The actual story Here I Am finished last chapter. This is actually a side-story, which I thought I'd just tack onto the end of this one. It's a story concerning just Alfred and Arthur
Note: This side-story takes place years before the switch in Here I Am happens. In fact, it takes place before the even become a couple. Remember, when Arthur was telling America about how he and Alfred went on a school trip together? This is the trip.
A Strange moment.
"Ugh! This is the last straw!"
Gilbert jerked his head up as his roommate barged into their room, slamming doors and stomping across the carpet as he blazed through.
"That fucking Alfred! What is he a kid?" he swore as he marched straight into the bathroom, to the mirror nailed above the sink.
"Alfred again?" Gilbert glanced at the bathroom's open door from where he had been reading - a porn magazine by the looks of it – on his bed. It had been exciting and a good source of gossip at first but now his roommate had simply grown weary of hearing about their constant fights, as were most of their friends.
"He put fucking gum in my hair!" Arthur raged, snipping off the ends of a few strands of hair where the gum was sticking obstinately. Luckily, it was only on the ends and not somewhere more troublesome but that did not make him any less angry.
"Hey, aren't you going on a trip together? Will you even survive? Can I have your stereo if you don't?"
"It's ridiculous!" Arthur ignored him. "Why does our year have to go on a research expedition with a bunch of kids?"
"He's not that much younger than you," Gilbert was, again, ignored.
"This is going to be the worst trip ever!"
And of course Arthur was right. He was always right, was he not? His bad luck did not even have the decency to wait until they were in another country to start pelting him with misery but pounced upon him in the couch to the airport, taking form of an overly-cheerful, idiotic young man.
"This seat isn't taken, is it?"
Arthur wanted to smack him with his book.
"It is, actually," he replied tersely, refusing all eye contact. It was a lie. Of course it was a lie. He had no one to sit with and did not care either; at least no one would bother him when he was trying to read.
Alfred shrugged and sat down next to him. "Oh well, they can find somewhere else to sit," he grinned. "What are you reading?"
"Jane Austen," Arthur determinedly stared at the words.
"You like that costume drama stuff?"
"It is not - " he started to protest, but then realised he had broken his golden rule of making no eye contact and turned back to his novel. "Whatever," he grunted. Normally he would rise to the bait but this time he refused to argue. He was not going to let Alfred jerk him around, not this time! Maybe Alfred was like a bear – if you left it alone, it would leave you alone too.
With his new plan of action in mind, Arthur tried to turn back to his book but he could not help but notice that Alfred was staring intently at him.
"…So you got the gum out, huh?" he said.
This was going to be the worst trip ever.
Yet he should have known the moment that Alfred sat next to him that he was not going to have an easy ride. Misery loved company, all bad things come in threes, everything that can possibly go wrong will. Murphey's Law.
"This is…some sort of curse, isn't it?" Arthur managed to mutter through gritted teeth as he watched Alfred taking samples of the soil.
The two of them seemed fated to forever collide with each other. Either that or their tutor had some twisted sense of humour when he put them together in a pair. Arthur was ready to cvurse Fate or the Gods or Destiny for his rotten luck, but he was a little too preoccupied with keeping his eye on Alfred. He definitely did not trust him.
"What are you talking about? Why are you standing so far away?" Alfred, after finishing his sample, noticed Arthur standing a good ten paces away
"Isn't it obvious! I don't trust you of course!"
"Is it about the gum? I'm sorry about that."
Arthur sighed. It was really about more than just the gum, although that did not particularly help his case. "You git, what would possibly possess you to do something like that?"
"It is about the gum," Alfred looked mournful.
And the five thousand other things you've done to harass me since starting university!" he snapped.
Alfred waved his hands innocently. "Hey, look, I'm sorry. It's just…it was fun," he blushed. At least he had the decency to look embarrassed.
"Fun for who?"
"For me of course!" he quipped before offering a quick, "Sorry."
Arthur fell into sullen silence. He was determined to punish Alfred in some manner but, which was worse, he never seemed to be able to succeed. In fact the more he reacted the more Alfred seemed to enjoy himself. It was as if he taunted him just to see how red his cheeks could burn.
"Hey, let's go to the coast," Alfred's voice suddenly shook him from his thoughts. Arthur looked up sharply.
"Aren't we supposed to be doing research?"
"No one said we couldn't do research on the coast."
This was another reason why he deserved to hold a grudge against Alfred. No matter how outrageous it was, he always seemed to be able to somehow get his own way with everyone. In fact, it seemed the more one resisted the easier it was to give in. Even Arthur, much to his chagrin, was no exception to the "Alfred rule".
The way down from the previous high ground to the coast was via a narrow, sloping path that had been cut out of the rock face. Years of weathering made the way slippery and somewhat hazardous without great concentration, and pebbles of all sizes waited below to waylay the unfortunate traveller by slipping beneath his feet.
"Watch your step," Alfred took his hand before he had time to jerk it away, guiding him the last few steps over the most precarious part of the path.
Arthur tried not to blush under the warmth of Alfred's hand. Why should he blush? It was simply the cold stinging his cheeks perhaps. The wind by the coast was much harsher than inland.
"Damn! It's cold here!" Alfred shivered.
Arthur shrugged, though he too was beginning o wish that he had brought warmer clothes with him. "Of course. What, did you expect this to be like Florida?"
"Are you cold?" Alfred asked.
"A little," Arthur shuddered, rubbing his hands over his arms.
Alfred moved a step closer to him, causing Arthur to instinctively jerk back.
"Hey, I'm not going to do anything!" he cried, blushing bright red.
"You better not, git!"
"God, you're so stubborn!" Alfred snorted, throwing his jacket over Arthur's head. "Is that a little better?"
"…Yeah, thanks," he murmured, though it was not without some degree of mistrust.
Arthur looked up at the sound of his name.
"Do you…" Alfred rolled his eyes and looked away, "do you dislike me?"
"I…don't hate you," he blushed slightly, though not enough to be discernable.
"O - Oh really? Well, that's good, I guess," Alfred shrugged awkwardly. It was strange seeing him like this. Arthur had always known Alfred to be a smooth talker, charming everyone and anyone who engaged him in conversation. He did not even know Alfred was capable of stuttering. Then again, Alfred always wanted to be liked by everyone.
"Why do you ask?"
"No reason. Eh, I was just curious, I guess,"
"I would appreciate it though if you didn't put gum in my hair," he said dryly.
"Oh," Alfred chuckled, slightly embarrassed. "Yeah, even though we know the same people, come to think of it, we don't really hang out like normal people do."
Arthur snorted in agreement. Unless normal people threw paper balls at each other, stole each other's food, copied notes without permission, and put gum in their hair, then no, Arthur did not really consider their definition of 'hanging out' to be the normal kind.
"Let's hang out when we get back."
"I mean properly hang out. Go to the movies and stuff," Alfred grinned. "I mean, I'm sure Francis and Feliciano and everyone else would be relieved if we did."
Arthur nodded thoughtfully. "Alright."
"What, you serious?" Alfred's face lit up.
"If you are then why not?"
"Awesome! Now what was it we were supposed to be doing?" he asked and Arthur hit him with a copy of Sense and Sensibility.
With much coaxing, and a few firmly placed words, Arthur finally managed to convince Alfred that skinny dipping in the sea was not a better idea than doing their research. Besides, they only had a few hours until they were all to return to the rendezvous point to be taken into town. Their tutor might leave them to starve in the wilderness if they did not do any work. He would do it.
The threat of going hungry was more than enough to motivate Alfred. Arthur was actually surprised how hard-working he could be once he was fixed on it. The day grew warmed as the hours waned. Alfred kicked off his sweater and Arthur discarded Alfred's jacket to the side by the rocks.
The ecology on the coast was not particularly interesting to study; it was similar to a thousand other case studies he had read, yet being there, listening to the rhythm of the waves and letting the wind gently blow through his hair was soothing. Even Alfred was now on his best behaviour.
"Ahh, that took forever!" he groaned once they had finally finished.
Arthur mumbled something about getting lots of work done as they joined the rest of the students waiting for the pick-up coach.
"It was a good call choosing the coast. It was a lot nicer there than the flatland," he admitted.
"Told ya it'd be good!" Alfred stretched out the muscles in his back. He winced every time he heard a heavy click but Alfred grinned as if twisting his bones had refreshed him somehow. "I hope the food's good but seeing how close this place is to England, it probably isn't it."
Arthur opened his mouth to protest that British food was perfectly good and perfectly edible thank-you-very-much, but a chill wind went straight to his bones, causing him to shudder slightly. It was definitely growing colder quickly. It was not even this cold in the morning.
"Your jacket!" Arthur jumped. He thought that something was amiss. He had put Alfred's jacket down on the coast and had completely forgotten to pick it up after they had finished.
"I left your jacket on the coast!"
"You did what?" Alfred smacked the butt of his palm against his forehead. It was a well-known fact that Alfred's fondness for that jacket reached almost insane levels. He wore it almost everywhere and treated it with the same protectiveness one would treat a beloved pet. If Arthur had the patience, he would have wondered why Alfred had given him the jacket in the first place.
"I'll go get it now," he started running.
"Hey, wait, it's dark!" he cried but Arthur was already halfway back.
The stars were out to illuminate the narrow path leading down to the coast, but it was still treacherously dark as shadows lay deceivingly over the bends and turns leading down. Holding out his arms to steady himself, he made his way down. He could not be too slow or the others would leave without him. Maybe they would not even notice that he was gone. Would Alfred ask them to wait?
The dirt beneath his feet gave way, slipping from under him. Arthur cried out as he felt himself lose his balance, his arms flung out to grab something for balance but his back bit into the hard ground before he could find anything. Tumbling over the narrow path, he felt himself falling, hitting parts of the rock face that jutted out and the branches of bushes growing on the side of the rocks.
Finally, he hit the coast. He had not been too far from the ground when he had fallen but that did not stop his body from stinging like hell. Muttering curses under his breath, he remained perfectly still in the darkness, trying to catch his breath.
"Arthur! Arthur, are you alright?" the sound of Alfred's voice cut his reprieve short. He twisted his head around to see Alfred running down the path, dangerously jumping down from time to time as he made his hurried way towards him.
"Fine," he groaned, pushing himself up with his stinging hands. "Just a little bruised."
If the look on Alfred's face was anything to go by, he was not fine at all. He looked at him as if he were dying, but Arthur was more than convinced that he was suffering from no moe than a little bruising.
"That was dangerous! You could've cracked your skull open or something!" Alfred shouted once he had checked him over for broken bones or missing limbs. For once Arthur cowed a little at the sight of his anger.
"But the jacket - "
"The jacket could have waited 'til tomorrow!" he snapped.
"But…." Arthur blushed. Surely it was not right that he should be feeling like a naughty child right now. All he had done was try to get Alfred's beloved jacket back and he was not even particularly badly hurt! He could not understand why Alfred was overreacting like this. Nothing had happened after all.
Alfred suddenly sighed, sweeping his hair back with his hand. He stood up and walked over to the jacket lying where Arthur had left it on the coast. "Well, I've got it now. Can you walk?"
"Of course!" Arthur stood up just to prove his fitness. His ankle was a little sore and there were a few small cuts over his hands but he considered himself lucky that there was no more than that.
Without warning, Alfred threw his jacket over Arthur's shoulders again and – Arthur was not quite sure what he did. It felt like something between a tackle and a throw – managed to heave him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
"Fuck!" Arthur swore in surprise, keeping careful grip on Alfred's jacket in case he lost it again. "Alfred, put me down!" he demanded.
"This way I know you won't trip up," Alfred's voice sounded far too cheerful for him not to worry.
"This is so undignified! Put me down!" he wriggled but Alfred's grip held fast.
"Would you rather I carried you like a princess?" he teased.
Though Arthur was tempted to say that he would rather be a princess than a sack of potatoes he kept his mouth shut. Knowing Alfred, he would indeed carry him bridle style the whole way back if provoked.
"Aren't I heavy?"
"Hmm? Nah, you're good. Nothing a hero like me can't take!" Alfred thumped his chest and Arthur muttered more curses under his breath.
The way up was slow going, causing Arthur to believe that Alfred had probably been lying about being heavy. By the time that they made it to the rendezvous point the coach had already gone, leaving them to walk their way back to the town.
Curiously, Alfred remained strangely pleasant throughout the whole course of their walk, refraining from teasing him or talking about some of their more unpleasant experiences with each other. Of course, what would have been an enjoyable experience was somewhat offset by the fact that Alfred insisted on keeping him slung over his shoulder the entire way back.
Yet, even so, Arthur would later look at the moment in time as the turning point for falling in love.
And that really is the end! Thanks everyone for reviewing!