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For His Happiness

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They love each other, and I love them. Although, one of them damaged my spirit and flesh because of a certain reason, and he left a scar of bitter loathing within my soul, poisoning my sanity through thinking that unwanted reminiscence… but in the end, I averted my own revulsion from the man who nearly killed me. Yes, we already forgiven each other, and I found myself praying for his happiness, especially with his husband…

 

*    *    *

 

            Alfred F. Jones was one of the most popular boys in high school for his looks, unusual qualities, and even his background history. He was a youngster at the age of sixteen with blond hair, light skin, flashing blue eyes behind the silver frame of his glasses, and the notable strand that always sticks up from his hair, all sum up together with his unbounded smile to define his persona: jovial, independent, optimistic, feisty, and any other qualities of a summer’s child.

 

            He is, somehow, the opposite to his twin Matthew, who has a longer blond hair, same eyes except that he has a slight shade of violet mix in blue behind those glasses, and his perceptible strand is curlier than Alfred’s. He may look alike his brother, but Matthew is more reserved, shy, quiet, and calm. However, the tragedy of Matthew’s character is the fact that only a few people notice him, and that includes Alfred himself.

 

            In a long history, Alfred and Matthew were both six when they witnessed their mother’s death. Alfred never told me the cause of her loss, and probably never will. They have no trace of their father’s identity whatsoever, their deceased mother never mentioned him on any account until they read her memoir that the man left her out of spite when she was pregnant.

 

            By the time they became orphans, they were placed under the care of a family friend, Arthur Kirkland. A British in his late-twenties with a messy blonde hair, and eerie green eyes underneath his obviously big eyebrows, he lived in his own house alone without any priorities of getting a wife (or a husband). But when chances came that he must take responsibility on raising two boys in their salad days, Arthur decided to call Francis Bonnefoy, his long-time friend and rival whom he called “Frog” due to being French and sometimes called him as “sloppy and annoying”, while in reality, he considered Francis to be “undeniably handsome” with his long golden hair tied with a blue ribbon, his subtle beard, and rare violet-blue eyes that seek passion. Arthur invited him to his place, and conceivably, suggested him to live with them since Francis was living in an uncomfortably small apartment and Arthur needed someone to cook for them (because as much as Arthur hates to admit it, he doesn’t know how to cook, even a simple boiled egg).

 

            For ten years, Arthur and Francis raised Alfred and Matthew together, almost like a family given that the British and the French usually bicker whenever they feel like it, but the younger ones managed to get used to it over time until they saw this as a daily ritual.

 

            But this story doesn’t end here. If truth be told, this is just the beginning.

 

*          *            *

 

            It all began in New York during the middle of the season when the jade-colored leaves morphed their colors into orange with tints of red, complimenting the sun’s golden rays. It was Alfred’s second day as a sophomore in high school. They didn’t do much in the first day like starting the first unit since the teachers must get to know their student, especially their names in which some confused an Anthony with an Eric or a Samantha with an Emily. At the same time, the school decided to let you hang out with other students, more or less. And get their phone numbers in case of an emergency. Let’s just say, the whole day was just a post-summer-vacation moment. Now that it was the second day, for Alfred, it was the epoch of turning point in his life…

 

*          *            *

 

            A young man with pale skin, dull dark-brown eyes, and straight black hair with bangs that covered his forehead walked down the hallway with his guidance counselor leading in front of him. The black haired boy could feel his stomach churning into a tight knot as if he was suffocating inside as they were getting closer and closer to the intended destination. He was nervous, or rather, he was scared, he never went to school before, in fact, he was home-schooled. He never met new people or even socialized with them since he always loved the thought of staying indoors, isolate in his room, and play video games or watch anime twenty-four/seven. But that was going to change when his mother got promoted in her job and she must start living in New York with her two sons, who do not share the same father. And now, there he was, almost near to his classroom, he must prepare himself on his first day.

 

            Okay, relax. He told himself through his thoughts. Take a deep breath. Remember: don’t make eye contact with anybody. Don’t talk to anybody. Don’t say anything unless you were asked to. Just pretend that this is an anime world. Think positive, and you’ll do fine.

 

            He flinched at the sound of knuckles knocking on the wooden door. As someone gave his guidance counselor the permission to come in, they went inside, and that’s when he discovered a whole new world.

 

            Students yelling, others throw paper airplanes, some were texting on their phones while there are some who were taking pictures of themselves, what was that name again? Selfie? He was absolutely new into those kinds of things, like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and etc. etc. He may be advanced in terms of technology, but that’s for another purpose, and social media was not on the list. Some students were talking too loud, almost cursing and ready to punch the pulp out of each other.

 

            He then saw a group of four boys: three of them are blond and one of them was an albino. One blond has deep dark violet eyes and has a detached curl beside his head. The said blonde was strangling the life out of another blond with blue eyes and gelled hair, begging his companion to stop but the former only gave him a deadpan look. Meanwhile, their albino companion enjoyed seeing one of them was being choked, and he kind of expected that they should start a fight so he began chanting. And the last one was a blond boy with a strand of hair sticking up from his hairline, he wore glasses, and behind those frames were the most beautiful shade of blue orbs he ever saw, it reminded him of something… the ocean, the thing he crossed from his mother country to this new world, the very water he took pleasure in looking with appreciation and comfort.

     

            “Class please settle down!” the teacher shouted, trying to get their attention as he was trying to control his temper. The black haired boy noticed that he had an Austrian accent. “I want all of you to quiet down for just a moment because Mr. Bevins wants to say something.”

     

            His guidance counselor, Mr. Bevins, faced front and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new student here with us. He is from Japan.”

     

            The teacher stretched out his hand towards the boy. “Welcome to America Mr.…”

     

            “Honda,” the new student answered, shaking his hand. “Kiku Honda.”

     

            “Nice to meet you,” the teacher smiled. “My name is Mr. Roderich Edelstein, and I’ll be your music teacher as well as homeroom adviser.”

     

            “His name is Kiku Honda,” Mr. Bevins said to everyone in the room. He motioned Kiku to face his classmates. He did it timidly, and once he raised his head to look up at them, he saw all of their gazes were on him like he was an alien. It made him uncomfortable, so he went looking back to his feet.

    
            Mr. Bevins continued, “And just like what I said, he is from Japan. He is new here so I want everyone to be very nice to him, no criticizing whatsoever.” The last one was a bit of a threat.

     

            Mr. Edelstein then motioned him to take a seat. Looking at the room, the first vacant seat Kiku saw was the second seat at the second row. He sat there without a second thought or even realizing that he was sitting in front of the boy with ocean-blue eyes.

 

*          *            *

 

            Kiku’s day went on pretty well… well almost. He was fortunate enough to have nice teachers whom he could look up to; he respected them more than anyone ever did in this school. Yes, there were times he did something stupid like going in the wrong class, bumping into students, and of course tripping in some cases. But who could blame him? He never knew what school was like except in the mangas and anime, but in this situation, in his situation, it was a lot different. In high school, he expected that there would be cute girls in uniforms and good-looking boys with slanted or bigger eyes, festivals, students cleaning the room, eating lunch at the rooftop, girls confessing to boys, and other things beyond that. But no, for Kiku, it felt like he was in a jail.

 

            It was lunchtime, and finally, a little break from his classes. Kiku doesn’t need to buy his lunch from the cafeteria since his mom already packed a bento for him. That was not a big problem actually, but the real problem was: where would he sit? He asked every person on each table with an unoccupied seat if it was taken and their answers were always yes. Some claimed it was taken even though no one was really sitting there, others put their bag on top to make it “occupied”, while there were some who dragged a vacant chair away to their table on whatever motives.

 

            Leaving him with no choice, Kiku decided to take his lunch out. On small grassland within the campus, not far from his next class, there was a dogwood tree that stood there. When Kiku sat under the shades, he felt like he was back in his home, peaceful, incredibly beautiful, comforting, away from other people like he always wanted to.

 

            “Itadakimasu!” the young Japanese phrased placing his chopsticks in his hand, he was ready to pick up a sushi when he felt a shadow hovered him. He looked up and saw him. The boy with eyes that looked like the ocean knelt down with a cheery smile plastered on his face while his hand was stretched out as if he was reaching something.

 

            The blue-eyed boy opened his mouth and said, “Hey! Can I join you here?”

 

            Kiku paused for a little while, absorbing the fact that someone was asking him to be his company, something he had never done before except with his mother and stepbrother. He smiled as an acceptance, and the boy’s blue eyes glint in excitement.

 

            And that’s how Kiku Honda met Alfred F. Jones.

Chapter Text

            Kiku Honda was the second child of his family. He was born and raised in Japan by his mother along with his half-brother. Typically, people usually infer that the younger always ended up as “the parents’ pet”, but in Kiku’s case, it is the opposite, or worse.

 

            His mother was a successful administrative assistant of a company who married twice: Her first marriage was to a Chinese chef of a high-class restaurant, and they were blessed with a son whom they proudly named Yao (which means “brightly shining”). But their married life only lasted for three years when her husband died in a car crash while she and her son were fortunate enough to survive. She finally managed to cope with her husband’s loss, by which it meant an opportunity for a bachelor to fill up the vacant position of her deceased spouse. It was that time when she went to a bar with a close acquaintance of hers; they were drunk and as the alcohol took effect on their consciences, they did something… pleasurable but heinous. Then a week later, she got pregnant with a second child. After the news of her pregnancy reached to the father of the unborn child, the two of them decided to get marry, making this her second marriage. Nine months later, in a warm winter (as what I was told), a baby boy was born with the ideal features of a “Yamato Nadeshiko” and he was named after the royal flower: Kiku (which suppose to mean Chrysanthemum), but then, there was a cruel irony. When Kiku was two months old, his birth father left the family for another woman and was never seen again. His mother, once again, endured another loss within the family, and somehow, she used, Kiku, her own son, as a scapegoat, blaming and claiming that he was “so much like his father in any shape or form, especially those damn emotionless eyes. He’s no different from him, a two-faced son of a b*tch who doesn’t give a f*ck about anything but himself, that f*cking bastard!”

     

            In the meantime, Kiku and his older half-brother Yao were both home-schooled due to it was a “tradition”, or to be more precise: a belief, from their mother’s side that children performed better academics at home than in school (I don’t know how it works but I’m sure they have good reasons). The two boys usually succeeded evenly, however, owing to the favor of their mother, Yao had more liberty than his younger brother, therefore, he could roam anywhere in the Japanese streets, expanding his knowledge of the outside world. Kiku, on the other hand, was chained into confinement. Either due to his mother’s qualm towards him or just a maternal instinct to protect a child, she restricted his dealings with society, as a result, Kiku found himself getting used to his isolation that he grew to love it, using it as his sweet time to watch popular animes, read and even make mangas, and play video games. His mother and Yao never bothered helping him learn more about society and the world beyond, so instead, he just depended on the Internet for the needed information. Yet still, there were times that he was unpredictable in so many ways, as his own dull dark brown eyes hold so much mystery, reflecting like a glass window to his soul. In spite of the charges and negligence thrown by his mother, and the ignorance Yao gave him, Kiku, if you leave him in his own world, was in perfect peace within solitude. No chaos, no pain, no death, or sorrow that belongs to the world, just him, it was his utopia.

     

            But then, everything changed when their mother received a promotion. She received a notice that she was promoted to work in the West, specifically in the United States. And so, she was obliged to leave Japan for America with her sons. Yao thought it was the best thing that ever happened, for Kiku… it was a bit different. Exposing to the bigger world meant the shattering of his adored isolation, but what choice does he have? He agreed to go, of course, except he was still in serious doubt, how could he learn to interact with society, which was a complete stranger to him?

     

            As he bid farewell to his solitude while on the way to New York, Kiku met the blue ocean, and he fell in love with it, he realized that he may be too late to catch up with the ever-moving wide world, but he was certain enough that he would love it… and he did…

 

*          *            *

 

            “Wow dude! You’re totally awesome in this! How did you get that?” Alfred said eagerly with eyes as wide as saucers when he saw Kiku’s paper got a mark of 98 in their geometry test. “You are so smart Keeks, while I got a lame 89 in the test, I’m so stupid.” He said with a pout.

 

            “Alfred-san, please don’t call yourself stupid, you just need more practice.” Kiku said, blushing at the American’s compliment, at the same time, trying to comfort him to make him feel better.

 

            It was lunchtime and they were in the library finishing their- no, Alfred’s homework while Kiku was there to help him as his tutor. It’s been over a month since their first meeting, and they seemed to know each other from top to bottom, from the smallest to the biggest detail, from the outside to the inside. The two of them had a lot in common, but somehow, they were different from each other. For an instance, they shared most classes except for Science and Spanish. They both love playing video games, watch anime, read comics and mangas, sing at the karaoke, etc. however, the thing that defines their differences, apart from their I.Q level and food choice, is their characters: Alfred is loud, happy, energetic, and was always on the positive side most of the time. Kiku, in contrast, is shy, quiet, mysterious, and usually loves to meditate in peace with nature. Two characters different from each other usually ended up in violence due to the constant disagreements, but in this case, it’s not. Who knows? What if it was just the things they like brought them together to create this bond, but I suppose it won’t be that convincing. They always agree on each other and became the closest best friends in the entire campus… how, though? What do they really have that some others don’t?

 

            “See here Alfred-san,” Kiku continued when Alfred straightened himself. “All you have to remember is this: medians go with the centroid, altitude with the orthocenter, perpendicular bisectors go with the circumcenter, and angle bisectors with the incenter.”

 

            Alfred stared at the paper with a blank expression plastered on his face. He didn’t say anything, trying to understand what the Asian man taught him. Well, yeah, he did understand the whole concept of these points except. “Okay, uh- I really do understand what these mean, Keeks. But how can I remember all of these, like seriously, I have a goldfish’s memory.”

 

            One thing Kiku remembered when he was a kid was the fact that goldfish could live up their memory to five months, but that’s beside the point. The point was he needed to think of something to help the American memorize the said geometrical concepts. Songs are commonly used to help students remember their notes, even in Kiku’s case, yet he doesn’t know any song that involves Geometry (a few of them actually but they were out of the topic). That’s then a light bulb appeared in his head.

 

            “I got it!” the Asian snapped in enlightenment. He wrote down on a piece of scratch: MC AO PBC cABIN.

 

            “What does that mean, Keeks?”

 

            “It’s just a random phrase I came up with,” Kiku answered. “Look, it means: Mariah Carey sings AO, eating peanut-butter cookies in a cabin. This is how you remember the points, the letters I’ve underlined represented the lines and the points each represented: Mariah Carey means median and centroid. AO is altitude and orthocenter. Peanut-butter cookies mean perpendicular bisector and circumcenter, and cabin, where the “c” could be etched as an angle, mean angle bisector and incenter.”

 

            “Ah, I see!” Alfred said. “This is so cool! I think this is really going to help me.”

 

            Kiku smiled in appreciation. “How about we do a little practice without using our notes, but try to keep this in mind?”

 

            “Sure bro! I accept your challenge, trainer Kiku.” The American replied with much enthusiasm and made a little salute when he said the last part. The Japanese, in return, smiled and shook his head.

 

            Five minutes later, they made a successful progress in which Alfred perfected some exercises and got a mistake or two on the other ones. Kiku felt like a proud teacher watching his student accomplished after all of the trouble he went through. He never felt that kind of satisfactory before, this was his first time, and it was interestingly uncanny that he did the thing his brother and mother failed to do to him before, to educate someone with great importance as if their life depends on it.

 

            “This is so cool, Keeks!” the blond said in admiration of his improvement. “If it weren’t for you I would’ve been stuck clueless forever.”

 

            For a while, as Alfred looked up at him, the Asian boy saw a glimpse of his ocean-blue eyes turned from a fervent glow into a genuine beam, and he said. “You are really the most amazing person I’ve ever met, Kiku.”

     

            He blushed, blinking multiple times and replied, “It’s really nothing, Alfred-san. I-It’s natural for anyone to help each other when they have to. After all,” he paused for a second, “you are my only best friend.”

     

            Alfred blinked. A hint of curiosity in his eyes in which Kiku took it as a cue to continue and explain what he was saying. “Like what I’ve told you before, ever since I was little, I hardly communicate with others. I really don’t blame my mother or my brother for being a little delayed in society. When I came here in America, I was nervous because I don’t know what to do until you became my friend. That gave me more hope that I’ll soon have more friends in the end, however, I don’t think that’s going to happen because until now, nobody bothers coming to me except you. And I am very pleased to have you as my companion, Alfred-san.”

     

            “Oh Keeks,” Alfred whispered as he put his hand on his arm. Kiku made a small twitch at the human contact but immediately calmed down. The blond continued, “You don’t have to explain yourself. There are maybe a lot of things that I don’t know about you yet, but I know enough why you act like this and I understand. You are my best friend, and you know that. I don’t mind having you glued to me 24/7 or even stalk me in the middle of the night just so you have someone to talk to.”

     

            Kiku slowly turned his head up to the American after hearing the last part. He furrowed his eyebrows quizzically and said, “That part sounds so wrong but since you sound so sincere, I might just leave you there.”

     

            Alfred laughed at the little joke as Kiku followed him as well. They continued to laugh for a minute then stopped, the Japanese dropped his gaze while the blond kept on staring at him with tranquility.

     

            “Hey,” Alfred said quietly, lifting the Asian’s small chin to fix his dull brown eyes on his blue ones. “How about we go to the store and buy some mochis. My treat as a thank you for helping me with my math.”

     

            He waited for an answer until he saw a small beam on his pale face and a quality of joyful serenity in his eyes. “That would be wonderful, Alfred-san.”

Chapter Text

    Alfred squeezed his hair gel bottle and applied it to his hair. It was eight-twenty in the morning and he was expecting someone to come by later in his place. But what’s the hurry though? His visitor won’t be there until like one in the afternoon and he woke up around eight-fifteen a.m. just to prepare himself in which he could do that in no time. Right now, he was in the bathroom. Alfred proceeded to comb his hair, trying to push it back on his head smoothly except for the single strand that always sticks out from his hairline. It’s really a bother to him, and he forbids anyone (with the exception of certain people) to touch it because it makes him feel “weird”. The bathroom door opened. Alfred looked at the reflection in the mirror and saw his twin brother coming in while rubbing the sleepiness off of his eyes.

 

    “Hey,” Matthew said, followed by a yawn. “You’re early. You know it’s Saturday, right?” Obviously, he knows his brother’s habits more than anyone you name, he knows that in every weekday, Alfred usually gets up at six. But on the weekends, he sleeps like a rock and nobody bothers waking him up until he feels like it, which is technically around ten in the morning or almost lunch.

     

    “I know. I just need more time to fix myself and my room.” Alfred replied as he put a short trail of paste on his toothbrush. “I don’t want anyone to think that I’m sleeping in a place piled with garbage and other tons of sh*t.”

     

    “Yeah, Dad will be proud to hear that.” The other twin said before he started gargling. Alfred made an annoyed grunt at his brother’s blunt statement. It may sound dull, but he hated the way that he said it just to trigger him because of his terrible hygiene.

 

    “And I have to say, it is all thanks to Kiku,” Matthew added as he spat out the liquid. Alfred remembered that time when Kiku bumped into his brother in the library during free period, Matthew met the boy whom he mistook as a girl, but soon cleared out the misunderstanding once Alfred introduced Kiku to him. Matthew liked Kiku at the moment when he saw his diligence and calm demeanor in every situation, his shy and rational qualities reflected Matthew’s, in which he was glad that there’s another person who understands him and even sees him. But he was gladder that the more Kiku spent his time with Alfred, the more his twin brother began to progress. “Ever since you begin to hang out with him, your persona began to change in a good way. Well, yeah, there are times that you act like your usual self but you know what I mean.”

     

    “What does that suppose to mean?”

     

    Matthew gave out a small chuckle. “You’ll see, Al.”

 

*          *            *

 

            Ding-dong!!!

 

            “I got it, guys!” Alfred yelled as he flew downstairs, beating Arthur in the hallway to answer the door.

 

            “Al, wait! Slow down!” Matthew followed his hectic twin brother but stopped his tracks beside Arthur once Alfred twisted the knob.

 

            As he pulled the door open, Alfred was greeted by a shy, warm smile. Kiku stood there calmly and modestly, carrying a messenger bag hanging on his shoulder and hands folded in front of him. “Konnichiwa, Alfred-san.” He greeted with a small bow.

 

            The blond rubbed the back of his neck and blushed. “Jeez, Keeks you don’t have to be so formal all the time.”

 

            “Ah, I’m sorry, I’m just used to it.” The Japanese said. “Is it alright to come in?”

 

            Damn! Where are my manners! Alfred mentally cursed himself. “Of course, Keeks, make yourself at home. No need to take off your shoes, by the way,at” He stepped aside and let the raven-haired man pass.

 

            “Ojama Shimasu.”

 

    It was in the middle of January at that time and the winter season was still fresh. Outside, the cold air was callous, the snow was thick after it poured down for about thirty minutes, and the road was a bit slippery due to the clear ice. But once Kiku went inside the residence, the air was warm as if he was sitting in front of the fireplace; the house was filled with tea and rose fragrances, and the walls were full of historical oil paintings.

     

    Alfred motioned Kiku to take off his coat, in which he willingly obliged as the blond hung it on the nearest peg.

     

    “By the way, Keeks, I want you to meet my fam,” He grabbed the Asian’s hand and pulled him towards his foster father and twin brother, who were taking a step as well.

     

    “Guys, this is Kiku Honda.” Alfred started. “Kiku, this is Arthur, our dad.”

     

    He pointed at the blond man with a tousled hair and forest green eyes underneath his bushy eyebrows. He looked like a man in his twenties, but Alfred once claimed that he was in his early thirties, in which Kiku could observe based on his clothing: a white shirt topped with an olive vest, similar to some of their teachers in high school. His posture was rigid and perfect, like the “gentleman” he was.

     

    “Hello, Kiku,” he spoke with a thick British accent as he shook the Japanese’s hand. “My name is Arthur Kirkland, you may know me as Alfred and Matthew’s foster father, and I welcome you to our humble abode.”

     

    “I am deeply honored to meet you, Kirkland-san.” Kiku bowed in respect. “And I have to say, you have a lovely home.”

     

    “Why thank you, lad.” Arthur smiled. “Ever since my grandfather planned on living here in America, he decided to design this house in a contemporary Victorian style domicile, it has been preserved for many years and has been passed to generation to this day, and it is still in its usual state.”

     

    “I see. What about those paintings? If you don’t mind me asking.”

     

    “Oh, most of them are not my heirlooms. As you can see, these are replicas of the original paintings, and they were mainly created by our companion.”

     

    “’Companion’?”

     

    “He meant to say our other foster father. He’s an artist.” Matthew explained. Kiku made an “oh” once he understood who he was talking about.

     

    “And speak of the devil, he’s coming right now,” Arthur said nonchalantly with his arms crossed.

     

    Just in time, a man with a blond wavy hair and violet-shaded blue eyes came out from the kitchen. If it weren’t for that slight stubble that formed on his jaw line, he would actually look like a girl despite that he wore a white shirt with two buttons undone, revealing a small part of his chest that proved that he doesn’t have breasts. Compared to Arthur, he looked a bit older, which is true since he and the British man were three years apart, but it is surprising that both of them have the same height. The way he moves is too feminine as he always wears that satisfied smile.

     

    “Oh hey pops!” Alfred called at the man. “I want you to meet Kiku Honda. Kiku, this is our Pops, Francis.”

     

    “Ah, so you must be the boy Alfred was talking about,” Francis said in a thick French accent. The next thing Kiku knew was completely unexpected, Francis continued saying, “Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa Furanshisu Bōnefoi desu. Watashi ga Arufureddo to Mashū no chichi desu yo.

     

    Kiku was stunned by Francis’ fluency even though Alfred did once mention that he could speak Japanese. “Hai! Yorushiku onegaishimasu! Watashi wa, kimi no ie ga hontoni sukidesu. Soshite, kimi no kaiga wa totemo inshō-tekidesu.”

     

    Francis began to titter like a flattered woman and replied, “Arigato gozaimasu! Watashi wa jibun de subete o tsukutta, soshite karera wa subete watashi no aiyou.

     

    Arthur cleared his throat as he disrupted the Frenchman from saying anything further. “I hate to break this with you, Frog. But at least speak English since God knows what kind of crap you’re trying to engage with the guest.”

     

    “Oh but Arthur, I thought you like it when you hear me speak in any language you don’t know,” Francis said with a flirtatious hint in his voice.

     

    “N-no way! For heaven’s sake, you must be drunk when you thought I’ve said that,” he replied while his face went red.

     

    “Yes, but like what they said: ‘a drunk man speaks a sober man's mind’~”

     

    “Stop citing your lines, Rousseau.”

     

    “Correction: I am Voltaire, and I have my own right to speak my lines.”

     

    “That is one hell of a lame-ass pun you got there.”

     

    “Um, guys?” a soft voice broke the slight commotion and everyone else in the scene turned to him. “I don’t think this is the right time for a debate. I mean, we have company.” Matthew said while he was gesturing to Kiku, who stood there somewhat shocked and tight-lipped, but deep inside, he was enjoying Mr. Kirkland and Mr. Bonnefoy’s little squabble, commenting to himself that there was no way that these two could be separated, hinting that their opposite sides would come into a peaceful conclusion (although he doubt that but still).

     

    Arthur straightened himself and Francis tucked a strand behind his ear.

     

    “Forgive us, Kiku. That was so childish of us.” The British man said.

     

    “Oui, we forgot our place back there. Forgive us for losing our manners.” The French said.

     

    “How about you, Matthew and Alfred should go upstairs and do whatever you want until lunch is ready? Please, make yourself comfortable. We will be in the kitchen if you need anything.”

     

    Francis furrowed his eyebrows at Arthur. “Arthur, you are not allowed to be in the kitchen, remember?”

     

    The latter glared at him. “Really, Francis?”

     

    Matthew sighed and gave out a small chuckle before volunteering himself to help his Papa in the kitchen and his father in making tea.

     

    Meanwhile, when Alfred took the opportunity that they must go upstairs, he motioned the Japanese upstairs, nearly pushing him until they reached his bedroom. As Kiku settled his Mid-term books and papers on the bed, Alfred looked up at him apologetically.

     

    “Sorry about that. They are a bunch of knuckleheads sometimes but they don’t really mean it.”

     

    Kiku tittered and placed his palm on the blonde’s hand as a reassurance. “Don’t be. In fact, I enjoy the dynamic that’s going on in your family.”

     

    “Are you serious, Keeks?”

     

    “I never lie to you, Alfred-san.”

Chapter Text

            February 10, the day before Kiku’s birthday, at the same time, there was a sale in an anime store.

 

            Alfred once told me there was a time when his half-witted brain took over his memory. Well, more likely the time when he almost forgot about Kiku’s birthday. He promised Kiku and himself, that he’ll buy him a gift, “something that would totally blow your mind!” he would say. But then, whatever he was doing at that moment, it made him forgot that the celebration was getting closer until that night when he went to bed, he opened his eyes as he felt the nerves in his eyes popping out, forming tiny red branches of dendrites around the sclera. (This is a bad description! I regret putting it here!!)

 

            “Oh, f*ck!!!” he cursed himself out loud. “I forgot the gift!”

 

            Lucky for him, by the next morning, he passed by an anime store with a big sign at the top that said “SALE!!! Only Today!” written in an Asian font with character designs from popular animes surrounding it. It was his chance!

 

            As he went into the store, the entire place was crowded. Everyone was loud and obviously in a rush. Otakus, fangirls and fanboys alike, giggled and squirmed every time they claimed every piece of merchandise. Some were stuffing their bags with a dozen or more costumes. Others stopped by and read one of the mangas from the shelves before they placed it in their bags. Artists were rooted in the drawing supply section where they gathered papers, screen tones, and pens. Interestingly, they were also selling body pillows as he saw a girl carrying a Hatsune Miku Dakimakura.

 

            Alfred made his way deeper into the store, squeezing himself in while the crowd tried to get themselves through to the cashier. He saw multiple sections of mangas, anime, cosplay, supplies, novels, and even a game section. Alfred remembered Kiku already brought the latest edition of his favorite video game, so he passed that area until he reached an open spot where action figures were on sale.

 

            The section wasn’t really that crammed full compared to the other ones. Alfred skimmed over the shelves, trying to find the perfect merchandise for Kiku’s liking. Apparently, the store had most of the characters from most anime shows as they were set in alphabetical order as well as the title of the cluster. That is until there’s this one group where it isn’t considered as an anime: Vocaloid. From what Alfred recalled, Kiku was (and still is) one of the biggest fans of Vocaloid, and when the blonde sought for a specific character, he found his Holy Grail at the very top of the shelf: Kiku’s favorite, Hatsune Miku, and it was the only one left!

 

            “Jackpot!!!” he thought to himself while reaching for the action figure in the box. Just then, when he grabbed the package, at the same time, someone grabbed it as well.

 

            Alfred jerked his head to the right and saw a man (or a girl) in a red shirt with Chinese symbols written on the front. He (or she) had a pair of amber brown eyes, and a long dark brown hair tied into a ponytail.

 

            “Um, excuse me, but I had it first.” The blonde said to the stranger.

 

            “Yes, but I saw it first.” The stranger said, a little more demanding. He (as what Alfred assured his gender was) had a strong Chinese accent.

 

            “Ok, but I grabbed it first,” Alfred argued, trying not to cause further conflict with this man, specifically with an Asian. “How about I give you a hundred bucks and you can buy all the stuff you want?”

 

            The Chinese laughed. “No deal, boy. You can’t buy me with that load of crap.”

 

             “Give me the action figure and no one gets hurt,” Alfred said between his teeth. That statement later became an irony.

 

            What happened next was a vicious tug of war. Alfred trying to get the package as he held the side of the box with a tight grip, while the Chinese stranger held the other side, trying to drag the box from the blonde.

 

            “Oh is that The Dark Lord Hima?” the American pointed to the distance. The stranger followed his direction, hence the struggle waned and Alfred took that chance to get the entire package from the Asian’s grip.

 

            He began to laugh out until he felt the stranger wrapped an arm around his neck and strangled him. This action later caused people to draw their attention to them, but none bothered to help or stop them, after all, this wasn’t new.

 

            As an effect of squeezing the life out of Alfred, the Chinese man took the action figure. When he was about to walk away with triumph, Alfred pulled his ponytail and pinned him against the floor by the neck. That’s when everything went crazy… more or less…

 

*          *            *

 

            Alfred went home around 8:10 pm. His hair was a mess, his glasses were a little bent, his jacket was undone, he had a gash on his arm, and his face was smudged with soot or dirt. He decided to call Matthew to pick him up. When they entered the house, Arthur Kirkland was already there, waiting for them.

 

            “Alfred F. Jones, where have you been and why did you come in my house like that?” Arthur asked while crossing his arms in a severe manner.

 

            Alfred gulped and said, “From the Anime Store.” He held up a bag, which contained the Hatsune Miku action figure.

 

            Francis Bonnefoy went out from the kitchen, and when he saw his adoptive son in a real mess, he gasped and covered his mouth with his hands. “Alfred, Mon Cher, what happened?” he asked the same way a worried mother would ask if a child came home with bruises and wounds.

 

            Alfred raised his hand to calm him down. “It’s alright, Pops, I’m fine, there’s nothing to worry about.” He replied evenly.

 

            “Did you murder someone?” Arthur asked with a tone near to a threat.

 

            The younger blond felt the strand twitched on his hairline when his adoptive father mentioned “murder”. Alfred told them “no”.

 

            “Then what happened?”

 

            “Nothing.” Liar! He mentally accused himself.

 

            “Except that you got into a brawl this morning,” Matthew said once he appeared behind his brother after he parked their parents’ car in the garage.

 

            Alfred whipped his head around and sneered at his twin, “Why must you be such a tattletale?” and then to the older men in front of him. “Ok, I confess, I did not murder anyone, but I did strangle someone.”

 

            Francis nodded his head while clicking his tongue and shaking his head left to right. Arthur gave out a more disappointed expression as he tried to squeeze the bridge of his nose while shutting his eyes tight, and sighed in exasperation.

           

            “Why did you do it this time, Alfred?”

 

            “It’s a long story.”

 

*          *            *

            The date was February 11.

 

            Bringing Kiku’s present, Alfred biked all his way from his house to his place. Compared to his home, Kiku’s house was smaller but cozier. It was a two-story building painted in white with a red roof, sliding windows, and had a small gate. As he made sure he had the right address written on his paper, he knocked on the wooden door. Alfred heard a small female voice calling from inside, probably Kiku’s mom, before the knob was twisted.

 

            Kiku opened the door and saw his friend standing at the other side wearing a white dress shirt, black pants and black shoes, and his favorite brown bomber jacket. Alfred stared back at him, looking from head to toe as he noticed that Kiku was wearing suspenders, making himself look formal, and Alfred began to think that maybe he underdressed.

 

            “Ohayo, Alfred-san!” Kiku said, breaking the silence.

 

            “Hey there, Keeks! You look great, by the way.”

 

            “Arigato!” he blushed. “Please, come in!”

 

            Alfred made his way inside and took off his shoes. Kiku helped him with his bomber jacket and hung it on the nearest peg. After doing so, the Japanese grabbed his arm and started to lead him to the living room. For Alfred’s part, he was not surprised that his friend made a physical contact with him, after all, they spent so much time together, and he was glad that Kiku was finally getting out of his shell.

 

            “I’m glad you came. You’re the only one I can invite here in my birthday, you know.” Kiku said while looking up at him.

 

            The American smiled and said, “Anything for you, Keeks. You know I won’t leave you hanging.” Remembering the gift he had under his other arm, he stopped them for a while and handed it to Kiku. “That’s my present for you, I hope you like it.”

 

            Without even waiting, Kiku ripped off the tape gently as it fell from his hands. He held up the action figure to his face and he immediately lightened up.

 

            “Al! I love this so much! This is the best! It’s so cute! I love it! I love it! I love it!” he jumped and yelled like a child, something Alfred never seen before, and so he stared at him, impress of this new character that was hidden from his best friend, and watched him leaping in joy like a child being given a candy. Kiku Honda, humble, quiet, reserve, then again, still innocent, happy, and excited, another variety of a human spirit that motivated Alfred to adore him even more. And then, at that moment, Kiku hopped up, wrapped his arms around his neck, and pulled him down as he kissed the corner of Alfred’s lips.

 

            Realizing what he did, Kiku let go of him, and that’s when he was back to his embarrassed and shy nature. “I’m so sorry, Alfred-san! Gomenasai! Gomenasai! I really didn’t mean it. I got carried away and I didn’t know that-“ he started to ramble before the American held his shoulders to keep him at ease.

 

            “Ssshhh… hey, there’s no need to say sorry.” Alfred whispered. “We all got pretty excited and I do that sometimes, too, you know.”

 

            The latter stuttered. “I- I know, but still I-“

 

            “Don’t apologize.” He pulled back his black bangs and placed a small kiss on the forehead. “In truth, I’m really happy when you’re happy. So please, don’t feel bad about yourself.”

 

            Kiku only looked at him. For a minute, he leaned over and gently rubbed his cheek with Alfred’s. “We should get there by now, my mom is waiting.”  He whispered. Alfred agreed and the two of them went in.

 

            In the living room, a woman was standing at the other side, she had a short frame, she was wearing a white shirt and a brown pencil skirt, her hair was cut short, and her posture was very even with her hands folded on the front.

 

            “Okasan, this is my friend, Alfred F. Jones,” Kiku said. “Alfred-san, this is Saika Honda, my mother.”

 

            Mrs. Honda stood rigidly before she made a curt bow, the same gesture Kiku did when he met his family. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Alfred-san. I heard many things about you from Kiku, and I am in gratitude that you made friends with him,” she said in a flawless, cool tone. Unlike Kiku, Alfred noticed she spoke without an accent, probably due to the fact that she’s working in an office where her job is to be as professional as possible.

 

            “I thank you for accepting me here in your home, ma’am,” Alfred said, returning the same gesture. “Also, it is my pleasure to be friends with your son. And I assure you, I will treat him and welcome him as a family, and the same goes to you and his brother.”

 

            The older woman gave them a solemn smile, and then she turned to Kiku, “You have a very sincere friend right here, son. I'm very impressed at your stance, Alfred-san. It seems like I don’t have to worry about my son’s security outside after all.”

 

            “I guarantee you won’t,” the American said with poise.

 

            A moment later, they heard footsteps stomping downstairs to the living room they were in.

 

            “Ah! Kiku, your brother is here.” Mrs. Honda said when she looked over Alfred’s shoulder. “Alfred-san, meet Yao Wang, my first son and Kiku’s half-brother.”

 

            Kiku and Alfred turned around at the same time. As they did so, they encountered a boy, likely with Chinese descent based on his name, who was a little older than Kiku with an olive skin and big amber brown eyes, his long dark brown hair was draped over his shoulder, making him almost look like a girl. He was wearing a red Changsha and had a slight wound at the bottom of his cheek. Alfred thought he looked so familiar until he remembered what happened yesterday in the anime store, he felt his eyes went wide and slowly dropping his jaw when he figured out that person.

 

            Yao, as what his name is, must’ve realized it, too, as his face twisted into a shock and he pointed an accusing finger to Alfred’s direction, “YOU!”

 

            Oh boy…

 

            “It was YOU!” Yao exclaimed. “You little suck-ball! Having the guts to show up here!”

 

            “Wait, what’s going on?” Mrs. Honda asked, looking perplexed at Alfred then at her son.

 

            “He’s the guy that nearly strangled me to death!”

 

            Alfred was about to explain that he did not mean to cause harm until Kiku disrupted him. “Alfred-san, is it true?”

 

            “Look, Kiku, Mrs. Honda, Yao.” Alfred began while holding his hands up to calm them. “As much as I hate to say this, I do admit that Yao- Kiku’s brother and I went into a rough start. We were in an anime store and we were got ourselves in a tug of war over a Hatsune Miku action figure in which I have to give you, but it went really, really, ugly that we ended up in an actual fight.”

 

            “And you proceeded to choke me like a rag doll,” Yao said with much spite.

 

            Alfred nodded sadly at that statement. “Yes, and that happened. But seriously, I absolutely have no idea that you and Kiku are related, I don’t even know what his brother looks like.”

 

            “Well, you should’ve asked nicely in the first place.”

 

            “And I did. I even told you I got it first but you kept insisting that you saw it first.”

 

            “I wanted that action figure for my brother, you stupid American.”

 

            “You didn’t even say that. And if you did, I might’ve given it to you and bought something else. Also, I was buying it for Kiku, too.”

 

            “And you bribed me, and I find it highly insulting. Plus, you cut my cheek!” the Chinese yelled while pointing the small bandage at his cheek.

 

            Kiku stepped in, and what he did next was unexpected. “That’s nothing compared to this.” He rolled up one of Alfred’s sleeves, showing a bandage wrapped around to the bottom of his elbow where the large gash had been underneath. Alfred stared at his friend with further surprise as the latter only giving him a nod, a gesture in which they shared to say that they got each other’s back.

 

            “Oh dear…” Mrs. Honda whispered behind her hands.

 

            Yao only stared at the American’s arm.

 

            “Well… at least you both survived the clash.” Mrs. Honda said finally. “However, I do not want further chaos in my house, not to mention, it is Kiku’s birthday, hence I want this ado to straighten out. Alfred-san,” she turned to Alfred. “As a conservative, we, Japanese, enjoyed to show our hospitability to our guests, be they foreigner or our countryman. But to be fair, I would like you to apologize to my son, after all, we must preserve our dignity.”

 

            “I know,” Alfred said silently. He turned to Yao. “I’m sorry for what I did, Yao.”

 

            Yao grunted quietly.

 

            “Good. Now, for you son.” Mrs. Honda said to her eldest. “As much as I know you like the back of my hand, I understand that you would go all of this trouble for your brother. But what you did to Alfred-san was as horrible as what he did to you. Seppuku won’t be your answer, yet since this is considered as an accident, as well as a misunderstanding, I would suggest you should apologize, just so you have your honor back.”

 

            Kiku once told me that when their mother scolded them, Yao, being the eldest and favorite, would never get away from their mother’s reprimands like that. Thus, Yao apologized in the end, however, as what Kiku said, he found “a loophole”.

 

            “Say, Alfred, I remember you tried to offer me one hundred dollars, correct?” Yao said with a smirked.

 

            “Yes, I did.”

 

            “Well, since I am also a victim in our fight, and you’re asking my forgiveness, I would forgive you if,” his smirk grew, “you pay me that one hundred dollars.”

           

            “Yao!” Kiku yelled in alarm.

 

            “Son, I don’t think it is necessary.” Mrs. Honda said at a faster pace.

 

            Alfred was too surprised to respond. Dear God, he thought, does he even know that I’m broke?

 

            “You’re friends with Kiku, right?” the Chinese asked, this time, his tone was more serious.

 

            “Yes.” He replied simply.

 

            “In that case,” Alfred recalled the strong venom in Yao’s voice when he said this, “if you ever hurt my brother, even if it’s a slight touch, you’re going to pay the price…”

 

*          *            *

 

            “I’m really sorry for what happened earlier.” Kiku apologized as Alfred noticed the faint blush on his cheeks. “I mean, my brother could be rude sometimes but this is too intense and-“

 

            “Hey, don’t worry, I’m fine,” Alfred said, giving him an assuring smile. “Families are not supposed to be perfect, like: have you seen mine?”

 

            Kiku laughed when he remembered the last time he witnessed Mr. Kirkland and Mr. Bonnefoy’s dynamic brawl. It was late in the afternoon and the sun was setting. The party was over about thirty minutes ago. Kiku decided to walk Alfred home as the blond pushed his bike with him while walking alongside with his friend.

 

            “I have to admit, your mom is pretty nice.” The American complimented. “I thought she was going to be pretty strict like hell.”

 

            “She is,” Kiku said. “There are times she could be strict, but ever since-“ Kiku paused, “ever since she found out that I’m doing pretty good in school and you became my friend, she became nicer than before.”

 

            “Why is that?”

 

            The Japanese shrugged. “Maybe because she doesn’t have to take care of me anymore, I mean she already realized that I could take care of myself, and maybe, she thought I’m finally out of her hair, after all, she hated me.”

 

            “Hey, don’t say that,” Alfred said. “Your adorable, there’s no way she could hate you!”

 

            Kiku heard those compliments a lot, and all he could do say was, “I wish I could be as upbeat as you, Alfred-san.” The blond got nothing to say about that.

 

            Breaking the awkward silence, the raven-haired boy continued asking, “So, are you really sure that you can pay my brother for ridiculous reasons?”

 

            Alfred chuckled at the thought, although a part of him was bawling in tears. “Sure, why not? He sounded so serious when he said that, and trust me, that nearly made me piss my pants.”

 

            The former laughed at the last part and said, “I told you, sometimes my brother could be a jerk, but you don’t have to do what he said.”

 

            “I have to,” when Alfred said this, Kiku said he sounded so guilty and solemn. “It’s like my repayment after you defended me back there.” He looked deeply into his dark brown eyes. “I owed you back there, Keeks.”

 

            Kiku’s face went red by the said of the statement. “I- it was nothing, Alfred-san.”

 

            There was another moment of silence, and the walk became more awkward. It went on for two minutes, then three, then four… five… six… until.

 

            “Wait a second, can I ask you something?” Alfred stated.

 

            “Sure.”

 

            “How did you know I have a gash on my arm?”

 

            Kiku shrugged before confidently said, “If you’re in an anime store surrounded by otakus, you know hell would break loose once their inner fanboys and fangirls are released.”

 

            “Hahaha, good one.”

 

            “And most of all,” Kiku stopped his tracks as Alfred followed him. “Knowing you, I know you are reckless whenever you want to get something for me.” He raised an eyebrow, “Do you remember the claw machine?”

 

            That was the moment when Alfred swore that he felt his heart thumped.

Chapter Text


            As children, there’s always a time when our teacher or anyone asked us our favorite season. I remembered, when I was in kindergarten, I answered winter (I have my reasons). And speaking of seasons, I also remember what Alfred told me about that one spring morning

 

            For some people, after enduring the ruthless wind within a snowy desert for three months, they could finally breathe the lukewarm air of Primavera, it was the season of life, flowers bloom, birds chirping, animals ended their hibernation, all of these natural phenomena were the icons of spring… and so does a cold, ironically…

 

            In Alfred’s case, it’s never new to him that he would eventually get a cold in the first week of spring. He claimed that it is a natural reaction or “shock” after an immediate change in the weather. At that time, Alfred was in his bed. Mr. Kirkland brought him a thick blanket and helped him wrapped himself into a burrito. Mr. Bonnefoy, as usual, brought him a simple bowl of fruit salad (mainly apples, oranges, and mangoes). Matthew, on the other hand, went to school as Alfred requested him if he could get a copy of his missed class notes and the homework.

 

            “Achoo!” Alfred wiped the snot from his nose with a crumpled tissue.

 

            “See, this is why I’m telling you to eat your salad, it’s not even close to Arthur’s scones.” Francis reprimanded as he crossed his arms while watching the boy tossing the tissue into the nearest bin.

 

            “It’s not that I don’t like it,” Alfred said with a hoarse voice. “It’s just that I find it hard to swallow.”

 

            Francis sighed and shook his head. Just then, Arthur walked in, already in his suit and tie, and carrying a briefcase in his hand. “Oi! Frog, I heard you talking shit about me, so I came to make sure you’re not feeding him crap.”

 

            Francis rolled his eyes and said, “Well, the only crap you used to feed him is anything you touch in the kitchen.”

 

            Alfred snorted at them but it ended up turning into another sneeze. The other two looked at his direction as they watched him in apprehension.

 

            “Alfred, I know this is a hard time for you but I have to go to work now. Are you going to be fine?” The Brit asked in his caring tenor.

 

            “Of course I will be. Pops is here anyway.”

 

            “Of course.” He then turned to the other man. “You better not leave him alone, Frog.” He said while giving him the “Or else” look.

 

            “Don’t even stress yourself, Cher,” Francis said. “You know I’ve been taking care of him ever since he started showing his symptoms when he was a kid.”

 

            Arthur nodded in agreement. “Well, I should be going now. I may be a little late tonight but you can start dinner without me.”

 

            The three of them said their goodbyes until Arthur disappeared and made his way outside and drove away.

 

            “Hey, Pops,” Alfred coughed.

 

            “Hmm?”

 

            “It’s lunchtime in our school, can you ask Kiku if he already paired up with someone for the History project? I remember it’s today we have to pick our partner.”

 

            The Frenchman exhaled with content. “You know, knowing Kiku from you, I always bet he would choose you in every instant.” He said, grabbing his adoptive son’s cell phone on the nightstand. “I mean, you should now, after all, you two are like Damon and Pythias.”

 

            Alfred furrowed his eyebrows. “I’ve never heard of them before.”

 

            Francis stopped scanning his phone and thought of the myth. “Once, two friends, Damon and Pythias traveled Syracuse. It was during the tyrannical reign of Dionysius I, and Pythias was accused of plotting against the king and was sentenced to death. Pythias asked to be allowed to return home one last time to bid his family farewell but the king refused, believing that once released, he would escape. Meanwhile, Damon offered to take his spot while he was gone. The king agreed, on the condition that if Pythias failed to return, Damon would be put to death in his place. The latter agreed, and Pythias was released. Days later, Dionysius prepared to execute Damon. But just as the executioner was about to kill Damon, Pythias returned. It turned out that pirates capture him and while they were sailing to Syracuse, he was thrown overboard, hence swimming his way to the destination. Dionysius was so pleased and astonished with their friendship that he pardoned them both. It was also said that Dionysius sought to become their third friend, but was denied.”

 

            The younger blond raised an eyebrow and commented, “As much as that’s interesting, don’t you think that it’s hinting a gay romance between those dudes?”

 

            Francis snorted at the remark and said, “Actually, that’s story is a primary example of the Pythagorean ideal of friendship, where it said that friendship is the truest and nearest perfect relationship.”

 

            “Yeah, and it said ‘perfect’ relationship,” another cough. “It kind of assumes that it’s related to a homosexuality. And using that as an analogy, there’s no way, not in your lifetime, that you could presume that I have a thing with my best friend.”

 

            The Frenchman blinked. “That’s not what I’m saying, Alfred.”

 

            Alfred felt his cheeks grew redder, but it could be the fever though, as he said, “Well, that’s what you’re implying.”

 

            “You mean- that’s what you’re implying?” Francis said, giving him a deadpanned look. But the fact that Alfred didn’t make another comeback because he’s either too tired to answer or indirectly confessed his secret crush on the Japanese made the older man smirk internally.

 

            The silence took about thirty seconds when Alfred waved his hands weakly as if he was showing off a fly. “Ok that’s enough lesson for the day and I’m not even in school, can you call Kiku now, he has twelve minutes left.”

 

            His adoptive father grumbled something inaudible while he scanned for Kiku’s name in the contacts. A few moments later, Alfred finally heard a dial tone ringing echoing in the other side of the phone. Five rings later, someone finally answered, but it didn’t sound Kiku’s voice.

 

            “Moshi, Moshi” it sounded more feminine.

 

            “Ohayōgozaimasu. Anou, Kiku wa iru desu ka?” Francis responded, a little confused.

 

            “Hai. Kore wa dare desu ka?

 

            “Boku wa Furanshisu Bōnefoi, Arufureddo no chichi desu.

 

            “Alfred-san? Arufureddo wa iru desu ka?” the voice echoed a little louder, almost as someone was surprised or so.

 

            “Hai, doushite?

 

            “Sumimasen. Demo Arufureddo to hanasu koto wa dekimasu ka?

 

            With that being said, Francis steadily gave the phone to Alfred while he looked confused and a little bit worried. “She wants to talk to you.”

 

            Alfred took it and said “Hello” to the other line.

 

            “Hello, Alfred-san?” it was Mrs. Honda, obviously. “I’m so sorry if I bother you. How are you feeling?”

 

            “I’m fine.” He answered before wiping his nose. “Although I do have a cold, it happens all the time in spring, and I’ll get better within a week or two.”

 

            “I see… Hopefully, you get better.”

 

            “Thank you. Where’s Kiku though? Did he left his phone?”

 

            “No. No, Kiku never left his phone.”

 

            “What? Wh- what happened?” As he asked, Alfred became more anxious and watched Francis shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

 

            “Well, Alfred-san… Kiku has a cold, too.”

 

            “He what?!” this was later followed by a bad cough. Francis swiftly gave him a water bottle and Alfred gulped the water until half of it was left in the container.

 

            “Yes, you see, it came out of nowhere and it happened too fast. To be honest, yesterday, Kiku was doing fine, I didn’t notice any symptoms or anything inconsistent with his health. This morning, the school called me that he collapsed during the second period, although he was active during period one. They said that he had a high fever, and he claimed that his muscles hurt. I took him home and I took a day off from work.” Alfred could hear the fret in her voice growing louder. “I don’t know, Alfred-san. Kiku did have a cold before, but not like this where it just shows up without a warning. It’s strange, and it’s more unusual, considering that he never got sick during spring until this morning.”

 

            Alfred thought about it, and although colds could be unpredictable, he still found it weird. Similarly, he agreed with Mrs. Honda that Kiku is always as healthy as a cow, and colds are supposed to show symptoms before the main trigger came along. Interestingly, it was the same day when Alfred had a cold when his best friend got one as well! Coincidence? Some people would think that it’s not and claim that there’s always a reason. For Alfred, he didn’t think that time was the right time to think about it.

 

            “I’m pretty sure he’ll do fine, Mrs. Honda,” Alfred replied. “So long as you do what you must do, it’s going to be all right and he’ll get well before long. I mean, your son is one of the strongest players in this battlefield, and we all hope for him.”

 

            “It’s very kind of you, Alfred-san.” The woman said in her solemn, yet genuine tone. “I should go now, I must prepare his lunch before he wakes up. I’ll send him your regards. And get well soon.”

 

            “Yes, please. Thank you.”

 

            “Hai. Also, tell your father I said Arigato.”

 

            “Yes, I will. Sayonara.”

 

            “Sayonara.

 

            And with that, the conversation was over. Alfred put away his phone before looking back at Francis. “She said Arigato to you, by the way.”

 

            “That’s nice of her. So what did she say?” He asked.

 

            The younger blond answered croakily, “Like what she said, it turns out Kiku has a cold too. But it is more unusual since he didn’t show any symptoms earlier.”

 

            “You mean, it happened just like that?” the Frenchman quirked an eyebrow.

 

            “Yes.” He said. “Strange fluke, isn’t it?”

 

            “Well,” Francis shrugged. “What if it’s no accident?”

 

            Once again, Alfred brought back the train of thought where he bore in mind that there are some people who thought that this is not a coincidence, arguing that every force in the world, whether by God or nature, had specific motives on why things are the way they are and why did it happen. And it would be the fact that if two things were brought together; it would shape a balanced aura within the world, a variety that would help every being to survive in the ever-evolving world. He began to think about his relationship with Kiku, their mutual agreements, supporting each other’s back, his feelings for him, and the cold. What if…

 

            “Hey, Pops?”

 

            Francis listened to what he was about to say.

 

            “Do you believe in soul mates?”

 

            Before the latter answered, Alfred made a loud sneeze.

 

*          *            *

 

            Kiku made a loud sneeze as Mrs. Honda was pouring a tea on his cup.

 

            “Daijoubu desu ka?” his mother inquired.

 

            Kiku wiped his nose and replied her with a yes. I wonder who is talking about me. He thought.

*            *            *


            A week later, Alfred and Kiku returned to school after they were both cured the day before.

Chapter Text

            At that time in their community, Kiku and Alfred once told me that their district always held an anime convention every May of the year. As what these put up, it was like their “daily ritual” to attend every convention available, whether it would squeeze them to the last penny or they’ll die of starvation (or maybe in Type II diabetes since they would come home carrying a bag of Japanese sweets and chocolate bars). For these two dorks, these conventions were like their Christmas and birthdays combined together, they love to reminisce the olden times when they were young, buying anime-related merchandises, Hi-Chew candies, sushi, onigiris, pins, clothes, posters, and pictures with other Cosplayers. Although, as I believe, they still go to these events to this day, they would never stop talking about the many characters they cosplayed: Naruto (Alfred) and Sasuke (Kiku); Eren (Alfred) and Levi (Kiku); Inuyasha (Alfred) and Kagome (Kiku); a maid (Kiku) and a butler (Alfred); Len (Alfred) and Miku (Kiku), etc. etc.

 

            But none is more memorable than their first convention.

 

*          *            *

 

            It was April, a week after they saw the advertisement of the convention in their public library.

 

            “Who are you planning to cosplay?” Kiku asked on the phone.

 

            Alfred was browsing on the Internet about any character suggestions, he was actually planning to go as Batman but that gig was clearly old and overrated, plus he should see Kiku’s decision first before he could make a move. “I’m not pretty sure about this, but do you have any ideas who would you like to go as?” he asked.

 

            It took a moment for the Japanese to register and said, “Well, I was planning to go as Japan from that anime we watch, but the costumes are expensive.”

 

            “You mean the one where everyone is ‘as straight as a circle’ and basically shows the stereotypical version of each race while telling us inaccurate yet accurate histories but the creator doesn’t take them seriously?” Alfred asked casually and even more surprised of his own self when he said this in one breath without a blink.

 

            “If you mean the one we suggested to watch in History class, then yes.” Kiku said in the same deadpan voice, at the same time, he recalled that one day when everyone was confused and Gilbert literally shout “What the crap is this!?” followed by Matthias who said “A video straight from Hell, duh!” in which, Kiku have to agree, it is.

 

            “Yeah… I can see there why ” he listened to the blond speaking as he went from that thought then back to their current conversation. “I should’ve cosplayed America as well… although, despite being an American myself, I find that hamburger prostitute obnoxious and loud.”

 

            Alfred heard a loud gasp in the other line, followed by Kiku’s ranting tone, “How dare you to talk about him like that?! Not only you insult your own nation, but also you called him a ‘prostitute’? He may be loud and obnoxious but you have no rights to call him a ‘prostitute’!”

 

            The blond was amused by how his friend spoke, so he decided to continue this a little bit longer. “Hey, at least I’m not trying to pose him as an actual whore like how some people posed France as one.”

 

            And then another sharp gasp, “ALFRED!!!”

 

            He mentally slapped himself and said, “Shoot! I’m sorry, I’m not supposed to say that! But still, a lot of people still do it.”

 

            “Yeah, true. But France is a sweetheart, he defines true love. America is adorable. Canada is a cinnamon fluff. England is our grumpy cat. Japan is my baby boy. Russia is a cuddly bear. China is our old man. Italy is an adorable idiot. Germany is a gay potato. Romano is our tomato face.  Spain has a nice ass. Prussia is everything but dead. And basically, everyone is awesome!!!!” Yes, Kiku!!! Preach! Preach!! PREACH!!! (that’s what Alfred was saying in his head while listening). After Kiku said this ‘monologue’, his voice inverted to more menacing. “Those people who dared to insult my babies have no souls and damned to got to hell.”

 

            “Um… Keeks, speaking of souls,” Alfred began and quirked his eyebrows. “Do you think we still have souls from the moment we signed ourselves into watching this trash that would send us to the tenth circle of hell?”

 

            “…”

 

            “…”

 

            “…”

 

            “…”

 

            “Anyways, let’s go back to business.” The Japanese finally said, still on the phone, and he somehow dodged the question, making Alfred shake his head and covering his mouth from laughing.

 

            Meanwhile, they did go back to where they lost track and continued browsing and scanning in the screen. They stumbled upon other shows such as Dragon Ballz, Sailor Moon, Ironman, X Men, etc., etc. until:

 

            “Wait, I remember!” Alfred stopped moving his mouse as he held up his phone closer to his ear. Kiku continued, “Have you heard the game Overwatch before?”

 

            “Yes, I have. You told me about it, although I don’t play it.”

 

            “It doesn’t matter if you play it or not. At least you clearly know it, right?”

 

            “Right.”

 

            “Ok, how about you cosplay as McCree while I cosplay as Hanzo?” Japan suggested, clearly giving out a confident tenor.

 

            “Hey! That’s a good idea!” Alfred said. “But do you think the costumes would cost a lot?”

 

            “No,” the Japanese replied. “See here, while I was browsing, it turns out that the costume for Hanzo costs around $35, and when I checked McCree’s, it’s $34. Both costumes are free shipping”

 

            “Hmm. That’s not so bad.”

 

            “I know, and trust me, it’s a lot cheaper compared to the other costumes. So, what do you think?”

 

            “We can go with that,” Alfred said. “But can you email me the link though?”

 

            “Sure!” Kiku said with much motivation. Two minutes later, Alfred received his message and viewed the costume. He realized that Kiku got the link from a famous costume slash cosplay website called CosBay, which was like a five dollar store but more expensive and reasonable. He looked at the costume on the screen complete with armor, pants, gloves, the cape, hat, etc.

 

            “You know you can go as Young!McCree if you want to.” Kiku said in the other line. “I’m going as Hanzo’s version so…” 

 

            “I’ll think about it,” the American replied. “But for now, we are settled with this plan, right?” the latter agreed.

 

            “Although, I have a question,” Alfred began. “Considering that this fandom is so popular lately, and you’re Hanzo while I’m McCree, what if there are these fangirls (or boys) who wants us to (you know)…” he felt his face getting hot just by the thought of it. “the both of us to… kiss?” he ended with an unsure intonation of whether that was a question or a statement. “I mean, being bisexual, I’m ok if I kiss like this is just a ‘play’ but we won’t do it if you’re uncomfortable with It.” he quickly added.

 

            “Well…” In the other line, Kiku hesitated, but what Alfred didn’t witness, unfortunately, was the fact that the Japanese boy was blushing as well. “Base from what I know, i-it doesn’t happen most of the time. But if that happens, then I’ll be prepared for that- I mean, Al, I’ve seen worse than just a simple peck and it’s a golden rule to follow whatever the fans request.”

 

            “Really? Are you sure?”

 

            “Oh, Pffft! You don’t have to worry. Trust me, you’re going to enjoy it.”

 

            “Okay then,” Alfred said quietly. “Well, I have to go. Gotta ask dad for some loot.”

 

            Kiku smiled at the assertion and replied, “Okay, Alfred-san. I’ll see you soon.”

 

            He’s so cute when he said that. Alfred grinned at the thought. “Of course, Keeks. Sayonara.”

 

            One last smile from the latter, “Sayonara, boku no tomodachi.

 

*          *            *

 

            The rest of the people in the household gathered around in the living room. Arthur Kirkland was sitting on their favorite couch reading today’s newspaper while sipping his tea. Sitting beside him was Francis Bonnefoy making a cross-stitch of Anne Hathaway’s cottage while humming Honeymoon Un. Deux. Trois. And Matthew was on a single chair texting with Gilbert about… certain things. And lastly, Alfred went in to join.

 

            “Hey, Dad?” he called. Arthur made a sign that he got his attention before he continued. “Can I ask some thirty-four bucks from you?”

 

            “Go get a job,” Arthur replied without even looking at him.

 

            “Arthur!” Francis protested, putting down his needlework.

 

            “What do you need it for?” Arthur proceeded as if he didn’t hear the French scolding him (but he did), and he was looking up at the younger blond standing behind him.

 

            “For a cosplay?” Alfred said. “Kiku invited me to an anime convention.”

 

            The Brit looked at his twin brother. “Matthew, do you know anything about this convention?”

 

            “Yes, I do,” he answered. “In fact, Gil was talking about it now, and he wants me to come, too.”

 

            “Do you have to wear any costume or anything?”

 

            Matthew shrugged, “You don’t have to.”

 

            “So why do you need my money, young man?” Arthur asked as he turned back to Alfred and looked at him sternly. The boy was about to say how the Brit’s eyebrows looked bigger when he’s serious or something, but that’s beside the point! And it’s no time for joking! (Although Alfred was serious though)

 

            “Because I promised Keeks that we’ll be going together in costumes,” Alfred said and began to pull his puppy-dog face. “He’s been expecting this event ever since. I’m his only best friend and I don’t want to disappoint him.”

 

            “Awww~” Francis commented with a grin. Matthew only looked at his adoptive father while Arthur whipped his head at him and gave him a glare. Realizing this, the Frenchman said his tone, “I mean ‘oh’.”

 

            “Look, I know, you may not like my decisions, but at least let me do this, this is only a one-time event!” the younger blond begged.

 

            Arthur clicked his tongue, unassertive, and said, “I don’t know Alfred. What are you going to dress as?”

 

            “A Cowboy.”

 

            “Again?!” the older man exclaimed, recalling the weeks when Alfred was young and obsessed with his Cowboy outfit while yodeling 24/7, Arthur regret the day he bought that attire for him on Halloween, and there’s not a chance he’ll survive if history repeats itself.

 

            “Hey, it’s not just a cowboy, it’s a futuristic cowboy.” Alfred pointed out.

 

            “Same difference!” Arthur screamed.

 

            Francis, on the other hand, wanted to intervene. He rubbed his temples and sighed. “Arthur, I think it’s best for you to give him the money.”

 

            The Brit aggressively turned to him and furrowed his eyebrows in shock. “So now you’re taking his side?!”

 

            Francis frowned back at him and replied, “For someone who has no taste like his tea and doesn’t know a single thing about fandoms, it’s highly without a doubt that you’re making this situation very unhealthy like your scones.”

 

            “Stop referencing my cooking, you cheesy monkey, or I’ll cut off your ears!” Arthur said between his teeth.

 

            “Oh, so you want to make me like Van Gogh?” Francis said with a slight excitement in his eyes.

 

            “Get to the point, Frog!!!” the other man exclaimed, loud enough for Alfred to back out, Matthew dropping his phone, and Francis smirking in triumph.

 

            “As I was saying,” the Frenchman quoted, “As an advocate to Japanese anime and manga, and other fandoms, I know how it feels to get something you want but you don’t have the money to do so. Events like this only happened once or maybe never, and it’s better for Alfred to experience something he has never done before, and let himself be the judge of such event. After all,” he scooted closer, “if you want to get this over with, then you better give him what he wants. You know how persistent he is, right?”

 

            Arthur listened to what Francis said, he looked up at Alfred, who was biting his lip, then back to Francis, who was raising an eyebrow. He thought of what the Frenchman had said, and as much as he hated him, it was and still is evident that he highly respects him. He reminisced the times when they were young, he used to call him “France”, and always clinging onto him and taking his advices. But as time passed, they grew up, he became bitter and started calling him “Frog”, he became independent, but there’s not a day where he didn’t ask Francis for an advice or help. Arthur was thankful to have him by his side, interestingly, they both ended up unmarried: Arthur, knowing that he’ll put his career over his spouse; and Francis, in spite his passion, dedicated his love to God. They were both worthless, as people would say, and that’s why, they thought, they’re inseparable. So now, there he was in the living room, listening to the Frog, again.

           

            Sighing in defeat, Arthur pulled out his credit card from his wallet and handing it to Alfred. “You can use this. But don’t thank me, thank the Frog.”

 

            Alfred’s eyes shined as he took the card. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” he hugged Arthur from behind while the Brit patted his head. And then he went to Francis and said, “Pops, you are my life saver!” Alfred pulled him proceeded to give him a big kiss on his cheek as the Frenchman laughed genuinely at this gesture.

 

            “Ok, now I’m allowing you to go and do your gig,” Arthur said while flipping his newspaper. “as long as Matthew is coming with you.”

 

            “He is?!” Alfred cried out, surprised that he’s twin was ordered to go with him.

 

            “He is?!” Matthew cried out as well, surprised that his adoptive father had given him liberty.

Chapter Text


            May XX, XXXX
, a.k.a Anime Convention Day

 

            Alfred placed a small smudge on the bottom of his lip, mimicking a slight goatee. He adjusted his wig before putting on his hat and stood as he stared at himself in front of the mirror. Smiling to himself, Alfred was certain enough that he was ready, complete with everything from his boots to his red cape. Seconds later, Matthew knocked on his door before entering.

 

            “Al, Father was asking when we are leaving,” Matthew said. “He said we will go together since he and Papa are going to the grocery, and he’ll just drop us off at Kiku’s place.”

 

            “Yeah, tell ‘em we’ll leaving soon, let’s say, two minutes,” Alfred replied, fiddling with his belt while trying to make a southern accent.

 

            Later, the twins joined together downstairs where they meet their adoptive father (the French one) with a camera in his hand. Francis turned as he saw Alfred in his gear and started squealing like a schoolgirl.

 

            “Mon Fils! Tu as l'air fantastique! This is so amazing!” Francis said as if he was seeing his “daughter” in a prom dress.

 

            “Gee, Pops,” Alfred initiated while rubbing the back of his neck, “You’re even more excited than I am.”

 

    “But I can’t help it! I wish I could go with you but you know Arthur won’t let me!” The Frenchman then turned to Matthew and observed his attire. “Mon Cher, Vous ñ'avez pas de costumes?

     

    Matthew tucked his hands in his pockets and answered, “I would like to cosplay but I don’t know what. Also, you don’t have to go in a costume to have fun, and I comfortable with what I’m wearing.”

     

    Francis gave him an unsatisfied stare and clicked his tongue. “Stay there, child. I have to get you something.”

     

    A few moments later, Francis went back with a fluffy polar bear hat as he placed it on Matthew’s head. The latter protested, saying that it was embarrassing, whilst the former assured him that he will be fine, justifying that he had been into conventions and that everyone didn’t mind what they were wearing.

     

    Francis stepped back and behold, “WOOOWW!!! You, two look so amazing! Let me take a picture!” he proceeded to turn on his camera.

     

    Alfred took part in this activity and decided to be in character as he posed himself. His brother, on the other hand, Matthew tried not to look at the camera (even though he was looking) while cupping his hands behind and felt the cap singing further on his head.

     

    After taking a picture, the Frenchman suddenly felt a sting on his head when someone hit him (on purpose). It was no mystery, of course, of who could have done such a thing to him.

     

    “That’s enough with your preposterous tomfoolery, Frog,” Arthur said smugly.

     

    “Could you at least be more gentle?” Francis retaliated. “You can’t call yourself a gentleman with that manner, you know.”

     

    The Brit glowered while trying to hover over him. Alfred once said Francis told him that in spite Arthur’s size and age, he felt himself small and defenseless when he’s challenging him. At that time, Alfred continued the story without much detail as he only said that the Frenchman “submit himself to Mr. Eyebrows with much fear” and started addressing him as “master”. God knows what really happened that day.

 

*          *            *

 

            In the car, the family decided that Arthur should drive, as usual; Francis sat on the passengers seat scanning at the grocery list, whereas the boys sat at the back, wondering how everything escalated quickly, I mean, first, the two older people at the front were talking insults to each other back in the house, and then, a few moments later, they were quiet in the car. How was that even possible?

 

            “Arthur, do you suggest anything for dinner?” Francis asked. Before the latter could answer, he quickly added, “Don’t even say ‘Fish and Chips’ because it doesn’t count as food anymore.”

 

            The green-eyed man scoffed. “Fine, Chicken Cordon Bleu.”

 

            “Oh and Pops! Can you also make milkshakes when we get back?” Alfred asked as he jumped from his seat and leaned over his adoptive father.

 

            “And is it ok if you make brownies, too?” Matthew suggested quietly while joining his brother.

 

            The feminine man laughed, lovingly pinched their cheeks and said, “Anything for you, mes enfants.”

 

            “You know, you should stop spoiling them with sweets,” Arthur said when he slightly glanced at the other members. “Or else they’ll die of Type II diabetes before they reach fifty.”

 

            Francis rolled his eyes and replied, “Oh Arthur, you should stop spoiling their fun. It’s their best day today, and it’s nothing wrong if you reward them with something nice.” The former only grumbled.

 

            A minute later, they finally arrived at Kiku’s home. Alfred didn’t hesitate to jump off from the car while his brother told him to wait.

 

            “Do you have everything you need?” the Englishman asked. “Money? Phones? Snacks?”

 

            “Check and check. We can buy snacks in the convention.” Matthew answered before looking at his brother who was already vibrating like a massage chair. “Yeah, and Papa, I think you should think twice if you’re planning to give him milk shakes.”

 

            Francis nodded his head. “We’ll see about it, Matthew.”

 

            Arthur smirked and gave him the “I told you” look before reverting back to the twins. “Anyway, we should be going now. Just call us when you’re ready to go.”

 

            “And take pictures and have fun!” Francis grinned while bending towards Arthur’s window.

 

            As they drove away after saying their good byes, the twins went and knocked on the front door. It didn’t take long for Mrs. Honda to open the door and let them in. Alfred remembered the last time he visited Kiku’s house, Yao demanded the money he “owed” and that was the same time he met his Russian boyfriend, Ivan Braginski. One time, I asked Kiku about how did their mother react when she found out that one of her sons was gay, he said she didn’t mind it, after all, even though she’s a conservative, she somehow tolerated homosexuality, claiming that it’s “part of their history”. For Alfred’s part, he could see why Yao is the perfect match for Ivan: (1) they agree with most of everything they consider. (2) Same level of intelligence. And (3) they hate Alfred. If Yao was being a jerk to him because of money, Ivan was (and still is) against him in terms of… many things, actually, especially when their views differ, like that one time they discussed The Communist Manifesto in the table, which ended up as a cold war.

 

            “Mrs. Honda, this is my twin brother, Matthew,” Alfred said, introducing the shy boy behind him. “Matt, this is Mrs. Honda.”

 

            “It’s nice to meet you, ma’am.” The twin saluted quietly while holding up his hand.

 

            “It’s nice to meet you, too, Matthew-san.” The older woman replied while smiling at his demeanor and shaking his hand. “Kiku told me that you like playing Ice Hockey”

 

            “Yes, I do,” he blushed.

 

            “It’s nice to know, I once went to Canada and my family and I went playing Ice Hockey,” Mrs., Honda said, then she sighed with satisfaction. “Good old times, and it’s also nice for you to make friends with Kiku, you and Alfred-san really help him open up.”

 

            “Oh it’s nothing, ma’am,” he said while rubbing the back of his neck.

 

            “Why don’t you boys come and make yourselves comfortable, I’ll make you guys some tea,” she said as she motioned them to the living room.

 

            “Is Yao here?” Alfred asked, feeling anxious and made sure that his wallet is still in his pocket.

 

            Mrs. Honda chuckled a little and said, “It’s alright, Alfred-san. He was in Ivan’s place, he won’t be back until tonight.” The blond sighed in relief.

 

            “Are you suppose to be a cowboy?” she inquired when she observed his attire as the latter answered yes. “I should go and make you boys some tea. Kiku will be down here any minute,” then she exited.

 

            Two minutes later, while Alfred and Matthew were talking, Kiku entered in the living room. “Alfred-san! Matthew-san!”

 

            “Keeks!” Alfred immediately glomped him just by the sight of the Japanese in his blue kimono with one of the sleeve was off, showing half of his torso decorated with a dragon tattoo, and his long black wig. Kiku didn’t mind the human contact, although he flinched a little bit at first, and decided to rub his best friend’s back.

 

            As Alfred pulled away, he thought that he looked amazing, but what really eyed his attention was the tattoo on Kiku’s left arm.

 

            “Wow! This is so rad! It looks exactly like the real one!” the blond complimented as he ran his finger lightly on his arm.

 

            “You think so?”

 

            “Of course! Hey, Matt! Check this out, and don’t you think this is cool?’

 

            “Yes, it is, Kiku,” Matthew said. “Is this temporary? Where did you get it?”

 

            “Oh, yes this is temporary,” Kiku said, “as you may know, it’s from Overwatch, and it’s actually my mother who made this since she’s once a graphic artist.”

 

            “Wait, your mom, did this?” Alfred asked, even more, astound of the information. “That is so talented of her! She does have a gift.”

 

            “I’m not even a fan of tattoos but it’s true, your mom is amazing,” Matthew said who as surprised as his brother but calmer.

 

            Kiku smiled, “Arigato. She’ll be happy to hear it.”

 

            Later, Mrs. Honda thanked their compliments and served them tea before they were ready to go.

 

*          *            *

 

            The Anime Convention was heaven, for Otakus of course. Throughout the entire course, Alfred and Kiku agreed to act like Jesse McCree and Hanzo Shimada respectively, in other words, be in character. Without surprise, once people had their eyes on them, they flocked around them like vultures on dead meat. Some fans took pictures with McCree (Alfred), while others with Hanzo (Kiku). Sometimes, they want them to be in the same photo making epic poses and whatnot. Also, they answered fan questions, most of them involving their relationship being… intimate.

 

            However, Alfred and Kiku were not the only ones who enjoyed in the convention. As a matter of fact, since Matthew was there in the first place, Gilbert went to the convention as well, surprisingly, as Alfred’s brother was wearing the polar bear hat their pops/papa gave them, the albino, as what I would prefer calling Gilbert, was wearing a yellow bird/chick hat. Ever since Alfred and the rest of his family already knew that Matthew was dating him. Alfred shouldn’t be taking this as a shock because Gilbert is one of his friends, but it still shocked him because of the fact that his brother, his twin, his shy, quiet twin brother was dating a white, loud, German boy. And it’s fascinating that they maintain their relationship to this day.

 

            Meanwhile, they also bumped into their other friends. Alfred’s Danish friend, Matthias Kohler went cosplaying as Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club, with him were the Bondeviks born from Norway: Lukas Bondevik dressed as Kyoya, and his younger sister, Liv Bondevik as Haruhi. Similar with Alfred and Kiku, the three also started to act as their respective characters, where fans insisted a sample of their skills, Tamaki (Matthias) started hugging Haruhi (Liv) but Kyoya (Lukas) was holding him back while giving him a scowl as the former started crying and calling him “Mommy”. For those who knew these three so much, it’s hard to decipher whether they were actually acting or not. See here, Matthias claimed that he and Liv were dating, but the problem was it was impossible to tell if what he said was true, especially when he brings up his relationship with Liv, Lukas would intervene and proceed to choke the Dane until he passed out, knowing that his sister would easily embarrassed when she’s exposed.

 

            Alfred and Kiku, along with Matthias, Lukas, and Liv, watched Gilbert buying Matthew a polar bear stuffed animal. Matthew thankfully took the toy in his arms before he glomped his boyfriend while he kept saying thank you.

 

            “Anytime, Little Birdie,” Gilbert said, giving out his signature smile. (He usually calls Matthew “Birdie” or “Little Birdie). “So, what are you gonna call him (or her)?”

 

            “Mr. Kumajiro.” He answered as he held up the bear in front of him. Gilbert knew that the name sounds familiar, but where did he hear that? Meanwhile, Alfred and Kiku glanced at each other and didn’t say a single syllable; after all, they perfectly knew how Matthew came up with that name.

 

            They spent their entire time in the convention walking around, looking at stalls to stalls selling Japanese candy and Ramune, merchandises from popular shows, toy plushies, action figures, body pillows, art works, posters, cards, books, movies, Funko Pops, anything you can name actually. They also feature panels including skits and interviews from voice actors, however, none of the gang knew these people, like who the hell was J. Michael Tatum?!

 

            Both Alfred and Kiku had always been telling me that there are no words to describe the exciting hysteria when they were in their conventions. It’s more awesome and amazing beyond words as what they would say, you couldn’t put the experience in much detail unless you’re exactly there yourself, but then again, your remarks would get lost in the crowd of fanatic frenzy. However, there are some moments that people won’t forget, that it etched in the back of their minds as they couldn’t help themselves retelling those incidents over and over again. And this story had a lot of those moments, and this one is one of those times Alfred and Kiku wouldn’t forget, stating that it was like “their first time.”

 

            While they were walking along, they would surely bump into fans that were crazy enough and have the guts to ask them some wacky requests.

 

            “*GASP* Fruk me running!!! Are you Hanzo and McCree?” said a girl with a black wavy bob hair wearing a Banica Conchita dress came up with her two friends, who were women cosplaying as men.

 

            “Well, that’s us, darlin’.” Alfred as McCree said, draping his arm over Hanzo (Kiku) and pulled him closer as he winked at the girl while the Japanese gave him the usual quizzical look.

 

            “Oh. My. God! Can we take a picture of you two?!” said the second girl wearing a white wig with a bird on it and a Prussian blue military uniform.

 

            They preceded taking pictures with the three women, and then they asked them random questions, which were most likely about their jobs in the Overwatch, Hanzo and his relationship with Genji, and sometimes, why does McCree like to say “High Noon”? The two boys answered their questions while they were still in character. Everything was good until…

 

            “So are you two together?” asked the third girl with glasses who was wearing a Rin Okumura cosplay.

 

            “Well, it’s technically obvious that we’re in the same room, aren’t we?” Hanzo (Kiku) stated in his typical low hoarse voice.

 

            “No,” the third girl made a little laugh. “I mean are you two: you and McCree, are you guys in a relationship?”

 

            Before Hanzo (Kiku) could answer, McCree (Alfred) decided to take the bait and said, “It depends if you’re asking us if we’re friends or anything like that, then yes.”

 

            “McCree, please don’t act like you don’t know what we mean.” the girl with a Banica dress said, diverting her tone into a sultry tenor.

 

            There’s a pause at that moment, the girls observed as McCree stared at Hanzo and the other stared at the former. Or rather, it was that moment, when it was just Alfred and Kiku staring at each other. We couldn’t really tell whether it was part of their act or were they losing their characters. This… paradoxical moment was later disturbed by an outside force, literally and figuratively speaking, and that force was none other than : a wild! Gilbert cupping his palms and yelled, “HELL YEAH!!!”

 

            And surprisingly, yet not surprisingly, Hanzo (Kiku) was the one to yell back at him. “I’LL ASSASSINATE YOU, GENJ- GILBERT!!!” that only caused the other gang- no- Gilbert and Matthias to laugh out loud, while the Bondeviks and Matthew face palmed.

 

            McCree (Alfred) leaned over and said, “Toots, you nearly said-“

 

            “Shut up, Cowboy!” Hanzo (Kiku) hissed in embarrassment.

 

            The girls were amused by their moment, just then, the second girl was readying her camera and requested, “Well, in that case, can you guys kiss?”

 

            They were not prepared for that.

 

            The two idiots behind them were chanting them to do it whereas the other three who still maintained their common senses tried to shush them down.

 

            On the other hand, Alfred thought about what Kiku said that they must perform fanservice, and that he doesn’t have to worry about asks like this because it rarely happened, but it did! Kiku, conversely, blushed just by hearing the request, he remembered how Alfred awkwardly talked to him about incidents like this to happen, even though he assured he doesn’t have a problem with it, he could sense that the blond wouldn’t take an advantage of that situation, especially since Alfred is a bisexual, and that’s what Kiku like- no- love about him, he is sincere, and at that time Kiku felt guilty for not being properly honest to Alfred, the closest friend he got. As he watched Alfred stammering uncomfortably along the lines like “I don’t think it’s appropriate” and “He’s not gonna like that or else he’ll end my life”, Kiku decided to make a move, his choice with no regrets.

     

            Hanzo (Kiku) grabbed his collar and said in his husky voice. “Shut up, and kiss me, you fool!” He smashed his lips with the American.

     

            McCree- Alfred was surprised. Surprised that Hanzo was kissing McCree. Surprised that Kiku was kissing Alfred. Was it a dream? Was it part of their act? Was it real? It didn’t really matter… he’d been waiting this moment to happen. From the moment he realized that there’s mutuality, from the moment he knew they are “soul mates”, Alfred knew he’s in love with his best friend. Yes, he loves him, he always does, fiercely that he doesn’t have the courage to take advantage of him, especially in this state, in the convention. But then, there he was, kissing him, but it’s more like two lips pressing together.

     

    Alfred and Kiku could hear their friends and the girls squealing and giggling in amazement. They felt them taking pictures and paralyzed with happiness. In what seemed like it took an hour, the kiss only took sixty seconds and they pulled away. Hanzo (Kiku) stared down at his feet when he felt like his nose was going to bleed over the excessive blushing. The rest, including McCree (Alfred), found this adorable and the American hugged him while everyone else let out a loud “AWWW~ ~”

 

*          *            *

 

            Kiku decided that he should visit Alfred by the day after the convention. They were in Alfred’s room, lying stomach down on his bed, and looked at the pictures and videos they took yesterday on Alfred’s laptop. There were a lot of photographs of the gang together making epic and wacky poses. Matthew was holding up Mr. Kumajiro like a kid with Gilbert hugging behind him. Matthias (Tamaki) carrying Liv (Haruhi) in a bridal style. Then there’s Lukas choking Matthias by tightening his own tie (Gilbert took 20 shots of it). and of course, there’s McCree and Hanzo.

 

            “Let’s check out this video,” Alfred suggested and Kiku agreed. They were watching the video where Matthias was hugging Liv but Lukas was holding him back by the back of his shirt while giving him a scowl as the Dane started crying and calling him “Mommy”. In the end, the two laughed and Alfred commented, “You can’t get enough of the dude. He’s really nailing it.”

 

            “Yep. It’s amazing how he could stay in character despite that he’s suffering.” Kiku commented.

 

            “Hey, but you’re doing great too. I especially like your voice when you were Hanzo.” Alfred nudged him gently.

 

            “And I would say the same thing to you too,” Kiku said and poked the American’s nose. “You are pretty skilled with your southern accent.” The latter just shrugged.

 

            They proceeded to look at their photos until they stopped when they saw the picture where they kissed.

 

            “Did your parents see this?” the Japanese asked.

 

            “Yes.”

 

            “What do they think?” he asked curiously.

 

            “Let’s see. Well, we all now that Matthew was surprised since his with us,” Alfred answered. “But for Dad, when he saw that, he called me a shameless bastard for kissing you.”

 

            “That’s so sad,” Kiku said apologetically. “It’s not even your fault, I’m the one who forced you though.”

 

            The blond shrugged. “Well, I did try telling him that it’s part of the request but he’s still not convinced since we’re in public, however, he liked the rest of the photos, including those featuring us together.”

 

            “I see. What about Mr. Bonnefoy?”

 

            The spark in Alfred’s blue eyes returned when he asked that. “Oh, my Pops is a lot better… more or less. I mean, when he saw the pic, he was fangirling and squealing as if he was possessed by Bloody Mary (as what Dad put it) but in a good way. He said we look adorable and that we should safe-keep it and he wants to frame it in the wall.”

 

            The raven-haired boy paused before answering, “That’s very sweet of him but it’s a little weird when he said the last part.”

 

            “I know. But of course, he won’t do it. Overall, my old man is more than ok with it and he’s awesome, unlike the grumpy cat.”

 

            Kiku snickered at the last line and said, “True! I don’t mean to disrespect Mr. Kirkland but it’s true.”

 

            “So, what about your family? What do they think of the photo?” Alfred asked.

 

            “Well, for my brother,” Kiku started. “There’s a good reason why I decided to visit you rather than you going in my place.”

 

            Alfred, at first, furrowed his eyebrows in confusion then his eyes went wide and made an “Oh” noise when he realized what he meant as he felt an eerie tingle in his spine.

 

            “But for my mother,” Kiku continued. “she wasn't surprised.”

 

            The blond blinked. “What?”

 

            “She actually liked the picture, and she’s not surprised that I would participate in such… action because she already knew…”

 

            “Knew what?”

 

            Kiku sighed, thinking that it was best if he should just tell him. He shifted his position on his side and said, “Al, I don’t think I’ve been fully honest with you.”

 

            Alfred also altered his and asked, “What do you mean by that?”

 

            “You see… I am no different from my brother.”

 

            “Oh,” Alfred frowned. “So you resent me.”

 

            “What?! No!” Kiku twitched, even more surprised than he was when he witnessed Mr. Kirkland and Mr. Bonnefoy’s little brawl in the kitchen (which he still find amusing). “I would never hate you, Alfred-san. It’s never part of my character to hate you. What I mean to say is…”

 

            He waited.

 

            One big sigh, “I’m gay.”

 

            “…”

 

            “…”

 

            Alfred smiled, making his eyes flicker like a warm blue fire. “Is that all you have to say? Even if you don’t tell me, I would’ve guessed it anyway. As a matter of fact, I don’t really mind what you are.”

 

            Kiku, in response, felt his cheeks gone red as he hid his face on the mattress while making a small muffle. Alfred laughed a bit at this, finding him more adorable, he moved closer beside him and began patting his back. “Awww~, Keeks, you’re so cute. There’s no need for you to hide in the closet. We’ve known each other for nearly a year.”

 

            The small man peeked at him. “But don’t you think I’ll get discriminated.”

 

            “Hey, you are talking to a bisexual here alright.” The blond said. This time his voice sounded more confident. “Nevertheless, you can’t be discriminated because you are living in a free-country, you are free to be gay whatever you want. But if people try to hurt you, trust me, America will protect you,” he brushed a strand of hair away from his brown eyes and said, “I’ll protect you…”

 

            Kiku moved and propped his head up on his elbow. “You know, you sounded like you’re a hero,” he said, looking deeply into his ocean-blue as he said this without ridiculing him but more of a confession.

 

            “Well I tried to be the hero,” he shrugged, his hand still on the Japanese’s back.

 

            Kiku reached out his hand, removed Alfred’s glasses (thankfully, he could still see Kiku), and brushed back his hair before moving his palm to the curve of his cheek. He wanted to look closer into his eyes, and he said one of the most cherishing phrases that later dedicated Alfred to become everything for him: “If the world doesn’t see you as one, then you are my hero.”

 

            The words ignited into Alfred’s deepest core, and like a moth, he moved closer... and closer… closer… closer into the light. Yes, Kiku is the light, his light, which would not bring him his downfall, but give warmth, like a hearth in a cabin, a place he wanted to call home. His actions, for Kiku, were like the rolling waves of the ocean coming to the shore as he could see it through Alfred’s eyes: blue… deep… a new world full of wonders! He sees a new universe beyond the blue, and for the first time, he wanted to be there…

     

        And that’s why, as Alfred moved closer, Kiku reached out to him. Their lips met once again, and this time, their kiss was real.

Chapter Text

 Dear, Reader,

            Although this is a bit of a rush, I thought we might as well keep moving in the story, in other words, I admit I want us to keep up the pace to reach the point of this tale. As a matter of fact, I may know a great number of dealings concerning Alfred F. Jones and Kiku Honda, however, that doesn’t mean I have to know every detail of their lives. Yes, I know you’re going to say that it is ironic since I describe these occurrences with a myriad of facets, but these are just the snippets of their narrative, the most important memories they remembered the best. Recalling back, Alfred and Kiku met in high school, both were sophomores where Alfred was known as the star of the batch, and Kiku was a transfer student. They became friends and as time passed, they grew closer to each other, sharing the same heartbreaks and sentiments, even their health! A year later, they made their “first” kiss, and… what happened next? So far these are what we know about them. But rest assured, they spend more time with each other than we think. Even Gilbert and Matthias commented that Alfred was closer to Kiku than he was with them in high school, but who were they to complain? Gilbert has Matthew while Matthias has Liv.

 

            One time, I asked Alfred (or was it Kiku) about what happened after their first kiss, he shrugged and answered, “Nothing’s changed between us”. He said that neither he nor Kiku confessed their true feelings. Although they became closer, or rather: they became more than just friends by name after the incident, like how they hold hands, hug each other, and help each other, and yet, their kisses became more platonic, aiming for the cheeks or forehead but never the lips like they did once. They never tried to become more intimidating to the other after Alfred asked Kiku what would happen to them, the Asian answered that they must “take it slow”.

 

            “’Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast’ he told me with a raised eyebrow and, damn, he booped my nose!” Alfred once said while shaking his head and smiling. I laughed at his reaction. “Keeks is the most trusting and kindest person anyone could ever have. He’s very patient and loving, and I don’t want to him to lose a single strand of his goodness because of me. So, I agreed to what he said, ‘let’s not take this too fast. I know it’s been a year, but we have to know each other more than what we already know'. Well, like what they said, ‘only fools rush in’, you can say he’s not a fool, after all, that’s why I fell in love with him.”

 

            So, there you have it!

 

*          *            *

 

            When the boys reached the end of their sophomore year, they entered a new beginning in their junior year. Both Alfred and Kiku took AP classes in U.S History after passing the AP test in World History last year: Kiku, with his high IQ, got a 5, while Alfred, thankfully, got a 3. Throughout the course of time, even though it was a hassle and everything was hell surrounded by tons of workload, they did get to know each other better. For an instance: while Matthew learned to play jazz with his saxophone due to his French foster father, Alfred, despite that he drew Arthur’s eyebrows as scribbles most of the time, had a knack of artistic capability if you encourage him. Matthew loved the classics their British adoptive father introduced them, but Alfred, as expected, found them boring and rather read graphic novels, however, there are certain books he likes, specifically those written by Charles Dickens, especially Oliver Twists, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Meanwhile, two of the many things Alfred learned about Kiku was that he is good in cooking. Although he’s raised in a conservative Japanese home, that didn’t stop him from exploring other cuisines that might benefit him in the future, which later became the fate of his brother Yao after he became one of the top chefs in the restaurant he is working in. The other thing Alfred learned about Kiku was that he could speak a total of five languages: Japanese, English, Chinese, Spanish, and of course: Filipino. There are many things Alfred and Kiku said about each other that it seemed like they know the tiniest detail of their routines, and believe me, you don’t want me to make a list of it!

 

            When the junior year ended with the two of them passed their AP tests (both of them got 4) and the SAT test, they finally reached their senior year. Hopefully, they’ll survive. Although they became more distant because of the different classes they took, they still managed to keep in touch with each other. In the meantime, many people, including their gang and Matthew, raised suspicions that they were actually dating, knowing that they were the primary witnesses of the incident. However, the confirmation that these “rumors” were proven false sparked hope for other students in their high school, specifically those who were drooling over Alfred.

 

            It was during the Prom Season when this snippet began.

 

*          *            *

 

            As usual, Kiku started his morning by going to his locker, taking out the notes he needed and put it in his bag, hang his bento bag on the small peg, then arranged his binders as neat as possible before closing his locker. He proceeded upstairs where Alfred’s locker was located. It’s part of Kiku’s schedule to go to his locker and wait for him in about fifteen minutes. Usually, while he’s waiting, he would review his homework, study his notes, or read a school book. If he’s not busy, he would listen to Vocaloid, watch anime vines, or any kind of shit you name. He pressed shuffle and listened to the music on his phone.

 

            He closed his eyes, thinking while listening to the song: The Tailor Shop on Enbizaka. He imagined putting himself in Kayo Sudou’s shoes when she discovered her “husband’s” infidelity and then killed his “other family” before killing him. Although Kiku already knew what the story was really about, he questioned himself: if he was a married man, and he discovered that his spouse is cheating on him with another man (or woman), what would he do? Who would he kill first?

 

            “Hey there, Keeks!” Alfred greeted with his sunshine smile, disrupting Kiku from his thought as he saluted him back. The Japanese didn’t go back to the subject in his thoughts, he completely forgot about it… or so he thought.

 

            “You’re a bit early today,” the blond said while unlocking his locker.

 

            “I’m always early, Alfred-san,”

 

            “Seriously, dude? We’ve been friends for like two? Three years? It doesn’t matter, and you still addressed me as ‘-san’?”

 

            Kiku watched him unzipped his bag and removed all the unnecessary binders. “I’ve been addressing you as ‘-san’ throughout the years and I don’t see why I should complain, it’s my sign that I deeply respect you,” he blushed. “After all, I respect you so much that I thank you for everything you did to me. You always bring me my missed homework. You always paired with me in Gym. You listen to me. You accompany me in every situation. You even defend me from those who harassed me, and-“ Alfred placed a finger on his lips.

 

            His blue eyes pierced at Kiku’s brown ones and said, “Save it for our Graduation, Keeks. Today’s not the day to reminisce the shenanigans we’ve been through. Not to mention it’s too early in the morning to be so melodramatic.”

 

            “I’m sorry,” the Japanese said quietly and looked down at his hands.

 

            “It’s nothing,” Alfred closed his locker. “Besides,” he paused, helping Kiku get on his feet and placed wrapped his arms around his petite waist, “All of us got carried away.”

 

            There was a gap of silence between the two. Kiku only mumbled in agreement to whatever Alfred was saying. He couldn’t help it; he admitted his infatuation to the man hovering above him with a pair of blue universal eyes that made his blood rushing like the ocean waves. From the corner of his eyes, he saw a trio of girls looking at them, whispering like those women in the classic novels that started the fire of rumors.

 

            “Alfred-san, don’t you think we’re being too close?”

 

            Alfred blinked from his fantasy and pulled away from him. “Uh, yes. I’m sorry, I invaded your personal space.” He said while rubbing his nape.

 

            The raven-haired man smiled. “Daijoubu.”

 

            In the end, they got their bags and walked down the hallway side-by-side.

 

            “So, any new promposals lately?” the American asked.

 

            “No, nothing since that one boy who asked me to go with him. You know Tim, right?”

 

            “The Dutch kid?”

 

            “Yeah,” Kiku answered. “Well, as you know, it turned out that he later told me he couldn’t go to the Prom with me anymore after the girl from Portugal agreed to his proposal,” he sighed, “’Guess I’m not meant to go to social events.”

 

            “But do you really want to go, though?” Alfred asked, almost as if he was begging him.

 

            “I’ll be lying if I say I don’t,” Kiku said. “Apart from our gang, I want to be fit in a bigger crowd sometimes but I don’t think that’s gonna happened. Besides, I never went to events like this, except of course in the conventions, and people would think I’m boring.”

 

            “What?!” Alfred exclaimed. “That’s ridiculous! You’re a natural and we love you for that!” his face became more looming when he said, “Are you saying this because someone is messing up with you? Did those jerks pick you up again? Because if they did, then those sons of bitches will get what’s coming to them!!!”

 

            “What? No! That’s not what I meant,” the Japanese stopped and held the blonde’s shaking arm gently. “I’m saying this as what mostly everyone except you, guys think of me. No one bullies me anymore and it’s thanks to you. It’s all over now, so don’t be mad.”

 

            In respond to Kiku’s mild and reassuring voice, Alfred only mumbled under his breath while giving him a pout, in which, the former found it cute.

 

            “You know, Alfred-san. You look so cute when you give me that face,” he said.

 

            Alfred raised an eyebrow. “That’s because I’m seven months younger than you, and therefore I’m much more like a kid than you?”

 

            The Japanese shrugged. “Good point. But that’s really not what I’m saying,” he brought his hand to his blonde hair head and smiled. “You just reminded me of a puppy I never had.”

 

            As Kiku started to ruffle his hair, Alfred began to complain that he’s messing it up and he wanted him to stop, but then, he responded to his touch anyway.

 

*          *            *

           

            They arrived in room F11, which was a classroom for journalism. Neither Kiku nor Alfred took journalism in senior year, however, they usually go and hang out in that room before going to their first period. The teacher in charge of the room was no other than Mr. Roderich Edelstein’s spunky Hungarian wife, Elizabeta Edelstein, née Héderváry. Alfred and Kiku would never forget the first time they met her in their second year (sophomore): Long wavy brown hair, forest-green eyes, and a fair skin. She was very passionate, outgoing, determined, even manlier than her own husband, and she hates Gilbert (in a good way, I think) after he caused a big commotion (something no one dared to mention) that made Mr. Edelstein quit teaching music and focused on teaching Advanced Placement Comparative Governments. At that time, she was still engaged to him until June 8 when they got married. Now that they became seniors, Mrs. Edelstein was carrying her husband’s baby, she was at least one month pregnant.

 

            What Alfred and Kiku liked about Mrs. Edelstein was that she likes her students (except those named Gilbert) and supports them in any way possible. She likes Alfred for his uplifting personality that matches hers, and she likes Kiku for being the ideal student and his interests on… Yaoi. In the end, she doesn’t mind these two in her classroom in the morning, in fact, she’s pleased to have them around.

 

            “Good morning, Mrs. Edelstein,” the two said in unison.

 

            Mrs. Edelstein looked up from her paper work and said, “Good morning boys. How are you?”

 

            “We’re fine. You?”

 

            “Never even better. Do you plan to go to the prom?”

 

            “Oh maybe, maybe not,” Alfred answered, taking a seat next to Kiku. “I still hadn’t got a date yet.”

 

            She quirked her eyebrows, “Al, I’ve seen you in the hallway a lot of times and I saw you flocked by a bunch of girls asking you to go with them. And you never answered a single person with a yes.”

 

            “True,” Kiku intervened. “I never even see him propose to anyone.”

 

            “See! Why is that Alfred?”

 

            The blonde shrugged. “What can I say? I haven’t even found the right person, yet.”

 

            The teacher nodded and said, “Ah yes. You do have a good point. I haven’t found my husband until I’m in college and we started dating. It takes time, right?”

 

            “Precisely!”

 

            She looked at Kiku. “What about you, dear? Do you have any plans to go?”

 

            The Japanese blushed and answered, “Actually, I have no plans to go.”

 

            Mrs. Edelstein looked sadden when she heard it. “Why not?”

 

            “Well, because I don’t have someone to go with, and I don’t think I’m fit to be in those type of… scenarios.”

 

            “You know, you don’t need a date to go to the prom,” she said, “Why not just go with your friends and have fun because the purpose of this Prom is to have good memories and spend time with the people you love.”

 

            Alfred jumped in his seat. “That’s exactly what I’ve been telling him for the past weeks!” he turned to Kiku and leaned closer. “You see what I mean, Keeks? Even the teacher said so! Forget those stereotypical details you know about prom. It doesn’t matter what people think. Why would they care if you act weird or anything? At least you’re not one of those people who mess up their own lives. You know how to control yourself and like what you said, you want this experience. Just come, be yourself, and have fun!”

 

            The Japanese heard the teacher agreed with him in the background. He thought about it and maybe, he should reconsider.

 

            Their time was spent with a spiral of conversations, and then, it paused for a moment when Mrs. Edelstein hastily gathered a pile of papers and said, “Listen, boys, I have to go to the photocopy room for just a minute. I have to finish these papers before the bell rings. If you have to leave, just leave the door open, okay?”

 

            “Okay.”

 

            Then, there was a knock on the threshold, the three audiences in the room looked up and saw a girl in a green dress, white pants, brown eyes, and her long straight hair was tied in a low ponytail. Alfred and Kiku remembered her as an acquaintance, I, too remembered her as my best friend. Her name is Lien Chung, she was raised in America but she was born in Vietnam.

 

            “Good morning, Mrs. Edelstein, is it alright if I can speak with Alfred?” she said in her shyest tone.

 

            “Sure, of course, you can, Lien. Let me just get my stuff and I’m on my way to Xerox these,” Mrs. Edelstein said. And with that, she told the students to have a great day and she’ll see them later.

 

            When the teacher was out of sight. Lien looked back at Alfred and asked, “Alfred, can I talk to you?” she noticed the boy with the raven-hair and dark, lifeless, brown eyes that had always been clinging to the American and said insistently, “Alone?”

 

            Kiku and Alfred stole a glance from each other. They knew what would come next. Alfred stood up, paced to the opening and disappeared with the Vietnamese girl behind the wall outside the room.

 

            Looking at Lien, she does have a slight semblance with Kiku, but maybe that’s just the fact that whenever I see an Asian, they all look the same to me. But that’s not the point here! The point is: as soon as Alfred was out of sight, Kiku thought that this was Alfred’s chance, in other words, Alfred would finally have a date to the prom.

 

            Kiku confessed to me once that Lien was a preferable partner. Although she was shy and doesn’t smile a lot, she was headstrong and pretty smart. Her IQ was well matched with Kiku’s, not to mention, she was and still is as beautiful as a lotus, knowing that if a mud of idiots surrounds her, she would utterly be the star, the flower that would bring beauty in such place. Kiku on the other hand, was a chrysanthemum, the symbol of the sun, bright as his brains, but when the clouds of disregard come together, the light will disappear.

 

            The thought of that made Kiku feel sour bile in his stomach, churning and hurting him mercilessly. He couldn’t hear Alfred or Lien from outside, adding another ill sensation in his gut. As he felt that bile building up, he breathed heavy through his nostrils and clawing his hair. What is this feeling? Sickness? No. Hunger? Definitely no. Envy? Oh God… no.

 

            Unfortunately, Kiku, it was envy. This was the first time Kiku felt envy… the next thing he’ll know it, later in his life, he’ll feel no longer envy, but jealousy… and yet that’s another story I’ll tell you, soon.

 

            No… no, no, no… he’s not envious. He shouldn’t be envious. He told himself, of all the people, it was him who said that he and Alfred shouldn’t take their relationship hastily. There’s still more time, and yet, why does he felt envy. He felt like a hypocrite. Although he’s not trying to take possession of him, he felt himself as a green-eyed monster, an ogre! He hated himself… he doesn’t want to avoid Alfred or survey and restrict him from his activities like what Hera would do to Zeus. No… no, no, no, he’s not thinking that… he had enough… he had enough… he had enough… He’d seen Alfred crowded with women most of the time, he endured it, he doesn’t mind it, so why won’t he let it go this time? He knows Alfred had been trying to take their relationship to the next level, but he’s not that kind of person! Enough! Enough! Enough! Enough! Enough!

 

            “Kiku?” someone grabbed his shoulder. He whipped around and it was Alfred.

 

            “Are you alright?” Alfred asked in deep concern. “You looked like as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

 

            “No, I’m fine, Alfred-san,” he said hesitatingly. “I just have a bad breakfast, that’s all.”

 

            “Did you eat anything or did you skip your meal like you always do?”

 

            He sighed. “I’m sorry, Alfred-san. I… didn’t eat anything?”

 

            Alfred smirked as sat back and grabbed an extra granola bar from his bag pocket. “I have an extra one for you. Take it, and don’t even try refusing my offer or else I’m gonna faint myself if you blacked out in class.”

 

            Kiku smiled warmly and took the bar. “Thank you, Alfred-san.” It was followed by a long silence.

 

            Kiku looked back at him and swallowed the water in his mouth before earning the guts to ask him, “So, Al-san, what happened? With you and Lien-san?”

 

            Alfred only glanced at him within a second and looked down at his fingers, fidgeting, he had a small smile on his face and said in a tone both solemn and happy, “I think I found someone to go to the Prom with me.”

 

            “Oh… that’s great!” he said, forcing a smile on pale face. I’m such a hypocrite! “I’m happy for you Alfred-san, congratulations!” he was lying.

Chapter Text

*Kiku’s phone*

            Tuesday, June XX, XXXX

    7:30 pm. (Alfred)            Hey, Kiku, sorry I didn’t come over yesterday. Gil, Matthias, and I have been planning on our project.

     

    7:30 pm. (Kiku)            Daijoubu. I’ve been busy studying for my English test. If it’s not a bother, may I ask what was the project you guys are planning about?

     

    8:00 pm. (Kiku)            Alfred-san?

     

    8:30 pm. (Alfred)            Sorry, Keeks. Got to go now.

 

Wednesday, June XX, XXXX

    7:15 am. (Kiku)            Alfred-san, are you coming over? I’m at your locker.

     

    7:20 am. (Alfred)            I can’t sorry. I’m running a little late. You can go ahead.

     

    2:15 pm. (Kiku)            Konnichiwa! I’m here outside. Let’s go home together.

     

    2:17 pm. (Alfred)            I’m going to Matthias’ place. Lien is going to be there.

     

    2:20 pm. (Kiku)            I see… is it alright if I go with you instead?

     

    2:20 pm. (Alfred)            No! You can’t. I mean it will take too long and you have a test coming up, right? Just leave it to us. We have a surprise for her.

     

    2:21 pm. (Kiku)            Wait, what? Surprise? Alfred-san?

     

    2:22 pm. (Kiku)            Hello?

 

Thursday, June XX, XXXX

    6:30 pm. (Alfred)            Hello, Keeks. I’m so sorry, again. But you don’t have to go to my locker. I won’t be there tomorrow.

     

    6:30 pm. (Kiku)            Wait, why? What happened? Is there something wrong?

     

    6:30 pm. (Alfred)            No, don’t worry. Everything is fine. It’s just that I won’t be there.

     

    6:31 pm. (Kiku)            Are you sure? Ok, then. But I’m still going to your locker, just in case you would come by. I’m sorry but you’re making me worried.

     

    6:32 pm. (Alfred)            (Sight) do whatever you do, Keeks. But I promise you everything is fine. Don’t worry about me, okay?

     

    6:33 pm. (Kiku)            Okay.

 

*          *            *

 

            Kiku re-read Alfred’s text from last night: “But you don’t have to go to my locker. I won’t be there tomorrow.”

           

But there he was, in his normal spot at the foot of his friend’s locker where he usually waited for him. He glanced at his watch: 7:20 am. Normally, Alfred would arrive five minutes ago, and yet, lately that week, he became more distant from him, literally and figuratively speaking. It’s not like Alfred was mad at him or anything if he is, he should be more open to express what he felt to Kiku, the same way he had the guts when he suggested that they should be boyfriends.

           

Five minutes passed, he sighed, making his decision that it was best to go right now. He told himself that he should’ve been gone in the first place since he wasted his time in the hallway within twenty-five minutes, not to mention that Alfred did tell him that he shouldn’t be there. And yet, Kiku couldn’t help himself. He’s been doing that behavior ever since they became best friends: they would come together, they would wait together, and they would walk together. It became a habit to him, or more likely: it became an addiction to him. For Kiku, it is a rite for him and Alfred to stick with each other no matter what shape or form. But then, he wasn’t sure whether he did these things with him out of a natural habit, or perhaps, a reaction, after all of this time, that he became infatuated with him. Kiku would probably confirm the former, and deny the latter choice.

 

He stood up and stretched himself before texting the blond that he was on his way Mrs. Edelstein’s room.

 

*          *            *

 

            While Kiku was sitting silently on one of the seats, Mrs. Elizabeta Edelstein was segregating her folders when she noticed the raven-haired boy silently sat on the seat staring at one of her class’ newspaper projects. After a long moment of an uncomfortable silence, she decided to break the ice.

 

            “Kiku, dear, what’s with that long face?”

 

            The Japanese looked from the article and answered, “I’m fine, Mrs. Edelstein. I’m just… thinking.”

 

            The older woman raised an eyebrow. “Is it Alfred?”

 

            He sighed and said, “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to act like this. It’s just that he worries me now that he doesn’t talk to me very much. I don’t mind him hanging out with his friends, I don’t mind him if he’s busy, but he could’ve had just at least tell me, even a small detail of how he’s been doing.”

 

            Mrs. Edelstein exhaled softly. “I don’t blame you. I can see why you act like that. Of all the students I know in this high school, you, two have been the closest compared to the other, well, except those who were in a relationship, of course. I know how it feels, too. To lose contact with someone you completely fond of could be upsetting.” She placed her folders neatly on a pile and looked at Kiku deeply into his eyes and said, “But if you think that Alfred is deserting you, then you’re wrong. I’m sure he had a reason why he’s not saying anything, but maybe the reason why he didn’t say anything is that he doesn’t have to since he assumes that you know without him telling you, the same way he knows many things about you.”

 

            There is so much meaning in what she said. And as he thought about them, Kiku had many things to say in his thoughts, but the only thing he could say was, “I guess you’re right.” That was a lame thing to say.

 

            The teacher shuffled in her seat as she took out a small brown paper bag. “If it makes you feel better, Alfred went here earlier and told me that if you come by, I should give this to you.”

 

            Kiku thankfully took the bag and opened it, revealing a box of chocolate Pocky and his favorite granola bar.

 

            “He said it is for you as his way to say sorry that he didn’t come, and also because you don’t take your breakfast and you need some energy for the day,” she said.

 

            “Ah!” Kiku smiled. Nothing has changed.

 

*          *            *

           

            During the first period, while Alfred took AP U.S. Government and Politics, Kiku had AP Comparative Governments with Mr. Edelstein. He was also in the same class with Matthias and Lukas, in which, he asked them on what Alfred had got himself into. Their answer was the same as what Alfred told him: “everything is fine”.

 

            8:15 am. It’s time for the morning announcements. From the speakerphones, all of the students in the school stopped and listened to Mrs. Edelstein, who was usually the morning speaker, leading the pledge of allegiance followed by the morning notice.

 

            “GOOD MORNING STUDENTS! TODAY’S TGI FRIDAY, JUNE XX. PLEASE RISE FOR THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE.”

 

            They all uniformly stood up and pledged, which took in less than sixty seconds, and then sat back down.

 

            Mrs. Edelstein continued from the speakerphones. “THE NATIONAL ENGLISH SOCIETY MEETING IS CANCELLED TODAY AND WILL BE MOVED TO NEXT WEEK… NEXT THE- WHAT THE- GILBERT!!! WHAT ARE YOU- give it….” the sudden stop/distraction left the rest of the listeners, including the teachers furrowing their eyebrows as they looked at one another questioningly.

 

            “Hehehehehe. It has begun!” Matthias snickered while rubbing his hands together like a mad scientist.

 

            “What do you mean by ‘it has begun’?” Kiku asked confusedly to Matthias and Lukas, who were both sitting behind him.

 

            Lukas responded him with a smirk. “Just wait for it,” he said before glaring at the Dane beside him.

Chapter Text

            After a moment of confusion, someone finally took the microphone to announce whatever was there to announce and get it over with. However, when they heard the speaker’s voice, it wasn’t Mrs. Edelstein’s.

 

            “GOOD MORNING CHICKS AND DICKS! THIS IS THE AWESOME GILBERT BEILSHMIDT SPEAKING”

 

            “That’s a one-week detention for calling such atrocity in school grounds!” Mr. Edelstein growled while facepalming. The students don’t mind it at all. In fact, they found it amusing. Gilbert continued speaking through the microphone.

 

            “WE INTERRUPT THIS ANNOUNCEMENT WITH A SPECIAL PROPOSAL BY ALFRED F. JONES.”

 

            Oh, so this is the “project” he’s been talking about. Kiku thought.

 

            “MR. AFJ IS GOING TO SING THE JAPANESE COVER OF A FAMOUS CLASSIC ORIGINALLY COMPOSED BY FRANK VALLI, AND IT WILL BE PLAYED BY THE FAMOUS SAXOPHONE MUSICIAN: MY LITTLE BIRDIE, MATTHEW WILLIAMS. OH AND BEFORE WE BEGIN, MR. ALFRED SAID SORRY IF HE BUTCHERED YOUR LANGUAGE, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

            WARNING: THIS MAY CANCEL FIRST PERIOD TESTS.”

 

            Kiku’s face was frozen. Students began to mumble in excitement as they took a quick glance at him. Matthias and Lukas snapped him back to reality just in time: a low, yet soothing masculine voice echoed the entire school.

 

            Yume no yōna kimi               (You’re just too good to be true)

            Megahanasenai                      (Can’t take my eyes off of you)

            Kimi wa tenshimitai             (You’d be like heaven to touch)

     

            Oh my god, is that really Alfred?! That’s the majority of the reaction. Men dropped their jaws, women fangirled even though the song was not for them, and the triggered audience sat there, astounded and speechless of the beauty.

     

            Tsuyoku dakishimetai             (I wanna hold you so much)

            Ai ga otozure                                    (At long last love has arrived)

            Kami ni kansha shite                        (And I thank God I’m alive)

            Yume no yōna kimi               (You’re just too good to be true)

            Megahanasenai                      (Can’t take my eyes off of you)

     

            A melody from the saxophone could be heard from the background.

     

            Mitsume sugitara gomen            (Pardon the way that I stare)

            Kurabe raremasen                   (There’s nothing else to compare)

            Kimi ga mabushii                 (The sight of you leaves me weak)

            Nani mo ienai                                  (There are no words left to speak)

            Omoi onajinara                    (But if you feel like I feel)

            Itte kurenai ka?                 (Please let me know that it’s real)

     

            Kiku felt butterflies in his stomach while Matthias smiled at him goofily.

     

            Yume no yōna kimi               (You’re just too good to be true)

            Megahanasenai                      (Can’t take my eyes off of you)

     

            Just then, the melody of the saxophone turned into a high-spirited upbeat, followed by a short instrumental. The entire school took it as the time to appreciate Alfred’s seraphic vocal work as well as Matthew’s brilliant exertion with his instrument. They said multiple compliments with a smile, whereas Kiku covered his mouth to hide the secret grin behind his palm as he heard the tone getting louder, Alfred’s tenor reached its peak. He was getting excited!

     

            Aishiteru BABY                       (I love you, Baby)

            Moshi yokattara                    (And if it’s quite alright)

            Iru yo BABY                           (I need you, Baby)

            Samishi yoru o…                    (To warm a lonely night)

            Aishiteru BABY                       (I love you, Baby)

     

            Boku o shinjite                                    (Trust in me when I say)

     

            When he sang the last line, Alfred appeared at the doorway, leaning against the frame with a wireless microphone on one hand. He was wearing a denim jacket, a white buttoned shirt underneath with a visible black shirt underneath it, blue denim pants, and black combat boots. Kiku never forgets what he looked like on that day, and he never will. Alfred continued his song while moving to Kiku’s table, and the rest clapped with the rhythm while silently chorused the English version of the song.

     

            Itoshī BABY                           (Oh, pretty baby)

            Gakkari sa retakunai             (Don’t bring me down, I pray)

            Itoshī BABY                           (Oh, pretty baby)

            Soba ni itai                               (Now that I found you, stay)

            Aishitai BABY                         (And let me love you, baby)

     

            Aishitai                                   (And let me love you)

     

            At the same time as Alfred finished the song; he was already on one knee while presenting Kiku an opened necklace box with a prom ticket on it.

     

            By the time the song ended, the people in the room (saved for Kiku) applauded and cheered as if they were in a concert (well, it does look like it a bit). Moments later, Gilbert joined them in while grinning like an idiot, followed by Mrs. Edelstein who slapped him at the head and then Matthew came with his saxophone. As for the intended audience, Kiku was stuck on his chair; brown eyes glowed while he stared at the blond man kneeling before him with his hopeful smile. His mouth was slightly parted as if he was about to say something, and yet he realized that words betrayed him. He was speechless, surprised, astonished, astounded, mind-blown, whatever words fitted to describe his position. And how did he respond to all of this? Well, he hid his face in his hands as soon as he felt the red tints on his face spread throughout his skin. Alfred had seen this expression a lot of times, in which, as usual, he “awed” and hugged the Japanese while he buried his face on his chest. The rest of the people found this adorable as they made an “aww” sound as well.

     

            “You, cheeseburger! This is what you’ve been trying to do?” Kiku muffled without lifting his head up.

     

            “Awww Keeks. I’m sorry if I embarrass you.” Alfred cooed and kissed the top of Kiku’s head. “I know this makes you uncomfortable so I won’t do it, again, okay? Please don’t be mad at me.”

     

            While the two were taking their sweet time, Mrs. Edelstein took the microphone from the chair where Alfred settled it down and continued the morning announcement.

     

            “WOW! THANK YOU, ALFRED, FOR THAT WONDERFUL MESSAGE. LET’S JUST HOPE EVERYTHING WILL TURN OUT WELL. AS I WAS SAYING, THE SCHOOL LUNCH IS GOING TO BE CHEESE PIZZA AND PASTA. AND… UM… THAT’S ALL. HAVE A GREAT DAY LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.”

     

            She set the microphone off and wrung Gilbert’s ear, earning him a painful expression.

     

            “As for you, you little rascal, that’s three weeks detention!” she sneered.

     

            “Three weeks?!” Gilbert cried, even more, surprised than Kiku. “What did I do?! Little Birdie, help me here.”

     

            Matthew was about to say something but he cut off by Mrs. Edelstein.

     

            “Nonsense, don’t drag Mattie here with your inhumane shenanigans!” she said while gesturing her hand at Matthew to not speak anything. “He and Alfred had good reasons to barge in my office after showing their hall passes while you came out from nowhere and forcefully took my mike. Not to mention, you addressed men and women in the most unsuitable profanity.”

     

            “’Chicks and Dicks’?” Gilbert snorted. “That’s not even the worse. Also, the reason why I don’t have a hall pass is because I’m late. But don’t blame me! I don’t control the traffic in this area!”

     

            Mrs. Edelstein groaned, and then she saw her husband calmly standing behind Gilbert. “Mr. Edelstein, what do you think?”

     

            Mr. Edelstein shook his head as if he had given up everything including his existence. “Do whatever it is you got to do with him, Mrs. Edelstein. Anything to stop him before I kill myself.”

     

            “I’m not even your student!” Gilbert retorted desperately.

     

            “You heard the man, now move!” she said while trying to drag him away by the ear before he stopped her.

     

            “Wait! Before you do that, do you think you can afford to send me to the detention’s office while you’re missing the show right there?”

 

            As he spoke, Mrs. Edelstein thought about what he said and decided to let go of his ear. Now everyone’s eyes were focused on Alfred and Kiku, who had finally regained his posture.

 

            The raven-haired sighed. “You made me worry for nothing,” he said while trying not to laugh.

 

            Alfred smiled at his statement and replied, “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you. I just don’t want to spoil the surprise for you.”

 

            Then Kiku realized something, “Wait! What about-“

 

            “Lien? Matthias and I set her up with her Thai nerd friend, Chaiya.”

 

            Kiku looked back at Matthias and gave him thumbs up. Oh, so that’s why he was in Matthias’ place days ago. But there are still some questions that he was begging for some answers.

 

            “But when Lien-san asked you, you said-“

 

            “I didn’t say it was her,” Alfred answered as if he knew already what he was about to say. “You asked me what happened and I only said that I found someone to go to the prom with. Guess what, that’s exactly what happened because that’s what I told her.”

 

            “Oh,” that’s all he could say.

 

            “Keeks,”  he held his hands tighter. Looking  “Do you really think I would leave you hanging? Do you really think I would have the guts to go with someone else with you in alone in the corner? I may not be as smart as you, but I’m not a simpleton when it comes to this.

            “Now here I am, down on one knee, asking you the same question you’ve been denying for weeks. However, I am not asking you this as a lover as what the song tried to say, but I’m asking you this as a friend. I don’t care if our relationship will be the same, because what matter is that we are always together.”

            Kiku opened his mouth and was about to say something. But Alfred knew what was going to happen next, so he interrupted him, “I know you are going to deny me, but at least, hear me out: If you’re going, I am going. If you refuse, then I will refuse. If you insist, then I’ll answer to your request. If you want to live life, then let me join with you, because my life won’t be as fun without you. If you can’t do this for yourself or for me, at least, can you do it for us?”

     

            As much as what Alfred said was pretty corny, the rest of the people could tell that he said these in the most sincere way. They could tell the sacred honey in his voice, the compassion, and the plea in his tenor. It put them in a ceremonious silence until Matthew decided to pop up. “Kiku, I know I have no position to say this. But we can tell pretty much that you want to, and it is best if you don’t hold up that feeling. You only live once, right?”

     

            “I agree,” Lukas said. “And I know this is pretty much out of the character, but sometimes even I, myself told this to my sister when she talks about this idiot Dane: the world doesn’t care your status so long as you are happy to oblige. Don’t let pride take over you, and enjoy the little meanings in life.”

     

            These two catalysts were later joined by multiple students who agreed with them as they proceeded to chant “yes”, in hopes that Kiku would say so.

     

            “What say you, Keeks?” Alfred asked.

     

            Kiku, for his part, doesn’t need another soul to tell him what to do. He made up his decision! He took out his phone and tapped it several times before Alfred’s phone rang, notifying that he received a message. The blond was about to read it but the former stopped him, “Not here. Meet me at lunch.”

     

    He smiled. “I’ll be there.”

 

*          *            *

 

            Word of what Alfred did spread like wildfire. As Kiku or Alfred was walking in the halls, students and faculty stared at him, not in a bad way, but more like giving him salutations and congratulations even though Kiku’s answer was not yet confirmed. When Alfred entered in the cafeteria, his schoolmates looked up at him while they whispered to each other’s ear like gossipers, no surprise! They gave him smiles and a job well done, he thanked them before he went his way out to the usual place he and Kiku met, the same place where the two of them met each other for the first time under the dogwood tree, and there Kiku was standing underneath it.

 

            For a moment, he saw a nymph, an angel in the yellow light. He loved that sight of him, and that’s why he drew closer, whereas the students including their gang watched them from inside by the window.

 

            “Hey!” he called.

 

            Kiku turned back with a gentle smile. “Hello! Did you read it?”

 

            “Not yet,” he answered and joined him. “Look, I’m sorry, again, if I ever butchered your language.”

 

            “No you didn’t,” the Asian said, “In fact, I love it. And I’m proud of you.”

 

            Alfred made a small laugh. “You always say that.”

 

            “Because it’s true,” he answered softly. “Don’t you want to read it?”

 

            “Sure! Hold on,”

 

            “Since you proposed to me in Japanese I choose to answer you in Japanese as well. You can read Hiragana, right?” Kiku said while Alfred took out his phone.

 

            “Of course, I do. I’m your friend.”

 

            Of course, you do.

     

            Alfred scrolled down in his text message and read the latest text he had in his phone: it was Kiku’s answer:

     

            はい

            (Hai!)

     

            Alfred reacted like a man who had been accepted by fiancé to his husband.

Chapter Text

 

            Mr. Jones Can’t Take His Eyes Off A Honda

     

            The Gang read the headline in unison. It was one of those rare times when these scallywags along with Matthew and Kiku met in the lobby, waiting for someone to pick them up or hang out when they have a free time, which didn’t happen too often after they all took different classes and their after school activities diverse based on the clubs they joined in.

     

            Lately, the school newspaper, headed by Mrs. Elizabeta Edelstein, released the latest issues. Almost immediately, most of the students grabbed an article each and proceeded to flip to Page 10 where the Promposals were featured. As far as most everyone (and everything) knows, Mrs. Edelstein was and still had an obvious obsession when it comes to romances, hence there was no doubt why she ended up placing the promposals in the paper, with a notice at the front, advertising teenagers which page to flip. And so, there they were, The Gang, in the school lobby, sitting on a long bench; Gilbert had just been dismissed from his detention (only two weeks left and he’s done!).

     

            They scanned the page. So far, as much as there were more than a hundred students who proposed to their respective partners, only five people took the courage to make their own proposals a little bit more… extra, as they were featured there on the school paper. Both Alfred and Kiku kept their copies years later and they let me lend one. Two of these five people used the traditional “poster proposals” with catchy quotes from movies and whatnots. One surprised his girlfriend with a teddy bear, and another one took it to another level where he decorated her locker with metallic confetti. But nothing could compare to Alfred’s efforts that marked on that day, which was (no surprise) not on Page 10 where the promposals should be, but on the front cover!!!

     

            “’Mr. Jones Can’t Take His Eyes Off A Honda’” Gilbert reread the headline. “Kesesese! Boy, this is false advertisement, but then again it’s true!”

     

            Matthias snorted. “Couldn’t agree more! You got to admit; whoever wrote this is a god. Not being sarcastic here.”

     

            “On Friday, June XX, XXXX,” Matthew read, “popular star student, Alfred F. Jones, made a surprise Promposal via Heath Ledger style with the help of his brother, Matthew, well known as a saxophone player, and a “seemingly support” from the School Ratboy, who disrespectfully disrupted the announcer without further notice.”

     

            “Give me that!” Gilbert ripped the paper away from his boyfriend’s grasp and read that part. “The Fuck! She’s trying to wreck me! I didn’t even do anything (yet)! And I believe that Ratboy has a name called ‘Awesome’. Holy Fucking Maple, they only featured me in sixteen words but this is sacrilegious!!!”

     

            Matthew patted his shoulder, trying to calm him down. “Well, at least they don’t say it is you. I mean, look: they didn’t even mention your name.”

     

            Alfred made a “pfft” sound and said, “Oh Matt, bro, do you actually think people are that stupid to think that this is not Gilbert? Seriously, even a bird knows whom they are referring to. Plus, Mrs. Edelstein runs the school paper and I’ll be damned if she doesn’t complete her day without giving him an insult, like that one time when he barged into Mr. Edelstein’s office and she called him ‘Crotch-Face’.”

     

            Matthew glared at him after Gilbert twitched an eye. “Alfred Fucking Jones, I’m trying to resurrect his self-esteem but you just back-stabbed him and pulled my nerves with your logorrhea and overstatements!”

     

            “Oh, he had a lot of self- esteem alright,” Alfred said, “And if you think Mrs. Edelstein doesn’t complete her day without giving him an insult is an exaggeration, then I have to question if you were there for the past ten years whenever Dad and Pops do their ‘daily routine’.”

     

            Matthew gloomed out.

     

            “Alfred, exactly why you're my friend?” Gilbert asked.

     

            “Dude, I am your friend,” the blond answered, “It’s just that you’re so confident that you’re setting yourself to go to hell, and I’m trying my best to stay away so you won’t drag me with you.”

     

            Matthias intervened. “Alfred, that attitude is completely unacceptable, especially right in front of Kiku.”

     

            Immediately, they all turned to the Japanese, who was sitting there in his usual deadpanned look.

     

            Kiku crossed his arms and said the “four magical words of chaos”: “I agree with Alfred-san.”

     

            “SERIOUSLY?!! YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?!”

     

            “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS SAY THAT?!!!”

     

            “ALFRED!!! WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?!!!”

     

            “THIS IS NOT KIKU, THIS IS ONE LUKAS’ TROLLS! (Ow! Aahh! Aahh! Lukas! Stop choking me!!!)”

     

            For a while, this conversation went out of hand for ten to fifteen minutes (as what I was told). Kiku and Alfred then told me that they never recall how did they stop fighting, except that they just decided to “calm down for a little bit.”

     

            Lukas read one of the paragraphs. “It said here: ‘Alfred’s Promposal to Kiku became one of the most celebrated prom-invitation-attempts, which of course, ended with success as Kiku accepted his proposal via text (in Japanese) under the school’s Dogwood Tree. In other words, Alfred F. Jones and Kiku Honda, as well as those who supported them, made another memory at Romulus High School in which students would never forget. Although as previously stated that two parties confirmed they don’t have any romantic intentions, their relationship is still considered by many as ‘a better love story than twilight’, making this duo legendary and part of this high school’s history.”

     

            “Well, you did a great job, Al,” Matthew said, placing a hand on his twin’s shoulder. “You’re plan worked perfectly this time.”

     

            “Yeah, man,” Gilbert agreed, “It’s like you took it beyond the level of twerking your ass in front of the class.”

     

            “What kind of an asshole would even do that?” Lukas asked in disgust after a censored image of what the albino had said crossed his mind.

     

            “I don’t know! Why not ask the person on your right?” Which was Matthias (unfortunately for him), Lukas turned, just in time the Dane gave him an apologetic smile as the Norwegian gave him the look that said “I don’t think you’ll be good for my sister, you imbecile” and “We’ll discuss this later.”

     

            “Thanks, guys,” Alfred said. “But I couldn’t have done it without you. And Keeks, once again, thank you for accepting my offer.”

     

            Kiku smiled. “As long as it’s you, Alfred-san.”

 

*          *            *

 

            Time skip: Prom Night.

 

            Alfred buttoned the last button on his shirt just in time his brother knocked on the door before coming in.

 

            “Hey!” Matthew called from the threshold. “Ready to go?”

 

            The latter looked at him and observed that he was wearing his old black tuxedo and a black bow tie, the same attire he wore in one of their Homecomings. His hair was neatly combed back except for the single curl that loyally stood out on his forehead. Alfred could also smell the lingering rose perfume once his brother stood beside him. Of course, that was no surprise.

 

            Mr. Bonnefoy had been very excited for his kids to have a good time, and as much as Mr. Kirkland was complaining about his overly reacting character, he willingly supported them and even provided them with little trinkets such as the perfume for Matthew and the suspenders for Alfred. The only thing Arthur could give was his usual advises- no, nags: “Don’t do drugs!” “Don’t consume alcohol, your underage!” “Matthew, control your brother and don’t let that bloody wanker boyfriend of yours contaminate your morale.” “Alfred, if you make another move of your stupidity, you better stay away from anyone including Kiku.” So then, there they were.

 

            “Hold on a sec, let me fix my hair first,” Alfred answered.

 

            “It looks good though, don’t over do it. Just tie your bow tie,” Matthew suggested.

 

            “Fine,” he moved his hands to his bowtie. “But do me a favor and can you clip the suspenders?”

 

            The other twin sighed but did the job anyway as he took the suspenders from Alfred’s bed and adjusted the buckles. Meanwhile, they observed each other through the reflection in the mirror.

 

            The louder twin sniffed and commented, “You smelled like Pops.”

 

            “Mmm. And you look like a hitman.”

 

            “How do I look like a hitman?” Alfred asked, more to his self than to his brother, and scrutinized the way he dressed for the evening: unlike Matthew, he was wearing a white simple dress shirt with rolled up sleeves, a black bowtie, suspenders, black pants, and shoes, as well as black gloves. Probably because of the black thing that made him look like a hitman, but still, aren’t hitmen supposed to wear tuxes?

 

            “Well not all of them wear tuxedoes,” Matthew replied, “But your gloves say so, the only thing missing is a gun.”

 

            Alfred looked down at the cloth covering his hands. “But they look cool on me.”

 

            “Yeah unless you’re a punk (in which you are, unfortunately), but I won’t let you wear them,” the rather mature blond crossed his arms.

 

            “You’re not my mother! I’d rather wear these than Grumpy Cat’s (Arthur) top hat that makes me look like an old man! Plus, Heath Ledger went to his prom without a tie and one of his friends wore a costume for fuck’s sake!”

 

            “That’s from a movie, Alfred! But I’m more concern of what would Father say about the way you dressed.”

 

            “I say he would be happy that I wouldn’t leave any fingerprints on his steering wheel.”

 

*          *            *

 

            Ten minutes later…

 

            Francis showered Matthew with kisses on his face while saying “Be good, okay”, “Say my regards to Gilbert” and “Have fun” in between pecks. The younger blond wiped his face as the Frenchman moved to Alfred, kissing his cheeks while telling him to take care of himself and Kiku.

 

            Arthur watched his companion and creased his nose. “Frog, save your gunky snogs for the future, please! It’s repulsive!”

 

            Francis finally lets go of Alfred but proceeded to walk in Arthur’s direction. “Awww~ Does Young Master want a kiss, too?” he puckered his lips as he was attempting to kiss him as the Brit tried to push him away while shouting various profanities.

 

            The twins would usually cringe at this image, as they would demand them to get a room or close their eyes. But not that time, they watched their foster parents with nostalgic smiles, remembering the good old days when they were young. Alfred and Matthew were so small back then, and when they grew up, their bodies changed: they grew taller, stronger, and more aware of their lives. Damn, even Arthur and Francis changed for the past ten years. The children remembered the first time when they saw Arthur: there was still a quality of youth left on his façade, and when they met Francis, they almost mistook him as a girl, especially that he never had a beard back then, as opposed to then when he formed a slight stubble. And yet, there were some things that never changed: Francis never lose his passion, Alfred had always been the lively summer’s child. Matthew is always the shy and gentle angel. And Arthur is still the strict father figure as well as maintaining his big eyebrows. So when the twins observed the little moment between their foster fathers, they were brought back to that sepia memory and realized that they were living in that same nostalgia.

 

            When the Brit finally managed to escape from the Frenchman’s grasp before his lips could touch his cheek, he moved to the boys and said, “Anyway, you boys should go now. And remember what I told you!” he pointed at Matthew, “You, stay away from trouble,” and then at Alfred, “And you, it is not a norm to drink a barrel of beer and bust it on somebody’s head because you are underage! Understood?”

 

            “Can we go now?” Alfred asked annoyingly, not wanting to hear any of Arthur’s naggings. And why was he (Arthur) accusing him with one of his regrets when he and Francis were drunk one time?

 

            “Yes,” Arthur answered. “Yes, you may. But call us once you’re returning home.”

 

            “We will!”

 

            They proceeded to get in their cars: Matthew was using Francis’ car, while Alfred took the liberty to use Arthur’s Buick. They waved at them one last time and went in separate directions.

 

*          *            *

 

            A few minutes later, Alfred pulled in across the street from Kiku’s house. He went out from the vehicle and pulled back his hair. The summer air was warm at night, a breeze passed by as the leaves slightly rustled in respond. He checked his watch and read 8:20 pm. The street was dark except for the light posts, lanterns, and other lights from homes. The prom already started five minutes ago, but there’s no trouble. In fact they were welcome in the prom before midnight; in other words, they still have more time.

 

            Alfred walked up and knocked on the door, the same familiar knocks he conjured for the past years, it rings a bell to whoever lives in that residence. He heard footsteps from the other side, exciting him a little bit, but, unfortunately, he met face to face with Yao’s blank stare.

     

            “Oh, hey, Alfred,” he said.

     

            Alfred suddenly (and reflexively) felt his wallet from his back pocket once he saw the man in front of him. “Hey, Yao. Is Kiku there?

     

            “Upstairs.”

     

            “Can I come in?”

     

            Before Yao could answer, he disrupted by a presence coming from behind him. They looked and the blond twitched his eye. Ivan Braginski.

     

            “Oh, Privyet, Alfred,” he said in a palpable Russian accent.

     

            Alfred only nodded, “Ivan.”

     

            “Ready for the prom, da?” Ivan started with a nearly closed-eye smile. The American knew enough that behind that smile, he was actually planning to make his death look like a suicide.

     

            “Yeah,” he answered, “But I’m waiting for Kiku.” For a moment, this slight conversation with Ivan was giving him the chills, making him shiver internally and externally, “Is it ok to come inside and wait for him in there instead?”

     

            Right on cue, Mrs. Honda appeared on the scene. “Alfred-san! It’s nice to see you, again! Please, come in.” she urged him to the living room. “I’m so sorry, but these boys are very stubborn at times-“

     

            “No, it’s fine, Mrs. Honda,” no it’s not! Help me! “I can handle it,” he said while glaring at Yao and Ivan, but especially Ivan!

     

            “Kiku is still in his room. You can come up if you want to,” she suggested.

     

            “No, I’m good. I can wait here. Let him take his time.”

     

            “Alright, ok then. But I’ll tell him that you’re here, alright?” and with that, she exited the room.

     

            Alfred sat on one of the couches while his friend’s evil brother and Satan sat beside each other a few feet from him. As the awkward moment began, Alfred discreetly peeked at them and told himself, for the millionth time, that they do look perfect for each other. Panda Craze and Commie, A Love Story. Someone should make a book about it. Yao already hated him ever since they met on that fateful day, and he hated him, even more, when he found out that Alfred was the one who proposed to his brother, resulting to sending him death threats involving chopping his guts and serve them for dinner. Ivan, on the other hand, no doubt, hated him more than the devil. There was nothing to say, not a single word to describe perfectly his loathing for the American. Let’s just say, from the moment Alfred breathed, everything went to hell. Alfred, as much as he’s “patient”, couldn’t wait to get out of the house and go to the school, or basically, anywhere, so long as these devil’s advocates were out of sight.

     

            “You do look nice, Alfred,” Yao finally said, breaking the dense silence.

     

            “Thanks,” Alfred responded with a small smile.

     

            “But where’s the suit?” the Chinese asked with a slight frown.

     

            “Oh! I intended to wear like this. The prom is themed in the 1950s and I tried to dress in that time era.”

     

            “You know, you look like a punk,” Ivan commented. “Seriously, aren’t you supposed to be a gentleman?”

     

            “I am a punk and a gentleman at the same time,” Alfred said proudly. Although he admittedly claimed that the original punk/gentleman was Arthur, he was inspired by him and stated that he’s the next heir of the style. “And what about you, Ivan? What’s with the scarf? It’s like more than 86 degrees outside, considering the global warming that’s been happening recently.”

     

            The Russian instantly blushed and shifted his beige scarf around his neck while Yao took a quick glance at him and cleared his throat.

     

            “Yes, it was hot” Ivan answered, “But didn’t you feel cold when you were out there?”

     

            “It was not the wind,” the blond insisted. “It was your gaze that caught me frozen because I thought at first I saw Frosty the Boogeyman.”

     

            Then the latter cheerily said, “And I believe that Boogeyman will watch you in your sleep until nothing is left but a bloated corpse ranked with cholesterol.”

     

            “’Watch me in my sleep’ of course! Why not?” Alfred taunted. “No freedom from government interference. Isn’t that what they do in Soviet Russia? ‘You don’t see them, but they see you’?”

     

            Ivan’s face then hardened, and yet, he remained “calm”. “For your information, even your government interferes with your personal data. Secondly, the Soviet Union is long gone, stupid American!”

     

            “Yeah, but communism still exists, right?” Alfred spoke back, ignoring the fact that he’s starting to cause another fight.

     

            “It exists in the first place first because your capitalist economy is too free to create social divisions and encourage monopolies, as well as doing an excellent job on exploiting their workers,” the Russian said formally, not moving a muscle with an exception of his fist that was ready to beat someone to the pulp.

     

            Alfred snorted. “Yeah! And Russia has a backward economy!”

     

            “True,” he smiled. “But last time I checked, the Soviet Union went down after they decided to let a teensy bit of capitalism in the economy.”

     

            Yao, after noticing Alfred cracked a smile, decided to intervene. And as much as he was obviously on Ivan’s side, he would rather end this without further trouble. He cried, “Perestroika! Perestroika!”

     

            The two rivals turned to him. Knowing that it’s the secret warning code, they relaxed their muscles, drew out their breaths, and sat back.

     

            “Anyway, on another matter, why is your hair standing like that?” Ivan asked, pointing at Alfred’s curl.

     

            “It always stands up,” he answered. “Are you saying that all of this time you never noticed this hair before until now?”

     

            He frowned and said, “I’ve seen it a million times. It’s just that it would be awkward if I ask you, but I couldn’t help but seeing it with your annoying face.”

     

            “Wow… that is so blunt, dude.”

     

            Ivan sighed exasperatedly and stood up from the couch. “Here, let me fix that.”

     

            “No, wait!” Alfred tried to dodge him as he saw a pale hand trying to grab his hair. He slapped his hand away but he was, like him, impulsive and persistent. Ivan had been telling him to stop squirming and said he “wouldn’t bite”. Alfred, on the other hand, kept demanding that he’d file a restraining order against him, and perhaps, if possible, boycott him. “Ah~!” Oops! Too late…

     

            The room went still. Ivan backed out and stared at him wide eyed. Yao didn’t move as his jaw dropped and stared at him. Alfred breathed heavily and stared at them.

     

            One second later, Kiku appeared in the doorway… and stared at them.

     

            “Minna-san, is everything alright in here?” he asked.

     

            “Yes!”

     

            “Everything is fine.”

     

            “We were just talking.”

     

            “I see,” Kiku said suspiciously before he immediately cleared that thought. “By the way, I deeply apologized for making you wait, Alfred-san.”

     

            “There’s no trouble, Keeks,” Alfred said sincerely, he saw Yao rolling his eyes on him and Ivan draped his arm around his boyfriend and squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

     

            “Although, you really look good in that suit,” the blond complimented. He was wearing a black tuxedo with a matching vest, a black tie, white dress shirt underneath, black pants and shoes, and of course: white gloves to sum up.

     

            Kiku’s face pinked. “Thank you. And I like yours, too. It does look like from the 1950s.”

     

            Alfred nearly cried. “Really? I’m so happy you noticed.”

     

            “Why wouldn’t I? It’s pretty obvious.”

     

            “Even so, you’re making me happy.”

 

*          *            *

 

            “Have a safe trip, you two!”  Mrs. Honda called at them while they were walking to Alfred’s (or Arthur’s) car.

 

            They waved back at them before the older woman disappeared through the door.

 

            “Seriously, Al. What happened back there?” Kiku asked as soon as he went in the passenger’s seat and buckled his seatbelt. He watched his partner turning on the engine and putting on a smooth jazz music in the station.

 

            “I’ll tell you later, darling,” Alfred answered with a slight mischief. Kiku hid his smile.

 

            Finally, they drove away.

Chapter Text

            As Alfred took the nearest shortcut to the school, they arrived within twelve minutes later. From the outside, the school seemed to be in its usual condition, however, the open lights and the muffling noises from the inside said otherwise. Alfred got out from the car and sprinted around to open the other door for Kiku as he gestured him to take his arm.

 

            “You know you don’t have to do that,” the Japanese said, although he took his offer anyway.

 

            The blond squeezed his hand where it was resting on the curve of his arm. “I’m doing my best as your partner for tonight, darling,” he said and winked. Kiku smiled at his antics and placed his head on his shoulder while they were moving inside.

 

*          *            *

 

            “It’s about time!” Matthias called as soon as he saw Alfred and Kiku’s figures approaching. The other members of their gang looked up and saw them as well.

 

            “Alfred Fucking Jones! You’re late!”

 

            “Finally! You successfully managed to drag Kiku here, officially this time!”

 

            The duo chuckled at them, they let go of each other, and then Alfred said, “Hey, first of all, I’m not late. The party’s not gonna over until twelve, and it’s still passed 8:30. And secondly, I didn’t drag Kiku here all the way as you guys should know because I wouldn’t be called a man if I didn’t ask for his permission.”

 

            “Also,” Kiku stepped in. “It would be fair to say that we came a little late because I was taking a long time in the shower, and I came here willingly with him.” His respond earned a lot of awes and admiration for his persona as if like someone was calling him a cinnamon roll.

 

            “Seriously, Kiku. You always support him,” Lukas said. “I’m not saying it is a bad thing, it’s actually remarkable that you are always on his side even though he’s speaking nonsense.”

 

            “Yeah,” Matthias agreed. “Although it’s a little bit sad to say that in spite of what he said, you guys aren’t in a relationship… yet…”

 

            Alfred looked at Kiku who immediately stared down at his feet. “I don’t think we’re not into it for now.”

 

            “Ah, I see.”

 

            “By the way, on another matter, you look like a hitman, Alfred,” Gilbert said.

 

            Then, from stage one to stage ten, Alfred’s temper nearly went through the roof within 0.5 seconds. “What the f- are you kidding me?! Seriously, Matt?!”

 

            Matthew, who was standing beside Gilbert, smirked while crossing his arms, “Told you so!”

 

            “Well, for your information, even though I’m not wearing a tux, I’m still a one of a kind since I dressed properly based on the theme,” the blond said proudly. But his remark was eventually ignored (very sad for him) when Matthias invited them in instead.

 

            “Do you guys want some Root beer or ginger ale?”

 

            “What say you, Keeks? Do you wanna drink first before we dance?” Alfred asked.

 

            “Sure, I’m fine with that,” he answered.

 

            Inside the gym, it was decorated with balloons and illuminated in dim orange lights that would’ve imitated a sepia background. The faculty out-done themselves since the gym floor was covered in black and white checkered carpets, the tables were clothed in red, and a vase of yellow roses and daisies on top of each table along with candlelight, plates, and utensils. At the farther corner of the room, there was a fancy pink standee that said “diner” on the top, decorated with vinyl discs, then, there was an ice cream/milkshake standee beside it and a red automobile. There were also caters at the farther side and a chocolate fountain. The DJ was at the other side, adjusting his audio mixer as he filled the room with a rather loud music, sometimes it fitted the theme of the occasion, but most of the time, he put on those songs fit for the current generations.

           

            Kiku, Matthew, and Lukas watched the other three in the dance floor after they presented themselves to participate with the crowd as soon as the music started, and when it almost reached to the song’s climax, they could hear them singing along.

 

            You just gotta ignite the light
            And let it shine
            Just own the night

 

            “LIKE THE FOURTH OF JULY!!!” Alfred’s patriotism was pretty detectable when he sang that, well… more likely he’s the only person who sang that part while the entire student body was yelling “ ‘MURICA! FUCK YEAH!” Despite the minor profanity, the teachers (especially Mr. and Mrs. Edelstein) who were supposed to supervise the students didn’t complain but merely shook their heads because they were either too lazy or too old to keep down these zoo animals. Meanwhile, Lukas was staring at him through dead air, Matthew wished he was invisible, and Kiku was secretly loving it like how Alfred feels for his hamburgers (except the “secretly” part).

 

            And then, suddenly, there’s the spark that set the entire crowd to go boom!

 

            'Cause baby you're a firework
            Come on show 'em what you're worth
            Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
            As you shoot across the sky-y-y

 

            Baby you're a firework
            Come on let your colors burst
            Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
            You're gonna leave 'em fallin' down, down, down

 

            Then they died down a little bit and swayed through the beat of the song before the pre-chorus went in again (and Alfred did his own thing, again) before the highlighted part spiced up.

     

            Boom, boom, boom
            Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
            It's always been inside of you, you, you
            And now it's time to let it through

     

            What’s been inside of me? Kiku thought. Talents? Intelligence?… Love? He saw Alfred turned to him. It could be his imagination, but even so, even if it weren’t real, it might be his conscience… speaking,

     

            'Cause baby you're a firework
            Come on show 'em what you're worth
            Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
            As you shoot across the sky-y-y

 

            Alfred F. Jones. Kiku has and always been telling me, telling everyone, that the moment when he fell in love with the ocean, America welcomed him with open arms. However… his affiliation with society had been tensed, until a boy with ocean-blue eyes and bright, smiling, summer face saved him from being alone in a strange world. He always sees the life in Alfred… the spark… the sun… the fireworks. He was the reason on how he understood why the seasons changed from the cold, dark winter to the blooming rebirth of enlightenment. He was the reason why he survived, in a society who secretly discriminated individuals, he learned how to adapt while still keeping his honor. He was the reason why his mother found him worthy, no longer a child of internal abandonment, but someone who could go forward into a man exceeding his mother’s expectations. And most of all, he was the reason why he was there…

 

            The song ended with cheers from the crowd as Gilbert, Matthias, and Alfred went back (exhaustingly) to their table where the others sat. For the next music/songs, they decided not to join in the crowd so that they would communicate, reminiscing about the past events throughout those years and remarked how they would miss them. They talked amongst themselves for at least forty-five minutes, when the DJ was required to put on one of Brunswick Records. A rhythm of drums echoed in the room.

 

            “Is that Sing Sing Sing by Benny Goodman?” Kiku said, recognizing the tone and immediately pausing their conversation.

 

            Alfred listened to it intently. “Yes, it is. You know it?” he asked with a slight surprise.

 

            “Of course!” Kiku answered. “My great aunt used to play it with her American husband whenever they visit us in Japan. Usually, we dance the Lindy Hop with them in this music.”

 

            The blond took one last gulp of his root beer and placed the glass down with a small clank. “Well then, let’s go and swing our asses out there,” he said as he attempted to take Kiku’s hand.

 

            The latter was hesitant and said, “Wait, what? I don’t think I am the best dancer to pick for. And do you even know how to swing?”

 

            “Keeks, here in America, nobody cares how you dance because we worship every crap there is, and trust me: you’re not horrible as much as you tried to refer yourself as but you are awesome! And just because I’m a punk, doesn’t mean I never learn a few things from our pops and our oh-so-gentleman Kirkland.”

 

            “But there are no people dancing,” the raven-haired said, referring to the vacant dance floor.

 

            “Exactly! That would give us more space when we do the aerial,” Alfred suddenly cupped his hands and gave him the same look when he proposed to him. “Keeks, I know you don’t want to get embarrassed. But you have to believe in me, if you get embarrassed, you know I’ll always be there the same way you are always there for me. But if we work together, we can make it. We’ve been a great team! Come on, Keeks, live a little.”

 

            Kiku looked at the others who were silently ushering him to go, then back at Alfred who was giving him that look as if he was a dog begging for his master to pet him. He sighed; if you can’t beat him, join him. He chugged his glass whole in one gulp, removed his black jacket, and said, “Fine then. But you have to be the lead.”

 

            Because of that, the others praised him while Gilbert silently excused himself to the DJ’s direction (probably asking him to replay the music).

 

            “Whatever the gentleman wishes,” Alfred winked and guided him to the dance floor. As Kiku could hear the echoing of the drums beating through his ear, he felt like his heart was thumping by the rhythm, fast and a little bit unsteady. Adrenaline and anticipation rushed through his veins, overwhelming his body while he felt Alfred’s lukewarm reassurance in his grasp and the all-seeing eye of the entire school at him. He felt his face flushed, his temples sweating, and his breathing heavy. No, he’s not going to faint, although he felt something alien inside of him, he felt more… hysteric.

 

            They arrived in the middle of the dance floor just in time when the saxophones, trumpets, and trombones began to play. Everything, especially their movements, literally became swift as a lightning.

     

            Alfred directly pulled Kiku closer to his body, hands on his slim waist and the other holding his hand, much to the Japanese’s surprise before they spin while their feet moved as if they were jumping. They did it in a fast pace as he was following him. They swung out and did the same thing twice. On the second time, Kiku started to feel more excited while keeping his eyes on him and improvised while kicking up his feet high. They made a few turns and spins, and Alfred also began to enjoy the feeling that Kiku was dancing with him. In a fast speed, he swung him out again, they skipped, and then the blond bent down as the smaller boy took it as a cue and rolled over his back before landing on his feet. This, of course, earned them their first applause.

     

            Swiftly, they went back to their original swing out position, but this time: while they were spinning, Alfred’s feet were both leaping, in which, it became more intense when he back-flipped, unexpected to the audience who went “WOW!” and “OH MY GOD!” and even to Kiku who’s surprised grin said so as he managed to help him balance. They went back to their basic positions immediately, do a little steps and turns before the Japanese nodded to his partner: Alfred bent his knees, Kiku stepped on his lap, still holding his hands, then hopped to the other knee before the blond lifted him over the head and landed perfectly on his feet behind Alfred. They could hear the students shouting “WHOOAAA!!! ALRIGHT KIKU!” “GO FOR IT GUYS!!!” Alfred turned around and swiftly guided Kiku back to him. They began to grin at each other.

     

            “You good, Keeks!?”

     

            “Yeah, I’m Fine!”

     

            The crowd began to clap along with the beat as they did turns, spins, pushes, passes, slides and skips. Much to the crowd’s enjoyment, although it wasn’t really part of the dance, the two of them made a little parting while doing the moonwalk during the low-beats of the music (as much as it’s famous during Michael Jackson’s time, Kiku and Alfred told me that the moonwalk existed even before Jackson). And then, within a snap, they went back together as they hopped around. Kiku volunteered himself to jump to the other side with Alfred’s support on his back. Then, he quickly took the risk to leap over Alfred’s shoulder, then his head, but he let go of the blonde’s hand so he landed with bent knees and fingertips on the ground (like a ninja). It either made the crowd nervous or impressed, either way, that didn’t stop them.

     

            Alfred picked him up and yelled, “You nearly killed me!”

     

            Kiku smirked slyly. “That’s for the embarrassments you put me in the first place!”

 

            He swung the raven-haired out then back to him. “Fair enough!”

 

            And like two minds in one. They decided to spice things up a little bit. Kiku draped his arm around Alfred’s shoulder, and the blond gripped his waist tighter while their hands were still in place. Alfred beamingly dipped him down and Kiku laughingly swung his feet in the air. There were another applause and cheers. He was about to land on the ground but he felt the taller man making him lean closer to him.

 

            “Is this pumping you out, sweetie?” the American asked. Their faces were only a few inches away, and the raven-haired could see the rushing waters in his eyes.

 

            Kiku could feel the fire igniting inside of him. “Yes! Yes!” he cried beyond excitement, but his voice was covered by the loud sound of music.

 

            Alfred swung him fast but gracefully to the ground where the smaller man sat. He moved his foot, and surprisingly, sliding out his Japanese partner between his legs and helped him on his feet, hence receiving awes and whistles from the audience. They danced in one hand while their free ones made small waving motions while their feet swung up and down. A view indicating that they were enjoying amusing themselves.

 

            After a few turns, the two spun around, and as the music became more upbeat, Alfred, being the one taking the lead, decided to move faster, making the rest to encourage him further.

 

            “Alfred-san! You’re going to be sick if you keep doing this!”

 

            “Less talking, more dancing, Keeks!”

 

            Of course, in the end, Kiku was right, therefore supporting him before Alfred swung himself out, and then made their signature move: Aerial, as he rolled his smaller partner over his shoulder to his other shoulder before landing him. They did the same move, again, of course, after dancing the basic moves and Kiku jumped over his shoulder, but fascinatingly, he did it as if he was doing it like a parkour, and then went back to the basic moves as if it didn’t happen.

 

            But then, the music was almost going to end. They positioned themselves, hand on each other’s shoulders, while their feet synced their movements. Alfred then brought him into a bridal style and, spun around, and put him back to his feet before Kiku made his move and swooned down then up.

 

            An outside turn, then an inside turn, a dip, and voila! It’s finished.

 

            An enormous round of applause, appreciations, whistles, and cheering awarded their show; throughout the dance, Kiku forgot everything, his worries, his hesitations, and even his own self, all he cared for were the movements, the fast pace, the music, the beat, the dance, and the moment. Nothing mattered anymore but him experiencing something new. And when he looked up, he saw smiling faces at him, sparks of encouragement, and loud adorations. He turned to his partner: the blond man, tall as a young tree, the blue oceans in his eyes and the light in them that shined like fireworks, was smiling down at him as if he was his pride. This man was right, all along, as much as he was complaining in the first time, he found himself in the position to take his words back. This man was right, he brought him out from his shell no matter how many times he held back, only to see this world, this view in front of him… and that’s why he loves him.

 

            They bowed down and walked on their way back to the table where their friends had been cheering for them the entire time. The others started saying that they did more than just a great job. They surprised the entire audience and made, once again, another memory in their school. Matthew, Gilbert, Matthias, and Lukas had been telling them that they stole the entire party, they were impressed by Alfred’s dancing skills and that they were happy, proud, and even surprised of Kiku’s hidden talent. In the end, of course, Kiku would eventually turn red, and the others, as usual, found this adorable and kept reassuring him that he did amazing anyway. Alfred let him lean his head on his shoulder while pecking the top of his raven-hair. Kiku, feeling Alfred’s small kisses, thought of what just happened… he had no regrets.

 

*          *            *

 

            After their dance, the students went to the dance floor when the DJ found a song suitable for them. The other members of their gang didn’t bother joining with the crowd since they preferred to talk while they should wait for a slow music, whereas Alfred and Kiku should need a rest. Sometimes, Matthew and Gilbert would excuse themselves and dance along with Matthias and Lukas. At times, it was Gilbert, Matthias, and Alfred (the boy never loses his energy) shouting and screaming while flailing their arms during one of the songs. Five, six, then seven songs had passed. It was getting late, but the night was still young. A smooth jazz suddenly jingled in the room, as if it was inviting the entire student body to join in for a slow dance.

 

            “Finally! After thirty minutes of listening to a bunch of rackets, we finally calmed down,” Matthew said and slumped down his shoulders.

 

            “Do you wanna dance, Matt?” Gilbert asked.

 

            Matthew paused and looked at him. “Yes. But when I say to take it slow, I mean real slow.”

 

            The albino chuckled. “Of course, little Birdie.” He took his hand then Matthew turned to his twin brother and asked, “Do you want to join us, Al?”

 

            “Yeah, I’m cool. What about you, Keeks?”

 

            Kiku placed down his fork after he swallowed the last bite of his cake. “Sure, why not?”

 

            Gilbert looked at the Dane beside him. “Do you wanna come with us, Matthias?”

           

    “No, I’m fine,” he answered, “I’ll just wait for Lukas here to come back, he said he has something to tell me and it’s pretty serious.”

 

            “Ah, I see. And speaking of the devil, there he is.” They looked and saw Lukas emerging from the restroom to Matthias’ direction.

 

            “Well, we better go now. You guys take your time, okay?” Alfred said to the Dane.

 

            “Sure. Thanks, guys.” And with that, they went on their way.

 

            As they picked their own spots on the dance floor, Gilbert placed his hand on Matthew’s waist and Matthew placed his hand on his shoulder while their other hands intertwined, they began to dance in slow motion as what Gilbert promised. They looked at each other lovingly as they moved further through the crowd, taking delight in their sweet time with a slow yet active rhythm. Meanwhile, Alfred and Kiku, unlike the other two, preferred to stay in place. In contrast to Matthew and Gilbert’s movements, the blond and the raven-haired stayed in their own sphere where they moved slowly and silently, rocking back and forth without bumping unto others.

 

            Kiku accidentally stepped on his foot. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. See, this why I’m not the best dancer,” he said, almost a whisper.

 

            “Says the guy who jumped over my head ten times during the swing,” Alfred remarked with a smirk.

 

            The smaller man blushed and hid his face on his shoulder as Alfred continuously slowly rocked them back and forth. Steady… unchanging… careful…

 

            “Am I really that good?” Kiku asked abruptly, head still on his shoulder.

 

            Alfred placed his own head on top of his and whispered, “You are phenomenal, unique, and special. You may hate yourself, call yourself names, but sometimes, you need a different mirror to see what you really are, because, in the eyes of reality, you’re beautiful beyond compare.”

 

            He looked up at him. “Now you started to sound like Mr. Bonnefoy. When did you get this poetic all of the sudden?”

 

            The latter smiled. “I’m Alfred F. Jones, darlin’. I have a few skills tuck in my sleeves.” Then he became serious. “But that’s not the point, Keeks. I’ve been saying these because they are meant to be told to you, in other words, I’m just telling you the truth, Kiku.”

 

            Kiku stared deep into his eyes. The sincerity in his voice matched the depth of the blue orbs: full of wonders… unexplored gems… unsolved secrets… waiting to be found and mark it as legacies. He wanted to know what’s in them, further and deeper. He wanted to fall into them. He turned his head at an angle and saw Matthias and Lukas were still talking.

 

            “Alfred-san, is it alright if we should talk?”

 

            “Sure. What do you want to talk about?” the blond asked.

 

            The Japanese nearly stuttered. “No, I mean: Could we talk in private? I don’t think we can go back to our table because Matthias-san and Lukas-san are still there.”

 

            Alfred peeked over his partners' shoulder and confirmed that he was right. He checked the time: 10:30 pm. “Do you want to talk it outside in our usual place?”

 

            “Is it ok?”

 

            “I think so. We’ll be leaving at 11:45 so it’s fine.”

 

            Kiku nodded and then he and Alfred excused themselves through the crowd to find his brother and his boyfriend.

 

            “Yo! Matt!” Just in time, Gilbert dipped Matthew, viewing his twin brother and Kiku upside down. “Yes?” he asked as Gilbert helped him up.

 

            “Kiku and I are about to tell you that we’re going out and talk. But we’ll be there under the dogwood tree.”

 

            “Is there any problem?” Matthew asked Kiku.

 

            “No, it’s just that I needed a private spot,” he answered.

 

            “Okay, then. But if he caused another ruckus, you better tell me.”

 

            “Really?” Alfred raised an eyebrow. “And you’re dating the school rat/troublemaker-“

 

            Gilbert quickly intervened. “Ok, that’s it. Now run along you two.” He pushed them through the crowd, out of the dance floor to the door with Matthew following them.

 

            “I’ll call you when it’s time to go,” the brother called to his twin.

 

            “Got it, bro!” and then they disappeared.

Chapter Text


            The night was neither cold nor warm. It was temperate with the gentle western wind rustling the evergreen trees, the grass smelled like peppermint, and the streetlights from each block lit like orbs in the blue darkness. The party from the school couldn’t be heard but random muffles hanging in the distant air. Alfred and Kiku were lying on the turf nearby the Dogwood tree. Alfred already took his favorite bomber jacket from the car and spread it on the grass where they lied on. They were chattering about the incident that happened earlier in Kiku’s place while they stared at the summer night sky, alive with constellations like glittering masses on a blue curtain. It was dark yet quieter and more peaceful than the hysteric echoes and orange lights of the prom. It was getting late, but the night was still young.

     

            “And then, he literally pulled my curl!” Alfred said as he remembered what happened with him and Ivan.

     

            “Did he really?” Kiku asked while trying not to laugh.

     

            “Yes!” he exclaimed. “And everything went into a nightmare like bam! We didn’t say anything but stared at each other because God knows if we breathe, it’s a one-way ticket to death. And, yeah! That’s what happened before you came.”

     

            “Oh boy…” Kiku muttered before proceeding to a fit of laughter. “Seriously, Alfred-san, your life is full of excitement.” The blond mumbled something and playfully punched his arm.

     

            For a moment, the air became thick in silence, not a single word was spoken. Only the sound of nature was heard, the silent chirping and the distant music. Everything became still… then everything became solemn.

     

            “Kiku,” Alfred started. “What is it that you really want to talk about?”

     

            The raven-haired man looked at him then turned back to the starry night. He sighed. “It involves us going to college.”

     

            Alfred frowned by the thought of it. Well, technically, his real issue was not them going to college but the idea of him going to a different school and to be separated from his brother, his friends, and Kiku would be the path to his depression. They would become more distant from each other as they would go to different colleges. “What about it?” he asked.

     

            Kiku sighed and started fiddling his fingers. “It’s just that- I really feel bad for you that you have to keep going without us,” he glanced at him but Alfred didn’t meet his eyes. And yet, he knew too well what that boy had been thinking, he had seen this face before gray, down, and blank, Kiku saw himself when Alfred made that look. He grabbed his hand intertwined with it.

     

            Kiku continued, “I know how it feels to be alone, Alfred-san. I’ve been there before, and…” I was scared. “It’s a pretty strange world out there…” I don’t want you to be scared, even though I know you’re brave. “And I hope and pray that you’ll be fine, you’ll find your way, you’ll succeed, and…” I know you will, but… “I’m really sorry if I’m not there when you need me.”

     

            Although he could only hear the tone in Kiku’s voice, he could feel the running emotion through his palm where their hands held. Humility has been a great part of Kiku’s persona, as well as being apologetic, Alfred loves the former, but he’s uncomfortable with the latter. He finally faced him and said, “Hey, don’t say that as if it’s your fault,” You’re so cute when you’re like this, but… “It’s never your fault. Blaming yourself is ridiculous, Kiku. And don’t worry about me because I can handle this,” There’s no point in lying. “I mean… I admit I will cry and freak out on the first day,” he made a small laugh and the Japanese smiled.

     

            “I promise you this: I’ll whine for weeks when you guys are going to leave me, I’ll probably beg and cling onto your pants like a five-year-old,” Alfred said while grinning as Kiku tittered by the thought of it. The blond didn’t say anything until the small laughter died down; he thought it would be a waste to miss this little moment.

     

            “However,” Alfred’s tone went serious. “That doesn’t mean I don’t understand you,” his voice became softer and when he spoke, he began to play with Kiku’s fingers while he looked at them. “We have our own dreams, we have our own lives, our own ambitions, and we pursued them through our own paths.” He placed his gaze back to his brown orbs. On that moment, Kiku could see the stars in his eyes, revealing a glow of sincerity. “You’re my friend, not my jailbird,” Alfred said directly to him. “I’m not allowing you to stay in the same shell with me while you’re feeling trapped,” I’m sorry if I’m being so stubborn and impulsive. “I would rather have you leave me and experience anything new by your own will than to stay and follow me like a dog.” I don’t want to be possessive, but I will always miss you… He brought his hand to his pale cheek. “You are the most amazing person, Kiku Honda,” I adore you, fiercely! “And don’t let anything, even me, come in your way.”

     

            The raven-haired grabbed Alfred’s hand where it lied on his cheek and rubbed it in small circles with his thumb, loving the contact of the skins that he once hated. He inhaled the lingering fresh air and asked, “Then… that means you’ll promise me that you’ll be fine and do the same, right?”

     

            “Yes, I will,” the blond answered.

     

            Kiku scooted closer. “And even though you want me to go without you, will you still welcome me when I go back?”

     

            Yes! Fuck! Of course! You have no idea how much I’m going to love it when I see you outside my door. I want to hug you, and kiss you, and spoil the hell out of you! And I really, really want you to stay. Alfred wished he could say that out loud, and yet, his conscience obliged him to say this otherwise: “Whatever you want, Keeks, it’s always a yes.”

     

            He couldn’t stop looking in his eyes. “Will you wait for me?”

     

            “Of course!” Alfred replied without any hesitation. Absolutely! “Here, look at the stars.”

     

            He motioned the smaller man to lie flat on his back as they stared up the sky. It was one of those rare times when they were out and the night sky was clear, no clouds or dark air to disturb the firmament glowing like an ember.

     

            “Now take a look at Polaris,” the blond dictated. Kiku followed the shape of Ursa Major and immediately saw the one star that shines directly above it.

     

            “It is not as luminous as Sirius,” Alfred continued, “Nevertheless, you can still find it in the sky. Anyway, travelers called this the North Start because it’s located above the axis in a few degrees, in other words, it’s location is almost stationary no matter when or where, and it is used for navigation indicating your position and served as the North direction.”

     

            He turned to his side and surveyed Kiku’s look transfixed to the view above them. Alfred smiled and said, “I know it’s stupid for me to tell you all of this even though you already know pretty much more about it.”

     

            Kiku also turned to him and smiled wistfully. “But I like it when you talk? It reminds me of the times when you showed me around and taught me many things I didn’t know yet.”

     

            He sighed contentedly. “I see, I’m glad to hear that,” and then, there’s that spark, again. “Anyway, what I’m trying to say is: If you want to find your way back home or to see me, keep your eyes on the North Star, because I’ll also keep my eyes on it.”

     

            And like two souls with one mind, they gazed back up at the star in unison. “If you do so, when you come by at my doorstep, you’ll see me there… waiting for you.”

     

            Kiku blushed at the last part. He moved closer, not caring if he wrinkled the bomber jacket underneath them, and cuddled Alfred’s arm. The blond didn’t pull away or made any other protests, instead, as usual, he nuzzled the Japanese’s head on his shoulder. They were still for a minute before Kiku got the courage to speak up when he found the right words to say.

     

            “Would the North Star also lead me to your heart?” he asked, muffling against his shoulder.

     

            “What?” Alfred whispered although he heard him perfectly.

     

            Kiku revealed his face: red, not because of the breeze around them, but the fire that was growing in him. He continued while slightly stuttering, “Well… you said that the North Star could take me to wherever I go- so… is it possible that it could also lead me to your heart? Like when I see you again, if I follow it, will I see you running at me, kiss me, say that you miss me… or perhaps, call me “honey” or “babe” but this time you mean it?”

     

            The American slowly sat up as the raven-haired also followed him. His eyes were glued to his lap while he could feel Alfred’s gaze not leaving him. “… Kiku… you…” He could hear the shock in his voice, perchance, maybe Alfred didn’t expect that.

     

            Kiku continued anyway. “I know this is all of the sudden, but…” There’s no point in hiding. “You’ve done so much for me, Alfred-san. From the bottom of my heart, I owe you everything, and I thank you more than enough because you always consider me! I want to do this as a repayment for everything you did.” Before Alfred could say anything, Kiku stopped him, saying: “You told me to experience anything new by my own will, right? Well then, I’m doing it right now. So please, accept me and I won’t hold back if you said that I’m your boyfriend.”

     

            “Kiku…” Alfred started softly, but he was cut off.

     

            “You’ve been very patient the whole time,” the Japanese said. “Even if you really want us to become boyfriends in the first place, you still respect me. Therefore,” You are the one. “You prove yourself as the right man for me, and, after all, I can’t resist falling in love with you…”

     

            In the end, his speech was awarded by a long silence. A moment where one’s voice never made an impact when they spoke in public, it was awkward and infinite. No voice that would protest or agree, but the unblinking stares of the masses. That’s what Kiku felt, and he prayed that Alfred should say something, but he didn’t.

     

            He sighed in defeat, embarrassed by his actions. “I’m sorry, It seems like now is not the right time to say it. It’s absurd for me to say it hastily and-“

     

            He didn’t finish his sentence when he felt a pair of soft, slightly chapped, lips brushing on his. It happened so fast, he didn’t expect it as he responded with wide eyes and a little paralyzed to react. He was not mad of course, but it clearly surprised him. Just in time, Alfred pulled back a little with his lips lightly lingering on his.

 

            “I’ve been waiting for you to say that,” he smirked mischievously. “And it seems like the North Star has already led you to my heart.”

 

            “So, hold on to me then,” Kiku muttered and pulled Alfred closer by the collar. They kissed again, and yet, knowing each other’s boundaries, they made their kisses more like gentle pecks or two lips pressing together. Kiku intertwined his hand on Alfred's hair while his other arm wrapped around his neck. Alfred moved his arm and wrapped it around his waist while his other hand was on Kiku’s head, pressing him closer, never leaving each other’s contact until they’re sated with each other’s taste. Alfred, feeling his partner’s need (and his own), sucked on his bottom lip until he felt Kiku’s tongue slightly out. With Kiku making a very small tug of his curl, Alfred immediately moaned before attacking the smaller man’s mouth. Kiku gasped when the blond sucked his tongue briefly before they resumed to press each other’s lips gently and the fire igniting in them began to fade. Although it was a little moment of pleasure, they knew and decided to save their urges for the future.

 

            They pulled away as a trail of saliva connecting them. They panted like wolves after a long chase for a prey with their cheeks flushed and hair, to some extent, undone. When they finally managed to catch their breaths, they lied side by side, and Alfred snorted for a split second.

 

            “What’s so funny?” Kiku asked, a little bit tired.

 

            “It’s interesting how we finally agreed to be in a relationship at the same time we’re going to college and seldom see each other,” Alfred answered, smiling faintly.

     

            The smaller man moved and placed his hand on the blonde’s chest. “But we’ll still see each other, right?” he stated softly while looking up at him.

     

            “I know,” Alfred said. “But, I’m just saying, it won’t be the same, considering our position.”

     

            Kiku shifted and propped on his elbow while motioning Alfred closer to his chest. “Well, there will be some changes,” he started. “But nothing will change between us. Yes, you were right about our own ambitions and us. We have our own lives and our own futures. Nevertheless, that won’t make any difference.”

     

            “What do you mean?” Alfred asked while quirking his eyebrows.

     

            Kiku stared up at the night sky. “Look at the North Star,” they were both looking. “You said it never changes its spot no matter where you are or when. It remains above the horizon throughout the course of time and seasons. We grew up, Alfred-san, we may choose different paths, we may change our natures, we may live in different worlds, but you’ll always be the Alfred I know, and I will always be Kiku, your Kiku.” he brushed his hand on his blond hair, “We’ve waited patiently for four years for this day to come and we remained close. So, would it make any difference if we go to college separately?”

     

            This statement made Alfred look at the man before him rather than the stars above. When he turned his gaze, he saw him beaming down, glowing like a deity, his black hair outlining the darkness, his skin: beautiful and pale with a tint of life, and his lips, glistened in pink after it was touched. Alfred cupped his cheek and Kiku kissed his palm, followed by the blond saying, “I swear, I will cry and probably chase your car on the day you leave, and I won’t care if people think I’m crazy.”

     

            The Japanese smiled. “We’ll see about that.”

     

            Before their lips could touch once again, Alfred’s phone rang.

Chapter Text

            Alfred took Kiku back to his place by 12:10 am.

 

            “Hey, do you think your mom would be ok with us?” Alfred asked once he pulled over and opened the door for Kiku. Of course, he wouldn’t dare to ask about Yao’s (or Ivan’s) opinion because we all know how’s that going to work.

 

            Kiku got off from the car and thanked him before saying: “She likes you already. So I’m pretty sure she will be fine with us.”

 

            Just then, Mrs. Honda went out from the house. “There you are! So how was the prom?”

 

            “It was fun, actually.”

 

            “Yeah! A lot of things happened”

 

            She eyed them suspiciously and said, “You two looked a little… flushed. Did something happen?”

 

            Alfred only blinked while Kiku stumbled on his words before he answered, “Oh, nothing really. We had just a long night, in which I will tell you later.”

 

            “Yes,” the blond joined in. “In fact, we did some dancing back there, and I believe Kiku had a record of it on his phone.”

 

            “I see,” said Mrs. Honda. “Well then, it’s getting late. Alfred-san, thank you for bringing him home, and you should go back now as soon as possible. I hope I’ll see you next time you visit. And please, send my regards to Francis-san and Arthur-san.”

 

            “I will, Mrs. Honda,” Alfred said. “And you’re welcome.” He bowed. “Oyasumi.”

 

            “Oyasumi,” the older woman also bowed.

 

            He turned to his partner. “Good night, Mr. Honda.”

 

            Kiku smirked and replied with the same mischief, “Good night, Mr. Jones.”

 

            After one last nod, Alfred drove away and disappeared in the distance. Meanwhile, Mrs. Honda, noticing the hints, came up behind him and said, “So, tell me what exactly happened.”

 

*          *            *

 

            “I can’t believe you’re finally going out with him,” Matthew said eagerly and opened up the lights as he and his brother were moving upstairs to their foster fathers’ room (who were, apparently, shared the same room but sleep in separate beds).

 

            “I know!” Alfred exclaimed happily. “I’ve been waiting for him to say yes and I was literally crying inside when he finally confessed!”

 

            “Are you going to tell Father and Papa?” Matthew asked. They were a few feet away from the master’s bedroom.

 

            “Heck Yeah! I’m going to tell them now!”

 

            Matthew grabbed the knobbed and twisted it. “’Can’t wait to see how- ‘the fuck just happened?”

 

            Confused by the change of his twin’s voice, Alfred followed his brother’s gaze to the other side of the threshold and made the same blank/regretful expression as Matthew’s at the sight before them: Arthur Kirkland, naked saved for the bath towel around his waist, staring wide-eyed at them, while leaning over another man, who was lying red and exhausted in bed but also shocked to see the boys staring at him while his legs were forced to open wider by the Brit. This other man was no other than Francis Bonnefoy, whose shirt was riding up to his chest, his pants undone, and his underwear was about to be taken off by Arthur as the Frenchman tried to resist him.

 

            The twins thought it was not a good time (and never was) to stare at them for nearly three minutes. They slowly got their composures back and closed the door. The boys decided to go back to their rooms and change, thinking whether they saw the gates of hell or Oscar the Grouch trying to fuck Kermit the Frog. (Good Lord!!! This is a disturbing universe). Meanwhile, there were “faint” voices coming from the bedroom: “YOU IDIOT! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, YOU SON OF A TARD!” “WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S ‘MY FAULT’, YOU FUCKING LITTLE SLOB CUNT!?”

 

*          *            *

 

            In the living room,

 

            “Ok, first of all, listen up,” Arthur started (who was finally dressed in his pajamas and his night robe). “What you’ve seen back there is clearly a big misunderstanding.”

 

            “So, what’s your excuse this time?” Matthew asked nonchalantly. Although he’d seen that situation before, it didn’t spare him from being traumatized.

 

            “It’s not an excuse!” Arthur nearly loosed his temper. “As I was saying, this is clearly a misunderstanding as you can see, the Frog has been wearing my underwear.”

 

            “Is that another kink of yours?” Alfred asked while leaning against his hand. He nearly laughed when he saw the fumes coming out from Arthur’s ears, calling him a devil child for not showing any respect. You know, the usual nagging.

 

            “Francis Bonnefoy, say something!” the Brit shouted as soon as Francis came in with beverages.

 

            The Frenchman sighed tragically and said, “Boys, I know what you’ve seen is highly perverted, but Mr. Bossy Pants right here has been accusing me of such charges even though it wasn’t really true.”

 

            Arthur spat out his tea. “Bollocks! Are you trying to say that I’m a liar, sir!”

 

            Francis glared back at him. “No shit, Sherlock! Perhaps you should also solve the mystery behind the stolen undergarment, in which you stole!”

 

            “THAT UNDERWEAR WAS MINE. I'VE BEEN WEARING THE SAME BRAND IN MY ENTIRE LIFE AND I KNOW IT!”

 

            “MERDE! YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY MAN WHO’S BEEN WEARING CALVIN KLEIN IN THE PLANET AND YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE YOUR NAME ON IT!”

           

            “I HAVE THIRTY-FOUR OF THOSE AND I ONLY COUNTED THIRTY-THREE! WHO ELSE COULD HAVE BEEN DOING THE LAUNDRY?”

 

            “Is this another cover up of one of your secret antics? Because you're clearly releasing the sexual tension right now,” Alfred intervened. Matthew kicked him on the leg for his fat mouth because the next thing that happened was that their foster parents turned against them.

 

            “ALFRED F, JONES, WERE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME THE ENTIRE TIME!?” Arthur yelled, already raging his temper over one hundred.

 

            “Alfred! As much as I would like to tolerate you, it is not wise if you don’t listen to your father,” Francis agreed with his so-called “enemy” with a calmer angry voice.

 

            “I thought you said Father was lying,” Matthew commented. His twin stole a glance at him as he continued, “I’m confused, who’s side of the story are we listening to anyway? And were you people even telling the truth?”

 

            “Matthew! Are you accusing your father and I as liars?!” Francis yelled.

 

            “Isn’t that what you guys are doing one minute ago?”

 

            “Oi! Don’t talk to your father like that!” Arthur protested the same way Francis “defended” him. “He may be unemployed but he makes sure that everything in this house is set and clean while you and your brother just barged in without even knocking!”

 

            “BUT WE CALLED YOU AND NONE OF YOU EVEN ANSWERED THE FUCKING PHONE!”

 

            “WE FUCKING TRIED CALLING YOU BACK BUT THERE’S NO SIGNAL”

 

            “WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE YOU TWO!”

 

            “IS THIS FAMILY EVEN FOR REAL?!”

 

            Thirty minutes later after a series of wars concerning the underwear and phone calls, no one won so they decided to do the Italian way to make peace: Raise their white flags. And just like that, everything went to normal as if nothing happened.

 

            “Anyway, so how was the prom, lads?” Arthur asked and elegantly sipped the last drop of his tea.

 

            “It was pretty amazing!” Matthew answered while he adjusted Mr. Kumajiro (his stuffed polar bear) on his lap. “There’s actually a lot of people, and the entire place almost looked like from the 1950s.”

 

            “Ooohhh! Are there any dancing?” Francis asked eagerly and poured Arthur’s cup more tea.

 

            “Yes,” the curly-haired twin said. “In fact, we took some pictures here in which we can see later, but anyway, I remember we did some slow dances and other jams. But Alfred here is trying to steal the spot light.”

 

            Alfred gulped down his coke and pressed his palm against his chest like he was triggered. “Matt! First of all, I am the Hero and I know how to make a good time. Secondly, it’s unfair to take all the credit when Kiku did more than an amazing job.”

 

            “Kiku also danced?” Francis asked in surprise.

     

            “Well he wasn’t supposed to join in until Alfred pulled him to the dance floor,” Matthew answered.

     

            Arthur glowered at Alfred. “You forced him against his will?!”

     

            “ Hey, calm down!” the blond raised his hands as if he surrendered (the second time). “More like: I persuaded him to dance with me. You guys remember the Lindy Hop we danced, right?”

     

            “Yes.”

     

            “Ok, so it turns out that Kiku can also dance it after his great aunt,” Alfred said. “So I was urging him to dance with me, and of course, I won’t be dancing with him if he didn’t say yes.”

     

            “Really?” Arthur relaxed his muscles and sat back on his chair. “So, how did it go?”

            
            “It was so freaking awesome!” Alfred cried out, causing their foster fathers to jerk up on their chairs and raise an eyebrow at him. “We totally nailed it and everyone loves us!” he continued. “Kiku was enjoying it! I’m also enjoying it! We all enjoy it! You should check out the video Matt recorded.”

     

            Arthur and Francis turned to the boy who was sitting there quietly beside his ear-splitting twin. Matthew nodded and said, “I admit, it was actually really good. They were pretty amazing! Taken from the good son of the family.” He said the last part with pride.

     

            The two older men shrugged and considered it. “Okay then. We’ll see it later. Did anything else happen?”

     

            Matthew smirked. “I’ll leave my brother to that.”

     

            Once again, Arthur’s blood pressure began to rise. “Did you cause another commotion in school grounds?”

     

            “What?! No!” Alfred quickly retorted. “Who am I? Gilbert Beilschmidt?”

     

            “Hey!” Matthew yelled.

     

            “Actually, it’s about Kiku and me,” Alfred said, ignoring his brother’s death glare on him.

     

            “What happened? Is there something wrong?”  Francis asked, curious and yet he had a hunch that he was going to say what he was expecting in his mind.

     

            The blond inhaled sharply. “This is not really easy to say but…” a small pause and: “Kiku and I are dating. Oh, wait, it is easy.”

 

            Immediately, Arthur and Francis froze. The Brit held his cup half way to his mouth while the other man glued his hands to his lap and stayed stiff. They all went still as they were waiting for someone or something (like Mr. Kumajiro) to react or say anything.

     

            Finally, Arthur cracked the barrier. “…Am I hearing it right?”

     

            But that barrier was completely broken by none other than Francis’ high-pitched squeal. “Mon fils! I am so happy for you! Oh please, tell me more!”

     

            “Most wondrous!” The Brit reacted. He was not appalled or mad about the information, but rather, he was secretly happy. “Well, of course, this is expected, yet still I’m amazed. But I’m curious, how did it happen?”

     

            He told them everything he remembered that moment.

 

*          *            *

 

            It was 6:00 am and Francis Bonnefoy got up from his bed and put on his light shoes before exiting the room. He was passing through the hallway when he noticed the door to Alfred’s room was open. He peaked inside and saw Alfred sitting up on his bed, leaning on his hand while looking out at the window as if he was waiting for the sun to rise up already. Francis made sure that his presence was there by knocking on the door before he entered. “Hey,” he called. “Are you alright?”

 

            The younger blond looked up, he wasn’t wearing his glasses and his eyes were slightly tired. He smiled and answered, “Yeah, I just got a long night and the caffeine isn’t helping me.”

 

            “I see,” Francis said. “Do you want me to get you anything? Water? Hot Cocoa?”

 

            “A milk would be nice.”

 

            Francis came back later with a glass of warm milk and gave it to him.

 

            “Thanks, Pops,” Alfred said, taking the glass and sipped. “Are you usually awake this early?”

 

            “Most of the time, yes,” the Frenchman answered and sat on his bed. “I always make you breakfast at six, but it’s Saturday so I still got time. Now tell me, is there something bothering you? You do not wake up this early unless there’s school.”

 

            Alfred sighed as he stared down at the white liquid between his hands. He tapped the glass and said, “No. It’s just the caffeine. And I was thinking and realized something.”

 

            “What?”

 

            The boy looked out at the window and saw the sun slowly rising. The stars were already disappearing one by one. “I remember, when I first met Kiku, he was new to our school. Nobody wants to talk to him because they thought he couldn’t speak English, some people thought he was weird, and there are times he got himself into trouble even though he didn’t mean it. He was alone before I met him, even in his home, he was always in his room, rarely outdoors. I, on the other hand, had a lot of friends since elementary school. I already have my brother and my gang, and we always hang out. And people thought I’m cool and like that, even though I could cause trouble. But then…” he paused with a flinch. “Now that we’re going to college, Gil and Matt are going together, the same for Matthias and Lukas, Kiku is going to one of the most insane universities: McNeil, so he’s on the same campus with his brother, while I’m heading to Beard, alone. The rest of the students I know are going to Adelphi or Hofstra,” he made a small laugh. “It’s interesting how the tables turned. I will be going to a place where everyone and everything is a stranger. It would take me a while to get used to it and I probably won’t survive on the first day. But for Kiku,” he looked at Francis with a glint in his eyes.

 

            “I doubt he couldn’t make it,” Alfred continued. “In spite of everything in the past, I’ve seen him thrive. I’ve seen him work hard and keep moving forward. He’s strong as he pushed aside every problem coming in his way. He finally has the courage to speak up. He’s no longer afraid as he was before. Pops…” then there was that spark, “Kiku is a real hero.” He paused, “Now that we’re boyfriends and I think about it, it seems like I have to go on the same experience he had when he was younger so that he and I will share the same issue.”

 

            Francis made a brief lopsided smile and, “Do you want to know something?”

 

            “Sure.”

 

            The older man placed a hand on top of his. “When you said that you will go through this alone the same way Kiku had done before, that further proves that you and him are meant for each other as you share the same empathy. Do you still remember Damon and Pythias when you were sick?” Alfred nodded. “Exactly! However,” Francis shifted his position and continued, “Like what I said about you two sharing the same empathy, it would be impossible to say that Kiku wouldn’t be scared on his first day in college.”

 

            Alfred looked at him with full attention. “I’m saying, like you, Kiku would also be uncomfortable even if Yao was there,” Francis said. “There will be times when he’s feeling helpless, scared, weak, and even alone. That is because, like all of us, he is a human; we are easily tempted, and we could be scared or mad easily. But that doesn’t stop us from being the Stuarts of nature. We are strong and resilient, we do not give up until we reach our purposes so long as we have inspiration.” He cupped one of the boy’s cheeks and said, “If Kiku becomes stronger from the past years, then, as his soul mate, I assure you, you will also become stronger. Yes, there will be times he will feel down and tired, but that’s because he’s becoming stronger, so if you are like that, just remember that you’re strong… But if he doesn’t show his fears to you, then he’s setting himself as an example for you to become more resilient. This attitude, as well as the fact that he waited patiently for the right time for you to be together, proves even further that he is the right one for you.”

 

            Alfred’s chest began to heave heavily. He was not upset as he bit his tongue to hold the tears. In fact, he wanted to hear more, it was a real comfort, a motivation for this time.

 

            The sun was already in the sky, shafting a light through the window. The Frenchman smiled and stood up., “Ah… it’s time for me to go now. I hope you’ll feel better.”

     

            Thank you, Pops

 

*          *            *

 

            June XX, XXXX, Graduation Day,

 

            After the entire student body raised their caps in the air and caught them back (if possible), they went off to meet their families and friends. They took pictures, they laughed, they smiled, they screamed, they do whatever they wanted. Unfortunately, None of the gang, even Matthew or Kiku, became the valedictorian or the salutatorian. However, earning a higher GPA was enough for each of them and their families to be satisfied.

 

            Arthur and Francis were talking with Mrs. Honda and Gilbert’s father alongside with Lukas and Liv’s guardians: Swedish and Finnish couple Berwald and Tino. Whereas, their “children” were taking their sweet time: Gilbert was squishing Matthew, who was grinning like a Cheshire cat while kissing all over his face. Liv went and gave her brother and boyfriend a hug as she nuzzled to Matthias.

 

            Meanwhile, Alfred and Kiku were in a more vacant yet private space. The taller man placed his cap at the side of their faces, so when they kissed, no one could see them as the cap was blocking the view from the audience.

 

            “Are you ready for the next level and defeat the final boss, Alfred-san?” Kiku said after they pulled away.

 

            Alfred laughed and rubbed their noses together. “Game on, Babe.”

 

            Hand in hand, they joined their friends and went back to their families.

Chapter Text

            July 4, XXXX, Independence Day,

 

            It was not a big surprise when I found out that Alfred F. Jones was born on the same day the United States celebrated with lights and the anniversary of its liberation. When Matthew celebrated his birthday on July 1st, he preferred the serene tranquility than the confusing chaos of the clamor, but that didn’t stop him nor his friends and family to enjoy the laughter and nonsense in the circle as long as there was no bloodshed involved. However, in Alfred’s case, Arthur Kirkland once told me that when he was born three days after his twin (due to being premature), there were already lights and cries of patriotism in the streets, this was and still is Alfred’s first memory, as it became part of his own persona as a Summer’s Child and a Child of Liberty. His “F”, more likely, stands for Franklin, but either way, it also means Freedom.

 

            At that time, the entire household in the Kirkland residence lit up like a Christmas in July. Of course, it’s hard not to imagine the sound and the fireworks going on in the area. The neighbors were lighting up gunpowder while booming up every American song they could find, by which I mean they could turn up any music that shouts profanities. While the neighbors were enjoying their own game, Francis and Arthur were doing their best to make the celebration outstanding yet a little bit simple. Every year when it’s someone’s birthday, they lit the chandeliers, changed the carpets, draw the curtains, took out the candelabras, and fill the entire house with vanilla scent. Whilst Arthur was setting the China and Francis made his special recipes, the boys were either in the basement or in the attic pulling out firecrackers, sparklers, and bottle rockets. And of course, a few horns and pans as a special request for Gilbert so he won’t barge into Mr. and Mrs. Edelstein’s place and stole a dozen of them like he did last year (he was nearly suspended after that incident).

 

            But anyway, soon after the party started, the guests began to appear. The first ones were the Bondeviks and Matthias. Gilbert Beilschmidt followed them. He preceded to glomp his boyfriend before greeting the birthday boy. Alfred didn’t mind but the sight of two people snogging would require him to bleach his eyes later. Francis gave them all the warmest welcome whereas Arthur, of course, nearly threw his tea at the albino but he was stopped when he realized he was using his favorite teacup. The last to come was Mrs. Honda and Kiku.

 

            “Ah! Konbanwa, Saika-san, Kiku-san!”  The Frenchman greeted with a small bow and stepped aside for them to enter. “Dōzo haitte kudasai.

 

            “Thank you very much, Mr. Bonnefoy,” Kiku said and smiled timidly.

 

            “Arigato gozaimasu, Francis-san,” Mrs. Honda said and held up a big box wrapped in blue metallic paper. “Watashitachi ni wa Alfred-san ni okurimono ga arimasu.

 

            “Sugoi! Alfred-chan wa sore ni kansha shimasu.

 

            Then, Arthur strolled in.

 

            “Mrs. Honda, Kiku, it’s wonderful to see you again,” the Brit greeted while giving the older woman and her son two glasses of ginger ale.

 

            “We are delighted to be in here, Arthur-san,” she said and started to survey the surroundings lit with the chandelier above them, the smooth carpets, and other materials fitted for decorating someone’s debut. “And I must say, the party looks elegant as always, don’t you think so, Kiku?” the younger male agreed.

 

            Arthur waved his hand as if he was brushing off the flattery. “Oh please! As much as I thank you for the compliment, we want you to feel yourselves at home. You can put the present at the side but for now, we must have dinner. Alfred is with the others in the dining room.”

     

            As they followed the two hosts to the other side of the hall, Alfred immediately jumped up from his seat and greeted Mrs. Honda before hugging Kiku into a tight embrace. Their friends, after getting used to this public display of “friendly” affection, found this normal and smiled at it at many times. Mrs. Honda would eventually shake her head while smiling, Francis Bonnefoy, due to his obvious passionate persona, was blushing intensely, and then, we have Arthur Kirkland clearing his throat and telling them to get a room or do it later. When it was dinnertime, they were eating and chatting, talking about random topics and funny stories to fit the occasion. After that, the birthday boy decided to open the presents, so far, he received new clothes like jackets, pants, and dress-shirts as well as shoes and a digital watch, in which he’ll eventually use them in college. He also got a t-shirt with a picture of a UFO on it that says “I WANT TO BELIEVE”, a portable speaker, and a video game console. Whether these were small trinkets or some things big, it’s fair for Alfred to say thank you to all of them, after all, he would use them sooner or later, and it’s better than nothing.

     

            A few minutes later, they went out, just in time when the neighbors released their gunpowder to create the ultimate climax. Gilbert, Matthias, and Alfred wanted to join this hectic yet colorfully bright scenario by adding up their own fireworks while Kiku, Matthew, Lukas, and Liv stood behind them lighting sparklers and watched the other three brats taking further risks while booming up the music and Gilbert banging his pans as if he was challenging the stereo to a duel of “let’s see which one of the two of us is the loudest!”  (Meanwhile, the adults were inside enjoying their tea).

     

            The entire ruckus didn’t end till midnight. But during at that time, the said three were unstoppable. Even though there were times when one of them took a rest, their fun doesn’t stop there. On the other hand, as much as the others preferred to play it safe, they couldn’t hold back their amusements and “ooohhh”s every time they stared up at the sky and saw stars of fires with different colors. Bigger ones, spirals, red, green, gold, blue, a sequence of sparks, all of them, are appealing to the eyes of the watcher when they stared at the blue curtain. They were indescribable beyond words because nothing is more beautiful to see it by your own self than to hear it from the others like a gossip.

     

            During at that time, Matthew decided to help Gilbert light up the gunpowder, Lukas, Liv, and Matthias were at the other side of the yard with their sparklers, so Kiku was the only one sitting on the porch, finishing his glass of ginger ale.

     

            “Hey, Babe!” a voice called. Kiku looked up to see Alfred beaming at him before sitting beside him.

     

            The blond took off his bomber jacket and draped it around Kiku’s shoulder. “Are you ok, Keeks?”

     

            The Japanese smiled, adjusting the jacket and said, “I’m fine, just a little tired. And thank you.”

     

            “Anything for you,” he whispered and invited him to move closer, in which Kiku accepted and curled against him.

     

            They stared up the sky within minutes of silence, it was still filled with lights, every second, every minute, there’s a new one then another. A gentle breeze passed by as the sound of the crickets responded to the fainter side of the area where little or no sound of the fire could reach. Although the day was almost over, it never ends.

     

            “This night, ever since I came here, nights like this are always full of sounds and fireworks,” Kiku said. “It never dies down, and I think, it never will.”

     

            Alfred turned to him. “Is it annoying to watch the same things that happened on this night every year?”

     

            The raven-haired smiled and shook his head. “No. Because no matter what we do, it will always stay the same, changes will come in every generation, but the quality of happiness is always the same for this night.”

     

            The blond kissed his temple and whispered into his ear, “This is why I love you, you and your philosophies.”

     

            Kiku gave a small genuine laugh at that. He stared back at him, looking at his eyes and then he saw those sparks, again. Oh god, he loves those eyes, the depth of the ocean, and the stars of the sky. Whenever he looks at them, Kiku could see the sincerity… the boldness… the happiness that dwelled in his psyche. He, once again, saw the ocean that reminded him of the bigger world, the new universe! The thought of it would draw him to tears of gratitude, small droplets from his eyes that were invisible to the naked eye but through a mutual contact.

     

            Alfred might have read his thoughts. He responded by drawing closer and closer until their lips met. It was just a small peck as he pulled away a little with their lips lightly lingering, but far enough for Alfred to see the bigger picture of why he loves this man. A man, with a pale skin and soulless eyes, he is above all else, the most wondrous who have walked on the planet. Although his eyes are dark, he held the most affectionate emotions he could offer to those who are willing to love him back. And yet, as Alfred is the sun, Kiku has always been the moon, dimmer yet the light of the night… mysterious yet beautiful.

     

            He wanted to stay this way, but Alfred was reminded of the future. I can’t let you go… “I won’t let you go…”

     

            Kiku replied with his lips still lingering on his, “I know…” he pulled away and showed his left hand with a red rope bracelet that has a small square tag with the character: 菊 engraved on it.

     

            Alfred became more confused and even shocked when the Japanese started to untie it from his wrist since he knew that it was one of Kiku’s talismans, and he’d seen him panic when he nearly lost it during Gym. However, Kiku just proceeded to take it off and strapped it on Alfred’s left hand instead.

     

            “Keeks, what are you doing?”

     

            “You won’t let go of me, right?” Kiku responded. “Well, I don’t want to let you go either.” He finished tying the knot and held in his hand. “Just in case, if you are in trouble, remember your purpose, and hold on to it,” he held his hand and cradled it on his cheek. “So you will hold on to me, and never let me go.”

     

            It didn’t take a second for Alfred to respond him by smashing his lips onto his. He was ever grateful as he continuously promised. And Kiku wanted nothing more but seeing him happy, he knew, at the moment when he made his choice, he had no regrets; after all, he’ll do everything for his happiness.

     

            By 11:59 pm, everything finally went silent. No fireworks, no music, no shouts of patriotism, or pans clanging. They all went home safely and took good night sleeps. Everything was peaceful as the sky was cleared from the smoke, the stars were back to their glory beside the moon, and the North Star shone among them at the center of the curtain.

 

*          *            *

 

            August XX, XXXX,

 

            When Alfred told me about that one morning in August, I couldn’t help but feel the heaviness in his voice while the clock ticks every second. Even I myself found this difficult when I started writing the first draft, in other words, the experience was rather… intense. Although he did tell that this part of the story was a little embarrassing, he, at least, confessed that he couldn’t resist. Alfred started telling me this occurrence when he took one last visit in the Honda residence. It was also the same day Kiku was leaving for college, and of course, we all know that the boy won’t miss this moment. It’s true that the Japanese promised he’d come back home every Friday afternoon, stay for the weekend, and go back to his school dormitory by Sunday afternoon. This system would repeat like a cycle until he graduated, it’s actually pretty fine if you think about it, but the fact that he’s three hours away from home most of the time was very heart rendering.

     

            As Arthur’s Buick halted in front of the house, Alfred knew it’s time for him to go back with his family to have lunch. He watched Arthur, Francis, and Matthew getting out of the car through Kiku’s bedroom window and chatted with Mrs. Honda. It was eleven in the morning, but Alfred could feel his eyes drooping slowly. Summer is fun, but sometimes, it bores you to death. In his case, he had other reasons…

   

            “Alfred-san,” Kiku called from the door. “It’s time.”

     

            He looked up and scanned him from top to bottom. He was wearing a yellow sweater with a white collar, olive green pants, a white coat, and a checkered maroon scarf. For Alfred, he felt like he was facing an immigrant moving his way to the other side of the world and beyond. He smiled, in spite of the bile growing in his stomach, he was happy to see a man moving forward to achieve his dreams. He saw this man grew up while fighting his own battles, and then, he became a champion.

     

            Alfred didn’t say anything as he moved closer limply like he was dragging his own body across the wilderness. However, Kiku approached him, caught him as if he was about to fall and captured his face between his hands. “Hey, everything is going to be fine, okay?” the raven-haired whispered.

     

            “Okay…” he responded blankly.

     

            He kept searching in his eyes. “Are you going to cry?” he asked, although Alfred’s eyes were parched.

     

            I already am… “No,” the blond answered.

     

            “Do you want to stay a little longer?”

     

            He shook his head and said, “No, I don’t think so. It would be pointless and I don’t want to waste your time.”

     

            “But I can’t leave you feeling like this,” Kiku insisted.

     

            “Babe,” he paused. He caught a glimpse of his eyes full of anxiety and concern. Alfred sighed and said, “It’s fine. And we need to go, they are waiting for us.”

     

            Kiku was about to protest, but as much as he wanted to, his attempt was thwarted by Alfred when he instantly draped his arm over his shoulders and motioned themselves to leave the room and head downstairs.

     

            Outside, they were greeted by a strong gust of wind, and Alfred was glad enough that he was wearing his bomber jacket. The sky was perfect and clear, the sun was there except that it didn’t burn much to the skin, and yet, there was the presence of the early autumn winds in the summer. Usually, if this were a movie, depressing or gloomy situations such as this mirrors the weather, specifically heavy drops of rain pouring down the streets and everything was gray and silent, but in this story, it’s more like the opposite. The weather was too happy for this kind of circumstance; it doesn’t consider the sentiments of the people that dwell underneath its wing, instead, they go by the course of nature while mankind has to survive as each time passed. That’s why we must learn to endure. That’s why they must learn to endure.

     

            “Are you all set?” Mrs. Honda asked while Kiku placed his luggage at the back of the car and confirmed his mother’s question. “Ok, I’ll tell your brother that he’ll pick you up outside as soon as you get there.” She took out her phone and texted Yao.

     

            Kiku took this opportunity to say goodbye to Alfred and his family. He first turned to Arthur and Francis. “Mr. Bonnefoy, Mr. Kirkland, I deeply thank you for your hospitality for the past three years, and for treating me well like I’m part of the family,” he said and bowed.

     

            The two older men returned the same gesture and said, “You are always welcome to visit us, Kiku, and I wish you the best of luck in college.” “Oui, we hope you’ll accomplish everything you work for, and yes, we always appreciate your presence with us.”

     

            He nodded and looked at Matthew. “Matthew-san, thank you for everything you did, especially when you accompany me. I hope you and Gilbert-san will be successful in the end. And please, take care of the others.”

     

            Matthew smiled and nodded. “I would say the same thing to you, Kiku. You always have my support, and, of course, we’ll take care of each other, but don’t overdo yourself in McNeil.”

     

            “I won’t,” he said. And lastly, he turned to Alfred.

     

            “So, it all comes to this, huh?” the blond said timidly while hanging down his head and his hands in his pocket.

     

            “But that doesn’t mean it’s the end,” Kiku said. “I’ll still see you, but I want to make sure that you’ll do your best in Beard.”

     

            “I will.”

     

            “Promise?” the shorter man held up his pinky finger.

     

            Alfred smiled fondly at this gesture and said, “I promise.” And intertwined his pinky with his. The last thing he did was he leaned over (hands still in his pockets) and kissed the smaller man on the cheek.

     

            Kiku moved to the family’s direction as they offered him a hug. Then back to his lover and giving him one last embrace before going into his mother’s car.

    

            If you ask me, this scene seemed… bland. And that’s why, as Alfred watched the car engine turning on, he felt like something was missing. He felt like this chapter in their lives shouldn’t end like this. The lack of action was somehow disturbing, particularly when there were more words left unspoken.

     

            In spite of the many reassurances in every occasion, Alfred was never yet satisfied, his impulse was strong and it was tough for him to hold back, however, I don’t blame him, because as a human, no matter how many words you piled up onto the other, the result would be the same, it would remain unconvincing.

     

            He watched as the car started moving, his breath became heavier, and his eyes began to water. He clenched his fist in his pocket and gritted his teeth when he felt a hand on his shoulder, he turned around and it was Arthur.

     

            “You can’t hold back anymore, can you?” the Brit said after reading Alfred’s silent actions.

     

            He turned back to the car, then back to his family, and made up his mind when he returned his gaze to the distant in front of him. It was only a few meters away, but for Alfred, it felt like a hundred miles. The distance was… upsetting, believing that his words couldn’t reach that far even though it would be the same repeating syllables. But he knew too well, and he’d be lying if he said he’s fine. This, kind of “goodbye”, was not the appropriate way to end this act. There were more words left unspoken, and it would be a waste if they’re left unheard. That’s why he did what he was supposed to do: he ran.

Chapter Text


            “Keeks! Keeks! Keeks!”

     

            Meanwhile, in the car, Kiku heard Alfred’s voice echoed behind him. Mrs. Honda noticed him as well through the rear view mirror. She stopped the car and looked back at her son with compassion. “Go to him, we can wait for ten more minutes,” she said. Kiku would never think his mother would say that. He always remembered the time when they left, Mrs. Honda forcefully dragged him away from his room without taking any moment to look at the empty space he’ll miss. But then, this phenomenon happened. What caused her to consider such situation remained unknown for now.

     

            He quickly thanked her and got off from the car. Kiku already had his arms open just in time Alfred reached him and wrapped him tightly until there was no space between them. The blond gritted his teeth while crying quietly on his shoulder, clenching the smaller man’s jacket until his knuckles turned white. The raven-haired did his best to soothe him while rubbing his palm on the back of his bomber jacket and shushing him gently in order to stop his sobbing. What came next were two voices hanging in the air:

     

            “Kiku! I’m sorry! I can’t help myself. I’m really sorry!” Alfred chocked between tears. Nevertheless, his partner was the only person who could hear him.

     

            “Ssshhh… Darling, it’s ok. I know… I understand…” Kiku whispered against his ear while kissing him gently on the shell and the side of his head.

     

            The taller man began to gasp. “I know you told me that everything is going to be fine between us. And I keep telling myself the same thing! I’m so stupid! I’m sorry if I’m acting like this.”

     

            “Hey… stop blaming yourself. I know you’ll eventually do something like this,” he kissed his cheek. “You are not stupid because if you are you wouldn’t go as far as this. It’s okay to cry… Just let it out, ok? Let it out.”

     

            They pulled away but their foreheads were still touching. Alfred’s eyes were swollen and red while small droplets of tears streamed down from the corners of his eyes, his cheeks were flushed, as well as his ears, he was wheezing and shuddering against the breeze, and his hands were clasping onto Kiku’s sleeves. Kiku furrowed his eyebrows as he watched him shutting his eyes and biting his lip to stop his crying. He’d seen Alfred cry on some occasions, but this was the worst, so far.

     

            “I’m scared,” the blond finally said after a minute of gasps and strains.

     

            “I know…” the smaller man replied silently. I am scared, too.

     

            He sighed. “I told myself to man up. I told myself not to be an ass. I told myself a fucking million times! But then, here I am,” he said in loathing. “You’re probably thinking that I’m a coward,”

     

            Stop! Kiku moved his hands to his cheeks and claimed, “No! You are not a coward and you never were,” I have been living my life in seclusion. I was scared to open my door. I was scared to look out through my window. I was scared when I thought people would intervene. I guess… we’re all cowards anyway. “It’s alright to be scared. We’re only humans, we are all cowards and heroes at the same time. In fact, heroes have to be scared,” he wiped his tear with his thumb. “So that they will learn to become brave.”

     

            He lifted his head so his eyes were directly met with a pair of blue orbs. Kiku could feel the tears welling up inside of him. For him, it felt like watching a world of stormy seas, dangerous and frightening. Nevertheless, he took the courage and said, “Remember when we first met? Of all the people, you were the first one to come near me,” Alfred would never forget about that day. He continued, “I was a stranger… you know nothing about me… you didn’t know my intentions… you didn’t even know what brought me here… and yet, you are brave enough to approach me, regardless the possible risks you’ll encounter, so how much more will you take when you’ll come across a bigger stranger than me?” Kiku smiled against his tears. “You’ve waited for me patiently to say ‘yes’ in three years, so how much longer will you endure within another three years? Since I came into this country without knowing anybody, are you also willing to take the risk I’ve been through?” he felt a pang of heaviness in his heart when he said the last part. “Darling, please hear me out,” Kiku whimpered. “These things might be hard for you, for us. But think of these as missions for a hero. We must fight back, beat the odds, and never give up until they are accomplished.” He brushed back his blond hair and continued, “We’re almost at the final level, and we must stay strong to defeat the final boss. And after that… let’s raise our glass!”

     

            As a response, Alfred breathed out sharply and covered his mouth with his palm. On the other hand, the Japanese took out his handkerchief and wiped the tears and snot on the blonde’s face. When he was done, he (Alfred) took his hand and pressed Kiku’s pale fingers against his lips. “I know you will make me feel better. But I can’t help myself thinking that I might lose you.”

     

            “Please don’t say that,” the raven-haired man pulled him into a brief, heartening kiss. “You won’t lose me and I won’t lose you. Just have faith in us, okay?”

     

            Alfred nodded slowly. “Okay.”

     

            Nonetheless, Kiku knew he was not sated yet. He rested his hands against the taller man’s chest, where he could feel his heart pounding every breath against his palm, thumping in the same rhythm and syncing with his own heartbeat. “I know you’re afraid… because I’ve been there, too. And,” he paused to make sure he was listening before he could utter one of his ultimate promises. “That’s the reason why I won’t let you go either. Whatever happens, whether you’re scared or not, I can’t leave you. No matter what comes between us, I will always be with you.”

     

            Alfred stared back at him deeply as his hand cradled his cheek. “Always?”

     

            He smiled. “Forever...” and that one word sent a spark of hope in his core.

     

            With the same quality of affection, Alfred moved his hand and took out his dog-tag necklace underneath his shirt. Kiku watched him in surprise as he took it off and placed the chain around his slender neck. “Alfred-san, what-“

     

            “You gave me what’s yours, and I’ll give you what’s mine,” the blond interrupted. “It’s just my way of telling you that I can’t leave you either.”

     

            “But you had given me so much! How can I ever repay you?” Kiku asked while experiencing another round of sentiments.

     

            “You already did,” he answered. “By loving me back.”

     

            The Japanese beamed as his finger traced the name: Alfred F. Jones etched on the silver plate. He promised to always keep it. And just like that, they pulled into a passionate kiss until they realized the time.

     

            “You should go now,” the American said. “I don’t want you to be late. However, if you see me following you when you’re driving, just ignore me and continue. I’ll eventually stop when I can’t go any further anyway.”

     

            The raven-haired man quirked his eyebrow and asked, “Are you really going to do it?”

     

            Alfred smirked. “Well, I did swear that I’ll chase you on the day you’re leaving, right?”

     

            He smiled one last time. “And you kept that promise.” He stood on his toes and kissed his cheek before letting him go.

     

            He gazed at him moving back to his mother’s car without turning back. And once he got in, the car started moving, and Alfred immediately looked back to his family, who was watching the entire episode. He was about to ask for his bike when Arthur already presented it to him. At first, he was uncertain whether he should really do something this irrational. In the end, he decided to carry it out anyway.

     

            “I must be out of my mind,” he muttered as he thankfully took the bike and rode away.

     

            Arthur watched him disappear in the distance. Francis joined him as he gladly intertwined his fingers with his. Matthew joined in and commented how his brother never changed even when he’s growing up. Of course, they all agreed.

 

*          *            *

 

            Meanwhile, in the open street, there was hardly traffic in the area, as well as a few vehicles passing by. Alfred incessantly biked all the way from his former location to the current area. By far, he admitted that he was crazy when he did this, but the problem was: he’s not stopping. And yet, fortunately for him, no one seemed to bother as no one in the area technically saw him since he was biking on the side.

     

            On the other hand, Mrs. Honda, after knowing his intentions and was still feeling pity for the two of them, drove moderately, not too fast nor too slow for Alfred to catch up. Kiku sat stiffly in his seat when he saw that they were almost to the next turn that would lead them to the highway. He looked back at his window and saw the American about to reach his limit. He thought this was his last chance, not to mention: he knew Alfred couldn’t go any further. And like his lover, he could be pretty impulsive and unsatisfied.

     

            Kiku scooted closer, opened his window, waved and called to him, his black hair gusting against the wind while his tears rolled down his cheeks accompanied with a grin on his face, “Alfred-san! This is not yet goodbye! Even when I’m not around, you can do it! I know you can! I believe in you! Just because I’m not there doesn’t mean you have to screw things up! If you can’t do this to yourself, do it for us! I am always proud of you, Alfred! You are my hero! Aishiteru!”

     

            Alfred stopped his tracks at the end of the line. All he could do was to watch the car fading, he won’t see that car or him as often like before, so he called back at him with the same quality of emotions, “I love you, too, Keeks!”

     

            These were the last words they heard from each other before the space between them expanded until they vanished from each other’s sights.

     

            On that late August, summer didn’t end yet, but the impatient sturdy breeze that blew the leaves convinced nature how time had passed so quickly. In due course, the leaves would alter their green coats into gold while they were being carried by the wind. It is a sign that Fall is coming.

 

 

End of Part 1         

Chapter Text

            “In spite of our repeating promises, no matter what, I always found myself longing for his company… I want him… I need him. I couldn’t help myself. Yes, we were no longer children. We established our own lives and ourselves. But in such ways, we were still young; hence we couldn’t control our urges. Nevertheless, the difference between my husband and I was our persistence: I am mad, demanding, and highly impulsive. I act before I think, and once I did something, I made a commitment to myself and my deed, in other words, I have no sense to control myself. But my husband, my perfect husband, he is wiser than anyone. He is more reserved, timid, selfless, and sensible. Unlike me, he considers the consequences of his and my own actions. He would advise me… train me… guide me… lecture me… In truth, he deserves better than what he had now. I believe he deserves to have someone who equally meets his standards… he deserves to live in luxury and not to worry too much about finances… he deserves to have a loving family… he deserves better than I do…

            “I know my husband. He is never a simpleton, he knew these fixations were meant for him, but instead, he rather stayed with someone like me: an irrational, loudmouth, phenomenal son of a bitch. From the moment when he said yes, I have to keep my expectations low since romances never last. But then again, here we are, he stayed so that he could tame me… care me… watch over me… and that’s why I love him more than anything. And that was the moment I passed the threshold into the other side where I craved him.”

 

*          *            *

 

            Kiku Honda became one of the top students in McNeil University. Of course, entering college was never easy, however, it was no different from entering on his first day in high school. He still remembered when he was fifteen; he moved in from Japan, he nearly got lost in the hallway until Mr. Bevins found him in the C-wing. He remembered the way his heart was palpitating every step and echo. He remembered the way he was sweating when he entered his first period. He remembered the way students looked at him like an alien. He remembered the way he wished he wanted to go back to his mother and begged her to send him back to his birth-country. But these things passed by, the past was still there, it repeated itself, but it was no longer as fearful as it was once. Everything immediately looked so different when he entered in his life.

 

            Skipping to college, when Kiku entered in his dorm, he met his roommate: Heracles Karpusi. A Grecian man whom I would like to call a “CATholic”. If you still don’t get it, he has a/n (un) healthy obsession with cats. I wasn’t properly introduced to this guy, except that I knew a few things about him, in which, Kiku was my source. Apart from the cats, you could see everywhere under his domain (I meant from pictures to clothes), he described Heracles’ appearance as someone who isn’t really up-to-date in the field of fashion as his color scheme is usually brown and white. He has a very handsome face that some sophisticated people claimed him as “the reincarnation of Adonis”. His eyes were grass green but low and plain, making him look like he needed rest. With that being said, his drowsy characteristic is accompanied by the unkempt feature of his long dark brown hair. But in spite of his outer façade, Kiku once told me that it was true we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover since Heracles was and still is an aficionado of philosophy and history.

     

            But enough said, anyway, for Kiku Honda, college was close to a paradise. Aiming to become a history teacher, he managed to survive and aced his courses along with a few seminars. Although there were some minor difficulties, he was still one of the best role models in the university.

     

            On the side note, he also kept his promise of visiting his home every weekend. Nothing much to tell except that he spent time with his family first before visiting his “other family”, and as much as it was a complete hassle at first, all of them got used to the system and it became part of their daily routine.

 

*          *            *

 

            Perhaps, I think I should start on that one Saturday morning.

 

            Kiku was pushing his cart in the aisle stacked of seasonings. He grabbed the medium-sized Ajinomoto packet and checked off the item from his list. Mrs. Honda was planning to cook them a beef kushiyaki, and Kiku voluntarily took the responsibility to buy anything she needed, and the Chinese/Japanese store, not far from their neighborhood, was the perfect candidate to buy the ingredients native to Asia (obviously). At the same time, it would be his perfect opportunity to buy Pocky and Ramune, and a few items or sweets to keep in his dorm, and some for him.

 

            He scanned the shelves and noticed a pile of Filipino candies hanging on the side. He remembered eating one or two of those treats, and perhaps, he thought about buying one when suddenly: an arm snaked around and a pair of chapped lips planted a kiss near to his ear. Without any doubt, Kiku recognized this gesture. He turned around and met a pair of ocean blue eyes behind silver frames.

 

            “Hello there, gorgeous,” the man smirked.

 

            “Alfred-san, seriously?” Kiku blushed as they laughed it off. “What brings you here?”

 

            “Ramen,” Alfred answered and held up his basket. “And a few vegetables Pops needed.”

 

            “Same here. Mom is making kushiyaki but we ran out of beef so I need to buy her a whole pound.”

 

            “That’s nice,” Alfred said while grabbing a pack of KitKat. “Any plans for the weekend?”

 

            The raven-haired man was about to open his mouth until he smirked and decided to play toy with him, you know, just for fun’s sake. “Oh, I don’t know. It’s not like I’m spending time with my boyfriend. I mean, I can keep myself entertained anytime without his presence.”

 

            Alfred whipped his head, at the same time, Kiku also turned to him with a smug on his face.

 

            “Are you saying that you actually don’t need me around, Mr. Kiku Honda? After all of these years of going out with you?” he asked while keeping his deadpanned look on him.

 

            The Japanese playfully shrugged at his comment and said, “Maybe, maybe not.”

 

            Alfred already knew, before he even asked, that his boyfriend was actually teasing him. In reality, even he admitted that Kiku was not the kind of person to tease someone, knowing that he is always straightforward and clear, but there were times when he was sarcastic. And yet, most of the time, Kiku, based on my experience, could act mischievous when Alfred is around. And I thought: this could either be Alfred’s influence on him or this is already part of his character that only a few people knew.

 

            “Plus: we never go out anywhere,” Kiku added.

 

            “Oh really?” Alfred crossed his arms sassily. “How about the many times you hang out with me, Mr. Honda?”

 

            He quirked an eyebrow and said, “Mr. Jones, Do you call those times when I visit your place as ‘going out’? I mean, it’s true that I do get out of my house, but we barely get out from your room whenever your computer is on.”

 

            “And every time you made us watch horror movies even though I desperately need to piss.”

 

            “Yes, and that one, too. Although it’s not my fault if you are so desperate to go to the restroom, you could’ve at least tell me that you need to.”

 

            “Yeah!” Alfred replied dramatically. “But you turned this man from a hero to zero by implementing multiple traumatic experiences and paranoia.”

 

            “Sure! And Superman is afraid of Kryptonian.” Kiku said casually. (In fact, he was actually enjoying himself).

 

            Alfred was, at first, confused on why he made that reference, not that it’s a big deal, but still- it made him wonder until he realized he was wearing a t-shirt with Big Blue’s logo right in the middle. It was actually pretty obvious, and yet for Alfred, he was more impressed per say.

 

            “Keeks, you are a geek and you know that,” the blonde said, feeling outwitted by him.

 

            “The proper term is trash, Alfred.”

 

            “A floating trash,”

 

            “That you are dating,” Kiku added while smiling.

 

            “That I’m dating,”

 

            At this part, they lost their words that they decided to laugh off the entire conversation like it’s a fleeting memory, I have to admit, it is a fancy terminology for this corny episode, and not even the most interesting. In my part, although each reader’s reaction may vary, as the author, when I was interviewing Alfred and Kiku about this moment, I couldn’t help but thought to myself that this is probably one of the most… clichéd moments in any romances. It’s true that every couple must have their sweet times, but the real problem about this is, probably, the fact that I won’t understand it. It’s not about the teasing and the word plays. They made horrible jokes- yes, but even so: the complexity between them is… difficult. It’s hard to put it in words, but you can feel that the answer is just right there, and yet, like the ocean, if you go deeper, the trench would become darker and darker, there would hardly be any light. And still, I kept wondering, in spite of how I feel about this, I ended up leaving there in the pages. And, perhaps, it’s up to you to decide whether I made a good decision on putting this part on paper in the first place.

 

            As their laughter ceased, Alfred and Kiku stood there, in the same aisle of sweets, regaining their composures, and their grins slowly became small smiles. Alfred looked into Kiku’s brown eyes and remembered the first and the last time he stared into them. He felt like he was going to cry, not that it saddened him, but the same gleam still existed. Alfred remembered this man when he was sixteen, he watched him grew, he watched him succeed, he watched him smile, he watched him cry, he watched him in every struggled. This was the same man Alfred knew from the start, this was the same man whom he worshipped like a god, this was the same man he waited for three years and another, but it felt like part of him said that this is no longer the Kiku he knew.

 

            “I miss you,” that’s what Alfred said.

 

            “I know,” Kiku replied. “That’s why I’m always here.”

 

            There was a quick pause before Alfred asked, “Oh, is it ok if you can have a coffee break with me after shopping? We can continue this later in the café if you want to.”

 

            The Japanese shook his head as a yes. “I would like that.”

 

*          *            *

 

            The coffee shop across the street was like every writer’s sanctuary. Well, it’s not as fancy as Starbucks but close enough. I remember, the first time when I got there, I was writing an amateur story, not exactly one of my novels but it inspired me to write the first one, which of course, made me a best seller within five months. The name of the place was Lala’s Café and from what I know, the original owner of the shop was a big bibliophile since you could see bookshelves in every corner of the shop. You could borrow these books, but sometimes, you could buy one for maybe six dollars depending on the number of pages. The highest cost, I remember, was around eight dollars. I bought two books from that café, one was Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and the other: Anna Karenina. I nearly pissed my money buying these, but still, they were worth reading. Well, generally speaking, I love classics, especially these two. I don’t know, maybe it’s because when I read them, it seemed like they talked about my life and it felt like they provided me certain circumstances in order for me to survive in reality.

 

            Anyway, this café, Lala’s Café, possessed a comfy environment. The furniture was sturdy. Walls covered by impressionist paintings like those of Monet, Renoir, and Degas. A scent of vanilla in the air, a chalkboard by the side, and they played Chopin’s Nocturnes to set the mood. Most of the customers were very quiet, they hardly shout above their voices while they daintily tapped their silverware against their ceramic plates, and if someone made a small bump against another person, they would politely apologize as the latter would kindly brush it off and excused that accidents always happen.

 

            The entire setting was tranquil, quiet, and reverent. That’s why Alfred decided that they should go there, he knew too much that Kiku would love the place.

 

            In there, Kiku, as much as he loved his tea, decided to order a vanilla frappuccino and caramel waffles. He loved the combination of his treat as it reminded him of the first time his boyfriend treated him in this very same café and he didn’t know what to pick. Alfred, on the other hand, went simply by getting a black coffee and a cheese Danish. They went and sat on one of the sofa seats near the window while they waited for the waitress to deliver their orders. As they do so, after they received their requests, they continued their conversation.

 

            “So, how’s everything, Keeks?” Alfred asked before munching his Danish.

 

            “It’s fine,” he answered while flicking the cream. “I mean, nothing happened much lately except that Heracles got into another fight with Professor Adnan.”

 

            The blond snorted. “Well, that’s not new. What did he do this time?”

 

            The Japanese also smiled and said, “Let’s just say they tried to verbally strangle each other in a heated debate concerning the Janissaries. Heracles kept saying that the system was abusive because they stripped them off from their identities just to become soldiers while Professor Adnan counterclaimed that it wasn’t necessary abusive since the slaves, some of them found it ‘necessary’, seeing it as an ‘opportunity’ to have education and whatnot.”

 

            “And it went on within ten minutes that your professor lost his marbles and kicked his ass out of the class?”

 

            “That’s precisely what happened!”

 

            The two of them began to laugh at the scenario. For them, it never gets old no matter how many times they talked about it. It was one of those moments when they thought of things that do not really concern them but still brought entertainment. It was amusing to imagine, if not see, that these two would be in the same room and hear them laugh while their smiles never ceased. (Now I’m becoming sentimental).

 

            “Anyway, so how’s Yao been doing?” Alfred asked, immediately changing the topic while he sipped his coffee.

 

            Kiku blinked in surprise. “I can’t believe you’re asking me if your money-lender is still alive. Do you really want him around while he’s demanding you to give his cash?”

 

            “Heck no!” he yelled inaudibly. “Look I’m just trying to be nice here.”

 

            The raven-haired chuckled as the American pouted. “I know, I know. I’m just toying with you. He’s doing pretty great actually since he is always the ace of his culinary school.”

 

            “I see. Yao is graduating, right? Is he planning to start a life with Ivan after college?” Yes. Although he wasn’t there to see it, and he had no regrets on that, Alfred knew that Ivan finally proposed to Yao via Kiku’s phone call. It’s not like he was planning to crash the party or anything, but I’m pretty sure he’s trying to find ways to curse their wedding. If only he had access to Arthur’s library, then he might as well perform some “little magic tricks” (if they were really true).

 

            “He had decided,” Kiku answered out of nowhere. “I mean, Yao finally decided that he and Ivan would live together after they finished and got a stable job, and perhaps adopt a child or two.”

 

            “Huh, interesting…” Alfred commented and took another sip. Seriously, for him, it is “interesting” to think, and he would be surprised if he saw Ivan with a kid. Well, it would make sense when it comes to Yao like he could picture him as an old guy being helped by one of his tykes to sit down in his wheelchair. But with the Russian dude? He doubted that. Even he’s intimidated.

 

            There was a slight hiatus when the smaller man focused his attention to his waffle and took a bite of it before he asked, “What about you, Alfred-san, how are school and everything?”

 

            He shrugged. “Pretty good, I guess. Like yours, nothing really happened much. Focusing on my classes, enjoying sports, and my art teacher hates me.”

 

            Kiku placed his chin on his knuckles. “Do you think so? Or is it just that you’re taking his judgments the wrong way?”

 

            The blonde sighed. “I don’t even know, Keeks. No kidding, I worked so hard in his class. I did everything he wanted us to do and my projects are a lot better than those who painted a square on a canvas, and all I get from him is a ‘you need to improve it’ speech and a ‘you call this art?’ monologue, while those bland-brained jerks got a frickin’ 95! What the heck?!” he slumped his shoulder and buried his face in his palm. Realizing that he was in the café and his voice was slightly louder, Alfred felt a tinge of warmth on the side of his face and immediately sat up. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say that out loud. Dear God, that was so immature.”

 

            “No, it’s fine,” the Japanese said. “You don’t have to apologize, I know what you mean. If it makes you feel better,” he reached for his hand. “I may not be the biggest art expert, but I know enough, and I think your works are incredible. Even if I have to be honest that some may not be your best, I will still support you.”

 

            His blue eyes softened from his frustrations like a beast being calmed by the trustworthy hand of a docile character. Alfred heard more than a hundred compliments from Kiku’s lips. There were a few criticisms but most of them are full of affection and considerations, regardless if they made sense. And yet, despite these repeating sweet words, he still found comfort in them like a home, and Kiku always welcomed him, as if, he is always ready to submit, surrender, himself to him.

 

            Alfred placed his hand on top of his and said, “I knew you’re gonna say that. But either way, I still thank you, Keeks. You and my fam are the only ones who really appreciated me.”

 

            The raven-haired blushed. “Of course, just remember that there will be people who will always see the good side in you. And speaking of your family, I don’t mean to disturb this moment but how are they? I heard that Matthias and Lukas are doing fine in Markal but Liv decided to go to community college instead.”

 

            “Yeah, that’s what I heard from Matthias, too,” the blond said, “I think maybe because community college is a lot cheaper. I mean you know Liv, she couldn’t ask for more since Lukas is the only one she had as a family. And yes, I know how it feels to be in her situation. I’ve been there before.”

 

            “True,” Kiku nodded solemnly. “I may not be like the Bondeviks but it is really difficult to feel… incomplete (?), especially when it comes to family,” he added, unsure if it was the right word since he doesn’t want to trigger anyone with his comment.

 

            “I see where you’re going,” Alfred answered gently with a little smile. “It’s fine. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable about it. I got used to it. But on the other hand, as for my family,” he decided to lift up the mood. “Technically, dad is still… dad,” they chuckled at this part. “Anyways, Pops, ever since we started going to college, still continued teaching in the community college, and I’m pretty sure he’s enjoying it when he’s teaching his kids about oil painting. And yes, he and Dad were still doing it. Also, Matt and Gil were doing ‘awesome’ in Louis Margaret. And they’ve been dying to go on a college trip in Germany next year.”

     

            “It’s nice to hear that Mr. Bonnefoy and Mr. Kirkland are still getting along,” Kiku commented. “As for Matthew-san and Gilbert-san, I’m glad to hear they are considering to go on a trip.”

     

            “Says the guy who likes to isolate himself from society,” Alfred joked.

     

            “True. But!” the smaller man pointed a finger at him. “I didn’t stay copping in my shell, thanks to you of course.”

     

            The blonde sipped his coffee. “What can I say except ‘you’re welcome’?”

     

            Kiku snorted and said, “Really? Must you?”

     

            Alfred also grinned and said, “It’s stuck in my head, ok?”

     

            The latter shook his head and continued, “Seriously though, it’s nice for Gilbert-san and Matthew-san to go out and having fun outside their homes. It’s like starting a new adventure if you think about it.”

     

            He watched his partner grew silent and took a sip on his frappuccino. That was the moment when an idea popped in Alfred’s head. “What about us, Keeks? Do you want us to go out, too? I mean, not just sitting here in the coffee shop. But like- I want us to go and see the movies, walking in the city streets, eating in a restaurant, all that stuff.”

     

            “I am fine with anything, Alfred-san,” Kiku answered. “But that depends if you really want to go.”

     

            “If I ask you to go with me, are you willing to go?”

     

            The Japanese looked fondly at him and clasped his partner’s hand in his while he said this: “Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.”

     

            That was the time, Alfred’s heart stopped. He had heard this expression before in songs and movies. But the way Kiku said it made it sound more like a commitment, something that he wanted to protect, holding it tight as if their lives are tied to it, fearing they will face a fate worse than death if they let go.

     

            The American brought his other hand to Kiku’s face. Palm against cheek as his thumb brushed the skin to the corner of the Asian’s lips. “You and your philosophy, “ he whispered. “Trying to be sophisticated and all. But still, I know what lies on the other half of your brain, and that simply proves that you are a trash, my trash.”

     

            Kiku wanted to bring his thumb that has been lingering on the corner of his lips into his mouth. However, he must resist for now. He started playing with his boyfriend’s fingers when he said, “You calling me a trash makes me so happy because you are the only who knows my true colors. Now tell me, Alfred-san, what do you exactly have in mind when you are asking me out?”

     

            “Movies,” Alfred answered. “Tomorrow is May 4, and they are showing movies where they featured Audrey Hepburn in theatres. And then after that, if you want, we can go to a Japanese restaurant, or perhaps, do a little exploring in the museum or bookstore.”

     

            Kiku actually loved the idea of that. For him, it was exciting, considering that this was his first time going out with a boyfriend, he wanted to see how people date. How do they feel? What do they wear? What do they say to each other? He was pretty much willing to accept his proposal, and even if he didn’t, he knew Alfred would still convince him until he surrenders. He leaned closer and replied earnestly: “I think you know the answer to that.”

     

            Alfred gave him a sentimental smile. A simple familiar gesture like this was enough to summarize the entire episode… He couldn’t wait.

Chapter Text

Analysis of the entire chapter:

    Ok so the purpose of the entire chapter is to see change. Well, technically, I think the most notable change here is Kiku’s character and his relationship with Alfred. Kiku’s mischievous attitude, like what I said, is new to this story because in the past, Kiku is known to be more reserved with his philosophical claims. However, in this one, he is more open than before (only to Alfred). The cause of this change in character had two possible causes: (1) Alfred’s influence, and (2) he could no longer hold back this secret personality in him. If you think about it, both answers are correct because if Kiku had that character in him, he tried to hide it from society until Alfred helped him open up in his shell. That’s why Kiku said that everything “changed” when Alfred was in the picture. And even for Alfred, he also saw the change in Kiku’s character when he said that he remembered what he was like in the past and claimed that even though this is still the Kiku he knew, he realized that times had changed.

    For his relationship with Alfred, on the other hand, I guess we can say that it’s becoming more intimate, especially the part with the thumb and the lips, so there’s the thing we called “passing the threshold where I craved for him”. In other words, their relationship is no longer the fluff, tooth-rotting kind. Well it can be most of the time, but still, there’s a sense they really want to take it to the next level (in which, I am planning to write). And it’s interesting to note that when you squint a little, their relationship is almost the same with France and England’s. (It’s no wonder why Kiku loved the dynamic between the two). In other words, the purpose of this comparison was because they could be less formal in times unlike when they were in High school, like- they were more open than before. However, the thing about Alfred and Kiku was that the spark between them still existed. They still had that same mutual feeling where they knew what will the other say or feel. It’s like: the seasons may change, but the earth would still remain the same. The part where Alfred said “I miss you” is more significant than what you think because he misses the old times he had with him (and it will come in great handy in the future chapters). However, Kiku, being him, said this: “I know. That’s why I’m always here.” And it’s even more interesting that when Kiku said this, it’s completely ironic for Alfred to miss the old Kiku when this quote clearly demonstrated Kiku’s “philosophy”, the part: “I’m always here” could mean that he’s saying “No matter what, I will always be the me that you love.”

 

The Narrator’s Characterization:

            Be honest guys, do you really want to know who the hell this narrator is?

            Well, first of all, and I know I said this a lot of times: the narrator is not me; he/she is a character in this book.

            I am not planning to introduce him/her to you until pretty much in the end of part 2, and he/she will play a big role in parts 3 and 4. Nevertheless, even though you didn’t know who this guy or gal is, I decided to provide information of what this person is like, specifically in this chapter:

        (1)   His/her multiple mentions of interviewing with Alfred and Kiku

  1.  This had been thrown a lot in the fanfic. So one thing to keep in mind that this narrator is pretty close to the couple. But the question is: what is he/she to them? It’s interesting to also note that Kiku and Alfred were willing to tell him/her about their lives since he/she wrote this “book” after all. And when you say interview, journalists and reporters were the first things that came into mind. Well, technically, he/she isn’t necessarily a journalist or a reporter, he/she is a writer, specifically a novelist, and so, we could say that maybe these interviews were for research purposes.

        (2)   His/her feelings towards Alfred and Kiku’s relationship

  1.  For us Ameripan fans, we understand that opposite attracts. However, for our narrator, that would never make sense at all. He/she founds it impressive though, and she had been wondering how they worked on this type of relationship. It can also be implied, through this, that the narrator is single or anything like that. Or perhaps, there’s a sense that she felt conflicted on whether she should like their relationship or not. But that’s all I have to add on this part because I would really like to leave it as a mystery,

        (3)   Anna Karenina and Lady Chatterley’s Lover:

  1.  When the narrator talks about his/her side of the story when she described Lala’s Café, we got the sense that he/she is really classy. You can describe her as “artistic” or a big bookworm. But his/her favorite books might be one of the biggest clues of what kind of a person he/she is apart from being classy and interesting. The books Anna Karenina and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were one of the biggest classics (get it? classy) in the history of literature. So yes, he/she is pretty smart, but, you must take note that these two books had a lot of things in common. But one specific theme ties everything to his/her character (that’s why he/she could “relate” to them so much). If you don’t know what it is, you can look it up (if you're ok with spoilers).

Chapter Text


            A long time ago, although it was just last year when Arthur Kirkland and Francis Bonnefoy heard of the news that Kiku had finally accepted Alfred’s proposal to be his lover, the two older men had their own specific reactions. Clearly, we’ve seen them react right on the spot, but the aftermath of the incident remained a mystery until I asked them personally and they decided to break the ice.

     

            From what I recalled in my interview, Arthur said he remembered himself pacing in the room back and forth, and paused once in a while whenever he felt the need to gaze at his reflection on the wall mirror. But in reality, he was not staring at the looking glass but rather what’s beneath it. He never opposed Alfred’s relation with Kiku, as a matter of fact, he knew this day would come, and he was never against him finding true happiness. But his internal reaction was conflicting. He loved the idea of his son growing up, but the sight of Alfred embracing the smaller man in his arms brought him back to the past. The salad days of his youth when Arthur himself was as reckless as him and was loved by a certain someone who accepted him even his rebellious nature. And yet, in the end, he lost her through natural causes, and that’s how the sight of his adopted son and his lover saddens him. But then again, it brought him a sense of nostalgic bliss. His only wish for his rebellious adopted child was to treasure this very person he grew to love the same way he treasured his own lover when he was young.

     

            Francis, on the other hand, went through the worst of times as Arthur did. His side of the story was different. While he expressed his enthusiasm for his adopted son and Kiku in plain sight and he witnessed how Arthur reacted, something else was also running in his mind. Francis, in my opinion, or so even for Arthur, was a passionate man. He is the kind of man who pursuits his aspirations, full of independence and believing that the impossible is another term for doing something extraordinary. These are his insights because, in reality, he grew up broken and bound. He was confined not to love anyone until she came into the picture, full of determination and respecting loyalty. He wanted to love her but he couldn’t. And when she’s gone as well, she etched a lasting legacy in his memory, pursuing his passions further. Perhaps, that is why Francis wanted Alfred to find his own happiness, and when Kiku appeared in Alfred’s life, he knew that he was the one for him. He wanted him to pursue whatever he didn’t pursue himself in his youth.

 

*          *            *

 

            May 4, XXXX, 1:10 pm.

     

            Meanwhile, Arthur was taking his tea and writing his manuscript while waiting for Francis to come out of the kitchen and bring him his macaroons already. He was just enjoying his lazy afternoon until Alfred came dancing in, already dressed in red pants, striped brown hoodie and topped with the brown jacket.

     

            “Hey dad, I’m borrowing your car, ok?” He called while jingling his car keys.

     

            Arthur shot up from his paper. “Is that my jacket?”

     

            “Ok, before you go crazy on your wardrobe, it’s not as bad as the last time,” Alfred defended, although the last part nearly got his adopted father to get off from his seat. “However,” he stopped him again. “I know it’s irresponsible of me for not asking your consent to rummage and use this jacket. But I swear, I will take good care of it!”

     

            “That’s my grandfather’s jacket, and I don’t trust anyone, not even the Frog to handle that damn thing, so what difference does it make when it comes to you?” Arthur nearly yelled.

     

            “But I saw you wearing this last week,”

     

            “Even so, you disrespectful scalawag!”

     

            Before Alfred could protest, Francis saved him when he came from the kitchen. “Oh Arthur, please, if you want him to look presentable, at least let him wear it. I mean, it does look good on him!” he commented (while secretly dying of how cute Alfred looks).

     

            “Why don’t you tell him to delve into your closet, Frog?” Arthur asked sarcastically. “After all, you call yourself the emperor of fashion.”

     

            “I did. I let him borrow my perfume.”

     

            The Brit pouted and mumbled, “No wonder why he smells like diabetes.”

     

            “What was that?”

     

            “Nothing.”

     

            “All I’m saying is,” Francis said, “in his defense, at least you should give him a chance to take the risk if you really want him to earn your trust. Yes, I know you will say that it belongs to your grandfather, but the value doesn’t matter, rather, it is the purpose that counts. Grandmothers passed their diamonds to their granddaughters, so is it an outrage for grandfathers to pass their legacies to their grandsons?”

 

             To put it in complexity, I said this once, and I will say it again. If Arthur ever has a weakness, I would be lying if I said none. For someone who’s being raised in a prestigious household in Europe, he is trained to show his strong sense of pride in his name rather than the weakness of a mellow Romeo. But then again, with Francis in his presence, Arthur knew his hubris lies in peril. He never despised the Frenchman; he just hated him for tempting his glory to fall from paradise. And yet, the very same defeat became sweet ambrosia, a new enlightenment in itself. In other words, he always adored Francis’ philosophies. Despite that, he knew they possessed the same level of intelligence he secretly found his revelations clearer and more idealistic. And many times when they argued, as much as Arthur wants to win, the counter-attack seemed as gratifying as one’s own victory.

     

            He stared at the Frenchman, then turned back to the youngest man in the room and sighed. “You better not mess this up.”

     

            “I won’t, I promise,” Alfred said profoundly.

     

            “And be back here on time Mon fils,” Francis said and then handed him a paper bag. “Take this, some small deserts for you to enjoy,” as Alfred grabbed the bag, the Frenchman pulled him close, and whispered, “And tell me everything that had happened.”

     

            The two men chuckled at that moment while the third party was suspecting that they were planning to create a prank on him (which would later cause another family feud). After saying his goodbyes, Alfred immediately ran out from the house, leaving Francis and Arthur alone in the living room. Arthur let out a heavy sigh while Francis settled down beside him and placed the macaroons at the center of the table.

     

            “I can’t believe you are always on his side!” he sneered.

     

            “What’s wrong with that?” Francis asked and sipped his coffee.

     

            Arthur made a gesture of annoyance by slamming his fountain pen on the wooden surface while looking at his companion in disbelief. “What do you mean ‘what’s wrong with that’? We are supposed to rear up this boy with discipline and respect. But no, you have to barge in every time I’m trying to lecture him and encourage him to grow up and join in the anarchy,” he shook his head and crossed his arms. “I’m surprised Matthew turned out well. But that no-good bastard brings nothing to this family except trouble.”

     

            Then out of nowhere, Francis silently tittered but loud enough for the Brit to hear and turned to him. “What are you sniggering at?”

     

            The French looked up at him with a smirk displaying on his face. “Nothing, it’s just that when you said the last part about Alfred, it reminds me of a certain someone.”

     

            “Who are you talking about, Frog?”

     

            “You,”

     

            Arthur scoffed. “Nonsense, I am not like that brat,”

     

            “Yes, you are,” Francis stopped laughing. “As a matter of fact, that was exactly the same thing your father said about you when you were Alfred’s age. And admit it, Arthur, it’s not all about your grandfather when you saw that jacket.”

     

            “Of course, it’s about my grandfather,” he argued. “For God’s sake, wha-“

     

            “What are you trying to deny?” he cut him off. “I know you give full respects to your grandfather, but that’s not the first thing that came into your mind. You can’t let him borrow it easily because it brings back so many memories… because you miss her…”

     

            Arthur didn’t answer him. He is right, he thought, he knew whom Francis was talking about. And it was true that he did the same act when he was in his twenties, he remembered the first time he met her and gradually fell head-over-heels on her as he tried to impress her. His first attempt, of course, was wearing his grandfather’s brown jacket, in which his father objected the same way he did to Alfred.

     

            “Do you know why I let him wear it?” Francis asked as Arthur lost his train of thought.

     

            “What?”

     

            The Frenchman smiled. “Because, like you, he is using it with good intentions. He is using it out of love, and you should be happy about it rather than being crossed.”

     

            Yes, you are right. He thought. You are always right.

 

*          *            *

 

            “We’ll be back as soon as we can, Mrs. Honda,” Alfred called to the middle-aged woman across the street.

 

            “Just be safe and have fun!” Mrs. Honda waved back. “Kiku, -ka ni kaeru toki ni watashi ni denwa shite kudasai.”

 

            “Hai, -sō shimasu!” (Yes, I will) Kiku called back.

 

            As soon as they said their goodbyes, they sped away.

 

            “Oh, there are some macaroons in the bag if you want some,” Alfred said while making a turn. “And you look pretty handsome.”

 

            “Thank you,” Kiku smiled bashfully as he sat the paper bag on his lap. He was wearing a periwinkle striped shirt, dark brown vest and tie, accompanied by white pants and dark brown shoes. He looked at the taller man beside him and said, “You look really good, too. I like your style, it really looks stunning.”

 

            “Really? Thanks,” Alfred said. “Matt said I look like a box of chocolate when he saw me wearing this.”

 

            “Well, you are because it’s so sweet of you to take me out on a date,” Kiku said confidently.

 

            Alfred turned to him with an obviously impressed expression plastered on his face. “Now you’re talking!”

 

            The Japanese shrugged and replied with poise, “I learned that from you.”

 

            The blonde made a lopsided smirk and said, “Well, you technically made your daddy proud.” And Kiku choked on his macaroons.

 

*          *            *

 

            “So what is this movie about?” the raven-haired man asked while they moved a step forward in the line.

 

            “No spoilers but: it’s about a girl who lives in NYC and meets a guy who wants to be a writer when he moves into her apartment building, while she searches for an older rich man to marry,” Alfred said while taking out 20 bucks from his wallet.

 

            “So it’s a love story,” Kiku quoted while looking at the poster of a girl wearing an iconic black dress, a long cigarette holder between her teeth, and an orange cat around her shoulders. He had seen Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, and he admits that the girl was a true star even though that was the only Hepburn movie he watched until that day and he wasn’t really her biggest fan. Kiku claimed, however, that he loved watching Vivien Leigh and Ingrid Bergman, and his favorite was A Streetcar Named Desire and Casablanca.

 

            “It is,” Alfred replied. “But more specifically, a romantic comedy. I don’t like romantic drama; they are too sentimental like Love Story. But I hope you’ll like this one.”

 

            “I’ll be the judge of that,” Kiku replied. “And whatever you like, I like.”

 

            The taller man smiled down at him before he got their tickets and they bought popcorn, Danish and coffee. They went down the hallway and turned the corner into the door with a big 2A sign on top of it. The next thing they knew, they were already in their seats and the movie was about to start.

 

            As soon as the film started, Kiku watched charily as Miss Hepburn got out from the taxicab wearing a black dress and pearls before she proceeded to walk towards the jewelry window at Tiffany’s. While she stared longingly at the diamonds, she took a piece of Danish bread and coffee from her paper bag and a slow serene music echoed in the picture.

 

            It was completely mesmerizing! Kiku heard people talking about this scene as one of the most iconic phenomenon in Hollywood’s Golden Age, but he never imagined agreeing with them until that moment. He fell in love with it for it’s natural, elegant sense of beauty. The simplicity is in plain sight, but he knew that there was more complexity that meets the eye. He uttered heavy breaths as his heart was pounding like a silent drum while Goosebumps ran through his skin. And like a force of habit, he turned and caught Alfred looking at the screen the same way he looks at him with full adoration. He saw him leaning on his hand, silent and staring at her with shining eyes behind silver frames. This is one of the rare manners Alfred expressed to the public eye (with the exception of a small number of people) in comparison to his lively demeanor. It was the first time Kiku seen it while he’s looking at another subject, so tranquil, soft, and assuring. The Japanese man smiled at him, he felt glad as he resumed his gaze back to the screen.

 

            “Was that the guy that caused controversy in the film industry?” Kiku whispered as he and his boyfriend watched a Japanese character struggling to find his way to the door in process of messing a few items in his apartment while acting like a big goofball, or rather, a fool.

     

            “Yes,” Alfred replied in the same level of tone. “But we’ll talk about it later.”

     

            When he saw George Peppard’s character made his first appearance in the film, Kiku immediately gazed at the man beside him then go back to the screen, as if he was making a comparison. And then, a few scenes passed, as he witnessed Peppard’s character was obviously naked under the sheets while Miss Hepburn’s character barged into his apartment wearing only a white bathrobe, his mind wandered into another dimension of his imagination, at the same time, he, unknowingly, shifted in his seat and Alfred stared back at him, taking a peek on whether his Japanese lover was crossing his legs or so.

     

            Minutes passed, they’ve seen Miss Audrey throwing a party and danced with an ugly, pig-faced, billionaire, and also the part where they met Sally Tomato, and finally, the scene where Peppard was in the middle of writing his book when he perceived the sound of guitar playing from the far escape. He looked out and it was Miss Audrey as she sang,

     

                Moon river, wider than a mile
                I'm crossing you in style some day
                Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
                Wherever you're goin’, I'm goin’ your way

 

            Kiku once told me that it wasn’t the first time he heard that song; in fact, he heard it before he saw that scene. He remembered that one-month when he was suffering wakeful nights in the summer, the cause was unclear, except that he claimed that his entire body was aching, and he nearly took away his own life in two attempts. That is until he heard this song from the radio. It saved him, as what he said in his words. Although it represented the things he never had in the past, it was the melody that brought him a sense of companionship. It helped him “cure” himself, and it’s been a while since he last heard it until that day. When he heard it in front of the big screen, Kiku finally came to the conclusion that he does belong in a particular place in spite of what the cruel future might bring. It brought him tears, realization, and even nostalgia.

 

                Two drifters, off to see the world
                There's such a lot of world to see
                We're after the same rainbow's end, waitin' 'round the bend
                My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me

 

            He turned to Alfred for a small comment, but he found him plastering his hand on his lips, deeply focused on the screen. And what was that? A silent tear rolling down on his cheek. Kiku wished he was feeling the same way, but for Alfred’s part, he knew it was different. There was something else behind just feeling emotional of a song. He didn’t dare to ask now because he respects his sentiment the same way he is always siding with him. There are just no words to describe the beauty of such experience.

 

            When it reveals that Holly Golightly’s (Audrey Hepburn) true identity is a farm girl named Lula Mae, and her ex-husband, an old animal doctor, came to get her back. They were in the train station with Paul (George Peppard) accompanying them. Her ex-husband was expecting her to go back with him since her brother is coming. That is until she protested and said she doesn’t want to.

 

            “Doc, stop calling me that! I’m not Lula Mae anymore!” she cried. It was the final blow to the doctor. He surrendered, and so he walked away after he told Paul to look after her. That was the last time Holly met him.

 

            “You know the terrible thing, Fred darling?” Holly said as Paul went to her side. “I am still Lula Mae. Fourteen years old, stealing turkey eggs and run through a brier patch.” And of course, we all know that someplace in our minds, we can agree with her.

 

            As Miss Hepburn and Peppard took a stroll around Manhattan to celebrate his success when his story got sold, they decided to do the things they’ve never done before. Now for our audience, this is probably the closest scene Alfred and Kiku could relate. They watched them going in Tiffany’s where they succeeded in having a ring engraved despite that they only have a limited amount of $10 and the ring was a price from a cracker jack box. Next, to the library where Miss Hepburn convinced Peppard to sign a library book (written by him) even though the librarian claimed they were violating a public property. And then in a dollar store, they sneakily stole a dog and a fox masks and run off like a bunch of Huck Finns. Finally, as soon as they got back in their apartment, they both kissed. This entire scene, as much as Alfred and Kiku didn’t realize it until then, gave them the idea of how their night might look like, but more civilized. I couldn’t explain further, but you’ll see.

 

            A few shenanigans happened, by which I mean things that you yourself should watch, when Peppard visited Miss Hepburn, she claimed that it was possible that she would be marrying a rich man from Brazil; therefore she’s learning and even cooking a chicken salsa. At some point, as much as I like to add it in here, an incident that happened in one is when she was cooking the said recipe, the kettle was screaming, and right on cue, it exploded. The food could no longer be called chicken since it blasted into smithereens of meat. That was the moment Alfred and Kiku had a verbal contact.

 

            “Hey babe, did that happened to you before?” Alfred asked, referring to the blown up chicken.

 

            “No,” he answered confidently, “What about you?”

      

            He didn’t say anything back but merely took a glance at him and then to the screen. Kiku snorted at him.

 

            Next, I wish could tell you everything that happened, but then again, it is never in my duty to tell you everything. Rather, it’s a fact that people must not always depend on other people to find the answers for them; they must find the answers themselves, like the scene I’m about to tell you. When I watch the film myself, many things happened along the way, most of them are complicated while some took simplicity and charm at its best. Of all the scenes, perhaps, this is what I love the most: the conclusion. Already I could hear you screaming that I am spoiling everything for you, but either way, I have my purpose, and the reason why I wanted to tell this off is that it held the entire significance. When I asked Alfred and Kiku about this conclusion, this is how they reacted:

 

            After a series of complications, every story has a conflict. In the taxicab, it turned out that Miss Hepburn’s supposed to be fiancé didn’t want to marry her for a certain cause (Alfred and Kiku weren’t surprised by this one). However, it didn’t stop her from planning to go off in a plane as she told Peppard to find her a list of the richest men in Brazil (this, of course, received multiple eye rolls). Peppard, on the other hand, could feel her inner conflict, confessing her his love while she rebuffed him, telling him that she belonged to no one while still feeling conflicted about her identity. Kiku and Alfred understood that because of her multiple encounters with men only “using” her, they felt it was justifiable of her to feel this way. They, as well as I, understood that in spite of her self-proclaimed free-spirited soul, she still felt trap and scared that if she doesn’t have someone to support her, she couldn’t help herself. And they, at the same time, agreed that Peppard was trapping herself when she tried to hide the fact of what her heart really wants.

            What came next was utterly disgusting that even Miss Hepburn herself found it repulsive in real life. She stopped the cab and then shooed off the cat out in the rain. I nearly hated her at that moment. Alfred was upset and silently cursed under his breath. Kiku furrowed his eyebrows, dropped his jaw and shook his head. Even Peppard was upset about what she did, he told the driver to pull over and as he was about to walk away, he made a few words for her:

 

            “ ‘You're afraid to stick out your chin and say, ‘Okay, life's a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that's the only chance anybody's got for real happiness.’ ‘”

 

            “’ Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.’” Reality or fiction, this is always a fact. You try to change yourself but you know you still be the same slob you ever were before. No matter how many times you tried to redeem or change yourself, you will always be the same.

            He walked away, leaving her in the cab and she took a moment of everything that had happened until she reached her revelation. She also ran off, following him into the alley, hoping that she would find her cat. And then the climax happened, for what she thought she couldn’t achieve, she found it, she found the feline in the rain, hiding behind the box as it “meowed” as if it called her. Much to her rejoiced, she cried and embraced it. Walking back to Peppard, cat in her arms, they pulled into a kiss, she finally knew where she belongs: in his arms.

            To summarize this phenomenon, Alfred and Kiku said they were glad when she found her realization. Although she didn’t explicitly said that she finally understood what she’d been through, we all know what she meant when she asked him where her cat was. We felt ourselves crying when she found it. I cried because she found her happiness. Alfred and Kiku also cried for the same reason as I had, as what they put it in words. But when I looked at them (Alfred and Kiku I mean), I think the reason why they loved this scene was because it felt like a lesson to them. It’s not just finding true happiness within the fact of life or finding yourself, for them, I thought and felt that it’s also love in its best, a strong unavoidable force meant to hurt anyone, at the same time, guide anyone to find where they are destined to be with.

 

            At last, with that final kiss at the fire escape in the rain, the film ended.

 

A/N (notes and references)

    -         Remember: Story is still narrated by another character (still unknown).

    -         Refer to Chapter 14 if you forget how Francis and Arthur reacted when they found our about Alfred and Kiku.

    -         The long passage of Francis and Arthur’s back-story seemed irrelevant. But I decided to put it in here because:

    o       It will be relevant later in the fanfic

    o       It shows further characterizations and even the reason why they reacted like that, hence giving the reader a new light.

    o       And it’s possible that I might be writing a new fanfic about Arthur and Francis in their side of the story in the same universe.

    o       In their backstory, both Arthur and Francis claimed that when Alfred was finally Kiku’s boyfriend, they wished “for his happiness” (Hence the title of the fic.) because for Arthur, he doesn’t want this kind of relationship to end badly the same way that happened to him, and for Francis, he wants him to not lose this love the same way he missed his opportunity to do so. Arthur’s quote “You better not mess this up” and Francis’ “Just give him a chance” applied to what I said from above. And it will parallel to Alfred and Kiku’s relationship where their lives will be “messed up” and they have to “give each other a chance” to redeem themselves in order to find there way to “happiness”. This gave the entire title of the fan fiction a new meaning if you know what I mean.

    -         May 4, yes, you may heard of the phrase “May the 4th be with you”. But did you know this is Audrey Hepburn’s birthday? (Rest her soul)

    -         Okay, the way Alfred dressed in this chapter was similar to the official Arte Stella design.

    -         Keep an eye on that brown jacket. When Francis said Alfred is using that jacket for good intentions, I kid you not, he made an excellent point later in the next chapter or so.

    -         Kiku, -ka ni kaeru toki ni watashi ni denwa shite kudasai. – Kiku, (please) call me when you are coming home.

    -         “Hai, -sō shimasu!” – Yes, I will!

    -         The way Kiku dressed in this chapter was similar to the official Arte Stella design.

    -         This entire chapter is dedicated to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

    -         Interestingly, the reason why I put that Kiku loved watching Casablanca and A Streetcar Named Desire is because it shows how Kiku loved watching drama, in which Alfred wasn’t a big fan of, but ironically, he is dating him! And in return, even though Kiku wasn’t the biggest Hepburn fan, he decided to get along with it, saying “whatever your like, I like”. In other words, opposites attract.

    o       And you know what else is ironic? Alfred fruking cried while watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s!

    -         “They bought popcorn, Danish and coffee.” – Danish and coffee, that’s what Audrey ate in the opening sequence.

    -         “They went down the hallway and turned to the corner into the door with a big 2A sign” – In the movie, this is Audrey’s apartment room number.

    -         Iconic scenes in the movie and their significance:

    o       Opening scene – For the audience like us, it is captivating for it’s style and simplicity. For Kiku, it is the same thing, but also the fact that he loves the experience of something new (Remember that he’s Japan, an isolationist). For Alfred, it’s more on the love like “the way he looks at Kiku”, and (get this) nostalgia.

    o       Mr. Yunioshi – the Japanese guy that caused a lot of controversy. We will talk about him later in the next chapter.

    o       George Peppard’s character: Paul “Fred” Varjak – some people said he is a hunk (I am one of those people). Also, when Kiku was comparing Alfred to Peppard’s character, in real life, I did imagine Alfred as Paul, and it’s the same for Kiku in this one. However, it became more significant when he saw him bare-chested in bed, which of course, made Kiku imagine himself if he were in that scene while Alfred is Paul (and that “scene” will be in the future chapter wink wonk)

    o       Moon River – It’s all right there, well, for Kiku yes, but there’s more for Alfred’s part than what I just said. The reason why he cried is not just feeling “the beauty of the song”, but it’s more than that, even more important. Like the opening, it seemed to bring him back to nostalgia. I’m not going to say how in the notes but in the next chapter.

    o       “Lula Mae” – Okay, so the reason why there is a slight change in tone of this part of the fan fic is because it generally applies not just to Kiku or Alfred but to the entire theme of the fan fiction that no matter who you tried to be, you will always be the same as you are before. In other words, think of the parts where I said about the changing seasons but the earth is still earth applies to this passage when she said that she is “still Lula Mae” even after claiming that she won’t come back to her old life.

    o       Strolling around Manhattan – Obviously, the reason why Kiku and Alfred could relate to this is because they are on their date.

  • I mentioned the term “Huck Finns” on purpose as a reference from the Moon River song lyrics.

    o       The exploding chicken – Just some comedic relief.

    o       The Conclusion – It all explains there. But I really want to clarify that the conclusion is more like a lesson that you are a someone who is loved by another, not the for the purpose to trap you since you are entitled to them, but because if you are lost, if someone finds you, they know to whom you truly belong. There’s no such thing as escaping from life, because in the end you will still end up to where you are supposed to be, it may sound difficult, but it will make sense.

  • Spoiler alert: when she decided to be with him, it is like her finding her “true happiness” (cue fan fic title)

    -         Generally, the reason why I this whole chapter is dedicated to the movie is not because the characters are similar to Kiku and Alfred, but because of the themes themselves. I realized that when I watched the movie multiple times. And like what I said before, it may not make sense for now, but it will be in the next episode, and even a greater significance by the (SPOILER ALERT!!!) near end of the fan fiction

    -         You may notice that when I mentioned Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard’s characters, I usually referred to them as “Miss Hepburn” and “Peppard” instead of Holly or Paul. The reason is so that the reader can feel the vibe that in this movie, you can feel that it was actually Audrey and George playing their parts as if they were staying true to their roles.

    o       Interestingly, when this movie was made, Audrey was already married, but I still referred her as “Miss” anyway.

Chapter Text

They went out of the theater in unison while commenting about the film in deep mutterings as they went their way to the exit. Alfred, with his arm draped around Kiku’s shoulder, rubbed his eyes and said, “Man that movie is a real classic! Nowadays, all Hollywood does is making whatever shit they come up with, and sometimes, they ran out of ideas that they decided to reboot some of the best films and butcher it like a pig.”

 

            Kiku, his arm around Alfred’s waist, responded, “Well, I’m not sure about the last part you said, but I agree that this movie is a real classic. I really love it!”

 

            “You think so?” his blue eyes lit up.

 

            “I believe so,” Kiku smiled.

 

            And immediately, the blond grabbed his face between his hands and smacked his lips down on his. The sudden action shocked the smaller man; as he was about to pull out from him, his lover already did, leaving him slightly red in embarrassment.

 

            “Sheesh, at least wait until we are alone,” the raven-haired said, avoiding any eye contact.

 

            “Awww~ you’re so cute!” Alfred grinned as he pulled him into his arms like he always does every time he shows any signs of discomfort. “I’m sorry; I can’t help myself especially when I’m nervous, thinking you don’t like what we watched.”

 

            “What? That’s crazy talk,” Kiku said.

 

            “I know,” Alfred said and they started walking to the exit. “But in this world, people do crazy stuff.” As he said that, he smiled, remembering that one autumn day when he chased down their car. It was unnecessary, but for him, if he hadn’t done that, he would never be satisfied, and he won’t be there, standing with him in his arms.

            “Do you want to talk more about the movie?” he asked.

 

            “I would love to!” the Japanese answered. “But I don’t want to say anything that would spoil the entire thing, especially here.”

 

            “Then let me take you somewhere nice, and more private.”

 

*    *     *

 

            “Alfred-san?”

 

            “Yeah?”

 

            “This is place is great!”

 

            The Zen Garden Sushi Cuisine, one of the top-notch restaurants in the area as far as I can tell. I’ve never actually been there since Japanese food is not in my taste, however, I have a friend or two who had eaten there six or ten times. I remember they described the place as “family oriented” or any of those sorts. And yet, chances came when I started writing this book, I went to the exact restaurant myself and investigate the entire environment while ordering a cup of coffee, it wasn’t that bad. Anyway, the restaurant is not entirely posh, but it’s not like Burger King either. From the outside it is simple, considering that it’s situated in the corner at West Valley Avenue, but on the inside, everything is welcoming. Apart from the reasonable price, the workers (mostly Asian-Americans) are polite, and the food, according to the customers is fantastic. The entire place is dimmed-lit with orange lanterns and occupied with contemporary music, the tables and chairs are all mahogany, and littered with more than fifty people. I would say it is the site if you want to take your date in somewhere elegant but not entirely expensive.

 

            “I’m glad you like it,” Alfred replied after Kiku’s compliment on the place. “I mean since I dragged you all the way from your place just to watch something that I like, so I might as well do you a favor.”

 

            “Alfred-san, please don’t trouble yourself,” Kiku said. “You know I always enjoy your company.”

 

            The blond smiled and said, “So do you want to talk more about it?”

 

            “Please,” he answered after a sip of his green tea. “But first, I want to talk about this entire Mr. Yunioshi controversy. I mean, why is it so?”

 

            “Oh! That? Yeah, you see a lot of people later on in the same decade felt offended because, if you notice, he’s buck-toothed, myopic, and ‘yellow-faced’. Hence, putting all together, it’s racist, and people were not amused. One time, I read in Wikipedia that Bruce Lee and Linda watched Breakfast once, and although they did laugh at Yunioshi, Linda suggested that they should leave after she noticed that Bruce was getting upset over Rooney’s stereotypical depiction of an Asian.“

 

            “I see,” Kiku said. “Well, if you ask if I’m offended, I would say I’m not. I mean yes, I could see the stereotype quality in the character. Then again, it’s the humor, and considering the time period, I’m not surprised at the fact that the film is whitewashed. But I have a question though: did they really intended to make it like that?”

 

            Alfred answered, “If you ask me, the question is all based on people’s thoughts. People would say yes, and the others would say no. But anyway, I also read that Rooney, after the entire controversy shenanigans, said that he never knew people would be offended since he claimed that for 40 years, people, including Asian Americans, kept congratulating him. And he said that he took the role because Blake Edwards wanted him to do it and he’s enjoying it unless it will offend anyone, then he would reject it.”

 

            “That’s exactly my point,” the other man retorted. “I don’t know if it’s just me, but if it’s stereotypical then okay. I focused more on the movie, which is very amazing, rather than the little things; once again, it’s a romantic comedy, so the whole purpose of the entire plot is to be funny and romantic at the same time (obviously). And plus, I would be a hypocrite if I said I don’t like watching shows that are stereotypical.”

 

            “I completely agree, and the fact that you just called yourself a trash ‘cause I am one, too,” Alfred said. “I’ve seen this movie since Mattie and I were in our diapers and we have no problem with Yunioshi. But anyway, tell me more what you think of the film.”

        Kiku swallowed his roll and answered, “Oh, I really don’t know what else to say. The last part moved me if that’s the appropriate term. Probably because of what Paul said and the symbolism behind the entire scenario:

    “She is the cat, and when she tossed him away in the rain, it is her trying to prove herself that she could survive life with much freedom. But deep inside, in spite of what she said, she always wanted to have someone to accompany her in the way; someone she could drift with alongside in the ‘Moon River’. She wanted a man rich enough to acquire these traits, but in the end, they all used her, they were a bunch of ‘rats’ and yet, she wanted to have another piece of their cheese. Little did she know that wealth wasn’t entirely the primary requirement of her ideal life because her friend, a writer without any high social standing had always been there showing her unconditional love and companionship. In this case, she belongs to him, but unlike those rats, he belongs to her. He would claim so because he had seen how lost she was, she doesn’t even know her name or where she placed her telephone. For him, he wants to give her a place to call home. And when she put on that ring that was the moment she put aside her fantasy and came into a realization. She ran after him, and there, he stood there at the alley trying to find the cat. But when she asked its whereabouts, he didn’t know where it went, because he knew, in order to completely reach her, she must find herself first. She wanted to be in his arms, and that’s why she was desperate to find that cat… she was desperate to find the missing piece of herself, and that piece, eventually found its way into her arms, the same way she finally found herself. Carrying it close to her heart, she walked towards him, crossing the Moon River… and find that significant purpose…”

 

            In this entire soliloquy, I imagine neither one of them ate another piece. Kiku was speaking his mind while Alfred stopped and listened. An ornamental phrase for a little situation, and yet, when I asked Mr. Honda the same query concerning the movie, he said almost the same words and being a writer myself, I found his structure remarkably ambitious and I love it. Now I can see why Alfred was speechless.

 

            “Whoa! That runs really deep,” the blond said, “I mean, deep is like an understatement but it’s more than just ‘awesome’, I mean-“

 

            “I understand, and thank you,” Kiku replied, blushing. “But can I ask you something? If you don’t mind…”

 

            “Sure!”

 

            “Well, I saw you earlier back there, and I was wondering… why were you crying?”

 

            Whatever action Alfred had to conjure had stopped, the question busted him like Schrank’s bullet, but like the Bull Moose, it didn’t bring him down. “Oh, was I?” he asked, although I’m sure it wasn’t the first time he shed a tear while he’s in the theater.


            Kiku, sensing a minor discomfort, tried to dodge the subject. “No, no, I’m really sorry. You don’t have to tell me-“

 

            “There’s no harm done, Keeks,” he smiled. “As a matter of fact, I’m kind of glad you ask. You see… you know how much I love Audrey Hepburn, right?’

 

            “Of course,”

 

            “Well, see here: ever since Matt and I were kids, we’ve always watched movies like Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Breakfast with our Mom. It became a family pastime and we always loved the song Moon River. I remember, every night, while tucking us in bed, Mom would always sing it; she even owns a music box of that song and sometimes put in our room. Apart from listening to Bob Ross, the Moon River had always been our savior from insomnia. I also remember, fresh from my memory, that Mom once had that little black dress. I remember her wearing that to a party, I don’t know whose but we were invited, I remembered wearing a small tux and Mattie’s hair combed back; she was really beautiful in vintage black, complete with pearls and a mini ornament on her hair. Everyone loved her; even Pops and Dad were mesmerized by her style.

 

            “And yet, the shining star fell from the western sky. She left, taking that little black dress with her, and on her grave, we planted her music box. She left, but she’s never gone, as we would say… Maybe it’s just me, but every time, when I see Miss Hepburn, it feels like Mom is still alive… and we knew, there won’t be anyone like her…”

 

            “Oh,” of all the many comments that ran in Kiku’s mind, that’s the first word that ever came out in his lips. “I- I’m really sorry. I didn’t know that you would actually feel this way. It’s rather really insensitive of me. I’m really sorry if I ever offend you,”

 

            “Oh, baby,” Alfred whispered and placed his hand on top of his. “You have nothing to apologize. I expected it, though. And you didn’t offend me at all. As a matter of fact, it’s better that you ask, that way, you also learned another thing about me, the same way I learned many things about you.”

 

            In an affectionate gesture, he brought the Japanese’s hand to his lips and pecked it. “Take it as a quid pro quo, darling. Your thoughts are my thoughts, and what’s mine is yours…” forever… a genuine smile was later plastered on Kiku’s face.

 

            Soon after, a small gap of silence occupied their time. A rather good chance for them to finish where they’ve last eaten and save their thoughts and voices until the next conversation. It was around the first minutes of 4 pm, customers come and go, and the place was filtered with different voices and different stories of their own.

 

            “So, anyways,” Alfred started after a good break, “after this, do you wanna go someplace else or go home?”

 

            “Hmmm… I think we should do a little bit more exploring. What say you?” the raven-haired replied.

 

            “Wow, and you’re the introvert,” the blonde teased. “I’m game with your decision. What do you have in mind?”

 

            “Well… I know just a place that you might enjoy, and no, it’s not going to be a football stadium,”

 

            “Because it’s too obvious?”

 

            “Precisely! And I want to show this… other side of you,”

 

            He furrowed his eyebrows, “What do you mean?”

 

            Kiku shrugged, “You’ll see.”

 

            From Zen Garden restaurant down to streets and avenues, Alfred followed Kiku’s direction, and as they arrived at their destination, the American found himself parked in front of Grant Wood’s Museum of Art.

 

            “Hey, Keeks, kindly explain why we’re here,” he said while gluing his eyes on the edifice.

 

            “Well, I just thought that maybe, we could go somewhere nice and quiet. I’m pretty sure you’ve been here before, but you know, I like to do things with you. And last time I checked: you do love art.”

 

            As he spoke, Alfred turned back and pulled him closer. “Babe, this is exactly why I love you.”

 

            I might have said this before, but its best to remind the audience that sometimes, there are only a few people in this world who are aware of an individual’s uniqueness. In my case, I never knew that Alfred could be so interested in the classical structures of art; I never knew it until Kiku mentioned it. He is one of the few people in Alfred’s existence that knew his deeper interests. And when he spoke about it, I remembered Kiku expressing it with light in his eyes, a spark. He always loves this side of him, and even yet worshipping it like an idol. In this side, Alfred is somehow… a different person. In this side, the sun is not like the scorching daylight, but like the warm shafts of early dawn, calm and more temperate that could almost contrast the moon. And I asked myself, is this why Kiku loved him?

 

            They went inside, and as they did so, they found themselves in a massive hallway full of arc thresholds and marble pillars. I’ve been in there one time, but it was only for a day when I accompanied a troop of high school students in their field trip. It was like walking into a colossal Parthenon, and at that time, during the couple’s visit, it wasn’t that crowded. Kiku remembered the glint in Alfred’s eyes as they roamed from threshold to threshold. He had known the ways of the edifice ever since when their mother was yet alive. In this side, Alfred felt like time had transported him back to the past and into the earliest hour of day.

 

            “Isn’t this awesome?” he said. “I always love going in here. It’s like going to The Met without spending too much. And the people did a great job with the historical replica.”

 

            “I’m happy that you like it,” Kiku said. “I’ve never been in here, and from what you and other people said, I really want to go here.”

 

            “And here you are!” Alfred smiled.

 

            “With you,” the Japanese finished their sentence.

 

            After a brief sentimental moment, they walked further and decided to explore the Art Timeline.

 

            “Don’t worry, I know the way here,” the American assured and smiled. “And I want to impress you with… my high-class knowledge.”

 

            Kiku chuckled. “Whatever fits your preference, Monsieur,”

 

            As they toured around the area, they passed through different periods from the Stone Age to the Contemporary World, and within each sector, Alfred made a comment or an explanation on whatever the subject matter was. Cave paintings, the Stonehenge, Hammurabi’s Code, Hieroglyphs, tombs, replicas of the Parthenon and the Coliseum, Floating Worlds, mosaics, Mona Lisa, the Birth of Venus, the Sistine, David, Venus of Urbino, Portraits of Rembrandt, Napoleon at the Great St. Bernard, Liberty Leading the People, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Luncheon on the Grass, The Dance Class, The Scream, Guernica, Three Musicians, Le Rêve, Persistence of Memory, Convergence, Campbell's Soup Cans, and so forth; the list goes on until you reach the final spectacle. They explored mostly every corner of the building, and along the way, while they view a display, Alfred would open his mouth and say a word or two even if he knew and it is obvious that Kiku already knew some if not all of them.

 

            “Alfred-san, which one do you like the best?” he asked while gazing at the Portrait of Madame X.

 

            “Hmm? Oh, um… Nighthawks, I guess.”

 

            “’I guess’?”

 

            “I mean, it’s a hard pick sometimes like if you have to pick a painting by Bob Ross you don’t know which one stood out the best. And if you ask me, Nighthawks is probably the closest to my taste.”

 

            “Hmmm, why though?”

 

            “I’ll show you.”

 

            Picking up the pace, they moved down the sector and made a turn to the left. Arm in arm, they slowed down as they reached a grand hall, almost as vacant as some of the areas in the museum, gazing at the pictures on the walls until they stopped at the middle.

    Nighttime, set in a fictional dining called PHILLIES, the viewer outside the said location. Inside, the place was well lit by the fluorescent light, reflecting the yellow painted walls and the white ceiling. Behind the russet counter is an attendant in his white shirt and white cap, he serves drinks to his customers: a man in a dark suit with a gray hat and cigarette, his nose curved like a hawk’s beak; besides him, a woman in red also holding a cigarette; at the very left, and probably the closest to the audience, a man in grey with a hat, his back turned, and a shadow casting most of his figure. In the background, the entire street is asleep, no open windows, no lights, closed shops, there is no life, except in the dining.

 

            “This painting is called Nighthawks,” Alfred said. “Painted by Edward Hopper in 1942. If you ask me, it does remind me of a film noir. That guy is a spy, the other guy is a criminal in disguise, the chick is secretly the accomplice, and that guy in white is your regular bystander. I don’t know, but the vibe gives me the thrill like you can feel like one of them is going to pull out a gun, or maybe all of them are going to pull out their guns and point them to each other, and anytime, the adrenaline is rushing… then, boom! The walls are painted red, the coffee is half finished, the ash fell from the cigar, there is no sound except the buzzing coming from the fluorescent light because there is no life, at least, in the diner, and no one is awoken by the trigger’s crack… because no one is at home…”

 

            As Alfred talked, Kiku looked up and kept his focus on him until he said the final sentence. “Seriously, you should become a movie director,” Kiku said it playfully. “You really got a lot of things going on in your head there, and most of them are really spontaneous; it’s amazing somehow.”

 

            “Ok, I know I sound like a discounted version of Robert Frost, but do you get what I mean?” he said.

 

            “Oh yes, I do,” the Japanese man replied. “I see what you mean, but I kind of see it in a different light (no pun intended).”

 

            “Ok? What is your perspective?”

 

            Glancing back at the portrait, taking in the hues of the view in front of him, the red counter, the cigarettes, the shadows, the light made by men, the night silence of the town, Kiku couldn’t help himself as he felt the slow pace of time in the gloomy space. Four people- four people living and breathing; do they know each other? Are they having an affair? Why does he lurk in the shadows? Where is his wife? His husband? His father? Mother? Why come so late this night? Why are they still awake? Where is everyone? Ahhh… no one is there… the year is 1942… will they be back for Christmas? God knows when… God knows when will it be over…

 

            “Isolation,” Kiku whispered.

 

            “What?”

 

            “Isolation,” he said again. “Everyone is alone, it doesn’t matter if they personally know each other, either way, they are all in the same position. They are missing someone; they came late at night to break the infinite quietness, only to expect another distance and silence. They came late at night to find another living soul. They are alone, isolated from the others, the world abroad.”

 

            “What makes you think they are isolated? What is it that you are trying to suggest?”

 

            “The War… this country attempts to isolate himself from the world, but even when the world drags him, he is still isolated…”

 

            What Alfred told me next was that when he heard Kiku’s answer, he was… awestruck. A short response, and yet in a manner of poetry. He said that his answer is the closest to what his college art teacher said about the subject matter, an interesting fact knowing that his husband never really took art in his years in the university but managed to break the code behind the canvas. He said he was really lucky.

 

            “But you know what, Alfred-san? I think yours is more interesting, there is more movement, and if you ever make a scene or write anything about this painting, everyone will love it.”

 

            Alfred moved his arm and pulled his smaller body closer to his, and whispered, “You keep saying that when we all know that you are right. You know why? I think you see something far beyond in this world.”

 

            Kiku let himself wrapped in his warmth. No one is there to see, so there was nothing to be ashamed of. They stood there for a few moments until his partner led them the way. Their shoes squeaked against the marble tiles, passing through thresholds and arcs while arms still intertwined. They could hear small unrelated conversations from strangers, and the familiar throbs of their hearts while they walked through hallways.

 

            “Hey, Keeks?’

 

            “Yes?”

 

            “What is your favorite painting?”

 

            Slowing down the pace to talk, Kiku said, “Well, I think you already know and why I like the Great Wave of Kanagawa. But if you mean something other than that, then yes, I have another one that I like.”

 

            “Which one?”

 

            “Follow me,” grabbing his hand, the smaller man dragged him to the left as they passed through another arch. Alfred noticed the paintings on the wall: works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and Morisot, until they reached their destination: A black Cyprus at the side, a village with yellow windows cluttered on its roots, a small steeple, and a range of mountains all warped in the blue night. And the night, a blue mantle ornamented with ten yellow stars and a crescent moon, and even more impressive is the visible wind circling in the background, moving, as if it's leading the light somewhere.

 

            “The Starry Night,” Alfred murmured.

 

            “Mhm! Isn’t it beautiful?” Kiku said without breaking his sight from the painting. “It is so peaceful, it reminds me of home every time I couldn’t sleep yet, there are moments I have to look up at the sky, as if it, it is like looking beyond the globe you know. There is a mystery, and yet, it shows how much everything is so beautiful in spite of the distortion of reality. I guess you can say this is what universe looks like. I really don’t know the right words to describe it Alfred-san, but what do you think?”

 

            At that moment, Alfred would never look the painting the same way as before. He followed wherever the lines lead, the strokes, the significance of life below the cypress, the playful symphony of light. Alfred commented that he nearly cried staring at it, he knows the history behind it, and he understands why his husband came to liking it, whether or not Kiku really knows the story behind the portrait, he couldn’t contain himself as he would tell himself every night that he loves him, he loves him, he loves him, he loves him… until whatever essence is left, he will spend saying that phrase until nothing of him is left.

 

            “I see… a wave,” Alfred answered.

 

            “A what?”

 

            “A wave, moving against the wind, leading somewhere, to the unknown, the other end of the universe. I see the strokes of the brush where he poured out his passion in this mystique night. The light belongs to the heavens and the people, they belong to God and His creation, they belong to the wonders of nature, and not at the single edifice where the steeple stood. He understands that this is the true works of nature, this is not just the landscape from his window, but it also the view from the caged bird, seeking sanctuary, finding a place to call home. And that’s why… he made it move… that even when he’s gone… it will still be alive…”

 

            On Kiku’s account, he wasn’t surprised when his husband said those words, eloquent and unlikely of his character, but he smiled, he knows that it’s hidden in him, and he’s glad when he heard them coming from his mouth, he always loves this side of him, a rare diamond in the rough that he was glad to discover. He took his hand, squeezed it, planted him a small kiss, and gave him a moment. Did Kiku see the way Alfred sees the painting? Did he know what came to Alfred’s mind when he saw it? I don’t know, perhaps…

 

            They strolled for a few minutes, speaking a word or two until they exited the building.

 

*     *     *

 

            Going back to their transportation, Alfred made a left turn and drive around two blocks down the street into a series of complex. He parked the car in the first space he saw, which is the furthest corner in the area, and little did he know, he was going to regret that decision.

 

            “Alfred-san? Where are we going?” Kiku asked as he got out.

 

            “Well, since you did me a great favor, I might as well treat you back,” he said as he clicked the lock button and went to hold his hand. He leaned over and whispered, “Remember, darling, quid-pro-quo.”

 

            The smaller man blushed as he let his partner guide him. They walked to the other end of the area, and that is until Kiku realized that they were inside the building, when the air conditioner hit their skins, the thrill and excitement animated his spirits. “Alfred-san!” he said with a grin.

 

            Alfred smiled back and said, “Yes, sweetie, the floor is yours.”

 

            They were inside of a bookstore called Vale & Bevins, a company in borderline competition with Barnes & Noble. To be fair, I can see why Kiku would love this place as its products range from local to international, from books to desk-tables, from novels to short stories, it’s like haven. Ever since in middle school, Alfred became aware of the classics in every shelf, not to mention, his rather peevish adopted English father and his emotional French partner had been the greatest influencers of his and his brother’s literary world. For Kiku, as expected, a bookworm himself, finally got to experience the feeling of sharing knowledge with another person. He was having the time of his life as he introduced novels such as Crime and Punishment, Middlemarch, Mansfield Park, Heart of Darkness, The Moonstone, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Villette, The Woman in White, etc.

 

            “Have you heard of The Moon Over the Golden River?” Kiku asked.

 

            “No, I didn’t. Is it new?”

 

            “It was released three months ago. Here, I’ll show you,” he pulled Alfred into another aisle of modern literature. They stopped when the smaller man grabbed the nearest book, in which the cover shows a man, standing by the railings of the bridge, his back turned on the viewer, a post light by his side, and in front of him was a river reflected by the city lights, there is no moon, until I realized that it only shows its reflection, which is closest to the man. “I bought it without knowing,” Kiku said, “And surprisingly, I found it really interesting. It’s a really good book.”

 

            “Really?” Alfred said as he scanned the cover impressively before flipping at the back. “What’s it about?”

 

            “Well, let’s see. It’s about a man named Leon who is raised in a very strict household like his grandfather wanted him to be a professor in law and/or business. His father died when he’s very young, so he doesn’t really have a ‘proper’ father figure. His mother once lived in France, she used to work as a barista in a Parisian coffee shop and she inspires him to become an artist and, someday go to Paris. His grandfather never approves his liking in art and he constantly forces to do everything in his way while acting aggressively towards his mother. His best friend is a boy named Rin, and get this, he is a Japanese,”

 

            “No way,”

 

            “Yes, and he has a twin sister named Yuna. The three of them were best friends until his grandfather wanted him to marry Yuna. It turns out that she is both aromatic and asexual, and Leon realizes that he’s a homosexual, they decided to keep their sexual orientation a secret from everyone except for a few people or else they will ‘humiliate their families’. Also, Yuna and Rin help and encourage Leon to pursue his art with Yuna as his model. That is until, she died, and Rin took her place, in process, their feelings developed to the point they have sex.”

 

            “So, in other words, the guy on the cover is Rin?” Alfred said.

 

            “Yes, Leon painted it while they were in Paris.”

 

            His blue eyes lit up by hearing the revelation. “Did they get married in the end?” he only received a shrug from his partner.

 

            “Only one way to find out,” Kiku said playfully. “But seriously, I really like this book, it makes me hate and love it at the same time, and I’m sure you’ll like it, too.”

 

            Looking back at the item, then to his companion, Alfred blinked and made a decision. “Alright then, Keeks, if you say so. I trust you on this one.”

            Kiku playfully embraced his arm as they proceeded to the cashier. “You won’t regret it, I promise,”

 

            Meanwhile, outside, the gray clouds started to gather up, followed by a gentle rumble, then a small raindrop.

 

*     *     *

 

            God knows how long they stayed in the bookstore because, by the time they went out, it was already a downpour. Gripping the plastic bag in his hand, and Kiku’s hand in his other, Alfred tsked as every drop echoed in his ear.

 

            “Damn, that weatherman lied to us,” he grumbled, “‘Five percent chance of rain’ my ass. He should get his facts straighten up if he doesn’t want his face pummeled to the ground.”

 

            Kiku felt a sweatdrop on his face and said, “Alfred-san, please control yourself. Where’s the car, anyway?”

 

            “At the very corner. God! I’m an idiot!” he silently cursed himself. “ I’m sorry, Keeks, I didn’t even have an umbrella with me.”

 

            “Alfred-san, there is nothing to apologize, let’s just wait here until the rain dies down.”


            Unfortunately, they have to wait for another hour and thirty minutes. Gradually, everyone came out of the store and waited with them for the rain to cease. It was around 7:30 pm, the rain was still in a downpour but not strong enough like before. One by one, people went to their cars while the rain was still going, it’s almost dinner time, and they couldn’t wait to get home.


            “Here,” Alfred took off Arthur’s brown jacket and put it on Kiku’s head. “Don’t take it off, I don’t want you to catch a cold.”

 

            Knowing the history behind the said clothing, the smaller man protested, “But Mr. Kirkland said you’re not supposed to ruin it, won’t he get mad?”

 

            He smiled down at him, and in determination of taking the risk, he said, “Not if I have a good reason.” Alfred made Kiku hold the bag in his arms while he went behind him and secured his hands on his shoulders. Before they could blink twice, they were already drenched in the rain.

            They ran through the storm, spontaneously laughing at their actions as if they just stole a couple of masks from the dollar store. The puddle splashing against their feet, the wind leading the drops against their faces, and the small taps sounding in unison made the adrenaline rush in their veins. They stopped by at the nearest telephone booth, panting a cold air, their hair, clothes and faces dripping wet, and a visible red tint on their cheeks.

 

            “Man, that was fun!” Alfred said in between breaths while grinning.

 

            “You are insane,” Kiku said and half-laughed. “Look at you, you are all wet! Even your jacket is wet.”

 

            Alfred waved his hand. “That’s nothing, that grinch talks a lot about manners and etiquette. If he thinks that lending a partner a helping hand is more outrageous than having a jacket ruined, then he really needs to rethink his life.”

 

            They both laughed at the slight humor until it slowly died down into an awkward silence, Kiku broke the stillness with his smile as he stared back at him. Ah! There it is, again, that spark, the stars that filled his world. “Thank you, Alfred-san, for everything.”

 

            Alfred blinked and saw the light in his dark eyes, the diamond that would set the world in awe, and he knew that it was his. “Should I be saying that, Keeks? You know more than the world or I could offer. And between you and I, I am the lucky man.”

 

            They decided to stay there for another thirty minutes. After a while, it began to slow down right after when the sun could no longer be seen and the sky turned dark. The raindrops slowly died down as the cloud moved apart, and the moon, in her natural silver radiance, greeted the onlookers with a sign that the worst is over. The couple in the phone booth stood there, their bodies facing each other, their heads turned to the small puddle where it was touched by the silver light. Every drop comes every ripple, but as the image distorted, it came back to its original form. From the distance, a music could be heard, a slow symphony of voices beyond the streetlights, it's ringing in his ear as he watched him and part of his face basked in the moonlight, his hair, dark as night, mysterious yet alluring when it gleams. His eyes, a pair of ornaments, as brown as chocolates, hold every kindness. His skin, pale as the moon itself. He was wearing a lavender and white shirt under a vest and a tie. And his lips, pale roses, small and smooth for someone spurting out knowledge and wonders. He knows why he fell in love with him; as the moon seemed to grow on the water, he felt his body move on its own, and he is not stopping himself. He placed his cold hand against his surprisingly warm cheeks, and their eyes met. He got his message, he knew what he was thinking, and he was not stopping him either. Closer… closer… closer, he is enveloped by the touch of his lips on his own.

            The moon danced against the ripples of the rain.

Chapter Text

  • “‘Nowadays, all Hollywood does is making whatever shit they come up with, and sometimes, they ran out of ideas that they decided to reboot some of the best films and butcher it like a pig.’” - Welcome to the modern era people.

  • “As he said that, he smiled, remembering that one autumn day when he chased down their car.” - Refer to Chapter 16

  • Ok, so previously, in the previous chapter, they planned to talk about the Yunioshi controversy. In this chapter, as you can see, they discussed about it. Also fun fact: Kiku’s opinion on Yunioshi is almost the same as mine. I don’t know what people think of him as they watched Breakfast, but personally, I am more focused on the movie itself and Audrey Hepburn than the little things because come on! This is a romantic comedy. What do you guys think?

    • “‘I would be a hypocrite if I said I don’t like watching shows that are stereotypical.’” - *cough* Hetalia*cough*

  • It is safe to say that Kiku’s explanation about the ending also symbolizes the theme with his relationship with Alfred later in the fanfic. Also, the idea of feeling lost until “finding herself and a place called home” would refer back to Chapter 13 where Alfred told him to look for the North Star to find his way. In other words, Kiku would always find himself in Alfred’s arms, the same way Holly finds herself in Paul’s arms.

  • Schrank’s bullet - U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt (aka the Bull Moose) was shot with a bullet by Schrank, but, surprisingly, Roosevelt survived.

  • Sequence about Alfred’s Mom tho.

    • Also, since it is mentioned that Arthur and Francis knew Alfred and Matthew’s mother, there is a chance I might write a backstory about it.

  • “‘And yet, the shining star fell from the western sky.’” - I admit, I was reading too much Walt Whitman. (a reference to his poem: When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd)

  • Grant Wood’s Museum of Art - I swear, it is a fictional place; Grant Wood is also the painter of American Gothic (you know, the one with a farmer holding a pitchfork)

  • Bob Ross - You should know him for his happy little trees and clouds. (If you don’t check YouTube).

  • Nighthawks - by Edward Hopper (1942) (You can look it up)

    • “Where is everyone? Ahhh… no one is there… the year is 1942… will they be back for Christmas? God knows when… God knows when will it be over…” - This refers to the fact that since this painting is made in 1942, it was during the height of WWII, a year after Pearl Harbor, which is interesting because this is Kiku’s (a Japanese) thought process.

      • “‘this country attempts to isolate himself from the world, but even when the world drags him, he is still isolated…’”

        • I intentionally use he for America because: 1) Uncle Sam, 2) it’s freaking America (Hetalia), and 3) the term isolate applies to Kiku himself, perhaps when he thought when he was isolated before going to the states.

        • As you may know, America attempted to stay away from the war until Pearl Harbor kicks in. It may be the beginning of America ending his isolation, but then, he is still isolated as shown how people (those who stayed) feel during the war, and also the fact that they were unaware of the Holocaust until Eisenhower provided them evidence.

      • Even more interesting, when I looked at the painting, my interpretation is the closest to Alfred’s, but it was Kiku’s interpretation that is the closest to scholars and art professors. What do you guys think?

    • “‘if you ever make a scene or write anything about this painting, everyone will love it.’” - Actually, Blade runner is inspired by this painting, and also, author Joyce Carol Oates wrote a poem involving this painting.

  • Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and Morisot - Impressionist painters.

  • The Starry Night - by Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

    • My personal favorite

    • “He followed wherever the lines lead, the strokes, the significance of life below the cypress, the playful symphony of light.” - probably one of the most notable figures to take notice on the said painting.

    • “he knows the history behind it, and he understands why his husband came to liking it” - Van Gogh painted this while he was in a mental asylum as he is suffering from Depression. What does it got to do with Kiku? See notes below.

    • Alfred’s interpretation of the light as a religious meaning is close to some of what scholars predicted.

    • I read somewhere that the Great Wave of Kanagawa inspired Van Gogh (or some impressionist painter).

  • Vale & Bevins - This is not real lol; Eric Vale and Christopher Bevins, America and Japan’s English Dub VA

  • The Moon Over the Golden River

    • This is not an official book, however, this is the novel I’m writing in real life. So technically, Kiku just gave out some snippets in the fanfic.

    • The main theme of the said novel is basically companionship, which I think fits with this chapter and the song Moon River (Yes, I did take some inspiration from the song)

    • Seriously, I’m not even sure if it’s good or close to good (and I’m the author). I don’t know, but I wager it won’t be a big deal like The Hunger Games or anything like that.

  • “‘But Mr. Kirkland said you’re not supposed to ruin it, won’t he get mad?’” - Refer to the previous chapter where Arthur was mad when Alfred took the jacket and that he must take good care of it.

    • I would like to point out that in the previous chapter, Arthur wore that jacket for his former girlfriend, which is risk-taking. In this case, Alfred took that very same risk by putting it on Kiku’s head to protect him from the rain. In process, this is how Alfred and Arthur are alike, and thus why Francis said Alfred reminds him of Arthur.

  • The last sequence is an imitation of Moon River, with the puddle mimicking the river. This shows the sense of companionship between these two as they went on with their date together. And it is interesting to say that Kiku seemed to be the “moon” to Alfred. Take note that Alfred said that the Moon River song helped him to gain peace of mind, Kiku is also doing the same thing, and hence that’s one of the many reasons he fell in love with him. I guess you can also say that loss of his mother (the Miss Hepburn) left him an empty whole, it was Kiku who filled him life, the same way that the song Moon River will always be remembered.

  • In the end, I left it a little bit ambiguous on who made the first move, but I have to say that is Alfred who kissed him first.

 

Brief Interpretation of the Paintings (you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to)

I would really like to point out the significance of the paintings mentioned since it somehow mirrors their relationship and whatnot. Alfred likes Nighthawks because he could feel the thrill, in other words, he is a man of action, which mirrors his rather energetic persona, however, as Kiku interpreted that the painting is all about the silence and isolation of the war, it shows a contrasting claim to Alfred’s own interpretation. Perhaps the silence and isolation of the painting represents his other demeanor as seen in the museum, which is like a mystery to most of the people, the same way how Kiku himself is mysterious at times, hence further proving that even though he liked the painting for its action, it reminds him of the silence, the dark side of the moon, or rather, it is so similar to Kiku. Furthermore, the fact that this portrait symbolizes isolation, it could be interpreted that Alfred is missing something. Is it his mom? Maybe. But then again, this sense of isolation (feeling missing) will later prove significant in the fanfic. In Kiku’s case, The Starry Night reminds him of home; notice how Alfred said that it looks like a wave. Yep! I’m referring to the Great Wave of Kanagawa. Interestingly, like the Great Wave, Starry Night somehow portrays the same manner in telling about Nature: for the Wave, it shows that in every nature, there is a spirit or god residing, while in Starry Night, the light is focused more on the heavens or sky because this is where the Deity lives and also in the homes of the citizens. Hence, this is why Kiku found it peaceful. However, taking note on Alfred’s interpretation, he somehow proves a point on why Kiku would like this painting: because, like Van Gogh in an asylum, Kiku was also confined in his room. Alfred can see that this is the same way Kiku would see the world since after all, Kiku loved the feeling of isolation, and that he is afraid of the world outside, in which, he only wish for it to be a stable, happy place, then he would learn to love the world. Further note, while Kiku sees the silence in Nighthawks, Alfred can see the movement in Starry Night (remember: man of action). So like the interpretation of Nighthawks, Kiku loved Starry Night, not only because of its serenity, but also the movement of the image, a lively sentiment in which he could see in Alfred’s eyes.

Chapter Text

I AM BACK FINALLY!!!

OH MY GOD! WHERE HAVE I BEEN!!??

Almost two fruking years and I just came?

 

So here is the news:

1) I'm finally graduated!!! (YEAH!!!

2) I'll be off to college by the end of August.

3) I'm working on my novels

4) I watched Banana Fish, in which I highly recommend to anyone who likes to see a dark version of Yuri on Ice, or a serious version of Ameripan, or a very fruking awesome anime because this series is a roller coaster of... everything (I won't say any further.)

 

As you can see, I'm literally working really slow with my fanfic, but I'm doing my best to update whatever I have. Other than that, I'll be a college student, so expect a lot of delays with the chapters.

So without further ado, I represent you the next 3 chapters including a LEMON SCENE!

Chapter Text

 

"I know I'm not supposed to say this back in college and he's probably gonna know it, but fuck that! Mr. Durus has a smelly assed-dick!"

 

One of the most memorable answers I heard during the interview, and yes, this is Alfred. Sometimes, personally, I don't trust him, but in this one, I do not know whether he is lying or merely exaggerating (actually, I then asked Kiku and he confirmed that this teacher is a real slavedriver so... ).

 

* * *

 

He came to his office that one day of the week when students couldn't wait for the end of the quarter. He knocked on the blurred glass of his door before he heard that voice that sounded like a cross between Brian and Peter Griffin. He didn't exactly hear the exact words, but he went in anyway. Mr. Durus' office is a mess- no- it is a jungle of paperwork, portfolios, paints, pens, pencils, and books he never touched since he first got them, and as Alfred stepped foot in his office, he didn't even blink.

 

He was a pudgy old man in his late fifties; bald, glasses, pen in his collar, and always wearing pastel shirts and light brown pants. When he looked up at his visitor, he was doing his best to hide his scowl and yet his face is always heating up. "You might take a seat, Mr. Jones," He said in a loud mutter before looking back and gave an "A" on an unusual abstract art by one of his female students.

 

Alfred dropped his bag at the foot of the table and loudly slid a chair as he settled himself in front of his professor, who took another five minutes on "analyzing" his student's "masterpiece". He graded it, put down his pen, folded his hands, exhaled in exasperation, and said, "We need to talk."

 

"I mean that's why I'm here, to begin with, right?" He raised an eyebrow that showed he had no regard to what respect is. "So what's the problem? Did I lack any of the requirements? No artistic skill? An amateur nitwit?"

 

Mr. Durus blinked, unamused yet not as shocked as expected. "Close. But let me be more direct to you: you need to make up your project, that is if you're still interested to get the credit."

 

"Wait! Hold on!" the boy stopped slouching and raised both palms in defense.

 

"What did I miss? Last time I check I submitted all of my projects," he made a small laugh. "You must be mistaken, don't tell me you've lost them or something."

 

"Is that so, Mr. Jones?" He smirked while he flipped his record book. "Last time I checked, you successfully did submit all of the work but failed to meet the requirements. And

I'm not mistaken because I have all the records here."

 

"How did I fail? I literally did everything you said!"

 

"Not everything," he reached out something from the back of his chair and brought it in front of Alfred's face with a thud against the table. Staring back, it is a canvas portrait of a man in nude sitting on a velvet chair as if he was imitating Lincoln in Healy's painting: one leg on top of the other, elbow propped on his knee, chin rested on his fist, and his left hand on the handle.

 

Alfred later kept it in his attic along with the other projects he did in college, he usually brings it back to the spotlight whenever someone asked him to, and yes, I am one of those people. He showed it to me and I admit it's a really good painting, especially the way he played with the lighting and the soft detail as if it is painted by a professional impressionist artist. It wasn't bad actually. But everyone's a critic.

 

"Look, I know in your generation, you want things done the easy way by doing less work," Mr. Durus said, "in other words: as much as you love impressionism, I do not expect you to paint, or rather, impersonate Degas or Monet."

 

"But my art style got nothing to do with this!" Alfred furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and frustration. "You didn't tell us how to do it."

 

"But I did give examples, correct? And most of the portraits I showed you are in full detail, so it is in my expectation that you should follow suit."

 

He slouched back and broke eye contact with him. What. The. Actual. Fuck. He mouthed as he heard his teacher moved in his seat.

 

"And his position, did you altered it?" he asked, referring to the man sitting with his legs crossed.

 

"Yeah!" Alfred nearly shouted. "Most of us altered it because the guy is being a dick because we can't get his beef right!"

 

"Watch your tongue, Mr. Jones! I don't care if you changed his position, but if you want to save yourself from failure, I want you to make another one. Refresh yourself with a new subject and a new style. Take note, boy: New!"

 

"And where should I find a model? Wouldn't it be easier if I just redo the portrait?"

 

"You could, but I would rather see your new perspective. You can find models anywhere in this world willing to be bare in front of you, with your consent, of course."

 

Alfred froze on his spot, his head stopped functioning, his breathing stopped, and his heart began beating excessively. Seriously? Right when the quarter is almost over? It seemed like he celebrated too soon. What is he gonna do? "Is there anything you want me to do?" he asked as half of his mind began to function again.

 

"Yes," Reaching from his drawer, Mr. Durus took out one of his notebook records. "You still remember that Baroque project?"

 

"The one where we do mythological characters? Yes. Why?"

 

"Did you submit your artwork?"

 

"Yes! I'm pretty sure I did!"

 

"Well, it says here that you didn't and I marked you zero. You didn't hand it in."

 

"No way! There is a mistake! I did submit it. I even put my name and title on the back. It's called Damon and Pythias."

 

"Never have it," he said with a deadpan face. "Tell you what, your other assignment will be the Baroque Mythology project, you can use the same subject or a different one. Again, I want you to paint it in detail. That way, you will redeem your grades. And I want them, the figure painting and the Baroque, done as soon as possible before the quarter ends. Capeesh?!" And without another word, he left to the back of his office. This signaled Alfred to leave as well, but he was too stupefied by everything in this one meeting.

 

"You have got to be fucking kidding me..."

 

* * *

 

"Pops! Be honest; what do you think?" he pulled out his figure paint (the nude one) from his art bag and showed it to his family. Well, Matthew stayed at Gilbert's place to work on their final project before the break, so it was just Alfred, Francis, and Arthur in the house.

 

Francis stopped sharpening his pencils and looked up and Arthur did the same as he gazed up from his newspaper. Both men staring at the painting Alfred was holding.

 

"It's really good!" the Frenchman replied, "Is that your project?"

 

"Well, yeah, it was our project, until he gave it back to me so it became my project." the boy placed it on the table with a clank and sat (slouching) on his seat across the adults. "He said the entire thing is a flop like I didn't follow his instructions or any of that ton of shit. He didn't even tell us to paint everything in detail! That's why I ended up painting it that way! And all of this time, he just told me that I made a huge mistake on that project right when everything is almost over, the frick-fruking painting is made like five months ago! Let's just say that he's only doing this because I do not meet his standards and I am NOT his bitch!"

 

"Alfred! Watch your fucking language at the table!" Arthur reprimanded (and cussed, ironically), his attention fully set on Alfred as his opened-newspaper crumpled in his fists. "As much as I understand your... distress... with your professor, I think it is best to just do as what he says, or else, you'll dig your own grave."

 

"I am digging my own grave, Dad!" Alfred nearly shouted. "I'm sorry... I just... I can't find a model."

 

"A model for the figure portrait?" Francis asked, now in deep concern.

 

"Yeah, I'm just gonna follow the exact painting except add details for the figure portrait. But he preferred me to paint another figure portrait with a different model in order to 'see my perspective'. Also, he wants me to do the Baroque project because he LOST it!"

 

"What?!" the two men said altogether.

 

"That's insane! How did he lose it?!" Francis asked with his palm on his chest.

 

"I don't know. He said I never submitted anything, like what the actual fuck!"

 

"Oh no..." the Frenchman began to feel distraught himself while the other man sat there beside him, lost in words and unable to touch his tea. "So what are you going to do? Are you still planning to do Damon and Pythias?"

 

Alfred sighed, "I don't know... Maybe not. I think I'll do a new one: Ganymede with Zeus as an eagle."

 

"That's a nice choice, Rembrandt and Correggio, as well as many others in the French art period, did it before, right?" Arthur said and looked at the Frenchman.

 

Francis looked back at him and agreed. "Yes, they did. Also, I believe we still have that Eagle model in the cabinet, we could just dust it off and-"

 

"You don't have to," Arthur cut him off. "I put it inside a plastic bag so it won't get dust all over it."

 

His blues eyes softened while his lips formed a smile, "Awww~ Arthur, that's kind of you~"

 

The Brit blushed and looked away from him, "It's not like I was thinking of you, wanker! I just don't like dust. They are disgusting, that's all!" But all of that tsundere explanation was awarded by a pinch on the cheek and an attempted-kiss from the Frog.

 

Alfred cleared his throat. "Guys, you can go and do your business altogether for all I care, but for fruk's sake! MY PROJECT! I don't know where to find a model! And there is no way I am going to ask that guy!" (He meant the one in his figure portrait).

 

Arthur and Francis straightened themselves and said, "Of course, sorry about that. But I think the Frog knows better where to get everything you need."

 

"Well obviously because I am an art professor. But anyway, Alfred, I know this woman, and she'd been in my classes before, you know when we're also doing the same project as you did. She is really nice and I think she's willing to model for you if she has time."

 

His face lit up and said, "Really? That's great, Pops! Can you contact her?"

 

"Of course, leave that to me."

 

Alfred immediately jumped up from his seat and nearly glomped Francis as he smacked his lips full on the cheek. "You. Are. GOD." He told him, then he chugged his coffee, grabbed his painting, and went upstairs, slamming the art room shut.

 

A short silence soon followed until they heard someone cleared their throat, and a teapot made a small clink on the rim of the cup. Arthur was pouring another cup of tea for Francis, slid it to his side, and leaned closer.

 

"So tell me, Bonnefoy, who is this 'woman' you're talking about?"

 

* * *

 

December 13, XXXX

 

Throughout the day, Kiku recalled minutes ago when he walked down the aisle, attired in white and grey, and small plum blossom and camomile in his suit pocket, he kept his posture as the guests, mostly friends, and other distant family members, watched him in excitement. He smiled back, and as he went close to the platform, he looked at his soon-to-be brother-in-law, giving him a nod of approval. He heard the music change its rhythm, it's a sign urging everyone to focus their attention on the entry. The small raven-haired man saw his mother in white and pearls, and beside her was her son, the groom in white tangzhuang clothes embroidered with gold.

 

When he reached his destination, Yao took Ivan's hand, and after a long wait, when they finally exchanged their vows, promising a lifetime of commitment to each other, they sealed their status as husbands with their rings and a kiss. And on that moment, everyone celebrated, laughter and tears filled the room; Irunya and Natalya, Ivan Braginski's sisters, have mixed feelings: Natalya, being the youngest of the siblings, was upset when she realized she won't see her big brother as often as before. The oldest sister Irunya, on the other hand, was overwhelmed with tears, pouring out her joys and sorrows. She was happy seeing that his little brother grew up, at the same time, she was upset and kept apologizing for not spending too much time with him in the past. Meanwhile, Mrs. Honda stayed by the side for a while, she knew this day would come when her children are set to fly from her nest into the world and lead a life on their own. Yet she couldn't erase the moments he spent with his little boy, from the moment she heard his first cry, his first word, his first step, his journey, and then there, right on the platform, his new life had just begun. Kiku accompanied her, hands on her shoulders, assuring that whatever lies in Yao's future with Ivan is something he must face in the next, and all they had to do was to have faith, bring courage and light when the nights are cold, a daily reminder that maybe, even in his next life, in his new home, something or someone will still hold onto him...

 

They strolled their way to the reception, and there the appetizers were already waiting for them. They found their respective tables as the two grooms found their place in front of an entire audience, accompanying the hostess for the event. While finishing the first course of the meal, a few people were called up to make a speech, this includes the Braginski sisters, and Mrs. Honda, who also carried Kiku's voice of heart since he always feels uneasy whenever he must perform public speaking. The speeches were emotional, hilarious indeed, but most of them held this nostalgic sentiment that touched the audience, but especially the grooms, and they ended their speeches with cheers before the guests could gobble up the entire menu.

 

When Kiku finished his duck and Kurnik, he excused himself and video-called Alfred. A few rings later, he answered, and the blond was sitting on his bed while arranging the camera.

 

"Konnichiwa, Alfred-san," Kiku greeted with a smile.

 

Alfred smiled back. "Konnichiwa to you, too, Keeks. Is the wedding over?"

 

"No, people are still eating," he looked up when he heard a female voice in the background asking who was in the phone. Kiku shifted the camera and Mrs. Honda appeared waving on the screen.

 

"Konnichiwa, Alfred-san!"

 

The blond smiled at her presence while he greeted her, "Hello there, Mrs. Honda! And you look stunning in that white dress. Very classy!"

 

The older woman chuckled at his compliment. "Thank you, that's very flattering. How are you doing? It's too bad you can't come... I'm really sorry, Yao and Ivan could be very unreasonable."

 

He snorted and waved his hand, "Oh, you don't have to trouble yourself, ma'am. I actually feel very cozy here in my room. I'm doing fine actually, well, except for a few projects that I need to finish ASAP."

 

"Oh dear, that's rather troublesome. You can still make it, but don't stress yourself or else the hard work will be all for naught." She popped her head up as if she heard someone calling her name, then she said she will get there in a minute before returning to Alfred. "I'm really sorry, Alfred-san, but I'm needed. I'll see you next time!"

 

"Ok. Bye, Mrs. Honda,"

 

As his mother excused herself, Kiku resumed their conversation. "She was talking to the wedding singer since we didn't have a wedding dance yet. Do you want to see what the reception looks like?"

 

"Sure!"

 

Kiku switched the camera and showed Alfred a 360-degree view of the current location: not too many guests but enough, white themed decorations, golden curtains, red carpet, silk tablecloths, an arch, plum blossoms, and camomiles. For Alfred, it seemed like he was blinded by the gold and white. "Wow! That's pretty rad. Too bad, I wasn't there, you know, too spice things up."

 

"The sauce is already too spicy for us, Jones, don't make it worse by coming here." a voice said from behind, it turns out that the Chinese groom had caught his little brother sneaking some conversation with his obnoxious lover.

 

Kiku jumped in his seat, and before he could reply, Alfred spoke up first. "Hey there Yao, or should I say, Mr. Wang-Braginski. And what do you mean that I could only cause trouble? Didn't you plan this wedding, of all the days, on the 13th day? You should really consider your decisions, Mr. W.B. What if something happens? Have you seen a black cat on the way? Did you look at yourself in a broken mirror? Did you see any crows outside?"

 

Yao's eye twitched and he raised his voice a little higher. "You Americans and your ridiculous superstitions! It's not even yet Friday the 13th! And for your information, our unlucky number is 4, and I don't want any funerals on my wedding day!"

 

What about the Bear? Isn't he supposed to be wary of the number 13? Alfred asked himself in his thoughts.

 

Yao sighed and said, "Is that all you have to say? Randomly throwing some useless insults?"

 

The American's face shifted into sincerity as he replied, "Actually, as much as I am a complete jerk, I still have some boundaries, in this case, even though we try to kill each other... a lot, that's not going to stop me from saying congratulations and giving you my sincerest regards. Seriously, ever since you introduced Ivan, I knew you guys will be great together (especially with you two ganging up against me), always supporting each other and all that stuff. Now there you are, and I hope you two will stay together. I don't care if you hate me, but really, I don't want to see some useless dramas in your relationship. I mean I enjoy watching those crap on television, but it's shit when it comes to reality, especially with married people. So yeah, I really hope that you two will have a happy marriage."

 

There was a slight pause in the end as they were waiting for Yao's reply, who was, as he recalled, speechless by what Alfred just said. "Your speech isn't really that sophisticated as I expected, but not bad."

 

"Speech? Dude, that is not a speech. I mean I don't even know how to make one. That's exactly what I'm thinking when I realized that you two are getting married, and I've been keeping it from you until it's the right time. Look, I know we went through a bad start, but I'm completely honest here."

 

Kiku remembered his brother's face turning red with his eyes completely locked on the screen. In a slight stammer, the Chinese finally found his words and said, "If it is so, then I give you many thanks."

 

Alfred nodded, "You're very welcome."

 

Yao nodded back and walked away without another word.

 

Kiku was simply amused by the not-so-exciting scenario as it was one of the rare times when Yao is showing his "weakness", especially with a specific American whom he had somehow sworn to Satan to be his "arch-nemesis". The two took their time talking about the little things and those that they found funny until,

 

"So anyway, I didn't mean to intervene in your business, but how are you doing with your art projects?" the raven-haired asked slowly.

 

Alfred sighed and slumped against the headboard saying, "Yeah, about that. I finally finished redoing the figure painting. So I have two more to go: Figure painting number two, and the Baroque art."

 

The smaller man wrinkled his nose just by the thought of doing the workload and submit them before the deadline, which was soon. "Did you finally agreed to meet with the model?"

 

He bit his lip and replied, "She would help me if it weren't for the fact that she's on vacation, and she is out of the country, so she won't be back for the next two weeks."

 

"Oh no..." Kiku said in a low whisper, covering his mouth, and staring back at him completely wide-eyes as Alfred nodded at him sadly. This is really bad, he thought. "So what are you going to do?" he asked, almost as desperate as he was.

 

He just shrugged his shoulder and exhaled through his nose. "I don't know, Keeks. I have no idea. Pops is trying to contact some of the models he knew, but most of them couldn't make it due to other appointments and whatnot. I mean I already finished one painting, but oh god! This is worse than hell!"

 

When I asked Kiku what came next, he said, in the most solemn expression, that he made a decision, a choice that will change and unravel him, literally.

 

What made him do it? The answer is Alfred's troubles. What happened in their past is... bizarre, amazing perhaps, and he said it many times throughout the course that it was Alfred who guided him in the unknown path, a stranger guiding a stranger in a strange world. He owed part of his life to this boy, the same boy who joined him under the dogwood tree, the same boy who risked going to the anime store for his birthday present, the same boy who accompanied him in the convention, the same boy who introduced his first kiss, the same boy who waited three years until prom night for him to become his boyfriend, the same boy who chased their car when he is going to college, the same boy who became his companion when they crossed the Moon River. And now, there he was, in his desperation, Kiku knew this was what he had to do, this was his repayment.

He stood up, sneaked to the side and went outside where no living soul could hear what he was about to say.

 

"Alfred-san, are you still there?"

 

"Yeah, why? Are you ok?"

 

"When do you plan to start your other paintings?"

 

"I was about to do them on Friday night, and if I can't finish, maybe Saturday."

 

"Good, just don't change your plan."

 

"Why?"

 

"I know someone who can model for you."

 

"Really?! Oh, thank God! Who?"

 

"Me..."

 

It didn't take Alfred a second to react, "What?! Kiku, no!"

 

"Alfred-san, it doesn't matter, you need this!" he insisted.

 

"You're crazy!" Alfred shouted, his face too close to the screen.

 

"Yeah, so is limited rights in times of war!"

 

He tsked and said, "Now is not the time to talk about history and politics. You can't do this to yourself!"

 

"I can! And I already made my choice!" at this point, Kiku was starting to sound like Alfred himself.

 

Alfred pinched the bridge of his nose and raised his hand as a stop. "Look, I know I'm in a very hopeless situation. I know I need help. I know I have to do whatever it takes to get the job done. But there's no way in hell I'm letting my best friend strip and make a 'counterfeit' of him, and present him to that geezer!"

 

"And there is no way in Satan's butthole I'm letting you fail this project the same way you fail in that Geometry test in eighth grade!" Kiku retorted back.

 

"That's ancient history!"

 

"And history repeats itself! That's why I'm not letting you go through this alone," Kiku's voice submerged as Alfred settled himself and shut his mouth while the concern was still visible in his eyes. "You have done so much for me, Alfred-san... it's time for me to repay your kindness. I know this is crazy, but we all are. Who can blame us? It may be lewd, it may be against my will, but if I have to, I must do it. Whatever sacrifice, I will do it whether by your will or not. Please... just let me do this... Do I have to go down on my knees?"

 

"And have someone else see your body?" he said lowly, almost a growl.

 

"Alfred-san, think like Magritte: they will only see a painting. You, however, will see my naked body, and only you..." the Japanese's face turned crimson. "... and I don't mind..."

Alfred shook his head while trying to ignore the growing heat in his stomach. "Kiku..." he whispered as the other man in the screen moved down and set up the phone above him, so Alfred seemed to look down at him like a statue of an idol, and Kiku was his worshipper. Kiku, not only he was red from the earlier remark, but his eyes were glaring back at Alfred, his lips: tight, and his voice: quiet, like a deadly calm in the middle of the sea.

"Alfred-san, please listen to me, look at me: I am not kneeling for myself, but for you. It's embarrassing, but it is a disgrace watching you flunk this measly-ass of a project because you don't have the guts! The Alfred F. Jones I know has the guts to make a promposal in a public announcement. The Alfred F. Jones I know has the guts to pick up a fight with my brother in an anime store. The Alfred F. Jones I know has the guts to chase my mother's car while it's moving. The Alfred Fucking Jones I know has the guts to call himself a hero even if he's down-beaten by a final exam. Are you him? Are you Alfred F. Jones? Are you Alfred Franklin Jones? Are you Alfred fucking Jones? Because if you are not, I want him back... or do I have to kill my way through?"

 

I could only imagine the way he spoke to him. How he looked... how his voice changed... how he successfully convinced him to do the practical. Alfred F. Jones had seen this side of Kiku Honda, and it didn't flinch him, except that he became the one "kneeling", and Kiku was his idol statue...

On Friday, he welcomed the Japanese man with a smile into his home.

 

 

A/N (notes and references)

 

Durus is Latin for stern, strict, severe according to the first google translation in Latin.

 

"Look, I know in your generation, you want things done the easy by doing less work,"

  • Minimalism in a nutshell. Don't judge me but as much as I like painting and art, I don't really like minimalism because they're too simple and I feel like there's nothing there, unlike the ones we have generations ago. I don't know, what do you guys think?

Damon and Pythias. - Refer to Chapter 5 for more notes.

 

Ganymede with Zeus as an eagle

  • Ok, trivia time: I'm pretty sure some people pick this up because of Rick Riordan or other sources, but for those who have no idea of who the heck is Ganymede, all you have to remember is that he is the cupbearer of Zeus. Well, technically, Hebe is the cupbearer of the gods, yes, but then again, we all know that Zeus can't get enough and always screws everything that moves (literally and figuratively speaking). So instead of scooping up a woman (like he always do), he ends up scooping a man, I mean: a boy! Yes, in many art depictions, including Rembrandt and Correggio among others, Ganymede is often portrayed as a young man, and in other cases, a cherub... and he's being carried to Olympus with Zeus disguised as an eagle... yeah... anyway, it's also interesting to note that there are some people who thought of this whole thing as more "heterosexual" (IDK how), but they must remember, Ganymede's name in Latin is Catamitus, from which the word Catamite is derived. What's "Catamite" you ask? It is a pubescent boy who had an intimate relationship with a man, especially in a pederastic relationship: a socially acknowledged romantic relationship between an adult male and a younger male usually in his teens (Ereri/Riren fans could relate to this). That's right, the story of Ganymede is meant to portray this relationship in Greek society. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is one of the great grand-daddies of yaoi, and in some cases: shota.
  • Furthermore, the gods love Ganymede that they decided to let him stay in Olympus to maintain his youth. He became the cupbearer of the gods (along with Hebe) but he usually commits his service to Zeus. And Zeus himself, as a remembrance of the boy to his parents, placed a constellation of Ganymede in the sky, and that constellation is none other than Aquarius (SHOUT OUT TO ALL AQUARIUS!!!)

"Rembrandt and Correggio"

  • Rembrandt - one of the best master painters of the Dutch Golden Age for his using a chiaroscuro lighting in his paintings (and one of my personal favorites). He painted The Abduction of Ganymede
  • Correggio - one of the best painters of the late Italian Renaissance. His version of the Ganymede painting is entitled: Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle as part of the series of Jupiter's Loves.

"The Brit blushed and looked away from him, 'It's not like I was thinking of you, wanker! I just don't like dust. They are disgusting, that's all!' But all of that tsundere explanation was awarded by a pinch on the cheek and an attempted-kiss from the Frog."

  • Guys, I have to.

December 13, XXXX

  • Russia and China's wedding day
  • Ok, so originally, I planned to make it December 23 because President Boris Yeltsin made his first official visit in China on December 23, 1992. I made it December 13 for the sake of the story's timeline. Also so that Alfred could make fun of the 13 being an unlucky number.
  • I placed it on December because:
  • Russia's winter
  • December 23, 1992 - Pres. Yeltsin first visit in China.
  • December, 1998 - Russia and China issued a joint communique pledging to build an 'equal and reliable partnership'. And they see the US as the main competitor.

Plum blossom is China's national flower while the Camomile is Russia's national flower (I thought it's the sunflower but when I searched it up, it's not. IDK tell me if I'm wrong guys)

 

Tangzhuang - another traditional Chinese clothes. Though I don't think this is what the Chinese wore in weddings, but in contemporary times, it seems like anyone can wear anything.

 

Irunya is Ukraine's Human name; Natalya is Belarus (Obviously)

 

Duck and Kurnik - In China, duck is considered as a Chinese Wedding Cuisine as they believed that they symbolize fidelity; Kurnik is a Russian pirog, usually stuffed with chicken or turkey, eggs, onions, rice or kasha, is served in weddings by either the bride or groom, in the groom's case it is decorated with human figurines (if it's the bride, it's decorated with flowers).

 

By the way, even though Yao and Kiku's mother is called Mrs. Honda, Yao's last name is still Wang after his father; Mrs. Honda took Kiku's father's last name after Yao's father died and she married him.

 

"limited rights in times of war"

  • For those who don't know, this is literally a reference to the fact that "during war, the laws are silent." Hence, the whole purpose why President Lincoln suspended the Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, and why the Patriot Act was passed around the time of 9/11.

"Alfred-san, think like Magritte"

  • Ok, so Rene Magritte is a Belgian surrealist artist and his famous works include: Golconda (the one where the figures are raining down), The Son of Man (a man in a tuxedo with a green apple as his face), and of course The Treachery of Images, which includes an image of a pipe and an inscription underneath that says "This is not a pipe" (in French). This is what Kiku is referencing since one of the explanations of the "Pipe" painting is that: it is not a pipe because it is just a picture, not the exact pipe but a representation. Hence, that is why Kiku explained that the people will only see a counterfeit of a nude body, whereas Alfred, the artist, will see his actual body.

Kiku's speech in the end- as much as I don't want to say spoilers- is (a bit of) foreshadowing.

 

Chapter Text

“So, are you planning to stay overnight?” Alfred asked as he handed him a cup of coffee.

 

 

“I mean if it’s fine with you and your parents. My brother and Ivan are on their honeymoon, as you may know. And my mom won’t be home until tomorrow. So, nobody’s home except me.” Kiku answered as he let the hot surface of the cup warm his fingers.

 

“Same,” the blond took a seat beside him on the couch. “You can tell that literally this house is like a ghost town. Dad is working out of town and he’ll be back by Sunday. And Pops have to stay in the hotel so he could pick up Mattie and Gil from the airport.”

 

Kiku raised his eyebrows. “Wait, so Matthew-san and Gilbert-san are coming back from their Germany trip?”

 

“Yeah, but I heard that there are some delays, and that’s why Pops booked a hotel room near the airport. I’m not sure when they’re coming back, but anyways, you can stay here. And my parents won’t mind, because why wouldn’t they? They love you.”

 

The smaller man blushed at his smile and sipped his coffee. “So, when do you want to start painting?”

 

“Anytime when you’re ready,” Alfred said.

 

Ten minutes later, after Kiku told his mom that he was staying over at Alfred’s, they went upstairs in the studio/attic.

 

* * *

 

It seemed like Kiku was walking into a triangular cavern. The attic art studio is well-ventilated, and it would be dark if it weren’t for the windows across and on the sides. There is an easel along with a chair and canvases on the other side. A drawer- full of oil paints, pallet knives, brushes, odorless paint thinner, and a disposable pallet on top of it- besides it, and a cabinet of miscellaneous objects such as hats, sculptures, spheres, cones, basket, plastic fruits, the eagle, etc. There is a chaise lounge situated between the light and shadows, and a coat rack at the corner.

 

“Wow, this place is rather intriguing,” Kiku commented. “I like it, and it’s pretty clean for an art studio whose artist is using oils.”

 

Alfred smirked while rolling up his sleeves. “It won’t be long until the floor is smudged with pigment and linseed. This whole place will be rank and dirty anytime soon, so it’s a fair warning.”

 

“I know, and don’t worry, I’ll get used to it,” Kiku said softly as he took off his jacket.

 

The blond moved closer to him as the latter followed suit. “Ok, so here’s the deal: I will use you as a model for my two paintings.”

 

“Right.”

 

“So, there will be times that I might take longer than expected, but I’ll do my best to work faster.”

 

“It’s perfectly fine, Alfred-san.”

 

“We will do the Baroque painting first. The theme would be Ganymede and Zeus as an eagle.”

 

“That sounds interesting.”

 

“You’ll be half-naked the entire time-”

 

“I’m aware.”

 

“But just in case, I have a robe for you-”

 

Kiku grabbed him by the sides of his face and placed a kiss on his lips. “You will do wonderful. I trust you…”

 

As he calmed down, he grabbed his waist, and Alfred pecked his lips again. “... Are you ready now?”

 

“Mhm… whenever you are, darling…”

 

The taller man pulled away and said, “Okay, you can undress now, but keep your boxers on, you don’t need to take them off. Then you cover yourself with the linen; it is on the couch- chaise, by the way,”

 

As Kiku willingly followed his instructions, Alfred went to the cabinet and took the eagle where Francis last left it. By the time he turned, Kiku was already on the chaise-lounge, covered in coyly in a white sheet, porcelain skin drenched in bright light, flushing cheeks, slightly parted lips, beautiful hollow eyes. An image that nearly drove Alfred into a world of pleasure, where he could see that body sprawling and glistening in sweat. Shaking that thought off, he continued to instruct him, although he was struggling to find his words.

 

“Can you lie down, for now?”

 

He obeyed.

Alfred placed the eagle on the head of the chaise and adjusted its head and wings so it was hovering above the smaller man. He made Kiku loop his arm around the eagle’s neck, and let the other relax on the pillows (mimicking as rocks). 

 

“Now, move your head back.”

 

“Like this?”

 

“Perfect! Then let your legs relax. Just let them splayed apart, make yourself comfortable.”

 

  As Kiku did so, Alfred went up and adjusted the linen, which covered only his lower regions, and moving some of the cloth aside in order to expose some of the flesh before moving to shot some of the windows and opening some lights in order to achieve the perfect shading where the shadows are situated perfectly.

 

Now I am not a painter myself, but the process of painting and sketching has always been intriguing to me, after all, my adoptive brothers and I have been raised in the world of European culture. But anyway, based on what Alfred and Kiku told me: first, Alfred made a quick sketch of the painting, technically an outline. Next, he made the underlayer using raw umber paint mixed with water soluble linseed oil and mineral spirits, and let the painting sit there for thirty minutes or more. Then, the actual painting begins. For Kiku’s part, in this session at least, he did his best to lay still, and while there were moments when he has cramps, Alfred gives him time to recover and back to the actual position. During the thirty-minute break, he was allowed to stretch and chat with him before they were ready to resume.

 

Throughout the entire time, Alfred focused on where the lights and shadows hit the most, painting the lighter ones with opaque colors and darker one with high levels of transparency using the linseed-mineral spirits mix.Staring back and forth from the the actual figure to the painting, he couldn’t help admiring Kiku’s form: his arms, legs, the shape of his facial features, the lanscape of his torso- then back to his painting, staring at it as a work of blasphemy. In his thoughts, for him, he failed to capture Kiku’s perfection in the painting, he felt like he just vandalised a masterpiece with his own two hands, and someone or anyone should punish him for that.

Kiku stared at the eagle’s eyes, its beaks, and its rows of feathers. And yet, he could see Alfred’s fleeting gazes at him without even looking. The feathers on the bird’s head became softer as the hours and minutes passed; he grew comfortable with its dead stare, and the artist’s presence while he was in his vulnerable state. His chest heaved at the picture of Alfred F. Jones in that white dress shirt, rolled-up sleeves, suspenders, beige pants, turpentine-smudged shoes, and his serious expression. To be in that position felt… strangely delicious… the bristle against the canvas sent tingles down his spine, the slight pungent smell of the paint and oil was intoxicating, the light from the window and the lamp felt like he was exposed, bathed in the spotlight for the entire audience to see his naked body. It was humiliating, but it was different, even close to satisfying, especially with that man, that American, his Alfred was around. 

 

“How are you doing, Keeks?” he asked.

 

“I’m fine, thank you. What about you?”

 

“I’m not yet done, but I’m good. Also, just give me fifteen more minutes and we’ll do the next painting.”

 

“Mhmm…” Kiku hummed.

 

* * *

 

“Here, it’s black tea. I don’t have green tea here, though.” Alfred said while handing him the teacup.

“Oh, thank you,” Kiku said as he took a sip. “Mmm… interesting, it’s really good, and it smells like lavender.”

 

Alfred laughed a little and sat beside him. “That’s because it’s Pops’ tea, not Dad’s. We ran out of Earl Grey and we’re only left with Breakfast in Paris.”

 

The Japanese blinked in surprise. “Wow, Mr. Bonnefoy really has some good taste. Even his coffee is the best.”

 

“Thank you!” the blond grinned.

 

“You’re welcome!” 

 

They sat in brief silence.

 

“So,” Alfred started, “about the next painting… this is gonna be tougher.”

 

“How come?”

 

“You’re gonna strip naked, like real naked…”

 

Kiku paused. “Okay. I mean, I already went through this far only in my underwear so what am I expecting?”

 

“I’m just saying to give you a bit of a headstart.”

 

“You’ve already done it since yesterday.”

 

“Safety first, Keeks.”

“Al, I’m always safe with you, so don’t worry. Just do your job so we can get over with it.”

Alfred sighed in agreement. “Whatever you say, sweetheart…”

 

* * *

 

Alfred had to look away while Kiku was taking his underwear off. By the time he faced him, that raven-haired man was standing there like a Botticelli's Venus: hand on his chest. Neither region covered with nothing but the linen he used earlier with his other hand holding it. Head slightly tilted. One side of his body in shadow, while the other in the sunset light. Lips pressed lightly. And eyes staring back at him with that familiar gaze.

The American held his knows and looked away, prompting the other to ask him,

 

“Alfred-san, are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, I’m good. I just held back my sneeze.” of course that was a lie. “Could you move to the couch- chaise?”

 

While digging into this part of the narrative, it came to the point where Alfred reluctantly showed me the painting. And let me tell you, beautiful and amazing are two understatements to describe this piece.

    Kiku is there on his stomach, on a cream-colored chaise. Elbow propped up with his head in his palm; his other hand on an open book rimmed with red leather covering, his fingers softly grazing on the page. The curve of his back seems to mirror a valley. The tip of his shoulder blade is lightest as his skin gradually darkens due to the shadow. His bottom, plump and round, which leads the viewer to his legs: his right leg splayed straight across the mattress, and his left leg was bent to hide his private areas. His skin is smooth like a porcelain doll, with the light playing on the right spots, and the shadows dancing where it needs to be. His hair is dark even with the glazing of the light, making a dark brown shadow. And his face, the best out of his features, is almost indescribable. Those hollow, soulless eyes in which Alfred added a reflection of light, like the moon with the sun. Those red cheeks like fresh cherry blossoms. Those petite lips opened slightly, formed a very faint smile, and are also glazed as if someone had just kissed him. A beautiful, beautiful figure, and yet, there is so much ambiguity of what he is to me or to you, like the Mona Lisa- like the Girl with a Pearl Earring. The details starting with the brushwork are soft and slightly blurry. It is not like his usual impressionist style of artwork, it is realistic but the lines are blurred while he put more accents on the colors and shades.

    This piece is entitled: Ore no Gekkou.

 

    While he painted this, Alfred found himself contemplating whether he should show this to the entire world or keep it to himself. Of course, he needed it for the credit, but in his conscience, in his deepest sentiment, he would rather hide this away unless fate would force him to reveal it for some reasons unknown yet. What made him think and consider this? I mean, look at him. Look at that man, lying comfortably on the chaise, reading in peace while taking glances at the painter in front of him. As the hours past, he grew more comfortable, taking this task seriously and shamelessly. But he couldn’t help admiring this beautiful creature… he was lucky to be in love with him…

 

    As Kiku flipped the next page, he felt his eyes dropping slowly, and his arm couldn’t hold his head any longer. 

 

    “Keeks?” he heard Alfred called silently.

 

    “Yes?” he replied, rubbing his eyes.

 

    “It’s alright if you wanna take a nap. I got most of the details, so you’re fine.”

 

    “Okay…” Kiku mumbled and yawned. “I’ll just stay in this position, just in case…”

 

    “Sure, whatever makes you comfortable, sweetheart,” Alfred said while smiling gently.

 

    “Are you sure, you’re okay with me sleeping here?” he asked, even he already had his eyes closed.

 

    “Keeeeeeks…” Kiku chuckled at the “sternness” in Alfred’s voice before he was quickly wrapped in a dreamless sleep.


 A/N (notes and references)

  • This chapter is brought to you by Titanic.

  • Most of the notes below are just FYIs and based on personal experiences.

  • Based on my experience with oil paint, the studio should be reeking with a very strong smell of linseed oil, paint, and turpentine, even if it is odorless. (Just an FYI).

  • Also, finishing two portraits of oil paint in one day is very, very unrealistic.

    • Oils take more than 24 hours to dry, let’s say up to a week unless they use liquin or water-soluble supplies.

  • Models can hold their posts as long as they could so long as they are comfortable, and yes, they always take breaks.

  • BTW, I also got the idea of Kiku dressed in linen (as Ganymede) with an eagle hovering from a fan art where he is naked and wrapped in an American flag and it was Alfred who hovered above him.

    • I mean it would make sense since the (Bald) Eagle is America’s symbol, right?

  • Another art FYI: using an underlayer painting is helpful in terms of where to add the lights and the darks. It is the foundation of the actual painting (so if this where the human anatomy: the sketch is the skeleton, and the underlayer is the muscles). The underlayer takes a day or two to dry if you are using water-soluble linseed oil and paint, and mineral spirits (or odorless turpentine). So having it dry for only 30 minutes is exaggerated.

  • “darker one with high levels of transparency using the linseed-mineral spirits mix”

    • This is true! You can make the paint transparent using this method.

    • Also, in traditional painting, artists usually leave the darker areas of the underlayer with transparent colors because it creates a good effect with the shadow. Take a closer look at Mona Lisa’s hair and you will still see the underlayers of the raw umber/ brownish color.

  • Breakfast in Paris

    • It is actually a real black tea with lavender scent. And yes, it is also my personal favorite, and I can imagine France liking this two, not only because it says “Paris”, but also because it fits his taste. 

  • Mona Lisa and Girl with a Pearl Earring

    • Mona Lisa - by Leonardo Da Vinci. (Do I have to explain more?)

    • Girl with a Pearl Earring - by Johannes Vermeer. This painting is nicknamed as the Mona Lisa of the North because it has that same feel of ambiguity about the figure. At the same time, the figure herself, like the Mona Lisa, draws the viewers’ attention.

  • “Those hollow, soulless eyes in which Alfred added a reflection of light, like the moon with the sun.”

    • Alfred is like the sun here. Starting from his personality to physical description, there is no doubt that he is a “summer’s child”, especially when he is born in July when fireworks are high in the sky. Whereas, Kiku is like the moon. His eyes are hollow, and his white/light skin would fit for a night deity. And adding to his aura of mystery, he fits enough to that description.

    • Relating to the bullet above, this whole quote is a metaphor of how Alfred, being the artist, gives light or gives the spotlight to Kiku, an unknown model, hence giving him this sort of fame if Alfred ever wants to publicize the portrait.

    • Ever since the beginning of this fanfic, it was Alfred who gives “light” to Kiku, just like how the moon earned its light from the sun.

    • Hence the title of the painting: Ore no Gekkou (meaning: My Moonlight in Japanese).

  • Before proceeding to the next chapter:

    • The next chapter will be a third-person narrative, so this means our narrator won’t be present throughout the entire time until the next, next chapter. 

    • We will finally have our FIRST EVER LEMON / SEX SCENE!!!!

Chapter Text

It was already black outside by the time Kiku woke up. The time in his phone said 8:50 pm, and he looked around the studio, observing and searching for any signs of movement. Most of the stuff was left where they where last- the book, the linen, the eagle, the first painting- everything was in place. His eyes drifted to the figure in front of the easel; Alfred F. Jones had his suspenders and three buttons were undone. His head was thrown back against his chair, his paintbrush dangling between his fingers, and his palette sat there beside his foot. Kiku moved to his side and took a peak of his last painting.

As expected, it was wonderful. Detailed and blurred. Light and dark. He knew it was him in that gentle glow, and yet it felt like a different person. He found himself covering his mouth, so he could only whisper compliments while not disturbing him (yet). He stared back at his counterfeit like a sepia photograph, then to the artist, whose slightly parted lips and tired eyebrows showed his devotion to this masterpiece. He smiled at him lovingly, lifting his hand to pat his head before looking back at the painting.

 

A few minutes later, Alfred woke up at the touch of lips on the corner of his mouth and the light grazings of the fingers on his jaw. He turned and saw that beautiful muse from his painting.

“Good morning, my love…” he said under his breath, earning him a soft laugh from the latter.

“Good evening, Alfred-san…” Kiku adjusted the linen around his body. “It’s already nine o’ clock. I think we should call it a night, eh?”

Alfred looked at the window and noticed how the sky was already pitch black. “Oh shit, I didn’t even clean up earlier.”

“We can do it now. There’s no need to rush.”

“Right… tell you what, you can go dress up and have some coffee or soda downstairs while I clean up this mess and meet you later.”

“Don’t you want any help with the paint? The turpentine, maybe?”

“Nah, it’s alright,” Alfred got up and stretched. “I can take care of it, paints are a mess to clean up so…”

“Then I’ll put away the eagle and the linen then.”

Alfred was about to object but the sight of Kiku shrugging the fabric away from his body, revealing his nakedness while facing away from him left him… speechless… those subtle curves and the plumpness of his flesh were too tempting. What would it feel like to grab him right there? Grab him by the waist and grind his painfully hard member against his buttocks? What would his nipples feel like if he pinched them? Licked them? Sucked them? Would he hold back a moan? Would he groan if he pulled away? Would he pull his hair to urge him to fuck him senselessly? What would it feel like if he was in him? Would he fit in? If he started rocking them back and forth, would he respond with the same rhythm? If the neighbors could hear them, would he cover his mouth or cover his face? What would he sound like if he called his name? Begging him to move faster? Violating him until he could no longer talk or think? What would-

“Alfred-san?” Kiku called.

“Uh… yeah?” Alfred tried to hide his blush in the shadows.

“Where do I put this?” he held up the linen.

“In the closet, along with the bird.”

While he did so, Alfred scrapped the paint form the palette before cleaning it up. Then washed the brushes, put away the turpentine and linseed in another cabinet, placed the easel in the corner, and set the painting on the side with the first one. Throughout these activities, the lewd thoughts he had in mind earlier seemed to slip away. Little did he know that he was going to get what he was asking for.

 

* * *

 

They just finished their coffee downstairs and now they were heading up, again.

“Alfred-san, if it isn’t too much trouble, can I take a bath?” Kiku asked shyly, following him after in the stairs.

“Sure, man. There’s no trouble. You can take the bathroom on the right, and I’ll bring you some towels.”

“Thank you…” Kiku said as he clutched his stomach, he could feel something fluttering in him…

 

As he stripped off from his clothes, again, Kiku turned the knob and warm water emerging from the faucet. Focusing on the rushing sound of liquid, he let his mind wander in the bathroom’s white noise before he lifted his foot into the tub when the water was high enough to engulf him.

He sunk in then popping up his head slowly, washing with the soap and shampoo. Despite the lukewarm temperature, he felt goosebumps across his body as his hands wander from his arms, his chest, his stomach, his waist, his-

Someone knocked on the door.

“Keeks? I have your towel.”

He quickly sat up. “Yes, thank you. Y-you can come in!”

The door latched open and Alfred entered, putting the towel on the rack, he then turned to his companion. “How are you feeling?”

“Good!” the smaller man answered almost hesitantly.

“You sure?”

“Mhm.”

“Ok, so everything’s alright here.”

“Hai!”

“Ok, good. Just checking before I’ll leave and you can take-”

“Wait! Alfred-san-” Kiku called out as Alfred was about to leave the room.

The next thing they knew, they were staring awkwardly at each other. Alfred was waiting for him to continue. Kiku found himself mute, he tried opening his mouth but his words left him there, vulnerable… with a handsome blond specimen fully dressed.

“Umm…” he tried to start. “Alfred-san… I’m sorry- can you stay? I mean here? Stay for a little bit?... I’m sorry…”

Alfred blinked twice before he agreed to his request.

Then, there they were: one was sitting naked in the bathtub. The other, fully clothed, sat on the edge. They were silent as if someone just died. They didn’t look at each other in the eye but rather at the wall in front of them. Kiku twiddled his fingers, and Alfred played with the sting of his pants. Minutes passed until that long silence was broken by Kiku’s bashful sigh.

“I’m sorry…” he said. “I know this very awkward, and you may leave if you want to. It’s just- I don’t know what’s happening to me, and I just don’t feel like being alone now…”

“That’s completely understandable,” the latter answered with a smile. “And I’ll stay here as long as you want me to.”

“Your painting is so beautiful, by the way,” Kiku quickly came up a topic. “Especially the way you did it- it’s really beautiful. I couldn’t even describe it better.”

“Is it really?”

“Yes,” he answered enthusiastically. “I took a long look of it, and I can’t help but stare it for so long.”

Alfred replied with a raised eyebrow, “You know you can be serious with me when it comes to my painting-” 

“Oh, but I am,” he shifted closer. “I mean I am not an artist. But I am serious, especially when it is between you and me.” He had his palm on his leg, and all of those hesitations are replaced with sincerity. “I don’t know whether you love what you made or not. But you made something beyond words could describe. I love what you did, and you are so talented. That portrait of me- you just made me more beautiful…” he looked into his eyes. “And I am proud, lucky to be your muse…”

If anything had come into Alfred’s mind when he yet saw those dark brown eyes, the same eyes that stared back at him hours ago and he painted with oil, it was this sentiment, this pride, this passion of him that he belongs to this man. He let Kiku nuzzled himself in his palm while locking their eyes.

Alfred stooped lower until their lips nearly touched. “As much as I fully appreciate and thank you for your unconditional support. I would consider my art as a true masterpiece, but rather you are a masterpiece yourself, and that painting wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for you…” he pecked his lips. “Between you and I, I am one lucky son of a bitch.”

Kiku reached and hooked his arm around his neck. “We both are…”

Their kisses were slow, starting with small pecks with loud noises that urged them to kiss again. They sighed, moved their heads, bumping their cheeks and kissing them until Alfred whispered, “After all of your service, is there any way I could repay you?”

Kiku moaned at the touch of his tongue on his earlobe. “Join me in, Alfred-sama…” he whispered seductively before biting his ear, making Alfred let out a satisfying hiss.

“Okay, darling-” he groaned as the smaller man sucked his ear. “I promised you- I’ll stay here for as long as you want.”

He started unbuttoning his shirt, in which Kiku helped by almost ripping it apart. He unbuckled his pants, and let it fall. Then he untied his shoes, taking off his socks, and finally joined him in the water.

Kiku had seen Alfred shirtless so many times since high school. But at this point, they were both naked, literally. And yes, as much as he had already seen his body before, he didn’t get the chance to marvel it. Alfred, throughout those years, had grown fitter as he balanced his meals from fast food to (surprisingly) vegetables and going to the gym more often than normal. Kiku was awed by the density of his biceps, the thickness of his thighs, the muscles on his back, his firm buttocks, and the way his torso was sculpted- the muscles on his chest, and the faint definition of his abs- these lured him to taste his body, kissing, and taking in his musk while enjoying the humming sounds that came out of Alfred’s lips.

“Is this your first time, babe?” he groaned loudly when Kiku made wet noises while sucking his nipple.

“Mhm.” the brunette replied without looking up, still suckling his lover’s bud like a greedy child while kneading on the other.

“Liar-” the blond said in a hoarse voice. “Then why are you so good?-”

Licking it one last time, he moved up, placed his knee on either side of his leg and replied, “Because you’re making me feel good…” 

    Fisting a handful of blond locks, Alfred let his head thrown back as Kiku dipped his tongue into his mouth. Their tongues battled for dominance, which ended with the American sucking his tongue. Kiku took this moment as his own unconditional surrender; for him, having Alfred taking the reins was the most pleasurable experience he will ever have, after all, he knows what he’s doing and seemed to know his body better than him.

    Kiku wandered his hand across his chest, his abs, the base of his stomach, and then, his already-hard member. Touching the tip with his finger, tracing it, then took hold of it in his hand. Alfred gasped as he felt his lover squeezed his penis, and moaned when the brunette started pumping it while occasionally touching his testicles.

    “Are you having fun there, baby?” Alfred asked.

    Kiku smiled against his lips. “Not yet-”

    Sensing the mischief in his voice, he returned the smile and said, “Oh? What about now?”

    Kiku didn’t realize it until he felt two fingers twirling in his inside that he let out a high-pitched yelp, turning his face redder in heat.

    The American chuckled evilly, “I see, do you like it when I do this?” he started moving his fingers like scissors; Kiku slumped his head on the curve of his neck, breathing and wheezing while clawing his lover’s shoulder.

    “Alfred-sa-”

    Alfred was about to pull away his fingers.

    Kiku mewled and wiggled his ass in an attempt to keep them in his entrance. The taller man laughed at this gesture and lovingly kissed his head.

    “Oh, my baby boy,” he rubbed his back soothingly. “Do you want some more?”

    The smaller figure just nodded his head.

    “Alright, baby. But we have to get out of the tub first and finish it in our bed, okay?”

    “Okay.”

 

    He drained the water and helped Kiku dried himself with a towel before drying himself. As expected, his lover was impatient enough he didn’t hesitate to give him sloppy kisses. Alfred grabbed his butt-cheeks and massaged them, making the smaller man open his mouth and moan as Alfred took that an opportunity to invade his mouth.

    He carried him with his legs crossed around his waist. When they reached the bedroom, he dropped him on his bed before diving in and attacked his neck. He pinched his nipples with his teeth one after the other, and then dragged his lips to his stomach. Kiku smiled at the feel of his tongue across his body, and when he reached his pelvis, he was a bit disappointed since Alfred stopped, again.

    “On your hands and knees, baby…” Kiku obeyed. He could feel his thumbs parting his flesh, and then, something slimy entered him.

    “Aaahh! Al-Alfred-san! Wait! Ah! Nn~! Don’t- It’s dirty in there-”

    “Then let me clean it up for you.”

    Kiku cried in ecstasy as saliva coated around his rim, and his tongue entered him making circular motions. He gripped the sheets and held back from screaming his head off while Alfred was moving his tongue in and out, and making humming noises that sent vibration down on Kiku’s backside. He was so close as he could feel himself trembling and his insides churning; he nearly went crazy when Alfred also added his finger and violated him by touching a bundle of nerves.

    “Al-Alfred- Alfred-san! Nn~! Th- there! Aaah! Aaah! Al-”

    Then he stopped.

    Kiku burst in a fit of frustration and buried his face into the mattress. “Alfred-san! Why??!!-”

    “Ssshhh…” came a voice behind him. “Relax, I’m just prepping you.”

    “You’re so cruel!”

    “Baby boy…” Alfred motioned Kiku’s head to face him. “It’s alright, I will make you feel better.”

    The Japanese looked over his shoulder, watching the American’s preparing his member with a condom on and a lube. He moved gradually to his backside until the tip poked the entrance; Alfred looked back at Kiku, who signaled him to keep going. He did so, but the more Alfred got in, the more he was tearing him apart. With his size starting to overwhelm the smaller man, the blond would stop often until he was told to continue to the point he reached the hilt. Alfred was kind enough to give Kiku more space to breathe and accustomed to his size.

    “Oh my god… You- you’re so big…” he said between gasps.

    “Darling, it’s alright to stop here if you can’t do it-”

    “No! No!” he reached his wrist. “Don’t pull away! I’ll be fine, just give me a second.”

 

    It took Kiku another five minutes to move his ass across his length, and Alfred willingly cooperated as he held his waist and rock them slowly. It wasn’t long until Kiku whimpered and urged him to go faster.

    “Alfred-sama! Harder!”

    He quickened the pace, and the slapping sounds of skin against skin became more evident in the house, mixed with the creaking of the bed, grunts, moans, and other lewd noises coming from their mouths.

    “Aaahhh!!! Hai! Hai! Soko- Soko, Alfred-sama!!!”

    Alfred focused on abusing that sweet spot as he reached around him and pumping Kiku’s penis, while his other hand was in front putting in his fingers into the Japanese’s mouth. The latter threw back his head as he saw a light flashing in his eyes; he licked and suckled Alfred’s finger, and cried when his lover bruised the side of his neck with a love-mark. Kiku used his hand to lift Alfred’s face and gave him wet kisses while moaning in his mouth.

    “Oh, baby- Can you feel me- Can you feel me inside-?” Alfred moaned.

    “Yes! Aaahhh! Yes! Aah! Oh! Al- Alfred!- Cum- I’m going to cum!!!”

    “Just cum in my hand, sweetheart! Oh~! Let me feel you in my hand!”

    “Alfred-sama!”

    “Fuck! Oh, fuck- Keeks! I’m gonna- ah!”

    White light burst inside.

    Alfred felt warm in his climax, as well as in his hand with his lover’s semen. Kiku plopped on the bed, whereas his companion sat back and licked his fingers clean. As he finally caught back his breath, the smaller man crawled to him and replaced his fingers with his own tongue, tasting himself in the American’s mouth… it was delicious…

 

* * *

 

They were now finally ready to sleep; Alfred was left naked in the sheets, however, he let Kiku wear a bathrobe and curled to his side. They lie there, the American’s hand on his shoulder, and the latter’s fingertips giving feather touches on the taller man’s abs.

“You are a tease!” 

The blond laughed at his remark. “But you love it!”

“No,  I don’t!”

“Oh, please. If I didn’t do that, you wouldn’t be that as excited as you were in the end.”

Upon hearing it, Kiku decided to keep his mouth shut.

“Awww! Come on, Keeks. Lighten up a bit!”

“But I’m tired~,” Kiku said mischievously.

“You’re not mad at me anymore?”

The smaller man shifted with a look of scrutiny. “That depends if you’re going to do that again,” then his tone changed, “that is if it’s alright for us to… do it again…?”

Reading the mood, Alfred moved him closer so that only he could hear him. “Do you want to?”

“After everything? I want some more, as long as you are fine with it…” he replied. His eyes are slowly dropping.

He smiled and said, “Of course, we will do it next time, my love…”

Kiku finally closed his eyes. “You are a real artist, Alfred-san…” he fell asleep with a smile.

Brushing the strand from his eyes, Alfred didn’t have anything else in mind other than he was the luckiest son of a bitch.

Chapter Text

If there is one mistake Alfred F. Jones ever made that he wish he could turn back the clock and, at least, attempt to redeem it, I would say a lot… and realizing that the door was not locked the entire time is one of them…

 

            “Hey, Al! We’re back-”

 

            Alfred immediately shot up and pulled the covers to his chest. Kiku hugged the robe around his body while cowering back in bed in an attempt to hide his embarrassment. And Matthew- sweet, darling Matthew froze in his place and stared at the scene in front of him which could only be summarised by three words: They are naked.

 

            Alfred was the most straight-faced out of the three as he just looked at his twin brother like he would look at a vegetable. Kiku was obviously the most embarrassed, despite the robe that covered most of his skin, since he looked redder than a newly cooked lobster. And (oh boy) Matthew was still frozen in time with his hand gripping the knob, contemplating whether he should talk then run away or run away and never talk, and looking at them like a toppled-down stack of pancakes.

 

            This three-people staring contest took more than a while before the loud guy decides to open his mouth. “So how’s the trip, Matt?”

 

            “Great!” Matthew replied without even blinking. “We were having a great time… too.”

 

            “Nice! Did you have any pictures? ‘Cause I’ve requested a lot of sightseeing!” he smiled (stupidly) while casually slouching in bed. Kiku turned to the dude beside him and couldn’t decide whether he was serious or joking around. Either way, it didn’t help their case.

 

            “Yes… pictures,” the other twin tried to process his mind after this entire “sightseeing” he just witnessed in their bedroom. I guess you can say that he would never get this picture out of his head?

 

            “I have pictures here with me, but they only require people who wear clothes. Underwear doesn’t count…” Matthew finally found his strength to move and mumbled his way out. “I’ll be in the tub if anyone needs me…”

 

            Thankfully, he closed the door for them, and now, they were left alone, again. Alfred just sat there comfortably in the sheets, and Kiku didn’t even move an inch for the last five minutes until the silence thickened. The smaller man turned to his companion, who randomly gave him one of the happiest smiles and said, “Good morning, honey!”

 

            “Ohayou gozaimasu, Mr. Alfred ‘I-did-not-lock-the-door-while-banging-my-boyfriend’ Jones…” Kiku replied.

 

            “Awww, Keek…” he pulled him into his lap and wrapped his arms around him. “Are you mad at me?...” he kissed his temple lightly.

 

            “I’m not mad,” he shifted in his hold but didn’t pull away. “I’m upset.”

 

            “After what happened last night?”

 

            “Well, you technically killed the mood earlier.”

 

            “Oh, come on! We were both in the heat of the moment and we don’t even give a fuck if the entire neighborhood heard us…” the American leaned closer until the tips of their noses touched. “Shall I remind you that none of this would’ve happened if you didn’t make the first move?...”

 

            That shut Kiku up real good as he found himself looking away from his face to hide the obviously growing red flush on his cheeks. Alfred genuinely laughed at him in response and smooched the side of his face. 

 

            “But you gotta admit, Keeks, it was fun, right?”

 

            In the end, he found himself smiling, too. And this is one of the many signs that prove how much he appreciates that this man, who was currently holding him like a bouquet of Chrysanthemums, is right- correct once again. He turned to stare back at those blue eyes and reminded himself that even if the world is messed up, he will still be part of it- part of him. Kiku pulled him for a kiss, long enough to satisfy either of them and said, “You were a tease.”

 

            Alfred laughed and quickly kissed him. “You love it, though.”

 

            “Did you?” he was now straddling his waist.

 

            “As long as I can hear your whining loud and clear, yes.” the blond dipped his head on the skin between his chest.

 

            Kiku sighed at the brush of his lips, followed by teeth and tongue. “Alfred…” he tried to get his attention, but it only came out as a sated moan. He gripped his hair, which only made the American continue and made himself hot between his legs.

 

            “Wait- Alfred-san-”

 

            “Hmm?”

 

            “We have to go. Mr. Bonnefoy is downstairs and I think my mother will be back anytime.”

 

            “Oh, right?” Alfred chuckled awkwardly and pulled away from him. “‘Sorry about that, Keeks. I got carried away, again.”

 

            “Daijoubo da yo. Oh, can you get my clothes? I think I left them in the bathroom and I don’t want to disturb, Matthew-san… you know, especially after what happened…”

 

            “Sure thing, pal. Leave Maple Boi to me,” the Japanese just laughed behind his back when he said this.

 

            The blond dressed in pants and sweatshirt before leaving him in the room to the bathroom. Kiku plopped himself back to bed and hugged the sheets. He couldn’t believe what just happened.

 

* * *

 

            “Hey, Pops!” 

 

            Francis Bonnefoy looked up from his phone and saw Alfred and Kiku descending on the stairs. “Ah, Bonjour, mes petits! I just got a call from your Dad, and he said he’ll be home tonight.”

 

            “Ok,” Alfred said. “Where’s Gil?”

 

            “I already took him home on the way back,” he fixed his hair before turning back at them. “So how’s everything? Were you guys having fun while we're out?”

 

            “Yes!” Kiku quickly answered, prompting a raised eyebrow from the Frenchman. “Alfred did a great job with his paintings. I mean we spent hours doing it, but he did most of the work.”

 

            “Yeah, that’s about it,” the American secretly winked at him. “Anyways, Pops, Keeks is going home, like pronto. So is it okay if you take him to his place or-”

 

            “Oh, no!” the smaller man waved his hand as a gesture. “It’s not really necessary-”

 

            “Nonsense, mon cher,” Francis interrupted. “Don’t trouble yourself walking when I’m here to take you. It’s absolutely fine and we can guarantee you’re safety. After all, you can’t refuse an offer.”

 

            “Well,” Kiku turned away as his cheeks became red, “if you insist, then I thank you.”

 

            “Great!” the older man started to exit. “I’ll start the engine and you can come out whenever you’re ready.”

 

            As soon as they heard the front door closed, Kiku lifted himself and pecked Alfred on the lips.

 

            “Well, Alfred-san, I’ll see you next time.”

 

            “And I’ll update you what Durus is gonna say about the blood and sweat I shed on this crap.”

 

            Kiku smacked his chest lightly. “You’ll do wonderful!” he insisted.

 

            Alfred sighed and let his forehead dropped on Kiku’s. “Let’s just hope for the best, Keeks…” he said under his breath. “Let’s just hope for the best,” he grazed his fingers over his cheek. “But thank you for everything- like, really… this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for you…”

 

            Kiku smiled at him gently and kissed his palm. “I just give you a little nudge, Alfred-san. In the end, you’re the hero of your story.”

 

            “Yeah, but you are my life saver.”

 

            The brunette chuckled. “Stop! That’s too much.”

 

            “I’m just being honest here.”

 

            “You’re so corny.”

 

            “I know, I’m your corny boyfriend.”

 

            “And what does that make me?”

 

            “A trash, but you already knew it.”

 

            “I know.”

 

            And this went on for some time until Kiku was ready to go and Alfred stayed in. Later, while he sipped his hot chocolate, Francis finally came back and joined him in the living room where he turned on the record player with one of Cole Porter’s songs:

 

            Birds do it, bees do it

            Even educated fleas do it

            Let's do it, let's fall in love

 

            There was this casual silence in the air, not the usual awkward one where no one couldn’t come up a sentence or two to break the tension. No, in this case, it’s just father and son enjoying old-time music. Francis realized that this scene is too familiar, too nostalgic; I mean, it could be the music, but he knew it wasn’t that… and now, there he was, sitting on the same couch with the same person, except that it wasn’t exactly her, but rather her son- her flesh and blood. But even Alfred himself wasn’t the same as he was twenty years ago. Francis looked at him and thought to himself if this was the same boy he looked after when he lost his mother. In other words, Francis had lived his life long enough to understand and sense what’s in the minds of young people- thoughts that could change people in some ways. And with that, he asked himself: Is this the same Alfred F. Jones?

 

            Alfred found this silence comforting. It is something they share, not they try to escape from. He focused on the sweetness of his own hot chocolate and the lyrics of the song which went on like this:

 

            Romantic sponges, they say, do it

            Oysters down in oyster bay do it

            Let's do it, let's fall in love

 

            “So… did you two do it?”

 

            Then the record player in Alfred’s head suddenly stopped.

 

            “What?”

 

            Francis was already smirking at him. “Don’t play toy with me, little man. I can smell that you two were up to something.”

 

            Alfred rolled his eyes. “Pops, stop assuring yourself.”

 

            “He is wearing your scarf, Alfred!” the Frenchman noted loudly.

 

            “Yeah, because it’s cold outside,” the younger one argued.

 

            “That’s the oldest excuse in the book for someone who has a hickey on their neck.”

 

            “We didn’t have sex!”

 

            “Oh, come on! You know you can tell me.”

 

            “And what?! Tell it to Dad?!”

 

            Francis made a sound in what seemed to be a really sarcastic laugh and said, “What is he gonna do? Throw me on the bed and fuck me? Pffft! He’ll just give you a lame lecture for doing something you love. So no, I won’t tell.”

 

            “Wait,” Alfred began, “What did you say before that?”

 

            “So how did you do with the paintings?”

 

            The younger man bit his lip. “Pretty good, I guess…”

 

* * *

 

            Francis was crouching as he checked the techniques, the colors, and contrasts of the paints he used. So far, at least for him, he found Alfred’s works close to impressive considering the hours he spent doing three projects. Whereas Alfred stood behind him kicking some invisible dust.

 

            “Who do you have? Durus?”

 

            “Yeah…?”

 

            “Well, he can say whatever he wants until his tongue goes stiff and falls from his yapping gab,” Francis started speaking while he settled himself up. “But your work shows that you’re way advanced from your level.”

 

            Alfred’s face lit up. “Do you really think so?”

 

            “Yes!” The Frenchman said with sincerity. “I love how you did with the Zeus as an Eagle and Ganymede painting. It reminds me of a Caravaggio.”

 

            “Um, Pops, don’t you think that comparing my work to Caravaggio’s is more like an insult fro the master artist? ‘Cause I’m not even close to ‘good’.”

 

            Francis moved to his side and wrapped his arms around him before kissing the side of Alfred’s head softly as if he was a newborn baby. Then Francis said, “What can I say? I know and love my artists, and you are one of them…”

 

* * *

 

            Mr. Durus stared at the paintings back and forth, with Alfred at the corner waiting for the verdict. His teacher was holding a clipboard and a pen, and, at times, leaning closer to the canvas for some other details. In the end, as he waited long enough, Alfred finally got a word out from him.

 

            “Outstanding!”

 

            He blinked. It was a bit unexpected.

 

            “This is much better than before, or rather, what I expect.” Mr. Durus continued, almost as surprised as Alfred saying that big, rare vocab to him.

 

            “So, did I pass?” Of course, he did! He knew it; he just wanted some confirmation.

 

            “Fortunately, yes, Mr. Jones,” the old man said bluntly and scribbled on his clipboard. He waited for another minute before he looked up at him and said, “That reminds me: if you don’t mind, I’ll include your paintings in the art exhibition.”

 

            “Really? Do you think they’re worth it?”

 

            “Yes… I mean…” What’s with the hesitation in his voice? Alfred followed his gaze and the first thing that his eye caught was not the painting of Ganymede and the Eagle, but the naked portrait of Kiku Honda. Was he seeing the same thing his teacher was looking at? We were never sure, however, it made him form a fist in his pocket and slightly glare at the old man.

 

            “I can see the effort in what you did, and it would be a shame if no one could see your hard work and appreciate it.” Alfred heard him speak. 

 

            It was clear enough that Mr. Durus was awe-struck of his works, and I think it was like a punch in the gut by the truth that this student, whom he deemed irresponsible, had proved him wrong and shattered part of his pride that he knew better. With that being said, Alfred was satisfied, at the same time, disdain (for a different reason). He didn’t mind parading his fame around the world, but he wanted it to go in his own way. And since he already exceeded his expectations, there was a possibility that he could also manipulate his decision. Let’s just see how far he could go:

 

            “It would be great if you include these babies in the exhibition if you want to.”

 

            “Of course-”

 

            “But,” Alfred stopped him. According to what he told me, he said that it didn’t take him a minute to come into this decision: “You can hang up the Ganymede and the model, just not this one.” He pointed at the painting of his boyfriend. Someday, he thought. But not today… 

 

            “Why?” the old man asked, looking a little distraught. “Is there any problem?”

 

            “No. It’s just personal. Nothing more.”

 

            Mr. Durus quickly answered, “Of course, I respect your choice, it’s just-”

 

            “Then, thank you, sir. If you don’t mind, I’ll take this home with me and I’ll see you tomorrow.” He picked up the portrait and readied himself to leave.

 

            The teacher sighed and said, “If you insist, Mr. Jones. Then it just leaves these two then.”

 

            “Right.”

 

            “Okay, that’s fine,” he finally settled with it. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

            Alfred nodded and left without a word.

A/N (notes and references)

 

  • I can’t even decide who I am in this situation: Alfred, Kiku, or Matthew (definitely Matthew).

  • “‘Yes… pictures,’ the other twin tried to process his mind after this entire “sightseeing” he just witnessed in their bedroom. I guess you can say that he would never get this picture out of his head?”

    • I’m really bad at making jokes or puns.

  • I am this close to make another sex scene.

  • Daijoubo da yo - It just means “that’s ok”. Kiku is just being informal here.

  • “”In the end, you’re the hero of your story.’” / “‘Yeah, but you are my life saver.’”

    • That’s the best I could do IDK.

    • I mean, it’s true though, right? 

  • The song Alfred and Francis were listening to is Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love), written by Cole Porter.

    • The song is first featured in the musical Paris (1928), and later found its way to Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris (which is a very beautiful film, and I recommend watching it). So this is why I imagine France and America listening to this together because of its French-American influence, and it’s just a really good song, and also the lyrics fit for the “conversation” (even though that’s not exactly what the song literally meant but oh well).

    • Birds do it, bees do it and Oysters down in oyster bay do it

      • I chose these parts of the lyrics because: the birds and the bees, and oysters are considered aphrodisiacs- hence it relates to their conversation involving sex.

  • In this chapter, I also provided an insight to France’s character in a philosophical light (because I love him and he’s my waifu).

    • In his own passage, he was having a nostalgic moment because he used to listen to the record player with Alfred and Matthew’s mom. But realized that time has passed and everything has changed including that she is gone and Alfred was growing up. This then leads to this fan-fic’s running theme of constancy like the North Star, and Kiku’s saying that he will always be the Kiku or Alfred he knows. In this case, France asks whether despite these changes, are things still the same as they were? With the mom gone- of course not. But looking at Alfred, he is like his mom, too, but he is also changing. Does it still make a difference? Who knows…

  • “Throw me on the bed and fuck me?”

    • Whops! My hand slipped!

  • Caravaggio

    • An Italian Baroque painter. Again, one of my personal favorites largely because of his shading and control of light and dark. Looking at his paintings, most of what he painted are almost in complete darkness with accents on the lighter areas. And I can imagine a Ganymede portrait painted in that technique (Chiaroscuro).

  • FRANCE IS A SWEETHEART

  • I know his encounter with his teacher is unrealistic but let’s go with it.