Disclaimer: I do not own Axis Powers Hetalia.

WARNING: Contains dark themes! Drug abuse, underage drinking, self harm, suicide, child abuse and morbid content.

NOTE: This is set in an alternate universe.

JISATSU

By Mikamilk

He was tired; too tired to move, to speak, to think or to breathe.

He was dry; no longer feeling the need to quench his thirst, no longer able to even shed a tear, no longer seeing any meaning in anything at all.

He was exhausted; having used up all of his time, his effort, his energy, his being…

All for nothing.

Honda Kiku stared at his knees drawn to his chest, his arms dangling by his sides and the rough texture of the wall digging into his back.

He was done.

He slowly dragged one arm up onto his bent knees. He pulled away the sleeve of his shirt, revealing the pale skin hidden beneath. He ran a thumb vertically along his wrist, applying some pressure. His eyes were blank as he took in the thin veins.

Finally, everything would be over. He tilted his face up to the sky, his head rolling against the wall. Closing his eyes, he felt a tide of emotion washing over him. Was it…relief?

This was the end.

+O+O+O+

There was the sound of a doorknob turning, then a dull thump as the door swung open and hit the wall. Kiku felt his shoulders tensing, his nerves tingling up and down his spine. He drew a silent breath as he twisted his body to see who had come in.

"Oh, allo there."

Cautiously, he looked up at the boy who stood by the door. The boy was dressed in a casual plaid shirt and blue denim jeans. He had a large bag slung over his shoulder and was also dragging a suitcase behind him with one hand. He was tall, his hair uncombed and sticking out in all directions. His green eyes had made a quick sweep over the room before they had landed on Kiku. But the boy's most catching feature were his eyebrows; bushy, thick and prominent. Kiku had never seen someone with such distinct eyebrows before and he had a hard time to stop himself from staring.

"The bed by the window free? I'm taking it if it's alright with you." Kiku nodded, not that his gesture held much meaning since the boy had already crossed the room to where the bed was by the window.

That was how they had met.

At this point, the boys were just strangers, barely acquainted properly yet as room-mates. There was no way for either of them to know that they would grow to mean much more to each other than simple room-mates.

The boy dusted his hands off once he had deposited his large bag onto the bed and laid his suitcase down on the floor. Then, turning back to Kiku he said, "Oops, how rude of me! I'm Arthur, you?"

Glancing toward the other boy shyly, Kiku offered a small, polite smile. "K-Kiku."

Taking a stride toward Kiku's bed, Arthur extended his hand. Timidly, Kiku took it for a brief handshake.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Arthur said with a friendly smile. Kiku nodded, returning Arthur a small smile of his own.

Arthur then made his way back over to his half of the room, unlatching his large suitcase and beginning to throw its contents into the open closet.

"So, you're new aren't you? Since you weren't around last year," Arthur asked as he continued to empty his luggage.

"Y-yes," Kiku replied. He had already unpacked most of his belongings, so he was glancing over his bookshelf, randomly slipping a book out and replacing it again for no more reason than to have something to do.

"So, where did you go for Year 10?" Arthur asked. "Was it back in your home country?"

"I…" Kiku hesitated. "I-I was waived."

Arthur turned to look at Kiku over his shoulder. "Waived from what?"

"Year 10."

Momentarily, Arthur lowered what he had in his hands, staring at the small Asian boy who was now fidgeting with a notebook in his hands. "Really?"

Kiku nodded.

"That's bloody amazing!" praised Arthur, his eyes alit with admiration.

Kiku blinked, startled by the unexpected reaction.

"Well, aren't I honoured to have such a smart room-mate?" Arthur said with a chuckle. "Definitely a big improvement from last year. I'm glad I volunteered to change room-mates. I swear, never again will I share a room with that wino." The last part of the sentence was muttered under his breath.

Kiku lowered his head. In his opinion, he wasn't amazing at all. He didn't think he was worthy of any of the words Arthur had spoken either.

"You should come down to the common room," Arthur was saying as he shoved the last of his clothes messily into the wardrobe before he closed it. "Meet the rest of us. I have to say, they're all a rowdy lot but you get used to it, don't worry. Might take a little time to settle in but I'm positive you'll find yourself fitting in just fine."

Before Kiku could say anything, his room-mate had already disappeared through the door leaving him with only the sounds of his footsteps trudging down the hallway. Looking over at Arthur's side of the room, Kiku saw Arthur had dumped his books in a pile on the wooden desk, his suitcase left empty with its' lid open. The bag on the bed still lay there, untouched. Fidgeting with his hands, Kiku contemplated taking up Arthur's offer of going down to meet the rest of his house-mates. He could already hear loud, excited voices erupting from downstairs. The others were reuniting after the long school break and new students similar to himself were already mingling and bonding.

Contrary to what Arthur had told him, Kiku could hardly imagine himself fitting in. And with a small shake of his head, Kiku decided against the idea of joining the rest of them, choosing to stay put in his new room. That was the safer option, Kiku told himself.

Kiku took another look over at Arthur's bed. Judging on first impression, his room-mate seemed to be a little curt, but Kiku's intuition told him that the boy was a polite, genuine person. Somehow, Kiku felt as though he just might have a chance at getting along with his British room-mate.

It wasn't until late in the night that Arthur returned back to their room. As soon as he entered, Arthur crossed straight to his bed, shoving his bag aside to sit heavily down on the soft quilt, causing the springs to squeak a little. He seemed somewhat worn-out but his eyes reflected a glow of happiness; a look one gets after a pleasant evening of fun with friends.

"Hey, eh, Kiku was it? Why didn't you come down? You missed out on some awful fun! All the others were eager to meet you too."

Putting the book he was reading down on his lap, Kiku raised his eyes to peer across at Arthur. "Oh, I'm sorry. I-I'm still a little tired from the flight."

"Oh yes of course," Arthur said, slapping a hand to his head. "Why didn't I realise? You must've come a fair distance. How long did it take you to come here?"

"Just under twenty hours possibly," Kiku replied. "About fifteen hours from Tokyo to New York and then a further four or so by bus to here…"

"Golly, it only takes me about six hours from LHR to JFK," Arthur told Kiku. "No wonder you're done in."

"Oh." Kiku fell silent, not really sure of what else to say. Then suddenly, Kiku saw Arthur's hand appear right in front of his face, holding something out to him.

"Here," Arthur said. In his hands, there was a sandwich wrapped in some napkins. "I um, thought you might be hungry so…"

Surprised, Kiku hesitated, his eyes darting from the sandwich to Arthur's face. "I, eh…" He didn't think he should just accept the sandwich willy-nilly but it would also be rude to not accept.

"Just take it," Arthur chuckled, pushing the sandwich into Kiku's hands. "It's late so I'll show you where the kitchens are tomorrow, yeah?"

"Thank you," Kiku said, receiving the sandwich from the other boy. "Itadakimasu," he murmured to himself before unwrapping the napkins to take a small bite. He tasted beetroot, lettuce and...Twisties? "Um…"

"It's a BLT," Arthur explained with a smug expression. "I had to make do with what we had. How is it?"

For a moment, Kiku wondered if Arthur was pulling some kind of a prank on him. After all, he had heard of all kinds of bullying that apparently went on in boarding schools. But, the way Arthur was eagerly waiting for his reply told him that this was no joke. Arthur was genuinely curious.

"Ah, well…" In truth, Kiku had never come across such a well, 'unique' combination of sandwich-fillings before, and honestly, he thought it was quite…interesting? "It is very good, thank you," Kiku smiled.

"Great, I knew it!" Arthur exclaimed. "Why don't people ever trust my cooking skills?"

"I guess your ideas may be a little adventurous," Kiku offered. Then, he added in a softer voice, "Actually I eh, also like to explore and experiment a little when I cook too…"

"Truly?" Arthur asked with a large smile on his face. "Well, who would've thought it! Kiku, I reckon we're going to have a blast this year as room-mates."

"I…" Again, Kiku was surprised by how friendly and open the other boy was being. The confidence with which Arthur spoke somehow gave Kiku a sense of reassurance and a little courage to open up a little himself. "Yes, I think so too."

+O+O+O+

It didn't take Kiku long to figure out how the people functioned at W. Academy. He was quick to learn and adjust to the rules (both official and unofficial) and the daily routines. His peers all had interesting backgrounds, keeping in mind this institution was highly prestigious and collected the elite of the elites from across the globe. This meant that the students attending the school either excelled academically or had high social status, if not (and in most cases)—both.

But it was an undeniable fact that all of what Kiku was going through—from his move to America, his life as a boarding student, meeting new people and attending classes at his new school—everything was nothing like he had ever known. It was all a fresh, new experience. And for Kiku, with change came uncertainty especially since he felt as though he were in this on his own, without anyone to lean on. But, when he thought about it, that was the way he had always lived his life. He could almost go as far as to say that he knew no other way to live.

Kiku knew he was different. He lead a life of secrecy. His classmates might have enrolled at this school because of their intellect or because they were rich, and Kiku didn't deny that he didn't fall into this pool aswell. But unlike the others, he had come here because of a much greater reason, one that had haunted him from even before he was born.

Initially, Kiku had thought that by coming to this school he would be exposed to distractions to take his mind away from his internal struggles. But being away from home only seemed to intensify these thoughts. Everyday, there were constant reminders of how different he was from the rest. For instance, in the evenings when they had all returned to the dormitories, Kiku would frequently see his peers with smiling faces, letters and packages sent from their homes held in their hands. Kiku knew very well not to be expectant of any letters or presents from his family. His peers would also call their families and friends at night on their mobiles or over Skype for a quick 'how are things?', 'miss you' or 'love you'; all of which Kiku had never said or been said before by his family and well, friends? He hadn't ever had anyone he could really call a friend in his past. It was as though everyone's happiness seemed to emphasise Kiku's lack of it.

It hurt.

One of the ways he smothered the pain was by spending the majority of his spare time in his room, studying. By doing so, it killed two birds with one stone; he could focus his mind away from the pain and he would be progressing in his studies too.

"Kiku!"

Turning in his seat, Kiku saw someone poking their head in through the door. He smiled, putting his pacer down on the logarithms assignment he was working on. "Hello Arthur." His time spent with Arthur was another way his pain was soothed. Arthur was one of the few people he felt comfortable hanging out with.

"You got a minute Kiku?"

Kiku nodded. "Of course."

Arthur grinned, beckoning for Kiku to follow him. "Come with me then."

"Okay." Standing, Kiku pulled on a hoodie as he made his way to the door. He quickly took his slippers off and put on some sneakers. Kiku knew people didn't take their shoes off indoors in America, but he was adamant on carrying out the Japanese custom, feeling irritated and uncomfortable if he didn't.

Closing the door, Kiku hurriedly followed after Arthur who was already halfway down the corridor. The older boy always appeared as though he was in a hurry, all of his movements somewhat rough and brusque, his sharp tongue which had a mind of its own completing his character. But Kiku knew how much of a gentleman Arthur actually was inside, he just had a hard time expressing his true self. In a way, Kiku thought they were similar to each other in this sense. But whereas Arthur found it difficult to communicate his feelings to others, Kiku completely masked them. That was their crucial difference.

"Here we are."

While Kiku had been preoccupied with his thoughts, they had come outside to the courtyard. Ordinarily, some wire chairs would be strewn around the place and a withered old wooden table would stand in the centre of the depressing courtyard. But in front of him stood a neatly arranged set-up of two chairs standing on either side of the wooden table and Kiku could see there were various items set out on the table. A crisp tablecloth was spread over the wooden table and cushions were placed on the chairs, transforming the rickety pieces of furniture into elegant fixtures. The simple touch-ups created a completely new atmosphere.

Curiously, Kiku stepped toward the table. He saw there a tea tray laden with a teapot, teacups set on saucers and a small milk jug alongside a sugar pot which were all made of beautiful, matching bone china. Carefully, he touched a teacup with the tip of his finger, feeling that it held some heat.

"It's important to warm up everything you'll be using if you're going to drink tea properly," Arthur stated from behind Kiku, "which is exactly what we're going to do. Well, the drinking part because I've already done the warming…"

"You prepared this?" asked Kiku.

A smug look appeared on Arthur's face. "Well, I thought I could teach you a few things about how we drink tea in England, since you introduced me to Japanese tea the other day. I just wanted to return the favour," Arthur explained.

With a smile, Kiku made an immediate connection to what Arthur was referring to. Some time last week while Kiku had been pouring himself some green tea, Arthur had shown a deep interest and from there Kiku had started his impromptu tea ceremony session.

Arthur pulled out one of the chairs, saying, "Take a seat Kiku."

Following Arthur's instructions, Kiku quietly seated himself.

"Good, now I have one more thing to add to the table before we begin," Arthur declared. He then opened a bag he was carrying, producing several square-shaped lumps of bread from inside and began placing them onto a plate. "We'll just pop these here. There we go, Bob's your uncle!"

Inwardly, Kiku wondered what in the world his friend had just said, a little puzzled by the statement, like who was Bob?But Kiku had grown somewhat used to Arthur uttering odd British expressions here and there that Kiku had never heard of before. If he stopped and asked every strange word and phrase he heard, the sun would go down. So Kiku put this in the back of his head and instead decided to ask a different question. "What are those?"

"Hm?" Arthur followed Kiku's line of vision to where he was gazing on the plate Arthur had just finished loading up. "Oh, they're scones. You've never had a scone before?" The smaller boy shook his head. "Well then, you really must try one. Scones are really great with Ceylon tea, and luckily that's just what we have today. Now, I'll show you how we do this properly."

Nodding, Kiku watched and listened as Arthur showed him the correct procedures for drinking tea. Arthur was such a perfectionist. But he was only pedantic about things he actually cared about.

"You take milk with your tea, right?" Arthur confirmed before he poured a little into Kiku's teacup. "Milk in first, always," he stated firmly. "Although some believe tea should go in first, that's just not right in my humble opinion..."

Once the tea had brewed for a good three minutes or so, Arthur picked up the teapot and gave it a shake. He set it down again and let the tealeaves settle down before he poured the rich liquid into each of their cups. "Tea is served."

There was a delicious aroma as Kiku brought the teacup to his lips. Taking a sip, he indulged in the wonderful flavours spreading through his mouth. Kiku had of course drunk black tea in the past, but never before had it tasted so complex.

"This is very good," Kiku said, impressed.

"This is why you should drink tea properly," Arthur told Kiku as he sipped from his own teacup. "Here, have a scone."

Placing his teacup down on its saucer, Kiku reached over to take a scone. He ripped off a small amount of the bread and put it into his mouth. The bread was mildly sweet with raisins inside. "As you say, these go very well with tea," he commented.

"Really?" blurted Arthur. Averting his eyes from Kiku, he let out a quiet 'phew'.

"I-I thought that's what you told me before," Kiku said, a little confused.

"Y-yes, that's right, I did," Arthur agreed, regaining his composure. Then he mumbled, "Last time Alfred told me my scones tasted like old socks…Looks like I can bake perfectly fine scones when I set my mind on it."

"Pardon?"

"Oh, never mind!" Arthur chuckled. "I'm just glad you like them."

Kiku smiled. The afternoon sun was warm on his back, a gentle breeze on his face, his friend by his side; he felt so peaceful, so happy. Then, he cast his eyes down to his teacup, seeing his reflection wavering on the surface of the milky liquid. Suddenly, he felt a sense of insecurity destroying his peace. He felt guilt for feeling happiness, even if it was only for a short time.

"I don't understand," Kiku murmured quietly. Why was Arthur doing this for him? Why was he so kind? Arthur was a popular boy in the school. He had plenty of friends and he received a lot of attention from the girls too. Even the teachers liked him for his polite and responsible personality. Even though Arthur could be spotted fighting with his classmates such as Francis and Alfred daily, but everyone knew that it was just for show and that Arthur actually cared a lot for his friends. On the other hand, Kiku was known for his lack of presence and for being socially awkward. He disliked being with large groups of people and always kept quiet whenever he was with lots of people. Those who got to know him were able to see that there was more to Kiku than just the unreadable face he usually wore. But that was only a handful of his classmates, mostly introduced to him through Arthur.

"What don't you get?" Arthur asked Kiku with a smile.

"O-oh," Kiku gulped. He hastily picked up his teacup to buy some time while he thought of a cover-up. "I-I don't understand how tea can taste so delicious," he lied with a nervous smile.

"Well, just let me know whenever you fancy a cuppa," Arthur told him with a satisfied grin. "I'd be more than happy to pour one for you anytime."

+O+O+O+

There was something about the dormitories at W. Academy that Kiku was endlessly grateful for. This was that it had a room with a bathtub. He had been afraid that since Japan was one of the few countries which had such a bath oriented culture, there would only be showers in the boarding house. Luckily he had found the small bathroom, and to add to his joy, the bath was hardly used by anyone else, almost all of his house-mates preferring to take a quick shower in the morning before heading off to classes. The only exception was a Chinese boy named Wang Yao who appreciated an occasional bath, but very rarely.

So, just as he did every night of the week, Kiku was immersed in hot water up to his shoulders. As he sat back, allowing his muscles to relax, he wondered why the others did not share his appreciation for baths.

Time passed by as Kiku soaked in the warm water. Perspiration started to drip down his forehead from being in the hot bath for so long. It was probably about time he got out.

As he slowly stepped out onto the tiles, he paused, glimpsing his reflection in the clouded mirror. He grimaced at the image, narrowing his eyes at his ugly body. He didn't want his nakedness to be seen by anybody, which was the reason why he was so glad that he was the only one to use this room.

Involuntarily, Kiku's hand lifted to touch his shoulder. Tearing his eyes away from the mirror, Kiku looked down at where his hand lay, following his finger that traced over a red, lumpy area of scarred skin. His shoulder wasn't the only part of him that was marred with scars. There were others on his back and sides too.

Every time he closed his eyes, Kiku could see the vivid flame of the lighter, held between his father's fingers as it was brought close to his skin. The visions were as clear as the very night it had all happened. The bruises from the beatings from his father were fading, but the scars from the burns were still raw and real.

It was his own fault, Kiku thought to himself, he had angered his father. His hands shook as his mind relived the fear and pain of that night.

Taking a few deep breaths, Kiku quickly got to his knees, scrambling over to the corner of the bathroom. Reaching out his hand, he immediately located what he was looking for—the razor he had left ready and waiting.

Unsteadily, Kiku made several small cuts to his arm, piercing just under the skin. Then, more steadily he made a deeper incision. A moment later, blood beaded to the surface of his skin and began sliding down his arm. At once, Kiku felt a calmness settling in. With a relieved smile, Kiku made another cut, feeling the warm blood pooling in the wound he had made, like a small, red river. Just the sight of his red blood gave Kiku reassurance, calming his nerves.

Kiku wasn't sure why cutting helped him to deal with his problems. Or was he just hiding from them? Before he really knew what he was doing, he had already developed this habit and found himself taking up his razor every night. He was aware that cutting himself was something 'wrong'. But everything about him was wrong to begin with anyway, so it only seemed the more right.

Kiku sighed. He was a mess.

+O+O+O+

The teacher's droning voice floated to the back of the classroom and into Kiku's ears. Half of his attention was on what the teacher was saying, jotting down the important things that were written on the blackboard onto his notebook—W. B. Yeats will be on next test, he wrote. Covering half of his desk was a page of The New York Times that Kiku had ripped out earlier that day. A headline spanned across the width of the paper in big, bold letters reading; 'Like Father Like Son; Honda Jr. Shows Potential'. There was a large photograph capturing two businessmen both with big smiles for the cameras, the Honda Corporation logo clearly visible behind the two men.

"Dude, that's awesome," a voice said from Kiku's right. Glancing over at his neighbour, Kiku saw the American boy, Alfred F. Jones, leaning his body over so he could read the article on Kiku's desk. Kiku thought this would be considered rude on two levels. Firstly, and obviously, talking in class. Secondly, well, being nosy. Again, this kind of thing Kiku had quickly learned was relatively normal behaviour around here.

"Man, I gotta get this new 3D TV," Alfred was saying as he passed his eyes over the article. "It says here that you don't even need to wear 3D glasses! Sick man! My dad's got connections with Honda people so he'll prob'ly get hands on one before the stuff's out on the shelves."

Kiku was only listening to Alfred half-heartedly, (the boy was mostly talking to himself anyway), he was focusing more on the article. Kiku's eyes lingered on the grey photograph. Honda Corporation was a multinational conglomerate company, most famous for its manufacturing of electronic goods in particular. As Alfred had obnoxiously pointed out, one of the company's newest products was the new 3D television. Other than that, the article also described how the project had been managed by the son of the company's founder, 'at the young age of 25' the paper read. It was obvious that as soon as he was ready, the company would be handed down to 'the son'.

"Hey look." Apparently, Alfred had still not finished with his ramblings. The American planted his finger down on the newspaper, pointing to the older one of the two in the photograph, the founder of Honda Corporation. "Check it out Kiku, you kinda look similar to this dude," Alfred commented. "Especially when you got your reading glasses on. Hey, and you even have the same name, Honda!"

"What?" Kiku's mind went blank, his breath catching in his throat as a panicked look passed through his eyes. A dull pain stabbed him in the chest. Thankfully, Alfred didn't seem to notice any of this and before he had a chance to, Kiku covered the article with his notebook in one swift move, pretending to copy notes from the blackboard again. "W-what a coincidence," Kiku stuttered. "Well, Honda is a very common name in Japan," he added with a hollow laugh.

+O+O+O+

The class was restless as the teacher returned their tests to them individually. The average, highest and lowest scores were already written out on the blackboard for everyone to see. Finally, Kiku's name was called out and he walked to the front of the classroom to get his paper. Glancing at his score as he made his way back to his seat, he wasn't too surprised to find out he had topped his class again. Feeling a small tug on his sleeve, Kiku stopped in his tracks midway down the isle.

"How'd you go?" Arthur asked from his seat, keeping his voice low.

"Um, okay I guess," Kiku replied.

"Hey, I'm sure you'll do better next time," Arthur encouraged, thinking that Kiku had not done well judging by Kiku's lack of enthusiasm.

"Yeah, thanks." Kiku feigned a smile before he kept walking toward the back of the classroom. Arthur hadn't been completely wrong in his assumption since it was true that Kiku wasn't overly thrilled with his result. Some might think it strange, considering he had achieved the best score in the class, but no matter how well he performed, Kiku never thought he did well enough, ever.

"Well done Kiku. No mistakes, as always."

Kiku smiled, pleased with himself for getting 100% on his test again. He picked up the paper, looking up at his tutor. "Do you think Father will be pleased with me?"

"Oh, um, of course," his tutor said with a hint of hesitation. "I can definitely say that I am very pleased with your work."

"Thank you." He felt a warmth bubbling inside, a smile spreading across his face at his accomplishment. He couldn't wait to show his progress to his father when his father returned home in the evening.

Kiku waited in the living room. Everyone had already gone to bed but he wanted to stay awake until his father came home. And eventually, he heard the front door open and he quickly picked up the small pile of tests he wanted to show his father from the table.

"Father," Kiku said as a bespectacled man walked into the living room. "Okaerinasai."

"Kiku."

"Father, how was your day?" Kiku asked politely, but he never received an answer. His father made sure to avoid making any eye-contact with Kiku, heading straight for the door on the other side of the room. "F-Father, I have something I want to show you," Kiku said, standing up from where he had been sitting by the table.

"Kiku, I'm tired," the man said in a monotonous tone, gripping the doorhandle.

"Father, please? I-I am sure you won't be disappointed," Kiku said timidly, offering the papers to his father with both hands.

With a sigh of frustration, Kiku's father took the papers, shuffling through them hastily. Kiku stood quietly, hoping for some approval from his father. However, once he had finished glancing over Kiku's work, his father simply pushed the papers back into Kiku's hands roughly. Without even a word or even a glance in Kiku's direction, the man vanished through the door, leaving his son confused and ashamed.

Kiku bit his lip. That was right, nothing he did would ever gain any approval from his father. Even if he poured all of his effort into just pleasing him, he would never be good enough. Even being fully aware of this, Kiku still couldn't stop trying, much to his own dismay. Somewhere inside, he thought that one day his father would look at him.

As he sat back down, Kiku felt an acute pain in his head. It kept stabbing at him, even as he focused on ignoring the pain. In the passed week, Kiku hadn't slept well at all. He could think of no clear cause of his insomnia. It wasn't like he was staying up late studying. He just couldn't seem to fall asleep, however hard he tried. If anything, it was a constant noise in the back of his mind that was keeping him up. It was like a voice which kept whispering to him, reminding him of how worthless he was.

"Hey Kiku man."

A voice snapped Kiku out of his thoughts, causing him to blink. Raising his heavy head, he found Alfred and Arthur standing in front of him.

"Dude, the bell's already gone," Alfred informed, giving Kiku a tap on the shoulder.

"Really?" Kiku glanced around him, seeing his classmates were out of their seats and piling out of the door. It was their final class of the day, leaving the students free to go home or wherever they pleased. Quickly, Kiku began gathering his things.

Arthur yawned, rolling his shoulders. "Finally the day's over."

With his folders in his arms, Kiku stood up, pushing his chair in under the desk. "Sorry to keep you waiting."

"No worries," Arthur assured as the three headed for the door.

"Hey Kiku, you're the one who fixed Yao's laptop the other day, right?" Alfred asked, glancing over at the smaller boy.

"Um, yes," Kiku said with a nod.

"Then you've gotta help me dude!" Alfred suddenly burst. "The microwave in the kitchen's gone haywire. And my fridge died on me last night too! How am I supposed to survive without a microwave or my fridge?"

"So it was you who broke the microwave!" Arthur spluttered, an unimpressed look crossing his face. "I had to listen to Francis whining about it all morning you know."

Elbowing Arthur in the side, Alfred fixed a frown on his face. "I didn't break it, it-just-broke."

"What's the bloody difference?" Arthur snapped. "Anyway, getting back on track. There's a big difference between fixing a laptop and fixing kitchen appliances Alfred."

"What?" Alfred exclaimed.

"You never thought about it?" Arthur said with exasperation. "What a duffer."

Alfred was crestfallen. He faced Kiku with misery in his eyes. "Then, you can't do anything?"

"Oh no," Kiku said, shaking his head. "I'm pretty sure I'll be able to fix them as long as the problem isn't too major."

Instantly, Alfred's mood brightened again. "No shit?"

"Eh…no shit," Kiku said. "Just um, show me what the problem is."

"Okay!" Immediately, Alfred picked up his pace, eager to get back to the dormitories now that Kiku had agreed to look at the broken appliances.

A few hours later, both the microwave and Alfred's fridge were as good as new again due to Kiku's handiwork.

"Dude! What are you? Like a genius?" Overjoyed with his restored fridge, Alfred was bouncing off the walls.

"No, no, it's not much really," Kiku said as he closed the lid of his toolbox. He wiped some sweat off his face, feeling a little hot, probably from all the fiddly work he had just done. Strangely though, he was feeling a little dizzy too.

"You know, I'd have to agree with Alfred on this one," Arthur commented as he stood to the side. "You're knack for this kind of thing is quite impressive. I'd believe you if you told me you were a professional engineer."

Blushing, Kiku lowered his face. "I just always had an interest in mechanics since I was young. That's really all it is."

"Well, thanks a bunch Kiku! You really saved my ass," Alfred said, giving Kiku a toothy smile, both hands on Kiku's shoulders. "I'll remember to go to you again next time my fridge breaks down."

"Just treat things with more respect and you won't have this problem to start with," Arthur scolded as he headed out of the door.

"Well, anytime Alfred," Kiku said, also making his way out of the room.

"Seeya guys!" Alfred called before shutting the door.

Walking a stride ahead of Kiku, Arthur folded his arms across his chest. "When will Alfred ever learn?" he wondered out loud. "But you really did amaze me there Kiku. Where did you learn all those skills? Kiku?" Not getting any replies from the other boy, Arthur twisted his head to look over his shoulder.

Arthur blinked. There were a few paces between them and Kiku had stopped walking for some reason, a hand clutching his head. Kiku was breathing heavily and his eyes were closed. Then, he suddenly crumpled to the floor in a heap almost making Arthur's eyeballs jump out of their sockets.

"Shit!" Arthur dived down, just in time to slip his arm around Kiku's back before Kiku hit his head on the floor. Kiku's face rolled in a little toward Arthur's chest. His cheeks were visibly flushed and with his free hand, Arthur laid his palm on Kiku's forehead feeling a burning fever. "Kiku, how long have you been sick?"

"I…I don't know," Kiku panted, taking shallow breaths. "A-Arthur I…feel sick…"

"Don't worry."

Feeling Arthur's strong arms tighten around him and his assuring voice murmuring to him all gave Kiku comfort and a sense of relief. Distantly, he heard Arthur asking him if he could stand. With every ounce of energy he could muster, Kiku tried to lift his heavy limbs which refused to listen to him. Then, he felt his body floating and the soft creaking of the floorboards drifted into his ears. Then, he gave into the darkness.

Later, Kiku awoke in his bed. The only source of light came from a small reading light from across the room. He felt lethargic and his joints were aching. But there was a soothing coolness against his forehead, it took a moment for Kiku to recognise that someone had placed a bag of ice there.

"Hey, how do you feel?"

Looking up, Arthur's concerned face came into view. With a weak smile, Kiku slowly sat up.

"Well, you look much better now," Arthur observed, peering into Kiku's face. "But you're still really sick so you better stay in bed Mister."

Kiku gave a small laugh. "Yes, thank you. I think I was just a little tired."

"A little tired? A slight understatement there," Arthur commented. "You need rest, and a bloody lot of it you do."

"I'm sorry for troubling you," Kiku apologised, hugging the quilt closer to his chest.

"No worries Kiku," Arthur said. Then he dropped his gaze a little to stare at his hands. "I just wished I'd noticed earlier. I'm sorry."

"I-It isn't your fault, Arthur!" Kiku protested. "But, thank you. I really appreciate all of your help."

That brought the smile back to Arthur's face, the smile Kiku loved so much. "Well, you get some more sleep," Arthur said. "If you need anything, just let me know."

With a polite smile, Kiku nodded. "Thank you but I'll be okay. I feel much better now."

"Fibber," Arthur accused. "Anyone can tell just by looking that you're still as sick as a dog. Now, you need to learn a little bit about how to depend on others Kiku."

After a moment, Kiku nodded with a smidge of uncertainty.

"Kiku, I know you're really good at taking care of yourself," Arthur assured him detecting Kiku's hesitation. Sheepishly he added, "But, can you let me show you how good I am at it too?"

Kiku stared. Those emerald eyes were so caring, so gentle and so warm. As far as he could remember, no-one had ever shown him so much passion. Was this what you called humaneness? The way a person treats another person?

"Arthur," Kiku murmured. "Thank you."

"You know I'll be right here. Goodnight Kiku."

+O+O+O+

Christmas was approaching. Despite the students at W. Academy were bogged down with upcoming exams, it didn't stop the vibe and buzz of the nearing celebration. Christmas—one simple word that gave teenagers the effects of a natural high. And under the influence, the boys dorms had decided to decorate their common room in order to heighten the Christmas spirit. Every one of them had to help out, even Kiku was dragged out of his room mainly persuaded (ordered) by Alfred to come and join in.

With a roll of red tinsel in his hands, Kiku stood in the far corner of the room where he had found a place he could hide in the shadows of the thick, protruding curtains. While he pretended to be decorating the walls, Kiku was staring out of the window. The days were growing short and it was already quite dark outside. It was a gloomy day, heavy rain had been falling since the morning and there were black clouds looming above, forewarning a thunderstorm.

"Is something wrong?"

It was a gentle, friendly voice but Kiku gave a small jolt, taken aback by being spoken to without warning. He quickly spun his head around to look at who was talking to him.

"Kiku, what are you doing all by yourself?"

"Hello," Kiku said with a small smile, the tinsel in his hands ruffling as he turned around. The person in front of him was Ivan Braginsky. He and Ivan were in the same grade and shared many classes together. For some reason, Kiku always felt a little intimidated whenever he was in Ivan's presence. Possibly it was because the two had a massive height difference not to mention Ivan's muscular build which made Kiku seem even smaller. But there was also something else, something unsettling about Ivan that Kiku couldn't quite figure out. After all, Ivan always seemed to be smiling and Kiku had never really heard him raise his voice, so why did Kiku feel so threatened?

"Kiku, do you mind coming with me for a little bit?" Ivan asked. The conversation seemed to proceed even without Kiku having to say much at all. "I have something I think you might like."

"Oh, sure." Kiku hadn't expected to hear this, but he went along with it, seeing no reason to refuse. Looking down at the red, sparkling tinsel in his hands, he gently placed them on a nearby table where he hoped someone else would find some use for them.

The Russian boy smiled. "Let's go then," he said beginning to lead the way. They went up the stairs and Kiku found himself being invited into Ivan's room. Ivan's room-mate, Yao appeared to be out, most likely taking part in the Christmas preparations.

"Sit down, make yourself comfortable," Ivan told Kiku as he lowered himself onto his bed.

Seating himself next to Ivan on the bed seemed too intimate for Kiku and he didn't want to use Yao's bed without his knowledge, so he settled on taking Ivan's desk chair. A year had already passed since he had started living in the dorms but he hadn't really spoken with Ivan much or had a lot to do with him in all that time, Kiku realised as he sat, staring into his lap. As far as he knew, they had nothing in common and there was no logical reason for Ivan to be interested in him at all. Not even a minute had passed and there was already an awkward silence between them, Kiku noted bitterly.

"You know, I've always been curious," Ivan finally spoke, his signature smile pasted onto his face. "I've always been curious about you."

Although a little confused by Ivan's statement, Kiku maintained an expressionless face, "Me?" he asked.

"Yeap," replied Ivan with a nod of his head. "You're always so quiet. You're like a shadow; always there but silent, unnoticed. Can I tell you what I think?"

"Ah, yes okay," Kiku answered. Inwardly, he wished he could just leave, Ivan's presence causing him to feel jittery. The boy made him feel like he was cornered, trapped, with no escape.

"Okay, this is what I think. I think you have a lot that you're not telling us."

The Japanese boy's head jerked up, his heart skipping a beat. He found himself staring, straight into Ivan's smiling face.

"Kiku, can you tell me your secrets?" Ivan asked, his request stated so simply, as though he were just asking Kiku to pass him the salt.

"I, um maybe, well, not really…" His words were an incoherent jumble as they fell out of Kiku's mouth. "I-I rather not talk about it. It's d-difficult to say. I mean, there's nothing really that I…"

"I know a way to make it easier," Ivan said calmly.

'I just don't want to tell you anything,' Kiku wanted to say, although he doubted he could ever be that straight forward to anyone. But before he could even slip another word in, he felt Ivan putting something into his hand. Looking down, Kiku found a small whitish tablet there. It was flat and round in shape. When he looked more closely he could see that there were some letters embossed onto the surface of the tablet.

"Take it." Ivan's voice hadn't noticeably changed but there was a definite demanding ring added to it.

Blinking, Kiku's eyes gave Ivan a puzzled look.

"Take it," Ivan repeated.

There it was again, the feeling of being cornered. It was so strong that Kiku gave into the pressure. He brought the tablet to his mouth and swallowed. One gulp and it was over. Kiku felt a little better once the tablet was out of his sight.

It took some time before Kiku understood the meaning behind this. He simply sat in the chair, an awkward silence returning again. As he sat, he was aware of Ivan leaning down and pulling something out from under the bed. A bottle of vodka. He watched out of the corner of his eye as Ivan took a swig straight from the bottle. The bottle was pushed toward him as Ivan offered some for Kiku but he shook his head, not in the mood for drinking. Where was this all going? Kiku thought.

Kiku was really beginning to feel stifled by being in Ivan's room with no apparent purpose for being there. It was then that it happened.

He was hit with a complete and utter bliss. Euphoria. Never in his life had he believed that such an amount of goodness could be possibly achieved. The sensations of happiness, righteousness and elation were simply indescribable. It was like he was being lifted up into white, beautiful clouds. Everything bad seemed to just melt away from his heart, all of his pain and suffering, gone.

The interior of Ivan's room which had been dull and musty only moments ago was now alive and full of colour and vibration. Every molecule surrounding him seemed to gain a new vibrancy, fascinating Kiku.

Before he knew it, Kiku was on his feet, his eyes wide and full of movement. He found himself suddenly very talkative. Words were streaming out of his mouth. He wasn't even sure what he was telling Ivan exactly but it didn't matter what he was saying. He just felt at ease as he spoke to the other boy.

"Open your mouth Kiku," Ivan instructed, a small vial in his hand.

Without a single objection, or even a thought to question Ivan's request, Kiku did as he was told. Not from pressure like before when he had swallowed the tablet. This time, he just felt open and okay with anything. It was as though Ivan had suddenly transformed from being just a classmate to being a close friend.

Bringing the vial to Kiku's mouth, Ivan let several drops of the liquid in the vial fall onto Kiku's tongue before withdrawing his hand. Kiku gulped down the liquid, seemingly unfazed by Ivan's administering of the drug. Instead, Kiku had become interested in showing Ivan something else. With a small smile, he pulled back one of his sleeves, presenting a slender, pale arm.

"I've done this for so long," Kiku said, moving his arm into the light to give Ivan a clear view of all of his scars. There were so many of them, the red slashes covering so much surface area of his skin. His own scars criss-crossing along his arm caught Kiku's attention, the patterns appearing to bend, meld and twist, like waves.

Blood.

Suddenly, Kiku was seeing blood. It was splattered over his arm, dyeing his skin crimson. Frantically, he staggered away from Ivan, holding his arm out. His arm felt as though it were decaying. The walls of the room were falling in on him. His heartbeat was too loud.

The blood. Now, Kiku could feel blood trickling out of the scars on his shoulder, his back. He had to get rid of the blood.

Now.

After fitting the last of the Christmas lights around the upper-most branches of the tree, Arthur climbed down the step-ladder. He took a step back to observe his work. It had taken much longer than he had expected.

"Alfred, where did you get this ridiculously humungous tree from anyway?" Arthur muttered as the American boy came up to him. It was getting late and most of the others had already gone back to their rooms.

"This? This isn't big," Alfred laughed, giving Arthur a look as if to say 'you're kidding right?'. "If you think this is big then you should come see the one we put up at my place every year."

"Bigger doesn't always mean better you know," Arthur mumbled.

"You're just jealous," the American boy teased.

With a huff of frustration, Arthur turned his head to the side. "Well, I'm off to find Kiku."

"Why?" Alfred asked. "You getting him to help you with your assignment again?"

"Shut up!"

"Well, I saw him go upstairs with Ivan earlier," Alfred called after Arthur, watching him ascending the stairs with squared shoulders. "Don't forget to show me after you get the answers off Kiku!"

Never, Arthur silently vowed. As he walked down the hallways, he wondered what Kiku and Ivan were doing together. He assumed they'd probably be in Ivan's room and headed straight there.

When Arthur had entered the room, he was slightly surprised to find the Russian was the only person inside, Kiku nowhere in sight. On the other hand, he wasn't too surprised when he found Ivan sitting on his bed, draining a large bottle of vodka.

"Hello Arthur," Ivan greeted. "Is something wrong?"

"Eh, no," Arthur muttered. His eyes narrowed as he spotted a vial rolling on the bed and some tablets scattered on Ivan's desk. "I was just looking for Kiku and someone told me he was with you," Arthur said carefully.

"Oh okay." Ivan put the bottle of vodka down on the floor, now empty. "Yeap, Kiku was with me."

"Where is he then?" Arthur asked, a trace of venom lacing his words.

"I don't know," Ivan replied, shaking his head with innocence.

Arthur took a step into the room. A bad feeling was rising inside of him and he was getting worried about Kiku. Pills, grog and Ivan weren't at all a good combination at all. "What do you mean, you don't know?" Arthur demanded.

"Well, he was here, and then he left," Ivan explained matter-of-factly. "He never mentioned where he was going. So, I don't know where he is. He was kind of in a hurry."

Wrenching the vial from off the bed, Arthur waved it in the air. "Did you shoot Kiku up?"

Ivan gave Arthur an amused smile. "What if I did?"

Arthur tossed the vial back onto the bed. "Arsehole!" Arthur hissed with hatred burning in his emerald eyes.

Then, without another word, Arthur turned on his heel and walked out of the door. Ivan would have to be dealt with later, Arthur decided. For now, he had to find Kiku right away. With his hands stuffed into his pockets, Arthur rapidly made his way down to his and Kiku's room to check if his room-mate had returned. Unfortunately, only an empty room greeted him when Arthur banged open the door.

"Bloody Mary." Closing the door again with an anxious sigh, Arthur resumed his search. He asked around, looked in most of the rooms of the boarding house and still couldn't find Kiku. His mind was racing, thinking of every possible place Kiku might be. Then, an idea sparked and he took off to the bathrooms. If no-one knew where Kiku was, he must be taking a bath, Arthur determined, almost sure that he was right.

"Oh what?" Again, he was only met with disappointment, not a single soul found in the bathroom. "Where the bloody hell are you?" Arthur said with exasperation, his voice echoing in the tiled room. Then, feeling a stirring in his stomach, Arthur cast his eyes to the small window of the bathroom. It was pitch black outside, sheets of rain bucketing down from the sky. Clenching his fists, Arthur turned, the bathroom door falling shut behind him.

If Kiku wasn't anywhere inside, then where else to look but out?

Within minutes, Arthur was out in the wild weather, almost instantly saturated to the skin. The heavy rain was impeding his vision, making it close to impossible for him to see anything. As he jogged around the gardens, splashing through puddles, he kept calling out Kiku's name hoping to God that he would get a reply.

Come on, come on, come on! Arthur hoped urgently. "Kiku! Kiku!"

Above, an angry roll of thunder rumbled in the sky. What a nightmare, Arthur was thinking to himself, and it was all because of Ivan. Arthur gritted his teeth. The Russian boy was notorious for his love of vodka and also for being the man to go to if you wanted a hit. But, how dare he lay hands on his Kiku!

Arthur halted. Wait, his Kiku? Where did that come from?

Arthur wasn't given a chance to ponder for in the next moment, Arthur's eye spotted a small shadow through the streaming rain. Kiku! In a flash, Arthur was by the small, shaking form who was folded in on himself on the ground. Arthur was relieved that he had finally managed to find Kiku, but the state he had found him in was not at all a comforting sight if not the complete opposite.

Taking a quick breath, he reached his hand down to gently touch Kiku's back. As soon as his fingers made contact, Kiku's head shot up out of his arms, a look of terror swimming in his large eyes.

"Kiku! Kiku it's just me," Arthur quickly said to calm the other boy but the frightened look in Kiku's eyes only seemed to intensify, if it was even possible for someone to look even more scared than Kiku looked at that moment. "It's okay, Kiku it's just me, Arthur," Arthur repeated desperately to Kiku who was trying to inch his body away, as though he were trying to protect himself from a fierce bear.

"Kiku?" As Arthur crouched down to get closer to Kiku, he noticed something strange about Kiku apart from his obviously rattled state of mind. Kiku had shed his shirt, leaving his upper torso bare skinned in this freezing weather. "W-what happened to you?" Arthur breathed in horror.

"The blood, I need to get rid of the blood," Kiku stuttered in a small voice. Arthur could tell that the boy was tripping. "B-but, the rain, it won't get rid of the blood. It's too hot, it hurts, it hurts, it burns!"

Arthur was immobile, shocked by the sight of his friend before him. There, on Kiku's pale skin, were the evidence of his abused body. On his shoulders and his back were big, swollen scars. They were painful just to look at. A knot developed in Arthur's throat when his eyes passed over Kiku's bare arms, witnessing the fresher wounds. He could easily tell that they were self inflicted.

There was a clap of thunder. Kiku released a silent scream as their surroundings flashed with the lightning. The rain, the dark, the thunder—it was Hell. Kiku began to shake violently. Hell had broken loose and he was falling into its gaping mouth. Hell was swallowing him.

"Come on, let's get you inside." Arthur's voice was soft and tinged with sadness. He gathered Kiku into his arms, feeling tears roll down his cheeks, mingling with the rain dripping down his face. Kiku was struggling to free himself, but Arthur ran his hands over Kiku's back in gentle circles. No matter how much Kiku struggled, Arthur continued to soothe him, never releasing his protective hold around Kiku. "It's okay Kiku. You'll be alright. Everything's okay now. It's just the drugs making everything so horrible. It's okay."

"Trust me, it's okay."

+O+O+O+

He opened his eyes to stare up at the ceiling. Inside, it was as though the world had come to an end. This may sound like an exaggeration but in no way was he magnifying his feelings. Sitting up, he realised he was alone in the room. Some nausea from the previous night loitered, his ears still ringing. Every inch of his body was in pain.

Why couldn't he escape the pain?

Somehow, Kiku had come outside to a grassy area where not many people came. He sat on the grass, leaning his back against the outer brick-walls of the boarding house.

Surprisingly, he had clear recollections of the events of last night. In his rational mind, the memories seemed too bizarre to be believable but he was certain that his experiences had not been a mere dream.

What seemed fake also seemed real. What felt empty felt essential. What appeared meaningless also appeared to mean everything in the world to him. The polar ends which were never meant to meet were connecting. It made no sense to Kiku. It disgusted him. It frightened him to no end.

He wanted so badly to somehow erase his past, but he knew that that was impossible to do. If he couldn't turn back, he had to face forward. But he could see no future, no future at all.

He was tired; too tired to move, to speak, to think or to breathe.

He was dry; no longer feeling the need to quench his thirst, no longer able to even shed a tear, no longer seeing any meaning in anything at all.

He was exhausted; having used up all of his time, his effort, his energy, his being…

All for nothing.

Honda Kiku stared at his knees drawn to his chest, his arms dangling by his sides and the rough texture of the wall digging into his back.

He was done.

He slowly dragged one arm up onto his bent knees. He pulled away the sleeve of his shirt, revealing the pale skin hidden beneath. He ran a thumb vertically along his wrist, applying some pressure. His eyes were blank as he took in the thin veins.

Finally, everything would be over. He tilted his face up to the sky, his head rolling against the wall. Closing his eyes, he felt a tide of emotion washing over him. Was it…relief?

This was the end.

As though released of all of the chains that had pulled him down throughout his life, Kiku felt freed. He felt as though he were been thrown out into the endless sky, abandoned by the world. Here, he would just float in the empty air, eternally.

His finger ran along the flat edge of his razor. He then pressed it to his skin. Unlike the way he usually cut himself, this time he would aim to cut deep. He would destroy himself.

Suddenly, Kiku saw the razor slipping out of his hand, vanishing in amongst the blades of grass. Had it been knocked out of his fingers? He wasn't entirely sure if he had even cut his wrists yet or not, his mind was too fogged and unclear. Then, something happened that instantly brought Kiku back to the moment, his mind very clear and very aware all of a sudden.

"What are you doing?" a shaky voice said, directly into his ear. "Kiku, stop. Please, stop."

Arms were engulfing him, pulling him close. He could hear unsteady breathing beside his ear. Kiku gasped as he sat frozen being held tightly by Arthur whose shoulders were shaking. He was crying.

"What were you trying to do Kiku?" Arthur choked out, scrunching Kiku's shirt with his fingers. "Kiku, please just don't, please."

Kiku was speechless. He just remained in Arthur's arms without resisting or struggling.

"If, if you had…" Arthur bit his lip, tears still dripping down to the grass. "I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I-I would never forgive myself," he sobbed.

This wasn't right, Kiku thought. He hated to see Arthur hurting like this. He wanted Arthur to be smiling, not crying.

Kiku closed his eyes, leaning into Arthur's embrace. "Arthur, I'm sorry. But, I had no choice…"

Finally, Arthur loosened his hold on Kiku a little so he could look into Kiku's face. "What do you mean?" he asked. "Why are you doing this?"

Silently, Kiku just shook his head, his heart aching.

"Kiku, please, please just tell me?" Arthur persisted, stroking Kiku's hair. He felt like he had to keep touching Kiku, or else he was scared that he might risk losing him again.

"Well…there's honestly a lot of reasons," Kiku ended up saying quietly.

"You can tell me," Arthur said, his hands still shaking a little. "It'll just be between you and me. Kiku, didn't I tell you that I'm always here for you? Remember?"

Again, Kiku just shook his head. There was no way he could tell Arthur. He couldn't tell anyone. But, inside he had reached his limit. He couldn't hold everything in any longer. He was losing control. Kiku took a deep breath and then it all came flooding out.

"I-I was never supposed to be born," Kiku said, hiding his face against Arthur's chest as he spoke. Timidly, he brought his hands to wrap around Arthur's back for support. He couldn't believe the words were actually coming out of his mouth. "I don't deserve to be alive."

"What? Why Kiku?" Arthur asked, trying his best to keep his voice calm, even though Kiku's words had shocked him.

Kiku swallowed before he found the courage to begin his story. "My father is the founder of Honda Corporation. It's exposed to the public that he is happily married to a perfect wife who he had one child with. But actually, he had another son—me. He had an affair and accidentally impregnated his partner. I don't know the details but all I've gathered is that my mother ran away, leaving me with my father. But, if the public ever were to find out about me, Honda Corporation's reputation would be damaged. So, they hid me."

"That's ridiculous," Arthur interjected, unable to hold back his statement. "How can they 'hide' you?"

"Well, it's not actually as hard as it sounds," Kiku said. "It was important for me to go outside as little as possible, so this meant that I couldn't go to school where information could easily be leaked. So, I was home-schooled and I hardly ever left the house. I was discouraged from talking too much with my step mother and step brother and my father was hardly ever home. I just spent most of my time studying or looking at all the products manufactured by Honda Corporation which were laying around the house. That's how I got so interested in electronics."

"Right, now I see," Arthur said.

The more he spoke, the easier it felt for the truth to come out. Since he had started the story, he might as well tell it properly. "Well, anyway, that was my life. My boring, meaningless, secret life," Kiku said. "Then, one night changed everything. It was when my father had drunk too much. H-He came home in kind of m-manic state. He was really stressed and frustrated and, he was looking f-for an outlet to release his anger…" Kiku trailed off, feeling unsure whether he could go on. He felt Arthur giving him an encouraging squeeze which aided him to continue. "Y-you saw my s-scars last night didn't you? Well, that's what happened. My father beat me and burned me with his lighter. Hiding me was one thing, doing that was another. He had crossed a line. So, further measures had to be taken. Because, i-if anyone found out about what my father had done, the media would slaughter him and Honda Corporation to a cinder. So, I couldn't stay in that house anymore."

"That's why you came here?"

Kiku nodded. "No-one knows who I am here and America is far away enough from Japan to be a safe option. And this school won't say a thing as long as you hand over rolls of money to keep them quiet." Then, Kiku lifted his face, taking a deep breath before looking straight into Arthur's green eyes. "That's me. That's all I am."

As Arthur stared back into Kiku's eyes he saw no light in their depths, but he could feel Kiku's whole body screaming with pain, fear and sadness. Finally all the pieces fell into place. Only now could Arthur understand why Kiku had always been so conservative, modest and distant. When he thought carefully, Arthur could think of multiple occasions when an unexplained dark look had shaded Kiku's eyes, but he hadn't thought twice about it since Kiku always managed to cleverly mask his emotions. He even recalled thinking it was strange that Kiku always stayed behind after PE lessons to help the teacher take the sporting equipment back to the storage. The others simply concluded that Kiku was trying to get on the teacher's good books, but no, it was so he could get changed after everyone else had already left, so no-one would see his scars. There had been so many hints yet Arthur had failed to take proper notice of any of them.

"During the school holidays they didn't want me to come back to Japan, so I just stayed here in America," Kiku told Arthur with a wry chuckle. "Sad, isnt't it? All by myself in some hotel room. I'd go to some touristy places, take photographs and things but I'd always be alone in such a huge crowd of strangers," Kiku trailed off, then added in a whisper. "It scared me. I felt so small. I thought I'd get lost in the huge crowd and I'd disappear and no-one would ever notice."

"And then yesterday happened and I…" Kiku shivered. "I just couldn't stand any of this anymore. I hate having to live this life. I just…"

"But, you haven't yet," Arthur said after a moment. Kiku's eyes wavered, looking questioningly into Arthur's face. "You haven't 'lived' yet."

"Yes I have," Kiku murmured. "And I'm sick of it."

"Kiku, there's so much more to life then what you've had to go through," Arthur argued, shaking his head. "You've done nothing to deserve any of this. Nothing at all. God, you deserve so, so, so much better."

"No, no I don't," Kiku said but Arthur quickly cut in.

"Just listen to me a second Kiku," he said gently. "This is what you've been doing. You've been taking on everything for your father; his guilt, his mistakes and his responsibilities. It's all not yours to have to carry. Just let go. You have the right to live for yourself."

With a small sigh, Kiku shook his head. "I can't Arthur, you don't understand. I don't know how to."

"Then." Arthur readjusted his hold around Kiku, pulling him closer so his cheek rested against Kiku's. "Then, let me show you."

"Arthur?"

"Look Kiku." Pulling away for a moment, Arthur picked up the razor which had fallen on the ground. He pushed his sleeves up and without hesitation dragged the blade across his skin.

Inhaling sharply, Kiku immediately grasped Arthur hand holding ther razor to lift it away from his arm. Kiku stared at the blood that seaped to the surface on Arthur's arm in horror. "What are you—?"

"Exactly," Arthur smiled, confusing Kiku. "That's how I feel too. It hurts me to see you doing this to yourself. And it hurts me when you're suffering, bottling everything up inside yourself. This isn't your problem to deal with on your own. I'm here. So please, you won't do this anymore will you?"

"Okay," Kiku managed to say eventually.

"Good." Arthur pocketed the razor, then hugged Kiku again. "Kiku, there's something you haven't noticed."

Tentatively, Kiku laid his head on Arthur's shoulder. Kiku wasn't at all prepared for what Arthur was about to tell him.

"You don't know how much you mean to me."

"Arthur?"

"Kiku, you mean everything to me."

+O+O+O+

Outside the window, people in long coats and brightly coloured beanies were mingling about, the tasselled ends of their scarves rippling in the chilly wind. Their faces were white under the grey, winter sky but every face that passed by exploded with cheerfulness. On this special day, everyone was happy.

He gazed idly at the scene of the festivities playing through the window, the sound of an old woman's voice coming from the television floating into his ears. Every year on this day he had stood like this, watching how joyfulness and excitement filled the air. And he had always wondered what it felt like to be a part of the happiness. How it felt for warmth to fill up your heart as he had heard people saying.

This year for the first time, Honda Kiku stopped wondering these things.

A door flew open, the muffled sounds of footsteps against the antique carpet hurrying toward him. In the next moment, he felt arms wrapping around him from behind. This was what warmth felt like. This was what happiness felt like.

This was what love felt like.

"Here you are."

Kiku's lips formed a small smile.

Green eyes lazily gazed over the streets of London that could be seen through the window. "What a shame, it didn't snow again this year."

"Maybe, next year it will snow?" Kiku said, bringing his hands up to clasp around Arthur's.

"You're right," Arthur agreed, giving Kiku a small squeeze around the shoulders. "Maybe next year. But for now, we've got to get our mince pie out of the oven, love."

With a nod, Kiku turned his head. Suddenly, Arthur swooped his head down and Kiku felt the other brushing his lips against his own. Then, he was released and Kiku spun around to see Arthur was halfway to the door.

"L-Let's go!"

"Coming," Kiku said, his smile growing wider. As he made quickly made his way toward the door, a hand reached out to catch his own, their fingers intertwining, and he was pulled over the threshold. And the last thing Kiku heard as he slipped through the door was the old woman's calming voice from the television.

'I wish you and all those who you love and care for, a very happy Christmas.'

FIN

+O+O+O+

TRANSLATIONS:

Jisatsu: suicide

Itadakimasu: a phrase of thanks said before starting a meal. Literally meaning 'I humbly receive', or something like that.

Okaerinasai: welcome home.

NOTES:

Hello everyone! How are you? Wow, if you're reading this, it must mean that you read to the end! Thank you so much for reading such a long oneshot! Thank you! I really hope you enjoyed it!

Here's some things that's on my mind. Firstly, Kiku is in Year 11 in this story, which I think is equivalent to the Junior year of high school? Sorry, I'm not at all familiar with the American education system, but I hope I was able to make it clear.

Next little note is, in the final scene, the old woman speaking on the television refers to the Queen's Speech broadcasted on Christmas Day. And, although I only included a tiny snippet, the final line came from the speech made in 2010.

Lastly, I think you might have noticed but I took a few ideas from the Gakuen Hetalia game and twisted it a little for this story.

Again, thank you very much for taking the time to read this! I hope it wasn't too dark and depressing. And, sorry for making Ivan out to be such a bad guy, I really don't have anything against him at all!

Pleave leave me a review! I'd really love to here your comments!