It hadn't taken long for everyone to get settled into the new house. Alfred was quite proud to have his own room now, but several times Arthur had caught him sneaking into Peter's bed to sleep. He was sure it was only a phase and Alfred would soon get over it. Peter complained that Matthew snored worse than Alfred ever did, and as for Matthew, he was happy as any two year old could be. There had been no more incidents like before, but Arthur still kept an eye on his boys. Alfred was notorious for picking fights.
Ten years passed without much notice and life had settled into a routine normalcy. Arthur had remained a homemaker to take care of his children as well as Seychel. Francis had been promoted twice in those years and now was head chef and manager of the restaurant he worked at, even planning to open a second one in the town over the way. Arthur had pretty much accepted life with Francis; there wasn't any way around it anyway.
Arthur was messing with the dryer upstairs one afternoon. For some reason, the lint trapper wouldn't come out and he was trying to pry it out.
"Fine!" he said disgustedly after four attempts. "Stay there for all I care!"
He picked up the round basket of folded clothes and turned out of the little alcove, heading for Alfred's bedroom. He took one step and his foot immediately slid out from underneath him. The basket went flying forward as Arthur fell backwards. Cursing, he lifted a leg to see what he had tripped on. His eyebrows furrowed.
"ALFRED!" he shouted as he stood. The reply was quick response from downstairs.
Arthur picked up the culprit and walked to the loft office there upstairs. He dangled it over the balcony railing. "How many times have I told you to keep your skateboard out of the hallway? I nearly killed myself on it!"
The eighteen year old stared up at his father, a game controller in one hand and a bowl of potato chips on the corner table next to him. Alfred readjusted his glasses. "I didn't leave it there. I left it in the garage."
"Well it didn't roll up here by itself," Arthur said snippily. "Come put it away. Where are your brothers?"
Alfred shrugged as he stood and sprinted up the stairs. The boy had turned out a lot brawnier than Arthur had expected. Peter was at least a bit more of Arthur's build, but Matthew looked like he might turn out like Alfred. Alfred snatched the skateboard from his father.
"I dunno where they went. I thought Peter was drawing downstairs in the basement."
Alfred shrugged again and turned for the stairs. "Dunno. Maybe he's with Francis. If I lost my high score again, I'm blaming you, Arthur."
"Yeah yeah, it's not like you can't get it back," Arthur replied. "Don't you have work in another hour?"
"Then go get ready. You know how your boss hates you being late."
"Yeah I know!" Alfred said impatiently. "I'm the only guy there that knows how to do the job right. That's what he always says, but I think he's just saying that to keep me around."
Alfred griped as he went back downstairs. Arthur heard him walk into the kitchen and then the garage door slam shut. He shook his head and sighed. Where had he picked up that stubborn streak from? Arthur went back into the hallway and started to pick up the scatted clothes. He had barely started when he heard frantic shouting and the pounding of feet on carpet.
"Mom Mom Mom Mom-!"
Arthur rotated on a heel to see Matthew and Peter running towards him. They looked panicked.
"What's the matter you two?" he asked, standing. "Where's the fire?"
"Mom!" Matthew half shouted. The twelve year old had poor eyesight like his oldest brother. "You have to come quick!"
"Yeah yeah! Dad, it's really bad!" Peter put in. Arthur had never seen his fifteen year old look so upset.
The two boys grabbed Arthur's hands and started to pull him towards the staircase, all the while repeating 'It's really bad!'.
"Alright already! What's going on?"
"You have to see it, Mom!" Matthew said frantically. "Dad really did it this time!"
Arthur rolled his eyes as he walked down the stairs. "Oh, great. What did that idiot do this time? If he fell out of that apple tree again, I'm gonna shoot him, I swear!"
Peter shook his head. "No no, it's not that! He's in the garage!"
"W-wha…? The garage? What's he…?" Arthur was really confused now. Peter and Matthew pulled him harder through the living room, then the kitchen towards the garage door. Arthur yanked his hands away at the last moment.
"Alright you two, you're acting funny," he said suspiciously. "What's really going on?"
Matthew took on a sheepish look and his eyes shifted nervously. "Uhh…umm…well, Dad said we weren't supposed to tell you…"
"Mattie! Don't tell him!" Peter hissed. "It's supposed to be a surprise!"
Matthew turned to his step brother, the sheepish look still there. "But I don't like keeping things from Mom…even if it is mar-mmph!"
A quick hand from Peter was slapped over Matthew's mouth before he said another word. Arthur put his hands on his hips, looking back and forth at each boy. He raised an eyebrow.
"If I know Francis, there's dodgy business going on here. I am not about to have disorder in my house again!"
"No, wait Mom! It-it's not ready yet!" Matthew said quickly, grabbing his mother's hand. Arthur pulled it away.
"Matthew, don't you dare try and stop me. Your father's got something coming to him!" Arthur pushed past Peter and Matthew and opened the garage door, expecting the worst. But all he saw was his min-van parked in its space, the bay doors open and not a soul in sight, not even Alfred. Francis' Miata, however was not there. Arthur stepped down the short stairs into the garage, looking around. He turned back to his sons.
"Alright, this isn't amusing, boys."
Matthew and Peter looked just as confused as Arthur. Peter turned to his brother. "I thought you said he was here."
"He was here!" Matthew protested. "Dad said to bring Mom to the garage so he could surprise him!"
"Then where did he go?"
"I don't know! Dad! DAD!" Matthew came into the garage too, squeezing past the car to look out into the driveway. Arthur turned back for the house, muttering something about how useless Francis was when he heard Matthew shout. He looked over his shoulder to see Francis' Miata pull into the driveway and the Frenchman emerge with all his usual flamboyancy. Alfred and Seychel emerged from the sports car as well, carrying of all things, bouquets of flowers.
Francis grabbed Matthew around the neck and pulled him into a hug. "Ah, I knew I could count on you, my little boy!" he said delightedly.
"D-dad! I'm almost thirteen! I'm not little anymore!"
The Frenchman chuckled and released his son. "True true. But to your old man, you'll always be little."
Matthew blushed at the comment. "D-dad…stop it…"
Francis laughed again and spun on a heel, his arms open wide. "Ah, moi amour! "
He ran up the driveway towards Arthur, surprising for a man of his age, arms still outstretched and swept him up in a giant bear hug. He even went so far as to kiss him. Arthur didn't even bat an eye at the assault; he'd lived with Francis too long to be perturbed by his nature anymore. Francis released Arthur and instead took up his hand.
"You look beautiful today, my dear!"
Arthur's eyes narrowed. "What are you playing at?"
Francis blinked at the question. "I beg your pardon?"
"All of you have been acting funny since this morning. What's going on?"
"Why, my dear! I can't believe you'd accuse me of hiding things-,"
"Cut the crap Francis and just tell me."
Francis sighed, his arms going up in defeat. "I guess I can't hide it anymore. I was hoping for a slightly more romantic setting, but I suppose this will do. Arthur, m'dear, I'd like you and the children to come with me."
Francis gently tugged on Arthur's hand and pulled him out of the garage into the sunny driveway. Seychel and Alfred were still holding the flowers. Alfred was looking very uncomfortable and awkward but Seychel was grinning from ear to ear. She was a grown woman now and living on her own not far from the house.
"Daddy, ask him now!" she said excitedly.
"Not yet, my dear," Francis replied, holding a finger to his lips. "I still want it to be a surprise."
"What a surprise?" Arthur asked. "What are you plotting? Francis, tell me!"
"Oh I will in due time. But we need a more appropriate setting. As a matter of fact…"
As if on cue, Arthur saw a sleek black Mercedes limousine round the corner and stop right in front of the house. Arthur looked from the car to Francis then back again.
"All in due time, my love! Now, we go for a ride! Come!"
Francis graciously opened one of the limousine's doors and all six of them piled in. Seychel could hardly contain herself and Peter and Matthew were awful fidgety as the limousine started to drive away. The windows of the limousine were blacked out so you couldn't see where you were going. Arthur put a hand on the window, trying vainly to see though the glass.
"Where are we going?"
"You'll see soon enough."
They were driving for maybe an hour and a half by Arthur's take. The entire trip, the cabin was silent, save for Arthur's repeated question of where they were going. He could swear Seychel was going to explode from keeping the secret. He'd never seen her this excited before. Alfred was brooding next to him, his arms crossed and slouched in the seat.
At last Arthur felt the car slow and then stop. Francis sat up in his seat and smiled.
As everyone got out, Arthur found himself looking at something he hadn't seen in nearly thirty years. He looked up in amazement at the old now abandoned building.
"What the- Francis? What's this all about?"
Francis put his hands on Arthur's shoulders. "I've been wanting to do this for a long time, Cherie. Do you remember?"
Arthur looked over his shoulder at the Frenchman. "Remember what?"
Francis smiled at him again. "This is where we first met, all those years ago. I was a sophomore, you a freshman. Do you remember what you said to me?"
"I believe it was something along the lines of get lost," Arthur replied. "Where are you going with this?"
"Look at us now," Francis continued. "Unlikely friends. Turned lover, turned parents. Arthur…"
Francis walked around and took both of Arthur's hands. "Arthur darling, I have something very important I must ask you. However you answer me, it will never change how I feel." He reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. Arthur's eyes got wide when he saw it.
"O-oh no! Y-you can't! Francis, you can't!" He started to blush furiously as Francis got down on one knee there in the grass. Seychel started to giggle, Alfred rolled his eyes and the other two boys were staring wide eyed.
"Arthur…will you marry me?"
Arthur blushed even harder and covered his face up. He swallowed and looked through his fingers, tears forming in his eyes. He sniffed and put his hands over his heart. "…you idiot…why didn't you ask me sooner?"
"Eh? You mean-?"
"Idiot! Stupid head! Moron!" Arthur yelled. "You lived with me for ten years and finally now got the balls to ask me? Daft fool!"
Francis' smile broke out in a huge grin. He leapt to his feet and grabbed Arthur, squeezing him into a tight hug. "Oh, Arthur! You've just made me the happiest man on earth!"
"H-hey! Not so tight, you're gonna-!"
Arthur and Francis were tackled on all sides by their children. Even Alfred joined in. The family of six all fell into the grass, laughing and smiling. Arthur couldn't remember a time in the past ten years where they all had laughed together like this. Leave it to Francis to come up with an idea to bring everything back together.
Matthew rolled onto his butt and sat up, brushing leaves out of his blonde hair. "Now we all can be a real family at last!"
"Silly Mattie!" Peter retorted. "We've been a real family!"
Arthur looked around from the ground at his children; all of his children. He smiled at them all. "Yes. We're a family."
"That's right!" Francis said, sitting up as well. "Alfred, Seychel, Peter, Matthew…Arthur and myself…all of us. We're a family, and no golden ring or biased person can ever say otherwise."