A/N: Hi. Here is a story that I guess is more or less “inspired” by a few too many people in the Hetalia fandom and their belief that France is a rapist.
The biggest rumor going around your school for as long as you were able to remember was that Francis Bonnefoy, a French guy who transferred here in the near middle of freshman year three years ago, was a pervert who obsessively flirted with any girl who came across his path just so he could rape her later on. You didn’t know how the rumor spread, but all you were able to remember in the second half of your freshman year and the majority of your sophomore one was walking down the hall to your next class and spotting him standing against the lockers with a girl next to him, talking to her and sometimes making rapid motions with his hands for emphasis. This happened nearly every day whenever you saw him, and you figured that he was just a flirt. You had a vague memory of one of your friends even describing how handsome he looked and how she would kill for him to ask her out, even though, judging by his actions, he wasn't one of your types.
Then came a day during the second half of your sophomore year when apparently you walked past a group of girls and vaguely overheard one of them talking about how Francis had taken her into the forest behind the school and raped her. Then she proceeded to explain that he told her that he takes any girl who seems innocent and easy to convince and brings her to the same spot that the girl herself was brought to, where he then proceeded to take her clothes off and rape her. But judging by the casual tone in her voice, it had seemed as if she was simply telling a story from her own imagination, not one that happened to her and especially not one that involved something as horrid as rape.
However, her friends believed her and whatever happened after that was out of your memory. The rumor spread like wildfire, and it wasn't long before many started avoiding Francis, the majority of which were girls. Whenever you saw him flirt with a girl, she always had a look of horror on her face and she either ran away or had one of her friends come in to drag her away, leaving Francis looking back at her with a confused and somewhat hurt expression on his face.
Pretty soon summer vacation started and you and Francis’s sophomore year came to a close. You thought that the rumor would die out and everyone would forget it over the summer, but you were wrong.
On the first day of school, when you were standing at your locker and unpacking your stuff, you were able to hear one girl shriek, “It’s the rapist!” and you immediately turned your head and spotted Francis standing at the other end of the hallway with a casual and a bit dumbfounded expression on his face. He didn’t do anything except go over to his locker, which was not too far from yours, and unpack his things as if nothing happened at all.
At that moment you had felt a bit of suspicion grow inside you. One would not simply yell “It’s the rapist!” in front of someone who they believed to be an actual rapist. You had a feeling after that point that some of the girls knew he wasn't a rapist, but were saying that out of hate or just to make fun of him. After all, in their belief, if he wasn't a rapist, why did he always flirt with girls and act perverted?
Things only got worse as the year progressed. Nobody would come within a ten foot radius of Francis, and many of the boys would throw phrases at him and call him a “man whore,” all of which flew past his mind. Whenever you walked past and saw a group of boys insulting him, you looked up and saw that all he did was turn his gaze in their direction, the expression on his face blank and free of emotion, before he looked back in front of him and proceeded walking as if their taunts hadn’t affected him the slightest.
The girls felt terror and hate towards Francis, and the boys felt disgust. In classes, whenever pairwork or groupwork was called for, he was always the only one left without someone to work with. At lunch, which you had at the same time as him, he either sat by himself all the way at the far corner of the cafeteria because no one wanted to sit with him, or he would go and eat lunch outside. Your friends always advised you to stay away from him because they apparently didn’t see the terror or hatred towards him on your face.
The truth was you had no opinion on the subject of whether or not Francis was a rapist. You didn’t turn and walk the other way when you spotted him walking down the hall. You didn’t purposely avoid him like many people did. You just casually went about your business like you normally would.
One day, you were walking down the almost empty hallway with one of your best friends, and you both were discussing the rather difficult science test you both had to take earlier on in the morning. Suddenly, you felt your friend stiffen beside you and she let out a gasp, grabbing your arm and quickly dragging you towards the lockers along with herself.
You turned your head to look at her and frowned. “Wha—” She pointed in front of her shakily with slightly wide eyes, and you followed her finger over to Francis, who happened to be walking down the hallway towards the both of you with his gaze fixed down on his feet and his hands in his pockets.
“It’s him!” your friend said softly, thought your face carried no expression of fear. As the both of you got closer to him, you turned your gaze over to him. He caught you looking, and just as you and your friend passed him, he lifted his gaze briefly to look at you before dropping it once again. This happened in a matter of about a second, but your friend immediately noticed it.
“_____, what was that for!?” she hissed, releasing your arm and looking at you fearfully as soon as you both were out of earshot from Francis. “You shouldn’t have looked at him! Now he’s probably going to find you and take you into the forest and do what he did to all those other girls!”
“That sounds...a little too extreme,” you said.
“But you heard the rumors!” your friend replied.
“Yeah, the rumors,” you answered. “Rumors aren’t always true.”
“I really don’t think Francis is a rapist, okay?” You dropped your gaze down to the ground.
“Why?” your friend asked, looking at you confusingly. “Everyone says he is, and you can tell by how he always flirts with girls.”
“Lots of people flirt with girls,” you informed. “Admit it—don’t you see a bunch of the guys at this school leaning against the lockers with a girl in front of them and throwing strings of compliments at her?”
“Yeah...” your friend murmured. “But—”
“That doesn’t make them rapists, does it?” You found a stray pencil on the floor and kicked it a bit angrily. “I don’t understand why many of the people here think Francis is such a bad person. I remember last year when a girl spoke to her friends that she was apparently raped by him, but she didn’t sound like it at all! And then this stupid rumor began.”
Your friend was silent as you continued. “And then there are people who take this as a joke and an opportunity to insult him. People make fun of him, people don’t like him, people stay away from him. Whenever I see him, he’s either insulted by the guys or feared at by the girls. And he looks so lonely.” You shook your head. “Something like this should not be taken as a rumor or something that’s actually not true. That girl who first spoke up about Francis doing this to her most likely has no idea about how horrible and sickening rape is. And nobody in this school said even once that Francis did this to them—right?”
Your friend continued to remain silent, looking at you with slightly wide eyes. “Think about it. Nobody here ever said that Francis raped them. They only assume it happened to others and try to stay away from him. But that’s not enough to believe that the rumors are true.”
“What are you trying to say, _____?” your friend asked quietly.
You stopped walking and turned to face her. Your face held an expression of seriousness that she had rarely seen before. “I’m saying that Francis is not a rapist. I'm saying that everyone here is stupid to believe that when all he is, is probably just a flirt. Those are two completely different things. Before I really had no opinion on this, but now I realize by the way he always looks hurt and confused when people avoid him, and how he’s silent when the guys make fun of him, that he’s absolutely not what everyone says he is. And the fact that most of the kids in this school believe he’s actually a rapist makes me sick.”
“So...what are you going to do?” Your friend looked at you with a concerned expression that seemed to say you were crazy for thinking things like this.
“I...” You clenched your fists, dropping your gaze down to the floor once again. “I...don’t know. B-But...if nobody’s going to talk to him, then maybe I should.”
“Don’t!” your friend gasped. “Who knows what he might do to you!”
You looked up at your friend once again and mentally sighed when you realized that your earlier words seemed to have flown right past her. “Fine. I won't.” You resumed walking, leaving your friend to quickly scurry after you.
That, of course, was a lie. Thinking back to how much Francis was often left alone, how many people thought negatively of him for something that most likely wasn't even true, it would be best for you to do something about it.
The next day, you entered the doors to the cafeteria just in time to see about half of the room fall silent. You looked around you and were able to spot Francis walk past a table consisting mostly of girls, who were previously in the middle of a rigorous conversation. Now all of them had fallen silent and were staring up at him with wide eyes and slightly open mouths. You were practically able to feel the stiffness in their bodies as Francis walked by without even giving them a sidelong glance, and a few of the girls actually cowered in fear.
“You sick pervert!” one of the boys sitting a few tables away from the group of girls shouted. “Why can't you just leave everyone alone?”
Francis paused, turning his head over to look at the boy while you watched in shocked silence. Their gazes held for a few moments, and you thought you were able to notice a tiny bit of terror appear in the boy’s eyes. Finally, Francis tore his gaze away and resumed walking at a casual pace until he reached the doors that led outside, opening them and stepping out before they closed with a bang behind him.
The cafeteria was silent for a few moments, with you still standing near the doors that led out into the hallway, before it broke out into a series of murmurs, mainly with the girls. You continued to stand there, debating on what you were supposed to do, before you finally shook your head and walked across the room towards the doors that led outside. Along the way, you were able to hear several of the girls you walked past talk about Francis and how he was a loner and maybe even mentally challenged, and how he should be suspended for his wrongdoings, maybe even expelled so nobody at this school would've had to worry about getting raped. Listening to all this nonsense made your blood start to boil, and it took all your strength not to lose your temper in front of everyone in the room and say that there was no actual proof of Francis doing all the things that he did.
You approached the doors that led outside, and just as you were about to open one of them you heard a voice that made you stop in your tracks.
“_____, wait, don’t go out there!” a girl in the room yelled. “Francis is probably gonna find you and drag you over to the forest if you leave the building!”
You stood silent for a few moments, your hand still extended towards the door, before you slowly turned your body around so that you were able to take a brief look at the girl. She was in one of your classes and was sitting at the table where the group of girls were sitting at, looking at you with a look of horror on her face. You met her gaze blankly for a few seconds until you turned back around and immediately took a step forward, pushed the door open, stepped outside, and listened to the satisfying sound of it closing behind you.
It was fairly warm outside, as it might've been considering how it was already April. You scanned the area and the several benches surrounding it that eventually led out into the small forest several yards away. The area was almost empty and you figured that Francis might have walked around the school until he was in the front. But all of that changed once you saw him sitting by himself on a bench all the way across from where you were standing, a bench that was one of the closest to the forest. You swallowed, feeling a small bit of nervousness unfold inside you, before you slowly began to walk forward, taking small, slightly hesitant steps. Relax, you told yourself despite the pounding of your heart. He’s not going to hurt you...
Francis was staring down at the ground, his elbows resting on his thighs and his chin in his hands, so he wasn't aware of you silently approaching until you paused when you were about a foot away and blocked the sunlight shining down on him. He slowly lifted his head and looked up to find you staring down at him with a vacant expression on your face. “Oh, hello,” he said gently, sitting upright and leaning back so that his back was pressed against the bench. “Can I help you?”
He sounds so nice...You felt pity take over you at that moment, though it didn’t show in your voice. “I uh...wanted to talk with you.”
“Oh, really?” Surprised crossed Francis’s face as he scooted over a bit on the bench and motioned for you to sit down next to him, which you did. After examining you for a few moments, he smiled and asked, “You’re _____, aren’t you?”
You looked at him and nodded. “How did you know?”
“I often see you at lunch or in the halls among a group of people who mention your name,” he replied. A few moments of silence passed, during which you stared down at the ground and Francis rubbed his arm a bit awkwardly. Finally, he spoke. “Er...what is it you wanted to talk about?”
“The whole...rumor thing,” you replied quietly, looking up at him seriously.
Instantly, you were able to see his smile disappear and the expression on his face droop. “Oh...that.”
“It’s not true, right?” you asked, and when Francis looked at you confusingly, you added, “About you being a rapist....What everyone says is false?”
“Of course...” Francis replied quietly, dropping his gaze down to his hands and staring at them desolately. “I do not understand why people here come up with the idea that I'm a rapist. I would never do something so cruel to anybody and I can't imagine myself doing it, either.”
“Oh...” Your expression drooped as well and you were able to feel the pity inside you grow. “Because...a lot of people believe you’re a rapist because you flirt with girls all the time, and they’re always saying these bad things about you and it all just feels so wrong...”
“I know,” Francis murmured. “I admit that it is true that I like to compliment girls, but...it is just in my nature and I cannot help it. A lot of girls were around me during my first two years at this school, but then all of a sudden it stopped. They no longer enjoyed my company like they did before. I heard people saying bad things about me, I heard them talk about how I took the girls I flirted with out into the forest and...raped them, and it made me so disappointed. But I did not know what to do and I still don’t know what to do. I know how everyone is avoiding me and I am always left alone because people here believe in something that isn’t true, and they have no idea how much it hurts me....”
You were silent, staring at him sadly as you debated on what to say. “Last...” You paused, thinking of what to say as Francis lifted his head to look at you. “Last year...I overheard a girl talking to her friends about how you took her into the forest and raped her, but...the way her voice sounded didn’t seem like it had actually happened. It didn’t have any fear and didn’t sound traumatized, but it sounded so...dramatic and emphasized, as if she were just telling a fantasy rather than something that actually happened. But her friends believed it, and...I guess...that’s how the rumor started.”
“None...None of that is true...” Francis murmured after a few moments of silence, his voice so quiet that you were barely able to hear him. “I-I would never...do anything like that to anybody. I...I don’t know why people here have to believe such a terrible thing....”
You were able to hear his voice crack on the last few words, and when you looked at him you were able to notice him staring down at his feet with a quivering lower lip and tears slowly leaking from his eyes.
“Oh god...d-don’t cry,” you said, reaching out a hand towards him. “Y-You don’t have to...”
He appeared not to listen to your words, or if he did, he was ignorant of them because the next thing he did was bury his face in his hands and sob into them, his entire body shaking.
A tiny sound escaped your throat. You always were unsure of how to handle a situation in which someone was crying. But you had to do something to make Francis feel better. Reaching out, you wrapped your arms around him and gently massaged his back despite your body feeling tense as a wire. “Shhh...” you soothed. “It’s okay...don’t cry....”
“It’s...It’s not fair,” Francis gasped in between his tears, his voice muffled through his hands. “Why do people...h-have to think such things about me...?”
“Because they’re idiots,” you said softly. “They’re idiots who don’t know how serious and horrible rape is enough to not spread rumors involving it, especially the girl who started it. I know you’re not what everyone says you are.”
The two of you continued to sit like that for the next few minutes, you still tightly embracing Francis and repeatedly massaging his back while he still cried into his hands. Finally, he seemed to calm down enough so that he was able to lift his head and wipe the tears away from his face, sniffing as he took slow, deep breaths.
You removed your arms from him. “Are you feeling better now?” you asked softly.
A few moments passed in silence until Francis nodded. “I suppose I just...needed someone who believes that what everyone says about me isn’t true.”
You smiled. “Do you think that maybe we could...become friends?”
“Friends?” Francis looked at you as if you had just grown a second head. “You really want to be friends with...me?”
You nodded. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
He looked down at his lap. “I mean...People might say bad things about you, too...You might lose your friends....”
“I don’t care what happens to me,” you said confidently. “I only care about being there for someone who’s going through a difficult time. You need a friend in your life right now to help you handle those rumors, and there’s nobody who will support you more than me.”
He stared at you in silence for a few moments until a smile finally made its way to his face. “Thank you, _____.”
“No problem!” you said happily.
And so, for the rest of that lunch period, you two continued to sit outside on the bench next to each other, talking about various things that suited both of your interests. Now you were glad that you were able to open up to Francis like this, because you knew that he was someone who you would always support no matter what other people thought of him.