Hey all! I still live! I finished this chapter a while ago but honestly at the time of posting this, I'm currently in Europe and hope to finish this before October of 2017. We'll see how that goes, considering it's 4 months after I return to the States after my Europe trip... Anyway, if anyone's still reading this, hope you enjoy this! :D
Thanks again to my Beta, ScarletPrussia, as always! :)
Arthur glared at the words on the page before him. He sat in the room, alone, staring at the laptop Kiku brought had with him.
His brow was once again furrowed in the similar fashion when he wrote, his fingers laced together. It felt wrong, that he was writing more but it also felt wrong at how easy it was to write more of the characters he had dealt with for the last few years of his life. It felt... almost wrong knowing that the words he wrote actually affected people in real life. It was one thing to write about a tortured and traumatized reporter, and then another thing to be the torturer and traumatizer.
If anything, he wanted a happy ending, for himself and Francis. He wanted Jack to just go away, back into the book however, if balance was needed to keep Francis in the "real" world, then Arthur could not turn a blind eye to a killer that he brought into the world. He was selfish, yes, but not that selfish.
Suddenly, the hotel phone rang. Arthur jumped as his concentration was broken. Pausing and realizing that it was unlikely that his companions would call him he picked it up knowing who it would be.
"That was faster than the other times, Artie," the voice taunted over the phone's speakers.
"What do you want? I can't just pull ideas out of my arse. Three books took three years of my life and that's honestly considered fast compared to other authors," Arthur retorted, almost hissing the words.
"Whoa there, you've got some pent up frustration there... Why don't you take a break from your work?" Jack sounded surprised but Arthur knew better.
Arthur rolled his eyes. "What do you want?" he repeated tersely.
"I just wanted to check in on you. Where did your friends go? I'm guessing you haven't told them that you're writing more 'history'?" Jack asked.
"They're at the bookstore. I'm supposed to be sick and... I talked to Kiku briefly. He doesn't know everything though..." Arthur sighed softly. Then, a pause. "Can you feel anything regarding changes I've written yet?"
"No. Not really,"Jack responded. "There is a sort of... tingle I feel... Ask our darling Frenchman later..."
Arthur was quiet for a while and then spoke again. "Is that it?"
"That's all. Cheerio!" Jack said, hanging up before Arthur got the chance. Arthur sighed, sitting back into his chair after setting the phone back in its cradle. He stared down at his document. He did not want to change things. He was satisfied with his story but apparently no one else was.
Then, another ring.
"What?" Arthur snapped after picking up. He was annoyed with everyone and himself at the same time and it was abundantly clear in his voice.
"Arthur? Are you okay? I'm sorry if I woke you..." Kiku's voice was calm and concerned.
"Oh, sorry, Kiku," Arthur sighed, rubbing the area between his eyes. "Sorry I snapped at you. I was just... writing something I despise."
"It's fine," Kiku said kindly. "What are you writing?"
Arthur bit his lip. He wanted to be honest with Kiku because Kiku was his longest and closest friend. "I'm writing a short sequel."
A pause. "To the series?"
"To try to fix this with Jack and Francis?"
"Oh," Kiku sounded almost... too quiet. "Have you you spoken to Francis about changing the end of his life and the end of his own story?"
"Not yet... What are Alfred and Francis doing now?" Arthur asked. If Kiku was away from the two, there was nothing stopping the two from just starting a fist fight in the middle of the bookstore.
"They are getting coffee together in the cafe. I'm taking notes while standing in the fiction section."
"That's good..." Arthur sighed, leaning back in his chair, placing his free hand behind his head, and stretching. His back popped and he finished his conversation with Kiku shortly after.
He looked back at the small glowing laptop on the hotel desk with a feeling of sickness. It all felt wrong and yet Arthur did not know what else to do. He felt like a cornered mouse with no escape. He was just playing into his creation's hands.
Almost begrudgingly, he began writing again, each word weighing his heart down. The world seemed to go quiet around him as he typed, the keyboard clicks the only thing that filled his ears.
It was only when someone's hand came down on Arthur's shoulder did Arthur realize how focused he was. He jumped, jerking his head up and his hands coming down over the laptop's lid to slam down the cover with a loud click.
"Woah Artie, it's just me..." Alfred said, raising his hands in mock surrender. Arthur looked up at him with tired eyes and relaxed.
"Don't sneak up on me then!" Arthur snapped back. Alfred raised an eyebrow.
"Shouldn't you be resting? How are you feeling now? Did you even sleep at all, you workaholic?" Alfred asked, glancing around the room. Arthur sighed and got up from his desk, remembering that he was supposed to be sick.
"I... I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd work on... another project..." Arthur said weakly. He walked over to his bed and pretended to flop gently onto the soft sheets, rolling to get comfortable. "I don't sleep well or very much..."
"Yeah, I know... " Alfred said, sitting on the foot of the bed. "You always were up when I slept. I'd always find you passed out on the couch instead of... with me..." He trailed off as he remembered when the two were under the same roof. He remembered often times, he'd wake up alone in the bed they shared and would find Arthur in the living room of their apartment on his laptop working or scribbling furiously about something. Arthur seemed to have permanent eye bags and dark circles but somehow was able to function on so little sleep most days. The most Alfred saw Arthur sleep was right after sex and if Arthur was very, very sick.
Arthur was also lost in his memories momentarily, but in a different way. He was currently worrying that his work so far had been skewed. He was thinking about if Francis would start changing now or if things would change as soon as the "sequel" was published. But... also, what would he do once Francis changed? Would Jack change too or would he be sucked back into the story book? Would Francis be sucked back in too?
"Arthur? Alfred? Are you two okay?" Francis's voice jerked both out of their thought processes. As if light were attracted to Francis, the room seemed to lighten and some of Arthur's anxiety seemed to ease.
"I'm fine, Francis," Arthur responded. "Just a little tired." Alfred glanced between the two but said nothing. The Frenchman walked over silently and gratefully to Arthur's bedside and placed a cool hand on Arthur's forehead.
"Your temperature seems a little warm and I assume you are just as sleep deprived as before..." Francis tisked at the author and sighed, straightening up a bit. "I guess your time was as unproductive as we were at the bookstore..."
"What do you mean?" Arthur asked.
"We weren't able to discover anything new..." Francis said, sitting at the edge of the bed too. "And I haven't recalled anything new either..."
Arthur knew they wouldn't find anything and yet he still made a disappointed face, patting Francis's shoulder. "Things will work out... They will," he said softly.
Francis smiled at Arthur and Arthur easily returned the motion. Alfred coughed softly and rose his voice to break his awkward third-wheeling.
"I have a theory..." Alfred said. "Maybe you could see if you could see what Jack's wishes are? It's strange that he hasn't told you what he wants you to do yet beyond the interaction in the bookstore. He didn't say anything else to you?"
Arthur shook his head and sighed. "He just said I would not find my answers 'here', but I assumed that the meant at the bookstore..." He paused. "You don't think he meant here in America, do you? We only have a couple more days here in New York..."
Alfred shrugged. "Wouldn't going back to England be better though? You'll be away from Jack then..."
"But then that leaves Jack here in America... and... I don't feel okay with that," Francis said. " I am, in some ways, in the same situation as Jack... Maybe it's best I should return to-"
"No." Arthur said firmly, meeting Francis's eyes. Alfred and Francis rose their eyebrows in surprise at the author's forcefulness. "There has to be another way for us to solve this and keep you here."
The room was silent for a while.
"Kiku told me you were writing again," Francis said quietly. "He said he thought I should know and that he apologizes for telling." Arthur did not react. He only blinked and Francis continued. Kiku held his ground but felt some whispers of guilt in his mind. "I think you should write me in the new story. Finish my story as well as Jack's."
Arthur's voice sounded tight. "You want me to change the ending of the story... and involve you? What do you think will happen if I continue writing you?"
Francis sighed and looked at Arthur with an expression of sadness but firm determination. "You have to do it, Arthur. We can't let Jack stay here."
And Arthur knew Francis was right. The new story would not make sense if Francis was not in it. "Fine," he said, his mouth and throat feeling cottony. "I'll write you again."
"Arthur? Why don't you take a break?" Francis called from the bathroom. "Alfred and Kiku are going to be going out to eat tonight."
"Where?" Arthur asked, looking up from the blocks of text on his computer screen. At this point, Alfred had gone back to his apartment and Arthur had been sitting at the computer for a good solid few hours. Now that his focus was no longer on the story, he realized how hungry and parched he was.
"Alfred said he'd treat us all to some local food..." Francis said, coming out of the bathroom and walking over to Arthur. He placed gentle hands on Arthur's shoulders and then applying medium pressure, massaging the tightened muscles. Inadvertently, Arthur let out a sound of relief as his sore muscles began to relax.
"I suppose a break is good..." Arthur said. "When is dinner? Do you have an address?
Francis nodded. "I've got everything covered, you just have to attend, if you want."
"Alright, I'll go... I am pretty hungry," Arthur said, smiling slightly. He stood and stretched, then went to go change into something more suitable for dinner.
As he was changing, he noticed that Francis stood at the door watching Arthur button his shirt. "What?" he enquired. "Something wrong?"
"No. I'm merely trying to burn your mannerisms and entire being into my memory," Francis said quietly. Arthur felt his cheeks burn and the thought of Francis might not being with him after he leaves America made his throat feel tight.
"What do you think will happen to me?" Francis asked, his hand on the door knob now. Arthur grabbed his coat from the chair he threw it on and made his way to the door, but Francis did not leave yet.
"I don't know. I don't know what you were like before you came into my world so I don't know what you will return to..." Arthur said, sighing at how vague the answer sounded. He wanted to know too, but he really didn't know anything.
"I don't remember anything unusual. I believe the things I remember are like how you remember memories," Francis thought. "I just fear forgetting about you."
Arthur gulped and grimaced slightly. "I fear that too."
The two stood in the doorway of the hotel room now, facing each other. Arthur shut off the room lights so only the outside sun came through the cracked curtains.
Arthur's breath was low and soft and, in turn, so was Francis's. Their eyes met slowly, azure mixing with moss and they slowly came together, lips touching in a deliberate kiss. Their bodies were warm together and were buzzing when they separated.
"I don't want to go," Francis whispered against Arthur's neck. He wrapped his arms around Arthur's small frame and sighed.
"Don't go then..." Arthur whispered back.
And then, Francis pulled away and the air instantly became lighter. The room door opened and Francis stepped out but stood with his hand outstretched to Arthur. "To dinner then?" He forced a smile that looked more real that Arthur's genuine smile.
Arthur stood there feeling conflicted but took Francis's hand anyway. They walked to the elevator together, not letting each other's hands go. The ride down was silent but comfortable and Francis hailed a taxi for them, telling the cabbie the address. They soon arrived at a pizza place and Arthur felt a little disappointed. Pizza as one of his last meals in New York was not what Arthur had in mind but he smiled politely at Alfred when the group reconvened inside.
"Now, I know pizza isn't the fanciest of foods, and I can tell Arthur is just being polite," the other men chuckled and Arthur felt his ears go hot. "But just wait until you take your first bite of this food, okay? Everything is good, so get what you want!" Alfred gestured with grandiose motions and shot everyone his award winning smile.
Kiku ordered a slice of something with mushrooms, Francis got something called "The Driver" and Arthur got one of the pre-made slices from the case in the front to be heated up. Alfred himself did not get pizza, but got a calzone that looked bigger than the man's head. Arthur knew better than to be surprised or alarmed. The boy could eat.
When they all had their pizza (plus one calzone), they sat in a booth to the side of the front counter and dug in. The place was relatively busy and the sounds of indistinct chatter and eating filled the rather small pizza parlor.
At first bite, Arthur knew that, indeed, this place was special. The crust seemed to melt in his mouth, the sauce had the right amount of bite in it, all participating toppings were coated in liberal amounts of stringy, gooey, cheese.
"Wow! This is delicious!" Kiku exclaimed. "How is this place not packed right now?"
"It's new," Alfred smiled, pleased his guests were so clearly enjoying their tastebuds being tingled. "I found it about a week or two ago. I hope it gets popular but it's really nice not having to stand in a crazy long line." Arthur smiled and nodded. If anything bothered Alfred, it was having to queue in long lines and being delayed for his food.
"It's really good," Francis said between bites. "An excellent find, indeed."
"Agreed," Arthur added. "I had my doubts in the beginning."
"I know," Alfred said. "You're still super easy to read." Everyone chuckled and Arthur couldn't help but to agree. He had to work on it though. "I just wanted you guys to eat something good before your last day."
Arthur was jerked into awareness at Alfred's comment.
"Wait, is that tomorrow?" Arthur asked as calmly as he could manage.
"Yes, we fly out late afternoon and arrive in London in the evening," Kiku said, taking a moment to remember the details.
"That's so soon..." Arthur said, disappointed, shoving the panic away for now. He did not have nearly enough time to finish the story, nor was he ready to really say goodbye to Francis, if the ending he wrote willed Francis to disappear too.
Francis extended his hand to cover Arthur's and smiled gently. A sad but knowing smile. "It's okay. Everything will work out." The same words he, himself, had told Francis earlier.
Arthur sighed and chose to believe Francis, but did not like how things seemed to be "working out". "I know," was all he said in response. Kiku and Alfred tried to revive the conversation in a positive manner by asking about long trips that went wrong. From the lightened look on their faces and the way Francis's face slowly lit up too made the atmosphere a bit better, but the nagging feeling in the back of Arthur's mind still persisted.
You won't get anywhere by worrying, Arthur, he chided himself. Figure it out when you're not with friends. He forced a smile and pushed the thoughts away the best he could. He did what Francis was doing in the hotel, and attempted to store feelings of just being with Francis's presence. He tried focusing on the way Francis smiled, how he laughed, how he held his pizza to eat and how Arthur felt when his attention shifted from someone on something else to Arthur. At every instance, Arthur's worries seemed to settle a bit and Arthur's anxious thoughts subsided, if only for a moment.
And he realized that he'd miss Frances more as the one being left behind. At least Francis was prepared and had accepted the fact that he might go to God-knows-where. Arthur had not yet accepted the thought and later cried as he wrote the last words of his epilogue.
My dear readers,
It has come to my attention that the story that I left you with is incomplete and unfinished. If you are reading this now, you have discovered this ending that may satisfy the unsatisfied feelings that my story has left for you. Some may find this addition may contribute to the story to the tie any loose ends I may have left, but some may feel that by writing this sort of epilogue that it opens the door to continue the story.
The story will be finished with this addition. I will no longer write anymore for Francis or Jack. I hope to continue writing and I hope that you will continue to support me as you have before, just without the characters I have been writing with for the past few years. It is time for me to move on and start a new chapter of my life.
I, of course, will miss writing these characters but new things will be just as good if not better with my personal growth.
I leave you with this newest and final chapter to my series.
Francis Bonnefoy was not dead. Although he no longer showed up to his journaling job and his obituary was posted by a kind friend, he was very much alive.
He, of course, did not murder his beloved wife and had not murdered the many innocents Jack had left for him. Instead, an anonymous tip was left for the police that alerted of Jack's ability and presence. The victims had actually been a code for Jack's location and the blanks were filled in by the mysterious tipsters. Jack, despite his cleverness and evasion tactics had actually been leading everyone right to his lair. He fought back when the police raided the surprisingly ordinary house he resided in, but no lives were lost in the struggle. In the end, he was convicted and locked away. He would no longer threaten or terrorize.
But if the case had been closed and and justice was served, why did Francis not return to the streets of the city he loved?
Instead of making a miraculous resurrection, Francis only returned to his marred apartment to retrieve a few personal items and moved to...
Arthur sat back from the computer and sighed. He was finished. Done. Completed with the epilogue he was forced to write.
"Finished?" Francis asked from the bed.
"Yes," Arthur said almost morosely.
"Do I get to read it?" Francis asked with a childlike curiosity. Arthur lifted his eyes to meet Francis's.
"It's totally up to you. I'm sending a digital copy to Kiku to edit so it's a rough draft really, but you can read it now if you want..." Arthur said. He attached the document to an email to Kiku after some struggle, but 'sent message' window eventually popped up on screen.
"I'll read it on the plane, I think..." Francis said. He smiled slightly and then held outstretched arms to Arthur. After a moment's consideration, Arthur stood from the hotel chair and slid into the bed next to Francis.
"Did I get a happy ending?" Francis whispered.
"I tried," Arthur said softly. "I'm not known for happiness but you're alive and relatively content..." How unusual was his situation to be able to discuss the story's plot with his own characters, but to also fall in love with them...
"Spoilers... but thank you," Francis smiled, his arms squeezing Arthur's form just a hair tighter. They sighed. Their chests rose and fell together and they stayed there for a while until Arthur realized he hadn't brushed his teeth yet. They separated reluctantly but Arthur soon returned with minty, freshly cleaned teeth.
"You are cool," Francis said with a smile after giving Arthur a kiss.
Arthur raised an eyebrow. Francis continued with a smile. "Your minty breath is cool," he clarified.
"It'll go away eventually," Arthur said with a slight smile. Calling someone 'cool' seemed almost out of character, but very endearing. It was characteristic of Francis still learning English as part of book-Francis's setting being Paris, France.
"I know," Francis said. "I just wanted an excuse to compliment you." Arthur blushed and couldn't help but to move closer to Francis.
"Maybe nothing will happen and we can go back to England together... Maybe only Jack will... go back to the story..." Arthur thought (and hoped) aloud.
"It's a possibility," Francis said. "It could happen considering everything that has happened so far... We could get lucky and... nothing will happen."
"I just... Don't know if what I'm doing is the right thing... and if what Jack wants is what I should be doing," Arthur said, worrying. He started to absentmindedly gnaw on his lip.
"I know this is not a great answer but... like I said before, things will work out in the end but maybe not in the way you wanted them to..." Francis ran his fingers through Arthur's wild hair. Arthur didn't feel the need to respond and didn't.
The two lovers just lay in the hotel bed, listening to each others breathe as the world went on outside their room. They listened to each others breaths until they mingled together. Cars continued to honk outside while their hearts drummed softly. They exchanged kisses and touches as if the end of the world was near, but nothing was sloppy or rushed. It was the precision and deliberate intimacy that made the last night Francis existed in the 'real' world special.
Arthur's toes were cold even though they were wrapped in the cotton blankets and sheets. He curled up closer to himself, pulling his limbs in tighter to conserve his body heat. Somewhere, in the twilight zone of dreams, Arthur remembered that Francis was supposed to be next to him. Groping around in the sheets, Arthur's fingers slid around on the bed, but found nothing but an askew pillow. Confused, he cracked open his eyes and looked around the room.
It was about late morning/mid-afternoon based on the amount of sun peaking through the curtains, and the room was empty except for Arthur himself. Nothing seemed out of place, but Arthur noticed that Francis's suitcase was gone. Sitting up slowly, his confusion manifested into a frown.
"Francis?" The bed beside him was cold as if Francis had gotten up and never returned. Arthur slid out of the bed now, padding to the bathroom, frozen toes forgotten now. He peeked around the corner and saw Francis's extensive bathroom supplies were gone too.
"Francis?" Arthur called a little louder with a bit more panic in his voice. He went to Kiku's conjoining hotel room door and knocked. "Kiku, is Francis there?" he called in a rather urgent tone.
After a moment that seemed to pass like an eternity, the door opened.
"No," Kiku said, still in his pajamas but awake. "Maybe he is downstairs getting breakfast?" Something in Arthur's stomach told him Francis was not getting breakfast without him.
Arthur shook his head. "I... I don't think so.. His things are gone, and there is no note he left..." Kiku frowned.
"Do you think... maybe he disappeared because you finished the story?" Kiku asked. Arthur's panicked train of thought slowed.
"Maybe... but... I wrote that he would live and he was happy... I made him move to England!" Arthur cried, almost indignantly.
Kiku extended his hand to gently touch the author's slumped shoulder. "I finished reading the material you sent me last night and sent it back to the publishing company that made the text available in an electronic copy only. People began buying it almost immediately after it was published, at about nine in the morning in England... By now, I expect that your American audience has greatly increased our revenue by now..."
"You're saying when people bought this... extra chapter, that's when Francis... that's when he... disappeared?" Arthur's throat was tight and his mouth was dry. Francis was... gone now?
"That's probably what happened..." Kiku said softly.
"Oh..." Arthur managed. He was silent for a bit and then sunk down to sit on his bed, just staring down at a spot beyond his feet.
Kiku did not know how to comfort his friend but sat down next to him at first. But after a moment's consideration, he wrapped an arm around Arthur's shoulders, pulling the distraught author into his arms in a rarely given hug. Arthur, surprised but grateful, only let a few tears leak from the corners of his eyes but did not sob or rant or get distressed. He only retreated into himself.
"I'm sure he's fine..." Kiku said, gently patting Arthur's back. "We'll go back to England tonight and things can go back to normal. Normalcy may be better for you right now..."
Arthur did not respond verbally but did move his arms to embrace Kiku. They stayed there for a while until Arthur's hotel room phone began to ring, the caller ID's robotic voice announcing to the two men that a certain American was calling. Kiku was the one to pick the phone up from the desk, glanced at Arthur and then denied the call, letting the call go to voicemail.
The room fell silent again, only the cars below could be heard. Arthur's eyes were watery and lowered. Kiku embraced his friend again but for a shorter amount of time before pulling away and standing up.
"We should pack and then we can go out or stay in..." Kiku offered, trying to see if that's something Arthur wanted to do. Arthur nodded numbly and looked up at Kiku before at the lone suitcase on the luggage rack. Some part of him wanted to stay in the room and not do anything for the day, while another time wanted to get out of the stuffy room and search for his lost Frenchman.
"Okay..." he said slowly. "Give me about twenty minutes..." Kiku nodded and then left the room, closing the adjoining door behind him, but not before Arthur caught he sympathetic look Kiku sent him. He managed a brief, weak smile before the door closed gently. It was with the click of the door that the tears began to flow freely from Arthur's salty emeralds. He stifled the sobs that shook his small frame and just rolled into the sheets and pillows of Francis's bed, clutching onto them as if they were the character himself.
After Arthur's eyes were sufficiently flushed and swollen, he stood from the bed and packed the rest of his clothes into the suitcase he remembered packing in England with Francis, zipping the various compartments closed. He shoved everything in without organization, struggling to avert his focus from the emptiness of the room.
Just as he was zipping the clasp closure, Kiku knocked lightly on the door and then poked his head through the gap. "Arthur? I found a place we can go for lunch if you'd like, or we can stay in the hotel and eat the complimentary brunch they provide..."
Arthur shrugged. "I trust your judgment. What kind of food do they serve?"
"It's a modern Japanese sushi bar. You did like the sushi restaurant I took you to in England so I thought we could compare the Americans' 'authentic' Japanese tastes..." Kiku said. "Or if sushi is not preferable in the afternoon, we can go somewhere else..."
"No, sushi is fine..." Arthur said. "It's been a long time since we've eaten sushi together."
Kiku nodded and then went to Arthur's own door, unlocking it and holding it open for the author. Arthur grabbed a light coat that he had left hanging in the too big closet by itself. He left the hotel room with Kiku and they took a taxi to the restaurant, no longer having to squish closely together in the back of the taxi.
The sushi place, dubbed Sushi Yasaka, was dimly lit and comfortable. Few patrons sat at tables while most sat at the sushi bar where chefs clothed in white prepared various rolls and fresh fish. The venue prices were decent and the chefs looked up to see who entered. Kiku smiled and bowed, responding in Japanese, a few of the chefs responding back jovially.
Arthur did not know Japanese but picked up a few words from the conversation as the two men sat at the sushi bar in front of the chefs. " 私たちは壊れた心を癒すためにここにいます。 何がお勧めですか？*" Kiku said.
The chefs smiled a little together and exchanged a few words before starting to make more rolls. A few offered their hands out to Arthur. He took them, initially confused but then found comfort in the warmth and friendliness of these people he did not know. He smield a little and found a comfortable seat next to Kiku at the sushi bar.
"You like fish, sir?" One of the chefs asked, his English heavily accented but his eyes were warm and eager. He moved his hand over a selection of fresh fish cuts. "Tuna? Salmon? Mackerel? Carp?"
"I prefer tuna the most, but I'm okay with any fish," Arthur shrugged.
"I will make you good tuna roll," the chef smiled. "Heart will be fixed." Arthur's smile faltered slightly, but he knew he needed to start his healing process as soona s possible.
Kiku glanced at Arthur. "I found this place a while ago on a business trip when I needed some of my own food, and this is one of the best places here."
"When did you come to America?" Arthur asked, trying to remember when Kiku had been away from England.
"It was... about a year or so ago?" Kiku speculated. "I came to make a deal for the publishing company and had a local give me the recommendation for this place."
"I can't wait to try it," Arthur smiled.
It didn't take long for the beautifully plated food to be set before him and Arthur's mouth watered at the simplicity and elegance. Kiku easily popped the first piece in his mouth, chewing thoughtfully, while Arthur squeezed the chopsticks around the sushi carefully, dipped it a little in the salty soy sauce, and then lifting it to his mouth, savoring each new flavor on his taste buds.
Francis would have loved the flavors and talking to the chefs about the food prep. He would have made the most of his last day in New York and all Arthur wanted was to get out of the country as soon as possible now. New York was becoming something of a cursed city in Arthur's mind.
Arthur forced a smile and looked at Kiku, speaking softly. "Thank you for taking me here. Everything is delicious." Kiku knew Arthur was hurting but understood that he was genuinely thankful for getting him out of the hotel room.
"Of course," Kiku nodded. "We will be out of here soon..." he added.
Arthur nodded and went back to eating. Soon the two finished their meal thoroughly, thanking the kind chefs before paying and leaving. The chilly November air felt good on Arthur's cheeks while his hands were kept warm deep in his coat pockets. The towering buildings loomed over Arthur's head, throwing the sidewalks in shadow and making the air cooler in the pockets of shade.
"You know something I'm looking forward to when we get back to England?" Arthur said as the two decided to walk back to the hotel to enjoy the air.
"What?" Kiku asked.
"Sitting by the fire with Elizabeth in my lap with a good hot cup of tea. None of the cold American rubbish..." he said, smiling slightly.
"Ah yes, your cat will definitely enjoy having you back," Kiku nodded, though he felt just a bit relieved that Arthur seemed to be trying to move on. The two men continued to walk together chatting casually until they made it back to the hotel. They parted to their separate rooms where Kiku called Alfred to update him and Arthur sat in his room, lost.
He opened his computer and the email he sent to Kiku popped up on the screen after login. He stared for a moment and sighed, closing the window with a decisive click. Then he went to his own website. Lo and behold, there was a link to the small chapter, released that morning. A counter had been added to the website to track the number of downloads and the numbers changed with each minute several times. He sighed and clicked to an unofficial forum where his readers could discuss his books online. He never participated but he sometimes liked to see the theories and thoughts of his fans.
Naturally, a new thread had been created to discuss Arthur's newest chapter.
"Can you believe the ending?", "I didn't think we could get more!", "It seemed rushed but it was still good!", "Francis is alive! Jack is locked up!", were some of the comments that jumped out at Arthur. The chapter had been well received despite being last minute and forced. Still, despite the glowing reviews and extensive analysis of the additional content, a new question arose among the ranks of the readers.
Would there be more, now that at least one chapter had been published after the "end" of the series?
At this point, Arthur didn't know. Writing more meant he needed a new plot and that meant reviving Francis and Jack, potentially... bringing them back. Both of them. He sighed and closed the window, returning to check the flight details back to London.
Not really knowing what to do with himself, Arthur forced himself to get lost in Wikipedia articles covering a wide range of topics, starting with reading the entry for his own books.
When Kiku knocked on Arthur's door to check on him and let the author know it was time to go, somehow, Arthur was reading an article on the TARDIS project.
Relieved, Arthur closed his laptop and packed it up. Kiku had already packed the rest of his belonging sawya and waited patiently as Arthur gathered his things. Arthur gave a last look at the room and then closed the door on the hotel he, most likely, would never be able to forget.
The plane ride was, again, long and tiring. Despite being heavily jet lagged and emotional, to be returning to his home alone, Elizabeth was curled up on the sofa when Arthur unlocked the door. Everything was as it was when Arthur had left it except Arthur's heart felt emptier than before and a bit of dust had collected on various surfaces.
He sighed, pet Elizabeth's head affectionately and sat down, leaving his suitcase alone by the door. His cat gave him some comfort but he knew that only time would be able to heal himself.
Now that Arthur was done with his series and Francis was gone, he didn't know what to do with himself. He sat in his living room, a hand on Elizabeth's head, his mind searching for something to occupy himself with. He knew he'd have to find something to help finance his bank but at the moment he didn't know what that would be. He couldn't focus on anything but the way his chest seemed to be caving in on itself.
Wanting relief from the pain, he got up, moving Elizabeth as gently as he could and went to fill the kettle with water. When the water was boiling, he moved the kettle off the burner and transferred the water to a tea pot, filling an infuser with loose leaf tea from the market.
Once he had poured himself a cup of tea, he went to his bedroom. Stripping of his heavy traveling coat, his tweed vest, dress shirt, brown trousers and wool socks, he changed into some clean cotton pajamas and climbed into bed. Elizabeth was not far behind her master and leapt up onto the bed, finding a suitable spot on the pillow next to Arthur's. She settled down just as Arthur finished his cup of tea. She got one last pat on the head before the author switched off the bedside lamp and began a long, well-deserved, dreamless slumber. Arthur did not have nightmares as he thought he would but when the author awoke the next day, the pain in his heart had not lessened. He decided it must've been the heartache and jet lag and slept another day. The next day was the same though, only with Arthur waking to go to the restroom, make tea, feed Elizabeth, and to eat the bare minimum when Arthur realized he hadn't eaten a bite in nearly three days. However, Arthur was not alarmed as he should have been. Instead, he continued on his path of self destruction, going on with his lifestyle (or lack of).
It wasn't until Kiku came to visit Arthur about a week or two after they had return to England that Kiku realized what was happening, and decided that Arthur needed help, whether he wanted it or not.
*私たちは壊れた心を癒すためにここにいます。 何がお勧めですか？ = We are here to heal a broken heart. What do you recommend?
Sorry if my Japanese is off. I admit to using Google Translate lol