Arthur and Alfred stared at each other for a few long, tense moments, the silence of the room weighing down on them.
While they had lived together for almost two years now, it had been a nearly a year since they had lived in the same room. Though they shared the common areas of their on-campus apartment, they still had separate rooms, so it was actually very little like living in their shared room that first year after Alfred had started school.
Arthur gulped, inwardly willing Alfred to break the sudden tension like he usually did, but he seemed to be too busy staring wide-eyed at the bathroom door where Roderich had just been dragged through to help him out.
So instead of breaking the silence himself, he turned to his bag and began unpacking.
It took Alfred almost to the bottom of his bag to finally clear his throat and laugh a little awkwardly. "H-hey, just like old times, huh?" he asked, just a bit too perkily.
Arthur nodded. "Y-yes, I was just thinking the same thing."
"This'll be good!" Alfred chirped, now tossing his bag onto the bed closest to the window (just like old times), and started haphazardly tossing things out. "You'll be able to keep me from staying up too late, like you used to! And I'll make sure you actually get up in the morning!"
Arthur smiled wistfully, glad his back was facing Alfred so he couldn't see the way his cheeks were, with no doubt, pinking slightly. Waking up to Alfred gently shaking his shoulder after a few dozen hits of the snooze button was something he rather missed this last year. "I don't suppose you've kicked that annoying sleep-talking habit, have you?"
Well that didn't sound creepy or stalkerish or anything, Arthur thought to himself with a groan. Luckily, Alfred just laughed.
"No idea dude, you'll have to tell me! Though," he paused his unpacking, and the overall uneasiness exuding from him was enough to make Arthur check on him over his shoulder, "I doubt I'll be able to sleep deeply enough to do it with how nervous I am." He bit his lip, adverting his eyes.
Arthur's heart melted. "Nervous about the race?"
Alfred nodded. "Like, I know it's really not that big of a deal. It's not like we're trying to qualify for something or anything, but like, this is it, you know? This is the end!"
Arthur nodded, because he did know. As silly as it was to be nervous about something that really didn't mean anything besides bragging rights, it was a big race, and there was no telling if you would ever get a chance to run here again. He was lucky to have a second chance after last year's disaster, but others certainly weren't as lucky...
He quickly forced his mind off that topic. No need thinking about the past, after all.
With a small, reassuring smile, he turned to Alfred confidently. "Well, don't put yourself into a tizzy yet, lad. You don't run for two days still."
"True. Better get some good sleep these next few nights while I can!"
They finished their unpacking and tucked themselves into bed, Alfred promising to set his alarm for the both of them the next morning.
"Guten Morgen, team."
Coach Germania scanned over the cafeteria table the kids had been gathered around, analyzing their appearances. Alfred, Yong Soo, and Sadiq were digging into their breakfasts like a pack of wolves, Gilbert and Arthur looked about ready to fall asleep in their cereal, and Elizabeta looked about ready to kill the first person to talk to her, so it was a fairly routine morning.
"We have a lot to cover, so listen up," Germania began, handing a stack of papers to a rather heavily-eyed Rome for him to pass out. "After breakfast, we have a little down time before practice at noon. The track is only open from noon to four for all the competitors, so I want to get there early in case it is crowded. It's going to be warm, so I expect each of you to be drinking viel water."
He handed another stack of papers to Mama G. "Here is the schedule of events for the next three days of competition. As you can see, Ivan, Liz, Arthur, and Gilbert compete tomorrow, Liz, Roderich, and the 4x4 team compete on Friday, and Ivan, Francis, Arthur, Gilbert and the 4x4 compete on Saturday, assuming you all make finals.
"Now, a quick note for the runners." He turned to Gilbert and Arthur. "I know you two are not used to running prelims, so we have to play Friday carefully. You will be tempted to rest, I'm sure, but that much time not running will make you sore. And to the relay, you are slotted to run at eight-thirty at night on Friday, and six o'clock on Saturday. Do not over exert yourself during the day. Save your energy, it will be unusual for you to be running that late without anything before hand, so we have to be smart."
At that, Germania sat with Rome and Mama G and left the kids to their breakfast. Francis clapped his hands, and beamed at the rest of the table.
"So, mes amis, what shall we do until practice?" he chirped.
"Go back to fucking sleep?" Arthur mumbled, aggressively buttering a piece of toast.
Gilbert shot his hand into the air, his head still resting on the table. "Seconded."
"Aw guys, c'mon, let's do something fun!" Alfred chirped, tearing himself away from his waffle to grin sunnily at the rest of the table.
"Sleeping is fun," Elizabeta grumbled.
Francis shook his head. "Non, non! We need to do something. It is our last day to enjoy ourselves!"
Arthur scoffed. "I would enjoy going back to sleep."
After roughly twenty minutes of alternating eating and arguing, they decided to explore the campus, then go back to their rooms to rest until practice. While exploring, they found a sand volleyball court (Antonio, in particular, was excited about this), the pool, and a student center, complete with coffee shop, ice cream shop, and barber shop.
Alfred and Yong Soo took turns climbing on (and thoroughly disrespecting, in Arthur's opinion) the school's various statues and sculptures, and in the end, the whole team was chased by campus security for trespassing while trying to stop Ivan from picking half of the school's prized flower beds, losing Roderich for ten solid minutes in the process.
By eleven, the team was ready for a break, and gladly returned to their rooms to wait for Germania to drag them to the track.
Alfred fell onto his bed moments after entering to room, grunting as he picked up his laptop from the floor, flipping it open and letting it load. Arthur followed in a similar fashion, collapsing face-first into his bed and sighing in relief.
Alfred chuckled. "Tired?"
"Exhausted," came the muffled reply, as Arthur slithered himself up to the pillow and under his blanket. "Wake me up at half past, would you?"
"Sure thing," Alfred replied. "Couldn't sleep last night?"
The tips of Arthur's ears pinked from under his messy hair, and he shoved his face deeper into the confines of his pillow. "Y-yes. I need to adjust to the new bed is all."
Well, that was weird, but Alfred chose not to question it. Instead, he set his phone alarm for eleven thirty and opened Facebook, deciding to use this last hour of free time to be truly productive.
"Go, Sadiq! Stick!"
Alfred felt the whoosh of air blow at his bangs as Antonio handed off the baton to Sadiq that afternoon at practice. The team was spread around the track, the field athletes off doing their thing with Mama G and Germania, the distance runners on a leisurely mile long jog around the track, while he and the rest of the relay practiced handoffs under the watchful eye of Rome.
"Ah, not bad! Better! Antonio, don't forget, you'll be much more tired after your 400, so you wont be coming in so fast. Try it again! Sadiq, stay on your toes until he gets to the mark!"
Alfred sighed out of boredom and ran an impatient hand through his hair. Who knew how long it would be until he and Yong Soo got a chance to practice, he could be standing around forever! Finally, he decided to at least stretch while he waited, and flopped himself onto the ground.
It didn't take long for his eyes to find Arthur and Gilbert across the track (Gilbert's bright rainbow umbrella hat made it nearly impossible to miss him, after all), and for them to come to a comfortable halt on Arthur.
He was wearing those sinfully short shorts of his again, and that stupid sweatband, but that thing was gross, so he focused on his legs instead. Even when he was loafing around at a snail's pace, he looked majestic, and Alfred found he loved him for it just as much as he resented it.
"Enjoying the view, cher Alfred?"
Alfred jumped, his cheeks flushing as Francis smiled knowingly over him, leaning casually on his pole. "Uh—um—"
He smirked, obviously enjoying watching Alfred scramble, the dick. "Ouiii?"
"That is what I thouught!"
Alfred's cheeks puffed up in irritation, and he returned his attention back to his relay. Yong Soo and Sadiq were practicing now, which meant he would be up soon. Probably for the best, if he was completely honest.
"Ah, Alfred," Francis sighed, tapping his pole with his pinky finger. "Do not hide your feelings! Young Rosbif does look tolerable in his attire, if—" He cut off, and the sudden silence caused Alfred to turn to him in curiosity. Francis' eyes were wide, trained on a spot down the track at the end of the straightaway. "Merde..." he cursed, dropping his pole and taking off down the field.
"Wha—Francis! Wait!" Glancing back to make sure he wouldn't be missed for a few more minutes, Alfred took off after him.
Arthur and Gilbert had stopped running, he noticed, and it was over to them, he and Francis were headed. A small cluster of runners were forming around where the distance runners had stopped, and Alfred squinted into the sun, trying to see what was happening. Unable to make anything out, he ran just a bit faster.
"-ut the fuck up, you twat!"
"Oh? Is little bitty Artie Choke-land going to make me?"
"You bet your arse I will."
Alfred and Francis arrived right as Gilbert was rolling up his sleeves and spitting out some angry words in German, stepping threateningly next to Arthur to confront their attacker. The boy was taller than Arthur, but not quite as tall as Alfred, though much slimmer. His hair was reddish brown, and held back away from his freckled face with a green bandana.
He smirked unpleasantly at Francis, who managed to catch Gilbert and hold him back right as he was about to strike, and snorted. "Oi, Francis. Long time no see. Here to come to Art's rescue again?"
Arthur's face darkened. "Why you—!"
Alfred jumped in and placed a hand on Arthur's shoulder is an attempt to calm him down, and thankfully that seemed to do the trick. He glanced at Alfred over his shoulder briefly and relaxed just a little, though his fists stayed clenched at his side.
"Graham," Francis mused, having wrestled Gilbert behind him and out of trouble. "While it is always a pleasure, why don't we save this little feud for the race, where it belongs?"
But "Graham" wasn't paying Francis any attention. His eyes were trained on Arthur, and he was still smirking that irritating little smirk.
"This your new bum buddy, Kirkland?" he asked flippantly, nodding in Alfred's direction.
Alfred could feel Arthur's anger before he even saw him stiffen up and clench his jaw, and it was nothing short of a miracle when Rome managed to launch himself between the two boys before Arthur could do something he would regret.
With a deafening cry of "HEY!" Rome was staring Graham down, as he kept Arthur at bay with his elbow. "That's enough," he sneered, and Alfred couldn't help but he amazed at how completely and utterly terrifying their usually mild mannered coach could be. "Smettere, Kirkland," he hissed, leading him away from the scuffle with a tad more force than necessary, "Are you trying to get yourself disqualified?"
Gilbert and Francis gave Graham one last warning glance, which he returned with an arrogant, smug wink, as the World U team returned to their dorms, officially done with practice for the day.
"So, who was that guy?"
Francis sighed, leaning back on his bed and resting his head against the wall. "An old friend of Arthur's."
Alfred pursed his lips. "I'm sensing some heavy sarcasm."
Francis chuckled. "They ran for the same school back in England," he explained, "Arthur was always better, so when Graham graduated, he made it his personal mission to beat him and make his life miserable. Last year at nationals, Arthur was ranked first going in the trials with Graham right behind, but, well, we know how that race went, oui?"
Alfred winced. Indeed he did. Arthur, quite the rebel back in the day, spent a bit too much time partying the night before the prelims, and ended up in dead last the next day. It was the moment that prompted some serious discussions between Arthur and the coaches, and Arthur was put on some serious probation until he could straighten himself out.
"It was brutal," Francis said with a sigh, "and Graham was not helping. He came up to Arthur immediately after the race to gloat, and they nearly got in a fight until the coaches and I stepped in. I would chance to say it was one of the worse days of Arthur's life."
Alfred nodded, letting this new information sink in. "And he's running against this punk tomorrow?" Francis nodded.
"And tensions are going to be high."
TO BE CONTINUED!
Heeey guys! Sorry this took so long, my life has been absolute hell on wheels these past few months, so I've been dealing with more important, life/adult shit, but here I am! Keeping fingers crossed for some good news in my future! :D
Just for fun, you should all check out my tumblr: seecarrun. I post some drabbles, and snippits of this story on there, and it'll give you a good picture at my life and thus likelihood of anything getting updated, so that's helpful! XD
Hope to see you guys there, and as always, thank you so much for reviewing!