Characters/Pairings: A lot of characters, but the main focus is America and Japan.
Rating: T+ (this chapter)
Genre: Romance + Friendship + Family + Drama
Warnings/Notes: AU - High school. As for warnings, there are vague descriptions of a form of child abuse in this chapter...which made me sad writing it in all honesty. I left it vague enough for the readers to understand the situation without being detailed...
Summary: A bond broken all because of a stupid fight, and then renewed with a simple "sorry". Now bffs, Alfred enjoys Kiku's company, and the latter realizes that his friendship is much more than he could ever ask for. To Kiku, he was a hero.
Kiku was used to getting up early since he usually was ready two hours before school started, making everyone breakfast to occupy his time. What he wasn't used to was being ready not at, but by three in the morning for a camping trip that would take many hours to get to the desired destination in the mountains.
"Alfred-san…" Kiku said to him sleepily as they loaded the large RV with the last of the supplies. "Was it really necessary to wake up this early?"
"Yep!" Alfred responded, ever energetic even in the early hours of the morning. "The earlier we get there, the more time we have for fun!"
"Are we really staying an entire week?"
"I'm so excited," Matthew said, poking his head out the door from the RV. "I can't wait to go back up there!"
"Boys!" Emily said as she walked out of the house. "Your aunt is coming with us!"
"Really? Aunt Martha is coming this year?" Matthew asked, excitement in his voice, hoping out of the RV.
"Yes, I am."
He turned around and saw his aunt smiling sweetly at him. "Hello Matthew."
"Auntie!" he said as he hugged her. Alfred noticed and grinned.
"Woah, you're coming with us this year Aunt Martha?"
"Yep. I've been camping before with my friends, but never with my family. It's a little odd ha ha."
"It's great to see you!" Alfred said, clinging to his aunt. She giggled and petted her nephews' heads.
Kiku was a little surprised. Emily and Martha seemed to be identical twins too, except Martha's hair was a bit longer, and she wore glasses unlike Emily. Watching them from a distance, he noticed the four had identical mannerisms, Alfred and his mom, and Matthew and his aunt.
"Oh yeah auntie," Alfred said. "I want you to meet Kiku, my best friend!"
Martha looked over to Kiku and smiled. "Good morning Kiku. I'm Martha, Alfred and Matthew's aunt, and Emily's twin sister. It's a pleasure to meet you," she said as she held out her hand.
Kiku shook it and gave a small smile. "It is also a pleasure to meet you too Martha-san. You are probably curious as to why I'm traveling with the Jones family this spring break—"
"Actually, I already know the situation," she said, putting a hand on Kiku's head. "There's nothing that needs to be explained. Emily already told me all about it, so welcome to the Jones family Kiku." Martha gave him the sweetest smile he ever saw, ruffling his hair.
"Th-Thank you Martha-san. You do not understand how much that means to me."
She smiled in response. "Well, it looks like we're almost set to go. Kiku, why don't we go inside? I'd like to know more about you. Emily says you're a very wonderful young man, and my nephews also talk highly about you, so I'm curious!"
"They really…really talk about me that much?"
"But of course. You're loved very much here."
Kiku nodded and with a smile stepped into the RV, but allowing Martha to pass first. Emily grinned as she watched them go inside. "Boys, do we have everything ready?"
"Yep. Can we leave now?"
"Not yet Alfred."
"Because we're still waiting on a few more people."
"Ah! There they are!"
Alfred looked a bit shocked as he saw the Sanchez family walking towards them with their own cargo. Emily waved as Maria approached them. "Mom, don't they usually come in a different car?"
"Why do you think I got a much bigger RV this time? Gas is pricey nowadays and if we can all fit in one vehicle, then that's how we'll do it."
"Ah, okay. I see."
"It's almost three in the morning Maria!" Emily said. "We need to leave on the dot!"
"Oh I was already up by one in the morning, and so were Jose and my daughters. But I seem to have a son who likes to be a flojero."
Manuel looked definitely sleepy, trying so hard to stay standing. Alfred walked over to him and laughed. "What time did you go to bed?"
"Why so late?"
He pointed behind him and saw a person locking the house, then running towards the Sanchez family.
"Here tia, the key. Are you sure abuela will be fine at Tio Ricardo's house?"
"Of course she will. Thank you for locking the house Antonio."
"No problem!" He noticed Alfred. "Hey!"
"Toni! I didn't know you were coming with your relatives. You usually go with Francis and his family or Lovi and Feli."
"Yeah I do, but this year I wanted to come with my cousins!" He smiled sweetly at Manuel who looked far from joyful. "And now I get to spend more time with Manny!"
He said nothing but narrowed his sleepy eyes at him. "Don't talk to me the entire ride over there."
"Because you talked my head off forever last night and I only got one hour of rest, so all I want to do in the RV is sleep, not talk to you."
"Glad we understand each other."
"Can I sleep with you? You know, to keep you warm and so you can cuddle with somebody?"
Manuel walked over to the RV and hopped in, setting his things down after greeting Martha and Kiku. Maria shook her head and Jose sighed.
"I'm sorry Antonio," said Jose. "I'm sure he'll warm up to you again." Jose was Maria's husband who was the tallest of his family. He had short hair with a mustache and was quite the manly figure, muscles and all, unlike his son who was short and scrawny. He was at least glad Manuel knew how to defend himself with boxing and wrestling moves.
"It's okay. I'm not gonna give up," Antonio told him.
"Just don't push him too far. You know how short Manny's temper is."
"Yeah I know."
Antonio watched his relatives walk into the RV to get settled. Alfred tapped him on the shoulder. "Hmm? What's up Alfred?"
"Why is Manny angry with you all the time? You're the like the nicest guy in the entire universe."
Antonio gave a chuckle. "Manny is just not good with expressing his feelings."
"This has to do with what happened in the past right? Something Manny can never forgive you for?"
Antonio stood quiet and didn't say anything as he fiddled around with his cell phone, pretending to text somebody from his contact list.
"Toni, what actually did happen between you and Manny?"
"Hey Alfred, you want some coffee? I'll go ask my tia if I can make some for everyone."
"Toni you're avoiding my ques—"
"Whoops, I better get settled in there! Almost time to leave!" He ran off to the RV, leaving Alfred to stare at his back. Matthew walked over to him and asked, "Everything alright Al?"
"…no matter how many times I try, neither Toni nor Manny will tell me what happened."
"Alicia said to give them both time and when they feel ready, they'll explain."
"But Matt, this is really starting to concern me…"
"Al, I know Manny's your best friend but—"
"But nothing. If there's something wrong with my friends, I want to know what so I can help them however I can."
Matthew gave a sympathetic look and smiled sadly. "I know, but sometimes all we can do is just be patient and give them comfort."
"I guess you're right…"
"But don't look so sad Al. We're going camping! We'll all have fun right?"
"Yeah, yeah we will!" he said in his usual cheerful tone. He smiled at his twin. "Y'know, sometimes I feel like I wouldn't get anywhere without you bro."
Matthew chuckled. "I know."
"Boys come on!" shouted Emily. "It's time to go!"
The twins ran to the RV and Alfred closed the door, but not before shouting, "We're going camping! Hell yeah!"
"Alfred-san there are people still sleeping in this neighborhood! Please calm down!"
"Oops, sorry guys!" he shouted again.
"N-No I didn't mean to shout an apology either!" Kiku sighed. "It would be best if you just closed the door…"
"Oh okay!" Alfred shut the door and locked it, plopping down on the couch next to Kiku. "So you like the RV? Pretty fancy huh?"
"Yes very," Kiku responded as Jose drove the RV out of Emily's driveway and onto the street, heading towards the freeway. "Uhm, Alfred-san, exactly how many hours until we reach our destination?"
"Last time I checked…about five."
"Yep! But don't worry! Look I brought the Wii with us!"
Kiku did not notice there was also a television inside the RV. This really is like a mobile home. How very amusing!
"So you want to play Alfred-san?"
"Yeah for a little while. Can we mom?"
Emily took a sip from her coffee. "Sure if you want!"
"Sweet! Matt you wanna play?"
"Uhm, I actually just want to sit down and read."
"Fine… Hey Alicia, Eva, you wanna play?"
"We're actually gonna get some sleep," Alicia told him. "We want to have enough energy when we get there."
"Yeah, and besides," Eva began. "You wouldn't win against me."
"Of course I would!" he pouted.
The sisters only chuckled and walked to the bunk beds, Alicia on the bottom and Eva on top. Alfred noticed their dearest brother was missing. "Hey, where's Manny?"
"He's sleeping in the back bed. He must be really tired," Martha said.
"I think I'll go check on him," Antonio told her as he walked to the back of the RV. Sure enough, Manny was lying on the bed, completely knocked out. He hadn't even bothered to take off his shoes. Antonio smiled and sat on the bed next to him, brushing the bangs out of his face. The longer he stared at him, the sadder his smile became, until it turned into a frown. He decided to lie down next to him, just watching his stomach rise and fall as he breathed, his cousin looking as innocent as when he was a child.
Manny…I'm so sorry, Antonio thought to himself. It wasn't my fault… It…it really wasn't… I'm sorry I wasn't there for you but I was just as scared… Please forgive me…
Alfred was a bit bummed that they couldn't stop at McDonald's for breakfast when it was seven in the morning, but Emily told them they had more than enough food to cook a proper breakfast. Kiku enjoyed helping out as much as he could. Mostly everyone was awake at this point except for Manuel.
"Is Antonio still with him?" asked Emily.
Alicia nodded. "Yes. Since he went back there, he hasn't left his side."
"Did he fall asleep too?"
"From what I last saw, yes he did."
Maria sighed. "Antonio is attached to my son like a magnet, and follows him around like a duckling."
"Is there any reason for that?"
"…yes, there is."
"Maria, you've never told me what happened between Manuel and Antonio. Surely you know right?"
"…you might as well know Emily, but…I will tell you later."
Jose spoke then. "It's not something we like to brag about, and I don't see why anybody would brag about it in the first place." Since he was driving, Maria fed him his breakfast, being in the passenger seat.
This only made Alfred curious, but he didn't want to bug the adults about it. However, he was definitely going to find out on this camping trip just what exactly was wrong with Manuel.
Kiku could tell they were nearing their destination point by the increase of pine trees with hardly any civilization in sight. It somewhat unnerved him since he had never been out of his city, but Alfred told him it was going to be alright and there were always forest rangers there in case anything happened. He mentioned something about being Kiku's hero if a bear should come but the Japanese boy ignored him unintentionally and instead focused on the scenery from the window.
After about another hour, it seemed like they finally made it to their desired location. Kiku noticed that there were other RVs, some big like the one they were using, and other smaller ones, some even attached to the backs of pick-up trucks.
"This is our campsite Kiku," Alfred told him. "We like to camp where there're other people so don't be nervous, okay? Nothing bad will happen."
"Yes, I will try to calm myself down Alfred-san."
Jose smiled when he saw familiar faces. "This is our parking spot." Slowly he backed the RV into the space of the campsite the group reserved. Kiku looked out the window again and saw the familiar faces too. Alfred hadn't been lying when he said his friends all camped together during spring break. Getting settled on the forest grounds were the Vargas family, the Kirkland family, the Bonnefoy family, the Wang family, the Beilschmidt family, and the Braginski family. Roderich was with the Beilschmidt family and Elizaveta was with the Vargas family. Kiku assumed that their parents didn't want to come so they came with whoever wanted to take them.
"Good heavens what took you all so long?" Alice asked Emily as they got out of the RV. "Everyone else got here an hour ago!"
"We just wanted to make sure we had everything Alice, so calm yo tits."
"That is no way for a grown woman to speak, especially not to a lady such as myself!"
"You're just upset because I'm still hip and you're not," Emily responded with a shrug. "Anyway, let's all set up everything!"
Alfred stretched as he breathed in the forest air. Matthew did the same. Camping to them was a major privilege, something Kiku didn't understand yet, but the blonde was set on showing him a good time.
"Hey Matt, where's Manny?"
"I think he's still asleep."
"Seriously? I gotta go wake him up then." Alfred hopped back into the RV and was about to yell at Manuel for still being asleep at this hour (it was barely eight in the morning) but when he noticed how Antonio cuddled him close to his body (something that was sure to put the Mexican boy into a rage), the American stopped and just stared.
Just by looking at Antonio and how hard he tried every day to get on Manuel's good side, he could tell that whatever it was that was coming between them was something more serious than he could have possibly thought.
"Hey, Toni," Alfred said, shaking his shoulder a little. The Spaniard opened his eyes slowly and yawned, realizing he was cuddling his cousin, but made no effort to move and just smiled. "He's so warm ~"
"Mm? Oh hello Alfred!"
"We're already here. Tell Manny to get up."
"Ah, that means Feli and Lovi are here too right?"
"Yeah they're outside. They were asking for you."
"Then I shall go to them right away!" he hopped out of the bed and ran outside. Alfred could hear Antonio fawning over them, Feliciano giggling and Lovino raging. He made it his job instead to wake up Manny.
"Hey Manny, wake up dude. We're here."
The teen yawned and rubbed his eyes, sitting up slowly. "Huh?"
"I said we're here."
"Manny you slept the entire ride. You didn't even wake up for breakfast!"
"What? And why didn't you tell me?" he scolded, slapping Alfred on the arm, the latter laughing.
"Because you were knocked out cold!"
"I felt like there was a giant weight on my back or something…"
"Oh yeah, that's because Toni was hugging you the entire time."
"Yeah, he wanted to check on you, but I guess he got sleepy too so he cuddled you in his arms or something."
He was sure Manuel was going to get angry, but instead he asked quite calmly, "So where is he now?"
"He's with Feli and Lovi. He was happy to see them!"
"…yeah, of course he is. Why wouldn't he be?"
"Manny, are you okay?"
"So can I eat breakfast now?"
"I think you should first say good morning to everyone outside."
"Wow you were so sleepy you put your shirt on backwards."
"Uhm, Alfred-san," Kiku said as they were setting up tents. "I thought we were going to sleep in the RV."
"I thought so too but apparently only mom, auntie, Manny's parents, and his sisters get to sleep in there, while the rest of us guys need to use a tent. It's not fair!"
"Don't listen to Alfred," Matthew told Kiku as he hammered the nail into the ground to keep the tent from flying away. "Sleeping in a tent isn't that bad."
"But I am not sure I will be comfortable using a sleeping bag."
"That's okay! Look!" Alfred brought out a box from the RV. "This is an inflatable mattress and we put this inside the tent! This tent is one of the biggest ones so we'll have a lot of room! Then we just add blankets and pillows and it's like a real bed!"
"Oh, that is a relief. It looks and sounds much more comfortable than sleeping bags."
"And it is!" Alfred put his hands on his hips when the tent was all set up. "Good work you guys. Now let's furnish the inside!"
Kiku watched as the brothers inflated the mattress and struggled to make it fit inside the entranceway. When it was done, they started to put their belongings inside.
He followed them inside the tent. Alfred pointed out to him to leave his shoes by the entrance so dirt doesn't get all over the place.
"Uhm, so which side will I be sleeping on?" he asked as he sat down in front of the mattress, watching Alfred and Matthew put blankets on it and pillows.
"Well Matt and I usually share a tent by ourselves and we sleep side by side, so since you're here now…I'll be in the middle, and you can be on my left! I wanna be next to both my bro and my best buddy!"
"Oh, well alright then." Kiku set down his belongings on the right side of the mattress. Alfred and Matthew smiled, patting the thing, telling Kiku to sit down with them. He gave a small smile and slowly got on top of the mattress, his eyes sparkling.
"It…it is very soft!"
"So what are we going to do today then?"
Matthew tapped his chin. "Well usually the first day we don't go anywhere because we take this time to get settled in and go over our plans and things like that."
"Yes. You'd be surprised how long it takes to get settled in! Our mom is the one who brings the RV, so everyone uses it to cook and stuff, and to go to the bathroom or shower if the campsite bathrooms are occupied. But the RVs are always expensive, especially the size our mom got this year, so the Sanchez family decided to pay for half."
"Oh wow. You…you all take camping seriously."
Alfred laughed. "Of course we do! Camping is something everyone should get the chance to do at least once in their life! I mean it's nice to be around all this technology and stuff, but there's something refreshing about being outdoors with animals, fishing, taking a hike, and all that jazz!"
Matthew chuckled and nodded in agreement with his brother. "Look Kiku, we have a map of the place."
He handed him the map and Kiku unfolded it, wide-eyed. "This…this map is extremely large!"
"Of course. This forest is large!" Alfred said, taking a granola bar out of his bag because his mother hid all the candy.
"We're here," Matthew pointed out. "And don't worry. We're not gonna explore this entire place. The areas we marked with a red X are the places we're gonna visit."
"So what are we doing tomorrow?"
"Well," Alfred said, his mouth full of granola. "Our morning is gonna consist of a breakfast, and then a hike up a huge waterfall! Then when we get to the top, we're gonna go fishing and have lunch! And then we're gonna hike back down to our campsite and have dinner and then just chill."
Kiku thought that sounded strenuous but he didn't want to say anything. "I…see. And is there…an internet connection here?"
Alfred laughed. "Nope. There's hardly any kind of signal here. Even cell phones don't work well in this place. Ah, but I think they have free WiFi at the giftshop." He slapped Kiku on the back. "But with all the stuff we'll be doing, we don't need WiFi or electronics!"
Kiku didn't really like the sound of that.
The large group of friends did nothing but set up their campsite, just like Alfred had said. The boys started to get hungry since everyone had to skip lunch because of all the tasks required to make their spot accommodated, so Maria, Chun Yan, and Emily began to cook dinner for everyone. There were two firepits where the group had set up, so the adults took one, and the teens took another.
"Man I can't wait until we go to the lake," Gilbert said, resting in a fold up chair. "Babes in bikinis everywhere. Next year we should take a trip to the beach or something, like rent a beach house."
"Is that all you care about?" Arthur asked. "There is more to this outdoors thing than seeing young ladies in their swimwear."
"Yes, because you get to see young men in their own swimwear as well."
"That's not what I was talking about frog!"
"Hey hey hey! Will there be ducks there?" asked Peter tugging on the Briton's sleeve. He was an adorable little boy and was teen's youngest sibling. Arthur was extremely grateful that his older siblings had plans of their own for spring break, otherwise this week would have been hell for him.
"I suppose so. Just don't try to bring them back to the campsite."
"Aww…but the ducklings are so cute…"
"Yes I know but we don't want to get in trouble with the rangers, now do we?"
"No… So then can I bring back a turtle?"
"Peter the answer is 'no' to every question you ask about being able to bring back animals to your tent."
Elizaveta laughed. "Arthur, your little brother is so cute! How old is he?"
"He's ten years old."
"Yeah but I'm gonna grow up to be taller and smarter than Arthur someday!"
"No you won't. You're shorter than I was when I was a lad, so stop speaking nonsense."
"You're just angry 'cause whenever our siblings come to visit, Angus brings me presents and hits you upside the head instead. It's not my fault I'm cute!"
Arthur growled and everyone else laughed.
Soon everyone retrieved their dinner and ate it, Alfred and Manuel going back regularly for more servings. Eventually their mothers had to scold and remind them that they were not the only people here at their campsite.
Kiku noticed after dinner, everyone retreated to their tents and returned outside in their nightwear. Alfred told him that even if it was dark, they still liked to sit by the fire and roast marshmallows.
"You want a smore?" asked Alfred.
"Uhm…what is a smore?"
Alfred stared at him, which caused the others to stare at him, and an awkward silence floated in the atmosphere.
Oh my God he was deprived of a life more than I thought! Alfred said to himself. To prevent anybody from saying anything that would hurt Kiku's feelings, he said, "A smore is a marshmallow and a piece of chocolate stuck together between two graham crackers. They're really good! You wanna try one?"
"Uhm, yes, I suppose so."
Ludwig snatched away the bag of marshmallows from the Vargas brothers since it seemed like they were going to devour them all, and Alicia had to slap Manuel's hand away since he wouldn't let go of the chocolate. Peter was busying himself trying to open the box of crackers but kept struggling. Arthur sighed and did it for him.
Alfred took a marshmallow and stuck it on a stick and then handed it to Kiku. "Here you go!"
"Uhm…what do I do with this?"
"You put it in the fire and wait for it to roast. Then…" He took a piece of chocolate and placed it on a cracker. "When it's finished, you put the marshmallow on here, and then top it with another cracker, and eat it, like a sandwich!"
"Here, I'll show you Kiku! After all, smores were invented in Korea so this is a piece of cake," Yong Soo said.
"Don't start with the Korea thing!" Yao shouted.
Yong Soo ignored him and put a marshmallow on a stick, then waited for it to roast in the campfire. When it looked warm enough, he put it on a cracker, put a piece of chocolate on top, and then added another cracker. "Then you eat it!" He bit into it and chuckled. "It tastes really good. Uwaah but it's hot!" He tried fanning his tongue and Mei laughed.
Kiku watched as the others took their turns creating their own smores. He seemed a little nervous because he didn't want to burn himself. Alfred smiled sympathetically and said, "I'll help you."
He placed his hand over Kiku's and held the marshmallow over the fire. The contact made Kiku blush. He tried not to look at Alfred, but instead glanced at him from the corner of his eye. There is no reason for me to tense up, so why then…
"There. Now you put it on this cracker, add the chocolate, another cracker, and you're done!"
The Japanese boy did everything his friend told him to do, and was hesitant to eat it since Yong Soo had said it could be hot. He waited a few moments to consume it, but once he did, his eyes sparkled again.
"This…this tastes very good!"
"See I knew you'd like it!"
They had all ended up finishing the pack of marshmallows and chocolate along with the crackers, that Alice got upset and told them to calm down because they needed to save them for the rest of the week, so she put a limit to three smores a night for each person, and no more.
"Hey Artie, your mom is hot and everything—"
"Yes Gilbert, that is exactly the kind of thing I want to hear about my mum coming out of your mouth."
"—but she's the one who needs to calm down. It's not like we eat smores everyday!"
"She just wants to make sure we save the food is all."
"Yeah well we're gonna have a lot of leftovers like last year and we don't eat this stuff when we're home so it's all gonna go to waste. You see my point?"
"Gilbert just drop it… You get hyper with sweets sometimes remember?"
"Nobody needs to know that Luddy!"
"Hey Manny," Alfred asked as everyone was getting ready to sleep. "Which tent are you in?"
"Which do you think? The one that belongs to fricken Antonio…"
"Why'd you decide to sleep there?"
"I didn't. My mom wants me to bond more with him so she made me sleep in his tent. The worst part is that he's also sharing it with the Vargas brothers. Man if I had my say, I'd sleep in the tent you guys have…"
"Wow that sucks. Good luck."
"Thanks I guess… I'm putting a border of pillows in between myself and Antonio in case he tries to hug me in his sleep. That way he'll get the pillows instead and I can sleep without a worry in the world."
"Why won't you let him touch you? He's not like Francis."
"No, but he's still too affectionate and he doesn't care who knows it, but I on the other hand, DO care." He sighed. "Well, buenas noches Alfredo."
He watched the shorter teen walk into his own tent and heard Antonio fawning over him, Manuel throwing curse words in response. Feliciano told him to calm down and Lovino only made it worse by yelling profanities because they were too loud and he couldn't sleep.
Alfred shook his head and went into his own tent. Matthew was already asleep and Kiku was settling himself in.
"So did you enjoy your first day?" asked Alfred.
"Yes, I did, though setting up is a lot of work."
"Yeah I know. The first day is usually boring, but tomorrow is gonna be fun! You'll see!"
"I cannot wait. But uhm…I haven't fished."
"Wow Kiku, I'm gonna have to show you how to do a lot of stuff on this trip!"
"No what're you saying sorry for?" he laughed. "It's my pleasure!"
"Oh…uhm, well thank you Alfred-san." He smiled. "I really appreciate it."
"No prob. Now, let's get some sleep so we can have energy for tomorrow!"
"Oh, I wanted to ask you though, what was that stuff you sprayed on me earlier?"
"Bug repellant. Mosquitoes are the only things I hate about camping. No matter how much you cover yourself with clothes or how much repellant you spray, they always manage to bite you!"
"Well, good night Kiku!" Alfred took off his glasses and turned off the lamp, snuggling in between his brother and the other boy.
"Good night Alfred-san."
The next morning, Kiku awoke to find himself alone in the tent. He began to get worried until he heard the zipper open and Alfred stepped inside, already dressed.
"G'morning Kiku! Breakfast is ready!"
"Alfred-san, you are up earlier than I am!"
"Of course! I wanted to get things ready for our hike up the waterfall today. Now what would you like for breakfast? We have cereal, but mom cooked omelets and Aunt Martha made some pancakes."
"Uhm, well I suppose I would like an omelet."
"Alright then, I'll go get it for you! Want anything to drink?"
"Orange juice is fine…"
"Okay then! I'll let you change and by the time you're out, your breakfast will be ready!"
Kiku sighed when Alfred zippered up the tent again, but smiled as he took out a change of clothes. Because he was going hiking, he figured loose comfortable clothes were best. When he was done, he exited the tent and saw that everyone else was already awake, or at least outside. Some looked sleepy-eyed still.
He sat down at the table underneath what he assumed was a tent, except its walls looked more like a net. He figured it was to keep the bugs out.
"Here you go Kiku!" Alfred said as he walked inside, giving Kiku his plate and drink. "Mostly everyone is finished, so now they're getting their backpacks and stuff ready for our trip!"
"I will try to eat fast then."
"Ha ha, no need for that. There's no rush!"
Though Alfred told him that, he could tell everyone was excited, considering they were already making lunch for the hike and the guys were preparing the fishing poles. He didn't want to be the person to hold them up, so he tried to eat as fast as he could. When he was finished, he took his backpack but Alfred told him to make the weight light because they'd be hiking a lot and the more weight, the harder the climb. Kiku took his advice and packed lightly, his camera around his neck.
The group made sure everything was locked and secure. They had to walk to the hiking trail since there were no room for cars. When they got there, Emily stood in front of her group and said, "Okay everyone, we're about to start our hike! Now like every year, I want to mention this. Be extra careful when you start seeing damp rocks, because that means we're getting closer to the top, but it also means you can slip and fall, and I'm sure none of you want to fall so many feet into a gorge, right?"
"Emily stop scaring everyone," Alice said. "Look, just stay close to each other and if you see somebody struggling, help them climb. I suggest the females to be in the middle of our group with the males in the front and the back."
"Oh and one more thing," Chun Yan said. "Don't feed the squirrels."
Everyone turned their heads toward Alfred, who looked around the landscape innocently.
The climb along the hiking trail started off pretty easy, until it started to turn upward. Then it became much more of a struggle to walk, especially since they were such a large group of people and they weren't the only ones visiting the national forest.
About an hour had passed and they reached a flat area along the trail where there were restrooms and stone benches.
"Alright, so this is our stop," Emily said to the group. "We take a short break here, and then continue onward!"
Kiku tried not to gasp. "There…is still a long way to go?"
Gilbert chuckled. "Of course! This is like the halfway point! You see that huge-ass waterfall?" He pointed to the large flowing wall of dihydrogen monoxide. "We're gonna climb all the way to the top of it!"
"It…it's quite high for a climb!"
"Yeah, that's why you gotta be extra careful!"
"You can slip and fall on the rocks closest to the waterfall," Ludwig added.
"But don't worry Kiku. None of us have ever fallen!" Feliciano said. "You know what I do?"
"Well I crawl on my hands and knees and grab onto every dry rock!"
"Won't that make the walk even more difficult?"
"…yes but I don't want to die!" he wailed.
Lovino rolled his eyes and Roderich shook his head.
"Don't pay attention to him," the Austrian said. "As long as you're careful and attentive of your path, you'll be fine."
"And I will be walking in the back to catch anybody if they fall," Ivan said with a smile. "I am the tallest and strongest out of the teenagers you know."
"I dunno about that," Alfred said, overhearing them after he returned from the restroom. "Tallest, yeah, but strongest? That would be me," he pointed out, a thumb to his chest. "But don't worry Kiku. We've done this for a long while now, so we know how to climb! You just can't stop and take pictures because then you'll hold up all the other hikers after you."
Kiku looked at his camera sadly, and then Matthew said, "Oh, but once we get to the top, the view is beautiful. Then you can take all the photos you want."
"Yes, it's something to look forward to!"
"Then…then I will do my best to hike up this seemingly treacherous trail!"
When the break was over, the large group started to climb again. Feliciano wasn't kidding when he said he crawled on the ground and clung to rocks so he didn't fall. He kept whimpering the entire way up, Lovino getting annoyed by this point. It was worse when the mist from the waterfall made everything and everyone wet.
"This is the part I hate the most," Manuel commented, trying to hold onto any rocks on the side of the mountain wall.
"Why? You've been here quite a few times already Manuel," Arthur responded.
"Oh don't get me wrong. I'm confident of being able to climb this thing. It's just that some people in front of you sometimes are not paying attention, and tend to slip and crash into you, so then you fall down as well."
Obviously the person he was talking about was Antonio, who decided to take this camping trip as a chance to bond with his cousin, but he didn't read the emphasized words as something with malice, even though Arthur did.
"Ha ha, I won't let you fall Manny! That's why I'm walking in front, so you can grab onto me if you feel like you'll slip!"
"You should've walked behind me so if I fall you'd be my cushion."
"Why do you say such mean things to me?!"
"I just want to help!"
"I don't need your help. I can do this on my own."
"You have to stop getting angry with me every time I try to assist you!" Now it was Antonio's turn to start getting irritated. Usually he was a happy person and quite calm, but when he began to get frustrated, it was noticeable in his expression.
"Yeah like I'm supposed to count on you after what happened all those years ago."
"Nobody is telling you to forget it ever happened Manuel, but you can at least attempt to put it behind you and move on with your life."
"I have moved on with my life for your information idiota!"
"Well it doesn't seem like it considering you're still giving me the cold shoulder every time I try to do something nice for you!"
"Then you should have gotten your priorities straight on that day!"
"Look that wasn't my fault! I already told you! I was just as scared! I didn't know what was going on—"
"How can you not know what was going on when I clearly saw you—!" He stopped mid-sentence, remembering there were other people around and that the rest of his group started to look at the pair, even the fellow hikers both in front and behind them.
"We were just children Manuel," Antonio stated plainly. "You can't expect us at that age to understand those kinds of things." He turned away, deciding it was best to calm himself down. He didn't want to say something that would reveal the whole conflict to the public.
Manuel gave a "tch" and ignored him, focusing on getting a good footing of the trail. The argument started to make the rest of their friends curious about what happened. They knew that there was tension between the two cousins, even though Antonio tried to be as friendly as possible with the other. But because they were on such a hazardous climb to the waterfall, they didn't want to risk a fight breaking out and having something tragic happen.
It took about thirty more minutes to climb to the top. Kiku thought he was in the safe zone until he saw what looked like a rickety metal bridge along the side of the mountain wall.
"…are we supposed to cross over that…?"
Alfred laughed. "Of course! We can't fly to the waterfall, so they built this metal bridge so we can get across."
"It's quite narrow though," Francis informed him. "so people need to walk in a single file row, and you still need to be careful since the bridge itself is somewhat old."
This didn't help with Kiku's nerves. He watched as the hikers in front of him walked on the bridge, and watched as his friends did the same. Alfred saw he was getting a bit nervous, so he grabbed his hand, causing Kiku to look up at him with wide eyes. He was greeted with an optimistic smile and said, "I'll go in front of you so you can hold on to me in case you feel like you're gonna fall. Just don't look directly down and you'll be fine, okay?"
"Y-Yes…" he said, his cheeks tinted a bit pink.
"Uhm, I believe so."
Alfred let his twin walk in front of him, and then he followed, still holding on to Kiku's hand. Francis wasn't kidding when he said the bridge was narrow. To the right was the rock wall of the mountain and to the left was the gorge, where down below the calm river from the waterfall was flowing. He could see the other hikers from afar that had reached the half-way point. They seemed so small.
Alfred had to keep his left hand behind him since Kiku clutched onto it for dear life. He was relieved when they finally reached solid ground. The blonde grinned at him and asked, "See, now that wasn't so difficult, was it?"
"N-No, just a bit nerve-wrecking."
"Yeah, I felt the same too the first time, so I know whatcha mean."
Feliciano sprawled out on the ground and was in near tears of happiness. "F-Finally we made it!" he cried.
"Stop humiliating yourself Feli! Get up!" scolded Lovino.
"Ah okay just don't yell at me!" he whined. He stood up and dusted himself off, and gasped at the view. "Oh Kiku Kiku Kikuuuu! Take a picture of me please!" he pleaded, tugging at the Japanese teen's sleeve.
"Very well Feliciano-kun but please do not do that to my shirt. You will stretch it."
Feliciano stood at the edge of the waterfall. Nobody had to worry about anything because there was a sturdy metal railing for the tourists to stop and take pictures, and to admire the scenery. Kiku did his best to take a good photo of his friend, and then soon everyone else wanted him to take one, after Feliciano showed them how good it came out.
It made Kiku genuinely happy to take so many photos of his friends and their families. They all looked cheerful in them and seemed to be enjoying themselves. After he took a picture of the Jones family, Alfred said, "Hey Liz, can you take a picture for Kiku?"
"Huh? Oh, you mean you want Kiku in the photo?"
"Yeah! Hey Kiku, let Liz borrow your camera and come over here so you can be in the photo with us!"
"B-But uhm…I am not…"
"Yes you are." He took the camera and handed it to Elizaveta, then dragged the small teen over to his family. They made Kiku stand in the center since he was the shortest. Elizaveta made sure to catch a good shot of the five and then happily handed it to Kiku. When he checked the library of the photos he took, he smiled when he saw himself in the Jones portrait. It gave him a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
"Alright, well we've reached the top!" Emily said, shooting her arms into the air. "This is our destination, so now let's enjoy it!"
"Alfred-san, why does the trail continue?" Kiku asked as the group settled themselves under the shade of the trees near the river.
"Well you see, the hiking trail for this mountain is very long. Some hikers continue going for hours to reach the end of it, but you should only attempt that feat if you have a lot of endurance and patience. None of us have ever tried it though, because it would be too much."
"Oh, I see."
He noticed that the guys were setting up the fishing poles and the girls were taking out the items they brought for lunch.
"Ready to fish Kiku?"
"I…have not ever tried it, but yes, I suppose I am ready."
"Great! Here, I'll teach you."
Kiku made sure to pay attention to what Alfred was telling him. He didn't want to hurt himself with the hook so he watched and took note of how Alfred prepared the bait on it.
"When you cast off, you have to make sure you have a lot of room. That's why not all the guys are gonna fish at one time. There's not enough space here for all of us to do this."
Alfred cast the line into the water and when he felt a bite, he demonstrated to Kiku how to reel in the catch. The fish jumped off the hook before he could bring it to shore.
"Do not worry Alfred-san. You will catch a better one later."
"Ha ha! That's the spirit! Here, now you try." He handed the rod to Kiku, but he wasn't exactly sure how to hold it.
"Uhm…" He looked at Alfred sheepishly.
He placed his hands over Kiku's again, showing him how to properly handle the fishing pole. Kiku felt his face heat up just a bit when his hands made contact with Alfred's, but he decided to ignore the feeling for a third time.
"So now do you know how to hold it?" asked the American.
"Y-Yes, thank you very much for your assistance Alfred-san."
Kiku wondered why Alfred sat behind him on a rock and took out a bag of sunflower seeds.
"What are you doing? Are you not going to fish?"
"Since you've never done this before, you go first. I don't mind watching. If you need help, just ask! I'll be here supervising okay? And I'll also help you when you catch a fish, because those things can be feisty and try to jump off the hook even when you hold it above ground!"
It was mostly the boys who were fishing since the adults sat down in their own little group to chat and rest, while the teens scattered themselves near each other under the shade of the trees.
"Hey Manny, do you want to fish?" asked Antonio.
"But I brought a fishing pole for us both, and I saved us a spot over there."
Manuel stood quiet, which made Antonio's eyebrows furrow in frustration.
"Oh come on you can't still be upset at our argument earlier?"
"No I'm over that."
"I just don't want to be around you, and you know this, so stop trying so hard to get me to hang out with you!"
"But we're family! Manny, you know I love you very much right?"
Manuel laughed. "You could've fooled me considering what happened all those years ago!"
"Just let it go already! I was just as young as you and I honestly didn't know what was going on!"
"Ha! What a bunch of bullshit!"
Some of their other friends were getting annoyed.
"Hey you two," Gilbert began. "I don't know what the hell happened in your past, but stop shouting! You'll scare the fish!"
"You're causing a scene again," Arthur added.
"If you think I'm going to give up with trying to get back on your good side, then I'm sorry Manuel, but you're gonna have to put up with it until you let this go!" Antonio said.
"You're only doing this because you feel guilty that you didn't help me back then, even though you were able to!"
"No I wasn't! I was a kid! What did you want me to do? Divert the attention away by waving my arms and yelling? What if he had a gun?!"
"You could have ran!"
"I was not going to risk getting killed!"
"Oh of course not because you were too worried about Lovino like always!"
"Feliciano was also there too if you don't remember! And don't bring Lovi into this!"
"Why not? It's obvious that he's always been your favorite! For all I know you and he could be fucking and the rest of us wouldn't even know!"
"Hey hey!" Lovino shouted, now also getting angry. "Will the both of you just shut your fucking mouths? We came on this trip to relax, not to get into this drama shit!"
"Don't butt in pendejo!"
"Don't think just 'cause I'm Italian that I don't understand what you say in Spanish Manny!"
"Yeah I forgot that Antonio taught you how to speak in our language. I can only imagine what other things you learned from him too."
"You know I'm getting tired of your damn mouth!"
"And I'm getting tired of your damn face!"
"Please stop fighting!" Feliciano said, trying to come in between them. Antonio didn't want the younger Italian brother to get hurt so he tried to pull him away.
"You know I hate your type Manny! I can't stand jealous people!"
"Ha! Oh really now? Then I guess you can't stand yourself considering you're also one of them!"
"You have it worse than me!"
"I wasn't the one who cried whenever Antonio would decide to play with me!"
"And I wasn't the one who threw temper tantrums when he decided to play with me!"
"That was because you were always being an asshole toward me when we were little!"
"No I wasn't! You just have a cousin complex!"
"Like hell I did! The shit that comes outta your mouth!"
"It's not as bad as the shit that comes outta yours!"
"Okay stop it both of you!" Antonio scolded. "Look we didn't come here for this!"
"Then tell Lovino to back the fuck off. He shouldn't stick his nose into other people's conversations!"
"Well I don't know if this can be considered a conversation since you're shouting so loud that everyone else can hear you!"
"Well this whole thing wouldn't have started if a certain Spanish imbecil would just leave me the hell alone!"
"Manuel for crying out loud just drop it!"
"Not until you back off Antonio!"
"Well I'm not because you're gonna have to forgive me sooner or later!"
"You think what you did can be easily forgiven?!"
"I didn't do ANYTHING!"
"Exactly the problem here!"
"I was eight years old! What do you expect a child of that age to do when he witnesses something like that?!"
"I dunno maybe, cry for help?"
"I was scared out of my mind! I told you I couldn't comprehend what was going on!"
"How can you not when you saw me crying and attempting to scream?! Obviously that should be a warning signal that 'Hey moron your little cousin needs help hurry the fuck up and get some adults over here' or something!"
Lovino was starting to boil with frustration and said, "Will you two just shut the fuck up already?! Antonio stop bothering Manny if he's so pissed at you and you Manny just get over whatever shit happened to you in the past alright! You're both annoying me and everyone else here!"
Manuel turned sharply at Lovino and shouted, "Well how would you feel if you were a seven year old kid getting raped by a strange man?!"
A/N: This chapter was too long to fit on LiveJournal, so here is the second half of chapter 11. I disabled comments on this one since it's not the end of the chapter.