The phone rings a few weeks later. Gilbert and Arthur have gone out drinking, so the phone call goes to voicemail.
"Speak!" Gilbert and Arthur's voices chime in unison before the beep.
"Yo man this is your bro," Arthur's brother Alfred's voice can be heard. "Seriously man, what the fuck? I don't get these postcards. 'Moving to Santa Fe', 'Back in New York, starting a rock band' – mom's getting freaked out. Where the fuck are you? You better call or else mom's gonna flip out."
In Francis's apartment below the boys', it is dark and dusty – a clear indication that Francis hasn't been home for a very long time. His phone rings, providing the only sound in his empty house. It goes straight to voicemail.
"Francis? C'est ton frère, Mathieu," Matthew's meek voice can be heard on the answering machine. "Francis, où es-tu? Ton ami, Antonio a dit que tu n'as pas été à chez toi pour beaucoup de semaines. Francis, où es-tu?"
In Lovino's apartment, his phone rings. Lovino is out searching for Francis with Antonio so it goes straight to voicemail. "Lovi! This is your grandfather – I'm getting very worried about you. I haven't heard from you in weeks! Please call when you can!" Marcus's distressed voice is heard. "I heard about your boyfriend's friend – I hope he's alright!" he adds before hanging up.
Back in Gilbert and Arthur's loft, the phone rings again. The phone call goes straight to voicemail.
"Hey Gilbo," Gilbert's cousin Elizaveta's voice can be heard. "Auntie Maria's going all batshit on me – are you there? She's so worried, man! I know you're an ass but just call her! She wishes you were here – I don't, but it's not like your mom's gonna care about what I think anyways. Are you there? You better not be ignoring this, you jackass. Your mom's freaking out here! Just – just call your mother!" Elizaveta exclaims and slams the phone down.
The apartment is silent once more.
Outside of the building, there are a group of seven homeless people. They look to the sky and frown.
"Christmas bells are ringing," they sing. "Christmas bells are ringing, Christmas bells are ringing – how time flies when compassion dies! No stockings, no candy canes, no gingerberead, no safety net, no lose change no change no-"
"Santy Claus is coming!" a man shouts out.
"Cause Santy Claus ain't coming. No room at the Holiday Inn – again! Well, maybe next year or – when-"
Gilbert stares at the homeless people singing from the window of his apartment. He sighs and turns back to his camera. The house looks the same as it did exactly a year ago, but there is a small projector resting on a milk crate – which is on a dolly. There is a large sheet across from it and nearby, Arthur is playing with his guitar.
"December 24th, 10 PM – eastern standard time. I can't believe a year went by so fast. Time to see what we have time to see. Turn the projector on," he says, putting his camera down so he can turn it on.
A rough title credit, "Today 4 U: Proof Positive", appears, followed by a shot from last Christmas of Arthur tuning his guitar.
"First shot Arthur with the fender guitar he just got out of hock when he sold the car that took him away and back," Gilbert says, grinning at Arthur.
Arthur grins back. "I found my song!" he tells the Albino man.
"He found his song! If he could just find Francis…" Gilbert says. The grin on Arthur's face fades.
"I tried – you know I tried," Arthur murmurs. Gilbert smiles at him gently before being distracted at the screen. His own face appears on the screen, grinning back at him cockily.
"Fade in on Gilbert who's still in the dark," Gilbert says.
"But he's got great footage!" Arthur chimes in.
"Which he cut together," Gilbert continues.
"To screen tonight!" Arthur ends.
Ludwig's image appears on screen. Gilbert grins.
"In honor of Ludwig's husband!" Gilbert says.
"Mr. Moneybags?" Arthur questions.
"His name is Feliciano," Gilbert says in a perfect imitation of Ludwig. The two men laugh. "He pulled Ludwig out of the East Village location—"
The fuse blows and the screen goes dark. Arthur and Gilbert are suddenly engulfed in darkness, the only light coming from the full moon outside.
"Then again, maybe we won't screen it tonight," Arthur says. Gilbert laughs.
"I wonder how Feliciano found out about Francis?" Gilbert asks.
"Maybe a little bird told him," Arthur replies with a shrug.
"Or an angel," a voice says.
"Mathias? Is that you?" Gilbert says. "How'd you get in here?"
"I still had the key you threw at me from last year – why's it so dark in here?" he replies.
"Hang on lemme find some candles," Gilbert says. There is the sounds of Gilbert shuffling around, opening cupboards and the occasional 'Ah fuck where'd that wall come from?' Finally, Gilbert finds the candles and lights a few, seeing Arthur and Mathias smirking at him. Mathias is holding several twenty dollar bills in each hand, a very familiar looking pickle tub full of their favourite stuff. Gilbert grins.
"I had a little hunch you could use a little flow," Mathias says, handing the money to Arthur and Gilbert.
"Tutoring again?" Arthur asks, staring at the money in slight surprise.
"Negative," Mathias tells him, setting down the pickle tub and sitting down on a nearby chair.
"Back at N. Y. U?" Gilbert suggests.
"No, no, no," Mathias says, shaking his head. "I rewired the ATM at the food emporium to provide an honorarium to anyone with the code," he says, waggling his eyebrows playfully.
"The code…?" Gilbert and Arthur ask in unison.
"Well? What is it?" Arthur asks.
Mathias grins. "F-E-L-I-K-S," he spells out. Gilbert and Arthur grin as well. "Yet Robin Hooding isn't the solution. The powers that be must be undermined where they dwell. In a small, exclusive gourmet institution where we overcharge the wealthy clientele," he says. Gilbert laughs.
"Let's open up a restaurant in Santa Fe," the men sing, Gilbert and Mathias standing up and attempting to dance the little waltz they had danced exactly a year ago for the homeless. Gilbert grabs Arthur and pulls him to his feet, trying to get him to dance as well. "With a private corner banquette in the back!"
"We'll make it yet, we'll somehow get to Santa Fe," Mathias sings. Arthur grins ruefully.
"But you'd miss New York before you could unpack!" he says and the men burst into laughter.
"It's been too long since I've seen you two," Mathias says, hugging Gilbert and Arthur enthusiastically. "How about we get really drunk and-"
"Gilbert! Arthur! Anyone – help!" a voice cries out from outside. The men freeze.
"Antonio?" Gilbert asks. They run to the balcony. Down below, they see Antonio and Lovino, struggling to hold up a frail form with limp blonde hair.
"It's Francis – I can't get him up the stairs!" Antonio shouts to them. Arthur blanches; Francis looks close to dying.
"No!" he shouts, running back into the building to go downstairs. Gilbert and Mathias follow him looking worried.
Mathias, the strongest one in the group, takes Francis from Antonio and Lovino and picks him up bridal style. The group rushes back towards Gilbert and Arthur's loft.
"He was huddled in the park in the dark and he was freezing and begged to come here," Antonio tells them breathlessly as they rush inside. Gilbert grabs his lighter and lights some more candles to provide for more light.
"Over here!" Arthur calls out, pushing a long table towards them. "Oh my God," he murmurs in horror.
Mathias lays his down carefully on the table. Francis looks paler than usual, with dark purple bags under his eyes. He is much thinner from the last them any of them has seen him.
Francis opens an eye weakly. "Got a light – I know you…you're shivering," he mutters to himself as he shivers.
"He's been living on the street," Lovino tells the group.
"We need some heat!" Arthur exclaims running to his room and grabbing a bunch of blankets. He wraps Francis with them.
"I'm shivering," Francis whispers.
"We can buy some wood and something to eat," Gilbert suggests.
"I'm afraid he needs more than heat," Mathias says sadly, remembering how Feliks shivered like this.
"I heard that," Francis croaks out.
"Mathias will call for a doctor, Francis," Antonio says gently, his hand on Francis's cheek.
"Don't waste your money on me…me…me," Francis murmurs, his eyes closing. Mathias runs to the phone and dials a number.
"Hello – 911?" Mathias asks frantically. "What? I'm on hold!" he cries out with frustration.
"Cold…cold," Francis gasps out. "Would you light my candle?" he asks.
"Yes – we'll – oh God – find a candle!" Arthur says, panicking. Lovino pulls out a lighter and helps Gilbert light more candles.
"I should tell you, I should tell you," Francis whispers to Arthur. Arthur grabs Francis's hand.
"I should tell you, I should tell you," Arthur says back to him, feeling tears brim in his eyes.
"I should tell you Ludwig wasn't any -" Francis begins to say before coughing.
"Shh, I know," Arthur tells him. "I should tell you why I left. It wasn't…It wasn't cause I didn't—"
"I know," Francis whispers. "I should tell you," he begins to say.
"I should tell you," Arthur murmurs.
"I should tell you," Francis says, his voice getting quieter by the second. "I love you," he gasps out, his eyes closing. His breathing becomes more ragged. Arthur tries shaking Francis awake but to no avail; Francis is slipping into unconsciousness.
"Who do you think you are?" Arthur whispers in horror. "Leaving me alone with my guitar. Hold on there's something you should hear…it isn't much but it took all year," he murmurs. Francis shifts slightly and Gilbert hands Arthur his guitar.
"Your eyes," Arthur sings quietly, strumming the notes lightly on the guitar, "as we said our goodbyes…can't get them out of mind and I find, I can't hide from your eyes…the ones that took me by surprise. The night you came into my life where there's moonlight, I see your eyes…"
Gilbert and Mathias stand away from their friend. Mathias looks close to tears; Francis is reminding him all too much of how Feliks died. Gilbert reaches over and squeezes his shoulder reassuringly, watching Arthur and Francis with a worried look on his face.
Antonio is softly crying into Lovino's shoulder. Antonio doesn't want Francis to die – none of them do.
"How'd I let you slip away when I'm longing so to hold you?" Arthur sings, tears falling onto his cheeks. "Now I'd die for one more day 'cause there's something I should told you…yes there's something I should told you…When I looked into your eyes, why does distance make us wise? You were the song all along and before this song dies!" Arthur cries out. "I should tell you, I should tell you, I have always loved you…you can see it in my eyes," Arthur whispers. He begins to play Musetta's Theme – this time, correctly and full of passion. Francis's head falls to the side and his arm drops limply off the edge of the table. Arthur drops the guitar. "Francis!" he cries out, pulling the Frenchman close to him, tears calling onto Francis's face.
Gilbert bites his lip as a tear falls down his cheek. Mathias's shoulders are shaking. Lovino is furiously wiping away tears as he holds Antonio, the Spaniard still crying.
Suddenly, Francis's hand twitches. Arthur sees the movement and freezes, staring at the hand. Francis stirs a little and his eyes fly open, coughing loudly. The others gasp and run towards Francis, who is leaning into Arthur. He smiles weakly at his friends.
"I jumped over the moon!" he says to them excitedly. Arthur blinks at him.
"What?" he asks.
"A leap of moooooooo—"
"He's back!" Lovino interrupts, looking surprised – and happy.
"I was in a tunnel. I was heading for this warm, white light…" Francis begins.
"Oh my God!" Antonio exclaims, grabbing Francis's hand.
"And I swear…Feliks was there. And he looks good!" he says to Mathias. Mathias smiles at him slightly. "And he said, 'Like, are you serious, Francis? You better turn around and listen to that boy's song!'"
"He's drenched," Mathias says after a silence, noting how Francis's face is dripping with sweat.
"His fever's breaking!" Antonio says excitedly.
"There is no future…there is no past…" Gilbert murmurs to himself.
"Thank God this moment's not the last," Arthur says, kissing Francis lovingly.
"There's only us, there only this. Forget regret or life is yours to miss," Arthur and Francis say together, remembering their argument exactly a year ago, when the Frenchman said the exact same thing to Arthur.
"No other road…no other way…no day but today," the others sing. Arthur and Francis hug, and the group smiles at each other.
The lights flicker on, surprising them.
"The electricity's back," Mathias says, stating the obvious.
"D'you think I can show you guys my awesome film now?" Gilbert says enthusiastically.
"There's only one way to find out!" Antonio replies. Gilbert runs to the projector, and the group watches with interest as images of themselves appear on the screen.
There is music playing in the background of the film. They hear women sing "I can't control my destiny…I trust my soul – my only goal is just to be…" at the same time as men sing "Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?"
Mathias smiles to himself as he sees Feliks dancing around the screen in Santa garb.
"Without you, the hand gropes, the ear hears, the pulse beats…life goes on but I'm gone 'cause I die without you…" feminine voices sing in the background as they watch a homeless woman yell into the camera. Mathias laughs as Gilbert blushes, remembering the Belarusian woman who refused to be recorded in Gilbert's documentary. "I die without you…I die without you…I die without you…" the women sing.
"There's only now, there's only here – give in to love or live in fear," masculine voices sing at the same time. Antonio laughs as he sees himself on stage with his backup dancers. The camera zooms up on 'Mattie' the cow and Francis chuckles at the sight of his little brother looking terrified on screen. Lovino glances at Gilbert and sees a strange smile on Gilbert's face. He glances back at Matthew on screen and a little thought comes into his mind. He smirks, and turns back to watching Gilbert's documentary. "No other path, no other way, no day but today…no day but today…" The group sees images of the Life Support Group – of Angelique and Yao, Lars and Kiku, Miguel and Sadiq – who, Gilbert found out recently – survived his illness and was discharged from the hospital early after arguing with the Greek doctor. "No day but today…no day but today…" the men's voices trail off.
The background voices chime in together for the final time. "No day but today!"
Images of Mathias and Feliks pretending to be James Bond and Pussy Galore fill the screen. Mathias laughs as he sees himself pretending to shoot the camera with his water gun.
"You're lucky there was no water in that," Gilbert says with a huff. "Or else I would've made you buy me a new one."
"As if that'd ever happen," Mathias jokes and the group laughs as Gilbert pouts.
"Aww look at Lovi!" Antonio coos as Lovino appears on the screen, his face red and yelling something. "Just like a tomato!"
"Oh shut up," Lovino grumbles, glaring at Gilbert for recording him like that.
"Yes!" Gilbert coos. "Just like a tomato!" He dodges the shoe that Lovino throws at him, laughing evilly.
The group watches with interest as they see themselves dancing on the tables at the Life Café. They see Mathias stand up and proclaim something, before seeing Francis provocatively dance on a chair, winking at the camera.
"Ohh, Francis," Mathias jokes, whistling.
"Hey watch it – he's mine," Arthur says. Francis grins wickedly.
"You mean you're mine, don't you?" Francis purrs. Mathias and Gilbert laugh as Arthur blushes.
"S-shut it, you two!" the Briton says crossly as Gilbert makes whipping sounds. The Dane and the German man high-5.
"Who is this?" Mathias asks as an image of a worried looking man with short brown hair tied up into a ponytail appears on screen.
"That's Toris – he's my awful ex-boss's secretary. He was best friends with Feliks back in high school. I should visit him – the poor guy must be over the edge now that he's stuck with Ivan with no awesome to make his day," Gilbert says.
"Still so very cocky," Mathias teases.
"Like you aren't," Gilbert shoots back.
They turn their attention back to the film as it hits a more serious note. They see Feliks at the hospital, getting his nails done by Antonio. They see Lovino and Antonio embracing. They see Gilbert looking into his camera, questioning why he's even working at Buzzline.
Gilbert's documentary is a long one. The sun is beginning to rise as it ends.
The last image on the documentary is an image of Feliks laughing. Four words appear underneath him.
No day but today.
A/N: And the story is finally over. Anyone else a little heartbroken over that? Ah, I can't believe how far I actually managed to get - I thought Rent was going to turn out to be one of those stories I would update occasionally, spending my time working on other stories instead. Thank you so much to everyone who's story alerted, favourited and/or reviewed! You have no idea how much that means to me - I didn't expect this story to get more than 20 reviews. And look at it now! What are we at now, 70? Thank you so much! I love you all ^^
And remember, no day but today!