A/N: Thanks to Statuess for the correction on the previous chapter!
Chapter 19: Guten Morgen
"Why are you always looking at the sunset?"
Ludwig turned from his place on the tree branch to meet the curious eyes of Gilbert clinging to the trunk just below him, blinking owlishly at him.
"Nothing. I just find it pretty," he answered, turning his sight back onto the goldenrod beauty of the pending dusk sky. The acres of forest below them were painted in the warm hues of the last light, a last gift of good-bye from the dying sun.
Gilbert climbed the rest of the way up to Ludwig's branch and plopped himself down beside his little brother. He turned towards the sun and wrinkled his nose as if in distaste.
"Sunrise is so much better. For one thing, it's the beginning of a new day. For another it's way more beautiful."
"Sunset is more peaceful," Ludwig argued.
"Sunrise is too."
The younger boy rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
Gilbert grinned triumphantly at his win. "You're like an old man," he teased. "You're already all sentimental about sunsets."
"I am not sentimental," Ludwig protested, snapping his indignant gaze towards his older brother's amused red eyes.
"Oh? You could've fooled me. You're always going around spouting philosophical stuff about life and looking at sunsets every evening."
The blonde grumbled, turning a slight embarrassed red.
Sensing his discomfort, Gilbert waved his hands in a placating manner. "Hey don't get sore about it. I was just teasing you a little. It's actually kind of good you're thinking about these things. At least it's not death threats and curses."
His brows wrinkled slightly at the thought of the other occupants in the orphanage, frowning in displeasure at their unwelcomed intrusion into his mind.
Ludwig, embarrassment alleviated, turned back towards the scenery in front of him.
"I'm not surprised you like sunrises. You're always too happy for your own good even when the Queen and Headmaster decide to announce their latest torture."
The silver-haired teen simply laughed. "And I'm not surprised you like sunsets. You're always so broody and serious." He shook his head. "You need to lighten up a little West."
Ludwig raised a brow at the nickname. "West?"
"Of course. It's the direction the sun always sets and the place the sun is when it starts to go all dark and foreboding, like you."
"How thoughtful," Ludwig praised sarcastically. "If that's the case, then you're East. The direction the annoying sun rises to wake me up every morning when I very much want to be left alone."
Gilbert clutched his chest in fake horror. "Oh West! Your words cut me right here!"
He proceeded to make a dramatic display of falling off the tree.
Ludwig laughed at his antic, joining in the play by pretending to push his brother off the branch, to which he earned a few whines and complaints about no love in the world.
After a few more moments of laughter, the two settled back down, sitting side by side in companionable silence. They watched the sun finally fall below the horizon of green canopy, the dark velvet of night starting to crush the last few remnants of vibrant color.
It wasn't until the last wisps of feeble red were finally overtaken by the cool night that Gilbert spoke, tone heavy and grave.
"Ludwig, I'm going to escape."
The younger, caught off guard by the sudden solemn declaration, swiveled towards his brother, eyes wide in surprise and disbelief.
Gilbert's gaze was still locked on the point in the horizon where the sun finally gave in to its throes of death. His face was shadowed by the awakening night, grim and stone-like and his irises were hard-set, almost black in the darkness, deep with unfathomable and incomprehensible thoughts set in its abyss.
"Escape?" Ludwig whispered as though speaking the word any louder would cause god-like fury to rain upon him.
His brother nodded his head stiffly. "Yes, escape. I'm fed up and tired of this place, the people, the lies, and how they steal any chance at life."
Ludwig continued to stare at him through awed eyes as mixed feelings squirmed through him.
Wonder and admiration for his older brother's daring, fear for everything his announcement implied, and hurt that Gilbert was willing to leave him behind to the wolves.
"Can I go with you?" he hesitantly asked, hoping.
"I can't take you with me, Ludwig," Gilbert replied sternly. His lips pressed together tightly, sloping gently into a frown. "As long as the risk of getting caught is hanging over my head, I can't gamble your life too."
"But I want to go with you anyway!" Ludwig pleaded but Gilbert shook his head.
"I can't Ludwig. If you get caught along with me, who knows what'll happen. Our bodies would probably end up rotting with all the other 'bad' kids."
It was then Gilbert turned to him, unnatural red eyes aglow and strange silver hair shining with snowy luminosity from the pale, sickly moon struggling alone through the inky depths of the black sky. "Will you wait for me Ludwig? Are you willing to wait? I'll definitely come back here someday to get you. Definitely. Will you trust me?"
Ludwig turned away from him, disappointed and feeling slightly betrayed.
"Do I have a choice?" he muttered bitterly.
He felt a sudden weight drop onto his shoulders. Gilbert had put an arm around him in comfort but that wasn't going to change the fact he will leave without him.
"Ludwig, I know what you're feeling but I won't abandon you. We've been through too much together for me to give up on you now. I'm not like those assholes back there who'll backstab you any chance they get." His brother peered down at him through slightly sad eyes. "I thought you would know me enough to trust me."
Wincing minutely, Ludwig turned back towards Gilbert with large eyes, quick to try to remedy what he said.
"I do! I do trust you Gilbert but it'll be so hard in there all by myself. I can't imagine what it'll be like without you there to help me. I'm too weak to defend myself and I'm not as smart as you and… I'm…" He broke off before he could say the word he had forbidden himself to say. A cold shiver ran through him like a large piece of ice sliding down his throat, chilling every crevice in his body as he recalled all the past experiences Gilbert wasn't there by his side and all the close calls every single incident had incurred.
At this point, tears were beginning to form in his eyes but he quickly blinked them away, unwilling to show anymore weakness in front of his brother.
"I know that it's scary and it's okay to feel that way. Hell, I'd be a little worried if you weren't but I know you're a strong guy. I may have helped you out but you didn't crack under the pressure of living here and let me tell you, I have seen a lot of kids turn nuts. It's not exactly pleasant," he said, wincing at the memory, "but I know you'll never turn out like them. I trust that when I come back, you'll be alive and sane. I don't expect you to be unscathed but as long as you're alive and sane, it'll be enough."
Ludwig nodded, understanding and happy Gilbert thought so highly of him.
His brother had lived by himself when he was his age. Why wouldn't he be able to? Did he depend on Gilbert that much? His brother had no one to defend him and if he could live to be thirteen then Ludwig can too without anyone's aid. He trusted Gilbert was doing this for both of their futures and all that's left is Ludwig's own ability to fend for himself. He can't drag his brother down with his complaining especially since he's out to change both of their outcomes to something other than an early death in a place like this.
He needed to be brave for the both of them.
"When are you leaving?"
"When the Headmaster goes off to get supplies. I can sneak into the back of his pick-up truck then. I'm going to save up some food and I've got some money I've filched when they weren't looking. If I can just slip into the back, it'll be cake from there. Once I get into town, even if he sees me, he can't do shit with all the other people around."
"Where are you going to go from there?"
The weight around his shoulders disappeared and a hand landed on his head in its place.
"I'm not going to lie. I'm not sure myself but I just know things will get better. Actually, it's impossible for things not to get better than this but if it doesn't, I'll make it get better."
Gilbert's voice was laced with conviction as immovable as the mountains themselves and Ludwig believed him with all his heart.
Really, there were only two parts in the plan. The first part was Gilbert's escape. The second part was Ludwig's survival.
Ludwig smirked, nudging the teen's ribs playfully.
"You better. I don't want to live in a dump because you're too useless to do anything. If you want my advice, you'd better do something about your annoying personality… East."
Gilbert laughed out loud and nudged him back. "When has the awesome Gilbert ever been useless? If you want my advice, you'd better do something to lighten yourself up by the time I come back, eh West?"
As it turned out, Gilbert's opportunity came nearly two months later at dawn.
At last, the weeks of sleeping discretely outside finally paid off. Even those cold and rainy nights when he wished fervently to be inside where it was at least warm even if it's not welcoming were nothing now as he stealthily scaled the obstacle that enclosed the mansion.
He dropped onto the ground below with his burden and immediately crouched behind the bushes, aware of the Queen standing a distance away with her back to the hell he just escaped with the Headmaster. They were talking to each other about whatever. He didn't give a shit about the crap spewing from their mouths. His focus right now was on the disgusting barf green excuse of a truck sitting idly nearby on the wide dirt road with the horribly dented right door he could see clear as day.
Gilbert wasn't stupid.
During his days of planning his jailbreak, he knew many other kids must have had the same idea as he did and attempted to sneak off onto the truck just like he was doing now. He knew there must be something that would alert the Headmaster the moment he so much as touched the vehicle.
Gilbert squinted, trying to scrutinize the truck as much as he could from his distance.
If the Headmaster really did have some kind of alarm, it would most likely be on the back where kids would try to stow away. But knowing him…
His eyes strayed away from the vehicle towards the Queen who wore a lusty rich red cocktail dress.
She would probably be seeing the truck off, killing off any chances of anyone sneaking onboard.
He shouldered his course sack, making sure the single twine that tied the opening closed was tight and that the baggage wouldn't get in his way. Tightening his grip, he expertly picked his way through the underbrush until he was just about across the truck's front wheels.
He patted his hand around the ground and plucked the small stones embedded or laying in the dirt. After gathering a handful of rocks, he started throwing them, making sure to aim at the same area.
One. Two. Three. Four…
There was a pause from the orphanage's favorite caretakers as they looked towards the direction of the sound, alert.
Gilbert smirked as he untied his sack and pulled out a piece of broken fishing line. He tied it around a nearby, hefty stone before picking it up and slinking behind a tree. With all his might, he tossed the stone towards the branches in the distance, making sure a loud rustling noise sounded.
Those two were definitely giving their undivided attention now and they rushed towards the direction he threw the rock like the pair of moronic suckers they were.
Gilbert jogged the short distance separating him from the truck and examined the unusually large side mirrors.
The mirrors were directed towards the back of the truck and its reflections showed the distorted sheets of metal lining the inside. The metal lining itself acted like a mirror that reflected any objects that might be stowing away.
Gilbert then turned his attention towards the back where he spotted a large, bulky black video camera perched on the side like some kind of ugly hawk with a length of wire that slithered into the front through the back window. Following it led to a small, old, bulky television set sitting in the passenger seat, facing, of course, the driver's side.
Looks like a real serious problem. There's a video camera and mirrors that would instantly expose him if he tried to steal onboard. There's no way he could stay here undetected.
Maybe escape was too big of a dream after all…
Yeah fucking right.
If he knew the Headmaster as much as he liked to think, then that camera was just a piece of shit. As long as he pressed close to the front, the mirrors' blind side, then he'd be fine. The stupid camera was probably just a lame decoy that most kids probably tried to avoid only to be busted by the mirrors, the real anti-stowaway mechanisms. It figures that the greedy old asshole would be too damn cheap to install any actual high tech devices.
Noises from the brush instantly put him on alert and he swiftly slipped behind the truck just as the Headmaster, holding the rock, and Queen stepped onto the dirt road.
"Don't worry sweetheart I'll figure out what this is and I'll make sure to give them a little treat for being so bad," the Queen purred soothingly, her voice like velvet cake and silk as she pressed herself seductively against the Headmaster.
The man simply grunted and handed her the stupid rock before walking over to the truck and glancing into the back. Seeing it empty and his video camera, mirrors, and idiot box undisturbed, he started walking over to the driver's side.
Fully aware he was about to be discovered, he chucked the fistful of rocks he still held within his grasp into the forest. The few seconds of distraction allowed him to stealthily and silently jump into the back, heart thumping, hoping it was enough.
"Dear? Did you hear that?" inquired the Queen.
An answering grunt.
"It sounded like… someone landing on metal."
Gilbert's heart stopped, liquid ice immediately slithering in his veins and freezing his blood.
"You don't think there's anyone naughty enough to try to distract us while he gets onboard, do you?"
Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit.
He could hear the footsteps towards him and he looked around in wild-eyed panic, his breathing so rapid it bordered hyperventilation.
There was no escape. Headmaster to his right and the Queen to his left. If he tried to dodge in any direction, he'd instantly get caught. It's impossible not to get caught with two pairs of eyes focused on the truck.
He was trapped.
He was going to be discovered.
He was going to get killed.
He was going to fail Ludwig. Ludwig, his little brother who depended on him to shed light into his future.
No, he had to try. He had to at least try to look for a way out. But how? How?
He rolled his eyes around in frantic frenzy, looking desperately for a way out in a situation with no ways out.
They're getting closer. The sound of their shoes' muffled clacking on the dirt.
Clack. Clack. Clack.
Oh god what'll he do? Oh god. Oh god. What? What? How?
Darkness. Bright red blood. Pain. Throbbing, gut-wrenching, soul-grinding pain. No. No more! No more! Stop! No more!
Gilbert's wide eyes shot up to his left to meet the gaze of the Queen, her fancy red decorative fan covering the bottom half of her face. She seemed to be smiling at him, her quiet, refined brown eyes looking down on him imperially.
"What a naughty child."
Her voice was a gentle lilt that carried the tones of a disapproval and reprimand beneath it.
It was the voice she used when she was about to do something cruel to a child that she knew she would take pleasure in wholeheartedly. She would love that, wouldn't she? To drag a knife up his spinal cord or perhaps shatter every bone in his arms and legs before enjoying herself, indulging in her sick fetishes. She would love to gloat over his failed escape, her words sharper than the knife that would be in her hand and her criticism more devastating than a bomb.
She would have loved to tell him about how he had missed his shot at freedom forever, how everything was in vain and how he was so worthless, he couldn't even get in a truck and escape.
How pointless meeting Ludwig had been.
How pointless it was to be alive.
How pointless it was to exist.
A sneer sliced sharply across his face as a boiling, lava-hot rage oozed through his body, slowly filling him and thawing the Arctic ice that had paralyzed him mere seconds ago into a heat he could feel explode through his blood. Drops of venomous hate seeped along with his glowing fury, poisoning his mind with a contempt so intense he could think of nothing else but the raw, scorching emotions that erupted forth. It made him even angrier which in turn seeped more toxins of loathing inside him, creating a deadly cycle of positive feedback.
For all these years he had subjected himself to her wishes and her fucking lunatic psychotic mind. He had trembled before her like a fucking toddler and he remembered and knew the humiliation of bowing his head to the likes of her.
No more. He couldn't bear more humiliation from her.
Who the fuck was she to stand between his and Ludwig's freedom and enjoy every moment of pain she inflicted? It wasn't like she knew how it hurts. It wasn't like she knew how their wounds bleed. It wasn't like she knew how her scars have dug downward deep into their flesh to the marrow of their bones because she… no not just her, him too. Because they were never subjected to it.
But I'll change that, Gilbert thought viciously, snarling like a wolf at the approaching fingers of her. I'll change that. I'll come back and I'll kill you. I'll torture you; put you through what you have put us through. I swear it. I fucking swear it. You'll see you fuckers. You'll see. You'll regret ever having started this sick, twisted game of yours in the first place. I promise.
Hot thick revenge.
He desired it, yearned for it, and craved it with every cell of his body. It drove him crazy, almost feral, the want, the need for it like a stranded man in a desert who needed water. He wanted to feel the silky, spicy-sweet red taste of beautiful revenge dancing in his mouth, slipping over his tongue like satin ribbon.
The enrapturing promise of a meal of revenge glazed over with the building pressure of deep, bottomless hatred burst his body into movement. With a roar, he leapt up over the Headmaster, who had been standing passively to his right, and tore into the forest.
He knew the Queen will come after him. He also knew that to keep him from sneaking back on the truck, the Headmaster is probably starting up his truck right now.
What they don't know is that was exactly what he was hoping for.
He recalled from his memory a sketchy map of the road he had once tried to follow only to realize that he might be travelling for days without food, water or shelter before he reached the closest civilization if he were to go on foot.
There was a loop in the road.
The road started to the left of the mansion but in order to get down from the small cliff it rested on, it curved into a U to skirt around the rock before dropping south towards town.
If he could cut across the forest to the other side, he would have a chance at getting onto that truck.
It was risky, it was stupid, and it was rash but he didn't care. For his last bid for freedom, he would try anything at all. Anything.
He soared over the brush, gliding as fluidly as a sparrow between trees and branches. His resilient animosity and his ravenous pursuit of a future for both Ludwig and him propelled him forth like wind until he all but flew through the undergrowth.
He couldn't hear anyone following him beneath all the rustling and cracks of stone and twigs beneath his shoes but he knew the Queen was hot on his tail like a cat after its quarry.
He had to make it. There were no ifs, ands, buts, maybes, or afters. If he misses, it's all over for both them.
But even if I'm gone, I'm sure Ludwig would try escaping anyway, Gilbert thought with a mixture of pride and grimness.
His sprint through the forest was a rather long and windy one but he didn't slow. He couldn't slow. Not even if something smacked him unconscious. He would keep going and he would keep this speed if he wanted to catch that truck. When he arrives to the cliff… Well, he'll cross that bridge when he gets there, which will be very soon.
He will make it. He refused to believe otherwise. Too much was in balance. Only when the tart taste of failure filled his mouth would he allow himself to shatter, the hope he held, the fragile feathers making up his wings, would scatter to the wind and all resolve he held would crush him with its weight. But right now, his hope bore him forward.
Onwards Gilbert ran, his tiredness making itself known a hundred times over with the aching of his legs that felt as though someone was tearing them off and the suffocation he felt from breathing air that felt too heavy.
A break in the trees ahead along with the blue swath of sky just beyond an arch of branches signaled the cliff ahead.
He slowed and skidded to a stop at the very edge of the rock face, a few loose pebbles tumbling down the twenty foot drop to the road.
He could see the truck coming down the road already.
Without a second thought, he slid down the rock face carefully, dirt and stones following his descent. He snagged a sturdy rock and stopped, halfway down.
The Queen coming from above and his escape below, it was a no brainer if he'd rather miss or hit.
His heart pumping liters of the drug adrenaline, he would only have a few seco—
Gilbert scrambled to heave himself up on his feet or something. Anything just as long as the rough ground stopped scrapping the flesh off his legs!
He strained to keep his grip on the back edge of the truck and swallowed the sharp yelp as the sudden jagged movement jostled his wounds.
Gritting his teeth, he forced his legs to lift themselves onto his feet despite the fact he had left a bloody mess of his tissue and pieces of skin behind him.
His shoes helped protect him for a few moments but the ratty things were nothing. They would soon disintegrate in the face of the less than smooth road he was currently skiing on. His arms were beyond tired and if he didn't do something, he'll find himself stranded in the middle of wilderness with nothing but two gushing, damaged legs.
With a great, laborious effort, he heaved himself upward and forced his legs to move, the screeching sheer agony of simply bending his knees slightly made him gasp but he bit his lip and let out a muffled scream instead. He placed his feet on the rear bumper of the truck and agonizingly climbed onto the back, settling back against the mirrors' blind spot just in case.
He panted for breath.
He made it.
Taking a quick glance down at his bloodied appendages, he knew it would take much more than spit and tape to heal that kind of injury this time but it was okay. He's been through much worse before.
Still, it hurt like a bitch now that his adrenaline was draining, leaving him exhausted and throbbing painfully all over his body.
He was much too tired to fully savor his victory and much too wounded to really care he had managed to board his ticket to freedom.
Nonetheless, however, the taste on his tongue was a sweetness he had never tasted before and which he will taste two more times in his future lifetime.
It was the overwhelming flavor of complete and utter victory.
A/N: Sigh I'm sorry about the very late update everyone. I didn't actually mean for it to be late by about two months since August was summer vacation with more time to write and all but I've been kind of sick at heart lately and I was in no mood or condition to write but I have an obligation to readers and an unspoken responsbility the moment I posted the prolouge.
Again, my condolences for my prolonged absence. I try with utmost effort to post a chapter at least once a month.
One more note. If you haven't read in my livejournal (which you should check at least demi-frequently because it might have important updates), Guardian Angel will be making a brief hiatus and when I say hiatus, I don't mean it as a codeword for discontinued. I'm simply working on another story called With the Sky So Tall. If you would like more information, feel free to visit.
Thank you and see you again soon.
Edit: I would like to ask people to please refrain from asking for updates or asking for me to update soon. I'm sincerely flattered you like this story enough to ask for updates but please keep in mind that if you've ever written multi-chaptered stories, you'll know being an author isn't as easy as it may look. There a thousand things that gets in the way. There's school, real life activities, and dramas that can occur. Right now, I'm struggling with an emotional instability bordering flat out depression and I'm not even sure when I can finish up WtSST but I will finish up the next chapter of this story when I finish it. It may be a long wait but I did promise that I'd finish this story many times throughout so again, I would like to kindly ask people not to ask for updates. Thank you for your cooperation :)