Characters: Fem!Canada, America, Fem!France, England, Monaco
Pairings: Mentioned FrUK, (techically) AmeCan
Genre: Friendship
Warnings: None


Man on A Mountaintop

It all started when Madeleine decided to take a hike on the local mountain. A rash decision, perhaps, but she was anxious to be out in Mother Nature's realm once again. She had just moved from her hometown of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada to the relatively busy city of Hanover, New Hampshire in the United States of America the previous month. Madeleine Williams was a now a graduate of high school and a freshman once again, and somehow had managed to get herself accepted in the prestigious Dartmouth College.

She could hardly believe it, really; it was a well-known to the world and held in high esteem. The chances of her acceptance had been so low, Madeleine had questioned her reasoning for even submitting the application (her parents had coerced her), but she was glad she had now.

Madeleine gathered her things to prepare for her trip. She filled a large water bottle, found a map for safety measures, arranged a lunch, searched for her boots in her tiny closet, her trusty notebook and finally a backpack to carry everything she needed. Within fifteen minutes, she was out of her dorm with a quick goodbye to her roommate Ciel.

She only needed to wait a few minutes for her older cousin, Marianne Bonnefoy, to pick her up and they were on their way to Cardigan Mountain, roughly twenty-five minutes from where Madeleine's dorm was located. She half-listened to her urbane relative chatter on about her boyfriend named Arthur Kirkland, in favor of gazing out the window and to watch the various blurs of green go by. It was times like this that made Madeleine long to write. She was majoring in literature, like many other young adults, and she enjoyed writing about things of all sorts. Romance, friendship, angst could easily be included in her tool belt of things several other genres she was comfortable with.

Ideas and her muse weren't particularly difficult to stumble across. Her inspiration came from practically everywhere; a picture of a person solemnly trying their hardest not to cry right before a storm, a stranger across the street hurrying along to catch a bus, the lyrics to her favorite song, and often events that happened to her specifically.

The car halted to a stop, and Madeleine reluctantly pulled herself away from her thoughts. She bid farewell to Marianne, thanked her for the ride and confirmed she would call her cousin when she was ready to return back to campus. Marianne nagged her to make sure her precious cousin had her cellular device in case of an emergency, and Madeleine did so while rolling her eyes. She knew Marianne cared about her, and she was grateful, but she didn't need another caretaker during her stay in America.

She took a moment to watch the dark blue Mercedes-Benz disappear around the corner, and inhaled deeply. The air was refreshing and clean, unlike the crowded feeling of Hanover. She stretched, and began her trek into the woods.

The ground was damp, but not unpleasantly so. The earth was littered with an assortment of leaves, and Madeleine relished the squishiness beneath her, enjoying every step she took. She walked with a steady, purposeful pace, climbing over bare branches and knotted steps. She was focused on relaxing, and brainstorming possible ideas for a story. Her class had assigned her to write a short story about an unexpected meeting, but one that would lead to something eternal. A small part of the Canadian hoped she would meet a person at the top of the mountain, and she would be able to fill in the blanks.

She reached the top about twenty minutes later. Much to her disappointment, there was no person to be seen. It was a Sunday, but apparently no one had had the sudden desire to take a trip to the top of Cardigan Mountain.

With a sigh, she sat herself on a rock and pulled out her lunch. It mainly consisted of a turkey sandwich with a small bag of unopened chips and her bottle of water. Simple, but satisfying.

It was just when she had taken a bite out of her second to last chip when she heard the familiar sounds of land crunching beneath somebody's shoes. She turned around, almost excitedly, to glimpse the newcomer. It was a young, blonde man - taller than average, with a bright face adorned with glasses and look to be about twenty or so. It was strange, really; Madeleine felt as if she was looking in a mirror, except the other was male. The resemblance between them was almost uncanny.

She turned back around to consume the remaining potato chip. She would wait for him to start the conversation, partly because she was curious about what the stranger would do, and partly because she didn't want to be the one to awkwardly offer a hello. The Canadian considered herself to be an introvert, and rather shy. Most times, people didn't even notice the quiet girl. She wondered if he would.

"Hello!" The greeting came almost immediately from her right. The man was already standing above her, grinning broadly. "Beautiful day, don't you think?"

She blinked, not quite sure what to say. "A-Ah, yes… It is."

"I'm Alfred Jones!" He held out a hand, and Madeleine timidly took it.

"Madeleine Williams."

"Pleased to meet you, Madeleine!" The man (or rather, Alfred) looked about as if scanning the place. There was a short pause. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but what are your reasons for coming here?" Again, she blinked and this time he took notice. "I know it's out of the blue, but I'm sorta taking a survey, you see."

Madeleine nodded, placing the empty plastic bags into her backpack. "Well… I suppose I came here for fresh air and to get ideas for a story."

"Oh! Are you a writer?"

"Not really," She laughed lightly. "Although, I'm majoring in literature."

That was enough for Alfred to understand. "Wow, that's awesome! I'm planning on becoming a biologist. Right now, we're mostly focusing on succession in local areas. I come here every week to study and observe the changes in this area here and—" He stopped abruptly at Madeleine's puzzled face, and looked almost downcast. "Sorry 'bout that… I tend to ramble on. My brother tells me I never shut up. You probably don't even know what succession is, huh?"

"Oh no!" She said hurriedly, not wanting to upset him. She liked his smile. "Please continue. And no, I don't," Her voice was sheepish. It sounded familiar. She thought she learned about it in high school, but now she couldn't remember. "Could you possibly explain to me?"

His blue eyes brightened with happiness. "Really? You don't mind?"

"Of course not. If it's a comfort at all, this is helping me too," Madeleine smiled at him reassuringly. It was true, she needed something for a story, and Alfred seemed like the type who needed assurance that he was doing the right thing. In a way, he reminded her of a puppy.

"Alrighty then!" And so, Alfred proceeded to enthusiastically discuss ecological succession and nearly everything related to it. Madeleine learned that primary succession occurred when a first species, known as a 'pioneer species', moved into a new area. Originally, there's no soil and only rocks. In primary succession, the pioneer species are most typically lichen, composed of fungus (which allows the lichen to cling to the rock) and algae (which uses photosynthesis to take in sunlight for food). The rock begins to breakdown and the final product is topsoil, which allows more species of sorts to move in. It starts with small plants and grasses, and eventually trees grow.

"Soon enough, there'll be a large community of various species living together. The entire process typically takes up to a thousand years," he concluded, beaming. After a moment, he glanced over to his female companion, worried. "I didn't bore you, did I? Oh man, I did, didn't I!" His tone quickly changed to something that sounded suspiciously like self-loathing.

"No, no! This is actually really interesting," Madeleine said, and she meant it entirely. She didn't usually like the subject of biology, but Alfred somehow managed to make it more than bearable and somehow even enjoyable. It was obvious he was doing what he loved. She found herself wishing she had known him back in high school, when she had been required to take the course.

"…So I can continue then?" He looked hopeful. She nodded, and Alfred happily picked right up from where he had left off. He talked about secondary succession, a process that happens after something that completely clears an area such as a conflagration, flood or humans clearing the forests to build something. Nothing remains but soil. He explained that secondary succession was similar to primary in the way that everything after was the same.

"In short, secondary succession is basically primary succession, but with soil already," Alfred finished. Madeleine was strangely immersed in his words. The way he explained succession was clear and broad, not taking any detours or getting sidetracked at all. Alfred was like a strong beam from a flashlight that revealed the truth, lighting up the darkness she had been stumbling around in. It was quite amazing.

"I see," she said, and now that she was educated on ecological succession, she was naturally curious. "So you come here every week to observe the area's growth and development?"

Alfred nodded earnestly, extremely pleased that she understood. "Yeah! I take notes and turn them in weekly to my professor."

Of course, one thing led to another. "What college do you go to?"

"Dartmouth."

"Me too." Madeleine suspected as much, but her smile widened at the confirmation.

"That's great! You must be really smart, then," He looked at her, as if almost wistful.

She laughed again, amused at this. "What are you talking about? You're also enrolled there! And you'rethe one who just taught me a whole lesson about ecological succession."

"Well, I guess so—"

"Guess? There's no question about it!" Her voice was firm. "You are smart, Alfred. Verysmart."

Alfred smiled again. "Thanks, Maddie."

Madeleine took a moment to register the nickname. "'Maddie'…?"

"Oh, uh, yeah! You don't mind if I call you that, do I?"

"No. Not at all."

They talked until the sun began to set, about their lives, how they ended up in Hanover and what they wanted to do in the future. It might be strange opening up to a random person she had never met before, but Madeleine found herself enjoying the company. Alfred was bright, friendly and energetic. He had a sort of air around him that attracted people; she could tell.

Alfred finally stood up, stretching with a yawn as the sun dipped down behind some of the mountains in the distance. "Well, it's getting late… I should be going. I promised Artie to get the car back by six." He glanced down, offering her a hand once again with a grin. And once again, Madeleine took it and pulled herself up. "D'you need a ride?"

She considered it. She didn't want to burden Marianne, but she didn't want to burden Alfred either. If she had to choose, she would rather burden a family member than a new acquaintance. (Perhaps he could even be considered a friend.) "That's okay," she said. "I have one."

"Oh, alright! Then let's walk back together." Alfred lifted Madeleine's backpack for her, and she took it with a quick thank you.

The pair reached the parking lot much faster than Madeleine had anticipated. But as the saying went, 'time flies when you're having fun'. Sometimes she believed in those particular sayings, and sometimes she didn't. This was one of the times she grudgingly believed it.

Alfred pulled out a circular key, and a black Mini Cooper beeped. She didn't comment on the car; it somehow seemed oddly fitting for him. He waved goodbye as he opened the door.

"Bye Maddie! See you next week!" He called, and slipped into the car. The engine started, and Madeleine watched it go, much like how she had watched her cousin's car disappear earlier.

When it was completely out of sight, she pulled out her cell phone and called Reine. She waited a half an hour on a weathered green bench with its paint peeling, notebook and pencil in hand. She wrote down whatever came to her mind, the letters easily moving themselves onto the paper. The letters formed words, and the words formed a story. The story told of a girl, one who was to write her own story, and how the origin of her muse was from a man she met on a mountaintop in New England. It told of how they met by chance, with only the beauty of nature surrounding them, how they spent a whole afternoon together, enjoying nothing but each other's company and how they departed, so close to each other, yet so far. It told of how they would meet the following week and how the girl was obligated to go (although she would have anyways) because of the man's words. It told of how it was the beginning a long friendship (one that possibly led to a future romance) that lasted the rest of their lifetime.

When the dark blue Mercedes-Benz departed from the parking lot, an abandoned notebook was left lying alone on the worn bench.


Notes:

I wrote this for Biology, so that's why there's everything about ecological succession in it. XD Please excuse the ending. I was going to write more, but I ran out of time. Maybe I will later.

Inspired by Man On A Mountaintop by Holly Brook.