"I'm saying that… you probably don't really love him, da? Or is it the other way around? Maybe you are Alfred's replacement…"
Kiku stared at the manga on his knees, thighs pressed against his chest. Even though his eyes were on the words and pictures, his mind was elsewhere. He couldn't forget what Ivan had said to him the other day; he couldn't take it off his mind. He heaved a loud sigh as he buried his face in his manga, curling on the floor of his room. Then he rolled on his back, staring at the dim ceiling. Just how much time had passed since his dazing off? Kiku ran his hand across his forehead, growling when he felt a headache coming. He should probably take some medicine.
A soft knock on his door gave him a start.
"Kiku, your boyfriend is here, aru," Yao's voice came booming, loud enough to be heard from outside the room.
"Oh, I see.. huh? W-wai—" He quickly scrambled to his feet, trying to make his clothes tidy. He had barely dusted himself when the door opened and Arthur stood before him. Kiku blushed at the look Arthur gave him. It was unusual for the British to come inside the house when he wore such improper clothes. He was only wearing a manga T-shirt and a pair of short baggy pants.
"Get out, please…" The British was cut off before he was even able to finish. He heard Yao snickering from the door.
"What?" Arthur asked him, slightly put out.
"Just get out for a moment, I'm going to change my clothes," Kiku quickly added, not wanting to offend his boyfriend.
"Why? Your clothes right now are fine."
"It's embarrassing! Anyway, just.. get—" He stopped when Arthur went inside instead and closed the door behind him. Kiku frowned, especially when Arthur began making himself comfortable near the small table.
"Just change, it doesn't matter… I certainly would love to see you undress." The grin and the statement made Kiku blush to the roots of his hair. Arthur ignored him good-naturedly as he spluttered.
Arthur looked around the room; he saw so many mangas, art books, and sketches. A small laptop that Kiku usually brought to the campus everyday was place on the desk, surrounded by numerous figurines. Posters of every kind were plastered on the wall, and a few even made it to the door of his cupboard.
"I've never entered your room before, and… it's hard to describe."
"You can say awful things if you want to. Just said that I'm an Otaku…" Kiku mumbled, face still red as he looked away. Arthur chuckled and looked down at the sketches Kiku had made, scattered on the tea table and on the floor. They were mesmerizing.
"Your drawings are so nice." Arthur picked an A4 sketchbook and opened it, flicking through the pages and staring at each one. Kiku was in the middle of taking out his formal clothes when he heard him. His eyes widened when he saw Arthur flipping the pages of his A4 sketchbook, the contents of which needed censoring the further he browsed.
"Ah! Wait, don't just open it as you please!" Kiku quickly leaped over him, trying to snatch the sketchbook, but Arthur dodged his flailing hands.
"I'm not done ye—" The blond stopped when he saw a sketch made from his likeness, pinning a character that looked remarkably like Kiku to a futon. Words failed him, while in the background Kiku's face now resembled an overripe tomato.
"I told you to give it back!" Kiku exclaimed, snatching the sketchpad. Arthur looked away, trying not to appear so flustered. His mind stopped thinking about the sketch when he noticed the drawing in Kiku's laptop.
"Did you draw this?" Arthur stood up and looked over the fanart Kiku had made. Kiku placed the forbidden sketchbook in a rack with his other mangas. He nodded a little, relieved that Arthur didn't say any more about his embarrassing sketch.
"Hee… you drew it with a pen tablet," Arthur said, stating the obvious. He sat on the chair, wanting to get a closer look. "Do you have some other illustrations?" Much to Kiku's horror, Arthur's hand had reached over the mouse and clicked the Minimize window button, revealing yet another uncensored yaoi picture beneath the first window. Both yelped… especially Arthur.
"What's this? That shocked me. I bet you will be so skillful when we—"
"Please don't say such indecent things!" Kiku said, slapping his hand over Arthur's mouth and wishing the ground would swallow him up. He would have never thought that his boyfriend would find out his secrets like this.
"Now, if you are satisfied, you can kindly leave my room and wait on the porch!" Kiku added, ushering him to the door and ignoring the British's groan.
"I'm not satisfied yet…"
"Arthur-san!" Kiku exclaimed. He gasped when Arthur suddenly turned around and hugged him. Arthur chuckled.
"You are a very interesting person, Kiku," he whispered.
"Please stop that. Just tell me the truth and say that you are disgusted with me now." Arthur stopped his teasing when he heard him.
"Why should I? It's the real you, so it's fine. I like you the way you are…" Arthur patted his head like a small child. Kiku rewarded him with an annoyed look.
"Ah… I so would like to test out what you've been reading in there," Arthur continued. He barely had time to shield his face before Kiku threatened to slap him because of embarrassment.
"Alright alright. No more teasing. I came here to ask you if you're free to go with me to the park. I just found out that there is a cake shop near there selling some really delicious pastries. Want to try it out?"
"Oh… well, that would be nice. I'll change my clothes then; you can wait outside." Kiku turned around and resumed his wardrobe-hunt. He was just pulling off his T-Shirt when he felt Arthur circling his arms around him from behind. He was able to tilt his head just enough to catch Arthur's smirk.
"Arthur-san…" he began, shoulders going stiff when he felt Arthur lick the back of his neck. He clenched his eyes tight, suppressing a moan. He twisted around, trying to push him away.
"Wait… It's…" Kiku watched, half out of curiosity and the other of anxiety, when Arthur moved to press their lips together like a slow-motion scene from a movie. Before he could even get close enough though, there were suddenly a series of very loud explosives noise coming from outside. Arthur yelped, completely ruining the moment. In the meantime, Kiku took the opportunity to wear his T-shirt back on, wondering if he should laugh or be sympathetic towards the British who was currently covering his ears and cursing loudly.
"What the deuce was that noise?" Arthur yelled over the racket. Kiku decided that he would laugh anyway.
"That's a very nice reaction Arthur-san," Kiku said, seizing the moment to tease his boyfriend back. "It's just Hong's firecrackers…" Kiku walked toward his window and opened it wide, exposing his brothers who were crouching underneath his window. Both looked up at him with sheepish smiles, obviously trying to disturb his moment with Arthur.
"Kiku Gege…" Hong slowly stood up.
"Did Yao-nii tell you to do that?"
"How did you know, da-ze?" Yong Soo leaped to his feet.
Hong grinned, knowing the jig was up. "He told me not to let the Brit do it with you under his roof…"
"Stop that bloody noise this instant!" Arthur yelled at Hong, scrambling next to Kiku. In vain he tried to control his panicking state, only to receive laughter from both of Kiku's brothers. The cherry on top was when Yao appeared with a smug grin on his face.
"That's the cue, aru. You should leave now; you are about to do some obscene things to my brother, aru!" Yao said as Kiku stifled a laugh, not defending his boyfriend at all.
"Geezz… such a warm and nice family…" Arthur mocked while turning around, both mad and embarrassed. Kiku patted his back.
"I did tell you to get out from my room and wait on the porch, Arthur-san. Now go; I'll change quickly and then we can escape this noise."
Arthur grumbled, but finally did what he was told. There was a final taunting snap! from a firecracker outside.
"Haah… your family is so closely-knit. I wonder what made you move away from that house that time, Kiku," Arthur said as they walked toward the street. Kiku's smile upon hearing his musings turned into full-blown laughter upon the memory of Arthur's yelping and panicking image.
"You were so funny when you started yelling like that," Kiku said.
"I can't help it! It surprised me a lot! A-anyway… the cake shop was near here I think… Ah there it is!" Arthur pointed to the small shop near the end of the street. They made for it hand in hand, enjoying the companionable silence.
As soon as they entered the café, Arthur and Kiku were greeted by a pair of painfully familiar men. Arthur groaned and Kiku stiffened when he recognized Ivan and Alfred sitting in the shop two tables away.
"Arthie!" Alfred called out, waving enthusiastically. Arthur's only answer was a hiss. He jabbed a finger at Alfred's direction.
"Don't call me that, idiot!" Arthur remonstrated. Much to Kiku's dismay, Arthur began walking towards the two men's table. Unwillingly, he followed his boyfriend and soon found himself trying to ignore Ivan's fierce look. Being with his boyfriend had made him forget what Ivan had said to him a few days ago, but now that the source of his anxiety was presently sitting not two feet from him, everything came crashing back.
"This is certainly a delightful coincidence," Alfred said, obviously pleased.
"Really… of all the places to meet you again…" Arthur muttered, cursing fate.
"Don't be like that, Arthur! Why don't you take a seat? You should order this cake!" Alfred said, gesturing at a particular pastry on the menu which he was currently shoving at Arthur's face.
"Seriously, be a little more gentle will you!" Arthur scolded. Alfred chose to ignore the statement, looking at Kiku for the first time.
"Are you two having a date?" Alfred asked. Kiku tried not to cringe, wondering if Alfred had any hidden meaning behind those words.
"Yes, but our date is unexpectedly ruined now," Arthur said almost scathingly. Then, voice dripping with sarcasm, he added, "Oh, maybe you also want to have a double date?" He reveled upon the aggravated look on Alfred's face.
"Arthur-san please…" Kiku said, tugging at his sleeve after noticing the heavy tension. Ivan's eyes were not smiling at all.
"… Well, we are almost done here I think. Shall we go now, Ivan?" Alfred said curtly, cutting the argument. Ivan blinked when Alfred suddenly stood up.
"Is it okay?"
"Of course!" Silently, Ivan got up and followed Alfred past the tables and chairs. Before reaching the door however, Alfred paused. Kiku didn't miss the upset look on his face.
"Arthur… can't we just talk nicely some time?" Alfred asked. Kiku shifted his gaze from a hopeful-looking Alfred to a perpetually-grumpy Arthur.
"Arthur-san… please be polite…" Kiku said. Arthur glanced at him. He sighed, scratching the back of his head. He knew he couldn't refuse Kiku.
"What do you want to talk about anyway?" Arthur finally huffed. Kiku smiled, relieved that his plea hadn't gone unheard.
"It wouldn't hurt to just have a chat, right?" Kiku said. "Besides, it's been a while since the two of you have talked. I wish you would actually start acting nicely towards each other."
Kiku's unexpected statements earned him equally surprised looks from both Alfred and Arthur. Ivan quirked a brow.
"If… if you say that… Okay then, Alfred. Tomorrow during tea time, we can talk…" Arthur mumbled, still avoiding eye contact. Alfred's cheerful mood was quick to return.
"Really? Then, that's great! I will go to your dorm then! See you tomorrow!" Alfred said, steering Ivan towards the door.
Once the two of them had walked out of the cake shop, Alfred with a new spring in his step, Arthur rounded on Kiku.
"Are you sure… I mean… you want me to talk to Alfred…?" Arthur said. He wasn't expecting Kiku's surprised expression.
"I've never recalled telling you not to. Besides, I shouldn't have to prevent you from talking to him again. I don't see any reason why I should stop you, Arthur-san. I think you two are on very rocky terms right now… having a talk might be good for both of you." Kiku nodded firmly. Truthfully he was still surprised at himself; he didn't think he had it in him to persuade Arthur to meet up with Alfred.
"You think so…?" Arthur persisted, scratching his head. Kiku gave him a smile and bade him to come sit.
"Of course… now why don't we order something?" Kiku said, picking up a menu after giving Arthur a reassuring smile. Kiku could feel his hands trembling as he held out the menu to him.
"He has changed a lot, hasn't he?" Ivan said.
"He is… and I'm quite surprised about what Kiku said."
"He is just pretending to be nice, you'll see. I'm sure he was just saying it; you can tell he doesn't want to give up Arthur. But don't worry; you should take this opportunity to get Arthur back. Don't miss this chance… Honda is digging his own grave."
Alfred nodded slowly, wondering if what he was doing was actually right.
The elevator doors opened and Alfred stepped out, making a beeline for Arthur's room. His dead-set destination was momentarily interrupted by the image of a slightly open door: a slightly open door with Kiku's voice wafting from inside of it. He thought for a bit, then side-stepped and stared at the nameplate: Heracles. He leaned his ear next to the small gap and listened.
"You should wear the maid dress… you would look cuter…" Heracles's deep and slow voice could be heard. Alfred heard Kiku chuckle.
"You think so? I will bring the maid outfit next time I come here then." Alfred froze when he heard him. Kiku came here often? And what's that about the maid outfit?
"Hmm.. you should; and wear it too, I want to see you wearing it with the cat ears… or do you have bunny ears?"
"Aah… I will think about the bunny ears. It's been a while since I wore these cat ears." A pause. "You can try out the butler outfit. It will look good on you, Heracles-san."
"A butler… and a maid… eh?" A chuckle.
Alfred frowned. Besides the weird nature of this conversation was the fact that Kiku was in another man's room. What was Kiku doing here? And speaking about strange things too. Was he cheating on Arthur?
"Alfred?" Someone called from behind, making Alfred jump. He whipped his head around to find the British giving him an odd look.
"Ar-Arthur…" he stammered, heading towards him.
"You are late, you know!" Arthur reprimanded. He made for his room and beckoned Alfred over.
"Aah I know. I'm sorry… sorry…" Alfred laughed, following suit.
Inside their room, Kiku and Heracles looked over at the door. Kiku slowly pulled off the cat ears he was wearing.
"Are you sure it's okay to let them talk?" Heracles asked uncertainly, regarding the droop in Kiku's shoulders.
"It's alright. I just don't want to have a fight over the past. Beside, as far as I can see, they have a very bad relationship right now. I wish they could become friends again." Heracles stared at Kiku sleepily, hugging his knees to his chest and setting his chin on top of them. He fumed.
"You are not being honest, Kiku…" he said before closing his eyes. Kiku was without expression.
"Probably…" he muttered. Everything was silent for a while, but even that short time was too much for Kiku. He stood up and looked at the clock near the TV.
"Do you want me to prepare some tea? It's already past 3 o'clock."
"Yes please, the green tea. It's inside the cylinder at the very top of the rack."
Arthur drank his tea and, exhaling slightly, put his cup down. Alfred was sitting across from him, munching his hamburger and slurping his soda in varying degrees of noise. He had never really changed, always with that hamburger in his hand. Arthur observed him with a chin propped on one hand.
"And? What exactly did you want to talk about…?" he asked, trying hard to be polite. It was already past three of the clock; had he been with Kiku, the Japanese would have offered him snacks a while ago along with some tea. The thought brought him to smile.
"Can't we spend some time together? Just like the old days…" Alfred was almost whining. Arthur huffed and rolled his eyes.
"What are you saying? Haven't you had enough after you yourself left me like that…?" Arthur said in exasperation. Alfred set his soda down and scowled.
"Who was the one who refused to receive any of my calls? Who was the one who didn't reply to any of my e-mails?"
Arthur groaned. God… not this conversation again.
"Look here, I don't want to talk about this. Actually, there isn't even anything more to talk about. Seriously, Alfred. If you insist on going on about this issue, I'm going to send you out of my room. And besides, it's useless to look back now. I have Kiku, so if you don't mind…"
"Don't tell me you're really considering Kiku as your boyfriend? No wonder you never replied to any of the calls and e-mails I had sent after I went back to America."
"What? You are talking nonsense! Are you saying I can't move on? You want me to cling to you forever? In your dreams!" Arthur scoffed and rose to his feet. "Now are we done? I still have to finish my lyrics for tomorrow's rehearsal." Alfred stood up, frowning at him.
"I'm not talking nonsense… why are you always so grumpy when I'm around?"
Arthur groaned. Wasn't it obvious enough? Alfred looked away, obviously hurt.
"Okay, fine, I will leave…" Alfred mumbled. "But before I do, I want to tell you something about Kiku…"
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "What about him?"
"I overheard him in Heracles's room. Not far from here. They were talking about maids and bunnies; I don't know what that is about or why, but don't you think you should be more careful? Kiku and Heracles seem to be very close." Arthur spluttered, not about the fact that Kiku and Heracles were in the same room and seemed very close, but about the 'maid and bunnies' statement.
"M-maid you say… Okay, I know. They are very good friends, no more than that, Alfred. I trust him…" Arthur blushed a bit before coughing a little, letting Alfred know that he was undeterred. It must be that "cosplay" thing they had been talking about. His knew his boyfriend really loved cosplay after all. He had seen him with a black maid outfit when he had taken a peak at Kiku's photo album the last time he went to his house. It almost gave him a nosebleed. He remembered quickly slamming the photo album shut when Kiku returned to his room with a tray of snacks.
In the meantime Alfred was disgruntled that Arthur wasn't even bothered in the slightest. He sighed. "Alright then, I'm leaving…" he finally said. Arthur gave a small nod. In the end, there hadn't been any "talk" at all.
Arthur turned his back on him as Alfred walked to the door, hearing one last frustrated sigh before the door shut close. That encounter suddenly made him grateful that neither Alfred nor Ivan was in the same dorm as he was.
Ivan looked up from his book upon the sound of Alfred's return. The first thing he noticed was Alfred's gloomy expression; things had obviously not gone well.
"How was it, da?" he asked, even knowing what the answer would be.
"It's useless… we couldn't talk at all. And… I wonder, it really looked like Kiku was cheating on Arthur behind his back yet Arthur's completely oblivious and still loves the boy… I don't see what good he can get from that Kiku." Alfred slammedthe door. Quietly, Ivan closed his book and put it on the table. He turned his chair to watch Alfred throw himself on the bed.
"Did you try to talk properly?" he asked, knowing how straight-forward Alfred could be. Something the British might not take too kindly to right now.
"I tried! But he wouldn't even let me start! He doesn't want to hear anything I have to say! I should have gone back sooner, if I knew this would happen. But I couldn't help it if Matthew was sick…"
"It's not your fault, da." Ivan said, leaning back and folding his arms. "Should I do something then?"
"Do whatever you want. I don't care…" This statement brought a smirk to the Russian's face.
"Then it will be okay if I use some force, da…" he mumbled enjoyably.
"Did you say something?"
"Nothing, I'm just talking to myself." With a final smile, he picked up his book and continued where he left off.