~ Prologue ~
"I claim these breasts as mine, da-ze!" A Korean teen shouted, groping the chest of a slightly older Japanese teenager.
"This is highly inappropriate!" The poor teenager cried, breaking out of the Korean's hold and to a Chinese man. "Yao, tell him to stop groping me!"
"Im Yong Soo, stop claiming Kiku's breasts as yours. He doesn't even have any!" The man scolded before he was tackled by the Korean.
"I claim your breasts!" He cried, knocking the Chinese man over.
"Aiyah! Stop!" He snapped.
"Hmph. I like Kiku's breasts better anyhow." He brooded, letting go of the elder.
"You guys are going to be late now. Get ready before I show you true meaning of Spartan Education!"
"Hai, Wang-san." Kiku bowed before scurrying off to his room, closely followed by the other.
The Chinese man shrugged, a small smile gracing his face. He settled into his couch for a moment, enjoying the peaceful quiet. It was rare that he got moments such as the current. It was as short lived as ever though as his phone went off, shattering his tranquility. He cursed in his native tongue while pulling out the noisy contraption. He did not bother looking at the number but the caller was easy to recognize.
"I need you to cover my shift today, Yao." A rough Turkish accent sounded.
"Fine." Yao sighed, "What time?"
"Right now." He replied before hanging up.
"Ugh. Damnit Sadık
" Yao grumbled, getting to his feet after glancing at the time. "Kiku! Im Yong! Time to go!"
"I am ready." Kiku was the first to the living room, neatly dressed in his school uniform.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming. Keep your pants on." Im Yong joined the other, dressed in a dark jacket, simple t-shirt, and slightly worn jeans.
The trio headed out of their small house and piled into the car. Im Yong was quick to claim his seat in the front. Yao rolled his eyes, ordering the boys to buckle up before backing out of the driveway and leaving for their schools. Kiku attended the prestigious private high school for the gifted while Im Yong had to attend the public high school for the less gifted across the street. The two both got out of the car simultaneously, saying their goodbyes to their Chinese guardian.
Yao smiled, returning the goodbyes and watching them each retreat into their schools. He frowned, seeing how nobody rushed to greet either of them. However he had no time to dwell on the teenagers' social lives and started to drive once more. He did not have far to go, arriving at a large, exotic pet shop which had its own secluded and spacious land. He pulled into the employees' parking lot and got out of the car. A brown haired man with some unshaved stubble was leaning over the counter inside, appearing anxious.
"Wo lai wan le, zhen dui bu qi. (Sorry I'm late.)" Yao apologized.
"Sorun değil. (No problem.)" He returned, waving it off. "Look, you're going to be here alone today."
" A small voice sounded from nearby but was ignored.
"Arthur has a cold, Alfred has classes, and Antonio is working his second job." The Turk explained, handing him the keys.
"What about you?" Yao gave him a suspicious look.
"Fine. I'll tell you." Sadık sighed, "The boss is sending his son to inspect the place and I don't want to be here when that happens. He's pretty scary from what I've been told."
"Eh?" Yao frowned. "I doubt that." However the other man had already waved him off, getting in his car. "He can't be that scary."
"Oh, he is." The small voice was closer now, startling the Chinese man.
"Ai yah! Don't scare me like that, Al-Matthew." He pouted. "When did you get here?"
"Nobody let me out last night
" The poor man sighed. "I've been here since yesterday."
"Then you should go home."
"No. I'll help you. I got plenty of sleep in the bear cages." He smiled before drifting away.
" Yao rubbed the back of his head and started to prepare for work.
He had a feeling today would be unlike any other
~ - . - ~
Kiku sighed in relief as the bell rang for the start of his free period. Although he normally spent the time studying in the library, it gave him a chance to stretch his weary bones after so much writing and sitting straight. He wandered the hallways for a while, wasting time by reading flyers on the various bulletin boards. He was almost at the library when he stopped, a flyer catching his eye. He approached it slowly, scanning the information scrawled on it. It was a tutoring program for the public high school.
He blinked once, then twice before unconsciously pulling a pen from his pocket. He wondered why he was compelled to give up his free period to tutor but as he thought about it, he recalled the reason. He had no friends at the private school. Everyone was either too busy with their work or had friends, already leaving Kiku out. Not even the other Asian students accepted himnot that he tried particularly hard to socialize with any clique in particular. He realized that the flyer was a signor perhaps a chancefor him to finally reach out and hopefully make friends.
After all, Im Yong seemed to have lots of friends at his school. Although they probably were not close, he was better off than Kiku. Determination wormed its way onto his face and he neatly scrawled his name on the flyer to sign up. If he failed to make new friends, he would simply bug Im Yong.
That was much better than sitting in a library filled with books he had already read
~ ^ J ^ ~
Yao was just helping his second customer for the day when the door opened, letting in a chilling January breeze. Normally it would not have affected him however he was certain it had been a fairly nice day. That and the animals were really acting upmore than usual. He politely excused himself from helping the customer looking at dogs before straightening and going to greet the newcomer. He stopped, startled by the man's appearance.
It was a large man with a heavy winter coat and pink-tinted scarf, smelling slightly of
vodka? Regardless, the man's size was rather intimidating. However Yao recalled one of their frequent customers, a large Swedish man with a little white dog, was also very intimidating and had a scary face to accompany his size. This man, as Yao inspected his face, seemed to be rather innocent enough with child-like violet eyes.
"Dobryj večer." The Russian greeted. "I would like to buy a new pet."
"Good evening." Yao returned, smiling pleasantly, "Do you have any preference?"
"Preference?" The man tilted his head.
"Would you like a male, female? Rodent, reptile, fish? Those sort of things."
"Oh. I am not certain." He replied, pausing to think things over.
"Do you have a pet?" Yao continued to smile at the customer.
"Da. I have a cat and a few rabbits
" He answered.
"I see. Follow me. I'll try my best to find you a new best friend before you leave here." He promised, heading deeper into the store.
"I hope so." The Russian gave an eerie smile which the smaller man missed, his back turned as he hushed the animals.
Yao led the man past the rodent and reptiles, seeing that the man did not seem too interested. He took him to the canine kennel area, glancing back to gage the man's reaction. He looked at one dog in interest and stepped up to it, only to jump as it started to yap and growl. Yao sighed and crouched in front of the dog, finger in the air. The dog quieted a little but still appeared uneasy.
"Bu." He said, his voice bold.
The dog became very quiet then and sat, looking up at the humans, head cocked to the side. Yao smiled, petting it through the bars before standing and facing the customer.
"Perhaps another cat?" He inquired.
"Da. Perhaps." The Russian had a sad frown on his face.
Yao continued to show his customer around, pleased that he seemed to like the felines and that they liked him back. However the Russian seemed suddenly intent on seeing the exotic animals which were housed outside of the main shop. Yao obliged, heading out to the back where equestrians, bovine, bears, and other large animals were resting. Before getting too far Yao noticed Matthew and called the Canadian over, out of the polar bear cage.
"Tend to the counter." Yao ordered.
"Okay." The quiet man trembled in the presence of the Russian and was eager to leave for the front of the store.
"Who was that?" The man inquired.
"He's another employee here." He replied, heading down past the enclosures.
"Is it just the two of you?" He blinked.
"Yeah. Everyone else could not make it." The annoyance was obvious in his tone.
"I see." The customer seemed amused. "Do you have a favorite animal here?"
"No. My favorite animal is a panda." He replied.
"Do you have any pets though?" He asked, curious.
"No. However my younger brother has a Shiba dog named Pochi." Yao admitted.
"What is your name?"
"Ai yah!" Yao paled, he had forgotten to introduce himself. "W-Wǒ jiào Wang Yao." He spluttered.
"Ah. Men'a zovu Ivan Braginski." The Russian smiled pleasantly.
" Yao blinked, the name ringing a bell.
"Well, I thank you for showing me around. However I don't think I am quite ready for another pet." Ivan was fairly polite, his accent not as pronounced now.
"Oh. But I promised I would find you a friend
" Yao frowned.
"Perhaps you did, Yao."
"Oh?" Yao frowned, caught off guard by the informality of the stranger.
"I will be sure to let my father know that you are a hard worker."
"F-Father?!" It clicked in Yao's mindBraginski was the name of the store owner. "I-I see
Xièxie (Thank you), mister Braginski." He blushed, bowing.
"Please, call me Ivan, da? I like you, Yao. Perhaps we will meet again soon." Ivan's amused smile never faltered.
"Y-Yeah." Yao was quite self-conscious of himself now that he realized he had been evaluated the entire time. "Dài huì ér jiàn. (See you later.)"
~ - . - ~
When Yao left work to Alfred and his brotherwhom never really left the shop anywayshe could not stop thinking about his secret evaluation. He had completely forgotten that the store owner's son would be coming and cursed himself for not being more professional. Ivan seemed genuinely fine with him and his actions though so he tried not to worry too much as he stopped outside his 'brothers' high schools. Kiku seemed to be in a relatively better mood as he slid into the back seat however Im Yong appeared as indifferent as ever.
Although it was his fault for being a trouble maker when he had attended the private school so Yao felt little sympathy for any social problems he faced at his new school. Yao drove them back home, enjoying the silence between the teenagers. They were all greeted by a hungry and affection-starved Pochi when they stepped in the door. Kiku bent down to scoop his dog up before taking him to the kitchen to eat. Yao followed; he was intent on preparing dinner.
He made rice and kimchee as well as some simple dumplings. After such a stressful day, he did not feel like spending time in the kitchen even if he did enjoy cooking. He wanted to sleep more than anything at the moment. Dinner progressed quicker than usual due to the limited selection and the fact that they were even quieter and politer than usual. After dinner, Im Yong did insist that Yao sing a short lullaby before they separated for their own bedrooms. Yao was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow, dreaming of the pet store he so loved.
~ Chapter 1: A Not-So-Average Work Day ~
"Yo! Yao!" An obnoxious young man greeted the Chinese man as he entered the shop. "You never told me how it was being with that Commie yesterday."
"Alfred, don't pester him." A British man scolded as he passed. "And China is communist, not Russia."
"Sorry dad." The American scoffed mockingly. "And Russia will always be communist to me."
"Only because you are extremely stubborn, you git." The British man snapped. "And you eat too much."
"That came outta nowhere, old man." Alfred whined.
"Um, I'm going to clock out now." Matthew's quiet voice sounded as the Canadian drifted between the two bickering employees.
"But you never leave early."
"Or ever, for that matter." The bushy eyebrowed man grumbled, carrying a bag of dog food to the shelves.
"I-I was going to go on a date with Carlos." He mumbled quietly, already forgotten as Alfred tripped his father, laughing obnoxiously as he always does.
"Ai yah! Can you two act mature for once!?" Yao shouted, throwing on his uniform before shoving a broom and dustpan in the 'very American' college student's hands. "You're worse than Antonio and Im Yong combined."
"My formal apologies, Yao." The older of the two smoothly said, glaring at Alfred. "I'll be sure to ground him when we get home."
"That's so unfair, Arthur." The man whined.
"Arthur, help me walk the dogs." Yao ordered from the dog kennels, grabbing a leash from the wall.
The two men both chose a dog to walk, leading them out to the fenced in area free of the larger animals sold at the store. Yao had, of course, chosen the dog from his inspection, watching it walk impatiently, trying to get ahead of the dog Arthur walked at his side. Inside the shop, Alfred had finished sweeping up the spilled kibble, wiping his forehead, only to shiver as the door opened, hitting him with a chilling breeze. He looked over, shocked to find the large Russian known as Ivan Braginski.
"H-Hey there." He greeted somewhat nervously, rumors clouding his judgment. "What can I do for you?"
"Is Yao here?" The man asked.
"Uh yeah. Totally. Let me go get him for you." He said before darting outside as the other two were just about to reenter. "Yao! Boss dude wants to see you!"
" The oldest of the three paled, jogging in to put the dog back in it cage. "What does he want?"
"I don't know. He just asked for you." Alfred shrugged.
"Well, walk another dog. I'll try and make this quick."
Yao sighed, handing Alfred the leash before going to the counter. Ivan was not there. Yao blinked, turning around to locate him. A chirping from the birds brought his attention to the aviary and he readjusted his ponytail before entering, hoping none of the birds were loose. However they were all behind their little cages, chirping madly as a large figure whistled and taunted them.
"Mister Braginski," Yao began, "You wanted to see me?"
"I told you. Call me Ivan." He smiled, a small white bird settling in his hand.
" Yao corrected quietly.
"I was wondering what you were doing later today." Ivan smiled.
"Later?" Yao thought for a moment. "I have to pick my brothers up from school."
"Can they not ride the bus?" Ivan blinked.
"One of them can't so naturally the other one doesn't." Yao explained with a shrug.
"Explain." Ivan placed the bird back in its cage.
"Im Yong, that's the younger one, was a trouble maker so he got kicked off the bus and Kiku, the older one, doesn't have any friends so riding the bus alone is torture for him." It all came out in a rush; Yao really was not used to mixing personal and business affairs like Alfred, Matthew, and Antonio.
"Well how about you get off early?" Ivan smiled. "I want to treat you to lunch."
"W-What? Why?" Yao stuttered.
"For your job performance yesterday. I was impressed." Ivan explained, leaving the aviary.
"I don't want to impose
" Yao frowned but the Russian grabbed his arm.
"Nonsense. I insist you go out with me."
"But the animals!" He felt embarrassed with the way Ivan had said it, "I can't leave them alone."
"What about those two?" Ivan pointed to the two employees returning from a walk.
"No more excuses. You will come with me now."
~ - . - ~
Kiku had never felt so many emotions at one time as he followed other student tutors to the public school building. He was in line behind a tall German with the stereotypical blond hair, blue eyes. He had encountered the teen a few times before and he always had the same stressed or scowling expression. He had no other friends that Kiku was aware, at least none that he was close to. Upon reaching the library, the line of student tutors stopped.
"Ludwig~!" A happy Italian ran over, tackling the German in front of Kiku with a hug.
"Feliciano, how many times have I told you not to greet me as such?" The poor teenager's face was a deep red, averting his gaze from the Italian.
"But I missed you so much, Ludi." He whined. "And I've got another D in German."
"Okay, meine liebe. Folgen sie mir. (Okay, my love. Follow me.)" He whispered, putting his arm around the other's shoulders.
"Eh?" The smaller pouted, unable to understand the German's loving words.
"Kiku Honda?" A Hungarian woman, in charge of the tutoring program, called.
"Hai, sensei?" Kiku went over to her, curious.
"If you haven't notices yet, our students have been signed a single troubled student. Usually a polar opposite so the pairs are balanced out." She smiled, flipping through her worksheets. "You're hard working, correct?"
"I know just the student here. Follow me." She winked, leading him to the back of the library by a window, shining its light on a sleeping teenager with wavy brown hair. "Heracles!" The woman smacked her clipboard on his head.
"Ow. What?" The teenager mumbled sleepily.
"I found you a tutor." She smiled, motioning to Kiku.
" The other yawned, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "About time."
"I'll leave you two to get acquainted then. Látom később (See you later)." She smiled before whisking off to observe the other students.
"Me léne Heracles Karpusi."
"Honda Kiku desu." Kiku bowed a bit.
"So do I call you Kiku or Honda?" The teenager tilted his head.
"K-Kiku is fine." He stuttered, desperate to make friends though his polite behavior shone through, "Karupushi-san."
"Please, call me Heracles
my last name isn't really as glamorous." He laughed halfheartedly.
"Herakuresu-kun?" He tried.
"Maybe you should shorten it?" The teenager offered.
"Heraku-kun?" He tried once more.
"Good enough." He smiled, a light blush dusting his cheeks.
"So, what subject do you need help with?" Kiku inquired, grabbing Heracles' grade sheet.
"None really." He yawned.
"Then why are you here?" Kiku frowned.
"Cause my grades suck." He shrugged.
"So you need help."
"No, not in that sense. I understand what they're teaching. I just don't do the work." He gave a tired smile.
"I see, well, that won't do. You have to do your work if you want to be successful in life." Kiku sat rigidly.
"How do you know that I am not successful now?" He purred.
"You're failing half your classes!" He exclaimed, pointing to the sheet.
how do you plan on changing that?" The Greek teenager scoffed.
"Spartan education." He quoted his own guardian.
"Getting naked? With you? Count me in, Kiku." Heracles smirked.
"Not that kind." Kiku flushed in embarrassment.
"Oh. You mean where you get beaten? Yeah. My guardian has tried and failed that method
Besides, no amount of studying will make a difference. I study and, even if I don't like it, I am serious about my work." Heracles spoke softly.
"Then how come you get such bad grades?" He demanded.
The only answer he got was a snore as Heracles was fast asleep once more
~ ^ J ^ ~
"Thank you for just getting take-out." Yao mumbled, rooting around some rice with his chopsticks.
So, do you miss China?" The Russian was drinking a bottle of vodka.
"Of course. I was born there after all." He rolled his eyes.
"Why did you leave?" Ivan asked curiously.
"My parents wanted a better life. A life that didn't involve me." He replied. "I was adopted by an American but he died shortly after, leaving me at the mercy of the foster care system." He scoffed, shoving some of the rice in his mouth and chewing to express his annoyance. "What about you?"
"I love Russia, a lot. However
it is cold
" His face turned somewhat grim. "Oh so cold and unforgiving winter
"W-Why did you leave?" Yao asked nervously.
"After my third mother died, father moved me here to America, hoping for success." He looked at the car in which they were settled in, "As you can see, we now have success."
"Shi. It's impressive." He smiled again, glancing at the clock. "Ai yah!"
"What?" Ivan jumped, startled by the usually quiet man's outburst.
"It's almost two thirty!" He cried, opening the passenger door. "The boys are going to kill me."
"Oh. Prastite, Yao." He apologized, "I will see you zaftra?"
"What?" Yao blinked, pausing.
"Tomorrow." He explained.
Yao gave a nod and then rushed across the parking lot to his own car, ignoring the questioning look from his fellow employees. He hurried out of the parking lot, driving down the road to the high school. He pulled into the pick-up lane and looked around for the familiar teenagers he called his family. He spotted Im Yong first, the sophomore was running up to the car, clearly agitated by something. Moments later Yao caught sight of Kiku but he was talking to another boy, surprisingly enough.
He watched the brown haired teenager wave to Kiku before running onto a nearby bus. The Japanese teenager readjusted his messenger bag and then turned to look for the car. Yao was quick to look away, worried that he had been caught snooping. Once Kiku was in the car they headed home.
"So who was that boy you were talking to?" Yao was unable to hold in his curiousity by dinner.
"Hm?" Kiku looked up from the kitchen sink. "Heraku-kun?"
"That Greek kid Heracles?" Im Yong piped up from the living room. "Dude, when did you meet Karpusi?"
"I signed up to tutor at your school." Kiku answered. "I was assigned to him."
"Not to surprising. That guy's always sleeping. It's a wonder he made it to twelfth grade." Im Yong shrugged. "I heard that he's pretty close with the counselors and a psychology teacher."
"Hai. His grades in Psychology II and Sociology were good. As well as Philosophy and Greek Mythology." Kiku nodded. "I didn't get to talk with him much though. He fell asleep after I introduced myself."
Yao smiled to himself, watching the usually shy and quiet Kiku talk enthusiastically to their brother
~ - . - ~
"So, the problem is you sleeping in class" Kiku paced in front of his drowsy 'student', "and it's my job to come up with a solution."
"What do you have in mind?" Heracles mumbled, resting his chin in his palm.
"I don't know." Kiku sighed, looking around the library before his eyes settled on the German and Italian from the other day.
"Ve~ Ludwig, 'mein liebe' is 'my love' right?" Feliciano smiled.
"J-Ja. Very good
" The German appeared flustered as he leaned over the table to place a kiss on each of the Italian's cheeks.
"Yay! I love kisses!in German" He cheered.
"I'll be back." Kiku told Heracles, wasting his breath while the Greek snored. "E-Excuse me
" He said nervously, standing in front of the other two students.
"Ah. Kiku Honda, ja?" Ludwig looked up to greet him. "What do you want?"
"I was wondering how you managed to help
him." Kiku pointed to the Italian rubbing and nuzzled all over the German.
"Well it wasn't easy at first. He's extremely hard to train." Ludwig said, shoving Feliciano off him. "As you can see, he's still not well trained."
"Did you use a reward system or something?" Kiku mused.
"I started with punishment and then added rewards for good behavior." Ludwig nodded. "Who were you assigned to?"
" He looked back at the dozing Greek. "Herakures."
"Oh. I heard about him from Elizabeta." He glanced at their Hungarian teacher. "He sleeps a lot, correct?"
"Hai." He admitted.
"Do you hit him when he's asleep?"
"It doesn't do anything. He seems used to it." Kiku sighed.
"Well then perhaps rewards." Ludwig suggested.
"Ve~ You should give him kisses or hugs!" The Italian cried, returning to his previous act of molesting Ludwig's personal space.
"T-That's improper." Kiku sputtered, recalling his perverted brother.
"That's your idea of a reward, Feliciano." Ludwig sighed but affectionately pet his student. "Unfortunately, not a lot of people know very much about Heracles otherwise we would be able to help you find a reward. You should get to know him a little."
"I see. I suppose that makes sense. Arigatou." Kiku bowed and then headed back to Heracles, just as he began to wake up.
"There you are, Kiku. Did you think of something?" He inquired.
"Iie." He shook his head, sitting down. "Perhaps for now I should just observe you as you work?"
"Oh. That would be cool I suppose." He nodded and bent over to pull his bag onto the table.
It was a seemingly simple enough brown, worn bag however several buttons and patches decorated it. There were a few crosses and Greek-themed buttons and patches but Kiku felt himself smile fondly as he saw several more were related to cats. Heracles started to root around inside, pulling out a binder withyou guessed itcats on the cover.
"You must really like cats." He noted.
"Yeah. It's my favorite animal and they usually follow me everywhere when they're around." He smiled slightly. "What about you?"
"I have a dog but I really, really like cats too." He admitted, blushing faintly; only his family knew about his like for little cute things and cats.
"What kind of dog?" Heracles asked, pulling out Greek myth homework.
"A shiba named Pochi. I got him when my guardian got a job at a pet store. His coworker gave him to me because I was shy." Kiku smiled at the memory.
"Come on, Kiku. You can't stay in the car all day in this weather." Yao scolded, looking as young as he always did.
"I'm fine, Wang-san." Kiku said curtly.
"Ai yah. It's nearly eighty degrees out here." Yao huffed. "Now stop being immature and come inside."
"But you're working." He pointed out.
"It will be fine. They seem like nice enough guys." He smiled. "There are cats inside~"
"Fine." Kiku blushed, climbing out of the car. "Will I get to keep one?"
"I don't think so. Im Yong is allergic." He looked over at the ten year old Korean. "Besides, they cost money."
The discussion ended there and Yao took up the hands of his children, leading them into the store. They were greeted by a cheerful Spaniard, grinning as he caught sight of the little ones. He was quick to pinch at Im Yong's cheeks, cooing while Kiku was smart enough to hide behind Yao. A blond man with some stubble greeted Yao, saying something in French to teenage Alfred and Matthew.
"Francis, it's my job to scold Alfred." Arthur snapped at the Frenchman.
"Aw, but we're supposed to share responsibilities." The man huffed.
"Would you two stop with your lover's quarrel? And you three shouldn't be here unless you're helping. Especially after the fiasco that happened last time." A much younger Sadık scolded the four blonds.
"Oui, Sadi~ Come along, children. Papa Francis will take you to work." The French man smiled, pulling the two brothers out after pecking Arthur on the cheek.
"Ugh! Damn frog!" He snapped. " Why did I ever agree to marry him?"
"Because he's your only friend." The Spaniard laughed, now holding Im Yong captive while Yao tried getting him back.
"Shuddup Antonio!" The British man lunged at him, preparing to strangle him.
"Arthur, Antonio! Cut it out and get back to work. The field needs to be cleaned up!" Sadık snapped, rescuing the Korean child for Yao. "Sorry about that, Yao."
it's fine." He held Im Yong close to him while Kiku still hid behind his legs. "I had to bring them with me
No school and no last minute babysitters." He apologized.
"It's perfectly fine. I have a little one back at home myself. He's used to looking after himself though." The Turkish man smiled. "Go on and get into your uniform. I'll watch him for you."
"Thank you, Sadık." Yao sighed, setting Im Yong down and prying Kiku off. "Behave for him, okay?"
"Okay big brother." They nodded, looking up at the intimidating man.
Once Yao left to change into his uniform Sadık led the boys towards the dog kennels. Kiku had briefly explained that his brother was allergic to cats. Later on, while Yao was busy working the register, Sadık returned to the children's sides. Im Yong greeted him happily but Kiku ignored him as he ignored most strangers, staring at a pitiful looking puppy behind the bars. The little brown dog looked very out of place, just like him.
"Hey Jappy." Kiku cringed in response to the nickname, looking at Sadık. "You like that puppy there?"
" He answered cautiously.
"You should take it home then." The Turkish manager grinned.
"Yao said we can't afford a pet." He mumbled.
"But it makes you happy, right?" He looked at the puppy.
" He mumbled. "I don't have any friends so I want a pet
"Good. I'll go talk to your dad then." He grinned, standing back up to his full height.
"He's not my dad." Kiku huffed. "Or my brother."
"Okay." He laughed, "I understand."
After that, he told Yao that he would pay for the puppy and help them any time they needed. His explanation for the good deed was that he worked at a pet shop for a reason. He wanted to see pets and their owners with happy relationships. Besides, there was an employee discount
"Kiku, are you still there?" Heracles waved a hand in front of his tutor's face, trying to get his attention. "You worried me there. I didn't take you for the type to space out. That's more my thing." He joked.
I was just remembering something. Did you need help with something?" Kiku blushed in shame.
"It's okay. I just wanted to make sure you were alright." He smiled.
~ ^ J ^ ~
"¡Hola Yao! ¿Cómo estás~?" Antonio greeted from behind the counter.
"Antonio!" Yao jumped. "Welcome back. I'm doing well. You?"
"Ah." He sighed, frowning. "Not so bueno I'm afraid. Although I really shouldn't complain; mi Lovi dice sí~!" Yao had missed the Spaniard's rollercoaster of emotions.
"Congratulations." Arthur grumbled, approaching with a crated animal. "Your first step into hell begins the moment you say 'I do.'"
"Dude, I'm totally telling Francis you said that." Alfred laughed, dressed in his normal attire which involved a brown bomber jacket. "You won't get any for like a month."
"Unlike someone, that's not much of a threat to me." Arthur scoffed, rolling his eyes.
somebody help!" Matthew's small voice sounded.
"Coming Mattie!" Alfred called, running into the back.
"You're going to be late for school!" Arthur shouted.
"Is it always like this?" The sudden Russian voice made Yao jump, spinning around to come face-to-face with their store's owner once more.
"Um. Unfortunately." He replied then recalled whom he was speaking to. "N-Not that it affects the work ethic, I assure you! It's actually quite healthy."
"I can see that." He smiled. "I was wondering if you were doing anything this Saturday."
"Not that I know of
" He replied, glancing at Antonio.
"Hola, señor Braginski. I see you've met Yao. Sorry I missed the inspection date." He told the Russian.
"You know him?" Yao blinked.
"Sí, he's been my boss as long as Sadık has been. We've met him a few times." He explained.
"Yao has done very well taking over as the manager." Ivan informed the Spaniard.
"I'm sure he has." Although Antonio's smile hardly wavered, Yao could tell he, like all the others, felt discomforted by Ivan's presence.
"Ivan, what is it you wanted from me on Saturday?" He pulled attention back to him.
"I wanted a date, da." Ivan grinned, making Yao drop the jar of pet treats he had been refilling.
"Gāi sǐ!" He cursed, moving to clean up the broken glass.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Arthur called from the kennels.
"Nothing!" Yao shouted, muttering under his breath in his native tongue.
"Prastite, Yao." Ivan whined, crouching down. "Let me help you."
"No. I got it." He grumbled, face red in anger and embarrassment.
"But it's my fault, da?" Ivan's expression resembled that of child who had done something bad.
"No. It's mine." Yao sighed, petting him instinctually. "And I'd love to go on a date with you Saturday."
"Yay! Happy day!" Ivan cried, tackling the much smaller Chinese man.
"Ow!" Yao cried, landing on some of the glass.
"Oh no! Prasti!" Ivan sat up, extremely awkward.
"It's fine." Yao sighed, sitting up.
"Sí, this happens all the time." Antonio said, grabbing the first aid kit. "After all, Alfred's always getting into trouble."
~ - . - ~
"I claim these breasts, da-ze~!" Im Yong shouted, jumping up to grab at his brother's chest.
"Ah!" Kiku cried out, further startling the Greek that had, moment ago, been in a conversation with the serious Japanese teen. "Im Yong Soo!"
"I love you too!" The sophomore grinned, still groping his chest.
I'll see you tomorrow, Kiku." Heracles scratched the back of his head nervously. "Bus to catch." He murmured before heading to the line of school buses.
"Thanks a lot, Im Yong!" Kiku pouted, calmly slapping at his hands.
"Yao told me to hurry and get you." He shrugged, pulling him to the car.
"What took so long?" Yao demanded, surprisingly moody.
"What's wrong with you?" Im Yong scoffed.
"I got tricked into going on a date this weekend and then I got cut." He answered tersely.
"How did you get tricked into going on a date?" Kiku asked monotonously.
"He looked just like a child."
"I always knew my Yao was a pedo! Maybe I still have a chance." Im Yong cheered.
"I beg your pardon?" Yao spluttered.
~ Chapter 2: First Date ~
"Sadık, I need you to cover my shift. You owe me." Yao had the Turkish man cornered Saturday morning as they both came to open the store.
"Why? I thought you loved it here." Sadık blinked, eyes wide.
"He has a date." Antonio was approaching the store with a familiar blond tagging along behind him.
"Which is precisely why I am here! Bonjour, Yao." Francis winked, stepping forward.
"You have a date?" Sadık cried, "With who?"
"I-Ivan." Yao admitted as Francis started to measure him and check him out.
"The store owner?" Sadık frowned slightly.
"Yeah. He's picking me up around noon and taking me to a restaurant at the mall." Yao explained.
"I heard Lovi say he was chaperoning his little brother there." Antonio grinned. "Send him my love if you see him."
"Okay?" Yao frowned then added, "Im Yong said he was also going to the mall today."
"Doesn't that mean Kiku will be home alone?" Sadık's frown deepened.
"No, he said he was going too." Yao let out a squeak as Francis pinched his lower back.
"That's good." Sadık seemed relieved, "Well, we'll leave you for today but we all expect a full report tomorrow."
"Fine." Yao blushed.
"Best of luck to you."
"You're going to need it."
~ - . - ~
"Quit worrying, Kiku, you look fine." Im Yong scoffed, walking his brother down the sidewalk in the direction of the local mall.
"It's been awhile since I've worn anything other than my uniform or my yukata." He mumbled, fiddling with his jacket zipper. "This shirt is far too tight."
"Not my fault you hate clothes shopping." The other shrugged, his long sleeves flapping around. "Yao's are even tighter than mine."
"These jeans are even more uncomfortable though." Kiku whined.
"That's 'cause they're skinny jeans. Seriously you are like, so old." The younger scoffed, "You dress and complain just like an old man."
"Just because you are so immature"
"Oh look, there's Heracles!" Im Yong pointed the Grecian out, standing next to Ludwig, Feliciano, and another that looked almost exactly like the Italianonly older and anything but happy.
"There you are, Kiku." Ludwig greeted them, clearing his throat. "We were starting to get worried."
"Ve~ We should go eat pizza now!" Feliciano cheered.
"It's too damn early for pizza, fratello." The oldest male snapped. "We have a movie to catch."
"Calm down, Lovino. We still have about twenty-five minutes to kill before they even start seating." Heracles pat the aggravated Italian on the head, infuriating him further.
"Don't touch me, damnit!" He snapped, slapping at the other male's hand.
"Poke." Feliciano, while Heracles laughed at the other Italian's anger, took it upon himself to poke his older brother in the belly.
"What'd ya do that for, Feli?" Lovino whined.
"Hey Kiku. I'm glad you agreed to come." Heracles addressed his Japanese tutor, smiling his usual tired yet friendly smile. "Let me provide an introduction." He motioned to the two Italian's, "Lovino Vargas is Feliciano's older brother. And you probably know Ludwig Beilschmidt better than I do since he goes to your school."
"Iie. I don't really know anyone besides you, Heraku-kun." Kiku admitted, earning a pouting glare from his brother. "And Im Yong
"Aw! I'll be your friend, Kiku!" Feliciano cried, quickly hugging Kiku.
"Eep!" Kiku flinched, freezing up. "Please do not be touching me!" He quickly shoved the Italian away.
" Feliciano sniffed, hiding behind Ludwig. "I forgot you're like Ludi."
"I am very sorry also." Kiku mumbled, his face bright red.
"Click." Heracles said suddenly, holding up a camera to take a picture. "I've never seen you so red, Kiku."
"Heracles, don't go scaring him off now. He's finally starting to open himself up." Ludwig sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah." Im Yong added. "This jerk is nearly impossible to make friends with."
"Im Yong!" Kiku whined. "I'm telling Wang-san when we get home."
"Wha? No, don't do that, I'll be good, honest!"
~ ^ J ^ ~
"Are you nervous, Yao?" Ivan asked gently, offering the small Asian his arm.
"No." He lied, hesitantly grabbing it as they headed for the Italian restaurant which the local mall was famous for. "Just excited
"I am glad." Ivan smiled. "Reservation for Braginski."
"Right this way." The waitress smiled, grabbing a couple menus before heading to the back of the restaurant. "What would you like to drink?"
Tea?" Yao inquired, glancing at the menu.
"I would like something alcoholic, please." Ivan smiled, sending an unpleasant shiver down the waitress' spine.
" She regained composure and left.
"Why did you order something with alcohol?" Yao inquired.
"Because I am celebrating." He smiled.
"Celebrating what?" Yao tilted his head in a very cutein Ivan's opinionmanner.
"A date with someone as pretty and kind as you, Yao." Ivan smiled, resting his chin on his hand. "Please, order whatever appetizer appeals to you." He motioned to the menu.
" He mumbled, burying his blushing face in the menu. "You do know I am a boy, right?"
"Not really." Ivan continued with his smile. "Which is a very good thing for me."
"What do you mean?" Yao blinked, pulling away from his menu to watch his date.
"Would you boys like anything else?" The waitress returned, setting their drinks in front of them.
I'd just like the main course
" Yao murmured. "I'll try the seafood alfredo
"Okay. And for you, sir?" The woman turned reluctantly to Ivan.
"I will take whatever the special is." He replied, expression unreadable.
"O-Okay then. I'll be back shortly." She dipped her head and then left.
"Yao, do you like flowers?" Ivan inquired.
"Um, kind of
" Yao frowned, thinking while blowing on his tea.
"What kind?" He asked.
And so their date continued on with small talk similar to this until their food came
~ - . - ~
"Ve~ Fratello that ring is so pretty!" Feliciano cooed, grabbing his brother's hand as their group left the theater.
"It looks cheap if you ask me." Im Yong remarked.
"If you knew his fiancé you would think differently." Ludwig smirked.
"Don't talk shit about Antonio, potato-bastardo!" Lovino snapped. "It's not his fault he's poor."
"Then whose fault is it?" Heracles yawned, walking close to Kiku.
"Lovino's." Feliciano giggled.
"Shut up!" Lovino flushed, glaring.
"How so?" Kiku inquired.
"Antonio likes seeing Lovino smile which is rare. He found that the best way is to get him whatever he wants." Feliciano explained, clinging to Ludwig's arm, using him as a shield from his brother.
"Basically, Lovino is spoiled rotten. He doesn't do anything around the house either." Ludwig grunted as Lovino punched his side. "Why me?"
"Because you're a potato-sucking bastard that stole my brother!" He snapped despite now hiding behind Heracles, Kiku, and Im Yong.
"Perhaps you should get a job
?" Kiku suggested quietly.
"A job?" One by one everyone turned to the usually silent Japanese boy.
"Hai. If you are having a wedding
it will cost. Also, when you are committed in a relationship, one person isn't supposed to pull all the weight. The burden belongs to both." He explained.
"I would get a job if I could but
" Lovino trailed, looking at his brother. "I'm not talented like Feliciano. I can't paint, I can't cook, hell
I can't even clean."
"Don't worry, fratello! There are lots of jobs out there. I'm sure you'll find one that suits you." Feliciano assured him. "Until then
how about I get you a job?!"
"What?" The others all exclaimed.
"You don't mean
" Lovino trailed.
" Ludwig frowned.
"What?" The three omitted from the conversation demanded.
"Grandpa's restaurant." The Italians said.
"I'm going to be inheriting it as soon as I turn eighteen." Feliciano explained. "Even though that's not for another like, two years, I practically own the place already. We can give you a trial there right now and if it works out, I'll tell Roderich to hire you!"
"Hell no!" Lovino growled. "I don't want anything to do with that hypocritical, cheating bastard!"
" Feliciano whined, "Don't you want Antonio to be happy?"
Urgh. I hate you so much." He grumbled. "Fine. I'll try it
"Yay~!" Feliciano cheered, clinging to his brother before dragging him off to a nearby Italian restaurant.
Come on, Kiku
" Im Yong tugged on his unresponsive brother's sleeve. "It's not that bad."
"What's wrong?" Heracles asked, jogging back over.
"This is the first time he's been out with anyone but Yao, his coworkers, and myself." Im Yong explained. "He's just a little overwhelmed."
"Ah." Heracles smiled, resting a hand on Kiku's head. "I know how you feel. These guys are a handful even for me."
"H-Hai." He blushed, allowing the two to lead him to the Italian brothers' restaurant.
When they arrived at the restaurant, they met with a slightly disturbed Ludwig. In front of him stood Lovino and Feliciano, both dressed up in the restaurant uniform. For Feliciano, however, it was the waitress uniform rather than the darker, more masculine waiter uniform which his brother wore.
"Welcome to the Vargas Restaurante, ve~!" Feliciano greeted, elbowing his brother.
"Welcome to the Restaurante de Vargas
" He mumbled, making his younger brother sigh.
"More cheerful, fratello!" He whined. "You're going to scare the customers off."
"F-Fine." He inhaled sharply, grabbing four menus, putting on his best smile. "Follow me, por favorer, please."
"Ve~ He resorts to Spanish when nervous. How cute." Feliciano smiled.
"Please shut up
Feliciano giggled and let his brother take the lead while leading Ludwig behind by the arm. Lovino approached the benches towards the back, placing the menus as his younger brother's friends took their seats. A female waitress passed by, stopping when she saw Feliciano. She bit her lip and removed her apron, exclaiming that she was leaving early.
" Feliciano frowned. "Lovino, I'm afraid you'll have to cover her tables as well."
"What? I thought this was just a trial?" He stuttered.
"Well now it's just slightly more real. No pressure." He gave a smile. "I'll take some cola please!"
"Root beer for me." Ludwig said.
"Tea." Im Yong and Kiku added.
" Heracles mumbled, already starting to drift off.
"O-Okay." Lovino bit his lip nervously, jotting down their orders with a shaky hand.
"Ve, relax, fratello. Everything will be fine." Feliciano gave him a reassuring smile. "Now you have to cover those tables over there." He pointed to some tables in the corner.
"Okay." Lovino nodded, heading for one table. "H-Holá
"Where's the waitress?" Ivan blinked.
"Lovino?" Yao gaped. "What are you doing here?"
"Y-Yao! Oh thank god a familiar face." Lovino sighed then blushed, quickly looking annoyed and serious. "I mean. Hello sirs, what can I do for you."
"Yay! That's the spirit, fratello!" Feliciano shouted from his seat, earning a scolding from Ludwig. "Ow, Ludi~"
"Where did the waitress go?" Ivan repeated his question, dark aura swirling.
"Ai yah, Ivan
just drop it." Yao pleaded. "We're fine, thank you. Could you just bring the bill?"
"Sí." Lovino nodded and hurried to the waiter station to get drinks and look up the bill.
"Heraku-kun, wake up." Kiku had frowned before the young Italian's outburst woke the Greek up at last.
"What is it?" He yawned, "Did I fall asleep again?"
"Hai. You did it during the movie too. Are you sure you feel okay?" Kiku frowned in worry.
"Relax Kiku. He sleeps all the time." Im Yong huffed. "It's all the lazy Greek ever does. He's a total slacker."
You're lucky I hate picking fights
" Heracles mumbled, almost pouting as he leaned over Kiku to address the small Korean.
"Um, Heraku-kun, could you please give me some space?" Kiku asked nervously.
" He smiled, leaning on the windowsill. "So Kiku, did you enjoy the movie?"
"Hai. I really like the stories of Ancient Greece." He nodded. "The Greek gods are very human."
"I really like them too. Of course, I was born in Greece, raised to those stories
" He trailed and Kiku was certain he had drifted off again.
"Here are your drinks." Lovino had returned, smiling a bit better now as he set down their desired drinks.
"Lovino." Yao approached the Italian, Ivan close behind. "Antonio told me to send you his love if I saw you."
"Ugh. That stupid bastard." Lovino blushed, looking away.
"Ah! Big brother! What are you doing here?" Im Yong exclaimed, "And with that scary guy too!"
"Scary?" Ivan's dark aura swarmed.
"This is my boss, Ivan Braginski. He invited me out to dinner." Yao explained.
"You went on a date without our permission?" Kiku frowned.
"I am your elder!" Yao snapped, pouting. "I don't need permission."
"You're not denying it's a date." Im Yong pointed out.
"Ai yah!" Yao flushed, looking away. "Besides, why are you here anyways?"
"We were hanging out." He replied.
"Vargas-san is trying to get a job." Kiku added.
"Oh." Yao smiled, "That's very kind of you. I'm sure Antonio will be happy to hear that.