The albino slips again, his skates skidding on the ice, sending small bits of ice in all directions. He falls down, clenching his fists and ghashing his teeth. He lets out a string of colourful curses and tries to push himself up, only to slip once more and crashes into the ice on his back. Matthew couldn't help but snort. The male has been trying and failing to ice-skate for the past twenty minutes and was never able to stand still for more than half a second. Matthew had considered helping him up before, but chances are the albino probably won't even notice him.
But watching him fall on his bottom and failing to move more than a centimeter made it frustratingly painful for Matthew to watch.
Matthew quickly and gracefully skates over to him, reaching his hand out as he did so. The albino blinked.
For once Matthew didn't have to shout to get someone to notice him. Odd.
Matthew pulls him up without much of an effort, and manages to stand still. The strange albino grins at Matthew, a big toothy grin that stretched from ear to ear. He dusts his pants off, before looking up at Matthew again.
Matthew hesitated to respond. No one has ever thanked him before. "Um, no problem." His mouth curls up into a soft smile. The albino extends his hand.
"The Awesome Gilbert!"
"Oh, huh, oh," Matthew stammered, before shaking Gilbert's hand. "Matthew."
"Ya like skating?"
"Huh? Oh, yes, yes, I do." Matthew paused. "Would you...like me to teach you?"
"No, I'm fine." Gilbert gave Matthew a confident smirk, puffing out his chest. He puts one foot forward, beginning to slide away. He fell splat into the ice again, face first. Matthew had to stop himself from bursting into giggles when Gilbert lifts his head up, revealing a bruised nose. The albino sniffs.
"On second thought, Matthew..."
"So your brother plays American Football, huh?" Gilbert takes a sip from his coffee, absentmindedly kicking Matthew's chair. Matthew nodded, twirling his straw in his hands.
"Huh, that must suck."
"Huh?" Matthew blinked. Any other person would be jealous of having a famous relative.
"Getting overshadowed, I mean." Gilbert continued, as if answering his question. "My younger brother's a senior corporate executive. I don't even know what thatis."
Matthew laughed. "Wow, he must be very busy, isn't he?"
"Always stressed." Gilbert waved his hand. "I'm worried about him sometimes, ya know. Always comes home late, tired, with bags in his eyes, ya get what I mean?"
"Ah, yes, I do." Matthew sighs. "Yup, that's pretty much it."
"So what do you do?"
"Yes, you." Gilbert chuckled.
"Oh, I play ice hockey."
"Wow! That's so cool!" Gilbert grinned, widely. "Hey, you should teach me how to skate more! You must be an expert!"
Matthew giggles. "Sure, I can, though I don't think I'm an expert..."
"Of course you are! Here's my number!" Gilbert excitedly handed Matthew a piece of paper. "Call me when you're not busy!"
Matthew felt an unfamiliar warm feeling in his chest. "Um, yeah, cool."
"Mattie! I made you pancakes!"
"Pancakes?" Matthew blinked, staring at the little container that Gilbert held in front of him. "What? Why?"
"Well, consider it as payment!" Gilbert laughs, shoving the container of pancakes into Matthew's hands. "Now, come on, eat up!"
"Oh, oh, you don't need to pay-"
"Yes, I do!" Gilbert insisted stubbornly. He opened the container and takes a bit of pancake with a fork. "Open wide!"
"Gil-" Matthew was silenced when he tasted the sweet, juicy flavour of the pancakes. "W-wow, Gilbert! Thank you! T-this is really good!"
"No need to thank me!" Gilbert chortled, his usual rough voice echoing around the ice rink, making people stare. "I'll make pancakes for you every day, Mattie!"
"Gil, you don-"
"I love you!"
Matthew's heart stopped.
But Gilbert was already off, sliding across the ice with a huge idiotic grin on his face. "I love you, Mattie! He shouted across the ice rink, making the girls around them giggle. "You're awesome! I love you!"
The wind howls outside, and the world was covered in a thick white sheet of ice and snow. The cold froze up the window, mystifying the world outside. Matthew wakes up by the flaming fireplace with a thick woolen blanket on top of him. Beside him sat Gilbert, comfortably in an armchair, whistling merrily to himself. He had knitting needles in his hands, and strings of yarn lay messily by his side, some tangled his legs.
Matthew yawns sleepily. "What are you doing, Gil?"
"Um, what does it look like?" Gilbert raises an eyebrow. "I'm knitting you an awesome sweater, duh."
"What, you don't like awesome sweaters?"
"Oh, no, I mean, yes, um, I do, I like sweaters, it's just..." Matthew stutters, trying to find the words. "You..don't have to..."
Gilbert suddenly bursts out laughing, his usual loud, rough laugh,startling Matthew. "Of course, I do, Mattie! You can't go around winter without a hand-knitted sweater!" He begins knitting faster, kicking the yarn from his legs. "Also, it's for those awesome pancakes you made me."
"Gilbert, you made me pancakes first-"
"Done!" Gilbert exclaims, dropping the newly finished sweater on Matthew. He grins, ruffling Matthew's wavy hair. "An awesome sweater for an awesome person!"
Matthew laughs, pulling away to straighten his hair. "T-thanks, Gilbert."
"No problem!" Gilbert smirks. "Now you'll be nice and warm and you won't get sic-" Gilbert cuts himself off, letting out a fit of coughs, shaking and sinking deeper into his armchair. Matthew, alarmed, scrambles up to his spot, and, against his weak protest, feels his forehead.
"A fever! Gil-"
Gilbert coughs again, though this time it was softer and weaker. He seemed to have shrunken. "Oh, Mat - I'll be - fine - I've always been this weak, physically.." He trails off, his coughing beginning to stop.
"Oh, Gil..." Matthew hugs him, patting his back. "Hold on, I'll get you some water..."
"You wanna see a movie?"
"I do!" Gilbert excitedly hopped around like a big puppy. Matthew giggled, and they held hands, walking by each other's side to the theater. Gilbert screams a little too loud when he sees which movies are available, and immediately runs over to buy popcorn, ordering in his usual loud voice, while somehow adding a comment about his awesomeness into every sentence.
"Oh!" Gilbert suddenly stops. "I forgot something in the car!"
"I can get it for you." Matthew offered.
"No, no, I can get it myself." Gilbert sped across the street before Matthew had a chance to say anything else. The albino gets to the car and in a flash retrieved his wallet. He grinned, triumphantly waving it in the air, before heading back to where Matthew was. He wasn't looking at the road. Matthew's eyes widened.
"Gilbert, watch out-"
There were loud tire screeches. Horns blared. People screamed.
Matthew, stunned, froze on the spot. His entire body suddenly felt numb, and his brain couldn't quite process what was going on. The pool of red sticky liquid on the road became bigger. There were still people shouting. A woman got out of the car with her hands over her mouth, a horrified expression on her pale face. The screams fell to deaf ears. Sirens blared in the distance.
Matthew still can't move.
Gilbert's head and neck and arms are in bandages, one of his his legs in a cast. He won't stop bleeding.
He lies in his bed, an oxygen mask over his mouth. He was barely breathing. The room was in total silence, besides Matthe's own breathing and the steady beep of the heart rate monitor. Gilbert's skin has gone paler than it normally was, all the colour drained from his usual rosy cheeks. Every now and then he would open an eye and looked at Matthew, as if checking to see if he was still there, before closing them again.
It was too bright outside. Matthew hated how the birds cheerfully chirped at the unmoving, almost relaxed Gilbert on his cot. The sun was too loud.
It took two days before Gilbert could speak again. He spoke when Matthew was resting in his chair, his head on the bed. The albino's voice was soft. Too soft.
"Promise...not to...leave..." He barely managed to croak.
"I do, I promise!" Matthew exclaimed, glad to hear from his boyfriend. His heart sunk when Gilbert remained silent after that. The albino didn't speak again that day.
The albino was finally able to speak, and though his voice was tired and soft and unsteady, Matthew was still relieved that he was able to hold conversations for more than a minute. Gilbert could barely move his arms. His hands twitch impatiently as Matthew holds up a bowl of porridge under his chin and puts the spoonful in his mouth.
"Mattie."Gilbert whines, pulling away. His voice was faint. "I want your awesome pancakes!"
Matthew gives him another spoonful, which he rejects. "But the doctor says that you have to eat this."
"But I want us to make pancakes together at your place and sit by the fire and catch the latest episodes of-"
"Yes, I do too, Gilbert, but please, eat this." Matthew insists, giving him another spoonful. Gilbert gives Matthew the biggest puppy-dog eyes he could muster, and Matthew finds himself chuckling at the cute albino. "No, seriously, Gilbert-"
There is a knock on the hospital door. In stepped a very worried-looking Ludwig, panting. He had a black paper bag in one hand and a packet of crackers in the other. The blond immediately rushes to Gilbert's side, placing the bag and the crackers on the bedside table. "Brother! How are you!"
They hug, or rather, Ludwig hugs. Gilbert's arms rested limply to his side, but his laughed as Ludwig's embrace tightened. "Thanks for bringing me the thing, Luddy."
"Sorry." Ludwig muttered, not letting go. "For not being able to be here with you all the time. I just have so much work, and-"
"It's fine. Luddy. I have Mattie." Gilbert flashes both his brother and Matthew a grin. "Hey, at least you come at lunchtimes and stay during the night!"
Ludwig doesn't look convinced. "I'm taking next week off, so I can stay here the whole day." He gently kisses Gilbert on the cheek.
"I love you."
"I love ya too, Luddy."
Thunder roars outside, lightning illuminating the dark, cloudy sky outside. Gilbert frowns, taking another bite of his cracker.
"I want to go outside, Mattie."
Matthew sighs. "I do too, Gilbert, but the rain's really bad outside."
"I know." Gilbert sniffs. "We have umbrellas."
Matthew gave him a doubtful look. "Your wheelchair won't be able to take the mud."
Gilbert sniffs again, his frown deepening. He stares longingly out the window from his cot, eyeing the puddles that are beginning to form. "Just because the sun's not bright doesn't mean we have to be all dark and gloomy too." He turns to Matthew."Let's go jump in puddles together, Mattie."
Matthew sighs, shifting his chair closer to Gilbert's bed, and ruffles his brilliant white hair. "You'll get sick."
"I don't care."
Matthew inhales. "I'll get sick."
Gilbert falls silent and begins to fiddle with an uneaten cracker. Matthew let out another exhausted sigh and holds the albino's free hand. Gilbert hesitates for a second, and, with great effort, pulls himself up from the bed a little more to kiss Matthew's cheek.
"Don't get sick, Mattie."
"I won't, don't worry."
Ludwig and Gilbert have been talking non-stop since Ludwig came to stay for the week. Matthew sits in the corner, invisible, as the two brothers happily chat about football and beer and potatoes and the little pleasantries of life.
They regularly kissed and hugged, and Gilbert always remembered to Give Matthew a few kisses and hugs too. The albino was now able to move around, or at least more than he used to in his time at the hospital. He was now able to eat his own food, and has become more talkative, and smiled more often. It was sunny outside for many days, and one day Gilbert urges Ludwig and Matthew to take him outside for a breath of fresh air.
They moved Gilbert around the hospital in his wheelchair, and they had quite a laugh when some children who passed by stopped to ruffle Gilbert's unusual white hair, and stare at his red eyes. One of the children, a young blond boy with a sailor hat, called him a demon, earning himself a warning glare from Ludwig. Gilbert simply laughed and pretended to roar, scaring away the children. On particular girl, an older one with brown hair tied in a curly side-pony, gave Gilbert an apologetic nod before racing off to catch her friend. Matthew couldn't help but giggle when he heard the high-pitched screams about a scary demon and an even scarier blond guy.
"Hey, you guys want some ice-cream?" Gilbert suddenly blurted out when the children were far from sight.
"Well, the nurse did say it was fine..." Ludwig scratched his chin.
"I do, sounds great!" Matthew smiled. "Let's get some ice-cream, Ludwig!"
Ludwig sighed. "Sure, sure."
Gilbert cheered loudly, giving Matthew a high-five. He was still weak in terms of physical strength, but Matthew couldn't help but grin. Gilbert was almost his old self again.
It was a nice, sunny day outside. Matthew sat by the window, as usual, reading a book. He could hear the brothers chatting by the bed, Gilbert making wild hand-gestures now that he could move more. Even Ludwig laughed.
Matthew was surprised when Gilbert suddenly asked him to leave the room, just for a minute, so he and his brother could have a private conversation. He reluctantly agrees and heads outside, but his curiosity got the better of him and he stood by the door, trying to get as much of the conversation as he can. They whispered things he can't hear, and he moved closer until his ear was touching the door. Ludwig's voice suddenly becomes louder than usual.
"A week?! What do you mean-"
Ludwig was shushed. Matthew's heart sunk when he considered the possibilities of what those words meant. He listened closer still, and he could hear snippets of muffled voices that he couldn't quite make out. But a few particular phrases rang clearly in his head.
"...miracle...this long...another week...too late..."
Matthew's breathing quickened. Gilbert isn't talking about what he think he is talking about...right? He pressed his ear closer to the door, desperate to know what was going on.
"I don't want Mat to be worried, okay?" Gilbert's voice was barely audible. "Do you promise not to tell him, ever?"
There was silence. Ludwig hesitated to answer. Matthew heard a gulp. "I do, Brother. I promise."
"Good morning, Mattie!"
Gilbert watches as he struggles to stand up with his crutches. He grins his usual toothy grin, and waves his hands around. "Look, I can walk now!"
Matthew gently smiles and gingerly takes his hand. Together they head out the building, Matthew slowing down to match Gilbert's limp. The air outside was cool and fresh, holding the crisp of late autumn. Gilbert waves to a few children around the hospital, cheerful and bright as the sun despite their physical conditions. They sit on a bench under a tree, watching orange leaves drift by, taking in the scent of flowers and trees and nature that was never present in Gilbert's hospital room.
Gilbert's hand is on Matthew's. They sit there for a while, murmuring to each other about little things that don't matter. Gilbert rests his head on Matthew's shoulder, and Matthew could see a soft smile on his lips. They gently hug, finding comfort in each other's presence, and the chilly air around them turns warm. They watch the white fluffy clouds float by, Gilbert excitedly pointing to every cloud and commenting about their shape. Matthew never stopped smiling.
Gilbert suddenly stands up, staggering a bit as he did so. Matthew watches him curiously as he stumbles to a nearby bush, disappearing into the leaves. He emerges a second later, smirking. Putting a hand on a tree to steady himself, he holds up a small flower and hands it to Matthew. He gives Matthew a small kiss on the cheek, falling back on the bench as he did so. Their chuckles turn to laughter.
"I want things to be like this forever." Gilbert grins as Matthew fidgets with the flower.
"I do too."
Gilbert grins. "I love you, Mattie!"
Matthew goes silent for a moment, before whispering, "I love you too, Gilbert."
"Hear that, Mattie? We're going home! We're going home!"
Gilbert limped around the hospital room with a bounce on his step and a wide grin on his face, as he had done so after he'd heard the news of his release half an hour ago. Matthew had already begun to pack his bags, and they talked non-stop about places they could go and things they could do. They were a bit limited, since Gilbert's leg was still in a cast, but he had grown strong enough to hobble around in his crutches without Matthew's help. They laugh and chat and hug for a while, with Gilbert occasionally planting little kisses on Matthew's cheeks, bursting into a fit of giggles when he sees Matthew blush.
The nurse was scheduled to take out Gilbert's IV line in about an hour. Gilbert waits, sitting on his bed and cheerfully swings his legs around, his red eyes bright and sparkling. Matthew can see him occasionally glance at the black paper bag on his bedside table, the one that Ludwig had brought for him so many days ago. Matthew had never gotten a chance to ask him what was in it. The albino picks up the bag and fidgets with it, ever so often opening it up and closing it again. Matthew could see his cheeks start to redden.
"Gilbert, what's in there?"
"Oh, huh?" Gilbert blinked. "Oh, nothing."
"You really want to know?"
"Fine." The albino gave Matthew a cheeky smile. "You'll find out soon, when we get home!"
Matthew chuckled. "Whatever you say, mister."
They sit on Gilbert's bed together. Gilbert is still fiddling with the bag. Matthew couldn't help but notice the excitement in his eyes, and he never stopped blushing.
Matthew never expected his worst fears to come true.
It was a day after the nurse announced Gilbert's release. Doctors and nurses crowd around the albino, shouting at each other, fumbling with the medical equipment. His eyes are glazed, barely opened, eyelids fluttering. His lips parts ever so slightly, like he wanted to say something under his oxygen mask. He never did. His skin has gone almost as pale and white as his hair, his body like a ghostly image on the hospital cot.
Matthew's breath quickened.
He helplessly stands, invisible, to the side as he watches the doctors and nurses becomes frantic. Ludwig was beginning to desperately yell at Gilbert to stay awake, tears rolling down his cheeks. Gilbert's dull red eyes sluggishly traveled to Matthew one last time. His lips twitched, as if he wanted to smile, his eyes closes, and the rising and falling of his chest slows down. The doctors' yells become numb to Matthew's ears.
Matthew remembers Ludwig's paper bag that had been left on Gilbert's bedside table. Inside was a small black box that fits in the palm of his hand, and he barely felt the weight as he lifts it up and opens it. Sitting on a pillow of velvet was a little gold ring, and on top of it sat an equally small glittering diamond. Sunlight from the window reflected off of it, brightening every shadow in the room.
The heart monitor slows down to a long beep. Ludwig's agonizing screams were no longer audible. Matthew absentmindedly pushes a doctor away and takes Gilbert's hand, which were already beginning to lose their warmth. He was too tired to cry, and he could barely make himself louder than a simple whisper that fades into the wind.