((There we go! Thanks again everyone! Warning: multitudes of awkward!Gilbert))
Elizaveta stepped carefully out of the carriage on to her bound foot and pushed through the front gate to her house. Roderich's house. Somehow it didn't feel very much like hers anymore. It was strange, but after only a few short months a ratty tent seemed much more familiar and welcoming than the place she had called home for the past few years.
She noticed that the plants around were slightly overgrown and a few weeds were poking through. As soon as the gate opened, she saw Roderich. He was sitting contentedly on the porch, sipping tea. He, like the garden, looked perfectly respectable only to the untrained eye. The closer she looked, the more worse for wear he seemed. His eyes were tired, his hair ruffled, tie slightly askew, collar not quite flattened, among other little things. He had been worrying. That much was obvious.
He looked up when the gate clicked shut.
"E-Eliza?" His fingers slipped and the teacup shattered on the deck. He didn't look down. Suddenly he was across the lawn and his arms were wrapped around her, squeezing her tightly. She had never seen him like this before. It seemed like he would never let go. An intense wave of guilt washed over her.
"Roderich… I'm sorry, I-"
"I know why you did it." His voice was very quiet. "I was… so afraid, Eliza. So afraid that you would… because of me… and there was nothing I could do…"
She hugged him tighter. "I'm so, so sorry for making you worry." She buried her face in his shoulder. "But I'm okay, Roderich. I'm okay."
He sighed heavily and released her, straightening his tie and trying to regain his composure.
"I hear you were instrumental in the defeat of the Russian invasion. Congratulations." He paused, eyeing the medal on her chest, still frowning. "You… you won't do anything like that again, will you?"
"… No," she said quietly. "No, of course not."
A week passed and Elizaveta fell back into her usual routine: sending Roderich off to work, cooking meals, cleaning the house, tending the garden, and reading books, among other household things.
She sighed as she pruned the vines on the upper balcony. She had been fine like this before, so why did her life feel so empty now? Because she had gotten a second chance to experience for herself all the things she had read in the books that sustained her? It was a one-time thing though, obviously, she told herself. No one could live like that every day. It wasn't practical or respectable. It was just an opportunity that she had taken, and now it was over.
But… hadn't she kind of lived like that every day when she was younger, and Gilbert right there with her?
She sighed again and went back to pruning, trying to banish those thoughts from her head. She knew she had been dwelling on it too much when she thought she saw a head of white hair a ways down her street.
She blinked a few times then froze, clippers still in the air. The white hair was still there and it was coming closer. It was the three of them. They were walking down her street.
Well, Gilbert seemed like he was being dragged by the other two. They didn't look up, didn't see her on the balcony, but made their way over and stopped in front of the front gate. Francis said something to him, and then Gilbert was shoved inside, Antonio forcing the gate closed behind him. He tried to pry it back open, but eventually gave in and walked up the path to the house. He slammed the brass knocker three times. Elizaveta stood rooted to the spot.
Roderich answered the door after a moment. A few minutes later, he appeared at the door to the balcony, clearing his throat to get her attention.
"Eliza, there's a very rude, scruffy-looking man at the door that says he's here to see you," he said with disgust. "Shall I send him away?"
She blinked a few times. "Oh… uh, no. No, it's okay. He's an old friend. Just give me a moment."
He looked at her suspiciously, like she couldn't possibly have any old friends from that sort of unruly riffraff and there must be some other reason for this affront to propriety on his doorstep. He raised his eyebrows as she passed him, heading for the stairs, but didn't comment.
Elizaveta opened the front door. Gilbert stood there, nervously scratching the back of his neck. He went slightly pink when he saw her, but plastered on his usual arrogant smirk almost immediately.
"Well you got girly." He looked her up and down. "What, not even one bloodstain on that frilly dress of yours?"
She was too confused to quip back properly. "What are you doing here?"
His face fell. "I just… uh… " He shoved his hands in his pockets. "Are you okay? I mean, you took a beating too…"
She shook her bound ankle. "Still healing, but I'm fine." She looked at him suspiciously. "You didn't come all the way here from Germany to ask about my sprained ankle."
"Uh, no… well yes, but-"
She rolled her eyes. "Just tell me!" He was acting really weird.
"I… Francis and Antonio were wondering if you wanted to come with us," he said quickly.
Elizaveta gaped at him. "Wha-"
"Luddy and the Kaiser agreed to offer you a full-time position in the army if you wanted it, you would get paid well, and you would… stay with us. If you wanted to, I mean."
She stared at him for a moment, then leaned back against the door frame. She had been staying with Roderich in the first place because of her financial issues. This would mean that she would no longer be a burden, and she couldn't even deny to herself that working in the army and fighting alongside Gilbert and his friends was the thing she wanted most in the world right now. She looked back at him, still thinking about the prospects of this opportunity.
"I mean," Gilbert shifted uncomfortably, the pink flush returning. "I think think it would be… awesome if you would."
Elizaveta bolted back down the hallway, meeting Roderich at the foot of the stairs and pulling him into a tight hug.
"I'm sorry Roderich. Thank you so much for everything you've done for me."
"I'm leaving, Roderich. I got a job, and I'll send some money back to repay you, but I won't be staying here anymore." She released him. "I want this, okay?"
Roderich stared at her critically for a few moments. "You're sure?"
The corner of his mouth twitched upwards slightly. "… If that is what you wish, I am happy for you."
Gilbert poked his head around the corner. "Lizzie?"
"One minute!" She dashed up the stairs to her room and stuffed every article of clothing she owned into a suitcase, along with her books and a few other possessions. She didn't have very much, since she wasn't one to keep more than she needed like Roderich.
She pulled her suitcase back down the stairs and grabbed Gilbert's arm, dragging him with her.
"What are you doing?" he stumbled forward.
"I'm coming with you, idiot!" she laughed.
"Bye Roderich!" she shut the front door behind her.
"Are you serious?"
She rolled her eyes and set down her suitcase to hug him around the neck. "As long as you promise to be my partner. I'll save your butt if you save mine."
He tentatively returned the hug. "Yeah. Yeah, okay. Awesome." His face was hot.
She laughed and kissed him on the cheek, then grabbed her suitcase and ran down the path to her other friends. They had been watching.
Antonio wolf-whistled and moved to grab her bag, while Francis threw his hands in the air out of exasperation.
"About time!" the blond glared at Elizaveta. "Honnêtement, I thought I would go insane if your sexual tension continued for much longer."
Gilbert joined them reluctantly a moment later, his face almost the colour of his eyes. For once, it seemed like he didn't have much to say.
The four of them started their walk to the carriage out on the main road. Gilbert reached out and grabbed her hand, refusing to look at her. She smiled and squeezed back.