13.) What does your character’s bed look like when he/she wakes up? Are the covers off on one side of the bed, are they all curled around a pillow, sprawled everywhere? In what position might they sleep?
The more I consider this, the more sure I am that it would be very…difficult to handle. Friends have died before—inevitably—but having been a part of the continent for so long, and having worked in close quarters for years up on years—it wouldn’t be easy, certainly. We’ve been on opposing sides of conflict in the past, but I do consider him a personal friend still, and I would miss him greatly.
The bite in his voice is lost, but the expression on his face, the set in his jaw and scowl shows vividly, tells everything that his eyes and voice does not. Arthur hates the weakness in his voice, all raspy words and choked sounds. He turns into himself, presses harder against his stomach in hopes to suppress the churning and twisting, and when he thinks he’s settled, he tastes the bile at the back of his throat, bitter and acidic. The soft touch of a hand comes and the words penetrate his thoughts, calms him down if only just a little, enough for him to focus. He removes his hand and opens his mouth, “Just get me out of here,” he gasps, swallows thickly before he has the chance to empty his stomach contents on the starch white sheets. He processes Francis’s words last, only shakes his head flippantly, and clasps the hand in his own tightly. It’s much bigger than his, curves around and encloses it.
Out of reflex, he blinks and turns his head, uses his imagination to picture things in the room. He squints, but it sends sharp pains, his brows furrow and everything displays on his face. Arthur pictures Francis in a chair beside him, wheat colored hair falling over his shoulders, perhaps held up in a tie? Arthur always wondered why he kept his hair so long. Bright blue eyes dulled under the weight of the situation, he visions the loss of light. Arthur gives his friend’s hand another squeeze to reassure himself that Francis was still there. He lowers his gaze, blankly stairs at what he only guesses to be equally white linoleum that probably matched the white of a typical hospital. Bland and depressing. He imagines a window, big and wide parallel to his bed, but just out of reach of his hands, that filters in light and sky, or fluorescent light and stars. A sunset? Arthur can’t remember the last time he witnessed a sunset.
“I want to leave, I can’t stand it here,” by this point, Arthur is slumped against his bed, feels the exhaustion take over and molds his body to the bed. With his free hand, Arthur scratches at the irritating IV in his arm, doesn’t care that it stings sharply, needle digging and scraping.
“Don’t scratch, you’ll only agitate the area,” Arthur recognizes the voice instantly, has it stored in his mind, tucked away. He visions a scowl on his doctor’s face, matches the scolding tone in his voice, but Arthur chooses to ignore him, focuses on Francis, Francis—“I want to leave—now,” his repeats again, voice is low, and he hopes, wills for Francis to pick him up and carry him away. Arthur hears the doctor shift around, papers, bottles, and for a minute Arthur feels paranoid, brings his legs up and presses them to his chest.
What else was there to do? He wants to make the appropriate arrangements, right away even. It’s worse to see Arthur here, like this, in a hospital. It’s nauseating, and Francis imagines it must be even more so for him.
He squeezes Arthur’s hand and can feel the bones beneath his skin—he’d never seemed so thin as he does now. He brushes Arthur’s fingers away from the IV with his other hand, and says quietly, “We’ll have to see what the doctors think is best. I’ll do what I can, Arthur.”
And he does, to the best of his ability. He’s never had reason to be in a hospital—he didn’t know the appropriate protocol for this type of situation. He touches Arthur’s shoulder, though, and gives the doctor a meaningful look. It’s not worth the chance of further agitating any injury to take Arthur home, but—he isn’t happy, or comfortable, and Francis is a soft touch. Seeing people miserable is a miserable activity in of itself.
Francis does a quick tally of the things he’ll need to get done, then—with a gesture, and a shared nod, he makes plans to speak to the doctor; he’ll need to collect the right papers and—does Arthur have a next-of-kin? And who is it, if he does? They might need to be present, and distant recollection tells him Arthur might not be terribly fond of his family, and he knows he won’t want them to see him like this. There’s that to take care of. Transportation, learning his way about his flat all over again. And no doubt a slew of other miscellany he couldn’t think of at the moment.
Arthur curls up in the bed and looks pitiful enough for a moment that Francis squeezes his shoulder again and says, “A word, doctor?”
The hallway smells dismal and septic, but the good doctor shows no signs of noticing it. Workplace hazards, he supposes. Their discussion is fast and held mostly in low tones, the sounds of conspiring parents outside a child’s bedroom. Factual and stern, the doctor explains the process of checking Arthur out, and the compensations that will have to be made. He says, quite plainly, that therapy is a likelihood, physical or otherwise. Mentions half a dozen support groups in too fast a tongue for Francis to even think of writing them down, and the possibility of depression, of trauma. Dog training and coping strategies and regular appointments. Francis listens silently, takes in as much of it as he can, and commits it to memory. A duty, this had become.
Out of something like respect, he lets the doctor go back in alone to explain the nitty-gritty of the near future, wavering for a moment as he decides to wait outside. It may not have been comfortable, but knowledge was power, and primed with the new information, he swallows his guilt for half an hour and leaves to negotiate the appropriate forms from the secretary at the front desk, sparing half a second’s glance back to Arthur’s white-walled room.
It scarcely mattered to him to know and understand the ways of the European powers, and though old Peter had spun him tales of beautiful, warm lands and women with skin of ivory, he never bothered to memorize them in his fit of rebellion. And why should he, Ivan reasoned, that he pay any mind to their tenacity when they never cared for him before his victory over the Swedish? Ridiculousness was at its fullest in his eyes, and yet the hierarchic patrons swooned over the thought of France becoming an ally.
Ivan sneered at the thought, but he was aware of the importance of politics and so he tolerated the buzzing of ecstatic diplomats with a smile, watching them scatter to and fro, drunken with good duties as though they prepared for the second coming of Christ himself. Though initially irritated, Ivan could never be cross with them; rather, he lacked the severity to retain enmity for his own people, as a parent does for their child.
So they were, in his own eyes, and had they always been, even many years ago when his people struggled for stability and he himself was naught but a puny imp to them, but in primordial instinct, Ivan knew that their ages dwarfed in comparison to his.
Still, he wondered of what France must thought of him. As much as it roiled within him, he anticipated the second arrival of the French diplomacy, and, though bitterly admitted, he yearned for approval. Not so much for companionship as it was for guidance, really, yet the image of what envisioned France to be sickened him. He imagined the short, stout visage of a grey bearded man, beady eyes straining to see him over the groomed, walrus mustache and brow sweating profusely, wiping it every minute or so, even as he shakes Ivan’s hand.
Ivan worried the iron rosary around his neck with anxiety, silently breathing a prayer that the grace of the Lord granted him through the awaiting day.
Petersburg was not a city built for reception, that much was obvious. Painfully so, even. It had been best to keep their party small—had they arrived elsewise, he doubted the Russians would know what to do with them.As it was, the city was only half the measure of the nation, and the city, at least, was trying.
Upon arrival, he had sought first the suite of rooms assigned to the French delegates, and then someone who spoke a decent language to point him where he needed to go. The latter, to Francis’ admittedly pleasant surprise, was the simpler task—while those of the lower classes spoke in one of the harsh, throaty language of the Slavs, there were enough versed in the tongues of the west to relay necessities with ease. The language of diplomacy, he was equally pleased to note, had been brought even to the farthest corners of Europe.
It was, he thought, both prudent and practical for him to be here; matters would be taken care of on half a dozen different tiers, and though not nearly so busy as an envoy to a more established nation, the forging of diplomatic ties was invariably a dance of give, take, and compromise. And while, ultimately, the tone of negotiations would not be set by interaction between the nations themselves, it would be advantageous to appease the young war-maker to the north.
The inner halls of the palace were wrought of baroque finery, gold gilt and shining walls that arch high above; staircases twine strategically throughout, and he finds that even if this is no Russian Versailles, it comes very close to what could be. Grandiose dreamery, the imagined palace evoked by the imagery of literature, and if there is a touch of French architectural influence to it all, Francis imagines it nearly flattering. Nearly so.
With half-stuttered instruction from a passing Russian dignitary, he had gone in search of unfamiliar landmarks about the place; ballrooms whose names he wasn’t sure of and fixtures that must seem so commonplace they needn’t specifications. A hassle, but not much of one; and—a benefit to the situation, really—it gave him a chance to look about the palace with impunity.
Hardly indefinitely, though. Having arrived at the door indicated by the Russian’s hasty instruction, Francis took half a moment to prepare for the worst, and knocked twice.