could see. The peacock never knew what seeing was."
"'Cause he was blind, right?"
"Al! Shush! I want to hear it!"
The corner of Arthur's lips twitched up. "Yes, Alfred, because he was blind. And because of that, the others thought he was strange, so they slowly began to leave him, until he was completely alone. Not that he minded too much. He liked the peace, and the way he could hear all of nature when there was no other noise to hide it. It was just dangerous for him to be on his own. But one day, as wandered the forest floor, he heard an unusual noise, and followed it. He came across another peacock, and he could tell by the way it smelled that it was from the same group that had left him to fend for himself. Furthermore, he smelled that it was injured. That was why it was making those noises; it was in pain. So even though he was a still a bit upset that he had been abandoned, he set to work tending to his wounds as well as he could. As he worked, the other peacock calmed down enough to question his actions."
Alfred sat up suddenly. "I know what he said! I know! Can I say it!?"
"If you can do so quietly, then be my guest," he was told. Arthur settled himself more comfortably in the chair that was placed between the beds. There was a muffled slapping sound as Mathieu smacked himself in the forehead with the palm of his hand, mumbling.
"He said, 'Don't you remember who I am?' And the blind peacock said, 'No.' So the other one just kinda sat there for a bit before he told him, 'We used to fight all the time….'"
"Yes, very good, Alfred. Do you remember what happened next, Mathieu?" Arthur asked this even though he knew that the younger twin would be unwilling to continue the story.
"Nuh-uh." Yes, that answer had been obvious. Of course he knew. He just didn't want to tell the story. He'd rather hear it.
"Well, the peacock was taken aback. He did remember who this was. He had been his best friend and biggest rival all of his life. He had been the most reluctant to leave with the others. And so he asked him, 'Why did you come back?' The other told him that it was because he had been begging the rest of the peafowl to turn back and take him with them, because he might die out there alone. But no one else seemed to care, because they were all afraid of him for being different, and they had finally grown irritated by his pleading and beaten him and left him there. The younger peacock was saddened by this. 'They really weren't very nice at all, were they?' the two thought. But it didn't matter anymore. If they were to take care of each other for the rest of their lives, what would it be to everyone else? They had been forgotten. So they did take care of each other, and protect each other, and did everything together, until one day they became even more than just best friends. And what, Mathieu, happened then?"
This Mathieu seemed vastly more eager to answer. "They found eggs. Two eggs, all by themselves in the woods, and they hatched them together and raised the chicks together and they all lived together as a happy family!"
Arthur positively beamed. "Yes, exactly. They still live together to this day. One nice, happy family, the children of which need to learn to do as they're told more often," he told them, raising an eyebrow somewhat playfully.
"Alfred," Mathieu said pointedly.
"Now don't lay all of the blame on your brother. You know full well that you're a culprit, too." A kiss was placed on each of their foreheads as Arthur stood up, flicking off the bedside lamps as he went. "Good night, boys."
"Hey, hey. I know you are not going to sleep without giving Papa a good night kiss!" Francis swept through the door quite suddenly, making Arthur jump. How the Frenchman managed to sneak around like that all the time was completely beyond him.
"Papa!" Mathieu cried, leaping out of his bed in a flurry of blankets. His brother followed close behind, and Francis caught them both in his arms, laughing joyously and planting kisses on their cheeks. They, in turn, did the same to him. Settling down in his chair once again, Arthur allowed them to continue with their nightly routine.
It took a few minutes, but the two children were soon back in their beds, quite obviously exhausted, if their yawning and eye-rubbing said anything. Arthur found himself suddenly swept out of the chair, slung over Francis' shoulder, and carried out of the room. His feet did not come in contact with the ground again until they were in the hallway, and even then his husband did not let go of him. "Ohh, how I've missed you," Francis murmured, nuzzling his cheek gently with his nose.
"Oh, bollocks, you've been gone for all of an hour," scoffed Arthur, leaning in to the touch despite himself.
"Did they want a bedtime story?"
"The one about the peacocks."
"You truly are beautiful, Arthur." He received a quick peck on the lips. "I wish you could see it."
The Brit growled irritably. "I am a man. I am not beautiful. If anything, I am handsome, you useless dolt." Francis' hand ran through his bangs, trailed down his face slowly, and held gently onto his chin. Arthur could have contradicted himself and purred instead, if humans were capable of producing such a sound. "I love you," he breathed, tilting his head upwards and parting his lips ever so slightly.
"I love you, too." One hand on his waist, the other on his face, Francis pulled him as close as possible and kissed him forcefully. They most likely would have stayed that way all night, locked in each other's embrace, if Alfred and Mathieu had not started giggling loudly from their room.
"That's gross, Papa!"
"Yeah! Blech!" Alfred pretended to vomit. They looked at each other and giggled again, albeit much more quietly.
"Oh, hush now!" Prying Francis' arms off, he backed away a few steps.
The Frenchman only chuckled. "You will understand someday, when you've a spouse of your own."
The two brightened at the prospect. "I bet my wife's gonna be even prettier than Daddy!" Alfred chirped (at this, Arthur threw his arms into the air exasperatedly, groaning), and he put his head back on his pillow.
"Or husband," reasoned Mathieu, as he too lay down again, closing his eyes. "We could have husbands instead, if we want."
Arthur did not resist as Francis pulled him close and pressed his lips to his temple lovingly. Sure, he would never be able to see, and he might never truly know what he looked like, but he didn't need to.