Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia
Gives It Meaning
Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.
"I think I've got it," Madeline murmured, looking up from her notepad for the first time in an hour. "Do you want to hear it?"
Katyusha put down her psychology textbook, a small hint of a smile tugging at her cheeks when she looked up. "Of course."
"Ehm, uh, well…" she stuttered, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear and looking up. She crossed her legs nervously in the air, shifting on her stomach on the floor. "I thought maybe I'd put in a few that were, you know, not so… affectionate? And then sort of work my way up from there…"
"That makes sense," Katyusha agreed calmly. "What have you got, then?"
Madeline coughed, starting quietly, "Tu es dans mes pensées, you are in my thoughts, for starters. And then, maybe, uh, Tes yeux, j'en reve jour et nuit, which means I dream about your eyes day and night… or is that too forward?"
She bit the tip of her pen, looking up at Katyusha expectantly. Katyusha noticed that Madeline's cheeks were flushed, the color of a bright red apple, or the red of her Canadian flag bedspread.
"I am not sure," Katyusha confessed. "I do not know how to get the attention of a boy, nor am I familiar with Francis' personality," she frowned.
Madeline visibly drooped, biting her lip now as she tapped her pencil against the page. "I just thought this would be a good idea. He is always so interested in our literature class, and he does like a little mystery…"
"Then you should do it."
"But what if he gives up, or…"
Madeline trailed off, and then she sighed, sitting up and crossing her legs underneath her. "How're things going for you?"
"Oh, you know…" Katyusha murmured. "Fine…"
"Have you even tried talking to Alfred?" Madeline asked quizzically. Katyusha's lack of answer was answer enough, and Madeline sighed softly.
"Do you want me to up a good word in for you?"
"N-No, thank you…"
Madeline twirled one of her pigtails around her finger, murmuring, "Alfred's not a bad guy."
"He's just painfully thick and can't always see a good thing when it's in front of him."
"And if he has to date anyone, I'd rather it be someone sweet and gentle like you."
Katyusha blushed, tugging at the hem of her shirt shyly, "Thank you."
Madeline smiled, and for a moment the only sound in their dorm room was that of the ticking clock on the wall.
"It's Saturday night?" Madeline asked suddenly. Katyusha consulted the calendar.
"And we're alone in our dorm room doing homework?"
"Yes," Katyusha repeated, this time dejectedly. Madeline forced a soft chuckle, "We're pathetic."
The next afternoon finds Katyusha and Madeline in the school cafeteria, pushing around their Caesar chicken salads and gossiping about their professor's obvious love affairs (the history professor, Beilschmidt, and the anthropology professor Vargas, for instance, definitely had something going on) and the obscene amount of homework they had for the week ahead, pointedly avoiding the conversation from the night before.
"Did you hear Elizaveta saw Professors Hassan and Karpusi kissing out by the parking lot?"
Katyusha choked on a crouton, coughing until she regained enough breath to murmur, "T-they are both… women…"
Madeline nodded, a faint dusting of pink high on her cheekbones, as she ate another forkful of limp lettuce, "Yes, but that doesn't really apply in such a liberal colleg—huh?"
"Woops!" A boisterously loud voice came from behind Madeline, and as she turned around she picked a French fry out of her hair. Unsurprisingly the projectile had been launched by on Gilbert Beilschmidt, son of the history professor and notorious troublemaker.
He was also known as the best friend of Antonio Carriedo, and Francis Bonneyfoy.
"Hey," he said quickly, coming up to their table and snatching the fry back. "I'm sorry about that. I was trying to hit Antonio but he ducked."
"That's alright," Madeline replied quickly. "N-No harm done."
"Nah," Gilbert insisted, leaning his arm on their small table. "You gotta let me make it up to ya."
"N-no, it's fine—"
"Gilbert, you brute," a new voice, laced with a thick French accent, cut in, and a hand grabbed Gilbert by the shoulder and pulled him upright. "That is no way to talk to a lady, especially not one so gentile as Madeline."
Instantly color flushed Madeline's cheeks, as Francis looked her in the eyes and flashed her a charming smile.
"I hope my friend's antics did not disturb your lunch," he apologized softly. Madeline shook her head dumbly, until her throat regained the ability to form coherent sounds and she stuttered, "N-not at all!"
She looked over at Katyusha from the corner of her eyes, asking wordlessly for support, but Katyusha raised her eyebrows and gestured at Francis with her head. It was obvious she wasn't going to interfere. Damn her…
Help came suddenly from an expected source. Just as Francis was leaning in, lips parting to graced Madeline's ears with more of his luscious voice and enchanting words, a hand clapped on his shoulder. Madeline stilled in horror.
"Hey, buddy, what's up?" Alfred said amiably, but the cold glint in his eyes suggested he was anything but. Francis, when he turned around and saw this, faltered, and Madeline glowered at her brother.
"Let him go, Al," she demanded, and he shrugged nonchalantly but complied.
"I'm only looking out for you, sis," he countered, pouting. Then he turned to Francis, eyebrows furrowed, "You can go now, thanks. Maddie's in good hands."
Francis gave a slight sneer at her brother, but when he turned back to Madeline he was all charm again. "I shall you in class tomorrow, then."
When he left, Alfred squeezed himself onto the bench beside Madeline and started picking at the chicken in her salad, realizing belatedly that someone else was sitting at the table.
"Oh," he said brightly around a mouthful of lightly dressed grilled chicken breast. Alfred swallowed, and Madeline took delight in the fact that Katyusha was now as red as she'd felt moments ago. Now, if only Katyusha had helped her before, she might have shoved her brother away and made the awkward moment end for her friend.
"How are ya, Katya?" Alfred continued when his mouth was empty, flashing her his bright smile. Katyusha stuttered, and Madeline stole her salad back, nibbling at a tomato slice.
"O-Oh, I am fine!" Katyusha squeaked, her voice rising in pitch. She cleared her throat and continued, "A-and yourself?"
"I'm doing awesome," Alfred answered simply. "Waiting on Kiku to get back from his cousins' house so we can go do stuff."
Katyusha licked her lips, "Oh! Well, if you do mind my asking… w-what sort of stuff?"
Alfred shrugged, "We just got the New Super Mario Bros. for his Wii, so we're gonna be up all night playing."
"Don't you have a history exam tomorrow?" Madeline cut in suddenly, giving her brother skeptical look. Alfred waved it off.
"It's just American Presidents, easy as pie," he scoffed. "But it's sweet that you'd be worried, sis."
Madeline fumed under her breath, pulling out of Alfred's one armed hug, and Katyusha murmured, "Good luck to you, then, A-Alfred…"
He looked at her, blue eyes wide, and grinned again, "Why, thank you. Maddie, you should learn from her, she's much nicer than you are."
"You're gonna need a lot more than luck to pass that exam," Madeline pointed out with a frown, and Alfred laughed.
"See? You need to be nicer!"
And just then, his phone pinged, and when he looked at the screen his face brightened.
"Kiku's back! Gotta go now, bye Maddie and Katya!"
"Alfred, wait!" Madeline called after him, but it was in vain; he had already left the cafeteria. She sat back down and sighed.
"You're lucky your brother doesn't go to this school," she pouted, and Katyusha hummed.
"And you are lucky your brother does…"
Madeline pouted, "No, but you are. Hurry up and ask him out so that he stops scaring Francis off."
Katyusha's breath caught in her throat and she swallowed the food in her mouth with obvious difficulty. "I… would if I could, but…"
Madeline sighed. "It's alright. We're in this bachelorette boat together."
Katyusha hummed, and the rest of their lunch was quiet,
Madeline's first class of the week, every Monday morning at nine, was French Poetry of the 19th Century. The class itself was tolerable; it would have been better if it wasn't at such an unbearable hour, but the professor was both sweet and knowledgeable and the material was interesting.
What made the class truly worth attending, though, was the fact that it gave Madeline an hour and half to start off her week right, sitting right behind Francis. An hour and a half of looking at his silky blond hair, sniffing his musky, obviously expensive and utterly addicting cologne, and watching his elegant body shift and stretch in front of her.
That day when he came into the room, minutes before their professor was to arrive, he turned around in his seat and smiled brilliantly at her.
"I hope Gilbert and I did not give you too much trouble yesterday."
"N-not at all!" she stammered loudly, before realizing that she had drawn the attention of her classmates. Francis chuckled and Madeline flushed, continuing softly, "I'm sorry about Alfred."
"Do not be," Francis insisted. "He has all the right to be concerned about you." Madeline was about to protest, but Francis continued, "Though, I do wish he would realize I would never allow myself to bring you any harm."
Now she was blushing fervently, words caught in her throat for fear of her saying the wrong thing. Francis smiled, laughing softly, and leaned back against his desk.
"Gilbert, Antonio, and I are having a party this upcoming weekend in our suite, and I would love to see you there."
Madeline froze. "At your… party…?"
"Oui. And your friend Katyusha is invited as well. I hope you both can make it."
"We'll be there," Madeline decided, just in time for their professor to enter the room in a rush of fabric, paper, and flowery perfume. Francis winked at Madeline before turning around to face forward, and Madeline was on cloud nine for the rest of the morning.
"So, we are going to this party, then?"
Madeline nodded, and Katyusha smiled, biting her lip.
"D-Do you think Alfred will be there?"
"Probably," Madeline agreed. "He and Gilbert are friends, so it's not too implausible. Besides, he goes wherever the party is, invited or not."
Katyusha flushed, and it only intensified when Madeline added, "And you have to keep him distracted."
When Katyusha looked up, she saw that Madeline was equally as red as she was, and the other went on to explain, "I think… I wanna tell Francis the truth. And I can't do that if Alfred is breathing down my neck…"
"You're going to tell him?"
"And you're not going to back down?"
"Oh, I'm sorry! But it is just… well, if you find the courage to tell Francis that you are enamored with him… I would like to find the courage to tell Alfred as well."
Madeline's frowned softened into a smile, and she crawled across their bedroom floor to touch Katyusha's forearm gently.
"Don't worry, okay? If worst comes to worst, we'll get pizza and ice cream and cry over romantic comedies until our eyes run dry."
Madeline laughed softly, "It's the traditional post-rejection post-breakup ritual."
"Ah, I see."
They were both quiet for a moment, until Madeline stood up again. "Well, there's no use in sitting here and expecting the worst. Come on, let's go pick out seductive outfits to wear."
Blinking off her nerves, Katyusha smiled and stood up as well, and the two girls attacked their closet with earnest.
The night of the party, Madeline and Katyusha were staring into the mirror, the latter helping the former get her curls into something a little more mature and gorgeous than the usual pigtails, after Madeline has done both of their makeup. She was dressed in a knee length white pencil skirt and long sleeved white and red striped shirt, while Katyusha was wearing a pale pink blouse and dark skinny jeans that only make her look taller than her already impressive height.
It had been a bit of a struggle to pick clothes that would pass as dressy but not pull them out of their comfort zones. Madeline insisted her brother was a boob loving kind of guy, if the posters in his bedroom back home were anything to go by (jealousy flared in the pit of Katyusha's stomach at the thought of airbrushed posters in Alfred's room, though she was too embarrassed to admit it), and so Katyusha was instructed to leave the top few buttons open, just enough to tease. Madeline, being considerably less well endowed, went for something softer, cleaner, and perhaps more mature that Katyusha assured would cater to Francis' refined tastes.
"There," Katyusha decided, stepping away from Madeline and smiling. "You look very beautiful, Maddie."
Madeline blushed, "Thanks to you." She twisted one of the loose curls around her finger, admiring the half up ponytail in her hair with a smile. "You're quite lovely yourself."
Katyusha flushed, offering her hand. "Shall we go?"
And, both swallowing and trying to ignore the nerves bubbling up in their stomachs, they locked the door to their dorm room and strode to the next dorm building where the party was just beginning to kick off.
Once they got to the dorm suite shared by the infamous "Bad Touch Trio", they were greeted with the sights and sounds of their first ever college party. Someone, probably Gilbert, had replaced the standard lights with a disco ball, and there was loud music the flooded out into the hall. The beds had been pushed aside to make room for people to dance, and were being used on the sidelines as benches for people to sit and talk. On the desk there was a punch bowl, and in the opposite corner was a group playing a bottle game.
"Madeline! Katyusha, there you are," Francis's voice called over the music, and within a moment he was holding the door open for them. "I was waiting for you to arrive."
Katyusha poked Madeline in the side and she yelped, stammering, "T-Thank you!"
"Now then," he continued, shutting the door behind them. "Please be sure to enjoy yourself."
He drifted off to join the crowd, and Madeline heaved a sigh.
"At least we made it," Katyusha offered. "We already won half the battle."
"I suppose so. Come on, let's go look for Al."
It didn't take long at all to find Alfred; not only was he one of the taller guests at the party, he was also one of the loudest. Madeline shooed Katyusha towards him, refusing to let Alfred see her, but not before giving her friend a good luck hug. Katyusha smiled shakily, taking a few clumsy steps forward. Someone backed into her, then, pushing her over and right into Alfred's back.
"O-oh!" She exclaimed, clutching to his shirt to keep herself steady. When Katyusha realized that she was clinging to Alfred, though, she was quick to let go, in time to be faced with his handsome smile.
"Katya! You alright there?"
"Y-Yes! I just… tripped."
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her tightly. "Yeah, you've gotta be careful at these sorts of parties; everyone usually drunk off their mind so they just sorta ram into ya."
She nodded, completely unable to speak with the way she could feel the warmth of his body on her skin through her thin blouse. Alfred smiled down at her, hugging her more tightly and pulling her off to a quieter side.
"I didn't know you were coming."
"Oh, well, i-it was a surprise."
"I like this surprise," Alfred laughed, before looking around the room. "Hey, is Maddie here too?"
Katyusha visibly deflated, "Somewhere, yes."
"Ah, well, she's missing out. I guess I get to steal ya for the night."
Alfred laughed again, more brightly, "Don't sound so opposed, I'm sure only half of what Maddie's ever told ya is true."
He took a few backwards, looking at her closely in the dim, colorful light of the room. It was hard to be certain, but Katyusha could swear she saw his cheeks color.
"You look… nice," he complimented softly. "Did you dress up for someone special?"
"A-Ah…" Katyusha realized this would have been the perfect moment to come out with it, to tell him 'for you' and hopefully he would hug her again (kiss her, if she was lucky). But the words refused to come out, and after a moment of staring at him, she looked away and nodded.
"Well, then he's one lucky guy. Come on, I'll help ya look for him."
Faced with no other option and unable to muster up the truth, Katyusha followed Alfred on his "search" for her crush.
After she had left Katyusha in her brother's hopefully caring arms, Madeline turned back to the dance floor, hoping to catch sight of where Francis had gone off to. In the throng of people she could not find him, and before she could go look for him among those conversing on the sides someone grabbed her wrist from behind, stilling her.
"Hey, Mads," Gilbert grinned, turning her around and touching her shoulder. "Has anyone ever told ya you look like a sexy librarian? I hope you're not on reserve because I'd love to check you out."
Madeline was entirely unsure of what to say, and then Gilbert laughed. "Kidding. Actually, I wanna know if you wanna dance, babe."
Now she flushed. She was tempted to say no and pull away, but Gilbert's hold was almost tender, and Madeline wondered if perhaps this would catch Francis' attention. After all, Gilbert was always quite easy to spot…
Madeline nodded, and Gilbert brought her closer to him by gripping her at the waist. He rocked their hips together in time to the music, intense crimsons gaze never wavering from her eyes. It was, honestly, unsettling and awkward, but somehow it was also exhilarating and so Madeline silenced the voices in her mind that told her to back away from him.
Until, that is, the song changed and was replaced with something slower. Gilbert, delighted, pulled her flush against his chest and nuzzled his chin against her neck and cheek, murmuring words she was too shocked to comprehend. When she came to her senses, she pushed him away, but his hands still rested on her hips.
"N-No, Gilbert, I don't… want to get so close."
He frowned, "Come on, Mads, it's just an innocent little dance."
"The lady said no, Gilbert." Francis' silky voice cut in, and his hand rested lightly on Madeline's shoulder. Gilbert scoffed.
"You just want her all for yourself, lover boy."
"Perhaps," Francis murmured, "but whether or not that is the case I will not allow you to breech her comfort zone, mon ami."
Gilbert's scowl turned into a pout, and he muttered, "Just wanted a dance," before stalking off to find some alcohol.
"Are you alright, Madeline?" Francis asked calmly, releasing her shoulders. She missed the warmth of his hand on her clothed skin.
"I'm fine! Thank you…"
"Think nothing of it."
"No, really," she insisted. "I just… have a hard time saying no."
"Which is why I really do not think you should be left alone in a room full of intoxicated men, ma chérie. Where is Katyusha?"
"Looking for Alfred, non?" he asked with a teasing smile.
"How did you…?"
Francis chuckled as he led her to sit on an empty space on one of the beds. "It was rather obvious, Madeline. At least to my eyes, which are experienced in the signs and ways of la amour."
"O-Oh," Madeline murmured, smoothing out her skirt.
"You look quite lovely today," he whispered in her ear. Madeline's heart pounded mercilessly in her chest, and she replied, "S-So do you."
"Merci. Now, if you would not mind, and I do not think you will," Francis started huskily, trailing a hand along her bare knee. "I would very much like to kiss you."
"Tu es dans mes pensées," Francis explained. "I recognized your dainty curvise."
His thumb brushed along her bottom lip and Madeline inhaled sharply, but before she could let her breath out his lips were covering hers and against her mouth he was murmuring, "Je t'aime, Madeline."
Madeline had never expected love to taste so good.
Katyusha had all but given up, as Alfred led her along, every so often pointing out another man and asking, "Is it him? Go talk to him!" and she had still not found the courage to be honest.
And then they happened upon Madeline and Francis, the latter practically sitting in her lap as their lips melded together. Katyusha did not need to look at him to know that Alfred was practically livid.
"That… that pervert is touching my siste- oomph!"
Katyusha did the only thing she could think of to shut Alfred up; she clamped her hand over his mouth and hugged him tightly from behind. He turned to her suddenly, eyes imploring, and she was quick to let go.
"Please, he is not hurting her," she argued softly. "Madeline has been wishing for this for a long time."
Alfred scowled, "But why him, of all people…"
"I am not sure. But… perhaps we are all just at the whim of love. We cannot really choose who we want to have feelings for…"
Sighing, Alfred looked at her again, his gaze softer. "Hey, Kat? Who is it exactly that you've gotten all dressed up for? Cuz whoever it is, he's a pretty dam lucky guy."
She shut her eyes tightly and stammered out, not giving her time to second think this,
"It is you."
When she opened her eyes again, Alfred was looking right at her, jaw slackened.
Katyusha nodded. "Y-you are very… handsome, and bright, and noble. I am sorry-"
She turned to run away, but Alfred grabbed her arm before she could go. Wordlessly, ignoring her soft sound of surprise, he pulled her tightly into his chest and hugged her. It wasn't until he kissed the crown of her head that she hugged back tightly.
"I… I think I love you, Katya."
"I love you too…"
As the warmth of late spring and the stress of finals started to set in, Katyusha and Madeline decided that they would go outside and study on the campus' open quad, where there was sunlight and fresh air.
And also where they could watch their respective boyfriends neglect all their academic duties and play three on three volleyball, shirtless.
"Love is a beautiful thing, is it not?" Katyusha sighed on one such day, looking up from her thoroughly highlighted copy of Pride and Prejudice.
Madeline, whose poetry anthology was opened in her lap and whose gaze was trained intently on Francis' smooth, bare chest, nodded.
A/N: Thank you all for reading this, and I hope you enjoyed it! Any reviews would be appreciated :3