Disclaimer: Himaruya Hidekaz has the rights, not I.
A/N: This takes place in a human AU, therefore human names will be used. 'Chelle' is Seycelles and Francis' toddler age daughter in this universe.
The first thing Alfred notices about the girl that sits next to him in English class is that she doesn't talk. It's not a lack of ability though. Each time the teacher stumbles over her name during roll call, she always answers with the same clipped voice, telling him; "It's Natalia Braginski."
Apart from that, Natalia does not speak unless the teacher calls on her and that in itself is rare. Alfred decides that the girl must be shy and it's his job as high school hero to bring her out of her shell, just like he's seen in countless movies. He rests his chin in his palm and quite smoothly, he thinks, asks if he can borrow a pencil from her.
Natalia stares pointedly at the mechanical pencil on his desk for a few seconds. Still, she hands over a spare, and then returns her focus to the notes on the board. Her hair is blonde, but glimmers silver when the sunlight hits it just right, which is another thing Alfred notices. Still, he won't let it detour him from his mission, so after class he places himself in the doorway to prevent Natalia from leaving.
The girl's face keeps up the same bored expression as she tries to go around Alfred. He shifts easily to stop her and grins broadly. They wind up half-dancing around each other for about thirty seconds, Natalia's neutral expression giving into annoyance. Alfred asks how she's liking the current weather and she stomps on his foot.
A bit belatedly, Alfred notices a third thing; Natalia's shoes are heeled. He yelps loudly and grabs his now throbbing foot. She offers a smile that flashes like steel and pushes past him. On her way, the girl pauses for only a second, then quietly confesses. "It's too humid out for my liking."
When Arthur picks him up from practice that day; Alfred hobbles into the car, clutches his heart, and announces that he is in love. His older brother ignores his confession in favor of swearing loudly and demanding to know if someone ran over Alfred's foot while wearing cleats. Alfred looks down at his foot, which looks more swollen now that he's only in sport sandals. That's not important, though.
"I said I'm in love, Arthur!"
"You're fifteen." His brother replies, dismissively. "Are you sure your foot isn't broken?"
"That's not the point." Alfred shoots back, but flexes his toes anyway. They're stiff but still functional, which is good enough for him. "I am in love and you don't even care!"
Arthur rolls his eyes and the ride home is filled with a lecture on how anyone under twenty has no business messing around with the word 'love'. As his tradition whenever a lecture starts, Alfred ignores his brother in favor of more important thoughts. Usually, these would involve aliens or how he'll save the world one day. Today, though, he spends it coming with another plan on how to get Natalia to talk to him. (And making sure his foot really isn't broken.)
Despite his title as best friend, Matt is appallingly unsympathetic when Alfred comes over and claims that he is terribly ill, with lovesickness of all things. All he does is ask if Alfred has been to the doctor for his foot yet. When the other boy crosses his arms and pouts, Matt notes the striking resemblance between Alfred and a sulking Chelle.
It's not until Alfred starts whining to go along with his pouting that Matt lets out a small sigh. Ten years of experience allows him to immediately fake an interested look as he asks who Alfred has fallen for. He almost chokes on his own breath when Alfred says Natalia Braginski, because Matt has been in the girl's gym class for two years in a row.
He's at a loss of words for a long time, because when Matt thinks of girls that his best friend would like, Natalia isn't high on the list. She isn't even on the back up list's back up list. Finally, when Alfred's dreamy look starts to become unbearable, Matt manages to say something.
"Isn't she too, y'know, scary to be your type?"
"Natalia isn't scary, Matt. She's spunky!" Alfred does something that is alarmingly similar to swooning. "Besides I'm sure she's really sweet once you get to know her."
Matt vaguely recalls the time they were playing volleyball in gym and Natalia spiked the ball hard enough that it bounced high off the floor and broke another girl's nose. He glances back warily to Alfred's foot, which is now propped up on the coffee table. His friend notices this and flexes his toes with only a little wincing before leaning forward.
"Like I said, she's spunky. Help me win her over, Mattie. It's what a brother would do."
He holds up his left palm solemnly, where there's still a thin scar. It's a little more jagged than the one Matt has on his right hand, because even if becoming blood brothers had been Alfred's idea, he was scared to cut himself first. Matt bites his lip for a moment, then raises his right palm just as somberly.
"I'll ask Francis if he's got any advice later tonight."
English is his last class of the day and Alfred comes to school sure that he'll never survive until seventh period. At lunch, all he barely picks at his burger until Matt slips him a sheet of paper. The cursive is neat and just a bit girly, definitely belonging to Francis. Alfred perks up until he realizes that the note is short.
Be yourself, but do not force it. You are very young, Alfred, and amour will come to you when you're ready for it. Before then, heartbreak may come as well but I promise it never lasts long. I wish you luck.
"Dude, I thought your brother was the king of love. What is this?"
Matt shrugs helplessly. It sounded like good advice to him, even if it didn't really match up with Francis's reputation as a notorious lady-killer. Resting his head down on the lunch table, Alfred started laughing. Francis sent stupid advice as a test to see if he really loved Natalia or not. Clearly, he didn't know he dealing with a real hero!
When Matt asks if he was going to finish his burger, Alfred stops laughing immediately and crams the whole sandwich into his mouth. Ignoring his friend's disgusted face; he gleefully explains how he'll need his strength to win over Natalia that afternoon. Matt notices the girl glaring at them from halfway across the lunchroom and, slinking down in his seat, wishes his best friend knew how to be discreet.
"Even though you're in my grade, I haven't seen you around and I'm sure that I'd remember someone like you. So, did you just transfer from somewhere, Natalia?"
The girl is back to stoic silence, like the smile from yesterday was nothing more than Alfred's imagination. He bites his lip and glances at the clock, even though he came in early, there's less than two minutes until the bell rings and Natalia hasn't made so much as a peep.
Unrelenting, Alfred decides to switch tactics and leans back in his seat. Natalia's expression shifts the slightest bit, possibly relieved that the boy is no longer invading her space. Alfred clears his throat, trying to sound like Clark Gable did when he played Rhett Butler.
"Anyway, I know you must be strong. I could hardly run laps during practice yesterday because my foot was hurting so bad."
Natalia turns to stare at him, cheeks going pink with either embarrassment or anger. Glad to have her attention, Alfred winks and offers up his best boyish grin. Her grip on her pencil tightens, but she's not frowning or anything. He takes it as permission to continue.
"So, were you born with superhuman strength or did you have to work on it? 'Cos if it's the first, I think we should totally team up and fight crime."
She snorts softly and it's impossible to tell if it's with derision or honest amusement. Natalia turns back to the board once she makes the sound and when the bell rings, it steals anything that Alfred could've said. The teacher takes roll, Natalia corrects him at her name, and Alfred is disappointed to see the daily pattern emerge.
Then, around the time that the teacher is fumbling over the H names, a small scrap of paper floats onto his desk. Next to him, Natalia is still as stone, eyes glued to the board. Alfred still counts it as a victory as memorizes the short note.
I play ice hockey.
It is the two-week anniversary of Natalia talking to him when the teacher announces that they'll be doing a project in partners. Alfred smiles apologetically to a few of his friends before scooting his chair a little closer to Natalia. The girl raises an eyebrow delicately and Alfred just gives her a hundred watt smile.
"I figure working together would be a good way to become friends."
The eyebrow goes even higher, along with the corners of Natalia's mouth. She even pulls her chair a fraction of an inch closer and Alfred giddily realizes that if he wanted to, he could grab her hand. He's disappointed when Natalia reaches out for a project sheet and his opportunity is lost.
They pour over the project sheet for a minute before a brilliant idea strikes Alfred. His voice is full of eager energy as he looks up at Natalia.
"Shakespeare was meant to be performed, right?"
A small, cautious nod.
"Well, why don't we act out a short scene? It's more interesting than a poster and it'll be fun to do."
Natalia considers this carefully, reading the list of Shakespeare's works they have to choose from. Finally, she nods again and points to the first thing on the list. Alfred's heart almost skips a beat, because she's pointing to Romeo and Juliet.
"Not this. It's far too cliché."
And when Natalia crosses it off with one slash, it's like she's cutting into Alfred's very soul. He wilts a little, because wouldn't it have been perfect if Natalia had realized her feelings for him as they did one of the scenes?
He's so busy thinking about what could have been, he jumps when Natalia taps him on the shoulder.
"Sorry, listening but not comprehending." He says guiltily. "What did you say now?"
Her forehead wrinkles in annoyance and the next words are said deliberately, as if Alfred was a small child. The sheet has several more titles crossed off and one starred.
"Midsummer Night's Dream. What do you think?"
The first think Alfred thinks of is Natalia as a sprite. Her hair has flowers and leaves woven in, brining out the silver glow. The dress would be blue, which is one of her favorite colors, and she'd be barefoot. As it is now, her face would be free of make-up and completely enchanting. Alfred swallows to keep from saying any of this aloud, but nods enthusiastically.
Natalia tilts her head, staring at the boy as if he is a particularly confusing puzzle. Their eyes are locked and Alfred swears that he feels something wonderful settle in the air between them. Then the teacher comes by to check in and the something wonderful disappears.
Later, as they work on picking a scene, Alfred tries not to shout with joy when their knees momentarily brush.
"I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all."
When he suggested they act out an excerpt of a scene, Alfred clearly forgot how quiet Natalia was. They're sitting across from each other outside of the school, highlighted scripts in hand, and he can barely hear what the girl is saying. Her eyes flick up to meet his, a bit of worry mixed in with a certain guardedness.
"That was pretty good, but I think you need a little more…" He ran a hand through his hair, searching for the right word. "Oomph. What kinda feelings would you have if you had to tell someone that?"
"Why would I ever have to say that?"
"Whenever someone asks you to kiss them through a hole in the wall."
Alfred snickers a little, despite the fact that Natalia's nose is scrunching up. There always seemed to be an element of old-fashioned dignity in the girl's reactions, as if she attended finishing school for debutantes rather than the average high-school. Alfred found it weirdly adorable, because occasionally Natalia's cheeks would go pink, like they were now.
She leans over her script for a moment and when she looks back up, it's like Natalia is a changed woman. With a sharp inhale, she looks deep into Alfred's eyes before saying her line again. He half-expects her to touch his cheek or something, because that's how it always goes in the movies.
Instead, her mouth turns sharply into a frown. "Was that any better?"
"Definitely got the oomph. We're so acing this thing."
"You are a huge stalker." Matt says plaintively, resting against the wall in the skating rink.
Somewhere between lacing up his skates and doing a few laps around the rink, he had realized that maybe Alfred had ulterior motives for being his 'emotional support' during the first, unofficial, hockey game of the season. Normally between the guys' team so they could decide who would be starting, the girls' team wanted in this year. When Matt told him about it, Alfred suddenly became interested in hockey and begged to come along.
Now, after noticing the glazed look in his friend's eyes and the fact that a certain female defender is warming up, Matt can't help but feel ashamed. Usually he catches on to Alfred's schemes before they get this far. Waving a hand in front of his friend, Matt shook his head.
"Alfred, I love you like a brother and that's why I'm warning you now; this girl will probably kill you if you make her angry. She's never been in a fight during a game, but I've seen her play and she's so scary-"
"Spunky." Alfred corrects.
"Whatever, the point is that even the guys on my team are freaked out about playing her. And even if you want to ignore how she is on the ice, there's still the fact that her stick could easily be used to bash in your brains."
Matt takes a deep breath once he's finished, because it felt good to get all that off his chest. And just being able to finally say it makes it a little better when he realizes that Alfred's eyes are still pinned on Natalia. She's taking practice shots at one of the goals now, even though she'll never get a chance in game. Purely because he plays center offense, Matt can't help but think that she's good. Alfred is completely over the moon.
"Hey, Mattie, would you let me borrow your skates? I wouldn't even bug her, I just want to watch from a little bit closer."
Shaking his head once more, the center pushes away from the wall. Over his shoulder, he repeats the word 'stalker' for good measure.
After the game, Alfred is waiting by the changing room exits for Matt. And, okay, maybe he's a little closer to the girls' exit than the guys', but he didn't want to get trampled to death by some of the bigger guys on the team who were probably starving after a long game. (At least, it seemed like a long game to Alfred. There wasn't even a fistfight). When Natalia comes walking out of the changing room, hair pulled back into a ponytail and a duffle bag on her shoulder, she looks surprised before a little smile comes out.
"I thought I saw you lurking in the stands."
Alfred raises his hands in his own defense, pouts a little. "Hey, I'll have you know that I came to be Mattie's-"
"Moral support," he finishes a bit lamely, then. "Did you just crack a joke?"
Natalia keeps quiet, shifting her bag to her other shoulder and her smile moves up to her eyes. There is a little bit of sweat along her forehead, making the girl's bangs droop over her eyes. Alfred let's an easy grin wash over him, all white teeth sparkling under the fluorescent lighting. That was most definitively a joke Natalia had made and that was progress for sure.
He fumbles in his pockets for a moment, then gives her his cell phone. Natalia looks at him curiously, but still puts her number in when asked. Then, she's stepping backwards, face blank once again.
"Don't try and reach me past eight. My older sister won't like it," Natalia calls over her shoulder. "But I wake up early in the mornings."
Alfred doesn't even have time to ask when early is exactly, before Natalia is disappearing outside of the rink. Her hair shines in the sun, reminding him of light bouncing off of ice.
They are just about to finish their presentation scene for class and so far, it's going awesome. Yeah, Alfred has fumbled on a couple of lines and Natalia was too quiet at first, but now they've got in under control and it seems like they're the only people in the whole world. At least it seems like it until Natalia delivers what should be her last line ("I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all") and leans in.
Her face is flushing and her breathing is quick, because being the center of attention is clearly embarrassing her. Alfred leans in to give his line, but then he hears someone shout out 'kiss her!' and he can't help but burn red all the way up to the tips of his ears. Then, before he can comprehend anything else, he is kissing her, or rather, Natalia is pressing her lips to his mouth.
The class erupts in noise and the girl has somehow put a good two feet between Alfred and herself. He's dazed, staring at her and her beautiful, bright red face. In the back of his head, he can hear the teacher shouting for everyone to settle down. His legs carry him back to his desk and only then does Alfred lick his lips briefly. They're dry as bone and he really hopes that Natalia didn't notice.
Sparing a glance at the girl next to him, he sees that her face is buried in her arms. She seems so delicate in this instant, a gray cardigan over slim shoulders that bend like a bird's wings to shield her face. Alfred can't help but imagine that her nose is scrunched up and the thought makes him smile dopily until class is over.
When the bell rings, Natalia runs out of the room and Alfred doesn't stop her, because she was the one to kiss him and that's all that matters right now. Matt is waiting for him outside his locker, one eyebrow already raised. Helpfully, his best friend points out. "You look like you got sucker punched, Al."
The response he gets, combined with the grin that will probably never leave Alfred, makes the other boy gag.
"Sucker punched in the heart, man. The heart. "