Tears ran down Arthur’s filthy cheeks and he trembled as he adjusted the strip of leather in his mouth. Placing his hand over the barrel of his rifle, he gulped once. He’d made his resolve. If he would maim himself in such a way that would render him unsuitable for battle, he’d be sent back home. Just the thought about home made his heart ache painfully.
You were waiting for him at home and if he could just pull through at this moment then you could be in his arms forever. Squeezing his eyes shut, he gasped when a grenade went off near his side of the trench. Even if he’d burrowed himself partly into the muddy side of the gash in the landscape, filth splattered all over his already disgusting uniform, camouflaging him even more than the colour of the clothes had originally wanted to.
The reverberation had surprised him, he’d dropped the gun to the floor and he cursed in his frustration as he watched the weapon sink closer to the waterlogged bottom. His wits returning, he clamped his teeth over the leather tightly and snatched up the rifle before it could get wet and completely ruin his plan. He returned it to its upright position with his hand placed over it.
“Arzher! Arzher!” He cursed again, silently shedding the last of his tears. With a balled fist, he roughly wiped the moisture from his grass-green eyes which had long since stopped shining in joy. “What do you want frog!” He barked, his voice cracking on the last word.
Francis paled, running a hand through his cropped hair underneath the grimy helmet. “Ami, what were you trying to do?! Not zhat zhat matters anymore! Arzher! Zhey said zhe war was going to end!”
“What?!” Arthur blanched, eyes staring as he registered what Francis had said. With a look of disgust he chucked the gun away, wiping his bandaged hand on his shirt. “I-Is it true?!”
“Oui! Zhe officers are signing zhe agreement as we speak!” A weak feeling sounded through Arthur’s chest. What was this? It-it was like a bubbling feeling and moreover his cheeks were pulling up, what on earth was this?
The Brit started chuckling, smiling and laughing for the first time in what felt like an eternity. He could go home! He would see you again, he would, he would! Tears continued to flow down his cheeks as he trembled with happiness. Wrapping his own arms around him, he sobbed as he imagined you in his arms. Hopefully this would no longer be just a dream of his.
“We have to tell the others!” He shouted, wincing when he heard another shell go off. “Why aren’t they stopping?!” Francis glanced up worriedly, pulling Arthur down from his inconspicuous spot. “Zhe war isn’t over yet. We have to fight to zhe last minute unfortunately! Just keep your ‘ead down and don’t get shot like an idiot!”
Arthur grinned for the first time in months. “Don’t worry! I’ll be careful!” He sped off in the opposite direction to the way Francis had come, sloshing through the water. The Frenchman shook his head, trailing after his friend once he’d taken hold of Arthur’s neglected gun and had rested it on his shoulder.
“The war’s going to end! It’s going to end I say!” Arthur called, quietening down when Francis tapped on the head with the bayonet. “Yell a bit louder, maybe zhen zhe boches ‘ear as well.” Francis rolled his eyes, sarcasm dripping from his tone.
“That’s a brilliant idea!” The Frenchman’s blue eyes widened as Arthur scrambled up one of the rickety ladders. “Stop shooting! The war’s going to end! We’ll all be able to go home!”
“You fool! Get down from zhere!” Francis cried, tugging harshly on Arthur’s mud-stained trousers. Arthur cupped his mouth. “Can you hear me?! The war is ending!!” An intake of breath, the slicing of air and the impact. That was all Arthur sensed as something struck him in the chest. Darkness clouded his vision and he pitched backwards, his head falling back limply as something cut through the buzzing, eerie silence that had settled in his mind.
The whistling of the train as it came into the station. The weeping of mothers, sisters, wives all crying out to their loved one. The ones that returned that is. Devastated family members sobbed into their damp handkerchiefs, turning tail to return home where they could mourn their loss in peace.
You were no exception. “Arthur?! Arthur!!” You called again and again, pushing past the embracing couples of people, searching desperately for a familiar mop of messy blonde hair. “Arthur?” You trembled, bringing your hand to your mouth as your other pinched your wrist sharply. Not wanting to break down here, you gulped down the chunk of sadness in your throat, waiting until all the bystanders had left the small station.
That’s when you dropped to the ground, convulsing with your sobs. Your heart panged painfully and all you could feel was agony, despair and darkness. “(Y/n)!” Your head perked up, but seeing the person that called your name didn’t make you feel even slightly better. It wasn’t him.
“You know, I’d ‘ave liked to see a smile or somezhing since I came all the way ‘ere!” Francis said, doubled over and panting. “I apologise for being late, mon ange, mais I ‘ad a good reason.” Not bothering to answer, you continued to stare blankly at him, your tears still streaming down your face.
“Come now, I want to see a smile, (y/n).”
“Where is he? Where’s my Arthur?” You pleaded, clinging to his legs. “Whoa! Mon amour, calm down et turn zhat frown upside down!” He stooped beside you, gazing into your eyes happily.
“Your Arhzer is in a small ‘ospital in zhe North of France. ‘e was ‘urt, but unfortunately zhe fall ‘e made when ‘e got shot was worse for ‘im. Even zhough I managed to catch ‘im, ‘e banged ‘is ‘ead pretty badly. At zhe moment ‘e can’t remember most zhings.”
Francis grinned, ruffling your hair. “All ‘e does is grumble about zhe quality of zhe tea.” Fresh tears sprung to your eyes and you gasped, hugging Francis tightly. “Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!” He rubbed your back soothingly and pressed a kiss to your forehead.
“Do not worry, ‘e’s safe. And now we ‘ave a train to catch, non?”
Francis’s words echoed through your mind as one of the white clad nurses led you to Arthur, weaving in and out of the masses of cots with injured men on them.
“Don’t be too shocked when you see ‘im. As ‘e is now, ‘e probably won’t recognise you. Zhe doctors know ‘e ‘as lost parts of ‘is memory, but zhey don’t know yet what will bring zhose parts back. Who knows, per’aps seeing you will trigger his memories, but zhere is always a chance zhat ‘e won’t recognise you.”
Nodding to yourself decisively, you smiled as the nurse murmured something in French. Even if you didn’t understand it, you could tell what she meant. She left you standing in front of a bed that was cordoned off with several curtains.
Moving part of the canvas sail to the side, you peered in. Arthur was sleeping soundly, his blond hair cropped shorter than you remembered it. A wicker chair stood next to the cot and soundlessly you sat down in it, folding your hands in your lap. You watched him sleep and it took you a long time to gain the courage to reach out your hand.
It was as if you were in a dream that could be burst like a balloon at any moment. Your trembling fingers soon made contact with the soft skin of the Brit and you bit your lip to keep from crying out in joy.
Blinking his emerald eyes open, it took him a while for him to focus on you. When he saw you properly, he blinked. A flow of images, sounds and sensations shot through his mind. Most of the fleeting moments in time were moments he spent with you. Laughing, smiling, watching the stars as they twinkled in the midnight-blue sky, light, tentative touches accompanied by shy giggles and nervous, hushed chuckles.
His eyebrows pulling to the middle he scrambled to sit up and winced at the throbbing pain, not that that stopped him. Pulling you into his arms, he started trembling just as you were. “(Y/n)! (Y/n).” He breathed, tightening his arms around you as though he would never let go.
“Arthur!” You murmured, reaching up to stared into his tear-filled eyes. “I thought I’d never see you again.” Arthur placed his hand on your own, pulling it up to press kisses on your palm and nuzzle into it. “I’m so happy to see you love.” He whispered, burying his nose in your hair again. “You miss me?”
“Of course I did! Every day I was so worried! A letter saying that you were-...” you couldn’t even say it,” one of those could arrive at any time. You have no idea how worried I was about you.”
Tilting your chin up, he kissed away your tears gently. Both your sets of eyes fluttered closed as you pressed your lips to his and they moved with a kind of urgency. The kind of urgency that made your heart pound in your ears.
When you both pulled back for breath, Arthur smiled. It was as if his entire being radiated contentedness, relief and pure, undiluted joy. “I’m back love.” Stroking your cheek gently, he gazed lovingly into your eyes and planted another kiss onto your lips. “And I’m never going to let you go again.”