A/N: Excuse me while I beg for forgiveness from all of you. If it means anything at all, this was my longest chapter EVER and by a good... 5,000 words I think :) Phew, well, anyway, I FINALLY FINISHED this behemoth of a chapter, an boy am I glad ^^ I'm going to have to start the next one tonight... Anyway! My life has just been a mess of things lately. October is a horrible month for me as far as time to do things goes, and I'm due for my part of the hetalia group I'm part of on youtube this coming weekend so i'm frantically trying to finish that XD I wouldn't expect a chapter next week, just as a warning ^^' I'm also still working on A Dangerous Attraction, to any here who read that, so don't worry that hasn't dropped off the edge of the earth either :P
Well, I have to go my borthers Baseball game, and I'm tired so, here you go! THANK YOU for all of your continued support and reviews TT^TT I love you guy's 3
Not betaed... go figure lol. Please excuse mistakes, and correct as you please :)
O ~ O ~ O
"Everyone, move quickly!" Ludwig hollered over the commotion of the house. "We haven't much time to waste. We're running out of space in the bags, so bring only what's necessary!"
"Will someone help me pack food?" Antonio begged.
"I'll help." Arthur offered immediately. "I'm already done packing my things." Antonio smiled gratefully at him and handed him a plastic container.
"Gracias amigo. Can you put the fruit I cut up in there?"
The Briton nodded, carefully spooning in the sweet produce until the box was filled to the brim. "Will this keep?" He asked curiously. Antonio jerked his head lightly.
"Yes, it should. We'll only be gone for two days, and it's relatively cold so it should be fine."
"Arthur have you seen my boots?" Francis cried frantically, jumping out from behind him and startling the green-eyed boy.
"Why in God's name would I know where your boots are?" Arthur snapped irritably. "They're your boots!"
"Well then help me find them!" Francis insisted. "We only have a couple minutes until we're going!" Arthur rolled his eyes, snapping a lid on the container and glancing over at Antonio.
"Go ahead." The brunette urged, looking over a checklist he'd compiled. "I only have a few more to go."
"No, you're not going to finish if you try to do it alone." Arthur sighed loudly over the noise. "Francis, YOU stay with him and help. I'll find your bloody shoes." Francis beamed happily at him.
"Thank you Angle-"
"If you call me that, I'm going to rip every strand of hair off your head." Arthur growled, spinning around on his heel and storming away before the French boy could get a word in edgewise.
It had been like this since before they'd arrived back at the cabin, this tizzy of motion and yelling. He'd practically been pushed over as the throngs of students dashed eagerly back to their houses to prepare for the challenge. When the got back, it was all running and scrambling, desperately trying to stuff things into backpacks. It was lucky, Arthur thought, that they'd decided in the end to trust Elizaveta's intuition and plan for a game like this, as most of them already had things together, and a plan had already been devised, should things have turned out the way they predicted.
He let out a grunt as Lukas pushed roughly by him, running down the stairs with an armful of clothes. The other boy let out a halfhearted apology, and continued his way down the steps, not even bothering to give Arthur a fleeting glance. He scrunched his nose. Somehow, it felt like he was the only on not really getting into all this. He did understand how important it was of course, and he was excited, but didn't they know that causing a fuss about it would only put them at a disadvantage? He shook his head, pulling his union jack hoodie closer around his body and stepping into the second floor hallway.
"Do you think I should bring a blanket?" He heard Tino calling from he and Berwald's room.
"Ivan where is my scarf? I thought I put it in the pile with my clothes!" Yao inquired from the other end of the hall, digging through what appeared to be a pile of garments that were sitting outside their door. Arthur chuckled. Well, even if he wasn't as energetic as his teammates, he couldn't say it wasn't the least bit amusing, watching everyone run around.
"Now, Francis's boots…" He frowned, glancing at the door to he and Matthew's room. They were probably there and he hadn't looked hard enough. He stepped down the hall and towards the cracked door, ears heightening with interest as he heard voices slipping out of the room.
"You're really going to bring that?" Alfred asked loudly as he walked into the space.
"Sure, we're allowed to carry stuff aren't we?" Soren argued. "I might as-" He stopped short, eyes flitting over to where Arthur stood in the doorway. The Dane starred at him silently for only a moment before breaking out into a wide grin. "Hey Arthur, you need something from Matt?" The blonde inquired, pushing himself off of Matthew's neatly made bed and rumpling the sheets.
"Did someone say my name?" Matthew chirped, popping out from a space beside the dresser, a pair of all to familiar looking boots in hand.
"Ah, I was just looking for Francis's shoes." Arthur explained awkwardly, glancing up at the ceiling. He wouldn't say it was weird per say, but being around Alfred since the other day when he'd foolishly told him that story was becoming increasingly uncomfortable for the Briton, and every passing second he felt the boy's curious azure eyes boring into his form was another second he wished he could take it back. It was like telling him about his family in the first place. He didn't know what compelled him to say anything he just felt like he had to.
"Oh, these right here then?" Matthew laughed, stepping away from the dresser and extending them to him. "Yea I heard him going on about how he couldn't find them and I'd remembered them being here so I thought I'd give it a look."
"Oh." Arthur responded, slightly startled at the boys actions. It had been clear to everyone the past week that Matthew was avoiding Francis. You would have to be an idiot not to see it. Of course even if Arthur hadn't noticed, Francis had come to him every day blabbering about it, so it was impossible for him not to know about it. But knowing that, why would the Canadian go out of the way to find his shoes? The boy hadn't even slept in his own bed the last couple day, much less gone around anything having to do with Francis if he could help it. Arthur wondered silently what had spurred the sudden change in attitude.
"Well, are you going to just stand there or are you going to take them?" Alfred's irritable voice cut into his thoughts. Arthur snorted, snatching the boots away from Matthew.
"Don't tell me what to do."
"Then actually do something." Alfred replied pushing himself off of Francis's bed. "Don't just stand there looking stupid."
Arthur's face flushed with heat and he scowled at the American. "You're the stupid one, you-"
"Guy's knock it off." Soren cut in. "I mean beat each other up on your own time, that's cool with me, but we were kind of in the middle of a conversation."
"Oh yea!" Alfred exclaimed, all traces of annoyance vanishing from his face. "Anyway, Soren, are you really going to bring that thing?" He asked skeptically, turning back towards his friend. Soren nodded, holding up what, to Arthur's surprise, appeared to be a wooden sword, like one's children played with, except bigger. Arthur felt a rush of nostalgia wash over him as he eyed the dull weapon thoughtfully.
"Yea. I mean, I'm taking a sparring class right? There isn't any rule that I can't use the tools it gave me to my advantage. I've got another one, if you want it." Soren grinned enthusiastically. Alfred held up his hands and shook his head, declining the Dane's offer.
"No that's OK. I'd probably take my own eye out." Alfred admitted, running his hand across the back of his neck.
"Um," Arthur began hesitantly, glancing between the two. "If the offer still stands, I'll take that other sword. If you're giving it out."
Soren quirked his head curiously, and Arthur watched as he and Alfred shared a glance. "You know how to use a sword?" Arthur nodded.
"Yes. I learned swordplay when I was younger. Uh just for fun." He finished quickly, fumbling with the strings on his hood. It wasn't a lie. Well, not a total lie anyway. "It's been a while since I've used one, but if you have an extra one, I don't see any harm in putting it to good use."
Soren nodded thoughtfully. "Hm, well if you know how to use it, go for it dude." He laughed. "I'll grab my spare from my room. How much time do we have left."
"Not much." Arthur responded dryly. "We better hurry down, or Ludwig is going to blow a gasket."
"On it." Soren leaped off the bed, sneakers squeaking in protest against the hardwood floor as he landed. "I'll meet ya down stairs. See you in a few you two. Oh and uh," He flicked his head to Arthur in acknowledgement as he disappeared out the doorway. "You too, Arthur."
"Soooo…" Alfred trailed off awkwardly as his friend vanished from view. "Uh Matt are you ready?"
"Yup!" Matthew nodded assuringly. "We should head down stairs. Beside's Arthur, I'm sure Francis is still looking for his boots."
"Oh, oh right I have to get these down to him don't I?" Arthur agreed. He reached up to tug on the skin of his earlobe, but thought better of it when Alfred raised his eyebrows and sent him a knowing look.
"Yea, don't tell me you forgot?" Matthew laughed. "I'm going to go down now though, if you don't mind. See you in a couple minutes!" He promised. And without another word, the Canadian slipped out the door and out of sight. Well. Not awkward at all.
"Hey is there anyone else in here?" Romano poked his head into the room suddenly, startling Arthur. "I just say Matthew go down the hall."
"Yea, We were just on our way down." Alfred informed him, slipping something into his back pocket and giving him a nod. "Are they all set down there?"
"For the most part. The kraut bastard is just trying to get everyone together." Romano muttered sourly. "I don't know who put HIM in charge though."
"He's just trying to help." Alfred offered, walking past Arthur and toward the door. "It's just how he is I guess."
"Yea well I wish he would knock it off." Romano growled. "Him and his stupid to big muscles and that stupid accent and always hanging around my brother! It makes me sick!"
"Why don't you like him hanging out with Ludwig and Kiku?" Arthur asked, pushing his way into the hall.
"It's not Kiku, just that stupid German bastard." Romano snarled. "He needs to bug off. Feli doesn't need to hang around someone like that!"
"You don't like Germans, do you?" Alfred mused.
"No I do not!" Romano fumed storming down the hall. Arthur and Alfred exchanged an awkward glance and dashed after him down the now empty corridor.
"But why?" Alfred pressed. "Is there a reason? I mean you can't just, ya know, hate Germans."
Romano stopped abruptly in front of the stairs, threatening to send Arthur tumbling into him as he tried to slow behind the boy.
"It's… complicated." Romano replied quietly. Arthur raised his eyebrows in surprise. Well that was a shock; he certainly hadn't been expecting a reply, much less an earnest one. "My brother, well he just doesn't need any more of those people, OK? And that's all you need to know."
"Yea. Got it." Alfred said softly, placing a gentle hand on the Italian's shoulder. For a moment, it seemed as if Romano would slap it away, but he simply let out a heavy sigh and shrugged it off, starting down the stairwell.
"He doesn't seem so great all of a sudden." Alfred whispered into Arthur's ear. He stiffened at the warm breath against his skin, but quickly brushed off the tingling and shoved the boy away.
"It's none of our business." He replied sternly. "Come now, let's hurry after him."
They bounded down the steps, Alfred hitting the splitting platform behind him with a thud as Arthur peered into the overstuffed living room at their teammates, Romano just making his way off the steps. With a few quick hops, they followed suit, entering the room and instantly attracting the attention of one speaking German.
"There you are!" Ludwig exclaimed. "We thought we would be waiting for ever! And where on earth is Soren, he's late too."
"Someone looking for me?" Soren called head appearing from around the corner where they'd come. "I'm all set. Sorry about that." Ludwig just shook his head and turned back to the silent group, all staring at him expectantly. Soren jumped quickly down the stairs in two, long strides and stood behind them, nudging Arthur on the shoulder as Ludwig began to speak again.
"Here, don't lose it." He mouthed quietly, leaning over to whisper in his ear and placing the wooden sword in Arthur's open palm. "It's got the sheath on it so you can- oof!" He wheezed, backing unsteadily away from him. "Al, what the heck that was my stomach!"
"Shut up, I'm trying to listen." Alfred replied tightly, keeping his narrowed orbs fixed intently on Ludwig and drawing that arm that had elbowed him companion in the stomach forward. Soren mumbled something incoherent under his breath, but other wise remained silent. Arthur glanced quickly at the American beside him, using his peripherals to get another look at the boy's face.
His eyes were still scrunched, but more in thought now, then annoyance. Usually a familiar cobalt hue, they now glowed an impossible shade of navy blue, although still rimmed with the usual golden ring. Now though, it appeared more like fire in Alfred's shining orbs, burning feircely against the depths of his ocean blue eyes. He looked dangerous, if Arthur had to put a word to it.
"Now, are we ready?" Ludwig's voice slipped its way into his thoughts, yanking Arthur's attention away from the blonde beside him, and to the blonde yelling from the front of the room.
"We have everything necessary. Well all that they will not supply us with." Roderich stated. The stuffy Austrian was, for once, adorned in something not related to dress pants and shoes. Instead, he wore a pair of faded jeans and what appeared to be a form of hiking boots. His upper half was layered with various sweaters, each one peaking out from the one atop it until ending with a forest green woolen vest, and a puffy blue jacket. Arthur fought back a laugh. It was the first time he'd ever seen Roderich look so much like a normal person. And although he admired him for his grace and proper attitude, it was nice to see the boy looking as mismatched as a normal person for once.
"Then let's go!" Gilbert exclaimed, pulling his glove clad hands out of the pockets of his onyx jacket and tugging on his red scarf. The group cheered in agreement, and in an instant, they were all heading towards the door. Well, all except fro Francis.
"There you are!" His friend cried, pushing through their teammates as they worked their way out of the cabin. "Thank goodness, I thought I was going to go shoeless."
"Oh yea that's right." Arthur blinked, holding up the shoes in the hand that wasn't holding the sword. "Sorry 'bout that."
"No problem." Francis rolled his eyes, slipping them over his feet. "Really, none at all."
"Oh shut up, you could have just done it yourself." Arthur replied sourly, shoving him. Francis laughed childishly and shrugged.
"Hey, are you two coming?" A voice called irritably from the door. The room was empty now, except for them, and the face that stood impatiently at the entryway.
"Yes yes, sorry about that." Francis assured Alfred, zipping his jacket. "We were just coming, weren't we Arthur?"
"Uh, yea." Arthur replied lamely, tugging at the second of one of his numerous shirt layers. "Yea we were. Ah!" He yelled, startled at the sudden warmth around his hand as Francis yanked him forward.
"Honestly, you're so slow sometimes, Mr. genius." Francis chided, dragging him towards the door. "If we're going don't just stand there."
"I know that!" Arthur muttered, struggling to free himself from Francis's grip as they passed Alfred and stepped into the blustery autumn wind. The door slammed behind them as thy got through, and the American stepped roughly by them, jogging down the steps in order to catch up with their already quickly descending team mates.
"What's put him in such a bad mood?" Francis chuckled, finally allowing Arthur to rip his hand away.
"Got me." Arthur grumbled. "He's always mad, isn't he? "
"No, that's just how you see him Arthur."
"Oh sod off. By the way," He began as they started after the rest of them, "did Matthew, you know, talk to you when he got down?" Francis raised his eyebrows skeptically.
"Mathieu? Talk to me? No, most certainly not." Francis frowned, shaking his head. "Honestly, what gave you an idea like that?" Arthur cocked his head in surprise, fidgeting with the sword in his hand.
"Well I mean it's just he seemed, different?" Arthur offered lamely. "After all he's the one who found your shoes for you, not me. He'd heard they were missing so he went looking for them."
Francis quirked a blonde eyebrow, shaking his head. "I don't understand that boy." He sighed, tugging at his tied back hair. "One minute he's treating me like the devil, the next he's acting all cute and embarrassed. Honestly, does he want to be around me or not?"
"I think what you're curious is whether he WANTS you or not, isn't it?" Arthur scoffed, unconsciously zipping up his jacket as the wind kicked up. Francis shrugged, hopping off the final step of the stairs before Arthur and running his tongue across his chapped lips.
"Perhaps. Either way, I'm getting tired of waiting. If at any time he and I are alone during this little game, you can be sure I'm not just going to sit back and let things be."
"Don't screw things up, bloody frog." Arthur rolled his eyes, shoving his friend stumbling into a pile of golden oak leaves. Francis chuckled fondly, catching himself against a tree.
"Yes, yes. I can take care of myself. And I could say the same for you." Arthur narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms.
"The hell is that supposed to mean, you tosser?"
"Hey!" A voice called angrily from behind them, catching Arthur's attention. Ludwig stood just down the path, bag hefted over his shoulder and steam puffing from his open mouth as he glared disapprovingly at them. "Hurry up you two, we only have a few more minutes to get down there, and you're getting left behind!"
"Sorry." Arthur apologized earnestly. "Come on, Francis. We had better go." With a brief nod, the French boy pushed himself off the tree and jogged past him, leaving Arthur to follow he and Ludwig through the forest and back towards their waiting teammates.
O ~ O ~ O
Alfred hugged his scarf closer to his mouth, squinting his eyes against the wind, and the light drops of rain that fell through the tops of the trees. The meeting back down by the lakeside had been a quick affair. Each team was given a tracker to their flag, and provisions for sleeping (tents, sleeping bags, etc.), as well as an additional rule, as far as guarding the flags went. Any student who was captured in another's territory was to be brought back to their flag site, and had to be saved by their team mates before they were allowed their freedom. Being captured consisted of being tagged, of course. However as long as no one touched you, you could fight of being tagged anyway you choose.
They had found their flag in about an hour or so. It was tucked in a clearing at the bottom of a small hill, surrounded by dense forest where the team had begun set up their camp in an attempt for some sort of more efficient shelter. Alfred checked his watch, shivering in the cold. Nine in the morning. It felt like seven at night.
"Feliciano, can you give me a hand with this tent?" Romano yelled over the howling gale.
"We're never going to get these up!" Lukas spat furiously as he held one of the tents in place alongside Berwald and Tino. "It's to damn windy!"
"We have to try." Soren persisted, covering his eyes.
"We can't fight this." Ivan agreed. "It's no good, the wind's just going to keep blowing everything down. Even in the trees, we have little protection."
Alfred bit his lip, catching one of the poles as it threatened to fall. It did seem impossible to combat. But maybe… He narrowed his eyes, glancing up at his comrades and searching desperately for two people. Elizaveta and Yao. Their longer hair flew in front of their faces, whipping in tangled strands in front of their eyes. His gaze shifted behind him, eyeing the flag in the clearing. The wind was coming at them through the clearing. From the look of it, heading only slightly northwest and hitting them at almost a head on angle, but not quite.
"Hey guy's, I think I have an idea!" He called over the noise. "We've got blankets, don't we?"
"Yes, we do, but what good are those going to do us?" Roderich retorted.
"Where are they?" He asked immediately. "And the rope, I know we brought some."
"What does it ma-"
"It's in the black bag!" Gilbert cut into Roderich's protest, burgundy eyes alight knowingly. "Third pocket. The blankets are in the green pack, first pocket. You should need three, right?" Alfred nodded gratefully, letting go of his hold on the fluttering tent to delve into the backpacks.
"What in God's name are you doing?" Arthur shouted.
"Stopping the wind!" Alfred replied fiercely, pulling out the rope strands. Gilbert too had abandoned his spot beside the tents, and was searching through the bag with the blankets. In a swift movement, he yanked out three of them, thick and woolen.
"This should do it, right?" He confirmed, lowering his crimson scarf and revealing his mouth so as to speak more clearly. Alfred nodded, grabbing hold of the blankets.
"Oh!" Kiku exclaimed suddenly. "Gilbert-san, Alfred-san that is genius!" Alfred felt a small spark of pride blossom in his chest.
"What is?" Romano interjected. "What's going on?"
"They're going to stop the wind with the blankets." Kiku explained loudly over the noise. "If one can string them tight enough between two trees, the tension should be enough to keep the wind from blowing into us, at least as violently. Since the wind is coming from the clearing, the best move is to cover as much area between the trees around us, like a wall of sorts."
"But will they hold?" Romano protested.
"If they're tied correctly." Gilbert confirmed. "Don't worry, I'm pretty good with knots, believe it or not." He chuckled at his own joke. "But we're going to need some more hands over here. Preferably strong ones."
"I'll help!" Antonio offered immediately.
"As will I." Ludwig agreed.
Ivan nodded, grabbing a corner of the blanket from Alfred's grasp.
To his surprise, Arthur also joined them, taking part of Gilbert's blankets and fixing Alfred with an annoyed glare. Alfred looked away, tightening his hold on the cloth.
"OK, we'll hold it up, and Gil you tie the knot." Antonio instructed, uncharacteristically. It was strange, hearing orders leave the peppy Spaniards mouth.
"Right." The all agreed.
"Are you sure this will work?" Elizaveta cautioned. "If it doesn't, we might tear the blankets, or they'll get carried away."
Gilbert flashed her a confident grin, eyes brimming with assurance. "If I think it will work, it will. After all, everything I do is awesome." Elizaveta shook her head; chestnut hair swirling in front of her eyes and obscuring them until she brushed them away, tucking the tugging strands behind her ear.
"You and your ego." She muttered, annoyance lacing her voice.
"Are you ready?" Ludwig called, pulling the albino's attention back to them. Gilbert turned and flicked his head.
"Ready as I'll ever be."
"Good. All right, Antonio and I will hold ours up. Alfred, Ivan you take Gilbert's while he's tying. On the count of three." He warned. He and Antonio inched closer to the edge of the forest, pulling the blanked tight between two trees, but still holding it at their waists.
"One. Two. Three!" He yelled as the raised the cloth. Gilbert wasted no time, grabbing a corner of the material and tying a fast knot around it in such a rapid, fluid motion that Alfred couldn't believe it was even tied tightly. As soon as he finished, he fastened the rope around the tree, and finished off that corner. The rest of the process went, well, something like that first knot. Once or twice the blankets threatened to get away from them, but by some miracle, they never did. At last, they had finished, fort securely guarded from the gale. At least for the time being.
"I can't believe it worked." Arthur coughed, slumping against a tree and falling to the grass.
"It might become a problem if they get to wet, but I don't think so. The only problem is that we can't see the flag. But I figure if we're sitting around camp then we're not focusing on guarding the flag anyway." Alfred stated, wiping his hands on his jeans.
"Well," Ludwig breathed. "Now that that is through, we should discuss how we're going to go about this. The game has begun, after all."
"Let's stick with our original plan." Yao insisted. "The pairs we picked to stay will stay, and others go out in search of flags."
"That's all well and fine." Ludwig broke in. "But seeing as things actually turned out how we predicted… I'd like to rearrange my brother and mine's teams." Hushed murmuring broke out amongst the group, and Alfred watched as Feliciano's eyes piqued with interest. "Roderich, you stay here with Feliciano. Gilbert and I will go out together." The blonde German ordered, sliding his pale blue gaze over to his elder brother.
"What?" Feliciano yelped. "But I want to go with you! Why do I have to stay? I thought we agreed to go out on a search team together! That we would stay as a pair!"
"Well… we did." Ludwig agreed awkwardly. "And that will hold true for everyone else, I promise. But the two of us will be more useful on our own."
"No." Feliciano insisted stubbornly. "I'm not staying behind, I'm going with you."
Ludwig furrowed his brow and let out a heavy sigh. "Feliciano, it's just not going to work. Just listen to me and-"
"West, just stay with him." Gilbert interrupted, addressing Ludwig with the peculiar nickname he had adorned him with. All eyes flit over to the elder brother, jaw tense and eyes buzzing with authoritative energy. "Look, we need more people guarding camp right? I know you two were part of the original idea, but I can do that much on my own, as long as Roderich stays behind." His gaze softened, and the German boy cocked his head, an unspoken message passing between he and his brother.
"I know what you're trying to do." He said quietly. "But don't. It'll be fine. Just have some faith in me, OK?"
Gilbert's solemn expression faded quickly, switching back to his more familiar smirk. Ludwig faltered, and he opened his mouth as if to speak, before closing it again.
"Very well." He agreed. "I will stay back at camp and guard the camp with Feliciano."
"That's all well and good, but why do I have to stay?" Roderich snorted. "We're just letting the big shot have his moment in the sun? Well I can be just as much help, I assure you."
"No doubt there, pretty boy." Gilbert snickered. "But this is a professionals job."
"What on earth does that-"
"Roderich." Ludwig interrupted, holding out his hand to silence the boy. "Just go with it. I promise we are not belittling you. My brother just works better on his own. And it would be best for the team that he be given the freedom to complete his part as such." Roderich muttered something incoherent in response, but was otherwise silent.
"Now that that's through." Alfred stepped in, feeling oddly put out by the strange conversation, "Let's remind ourselves who's staying and going." He stuck his pointer finger out, tapping it lightly with the one on his left hand in a silent count off.
"As of a change, Feliciano and Ludwig are now staying. Berwald and Tino, Ivan and Yao, Soren and Lukas, and Francis and Matty are staying behind. Oh, and Roderich." He cast a quick glance at the perturbed brunette, and continued his list.
"On search, we have Gilbert, Kiku and Elizaveta, Antonio and Romano, and uh well me and Arthur." He finished awkwardly, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jeans. "Any questions?"
"None." Lukas replied simply. "Other then when are we going to get started?"
"Right now!" Soren announced, pulling out the wooden sword that he'd kept fastened around his belt. "You guy's should head out immediately. If you can't take any flags, come back at sundown."
"And if we find one?" Arthur inquired, twirling his own sword in his hand dangerously. Gilbert chuckled.
"Tonio and I thought of that. Hold on a second." The albino knelt to the ground and began rooting through the pockets of one of the packs, and pulling out what appeared to be several crude form of walkie-talkie. "We made them during our free period." He explained, handing them out to the search teams. Alfred flipped his own over curiously in his hand.
"I'm not good with electronics myself, but Tony's great at 'em."
"Not that great." Antonio admitted humbly.
"And I'm not bad at finding parts for things, if you catch my drift." Gilbert continued. "We were just going to use them to mess with people, but we figured that this would be a better use for them. They're all already tuned in to a frequency, all you have to do is turn them on and we have ourselves wireless connection, so to speak. Of course, we only have so many, so I figured I'll leave one with you guys who are staying and we'll take the rest."
"How did you make these?" Kiku marveled, playing with the volume dial.
"Well, we don't waste our free period, contrary to popular belief." Gilbert shot a look at Roderich who pointedly ignored him. "It didn't take to long once we had the parts. Anyway, when any of us finds a flag, radio the others and we'll come find you."
"With what compass?" Romano snapped. "I admit these are… impressive, but if we don't know where we are how are we supposed to find each other? We only have one GPS, and that was only useful in finding our flag."
"Ah, see we thought that through too." Gilbert grinned. "Here, take a look at these." Delving back into the pack, he pulled out several small cloth bags, tied with string and tossed them to each of them.
"This was kind of last minute thing, and I'm not going to tell you what it is, but I'll tell you, when they gave us the flare I broke it and poured the contents into what was in these bags. When you call us and tell us you've found one, light this thing and we'll know exactly where you are, because the reaction will be red."
"Genius." Lukas muttered skeptically. "But since you BROKE the flare, how do you propose you shoot it off into the air?"
"Oh don't worry, you just have to light it on fire. We'll all be able to see it, no matter where anyone sets one off. Trust me." Gilbert snickered. "By the way, when you throw the match on it, run. Like hell. And unless you want to get disqualified for seriously hurting someone, I'd make sure there's nobody else close by."
"Lovely, just lovely. Ludwig, why didn't you inform is that your brother was a pyro?" Lukas grit his teeth.
"Pyro is a harsh word." Gilbert cackled, tossing one of the sacks directly into Romano's chest and leaving him to fumble with it. "But an accurate one. Now, all of you make sure to keep your matches dry in case it starts raining. And don't get the powder wet either, or it won't work, verhest?"
"Thanks mom, we won't." Romano rolled his eyes, scrunching his nose into a sour expression. "So let's see if I've got this straight. We go out look for a flag. If we find one, go out a ways from it and radio the rest of you. After we radio you, we light this thing on fire, and you should all be there in a matter of minutes to help us? But what if you're far away? Are you remembering how giant the radius for this thing? It could take us twenty minutes to get to a location!"
"Take that risk." Ludwig advised. "Working in teams is a safety precaution, yes, but if two of you go in alone, it's unlikely that you'll be able to capture the flag on your own, considering getting past guards, and the fact that you'd still have to get it. "
"We'll all go in the same direction, respectively." Kiku assured him. "That way we won't be to far from one another."
"See?" Gilbert grinned. "It's all thought out."
"Well… if you say so." Romano agreed begrudgingly.
"Right." Alfred nodded. "Let's go then."
As promised, they marched up to the top the clearing, fighting the wind every step of the way. Alfred clutched the bag of powder tightly in his jacket pockets in an attempt to keep it from flying out.
"When we get the flag, we'll radio you back!" Gilbert yelled down to the rest of the team. "You guy's are in charge of protecting this thing, so good luck!"
"You too!" Ludwig called back. Alfred thought he saw worry flash through Ludwig's mist blue eyes, but he shook off the suspicion as the blonde turned his back and with a last wave, retreated with the others back into the confines of their campsite.
O ~ O ~ O
"I'm telling you, we're going to far east." Arthur snapped, shoving Alfred lightly as they stumbled through a maze of weaving tree roots.
"We are not, we're going straight, just like we have been for the past half an hour!" Alfred protested. "See, I'll prove it!" Pausing, he slumped against a tree and slipped his hand into his pants pocket, clumsily pulling out a golden, shimmering object and clicking it open. He'd nearly forgotten that he'd packed his old compass until just earlier that day when Alfred had been digging through his bags, and discovered it hiding at the bottom. He'd stuck it in his pocket before they left, and he was glad to say he wasn't regretting the decision now.
"Is that a compass?" Arthur asked incredulously as Alfred watched the arrow spin around lazily. He nodded, waiting patiently for the line to stop. It froze suddenly, and he smiled. They were going just barely due northwest, exactly the direction they'd been heading since camp.
"See, I told you, we're right on course." He sighed, flipping it closed and sliding the brass instrument back into his pocket. "Seriously, I think you just like to argue with me."
"You don't say." Arthur grumbled, pulling the hood of his jacket over his head and stomping away. Alfred snickered and in a few quick strides, was back along side him, walking in step with the sour Briton.
"I'm surprise we haven't run into anyone yet." He mused aloud, running his hand through his mist dampened hair. The wind had died down, for the most part, and now a thin mist covered the forest, accompanied by the occasional raindrop. Arthur shrugged and touched the handle of his wooden sword lightly.
"Guess everyone else is still working things out. I wonder how the others are managing."
"Well if they'd found anything, they would have radioed us." Alfred pointed out. "For now, all we can do is keep going and hope we don't find anyone else. We're far out of our own territory by now, I'm sure."
Arthur shrugged dismissively under his coat, continuing forward in silence. Alfred bit his lip, an odd sort of churning agitating his stomach. Why was Arthur being so quiet? At this point, wouldn't he usually be yelling at him to shut up, or something?
"Hey uh, Arthur?" He began tentatively. No use jumping in the water all at once, it was safer to go one toe at a time. "Are you OK?" The Briton stiffened, faltering slightly in his step before picking up his steady rhythm and continuing forward.
"Is that really for you to ask? When just a few hours ago you were all stiff and angry around me?" Alfred stopped in his tracks, honestly bewildered. What did he mean by that? I haven't been acting weird at all! He thought inwardly. He's the one who's been acting strange!
"What the heck is that suppose to mean?" He asked defensively, running in front of Arthur and stopping him. "I've been fine, you're being weird."
"Then why did you elbow Soren during Ludwig's talk back in the cabin?" Arthur growled. And then when Francis and I were walking out the door, you were practically glaring daggers at us! How come? Are you just in a bad mood or something?"
Alfred blinked slowly at him, trying to recall the events he'd described. He and Francis had been taking ages; he couldn't blame him for being frustrated about that! And the Soren thing… he grimaced. He didn't know WHY he'd done that, to be perfectly honest. I just remembered suddenly being agitated with his friend and wanting to elbow him, so he had. Looking back, it seemed silly, really. Maybe he was just tired.
"No. I… I guess I'm just not feeling good or something." He confessed half-heartedly. "I didn't realize I was being such an ass. Sorry man." Arthur head shot up, jade eyes peering curiously at him from under his hood.
"Did you just apologize?"
"Well… yea." Alfred chuckled. "I guess I did. Weird huh? Guess I'm really not feeling good. But uh… are you better now? I mean, I'm not mad at you or anything I promise, so don't, don't act all strange like you were a minute ago." Arthur snorted, shoving his chest lightly.
"Moron, why would I get upset over you? I guess I'm just pissed at the weather. Or something. Anyway, forget I said anything."
"Stupid, I'm not gonna do that." Alfred chided, tugging his hood off his head playfully. Arthur scowled up at him, furiously trying mat down his mussed up hair as Alfred laughed teasingly at him. He looked like a little kid like that. "If any thing's wrong, just tell me, cause I'm a hero and it's my job to listen, OK?"
"Oh shut up." Arthur groused, a small smile playing on his lips. "Since when do you care anyway?"
"Good question." Alfred laughed, asking himself more then Arthur. "Oh." He gasped in surprise, screwing up his eyes as a cold wet drop landed dead on the tip of his nose. "Hey is it just me, or is it starting to rain harder?"
"For once, you're right." Arthur agreed, holding out his hands. "It's picked up a bit. Do you want to stop and find somewhere to hide?"
"Nah, its just water." Alfred decided. Arthur cocked an eyebrow at him.
"Sure, but what about the pouch? And don't forget we have matches to keep dry as well."
"Oh yea…" Alfred grimaced, feeling for the sack in his coat pocket. "I suppose your right. Guess we should find a thick crop of trees or something."
"Agreed." Arthur nodded, peering through the forest. "How about up there? There are some pretty low hanging branches that way."
"Looks good." Alfred shivered, pulling his jacket more tightly around him as the rain began to pour down around them "Let's hurry."
"Don't lose your glasses again." Arthur snickered, dashing ahead of him toward the sheltered spot. Alfred frowned and stuck out his tongue in an unnoticed and silent retort, and quickly followed after him.
In a matter of minutes, the pair was huddled beneath the trees, sheltered lightly, from the sheets of precipitation that poured down around them. It was lucky, Alfred decided, that fall had only just started. The ground was littered with dead leaves, but there were still plenty of trees that were exploding with life, and for that he was thankful.
"Man, I miss sunlight." Alfred whined, rubbing his arms. "And summer."
"How long have you lived in England exactly?" Arthur chuckled. "It doesn't get any better lad."
Alfred wrinkled his nose at the comment (particularly being referred to as if he were a child.) "Yea I know that, it's just, a guy can hope right?" Arthur rolled his eyes, shifting against the tree opposite him and said nothing. Alfred fiddled awkwardly with his fingers. The quiet now wasn't as stifling now as it had been several minutes earlier, but it was still unwanted. Even if it was just amble chatter, he really wanted to talk to Arthur.
Which felt… odd.
"So…" He trailed off, staring up through the leaves. "Ever played never have I ever?"
"No, I don't believe I have." He responded, looking oddly bemused at the question. "What is it?'
"Uh, a game." Alfred explained. "We hold up ten fingers, and take turns saying 'never have I ever done blank.' If you've done it, you put a finger down. The person who puts down all their fingers first loses. Although, I guess depending on who you're playing with, that person would be the winner… anyway do you want to play?" Arthur shrugged and held up his hands.
"I've got nothing better to do."
"Great!" Alfred exclaimed, far more loudly then he should have. Man I must be really bored if I'm getting excited over such a stupid thing as this. He reasoned quietly to himself. "OK I'll go first. And the point is to try to think of things you think the other has done that you haven't to try to get them to put fingers down. Alright alright…" He babbled, putting his fingers up. "Never have I ever gotten in trouble at school."
He watched in amusement as Arthur grit his teeth and sourly put down one finger. "Yea, I figured." Alfred snickered. "What did you do?"
"Nothing." Arthur retorted, shifting his weight as the rain began to slip through the leaves. "I got blamed for something I didn't do and I was suspended."
Alfred cringed. "Ouch, sorry I asked."
"Doesn't matter. I'm here now aren't I? Is it my turn?"
"Oh, yea." He replied quickly, rubbing his foot against the wet grass. "Go ahead."
"Never have I ever…" Arthur trailed up, looking up through the branches of the tree thoughtfully. "Drank coffee."
"Hey." Alfred muttered, lowering a finger. "That's low."
"You said the point was to get the other person out."
"Yea but not like that! It's supposed to be, you know, interesting stuff!"
Arthur raised his eyes. "Then why don't you show me how it's done?"
"Fine I will!" Alfred huffed. "Never have I ever kissed anyone. There, see? That's more interesting."
A frown bloomed across Arthur's lips as he reluctantly lowered a finger. Alfred felt his breath hitch and he looked away. Oh, right. He had only used it as an example really, but he'd completely forgotten the level of the other boy's experience. It would figure that he'd kissed someone before.
"Are you sure you've never kissed anyone before?" Arthur asked suddenly, an oddly annoyed look set upon his face, as if something about the whole thing seemed unfair to him. Alfred blinked at him in disbelief.
"I'm pretty sure I'd know. It would be my… my uh first kiss."
"Oh." He furrowed his eyebrows and shrugged, seeming all the more put off. "Well, alright. Is it my turn then?"
"Yea." Alfred affirmed, glad to be away from the subject of kissing. "And uh, let's go back to the questions we were asking before, OK? Those were better."
"You think so?" Arthur responded sarcastically. "Alright, since we can both agree your judgment is flawed, I'll go back to tea and coffee type questions. So how about this." The Briton leaned over and propped his elbows on his knees, blinking at him through his bangs. "Never have I ever lived in a big city."
"Drat." Alfred grumbled, putting a finger down. Arthur's thick eyebrows arched in surprise.
"Oh? Where did you live?"
"New York city." Alfred replied, unable to keep the pride out of his voice. "We lived there until I was about eleven, and then we moved here. I started in middle school."
"New York." Arthur mused, "Not as fabulous as London I'm sure, but it's always sounded like an… interesting city."
"Greatest in the world." Alfred grinned. "My turn?" Arthur nodded.
"Never have I ever… ballroom danced?" He offered lamely.
"Yes you have you wanker." Arthur snapped. "Remember, for the Poe play in theatre?"
"That doesn't count!" Alfred protested. "It was for class, and it was with a guy! Besides, it wasn't in a ballroom so it doesn't-"
"Shut up." Arthur cut in tersely. Alfred scowled, crossing his arms.
"No I will not shut up, Mr. know it all. I'll talk as much as I want! La la la la-"
"Alfred!" Arthur hissed. "Be quiet, I hear voices."
He shut his mouth immediately, embarrassment creeping up to his cheeks. Well, what was he supposed to think? He watched as Arthur cocked his head from side to side, listening to the sounds that Alfred couldn't hear. Finally, he spoke up in a soft voice, "Do you still hear them?"
"Yes, but they're getting faint." Arthur breathed. "I think they're moving away."
"Do you hear that?"
The pair froze in horror as a new set of voices arose around them. And Alfred could guess that these weren't the one's Arthur was hearing. Because these were close; too close.
"Yea." Another voice, male by the sound, growled from beyond their sight. "Alright, we know you're there, come out."
Arthur's eyes pooled with panic, jaw clenched and green orbs flitting around as if he was trying to figure out where the other students were.
"Stop hiding, it's pointless." The first voice sneered. "You're on Script territory now, and we won't let anyone get away."
Alfred's mind reeled. They were near the Script houses camp? He gnawed at his bottom lip nervously. Did that mean they were going to have to run into Heracles? He'd seen the other boy in class of course, but after the discovery, it was a little strange being around him, for the glares and taunts of the other boy's teammates. Some how or another they'd figure out the two were friends and it seemed as if they'd forbade Heracles from talking to him. Alfred had tried to convince him to ignore them, but the brunette was resigned not to cause trouble and their relationship since then had been stiff, at best.
Frantic movements from Arthur pulled him out of his thought, as the sandy blonde motioned behind the tree he was leaned against and mouthed 'they're behind me.' Alfred cursed silently, glancing at the mass of bushes to the side of Arthur's tree. He couldn't see them, but if he sat there any longer, they were going to be able to see him. It was still pouring down rain, so it did dampen the visibility, if only a little, but certainly not enough to hide him. If he could just move a little…
Leaves crunched suddenly, and Alfred felt his heart drop into his stomach. Arthur had lost his balance, sitting precariously on the balls of his feet, and had tumbled over, hand falling into a small patch of fallen leaves.
"There. I think they're behind the tree's."
Alfred didn't even think. He scrambled forward toward Arthur, arms and legs flailing around in the air as he desperately attempted to hide himself. Before he knew it, he was eye to eye with the Briton, crouching oddly over him as they pressed their bodies closer to the tree.
"Stand up." Alfred whispered, ignoring the close proximity of their bodies. Arthur nodded, using his hands to push himself slowly up the tree. Alfred followed suit, rising with the other boy.
"Do you see them?" The second voice asked.
Alfred pushed himself closer to the tree unconsciously, only to be met by a hiss of protest as Arthur pressed a hand to his chest.
"Not so close."
"I can't help it, they'll see us!" He breathed. He shifted his hands against the bark, curling the fingers that were splayed beside Arthur's head. His eyes darted awkwardly around them, unsure of where to look, knowing if he slipped up he would be met with Arthur's jade eyes. It was already bad enough that he could feel the other boy's breathing against his mouth; he didn't need to be looking at him too.
"No. Hey, you go around the other side, slowly. I don't want them making a run for it."
I wish that were what we were doing. Alfred thought bitterly. He shifted his feet, knee brushing against Arthur's pant leg, ignoring the uncomfortable churning of his stomach. He could smell him. He smelled of parchment and ink, of sweet caramel and firewood. And snow. Somehow, he smelt of the soft, fuzzy flakes that fell from the sky at Christmas time. It was strangely intoxicating.
"Hey, don't doze off on me, we might have to fight back." Arthur whispered sharply, a puff of peppermint breath mingling with the rest of him.
"I know, I know." He replied, fixing his eyes on the boy's earrings as they glittered dangerously in the soft cartilage of his ear lobe. "If we can just stay-"
"Fane?" Arthur cut in a shocked murmur. Alfred's eyes stretched in surprise, and he turned his head over his shoulder, searching for the boy. It didn't take him long. He looked as if he had just slipped out of the bushes beside them. He tossed them a sly grin, crimson eyes alighting as he pressed a finger to his broad stretched mouth, and dashed out from the shelter of the tree's and into the rain. Alfred stared at him in bewilderment. What was he doing?
"HEY!" He yelled loudly, cupping his hands over his mouth. "Over here you bastards."
"There he is!"
Alfred flinched at the sound of leaves rustling just feet away from them as one of the boy's abandoned his spot. Fane inched further into the sheets of rain, continuing to spill taunting words as the pair of mysterious boys rounded the corner of the tree and chased after him. As his fading form slipped away, he caught a glimpse of the boy raising his middle finger, and then he and the Script members disappeared from sight, lost in the thick of water and forest.
Alfred let out a relieved sigh, falling to the ground weakly. He hadn't even realized how tense his muscles had been.
"That was close." He acknowledged. "Why the hell did he do that? Moron's going to get himself caught."
"We should be grateful, not doubting him. " Arthur interjected, still balanced against the tree. "If he hadn't shown up they would have found us for sure. We're just lucky they seemed to forget there were two of us."
"Thank goodness." Alfred muttered. "We really owe him, huh?" Arthur nodded in agreement.
"Come on, let's get out of here." He insisted, offering his hand. Alfred took it, slipping his fingers around the boy's pale wrist and rolling his eyes at the forceful squeeze the other boy applied in his grip. With a harsh yank, Arthur had pulled him to his feet, with only minor stumbling.
"Where are we going to go? We know we're in Script territory, but other then that we have no idea where their camp is." He wondered, brushing his jacket of and loosening his scarf.
"It doesn't matter." Arthur waved him off. "We just need to go. It's not safe here any more."
Alfred opened his mouth o respond, but was cut short by the sound of wood on wood beside his ear. He felt his blood run cold as the bushes behind him rustled, and Arthur's eyes flickered with mute panic and a flash of frustration. Alfred tensed his hand as the object set gently on his shoulder, cutting threateningly against his skin. Behind him, a deep voice rumbled, almost in amusement.
"Right you are." It laughed triumphantly. "Not safe indeed."
O ~ O ~ O
I'm not really sure when it happened. One minute, there we were sitting around the bottom of the hill, huddling in our jackets as the wind pelted us, and the next, we were running around in a flurry, Ludwig shouting orders as the battle cries of two separate teams mingled in the cold air.
"Damn it, you can't use sparring swords too! That was my idea!" Soren snarled from where he was dueling with a member of another house. The hazel haired boy smiled maliciously, dodging every blow that the Dane threw at him, and returning some of his own. The place was a mess, people running around, desperately trying to catch the taunting students of the Wrought house as they scrambled about the campsite.
They managed to catch three of them, two caught by Berwald (being the massive figure he was, he cut them off as they were making a break for the flag). The other was snatched, surprisingly, by Feliciano, who managed to catch hold of two of the boy's jackets. That left only two, the one fighting with Soren, and the other who was pressed against his back in defense.
"Give up." Soren hissed. "We've got you."
"We're not leaving without the flag. Or our team mates." The brunette snapped, blocking one of Soren's swings.
"Brent, we don't have a choice." The blonde behind him insisted. "We have to go."
"If we let you." Ivan chuckled. The boy's paled visibly, and with a particularly well aimed thrust, the boy named Brent managed to hit Soren in the gut, and the two made a run for it, disappearing over the hill and out of sight, spewing curses as they went.
"We're not letting them get away." Ludwig ordered. "I don't want them coming back with more people. Someone needs to go after them."
"We'll go." Francis offered immediately. My violet eyes widened in quiet surprise at his sudden desire to chase people through the woods. It wasn't like him in the least. Not that I knew all that much about him, really. Ludwig looked at me, stern, ice chipped gaze probing my reaction.
"Well, Matthew? Is that alright?"
I nodded hesitantly, wrapping my arms self-consciously around my stomach. Just relax, I thought. Its just Francis. It's OK. You're going to do exactly as Alfred told you and not let it bother you. I was honestly so tired of bringing down my teammates. I felt like such a burden to them; little Matthew who stutters and squeaks and can't do anything right. I couldn't add being afraid of Francis to that list as well.
"Let's go then." Francis ordered roughly, grabbing me by the hand and pulling me rapidly up the hill. "We're already losing them."
"Come back if you can't find them in ten minutes!" Ludwig yelled at us as we departed. I gave him a weak wave with me free hand, acknowledging that I had heard him speak, and then proceeded to return to my inner state. Flustered and burning nervously at the contact. I wasn't surprised he was being so brash, really. I had ignored him for a week, after all, and even I would be upset if someone did that to me. But what did he want me to say?
I don't know why I cut off Elise. She's really such a beautiful, sweet girl, and I think she and Francis would have been… lovely together, really! After all, they both spoke French, and despite her childish demeanor, she really was really high end, and Francis seemed to adore high end. I was… well the opposite of that, what with my grungy sneakers, old worn hoodie's, and the unattractive wave of my hair that made me look like I never brushed it. I looked like a child, and I knew I acted like one. The more I thought about it, the less I saw any reason for me to butt in like I did. It was so rude and immature of me, and I thank the heavens that she forgave me for my outburst when we saw each other later.
But, it was strange. Because when she told me that he had rejected her, I felt and odd sense of relief.
I tumbled awkwardly over a tree branch as Francis continued to drag me through the forest, jogging now, in search of the escapee's. My cheeks reddened as I realized how handsome he looked, even from the back.
His silky blonde hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, that swung freely as we ran, strands curling over one another as the wind swept them around. His shoulders had a pleasant slope to them, not as firm set as Soren's or Ludwig's, and his back, though strong, was not in the least bit too broad or overbearing. His free arm pumped at his side as we sprinted, and even through his many layers of clothing, I could make out the fine curvature of his pronounced shoulder blade. His legs, adorned in black denim, were long and lean, each step he took graceful and fluid like that of a dancer. Even his hand, wrapped around mine, was impossibly soft; his long, nimble fingers entwining with my own short and unrefined ones.
It was unfair, really.
He stopped abruptly, leaving me to fall ungracefully into the back I had just previously been admiring.
"Sorry!" I exclaimed quietly, pulling my hand from his quickly and stepping away as I rubbed the end of my red sweatshirt across my sore nose. We had stopped in a denser part of the woods on a downward slanting hill, thick with bushes and ivy. The wind had died down, if only a little, and dim, cloud filtered sunlight streamed in through the treetops, dappling the forest floor. I rubbed my hands together nervously, breathing out a puff of air. It really would have been lovely, if it weren't so cold.
I glanced around Francis awkwardly. "Um, do you see something? Why did we stop? I thought we were looking for them."
The French boy turned to me, his stunning sky blue eyes flickering with a strange, unfiltered emotion that I couldn't place. Today, his face was clean-shaven, showing off his flawless ivory skin. Some days he let his chin stubble; others he would shave it. Either look fit him to a 'T'. He tugged his cream colored scarf down away from his chin, mouth pulling down into a soft frown.
"I wanted to get further away from camp." He stated, rather matter-o-factly. "We need to talk, Mathieu."
My stomach clenched in unrestrained dread. I had figured something like this might happen. It was no surprise really. And yet, I found myself completely unprepared.
"T-talk?" I stammered, shifting awkwardly on my feet. "I'm not sure I know what you-"
"Mathieu." He interrupted harshly. "You know what I mean. And if you don't mind, I'm getting tired of waiting for an explanation."
I looked at the ground, fiddling with my fingers as I felt my face heat up. "I don't think I have one." I answered honestly. "I'm terribly sorry for causing you trouble though. If it means anything, I-I think you and Elise would have been a very sweet couple, and I'm sorry if I messed anything up for you."
I heard Francis let out a heavy sigh. "You don't get it at all, do you?" He muttered. I flinched. Stay strong. What would Alfred do? Come on, you're not a puddle of jello!
"Well you're not being very clear." I informed him, slipping as much edge into my voice as I could muster. "I mean, I-I don't understand what you're getting at. I'm sorry I can't tell you why I was acting strangely, really I am. But what else do you want from me? If there's something else you want to say or ask, then spit it out! I'm not a mind reader Francis!" I clenched my fists at my sides, shouting the words. It felt so strange, and I immediately wanted to apologize to him for being so rude, but I stood my ground.
I expected some sort of disapproving words or sound; I was sure he'd even walk away from me. Instead, he laughed, lightly and happily as if he were really amused. My blush only deepened.
"Don't laugh, it's true!" I cried, looking up at him despite the state of my face. "You don't make any sense!"
"Then what would you like from me, Mathieu, that would allow me to make more sense to you?" He inquired, a grin still flitting lightly along his mouth.
"I want to know what you're thinking." I requested quietly. He raised an eyebrow and let out a thoughtful sigh.
"Here I was trying to get answers out of you, and suddenly your the one asking questions." He chuckled wryly. His hands moved to grab mine, and I stiffened uncomfortably at warm touch of his fingers as they rubbed gently across my own sending a cold tremor down my spine. "If that is what you want, I will give it to you. I only ask that you hear me out."
I nodded slowly, lowering my eyes to the ground.
"Despite what that eye browed fool of a friend of mine told you," he began, "I am not straight, I'm bisexual. Very different. And on that note, I should mention that yes; the way I act around you should be considered flittering, because it is. You are very beautiful, ma chérie, although I don't think you realize it. Needless to say, I'm very interested in you, Mathieu. Not Elise. She is a charming girl, but nothing compared to you. I have never met someone who is so soft and kind, and yet has your kind of fire in them. It is intriguing, to say the least. If I must be honest, however, your sporadic attitude toward me these past near two months has been infuriating to say the least, and I do not know how much more I can take."
I winced at Francis' grip on my palms tightened. How was I supposed to take in this sort of thing? I had been the one to ask, but certainly that hadn't been the answer I had been expecting! I felt myself unconsciously step backwards, unsure of what to say.
"Mathieu, look at me." The French boy insisted quietly. "I told you the truth. And you promised to hear me out, did you not?"
I shook my head vigorously, weakly trying to pull my clammy hands out of his grip. He was interested in me? Me? The fact that I was a boy aside, I was the most uninteresting person on the planet. There wasn't a thing special about me, and I knew it. I pulled at my hands again, suppressing the beginnings of a pre cry gasp.
I knew how I was supposed to feel. Agitated. Bemused. Repulsed. Any of those would have been perfectly normal I supposed. I was straight, after all, and those were the sorts of reactions one would assume from someone who was.
But I didn't feel that way. As much as I tried to feel disgusted, to get angry with Francis, I couldn't bring myself to. At that moment, the only thing that welled in my stomach was the unmistakable golden tingle of hapiness.
And that, more then anything, terrified me.
"Mathieu." Francis' voice rang clear in my head, breaking through the fog that had wrapped itself in a haze around my senses. A raindrop plopped onto my scalp. Another brushed the side of my cheek. Or maybe it was a tear. I couldn't tell. His hands gently left my own, moving to caress the side of my face, wiping away the drop with his thumb. "Look at me."
Reluctantly, as if possessed by the hypnotic hush of Francis' voice, I raised my eyes to meet his own dazzling blue ones. They were barely two inches from my face, staring into mine. It occurred to me, all of a sudden, how close we'd become, and I let out a frightened squeak of surprise, feeling my face bloom pink. "Mathieu." He said again. His thumb brushed underneath my chin, raising my face closer to his own.
"Please do not hate me."
In a gentle, almost intelligible movement, the distance between us was closed, and a soft, comforting warmth enveloped my lips. A guttural noise of surprise sounded in the back of my throat, and I felt my face tingle almost painfully, the place where his hands touched my cheeks the most painful by far. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I barely had it in me to stand, legs quivering beneath me as they threatened to give out.
His mouth was sweet, tasting of crème, accompanied by the tang of fruit. If I remembered correctly, he'd made himself a crepe with strawberries that morning, and as his lips moved sensually over mine, his taste seemed to become mine; his scent my own, until I too smelt of warm cotton and mint, the mint courtesy of the shampoo he used.
It had surprised me when we first started rooming together, that Francis didn't wear cologne. He seemed to fit the type, after all, and I never had gotten around to asking him why. Perhaps this was why. Maybe he just naturally smelled wonderful. My mind protested feircely, urging me to push away from him. But I couldn't bring myself to. I just felt so weak. I was running out of air. My lungs were burning painfully, and I could feel myself shaking, but I couldn't do anything. Couldn't even raise a hand.
Until finally, he pulled away for an instant. Only long enough to whisper my name against my lips, before slipping his mouth back onto mine. But it was enough. And in a rough movement, I shoved my hands against his chest and stumbled backwards, hugging my arms around my core in attempt to quell my jittering. He just stared at me. Calmly. Curiously. As if waiting for an answer that I didn't have.
"I-I…" I whispered, taking a step back and looking away. "I'm sorry."
And for the second time in a week, I ran from him, sprinting through the forest as fast as my legs could carry me.
O ~ O ~ O
She hadn't meant to get separated from Kiku. It was an accident, a flaw in their plan, and now, one way or another, Elizaveta found herself alone in the middle of the woods, breathing hard from the exertion of running. They'd been wandering around quietly. Not looking for a campsite, not looking for anything really. Just being ready. After all, it was their job more then anyone else not to get caught. They had honestly thought that they had found a safe place to hide, and had been resting there, chatting idly while they waited out the rain. So when a pair of students crept up from behind them in an attempt to catch them off guard, it wasn't really any surprise that they went flying out of their hiding spot, and dashing off in different directions.
She had managed to lose her pursuer. She only hoped the Kiku had done the same. It was still raining. Pouring, in fact, and she frowned in annoyance as her just past shoulder length hair knotted, drenched from the water. Oh well, she thought, pulling her woolen, plaid green knee length coat around her. It was just hair after all. Right now, she needed to focus on finding a place to hunker down, at least until she could find Kiku. He had taken the radio, leaving her with no means of contacting him, or anyone else, and she felt herself at something of a loss on how she was going to manage without any form of communication.
Well… almost none. She pressed herself against a tree, sticking her hand into the contents of her soft brown pack and feeling for the bag of explosives that Gilbert had given them. Still there, safe and dry, as were the box of matches. She wrinkled her nose, pulling her hand out and rubbing it against her jacket. He was so outlandish and rude, that one. Uncultured, unrefined, like he'd never been taught manners, or he just didn't have the decency to follow through on them. She assumed the latter, considering Ludwig's polite and respectful demeanor.
Nothing like Roderich. She smiled wistfully to herself, fiddling with her hands. He was so proper. His face was elegant, his hair well treated, and the air he held about him gave him an aristocratic aura. Not like Gilbert. He gave one the feeling that he just crawled out from the bad side of town, and was proud of it. Not to mention he was useless at important things. Whereas Roderich… she could spend hours listening to him play piano. She had been overjoyed when he invited her to join him some days during lunch to eat in the music room where he could practice. Yes, Roderich was near perfect, there was no doubt about that.
Humming softly to herself, Elizaveta sat down on the grassy ground, crossing her jean clad legs and rocking back and forth as she stared up at the sky through the leaves.
Still, there was something missing about Roderich. Something, she felt was important. But she couldn't quiet put her finger on it.
She jumped from her spot on the ground, startled by the oddly familiar voice that called out to her. From the haze of the rain, she could make out the figure of an onyx haired boy. Her heart soared, thinking Kiku, but her hopes were crushed as she recalled the voice, and was met by two glimmering blue eyes.
"Abel." She blinked, pushing herself slowly to her feet and giving him a wary look. Was this his team's territory? As if sensing her discomfort, he gave her a dazzling, assuring smile and held out his hand.
"Don't worry, we're on the same side here. I think we're on Republic land though."
Republic? Wasn't that Laura's house?
"Are you just wandering around by yourself?" He inquired. She shook her head.
"Well, I wasn't. But my partner and I got separated, so here I am." She laughed. "What about you, did you go out on your own?" He nodded.
"Yea, we're all out solo." She raised an eyebrow.
"Is that something you should be telling me?"
"I think I can trust you."
She smiled, rolling her eyes. "Sure."
"I'm serious!" He insisted. "Anyway, who else is out from your team?" He asked. "Is Lukas around anywhere?"
"No, he's back at camp with Soren and the other's." She informed him, tugging at the ends of her hair. She and Abel had become pretty good friends in theatre class (well, as good friend's as they could become, what with both Gilbert and Lukas' immense hatred for the boy), and if she had learned anything about him, it was that he loved horror, could dance like nobody's business, and that he seemed to have a peculiar interest in anything and everything having to do with Lukas.
She had once inquired about it, and he responded merely that he liked to know things about people who hated him, particularly the strange ones. She did find it a little odd, but thus far, his curiosity about the boy hadn't caused any problems, and for the most part, Elizaveta couldn't even answer any question he had, because she herself knew so little about the Norwegian.
Abel's eyes stretched quickly. "Oh? That Dane who he's rooming with, right?" She nodded.
"Hmm." He crossed his arms and cocked his head at her. "How do they get along, Lukas and Soren?" Elizaveta laughed wryly.
"Not great. Although, from what I can tell, the dislike it mostly from Lukas. Soren is just kind of oblivious, and he get's frustrated with him."
"So they don't like each other then." He mused. "Interesting."
"Yea you would think that." She began, a smile slipping onto her face. "But despite how cold Lukas is to Soren, I think that big blonde idiot is finally starting to get under his skin, and not in a bad way. You wouldn't know it, seeing how they interact and how Lukas acts around him, but I've seen him staring at Soren, and whenever I happen to drop in on he and Tino, they're almost always talking about him. It's sweet, really. Not to say I don't think he dislikes him, but maybe there's some friendship there too."
Abel frowned. "Really now…" As quickly as it had appeared, the frown disappeared, and he let out a laugh, grinning again. "Well, he's so sullen and dull, so it's good that he's making another friend. Even around you guys he's pretty weird, don't you think?"
"Sometimes." She agreed. "But he's our teammate and, well we all care about him, you know?"
The rain had slowed, down to a low drizzle, and a slit in the dark clouds allowed a soft stream of sunlight to cover the forest. Maybe they would get a rainbow? "It looks like the weather is improving." She commented, stepping out from under the shelter of the tree. The light dimmed again, but the slow pace of the rain lessened further, now barely visible.
"Good." Abel breathed. "Now we can get back to searching for flags."
"We?" She repeated skeptically. He shrugged sheepishly, rubbing his hand through his coal black hair.
"Well, you know it's- Elizaveta watch it!" He yelled suddenly, reaching for her. Before she even had a chance to register his warning, she felt a pair of strong hands grab her from behind, one grabbing her waist roughly and the other clamping firmly over her mouth. She let out a muffled scream, kicking and thrashing as her attacker tightened their grip on her.
"Let her go." Abel growled, curling his fists and glaring at the figure behind her.
"Why?" The boy laughed darkly. "She's not on your team, Abel. What's it to you? Get lost, before I take you instead."
"This isn't even your territory." He argued fiercely. "This is Republic land, and you're from the Script, Hunter. You don't have a right to capture anyone here."
"That wasn't a rule." He sneered. "We can capture enemies on any territory."
"That's not fair!"
"That's competition." The boy named Hunter hissed in her ear. "And we're going to win this one. Now fuck off, or I'll hold on the promise to let her go and bring you back instead. "
Abel flinched, hesitation flickering in his eyes as he glanced behind him into the thick of the brush. Elizaveta felt a new sense of panic rise in her chest. She couldn't get caught! Especially not knowing if Kiku was still out there or not. They had to be the lifelines between the base and the searchers. She fought harder, attempting to elbow him in the gut and meeting nothing but hard muscle. Damn it! She swore inwardly.
"Well Abel?" Hunter goaded. "Get lost. Now." The sapphire-eyed boy took a step backwards, and with an apologetic look her way, turned on his heel and sprinted into the thick of the woods, disappearing from sight.
"Heh, too easy." Hunter gloated. "Now come on, you're coming back with me. You're from Imperaturi right? Pathetic house. You guy's won't last." He released his grip on her mouth and waist momentarily, moving to grab her hands. Now! She thought inwardly. Elizaveta stepped forward frantically, trying to put at least some distance between the two of them.
"Bitch!" He snarled behind her. She turned on her feet as she tried to face him, stumbling backwards and raising her fists in defense. As she turned, she caught a flash of movement. Barely a flicker, there and then not. She wasn't even sure it was real. What was real was that when she turned around Hunter was gone. Or more accurately, flattened against a tree about twenty feet away. And in his place, stood a huffing Gilbert, crimson eyes flashing dangerously and teeth bared in a threatening primal manner. He looked beyond furious.
Elizaveta could only stare, eyes flitting back and forth between her German teammate and the boy currently slouched against a tree and just opening his eyes.
"Damn it." Hunter swore incoherently, rubbing his head. "What the hell was that?"
"Don't. Touch. Her." Gilbert spat, taking a step forward. "You're lucky you're still conscious you little prick. I should have hit you harder."
Elizaveta blinked slowly. Had she heard him correctly? Gilbert had HIT him? Hit this (now that she could see him) enormous, well-muscled boy who reminded her vaguely of Ludwig? Hit him? And sent him flying twenty feet into a tree? Sure, Gilbert looked strong enough, despite his much lankier stature, but that kind of strength? She wasn't even sure Berwald or Ludwig could do that.
"Tch." Hunter spat, pushing himself clumsily to his feet. "Lucky shot."
"You want to make sure of that?" Gilbert threatened, his voice a menacing quiet. Elizaveta felt a sort of panic rise in her stomach, and as if being pulled, she rushed forward and grabbed hold of Gilbert's arm, in a weak attempt to hold him back.
His expression instantly softened, eyes losing their wild glimmer and his muscles relaxing in her grip. "Sorry." He breathed, still looking at Hunter. He turned to her. "I would have gotten to you sooner, but he was holding onto you and I didn't want to hit you too. I guess I should have taken it easier." He grimaced. "Get out of here." He said suddenly, turning back to Hunter. The brown-eyed boy muttered a string of curses under his breath, but with a last glare in their direction, stumbled away and out of sight.
"Did- did you really hit him?" Elizaveta asked finally. Gilbert shrugged, removing her fingers gently from around his arm. She gave him a look. "What is that supposed to mean?"
He stared at her, eyes flashing with what, for a moment, she could have sworn was uncertainty. Hesitance. But if it had been there, it was gone as soon as it had appeared. "What do you think I did?" He asked her seriously. She was as taken aback by his tone as his question.
"I don't know." She admitted. "Did… did you hit him with something? I mean I can't believe you just… punched him. And so quickly too."
For a mere instant, his mouth pulled down into a frown, but almost instantly pulled back into his usual cocky smirk, eyes glowing with amusement. "Ha I can't believe you didn't figure it out! Obviously I pushed him and then I tripped him, duh. Giant idiot just rolled over himself and hit the was just an act, stupid. Lizzie, I can't believe you fell for that, seriously, what monster is that strong?"
"Shut up! Don't call me Lizzie!" She muttered, shaking her head and feeling her heart rate return to normal. "I can't believe I fell for that. Anyone who's that strong would be scary, seriously."
"No kidding." Gilbert laughed. "Hey, I'm still looking for a thank you for saving you."
"Thank you." She rolled her eyes, shoving him gently. "How long were you there?"
"Long enough to see that ass Abel leave you. I swear I'm going to give him what for the next time I see him. No one treats Imperaturi like that!"
"Leave him be." She chided. "I'm not mad, it was the right thing to do in the situation."
"Yea, well whatever. By the way, where's Kiku?" Gilbert inquired. "I thought you two were together?"
"We got separated." She sighed.
"Well, then we better go looking for him huh, little miss?" Gilbert snickered, dodging a well-aimed punch. And with that, they wandered off into the forest in search of their little ebony haired teammate.
O ~ O ~ O
Kiku slipped quietly through the trees, acutely aware of the shouting of other students in the distance, and the presence of others nearby. It had been rotten luck that he and Elizaveta had gotten separated, and he hoped dearly that the girl hadn't been caught. Pulling his black scarf higher over his mouth, he glanced cautiously around a small clearing that he was skirting, flinching at the sound of a voice getting closer. Darn it, he had to find someone else.
Well, at least he had some bearing as to where he was. Several groups had past him already, and the most frequent arm band (and those belonging to the owners not sneaking around) was that of the Script house. How unlucky, to end up in this territory.
His ears perked sharply as loud laughter filled them, followed by rough cursing, from two other people, if he had to guess. He slunk down to the ground, peering over the bushes as the voices approached. In first was a blonde, adorned in white jeans and red jacket. In his ear lobe, Kiku could make out a flash of red, as if it were beading blood. He let out a loud whoop and flashed by him, almost disappearing in the trees.
Behind him, running at a much slower pace, were two boys, shaking their fists furiously and screaming profanities at him. They both had script house bands. The other boy, if Kiku remember correctly, hadn't had one, unless he'd missed it or it had been on his other arm. Shrugging it off, he waited for the final two to vanish after him, and continued in the same direction, keeping his head low for fear of more Script members coming barreling through the woods.
A girls voice sounded near by. Then a boy's. Then another girl's. It seemed as if this part of the forest was alive with movement.
And then, Kiku was met with a much more familiar voice.
"Don't! We'll go with you, OK?"
Kiku scrunched his nose. Arthur? He crept toward the noise, stepping over the leaves and sticks that blocked his path.
"Arthur, just go. You've got the sword, get back and radio some one else." Alfred?
"No, I'm not-"
"What's going on?" A feminine voice cut in. Kiku shifted in the bushes, trying to get a better look at what was going on. A boy was standing behind Alfred, holding a wooden sword to his back. Arthur stood in front of Alfred, sword drawn menacingly, and behind him, appeared a red haired girl with gray blue eyes.
"Imperaturi brats." The boy sneered. "I think this counts as being caught. Come on, hands up. Or are you going to break the rules?"
Slowly Alfred raised his hands, giving Arthur a slow nod in encouragement for him to do the same. The emerald-eyed blonde narrowed his eyed, but did the same, slipping his sword into its sheath and imitating Alfred's motions.
"I don't think you'll be needing that." The girl laughed, tugging Arthur's sword away from him and twirling it around. "Now come on you two, let's get moving."
"You guys are loathsome, you know that?" Alfred spat.
"We've been told."
With an ungracious shove, the boy pushed Alfred forward, and the group began to walk away, disappearing from Kiku's vision. He felt his stomach churn. Wonderful. Arthur and Alfred had been caught. But they didn't mean they had to be lost. Taking a deep breath, he slunk softly after them, darting in and out of trees in an attempt to keep on their trail. Finally, after about twenty minutes of wandering, he was led to a sharp over hand in the forest. It was if the ground had been cut out, leaving nothing but a cliff down into more forest below. The only way down, besides falling, was to walk down the sloping hill and curve into the woods.
It was incredibly strange.
But now, he knew where their camp was. Alfred let out a hiss of protest as the boy wrapped a rope around his wrists and Kiku felt his heart go out to the pair. They were really miserable people, the Script house. With a last glance at his teammates, Kiku slipped away into the forest, pulling the makeshift radio out of his pocket as he ran. Now to call for back up.
"Hello, Gilbert? This is Kiku…"
O ~ O ~ O
A/N: YES POV switch I know XD I had actually planned that a long way back though, because it's hard to tell such an intricate story with only the POV's of two characters, and in times like this it's pretty impossible XP
Actually, I feel kind of bad because there wasn't a lot of USUK this chapter ^^' Don't worry, I promise there will be ALOT next chapter, so look forward to that! This was more focused on everyones happenings. Haha one thing I was happy with was how everyone was having their moments and Kiku's just sneaking around like a BA ninja :P I love Japan, seriously 3
Please review! You guy's always do, but it's nice to know I haven't been forgotten :) See you!