Author: Jubilee (calavasas )
Characters/Pairings: In this chapter: America, Japan, Canada, Greece, England, France, Australia, Egypt, OC!Mexico, OC!India, fem!America
Warnings/Notes: AU - High school. No warnings in this chapter.
Summary: Alfred didn't really know what he wanted to do with his life. All he did know was that he wanted to do something heroic, to be a hero. Luckily for him, he was about to get that chance in the form of a small Japanese teenage boy.
Alfred got up from his seat, and Aksel being curious, asked, "Hey, where are you going?"
"I'll be back right now."
The blonde walked over to Heracles' table who was sitting with Gupta and Neeraja. "Hey guys!" Alfred said as he sat down next to the Grecian.
"Oh, hello Alfred."
Neeraja smiled and waved, Gupta just nodding. He really needed to talk more.
"So, whatcha guys doing?"
"Uhm, nothing really," Neeraja replied. "We're just eating and talking about random things."
"Oh I see." He turned to Heracles. "So can I ask you a question?"
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, I guess. Go ahead."
"Is Kiku your friend?"
"Mm, yeah, I suppose so. He talks to me a lot and he's always really nice to me."
"Oh, I see."
"Why do you ask?"
"Can you do me a favor pleeeease Heracles?"
"Yeah, I just need to know what it is first."
"Can you ask Kiku if he hates me?"
"Hmm? Why do you want to know that?"
"Because he never talks to me and when he does, it's either because he wants me to be quiet or to leave him alone."
"Well Alfred, nobody likes to be bothered."
"I know, but I'm just trying to make small talk with him and it never works!"
"It could be because he's just shy Alfred," Neeraja said. "He's a very timid person. It's quite obvious actually, so I can see why he doesn't talk to a lot of students."
"But Raj, when he speaks to me there is like, some kind of venom in his voice."
"Has he gotten over the incident in 8th grade?"
"I don't even know because he won't talk to me! Ludwig and Feli have, and we're really good friends now!" Thinking about it made Alfred frustrated so he crossed his arms and pouted. "I honestly don't know what his problem is!"
"Maybe you're being too hasty," Gupta said. It had been a while since Alfred heard him say anything.
"I think Kiku…is probably a person who isn't used to so much interaction, so you trying to…how can I put this…to throw yourself at him in a way, is overwhelming him, so he's repelled by it because he's not used to it."
"You know, I think Gupta is right." Neeraja turned to Alfred. "You need to give Kiku time to get used to being talked to."
"Why does everybody tell me I need to give him time? I've given him a hell of a lot of time and he still doesn't say a word to me voluntarily! I either have to talk to him first, or somebody tells him to talk to me…"
"Have you heard Yao's story?" asked Heracles.
"Yeah…though he says it's Kiku's actual life, not a story."
"Then you should have your answer."
"But Herc, even if I do know that he's been lonely--"
"Alfred, I don't mean to offend in any way when I ask this but, why do you need everybody to like you?"
"There are going to be people who like you, and people who hate you, sometimes for no good reason at all, like Damian does."
"So you're saying Kiku hates me just because he can?"
"I'm not saying it's because he can. I think it's because he doesn't know you very well, like he knows Ludwig and Feliciano, and since that 8th grade fight, his will to speak to you diminished drastically."
"In other words, he saw your negative side that day," Gupta said. "Because he saw your negative side and exactly how bad it was, he probably felt like you hold grudges or something like that."
"How do you know this?"
"I don't. I'm just taking wild guesses."
Alfred sighed. "But I'm not a bad guy! It's just…why can't we at least be acquaintances?"
"Alfred, you don't need--"
"I know that Herc, but still!"
"Alfred, I think I know what's wrong."
He turned to Neeraja. "What?"
"You want to get rid of the guilt that's been building up inside of you. Am I right?"
"Well…I…I don't know…"
"I think it is." She smiled. "I bet you want to make amends with him because you beat him up, thinking it was his fault that all the problems were happening to the other clubs, and then in the end, it was really the club leader manipulating him. Did you ever say sorry?"
"I…I never got the chance to actually…now that I think about it…"
"That's probably why then."
Noticing Alfred's troubled expression, Heracles asked, "Do you want me to still talk to him? Maybe I can get a more legit answer out of him."
"Would you please?" Alfred asked sadly. "I don't want him to live the rest of his life thinking I beat him up and I blamed him for it the whole time. I didn't…I really didn't know until after the fight happened…and…"
Heracles put a hand on his shoulder. "It's okay Alfred. Don't beat yourself up about it. I'll talk to him if you want." He gave him a reassuring smile, making Alfred beam.
"Thanks! You're the best!" He gave him a big bear hug, something Alfred was known for. "Well, nice talking to you guys! And thank you too, Raj and Gupta!"
The Indian student chuckled. "It's no problem Alfred. I'm glad I was able to help!"
Gupta nodded, Alfred guessing his session for talking was over now.
Reassured, the blonde walked back to his table. Heracles shook his head and smiled. "It's probably just a pride thing."
Neeraja gave a laugh. "Probably."
"Alfred is really affectionate though. I wonder if Kiku will be able to handle that since he's not used to affection."
The Indian student gave another laugh and Gupta just continued eating his food. The three noticed Arthur coming into the cafeteria, Logan at his heels.
"Iggy, your school is so big! And it's really nice! I wonder how much it cost to make this place? Good thing it's in a nice neighborhood, since it'll probably look out of place in a bad area."
"Well Logan, when you find out the answer, I would be so grateful if you didn't tell me."
The Australian student huffed. "Why are you mean all the time?"
"I am not mean."
"I think you are. Sometimes I wonder how you even have friends…"
"And I fear for those who do become your friends."
"Iggy, I know I can be a bother sometimes--"
"Oh really now?"
Logan ignored that question. "But I really would like for us to become closer as cousins! I hardly ever get to see you, except during family reunions, but then you're always hiding because your brothers come and pick on you. Peter is really nice though."
"It's because he's a little boy and he still doesn't know how annoying you are since he himself can be very frustrating."
"Crickey Iggy! You have one of the most horrible attitudes I ever saw!"
"It's because everybody thinks it's funny to bother me and ruin the happiness I know called solitude."
"Well yeah, of course it's funny. You get angry at everything!"
Arthur walked to the line and picked up a tray, grabbing whatever he wanted to eat from the counter, Logan right next to him doing the same.
"But really Iggy, you need to lighten up a bit, otherwise not a lot of people are going to like you."
"What are you talking about? Of course people like me!"
"Maybe the girls since you're a self-proclaimed gentleman and you have an accent, but the guys too. You need to have a good amount of friends! Well, it's quality over quantity, but still!" He thought for a moment. "But then again, those friends you hang around with seem to like you enough. Maybe it's because you can be a nice person sometimes. Hey I have an idea! Can I hang around with you and your friends for a while?"
"What?" Arthur asked as he paid for his food. "No, absolutely not Logan. Go make your own friends! If you always stick around me you're never going to get to know people with your same interests!"
Logan paid and followed Arthur to his table. "Oh come on! I only asked for a little while!" Arthur sat down in his usual seat, between Alfred and Francis. Logan looked at them, Alfred smiling at him. "Hey Logan!"
"Good afternoon mate! Mind if I sit here?"
"No go ahead! We have room for one more!"
He felt Arthur poke his side with a spork. "Ow! Arthur, don't do that!" The British student just glared at him.
"Well fine then," Logan said, his temper finally showing. "Obviously Iggy doesn't want me around."
"Stop calling me Iggy! My name is Arthur!"
"You get angry when I call you Artie though! But you don't get angry when your friends call you that! You can be a really hurtful person, you know that right?"
"What exactly is your point Logan?"
Logan rolled his eyes and shook his head, an angry expression finally forming on his face. "Nevermind. Guess I'll go sit somewhere else…" He walked a bit sadly around the cafeteria looking for somewhere to sit, but a lot of the tables were full.
"Oh, you're Logan, Arthur's cousin right?" asked Heracles.
"Do you have anywhere to sit?" asked Neeraja.
"I wanted to sit with Iggy but he didn't let me…"
"Well you can sit here with us if you want. Is that okay with you two?" Gupta nodded and Heracles smiled. "Of course. Logan, if you don't have anywhere to sit, you can sit with us. Our table is smaller than some of the other ones, but there's space for one more."
Logan's happy expression returned. "Thanks mate!" He sat down next to Heracles.
"I'm Heracles, and this is Neeraja and Gupta."
Gupta just put up a hand as a hello.
"Wow, I'm so glad there's nice people here, unlike some others I know…"
Neeraja laughed. "Well Arthur can be a jerk at times."
"More like all the time…"
"Don't worry," Heracles said. "If we all were able to handle his attitude for at least ten years, you'll do fine."
Logan laughed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I don't hate Iggy. I just wish he'd be nicer to me, and to other people."
"He is, just, he doesn't show it very much. He actually gets very protective of his friends when something bad happens."
"Oh, like that time in 8th grade? My mother was talking about it with his over the phone a few years ago."
"Yeah, like that."
Back at Alfred's table, Francis shook his head. "Arthur, be nice to your cousin. It's his first day here. The poor boy looked so hurt after he got the hint you didn't want him around…"
"Francis, he isn't a part of your family so you don't know anything about him."
"Oh but I do know how frustrating it can be to be acquainted with somebody who seems like he has a stick up his--"
"So anyway," Aksel began changing the subject. "What did you need to talk to Heracles for Al?"
"Oh, just stuff." He ate some fries.
"What kind of stuff?"
"You asked him to talk to Kiku didn't you?"
"Arthur you know too much and you weren't even here!"
"I know your habits Alfred."
"Really Al," Gilbert said. "Why do you care so much about Kiku hating you or not?"
"I just…I just don't want him to think that I hurt him because I thought it was his fault all the problems were happening…"
"But you did think that."
"No I didn't! Well…I mean…I didn't know his club leader was the one who plotted everything…"
"Stop feeling so damn guilty," Lovino said. "If he doesn't get over it, then that's his shit, not yours."
"But I never even got to tell him I'm sorry…"
"Because…after the fight…he never spoke to me again and would avoid me whenever possible…then I guess…I just kinda forgot…"
"Alfred, I never knew you didn't say sorry to him!" Matthew exclaimed. "And here you are trying to be friends…you should have really started with an apology first…"
"Thank you Matt. I would have never thought of ever doing that after I spoke to Heracles."
"There's no need to be sarcastic about it…"
"Well, when are you going to talk to him?" asked Feliciano.
"After Heracles gets an answer from Kiku. Then when I know, I'll be able to handle it maturely."
"That will be a first."
"You know Artie, sometimes I wonder how a nice guy like Logan is related to you…"
It was finally the end of the day and all the students reported back to their homeroom to turn in their schedule cards.
"Well," Mrs. Rosales began as she walked around the room collecting the cards. "I hope you all had a nice day back. Now I'm going to go to my desk to make sure every slot is signed or stamped. You can talk if you want. We only have a few minutes left anyways." There were many reasons why Mrs. Rosales' students loved her so much. This was just one of them.
Heracles took this time to talk to Kiku. He turned around in his seat. "Hey Kiku."
The boy looked up at him timidly. "Oh, h-hello Heracles-san. Uhm, did you have a nice day back?"
"Yes. Logan joined our table at lunch today. Arthur wasn't being so nice to him."
"Oh, I see. Well, yes, Arthur-san can be a bit difficult to get along with. But I'm glad you invited Logan-san to your table. That was very nice of you."
"Thanks." He smiled at him, making Kiku blush again, though by now this was a default feature of his face. "Hey, can I ask you something?"
"Oh, yes, of course Heracles-san."
"It's probably none of my business, but…do you dislike Alfred? I'm only asking because I've been noticing that all day he's been trying to get your attention, but you shut him up after the first sentence escapes from his mouth. I don't know. I was just curious. I hope you don't feel like I'm being nosy. It's fine if you don't want to answer."
Kiku was hesitant to respond, but after a few moments, he spoke. "Alfred-san is just very obnoxious and likes to get into everyone's business. To me it seems like everybody must like him in this school, otherwise he will end it all. That is an arrogant way of thinking."
"But Damian doesn't like him, and according to Alfred, neither does Mr. Jenkins. There are a few people who think he's annoying overall, and people who hate him like Damian, but Alfred doesn't really care about them. I don't think he'd go to such extremes like suicide just because not everyone likes him. He's not as dumb as some people think."
"Then if this is true, why is it so important that he needs me to like him? I'm very lost Heracles-san."
"I don't know Kiku. You can probably ask him."
"I'd rather not and leave things be."
"Kiku, you're a really nice guy. I can see it, Feliciano can see it, Ludwig can see it, Manuel sees it, and various other people you talk to can see it. But Alfred doesn't see it, at least that's what I think. For all I know, you can be really hurting his feelings because he doesn't know why you're so bitter towards him."
Kiku stood quiet and just picked at the eraser on his desk. "Alfred-san is…"
"Does this have anything to do with what happened in 8th grade?"
"Kiku, Feliciano and Ludwig have gotten over it. Now they're really good friends with Alfred and the rest. Don't they have fun together now and Alfred includes them in everything they do?"
"Yes…I have heard some stories about Feliciano-kun and Ludwig-san enjoying themselves quite a bit with Alfred-san and the others…"
"Why don't you join them?"
Kiku looked at his eraser and was now picking at it with both his hands. Heracles could tell he was thinking or that he was nervous. He noticed these habits of Kiku's over the years. "You know, I think I know why."
The Japanese student looked up at him. "Hmm?"
"You feel like you won't be accepted by them, am I right?"
Kiku looked down again and rubbed a small chunk of eraser between his pointer finger and thumb. "I…"
Heracles put his hand on Kiku's, making the latter blush furiously. "Kiku, if you didn't think you weren't going to be accepted by people, why are you friends with Feliciano, Ludwig, Manny, and myself?"
"Thinking about it again, I don't believe that's the real reason why you don't talk to Alfred. Look at me Kiku."
Noticing the seriousness in his voice, Kiku immediately looked up at Heracles. The last thing he ever wanted to do was get the Grecian angry.
"You're still afraid of him, aren't you?"
Kiku bit his lip. That was the closest Heracles was going to get to a 'Yes'. He smiled, the expression calming Kiku down. "Let me tell you something. The only time I have ever seen Alfred extremely angry and violent was on that day. But do you know why?"
Kiku shook his head.
"It's because his friends were threatened, and that's something Alfred won't tolerate. He may be obnoxious, a bit on the naïve side, and even a little arrogant, but he is hardly ever angry or sad. Aside from that year, I never remember Alfred wearing anything on his face but a smile. If you think Ivan is scary when he's angry, Alfred can be just as bad as him. But most of the time, he's pretty cheerful and talkative. He really wants to be your friend Kiku. And don't think he still blames you for what happened in 8th grade."
"He never…" Kiku began. "I don't…ever remember…Alfred-san telling me…that he was sorry though…"
"If what you say is true, and he doesn't blame me anymore, why has he never apologized to me?"
That's it then, Heracles thought. Neeraja was right after all. "Did you ever give him the chance to say sorry to you?"
Kiku looked up at him in subtle shock. "I'm…I beg your pardon?"
"Did you let Alfred have the chance to apologize? Because from what I remember, you'd always avoid him whenever possible. I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but I don't think it's entirely Alfred's fault if he never apologized to you. I bet if you wanted him to apologize to you but you never gave him the chance and he was impulsive about it and forced you to listen, you'd still be afraid of him and think badly about him. He probably didn't want to worsen the wound he left on you, so that's why he never forced you to listen to him. He doesn't want you to think badly of him more than you already do. That might be why he's never apologized to you."
Kiku slowly removed his hand from Heracles, uncomfortable with the contact. He put his hands on his lap and looked at his desk again. Noticing Kiku's discomfort, Heracles said, "You don't have to listen to what I say. It's not mandatory and it's entirely up to you. But, I really think…you should take some time to contemplate what I said. The more you push him away, the less likely he'll ever apologize, even though that's really all you want from him."
Heracles put his hand on Kiku's head and ruffled his hair. "I know you're a good guy Kiku, but I also know you have a hard time trusting people. That's okay though. Just take a chance. You'll never know what will happen unless you try, okay?"
"You…you seem to be wise beyond your years."
"It's because my mother would always talk to me about everything and anything so most of my knowledge about these things I get from her. And believe it or not but…when I was little, Mr. Adnan would teach me life lessons too. Sometimes he still does. While I hate to admit it, I have to thank him as well for that. I'm just passing on what little knowledge I have to you."
The bell rang indicating it was finally time to go home. Kiku collected his things and put them in his bag. He didn't have a backpack like most of the students, but one of those you sling around your shoulder. "Uhm, it was nice speaking to you Heracles-san. I must leave now. I don't want anyone to get my seat in the bus…" He gave a small bow and then walked quickly out of the door.
Heracles got his things and walked out at a normal pace, going to his locker to put away the unnecessary text books and take the required ones for his homework assignments.
"So Herc," Alfred asked as he walked to his locker. Matthew followed him. "What happened?"
"You need to say sorry to him."
"Really? That's the reason why?"
"He's also a bit afraid of you."
"But I wouldn't hurt a fly!"
Matthew raised an eyebrow. "Alfred, you're always complaining about the flies in the summer. You have Raid at the ready and a flyswatter when we're having a barbeque outside."
"You like making me look bad don't you?"
"I'm not doing it on purpose! I-I'm just being honest…"
"Sometimes it's better to tell a white lie."
"But then when does it stop before it turns into a huge lie?"
Heracles, feeling that the brothers were going to start their usual daily argument, decided to intervene. "Anyway Alfred, that's really all Kiku seems to want. He just wants to be assured you don't hold a grudge or anything."
"If I was holding a grudge, I wouldn't bother trying to be his friend!"
"Kiku doesn't know that."
The American sighed. "Well okay. I'll apologize…"
"Wait a few days."
"Kiku thinks I asked him these questions out of curiosity. If you try to apologize to him tomorrow, he'll get suspicious and find out that you asked me to do this for you. Then he might think less of you because you couldn't do it yourself."
Alfred sighed. "This guy is really hard to get a hold of…"
"But once you do, he's always there ready to help you out."
"Well, I won't be able to comment until that actually happens to me…"
"Alfred," began his younger twin. "Let's get to the bus. I don't want it to leave us again."
The three walked out of the main building and to the front of the school where the parking lot was. "Matthew!"
The boy turned around. "Oh, hey Victoria."
She seemed to be out of breath. He guessed she had been running. "I…I forgot to give you something."
"What is it?"
She handed him a present. "It's…a late Christmas gift from me…"
"Oh, well, thank you! B-but…now I feel bad because I didn't get you anything in return!"
"Don't worry about it Matthew. I don't care about that and it's not like you knew I was going to get you something anyway. Just open it."
Matthew unwrapped the gift and encountered a box. He opened it up and saw a small teddy bear plushie with a hockey uniform and a hockey stick. "Victoria! This is...!"
"I know how much you like bears…and I know polar bears are your favorite…so I got you that for Christmas…I hope you don't mind since it's a stuffed animal! I didn't know what to get you!"
"Oh thank you so much! And I don't mind, really! It's adorable!" He hugged her and her cheeks turned red. "I love it!"
"Hey Vic," asked Alfred. "Why are you stuttering? It's not that cold in the afternoons. And why is your face red?"
She hit him in the arm with her textbook and hurried to her own bus.
"What the hell was that for?" Alfred yelled as he rubbed his arm. "Man, the nerve of some people…"
He boarded the bus followed by his brother and Heracles. A lot of the students were already on, Kiku being the first. He was seated in the back as usual all by himself.
Matthew saw Damian walk up to the bus and really hoped he wouldn't come inside. The doors were already closed, but he didn't know how bad this guy might be.
"Well, looks like the government finally found the illegals and decided to ship them back to where they came from," he told his friends. "Taking the wannabe immigrants with them too." He pointed to Matthew and Alfred.
"Hey Damian," Alfred asked out the window. "I got a phone call from my cousin in Texas."
"Why the hell do I care Jones?"
"Well he asked if I knew anybody who wanted a pony. Her name is Sugarcakes and I told him that a classmate of mine named Damian would like one. Remember last year when you told me that when you were little you wanted a pony? Well I gave him your address so he'll send a letter to you telling you how to take care of her. I just wanted to let you know."
The entire bus laughed, looking out the windows at Damian. His friends couldn't help but crack a smile.
Damian outraged, flipped him off. "Fuck you Jones!" But his words died out when the motor to the bus started and drove away from the parking lot.
Alfred laughed and sat back down in his seat. Matthew chuckled and said, "Alfred, you really did that?"
Arthur and Francis got up from their seats a little and folded their arms on top of the twins' seat. "Does your cousin know about it Alfred?" asked Francis.
"Actually yeah he does. I told him about Damian and how he's a big jackass, so he agreed to play along. He really did send a letter."
"Bloody hell Alfred," Arthur said as he chuckled. "I can't believe your cousin actually agreed to do something like that."
"He's one of my closer cousins. Plus, we always used to do things like this when we were younger."
"Alfred!" shouted Feliks from the back of the bus. "Does your cousin really have a pony named Sugarcakes?"
"No he doesn't. I was just lying."
"You wanted the pony, didn't you Feliks?"
"But you'd have nowhere to put her," Toris said. "Your backyard isn't big enough and you don't even have a ranch or anything like that."
"I was like, going to keep her in my room Toris!"
"She's a horse. She needs to be outdoors so she can run and exercise! She'll be miserable if she was stuck indoors all the time in such a small space."
"I'll just put her in a stable! You know, those places where like if you have a horse but nowhere to put it, you take it to that one place and they'll keep it there for you as long as you pay?"
"No…actually…I don't know what you're talking about…"
"Gosh Toris. You really need to learn more about horses. They're beautiful animals!"
Alfred laughed. "Well Feliks, when one of my cousin's horses has a foal, I'll tell you about it. Maybe your parents will let you have one."
"Oh my gawd! I would so love that! Would you really tell me Alfred?"
The school bus came to the first stop, the stop where the majority of the students got off. Alfred and Matthew said their goodbyes to the students as they walked out and down the sidewalks to their homes.
Kiku was the last to get off. As he passed by Alfred's seat, he gave him a side glance that only lasted an instant and then hurried to join Yao and his other cousins. Alfred wondered what that look meant, though at the same time it frustrated him.
The doors closed, and the bus went on its way. Matthew looked at Alfred and asked, "You're still curious about the whole hate thing aren't you?"
"But don't worry Alfred. Everything is going to work out."
The bus reached the second stop. Neeraja and Gupta got up and began walking down the aisle to the door. "Goodbye Alfred and Matthew!"
"Bye Raj! See you tomorrow!"
Alfred waved at Gupta who waved back in return. "Hey, did you know Gupta finally talked? It's been forever since I've heard him speak."
"Really? Well, he doesn't have a lot to say."
"Yeah I know."
Navah passed by the twins' seat and said to Matthew, "Today was such a busy day! I wasn't able to discuss the book with you Matthew!"
"That's okay. We can do it tomorrow."
"Oh, alright. Well goodbye!"
The blonde waved and smiled timidly at her. She chuckled and got out of the bus.
"You were tongue tied again, weren't you?"
"I didn't want to say anything stupid! And hey, I don't victimize you when Katyusha is around."
"Wh--? Yes you do!"
"But not all the time!"
Manny's cousins were the next to get off the bus, saying their goodbyes to those who remained. Finally there was only one more bus stop to go. When they reached it, the five remaining got off and said farewell to the bus driver.
"Today wasn't exactly a good day back…" Alfred said.
"It's the Kiku thing again isn't it?" Manny asked.
"Ay, really Alfred. Why do you care so much if he doesn't like you?"
"I don't know! I guess it's because…I'm friends with practically everyone. And in homeroom, I'm on good terms with everyone, except Kiku."
"You know if I didn't know you, I'd say you're bothered by it because you play for the other team and you're attracted to the little guy."
Alfred's eyes widened as he looked at Manny, shock plastered all over his face. "What the hell! You think I'm bothered by this because I'm gay?"
Alicia laughed and Eva tried really hard not to do the same. Matthew was chuckling silently.
"I didn't say that! I said if I didn't know who you were, that could be an assumption I'd make! I know you don't go that way Alfred!"
"Well don't assume Manny, because it makes an ass out of you and me, and I don't want to be an ass! I mean, I can see why you'd think Francis was like that if you didn't know him, but me? Really? I'm very offended!"
"Just forget what I said okay?"
"Yeah I'll try. Geez, thanks a lot…" He huffed. "You know, just because guys take care of their appearance doesn't necessarily mean they're gay. Really Manny. I'm not going to talk to you for a while."
"I have churros at my house."
"My abuelita also brought some candy from Mexico over the Christmas break." He took out a bag of Mexican candy. "They're really good. Do you want some?"
"I hate you," Alfred said as he took the bag and began to eat the candy. Manny could tell he liked them because he kept scarfing them down. The Mexican boy smiled. "Forgive me now?"
"M'kay, but this is the absolute last time I'll be persuaded to forgive you with Mexican sweets," he said with his mouth full. "Damn these are good…"
"Well, we'll see you later Alfred," Alicia said as they reached their house. The three siblings walked inside, their Chihuahua running outside to greet them. Manny beamed.
"Conchita!" he exclaimed as he picked her up. He let her lick his face.
Matthew smiled and walked to the front steps of his own house, taking out the keys and unlocking the door.
"Hey Alfred!" shouted Manny. "Can I come over today?"
"Not unless you bring pan dulce with you."
"I don't have any right now though…"
"Then sorry, you can't come."
Manny just shook his head and followed his sisters inside the house.
"He's gonna come over anyway," Matthew said.
"Yup, he is."
Manny had been their neighbor for a long time, as long as Alfred could remember. Even though he was a bit closer to Arthur and Francis, Manny had been his first real friend. Though their relationship was a bit similar to Arthur's and Francis', they weren't always fighting and got along better than the other pair.
"Alfred, before you get comfortable and start watching TV, can you please help me with the dishes?" Matthew asked when he noticed Alfred threw his backpack and textbook on the couch.
"I'm tired though…"
"You didn't even do anything! And baseball practice doesn't start until next week…"
He got up and washed the dishes since it was his turn this week. Because their mom was always working and she didn't get home until six, the twins had to do a lot of the housework during the week. Not that they minded though since they got an allowance anyway.
Alfred put the last dish in the dish rack and said, "I'm gonna go outside to the back and feed Hero and Maple okay?"
"Okay. I'll start on the homework."
"Gonna let me copy?"
"No…it's not even that hard. It's just review…"
Alfred opened the sliding glass door to the backyard where the dogs were kept. In an instant, his dog Hero jumped on him, knocking him down and licking his face.
"Ha ha! Hero! I missed you while I was at school!" He scratched the dog between the ears, the animal wagging his tail rapidly. He gave a bark.
Maple walked over timidly to Alfred, licking him gently on his cheek. "I missed you too Maple!" He picked up the smaller dog and rubbed their noses together. "You guys hungry?"
Both dogs barked in unison. "Alright!"
He got both of their bowls and put them on the island outside, grabbing the large bag of dog food from the shed. He poured some in each of their bowls and then set them down on the ground. The dogs began to eat their food happily. Alfred put away the food and then walked back inside.
"I miss them when I'm at school."
"You miss them even when you're in the bathroom," chuckled Matthew.
"Well it's not my fault I got attached to them!" Alfred got his backpack and textbook, joining Matthew at the kitchen table. "I wish I could take them to school."
"It's not like kindergarten though Alfred."
"Yeah but still. Why doesn't high school let you have a pet day? We're more responsible now than we were back then."
"Why'd you want to name him Maple anyway?"
"Alfred…I already told you…just do your homework…"
It wasn't difficult to guess which dog was named after which twin. Alfred had named the bigger dog "Hero" because he was protective of the family, and Matthew named the smaller dog "Maple" because during the fall when they'd take walks in the park, the dog would roll around in maple leaves. Even though Alfred said "Maple" was more of a name for a female dog, Matthew didn't care. He thought it sounded cute.
The door opened and Manny walked into the kitchen, going to the fridge.
"You can at least knock freeloader," Alfred said as he began writing down the math problems on his paper.
"But you already know I'm gonna be here anyway," Manny responded. He began to make himself a sandwich. "You guys want one?"
"No, we're fine Manuel," Matthew said. "Thank you though."
"Yeah I want ham, baloney, and turkey in mine with cheddar and mayo. Oh, put mustard in it and some lettuce. Tomatoes too."
"Alfred, we're going to eat when mom gets home!"
The older twin shrugged. "It's just a snack."
"It's going to distract you from homework…" Matthew sighed but said nothing more.
Manny gave Alfred his sandwich and then grabbed his own, taking out a soda from the fridge, Alfred demanding one too. The boy then walked to the living room and sat on the couch and turned on the TV. He bit into his sandwich.
"He acts like he lives here…" Alfred said biting into his sandwich.
"But mom doesn't seem to mind."
"Because mom would adopt all of the kids on our bus if she could." Both twins gave a chuckle, finally agreeing on something for the day.
The twins had finished their homework within the hour and joined Manny on the couch. They let the dogs in and just lounged on the couch with their masters. They stood like this for the rest of the afternoon until a car pulled up onto the driveway.
"Oh, mom's here," Matthew said.
"Okay Manny, get out."
"You have to say it nicely or I'm not gonna move."
"My mother has just returned from her job being an engineer and she is going to prepare dinner soon, so I would appreciate it if you left to your own residence right next door so she doesn't stress out trying to make dinner for four. Please and thank you Manuel Sanchez."
Manny laughed at Alfred's formality. "Jones you crack me up." He put on his shoes. "I'll see you guys tomorrow okay?"
"Okay, bye Manuel!" Matthew said with a wave.
"Adios!" He opened the door and held it so Emily could walk inside. She had been carrying a grocery bag.
"Oh Manuel! Thank you! Such a gentleman!"
"It's my pleasure senora."
"Would you like to stay for dinner?"
"He already ate mom," Alfred said.
"Nah, it's alright. My mom is making Mexican macaroni and cheese."
"Well that's what she calls it. It's really just those little macaroni shells with tomato sauce and cheese."
"That sounds delicious!" She gasped. "Are you going to have tortillas too?"
Manny laughed. "Yup."
"You need to tell your mom to make me some okay? I wanna try it!"
"Sure thing senora! I'll let her know! Well, I gotta go now. She gets really upset if I'm late for dinner."
"Okay, by Manuel!"
He waved and walked to his house next door. Emily closed the door. "What a nice boy." She walked to the kitchen and set down the grocery bag. Matthew got up and helped his mom put the things away.
"Alfred sweetie, take the dogs outside. I'm gonna start dinner soon."
"Okay mom." He got up from the couch and led his dogs outside, throwing a ball into the yard so they had something to do.
"Let me just go upstairs to change and then I'll start dinner," she told Matthew as he was putting away the last of the groceries.
Alfred walked to the kitchen and washed his hands. "I wonder what we're gonna have today?"
"Probably the usual. Steak and mashed potatoes."
"Sometimes mom makes pasta too."
"And other times rice. She should try making Chinese food."
"Nah dude, that's what takeout is for."
It was always the same every day. Emily would come home and make dinner. The twins would help her. Then they'd sit down and eat, talking about their day.
"So boys, how was your first day back at school?"
"Victoria gave me a Christmas present!"
"Really? Oh how sweet! What is it?"
"It's a teddy bear with a hockey uniform."
"How cute!" She pointed her fork teasingly at Matthew. "I think she might have a thing for you."
"What? Why do you think that?"
"She's always so nice to you and giving you things!"
"Mom! I don't think she's attracted to me…"
"Because…I'm…well I'm a bookworm and girls aren't usually attracted to guys like that…"
"Oh be quiet Matty. You and your brother are highly attractive, whether you know it or not. You get that from me. Mm hmm." She ate some more pasta.
"Mom's right Matt," Alfred said. "I mean, you're my twin. You can't possibly look ugly at all!"
"I don't know whether to thank you or say you need your ego turned down a bit…"
Alfred laughed. "Well it's not a lie! And hey, at least I'm not like Gilbert."
"Well Al, tell me how your day went."
"It was okay I guess. Mr. Jenkins sat me in the front…for the whole semester…"
"Because Alfred talks a lot and sleeps when he sits in the back."
"Oh but Al, you do your work. You ace the tests he gives most of the time too. And you passed his class with a good grade last semester!"
"I know right? That's what I told him!"
"I think he might hate you."
"Yeah I think so too."
Sometimes Matthew couldn't believe how similar his mother and brother were. At times he felt estranged from them because of this.
"I think Kiku doesn't like me…"
"You mean that cute little boy at school? The Asian one?"
"Oh, well him."
"You fought with him in 8th grade, so I can understand why he isn't so friendly towards you."
"But mom! Feli and Ludwig have forgiven me and now we're buddies!"
"Did you apologize to them?"
"Well yeah! I even visited them in the hospital even though I was there myself!"
"Did you apologize to Kiku?"
"No…I mean…I was going to…but he never gave me the chance…"
"Mm hmm. That's why. Give him time."
"Everybody tells me that and I'm tired of waiting!"
"Alfred, while I know you love making friends, not everybody has to like you, though I would prefer it if they did…"
"That's what Heracles told me today…" Alfred began explaining to his mom and his brother about the conversation he had with the Grecian during lunch, and what Kiku had told him in homeroom.
"Sometimes sorry is all a person needs to hear Alfred," his mom said. "But you have to mean it."
"Well, I'm sure he's not a bad kid. From what I heard, he didn't really have his own parents bring him up in this country. The poor thing…he's probably really lonely…"
"Yeah, Yao told me about it."
"Just listen to what Heracles said. He seems like a very smart boy. I'm sure you and Kiku will be good friends in no time!"
"And once you're his friend, spend as much time as you can with him okay? Show that Jones spirit and friendliness!"
"Good! And then bring him over one day so I can meet him! I've loved all of your friends. I want to see what he's like!"
"And then he'll be one of your best friends and then you guys can go to Disneyland with everyone! And take a lot of pictures!"
"Now do the dishes after dinner!"
"Yes mam!" He paused. "Wait…"
Matthew couldn't help but laugh. His mom had ways of tricking Alfred into doing things around the house that he didn't want to do.
"Raj" is actually a male name, but Alfred likes to give his classmates nicknames, at least to those who have names long enough to shorten.
Also, there is such a thing as Mexican macaroni and cheese...at least in my household. Lol It's quite good.