Nobody knows that amidst his proud showcases of conceited arrogance and unblemished skin, France bears the heaviest and ugliest of wounds in the abysmal depths of his scarred heart.
He doesn't show it he never does and whenever Matthieu asks him about the history of his people, he simply fakes a smile and plasters it onto his face, evading the past colony's queries with teasing comments and a cheerful façade. Nobody knows and nobody needs to know which is why Francis chooses to keep his mouth shut and his scars hidden from the view of the rest of the world.
But no matter how many smiles he sends the nations' way, the scars still remain; cut, etched, and burned forever in his sore, aching heart. They're the problems of his people, the sequelae of their wars, and his memories of her.
The moon shines brightly past the large, arched window panes of a dimly lit room; its image reflected in the still, dark red liquid of a half-filled glass. The lone Frenchman sits by the windowsill, eyes gazing languidly at the bare, starless sky.
He rests his hand on his chest; taking in one big, deep breath, and closes his eyes. Recalling every detail, he looks back at the past. He feels it all, reliving each and every moment of his country's experience; a familiar, gnawing ache which pains him over and over and over again.
It's a nightly routine of his he likes to follow; numbing his senses with the feeling essence of a bittersweet nostalgia.
He remembers. He always remembers.
Francis doesn't know what it is about Jeanne that sends his heart burning with a passion far beyond his control.
Maybe it's her eyes; the occasional spark of courage which lights up her precious, delicate orbs of shining, pastel blue. Maybe it's her voice; the way she has with words, igniting a burning fire of admirable fervour in his own people. Maybe it's her courage; passion burning in her soul with the strength of nationalism for her very own motherland.
He wonders how those hands which knew no chore, could be the very same ones so capable with a sword. Wonders how her small, petite physique could be so tough; able to withstand and endure so much pain. Wonders how she, a young, teenaged girl, could have taken it upon herself to fight and die for a mere country.
How she, an angel so virgin and so pure, could have ever loved a man as dirty and tainted as him.
She is an enigma, Francis concludes. A mystery of white shrouded in chastity and virtue a puzzle not even France, clever as he may be, could solve.
And it terrifies him the thought and the possibility of him corrupting her. It takes every ounce of his strength to hold himself back, to keep his distance and restrain himself from keeping her close too close that she might even get hurt. But he tries. And he does. A personal sacrifice, he thinks, for it is the only means in which he can keep her safe.
But his walls break down as her words echo ceaselessly in his mind. Like a song serving as an accompaniment to his dreams. Like a plague haunting his own nightmares. Forever, the resonance of her voice will linger in his memories.
"I will fight for you."
Her stance is firm and voice resolute. The gaze of her blue orbs is transfixed on his very own, determination brimming from within her brilliant irises.
Somewhere inside of him, he feels the emotions begin to surge. A pang of guilt, a swell of pride, a tinge of sadness, and a strain of worry. Fear creeps into his heart as his mask, the demure façade of strength and bravery, shatters before the young girl. He knows this as his shaky voice cracks in response.
"Non, ma chère Jeanne. Ne, s'il vous plaît."
It's a lost cause, he knows. His attempts are futile and he inwardly curses his own naïveté for having thought otherwise; for she responds again, the sweetness of her voice overpowered by the authority of her tone.
"Mais, Monsieur Bonnefoy, I must. The king of heaven commands it be."
He slides a finger across her tear-stained cheek and wipes away the liquid streaming from her eyes. He holds her jaw, gently yet forcibly; lips meeting in a silent, unpretentious kiss. Seconds pass shortly as France breaks away first; lips parting hers as he then turns to whisper softly into her ear.
"If you insist, ma chère."
There's a fire in her eyes, a passion in her soul, and a flame of hope ignited by her own, courageous fortitude. The way she burns brighter than the sun, forever unfaltering Francis absolutely loves that about Jeanne.
"Prenez garde, mon amour. Je'taime, mon Jeanne."
But he never thought that it would be those same flames which would betray him; leading his beloved to the deep, scorching abyss of her own death.
Ever since she'd been gone, there's been a gaping hole resting at the centre of France's battered heart.
He misses her. Terribly. Deeply. So so so much.
The warmth of a body pressed against his own feels good for the aching Frenchman; but none of it could have ever compensated for the feeling of her frame he once cradled in his arms.
It doesn't matter how many times he repeats this frivolous cycle or how many women he meets with at night; nothing can satisfy the craving hunger of his loneliness.
How many centuries have passed since he'd last heard her voice? Francis wonders. The pain has lasted too long; and he is already numb from both the alcohol and heartache.
France doesn't forget. He can never forget. The soft caresses and butterfly kisses he imprints upon the young women are all but shallow and meaningless. The breathy words he whispers and coos lovingly in their ears are but empty and fictitious. He doesn't mean any of it to them. No, of course not. He does these if only to picture himself together with his beloved angel for just a moment longer.
To imagine that she was still right there, by his side; small arms wrapped delicately around his larger frame.
But the sex doesn't make him feel any more alive than he feels dead. And the warmth of their bodies feels no more comforting than the suffocating grasp of a stranger's hold. And it's amidst fevered kisses and heated breaths that he bites his tongue in order to keep from calling out her name.
The night goes on and as he falls into the depths of slumber, the memory of her haunts him once more.
Scorching flames pierce her skin like daggers as her body tied to a stake is set to burn. France watches. Francis watches. And he screams for her sake.
At the sound of his voice, Jeanne turns to face France and she smiles. Her brilliant, blue eyes still speak of happiness and pride amidst all the pain knowingly content for having fulfilled her duty. The sight of her smile hurts him more than the tears he thought she would have shed. He runs to her side; the scalding flames marring his fair skin as his outstretched arms try to reach her; but its too late now. The brilliance of her eyes are slowly fading and he can see her lips moving slowly to bid him goodbye.
"Tout va bien, François. I'm so glad I could protect you."
He stops and he falls. Watching as the girl of miracles falls prey to the burning grasps of hell, unable to do anything as the love of his life plunges into the merciless depths of death.
The embers still flicker and the crowd stays still as France cries out to her once more; the bellows of his anguish released in a heart-wrenching call of desperation.
But there are no words or smiles or blue eyes which answer his call. Only the sight of his angel, crumbling into nothing more than pieces of fine ash.
And just like that, she is gone.
There is not a moment that passes in which he does not think of her. Every day and without fail, Francis takes it upon himself to visit her grave. But there are no tombs or urns in which her remains lie.
He looks at the Seine, an endless trail of streaming blue a mirror to the vast, endless sky; akin to a vestige of her precious beryl irises; and he thinks that it is only fitting that she rest peacefully in a place parallel to her own serene beauty.
And each and every time, he carries with her a bouquet of flowers the purest and whitest of roses which he rests upon the river's banks with the same inscribed message written in the finest, most flawless cursive.
"Pour mon ange, Sainte Jeanne d'Arc. A bientot, mon amour."