As American ambassador Alfred F. Jones gazed around the room, tired eyes heavy-lidded and glazed, he found himself straying to the English ambassador, who sat diagonal to him, each and every time he tried to bring his focus back to the current presentation. Alfred didn't really know Arthur Kirkland, no matter how much time they had spent conversing with one another, but the Englishman was always a great distraction from the usually tedious and boring meetings they had to sit through every so often.
Yet, instead of Arthur's normal tendency to go red-faced at something the French ambassador, Francis Bonnefoy, had said, he was being awfully cuddly with the sweeter of the two Italian ambassadors. (Alfred never got why Italy needed two; it had to do with something about the clashing cultures of the country or whatever. He never paid enough attention to the details to quite grasp the reasoning.)
Alfred wasn't against the two men being with one another - he was, after all, one of the many that had been out celebrating during June 26th - but seeing it so openly in a conference of all places? Never mind the fact that the blond American was positive that the two European ambassadors were on practically non-existent terms.
Still, watching the two was far more entertaining than any meeting could ever be, so there his eyes stayed. Even after Arthur noticed his stare, Alfred didn't waver; he'd do as he pleased when he pleased, simple as that. Eventually others also started to look as well: ambassadors from Cuba to Denmark to South Korea took notice.
Alfred could tell that even the Italian - 'Oh God, which one was Feliciano and which one was Lovino?' - was getting a bit self-conscious. Arthur was way too snooty and awkward to actually tell any of them to stop staring and Feliciano - 'I think the nice one was Feliciano...' - was too oblivious and bubbly to really care on most days.
It's not like it was really any of their faults either; they were making it so easy to catch! The little touches on their arms or shoulders; the laughter behind hands or coughed into fists; the blatant passing of notes - they were sitting closer than what the Canadian and Russian ambassadors did and they were soulmates!
Alfred blinked and ran through that thought another time. His glasses gleamed as he tilted his head in consideration, his eyes narrowed. Alfred shifted away from Arthur and Feliciano and flicked his eyes over to Ivan and Matthew. Matthew was a cousin of his and had spent two lifetimes already with his husband.
Alfred compared the two in his head and, if he were paying just a bit more attention, he could see that he was not the only one. Yao, the Chinese ambassador, was also noting the similarities between his two friends. Yao knew both Ivan and Arthur from the centuries he had been alive; yet, even then, he had not known Arthur's soulmate. The Englishman had never told him and Yao had never asked.
Across from Yao was another scrutinizing pair of eyes, but these golden eyes were stabbing into Alfred's head instead of Arthur's. Lovino, older brother to Feliciano and the other Italian ambassador, was staring daggers at nearly everyone in the room who dared to look at his brother twice.
The Spanish ambassador, who sat on Lovino's left, leaned in close to the Italian and whispered, "Lovi~, you're doing it again."
Lovino shivered as a breath of hot air puffed against the tender side of his throat, but managed to grunt, "Doing what, you bastard?"
Antonio, said bastard and Lovino's fourth-lifetime soulmate, chuckled, "You don't have to be so protective, mi amor. Arthur would do anything for Feli and you know that."
The younger man sighed, resigned to the fact that he was severely outdated when it came to protecting his brother, "I know, Toni, I know. It still pisses me off, though."
Antonio, unlike Arthur and Feliciano, didn't bother to disguise his own rumbling laughter and, without a care in a world about the glare from the more strict ambassadors, placed a gentle kiss on Lovino's reddening cheek.
It was at this, this lull in between cogs turning and eyes shifting, in the breath of air and silence right before the German ambassador could say a word, that Alfred finally blurted out, "Okay, what the fuck is up with you two?"
The obvious question was one that surprised none of the people in the room, bonded or not. Still, it sent Arthur spluttering and Feliciano let out a nervous peal of laughter.
"What, um, what do you mean, Alfred?" Feliciano hesitantly asked, not wanting a fight of any kind.
Arthur, however, was quick to explode at the American ambassador, "That has to be the rudest thing you've said to date and, trust me, that is a new record!"
A lilted accent butted into the conversation, "Oh please, like the rest of us can't feel the amour in the room!"
Arthur whipped around to the irritating Frenchman and growled, "Get your ass out of this, you frog!"
All Francis did was grin at Arthur and winked before he stood to glide over to the Canadian and Russian ambassadors. As he walked, he continued on with, "I don't see any reason to not be in this discussion. After all, you two are acting quite particular."
When he finally reached the two men, Francis draped an arm across both of their shoulders, "I'm sure we'd all like an explanation as to why you are acting like these two?"
The flamboyant man squeezed Ivan's and Matthew's shoulders, an obvious motion to signify their status as soulmates. (Francis was lucky Matthew found the move amusing or else Ivan was sure to rip the mischievous man's hand off his soulmate's shoulder.)
Strangely, the next voice came from the opposite end of the table with a quiet, "I agree with both Jones-kun and Bonnefoy-san on this topic."
The studious Japanese ambassador became the sudden center of attention, but continued if somewhat apprehensively, "I do believe this is the first time either of you have acted this way in a public manner and I do suppose it is only natural that the rest of us would find some interest in this change."
A thump on the table by the Swiss ambassador, Vash Zwingli, silenced any other comments and he sighed heavily, "Mr. Honda you need to speak your mind more often." Kiku blushed lightly at the comment but Vash carried on, "Sadly, these three are right. Besides, this is far more interesting than what we came here to talk about anyway."
The German ambassador scoffed at the statement, but all Vash did was cut him a quick, disbelieving glance. Shoulders slumped in defeat, the German man, Ludwig, motioned for Vash to continue and the man turned back to Arthur and raised an eyebrow.
Arthur would have refused if he wasn't so weary of the man's rumored gun collection.
Sighing, Arthur turned from Feliciano, the Italian's hand lightly curled around his wrist, and said, "Alright, so you wankers all know about the soulmate principle. You meet, fall in love, and get reborn into the next lifetime and your memories come back if you are to meet your soulmate again, et cetera."
"Aiya!" Arthur was interrupted by a sound of disgust and glanced to Yao.
"Do you need to say something Yao?" Arthur asked, wondering what his old friend could possibly say already.
Yao just shook his head, "Honestly, all of you younger souls don't appreciate the principle any more. When I was young and on my third lifetime, I treated this like how it should be; like a fairy tale come to life.
"When did all of you become so numb to this wonderful notion, aru?! You are able to meet and live out your life with the other part of your soul for eternity!" Yao slowly let out a deep breath, his eyes shining as he spoke, "And it is so different for everyone. A single look can trigger your past memories, the smell of their hair, the feeling of their body against yours, a color or place you both cherished."
Arthur was caught in Yao's burning gaze as the Chinese man whispered, "Please, Arthur, you know how magical this is. Treat it as such."
Feliciano quietly entwined their hands together and Arthur slid his eyes back to his soulmate and placed a gentle kiss on the back of Feli's hand; like a right, proper gentlemen.
The blond sighed and murmured, lips still on the fragile skin of Feli's hand but words directed straight at Yao, "I know. I didn't mean for it come out like that; all of us are lucky to experience this once and Feli and I are luckier to have met in each lifetime so far."
This time it was Matthew that spoke, "Then why did it take the both of you so long to know? We've all worked together for quite some time now, after all."
Ivan picked up where his soulmate left off, "There is no time to beat around the bush today, I think. Tell us, friends, when did you finally know?"
Feliciano slipped his hand from Arthur's and placed it on the blond's shoulder, a small sign that said he knew what to say. The Italian turned back to Ivan and said, "I think this story would be better if we started at the beginning."
All around the room was the sound of shuffling, the noise of all the ambassadors as they got comfortable in their chairs and prepared themselves for a long, long story.
When Feliciano said "the beginning", he wasn't kidding; and it turned out that the beginning was back in the late sixteenth century. The time was at the peak of the Renaissance, and they had been in Rome, Italy. Feliciano had been a priest along with his brother Lovino - which raised eyebrows and turned heads - and Arthur was nobility under the newly-made Queen Elizabeth I.
Feliciano spoke dreamily of how they first met, as if the true reasoning wasn't just a political scramble. Arthur was one of the many close advisers to the Queen and had came to speak with the Pope - though not a single person was really happy to be there.
"It was a warm day, like most days were, and I remember thinking how handsome he was," Feliciano leaned against Arthur's shoulder and smiled up at him. Arthur gave a little grin back and chastely pecked the other man on his lips before letting Feliciano sit back up. The bubbly man's smile faded a bit and turned sad, "Sadly, even the soulmate principle couldn't stop the Church from declaring that any homosexual relationship was cursed in the name of God, so I had tucked those thoughts away and told no one. Except, of course, for big brother. Lovino knew about it from the start, but I knew I could trust him."
Again, heads turned towards Lovino, surprise and curiosity tainting their eyes. Lovino scoffed, "Please, I had already found Antonio even before I became a true part of the Church. Feliciano knew about our relationship as soulmates, so there was no reason for him to hide from me."
When the restless finally resettled on Feliciano, the Italian knew he had some work to do, original meeting be damned. From there he went on, speaking few of the memories he had before he and Arthur finally knew. However, when it got to the point of connection, Feliciano almost couldn't stop speaking.
"I had been searching for him that day as Arthur was the only one of the Queen's people who spoke Italian fluently. I remember wandering down hall after hall, corridor after corridor just looking for him: I knew if anyone would able to find him, I would. The details of the people I had met are blurry, as are the conversations I must have had that day. Everything only becomes clear when I took the turn that lead out to one of the many courtyards that were tucked away.
"Arthur was there, just lounging among the beautiful potted plants and flowers. The sunlight was in the perfect position to have the courtyard ablaze as it filtered through the stained glass windows. It was almost like a dream and it took me a few seconds to snap out of it."
As Feliciano took a second to rest, Arthur said his own piece, "So that's what you were doing? I can't remember; all that I recall was you, in your robes and gown, perched so delicately in the arch of the doorway. There had been a slight breeze that day and your clothing rippled, as if in a trance. You looked so beautiful that your words were lost on me and all I could think was that I had to touch you."
Arthur nuzzled Feliciano's cheek, his soulmate shocked, yet pleased, at the confession: Feliciano had never heard Arthur's side to this story before.
Feliciano cleared his throat, his eyes adoring and staring straight at Arthur, and continued, "My own words were lost on myself, too. But I do know that I was stuttering like a fool, my eyes closed in embarrassment. That is when you went to cup my cheek. I can still feel the warmth of your palm."
His lips curled ever-so slightly, Arthur reached up to reenact Feliciano's exact word, his thumb smoothing over the skin of Feliciano's cheekbone. "That was when the connection was made. Just a simple touch and I had swore it then and I will swear it now, I could feel your soul that day. It was a thrumming, swelling feeling; like a harp being played by its master."
While Feliciano's voice trailed off, Matthew mildly coughed to reclaim their attention. He felt intrusive when he was on the opposite end of the love in their eyes, but he trudged forward, "So you know by touch, then?"
Arthur shook his head and chuckled, the laugh deep in his chest. "Oh, not exactly Matthew."
Alfred groaned and smacked his head into the table, "Dude! Bro! Please, just tell us already."
A smattering of laughter was the first thing he heard before Arthur's mirthful voice, "Ah ah ah~. Now, where's the fun in that?"
He groaned once more as he pealed his forehead from the table, the skin there red and sure to bruise, but Alfred couldn't hide the smile that teased the edges of his mouth. Really, he wasn't in much of a hurry to hear, though he was curious. Maybe it was because he was a sap in general, but Alfred especially loved it when soulmates told even one of their many stories. If he could, not that Alfred would ever get the courage to try, he would ask Yao to just take a day, a week, a month, and just tell all of his stories.
So Alfred was definitely okay in not knowing just yet.
When everyone was situated again, it was that Arthur began their story. It was nearly a century later in the early eighteenth century and, instead of at home in Rome, it was on the high seas out in the Caribbean.
There was a stir among the ambassadors as they learned of this century's Arthur and Feliciano; no one expected Arthur to have been a pirate captain nor that Feliciano was a smuggled slave. The beginning of this story had most fearing for the worst, but they had eyes; they could see that something sparkled between the two lovers.
Truly, none of them had a single thing to fear.
Instead of Feliciano's very simple story, Arthur's was a magnificent tale. He spoke about more than just their connection; Arthur weaved in little details from his life before and hinted at parts of his life after. The Englishman must have told three regular pirating stories before he even got to Feliciano, but he promised that they were important.
"It was during a trade that we had finally met. I was on my way into port to exchange furs and products of the islands for jewels and labor. Let's just say that I was, eh,intercepted, before I was able to get there," Arthur said, a wicked twinkle in his eyes.
Grinning, Feliciano playfully giggled and batted his lashes, "Oh~! There's the rugged pirate I fell in love with!"
Just the word 'rugged' had inflated Arthur's ego and carved a smirk into his face. Lovino pretended to gag and said, "Oh God, I'm going to be sick!"
Feliciano really started to laugh at that and swatted at his brother, "Don't be so mean, fratello. It's not like you didn't think Antonio was handsome just the same."
The bridge of Lovino's nose went red as he spluttered back curses in Italian while Antonio draped himself over Lovino's shoulders and asked, "Really? You thought I was handsome back then?!"
Breathy laughter cut off Lovino's impending rant and caught the attention of Feliciano and Arthur. The laughter drew them back to Yao, who had a hand placed over his mouth to muffle the sound. He shook his head, his ponytail waving with the motion, and said, "Don't mind me. I am just an old man who loves seeing soulmates together. Please, Arthur, do continue."
Arthur nodded and began speaking at once, "Anyhow, I had ended up in duel. Canons were firing off from both my ship and the enemy's, who just so happened to be our happy Spaniard here." Mouths dropped as Antonio happily nodded in agreement. "My crew managed to storm his boat and take most of his possessions - ."
"And I'll pay you back for that, just you wait, Eyebrows!" Antonio interrupted, an unnerving gleam to his eyes.
Arthur sneered, "I can't wait, you bloody - !"
"Back to the story now!" Matthew interrupted, almost afraid of the two ex-pirates duking it out.
The Englishman settled back into his chair and cleared his throat, "Yes, well, long story short, my crew had beaten his to a pulp. And, while I was taking his money and possessions - oh, don't look at me like that, we were pirates, it's what we did! - I also stumbled upon two slave brothers.
"I thought to myself that I might as well take them too while I was at it. Instead, the oldest one threw himself on Antonio's unconscious body and nearly spit at me that they would have to kill him to remove him from that boat."
A stunned silence filled the room as everyone turned to Lovino, shocked that he would ever do such a thing. Antonio looked close to crying and took Lovino into his arms,cradling him tenderly.
Across the room, in whispers, Ivan took hold of Matthew and folded himself around the slighter man. Matthew raised an eyebrow, bemused at his lover's sudden need for contact. Before he could breath a word, Ivan said, "I wish that we had a life like that once. That you or I was vulnerable and the other protected them. I want to one day face fear for you."
Even though the others had already turned back to Arthur, Matthew just wrapped his arms around Ivan's waist and murmured, "One day. I promise you, one day."
Together, they tuned back in to Arthur just at the right time, "Now, I didn't want to deal with what was an obvious soulmate link and I expected him to fight the same for the younger brother. Instead he turned and told him to go with me. After everything, when I remembered the time back in Italy, I swear I laughed harder than I ever did; Lovino had recognized me from the previous lifetime and knew that that moment was when Feliciano and I had to meet.
"So, without complaint, Feliciano followed me back onto the ship. Of course I was already infatuated with him, so I made him my private servant. And no, what you are thinking right now is completely wrong."
Arthur aimed the last part to the German ambassador, who looked ready to kneel over at the implications of being a pirate's "servant".
Ludwig flushed as eyes turned toward him and snapped, "Like I was the only one. Please, for the love of country and God, please just continue."
Feliciano huffed a wheezy laugh before taking up where Arthur had left off, "I was afraid - of course, who wouldn't be? So when I was brought to Arthur's room, I was shivering so badly I could almost hear it. This is when the connection finally took hold.
"Arthur had turned from the room to look at me, still shivering despite being completely warm, and his face changed. He was no longer the pirate captain, he was Arthur Kirkland. Just Arthur. I remember him slowly approaching me, only to reach up and brush my hair from my eyes. Right then and there he shrugged off his coat and placed it around my shoulders, even though it was far too big. Again, I could feel it, that harp sensation. It was magical, I tell you."
Feliciano tucked himself into Arthur's side, so close together that it seemed as if Feliciano meant to jump into Arthur's skin and stay there for the rest of their lives. Again, Matthew coughed for their attention and said, "I don't think I understand. What is your trigger if it's not touch?"
Arthur sighed, "Oh, Matthew. How do you think we finally knew in this lifetime?"
The young man blinked, half of his torso still shrouded by Ivan, and said, "I don't know. I mean, you've been near each other before and I'm sure you've touched by now."
Feliciano smiled and asked, "Do you remember the rain we had two nights ago?"
Many of the ambassadors nodded. Yes, they remembered, but this question came with confusion; what about the rain? Feliciano sighed and continued on, "Well, Arthur and I had been outside when the rain had hit and Arthur was kind enough to share his umbrella with him. During this, I had grabbed onto his arm and didn't let go the entire way back to the hotel. It was there that the connection finally snapped into place for us.
"Don't you see? Our trigger is not touch nor closeness; it is intimacy. It is to share each other's breath, share each other's warmth, share each other's safety."
There were gasps all over the room - it was so sweet in its simplicity that had most craving for that kind of bond. However, Feliciano and Arthur paid no mind to them as Feliciano murmured in the sliver of space between them, "And I just cannot wait for our next life together."