Arthur sipped his tea. “You’d be the mother,” he said, all matter-of-fact.
“I beg to differ, my dear,” Francis argued. “Your maternal instincts far eclipse my own. Which of us just spent the best part of an hour looking for wool mittens in the middle of April? Not I.”
“Well it wouldn’t have taken so long if you’d been helping.” Arthur set down his cup and peered across the yard at Matthew, who was peeking behind the shrubbery and peering under rocks. “What on earth is he doing?”
“How am I to know?” Francis’ eyes lit up. “Let’s ask the little one which of us is the mother figure! If anyone should know, it’s him.”
“Capital idea, for once. Hey!” Arthur shouted, making Matthew leap with frightened surprise. “Yes,” Arthur called, “You, um…”
“Matthew,” Francis said.
Arthur went red. “I knew that. Matthew!” he shouted, “Come over here!”
Matthew scurried over, his bear lumbering lazily behind him. “Have you seen Alfred?” he asked after traversing the yard, “We’re supposed to be playing hide and seek but I think he forgot.”
“Matty,” Arthur said, “If we were a family, France would be the mother, right? He’s the womanly one.”
Matthew scrunched up his face in confusion as Francis handed him a glass of apple juice. “Now now,” Francis said, ruffling Matthew’s hair, “Surely I am the indulgent papa, and England is your nagging but lovable maman.”
Matthew, still frowning, fiddled with his glass. “I thought,” he began, then paused to gather his thoughts. “What do you mean, if we were a family?”
Arthur and Francis looked at each other. “What do you mean, Matthew?” Arthur asked.
Without warning, tears welled up in Matthew’s eyes. “I-I always thought you were both my papas,” he sobbed, still clutching his glass, dribbling juice down his front and onto the ground as he shook where Kumajiro carelessly lapped it up. “Was I wrong? You don’t think I’m your son?”
“No!” Arthur exclaimed, rushing to gather Matthew into his arms. “I mean, of course you are! Shhhh, don’t cry, dear.”
“We only meant, if we were a traditional family,” Francis said, plucking the empty cup out of Matthew’s hand, suppressing a chuckle at the wet splotch of apple juice soaking through the back of Arthur’s shirt. “A family with a mommy and a daddy, we meant.”
“Oh,” Matthew sniffed, rubbing the tears out of his eyes with his palms. Francis wiped the snot from his nose with a handkerchief, and Arthur rubbed his back. “That’s a silly question,” he said.
Arthur smiled and set Matthew down. “I suppose it is.”
Francis crossed his arms and watched Matthew head inside, looking for Alfred. “I still think you’d be the mother,” he said.
“Piss off,” Arthur replied, still grinning.