[露中] Taming the Polar Bear - Chapters 17 to 20

Main Pairing: Rochu (Ivan x Yao) | Genre: School, Romance, Humour, Drama | Rating: PG-13

Characters: Rochu-centric with many side pairings, supporting characters and cameos from other nations

Synopsis: In Hetalia Gakuen, Ivan, a notorious school bully, meets & falls in love with Yao, a student councilor who resolves to tame him of his bullying ways. Hilarity, chaos & fluff ensue as Yao braves Ivan's romantic but perverted pursuit to take him into hand.

Chapter 17: Dummy's Guide to Making Your Male Friend Gay for You
Chapter 18: A New Subject and a New Friendship
Chapter 19: Of Bribes and Threats
Chapter 20: Like And Don't Like

Disclaimer: The following story is a derivative work of APH and shares no relation to actual countries, political ideologies, history or events. Characters are copyright to Hidekaz Hiramuya, but the storyline and writing are copyright to me. You may share the link to my blog or blog post, but you may not repost my writings without my permission.



Chapter 17: Dummy's Guide to Making your Male Friend Gay for You

It was nearing midnight and Ivan was still lying in bed, wide awake. He got up and bent over to look at Toris' empty lower-deck bed for the umpteenth time, despite not having heard the room door click open in the quiet night. Ivan sighed. He had hoped for some advice from his Lithuanian room mate on his relationship with Yao, but Toris was apparently out with Feliks somewhere. Why was everyone else lucky in love except himself? He knew good things were worth the wait, but as someone who was used to having his way, two weeks was a long time after he had been so sure that his three-month long crush would blossom.

Feeling too restless to stay in bed, Ivan decided to go out for a stroll. He got out of bed, put on his coat and scarf and walked out of his bedroom into the dark corridor. As he made his way to the stairwell, muffled voices and laughter caught his ears.

"Ahahaha~ ahahaha~ Doitsu~ Doitsu~ Come and catch me~ ve~"

"You naughty boy, I don't see you running so fast during football training! Come back here and let me put this on for you!" the speaker sounded brusque, but there was affection under the curtness.

"Ve~ Not until you catch me~"

"All right, you asked for it."

Loud footsteps and rustling noises ensued, followed by a loud thump and a scream.

"Got you!"

"Ahahaha~ ahahaha~ waaah! Stop tickling me! I'll do anything!"

As the laughter and screams faded to silence, Ivan found himself right in front of the dormitory room that Ludwig and Feliciano shared. Of course! How could he forget that another couple resided on his floor when Feliciano was so vocal about his love for Ludwig? Misinterpreting the silence from behind the door, Ivan raised a fist and knocked on the door.

"Ve~ someone's knocking on the door~"

"Ignore it..."

"Ve~ this feels tight..."

"But it's the usual one that you always wear... I told you not to eat so much pasta before bed..."

Ivan fumed. Ignore him? Nobody ever got away unscathed from denying Ivan of what he wanted. Well, except Yao. But that was another story. Ivan pounded harder as a purple haze began to fill his vision.

"Ve~ There's the knocking again~"

Unable to ignore the frantic knocking anymore, Ludwig called out gruffly, "It's late, come back tomorrow!"

Ivan expressed his refusal to comply with a hard thump against the wooden door with his waterpipe, eliciting a squeal of fright from the Italian.

"It's Ivan. Open up or you won't get any sleep tonight."

Feliciano responded with a terrified squeak. A short moment of silence reigned, as Ludwig pondered whether to go out and give Ivan a good kick and possibly fulfill his threat of not getting any sleep for the night. Sensing anxiety from his lover, he sighed. Feliciano hated violence. Picking a fight with Ivan would not only solve nothing but possibly inflict trauma on the timid Feliciano. Inwardly cursing Ivan for ruining his night, Ludwig called out, "Please hold on."

In a softer voice, he said, "Don't be afraid, I'll protect you."

"Ve~! I believe you, Doitsu~"

"All right, take it off, Feliciano."

"Ve? But we had such a hard time putting it on."

"Just take it off! It will be embarrassing if he sees it."

"But I still want to play! I don't want to take it off!"

"Be good, Feliciano! I'll make chocolate pasta with you tomorrow."

"Ve~! All right!"

Ivan tapped his waterpipe impatiently against his palm as grunting noises issued from the other side of the door. Whatever Ludwig was trying to remove from Feliciano seemed to refuse to budge.

"Ve~! I think it's stuck," Feliciano confirmed Ivan's conclusions.

Ludwig swore loudly in German. Ivan responded in Russian.

"If you don't open up, I'll break down the door and yell for the whole dormitory to come and see whatever it is that's embarrassing!" Ivan said menacingly.

Seconds later, the door was pulled back violently and Ivan came face-to-face with a very grumpy German.

"What do you want? Just spit it out and leave quickly. We need to sleep," Ludwig said irritably.

Personally, Ivan felt that Ludwig and Feliciano were doing nothing that suggested sleep on the agenda, but eager to get his concerns addressed, Ivan pushed past Ludwig, grabbed a chair and sat down. He glanced at Feliciano and was surprised to see the Italian wrapped up in bedsheets, trembling from head to toe.

"Hey! I didn't let you in!" Ludwig complained as he marched over and stood in front of his bed to shield his lover protectively.

"Ludwig, you and Feliciano are lovers da?" Ivan asked smilingly.

"Er..." a luminescent glow appeared on the German's cheeks as he hesitated to answer.

"Ve~! I love Ludwig very very much!" Feliciano chirped happily, causing the German's cheeks to grow even redder.

"Shush Feliciano!" Ludwig hissed. Looking defiantly at Ivan, he demanded, "So what?"

"So can you teach me how to win Yao's heart? I love Yao very very much too, but all I've seem to have done is make him dislike me more~" Ivan pouted sadly. He looked so despondent that Feliciano momentarily forgot that Ivan was a ferocious polar bear and stretched out a latex-covered arm from under the bed sheets to pat him on the shoulder. Ludwig hastily shoved the arm back inside the sheets.

"Ah that," Ludwig gave a rare smile as his annoyance with the Russian ebbed away. "But I've seen you both together constantly. If he dislikes you, would he hang out with you? "

"Indeed he doesn't seem to mind me following him, but he doesn't talk to me either, and he gets uptight and chases me away when his friends and family members show up," Ivan smiled sadly. "It's as though he is ashamed to be seen in my company."

"I do understand his feelings actually," Ludwig said sympathetically. "Every time Feliciano screams 'I love you Doitsu' and jumps into my arms when we bump into each other in the corridor in between classes, I feel like digging a hole in the ground and hiding inside." Ludwig turned and gave Feliciano an admonishing glare. Feliciano returned it with a silly smile. Ivan groaned with envy.

"Ve~ Don't be sad~ Why don't you ask Doitsu for advice? Many people don't know it, but it was Doitsu who started wooing me first, and he said it was hard work because I'm too dumb to realize his feelings ve~ Teehee~" Feliciano giggled, causing Ludwig's face to flush.

"Don't act as though being dumb is something to be proud of," Ludwig said crossly.

"Ludwig, you will help me da?" Ivan asked pleadingly.

"Um..." Ludwig began awkwardly. "I'm not good with words so it's difficult for me to explain, but I can lend you a book which has been useful to me. At least, I think the tips are quite effective because I managed to win Feliciano's heart after following the guidelines."

Ludwig walked over to his bookshelf and shifted some books around. Shortly after, he came back with a book that showed a picture of two men gazing sappily at each other on the cover.

"The Dummy's Guide to Making Your Male Friend Gay for You, by Big Sister 801," Ivan read the words on the cover aloud. "What a strange pen name."

"Oh don't you know? This author's Yaoi manga are popular among the students here," Ludwig said. "Not that I've read them myself," he blushed. "But Gilbert likes reading and criticizing them. I don't even know why he buys them."

Ivan took the book from Ludwig and thumbed through the pages. Illustrations occupied more space than the text did, and very provocative pictures they were. Hell, there was even an entire illustration feature on male-on-male sex positions.

"Are you sure this will be helpful?" Ivan asked doubtfully as his face grew hot. Yao already blasted him whenever he kissed or hugged him. He could not imagine his reaction if he did to him what the pictures depicted.

"Don't pay attention to the pictures," Ludwig said firmly. "That's stuff you do only after you've won him over. I think the author includes the pictures only because she likes them," Ludwig explained.

"All right, thank you very much Ludwig," Ivan said as he got up from the chair and made to leave. "Are you sure you don't want my help to get Feliciano out of that latex suit?"

"That... that's not a latex suit!" Ludwig shouted, his face turning redder than Ivan had ever seen.


*     *     *


Ivan flipped through his new acquisition eagerly. A significant portion of the text was dedicated to how to test waters to see whether said male friend was gay and how to make him gay anyway if he was not so Ivan decided to skip it. After all, if Yao was indeed opposed to homosexual relationships, he would have been frank about it. He zeroed in on the last page, which was peppered in Ludwig's neat, italic handwriting.

CHAPTER X: HAPPILY EVER AFTER

"Now that your sweetheart accepts your feelings for him, the greatest obstacle has been removed! But don't get complacent! Remember, the man isn't yours until you get into his pants! But here are some sure ways that will make that become reality!

1. Physical intimacy is one of the most effective ways to preserve a relationship. Boy-Boy Relationship is not much different from a typical Boy-Girl Relationship. The only difference is, if a girl says no, she means no, and you'd better back off if you do not want to be on the receiving end of PMS . In the case of a Boy-Boy Relationship, if your boyfriend says 'No', he is simply tsundere and does not mean what he says. In other words, persist and you will be rewarded."

Not true. I wish Feliciano would realize that when I say 'No', I really mean "No". Oh, this is supposed to be about him, not me.

A wide smile spread across Ivan's face. So Yao did not dislike his hugs and kisses, he was simply being tsundere. He did a little celebratory waltz around the room with his water pipe. Maybe Yao was even upset with him because he had not kissed or hugged him in ages! Ivan trembled in excitement from the thought of cozying up with his lovely angel again. Then he remembered the warning "don't get complacent", and hastily set back down on his chair. Under Ludwig's neat cursive handwriting, he scrawled in his own childish one: Aim to express my love for Yao with actions at least once a day.

"2. Find common ground. Nature decrees that opposites attract because Man, especially men, are born curious. However, it is still important for you and your sweet heart to find shared interests or you will find that curiosity and enigma are not enough to keep your relationship going. A good example of finding common ground would be to learn your partner's culture and language if you both are of different nationalities."

Master Italian and learn the Italian culture as Feliciano is too dumb to learn a new language.

Ivan pursed his lips thoughtfully. He and Yao were indeed very different. Yao spoke an entirely different native language from him. Even his food was almost fatal for him. But there could not have been a better place than Hetalia Gakuen for him to learn a new language or culture, considering the large number of language and cultural classes the college offered due to its diverse student population. He wrote: Master Chinese and learn the Chinese culture as Yao is too forgetful to learn a new language.

"3. Do not do unto your sweetheart, what your sweetheart would not want done to him. Trying to pander to your sweetheart's tastes may not always be a sure hit, but you can definitely avoid doing things that will piss him off."

Don't scold Feliciano for hugging me because he will think I hate him and cry. Don't scold Feliciano for taking third and fourth helpings of pasta because he will be hungry later on and cry. Don't scold Feliciano for stripping because he will complain of mysterious heat strokes later and cry. In fact, don't scold Feliciano for anything because he will cry.

Ivan thought long and hard about the things Yao did not like. He knew Yao disliked ill-disciplined students, so he would try to be a good boy and not land himself in detention. Yao seemed to dislike displays of affection, but that was nullified by rule 1. Ivan congratulated himself for being a fast learner. But he realized, and was shocked when he did, that he knew very little about Yao. Eventually, he settled on "Find out everything about Yao ASAP. By hook or by crook."

"4. Make friends with his family. They will become your strongest allies if your sweet heart refuses to get it on with you. Besides, even if he does, you would not want to marry him, only to spend the rest of your life fighting to keep his family members out of your cozy den."

Bribe Lovino with his favorite things. Resist urge to respond with 'Yes, Tomato Whore?' when he calls me Potato Bastard.

Ivan frowned. It had not occurred to him that family was in any way relevant to a romance that only involved two people. If Big Sister 801 was right, then he was in trouble. He greatly disliked Yong Soo, the supposed bestest friend and favourite cousin, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. Yong Soo always "hmmphed" at him and spoke loudly about how everything in Russia originated from Korea. He felt neutral towards the younger brother Xiang, mainly because he could not detect any malicious thoughts from his poker face. Unlike with Yong Soo, he had not received mean words from Xiang. Then again, that was because the latter disregarded him thoroughly as though he were invisible.

Kiku, on the other hand, was a far cry from both of them. Unable to fulfill his promise of uploading the photo of him and Yao smooching on Facebook, Kiku had gone one step further to print out an A3 sized poster of the photo, laminate it and hand it to him wrapped in pretty paper. It now graced his wall, cheering him up whenever he returned from a day of fruitless stalking. Perhaps he could depend on Kiku to be matchmaker.

But despite being nice and cordial to him, the Japanese boy kept his distance, politely rejecting Ivan's request for all sorts of personal information pertaining to Yao such as his phone number and his weaknesses. Ivan was the type of person who would not take 'No' for an answer, but Kiku always spoke so ambiguously that by the time Ivan worked out that Kiku had meant to say 'No', the latter was gone. Ivan supposed he would have to work doubly hard, especially since he did not know anything about their likes and dislikes. He scrawled under Ludwig's note "Find out everything about Yong Soo, Xiang and Kiku ASAP and bribe them with their favorite things. Resist urge to call Yong Soo Kimchi Retard and Xiang Stiff Face".

Ivan moved on to Big Sister 801's final tip.

"5. If all else fails, make him drunk and get into his pants. Once the milk is spilled, he will have no choice but to accept it."

Ivan stared, shocked at the immoral tip. He wondered whether it was a joke. Ludwig had no response for it, so Ivan assumed that he had captured Feliciano's heart with the first four tips. But he doubted that he would be as fortunate. Feliciano and Yao were as different as day and night when it came to expressing and accepting affection. But if the first four tips worked, surely the last one would work too da? Convinced that 'happily ever after' with Yao was on the cards, Ivan put the book away and got ready for bed.

A small disclaimer at the bottom of the page went unnoticed:
"The author Big Sister 801 and publishing company Yaoi Times are not responsible for any legal charges, physical injury and verbal abuse that you may incur from attempting any of the above. Why else do you think Love is often likened to War?"






Chapter 18: A New Subject and A New Friendship

Yao pranced around his dormitory room in excitement, pulling on black pants, a white long-sleeved shirt, a black blazer and a black tie - all designer wear. Today he had received his biggest and most important assignment from his professor - grading an oral presentation for a second-year Chinese studies class. Yao's dream job was teaching. He would impart to the lovely, innocent little children under his charge, Confucius values that would cultivate them into virtuous people who took pride in serving mankind. In return, they would respect and love him as a big brother. He would continue to be surrounded by a large crowd of eager youngsters when he had lived till a ripe old age, long after Xiang and Wan were too old for him to coddle.

The circumstance of his temporary appointment was rather sudden. Yao had woken up and was just getting ready to go for breakfast when he received a phone call from Professor Zhang.

"Wang Yao, I had a bad scare this morning and I need to see my heart doctor. Can you grade my second-years' oral presentation in my stead? Today's the deadline and all the other teachers are busy."

Naturally, Yao agreed heartily, urging his Professor to take a long vacation to rest his poor heart if needed.

After retying his pony-tail for the hundredth time, Yao was finally satisfied that he looked the part of a college professor. He grabbed his briefcase, kissed his Gitty-chan plushie on the forehead for good luck and headed out of his dormitory room. As Yao reached the main gates of the dormitory building, he began to approach with more stealth and caution. He knew that Ivan usually skulked outside his dormitory building at this time, waiting for him. On such a big day, he could not afford being obstructed by Ivan. To his surprise, the main gate was devoid of polar bears. He walked through the cafeteria, and Ivan was still not behind him. He walked towards the entrance of the Asian academic building and Ivan was still not calling out to him, trying to shove a bunch of sunflowers into his arms. Yao was puzzled. He hoped Ivan had not fallen ill.

As Yao made his way towards the classroom that his class was held in, he could not help feeling that something was missing. He stopped at several intervals to check his briefcase. Attendance sheet, grading guidebook, stationery, handphone, wallet, student ID... everything was there. He simply could not fathom what on earth was absent that could give him such a strange sense of emptiness. Realizing that he was going to be late from all the stopping and checking, he quickened his pace. He would figure out what was bothering him later.

As Yao approached his destination, he was astounded by the noise level issuing from the classroom. He had been under the impression that he was supposed to take charge of a class of college second-years, not a class of second graders. He entered the classroom. Sure enough, he was in the right class. He could see many familiar faces belonging to his second-year juniors, Yong Soo among them, who was incidentally contributing the most amount of noise pollution with his loud reasoning on why everything originated from Korea.

"Ahem!" Yao cleared his throat loudly. The class turned to look at him. Suddenly, everyone fell quiet.

They really respect me! Yao thought happily.

"Yao~ Guess who da?" Yao jumped as a familiar voice whispered into his ear. One large hand obscured Yao's eyes, while an arm encircled his waist shamelessly.

"Wah!" Yao dropped his briefcase in shock. He tugged hard at the arm around his waist, but it made no signs of budging.

"Guess who?" the voice urged, while the arm squeezed tighter around his waist.

Of course Yao knew who it was. That voice followed him down the corridors everyday, while those arms had pulled him into so many indecent hugs. In spite realizing that this was what he was missing on his way to class, he was not going to give Ivan satisfaction of knowing he had made an impression.

"Aiyaaa! How should I know! Release me at once aru! I'm a teacher and I can have you expelled for harassment aru!" Yao struggled fruitlessly against the iron grip around his waist.

"Awww... Yao doesn't remember me," the childish voice said sadly. "I'll just have to find a way to make you remember da~"

Without warning, Yao found himself spun around and pushed against a wall. He tried to protest as Ivan's face drew nearer towards his own, but his reflexes were too slow. A gloved hand tilted his chin up forcefully. In a second, his lips were covered by Ivan's soft warm ones. Yao gasped as Ivan slid his tongue through his partially parted lips. He could feel the agile organ pushing deep into his mouth, caressing and wrapping his own tongue in passionate desire. He whimpered from embarrassment and discomfort and dug his fingers into the Russian's broad back. Yet again, the polar bear was robbing him of oxygen. The room exploded in claps, jeers and cat-calls, but Yao could hear nothing except his own frenzied heartbeat.

Eventually, Ivan gently but unwillingly detached his lips from Yao. Momentarily shocked by the sudden rush of air and the polar bear's brazenness, Yao simply stared back at Ivan. Ivan, whose cheeks had turned faintly pink, gazed back at Yao lovingly, a hint of guilt in his innocent, round eyes.

"Yao~ I didn't have time to get you sunflowers this morning because I had to go to the bookshop to buy my new textbook, but I hope my morning kiss makes up for it da~?"

"I... I don't care for your stupid sunflowers! Or your morning kiss aru!" Yao spluttered. "How dare you! How dare you! I've told you so many times that I really hate it when you do this aru!" Yao's voice crescendoed as his senses came back and he pushed Ivan away.

A beautiful crimson blush graced his cheeks. So adorable, Ivan thought as he pinched his cheeks playfully, earning another angry yelp from the Chinese man. Looks like having a tsundere boyfriend was not a bad thing after all. He watched keenly as Yao smoothed out the creases on his suit fervently.

"And stop filming already! I'll confiscate your phones aru!" Yao snapped at the class, who had been recording the passionate "live" kissing scene with their phones, and still had their phones held up high to record Yao's angry outburst. Ivan made a mental note to ask them for a recording later.

Furious that Ivan had ruined his grand entrance as Professor Wang Yao, he berated the Russian with as much gusto as he could muster to salvage whatever remaining dignity he had, "Get lost before I get aggressive aru! I have a class to teach, or I would make sure to teach you a lesson before letting you go."

"But I'm in this class too da~!" Ivan waved his Chinese Studies textbook cheerfully.

"Don't lie," Yao said sternly. "You can't possibly be in this class if you don't even know what Sichuan Mala Hotpot is aru. Professor Zhang only takes in students with a good foundation and interest in Chinese."

"But it's true~ This is my letter of acceptance," Ivan took out a piece of paper and handed it to Yao. Yao grabbed it and scanned through it. Then he read it again one more time. Then he held it up towards the ceiling light as though to verify its authenticity. Failing to detect any loopholes, Yao was forced to accept the fact that strict Professor Zhang, whom he respected and looked up to, had accepted Ivan into his class despite knowing that his Chinese knowledge was nada and that he probably had no genuine interest in Chinese at all. He had descended to the level of Dean Roma.

"Fine, sit down and stop making a nuisance of yourself aru," Yao said through gritted teeth. Turning to address the students, he said in a louder voice, "Professor Zhang won't be in this morning..."

"YAY!" more shouts and clapping ensued from the jubilant second-years as they began putting away their things.

"More time to finish that wretched assignment!"

"Let's go catch that new Korean movie today!"

"Korean movies originate from Korea da-ze!"

"Yong Soo said something sensible today. I need to buy lottery!"

"Shut up and sit down aru!" Yao snapped. "I'll be grading your presentations in his stead, so you'd better prepare yourselves now!"

A collective groan of disappointment followed, but everyone settled back into their seats. Loud rustling sounds followed as the students began retrieving their laptops from their bags.

"Why isn't Professor Zhang here? I was looking forward to being taught by him. He's such a nice man~" Ivan called from his seat in the front row. He did not have to do the presentation, since it was his first day in the class, so he conveniently chose a seat next to where Yao had put his briefcase.

"He's gone to see a heart doctor aru," Yao replied irritably as he grudgingly sat down beside Ivan.

"A heart doctor? Oh dear, I hope it's not because of me~" Ivan said.

"What aru?"

"Nothing~" Ivan smiled innocently.


*     *     *


At 5 a.m in the morning, blurry-eyed Professor Zhang dressed in disheveled bed clothes yawned repeatedly as he handed back a blank test paper to Ivan.

"I'm sorry, young man, I can't accept you into my class when you can't even write your own name in Chinese. You won't be able to catch up with the coursework."

"Awww~ Don't be so cruel! I wouldn't need to take Chinese studies if I knew Chinese da?" Ivan whined.

"Please, young man, if I was cruel, I wouldn't let you take a qualifying paper at four in the morning! I appreciate your interest in my subject, but you will fail it if you jump straight in without any foundation. Now take yourself off, I need to sleep."

"This is your final decision da?" Ivan's childish voice took a turn to one of a darker tone.

"Very final, young man, good night, or rather, good morning," Professor Zhang said firmly.

"Very well then, you asked for it, kolkolkolkol~" Ivan tapped his water pipe menacingly against his palm.


*     *     *


"Kolkolkolkol~" Ivan chuckled as he congratulated himself on a job well-done. But the smile on his face was wiped off when he saw his beloved angel run off to speak to a blond, bespectacled student with a strand of idiot hair sticking out.

Alfred Fucking Jones, the bastard who put him out like a light on his first day at school. He wondered how he could have failed to notice him when he was looking around the classroom just now. Alfred looked every bit as annoying and obtrusive as he always did, albeit a little paler than usual. And now he was trying to seduce his Yao. Ivan clenched his fists as he watched them chat cordially like old friends.

"Aiya Alfred! I didn't expect to see you here aru!" Yao made a beeline to his fellow student councilor when he spotted him.

"I'm Matthew. Matthew Williams Jones. Alfred is my brother," Matthew replied in a whisper heard by no one.

"It's really shocking to see you here aru. I thought you always said that the whole world should speak English because it's your national language. What are you doing in a second-year class anyway when you're a third-year student? Did you fail your course last year aru?"

"I am a second-year. You've got me confused with Alfred," Matthew whispered indignantly. "Everyone does," he added with a sigh.

"Heavens, that is some nasty sore throat you have. I hope I can hear you later. I have to grade your spoken abilities too aru. Incidentally, I'm looking forward to hearing you speak Chinese, since you're always laughing at my accent aru." With a smirk, Yao turned on his heels and went back to his seat in the front row where he would watch the presentations and carry out his grading.

By the time the class was approaching the end, Yao was already contemplating a dream career change. The class was chaotic, with students running out back to their dormitories to retrieve forgotten thumb drives, CDs and laptops. Some even tried to mess with him by beginning their presentations with a plea for leniency, "Nini~ I was so stressed and tired by so much homework that I didn't have time to do this. Please give me a good grade anyway? I'll give you a set of Hello Kitty stationery in return. Please~ Nini~~"

Fortunately, Yao was levelheaded enough not to be bought over by their winsome voices. Even more fortunately, he already had said Hello Kitty items that they were trying to bribe him with. The last straw came when Yong Soo delivered his presentation on "How Korea Built the Great Wall of China". Yao failed him on the spot and nobody dared to mess with him thus after.

The last student, Matthew, went up to the front and bowed modestly to the audience. For some strange reason, Yao could not find Alfred's name on the attendance sheet, so he wrote it down at the bottom of the sheet. Then he set up straight, eager to hear him speak. This small movement was noticed by Ivan, who felt a twinge of jealousy.

Yao was surprised to note that "Alfred" had gone a few shades paler, so much so that he practically blended into the white projector screen. Yao wondered if he was actually nervous. A few slide changes later, Yao finally registered that "Alfred" was already half-way through his presentation, although he had not said anything. Yao briefly worried himself over the possibility of developing temporary deafness from shouting so much at his errant juniors, but he could still hear Yong Soo all the way at the back, yakking away about 'stupid aniki', so it could not possibly be his problem.

Fifteen minutes passed, and still, the slide had not changed. He gazed intently ahead, and suddenly realized that "Alfred" was no longer within his sight. He lowered his gaze and spotted an unconscious body on the floor.

"Alfred!" Yao rushed forward in alarm. Many students begun to stir, having just noticed the unconscious body like Yao. Yao knelt down beside the limp body, which was so deathly pale now that it was starting to resemble a corpse. He grabbed it, pounded it, shook it, but received no response. He felt for his pulse and sighed in relief. He pressed his hands on Matthew's chest, inhaled deeply and lowered his lips to Matthew's mouth.

"Stop!"

Ivan rushed forward and shoved Yao aside.

"What are you doing aru?" Yao demanded.

"What are you doing?" Ivan retorted angrily.

"Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation aru! His pulse is very weak!" Yao said anxiously.

"Don't waste your kiss on scum like that!" Ivan bristled. "Here, let me do it."

Raising his water pipe high above him, he brought it down hard on Matthew's stomach. Yao let out a shout of surprise while Matthew shot up with a cry of pain.

"Look, easy does it. Kolkolkolkol~" Ivan smiled evilly. If he knew better, "Alfred" was pulling a fast one to cheat a kiss out of Yao. He would teach the bastard a lesson for trying to take advantage of his sweetheart.

"That was awful aru!" Yao winced. "Alfred, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," Matthew wheezed. "Anemia's acting up again and I forgot my medicine."

"Should I bring you to the school doctor? You look really pale aru," Yao said worriedly.

"No I'm all right, really. I can finish my presentation and go later," Matthew insisted.

"Well, let's get going aru," Yao offered Matthew a hand for support, apparently not taking in a word he had said.

"No, let me take him, Yao. You wouldn't want the students to go changing their grades da?" Ivan gestured at the students, who were now crowding around Yao's chair with pens and white-out in their hands.

"Hey, stop that aru!" Yao cried as the students scooted away. Turning to Ivan he said, "All right, but don't try anything funny or you'll get it from me aru."

"Don't worry, I won't," Ivan said smilingly as he pulled Matthew's arm over his own shoulders. With a whisper, he added, "Not with you seeing anyway. Kolkolkolkol~"

Nobody heard Matthew's frightened whimpering as Ivan half-carried, half-dragged him out of the classroom.

Outside the classroom, Matthew tried to push Ivan's hand away.

"You can release me, I'm capable of walking by myself," Matthew whispered.

Ivan complied, but with so much force that caused Matthew to land hard on his butt with a yell of pain.

"Kolkolkolkol~" Ivan's waterpipe hovered menacingly over Matthew. "So. Did you seriously think you could get away with that punch on my first day at school?"

Matthew's eyes widened in fear. Alfred had gotten him into a fair number of troubles due to frequent cases of mistaken identity, but this time, he seemed to have offended someone really formidable.

"N...no! It wasn't me!" Matthew squeaked in fright as the waterpipe drew nearer.

"But of course you did, or you wouldn't have dared to seduce my Yao right under my nose. How dreadfully thick-skinned of you. Looks like I have to teach you how to fear da? Kolkolkolkol~"


*     *     *


"I am so awfully sorry about this aru! I didn't realize Ivan would hurt your brother. But like he said, it wasn't intentional, so please forgive him aru. Don't sue him!" Yao apologized profusely to a fuming Alfred and a trembling Matthew whose head was half-wrapped in bandages. Ivan hovered behind Yao, looking sour.

"What do you mean it wasn't intentional? Marcus would have died - "Matthew!" - if I hadn't dropped by his class to give him his medicine and see this nut attacking him. And mind you, he did say that he regrets it wasn't me he had hit!" Alfred bristled.

"Don't exaggerate, Alfred, I'm fine, really. Let's just let the matter rest," Matthew whispered.

"Yes, I know Ivan's entirely in the wrong. But he's already agreed to pay for er... your brother's medical bills. At least he's not denying responsibility aru!"

"Do you think money makes the world go round? I want an apology. A proper apology and assurance that he won't attack Malcolm, or me again. From Braginski, not you!" Alfred spat.

"All right, Ivan, apologize!" Yao said sternly to the unhappy Russian behind him.

"But I already did! I told Alfred's brother that I'm sorry for mistaking him for that bastard Alfred Jones. Why should I apologize to Alfred Jones anyway when I wouldn't be sorry to hit him," Ivan whined.

"You see now?" Alfred roared. "He's not at all remorseful! Looks like I have no choice but to call my lawyer in to settle this."

"Don't!" Yao wailed. "Isn't there any other way to settle this peacefully aru?"

"Why bother humoring him? The law won't stand at the side of such scum," Ivan pouted.

"The point is, you assaulted someone, and that is wrong, no matter what reason you had. Why can't you be reasonable and just apologize aru? How hard is that aru? You said you loved me, but you won't even listen to me when I ask you to do such a simple thing aru!" Yao wrung his hands in exasperation.

Something clicked in the Russian's brain. Turning to look Alfred in the eye, Ivan said seriously, "Alfred Jones, I'm sorry for hitting your brother and for wanting to hit you. On Yao's account, I won't do it again."

Yao stopped wringing his hands. Images of horrible punishments vanished from Alfred's mind.

"Well," Alfred said, stunned. "That was surprisingly quick. Will you honour your promise for the rest of your life?"

"Da, if you don't hit me and if your brother also promises to keep his grimy hands off my Yao," Ivan nodded grimly.

"Don't worry, I won't hit you if you don't hit me. As for Martin, he has absolutely no interest in anyone except Kumajiro-kun, right?" Alfred chuckled as he clapped a hand on Matthew's shoulder.

"Just because nobody notices me..." Matthew murmured bitterly.

"Friends da?" Unexpectedly, Ivan reached out a hand to Alfred.

"Yup, friends," Alfred flashed him a wide grin and shook his hand energetically.

"Well, I'm off to stalk Arthur," Alfred winked. "You know, you're actually quite an inspiration."

With a wave, Alfred walked off, leaving Yao and a forgotten Matthew to dwell in puzzlement on the amazing turn of events.

"Yao~ you're actually worried about me~ I'm so touched~" Ivan put his arms around Yao and nuzzled his cheek affectionately.

"Aiya! Who's worried about you! I was just afraid that he would sue me for letting you take his brother to the clinic," Yao grumbled as he tried to push Ivan away. "Speaking of that, instead of helping Alfred's brother, you actually hit him. The poor thing, he looks like such a nice and docile boy too unlike his loud older brother. You really are awful aru."

"Yao seems to like Alfred's brother da?" Ivan sulked as he considered retracting his promise to Alfred of not attacking Matthew.

"Of course not aru! I've only just met him and I don't even know his name!" Yao cried. "But it's got nothing to do with you anyway!" he added.

"How can it have nothing to do with me da? Yao is my boyfriend~" Ivan said brightly.

"Since when!" Yao protested.

"Since you accepted my love da? You said that if I loved you, I would do what you told me to. I've been a good boy and listened to you. Aren't you going to reward me?" Ivan looked at Yao expectantly.

"Why should I aru? Doing the right thing was for your own good!" Yao said incredulously.

"Aww~ Yao is so good to me. I must reward you da!"

"I don't want your reward! Go away aru!"

"Don't be shy~ There's nobody here~"

"Nobody here indeed," Matthew sighed as he watched Yao put up futile resistance against Ivan's kisses.





Chapter 19: Of Bribes and Threats

Yao never knew that teaching could be such a chore. He had only taken the Chinese Studies sophomore class for a week and already, he felt as though he had aged by a decade. He supposed he could have fared better if not for the presence of a certain wild polar bear by the name of Ivan Braginski. For better or worst, Ivan had failed to show up at a couple of his classes, which relieved, yet annoyed him. Whenever he did turn up, he would not only ambush him to "show him appreciation for teaching him" in front of the entire class, but also kept interrupting his lectures to ask stupid questions that a pre-school grader could have answered.

He was exceedingly glad that Professor Zhang would be returning to teach next Monday. He never wanted to teach a class with Ivan in it ever again.

Fortunately, his stressful week had come to an end and he was all geared up for his reward. This evening, Kiku was treating Yong Soo, Xiang and himself to the latest, most-anticipated horror flick in town. They would then enjoy a hearty dinner to make up for getting freaked out for two hours, during which he would take the opportunity to pour out his grievances to Xiang and Kiku who were good listeners. With such cheerful thoughts in mind, he trotted buoyantly towards the school gates where he had arranged to meet them.

The school gate was crowded with students gathering to go out for the evening, but Yao had no difficulties spotting the people he wanted to see. Along with the person he most did not want to see.

Ivan, with his prominent height and winter gear, stood out from the crowd. A void of space encircled him as students near him stood as far away from him as they could, save for Kiku, Yong Soo and Xiang, who milled around Ivan, looking agitated. Yong Soo, especially, flapped his bulky sleeves so vigorously that he looked confrontational. Concerned that Yong Soo was bothering Ivan, Yao widened his strides and marched over to the foursome as quickly as he could.

"Is everything all right?" Yao asked.

"Aniki!" Yong Soo squealed as he waved a CD in Yao's face. "You won't believe this but Ivan got me this limited First Press edition CD, personally autographed by Rain himself da-ze!"

Yao frowned in puzzlement. Ivan did not come across as the sort of person who would be nice to others, let alone give them presents.

Yao grabbed the CD to get it out of his face, inciting a yelp from Yong Soo. "Watch it, aniki! If you even scratch the cover, you won't be able to repay for the damage even if Aunt and Uncle sell off all their property around the world da-ze!"

Yao snorted derisively. "He's just a celebrity."

"Just a celebrity?" Yong Soo looked indignant. "He is Korean. And he dances better than I do da-ze!"

"Anyone can dance better than you," Xiang deadpanned, although the corners of his mouth had curled upwards slightly.

"Hey, I'm older than you are. Just because you no longer need us to help you complete your Bruce Lee movie collection does not mean you can be rude to me," Yong Soo crossed his arms huffily.

"I was just stating a fact," Xiang said stoutly as he folded his own arms. Yao spotted the video tape case that Xiang hugged against his chest.

"Wow! Isn't that the elusive Bruce Lee movie that we've been searching in all the antique movie shops for the past years?"

"Yes, but Ivan managed to find it," Xiang replied as a rare smile graced his usually aloof face.

Ivan returned Yao's frown with a dazzling smile.

"Since I'm your boyfriend, it's only right that I give presents to your family da?"

"You're not my boyfriend aru!" Yao said snappishly. Turning Yong Soo's newest treasured acquisition over in his hands, he said scornfully, "For all we know, you could have signed this yourself. And we can't even tell if the Bruce Lee tape is authentic since we have never seen the original content. Don't think you can bribe my family with counterfeits. They may be naive, but I'm not."

His haughty retort was met with protest from said naive family members.

"I've seen enough Bruce Lee video tapes to be able to tell the difference between the authentic ones and the fake ones," Xiang said curtly.

"This is definitely Rain's signature! I can even smell his favourite cologne on the cover da-ze!"

"You're only saying this because you want them to be real aru," Yao said patiently. "If you were really impartial and wise, you would not accept them at face value. Don't you agree, Kiku? Kiku?"

Yao looked around and found Kiku standing behind him, eyes glued to his Nintendo DS.

"I don't think he'll come back to Earth until he succeeds in getting Heracles to date him da-ze," Yong Soo smirked.

"He what?" Yao demanded, wondering if he had heard him correctly.

"Heracles, a character in the game Boy's LovePlus da~" Ivan explained smilingly. "Kiku wanted a male-version of the game LovePlus. How coincidental that I knew someone from the company, so I got hold of a beta version for him~ It's not even out in the market yet~"

"What! How dare you lead him astray! Do you know that he nearly failed his finals last year because he spent so much time gaming?" Yao cried. "And you, Kiku! Stop playing these dating sim games. It's unhealthy! Get yourself a girlfriend... or boyfriend aru!"

Kiku grimaced as he replied distractedly, "Hush, I'm trying to remember what his hobbies are. Don't distract me."

"Kiku! Listen to me aru!"

"Yao~ Stop worrying da? He's just having a bit of fun. As an adult, he can take care of himself!" Ivan coaxed as he cast a meaningful glance at Yong Soo.

"That's right, aniki! Stop treating us like children," Yong Soo rallied. Turning to Ivan, he said, "We'll be on our way now. We kept our word and got aniki here for you. I want DBSK's autograph next da-ze!"

"Here are your movie tickets," Xiang pressed a pair of tickets into Ivan's hand. "Would you happen to know anyone who sells old Bruce Lee posters?"

"I'll keep a lookout for both of you~" Ivan said congenially. "Enjoy your CD, Yong Soo, and your movie, Xiang~"

"You too," Xiang nodded. Carefully avoiding Yao's eyes, he tugged Kiku's arm and urged, "Come on, let's not impose on Da Ge and Ivan. You can continue playing when we get back to the dormitory."

"A bit more... almost there... " Kiku muttered, eyes still trained on the small screen.

"We need to get out of here before Da Ge blows up," Xiang hissed.

"You might as well be talking to a tree da-ze!" Yong Soo sighed as he hooked his arm around Kiku's to steer him forward. Xiang took hold of the other arm and they took their leave, Kiku shuffling awkwardly between them, hands still not leaving his machine.

Yao stared after them, thunderstruck. He wanted to yell at them, to shake them, to blow up at them like Xiang had feared. But he could not find his voice, and his feet were deeply rooted to the ground, preventing him from movement.

"Da~! It's just the two of us then~" Ivan beamed. The joyful expression on his face turned to concern when he saw Yao's eyes misting over.

"What's wrong?" Ivan's smiling face filled with concern.

"My kin, my brothers whom I cared so much for..." Yao stammered as he choked on tears of disappointment and anger, "They swapped me for a lousy CD, a mouldy video tape and a perverted video game aru! What am I? A piece of meat?"

"Don't be sad~ If you're a piece of meat, then you're a delectable and pricey piece of meat~ Those things didn't come easy da~" Ivan put his arms around Yao and cuddled him in what he felt was a consoling manner. Yao squealed in protest and pushed him away.

"This is all your fault!" Yao said hoarsely. "You led them astray to your own advantage! How despicable! Don't think I'll go on a date with you because you lot tricked me into it. I'm going back to give them a piece of my mind and you can watch the movie all by yourself aru!"

"Aww~! Don't go!" Ivan grabbed Yao's arm as he turned to leave. "They had your best interests in heart too! They only agreed to help me because they were touched by my dedication to earn their friendship. They said that only a devoted man like myself was deserving of you~ Wouldn't you agree with them?"

"My foot! You bought them over with material goods. This is nothing more than an underhanded commercial exchange aru!"

"Ah~ Kiku was right when he said that you're a difficult person to win over," Ivan smiled, undaunted, as he felt around his coat searchingly. "Maybe this will persuade you da?"

When Ivan produced the most adorable Hello Kitty doll, the size of his own hand, clad in a panda suit from his coat, Yao felt his mind go blank. All he could think of was how much he wanted to cuddle it and see it on his own shelf, among his inexhaustible collection of Kitty-chan dolls.

"Aiyaaaa~ Kitty-chan~!" Yao lunged himself at the doll, but Ivan raised his arms, lifting the doll well out of Yao's reach. Missing their intended target, Yao's hands found themselves on Ivan's chest instead. Yao blushed furiously and hastily retreated several steps. Ivan smiled more brightly than ever, knowing that he had nailed Yao's Achilles heel.

"Where did you get that from? I've never seen it before!" Yao said accusingly, as though it was a crime for anyone to own a Kitty-chan item that he did not have.

"It's custom-made da~ There is only one such doll in the world~" Ivan hugged the doll and look at him with a teasing grin.

"I'll buy it from you! How much is it?" Yao demanded.

"It's priceless da~ I'm not selling it. Unless you can give me something priceless in return~" Ivan fiddled with the panda hood, causing it to come off. The tiniest little panda peeked out from behind Kitty-chan's ear, seducing Yao to play peek-a-boo with it. Yao emitted a little scream of excitement.

"What do you want in return? I'll try my best to get it for you! Please aru?"

This time, it was Ivan's turn to feel his brain turn to mush as Yao looked up at him earnestly, amber doe eyes filled with plea. He almost gave in before he remembered why he had put in so much effort to secure this precious article.

"Da~ You can give me yourself!" Ivan responded without an ounce of hesitation.

The amber eyes flamed with rage as the rosy glow on Yao's cheeks deepened.

"How dare you! How dare you! How dare you!" Yao shouted as he attacked Ivan all over with his bag, drawing curious and amused glances from several students around them. "I'm not going to sleep with you for a stuffed toy aru!"

"Yao~ Calm down! You misunderstood me!" Ivan cried as he tried to take cover under a bush. "I meant that I would give you the doll in exchange for your company. I only had a movie and dinner date in mind. Nothing indecent. I swear on my water pipe!"

"Oh," Yao's bag froze in midair. A wave of relief rushed over him, closely followed by embarrassment at his own dirty thoughts and guilt for having maligned Ivan when all he harbored were innocent thoughts.

"Don't say such misleading things," Yao muttered as he lowered his bag. A deeply relieved Ivan emerged from under the bushes.

"So you will go on a date with me da? For Kitty-chan's sake?" Ivan held up the doll and moved it's paw up and down. Yao squealed in delight.

"Ooh! Kitty-chan! How can you be so cute aru?" Yao cried as he reached out for the doll. Ivan pulled the doll behind him out of Yao's reach. Yao puffed out his cheeks and pouted.

Oh Yao, how can you be so cute da? Ivan sighed to himself.

"No date, no doll~!" Ivan said firmly.

Yao frowned. The last date with Ivan had been a disaster that not only resulted in him being accused of being a hypocricy but had somehow earned them both the label of school couple. Although Ivan promised that he had nothing more than a date in mind, Yao had a feeling that the Western idea of date could be vastly different from what he himself had in mind. He shuddered at rumours he had heard about people bedding each other on their very first date. Besides, Ivan, for all his moe-ness that was comparable even to Kitty-chan's, had proven to be a wolf in sheep's skin who could still feign innocence right after taking liberties of him. He bristled with anger at that thought.

"Kitty-chan~ Yao doesn't want you da~ Looks like you'll have to go home with me tonight. It's ok though, I'll be a good owner to you. Kolkolkolkol~" Ivan chuckled, pressing the doll so hard that the fur on the mouthless face began to sink in prominently at various spots.

Yao cried out in alarm, "Don't hurt Kitty-chan aru! I agree to your request!"

"Da~! I'm happy to hear that!" he stowed the doll back into his coat. Yao watched longingly until Kitty-chan's white face vanished under Ivan's tan coat.

"You are definitely going to hand her over to me?" Yao asked anxiously.

"Of course I will at the end of the date~ Since when have I ever lied to you da?" Ivan responded sweetly.

Privately, Yao felt that Ivan never had the need to lie, or keep promises to have things his way, but all the same, he asked, "Do I have your promise that this will just be a simple dinner? No touching or kissing or any form of hanky panky?"

"Can I at least hold your hand? That's what people do when they go on dates~" Ivan gazed pleadingly at Yao, his purple eyes glowing with anticipation. Too lost in his fervent gaze, Yao found his head nodding before his brain could consider the implications.

"Yay!" Ivan cheered. Eagerly, he ungloved his hand. Taking Yao's small hand in his large palm, he swung their arms energetically while beaming from ear-to-ear. Yao could not help suppressing a laugh.

"Aiya, does holding my hand delight you so?!"

"Of course! Because it's Yao da! I don't mind holding any part of you other than your hand though!" Ivan quipped.

"Well, my hand is the only part of me that you can hold for now aru!" Yao said warningly. Then he wondered why on earth he had bothered adding 'for now' at the back.

"Anything you say da!" Ivan said candidly as he led Yao out of the school gate.

"I must admit, if I'm wearing a hat now, I'd take it off to you. How did you manage to get hold of so many limited and valuable items? How did you even know we like them aru?" Yao voiced the question that had been bugging him since he saw Ivan's presents.

"Indeed, it was one of the greatest challenges in my life," Ivan said solemnly. "I spent many sleepless nights, making inquiries, traveling around and even venturing out of the country," Ivan paused to yawn widely, causing a pang of guilt in Yao. "But seeing your happy faces, especially yours, makes me feel that all my efforts are worthwhile da!" Ivan smiled sappily at Yao, causing him to go scarlet red.


*     *     *


Several nights ago, Eduard was on MSN when someone on his 'Please Leave Me Alone' contact list initiated a chat.

Yao-Is-Mine: Eduard, are you good with computers?

Coolest-Geek: Ivan?

Yao-Is-Mine: ^J^v

Coolest-Geek: I spend loads of time on mine, so I guess I'm pretty good.

Yao-Is-Mine: Great. I want you to hack into these people's computers and online accounts. Wang Yao. Wang Xiang. Im Yong Soo. Honda Kiku. Find out as much about them as possible, esp. their greatest weaknesses. I want the info in half an hour.

Coolest-Geek: O_o

Yao-Is-Mine: Is that a no? You know I'm right next door da? Kolkolkolkol

Coolest-Geek: I'll get on to it now.

You have received a nudge.

Yao-Is-Mine: Done?

Coolest-Geek: Sending files to you now.

Yao-Is-Mine: Ok, don't go away yet. I may need your help again.

Coolest-Geek: #Fu^c&k##U*%!

Yao-Is-Mine: Excuse me?

Coolest-Geek: I accidentally put my elbow on my keyboard.

Yao-Is-Mine: Eduard, the Kimchi Retard is dying for an autographed Rain CD?

Coolest-Geek: That's what he said in his email to his Mum.

Yao-Is-Mine: Who is this Rain?

Coolest-Geek: Let me google that.

Coolest-Geek: Some Korean pop-star who dances very well.

Yao-Is-Mine: So where do I get this autographed CD?

Coolest-Geek: Most people would find such a thing on Ebay.

Yao-Is-Mine: What are you waiting for then?

Coolest-Geek: Am I suppose to look for it? O_o

Yao-Is-Mine: What do you think? Kolkolkolkol

Coolest-Geek: Am on it now.

You have received a nudge.

Yao-Is-Mine: Found anything?

Coolest-Geek: I'm sorry, I've searched everywhere, but I can only conclude that if someone is indeed selling it on ebay, Yong Soo would have snapped it up.

Yao-Is-Mine: In other words, you lied to me when you said "Most people would find such a thing on Ebay"? Kolkolkolkol~

Coolest-Geek: Noo! Ebay really has everything, but I didn't realize it was so rare. I really can't find it. I'm so sorry! (≧ロ≦)

Coolest-Geek: ?

Coolest-Geek: ?

Coolest-Geek: Ivan? If there's nothing else, I'll go to bed first?

Yao-Is-Mine: Just now, I did a search for the Bruce Lee movie that Stiff-Face wanted and the Boy's LovePlus game that Kiku wanted. But I didn't find anything. As for my little sunflower, I don't know what Hello Kitty items he doesn't already have. ( ;´J `;)

Coolest-Geek: Um. For such movies, you'd have better luck with the vintage and classic movie stores. Boy's LovePlus doesn't exist. Kiku just wishes for it to be made. For new Hello Kitty items, you should try Sanrio's official website but Yao probably looks it up regularly.


Seconds later, Eduard's dormitory room door crashed to the ground, the silhouette of a waterpipe imprinted on the splintered wood. Eduard froze in his chair, too stunned to react, while Raivis dived under his bedsheets in fright. Ivan marched over to the man responsible for making him mad and grabbed his collar.

"You are playing the fool with me da?" a purple haze enshrouded Ivan while a frightened Eduard was white with fear.

"It's not his fault that you're too stupid to understand his words," Raivis squeaked from under his bedsheets.

"You wait, Raivis, I'll deal with you later," Ivan bristled. Turning his attention back to Eduard, he suddenly gave a wail.

"WAAAAH! All I want is for Yao to like me~ Am I not fated to have his love? Even the heavens are against me. WAAAAH~~~~!" large droplets of tears rolled down his cheeks. Eduard, for all his dislike for Ivan, felt pity engulf his heart, while Raivis looked uneasy.

"Calm down, Ivan. You always get everything you want. This won't be an exception," Eduard said coaxingly.

"That's right. All you have to do is barge into people's rooms and swing your waterpipe at them and they'll do your bidding," Raivis quipped.

"LATVIA!" Eduard put his face in his palm.

"But Yao wouldn't like it. He doesn't like people who misbehave and use violence on others," Ivan shook his head sadly.

"But if he didn't catch you in the act, he wouldn't know," Raivis said. Eduard groaned, exasperated at the clueless Latvian's sinful encouragement.

"Raivis is right da~" Ivan promptly stopped crying. "Can you find me Rain's home address?"

"Erm, why would you need Rain's address?" Eduard asked, dreading the answer.

"So that I can barge into his house and swing my waterpipe at him and he'll give me his autographed CD da~! Kolkolkolkol~"

"I... I'll try," Eduard wiped a drop of perspiration from his brow, silently congratulating the Korean tabloids for the juicy article they would have the next day about the Korean star's assault by a fanatical male Russian fan.

"And you can do that to Bruce Lee's family too! Surely they have all his movies," Raivis nodded.

"Stop giving him ideas!" Eduard scolded.

"What's wrong with giving me ideas? Kolkolkolkol~" Ivan brandished his waterpipe menacingly.

"N... nothing!" Eduard trembled. "I just thought that this wouldn't work for Kiku's and Yao's case."

"That's easy da~ You're good with computers right? Designing an expansion based on an existing game shouldn't be difficult~" Ivan beamed expectantly at Eduard.

"But I don't know how to program computer games!" Eduard protested.

"Then learn," Ivan's huge frame loomed menacingly over the Estonian.

"Yessir!" Eduard squeaked.

"As for the Hello Kitty doll, I already have the perfect design in mind combining Yao's love for Kitty and pandas. All I need is Raivis' help to realize my design~" Ivan turned to Raivis with a childlike smile.

"Eep! Are you asking me to make it?" Raivis gulped. "But I'm terrible with craft work! I can't sew on a button without making my fingers bleed!"

"Better yours than mine da? Kolkolkolkol~"


*     *     *


"Kolkolkolkol~" Ivan chuckled at the memories behind his 'greatest challenges', emitting a chill that made Yao shiver visibly.

"Feeling cold?"

Ivan detached his hand from Yao's grip and placed his arm around Yao's shoulders. Then he took Yao's hand in his free hand and smiled gently at Yao. Yao gave him a startled glance, but made no show of protest.

"You're so thin, you should wear warmer clothes da," Ivan said as he gave Yao's shoulder a little squeeze.

"It's usually never this cold aru," Yao pouted.

"Don't worry, I'll warm you up da~"






Chapter 20: Like and Don't Like

Ivan never thought the day would come so soon when he and his angel would snuggle up together in romantic darkness. His heartbeat quickened as Yao leaned against his chest, quivering in his embrace and whimpering, occasionally screaming into his ear. Ivan pressed his lips lovingly against Yao's soft black hair.

"You always smell so good," Ivan sighed as he delighted in the scent of peonies issuing from the silken strands.

"Ah! N...nooo! Stop! Stop it...!" Yao wrapped his fingers around Ivan's scarf so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.

"There there, don't be afraid, it will be over in a bit," Ivan whispered consolingly. His lips traveled from Yao's hair to his soft cheeks, where he left a wet smooch.

"N...noo! Please! Not that! I can't take this anymore," Yao sobbed piteously. He pushed against Ivan and fought to get away from him, but Ivan only tightened his arms around his writhing companion, determined to make him stay on his lap.

"We've already gotten this far, it would be a pity to stop da?" Ivan said huskily.

"Ahh...!" Yao's agitated whimpers gave way to a loud scream that made Ivan avert his head instinctively.

"Oi!" Gilbert shouted at the noisy couple from his seat which was right in front of Yao's. Ivan glared at him with intense dislike as Gilbert stared daggers back at him, one leg planted unceremoniously on top of the back of his own seat.

"Oresama is watching a movie!" he jabbed a thumb at himself. "The cinema doesn't belong to you! Stop making nuisances of yourselves and get a fucking room already!"

Yao turned his tear-stained face to the angry German in surprise. Catching a glimpse of the horror on the big screen that had been the culprit for his tears, Yao let out another frightened scream and buried his face in Ivan's scarf. Gilbert smacked his forehead in exasperation while Ivan chuckled softly and stroked Yao's back gently.

"You keep him quiet, or else...!" Gilbert snarled as he made a cutting motion in the air.

Ivan did not think well of this violent threat. Calmly, but lips twitching slightly, Ivan replied, "The cinema doesn't belong to you either. You don't have the right to tell us what to do."

"The hell I don't! You come to the cinema to watch a movie, not to have sex!" Gilbert retorted angrily.

Several members of the audience nodded in agreement, though one cheeky man quipped, "Nii-san will forgive you if you go to the front and entertain us with free porn," inciting a chorus of laughter and appreciative claps.

Yao jerked up his head in shock. "We're not having sex! What ever gave you such a sordid idea aru!"

Gilbert rolled his eyes. "Like hell you're not! Who ever watches a movie sitting on top of someone else's crotch? Not to mention, the noise pollution you're contributing!"

Yao glanced downwards. Realizing that he was indeed sitting on Ivan's lap in a very suggestive pose, he hastily flung Ivan's arms off him and clambered off his thighs in a fluster.

"Aiya! How dare you! What did I say about no hanky panky?" Yao fumed. He wished that what looked like the entire audience in the theater would stop staring at him and put their eyes back on the screen.

"But you climbed into my lap yourself~" Ivan whined, feeling maligned.

"Nonsense! Why would I do such a thing aru!" Yao protested. The thought of him being so forwardly indecent was simply unthinkable.

"Nii-san saw you jump into Ivan's lap when the ghost appeared~" Francis quipped, a couple of rows above Yao's seat. "Smart of you to do that during the climax when everybody else was distracted, but I still saw what you did there," he winked when Yao turned around and stared at him. "I just wished I had a better view than the top of your heads, but from your sound effects, it wasn't hard to picture what you were doing."

For once, Ivan felt a rush of affection for Francis while Yao felt his face turn hot with embarrassment. Unable to bring himself to look at Francis' leery face, Yao turned back to Ivan and vented his anger on him.

"All right! I admit that it was my fault. All the same, you should have done the right thing and pushed me off your lap!"

"Oh you're so innocent, ma jolie, would a wolf chase away a cute little lamb that wandered willingly into its lair?" Francis chortled. "Nii-san would have done exactly the same thing..."

"Excuse me?" a purple haze surrounded Ivan as all gratitude towards Francis vanished.

"Eep! Sorry Ivan, Nii-san was complimenting you for your intelligence, please don't hurt me!" Francis squeaked and shielded his face with his hands.

"I don't fucking care who initiated the sex," Gilbert shouted. "If you want to continue, get out and find a room!"

"We were not having sex aru!" Yao cried.

"Touche touche! I sense jealousy from a bitter bachelor~" Francis clicked his tongue.

"Ha! Who's a bitter bachelor? Oresama is perfectly happy alone! Anyway, I see that you came to watch the movie alone too!" Gilbert shot back.

"Maybe you both should get together," someone suggested.

"Bah! Oresama doesn't need bums like that in my awesome life!" Gilbert scoffed.

"Actually Nii-san doesn't mind~ Come on, why not? I have such a beautiful body!" Francis did a pirouette and promptly began stripping off his own clothes.

"Put your damned clothes back on you bastard!" A familiar brusque voice rang out from several rows in front.

"Oh Arthur mon cherie! Did you come alone too? Poor dear, let nii-san accompany you," Francis stopped stripping mid-way and began climbing over someone's head to get to the source of the brusque voice.

"cosh ngout terp eesh datin' de heero" Alfred grunted between munches of hamburger.
(Translation: Course not, derp, he's dating the Hero!")

"Alfred you disgusting bastard! Stop showering me with hamburger you baka!" Arthur protested loudly.

"Boohoohoo! Even Arthur has abandoned nii-san! Why doesn't anyone appreciate my beautiful body!" Francis wailed as he resumed his stripping.

"Who's the bitter bachelor now? Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah..." Gilbert sang childishly.

"'scuse me m' wife n' I are try'g to w'tch the mo'v..."

A booming voice recognizable as the Dean Roma's stunned everyone into silence, "SHUT UP YOU STUPID BRATS! I'M TRYING TO ENJOY MY QUICKIE WITH GERMANIA!"


*     *     *


The restaurant that Ivan had chosen was a quaint and cozy little cafe that served authentic Russian dishes. It was a little far and out of the way from the mall and as Yao was famished, they had to hail a cab to get there. Yao had insisted that they find a place where they would not run into anybody familiar and Ivan happily complied, pleased that his angel shared his desire for a romantic date with no interference.

"Is this place to your liking?" Ivan asked after the motherly-looking cafe owner had taken their orders and bustled off to prepare their food.

"It's really nice," Yao nodded as he surveyed the cafe with satisfaction and slight amusement. The cafe certainly lived up to its name of Sunflower Field. The wallpaper was printed with sunflowers, and pots of sunflowers decorated every corner of the cafe. Even the table mat on their table was a sunflower crochet. "How did you find this place aru?" he asked.

Ivan rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm... I can't remember da~ I just felt very lonely one night because everyone in school had friends and I didn't, so I went out for a long walk and somehow, I stumbled upon this place. It's lovely da~ The food reminds me of my mother's cooking and the owner doesn't look at me as though I'm a monster. But she is a very quiet lady and doesn't talk to me much, so I still feel lonely when I come here," Ivan sighed wistfully.

Yao felt a twinge of pity as Ivan gave him a sad smile. Patting Ivan's pale blonde hair, he said consolingly, "Well, if you like, I'll come here with you next time aru."

Ivan's face lit up like a sunflower that had bloomed spectacularly. He seized Yao's hands in his own and cried, "Would you really? I just knew you would make such an offer! Yao always treats me the best da~" Before Yao could react, he reached across the table and planted a kiss on Yao's startled lips.

"Aiya!" Yao exclaimed as he tried to brush Ivan's hands away. "What did I say about no touching and kissing? This is twice you've stepped out of line aru!"

"But the first time wasn't my fault! You climbed onto my lap yourself da~ So it's only polite that I return your affection~!" Ivan said gaily as he held on firmly to Yao's hands.

"Rubbish! You know full well that I did that because the ghost scared me aru!" Yao snapped as he struggled to dislodge his hands from Ivan's steadfast grip.

"But you chose me instead of the person on your other side, so I must be special to you da?"

"I was sitting next to the aisle aru!"

In the midst of their tug-of-war with Yao's hands, the café owner turned up with two steaming bowls of borscht and a large plate of white bread, clearing her throat apologetically. Yao tugged his hands away from a distracted Ivan and the waitress laid their table.

"This smells delicious!" Yao took a deep whiff of the broth and sighed happily. "All that shouting and getting scared really made me hungry!"

Cheered up at the prospect of filling his empty stomach, Yao forgot his unhappiness with Ivan and immediately began tearing up a piece of white bread. Ivan smiled indulgently at Yao - He looked so cute when he attacked his food - and proceeded to begin on his own borscht.

"Yao," Ivan said when Yao had stopped to take a sip of water, "do you always jump into people's laps when you watch horror films?"

Yao choked on his water and Ivan had to thump his back for him.

"Don't... don't make me out like such an indecent person aru!" Yao spluttered. "I usually watch horror movies alone!"

"Really?" Ivan asked, surprised. "Weren't you going to watch the movie with your cousins and brother today?"

"Well, I was really surprised when Kiku invited me to watch the movie with them. Of course, that was before I knew that it was just a ploy to get me to go out with you," Yao gave Ivan a dirty look. "I love horror movies, but nobody likes watching them with me because they find my reaction embarrassing. I always watch the dvds alone at home or in my dormitory in the company of my Kitty-chan plushies." Yao felt his face flush as he divulged his weak point to Ivan. Indeed, everyone found his fear of ghosts and intense interest in them ridiculous. Only Kitty-chan would allow him to hug and hide behind her without laughing at him.

Ivan did not laugh, but merely grinned wider and said, "I see~ If you want to watch horror movies, I can watch them with you da~ I'll even let you sit on my lap~"

"No, thanks, Kitty-chan is good enough for me," Yao said curtly as he resumed his eating.

"Yao seems to like Kitty-chan very much," Ivan remarked, feeling slightly put-out.

Yao narrowed his eyes. "Why? Do you think it's funny just like everyone else does?"

"If you like Kitty-chan, I believe you have a good reason da~ I just want to understand you better, because you're my boyfriend~" Ivan smiled innocently.

Yao scowled at him, but knowing that it was a waste of breath to deny their non-existent relationship, proceeded to explain his obsession with the mouthless cat.

"My parents are in the property business and they are always out of the country to discuss business deals. To make sure that I didn't get up to any mischief, they enrolled me for all sorts of private classes. English, Abacus, Poetry, Calligraphy, Painting, Chinese Dance..." Yao paused and made a face. "Xiang was very young and I hardly had any companions my age. So when my Aunt from Japan brought Kiku along to visit, I was delighted. He gave me a really adorable Kitty-chan plush for a meeting gift. It was love at first sight and we got along like a house on fire aru."

Ivan's smiling face darkened into a puzzled frown. Yao hastily clarified, "Love at first sight for Kitty-chan and getting along like a house on fire with Kiku, I mean."

Ivan's smile was all summery again and Yao continued his story. "When Kiku returned to Japan, I lost my only confidant, so I turned to Kitty-chan instead. She's a great listener, unlike my pet panda who always ambles away when I don't have any food for him," Yao pouted adorably.

Resisting the urge to plant a kiss on the succulent lips, Ivan nodded smilingly. "Da~ Kitty-chan was a good friend to Yao~ No wonder you like her so much that you'd actually agree to go on a date with someone like me for her sake." Ivan's smile withered away once again, and melancholy filled his face.

"Aiya! For heaven's sake, I didn't date you because of Kitty-chan! Honestly, what do you take me for aru! I don't just go out with anyone for a stuffed toy you know!" Yao snapped, feeling insulted that Ivan thought him to be such a superficial person. Regardless of how much he liked Kitty-chan, he would never sacrifice his principles and dignity to date someone he did not like. Oh wait...

Ivan seemed to share Yao's sentiments. All smiles again, he took hold of Yao's hand gratefully and cried, "So you're dating me because you really like me da? Oh, I'm so happy!" Ivan brought Yao's hand up towards his own face and pressed the warm palm against his own cheek, enjoying the feel of its soft and smooth surface. His feelings of bliss were rudely interrupted by a hard pinch on his cheek.

"Aiya!" Yao snatched his hand back in annoyance. "Stop dreaming aru! I never said that! Don't put words in my mouth!"

"Ah! I get it! You love me da?" Ivan asked happily as he rubbed the sore spot where Yao had pinched him.

"I can sue you for libel!" Yao snapped.

"I'm sorry for belittling your love~ You love me very much da?" he blinked innocently.

"For heaven's sake!" Yao was almost tearing his hair in exasperation. "I neither like you nor love you nor love you very much aru!"

"Oh~! So you love me very very..."

"Ivan Braginski," Yao said sternly. "This isn't funny."

"But you just said that you didn't date me because of Kitty-chan, and that you don't just date anyone. So I must be someone special da?" Ivan whined.

"No, you're not anyone special!" Yao snapped.

"Then why are you dating me? You just said you wouldn't date just about anyone!"

"Well, you're not just 'anyone', but that doesn't make you special aru!" Yao cried.

"Explain," Ivan said huffily.

"You're not just anyone, because you're someone I know, someone I've spoken with, someone I'm..." Yao hesitated for a moment to search for the right word. "Concerned about. In other words, you're a friend. A normal friend," Yao emphasized the last line.

"But you have lots of friends da~ And you chose me over them. Do you like me more than you like them? Doesn't that make me special?" Ivan argued.

"No! It's because you threatened me with Kitty-chan!" Yao snapped.

"But you said you didn't date me because of Kitty-chan. Were you lying?" tears filled his violet eyes, much to Yao's trepidation.

"No I wasn't!" Yao cried as he hastily grabbed a napkin to mop Ivan's teary eyes. Taking a deep breath, he explained as clearly and slowly as he could, "What I meant was, you asked me out, and on top of that, you threatened me with Kitty-chan, so due to these combined factors, I decided to agree to go on a date with you. I would probably have dated you even if you didn't threaten me with Kitty-chan. I don't go dating people over stuffed toys aru!"

"So you dated me because you like me da~" Ivan gave him a watery smile.

"No... well, I mean, yes. Yes," Yao sighed as he absent-mindedly used the tear-stained napkin to wipe the perspiration on his brow. "But mind you, I like you in the same way I like Kitty-chan, not in the same way that I love my family..."

"Da! I just knew that Yao loves me! I love Yao too!" Without waiting for Yao to finish his sentence, Ivan had reached across the table and pressed his lips against Yao's small, startled ones. He slid his tongue inside the now all-too-familiar cavern, taking in the delightful combination of bortsch and the taste of Yao. Mmm... Yao-flavoured bortsch. There could not possibly be a tastier type of bortsch in the world.

"Ivan Braginski!" Yao exclaimed when he had escaped from Ivan's clutches. His angry lecture was disrupted by a standing ovation.

"Oh my... that... that was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," the cafe owner, who had been sitting queitly behind the counter, was on her feet as she wiped her tears. "Stay for dessert, won't you? My treat."

"Thank you da~!" Ivan beamed sunnily.


*     *     *


After dessert, Ivan and Yao left behind a cheerful cafe owner who was delighted with Ivan's generous tip and headed out into the cool night.

"Where shall we go next?" Ivan caught hold of Yao's unwilling hand and interlocked their fingers.

"You can go where ever you want to alone. I'm going back," Yao said curtly.

"Aww~ Are you still unhappy? But isn't love the most beautiful thing in the world? Unless, of course, you feel that loving me or to be loved by me is something to be ashamed of," Ivan sighed.

"Aiya! That isn't it aru!" Yao cried. He could hardly believe that such a thick-skinned guy could be so sensitive. "I have a project to rush over the weekend and I need to sleep early tonight! Besides, how can I go into a relationship with you when all I know about you is that you're a bully who terrorizes your schoolmates and teachers? That's hardly what I expect from my future spouse! My ideal lover is someone who's kind, gentle, generous, modest and tolerant, gets along with my friends and family, listens to me and respects my opinion when I say no..."

Yao's voice trailed off when he saw Ivan's eyes glazing over with tears.

"Well, personality traits can always be changed if you make the effort," Yao said in a bid to comfort him.

"It's not that I can help it~ Everyone avoids me and is mean to me. Nobody wants to be my friend and nobody wants to tell me why," Ivan pouted pitifully.

"Well," Yao said thoughtfully, "If you are as nice to me as you are to others, I'm sure you'd have many friends."

"But I only want to be nice to Yao, because Yao is the only one who's nice to me~ And if Yao likes me, I don't care if nobody else does da~" Ivan chirped.

In spite of the cold weather, Yao felt a rush of warmth cruise through him, heating up his face especially.

"But wouldn't it be nice to have more friends? You can't expect everyone to live up to your expectations, but if you learn to accept them, you'll find that tolerance breeds harmony," Yao said. "I used to dislike my fellow student councilors. Arthur never has a smile for anyone but his imaginary friends, Alfred is nosy and bossy and Francis streaks whenever he feels hot which is like most of the time. But overlooking their faults, I came to learn that they're rather nice people and we now get along most of the time aru."

"Poor Yao~" Ivan cried sympathetically. "And you had to be in the same room with all of them. Wouldn't it simplify things if I just teach them a lesson with my waterpipe? Kolkolkolkol~"

"And that's why you have no friends," Yao rolled his eyes.

"Like I said, I don't care if I have no friends, as long as I have you~" Ivan boldly placed an arm around Yao's shoulders and pecked him on the cheek.

"Aiya! Stop that already aru!" Yao cried as he pushed Ivan away.

The initially long and boring walk back to school felt immensely shortened as Yao led Ivan in a game of catch. All too soon they had reached the front of the Asian dormitory building. Yao detached himself from Ivan's embrace.

"We've reached. Where's Kitty-chan?" Yao demanded.

"Here you go~" Ivan retrieved the precious doll from inside his coat and handed it to Yao. Yao gave a whoop of delight. He grabbed the doll and planted kisses all over her furry face.

"Aiya Kitty-chan~ You look even cuter now that I'm seeing you up-close aru!" Turning to Ivan, he gushed, "Thank you, Ivan! Thank you so much!"

Ivan felt his heart race. He never knew that it felt so rewarding, so stimulating, so exciting, to be thanked, especially by someone he liked so much. Impulsively, he pulled Yao against himself and enveloped his lithe body in his arms.

"Hey!" Yao protested as Ivan rested his chin on his shoulder. Ivan's soft blond hair tickled his neck, but apart from that mild discomfort, Yao felt rather at ease. Ivan was such a big baby. Yao could not help but run his fingers through Ivan's soft strands of hair as he smiled to himself. He could not fathom why anyone would dislike such an adorable boy. Silently, they held on to each other for a long while, until Yao grew impatient and grumbled, "All right, that's enough! Don't go overboard!"

"Aww~ But your body feels so good that I was about to fall asleep!" Ivan complained.

"Aiya! What nonsense are you saying!" Yao cried as his face grew hot from the scandalous proclamation. "If you want to sleep, go back to your dormitory aru!" he snapped.

"All right~ But I want to give you a good night kiss in thanks for the wonderful date!" Ivan declared. He sounded so genuine and sincere that Yao, who was on the verge of shouting down his request, relented and said tetchily, "All right! But on one condition! Leave my lips alone aru!"

"Da~! Close your eyes!" Ivan said happily. Yao closed his eyes, combing his bangs away from his forehead as he did so. The men in Yong Soo's Korean dramas always kissed their girlfriends on the forehead at the end of a date...

Yao gave a start when he felt his collar loosen around his neck. He opened his eyes and was horrified to see Ivan unbutton the top of his shirt.

"What are you doing?" Yao cried. He grabbed Ivan's wrist and tried to pull it away, but Ivan was too quick. In a split second, he had pinned Yao's wrists behind his back with one hand. His free hand embracing Yao's slender waist, he latched his lips against Yao's ivory neck and kissed it aggressively.

"Nnh...! Don't... stop...!" Yao cried, struggling helplessly. It had been a long time since he had been inflicted with such fear in the company of the seemingly reformed polar bear.

"Don't worry, I won't stop..." Ivan whispered into his ear, having misinterpreted his incoherent cries. He continued his loving assault, kissing, licking, sucking and nibbling until he left his own mark.

"OW!" Yao cried out in pain as the metallic smell of blood wafted into his nose. Ivan relinquished his grip, shocked at his misdeed. Yao's eyes were drawn to the unnatural redness on Ivan's lips.

"You bit me!" Yao roared as he drew his hand to the stinging sensation on his neck. His fingers touched warm, sticky liquid. "Do you really think you're a bear?" he spat.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Ivan apologized frantically. "I didn't do that on purpose. I followed Big Sister 801's guide on giving love bites. I don't know what went wrong. Let me kiss it better!" He closed in on Yao, but received a cuff on his head by the furious Chinese.

"That's enough! Don't touch me, you pervert! I trusted you implicitly but you betrayed my faith in you! That was more than just a kiss aru!" Yao exclaimed as he buttoned back his collar with shaky fingers.

"I'm really sorry!" Ivan cried. "I just wanted to show my love for you. Big Sister 801 said that love bites are romantic and promote healthy relationships da~!"

Yao screwed up his eyes in disgust. "That was really indecent. It's the sort of thing you do behind closed doors with your spouse! And for heaven's sake, stop quoting that twisted fujoshi! Her books are banned on campus! How dare you read her books and even follow her unorthodox teachings! Her ideas about romance are just so perverted! I don't understand why people even like reading her books! It would do your brain so much more good if you hand over her foul books to the school authorities," Yao said furiously.

"If I hand the book over to you, will you forgive me?" Ivan put on his mournful puppy dog look. Yao, who had intended to shoot him an absolute 'No', felt some of his anger dissipate.

"I don't know," Yao said coldly. He turned his back on him, bent over to pick up Kitty-chan who had fallen onto the ground during their tussle, and dusted her with his hands. "Let's go back, Kitty-chan~ It's been such a long day for me~"

Without as much as a backward glance, he stormed off through the dormitory gate.

"You only said to leave your lips alone~" Ivan cried, stung at the injustice of it all.

On to next chapter...

Topic : Axis Powers Hetalia
Genre : Anime/Manga

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