Gilbert had been on the road for a period of five days now. He left his horse on the boarder of the country that belonged to the Saviour. That was the previous day. And as he walked across the land, all renewed with new saplings and old destroyed trees covered in rapid growing weeds. It didn't look like a war had occurred here. No… it looked like it was a place where children could hunt for the fairy rings and unicorns.
He frowned at a squirrel, adjusting the rope and pack on his shoulder, carrying on.
He breathed a soft sigh of a relief a few hours later when through the bracken; he had to crouch low, a familiar sight appearing beyond the fringes of the forest. That damned castle… it was the place he'd put his heart and soul into serving. He'd met the love of his life there and his life had been turned upside down there.
A dark frown set itself on his forehead. That place had murdered his child.
He longed to charge in now. But it was almost dawn of his sixth day on the move. He needed to suss things out before it got too light, and then prepare himself and rest during the height of the day. He went to turn, when a few meters down from him, he heard whispers.
One guard was replacing another and were having a short moment of gossip.
"Did you hear Fallahn... The elemental's execution was approved… two days time."
Gilbert clenched his teeth, but smiled. This was perfect. He didn't need to find Roderich's cell now. Smiling, he disappeared back into the forest.
Feliciano awoke, looking around before he clutched his baby bump, a soft whimper escaping him. As the stab of pain began to fade away, he smiled softly and sat up carefully, smiling wider and more lovingly down at his lover and the two children between them.
Another dull pain of the beginning made him seize up once more. He waited until it was gone before he leant over his two babes and nudged Ludwig's shoulder. The German stirred, sighing softly before he opened his eyes and looked up at Feliciano, two ice blue eyes staring up at him. "Feliciano…?"
"… Ludwig…" The Italian smiled and looked to his bump, feeling a little kick before the pain slowly became known again. "… It's happening…"
Berwald couldn't believe it… It was just into the second day. The entire town had stopped and were either knelt down in prayer, or dancing, singing and playing music. Feliciano had gone into labour. It had been just over a week since the Swede had arrived, and he was totally confused by it all.
The boy had been contracting regularly until the early hours of that morning, which was roughly thirty hours. Just on dawn, they had gotten really painful, and he was hardly having a break between them. When he had passed the room, he'd overheard Arthur talking with a nurse. The nurse said that she was worried, because the boy's water hadn't broken yet.
His last two children had been born quickly, within the first day. The elderly woman bowed her head in worry. She feared that the Italian was not birthing. She feared he was miscarrying.
Inside the room, the poor caramel haired boy lay on his side, whimpering, but chattering away happily enough as Ludwig sat beside him, holding his hand and stroking his hair.
And Berwald felt sorry for them… They were looking forward to the third addition to their family. Would they lose it so easily?
He sighed and continued on his way. He was no longer under guard. But people always double checked where he was at certain times. He had places he was required to go. If not, Ivan was at his heels.
Today, as for the past two days Feliciano had been contracting, he was to meet Tino, Lovino and Antonio in the Children's room, where they looked after little Maria, and Bene. He wasn't too sure why they gotten him to help look after the 'chosen one's' children… Did they not still suspect him of working for the Saviour? Surely they would keep a heavier eye on him.
But… the funny thing was, to Berwald anyway, that he didn't try to use the children for escape. If he took one and held a knife or something to its head, he should be able to make it out of the city. But…
He didn't. He just went there day after day as he was asked and helped look after the kids. Which mainly for him, involved standing in a corner silently like Ivan did on the opposite side of the room while Tino and Yao did all the actual running around after the kids. And when the two youngsters were asleep, he was given time to sit down and talk to Tino… even though he did minimal talking. But Tino covered enough talking ground for an army, so it didn't really matter.
Today, the two children went to sleep early… which was just after they'd eaten lunch, rather that two or so hours after that. They had curled up on their bed together and dozed off, little Maria, a rare born girl, sucked on her thumb lightly, surrounded by her golden curls. Bene had scruffy brown hair splayed himself out across the bed like he owned the place, taking up most of the room. But Maria didn't seem to mind.
Berwald sighed as he sat down beside Tino, the younger male leaning on his arm tiredly. He knew that he and Tino were in a 'relationship' of sorts, but he felt so awkward, he didn't know what to do. As they sat there in silence, he looked down at the back of his healed hand, looking at the still slightly pink scarring from the sandstorm. He'd have that for the rest of his life now.
Tino smiled up at him and leant down to kiss the scars. His lips were warm and soft and it felt oddly nice on the scar tissue. When he looked up at Berwald again, the Swede gave a small smile.
That was another thing, he hadn't even twitched his mouth to a smile for years now… but he couldn't help himself around Tino. The boy just made him want to smile… and so he did.
"Why… Why 'r y' helpin' me?" The Swede asked after awhile, looking at the ground. The Fin blinked and looked up at him.
"Berwald… Sometimes, people just do things because it is the right thing to do… and helping you IS the right thing to do… ok… so stop asking me the same thing…"
Berwald sighed before another small smile appeared at the scolding and he nodded. "Y's boss…"
Gilbert sat in the forest, eating some foraged berries. The execution was set for that night…. He didn't have long and he wanted things to go smoothly. He dared to utter a small sigh before he climbed to his feet and crept through the bowed ferns to the edge of the forest once more, looking through to where the biggest pyre he had ever seen was being set up.
Were they planning on burning Roderich into nothingness…?
He was so busy observing what was going on that he didn't notice the light crunching of dried out forest floor leaves as someone… two people actually, crept up on him. He did manage to after all hear it, but it was too late. He turned and growled, going to draw his dagger, when the larger of the two, thumped him across the head and he crumpled to the floor. Picking up his sorry ass, the flung him over the larger one's shoulder and took him to the castle.
The blurry world came into focus quite slowly, along with a growing pain on the side of his skull. Trying to move, the albino came to find himself tied to a chair. He growled at the restraints, and there was a laughter. Looking around madly, he turned his head from side to side, but no one came to his sight.
"Who the hell are you?" He said in a demanding tone.
"Oh… forgotten your old master already?" There was another soft laugh and he felt a gentle caress to his left cheek. He shuddered at the Saviour's touch and clenched his eyes shut.
"You are not my master! And you never were." He spat out.
There was silence. And… then more blackness. Struck out into the cold again, his last conscious thought was that he was already sick of this shit.
Berwald sighed, walking through the corridors. His shift with the children was over for the day, Feliciano was still in labour, and he was headed to his room for a rest.
On the way to his room, he passed the door that led to Tino's room. The door was open a slight crack, as if closed carelessly. The Swede frowned and looked around, checking to see if anyone was watching him before he pushed the door open just a little wider to take a peek, wanting to make sure that the Fin was alright.
The smaller male was curled up in the middle of his bed, face out of sight as his back was to the door. Nothing would have been wrong with this scene, as he appeared to be sleeping, except… Berwald could here soft sniffles, as if the other was crying. Again, he looked around before sighing softly and stepping into the room. The door creaked and at the noise, a surprised Fin sat upright and looked at him in shock.
"A-Ah… Berwald… W-What are y-you doing here?" He asked in a shaky voice. Not wanting to appear weak to the other, he tried his hardest to dry his cheeks hurriedly on his sleeves.
"I w's jus' checkin' in on y'…" Berwald said honestly, walking over and sitting on the edge of the bed beside the smaller man. "W'uts wrong?" He asked. He was still awkward in this relationship, memories of his family still a large haunting on his mind… but, in comfort to Tino, he took the smaller hand in both of his broader ones, the scarred one on the top.
Tino looked at the hands for a time before he sighed shakily and leant against the taller, a few more fresh tears traipsing down his cheeks. "It's just… well… stuff happened in Egypt… when I was younger… I… I-I want to open up to you more… I really do… but I'm just… there's this fear… and it won't go away. Every afternoon when you have to go back to your room… I feel so lousy…"
"Tino… do y' re'lly w'nt t' be with m'…?" It made perfect sense if he didn't. They hardly knew each other… what infatuation they did have, it was no more than a few laughs together in a desert storm. After that, things became hectic, and whilst it seemed a good idea at the time… it was a hasty decision… perhaps both had gone into it because they both had a sense of wanting someone, no matter the reasons…
"W-well… I do… but… I… I…"The Fin went silent and bit his bottom lip, looking away. God, he did like Berwald. A lot… but…
They both knew this as well… Berwald wanted to kill the man Tino believed in… Arthur… The Shadow King… Berwald was still loyal to the Saviour, no matter how many times he said he wasn't. To him, it was the man that had promised him his revenge. His wife… His child…
Tino knew he could never take their place. Berwald loved them. He probably still dreamt of playing with his son, imagining what he would be like had he not been murdered. And he probably still dreamt of cold nights his wife had turned warm for him, retreating to piles of furs beside a burning hearth. And then…
Tino shook his head, not letting his mind wander any further. He didn't believe he was capable of doing for Berwald, what his wife had done.
Berwald was silent, and Tino looked up at him worriedly, terrified he might have offended him in some way. But the Swede smiled softly at him and kissed the back of his hand. "It's f'ne…" he said, and stood.
"I'll se' y' t'morrow…"
The smaller man smiled in relief and nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow…" He repeated and watched the man leave. It was over now. Berwald didn't have to worry about forgetting his wife and child for Tino's sake. He could do as he pleased. A relationship… it wasn't for them. It was better that they just remain friends.
"How are you holding up Feliciano…?" Ludwig asked, stroking some hair out of his lover's sweaty forehead. Most families these days involved two fathers. But the number of children never reached beyond two or so. This was his and Feliciano's third child, and he got the feeling, it wouldn't be the last.
But this was definitely the Italian's longest and most gruelling labour. It was really taking its toll on him. He hadn't eaten in days, not being able to swallow anything more than water without throwing it up. Due to that, his little plump cheeks had already hollowed out a bit, and his eyes surrounded by sunken shadows.
He made a silent promise to bring the boy a feast as soon as this was over.
However grim the boy's appearance though, a joyous smile lit up his face. "Ve… I'm so happy that it doesn't matter… We're going to have a new bebe in the world… I can't wait to meet him…"
The blonde tried not to smile, but he just couldn't suppress it. And a bright smile lit up his usually grim features. He leant forward and kissed his lover gently, who returned it tiredly.
Gilbert couldn't remember having so many violent beatings in his life. He'd been take straight to a windowless cell after he'd met with his old boss, where five brawny guards had chain him, feet dangling, to the ceiling. He was like a live meat punching bag. They'd taken burning torches and hot red iron rods, burning images and inane words into his back.
Oh, he had screamed the place down, swearing unto all of them a horrible death. But no matter how much they asked for information to the whereabouts of the Shadow king's city, his movements OR plans… he would not yield. It only incurred the agony to continue for hours.
Bloodied and beaten, his screams and curses soon ended. He tried to sleep where he hung, but could only endure everything silently too tired and throat too hoarse to carry on anymore.
But they continued to jeer at him for he cried, staring off into space as endless tears rolled down his face. Many hours later from then, the Saviour walked in for possible the second time that day, to run an inspection, Gilbert stared at her blankly. He had been surprised to learn the first time that it was a woman. She dressed in white robes, tanned skin contrasting to the cloth, long golden brown hair in a cascade to her waist, a little pink flower tucked in behind her ear for what… appeal? And malicious green eyes that he wanted to gouge out.
She looked at him, before looking back to the guards.
"Anything?" she asked. The head guard shook his head.
Sighing, she looked at the tortured man before approaching him, obvious disdain in her eyes, that became contradicted by her voice and words.
"Gilbert… please… this can all end… If you give us the location of the city, The Shadow King's plans, and his weaknesses… then you shall suffer no more."
Gilbert glared at her and looked away.
"And… if you do… I will grant you… and Roderich, freedom…"
He blinked… Freedom? They would be… free… just them… Too shocked to say anything, Gilbert looked at the woman as if to confirm it. She smiled and looked to the guards. "Take him to Roderich's cell… He may need some time to mull it over…"
And with that, she left the room. The head guard nodded to his associates and they took Gilbert down, the albino slumping against one of them. Suddenly, they were being nice to him, and gently they carried him out of the room and through multiple dark stone corridors, which he saw through barred windows that it was late at night.
It took time, but eventually, half unconscious, he heard the sound of a cell door opening, and felt himself being laid down on a stretcher. The door closed, and the guards were gone. He thought he heard a shaky breathing somewhere in the room. There was a scuffle on a dirty floor, and then nothing for a long time.
That voice… Gilbert's mind went from half dead, to frantic. His eyes darted around the dark cell, but seeing nothing, he tried to sit up, groaning as he pushed his body too far.
"N-nein! Don't do that…"
The albino looked again, half upright… but before he saw him, he felt the slender, warm hands of his beloved elemental. He was pushed back into the cot where he groaned again, eyes closing briefly in pain.
When he opened them again, there was Roderich.
The first thing Gilbert did, was burst into hopeless tears. He had never cried so much in his life if at all, compared to how much he had shed tear in that day.
Roderich smiled, a few tears of his own sliding down his pale cheeks and he wrapped his arms around the other, holding onto him.
"I knew it… I knew you'd come back for me…"
Hours later, Roderich sat silent in Gilbert's arms, the albino dozing lightly. He had told him of the deal. He didn't know what to think of it. Lord above, he wanted nothing more than to be free of this place and not have to worry on anything more than loving the man that had loved him so tenderly on one particularly rainy day in a garden shed.
But… The Shadow king was the only hope of stopping the Saviour. To be free with Gilbert… would condemn the rest of the world.
That was it. He had made up his mind.
Tugging on the albino's hand, he waited until he stirred and looked at him tiredly.
"What's wrong…?" He asked in a hoarse voice.
"Gilbert… We can't be free together…" Roderich said, plain and simple. This wasn't a time for beating around the bush.
The look Gilbert gave him was heart breaking, and he really wished he had been selfish and a coward. But courage, was better… The chance was that they would both die. But Roderich could face that with a clear mind and heart.
Smiling sadly, he brushed the side of the Warrior's face, and kissed him gently.
Gilbert was hurting physically and mentally. But if they were to die, then he would spend one last night with Roderich.
The elemental helped him into a dark corner where guards could not see when peeking through the door. The brunette had his back against the wall, Gilbert kneeling so he sat in his lap. It was a sweet reminiscence of their past. The struggled with it, but remained silent. Roderich's curled his fingers needily into the silvery hair, kissing his lover tenderly, in thankful ways, and in means of farewell… And when all was done… The dressed and fell into a contented sleep in each other's arms.
"What's wrong?" Ludwig asked, having been woken and pulled into the birthing suite… he had only gone to bed at midmorning… it was noon now…When he stepped into the suite, he had his answer. Feliciano was screaming, legs braced up, face red with effort as he fought to get the baby out. Wide eyed, the German snapped into action and was at his lover's side in an instant, holding his hand tightly and telling him all the things he should in this situation.
Today, the baby was going to be born.
Roderich stared at the crowd and their contorted features. He heard their jeers and wanted to cry. On the lower platform, waiting his turn, stood Gilbert, already covered in rotten fruit and vegetables. But his red eyes remained fixated on Roderich.
Hands tied behind his back, noose around his neck, Roderich couldn't do anything… he was trapped. The barrel beneath his feat wobbled unevenly. It was going to be kicked from underneath him at any moment now.
The rope burned as the barrel was kicked out of place, scarring his neck immediately. His neck didn't break, which left him to struggle for air, even if he had accepted death, and his legs thrashed about of their own accord as he gasped desperately for oxygen like a fish out of water. He heard some bangs and crashes , shouts of pain and rage and then he crashed to the floor, suddenly able to breath.
Over on the other platform, Gilbert had broken free of the rope that had tied his hands, his wrists bloodied and bruised. On the end of Roderich's noose was his little rat friend, still gnawing at the frayed rope. It scurried across his body to the bonds at his hands and chewed enough that could free him. At last, the brunette could stand, gulping in the air greedily as he pulled the noose off.
In a hurry, Gilbert was at his side, grabbing his hand and pulling him through the crowd. Roderich looked back for his rat in all the excitement, and screamed as he saw it's weak form trampled and crushed by soldiers chasing after them.
In moments, they were running into the forest, heading south. Tears of fear, anxiety and adrenaline poured down the slender male's face. But he followed his lover with a determination. Gilbert knew where they were headed.
They shot through a clearing fenced by bracken in most places, when things seemed to play out just like they did last time.
Gilbert's ears caught the sound of a faint whistle. Everything slowed down immensely.
A scream tore out of the albino's throat as he looked over his shoulder. A panicked look appeared on Roderich's face, wondering why the albino did so.
But then blood sprayed across Gilbert's face just as he tightened his grip on the smaller hand. The two men stumbled and crashed to the ground. Time resumed it's normal course.
Gilbert picked himself up immediately, getting back to Roderich's side and pulling him into the bushes to hide. The smaller man gurgled and choked as blood gushed out of a splintered puncture in his jugular. An arrow had shot through him… this time… Gilbert was helpless. Sobbing in a frantic manner, repeating over and over 'no', he tried to quell the blood flow, holding his hand over the wound.
This couldn't be happening… they had been so close… so close to escape…
As he sobbed, he felt a bloody hand on his cheek and he leaned into.
"… Don't… Don't go Roderich… You can't leave… You can't leave me alone… You're all I live for…"
He only got one hoarse reply, and a pair of glasses pushed into his hand.
He looked at the brunette and kissed his bloody mouth one last time before he tore away from him, sprinting through the woods and leaving him behind. He knew if he turned back, he wouldn't be able to continue. But he knew more, that Roderich didn't want him to die…
He ran for hours… but now… blinded by tears and sorrow… he didn't know where he was going. And he ran until the soldiers were long gone, and he was lost.
Feliciano screamed one last time, making his biggest push of the day. A high pitched scream mingled with his as it permeated the air and the Italian collapsed back into the bed, his once round stomach deflating with the absence of child. Tears streamed down his sweaty cheeks as he smiled at the baby as it was placed in his arms.
"… V-ve… we have a son…" He said with a tremble, looking up at Ludwig, who gave him a look that said this was one of the proudest moments in his life.
Swallowing, the blonde nodded and wiped his own eyes. "Ja… Our little boy…"
"Ve… Theo…" He smiled and looked back at the newborn, slowly settling into it's mother's arms.
Ding dong, Roderich's dead, Don't kill me, I like my head.
Sorry guys, vital to the story. Two reasons…
Gilbert and Roderich were together too briefly… I wouldn't have been able to make it work without it being another tacky romance.
Two… Gilbert is lost in the wilderness now… he'll take a road we were introduced to in the first chapter, collapse in the same ditch, and be nurtured back to health by someone who could really use a pair of glasses and a helping hand to find his family. Gil is his only hope for this person, and for Alexander if our Norwegian friend wants to remember who he really is.