Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia
The first time they meet is hardly worth mention. Kiku is fumbling with his change purse, because it is pay-what-you-wish day at a local museum. What he really wants to be doing is playing his latest eroge, because someone on the forum told him about a secret ending with lace panties. But his paper on the anatomical merits of the Greco-Roman sculpture is not going to write itself, and his research is nothing if not thorough.
Once he has fished all the coins out and has them counted, he steps up to the counter and greets the man at the desk politely, not really glimpsing his face as he drops the money into the bucket.
"Hello," is the first thing the man says to him, and his voice is lush and deep and Kiku is caught off-guard because he was not expecting it. His eyes snap up and because the man is looking at him all he can see is a bright expanse of green (later Kiku will notice the flecks of brown and gold and all the depth they had to his eyes, but that doesn't happen the first time they meet).
Then the man blinks and all of that vanishes. Kiku takes a step back from the counter, and he's not too sure why. The man does not seem to notice as he tears off the printout ticket and offers him a crooked, warm smile.
"Enjoy the museum."
Dumbly, Kiku nods, and decides that he will.
The next time is only two days later. Kiku spends almost twenty minutes outside of the museum convincing himself he is only here because he needs another look at the sculptures before he can submit his paper, never mind the fact that it is already done. But, although he can explain why he is there, he cannot explain even to himself why his palms are so sweaty.
He pushes the door open. The museum lobby is emptier today, probably because admission is full price at a whopping five-fifty. When Kiku looks at the desk he sees the man is there. And this is when he realizes he never got a good look at him, truly, because in his mind's eye the other was not so broad in the shoulders, not so slumped in the spine and definitely not so beautiful so criminally handsome so Adonis-like in his chest and gorgeous with his bed hair and and and-
Kiku clears his throat sharply, wondering if he is as red in his cheeks as he feels he is, and why the heat is so high in the museum when it is only September, anyways?
He steps up to the counter and the man smiles, taking his money and punching something into the machine to make it spit out the ticket. As he hands it over to Kiku he is smiling again, and there is a lock of his bangs in his eyes and for a moment Kiku's body moves to brush it away'what are you thinking?' but he fists his hand in his sweater and the urge fades.
"Enjoy the museum."
The third time is when, as Kiku is fumbling with his wallet for the money, the man cuts in,
"Are you a student?"
"There's a student discount. Four dollars," the man continues. Then he smiles. "My name is Herakles."
"Kiku Honda," he replies quickly, out of courtesy that is so deeply ingrained in him. His face is red, he knows it, but he can't understand why. "Thank you."
The other's lazy smile- Herakles' lazy smile widens, settling on his face softly and revealing a small dip in his smooth cheek.
"Enjoy the museum."
And as Kiku wanders about the French Impressionist gallery, he comes to the conclusion that all the paintings would look much nicer if the people in them had dimples.
It is sometimes around visit twelve that Kiku loses count of the number of times he's gone to the museum. It's late December, now, and he's grateful for the chill in the air because it does so much to explain why his face is so red when he walks up to Herakles' counter to pay for admission.
"Are you sure you don't want to apply for museum membership?" Herakles asks with a soft laugh seasoning his tone. It is the third time he's asking, and once again Kiku declines politely. Its bad enough he already cannot stay away, but to get the membership would be to admit he plans on returning. Which, of course, he does. But he doesn't want to admit it.
Herakles smile turns a bit sly, and he brushes his long, rough fingers along Kiku's soft open palm when he returns his change.
"Enjoy the museum."
A week later when Kiku opens the doors to the museum, he's excited because there's a new exhibition opening on Italian Futurism (and not because of a wrapped package that may or may not be in his bag). But once he takes the first step in, he can sense that something isn't right.
And then he actually looks up. Herakles is not sitting at the customer service desk. Instead, there are two men where there is usually one. They both have smooth-looking tan skin and coarse dark hair, and as Kiku gets closer to the desk he notices certain features that tug at his heart strings.
That is, uh, his memory.
Kiku falters for a moment, under the gazes of the two men who suddenly look up when they hear his footsteps on the linoleum floor. He's certain that he wants to say "Hello," but his mind isn't present enough for him to do so.
The taller of the two men, who are such an odd pair, really, with one being big and broad and the other petite and lean, laughs.
"I'm guessin' yer Kiku," he starts in a booming voice. "Yer as cute as he said ya are. Dammit."
Kiku is taken aback for a moment, not expecting the stranger to know his name, but he recovers quickly.
"Ah, yes. I am Kiku. And you are…?"
"Sadiq Adnan," the man prods himself in the chest, "and Hassan."
"We're Herakles' cousins," the other, Hassan, explains softly. Suddenly Kiku realizes why the long, bony structure of Sadiq's nose and the soft curve of Hassan's cheek are so familiar.
An unwanted voice in Kiku's mind pipes up, and points out that as beautiful as these two men are, they are not Herakles. He wonders then where the usual employee is, but before he can open his mouth Hassan continues, "Don't worry, he's fine."
Kiku is left wondering if he's really that obvious, and Sadiq laughs.
"Yeah, he jus' went to visit his mama for the holidays. He'll be back here soon."
"In the meantime," Sadiq murmurs as he leans over the counter. There's a seductive smile on his face, that much even Kiku can tell. Which is saying a lot, really. "What do ya think of my cousin? Cuz if it's just his pretty face yer after, let me assure ya that behind it is an empty head."
"E-Excuse me?" Kiku responds hesitantly, heart thudding in his chest. "W-What. W-what exactly has Herakles said to you?"
'How much has he figured out… how much does he know?'
It's Hassan who responds. His voice is calm, even though he has his hand over Sadiq's mouth as a muzzle. "He mentions your visits to us often. He speaks of you very fondly."
Kiku can feel the blush he's trying to fight away spread through his cheeks like wildfire.
"Yeah, so we decided ta come here and meet ya ourselves," Sadiq adds, now free from Hassan's hold. "And dammit all, he was right."
Before anything more can be said, the sound of the ticket printer whirring distracts both Sadiq and Kiku, and when the latter looks up Hassan is holding out a ticket for admission. He's smiling, albeit very softly, and Kiku notices that he doesn't have any dimples.
"On the house," Hassan murmurs softly, sliding the ticket onto the counter as Kiku fumbles with his wallet. "Enjoy the museum."
There is no room for protest, and as Kiku enters the exhibition with the free ticket in hand he can't help but think that it just wasn't the same.
Kiku is swamped with schoolwork for the next three weeks, after the new semester starts. He no longer has the time to stop by the museum every so often, because when he isn't doing projects or studio work he's talking with his family on the phone, in anticipation of the Lunar New Year celebration they will have.
Soon he starts to take a new path going home from his classes, walking past the museum every day. Some days he pauses, and considers walking in to say hello, but Kiku is aware that if he does go in, he'll have to buy a ticket to keep from feeling foolish. The weight of his messenger bag digging into his shoulder keeps him from acting on that impulse.
Then, one morning, he's sitting on the bus headed down to his class. Kiku checks his email out of habit, because he forgot his DS on his table but needs something to do so he's not staring at anyone. There's an email from his professor, "Class is canceled. Use the time to do something productive. P.S.: Playing Pokemon Black or Pokemon White isn't productive."
Suddenly, Kiku doesn't mind very much that he left his DS at home (though the reminder that he still has yet to beat Alder is not exactly welcome). He gets off the bus at the next stop, and walks back three blocks.
He is in front of the museum. Butterflies tickle the inside of his stomach, and his hand hesitates, gripping the door handle and freezing. But a gust of cold air rushes past and he shivers to the tips of his toes.
'I am only going inside for warmth.'
Kiku pushes the door open. The museum is mostly exactly the same it was last time he was there, which shouldn't be a surprise; it was only three weeks ago, after all.
But, it had been over a month since he last saw Herakles. The man was sitting in his rightful place at the desk again, but he was slumped over it, sleeping.
Quietly, Kiku took a few steps across the linoleum floor, pausing in front of the desk. The other was truly fast asleep, hair falling over his face, head rested on his strong forearms, his shoulder blades rising and sinking with each breath. There was an eyelash sitting on the curve of his cheek, just below his eyelid. Breathing out softly, reassuring himself that no one would see, it was just a simple touch, Herakles was sleeping and nothing would go wrong, he reached with a shaky finger and brushed it off the other's face.
Herakles' eyes opened. Kiku froze, unable to move a muscle, the incriminating eyelash still sitting on his fingertip. Herakles looked confusedly from him to the hand between, but then his expression relaxed. He gripped Kiku's wrist, pulling it closer to his face, and murmured something inaudible before blowing the eyelash away.
"What?" Herakles echoed softly, a smile tugging at his lips as he sat up straight. "Haven't you ever heard of wishing on a fallen eyelash?"
Kiku shook his head dumbly, taking a step away. He was furious with himself for getting caught in that situation; how reckless of him, how stupid.
But Herakles did not seem to agree. If anything, he seemed incredibly pleased. The apology that was trying to make its way out of Kiku's throat was halted.
"I missed you. I was afraid my cousins scared you away, when you didn't come back."
"N-No! I mean… I have just been busy with schoolwork. I did not think it would worry you."
Herakles looks puzzled, and that look is quick to spread to Kiku's face.
"Of course I worried. Seeing your face has always brightened my day."
Though Herakles was smiling, Kiku only felt a rush of emotions overwhelm him, and his stomach turned in turmoil. The only thing he can think to do is slam his money down on the counter, and he does so.
As he accepts the ticket, it's impossible for him not to notice how disheartened the other seems.
"Enjoy the museum…"
But even that doesn't sound the same, this time.
For days Kiku can still feel the warmth of Herakles fingers at his wrist, or of his cheeks under his fingertips, if his memory betrays him by recalling the embarrassing incident. It confuses him to no end, why his body reacts so violently at the simple thought of the Greek man. All his life he thought of himself as promised to things like his tablet, his Pocky, or the heroine of whatever eroge was playing, but the thought of loving someone tangible, someone real, never occurred to him.
And now he is faced with Herakles, a man more attractive than Michelangelo's David, more philosophical than Socrates, and more sleepy than a newborn kitten. A combination he never would have considered possible had he not met the man, and one Kiku certainly had no idea he would find himself so attracted to.
Valentines' Day is fast approaching. As he lies awake in bed, Kiku considers buying chocolate for Herakles, because that is how people typically express an interest. But there are a hundred ways that gesture could be misinterpreted (because he maintains the fact that this is a simple crush, nothing more, and soon enough it will go away and he'll have money to spend at anime conventions again), and Kiku does not want to fall into a misunderstanding.
Also, and this is something a small voice in his mind pipes up just as Kiku is finally drifting off to sleep, it would be awful if Herakles took this to mean Kiku would be the girl.
The crisis was averted when, upon entering the museum on February 14th, Kiku was faced with a stuffed kitty sitting on the counter before Herakles. At first he worries someone else has given that token of affection to the other, but as he approaches the desk Herakles' face lights up and he holds the stuffed toy out gently, as though he is holding onto a baby.
"Happy Valentine's Day."
Kiku, thoroughly embarrassed, sees no other option than to accept the toy with a flush. He reaches into his messenger bag and places the auxiliary box of chocolates he brought with him down on the table hesitantly.
"T-to you too…"
Kiku is surprised to find that Herakles seems surprised. The other blinks down at the box, and it takes a moment for a large, giddy smile to tug at his lips.
Herakles opens the box, and takes out one of the chocolates. He presses it to Kiku's lips, and Kiku feels himself get redder, squeezes the stuffed kitten against his chest. Then he looks down at the cat, for lack of a better place to look where his vision won't be filled with the beautiful hunk of the man before him.
There is a tag on the stuffed kitten toy. "Will you be my Valentine?," it reads.
Kiku looks up, and surprises even himself by parting his lips and accepting the small square of chocolate.
Thank you all for reading!