~Alfred~

If you ever wondered how it felt like to clean up a cafeteria after a full-fledge food fight, then let me tell you: it could easily break your joints.

I could hardly feel my arms and back when I was done with everything. It took us almost forever to get the last stains off the walls (apparently, the stain resistant paint stuff does not apply to food sauce).

".. And I've got a part time job to go to later.." I sighed before stretching my aching back. Hours of bending down to mop floors are capable of turning one into the Hunchback of America. I'll remember that. Also, I'm getting old.

"I see that you've finished cleaning up.." a voice edged with smugness sounded from the door. We didn't have to guess that it was the assistant principal.

"Now give those things back to the janitor and return to class. Don't forget that your lessons will resume after this."

I had an almost uncontrollable urge to throw my bucket of goo at her. Fortunately, I managed to restrain myself by gripping the mop so hard I almost broke it in half. A hero wouldn't want to add more punishment for everyone.

Even so, I was determined to get even with her. I glanced around at my classmates around me. Judging by their expressions, I figured they were thinking the same thing: some day lady. Some day.

Grudgingly, we cleaned the buckets and mops and handed them back to the janitor. I don't know whether to consider it a good or bad thing, but even he looked at us with pity.

"You kids sure got it hard huh?" he asked, chucking cleaning items into the store room at the very back of the cafeteria.

"Oh gee.. you think?" Arthur grumbled inaudibly from behind me. I elbowed his ribs, earning a deluxe 'I'll kill you' look from him. Naturally, I ignored him and turned to the adult.

"We're used to it." I then headed to the bathrooms with the rest of the class to clean up.

Classes after that were like hell on earth. Teachers who usually just couldn't bother to care started yelling at us for no apparent reason and gave us shitloads of assignments to complete. Call me paranoid or whatever you like, but I could almost see the pleased smirk on the assistant principal's ugly face.

Finally, it was the last straw for us. I could see that even the teachers were exhausted, since one of them actually let us march out of school without bothering to stop us (and there was about three more hours of studying to go).

I glanced at my watch as I retrieved my stuff from my locker. It was already six. My shift was almost over.

Oh, and before I forget; I work part-time in a car repair store. Yes, I know I'm underage to be working, but I had no choice. I need to lighten my mum's burden. And yeah, my boss knows my real age, but he's fine with it. He's happy as long he gets more help (he'd even praised my work before. No, I'm not showing off).

"Hey Arthur," I turned towards the annoyed Brit. "Could you lend me your phone for a bit?"

He glared at me skeptically before inquiring. "Why?"

"My boss." I said. " I gotta call him and apologize for missing work."

He gave me one more long hard look before shoving his hand into his trousers pocket and fishing out his cell phone.

"Here." He threw it to me and I barely caught it.

"Whoa! Thanks man!" I grinned before punching the number. There are times when I just loved how much I could depend on Arthur.

And yeah.. a cell phone is one of the normal teenager things I don't own. Mum had already spent a lot just to buy a computer for me. I didn't want my mother to spend her hard earned cash on a stupid phone. I figured I could just use public phones or something like that when I want to.

The line beeped as I waited for it to get through.

"Ello?" a voice finally sounded after a click. I could tell at once that it didn't belong to my boss.

"Ryan?" I guessed.

"Yep." The voice answered. I could hear the clanking of tools in the background. "How can I help you?"

"Hey. It's me. Al." I said. "Is the boss around?"

"Nope. The old man went out an hour ago." Ryan answered before going straight to the point. "Why dincha' come today?"

"..My class got held back." I grumbled. "Anyway, is he coming back anytime soon?"

"Don't think so. He asked me to lock up."

"I see..Then I'll just have to face him tomorrow."

"You better." Even through the phone, I could feel him grin sadistically. "Before he fries your ass."

"I'll keep that in mind." I then pressed the red button and ended the call. I handed the device back to Arthur. "Thanks again."

"Who's Ryan?" he asked, slipping it back into his pocket.

"Someone I work with." I answered. "Why ask?"

Arthur turned away. "Nothing."

A stupid idea hit me and I held back a laugh. "Don't tell me you're jealous that I know more guys than you.."

"What?" he faced me again, getting all flustered. "What the hell do you mean by that?"

I shrugged.

He clenched his fists and for a moment there I was afraid that he wanted to settle the score set between us during and before the food fight. Fortunately, he regained control and instead heaved a sigh.

"Forget it." He turned on his heels and started walking towards the exit without even saying goodbye. I stood there, once again confused and dumbfounded by my childhood friend's awkward behavior.

xXx

"I'm home~!" I called out as I entered my house, taking off my sneakers and putting them back on the rack in the process.

Mum (who had no work today and was cooking dinner) peeked out from the kitchen, surprise clearly written on her face. "Al? You're early today."

I laughed nervously. "I kinda missed my job.."

"Missed your job?" she then retreated inside to do something before coming out, wiping her hands on her apron. "What happened?"

I told her. About the food fight. About how the assistant principal sneered at our torture. I told her everything like how a little boy would tell his mother.

"My poor Al.." My mother hugged me warmly. Call me childish if you want, but that really made me feel better. "Must've been hard for you."

"Not really, actually.." I said, pulling away from her embrace. "Everyone shared the task so there wasn't as much to do." I tried to change the subject. "Anyway.. what's for dinner?"

"You'll know later." She winked and smiled. "But before that, go take a shower please. You reek of stale food."

"Aww man really?" I sniffed my sleeve. "Yuck. And I thought I washed most of it off in the school bathrooms.."

Without giving it second thoughts, I went upstairs to use the bathroom.

Taking a bath never felt so refreshing and good. I might be exaggerating a little when I tell you this, but I could practically see the water stained with various kinds of sauces as I soaped myself. For the record, I had never been so dirty in my life. Not even when I was a kid and never bothered about personal hygiene.

Finally, when majority of the dirt was washed off and I felt pretty clean, I wrapped a towel around my waist and stepped out of the bathroom. I dug into my drawers and picked out a clean change of clothes before pulling them on.

I walked over to retrieve my food-stained ones and headed downstairs, groaning at the thought of how long it would take to get them completely clean. The thought of losing my precious bomber jacket even just for a few days made me want to hit something.

Anyway, I threw my laundry into the laundry basket and went to find my mum in the kitchen. She was setting up the table when I arrived. My mouth watered as soon as the scent reached my nostrils. Mum had spent her afternoon cooking one hell of a delicious cuisine.

I ate till' my heart's content – though I assumed I would be traumatized by food after the incident in school. This time, I helped with the dishes when I was done.

"..How's Mattie doing these days?" mum suddenly asked while drying a plate with a piece of cloth. She knew we went to the same school (in fact, Mattie even comes over once in a while).

"Pretty good.." I answered with a grin as I soaped the last plate. "He's still one of the best students in class."

"I see.." My mother's voice sounded wistful and her eyes were faraway. And I knew why.

"..You're thinking about him again." I said. She regarded me with innocent purple eyes.

"Hmm? What do you mean?"

I set down the plate I was holding on the base of the sink and turned to face her. "You know who. You're thinking about Mattie's father."

Mum winced, as if I just stabbed her with a knife. "Al.. he's your dad too.."

"We don't need him mum." I said, cutting her off. "I can take care of the both of us. I can be the man of this family."

There was a short silence before she turned away. "Go do your homework. I'll finish off here."

"Mum-" I wanted to protest but stopped abruptly when I realized how fragile my mother's voice sounded. As though she was going to break down crying if I continued the subject further.

"..Fine.." I gave up. "You'll know where to find me if you need me."

I walked into the living room and stopped before the cordless phone near the stairs. I had an urge to call someone and talk, but I had no idea who to call. Mattie was probably at tuition. Kiku and Yao were at work. Francis.. nevermind.

But then I had an idea. I picked the device up and carried it to my room with me. I dialed the number as I booted up my computer.

"..Kirkland speaking." A familiar voice answered after a series of beeps.

"Is your fridge running?" I joked.

"..What do you want Alfred?" Arthur replied after a sigh, clearly annoyed.

"Nothing really.. " I said. "Just feel like talking."

"…I'm hanging up."

"W-Wait! At least hear me out for a while will you?"

Silence. For a moment there, I really thought he had hung up. Until his voice resounded. "..Make it quick. I've got a huge amount of work to do."

"You speak as if I'm in a different situation.." I mumbled as I clicked on some icons before wedging the phone between a shoulder and ear to type on the keyboard. "Anyway.. it's about my mum." I paused, thinking just how much I should say. Or what I should say.

"..Thinking about your dad?"

Arthur's voice brought me out of my thoughts. I'd forgotten just how much I used to talk to him on the phone, telling him all my problems while he listened (half-heartedly or not, I really don't know). Now that I think of it, it had never been the other way round. Arthur was secretive. Keeping everything to himself. Refusing to express his thoughts. It almost seemed clear to me why he was always in a bad mood.

"..Yeah…"

We chatted animatedly for a long time, doing our homework at the same time. What? Don't look down on us just because we're idiots. We can kill two birds with one stone without any problems.

Out of nowhere, I suddenly caught a glance at the time displayed at the bottom right corner of my monitor screen. And I realized.. that we've chatted for almost an hour. Make it quick.

Oops.

"Err.. Arthur..?" I said, bracing myself for his fury. "I think we'd better stop talking now… it's been about fifty minutes.."

I pulled the receiver away from my ear as soon as I ended that sentence. To my relief, I only heard a huge sigh.

"And I thought you'd never noticed you git.."

"..So.." I hesitated. "..we're cool?"

There too, was hesitance in his voice. All these years I've known him, and Arthur had never been the forgiving type. And I'm pretty sure that I pissed him off a little more than usual today…

"..Yeah."

I blinked. "R-Really?"

"Just promise me never to call me Artie or any stupid names like that in the future."

" I promise!" I said, smiling away and probably looking like an idiot if anyone saw me. "Thanks Arthur. And I'm sorry."

"Whatever."

"I'll see ya in school then! Night!"

"..Good night."

And we ended the call.


~Arthur~

Cleaning up never felt so hard and tiring.

Good God.. the cafeteria walls might as well be painted with sauce. It took us a bloody long while, but we managed to clean most of it; at least to the point that it was no longer that obvious.

I cursed under my breath as I stood upright and tried to massage the numbness off my back. Moral of story: don't' get involved in a bloody food fight ever again.

"I see that you've finished cleaning up.." the assistant principal stood at the doors, smirking in pleasure. "Now give those things back to the janitor and return to class. Don't forget that your lessons will resume after this."

"Get your freaking ass here," I wanted to yell. "And we'll show you how it feels like to be feeling like an elderly with a bad back in just an hour."

But I kept my mouth shut and glared at her with the rest of my classmates instead, just to make our feelings clear. Then we gathered the tools and returned them to the janitor.

"You kids sure got it hard huh?" asked the adult as we lined up to pass him the items. I don't know why but his pity just seemed to annoy me more than I already was.

"Oh gee.." I mumbled sarcastically. "You think?"

Alfred elbowed my ribs and I gave him a death stare. He ignored me. Yes, again.

"We're used to it." Alfred told him and walked away.

We headed to class after washing off the leftover food off our hair and clothes in the bathroom as much as we can. I never knew I had that much french-fries stuck to my hair until I looked down at the sink.

I would like to say that life got better after that, but God just wasn't going to let that happen. The wonderful teachers had to give us a mountain of assignments with insanely short deadlines. Truth to be told, I don't even know why they bother trying. None of us would be handing up anything anyway.

I guess eventually they got to our nerves and we just couldn't stand another second of it. I marched into the hallways along with everyone else and went to my locker. Either the teacher was too tired to stop us or he just couldn't care less. No teacher worth their coffee would let their students waltz off when there was about three hours of schooling period left.

Unfortunately for me though, my locker only somehow managed to remind me of the incident early that morning. My scowl deepened. Thanks to that stupid git, the whole school now probably thinks we're a couple or something.

I was busy rearranging my books when a voice sounded next to me. Alfred's. Speak of (or should it be think of?) the devil.

"Hey Arthur, could you lend me your phone for a bit?" he asked.

I glared at him. "Why?"

"My boss," he answered. "I gotta call him and apologize for missing work."

I had to think about it. I glared at him some more before finally heaving a sigh and digging into my pockets for my mobile.

"Here." I threw it to him.

"Whoa! Thanks man!" Alfred flashed a grin before dialing the numbers. I leaned against my locker and waited for him to finish. I stared into space as I listened to his conversation, since I had nothing better to do.

"..Ryan?" he asked after a short pause.

Silence.

"Hey. It's' me. Al. Is the boss around?"

Silence.

"My class got held back." He grumbled as he replied to whoever's questioning him. "Anyway, is he coming back anytime soon?"

Another moment of silence.

"I see.. Then I'll just have to face him tomorrow."

Silence.

"..I'll keep that in mind."

He then ended the call and returned me my property.

"Thanks again."

"..Who's Ryan?" I asked with slight curiosity as I tucked my phone back into my pocket.

"Someone I work with." Alfred replied matter-of-factly. "Why ask?"

I turned to close my locker door, changing my mind about the question. "Nothing."

"Don't tell me you're jealous that I know more guys than you.." he blurted out of nowhere, holding back a laugh.

"What?" I noticed I was blushing, for what bloody reason I don't know. I only knew I couldn't control it no matter how I tried. "What the hell do you mean by that?"

Alfred merely shrugged, to my irritation. Good God… I want to punch him so badly!

Fortunately, I managed controll myself. A gentleman will not get involved in a fight over such trivial things.

"..Forget it." I muttered after heaving a sigh. I then grabbed my bag and stormed off, leaving Alfred standing there mouth agape like an idiot.

What the hell? I mentally questioned myself again and again. Why in bloody hell was I freaking blushing?

I must've looked like a fellow with mental issues or something because people avoided me as I stormed into the streets leading to my home. Even children refrained themselves from commenting on my eyebrows – which, was unusual for them.

After about ten minutes of walking, I made a turn into a district leading to rows of houses. I walked towards the fifth house on my right. Two cars were parked at the porch; one your typical family car and the other a wicked sports car. Usually, it's only the family vehicle there so I figured it was my elder brother's.

I pushed the unlocked gate open and stepped in. Before I could sort out the set of keys I held, the front door flung open and a redhead stood there, grinning with a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth.

"Well it's about time!" he told to no one in particular. "Everyone's waitin' for ya."

Iain Kirkland is that elder brother I mentioned about just now. Though it's usually hard to see the family resemblance, you'd find out soon enough. Iain had the same emerald green eyes as all the Kirklands.

My elder brother hardly comes home. Iain studies engineering in Scotland. He now has a Scottish accent and maybe that's why almost everyone calls him Scotty instead of his real name.

"Hey there Brother," I greeted him like how I'd seen Americans do – just not in such a friendly way as them. "Hadn't we told you specifically not to smoke in the house?"

"Aww chill out Arthur." He said. "No one told me that except you – ugh! What the hell is that smell?"

I scowled as I picked up my sauce-stained shoes. I thought I wanted to place them back in the shoe rack when I saw exactly how dirty they were. I threw them back on the ground and made a mental note to clean them later.

"Got in a food fight.." I mumbled, pushing pass him to get into the house.

Iain whistled. "Sweet! I remember my first food fight – when the times me and my mates chewed on the food before spittin' it out and-"

I didn't stand there to listen to the rest of his disgusting story. Instead, I headed straight to my bedroom, ignoring the weird stares I was getting from my mother and younger brother. I tore off my clothes and stepped into the shower.

And bathing never felt so good in my life. All those dried ketchup and such being washed away by soap and water…

Long story short: It was good to be clean again.

I was in the middle of scrubbing my hair clean of oil and grease when I faintly heard a knock on the door, followed by my mother's voice.

"Hurry up Arthur!" she yelled so she could be heard. "Your brother's taking us out for dinner tonight!"

I wasn't really in the mood for dinner at that moment (nor was I willing to leave the shower) so I shouted back; "Go on without me. It's going to be some time before I'm done."

"You sure, dear?" my mother asked with doubt. "You haven't got anything to eat here you know. Would you like me to get you something on the way back?"

"I'll be fine, mother." I replied. "I get the feeling that I'm not going to be hungry for the rest of the evening."

"..If you say so.." The next thing I heard were the sounds of footsteps, the click of the door lock, and the start of a car engine.

I stood under the spray of warm water for a while longer until I noticed that the tips of my fingers were getting hideously wrinkled. Alright, I thought to myself. Time to get out.

I dried myself before stepping out of the bathroom with just a towel wrapped around my waist. I went to my clothes cupboard and picked out a clean t-shirt along with a pair of shorts. Once again, it feels damn good to be clean again.

I laid down on my bed as soon as I finished changing and yawned. I hadn't really realized it, but I was dead tired even with the naps I took during majority of the lessons in school. I glanced at the clock on my bedside table. A little nap wouldn't hurt…

And so, I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Once again, I plunged into the same dream I had been having since the last eight days or so. I watched a British soldier fighting with an American in the rain. Though I had been seeing the same thing over and over again for so long, I could not make any sense out of it. Why, you ask?

Because the Brit was me. And the American was Alfred.

Was the dream a message? If it was, then it only made less sense. I mean, pointing a musket at Alfred? We argue at regular basis, but shooting him? Not likely to happen.

In adolescence, you change from a boy into a man
I searched for the road, still so innocent

Pushing through the crowd, no decent place to go
Tell me what real happiness is, my broken radio

I could always hear it, you always let me hear it
When I looked out the window at the sky, I felt a new, faint courage
My radio knew, you knocked on the door of my heart
A gentle breeze waved goodbye to my broken heart..

Great. Even my ringtone's gentle tune managed to startle me from my nap. I sat up and reached for the device, wondering who would call at such a time.

The screen flashed a name I was half expecting. Sighing, I accepted the call.

"Kirkland speaking."

"Is your fridge running?" Alfred's forever obnoxious voice sounded from over the line.

"..What do you want Alfred?" I asked, annoyance once again building up in me. It's a wonder how one person manages to piss me off more than five times a day.

"Nothing really," he replied nonchalantly. "Just feel like talking."

"..I'm hanging up."

"W-Wait!" That almost burst my eardrums. "At least hear me out for a moment will you?"

Wasting my precious time talking to him of all people? As if!

At least that was what I was going to say until I remembered I was alone in the house with no one other than the fairies (they do exist, mind you). Maybe some company wouldn't be so bad after all. Besides, the git had been doing this calling business almost everyday ever since I moved here.

"..Make it quick." I said after about a minute of silence, remembering about our assignments. "I've got a huge amount of work to do."

Alfred mumbled something I could not make out before saying; "Anyway.. it's about my mum." He paused.

"..Thinking about your dad?" I asked before he could start speaking again. I knew about Alfred's complicated relationship with his father. He was the one who told me, after all.

"..Yeah.."

He kept talking as I headed over to my bag and pulled out some English assignment notes. I scanned the sheet of paper, half listening to him, half thinking how I should start.

Oh, and just in case this happens to you; never act like you're really paying any attention to Alfred on the phone because 1) he tends to repeat lots of things 2) he can bring up almost anything for the sake of keeping the conversation going.

In other words, brace yourself to lose all your phone credits.

With every topic he brought up, I glance once at the clock, counting the minutes that were passing. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Twenty. Thirty...

"Err.. Arthur?" Alfred said all of the sudden, sounding – I can't believe I'm saying this – a little worried. "I think we'd better stop talking now.. it's been about fifty minutes..."

Oh Lord. How much slower can he get?

Then again, Alfred was just that kind of person. That particular slowness is what makes him Alfred F. Jones all these years. Obviously no amount of yelling or hitting would change him.

So instead of getting all worked up, I sighed. Very deeply.

"And I thought you'd never noticed you git.." I said.

"..So.." He was hesitating. Did he really expect me to start screaming at him or something? Why, thank you. "..we're cool?"

"..Yeah."

"R-Really?"

"Just promise never to call me Artie or any stupid names like that in the future." That sounded plain silly, now that I thought about it. Why did I even say that?

"I promise!" I could imagine him beaming away when he said there. "Thanks Arthur. And I'm sorry."

Well, at least he apologized, right?

"Whatever."

"I'll see ya in school then! Night!"

Typical of him to shout in the phone when the conversation was getting to an end.

"..Good night." I ended the call. I turned to look at the clock again. Eight thirty.

Time to clean my shoes. AndI stood up and headed towards the door.


And so, after so long, I'm proud to present to you: Chapter 3~! =D not that there's anyone reading this anyway.. TT^TT

yeah, Arthur's a little ooc here, but I like the forgiving Arthur :3 heheh sue meh if ya want to

excuse my mistakes. Hetalia isn't mine.