Chapter 1: Chapter I
22/5/2015, NYC, USA.
Kiku was generally a rather stoical man. Feli was big on smiling, laughing, crying, screaming, and emoting in general, and Ludwig defiantly had his moments, but Kiku tended to keep a straight face and quiet mouth. Feelings were important to him and shouldn’t be wasted by just giving them away. Besides, what did he need to show his feelings for when the only two people that mattered to him – the aforementioned Feli and Ludwig – could already read him like an open book? It didn’t stop him from breaking down at their funeral.
Had Kiku planned it, the affair would be quiet and formal, a chance to say goodbye to his two partners and pretend to mingle with equally grievous family members. He’d invite Lovino and Antonio, of course, for Feli, and Gilbert for Ludwig. Maybe he’d find Elizaveta and Roderich, as they’d raised Feli and were close to Ludwig, and possibly Vash and Lili as they were Ludwig’s cousins and he seemed to like them. As it happened, the event reached international news. ‘German representative for UN killed in tragic accident with Italian fiancé’ he’d read in the French Méteo. Thirty second page news. Almost five hundred people came, all in all, including camera men who’d never met them, business men who didn’t care for them, and… Yao. That was when Kiku broke down, when he saw Yao. His big brother who the last time he’d seen he’d tried to kill. He felt the guilt and sadness and loss crash over him like a wave and he collapsed into the man’s arms, receiving a tight hug and reassuring babble.
How could they be gone? It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, there was no way it could even begin to be right… The closed caskets he stood in front of told him otherwise. They glared at him, their wooden hearts as cold as ice, solid as steel, and cruel as the devil. If only Feli hadn’t driven, if only he’d sat in the front rather than Ludwig, if only they had never gone out, if only that driver hadn’t been drunk, if only, if only… As Kiku’s tears soaked into his brother’s shirt and his thoughts trailed into quiet, he promised himself one thing. He’d never let himself forget his lovers, not for one second. He would never leave them behind…
17/11/2016, London, England.
Two young men sat in a student flat in London playing video games in silence. The scene was peaceful, the murmurings of the game being all to break the quiet, its dull lights barely piercing the heavy dark of night. The two boys may have been lovers, the way they sat. The shorter, with eyes of onyx and hair of ebony, had his head curled into the taller’s chest, and body crumpled up like a cat. The taller had his arm resting casually around the shorter, as if drawing him into a hug, his sparkling blue eyes hidden behind thin frames glancing at dark hair from time to time, his own blonde sometimes falling onto black locks. As it goes, they were nothing but roommates, sharing for mainly financial reasons, just like most other roommates, but they were also friends, and these long nights playing games and reading manga together were the highlight of the shorter boy’s week.
“Hey dude, can you pass me the chips?” Alfred asked, breaking the trance Kiku had fallen into. He glanced at his friend, passed him the bowl, and turned his attention back to the game. It was one of Alfred’s favourites, an fps with very little story and a lot of action. It wasn’t Kiku’s thing but he tended to agree with Alfred regardless of what he wanted. Vash had come over a lot when they first moved in together and he’d been furious at Kiku’s compliance, probably thinking his willpower had died with his lovers. Maybe it had but Vash had stopped flying to England from his home in America every other week at about the two month mark so Kiku decided it didn’t really matter. What Alfred said was law and Kiku would just go with it, even if it was as ridiculous as when he’d once decided they’d bathe together to save water or when he decided they’d watch a horror film even though he knew he was terrible with frights, even non-threatening ones. That didn’t mean Alfred controlled him, it was just… He let out a sigh and shot a few pixel zombies. His roommate was talking about something or other but his mouth was so full of MacDonald’s chips he was unintelligible and Kiku began fading back into daydreams. He thought about playing the game with Ludwig and Feli there too. Ludwig would like it, most likely, and strategically trample hoards of the undead, though he’d be put off by Alfred’s screaming, and Feli might just get scared and hug him or Ludwig whilst crying until he was calmed down. Or would he? He knew Feli loved his manga collection but what did he think of video games? He felt like crying when he realised he didn’t know. What did Ludwig think of England? What colour were Feli’s eyes? Had Ludwig ever talked to him about why he wanted to be married in the spring? How had it been a year and a half?
“Kiku, dude, there’s a weird parcel here, it’s in funny characters. Man, is this Japanese? Dude, this is super cool! I think it’s from one of your siblings, you should open it!” Stuck in his thoughts, Kiku hadn’t realised his friend had answered the door, or that the doorbell had even rung, and he jumped slightly in surprise, “Woah dude, penny for your thoughts? Oh, ha, I sounded like super old then, like older than my old man! But you look, like, super depressed man, what’s up?” He stood up and turned to the blonde,
“It’s nothing, Alfred-san. You said there was a parcel for me?” The American beamed merrily,
“Yeah, dude, check it out!” He passed the Japanese man a brown paper parcel, a note stuck to it in Cantonese characters. Was it from Yao or Leon? No, Leon would of written in English, and the stamp wasn’t emblazoned with the Queen’s face, it couldn’t have been his nephew, and Yao hadn’t written since the argument, long before he’d even began dating Feli and Ludwig. Maybe it was Mei, she wrote occasionally and wasn’t averse to sending him her ideas for new clothing ranges. The parcel didn’t really look like paper though, and Kiku was pretty sure it was an old DS game. He felt for the indent in the side and confirmed his theory. His eyes were too bleary from the artificial light of them games and his head too tired to remember Yao’s old Cantonese lessons so he didn’t bother reading the front, instead carefully opening the present until a DS box fell onto his lap. It was pink with cherry blossoms covering much of the background and five anime men in school uniform in the foreground, the English words ‘Love For Dummies’ plastered over it. Who had sent him a dating sim? He turned to the back to see the description, wondering if it could shine more light on the situation and saw -
Who had sent him this? Two figures were on the back: one with slicked back blonde hair, dull blue eyes, and a slight smile gracing his masculine face, the second with wild, ginger waves, a curl falling to the left of his face, his face crunched up in a goofy grin, and his fingers in the peace sign. Ludwig and Feli. Anger unusual of Kiku came over him. Was this someone’s idea of a joke? How dare they make fun of him in such a cruel way? He would, he would….
“Hey, Kiku, dude, it’s a dating sim! Wow, that chick on the sides hot!” A large chested blonde was on the side, maybe your character. “Ugh, I hate that tall one on the front, he’s giving me the chills… Hey that one looks like me, and those ones like Mom and Papa! Hey, weird, a second ago I could have sworn there were only five dudes on the front, now there are six, and he looks like Mattie… Ha, what a coincidence, right!” Kiku stood up silently,
“Alfred-san, I’m sorry but I’m going to bed. Your fathers are coming tomorrow, right? You should get to sleep, Mr Kirkland was angry with you last time you were tired when he came round.”
“Uh, dude, why the sudden mood swing? You were happy like a second ago. Did I do something wrong?”
“No, Alfred-san, you are fine, I’m sorry for making you worry… Please, just look at the back.”
“What, it’s just two dudes. Are you like homophobic or something dude because I am not okay with that.”
“I… I never told you, did I, Alfred-san. I suppose it’s better like that. Good-night, Alfred-san.”
“Wait, but, Kiku dude! Don’t leave without me!” He sighed as his best friend left without another word, “Am I going to have to clean this up by myself? Dude…”
19/11/2016, London, England
Back in California, Alfred had loved Saturdays. Surfing in the morning, sunbathing in the afternoon, and partying in the evening, they’d just been a summary of everything he loved about his home town. In London, on the other hand, Saturdays were bleak, rainy chances to go to the pub for a pint or to lay at home sleeping and pondering about life and its meaning. His only real friends here were Kiku, who didn’t drink, Mattie, whose number and address he didn’t remember, and a pretty but creepy girl called Natalya who would sooner chop off his fingers than drink with him, which ruled out the first option, so here he was, casually dressed in jogging bottoms and a t-shirt, deciding if it was worth dying to try to speak to Kiku. Oh yeah, that… Kiku had been acting really odd recently, like really odd, odder than normal Kiku odd. All since he received that parcel…
Deciding it was worth the risk, Alfred kicked open the door to the Japanese man’s room,
“Hey dude, it’s like midday and you missed your classes yesterday so…” He trailed off when he saw his friend awake and staring at his worn, black DS, “Are you playing that game you got? The weird dating sim?” Kiku didn’t look up and Alfred heard the game make a soft jingle,
“You made me cookies, Ludwig-san? How kind…” The Asian murmured… Alfred moved to sit on his friend’s bed, the man not flinching or even reacting, and looking over his shoulder. The words were mainly Japanese but he saw a tall, stern looking blonde like from the back of the box, tagged with the name ‘Germany’. Why was he calling him Ludwig?
“Dude, have you been playing this the whole time? What’s wrong with you?” Now Kiku noticed him and practically jumped out of his seat,
“Alfred-san, when did you get here? Please do not say there’s something wrong with me, I am fine!”
“Nuh-huh, dude, you’re addicted to that creepy game!”
“Do not call it creepy, Alfred-san, it is beautiful!”
“No dude, you’re addicted, it’s creepy!”
“Yes!” Kiku’s eyes narrowed and he stormed out of the room, game in hand. What did Alfred do? He heard the front door open and close and realised he’d walked out in fury, a very not Kiku like thing to do. What was wrong with him?
Alfred was steaming now and raised his hand as a fist to take out his anger in the best way he knew how: to smash something of Kiku’s, but he faltered when he saw the picture on his bedside. It was Kiku with two men, two men who looked suspiciously like the characters on the back of the box, who Kiku had been ‘talking’ to on his game when Alfred saw him. Who were this people? The back drop looked like Munich, and he wondered if it had anything to do with the name ‘Germany’. Wait, what was he doing? Mom had always told him he shouldn’t be nosy and he supposed the older man must be right about some things. Besides, his friend was angry with him and that was more important than this Ludwig guy, right? Alfred doubted himself but put it behind him and left the room, and the photo, in search of Kiku.
It didn’t take long, he knew the Japanese man quite well, and found him at a small cat café owned by his Greek friend, Hercules, petting one of the cats mournfully as his friend sat next to him, lazily discussing cats or sleep or philosophy or whatever the Greek dude was into. Noticing him, Kiku tensed up and sent a warning look to Hercules. The Greek stood up and moved in front of his friend protectively. ‘God,’ Alfred thought, ‘He’s ripped.’ He was indeed very strong, a sporty man despite his laid back attitude.
“Hey dude, I’m sorry I upset Kiku, I really am, man.” Alfred tried to placate him. He glanced over his shoulder at Kiku, who nodded shortly, and stepped out of the way, still scowling. Kiku was nursing a mug of hot tea and staring down into the steaming liquid awkwardly, “I know I was wrong to call it weird, it just seemed like you were kinda obsessed, it was scaring me dude. I see now it made you sad, so sorry.” Alfred spoke quickly and left an awkward silence among the trio until Kiku responded with a quiet,
“I accept your apology, Alfred-san. You were not to know, it’s just personal history.”
“You mean that picture on your side?” Kiku’s eyes flashed up looking startled and Hercules said, his voice firm,
“Alfred, you have said enough. Kiku can stay with me for the night, he’ll be fine, but I think you ought to go now.” Alfred began to speak again but was cut off by a stern, if tired, glare from the Greek man.
Sighing, he turned around and went home, the hero defeated. A car was parked outside his flat, a blue Volkswagen beetle, and his mood lifting suddenly. It was fathers’ car and it had been several months since he’d last seen them and even longer since he’d seen Mattie, he’d forgotten they were coming round today! Reinvigorated with the prospect, he practically ran into the building, now filled with the scent of Kiku’s hot tea, roses, and a slight smell of… maple syrup? It didn’t matter to Alfred,
“Mom! Pops! You’re here!” Hearing their son’s voice, Francis and Arthur Bonnefoy-Kirkland stepped out from the kitchen to the sight of their son. Alfred ran up to the two men who’d raised him and swung his arms round their necks. They hugged him back, laughing merrily, before standing back so the boy could see his twin brother. Grinning even brighter, if it was possible, he embraced the boy emphatically,
“Oh my, it’s been such a long time since we last saw you, you’ve grown so much! I see from your kitchen you’ve been eating well, I do hope you’ve left Kiku some. How is Mr Honda, by the way, still the lovely young man he always was?” Alfred’s smile dropped slightly as his father spoke,
“Ohonhonhon, speaking of lovely young men, is there anyone special for you? I always want mon petit garcon to be popular, just so long as he sends me photos.”
“Ignore that b****y frog Alfred, don’t send him anything. I’m sure you don’t want your old men badgering you about such a thing… Then again, I’ve been wondering it too… Oh damn, look at the time, it’s almost two, we should be going.” Everyone nodded at his suggestion and Alfred felt himself losing all joy his family’s arrival. This was the reason they were here, this was what they all had to do.
It was almost three when they arrived. Alfred had always hated places like this, large but empty, sombre and ancient. Everyone else had already arrived, her friends, school mates, their grand-parents, their cousins, their aunts and uncles... Everyone in the hall was looking at them. Everyone. Not in awe or happiness or love but in sympathy. Heck, he was feeling sympathetic, and it was him who… Yeah. The family took their places at the front of the church and settled in as the priest moved to the front and began calling people to their seats,
“All right,” he began, “Everyone settled? Good. When then, if I may proceed, we are here to worship a most tragic yet beautiful thing, that on this day, five years ago, Miss Michelle Kirkland-Bonnefoy was bought into God’s reach and let free from this world. She, a beautiful, Christian girl of only fourteen years of age,” He continues to go on about how kind and obedient she was and Alfred thinks he’s being ridiculous. ‘After all,’ he says to himself as tears begin to bubble in his eyes, ‘my sister was a self-proclaimed atheist.’
Kiku’s way of dealing with stress was pretty bad to say the least. He didn’t sleep on it like Hercules or yell about it like Alfred, he would just keep it locked up inside whilst trying to isolate himself from it. That was what he’d done with Yao so long ago and that was what he had been doing with Ludwig and Feli. It was easier when he was with Alfred, someone entirely new, his brother’s father’s son who’d needed a roommate, and it had definitely been harder when Vash, Lili, Gilbert, Elizaveta, and Antonio had still been trying to see him regularly, but they’d given up when they saw how he was acting. Hercules was one of the two only friends he’d had before and after the accident, the other being Sadik, a Turkish man who argued almost constantly with Hercules and seemed to be vying over the rights to him. Kiku had once written fanfictions about the two, and Feli had drawn beautiful fan art. Even Ludwig had helped them, at least by baking cupcakes for them as they’d worked. He hadn’t since, of course, and it made him feel kind of lost. As he thought, he began to nod off onto Hercules shoulder, the Greek man letting him before falling asleep himself, a cat on each of their laps. A young worker by the name of Annalise took a photo and smiled to herself. She knew them well enough to know how broken both men were, they were just helping each other recover in the sweetest way possible. She couldn’t help but worry for the smaller, though. Kiku was broken enough, if he was hit anymore he’d smash…