Author's Notes-

I've been feeling a little down in the dumps lately, so instead of being good and working on the myriad of fics I should be finishing, I wrote this bit of sap and fluff. This is based on the now infamous picture of Prussia with his hair slicked back like Germany's. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just check out the Hetalia blog from about a week ago.

Anyway, this isn't supposed to be a serious story or even a serious effort on my part. So just try and enjoy the fluff.

Warnings: Light lime (does anyone even use that convention anymore?), language

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Appearances

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Ludwig cursed and blew his bangs out of his eyes. He flashed his ID at the man at the security counter with barely a glance, storming through the metal detectors and racing up the escalator at a breakneck speed. It figured that on the one day his vote actually meant something he was late. Ludwig scowled and damned Gilbert fifteen ways to Sunday. He was going to murder that crazed albino.

He'd woken up to an empty house at the sound of the dogs scratching on his bedroom door, Fritz whining the loudest out of all of them for attention. Ludwig had groaned and turned over to poke his brother to make him get up and take his self-proclaimed 'favorite' on a walk. His blue eyes snapped open when his hand encountered soft mattress instead of a pale shoulder. His brother's side of the bed was cold. Ludwig sat up, running a hand through his disheveled hair, scowling when it refused to obey him. He'd grudgingly gotten out of bed, pausing only briefly to wonder at Gilbert's absence before shrugging it off. The Prussian was probably just still pissed that Ludwig had yelled at him for his irreverent attitude towards summit meetings before forbidding the older man from ever setting foot in another meeting hall ever again. But for God's sake. One could only set off fireworks mid-meeting just to 'spice things up' so many times before it started to reflect poorly on one's house.

So Ludwig had done his morning chores, falling into the comfortable schedule. He walked the dogs, gave Fritz his special meal (Gilbert insisted that his dog wouldn't eat the same shit the other two got, even though Ludwig had tried to explain to him countless times that all dog food was exactly the same, just packaged differently to trick over-zealous pet owners), ate his breakfast of bread and Nutella, and got dressed. Then Ludwig went to go shave and make himself presentable for the meeting. Gilbert always complained that he took way more time in the bathroom than could be good for his masculinity, but since the silver-haired man spent on average .5 seconds washing his face and brushing his teeth a day, Ludwig considered his opinion null and void. The blonde carefully flossed, shaved, and then opened the medicine cabinet, reaching for his customary hair gel. He unscrewed the cap, and stared.

It was empty. Ludwig furrowed his brow, trying to remember when he'd last gone shopping. It had been last week. He remembered because Gilbert had tried to sneak three pounds of bacon into their cart, insisting that because it could be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it was obviously the most superior food, and could possibly even be used for currency, that's how valuable it was.

So with the power of logic, Ludwig surmised that he should not have run out of hair gel yet. Which could only mean…

"The son of a bitch."

Ludwig growled and slammed the medicine cabinet shut. Which, of course, broke, and scattered microscopic shards of glass all over the floor. And then the dogs had to choose that moment to come barging into the bathroom, thus forcing Ludwig to spend the next part of an hour carefully extracting bits of broken glass from their paws while they yelped with pain. Then he'd happened to glance out his window to see his bus whooshing by at an unholy speed, and the car was missing so he'd had to call a cab that probably charged two Euro for every three meters traveled and by the time he'd reached the plaza he was in a foul mood, with disheveled hair and mismatched socks and bits of mirror stuck into his knees from when he'd accidentally knelt on a hidden and particularly tricky pile of glass.

Ludwig shook his head to clear it of unpleasant reminiscences and stormed down the tiled hallway. Various people raised their hands in greeting as the German came towards them, but then froze upon closer inspection of his crazed appearance and turned to frantically engage the nearest person, inanimate object, or water cooler in conversation to avoid inadvertently making eye contact with the blonde man.

Finally, Ludwig reached the last hallway before the meeting room. He could hear voices echoing down the corridor, Alfred's booming tenor ricocheting irritatingly off the tile floor. Ludwig only caught snatches of the American's speech, just enough to make out, '…and now we'll hear from Germany's representative on the new eco-emissions bill…'.

Ludwig swore and broke into a run, pushing aside office workers and politicians with abandon. As he shoved China's new secretary of state to the ground, he vaguely hoped he wasn't going to accidentally cause World War III. He doubted the United Nations would take 'but my brother used up all my hair gel' as a valid excuse. Pity.

Arthur's voice suddenly rang out down the hallway, the British man's tone irritated and snarky as usual. "For fuck's sake would you get a move one? Some of us have pubs that need attending to!"

"Don't get your panties in a bunch, UK. We're still talkin' about proposition 13-B, right?" the newest voice sounded vaguely familiar, but Ludwig couldn't place it over the sound of his own labored breathing. The voice continued, "I move to dismiss. We really don't need another group of hippies screechin' at us to go all solar energy and wind power bullshit when there're slightly bigger things at stake."

Ludwig skidded to a halt in front of the imposing double doors, almost pitching forward to fall on his face as his over-polished shoes stuck to the tile floor. His eyes widened in sudden recognition. That was Gilbert's voice. He pushed open the doors in a panic, and froze.

Gilbert was standing at the head of the table next to Alfred, gesturing at the screen behind him which displayed a brightly colored power point presentation. His brother's suit was for once impeccably pressed, shoes shined, tie straight. And…

And the disappearing hair gel was no longer a mystery.

Everyone turned to look at Ludwig as he made a choked noise of rage: half the faces contorted with stifled mirth, the other half starting blankly in confusion. Directly in front of him, Finland turned to whisper in Sweden's ear, "Who's that?"

Sweden's eye twitched. "Germany."

Finland pointed to the front of the room, his voice barely a whisper anymore, "I thought that was him!"

"…No."

"Then why does his hair look like that!?" Finland cried, his voice pinched and screechy with abject confusion, "Do you know any other person on this Earth who uses that much hair gel while remaining magically impervious to our derisive laughter?!"

"Gentlemen, please!" Gilbert's stern voice rang with barely suppressed glee as he glared at the assembled nations, pointedly avoiding his brother's livid face. "Could we save the childish banter for after the pinnacle meeting?" He shook his head, running one hand over his slicked-back hair with businesslike precision, "All latecomers just take a seat. And I'll ask you to politely refrain from interrupting us further."

There were a few muffled snickers as Ludwig's face flushed, but the blonde grit his teeth and lowered himself into the nearest empty seat with all the dignity he could muster. At the front of the room, Gilbert gave a small cough before turning back to his presentation. "Now, where were we?" the ex-Prussian turned to Alfred, crossing his arms over his chest. The American's blue eyes shone with laughter and he seemed to be struggling to keep his voice level as he choked out, "P-proposition… 13-B."

Gilbert merely nodded before resuming his presentation in a clipped and methodical voice that made everyone scramble for pens and pencils to take notes. Ludwig's jaw dropped, but he managed to snap it shut with an audible click before anyone noticed. He stared as his brother. Barring how ridiculous the older man looked with his hair gelled back in a contemptuous mockery of Ludwig's style, he was actually…

Confident. Commanding. Like the brother Ludwig remembered from his childhood. The brother who had loomed over him with an indomitable force that begged to be reckoned with just so it'd have something to destroy. Sometimes he forgot which one of them was supposed to be the elder, what with the hundreds of times he'd had to bail Gilbert out of jail, or rescue him from some experiment with ferrets gone horribly awry or whatever other bizarre scheme the ex-nation had concocted to stave off the boredom that seemed to drive him closer to total madness day after endless day.

Ludwig blinked, startled out of his reverie at the sound of dozens of chairs being pushed back en masse as the meeting ended, and he stood as well, quickly closing his folder to hide his conspicuous lack of notes. He looked up in time to see his boss striding over to where Gilbert was meticulously stacking his papers into even piles. Ludwig shoved in his chair and tried to rush towards the front of the room to provide some explanation when his boss' face gave him pause. She reached out her hand towards Gilbert, and the pale man blinked, before throwing up his most dashing smile and gripping her hand. She laughed and Ludwig could barely hear her voice over the din of the other nations as they left the room.

"…Marvelous work, really. Just amazing," she practically purred, her normally strident voice laced with praise. "It's nice to be reminded why we keep you around."

Gilbert's smile was schooled down into a grin, rather than its usual smirk. "Thank you, Chancellor. And I would just like to take this time to apologize for my counterpart's recent behavior."

Her pale eyebrows furrowed, "I'm afraid I was not made aware of-"

Gilbert gave an exaggerated sigh, "He's been showing up late, completely unkempt. He zones out at meetings, taps his pencil against the desk to the point of insanity, and has very little to contribute on the whole."

She frowned, "I find that rather hard to believe. Why, if that were the case, all of us would…"

She trailed off as Gilbert shook his head sadly. "See for yourself, ma'am." He pointed behind her.

Ludwig attempted to duck behind a chair, but it smacked him in the side of his head as its occupant quickly shoved backwards. The blonde toppled to the floor, and looked up just in time to see his boss staring at him with a look of horror on her face. Ludwig took inventory of his appearance: rumpled suit, flushed face, bleary eyes, and above all, hair that looked like a band of lunatics had taken an electro-magnet to it. He quickly stood up and rushed over to where Gilbert and his boss were eyeing him as he stammered out, "I-I apologize for my tardiness, ma'am. I didn't-"

She dismissed him with one hand, a disappointed look on her face. "Really, Herr Weilschmidt," she snapped, "We can't afford to be making a spectacle of ourselves at this point in time."

"But I-"

"I would suggest taking a leaf out of your elder's book," she interrupted coolly, buttoning up her pressed jacket. "It's comforting to know that at least one of you has the presence of mind to represent our house with some dignity."

With that, she elegantly strode from the meeting room, snapping orders at her trailing lackeys.

Ludwig stared after her for a moment before calmly turning to face his brother. The other man was pointedly ignoring him, placing folders and USB drives into his briefcase with careful deliberation. Ludwig clenched his hands at his sides, and took a calming breath. He opened his mouth to speak, but Gilbert just closed the case with a snap and breezed past him, carefully smoothing his slicked-back hair for the fiftieth time that day, smirking fit to split his face in two.

Ludwig's eyebrow twitched, and he took a deep breath to calm himself before slowly stepping out into the hallway, ignoring the muffled snickers of the other nations that remained in the room. He calmly pressed the elevator button, and resolutely waited a full five minutes for it to arrive. When it finally did, Ludwig serenely stepped inside and pressed the button for the bottom floor. Then it was another five minutes before the car finally ground to a halt, its doors slowly opening to the lobby. By now, the vein in Ludwig's head was throbbing despite his best efforts to keep his temper under wraps. He abandoned any pretence of calm, and barreled through the lobby, vaguely hoping he'd be able to catch his bus.

But he was fated to be luck's bitch today. Ludwig watched the bus pull away from the curb with a stony expression on his face, just as a fat raindrop fell on his nose, making him blink water out of his eyes. Something tapped him on the back, and he whirled around to see a policeman eyeing him warily. "Move along there, son," the policeman said, tipping up his hat to glare into the tall blonde's eyes, "There's a homeless shelter down the street that can help you out."

Ludwig just stared down at the policeman blankly, before turning and walking the twenty kilometers home in the steadily pouring rain. By the time he reached the simple brick structure and unlocked the front iron wrought gate, his anger had abated slightly, replaced by a near debilitating exhaustion. The normal chorus of welcoming howls greeted him as he stepped through the front door. Ludwig carefully unlaced his sodden shoes, pausing when he noticed the other pair strewn haphazardly across the mat. From the back of the house, he distantly heard Gilbert yell, "Shut up Fritz! I'll feed you in a second!"

Ludwig heard the scraping of claws on his nice hardwood floor as the Great Dane barreled down the hall and slammed into him, slobbering all over his nice suit. The tall blonde sighed as the other two dogs hurried to follow Fritz's example, and he braced himself for the assault.

Five minutes later, Ludwig managed to extract himself from the dog pile and stumbled down the hall, pulling off his wet suit coat and undoing his tie, throwing both items into the sink to deal with later. He heard the water running in the master bedroom's adjoining bathroom and Gilbert's voice echoing from the small room. "Fritz, is that the newspaper kid? Fetch, Fritz! Fetch the paper!" The Great Dane barked in response before latching on to Ludwig's sleeve and dragging him to the back of the house. Ludwig let himself be pulled along rather than risk ruining his dress shirt further, and in a few moments he found himself parked in front of the bathroom door, his clothes dripping on the carpet. Fritz finally released his sleeve and stared up at him with soulful brown eyes. Ludwig cracked a smile and leaned down to scratch the Dane behind its ears.

Suddenly the door to the bathroom flew open, and Gilbert stared down at Ludwig with an unreadable expression on his haughty face. His hair was still slicked back, not a strand out of place. Gilbert frowned at the Great Dane, making it hunch its shoulders and flatten its ears against its head. The pale man sighed. "Next time I'll teach you how to fetch somethin' useful, mutt," he muttered, leaning against the doorjamb.

Ludwig stood slowly to examine his brother, swallowing against a sudden wash of unexplainable trepidation.

"Hi," he said softly.

Gilbert's red eyes flashed for a moment before he took a step backwards, his bare feet leaving behind ghosts of footprints on the cold tile floor.

Ludwig gently pushed Fritz out of the bedroom, shutting the door behind him before following the other man into the bathroom. He stood next to Gilbert, studying their reflections in the mirror. His brother scowled back at him, the severe hairstyle serving to exaggerate every small change in his expression. Ludwig's sopping wet blonde hair fell into his face, partially obscuring his eyes and he swiped at it in irritation. Next to him, Gilbert gave a malicious chuckle. "Nice look you got goin' on there, West," he said, eyes flicking down to the growing puddle on the floor, "Not up to your usual prep boy standards, though."

"So I've been told," Ludwig grumbled, blue eyes flicking to the side to fix on his brother's face in the mirror, "by a policeman, no less."

"Fashion police or regular?" Gilbert reached up to fiddle with his hair, scowling when it refused to budge. "'Cause if it's the former, then let me be the one to inform you that you've transcended Francis in the realm of gay."

Ludwig watched with growing apprehension as his brother continued to struggle, worried that the older man might end up simply rampaging through their house, smashing all the mirrors so he'd be able to pretend his hair didn't look like a bolder glued to his head.

Gilbert snarled in frustration and yanked his hand free from where it had become stuck. He eyed the mirror wearily before groaning and letting his forehead thud down onto the marble sink. "This was my worst revenge plot ever," he muttered, kneeling down on the floor so he wouldn't have to strain his neck. "Next time remind me to just plant a bunch of C4 in your car like I'd originally planned."

Ludwig frowned as he undid the buttons of his now most likely ruined shirt. "That sounds decidedly unsafe."

"Stellar deduction skills you've got there, Holmes."

Ludwig continued trying to pry himself out of his wet shirt, giving a small smile of triumph when he finally got the damn thing off. He turned to chuck it in the hamper, when Gilbert's muffled voice sounded again. "Hey, West?"

"Yes?"

"…If I say I'm sorry for our boss chewin' you out…"

"I'm too jaded from all your previous false apologies," Ludwig said wryly, grabbing a towel and drying off his hair as best he could. "You're going to have to try a different track."

Silence.

"I'll walk the dogs every mornin'."

"That's already supposed to be your job."

"Grocery shoppin'?"

"I refuse to live off of bacon and noodles."

"Cleanin'?"

"The dust bunnies you safeguard under our bed would come to resent you."

Gilbert let out a frustrated sigh as he pressed his forehead into the counter. "Fine, fine…" There was a long pause, before he grumbled, "Can you help me?"

Ludwig grinned, and finished mopping up the puddle of water on the floor before standing again to look down at the older man's pathetic form. "'Can you help me', what."

Gilbert let his head thud against the marble sink. "Can you help me… please," he ground out.

Ludwig reached down and pulled his brother to his feet, deftly pushing him towards the tub. He pointed to the plush bathmat. "Shirt off. Sit."

Gilbert scowled at being ordered around, but obeyed, shucking off his button-up and undershirt in one fluid motion before sitting down with his back to the tub with an air of resentment. Ludwig grabbed the showerhead and twisted the faucet tap, testing the temperature as he knelt down next to his brother. Gilbert was still frowning and avoiding the other man's gaze, picking absently at a loose thread in the bathmat. Ludwig resisted the urge to just dunk his brother's head in the toilet and be done with it. Instead, he said, "Head back," and adjusted the temperature. When Gilbert didn't budge, Ludwig moved his hand to forcefully tilt his brother's head back. The silver-haired man scowled up at him. "That hurt."

"It wouldn't if you would just cooperate," Ludwig pointed out, moving to let the showerhead hover over the older man's hair. He let out a bark of laughter, "Gilbert, you could probably legally drive a motorcycle with just your hair in place of a helmet. How much stuff did you use?"

Gilbert muttered something. Ludwig tried to pry his fingers out of the tangled mass. "Come again?"

The red-eyed man sighed. "The whole thing."

Ludwig lost control of the showerhead for a moment as he laughed, and ended up inadvertently soaking his own undershirt even further as well as dumping a slew of water on his brother's face. Gilbert let out an indignant squawk and sat up, rubbing his face and glaring at Ludwig. The blonde grinned sheepishly in apology, and Gilbert warily leaned back again, resting the back of his neck on the edge of the tub.

Ludwig resumed letting the water run over his brother's hair, grinning in triumph as he saw the strands begin to loosen. Gilbert fidgeted, and the blonde quirked an eyebrow up at him. "What is it?"

"If your plan is to give my hypothermia, then I'd say it's goin' swimmingly," Gilbert drawled, before sneezing fitfully. "Pun not intended."

Ludwig rolled his eyes. "This is the temperature at which I always take showers and I've yet to die from it."

Gilbert just stared back up at him and muttered something along the lines of, "That explains a lot," before settling back.

The blonde sighed, but reached out to adjust the temperature. The water began to steam, and Ludwig had to admit that it felt nice to be warm after being out in the rain for so long. Gilbert closed his eyes and gave a quiet murmur of approval. Ludwig let a fond smile grace his features before running his free hand through his brother's hair. The fine strands were beginning to come apart faster under the hot water, and Ludwig continued to gently tug them apart, pausing whenever Gilbert's eye twitched with discomfort.

"Sorry," he muttered, moving his hand down to place cool fingers on the back of the silver-haired man's neck, freeing the strands trapped underneath. He switched the showerhead to the other side, and started the process again, letting the hot water do most of the work.

The majority of the gunk had been washed from his brother's hair, but he continued running his fingers through the silvery tendrils, silently relishing the serene look on the older man's face. He swallowed heavily, and reached out to turn off the water, pulling his hand away from Gilbert's hair. Ludwig sat back on his heels as Gilbert blinked his eyes open and yawned, cracking his neck from side to side. The blonde grabbed a towel from the rack and threw it over his brother's head, trying to soak up as much of the water as he could.

"Uh… West?"

"What."

Gilbert's voice sounded amused. "I can do this part myself, you know."

"Shut up," Ludwig muttered, although the words carried little venom, "Just sit still and let me do this."

To the blonde's surprise, Gilbert did just that; remaining perfectly still until Ludwig was satisfied the older man's hair was as dry as he was going to get it. He moved the towel down to drape over Gilbert's bare shoulders, his hands lingering briefly on the warm skin. Ludwig felt his brother shiver slightly as droplets of water trickled down his face, and the blonde brought a corner of the towel up to brush a few stray drops from the pale skin. The bathroom was suddenly very quiet; only the sound of steady breathing breaking the silence.

Ludwig shook his head, and leaned forward to grab the towel when he suddenly felt a hand on the back of his neck. Gilbert pulled the blonde down to him, and gently pressed his lips against the top of the younger man's flaxen hair. Ludwig pulled back to see his brother grinning at him, his head tilted to the side. "You know…" the Prussian said, running his hand through Ludwig's hair in an imitation of the other man's earlier actions, "I think I like your hair better like this. Makes you seem…" his grin turned wicked. "Vulnerable."

"I'm not the one sprawled on the floor in a potentially embarrassing state of undress," Ludwig murmured, scooting forward to hover over the older man's outstretched legs. He slowly ran his palm up Gilbert's stomach, memorizing for the thousandth time the contours and planes of his brother's lithe body. Ludwig rested his fingers underneath Gilbert's chin, before leaning down to catch the other man's lips in a hungry kiss.

Ludwig shuddered as Gilbert reached up between them and slid his hands underneath the thin undershirt to gently scrape his nails against the blonde's chest. The two pulled apart for a moment, both breathing heavily. Gilbert smirked as Ludwig hastily yanked his own undershirt off. As soon as the blonde discarded the unwanted piece of clothing, Gilbert shoved the younger man backwards. Ludwig's head smacked against the floor, and he hissed in pain and clenched his eyes shut. He heard his brother give a low chuckle as Gilbert shifted to straddle the taller man's hips.

The Prussian leaned down to mutter a quiet apology in his brother's ear before moving down to sink his teeth into the sensitive flesh of Ludwig's neck. The blonde man let out a warning growl and Gilbert brushed his lips soothingly over the mark to appease him. Ludwig ran his hands over the smaller man's back, feeling taunt muscle and sinew shift under the pale skin as he pulled Gilbert closer to kiss him again. He could feel fire beginning to burn its way under his skin as his brother pressed down on him, the sensation of hungry caresses against bare flesh making his back arch off the tile floor.

Suddenly, Gilbert wrenched himself away, almost knocking his head against the underside of the sink. Ludwig's blue eyes narrowed with confusion, and he attempted to sit up as well, only to have his brother hold him against the floor with one strong arm. The Prussian's face was incredulous as he shook his head, "Hang on hang on. What're we doin' exactly?"

Ludwig just stared up at the older man for a moment. Then he said slowly, "I'd hoped it would be obvious. Do you need me to draw you a diagram?"

"Cute, West. But not the answer I was lookin' for," Gilbert drawled, pressing both his palms against Ludwig's chest to firmly pin him to the floor. "I thought we were fightin' earlier. What happened? Was that innocent mother-hen act with the shower supposed to be an apology for bein' an asshole?"

Ludwig tried really hard to wrench his mind away from the fact that his brother was hovering just over his hips, staring down at him with dark red eyes, tongue flicking out to wet his lips. But the blonde's mind refused to cooperate, and so the best he could come up with was something along the lines of, "Nng…forwhat?"

"I'll take that as a no." Gilbert leaned back, sitting on Ludwig's thighs. He smirked. "Guess I'll just have to make you apologize, then."

Ludwig's brain short circuited. Gilbert laughed wickedly, rolling his hips down to grind against the blonde's. "And I can think of soooo many ways to make you beyond sorry, West…" The silver-haired man bent down to nip playfully at Ludwig's lips before kissing him briefly. Then he suddenly stood up with one graceful motion and padded out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Ludwig stared up at the ceiling for a moment before his brain caught up with reality. He staggered to his feet and reached out to grab the door knob, giving it a sharp yank.

Nothing happened.

He tried again.

The door made a pathetic squeaking noise. But that was all.

Ludwig could hear Gilbert on the other side of the door rummaging around in what the blonde hoped was his own half of the closet before the other man shouted out, "Fritz! Fritz, it's walk time! Get your dog ass in gear!"

Ludwig pounded on the door. "Gilbert!"

There was no reply. Ludwig kicked the door, and then spent a few seconds hopping around on one foot. When he was sure none of his toes had been turned into ground hamburger, he tested the door again. He could feel his temper growing. "Gilbert I swear to God open this door right now or I'll-"

"Or you'll what, West?"

Gilbert's voice from behind the door sounded infinitely pleased with itself, and it took conscious effort on Ludwig's part not to try punching through the door just so he could wring his brother's neck. He tried for patient instead. "Gilbert. Would you mind opening this door?"

"Why yes, West. I would mind. Thanks for askin'."

"Could you stop acting like a petulant child for two seconds?!" Ludwig snapped. "Now either give me one good reason why you felt it necessary to barricade me in here or-"

"Stop talkin' to me like I am a child and we might be able to get somewhere."

Ludwig stopped mid rant. He frowned. "I'm not-"

"You were. And you do." Ludwig heard a weight settle against the door on the other side, and Gilbert's voice turned slightly bitter with rancor. "I'm not a child, nor am I an invalid. I'm not backwards, poison, incompetent, bloodthirsty, a war monger, or any of those other things you've called me over the years. I can read the times, West. I know they're changin', and I've done my best to change with them. But I just wish for fuck's sake you'd let me have my voice back."

"I…" Ludwig swallowed. "I never called you any of those things."

The weight lifted away from the door. "Well you sure as hell didn't jump to my defense when others did."

Ludwig closed his eyes. "Please open the door, Gil."

"You gonna apologize?"

Ludwig sighed and braced himself. He took a deep breath. "I-"

"Sorry," Gilbert interrupted him. "Gotta go walk Fritz. I'll let you think it over."

Ludwig heard his brother move away from the door and let his head thud against the heavy oak surface. He sighed, and walked over to pick up the various discarded articles of clothing. He folded his own shirt without much thought, but then he picked up Gilbert's and just stared at it. His brother wasn't as broad across the shoulder as he was. Wasn't as tall, either. Ludwig closed his eyes, trying in vain to remember when he'd outstripped his elder in stature. He couldn't. One day, Gilbert had towered over him, all brazen laughter and wild energy. The next, Ludwig suddenly had to bend over to look the silver-haired man in the eye, had to watch him fade slowly into the background of his house's affairs.

Ludwig remained on the bathroom floor, lost in thought, absently folding and re-folding the shirt, smoothing out the creases with long tapered fingers over and over again.

There was a sudden knock on the door.

"West?"

Ludwig didn't respond, still deep in thought.

"West? You haven't like, drowned yourself in the toilet out of despair, have you?"

Ludwig folded the shirt for the last time and laid it on top of his own.

A note of panic began to creep its way into Gilbert's steady voice. "West? West- Ludwig, you okay?"

Ludwig tried to respond, but after rejecting sentence after sentence opted to just get up and walk over to the door. Unfortunately, Gilbert chose that same moment to bust the door down with an unnecessarily violent kick. The solid oak met Ludwig's forehead with a satisfying crack, and stars exploded in front of his eyes.

Through what looked like a cloud of cotton balls, Ludwig could barely see his brother's face torn between intense amusement and alarm as he yelled out in surprise, "Fuck! Hang on, West, I gotcha."

What felt like ages later, Ludwig cautiously opened his eyes, quickly shutting them again when the intense light made his head ache with sharp pain. He was sprawled on top of the bed, a thin afghan drawn up around his still bare midsection. Ludwig heard a rustling noise next to him, and felt a cool hand against his forehead.

Gilbert chuckled. "Figures your head's more stubborn than oak. Good thing too." The hand moved away from his forehead to rest reassuringly on his hip.

Ludwig cracked open an eye. Gilbert's face was mere centimeters away from his own, and the red eyes looked almost crossed as they tried to focus on his face.

Ludwig tried for a smile. "Ow."

Gilbert laughed softly, reaching down to pull one of Ludwig's hands up to his chest, placing a chaste kiss on the scarred knuckles. "No kiddin'. For a second I thought I was goin' to have to spend the rest of my day cleanin' up brains off our bathroom floor."

"But not taking me to hospital?"

"Nah," Gilbert smiled broadly. "Hospital costs more money than a mop and a shovel."

Ludwig gave a quiet snort. "A frugal Prussian to the last, I see…"

Gilbert didn't respond, absently interlinking his fingers with his brother's. Ludwig shifted slightly to free his other arm from where it was trapped under him. He reached out to run the back of his hand against Gilbert's cheek, his tone suddenly serious.

"I'm sorry."

Gilbert remained silent.

Ludwig moved his arm to rest against the smaller man's lower back. He gently pressed his forehead against Gilbert's, feeling long silver lashes brush against his face.

"You don't need to worry. No matter what..."

He managed a small smile.

"You'll always be my big brother."

Gilbert gave a quiet snort. "Damn straight," he said proudly, a sudden wolfish grin splitting his features.

Ludwig pulled away slightly to study the older man's face. "So we're okay?"

"Five by five as far as I'm concerned," Gilbert yawned, butting his head underneath the taller man's chin. "What were we arguin' about again?"

"Not sure. Something about keeping your masculinity intact…?"

"Hilarious, West," Gilbert said sleepily, "You sure you really want to be lookin' a gift horse in the mouth like that?"

Ludwig laughed quietly, intertwining his legs with his brother's to pull them closer. "Where do you learn these crazy phrases?"

"Hang around America for an entire summit meeting and you'll start pickin' up crazy shit too." Gilbert gently punched Ludwig in the kidney. "Now shut it. I need a nap after haulin' your heavy ass off that bathroom floor."

"Liar. You probably just kicked me up here," Ludwig droned, idly playing with Gilbert's hair. "And shouldn't you be staying awake to check and make sure I don't have a concussion?"

"Pupils're dilatin' fine," Gilbert's voice was muddled as he buried his face in the crook of Ludwig's neck. He sighed, "How the fuck this all get started again?"

Ludwig ran a hand over his brother's soft, silvery hair. "Styling products."

Gilbert gave a tired, derisive snort. "Pathetic."

"You said it."

They fell quiet for a moment as Fritz scrambled to jump on the bed to curl up in his customary spot at the foot. Gilbert halfheartedly tried to push him off, muttering 'dumb mutt' every five seconds, but appeared to give up when it became apparent the Great Dane wasn't going to budge.

There was silence.

"West?"

Ludwig could feel himself slipping off into unconsciousness again. "Hmm?"

He felt Gilbert sigh against his collar bone. "Just… …thanks."

Ludwig hugged his brother closer as sleep overtook him, feeling his chest ache with warmth.

His lips curled up in a smile.

"Anytime."

---------

End Notes:

I hope all the sap didn't rot your teeth. Gotta watch out for that.