Axis Powers Hetalia (c) Hidekazu Himaruya
Toris's breath came out in short, ineffectual puffs as he raced up the stairs two at a time. Clutching the stitch in his side while his book bag wildly bounced off his back and his messy brown locks flew from his face in complete disarray, Toris panicked, willing his feet to somehow move faster. If only Ivan hadn't stopped me, I wouldn't be this late for class! Toris inwardly sighed in defeat as he recalled the gigantic bully who had, once again, stolen away both his and Latvia's lunch money, having forgotten to bring money of his own. Well, that wasn't entirely true; Ivan had just used his to buy liquor and ice. But he'd tell you it was "licorice".
He would have given anything to have been born a hero-type: someone who could stand up to bullies and win his own battles. But all Toris knew how to do was quietly agree and let himself be pushed around by those bigger, stronger, and older. He could stand up to them—he knew he could!—but he was much too afraid to do so. Too afraid of hurting anyone else.
Toris was nearly choking on his terror as he crested the summit of the stairs, hearing in his head the loud poundings of his heart to the tempo of worn-down sneakers as they slapped at dirty linoleum tiles beneath his fleeing form. He was close now, he knew—just needed to make one more turn—
He didn't make it.
Instead of cleanly careening around the corner as he had intended, Toris slid across the unexpectedly slippery floor on one heel, crashing to a spectacular stop once his body determined that, no, it could not occupy the same space that a wall already inhabited.
A cackle of delighted laughter bubbled from the hallway adjacent to Toris's bruised body as he dizzily picked himself up from the freshly-mopped floor. Not ten feet away stood Gilbert, looking very amused as his neatly folded hands stabilized the offensive mop, still puddling muddy, brown-green suds upon the floor. Gilbert rested his chin atop his hands, trying hard not to snicker too loudly, just in case he got into any more trouble with his already annoyed math teacher next door.
Toris glared at the other student, careful to watch his footing for more slippery spots once he felt confident enough to stand. As he did so, the flimsy latches on his book bag finally gave way, spreading Toris's homework all over the floor. The pristine pages immediately proceeded to helpfully sponge up Gilbert's soapy mess for him. This only amused Gilbert further, but he managed to not break out into laughter a second time. However, his red eyes did sparkle with mischievous delight as he watched his classmate scurry after the sopping manuscripts.
Unhappy tears were burning Toris's eyes as he collected his fallen papers. Carefully placing the soggy stack beside his treacherous bag, Toris attempted to dry the pages on his gym uniform before placing them gently into a manila folder. He was careful to avoid ripping the fragile pages, and for once was thankful that he had written everything in pencil instead of the pretty blue pen Feliks had given him for his birthday the year before.
As Toris snapped his bag together, he realized with a chilly sense of horror that Gilbert had been standing next to him the entire time, leaning on that awful mop, watching all the while with those piercing, red eyes of his. The little yellow bird sitting atop Gilbert's head was also watching with its own beady black stare, further heightening Toris's sense of unease. Nervous and edgy, Toris wondered what it was that Gilbert wanted. He's not really Ivan's friend, but he does hang out with that militaristic captain of the track team, Ludwig, Toris recalled miserably. He probably wants to beat me up, too. He's almost certainly learned all sorts of combat moves from Ludwig.
Widened, nervous eyes met confident red ones as Toris got to his feet. He attempted to offer a shaky greeting of some sort, but Gilbert's unblinking stare kept him from even the smallest of utterances. He was about to walk past Gilbert, anxiously, but Gilbert stopped him by tipping the mop handle in his path. Gilbert stood as still as marble, holding the mop at an angle out to his right while his left hand affixed itself firmly on his hip. The bird remained motionless.
"You forgot something," Gilbert said, looking as deadly serious as any bully Toris had ever seen.
"I-I did?" Toris stammered, eyes sweeping the floor for any signs of remnant papers. There were none, and neither were there any in either of Gilbert's hands. Perplexed, Toris looked once again into those intense, red eyes, waiting for clarification.
It was a simple answer; completely matter-of-fact. But it was not very descriptive or helpful, and that was somehow just typical of Gilbert.
"Um…what did I forget?"
Gilbert turned away from Toris and contemplated the length of his unmopped hallway, still holding the mop out like some sort of champion standing beneath a victoriously soaring banner. Toris could almost imagine a slight breeze ruffling through Gilbert's silver hair as he stood upon a great hill, overlooking an encampment of his own proud soldiers, dressed in brilliant blues and reds…
Gilbert was back to staring at him.
Gilbert had apparently turned his head to look back at Toris from over his shoulder. Toris averted his gaze, embarrassed for having been caught daydreaming, and further embarrassed that he had been picturing the resident prankster as some sort of magnificent hero, at that. He shifted his feet, but remained quiet, waiting for whatever humiliating thing it was that Gilbert was going to say.
Despite himself, Toris leaned forward expectantly, trying to ignore his right eye as it began to twitch in an overly-nervous tic.
"…that we had to re-set our clocks last night because of the whole daylight-savings deal. School doesn't start for another hour."
Oh. The look that crossed Toris' disbelieving face was as frank as the mirth in Gilbert's eyes. Gilbert turned and sauntered easily down the hall, waving his free hand as he drug his mop behind him with the other, laughing all the while. His happy cackles seemed to reverberate and endlessly echo in Toris's numb ears, but somehow, Toris couldn't help but recover himself enough to smile. At least this way he wasn't late to class.
Toris silently watched as Gilbert whistled a fairly tuneless song, messily stabbing his mop at the nearly-dried soap suds that he had left unattended on the floor. He succeeded more in smearing a muddy, brown mess across the floor rather than actually cleaning anything, but this was Gilbert, and Gilbert really didn't care.
As the mop splattered back and forth across the hallway, Toris could once again imagine Gilbert leading long lines of battle-ready men, preparing them for a final charge toward conquest. He would sit proudly atop a magnificent steed, as confident as ever, smirking down at his foes, tauntingly daring them to attempt a resistance. And Gilbert would win his battles, too.
But, Toris wouldn't say anything. And as he turned and trudged down the correct hallway, heading for his own classroom, he somehow couldn't help imagining being there, by Gilbert's side; both of them would be racing on towards that epic battle that rested just along the burning horizon, with the sun gleaming a deep glow of perfect, red victory.
Hero-types, the both of them.