Rating: overall T, Pg for this chapter
Characters: France, England (eventual FrUK), historical figures
Summery for this chapter: WW2 was hard on the both of them. Sometimes it felt like they couldn't do anything but sit there and watch the other.
Previous chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
A/N: sorry for the long wait, writer's block and school do not mix well. But here's an extra long chapter to make up for it ^^ Also, has anyone else been completely unable to form a successful cut anymore?
Arthur’s fingers ghosted over fair skin, the surface beaded with sweat as the body below him fought. Francis’ eyes were closed, as they had been for the past few days despite the heavy breathing and sudden jerks he was prone to give. Arthur sighed closing his own eyes for a moment and recalling for the hundredth, thousandth time the events that had brought the idiotic, desperate Frenchman under his… care.
“Arthur, this is a… delicate situation.”
The personification of the United Kingdom scoffed as they walked down the hallway, “Delicate, Winston? We’re in a war. There’s no need to warn me of ‘delicate situations’ any more.”
His Prime Minister frowned, “I realize, completely, but what I mean is delicate for you, specifically.”
Frowning, Arthur glanced at him, “What do you mean by that?”
“You’ll see when we get there.”
They kept moving for only a minute or two more, eventually stopping in front of what was as close to a multi-purpose room as you could get in the underground tunnels below London. There had been a couple of meetings in there, and Arthur had even used the place to grab a quick nap once or twice. He believed it was being used for storage at the moment. Nonetheless he reached forward, twisting the knob and stepping in.
The room was empty, save for a curtain hung haphazardly across half the room. Without further prompting from Churchill he crossed the floor, yanking back the curtain.
“You gave me a right bloody shock, frog…” he mumbled, reaching down and grabbing a cloth that had been soaking, placing it over Francis’ forehead, “You and that Charles of yours.”
The man stood immediately, addressing him and Chuchill behind. But his eyes were glued to Francis’ figure, splayed across the bed, cheeks tinged pink and looking… not quite good.
“What happened?” he demanded, whirling around to face the men again. De Gaulle cleared his throat, speaking in accented English.
“You know of the attack on Paris… non?”
His voice was strained, tired, looking like the nation lying before their eyes. Arthur scowled, “Of course I do. Hard not to notice all of your people pouring in from the Channel.”
Churchill gave him a grunt of disapproval, which was ignored by de Gaulle, “He’s been like this since Paris was overrun. Nothing will wake him.”
“‘Then why’d you bring him here?’ I asked. It was a logical thing to do, you know. And you know what they told me?”
“Please. You are the only one we, the only one he has left.”
Arthur sighed again, leaning back and running a hand through his hair, “Under normal circumstances I’d tell him to shove it. Go get Gilbert or Antonio to take care of your sorry arse. But,” he let out a breath, a puff of air that reminded him of exactly how long he had gone without a cigarette, “these aren’t normal times, are they?”
Francis gave no reply, staying as still and silent as ever. Shaking his head he reached over to the side table and flipped on the radio. A women’s voice filled the small space, giving him some much needed background noise. Reaching into the drawer he pulled out a small piece of wood he’d been working on for the past few days, just something to keep his hands busy, and, taking out his pocket knife, began to whittle away at it.
He wasn’t exactly sure how long he sat there carving. By the time someone came to fetch him, the German planes were coming and he had no time to be sitting around doing nothing, the woman on the radio was gone, replaced by jazz full of trumpets and piano. Placing his knife and wood on the table he stood, following the soldier out into the corridor.
They weren’t halfway down the hall before he felt a scorching pain burying into his chest, and his world went black.
When Arthur finally came to, all he could register the hot flare of hurt on his chest covered by something cold. A groan escaped from his lips before he opened his eyes, gaze refusing to focus on anything.
“Sir! He’s awake!”
He closed his eyes again. The last thing he needed was some girl’s shrill little voice in his-
“Well, it’s about time. Arthur, you in there?”
His eyes slid open again, “Winston...?”
The man smiled, “That’s my boy. Tough till the end like the rest of us.”
Arthur moved to sit up, “What ha-” He fell back with a barely contained cry, putting a hand over his chest. Moving was apparently not the nest idea at the moment, “Shit…”
“Quite right,” Churchill supplied, pulling up a chair and sitting heavily in it, “Couldn’t think of a better way to describe the situation myself.”
He took a few deep breaths to calm himself, “What happened?”
The voice of his Prime Minister was grave, “We were hit, Arthur. Bombed. Hard by the Germans.”
Eyes widening he looking at him, aghast, “H-how many? Where?”
“Don’t know how may yet. Too early to tell. And I don’t think I need to tell you where.”
As fast as he could without blacking out again Arthur sat up, tearing the ice and then the bandages off his chest. One look at the burn covering his skin, red veins crawling across it like a spider’s web, was all the information he needed.
Right at the heart. Just like Francis.
The next time he woke from a bombing, he found he couldn’t quite get his bearings. It was like the whole world had gone into soft focus, and all he could make out through the pain was the white of the walls surrounding him. As he slowly came too he began to be more aware of certain details. For starters that he was in an actual bed, as opposed to the cot that was hurriedly prepared for him last time. His fingers stretched along the cool sheets, searching for anything that would tell him more. The second thing he noticed was the sound of the radio in the background, his radio. And the third thing he noticed was something humming along.
Arthur forced his eyes to focus, turning his head to look for the source. Once they landed on their target he stopped, mouth hanging slightly ajar.
It didn’t take him long to realize that their positions had been completely reversed, with him in the bed that Francis had formerly been occupying and the other sitting in his accustomed chair. But the Frenchman didn’t look at all like he should be out of bed or even awake for that matter. His skin was still pasty and bruised, eyes a bit duller then he would have felt comfortable seeing, hair limp against his face. But despite all that when he turned to look there was a soft smile on his face, “Bonjour, Arthur. Welcome back.”
“I-I… What are you doing with my carving?”
It wasn’t really what he meant to say. There were a million things that could have been better. But nonetheless, Francis was holding the piece of wood he’d been working on in his long fingers.
Francis gave a soft chuckle, “Finishing it for you. Or at least just adding some details. I never would have thought that you-”
“Don’t,” Arthur cut him off, not meeting his eye. Francis gazed at him for a minute or two, then slowly set the wood and tool down.
“Seems like we’re both in pretty bad shape, Angleterre. Wouldn’t you say?”
“Nonsense. I’ll be fine,” Yet he didn’t feel the need to validate his statement with movement. Even if he did feel maybe the tiniest bit of guilt for taking his bed.
“Of course we’ll be fine, Arthur. We’ll always be ‘fine’ no matter what happens. Wars will end, time will move forward. Wounds will heal, leaving nothing more then outlines on our skin. You and I should know that better then anyone by now. But for now, in this moment, neither of us are exactly ‘fine’.”
For a while Arthur didn’t answer. The pain in his chest throbbed with the fires and the debris around his capital. Finally, softly, he said, “And what about you? Why aren’t you still unconscious, frog?”
The frog bit was unnecessary but both of them needed something normal, anything. Francis smiled softly at the gesture, albeit a tad sadly.
“How could I possibly stay asleep, when you were screaming so loudly?”
“What? So you’re saying it’s my fault that-!”
His eyes went wide, silenced as Francis pressed a chaste kiss to his lips. He pulled back a moment later. Maybe a moment too soon, “Non, I’m not saying that you woke me up. I’m saying that I woke up because you needed someone.
“I know that we’ve hated each other for centuries and probably part of us still does, but this is war. And again we’re here on the same side, and we need to admit that if we’re not together then we’ll fail. All I’m saying is for now, let us put aside our differences for the sake of a greater enemy. And then when this is all over you can push me into the Thames as payback, oui?” Francis smiled again, not sad this time but just… gentle. Arthur looked away.
“… I stole your bed.”
“I wouldn’t be opposed to sharing.”
As carefully as he could, the fire in his chest still raging, he moved to the side. Francis stood on shaking legs, slipping in next to him. They rearranged themselves on the tiny bed so that each was in the least amount of pain. Arthur noticed how Francis’ skin was still warm to the touch and clammy despite his smile, and he was sure that Francis noticed the warmth radiating from his own wound.
Yet somehow, the pain seemed to be dulled for a moment as he focused on all the places their bodies came into contact. It was easily the first gentle touch they had shared since… well, in a very, very long time. And for a second, just for the briefest flash, they weren’t life long enemies anymore: just two wounded soldiers trying to stay alive.
“… Your breath stinks, frog.”
“Yours isn’t much better, Angleterre.”
Soon after they fell asleep. In each other’s arms like children again as outside people fought and lived and died. And sitting on the beside table next to a pocket knife and a glass of water, a small lily carved out of wood, rough edges smoothed out so the shape flowed like the plant it depicted.
And underneath one of the petals, there was a tiny inscription containing six words that would never be seen until years and years later (but that’s a different story).
Mon coeur. Ma promesse. Pour toujours.
My heart. My promise. Forever.