Francis hardly ever cooked anymore, I mean really cooked, nothing special anyway. He missed soufflé most of all. He’d always loved it, the airy delicate texture, watching it deflate out of the oven like a gentle sigh after a tender kiss. He loved it so much as to be cliché, and still he loved it. But these days he could barely whip up a béchamel without being most rudely interrupted.
“Bloody wanker!” Arthur screeched at him, throwing a –frying pan? Cutting board? Francis didn’t have time to do much more than dodge it, whatever it was. He couldn’t for the life of him remember what he’d been accused of doing this time, though he was sure that whatever it was he’d probably done it, he probably deserved it, he had no illusions about that.
The pan, as Francis could see it was now, hit the wall with a loud bang and knocked over the bowl of crepe batter. Francis sighed and watched it drip off the counter, pooling into a sticky mess on the floor. He wondered briefly if cheesy, airy deliciousness was enough to break up over.
* * *
Arthur knew that throwing crockery around was a highly unbalanced reaction to Francis squeezing his ass. Someone else’s, perhaps, although punching a hole in the wall or a black eye into Francis’ face was probably a more appropriate, more masculine response. Somewhere along the way, though, he’d gotten the… romantic? notion that domestic battles were best fought by hurling housewares. Maybe it was all that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland during his formative years, that scene with the cook and the pepper. There was something immensely more satisfying about watching Francis dodge a flying tea kettle rather than his own fist. It made their little rows seems less serious in it’s comical exaggeration.
Reflecting on this philosophy, Arthur swept up the pieces of broken plate, from the ghastly set they’d picked up at the charity shop when they were still young and poor. Younger and poorer. When he was done he sat at the table with Francis, and he drank his tea and Francis drank his wine and it was as though nothing had happened. Despite appearances, they had in all their years living together only truly fought once. Sometimes Arthur could still see the blood dripping from the corner of Francis’ mouth, and feel the angry tears hot in his eyes.
* * *
“Would you be happy if I wore an ugly scarf and made you call me ‘The Doctor?'” Francis asked, his head resting in Arthur’s lap.
“I’d be quite happy if you’d shut up,” Arthur told him, eyes riveted to the screen. “Do we need to go over the rules again or must I banish you from the sitting room?”
“No talking while the Doctor is talking,” Francis mumbled, going back to his book. He flipped a few pages, and then, “If I got you an ugly scarf and called you the Doctor, would that make you happy?”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “I’d be happy if you transformed into Christopher Eccleston so I could call him the Doctor.”
Francis pouted. “Cherie, you abuse me so.”
* * *
Arthur kicked Francis in the ribs. “Look what you did,” he complained. “This tea is ruined now.”
Francis groaned and rolled over, wincing a little as his bare stomach touched the cold tile floor. “Couldn’t you just warm it up?” he asked.
“No I cannot just warm it up, you great idiot,” Arthur scowled, dumping the potful of cold, bitter tea down the sink. “I’ll have to make another, now.”
Francis wiggled his eyebrows. “Perhaps you should just not bother, and join me back on the floor,” he said, stroking up and down Arthur’s bare leg, or what he could reach of it.
“Do you really think that’ll work twice in one–” Suddenly, Arthur froze and his face went white as a sheet. Francis frowned, propped himself up on one elbow and debated getting up to see what the problem was, but a clear, peppy voice sent him flat to the floor again.
“Good morning, dear!”
The color was returning to Arthur’s face now, starting with the tips of his ears and spreading to his cheeks. “H-hello, Mrs Beckford,” he said. “Lovely weather, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s just beautiful,” Francis could hear their neighbour answer in her cheery sing-song voice. “The shop should be busy today. I’ve got to be off, in fact! Say hello to your young man for me.”
“I will,” Arthur replied in his fake neighbour voice with his fake neighbour smile plastered to his face and not a stitch of clothing on his body. There was the slam of the garden gate and Arthur said stiffly, “Francis, Mrs Beckford says hello.”
Francis was laughing far too hard to answer, propped up against the cupboard, holding his sides. Arthur, after a moment’s pause, joined him.
* * *
Francis pulled out Arthur’s chair for him. “I almost thought you were going to stand me up,” he said.
“And have you moping about the house for the next two weeks? No thank you.” Arthur shucked his jacket and scarf as he sat down. “Did you order yet? I’m starved.”
“I ordered us soufflés,” Francis said, “They’re excellent here.”
Arthur nodded distractedly. “Those puffy chocolate things, right?”
Francis smiled. “These ones are cheese, I like them better.”
“Right, right, you made those for me once.” Arthur sniffed at his wine and took an experimental sip. “They were good, you should make them again, you stingy bastard.”
Francis laughed and lifted his teacup. “Perhaps I will,” he said.