Quick heads up, there is a part of this chapter with some sentences entirely in French. (This will be a rare occurrence don't worry)
The translations are not super important to the story/understanding the plot, but there are translations for the longer parts at the bottom if you need them. I also used google translate, so if they are wrong instead of castrating me feel free to correct me in a message.
Alfred chose to walk home by himself the following Wednesday in order to think. The original plan was to walk with Matthew to the house, but when he asked his brother, Matthew claimed to the be hanging out with friends.
Had Matthew used that excuse earlier than lunch that day Alfred would have questioned it, but lunched changed his mind.
That day, during the class he shared with Matthew, Alfred invited Matthew to sit with him at lunch. He personally thought it was an amazing idea. He could keep an eye on Matthew, Matthew could make friends, and maybe it would help fix whatever was happening to his brother.
Alfred relived the moment – walking up to his brother asking, "Hey bro, you wanna eat with me today?"
Matthew looked startled at the question as if his mind was just returning to his body from some imaginary world; then he looked confused.
Alfred just replied with a smile, "Lunch. Eat with me."
"Okay. Wait – you don't want to?" Alfred asked incredulously genuinely surprised.
"No, Al. I'd rather eat with my friends."
Alfred was taken aback. He didn't consider that Matthew would choose not to.
"Okay," Alfred dragged out the word turning back toward his desk, "Well the offer always stands."
Matthew just smiled amused at Alfred's lingering form. "Whatever you say, Al."
Continuing his track home, Alfred went through the scene a second time. When he had first seen Matthew sitting in class, Matthew had looked distracted, worried, even… sad.
Alfred was sure Matthew would perk up at the lunch offer, and he did, just not the way Alfred expected. Something seemed odd about Matthew's new friends – he was observant enough to conclude that whoever they were, they had to be recently acquired. It would have been unlikely for them all to start hanging out so often at once if they had already been friends, and would not have explained Matthew's change in mood.
The thing that irked Alfred was how distracted Matthew seemed even when in a good mood… especially when in a good mood? Focusing on it now, maybe Matthew was more distracted when happy.
Alfred sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He wasn't always good with reading people, and he wasn't sure what to think. All Alfred knew was that something was wrong with Matthew.
It seemed that way for a while, just much more subtle. Alfred believed it was just the high school transition. Matthew was shy, a very introverted person, and the pressures of high school can be hard for someone like that.
Alfred mentally raised his eyebrows. There was a chance someone was using Matthew, or being mean to him, or peer pressuring him into something. Then again, Matthew was a smart kid. Alfred would just have to see who Matthew's friends were.
Alfred turned onto his street after deciding that was best and feeling a little better about the situation.
Matthew was having a good day. Good days were beginning to be far more common than the bad recently, mostly because he had something to look forward to everyday.
Right now he was looking forward to meeting Gilbert after school. Today, the two were going to hang out at Gilbert's for a bit.
Matthew walked to his locker after the final bell easily evading the crowd of students around him. He could feel his happiness rising at the thought of being able to spend some time with Gilbert, just him and Gilbert. Matthew knew he shouldn't feel this excited to see a friend, but there was nothing he could do about it.
He was not about to ask anyone in his family for advice on how to handle crushes. Just the thought of their reactions could make him shiver. He decided earlier to just grip the safety bars and ride it out. He hadn't found a way to ruin their friendship yet, so he was convinced he couldn't ruin it if he kept the tiny crush thing to himself – no letdowns, no awkwardness, just a phase.
He finished going to his locker with no appearance from Gilbert yet. Matthew looked around. Usually Gilbert was here already talking about some opinion he had on an event that happened in one of his afternoon classes.
His eyes quickly found Gilbert in the crowd – it was always easy to spot the albino in a crowd. Gilbert was in deep conversation with Elizaveta.
"Okay, so why don't you just start talking about relationships or something?" Elizaveta asked Gilbert.
Gilbert dragged a hand over his mouth and down to his chin as he mulled it over.
"I'm just not sure. I mean… Yeah, I'm just not sure about that one," Gilbert responded distractedly still going over all the pros and cons in his head.
"Oh come on! It is a perfect idea and not too different from what you wanted!" Elizaveta exasperated. "Can't you see it? You start talking about relationships. Matthew starts thinking about relationships. You knock up the flirt super high. Message sent. Conversation goes on a bit. Then… Bam!" she clapped for emphasis, "Message received and you have your man."
She stood proudly as Gilbert looked at her incredulously.
"Why not?" Elizaveta asked surprised.
"I just… I have to be very careful, okay? This? This cannot be mistaken as a whim or… or anything not sincere or because of… It just can't be misunderstood."
"Gilbert, you're barely making sense. I get you like Matthew, but why are you watching yourself so much?"
"I…I just can't tell you, okay? Not now. It… I really should have told." Gilbert took a breath. Thinking about the bad things wasn't going to help. "I just don't want to screw up. You get that."
Elizaveta sighed. She had an itching feeling there was more to it, but she couldn't make Gilbert talk.
"Fine. Just be yourself, and at least try to be a bit flirty. God knows that boy won't notice where you're coming from if you're not at least a bit blunt."
Gilbert rolled his eyes. "Whatever, and before you ask you're not getting pictures of anything when we get together." Gilbert turned to try and see where Matthew was.
Elizaveta huffed, but before she could speak Gilbert spotted Matthew watching them and turned to her putting a hand on her shoulder.
"As insightful as you have been, I have a handsome blond over there waiting for me so… see ya."
Gilbert jogged over to where Matthew was by his locker.
"What up, Birdie?" Gilbert said sliding next to Matthew's locker with a grin.
"What were you and Elizaveta talking about?" Matthew nodded at where Elizaveta was walking away with a girl he didn't recognize.
Gilbert blushed. "Uh… Nothing important or anything. Just regular chitter-chatter, you know?"
Matthew gave him a questioning look before responding suspiciously with a dragged out, "Yeah."
Gilbert decided to get back on track. "So, you ready to go or should we stand around some more?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe we should just stay here all day."
Gilbert gawked, "What?"
"Kidding," Matthew laughed. "Come on let's get going."
Gilbert chuckled following him outside. He really liked getting to see this side of Matthew. Everyone thought he was just this shy kid, but there were time like this with Gilbert where he would just joke and go on tangents talking about everything.
"And you should have seen his face! It was hilarious!"
Gilbert cut off Matthew's story about Alfred. "Hey, why do you like polar bears?"
Matthew gave him a confused look. "Uh… Why do you ask?"
Gilbert shrugged. "Well the other day you were trying to convince Feli they were the best, and I just can't figure out why you like them so much."
"How can you not like them? They are majestic beasts of the north! They are so cool like –" A ringing cut off the beginning of Matthew's rant.
They stopped walking so Matthew could dig his phone out of his pocket. Gilbert pretended not to listen to Matthew's side of the conversation when he answered.
"Hello?" Gilbert saw Matthew roll his eyes and grin.
"Que devez-vous, Papa?"
Gilbert's ears perked up at the French. He sometimes forgot Matthew was practically fluent, and then there were times like this.
Matthew spoke up again after a few seconds chuckling, "Non, je vais à la maison de Gilbert aujourd'hui."
Gilbert perked up at the sound of his name being spoken with all the French. He did always like when Matthew spoke French. It was so cool and now…
"Non! Papa! Nous sommes juste amis!" Matthew said defensively into the phone, a blush forming on his face.
There was a pause for a few minutes where Gilbert tried to strain his ears to hear what the person on the other line was saying.
Then Matthew spoke again a little dejectedly, "Je ne sais pas où est Alfred." He paused. "Yeah. Okay bye."
They walked a few seconds in silence before Gilbert spoke up.
"Who was that?"
"It was just my Papa. He wanted to know what I was up to and if I knew where Alfred was today and stuff."
"And stuff." Gilbert chuckled after meeting Francis he knew the man had to be teasing Matthew.
"Oh, shut up!" Matthew half-heartedly punched Gilbert's arm causing him to laugh.
"I always forget you speak French."
Matthew just shrugged. "It's not that exciting. Not a lot of people around here speak it either, so I really can only use it with my Papa."
"It suits you," Gilbert paused, "And you can so use it for more! You can use it to pass your language elective. I can't use German for that."
"I never really thought about it that way," Matthew said, "It's kind of a natural part of speaking."
Gilbert smirked, "Yeah, it just slips out sometimes."
The pair continued walking to Gilbert's house taking much longer than a normal walk to there from the school would be, but neither minded. The weather was nice – not a cloud in the sky with a slight breeze – and the company was enjoyable.
Gilbert was talking as they approached his house. "I know. I know. I'm just saying it's a waste of time to make all of us do. You have to see where I'm coming from!"
He held the front door for Matthew as the later responded thoughtfully, "I guess I can see what you're trying to say, but still practice is an integral part of learning even if the practice seems useless.
Gilbert rolled his eyes playfully, "Better watch it. You're starting to sound philosophical there."
They both laughed as they walked towards the stairs.
"Gilbert!" A rough voice broke through there laughter.
Gilbert froze taking a glance at Matthew, the kitchen and back again. He was too distracted talking he didn't check to see if his grandfather was home. He scanned the room silently praying for a way to hide Matthew or maybe to hide his grandfather from Matthew.
His grandpa walked out of the kitchen, "Gilbert we – " He paused when he saw Matthew standing at the bottom of the stairs sheepishly.
Matthew could feel the man's eyes sizing him, judging, before Gilbert's grandfather's posture softened.
"Hello. I didn't know Gilbert was bringing anyone over."
Gilbert didn't respond, avoiding eye-contact with his grandpa.
"I'm Gilbert here's grandfather," he grasped Gilbert's shoulder as he spoke, "but you can call me Mr. Beilschmidt," the man spoke gruffly as he held out a hand for Matthew.
Matthew responded, "I'm Matthew. It's nice to meet you," as he shook Mr. Beilschmidt's hand.
Mr. Beilschmidt raised his eyebrows slightly surprised at the firmness of the timid boy's handshake.
"Gilbert, I need to talk to you about something if you mind," Mr. Beilschmidt said now address his grandson.
Gilbert noticed his most recent French quiz in his grandfather's hand mentally reminding himself not to just leave anything with a bad grade on it in his room.
"I mind," Gilbert responded defiantly.
Mr. Beilshmidt stiffened crinkling the quiz slightly drawing Matthew's attention to the paper. The man glanced at Matthew before giving Gilbert a stern look that could only be gained after a military career.
"Gilbert. Are you sure about that?"
"Actually… fine," Gilbert muttered defeated.
Matthew watched as Gilbert followed Mr. Beilsmidt into the kitchen just out of sight a wall separating them. He had expected to hear yelling or at least Gilbert being loudly defensive, but instead all he heard was the mumble of normal voices.
Inside the kitchen, Mr. Beilsmidt was talking to Gilbert in an attempt to get Gilbert to open up.
"I found this on the floor in your room," Mr. Beilsmidt stated calmly showing the paper to Gilbert.
"Why were you in my room?" Gilbert snapped not looking at his grandfather.
"You just left the door open, and I saw this on the floor. It was very clean."
Gilbert looked at his grandfather trying to read his features. Compliments didn't usually faze Gilbert.
Gilbert took a breath to calm himself before responding, "What about it?"
"I'm just worried. You're not doing well, and it doesn't seem like you even care."
Gilbert huffed at that before Mr. Beilsmidt continued, "Now, I'm glad your hanging out with a friend now, especially someone new," Gilbert stiffened at the implications, "But I want you to at least show you care about school, or something at all."
"This," Mr. Beilsmidt shook the quiz, "is not cool if that is what you're going for."
Gilbert snatched the paper from his grandpa's hands -, "I don't think it's cool or any shit like that!"
"Language, Gilbert!" Mr. Beilsmidt ordered.
They exchanged a few more words before Gilbert left the kitchen and was reminded that they weren't alone in the house. All the anger evaporated from Gilbert when he saw Matthew by the stairwell looking concerned.
"Hey," Gilbert greeted sheepishly.
"You okay," Matthew asked.
"Yeah, I'm good. He just wanted to talk about this quiz. I'm kind of doing bad in the class."
"Can I see?" Matthew inquired motioning to the quiz. Gilbert shrugged handing the paper over.
Matthew looked the failing grade over for a moment.
"You know, you actually were pretty close. You just chose the wrong verb. I mean you should have used soit, and you are included in the second paragraph so it should be plural and say things like nous sommes. "
Gilbert chuckled, "Native speakers."
"That's not it. Il n'est pas si difficile quand tu étudies," Matthew said playfully causing Gilbert to laugh despite not knowing what his friend said.
"You speak French?" Mr. Beilsmidt spoke up from the kitchen doorway.
"Yes, sir," answered Matthew politely.
"Why don't you tutor Gilbert?" Mr. Beilsmidt suggested.
"What?" Gilbert broke in trying to hide his panic.
M. Beilsmidt shrugged. "You need help, and I'd think you'd want to get help from a friend than someone else. That's if you are okay with it, Matthew."
Matthew looked between the two Beilsmidts not sure how to respond. Mr. Beilsmidt sensed Matthew's discomfort so added, "Just think about it," before returning to the kitchen to start dinner.
The two teens remaining were silent for a second.
"I really wouldn't mind," Matthew said timidly. Gilbert ignored the statement.
"You wanna go for a walk?" asked Gilbert.
Matthew wasn't too sure what to think about what happened at Gilbert's house. It had just occurred to him that he had never met Gilbert's grandfather before now, something that was strange since he and Gilbert hung out all the time. Matthew thought back to the time Gilbert talked about his family and the relationships he had with them. It was one thing to consider the disconnect between Gilbert and his grandfather, but another to see it in person. Seeing Gilbert's grandfather attempt to reach out to his grandson only to have Gilbert turn away was thought provoking for Matthew.
It was unusual to see someone turn away from comforts like that. Matthew only wished someone would reach out to him like Gilbert's grandfather, and he would not turn away. He supposed it only showed how different Gilbert and him really were.
After a while they made it to the same part where their recent heart to heart took place. It seemed different to both of their eyes. It no longer only carried the long ago nostalgia of childhood, but also reminded both of them of the secrets they carried about each other, the little things they've seen that others would never know.
They didn't speak about this indescribable feeling, but it was in the dry air around them.
They found themselves sitting on the same swings that sat at before in a stilled conversation, everything calm and relaxed even the wind.
"You know, it would be a good idea to tutor you," Matthew said nonchalantly.
Gilbert looked at his friend biting the inside of his cheek before responding, "You really don't need to. You wouldn't get anything out of it."
"Sure I would. I could use it on applications, and I would be helping a friend." Matthew smiled in way Gilbert could only pinpoint to the word pure. He was never great with words, not an author of any sorts, but he knew there was no way to describe the genuine looks Matthew sometimes had. It always amazed him how he could be next to someone so caring. It left a constricted feeling in his chest that made him overly aware of the manner he was breathing.
Gilbert sighed, "I guess it couldn't hurt."
Matthew's grin grew, "Great! We can start when we begin the next unit."
Gilbert swallowed. "Yeah," he muttered before beginning to swing.
They stayed at the park for a while soaking in the sun and enjoying one another's company.
It was during times like this Matthew could really let go and it felt amazing. During a pause in their joking around he thought about what he had just agreed to: tutoring Gilbert. He didn't think that Gilbert would be a bad student, on the contrary Gilbert put himself wholeheartedly in the things he deemed worthy of awesome as he would say.
It was more the implication of what would happen. They would have to be alone with no distractions. Matthew knew it was a ridiculous thing to worry about since they were alone all the time, but it seemed different in some way. Matthew looked at Gilbert, observing his friend.
Then, he chuckled in his head, "It really is like a preteen crush. Look at what I'm thinking."
Gilbert heard Matthew chuckling and inquired, "What?"
Matthew just gave a small smile. "Nothing."
"No. Tell me!" Gilbert grabbed Matthew's swing tugging closer so he could grab Matthew.
"Let go, Gil!" Matthew exclaimed struggling.
"Not until you tell!"
Gilbert let go when Matthew said he felt his phone vibrating.
Matthew opened his cell to see a text from Alfred reading,
"You should come home soon. Dad keeps going all bezerko wondering if you'll be home for dinner and stuff."
Gilbert tried to peer over Matthew's shoulder to read the text.
"What does it say?"
Matthew pushed Gilbert's face away from his shoulder. "Just Al saying I should head home. Sounds like my dad wants to make sure everyone is at dinner. We like having dinner together," Matthew spoke shrugging of his words.
"That's cool," Gilbert said genuinely.
"Family dinners. You know, with everyone there and that whole setting and stuff," Gilbert spoke quietly seemingly distracted.
"I guess," Matthew said not wanting to sound ungrateful by saying they really weren't for him.
Time passed quickly after that for Matthew as if he was watching the world pass. In a moment he was saying goodbye to Gilbert, and the next he was sitting at his dinner table as his dad tried to ask him about his day.
"Anything new happening, Matthew?" Arthur inquired genuinely curious.
"Nothing really," Matthew responded expecting the subject to be dropped.
"Who did you eat with at lunch?" Alfred asked a little too loudly.
Matthew gave him a confused look as he said slowly in a matter-of-fact manner, "My friends."
Alfred huffed sitting back a moment before questioning, "Well, who did you hang out with after school?"
Matthew rolled his eyes getting ready to make a sarcastic remark, but Francis spoke first.
"He was with Gilbert of course," Francis spoke with a grin.
Alfred muttered, "Gilbert," to himself making sure he put the right face to the name. Then he pursed his lips. If it was the Gilbert he was thinking about, then his theories could be true.
"Yeah," Matthew said slowly not quite keeping up with the conversation.
Francis looked at his son with a smile that said he knew more as conversation around the table moved on to other things, and so the night went on until everyone was in bed. Matthew slept well that night.
A few days past, and Gilbert found himself in his homeroom early. It is a new habit he got. By doing work he goes to bed early, with better sleep he is easier to wake up, and ready the same time West is so just they just leave for school.
He would never openly say it, but he did like getting to school early, just because of the time it gave him to think. It was just nice to have a day where he could relax and not be in a panic on the inside to go fast to make it on time.
Gilbert thought of a lot of things, but mostly he thought of Matthew, the new presence in his life that was slowly morphing it into something else.
Gilbert was a person that planned a lot. He made little strategies and plans for everything. He could sometimes tell how people would react, abet he didn't always use the knowledge, but it was there. When dealing with Matthew, he couldn't read anything, and all plans vanished. Any way he had planned to address anything with Matthew disappeared once they started talking.
It got a bit annoying when he was by himself again reliving those kinds of missed moments. Liz would not be too happy, but he couldn't explain it in words. At least he didn't have to worry about ever not being himself around Matthew, because that was all he could be.
The thought was a little scary. He could only be himself. He couldn't hide any insecurities or little ticks. It was horrifying and thrilling. He loved every second of it.
He even looked forward to it. The way he felt to be that way with someone, but not just someone, Matthew. He was a perfection Gilbert could only strive to be if he wanted to even come close to such flawlessness. That's what he thought at least.
His hours flew by when he was with Matthew, something that he wasn't the only one experiencing. Days morphed together as if moving at light speed for both teens ever since they started hanging out. While time went on, it felt slow, both noticing everything, but when looking back the weeks had passed quickly and still were.
Gilbert's day went on and so did Matthew's until it was Tuesday evening.
Matthew packed away his books after finishing his last math problem. It took longer than he should have, but he was distracted. He couldn't get Gilbert out of his head. He kept finding the albino in everything. It took effort not just to tell stories about Gilbert at dinner every night. Maybe he was just more aware of every time Gilbert came up than before.
Whatever the reason, he didn't mind. At least, he didn't mind until after dinner that night.
It was his night to help with the dishes after dinner that night. Francis took that chance to hang around the kitchen busying himself so he could talk to his son.
"So… Mattieu, how is high school?" Francis asked casually mid-conversation.
Matthew paused his movements in the sink, but smiled a little.
"Nothing special really," Matthew shrugged the question off.
"Oh," Francis raised a curious eyebrow, "No infamous romances are forming?" Francis inquired dramatically.
Through chuckles Matthew denied, "Non, Papa."
"Ah, that is shameful! You know, me and your father were already starting to hit it off back when we were that age?"
Matthew rolled his eyes, "I think dad remembers it differently."
Francis' face contained a small smile his eyes focused on a past memory while he spoke to Matthew saying, "Love finds itself in the most peculiar of places and manifests itself in the most interesting of ways."
Francis caught Matthew's concentrated gaze from the sink and winked.
Matthew returned his focus on the dishes adjusting to the words, letting the swim around in his head for a few moments.
After a few dishes being unloaded from the dishwasher Matthew thought, "Screw it."
"So, Papa, you're a big believer in love, but do you think it could ever be a phase?" Matthew played off his question as nonchalantly as he could, feigning innocent curiosity.
Francis walked so he was standing near his son.
The Frenchman spoke in a serious tone, "I don't know what anyone may be telling you, but they are stuck in the past. Sexuality is never a phase. It's –"
"Papa I know. And no one is saying anything about that. Don't worry. I mean like little crushes. You know like could a small crush just be a short time thing?"
Francis hummed eyeing his son. "Honestly, I hate to say it, but it could be if it was someone you didn't know and you just projected an idea you had of them onto that person. But then it's not really liking them but rather the idea."
Matthew considered it. Gilbert did come up at an ideal moment. Maybe that makes him view his friend differently.
"But if you are questioning the sincerity of your feelings right now, I'd say they're probably true, and you're is just a little scared of them." Francis smiled at his son.
"I didn't – I don't." Matthew stuttered.
Francis laughed. "Oh, mon fils, of course I would notice. I know you too well."
Matthew huffed. Francis patted his shoulder affectionately.
"I personally think you should go for it."
Matthew wined, "Papa, I can't do that."
Francis raised an eyebrow at his son in question.
Matthew answered the silent question, "They like someone else and… well…"
Francis sighed leaning against the counter. He almost spoke, but then stopped himself. He chuckled to himself distantly.
"This would have been a great thing for your dad to talk to you about, you know. You and I are very different when it comes to these things, but you're very similar to Arthur." Francis paused smiling to himself as he met Matthew's curious gaze.
"You both question things so much – big thinkers you two – but when it comes to things like this..." Francis dragged off then added, "worriers," with a shake of his head.
Matthew listened to Francis quietly wishing he was told something more about what he should do, but he couldn't ask because he didn't want to have to actually talk about Gilbert, or anything alluding to him.
Francis stood up preparing to leave.
Before leaving he made one last comment, "Matthieu, you really should forget roadblocks and just go for it. You're a great kid. Put yourself out there. I did it for your father and look at us now."
The corners of Matthew's mouth twitched at the last part.
He wasn't entirely sure what to do with everything. It was a lot to take in at once. He would have to contemplate on it a little longer. Everything had been getting simple. However, now the world seemed to be turning differently forcing him to dwell in places he is unfamiliar with. Life was tilting again, and he wasn't quite sure how to handle all the new things.
Matthew sighed heading upstairs to his room, maybe to sketch a bit to get his head clear before heading to bed early. Right now, he just needed some time before anything could happen so he could properly internalize everything.
Que devez-vous, papa? What do you need, Dad?
Non, je vais à la maison de Gilbert aujourd'hui. No, I'm going to Gilbert's house today.
Non! Papa! Nous Sommes juste amis! No! Dad! We're just friends!
Je ne sais pas où est Alfred I don't know where Alfred is.
Il n'est pas si difficile quand vous étudiez It's not so difficult when you study.
Before anyone gets mad, I promise you I was writing this entire time even if it was just a paragraph every few days. I feel really bad, but school got me busy amongst some other things including: spending most of my savings on a car, getting mono, wrecking the car, and realizing it's too late to get a summer job so I'm screwed for hopes of getting one.
This chapter had a lot going on so I would love to hear what you're opinions are on everything the characters are up to. I'm pretty proud I get to mark off another two bullet points on my outline (Yeah, I made one and it rocks).
A special thanks to all the newer readers. No idea how you found this without updates, but welcome and thanks for leaving some messages. As always, if you have any questions about anything please feel free to ask.