-Author's Notes-

The first half of this sat on my computer for three months. I finished it in the hopes that it would help with my writer's block, or at least be amusing. Sadly, it accomplished neither. I really don't think this is up to my usual standards (at least… I hope not) but I'm just getting irritated at having nothing to post. So you all get to suffer.

This is so long and rambling… AND SO MUCH TALKING. It should probably be at least three different fics. But since I lack an editor as well as any motivation whatsoever, I'm leaving it as is.

Have fun.

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Theater On A Friday Night

Ludwig's eyebrow was twitching uncontrollably.

Next to him, Gilbert sank lower in his plush chair, cursing as it squeaked loudly under his weight.

"West," the silver-haired man muttered tersely, "West. Remind me why the fuck I'm here again."

Ludwig sighed and concentrated harder on reading the plot summary printed in overly embellished script on the program. "My foreign affairs minister asked me if I wanted tickets to see his daughter's ballet recital."

Gilbert turned to glare up at his brother. "And you… said yes."

A family seated near the two looked over in alarm at the sound of the Prussian's murderous voice. Ludwig, however, remained unfazed.

"What else could I do?" The blonde man deftly turned a page. "He cornered me after a meeting."

"Off the top of my head, I can think of about five thousand other responses that wouldn't end with me trapped in some god-forsaken theater on a Friday night." Gilbert eyed his own crumpled and illegible program with disdain. "Firin' the guy for darin' to talk to me is option one. By the time you reach option five, I'm succeedin' and declarin' myself an independent nation where anythin' that has the word 'recital' attached to it earns you a one-way ticket to Belarus."

Ludwig turned a page. "Why Belarus?"

Gilbert shrugged. "Proximity to Russia. Completely off her rocker. I don't really need to elaborate." The pale man yawned and stretched his legs, ignoring the glares of the patron in front of him as his heavy boots kicked against the chair.

"She does seem…ravenously homicidal," Ludwig muttered, flashing a small smile up at a cheerful looking mother as she scooted past him to reach her seat. "Still. Not many opportunities for cultural festivities in this proposed new house of yours."

"Positively Inquisitional," Gilbert drawled, absently shredding his program into tiny bits. "I'm sure Antonio's got some good tips for me. I'd make a bitchin' totalitarian ruler."

Ludwig frowned, "That's not exactly historically accu-"

"Excuse me?"

Both men turned at the sound of the chipper female voice. The woman who had pushed her way past Ludwig was leaning over a bored looking man, presumably her husband, to gently tug on the blonde's sleeve.

Ludwig blinked in surprise, but in a moment reverted to politician mode. "Yes, ma'am. Is there a problem?"

The woman looked slightly taken aback at the cool tone, but pressed gamely onward. "I was just wondering which one is yours," she inquired cheerfully.

The brothers stared back at her, equally bemused expressions on their faces.

"Wait. Which what is whose?" Gilbert asked, raising one eyebrow and tilting forward in his seat to get a better look at the tiny woman.

She smiled, brandishing her program. "In the ballet!" she said cheerfully, "Which one is yours? What part does she have?"

Gilbert immediately let out a huge burst of laughter before hunching over, clapping his hands over his mouth to stifle his voice. Tears of mirth trickled out from under his clenched eyes, and his back shook with suppressed laughter.

Ludwig failed to see what was so funny. "I-I'm sorry," the blonde stuttered, flushing slightly, "We don't have-"

"Don't have a daughter? Oh, are you the Weilmunsters? Are you Paul's parents?" She sounded pleasantly surprised. Ludwig felt a slight prick of unease begin to grow as the woman prattled on. "He's gotten so good just within this past year, and I hear people saying D'Amboise this and Baryshnikov that, but I have to say I didn't expect his parents to be ga-"

Gilbert let out another muffled snicker. Ludwig resisted the urge to push his brother over the balcony edge. The insurance lawsuits from the people Gilbert fell on would have been too costly. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but we're not parents," the blonde interrupted. He heard a snort from next to him and surreptitiously kicked the smaller man in the shin.

The woman looked puzzled, "But you said-"

"We don't have any children in the ballet," Ludwig said, then stammered to correct himself, "I-I mean, we don't have any. At all. No children. We're just here to watch. To watch the… the children."

Both the woman and her husband turned to stare at him with twin expressions of disconcert. "To… to watch?" the petite woman said hesitantly.

Ludwig's blue eyes widened, and he held out his hands in front of him, voice cracking in panic. "N-no! Not like that!" he stuttered, fumbling for words as the couple's faces grew more and more alarmed. "We're just-… w-we have no interest in twelve-year olds. None at all! So-"

At that, Gilbert gave up trying, and let loose with a gut-busting laugh that made the rest of the theater turn to glare at him. Ludwig whirled around to fix the other man with an enraged look. "For God's sake, Gilbert you're not helping!" he hissed, angrily jabbing his brother in the ribs.

"T-twelve-year olds?!" Gilbert stuttered out in between gasps for air. "Gott West! Use general terms. General! When you start namin' specific ages you just…just-" His words dissolved into howls of laughter. Ludwig glared venomously at the other man before turning back around to face the wary couple. "I apologize. We-"

He stopped when he realized the two chairs were empty, the seats still clattering slightly as they reverted to their upright positions. The blonde ground his teeth, wrenching open his program again with enough force to rip the thing clean in two. Gilbert finally calmed down and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, still chuckling absently to himself.

"I'm not sure why, but a large part of me is convinced that this is all your fault," Ludwig muttered irritably, wincing when his angry attempts to turn the pages of his program resulted in nothing more than a vicious string of paper-cuts.

"Please," Gilbert scoffed, brushing dismembered strips of paper off his lap. "I wasn't the one ravin' about the pre-pubescent girls all decked out in makeup and frills for a certain someone's voyeuristic pleasure."

Ludwig fervently wished for a cup of tea. Preferably scalding, so he could throw it in his brother's face and use the resulting third-degree burns as an excuse to take both of them to the hospital and out of this place of misery. The excruciating pain inflicted on the older man would just be a fun little bonus.

"You could have come to my defense," the blonde said instead, crossing his arms over his chest with a huff.

"I chose to let that golden opportunity sail by in favor of your abject humiliation," Gilbert said loftily, chewing on a ragged fingernail.

Ludwig reached out to gently rap one knuckle against his brother's hand. "What did I tell you about that habit?" he scolded, "I thought you stopped decades ago."

Gilbert scowled. "Mind your own damn business, West."

"You are my business," Ludwig muttered inattentively as the floor lights flickered to signal the beginning of the show. "No one else knows how to take care of you."

The blonde turned just in time to catch his brother staring at him with an intensely possessive look in his eyes before the theater was plunged into darkness. There was a loud crescendo of applause as the conductor stood up and bowed before turning around and raising his baton. The solemn strains of the overture covered up even the noises of Gilbert's restless fidgeting.

Ludwig was just beginning to relax and lose himself in the haunting melody when he felt a cool hand slowly run up his thigh. "G-Gilbert!" he whispered sharply, grabbing his brother's wrist and hastily shoving it away. "We just got done unintentionally labeling ourselves as one classification of pervert. We really don't need to be adding to the list."

The blonde could almost hear the older man roll his eyes. "There was no 'we' involved in that fiasco" Gilbert muttered, but he grudgingly retracted his hand. Ludwig heard his brother sigh and lean back sullenly in his chair.

"So what's this thing about?" Gilbert stage-whispered over the swelling music, making everyone in the vicinity turn to glare angrily at him in the dim light.

Ludwig ignored the stares, and leaned over to softly whisper in Gilbert's ear. "You were around when the original legend was recorded, I believe." The curtains slowly parted to reveal a stage drenched in blue, the lonely figure of a prince languishing in a far corner. Ludwig pointed, still pressed close against his brother as he murmured, "Swan Lake. There's Siegfried. His father is forcing him to marry…"

Gilbert remained motionless as Ludwig finished relaying the story, his red eyes fixed on the stage in front of him, scrutinizing the dancers as they made their appearances. He suddenly pushed the blonde away.

"I know the rest."

Ludwig immediately pulled back and turned to watch the ballet. He let himself fall into the familiar story, lost temporarily in the elegy of song and seamless motion. The blonde sat almost perfectly still through the first two acts before he noticed something was amiss.

His brother had yet to bother him.

Ludwig snuck a peak out of the corner of his eye at the older man barely visible in the dim light. Had the music not been so overwhelmingly loud, the rest of the audience would have heard him make a choked noise of surprise.

Gilbert was perched on the edge of his seat, his hands braced against his knees as he leaned forward almost far enough to topple from his chair. Ludwig could just barely see his brother's red eyes dart from side to side, meticulously tracking every movement of the lead dancers on stage. The pale man's face was alive with poorly masked interest, and Ludwig noticed him visibly tense every time a lift was performed, every time a dancer leapt into the air to a rather nauseating height before alighting on the stage with practiced ease.

For the rest of the ballet, Ludwig could not bring himself to tear his gaze away from his brother. He let his eyes wander freely over the normally haughty and guarded countenance, memorizing every muted expression of awe and fascination as Gilbert watched on, unaware of his brother's intense scrutiny.

Gilbert gave a small gasp as Odette flew into the air, and leaned even further forward in his chair. The noise made Ludwig shiver with the same possessive longing that had been reflected in his brother's eyes. His knuckles were white as he gripped the armrests, and he could hear the sound of his heart beating even over the clamor of the orchestra. Ludwig swallowed heavily. He wanted him. Enough to drown out everything else. Enough to make him forget where he was and that he really shouldn't be having these sorts of thoughts while just fifty feet away young girls were prancing around on stage in practically their underwear and people could really get the wrong idea. Not that the unbidden thoughts he was having at the moment were much better, but still-

Suddenly the music swelled to a dramatic finish, and the curtain drew shut with a flourish. The audience rose as one to applaud the dancers. Ludwig forced his hands to release the armrests and took a deep breath to compose himself before standing as well. He caught a glimpse of Gilbert blinking and shaking his head before rising to join his brother, a pointedly bored expression plastered on his face as he languidly clapped along. The house lights brightened and Gilbert gave an exaggerated sigh. "Thought it would never end," the red-eyed man muttered. "My ass has enough pins and needles in it to make even an aichmophile happy."

Ludwig chuckled weakly, "Only you would know the technical word for 'needle obsessed freak'."

"I have a whole collection of obscure words to whip out at random." Gilbert stretched, flopping back down in his seat. "Enough to stump France and shut him up for bit, anyway."

The two sat in silence, too tired and unwilling to move as the theater slowly emptied, the sound of the crowd fading until there was only the distant hum of the air conditioner rumbling through the building. The house lights snapped off with a sharp click, so that all that remained illuminating the whole theater were the dim and distant stage lights.

Gilbert's face was shadowed by the faint white light, making his sneer stand out in stark relief against his skin. He seemed to be in a foul mood, his hands shoved in his pockets as far as they would go. Ludwig coughed. "So," he asked casually, "How was it?"

Gilbert growled. "About three hours into the damn thing, I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't willingly interact with you again until you provided me with a years worth of free beer as compensation."

"I thought I already unwittingly did," Ludwig mused, stretching out his long legs to dangle over the chair in front of him. "Either that or my refrigerator has an unhealthy penchant for alcoholism."

Gilbert let out a bark of laughter before he seemed to remember he was irritated with the other man. He quickly repositioned his face into a scowl, sinking lowering into the squeaky chair.

Ludwig sighed in quiet exasperation. "You didn't exactly answer my question. Did you enjoy the performance?"

"Made me remember why I leave this culture shit up to the rest of you," Gilbert muttered, "It's not really my thing."

Ludwig just hummed in affirmation, before grinning to himself. "So the omission of the pas de deux in the third act didn't bother you?"

"What are you talkin' about." Gilbert absently plucked at a loose thread in the cushion. "There was a pas de deux. Poorly executed and shoddy as hell, but-" The silver-haired man suddenly realized what he was saying, and froze, an expression of utter horror blanketing his features.

Ludwig continued watching the empty stage, a small smile of triumph on his face. There was a moment of utter silence before Gilbert bit out, "This proves nothin'."

"If you say so."

"I mean it, West," Gilbert said, his voice growing colder, "You tell anyone about this and I'll feed every pair of boxers you own to the dogs. And then go around and forbid every store in the area to sell you any new ones on pain of death. It is a cunnin' plan, and thoroughly doable."

"You'd also be the one taking the dogs to the vet. Kind of a double edged sword you've proposed there," Ludwig said drolly. His face fell slightly. "But I saw you, Gilbert." He traced the invisible patterns of movement on the stage with one outstretched finger. "You were hardly as detached as you'd like me to believe."

His brother said nothing, but followed Ludwig's movements with narrowed red eyes before reaching out and snatching the blonde's hand out of the air.

Gilbert frowned, studying Ludwig's palm. "I-… I wanted to see if I could."

"Could what?" Ludwig intertwined his fingers with the other man's.

Gilbert eyed their linked hands irritably. "…If I could see things like he did." Gilbert's normally buoyant and powerful voice was subdued, and out of the corner of his eye, Ludwig could see his brother's face twisted into a fondly condescending sneer as he continued. "I wanted to see what the hell he was always talkin' about. Opera, dance, compositions… I never got any of that stuff. Fr-… he always loved that shit, but I just couldn't bring myself to care. I mean, I knew one thing. And I was good at it, and I thought that was enough for-… that it was enough."

Ludwig said nothing, but gently ran his thumb over the back of his brother's hand, his blue eyes soft.

Gilbert groaned in frustration. "I know what you're doin', West," he said tersely, "Leave the patronizin' out of it. This doesn't mean anythin'."

"I'll stop patronizing when you stop belittling." Ludwig sighed, "I understand you wanting to emulate a part of him."

The Prussian pulled his hand away and crossed his arms over his chest, glowering. "He didn't want me to do stuff like that though," he muttered, "Said I should just focus on winnin'."

"I remember," Ludwig said softly. "You used to pout whenever you lost even a game of chess."

"Hey, I've never lost a game of chess," Gilbert snapped. "Not while sober, anyway," he elaborated when Ludwig raised an eyebrow. "And I sure as hell don't fuckin' pout."

A few moments passed in silence before Ludwig said softly, "You know I don't care about that sort of thing, right?"

"Which thing?" Gilbert pulled his knees up to his chest, biting his thumbnail. "The havin' to win everythin' or the lack of appreciation for anythin' remotely resemblin' this campy shit?"

Ludwig gently tugged at his brother's sleeve. "Stop that. You're making me nervous."

Gilbert stubbornly ripped at his nail, cursing when it began to bleed. Ludwig sighed heavily and fished a clean handkerchief out of his pocket, grabbing the shorter man's hand and dabbing at the blood with the linen cloth.

The Prussian watched the other man work with dull eyes. "I'm a shitty older brother," he said suddenly, watching the red spread across the white surface.

Ludwig didn't say anything, but pulled the handkerchief away to see if the bleeding had stopped. He sighed when another drop began to pool on the surface of the small wound. Gilbert rolled his eyes and wrenched his hand away, "Stop messin' with that sissy bullshit." He resolutely licked at the blood, and Ludwig blanched.

"That... is not sanitary."

Gilbert just grinned maniacally. "Who cares. Reminds me of the good old days."

"...When... you were a vampire?"

"No, dumbass. When we were awesome." Gilbert began gesturing animatedly, his red eyes dark and shining. "You remember that one time we had to go through that swamp to reach our garrison and you'd broken your shin and I had about fifty musket balls embedded in my spine?"

Ludwig let out a small breath. "I remember," he said quietly.

Gilbert leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, his pale head tilted to the side as he stared at the distant stage. "I had to spend all night diggin' chunks of splintered metal out of my back... goddamn we were such badasses." His voice was soft and fond. "Got awful used to the scent of blood. Made everythin' taste the same. Feel the same…"

"I know what this is." Ludwig snorted. "Overcompensational reminiscence to make up for the fact that you just watched ballet. And liked it."

"Did not," Gilbert muttered petulantly.

Ludwig tiled his head back to look up at the ornate ceiling, lacing his hands behind his head as he spoke slowly, "You... actually miss it. The fighting."

"Yeah." Gilbert slumped over, his head thumping against his brother's broad shoulder. "I do." He grinned, "The mayhem. Sweat. Blood... Sometimes during summit meetings, I fantasize about just tossin' a grenade in there with all those stuck up assholes and seein' where it goes from there. Not sayin' I want World War Three or anythin', I just...want..." Gilbert trailed off and Ludwig raised his head to look at the older man.

"...Gil?"

The Prussian's red eyes were fixed on the stage as he let the seconds drag on before speaking. "I had just come back from a campaign and...There was this brat sittin' by the side of the road hummin' to himself. This kid looks up at me as I pass, and his eyes get really big. And he starts cryin' and tryin' to scramble up the embankment to get away from me. This kid, who had just had his whole town razed to the ground and was hummin' about it... this tough little brat was terrified of me. And it..."

Gilbert sighed, and rubbed blearily at his eyes. "... and it... made me unbearably happy. I remember laughin' and writin' to Arthur to tell him about it after I got home. He called me a sick and vile monster."

Ludwig's eyes narrowed. "You didn't listen to him, did you?"

"Are you kiddin'?" Gilbert laughed bitterly. "Took it as a compliment."

They sat in silence for a moment before Gilbert spoke again, his voice soft and pensive. "I changed after you came along. Not much, but... I learned to control myself. A bit, anyway. I just-"

"Enough." Ludwig twisted in his seat to face Gilbert, his jaw set. "No one's asking you to change."

Gilbert straightened his back, sneering. "I know that. And even if they did, you think I'd listen to that whiny bullshit?"

"What was that whole speech for then?"

Gilbert's face suddenly fell, and he slouched lower in chair. He sighed irritably. "I didn't... want you to be afraid of me. And I could never figure out why. Not for the longest time. I used to always want the opposite. Hell of a lot easier to win when your opponent's all weak in the knees from fear. But with you…" Gilbert trailed off, staring at the stage, a brutal frown warping his features. "You were the one person I didn't want to look at me like that. And every time you did, all I wanted to do was find someone who could tell me what I did wrong. Probably would've murdered them for darin' to give me advice, so it's a good thing I never got around to it."

Ludwig stared at the floor. He remembered how sick he'd felt at the faint sent of blood that lingered around Gilbert. How his heart would lurch with fear every time the older man looked at him with calculating, red eyes. How Gilbert used to snap at him that they would either come home winners, or not at all, the proud face curled with spite at even the possibility of defeat.

He shook his head to clear it of the bloody images. "You scared the hell out of me," he admitted ruefully. "I had… more than one nightmare about you. In fact, they were almost a weekly occurrence at one point in time."

Gilbert gave a weak and altogether unbelievable laugh, drawing his knees up to his chest. "Thought so." His voice shook as his mouth twisted into a mocking smile, "Kept you alive, at least. My runnin' around slaughterin' people in front of you."

"It did." Ludwig leaned closer to his brother, resting his hand within reach atop the armrest. "And for that… I am grateful."

Gilbert eyed Ludwig's hand with trepidation. "See what I mean? World's shittiest older brother. Kirkland bought that little brat of his cake and tea-"

"-which Jones promptly threw into the nearest body of water…-"

"-and all I got you was a pile of severed heads." Gilbert's laugh had a twinge of instability to it. "Gott you must have loathed me. Probably still do in fact, what with me constantly stealin' the good car and makin' you take the bus to work and never bein' able to bring myself to clean no matter what you threaten me with, and trainin' the dogs to attack anythin' with glasses at the sound of Chopin and-"

"I don't hate you, Gilbert." Ludwig interrupted firmly. "And I'm hardly afraid of you anymore. Haven't been since those first few years, as a matter of fact."

Gilbert immediately closed his mouth with an audible click, his pale eyebrows raised to his hairline as he visibly forced whatever he was going to say back behind his teeth.

"I don't hate you, you absolute maniac," Ludwig repeated, reaching out to tousle Gilbert's hair. The pale man gave a quiet hiss and pulled away, glaring. Ludwig laughed, and twisted in his chair to press his forehead against his brother's temple, placing one strong hand reassuringly atop the older man's knee.

"In case you haven't noticed," Ludwig said quietly, "I've kind of been mad about you for the past fifty years or so. I even knocked down a wall for you, if you remember."

For a moment the blur that was Gilbert's face grew soft, before it contorted slightly into what Ludwig thought was a frown. "… That's it? Only fifty years?"

"Give or take."

Gilbert sighed dramatically, the rush of air blowing the fringe out of his eyes. "And I suppose before that I was just a piece of eye candy to you, wasn't I?" His voice was forcibly light and airy. "Admit it, West. You find my status as sex god irresistibly attractive. All others pale in comparison – and if you make that into a pun about my skin tone I swear to God I will destroy you Biblical style."

Ludwig felt his face flame, and he gently butted his forehead into the other man's temple. "Shut up," he mumbled. "I was a little too preoccupied at the time to notice certain... things. And since when has albinoism been a qualifier for the position of sex god?"

Gilbert squawked in a rather alarming manner and attempted to jump out of his seat, but Ludwig's arm held him in place. "Albinoism?!" he yelled, his outraged voice echoing against the theater walls. "Albinoism, you- I'll have you know that plenty of people have light blonde hair!"

Ludwig sat up, grinning, more than willing to let the mood change with his brother's unplottable whims. "That's true. Many do. You, however, are not one of them."

"The red eyes are just a trick of the light!" Gilbert snapped, "And I have noble colorin'!"

"Do all nobles burn to a crisp the moment they step outside?" Ludwig wondered aloud. "I'm starting to think this vampire theory of mine has merit."

Gilbert ground his teeth and stood up, getting ready to stalk out of the theater. But Ludwig was quicker, moving behind his brother to grab the smaller man around the waist. Gilbert attempted to disembowel him with a well-placed elbow, but Ludwig caught his arm.

"You know I meant it, right?"

Gilbert grew still against his chest, and Ludwig could almost feel the gears in his brother's head working as they always did at a speed that was only comprehensible to the criminally insane.

"…I don't know what-"

Ludwig reached out to cautiously grab Gilbert's chin, tilting the angular face back and upwards as he leaned forward to stare resolutely into blood red eyes.

"You do know," Ludwig insisted quietly. "You're always running circles around it like some sort of lunatic insistent on never reaching the finish line, but you can see it, I know you can. You just… have to let yourself believe it. By force, if necessary." He smiled softly, "Because to be honest, I'm getting kind of tired of having to repeat the same thing over and over again."

Gilbert's mouth twitched slightly as he grimaced. "Always one for the amazingly obtuse metaphors. It's a wonder I haven't gone ravin' mad with frustration hangin' around you so much."

A moment passed in silence, before Gilbert gave a breathy sigh. "I-…I'll try," he grumbled, staring haughtily up into Ludwig's face. "Now can we please stop this stupid nancy bullshit? My neck is gettin' sore." He scowled. "I really, really loathe the fact that I'm shorter than you. The fuck did this happen…"

"Sorry." Ludwig looked anything but apologetic as he leaned down to close the gap between them. "Just put up with it a bit longer…"

Ludwig gently tilted Gilbert's chin up, pressing his lips softly against his brother's rough and chapped ones. Gilbert responded slowly, arching his neck to afford them both a better angle. One of them sighed into the kiss, and Ludwig tightened his arm around Gilbert's thin waist, pulling him closer. He splayed his hand over jagged hipbones, over a taunt expanse of stomach, feeling Gilbert shudder slightly under his touch. A strong hand reached up to bury itself in his hair, mussing up the perfect strands, tugging almost hard enough to be painful.

Ludwig deepened the kiss, and Gilbert's lips parted slightly to allow him to do so, murmuring quiet strings of words in between gasps for air. Ludwig almost groaned as Gilbert swiped his tongue against his teeth, and he ran his hand over the harsh curve of his brother's throat, feeling the pulse point just underneath the sharp jawbone give a quick jump as he did so. He thought his brain was going to melt, thought for sure he was going to fall over at any second from having to support Gilbert's weight against him, but never for a moment did he think of stopping, as Gilbert rolled his hips so that they pressed against his, making his skin feel like it was on fire and-

"What're you two doin' in here?"

A stern voice rang out accompanied by the harsh beam of a wandering flashlight. Both men jumped apart as though stung, and Ludwig felt his heart leap into his throat from the sudden and unexpected adrenaline rush. Next to him, Gilbert shifted off to the side, mouth curled up in an cocky grin as he stared directly at the guard in front of them as though daring the intruder to say anything. Ludwig for once prayed for his brother to go on one of his random and unprovoked outbursts of violence. A few more seconds passed, but Gilbert made no move other than to not so discretely whisper, "I think he's waitin' for you to give him your number." Ludwig resigned himself to speaking.

"We're, um…" Damn. What did people usually do in theaters again? Ludwig's mind was still reeling slightly and his vision spotty from having a hundred-watt bulb shined in his face. "We're, uh…"

Suddenly Gilbert spoke. "Alright, um… 'officer'. You got us," he said, still grinning like a loon. "I was plannin' on ravishin' this guy – who happens to be my younger brother, mind you – on top of one of these god-awful uncomfortable seats. Then I was goin' to use the promise of even more lewd favors to force him to buy me copious amounts of alcohol, thus ensurin' yet another scene of x-rated material, to be followed by more binge drinkin' until we finally both collapse from exhaustion around five in the mornin', ready to start the whole thing again tomorrow." He threw the officer a sunny grin. "The depravity of today's youth. Shockin', really."

Ludwig resisted the suddenly pressing and insane need he had to explain to the stunned officer that since they weren't technically born they couldn't actually be called brothers in the conventional sense - as though this grasping at straws would actually fix things and maybe make him magically teleport to a land where he had no crazy brother that insisted on confessing things that would get them thrown in jail on sheer principle. Then he spent the next five seconds trying not to think about the absolute lunacy that was their lives.

By the time Ludwig managed to scrape together enough of his brain to formulate a coherent response, he noticed the night watchman was still staring at Gilbert with a rather unimpressed expression on his face.

"C'mon," the guard said in a bored tone of voice. "What are you two really doing in here?"

Gilbert shot Ludwig an amused look. Ludwig felt like vomiting with relief. He'd aim in Gilbert's direction.

"We're just… trespassing," he said weakly.

"And tryin' to steal some of those pansy ass costumes to hawk," Gilbert chimed in. "Think those are real Swarovski crystals in that chandelier?"

Ludwig thought of his rifle collection at home and how he'd finally have a chance to put it to use again. Gilbert was probably an easy target to hit at night, what with his blinding white complexion and all.

There was no sign the guard had heard either of them. As the seconds ticked painfully on, Ludwig briefly considered just bolting out of the theater. From the soft squeaking noise of Gilbert's boots on the hardwood floor, he guessed his brother was probably planning an overly flashy escape as well – the kind that would probably get him arrested anyway. But then, quite abruptly, the guard jerked the flashlight in the direction of the exit doors.

"Well get out of here then, if you haven't taken anything. Gotta close this place down."

Ludwig merely gave a curt nod before hastening after Gilbert, who was already at the top of the stairs and pushing open the doors to the lobby with a powerful shove. Once they were both outside the theater, Gilbert threw back his head and laughed, the noise dull and solid against the humid summer air.

"Okay. I'll admit it," he said cheerfully, "That was kinda fun. Especially the part where you looked like you were seriously considern' using your own intestines as a garrote to strangle that guard just so you could escape his flashlight."

Ludwig reached out to grab the back of his brother's jacket before the cackling man walked straight into oncoming traffic. "What makes you think I was considering my own intestines when yours were so readily available?" he muttered.

Gilbert turned to smirk up at him. "Because you looooove me."

Ludwig flushed and released the rough fabric with a stubborn push. "You think I'm capable of that emotion after the heart attack you just made me suffer through? You'll be lucky if I can dredge up something other than 'murderous affection' by the end of the week."

Gilbert snickered, and looped his arm over Ludwig's shoulder, forcing the taller man to bend down to accommodate him. "You know what would make this night even better?"

"Your head on a platter?" Ludwig suggested grouchily. "Preferably a silver one. Or something that doesn't tarnish so easily."

"Drinks!" Gilbert crowed, pumping his fist in the air. "Beer, beer, and more beer! And then some shots of Jägermeister just because we're feelin' adventurous! Followed by more beers and then maybe some schnapps with beer!"

"Followed by you clinging to the toilet all night and begging for mercy from a cold and uncaring god," Ludwig groused, shrugging out from under his brother's arm. Gilbert merely grinned maniacally back.

"All part of the experience, West." He thumped the younger man on the back enthusiastically.

Ludwig sighed, but allowed himself to be dragged along down the brightly lit street, Gilbert jabbering away a mile a minute.

There was at least one silver lining to what was shaping up to be a cloud of an evening.

Ludwig stumbled a bit as his brother pushed him headfirst into the crowded pub, his knee slamming into a barstool.

Gilbert had sat through an entire ballet performance. And he'd even liked it, albeit grudgingly and with much snarling, scoffing and homicidal threats.

Ludwig clung desperately to this memory as he found himself forced into a seat. He eyed the back of his brother's silver head as Gilbert made his way to the bar to order the first round. Ludwig allowed himself a small triumphant grin.

Gilbert was never going to live this down.