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A/N: This chapter is a mixture of sweetness and sadness; both a joy and a difficulty to read through, I think.

Please enjoy!

Warnings: None


"Wooow..." The American breathed in sarcastic amazement as he and his companion entered their recently rented, run-down, cheapest-of-the-cheap hotel room.

After all, they had to save their money; they only had so much, and they'd rather buy their free time and their days off together with what little they had rather than a fancy, five star suite.

"Have you ever seen anything as classy and sophisticated as this..." Alfred gestured all around him, stretching his arms wide and tossing his guitar and shoulder bag onto the age-old couch at his right. "...this palace of ours?" He gushed, twirling around to face the Frenchman.

Once upon a time, Alfred used to crack jokes and behave ridiculously in the name of earning the attention and friendship of as many people as he could, for the sake of popularity, but now he was funny for one reason and with one sole purpose in mind-- to hear Francis' laugh.

"Oh, don't just stand there, Monsieur!" Well aware of how hopelessly terrible he was at pronouncing even a single word of the Parisian's language, Alfred did so anyway, all in the name of his beloved friend's amusement and entertainment.

The American breathed an overdramatic sigh of contentment, a playful bounce in his step as he circled the Frenchman, slipping his bag off of his shoulder and helping him out of his jacket like a gentleman, adding both items to the pile of their few belongings on the couch.

"Come, let me give you the grand tour!"

The American put an arm around the man's shoulders, and began to venture around their-- put simply-- dump of a trashy hotel room, jokingly displaying every flaw like he was parading the Frenchman around the interior of a mansion.

"Aaah, and here..!" They stopped in front of a small, dusty window, plastic blinds partially broken as they hung over the thick, clouded glass. "A view fit for a prince like yourself,"

With a flourish, Alfred drew the blinds, only to reveal the brick wall of the building next to the hotel. "Behold!" He cried through his laugher, finding this all ridiculously entertaining. It just kept getting better and better! In the end, though, this whole thing couldn't possibly be enjoyable if Francis wasn't laughing with him, he knew that.

It was common knowledge that, when someone laughed, they were happy. And when Francis' heart had been so carelessly shattered before-- twice before-- he'd been robbed of his happiness and, thus, his laughter.

Alfred wanted to bring it back.

He wanted to make this man laugh so hard his cheeks ached and he couldn't stop smiling and could hardly breathe; he wanted him to laugh again, to find happiness again.

Maybe he could never fully repair Francis' heart, not when he'd given the key to it away twice, only to be cruelty mistreated, but he could try. And he wouldn't ever stop trying to heal him. All he wanted was to make him happy and make him laugh again until he'd done all he could with his partial access to Francis' damaged heart.

Alfred took his hands, spun his companion around in their tiny hotel room and watched with a familiar swell of his heart as the Frenchman smiled, his hair fluttering about his face as they spun.

Somehow, despite all this praise of the little apartment being purely sarcasm, Alfred found himself loving it. Just a tiny bit.

But what was so special about a shitty little apartment?

Oh, of course.

He knew what. It was him. It was always him; all he had to do was be there, and Francis could make Alfred adore anything from the world's cheapest hotel room to a rusty old boxcar. It was extraordinary, really.

"I know you're excited, but our tour isn't over just yet! I must show you the master bedroom!" He let go of just one hand, prancing off with Francis' other in tow. "Ta-da!"

Just as expected, the room was as impressive as the rest of the apartment. It was small, one bed that looked as though it could barely fit one person (let alone two people) centered against the back wall, and covered in chipping paint.

"Shall I test it out for you, my good sir?" The American backed away, but before he let go he bent at the waist and pressed a kiss to Francis' hand.

It was a playful, impulsive, lighthearted little thing. Alfred was only going along with the act-- that's what his  head told him, at least. But his heart-- no, the rest of his body responded entirely different to the gesture. His cheeks flushed. His knees felt weak. His stomach twisted into knots and his heart felt heavy and light at the exact same time. Alfred ignored every single one of these strange and, unnecessary, really, reactions of his; for the show must go on.

"Ah~!" Alfred sighed contently as he threw himself back onto the bed. It creaked under his weight and, suddenly, he was tipping backwards slightly. A sickening crack could be heard as the bed's support splintered, shattering and causing the whole thing to break practically in two. All Alfred could do was sit there in the sunken middle of the bed, gripping the sides of the mattress for dear life, eyes wide in shock, and let his mouth hang open.

"Holy shit." He half-scoffed and half-laughed, looking up at Francis with raised eyebrows and a smile tugging at the corners of his open mouth. "Dude! I think I just broke the--" The already destroyed beams underneath him groaned and crunched in agony before suddenly snapping further, sending Alfred even closer to the floor as he let out a surprised yelp.

When they had first arrived in the room, Francis had been unimpressed, to say the least. He'd known that the little money they had paid wasn't going to buy them a castle, but he'd expected a little more.

However, as time went by and he had a proper look around their new accommodation, he decided that it wasn't all that bad. They had four walls, a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep on.

After staying in the boxcar for a night with hardly any supplies, let alone a real bed, this could actually be considered as an upgrade for the two. And besides, how could Francis feel anything but elation when Alfred was making such a joke out of their whole situation?

The Frenchman was barely able to stiffle his giggles as he was led around the room on his companion's tour, finding even the smallest of things absolutely hilarious. From the practically opaque window to the squeaky door to the rips in the fabric of their sofa, he couldn't stop laughing.

They danced along the floor, hands intertwined, with the sound of the creaky floorboards as their music. "The master bedroom!" Francis echoed, eyeing the bed with a smirk and a dramatic gasp, finding himself soon joining in with Alfred's game. "Why, it's beautiful! Just perfect for a couple of royals such as ourselves. Indeed, do test it out, my noble Prince!" He smiled, suddenly feeling his heart lurch as the tender skin of Alfred's soft lips met his hand.

For a mere moment, his expression faltered to be replaced with one of awe at his friend's action. It had been so casual, so smoothly executed, and yet the effects of it were so great. It was as if Alfred had thrown a stone into a pool of water, the ripples travelling outwards across Francis' body as he felt both hot and cold at the same time.

However, the moment was soon gone, and Alfred had surely not detected any change in the Frenchman's expression as it had been such a brief occurrence.

Before Francis knew it, Alfred had thrown himself backwards onto the bed.

The sounds that followed after he did so did not sound good at all.

"Ah... Al--" Francis soon found himself cut off as more awful noises erupted from the bed, creaks soon transforming into loud cracks and snaps. "Alfred!" He cried as the man threatened to sink into the bed, gasping at the sunken middle as he extended his hands to help the man out. However, after a few seconds had passed and it became clear to Francis that Alfred was not in fact hurt, the man couldn't help but feel a smile tugging at his own lips.

"Quickly now, get off before it--"

Another crack later, and Francis burst out laughing as the mattress dipped further, almost touching the floor, as the final remaining supports of the bed broke. He put a hand on the bent matress to support himself, hardly able to stop laughing. It wasn't so much the matress breaking, but his own perfectly timed words combined with the expression on Alfred's face.

Once he had composed himself, still wiping the tears from his eyes, Francis looked down at his friend with a wide smile as he clutched at the stitch in his side.

"Dieu, I can hardly breathe..! How did that even happen? Must've been a terribly weak mattress--" He broke off again, still giggling. "You just-- and I--"

Falling over his words, Francis sat himself down on the side of their ruined bed. He caught his breath, feeling slightly guilty for his laughter.

"Oh, Alfred. Are you alright? Mon pauvre petit chou..." Reaching his arms down, he pulled the American back up until he was sitting next to him, the mattress staying where it was as it was stuck between the broken pieces of the bed, though it sprung back up a little with the release of weight.

"We shall have to take the mattress out and lay it down on the floor to sleep. That won't be so bad!" He stood with a smile, feeling quite elated after that unexpected entertainment and accompanied bout of laughter. "Just like being back in our boxcar, only... softer." Alfred was his first priority; right now, the state of their bed and how they would fix their mess in terms of finance was unimportant compared to making sure Alfred was at least a little comfortable tonight. All that Francis could do for him, he would.

Together, they managed to pull the mattress-- which was by some miracle no more beaten up than it had been upon their arrival-- out of the lower bed's remains and lay it down flat on the floor of the living room, carefully arranging the sheets and pillow on top of it. Francis exhaled, standing back and admiring their work.

"There! C'est beau; perfect for us. We'll reimburse the owner somehow, of course, so I think that we'll have another good night's--" He broke off suddenly, eyes going wide as saucers as he saw... something darting across the floor, scuttling along the floorboards. Something small with a tail and--

"Ahhh!!" Francis let out a startled scream, standing still for a mere moment or two before dashing across the room to where Alfred was standing. He grabbed onto the man's arm for dear life.

"Une souris, Alfred!! A mouse, a mouse!" The Frenchman was jumping from one foot to the other, as if scared to stand flat on the ground.

He wasn't scared of the creatures, as such, but hated the thought of one being close to him or his friend, so the idea that there was one or perhaps more in their very room terrified him to the core. They were so small, they could hide anywhere... alright, so perhaps he was scared.

"A... mouse?" Alfred asked as he turned to Francis, put both hands on his forearms in a simple, protective manner as he scanned the floor for any such creature. The little thing must have scurried away at all the ruckus Francis had made at the sight of it; Alfred didn't see any mouse at all. But he believed the Frenchman; after all, the poor man looked absolutely terrified. Maybe a little comic relief would distract Francis from his fear.

"So you're not afraid of jumping onto a moving train, but a little, itty-bitty mouse scares you?" Alfred smirked lightly, cocking an eyebrow. Francis was awfully cute and endearing when he got all flustered and embarrassed. He had this little habit of his; pouting and looking away, lowering his eyebrows and blushing despite the fact that he was trying to look irritated all the while.

Just for the sake of earning himself a glimpse of that face again, Alfred clicked his tongue softly, knit his eyebrows and pouted down at the Frenchman.

"Aww, is Fwancey afwaid of mowsies?" If the Parisian had wanted someone who didn't keep him on his toes and didn't mess around, he should have picked someone who wasn't Alfred to be his best friend.

Suddenly, the American pointed behind Francis at the floor, faking a surprised expression and crying, "Holy shit, it's right behind you!" The way Alfred's expression switched back to an amused little smirk right after would make it easy for Francis to figure out that there was nothing behind him at all. But what Francis wouldn't figure out was how Alfred played the trick on him with the sole purpose of having yet another excuse to be close to him.

Alfred had barely figured out that bit of truth himself.

The poor Frenchman had eventually calmed down, and Alfred had given in to those round blue eyes darting over the floor, the slight part of his full lips and the way his chest rose and fell quickly with the aftermaths of Alfred's little scare. "You're okay, Francey, it's gonna be alright."

He chuckled softly and offered him one of those smiles; the ones that lit up a room and made whole crowds go quiet, only this one was was just for Francis. If it was enough to distract him from his (adorable) phobia, than it was worth it.

"You're safe now, little-- no..." The American smirked as he thought of something, finishing his sentence in a sweet coo. "...petite souris~" He was no good at French, really, but everyone know how to say 'small' and Francis had just (unintentionally) taught him out to say 'mouse'. Neither words sounded too twisted on his tongue despite it not being meant to form French words at all, which pleased him, because such a cute, appropriate little nickname really was too good to pass up.

Alfred snickered softly, idly lifted a hand and tucked the light blond hair that had drifted into those bright blue eyes behind Francis' ear. "Petite souris-- that's got a nice little ring to it, don't you think? Nice little rhythm; I think I'll keep it. It suits you, petite souris~"

Francis couldn't help but blush red, fear forgotten in the midst of his giggles.


Francis and Alfred were setting into their crappy little apartment rather nicely. They'd dragged the mattress off of the broken bed frame and into the living room (they were not staying in the bedroom, Francis had insisted; no way would he risk a mouse crawling onto their mattress as they slept), put away their little belongings and tidied up the place as best they could.

"Are you still shaken up about that mouse, Francey?" Alfred chuckled, picking up on the way the Parisian mumbled in French and looked nervously across the floor, his legs folded as he sat on the couch so nothing would be nibbling at his feet.

The American walked up behind the backrest of the couch, slid his hands over the fabric and then onto Francis' shoulders, squeezing reassuringly. "Why don't we go out? Go do something fun, something that'll get your mind off of the mouse, yeah?"

Alfred bent down a little, tilted his head besides Francis' and tried to meet his eyes. It almost seemed as though he was denying him access to eye contact. Nor was he... replying to anything Alfred said.

"After all, it's our first night in God knows where; we should celebrate! Don't you think, Francis? Francey? Petite souris~?" No-- he couldn't be angry with Alfred for teasing him earlier... could he?

The American wrapped his arms around Francis' shoulders from behind, lost the teasing smirk and instead replaced it with a gentle, persuading, concerned expression.

"Baby, what's wrong..?"

Francis was quietly sitting on the sofa, thinking to himself. He had been rather embarrassed when, after spluttering out a reply and protesting that the mouse was far scarier than the train, he had proceeded to jump six feet into the air, shrieking all the while, in response to Alfred's joke. Sitting cross-legged, he bent his head and looked down towards his lap, twisting his hands together.

"Petite souris." He closed his eyes.

He was a small child back in France.

His plate lay broken on the kitchen floor, and his father was scowling as he cleared up the shards of china.

"It's pathetic that a boy of your age should act like this. Do you want to be as pathetic as that tiny little creature for the rest of your life? Do you?"  The man rose, standing tall, taller than his son even as the boy sat on the table, as far away from the floor as possible.

The mouse had run across the room whilst he was eating and he had upturned his plate in fear whilst jumping onto a higher surface. That's where he'd remained; perched on the edge of the table, fingers gripping the sides to hold himself steady.

Francis rocked back and forth, sitting with his knees brought up to his chest as tears fell from his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Papa, I didn't mean it!" He wailed, burying his face into his knees. The fabric of his trousers was wet with tears, little dark patches forming where the drops had fallen, and another unmentionable liquid. He was ashamed, expecting a reprimand, head bowed and eyes squeezed tightly shut as if that could serve as a means of escape.

There was a pause before he heard a rather regretful sounding sigh, but didn't have time to think upon it more before he felt warm arms around him, lifting him up.

"You have to learn, Francis, that these little things aren't going to hurt you. There's nothing to be afraid of, alright? You'll learn in due time. Now," He walked across the room, shards crunching underfoot with every step, and placed him down on the carpet floor of the next room. "Go and find yourself some shoes so that you don't cut your feet, and I'll sort out this mess. Alright? There's a good boy."

Francis didn't know what had been going through his father's head that day, but the show of compassion had struck a chord within him. It was uncommon for the man to express such a thing, after all. Love was expressed towards his father through obedience, as opposed to a lot of tactility. It was his mother who always awarded him with hugs and kisses. From that day on, his fear, although still present, dissipated considerably.

However, when Francis left home to travel to America, he bore much resentment from his father and once again felt helpless, much like the small child that he had once been; fearful and afraid. Thus, the fear resurfaced with the loss of his father's trust in him.

Francis started, suddenly coming back to reality as he felt warm hands upon his shoulders. Alfred... sweet Alfred. This man was special; he didn't mind about Francis' fears, he didn't think him weak nor pathetic, he didn't insult him.

His father had been wrong; America was a good place. America had helped teach him English, and without English... well, he and Alfred would never have met. Never have been able to communicate, at least, and their communication was so dear to him that he just couldn't imagine a world without it anymore. Nor did he want to.

The Frenchman turned his head away, sighing deeply, before opening his mouth to speak, stopping when he felt his heart lurch into his mouth.

Baby.

As much as he loved terms of endearment, this wasn't one that Francis tended to use himself, though he understood the meaning well enough.

"Baby..." He whispered it to himself, just under his breath, as Alfred awaited his answer. The word, though practically a cognate to the same term in his own language, felt strange and foreign upon his tongue.

Raising his hand, he tucked a piece of hair behind his ear, catching the side of his face in the process. His cheeks were warm and most likely red; a furious blush. Wasn't that a term reserved just for lovers? Did it mean something else in American culture?

"Nothing." Francis finally spoke. "Nothing's wrong at all." He turned his head, meeting Alfred's gaze with a tender smile and marvelling at those blue eyes that lay like jewels, deep pools, in the smooth of his face.

Suddenly, he was aware of how fast his heart was beating. Surely Alfred could hear it, being so close to him? A hand of his moved to touch an arm that was wrapped around him. The room was hot but his hands so cold, despite the heat that rushed through his body like a bullet through paper. And Alfred's arms were warm and comforting, fitting perfectly around him.

"Let's..." It was hard to think, hard to breathe when Alfred was so close and Francis could feel the man's breath against his hair. "Let's go out. This room is far too hot-- my hair is going to frizz. I saw somewhere on the way here, une discothèque-- a club, it looked like. Why don't we have a drink or two? We've saved quite a bit of money, what with that genius idea of yours to hitch a ride. We can afford to relax a little."

And so, it was decided that the two of them would spend the evening at a bar. Francis briefly considered changing clothing, but soon decided that he was not looking to impress anyone. His jumper and jeans would do for tonight.

The place Francis had spotted on their mad dash from the train station was more recognisable now, what with its bright neon lights and illuminated sign, colourful letters boasting words which read: 'Cupid's Arrow'.

It was impossible to miss the place, really, and the two spotted it from a few minutes away as they walked towards it, hands playfully linked together.


When they arrived, the two sat down, blending in with the other young people-- mostly couples or groups of friends who sat talking and drinking, or stood dancing, some popular track playing in the background. The hours flew by as the two of them conversed, laughing and joking and drinking together into the night.

Francis was on his way back from the bar again now (which round was this, again? Their sixth? Seventh? Somehow, it didn't matter), yet another two glasses of JD and Coke in his hands. He had just received the barman's number-- a little piece of paper with a few scrawled digits tucked carefully into his pocket, not because he cared about looking after it but rather because he wanted it hidden from sight, namely Alfred's-- but didn't plan to call the man that night.

Despite his attempts to explain that he wasn't really looking for a relationship, he had received it nonetheless, accompanied by smiles and a murmur of "Call me when you change your mind".

He returned to their seats with a sigh and placed their drinks down, before offering his hand to the American. Right now, he didn't want to be with anybody other than his friend.

"Alfred, come, let's have a dance." He was not too drunk yet, and wanted to have some fun before the night was out.

Now, though Francis was not too drunk, he wasn't exactly sober, either. His mind, though fairly coherent, was tired and his perception skewed by the alcohol in his system. He held tight to Alfred as they danced, laughing out loud as he was twirled about. A sense of warmth filled him as he looked up at Alfred, sharing a grin with the taller man. Francis felt good; this was a new chapter and a new journey. Everything was going to be alright for them.

Going out for the night had been the best goddamn idea in the whole world. There was something about the beat of the music and the swing of hips and the whoops and laughter of excitement that somehow both relaxed and exhilarated Alfred, and with Francis here, well, how could he ever want tonight to end?

"I saw the bartender hitting on you," Alfred commented smugly over the music and voices, waggling his eyebrows and nudging Francis encouragingly, even if the thought of his friend going home with someone tonight had him boiling with something akin to defensiveness. "No surprise there." After everything that Francis had already been through, after how the men of his past had treated him-- ha, like hell would anyone be taking him home tonight.

Francis was too good for all of them, anyway.

Lucky for Alfred and every guy who did a double take at the sight of the Parisian, that hot, fiery feeling in his chest was extinguished by the beat and the alcohol. Francis' long, blond hair drifted into his face as he moved to the music and smiled up at Alfred, whose hazy mind struggled to crack the code of what that haunting, nagging urge could be. And boy, was he sick of resisting whatever it was he wanted so goddamn badly.

Francis was having a fantastic time. Opening his mouth to speak, to tell Alfred just how happy he felt, the Frenchman was suddenly cut off as a second figure entered into his realm of vision.

A woman with fiery red hair, wearing a tight black dress and heels that were far too high for any normal human to be able to walk in, stepped between them.

Francis stopped, time stopped, as he stood still and watched the woman press a kiss to Alfred's lips, and a piece of paper into his hand.

Winking, she turned away and stalked back to her group of friends without a second look.

Just like that, it was over. 

Just when Alfred thought he'd figured it out exactly what that urge was, his mind was wiped clean as the beat of the bar slowed and all that could be heard was the soft clacking of too-high heels. Suddenly all he saw was green, the lusty, determined green of eyes that were startlingly close to his own and reminded him faintly of a certain Briton's loveless orbs.

His breath was stolen and his heartbeat replaced by the sound of heels as the woman's lips met his, as the piece of paper was pressed into his palm.

Alfred's eyes didn't close with the kiss, and remained wide open as the stranger slowly pulled away and winked, making the American's throat run dry as he stared in her wake.

"Wow." He raised his eyebrows, blinked a few times, the bar returning to its original speed and volume as the moment faded to a close.

Alfred chuckled briefly, a bit breathlessly, looked down at the piece of paper in his hand.

"Well, it looks like you aren't the only one getting numbers tonight..! Shit..." Alfred laughed, looked back at Francis, his not-so sober mind missing the clenched fists and narrowed eyes. "...You know me; there ain't nothing wrong with a little confidence, but wow..! What was that?"

It felt like Francis had been shot and given a thousand dollars all at the same time-- his muddled mind sending his heart mixed emotions. Some woman, some stranger, had just kissed Alfred-- his very best friend, the person he cared about most in the world-- without even uttering a word.

Now, if it had been Francis, the situation would have been entirely different. Francis had more experience than this man, he knew the workings of love inside and out, had been kissed and kissed others more times than he could remember. More times than he cared to remember.

But Alfred... how much did he know? How much had he experienced? Did he know a good kiss from one with zero meaning?

For a few moments, Francis was still as these questions whirled through his drunken brain, staring up at Alfred until an amused smile crept ever-so-slowly onto his lips.

"That," He spoke in a low tone yet clear tone, one eyebrow raised, loosening his fist that had clenched without him realising until he felt nails bite into the skin of his palm. "Was not a kiss."

Somehow, the statement failed to throw Alfred off-course.

"Oh?" Maybe if he'd had one less glass of bourbon he would have backed off of the subject and moved on, but the alcohol tempted him to move closer to Francis and ask, "Then you must know what is, then?". 

There was enough alcohol in Francis' system for him to speak without thinking properly.

"Oui, biên sur." He purred in confirmation, already moving closer towards the other man, joining in with his movements and wrapping slender arms around his torso.

"After all, I am French. Kissing is my forte."

Tempted still, Alfred returned the little smirk, let an arm loop around Francis' waist, and all of a sudden something told Alfred that maybe it wasn't the alcohol this time that was tempting him to say what he said next.

Leaning in close enough so that Francis could taste the whiskey on his breath and hear the husky whisper of his voice, Alfred spoke:

"Show me?"  

There was something about the beat of the music and the swing of hips and the whoops of laughter and excitement, Alfred thought. There was something about the cloudy blue of Francis' eyes, about the fullness of his lips and the pink of his cheeks, the way it felt to hold him close. There was something that told Alfred to do what he did, something haunting, nagging; an urge. The urge that he'd been resisting up until this moment.

How had it taken him this long to figure out what it was he wanted to do?

I want to kiss you.

Francis was beautiful when he cried, but Alfred wished he'd see such beauty a little less. Flashes of the man sobbing sparked through his mind, looking a broken-hearted, beautiful mess, and Alfred knew then he would never be the one to crush him like that.

I want to kiss you.

Francis really hadn't the slightest clue how bewitching the sway of his hips was, did he? Nor how angelic of a laugh he had. How had Alfred had earned both? Just by strumming a little song on a guitar as abandoned and mistreated as Matthew had left Francis?

I want to kiss you.

He had fit in Alfred's arms so perfectly that night in their boxcar, hid his tear-streaked face away in the wool collar of the American's beloved jacket that he'd gladly give up a thousand times if it kept Francis warm. He really couldn't believe that someone had the cruelty in their heart to do something like that to his sweet Francey, something pitiless enough to bring him nightmares even now.

If no one else would treat him right, than Alfred would.

I want to kiss you.

His little scare with the mouse. The way he looked into the sunset. The little show he'd put on to get out of trouble with the cops. His pout when Alfred teased him, how red his cheeks got when he blushed, how persistent he was with that hair of his, how he smiled when he was shy.

Alfred's urge had been there every time, all along, and now he knew what it had been telling him.

I want to kiss you.

And suddenly, the urge was gone.

Suddenly, the world had stopped turning. Maybe Alfred was drunk off his ass but he swore Francis' lips were the sweetest thing he'd ever tasted and he craved nothing more. 

It didn't take Francis too long to notice, even through the haze of emotion, that this was no ordinary make-out.

Kissing was, to Francis at least, an art form. It was to be carried out with care, with feeling, meaning and passion. Kisses were beautiful; a spur of the moment occurrence, but something so practiced and so beautifully human that it couldn't help but seem planned. They were full of love.

But, when their lips collided, there was no hesitation. It was messy, it was rushed, but it was happening, at long last. Francis did not think; he only did, only felt.

Was this what he had been waiting for? Was this going to fulfil the urge that he had sensed for so long? This feeling... he had known it before. He pulse was racing, his skin was flushed yet he felt cold as a winter's night, needing Alfred, needing his warmth and his body and his soft, soft lips against his own.

Without him, the world wasn't complete. Alfred was the last piece of the puzzle, the final chapter in the book, the reason that Francis was even alive.

In that moment, Francis understood.

Love.

He was in love with Alfred. This beautiful man who had picked him up from his darkest point, who had shown him the light and reminded him of just how beautiful the world could be, who had turned a monochromatic existence into something colourful and bright. Francis looked up at Alfred and saw his whole life before him, saw a man with whom he wanted to spend eternity.

Withdrawing a little from where their lips met, he began to quietly giggle. And he called himself an expert of love. How had it taken him this long to see what had been right in front of him all along?

Every little thing that Alfred did were things that Francis noticed, and he adored them all. How he put others before himself, like the time he had given up his jacket for Francis. How he only showed himself to those that knew him properly, offering those rare, genuine smiles that the Frenchman so adored. How he was kind and caring and gorgeous and gentle and careful and loving and loveable.

Francis had learned a long time ago that the feeling of being in love was not something that one could describe, but he tried nonetheless, every single time.

When he had fallen in love before, it had felt like he and his partner were the only two people in the world.

With Alfred, it felt like the world stopped entirely.

That time itself ceased to tick for every second they looked into each others eyes, just so they could catch a glimpse of each other for a few moments more. So that Alfred and Francis might fall further in love with each other, that one of them might take advantage of those few extra seconds and take the time to analyse those emotions, to realize how they truly felt.

Well, Francis, although quite by accident, had finally made that realization. And now, he wanted to hold Alfred in his arms for a hundred thousand years and fill his ears with the sweetest words imaginable, to tell him how much he meant and how much Francis appreciated every single thing he did and loved every part of him. That his heart throbbing in his chest for the man and his kiss-bruised neck were proof of their passion for each other. That he loved him.

There was silence save for their heartbeats and the quiet sounds of lips moving against each other, a little needy and a little mindless and Alfred wished he had less alcohol in his system, because he wanted to kiss Francis slow.

With that stranger woman there had been a spark, but with Francis there was the goddamn Fourth of July.

The night became a blur of loud music, laughter and dancing as the whiskey and the Francis' lips-induced high finally kicked in. 


"Ugh..."

Alfred had seen more graceful mornings than this one.

This one was a special type of new day that made Alfred wish he didn't have to wake up all. Not until his hangover had passed, that was.

Discombobulated, the American began to slowly come to his senses.

Light, blinding light-- God, would someone turn that thing off? It was giving him a killer headache. Wait-- that was sunlight. Was he outside? Fabric... a couch? He was inside. Thank God. Warmth. Breaths, but not his own.

A pleasantly heavy weight on top of him. The familiar scent of wine and cologne and something sweet.

"Nn... Francis..?"

He opened his eyes.

Big mistake.

The light was unbearable now, and he groaned in pain, rolled over and with a sudden thud the warmth and weight and scent was gone. The thump had snapped Alfred out of his twilight state, and he sat up with a gasp, looked down at the floor through lopsided glasses.

A still very unconscious Francis laid there, next to the couch, his hair in his face and his shirt rumbled and unbuttoned. Alfred stared for a moment, then looked forward, groaning.

"Dude..."

The blonde took off his glasses and rubbed his burning eyes, trying to organize his thoughts.

They'd somehow gotten themselves back into their hotel room. But shit, Alfred hadn't a scrap of memory to prove it. He had to think-- what was the last thing he remembered? A woman with fiery red hair and searing green eyes. Loud music. Coke and whiskey and dancing and laughter and Francis--

Francis?

His heart began beating faster, but he wasn't so sure it was in a good kind of way. This was the same kind of racing pulse he felt when he knew he'd gotten himself into trouble, he thought. Maybe he should stop trying and just accept that he didn't remember anything about what he and Francis had done last night. But, being Alfred, he ignored the little voice inside of his head that told him what to do and, for curiosity's sake, wracked his brain for memories. And then one by one, they began to come back to him.

The space between them had been non-existent, a relieved giggle of delight, an arm around his waist, the curve of his back, bits of French, his lips on his, and good God what had he done. He'd kissed him, hadn't he? He'd kissed Francis Bonnefoy.

I want to do it again.

Alfred shooed the thought away, instead focused on more pressing issues, like how on earth he was going to salvage their friendship.

Terrified of loosing his beloved companion, the American clenched his jaw, glancing back down at the zonked Frenchman.

I kissed those lips.

I wish I could remember exactly how they felt.

Alfred swallowed thickly, biting down on the inside of his cheek.

It never happened. Alfred didn't remember a thing. Not dancing with him, not holding him, not kissing him. Not a single scrap of memory.

It was a lie of course, but it was his story, and he was sticking to it. Anything, God, anything to save their friendship. He'd screwed up terribly, after all.

Then why am I not sorry?

Understandably, taking a tumble to the floor had stirred Francis awake and, before the man could come to his senses, Alfred let himself fall onto his back and turn away from him. This way, when he 'woke up', he could look even more discombobulated than he had been, making his story of I can't remember a damn thing even more believable. That, and just a bit of time would give his cheeks a chance to turn back to their natural colour.

The plan was fool-proof. All Alfred could possibly hope for was that Francis didn't have any reconciliation of making out with Alfred, drunk in a bar and high off of the music and each other. For his own sake.

Knowing Francis, that probably wouldn't be something he'd take lightly.

"Mm..."

When Francis opened his eyes, he was greeted with a view of wooden boards. It took him a few moments to decipher that this surface was, in fact, the floor. The ground beneath him was hard and uncomfortable; in a way, this was a good thing. The fact that he was clothed and not tangled up in someone else's limbs with his face pressed into their hair always promised a good morning. However, if not in a bed, then where exactly was he?

Blinking, he raised his head and tried to look around.

Big mistake.

It was morning, of course; the sun was up and hell-bent on burning his retinas, it seemed.

"Merde..."

With half-closed eyes, Francis rolled himself onto his back, a groan falling from his lips to accompany the familiar ache in his skull. Come to think of it, his head wasn't the only thing that ached...

Raising a hand, he felt around to his left until his fingers connected with the fabric of the couch. Only, this couch was warm and soft and... moving?

Recoiling with a start, the shocked Frenchman forced himself up into a sitting position to investigate further, trying to ignore the pounding in his skull as he did so.

Alfred.

Of course. The man was sleeping on the couch and he had grabbed his back instead of the furniture itself. The simple explanation served to somewhat calm him down, for a short moment.

Somehow, Francis found the strength to get to his feet (using the couch as a support and the promise of a nice black coffee as a way to bargain with himself), and peered down at the sleeping figure. His eyes began to finally adjust to the light as he did so, and he was able to make out his features more clearly. But, even with blurred vision, there was no way that Francis would ever have missed the collection of red marks that decorated the tan skin of Alfred's neck.

Another, near silent curse slipped past his lips as the memories came flodding back to him. The music, the alcohol, the laughter, the dancing. The kiss.

Or, rather, the kisses.

God, what had he done?

"Ça putain de whisky..." He murmured, shaking his head in disbelief. Nothing good ever did happen when he drank, after all. Because, it was all the fault of the alcohol, wasn't it? It had to be.

With a groan, he walked-- stumbled-- away from Alfred and made his way over to the tiny little mirror that hung upon the wall of their room, and Francis could only stand and stare in shock as he took in his own appearance.

Swollen, kiss-bruised lips, crumpled clothing, mussed hair-- someone had clearly been running their hands through it-- and the same forest of hickeys that Alfred had upon his own neck. He swallowed, forced to look away from the mirror out of... what? Shame, guilt?

Last night, his heart had ached and he had been so curious, so lustful for him, wanting to taste Alfred's sweet lips no matter the consequences. And sweet they had certainly been; every millimetre a new--

He shook his head, groaning in frustration. Poor Alfred. Thank God that Francis had been too drunk last night to confess his love to the man. Perhaps he could just brush this aside? Yes, that's right! This wasn't a big deal. They had both been drunk, after all, and it hadn't really meant anything. Alfred would surely think the same-- maybe they'd even laugh about how ridiculous it all was together.

But before Francis allowed himself a victorious smile, he stopped. What if that wasn't the case? What if he hurt Alfred by making it out to be a joke?

Worrying his bruised bottom lip with his teeth, the Frenchman frowned. Maybe he could just pretend that it hadn't happened at all.

Turning around, he squinted in the American's direction and cleared his throat.

"Alfred..?"

It was a rather feeble call. If the man was as passed out as Francis was some mornings after an eventful night, then it was going to take a lot more than that to wake him up.

But, somehow, Francis didn't want to get any closer to the man. He hadn't been able to control himself last night, what if he did something else terrible? The way he had felt the previous day was powerful... he didn't want to think about it any more. This man was Alfred F. Jones. This man was his friend. This man was not somebody that he could ever have. Alfred was his only friend in the world, their relationship wasn't allowed to manifest into love, it just wasn't allowed! What they had in that moment was Francis' only hope; his constant.

If that ever changed, then his whole world could fall apart. Losing Alfred would destroy him.

Hearing the sounds of movement and the quiet murmurs of speech from his friend, Alfred knew that he needed to make a move, and soon.

What was he going to do otherwise; just lie there?

Forcing the blush from his cheeks, Alfred proceeded to fake waking up, humming softly and turning onto his back. Would you calm down?  The instruction was mostly directed towards his racing heart. Stay cool. He really had no problem getting out of trouble and keeping his head, even under pressure. He could sweet talk and charm his way out of almost any mess he'd got himself into. So why did now, alone with his best friend and with no real crime committed, was he unable to keep his cool?

Consciously, he urged himself to relax, folding his hands behind his head and tossing a charming, lopsided grin in Francis' direction.

"Hey, Franceypants. How's the hangover treatin' ya?" Now, his smile was hardly fake. How on earth could it be when Francis looked such a mess? Such a adorable, perfect mess. No one could pull off the 'Hungover-and-just-woke-up-on-the-floor' look quite like the Parisian could. His hair went in all kinds of directions, his clothes were rumpled, and he had sleepy little creases under his eyes. Not to mention how that embarrassed stance proved that he hadn't the slightest clue how lovable he looked just then.

Alfred wanted him back on his chest, tucked under his chin, resting peacefully where no one could hurt him.

"Dude, do you remember anything from last night?" He didn't want to lie to Francis. He really didn't. But better the sacrifice of one truth instead of their entire friendship.

"Because I don't remember anything after that chick kissed me and gave me her number..! I was so out of it." Bullshit. He remembered one more thing. He remembered finally discovering what he'd always wanted to do so badly, he remembered finally satisfying his urge. What he didn't remember was stopping.

"Hey, so--"


Translations:

Mon pauvre petit chou - My poor little dear

Petite souris - Little mouse

C'est beau - It's beautiful

Une discothèque - A club

Oui, biên sur - Yes, of course

Ça putain de whisky - That fucking whisky

Magnifiqué - Magnificent

 

A/N: Thank you so much for 1000+ hits! Watching that little counter go up is an absolute delight, and it means the world to us to know that people are reading and hopefully enjoying our story!

I hope that this chapter was slightly easier on the eyes-- slowly but surely I'm learning how to format properly, and there's fewer large blocks of text than usual. I'll get there eventually!

As always, any and all feedback is greatly appreciated :)