fishwrites (fishwrites) wrote,

fic: A Photograph of the Artist as a Young Man - 1A

Title: A Photograph of the Artist as a Young Man - Chapter 1a
Author: fishwrites
Artist: Abhauen (the story to her blindchild!au)
Wordcount: ~10K
Pairing(s): Arthur/Alfred
Rating: PG for language (this part)

Summary: Rising fashion model Alfred Jones is cast along side the famous but reclusive Arthur Kirkland for a GQ UK editorial. He quickly discovers that the fashion world's new golden child is actually blind. (A story of high fashion, of cats in the snow, of brothers and violins. A story of being in love and being blind. A story of an artist and his photographs.)



of the


as a



the story to Abhauen's blind!child art verse.


{| ONE |}


"For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it.

For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it."

– Ivan Panin.


                The Milestone Hotel, London, Present Day.

"I still don't see why you couldn't make do with someone closer to home," said Arthur.

He leaned back into his chair, stretching his legs out in front of him. His hand was curled around a china tea-cup. He could feel the reassuring warmth of the teapot near his elbow and drew a lazy pattern in the velvet coverlet of the armrest with his free hand, bored.

Francis chuckled. The rustle of fabric as the French photographer shifted in his seat, recrossing his legs. The quiet shift of sleeves against cufflinks. Somewhere in the room, a grand father clock chimed for three in the afternoon. Arthur drank more tea.

"I could never make do, as you say," mused Francis, "What about my reputation?"

Arthur snorted.

"What reputation, exactly?"

"Oh you wound me," said Francis without any real conviction. It was more or less routine now, the insult, the half-hearted banter. "I needed someone… more authentic. With a bit of sun in his hair."

"Right. So you shipped one over from California," said Arthur, unimpressed, "What's more, you ship some obscure name who has been on the books for how long?"

"Six months," said Francis nonchalantly, "Though to be fair we ourselves have not been around for that long. I saw a glimpse of him at New York fashion week – the one you did not attend. Though you can't have forgotten already, I'm sure I mentioned him to you - "

"In detail," Arthur interjected, taking the teapot and pouring himself another cup. The interruption didn't seem to deter Francis' enthusiasm, however – he was still prattling on.

" – lovely blue eyes and a lovelier pair of legs. Mmm," said Francis, drawing out the last syllable in thoughtful pleasure, "a tad taller than you which would suit that scene I have in mind, oui… the one with the rifles. A little young about the face and from what Tino tells me – he's that Finnish designer who found him – rather excitable. Though I'm sure your sweet temperament shall soon put him right."

"Bugger off," said Arthur, sinking even deeper into his chair, "I don't care how amazing this boy is – he's also late."

He bit out the last word sharply, hoping that he sounded irritated enough to cover the slight buzz of nerves at the base of his spine. It wasn't that he was nervous about meeting the boy – it was the prospect of shooting with someone else that made Arthur uneasy.

"I'm sure he shall arrive soon – I sent him a car," said Francis easily.

"Of course you did."

"And what's that supposed to me, mon ami?"

A brisk knock at the door of the suite saved Arthur the trouble of forming a suitably witty retort. He drained the rest of the tea instead, taking his time refilling the cup. Something to occupy his hands with, and look occupied.

"Speak of the devil," said Francis, and there was the sound of shifting fabric once more as he stood up, crossing the room in a few long strides. The click and metallic sound of a door handle being turned.

Yes, thought Arthur, uneasy was the word. After all, he usually shot solo – and only with Francis. It was easier that way, both of them used to each other's habits, movements and idiosyncrasies. A third person was someone Arthur couldn't read, couldn't predict, couldn't see. It made him uneasy, the thought of this unknowingness being captured in still, frozen time.

"Ah, bonjour," said Francis – Arthur could almost see the hand-wave, the smooth flick of wrist and sleeve, – "I'm glad you found us. Come in, come in!"

"Thanks!" someone said, brightly, "Yeah, sorry I'm a bit late the traffic was insane. I'm Alfred! Alfred F. Jones!"

Even from across the room, Arthur could hear the exclamation marks punctuating the end of every word as the newcomer shook hands with Francis. He sounded very, very American. Arthur set the teapot back on the table with deliberate care and ignored the exchange.

"Well, it's London," said Francis, "Be glad it isn't raining the moment."

The boy – Alfred – laughed, and the sound was so loud, so unrestrained that it caught Arthur by surprise. It was a nice laugh, he thought absentmindedly…then mentally slapping himself the face. No. It was abrasive and annoying and Francis had no business forcing Arthur to be its company. It probably had a gormless grin to go with it, thought Arthur uncharitably.

"It was raining buckets when I got here yesterday!" said Alfred. The door closed with a soft thud-snick and there was the sound of footsteps, one heavier than the other. Arthur couldn't be too sure since the sound was so muffled by the thick hotel carpet, which was probably patterned with the fur-de-lis to match the embossed wallpaper.

There was a long moment of silence.

"Um," said Alfred.

"Oh, that's just Arthur. Don't mind him, he's here because he couldn't bear to be apart from me even for one-"

"Shut it, frog," snapped Arthur from his seat, not turning around.

"Arthur will be your other half," explained Francis, the sound of his voice shifting as he presumably turned to face Alfred, "I was casting for our second model when I found you."

"Oh," said Alfred. "Nice to meet you, Arthur…?"

Maybe Arthur was imagining it, but Alfred sounded a little put out – perhaps because Arthur had yet to get out of his seat and greet him properly.

"Charmed," said Arthur dismissively, taking another sip from his cup. He remained seated, his chair turned strategically away from where Francis was now sitting with Alfred, a delicate glass table separating them. There was a crystal ashtray sunk into the centre of the table, and Arthur could still smell the remnants of the cigarette Francis had early this morning. He wrinkled his nose and inhaled the scent of Earl Grey with relief.

Tea calmed him; like the steady beat of a Chopin waltz, turned down low in the evening. His brother used to play along to the CDs, making up a duet on his violin as he went. Arthur would drink his cup of tea before it got cold, and the evening would draw its curtains, like eyelashes at the end of a long, long day.

"I know this isn't quite the usual way of doing things," said Francis, "But I wanted to see you in person before we meet with everyone tomorrow. You know, just in case. Take a few photographs. Et cetera."

"That's fine!" said Alfred. Arthur could feel the boy's gaze on his face, curious. There was a brief pause before Alfred seemed gather his wits about him. "Oh – um. Is my glasses okay? I have contacts too but I forgot to put them in this morning because I was in such a rush earlier – I didn't get to sleep on the plane much and there was this screaming baby in the row behind me, I'm kinda still jetlagged and – "

Goodness it was like the lad had diarrhoea of the mouth.

"Do you always talk this much?" Arthur interrupted, "Francis, get on with it."

"Haha! Aw, you're so British!" exclaimed Alfred delighted, as if Arthur wasn't insulting him, "Aw!"

Arthur scowled. Francis only laughed.

"Francis," warned Arthur – a verbal glare.

"Sorry, mon lapin," said Francis. "Alfred – if you could step this way? And just take off your glasses for now, that will do."

Footsteps and the shifting of fabric as Alfred presumably stepped this way. Arthur smirked into his teacup. Sometimes it was amusing to see how people interacted when confronted with Francis' charm and the weight of his fame. Arthur has seen stylists, models and assistants alike rush around to cater to the Frenchman's every whim, perhaps hoping for a spark of the flame when it was still hot. And Francis could be nothing but demanding when it suited him.

He heard the familiar click-whirr of a camera as Francis continued to talk to Alfred, casually taking pictures as they went. Alfred, it seems, had overcome is brief moment of shyness and was back to talking.

"…yeah, my grandparents have this awesome ranch – they live in Texas though, not with us – and I used to help out a lot when I was younger. Mattie was more a book-person tand he always complained that it was too hot but I loved it."

"Mattie?" Francis enquired. Click.

"My brother – he looks exactly like me. We're twins!"

Arthur rolled his eyes at the conversation – how utterly unprofessional. Francis, on the other hand, made a noise, which to any other person would have sounded surprised, but to Arthur's trained ear was nothing lewd.

"Twins? Really? …And does he model also?"

"Nah, Mattie is super shy and hates cameras. We were in a TV commercial together once though, when we were like five. For pancake mix."

Francis laughed, and there was the sound of something – his camera – being set down on the glass coffee table.

"Well perhaps we can persuade him to grace my camera at some point in the near future, oui? Twins are…striking, as they say. Now, Arthur? I need to borrow you for a moment."

Ignoring the bundle of nerves knotting his stomach, Arthur gave an exaggerated sigh of annoyance. He set the unfinished cup of Earl Grey on its saucer before standing up, one hand lingering on the back of the chair was he made his way towards Francis. Judging by the stripes of sunlight painting slivers of warmth across the carpet, Francis was standing with his back to the windows, with Alfred slightly to his left. He needn't have worried though, as Francis wrapped an arm around Arthur's waist and tugged him around, nudging and pushing him into position. Arthur scowled.

"Merci," said Francis, stepping back, "Just stay there and let me think."

"Wait," said Alfred, who had fallen suspiciously silent until then. Then he exclaimed, as if seeing Arthur properly for the first time (which to be fair he was), "You're – You're Arthur Kirkland!"

Arthur folded his arms, deliberately turning his shoulders so that his face was turned away again.

"Yes," he said shortly.

Then suddenly he was spun around by large hands, one of them grasping his own and shaking it up and down vigorously.

"Holy sh- awesome to meet you, I'm Alfred!"

Shocked by the forwardness of the gesture and a little bit embarrassed by the flattering tone of awe in Alfred's voice, Arthur wrenched his hand back.

"I know. You've introduced yourself three times already," he said, turning away again, hoping he wouldn't blush. His hand tingled from when it had been held too tightly.

Alfred laughed. "Aw, sorry. But it's…. I just didn't think I'd actually meet – like wow, I loved your Burberry campaign you know?"

"Right," said Arthur, awkwardly, "Ah. Thank you."

It was Alfred's proximity that was so off putting; Arthur wasn't sure if he was going to be grabbed again and shifted slightly away just in case. He could hear Alfred more of less vibrating with energy and wondered how this partnership was ever going to work. Arthur was struck by the urge to hold Alfred still – and wondered what his face looked like. Right now 'Alfred' was only a blur of enthusiasm, a bright loud voice and vague descriptions from Francis. He was a tall shadow in the late afternoon sunshine. That barely painted a portrait of a person. He seemed larger than life, too young, too unprofessional, too cheerful.

Arthur found it all a little disorienting.

Francis made a tsk noise at the back of his throat.

"Let's not get overexcited," he said, "Now if you will stand still, Alfred. Merci."


Arthur, who was used to the way Francis worked, pretended to examine his nails, one hand resting in his pocket as he listened to Alfred fidget beside him. He shifted from one foot to the other, then back again. Then he scratched the back of his head. Then there the sound of hands being shoved into small pockets – was the boy wearing jeans? Typical.

Meanwhile Arthur could hear Francis walking slowly around them both.

"Do you want me in a chair now?" asked Arthur, pre-emptively.

"Mm," said Francis. Arthur took three steps to his left to where he knew there was a high backed chair next to the chaise long. He pulled it over, careful not to whack the chair leg on anyone, and straddled it.

"Um, do I need to-" Alfred began.

"No yet," said Arthur.

There was a long, long pause. Arthur rested his chin on the back of his hand.

Alfred scuffed his shoes on the carpet.

"Alright," said Francis. Arthur took the cue to stand up.

"Now you sit," said Arthur.

"…how?" asked Alfred, sounding a little wary, "Do I just sit?"

"I believe that is what I said," said Arthur, briskly. He didn't want to make any gestures in case they were a little off – he still wasn't quite sure how tall Alfred was, after all – so he waited until he heard him take the seat.

They sat in silence as Francis regarded them thoughtfully. Arthur could feel the warmth of the sunshine on his face, filtering in through the window. Perhaps he should draw back the drapes a little more.

"Perfect," said Francis, and his tone had snapped back into usual, "You two a match made in-"

"Finish that sentence, frog, and I'll rip your balls off," said Arthur.


" – heaven, exactly as I knew you would. My judgement is never wrong, of course, but I had to be sure," Francis continued, clapping his hands together.

Arthur didn't bother to reply, simply made his way back across the room until his fingers brushed the back of the armchair. He sank down into it, grateful that its back hid him from view. He rubbed his eyes with his hand, then reached for the pot of now lukewarm tea on the table beside him.

"Now, Mr. Jones," said Francis, all business once more, "I need you to take a look at these ah, documents, before the shoot. There are some extra clauses in the contract which I wish for you to sign for."

Alfred's brows furrowed in a confusion.

"Extra ones? Um, can you send those to my mo- uh, agent?"

Francis raised a sharp eyebrow and Arthur tensed in his chair. The teacup made a small tinkering sound as it shook slightly against its saucer.

"That would be quite unnecessary – it's just a few confidentiality clauses with regards to Mr. Kirkland and myself – important in this industry, you'd understand."

There was a flurry of movement and the rustle of papers being set on the glass coffee table. Both Francis and Alfred sat down – a muted snap as Francis closed a leather folder and placed it on the arm of his chair. Another rustling of papers.

"Oh, so like I can't say anything about your personal…blah blah blah," said Alfred as he turned the page, "Cool. Do I just sign here?"

There was a pause. Arthur wondered if Alfred was acting stupid or was simply careless and naïve. He was putting his money on the latter bet.

"You would want to read that carefully," said Francis, his tone pleasant.

"Sure!" said Alfred, "Um, can I borrow your pen?"

Another pause.

"Certainly," said Francis.

Arthur heard the smooth, metallic shlick as Alfred uncapped Francis' fountain pen. It was a heavy thing, cool to the touch. It had the Bonnefoy family crest embossed in gold upon it, and Arthur knew Francis carried that thing with him everywhere. He could still remember what it looked like, from before.

"Is that it?" asked Alfred, cheerfully.

Arthur let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding, all the tension draining from his shoulders so that he slumped a little in his seat.

"Indeed mon cher," said Francis, and there was another flurry of movement, "Now, I trust you can make it to location on time on Wednesday."

Alfred laughed – it sounded sheepish.

"Yeah, sorry about today. I'll be there super early," he said.

"Good good," said Francis. The shuffle of footsteps as they both moved towards the door, "And we're meeting with the rest of the crew tomorrow, and nine o'clock sharp. Do not be late for that either. Antonio knows Arthur well by now but we need to make sure everything will fit you well."

He drew out the last word, suggestive, and Arthur wanted to smack him. Alas he could not reach.

"Okay!" said Alfred. Again with the exclamation marks, thought Arthur irritably, "Awesome! Um. I'll see you later Arti- Mr. Kirkland!"

Arthur gave a regal sort of dismissive wave from behind the couch.

"Yes, yes," he said, "Just don't be late tomorrow."

"No," agreed Francis, "Or I shall be…most displeased, non? It was lovely meeting you – read over that before the shoot."

"Will do!" said Alfred. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet – Arthur could tell, even with the carpet, "Thanks for – yeah, it was awesome meeting you guys."

"And you," replied Francis, sounding amused now.

A pause.

"I have things to discuss with Mr. Kirkland."

"Oh! Sure, sorry I'll be going now."

A chuckle. The soft thud-snick as the heavy wooden door closed.

"Well," said Francis, "That was interesting."

Arthur went to refill his cup only to find that there was no more tea left in the pot. He sighed.


"Holy shit," said Alfred, leaning against the closed door, "Holy shit that was Arthur Kirkland."

Pushing off from the door, he waited until he was in the gilded lift and out of earshot. Then Alfred pulled his phone from his pocket, biting the inside of his cheek with excitement. He counted the numbers flashing above the door as he sped-dialled the number one. The phone rang for a good three floors before being picked up.


"MOM! You're never guess what!" Alfred exclaimed, unable to keep his voice down. Then suddenly he had a mini heart attack as he quickly did the maths in his head. Minus five hours. Oh thank god, it was already 10am in New York. His mother wouldn't kill him.

"I'm guessing you're about to tell me," she said.

"Aw, well yeah, but seriously though – so I just met with the photographer, right? And-"

"Bonnefoy? I hope you impressed him."

Alfred's heart sank a little, his mother's words instantly making him worry. Had he impressed? Maybe he had talked too much… The lift chimed as the doors opened onto the opulent lobby and Alfred stepped out, phone still pressed to his ear.

"Well I think it went okay – they've officially cast me already so. Um. But you'll never guess who they've cast for the other guy – wait they didn't tell you first and you just never told me did you because that's -"

"No, I don't know. Do get to the punch line, sweetie, Mommy's a little busy."

His shoes – new and shiny and a little bit uncomfortable to walk in – squeaked on the polished marble floor as he crossed the lobby. The doorman bowed him out of the gilded front doors and Alfred stepped onto the busy street, late afternoon sunshine throwing long shadows across the road.

"It's Arthur Kirkland! The Arthur Kirkland!" he blurted out, unable to keep his voice down. A few passers-by cast him quick, curious glances.

There was a static-filled pause in his ear.

"Arthur Kirkland?" his mother repeated, and Alfred's heart gave a happy wiggle as he detected the impressed tone in his mum's voice. "You're joking. You're joking! They cast you with Arthur Kirkland?"

Alfred pouted, even though his mother obviously couldn't see him over the phone.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Tsk. Alfie, don't be so sensitive – you know as well as I do how green you are, it's nearly unheard of – I mean do you know he never works with anyone but Francis Bonnefoy? And refuses to come to New York no matter how many times I've asked…"

"Yeah I heard he was super picky-"

"And he never shoots with another model, never. Well, Bonnefoy has always insisted for some strange reason. You're the first."

Alfred gulped, eyes a little wide.

"Oh shit," he said, "The first…?"

"Yes. So you'll forgive mommy for being surprised. Pleasantly surprised. See? Didn't I say you were born to model? Thank god you inherited your father's bone structure, even if he wasn't good for much else. It would have been such a waste for you to be off crunching numbers in an office or whatever it was you wanted to -"

"Build rockets-" Alfred interjected, a little peevishly.

"- of course sweetie. And this just proves me right! Mm?"

"Yeah mom," said Alfred, dutifully.

"Now, you must keep me updated. And I don't need to tell you how important this shoot is for your career."

"No mom."

"Good. Arthur Kirkland. My god," she said. There was the sound of a door opening and someone speaking – voice too muffled for Alfred to make out the words. A moment later, his mother came back on the line. "Alright, I've got to dash – was there anything else?"

"Um…no," said Alfred, "Just that I also had to sign thi-"

There was a sudden burst of noise and static as the phone was moved. He heard his mother talking to someone in the background, sounding supremely pissed off. Alfred winced on behalf of whoever she was shouting at.

"No, Andrea! I had it scheduled for one and he had better be here by one."

More crackling

"Sorry honey, I've got to go."

"That's okay, but-"

"Make sure you do me proud," said his mother.

Alfred bit his lip, but forced the nerves from his voice.

"Yeah!" he said brightly, "I'm the hero!"

There was no reply for a long moment. Then Alfred realised his mother had already disconnected the call.


The next day, London rained.


sorry it was too long to post in one LJ post! D:

Tags: fic: a photograph of the artist, hetalia
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