France, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark fruk PG13 huh, humour? gen? let's call it ust. Watching those two argue is better than television.ritten for a request “pre-relationship UST”. Takes place a few months after Francis and Arthur first met. Thank you so much, . Sixty-four sequel for
Bastille day. We are back in the normal 2011 timeline, Francis and
Arthur are living together for 6 years now.</style>
Characters: France, England
Genre: fluff fluff and more fluff
Summary: Birthdays are complicated business
Note: Sixty-four sequel for Bastille day.
Betas are seriously underrated and I'm so happy to have stormybabe88
We are back in the normal 2011 timeline, Francis and Arthur are living together for 6 years now.
Arthur was desperate.
He looked into both of their nightstands, opened every single little box he found in his desktop drawer, threw out half of his closet and even went through the medicine cabinet.
Those damn cufflinks were nowhere to be found.
He glanced at his watch – he had five minutes at best, or he would be terribly late – and opted with resignation for buttoning up his shirt properly, putting on a waistcoat and proceeding to the bathroom where he and the comb had one of their many misunderstandings on the concept of Arthur's hair.
As he emerged from the bathroom after the lost fight and looked into the large hall mirror, he nearly flinched at the sight of his own reflection. His usual tshirt-and-corduroys self was transformed like Cinderella, or My Fair Lady – and Arthur could only blame the time spent with Peter's family for his mind supplying such childish metaphors. The charcoal suit was perfectly well-fitted and made him look at least five centimetres taller, the striped shirt was something he would never buy himself but it looked surprisingly good with the pointy lapelled waistcoat, and the simple dark violet tie made the whole set look really festive.
One thing was sure – his husband has a good taste. In clothing that is, since he chose the entire outfit for him.
And good taste in men, Arthur thought with a small, self appreciative smile, because as foolishly as it sounded, he did feel handsome tonight.
However, as he bent down to lace his shoes and the whole mechanism of tweed, cotton and leather on his body screeched and pulled on all the wrong places, he was quickly reminded why he enjoyed his informal clothes for almost every other day in the year.
Checking his briefcase, he took the carefully ironed suit jacket from the hanger and pulled his hands through the sleeves. As he reached for the doorknob, something clinked in his pockets – and what else could it be than the missing cufflinks.
Of course Francis prepared them for him because he knew he would search for them. The silly perfectionist with his silly ideas that birthdays were supposed to be the best day of the year.
Arthur couldn't blame him ever since he heard stories about Francis' childhood. How he always woke up to piles of presents next to his bed, how he and his parents always went somewhere special – the weather in July being pleasant enough to allow picnics in parks and strolls on seashores - how the whole family showered their only child with affection and his favourite treats, and, simply, how he really was the fairytale prince every day on July 14th.
It was only natural that he grew up into a man that maybe didn't expect towers made of chocolate bars, but an equal share of affection on his special day. And not only for him – his generous nature dictated Francis to treat everybody as someone special on their birthday.
Arthur could still remember the April 23rd six years ago, as they moved together into their house. He kind of expected that their tradition of “bring a bottle of anything with a cork and let him top” couldn't be pursued any longer, but to be woken up by Francis in an apron with a suspiciously large tray in his hands, and singing “Happy Birthday to you” was definitely a surprise.
He hid under the blanket, the pillow on his head letting only the muffled sound of “Go away, Francis, I'm not into this shit” from beneath it.
He woke up again two hours later and found Francis in the kitchen, surrounded by croissant crumbs, refusing to talk to him.
It took them a whole day to talk it out, and to explain why Arthur though breakfasts in beds were a hideous idea - because how can you enjoy a meal including marmalade surrounded by white linen for heaven's sake.
Francis had to understand that Arthur was raised differently. In a household with three, later four boys, and with both parents fully employed in order to pay for all the bills, birthdays meant treats – like, his brothers doing chores instead of him (sometimes), mum making him his favourite meal and dad bringing a cake from the bakery (the hopeless intolerance to every activity involving ovens clearly runs in the family). He got presents; toys and books – the things he wanted but were too expensive to buy on a regular day, and so they had to wait until April.
Later that day, as Francis stopped sulking and Arthur vacuumed all the croissant crumbs, they agreed to talk more about their expectations - for the good of them both.
And yet Francis couldn't bring himself into saying the truth as he, three months later on their first shared July 14th, received (of all things) a toaster.
It was a nice toaster, sure. He even recognized Arthur's thoughtfulness as the blue side handle matched with their kitchen tiles. But it was still a toaster, the most terribly practical impersonal present ever (apart from socks and slippers that is).
He wanted to say something – something like birthdays being there for uselessly pretty things, for indulging in the unusual, for romance and adventure – but seeing Arthur's hopefully smiling face made him shut up and praise the damn electrical appliance.
Especially the blue handle.
It took five months and four colourful homemade cocktails to get the truth from him. A party, in some of their friend's houses, turned after midnight into a truth-or-dare game with an empty bottle of Curacao Blue, and Francis was asked: “What was the most terrible thing your man had done to you?”
Distracted by the little umbrellas one of the girls stuck into his hair, he somehow didn't notice that Arthur was back from the toilet, as he started his short rant. “It's quite unbelievable but...he got me a toaster for my birthday, can you imagine that? A toaster! A thing that bakes square pieces of bread, oh god were it at least a waffle-maker. Even fondue forks would be more romantic than a toaster!”
On the next morning, Francis awoke with a terrible hangover, not really remembering how he got into his bed and the first thing he noticed that was out of place was the toaster, set next to the garbage bin. It was obviously too large to fit inside.
Arthur was found in the garden, digging up their harvest of carrot with the enthusiasm of a hungry rabbit. Upon noticing Francis, he just huffed: “Wanted to throw it off the balcony, but what if it had hit the rosebushes.”
Since then, they went through a series of alternatives for the birthdays. Picnics in garden, with Arthur whining about his beautiful even grass being trampled. Theatre visits, but Francis was annoyed because there were never good plays on program around July, and so they changed into a routine of “three snobbish cultural events a year”, as Arthur called it. Wild parties in gay bars. Not going out of the bedroom for the whole day. Big presents. No presents at all.
In the end, they settled into a routine that worked for the last two years, and it looked like it suited them the best for now.
Arthur's birthdays were celebrated quietly, at home. Francis took a day off, they woke up without the alarm clock, and the extra lovingly prepared breakfast was served in the kitchen. They lazed around, watched telly, cuddled and had sex according to Arthur's tastes, and took a walk into the nearby forest if the weather was nice enough. Francis chose small presents that were useful to Arthur's standards but still wore an aura of something unusual – his favourite band tshirts, or prettily decorated flowerpots.
Francis, on the other hand, preferred spending the evening of his birthday out of the house. Instead of taking a day off, he made Arthur pick him up in his job a few hours earlier. Showing off his damn good looking husband, in a perfect suit that he chose himself, to his jealous female co-workers was after all a part of the present. And that was where Arthur was right now, feeling like a complete idiot as he was standing awkwardly in the large office, listening to the giggling badly hidden behind the screens and waiting until Francis finished his preparations in the bathroom.
As he finally emerged, all suaveness and polished boots, he wished his colleagues a nice rest of the day; and with the unmistakable air of a prince leaving his kingdom he walked out of the door, arm linked with Arthur's.
Some things simply stayed the same.
Together they drove to a restaurant, a place chosen and reserved months ago. France listed cooking as his first hobby in all his CVs, but as he liked to explain, it was important to gather inspiration in refined places. This one had plates in irregular shapes of water droplets, and little lanterns with candles inside on each table instead of a lamp, Arthur noted as he was uselessly looking around while Francis studied the wine card.
They ordered like they always did: Francis' culinary brain saw behind every elaborate name on the menu a special combination of tastes, and he liked to choose the one that suited his momentary mood and the atmosphere of the evening.
Arthur ordered beef.
He always said it was because he liked beef and Francis didn’t cook it often, since its preparation was a bit tedious.
The real reason was that he preferred Francis' cooking to any restaurant meal, and didn't really care that much for all the fancy stuff they served there, being there only at his husband's wish. He was actually curious himself how many years of getting softer it will take to make him admit it.
Dinner was slow. Francis could spend hours pondering about a specific ingredient that he couldn't quite put the name on, and Arthur wasn't a barbarian either; he could enjoy a good meal in a pleasant atmosphere just as well. They didn't talk too much; one or two comments about the taste, a bit of sarcasm on the expanse of the overdone decoration with radish flowers.
It was after the dessert, as the empty ramekins from crème brûlée were taken back by the waiter and only wine and cheese remained on the table, that Arthur finally cleared his throat and bent down to his briefcase.
Francis, used to his husband's methods of giving presents, wiped the corners of his mouth with the napkin and waited.
“You’re thirty-three; you should start to accept your sight isn't getting any better.” Arthur said as he handed Francis the small package wrapped in simple silver paper over the table.
And Francis was suddenly five again, eyes shining with childish enthusiasm over a surprise just for him. With harshness remarkable for a man of refined tastes, he ripped the paper and opened the box.
In a small pouch from black leather were - opera glasses. Black and bronze, quite heavy in his hand, a little ornate thing like the greeting from the long lost Belle Époque.
“For our snobbish cultural dates.” Arthur said, and as Francis looked up to say how much he loved the idea, he added: “Happy birthday, Francis.”
The evening was pleasantly warm as they walked towards the car, and Arthur could recognize the faint smell of irises from somewhere to their left. Linking their hands together as they walked side by side, he asked:
“So, what special requests do you have for the night?”
Francis' eyebrows scrunched in concentration. Arthur smirked; just like him to pretend he hadn’t been planning a special scenario for a few months now.
“We will start in the bath. I want to use the lavender scented bath salts that we saved for a special occasion for two years now, and lots of bubbles; yes, and water to the brim.”
“Great.” Arthur muttered. “Means the bathroom will look like a tsunami victim and I will spend the whole morning wiping it”
Francis stopped, letting go of Arthur's hand, and turned to him, the silent accusation of how could you!! written all over his face.
Arthur chuckled. “Yes, yes; I know, it's your birthday.” He loosely enveloped Francis' waist in his arms. “I would clean a whole flooded house for you.”
Bonus illustration from Devi