The simple fact that you often worked late on the nights you worked your long shifts generally meant that you saw a lot of things others didn't. Your small and quaint town seemed to be full of surprises, varying from stray animals to much stranger, shadowy figures that sometimes you just didn't bother questioning. In fact, you had well convinced yourself over the years that nothing would surprise you anymore. You had every right to think so, especially after all the odd things you had seen over time.
It was one quiet, sleeting evening in November, and you were at your usual post, positioned by the small window in the restaurant you worked while time seemed to drag by almost painfully around you. The almost overly warm water in the deep sink was very near up to your elbows, and it provided a strange comfort to you as you gazed out into the streets. Nobody could possibly expect you to just stand there for hours on end at such a menial task without some sort of distraction at play, surely? The cold chills always messed with your brain, driving you crazy as it was. You could hardly put up with anything else.
The hours ticked by, agonisingly slow in their pace, and the sleet had dissolved to a steady downpour beyond the thin glass of the window. You gave a great yawn, glancing upwards briefly in order to see how the weather had progressed. The distinct shape of a large cat crept back into one of the many dirtied boxes on the side of the road as you watched, closely followed one of the usual homeless men that you saw rather often. You strained a smile as you watched him curl up by the cat, so content that you could hardly have believed he might have led a difficult life. You sleepily dropped your gaze, weakly putting aside and drying the final dish almost mechanically. Something in your mind sparked as you did so, however, and you excitedly reminded yourself that your shift was over for the night. The idea of actually sleeping rang distinctly in your ears, like church bells on a Sunday morning.
You dried the suds from your hands on the already soaked cloth by your side, then hurriedly gathered up your scarf and coat from the hook at the door to ready yourself for the onslaught of freezing rain. Running a hand through your hair, you felt a pleased smile crease your lips.
Goodness, how your exhaustion had suddenly made you so hyperactive, you had no idea.
You practically darted over to the back door of the restaurant, and were just ready to roughly throw it wide open, when something moving not far from your line of vision caught your eye. You carefully stepped out into the gale and freezing sheets of rain, clenching your teeth as the icy winds lashed your face mercilessly and soaked your clothing in a sheer matter of moments. Glancing around, you shivered and pulled your coat tighter around yourself, although the action did you very little good.
You had the most peculiar feeling that you were being watched, now, and it was disconcerting to say the least. The only thing was that most people in your oddly crowded street would have cleared off by now. It was incredibly unusual for anyone to still be lurking around, and you didn't particularly like the idea of potentially being followed, either. But, then again, you were a bit of a dramatic thinker in times such as these.
You took a deep breath, taking another involuntary step into the rain, only to be very much startled as you felt someone's hand close firmly around your shoulder. Practically hyperventilating, you brought your hand to your throat.
"Good evening, mademoiselle." The voice was cheerful, but you had no inclination as to what direction it had come from due to the distraction of being scared out of your wits only moments ago.
You nearly jumped out of your skin once more when he laughed, but maybe it was all simply because you were absolutely exhausted and your brain couldn't handle much at that hour.
But, nonetheless, after a strangely coherent train of thought you came to the conclusion that you should at least attempt to find out who it was that was directly by your side. You could be at least thankful that you hadn't been knocked unconscious or anything of that sort.
"H-hello." You stuttered, feeling rather pathetic and awkward as you were speaking to someone you could hardly see and also whom you had already assumed to be a criminal. However, just then the dark figure stepped finally into the dim light of the streetlamp overhead, and you managed to at last get a good look. Bright blue eyes, a charming smirk and wavy blonde hair were what you saw initially, before your gaze drifted downward to his strange blue cape. Plus a tricolour umbrella.
And, for the strangest reason, he seemed familiar. You racked your brains trying to remember, feeling more awkward by the moment. He continued to gaze at you, a little too strangely for your liking - you hated it when people stared at you while you were deep in thought.
Hang on... France...
Francis. Francis Bonnefoy. That rich representative of your own country. You could not help but blush lightly in embarrassment for keeping such a person waiting while you tried to just remember who he was.
"I'm sorry; it's just that my brain isn't the most functional at these times."
He chuckled, clearly amused. You could not help but wonder what he was doing out here, in your street, late at night, in the rain... none of it made any remote sense to you.
"Never mind that," he smiled pleasantly. "What I am merely wondering is why on Earth a young and pretty thing like yourself is wondering out and about in this cold, late at night? Surely you should have company?"
"I could ask the same of you." You responded, realising only too late that you had just effectively called France young and pretty. He laughed joyously, head shaking slightly with his chuckles.
"No, really. Isn't it a bit late for you to be wondering around here, as well? I have an excuse, at least. I had to work late. You're a bit more carefree, I'm guessing." you said, your voice raised slightly, gesturing to him with your free hand. You weren't particularly in the mood to be distracted from your stroll back to your home - in the pouring rain, that was.
On that thought, you quite suddenly realised that you were no longer being pelted with the rain, but were rather under the comfortable shade of Francis' umbrella. It was a small thing, meaning that now Francis was the one getting completely drenched. A pink tinge coloured your cheeks out of mingled embarrassed and surprise. You were quite blown away to find yourself, for the first time in years, actually surprised by something you saw.
"Hey, you do realise that it's raining heavily, don't you?"
He smiled softly. "Oui, I do. But it doesn't really matter."
Before you could stop him his hand was at your cheek, gently caressing your skin.
"Um... do you often do this?" You questioned him awkwardly, body half frozen with combined cold and shock.
"Wander around getting wet, holding umbrellas over other people and then getting a bit intimate with them?" The words escaped your lips before you could stop them.
He grinned, then, not seeming to mind the rain in the slightest. "Not usually, I'll admit. But France is often the most beautiful in the rain."
You couldn't help but feel incredibly flustered and also startled at the sheer oddity of the conversation you were having. Your eyes scanned his face carefully once more for some security as far as his sanity went. However, all you acheived was your own mental confirmation that he was, indeed, quite handsome.
"May I ask your name, mademoiselle?" The chime of his voice jolted you from your obscure and jumbled thoughts, causing you to blink and have to think for several seconds before answering.
"[Your Name]." You said quickly.
Another broad smile crossed his face, lighting up his eyes.
"And may I have the pleasure of escorting you home, [Your Name]? I'm a bit ashamed to say that I don't know this area very well, so I hope that you'll guide me." He said gently, gazing up to the starless sky.
"Well..." you pondered this proposal for a moment, silently wandering whether this was a particularly wise decision. You had to be prepared for anything. "... I suppose that I wouldn't mind."
With another cheery smile, then put an arm around you, pulling you close to him and holding the umbrella in a slightly better position over your head.
"Then onwards and forwards, chérie."
You had to admit, you rather enjoyed strolling along through the ever persistent rain with such a handsome Frenchman, despite how determined the weather seemed to dampen your spirits - no pun intended. He was oddly cheerful for such circumstances, and very amusing, and you did not at all mind his company by the time you'd be walking for the first twenty minutes. You were, of course, used to doing completing your walk by yourself day in, day out, and a change was nice. He kept your attention the entire way, laughing heartily, keeping an arm around you as you walked. While this irritated you at first, you found yourself warming to him.
You were almost reluctant to part with him when you reached your small house. It was a humble thing, shaded by the oaks before the front door, which were both dripping water onto the concrete path by now. Taking a few short leaps and jumps to your front door, trying to avoid getting soaked any more by the puddles, you reached the door at last and instantly began delving through your pockets for the key. Finding it at last, you closed your hand around the handle, but not before turning around to face the Frenchman once more.
"Thank you for that. I had fun." With a soft smile you turned your back to go inside, but you were halted mid stride as you felt the tip of his finger beneath your chin.
"You don't need to thank me, cherie. It's a gesture of kindness, oui? Nothing more."
Thinking over his words, your smile widened.
"A little, I suppose-" the words died on your tongue before you could finish as you watched him slowly remove his cape, and wrap it around your shoulders. You looked back at him, dumbstruck. He gave a short laugh.
"I hope that you will not mind if I take back the umbrella? I'm just really fond of it."
"Oh, yes, of course..."
You handed back the umbrella quickly, only to be caught off guard as he span around, catching the umbrella with one hand and your hand with the other, meeting your skin with his lips for a light kiss.
"Francis?" you mumbled.
He looked up at you, saying nothing, awaiting your comment.
"I ought to be getting back inside; it's cold out here. The rain's not helping."
Appearing saddened by this, he released your hand, then gently inclined his head low to level with yours. "I could always keep you warm myself, however." he whispered.
You were incredibly annoyed with yourself this time as you blushed brightly at his words. "N-no, thank you."
He sighed heavily. "Maybe I shall see you again some other time, then."
"You'll find me back at the restaurant, I'm sure." You smiled.
He kissed you softly on the forehead, then reached your lips a little faster than you had thought he would. Your eyelids fluttered closed, and you felt his smile beneath your lips.
Then he was gone all too suddenly, vanishing back into the night, leaving you out in the middle of the night with a flashy cape and a perplexed expression on your face.
But you had already made up your mind on when you would see him again.